(Poem) Omertà: A Love Song for My Ancestors by Mary Saracino

PHOTO CREDIT: photo by Augusto De Luca, Naples, Italy  https://www.flickr.com/photos/95868997@N07/9644071836/sizes/o/in/photostream/, accessed at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Black_and_white_photographs_of_Italy#mediaviewer/File:Cimitero_Monumentale,_Milano_-_foto_Augusto_De_Luca.jpg
PHOTO CREDIT: photo by Augusto De Luca, Naples, Italy
https://www.flickr.com/photos/95868997@N07/9644071836/sizes/o/in/photostream/, accessed at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Black_and_white_photographs_of_Italy#mediaviewer/File:Cimitero_Monumentale,_Milano_-_foto_Augusto_De_Luca.jpg

The sting of namelessness

the blade of silence eviscerating memory

that is how shame is interred deep

into sinew and bone.

 

For my ancestors, muteness was chosen

a precious tool wielded

by the men and women

of the Mezzogiorno,

the southern Italians of La Miseria.

Don’t tell, the padrone will beat you.

Don’t tell, the priests will condemn your soul.

Don’t tell, the police will jail your overworked limbs.

 

Their resoluteness atrophied

behind the iron bars of tradition

their speechless tongues wagged

aimlessly in their closed

stiff

remembering

mouths.

 

They whispered

the uncensored secrets

of their disowned autobiographies

only in dimly lit corners

for their throats still recalled

the hash boot-heel

of unbridled authority.

 

If the dishonored fail to speak

how can they conjure

themselves—or their children—into being?

 

I am the great-granddaughter

of the children of Omerta

a woman who longs to unleash their outrage,

free the howl

that echoes in their hungry bellies

that rattles through my own DNA.

I want to

dismantle injustice

conquer their demons—and mine

I want to

eradicate the evil that annihilates

everything they knew to be true

everything I know to be true as well.

 

I listen, pray, ask for guidance

but my ancestors remain mute.

 

I want to pry open the O in omerta

carve an escape hatch

carry them safely through the granite portal

away from their tomb of silence

I want to show them

a different kind of world

a world in which they find the courage

to coax their long-hushed tongues to speak

a world in which their hearts can soar

full-throttle toward the wide, waiting wail of liberation.

a world in which they crack the ancient code of preservation

reclaim the defiant language of their souls—at long, long last

a world in which they can tell, tell, tell

the truth of their lives—of our lives—

the lives of each and every one of us

too long silenced.

 

Read Meet Mago Contributor Mary Saracino.

 

3 thoughts on “(Poem) Omertà: A Love Song for My Ancestors by Mary Saracino”

  1. I just read this, waiting I line at the pharmacy, surrounded by people and business and banal chatter. Despite all those distractions, this poem raised chill bumps on my skin. The fierce beauty and strength of Mary’s writing both demands and yearns to be heard. I yearn to hear these words read aloud, invoking the spirits of those gone, breaking the generations of silence. Thank you, Mary. Thank you, Mago.

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