This poem was published in the Fall 2011 issue of the literary journal Third Wednesday.
Independence Day, 1977 (Rome, New York)
Whipped-cream clouds smear a powder blue sky,
while Grandpa nurses a carafe of Chianti
and dreams of waltzing down Bourbon Street.
The DeCosty family gathers under the fly-infested patio,
with Uncle Fee roasting sausage and peppers
and Nana dribbling olive oil over fresh tomatoes,
then adding alternating pinches of basil and parsley.
Inside the backyard bordered by overgrown hedges,
the rambunctious cousins wham Wiffle balls
with a thin banana-colored plastic bat,
evoking the hollers of Grandpa . . .
who watches out for his mint-green aluminum shed,
situated perfectly in left-center field—serving as our own Green Monster.
And when we get ahold of that little white ball,
it smacks up against the aluminum obstacle,
clashing like two marching band cymbals in a halftime show.
And with sweat coursing down his flaming neck,
Grandpa barks out his familiar line under the patio awning:
“Son of a bitch . . . keep that goddamn ball away from my shed.”
But Nana is always on our side,
and cancels out his power and keeps him in check.
“Fiore, you let those kids play and mind your mouth,” she says.
Grandpa abandons his no-win cause,
turns up the volume on the Yankee game
and pours himself another glass of red wine.
He watches quietly as the shed stands erect in the late afternoon sun,
sacrificing its facade for our slew of ground-rule doubles.