TRYING ON AMERICA
A Mythos Of Immigrant Life
For my grandparents, the DePiettos and the Dandreas, without whose incredible courage and vision in braving the crossing in steerage of the Atlantic to fulfill their American Dream, I would never have had the experience of trying on America. Needless to say, it is also dedicated to all those Mamma Mias who threaded their way, in one fashion or another, through my life.
Il loro coraggio e visione compie la mia vita.
From the book:
Coming to America
If it was the Muccigrosso episode or not,
Giacomino found an inspiration in a sheer aside,
a mere passing remark made by a friend,
Angelo Marino, who said that he would like
sometime to see America, Land of the Free,
and, perhaps, even be a dollar-rich Americano.
And so then would Giacomino enlist his talent
and his strength to travel steerage overseas
to a world beyond anything that Genovese
could imagine in his visions of spice and gold,
in anything his New World depictions could unfold
to his Spanish conquistadors, brazen and bold,
or to his Spanish rulers who turned ultimately cold
and brought him home, humiliated and in chains.
Giacomino left his young wife and daughters on their own;
came to America on a contract signed and sealed
by M. Del Papa who fondled riches in his friendly hand,
who lined his pockets with his countrymen,
who kept Sabatini on his dole to play the role
of sole support to Italian working men--
came to dig ditches for the railway beds,
came to lay tarred ties and nail iron rails down
for the Delaware & Lackawanna tracks
running East to West, West to East
and back, here in America, Land of the Free.
Days added up to weeks, weeks to months;
months morphed to years-5 to be exact.
It was a fact the money grew too slow,
given the costs to eat and live, the costs
to keep Del Papa rich and Sabatini fat,
to find relief from work at Jack's saloon
to find there the boon of cheap red wine
among the brisc players and all of that;
the boon to ease the woes of weary men,
men lonely for their families far away in Italy.
But, then, came the day when Giacomino
could count out money in his hand,
enough to send Amelia in that far-off land
passage money for three small souls to sail
the vast Atlantic in the steerage hold
of a small, cramped, cold Norwegian ship
and passage money, too, for Giacomino
to go to that small island in Manhattan's bay
where nearly all Italian names were changed:
James for Giacomino, Emily for Amelia
and Grazia Maria to Grace Marie.
My Father Fell Through Years of Light
As I lost sight
in my dark night
of just how brilliant was his flight,
my father fell through years of light.
I had been too much concerned
with just how much my life had turned
since his candescent arc had burned
colors in my mind to have learned
the lesson that his death's gyre drew.
His life, an azimuth true
to the compass point, grew
arched as an arrow shot through
the blue bow of heaven to imbue
me with what he knew:
love is the spectrum that burns through
death's door when a life is true.
Carmine Dandrea, Professor of literature and creative writing and former editor of Blossom Review, was educated at Hobart College, Brown University, Elmira College, and Cornell University from which he received the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. He has taught at Elmira Free Academy, Elmira College, Corning Community College, and Lake Michigan College. Mr. Dandrea served in the United States Marine Corps and during the Korean War was awarded the Purple Heart Medal. He was a national winner in the Discovery '69 Program of the New York Poetry Center. His 1st book of poems, Heart's Crow, based on experiences in India, was published by P. Lal's Writers Workshop of Calcutta in 1972. His poems have been published in Plaintiff, Transition, Ego Flights, Michigan Magazine, Husson Review, Albion and other literary journals and anthologies. Over 40 of his poems have won prizes and awards. Most recently, he won First Prize in the 2010 prestigious Tom Howard Poetry Contest. In 1977 the editors of the International Who's Who in Poetry awarded him a Certificate of Distinguished Contributions To Poetry. Wyndham Hall Press published his book-length sequence of poems, American Still Life, in 1992. He has been a Scholar at the 1993 NEH Institute of Chinese Culture and Civilization at the East-West Center in Hawaii and has participated in the Center's 1994 Field Study in the People's Republic of China and its 1995 Field Study in India. His 3rd book, Liberation: a Journey to India, was published in 1995 by P. Lal of the Writers Workshop of Calcutta, India. FootHills Publishing released his 4th book, Undertaking The American Dream, in November, 2008. P.Lal of The Writers Workshop of Calcutta published his 5th book, An Infinite Human Tale, in July, 2009.
