Tales of Immigrant Ancestors

Another conversation with my aunt,
who tells me about her father’s trip
who made his crossing to America
when he was fifteen. Alone, he traveled

from Canicatti, no money or education,
for vague hope of a better life,
sponsored by his sister, my grandmother,
who arrived at Ellis Island, 1917.

His younger brother was a stowaway
years later, worked in construction
until someone ratted him out. He rushed
to the Justice of the Peace to marry

Aunt Anna, who brought him back
from Argentina for a proper church wedding.
They didn’t have sex until after that,
Aunt Mary adds without prompting

Anna got pregnant after she wanted
to be done with having babies. She got
an abortion. They all had abortions then.
This is my mother’s side of the family,

the side who didn’t send their daughters
to convents for being sexual, who didn’t
pretend to be devout. Paisans, they lived
close in tenements, knew each others’

business and secrets, shared food
and abortionists in the 1930’s.
No tales of sepsis or sudden death.
We never spoke of it. So late,

so many questions I can’t ask
those dead for decades. I ask Mary,
who says she doesn’t know
how my grandparents met.

Photo Credit: Massimo Frasson Flickr via Compfight cc

Joan Mazza

Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and has been a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. She is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam), and her poetry has appeared in Rattle, Whitefish Review, Off the Coast, Kestrel, Slipstream, American Journal of Nursing, The MacGuffin, Mezzo Cammin, and The Nation. She ran away from the hurricanes of South Florida to be surprised by the earthquakes and tornadoes of rural central Virginia, where she writes poetry and does fabric and paper art.

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