Friday, September 28, 2007


Haggling with the clerk at the DMV this week who needed me to produce our marriage certificate (a post-September 11th requirement in this state for every married woman to authenticate the transition from her birth surname to present married surname) gave me an instant to ruminate on the whole idea of marriage. This dated piece of paper represents a powerful link to a culture’s rules of a legal union.

A variety of mysterious wedding traditions exist in many old world cultures, including the Jewish Chupah, African American and Romani peoples jumping the broom, Mediterranean wedding parties breaking glasses, Celtic brides wearing a braid and grooms in kilts, and so on. These past generations have left their footprints in the sand where they have tested the waters of their particular customs with their toes. Tevye wisely knew that tradition is a powerful bond.

But what happens when a young bride finds herself without a tradition? Our wedding certificate was signed by a Lutheran minister. That’s important because this bride came from a Catholic family, none of which were represented in the church on that day in November. Were the bonds of matrimony somehow weakened? Did the aura of bliss quickly evaporate? I’m certain it was more than an adequate celebration, in spite of any real link to the past. There has always been a nagging doubt in the back of my mind, however, that I had somehow missed a bigger blessing. I wrote this poem a while ago in response to an incredible and totally serendipitous experience I had many years later on an anniversary weekend. I think this about closes this chapter, except for an occasional epilogue installment.

Cannoli Man

She took to the road early, turning her face East
Away from the small railroad town where her immigrant grandfather
Sold groceries to cowboys and laborers
But no one recognized her name.
Arriving in her youth, she tentatively placed her feet down as divining rods
On the narrow cobblestones Paul Revere rode.
No one there had shared steerage with her family.
Dinner tables piled high with Sunday's best were long since covered with asphalt
in the city with broad shoulders.
Only drowsy, wine-soaked eyes met hers along the Chesapeake.

Bowing her head, she passed the old flagship church in South Philly.
True north she found his store at the edge of the market,
Falling out from the rest of the buildings like a torn piece of lace.
Shiny cannoli tubes, stock pots, strainers and randomly hung
Yellowing photos of boxers past their prime, Mussolini and the Pope
Her hand closed around his cigar stained, sausage fingers, his sweater's
unraveling cuffs
Comparing origins, he had, in fact, heard her name before.
Turning to her Irish immigrant husband, the shopkeeper asked,
Did you get permission to marry one of our girls?

A familial smile parted her lips as
The small Calabrian dove in her breast eased it's fluttering--
folded back its wings, and calmly closed its eyes to rest.

(for more powerfully delicious writing check out Sunday Scribblings)


Inland Empire Girl said...

very powerful post!

Jo said...

Love the post and I can honestly say that I like that poem more than anything I've read in a long, long time (and I read a lot). It's utterly beautiful........

AnnieElf said...

Geeze Noni, instant reaction. As a Catholic I am saddened that your family did not appear that day despite the choice you made. My mother had to make a similar choice and it hurt her for years. Your poem is beautiful and will be read more than once.

Herb Urban said...

Very moving poem. Powerful prose as well.

Hope said...

Oh, how I felt the sweet coming home. Very nice poem. I like this.

gautami tripathy said...

Very interesting, thoughtful and powerful post. Traditions are important. It binds us to past as well to present.

That poem resonated!

Crafty Green Poet said...

I enjoyed reading this, I specially like the image of feet as divining rods.

paisley said...

the poem makes me want to say...."that is america...."

Marianne said...

I was so moved with that journey, every step of the way, and I thank you.
I also have 'Traditions' playing in my head :^)

Granny Smith said...

What an absolutely beautiful poem! Please post more poetry. You are truly talented. This poem goes into my permanent collection.


Robin said...

It makes my heart hurt that a family would turn their back on a child for their choices.

Patois said...

I, too, focused on that line in your post regarding your family not being there. Very sad. The poem is beautiful.

tumblewords said...

Lovely story and poem - the final three lines of the poem are extraordinarily fine!

Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

Wonderful poem and thoughts on tradition. ... the language of your poetry is exquisite. Peace, JP/deb

Anonymous said...

What a lovely, lovely poem. So glad you stopped by.