Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Kathleen O’Toole: Half Italian

The brain’s hard-wired with the impulse to feed

when given the chance, and it’s why I always double

the garlic in any recipe. The kitchen behind Nonna’s

store always smelled of garlic and aged provolone,

but Sundays were drenched with it, especially 

right after church.  She cooked early and I’d find

any excuse to dig the tin trowel into the sacks

of dried lentils and fagiole beans, thrilled to feel

them clattering − the clinking of a cartoon king’s

gold. Years later I found my way back to the empty

row house, hoping to recover that storefront’s hold:

salami-scented floorboards, shelves stocked with tins

of olive oil and anchovies.  I only managed to pry

the numbers 4 – 1 – 9 from the cracked door frame,

to wrap them in burlap inside her old trunk. Now 

nothing renders the essence of Domenica’s place

like crushing home-grown basil for pesto Genovese,

pressing garlic into a bowl of extra virgin oil, twice

the measure, plus one clove just for the pleasure. 


Copyright 2019 Kathleen O’Toole. From This Far by Kathleen O’Toole, published by Paraclete Press.

Garlic (image from Live Science)

5 comments on “Kathleen O’Toole: Half Italian

  1. melpacker
    September 9, 2019

    As the husband of a woman of Italian heritage whose ancestors owned a small store called DeSena’s Market in the Larimer neighborhood of Pittsburgh, this poem almost makes me feel as if I had been there. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      September 9, 2019

      Yes, those neighborhood markets were an important part of the community economy for generations. When Eva and I moved to Pittsburgh in 1987, there were still a few left, but they closed in the 90s.

      Like

    • Kathleen R OToole
      September 11, 2019

      Multo grazie

      Liked by 1 person

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