I was born in Rockaway, below Brooklyn, on a strip
of land that looks like a fat finger stretching into the Atlantic.
I remember no woman who cherished my cradle or teenage
awe. And yet, it was special to grow up behind a hedge,
with the ocean every day in my eyes, special
to uncover the pride my father's Italian face couldn't hide
the time I brought home my first accountant's paycheck.
He wanted to play chess and, smoking but two cigarettes,
let me beat him unequivocally, on a combination rook-and-queen.
He ended by saying to always watch out for those treacherous towers
and the black-and-white crosses their long moves plot.
"Treacherous," he said, somberly: I remembered the word
with a smile that Tuesday, September 11,
as I raced to work through Manhattan.
And I recall his warning now
that I am dust scattered by an obscene blast
dust lost among the dusts of others undone
below a ravaged sidewalk, next to the leaf where
never will my father find me not even
to hold the hand I'd use to play him. I came from Rockaway
where I knew no woman's love or warmth:
may one now come and ask the white irises
to bloom in my name, faded, erased.
Rome, September 26, 2001