The Language of Suffering
My dad went weird when Nonna Lucia died.
It was like his sense of humor died with her.
He still patted my back and called me buddy;
we still played catch while the mosquitoes rose.
He still rubbled my head with his knuckles.
But a muscle had tightened in his jaw
I’d never seen before, and the silence
between us in the front seat of the van
sometimes made me turn on the radio.
I knew he loved his mom. We all loved her.
But when he smiled now, his eyes still looked sad,
all these months after Nonna’s funeral.
Maybe there was some treasure he’d wanted,
that she gave to one of his brothers in her will?
Maybe he’d wanted some of the furniture?
But he got the embroidered tablecloth
Nonna and Nonno brought to America,
which she spread out at family festivals
under platter after platter after platter.
He wasn’t a movie dad with another woman:
He was an oldish husband who’d just moved away,
a dad who didn’t hear you when you spoke.
Me and Mom and Theresa could see his pain,
but we don’t know the language of suffering.