An ardent practitioner of poetry as oral art, Carmine Dandrea has read his work in Athens, Beirut, Istanbul, New Delhi and throughout India, in Katmandu, Honolulu, in Ireland, The People's Republic of China, and in the United States.
TRYING ON AMERICA is a 96 page hand-stitched paper book with spine - $16.00.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Counting Out My Growth In Deaths
A Karate Expert Kills A Car
The 1st Of November
The Image In The Mirror
Sunrise In Chicago
Alone In The House
An Elegy In Spring
Rising After Midnight
The Man From Yesterday
The Flower Man Is Gone
An Escape From The Institution
A Trinity For Maladjustment
How The Old Man Died
A Report From The Clinic
Everything Is Springtime And Great Beauty
Dreamland And Charles Bukowski
On The Eve Of The Gunfighter's Death
Undertaking The American Dream
The Will That In The Sunset Finds Release
Dirge For The Dead Anatoly
A Bird In Winter
Visiting The Cages In Bombay
In The Madras Market
The Highway To Delhi
Waiting For The Third Wave In
To A Korean Comfort Girl, Shot Sniping
I Find The Dead Chinaman
Rescue By Helicopter
The Blue Sky Motel
A Dead Horse In The Supermarket
Piece De Resistance
Sequence: Those Inscrutable Chinese:
Lady With A Small Dog
Lunch At The Chinese National Art Institute
Shao Shi Peng Speaks Toilets
Mr.Gupta, Mr. Li
Everyone Loved Fala
Her Room At Night
The Universe Of Death
A Fable Of Flies
M. Del Papa
My Rich Croatian Uncle, Andy Smith
The School Photographer Takes My Picture
All The Little Comforts
Jumping Off The Eiffel Tower
I Love You, Minnie Wantagh, In The A.& P.
From the Book:
COUNTING OUT MY GROWTH IN DEATHS
This sun-filled Sunday morning
when I woke,
I knew that you would not;
I knew that you had gone,
and that your eyes
were closed to Sundays
and to sun.
All my life
I have counted out my growth
until they have become
the total of my time
as every stone
that makes a cairn
becomes a marker of the spot;
and your death, Grandfather,
is only one
among the many deaths
but how special to my growth
it is, I think I know.
At ninety years, your mind alive
to Sundays and to sun,
you simply fell asleep at five-
a quiet afternoon of naps-
and died. No pain we knew of
crossed you in that hour.
Of course, you were alone,
and that was fitting too.
The family had gone home
and left the dream you had
to you .
Who could have known,
although we were aware
at ninety every moment spins
a pinwheel in the sky,
and every arrow spun
is ever pointed straight.
Death smiles, sweet and sure
as lovers do in summer sun,
each time you close your eyes.
With you, another part of time
that calibrates my growth
and scales love has gone.
The sun of yesterday
will not be here tomorrow.
The sun, however, rises
as perhaps I do.
But you, old dial, stand still
the farthest measure of my hour.
I have counted out my growth
and yours is shortening
my life's shadow.
My growth slows
with fainter, thinner line
to mark my moments
in creative light.
The sun at noon is nude,
and so am I.
I've been reading evolution theory,
trying to get back
into the primal mud of pond behind the farm.
How hard it is to do
after Adam and the naming of things:
after the tawny lion and the slippery toad,
after the giant Redwood and the warty weed,
after the telescoping of giraffe,
the chipmunk chittering and the lisp
of squirrels sliding the telephone lines,
after the titmouse teetering
on the thinnest branch and the great crow
curving through the sky
in sheer, black-robed telegraphy.
How hard it is to do
after the wonderful fib
of Eve and Adam's rib,
after the infamy of apple,
the notoriety of glitter
surrounding the snake,
the Father filled with wrath,
unforgiving, relentless, but
promising some future fruit.
I'm sure that science is a useful thing,
but how drab and gray it is
beside such metaphors
that ring and sing.
Undertaking the American Dream
is a 112-page hand-stitched paper book with spine.
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