Chicano Poet

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

from Good Luck In Cracked Italian
(1969) by Richard Hugo

Maratea Porto: The Dear Postmistress There

I run up the stairs too fast every morning
and panting for mail, I stagger inside
and there she sits wagging a negative finger.
Her frown is etched in and her mouth is sour.
Niente per voi, today.

This is Odysseus. I’ve come a long way
I’ve beaten a giant, real men with one eye.
Even the sea. I’ve defeated the water.
But now I’m home, pooped. Where’s Penelope?
Niente per voi, today.

My name is Joseph and this, my wife Mary,
we’ve had a long journey and Mary is heavy.
The facts are odd. The child could be holy
and I wonder, have you a room in your inn?
Niente per voi, today.

I’m Genghis Khan and this is my army.
We’ve conquered your land. Now we want women.
Bring them today at high noon to the square.
After we’ve had them, we’ll get out of here.
Niente per voi, today.

I’m Michelangelo, here to make statues.
I lugged this damn marble all the way from the Alps.
I’ll need a large scaffold and plenty of ropes,
a chisel, a mallet and oodles of wine.
Niente per voi, today.

Oh, heroes of time, you’re never a hero
until you’ve endured ten days without mail.
Slaughter the stars and come home in splendor.
She’ll always be there at the end of the trail.
Niente per voi, today.

by Richard Hugo

Remembering Dick Hugo

I remember Dick
Especially when I hear Italian,
Or when I hear his voice, reading
From his poems, especially the
Poem where he goes to the withered mail-lady
In the Italian village where he was posted,
It seemed every day, her answer
Was always, "Niente Per Voi"-
Nothing for you today.

He'd go off on a bombing raid
Over Germany, then
Return, tired, gritty
But every day, even before he slept,
He'd head for the old woman

Somehow as he read these lines,
It was transported from 1969 to
The 1940s and his bunk in Italy,
Where the ack ack invaded his
Dreams, as much as they'd invaded
His ears over Germany-
But one day he told me,
Hearing that old lady say,
"Niente Per Voi"
broke his heart.

Dick was one of these guys
Who looked like a good bar bouncer,
A guy who looked as if he played
Defensive center, instead, he was
An infielder, poetry and baseball
were his games
And his heart was as soft as the
Bag he ran or threw to
At second base-in every
Inning, taking his mind
Off the bombing, waiting
For that letter
That smelled of perfume, that
Had lipstick on the top and bottom
Of each page, lipstick
From her, from the one,
The one he kept wanting to
Hear from

And as he read, all of us
Traveled the thousands of miles
And years with him, each of
Us feeling that same
Anguish each day
At the postal lady's door,
A sorrow
That even bottles of Chianti
Couldn't wash away , nor the
Bourbon and gin in Iowa City,
None of these could erase
The sound of the old lady's voice,
23 years after the war,
"Niente per voi"

each of us, as he looked up
could see it in his eyes, in
the tightness of his face and lips,
all of us all of us
felt his pain in our hearts

Sam Hamod has published 9 book of poems, and will
have two more published in 2005; he has taught
creative writing at the Writer's Workshop of the U. of Iowa,
Princeton, Michigan and Wisconsin. He may be reached


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