Mimma asks open-ended questions
I answer like a jaded ventriloquist.
She loves classical music, nails every
piped-in piece. Mimma's italiana but
doesn't speak Italian fluently. Today,
she's stuck on the word for "until." I
recite Speroni's Italian 100A dialogues
in my head. Hard not to move lips
pronouncing Italian. Hard not to move
hands, either, mine squeezed tight in my
lap should Mimma jab a gum. I only
remember "next to" from when Carolyn
asks Pietro in Roma where the Trattoria
Firenze is. "Go straight ahead, turn left,
it's next to the post office," he answers.
È vicino all' ufficio postale. Mimma keeps
asking questions, she asks about Gris-Gris.
How does she remember his name? Gris-Gris,
talisman, gris--gray in French, his body
cockatiel gray, his head soft yellow
as a child's first bib, cheeks two velvety
circles of flame. Mimma loves cats, cats
purr all over her bulletin board. I want
to tell her my rapport with muchacho is
strictly platonic––he won't let me touch
him. I picture Mimma on her sofa with
an entourage of fur. My bird and I, we
speak of the acacia, the wind, the kangaroo.
We listen to the gurgle of agua trilling over
slate in the fountain. Mimma's still scraping
though she says my mouth is cleaner than
most. Not time for a rinse yet and that foul-
tasting toothpaste. I want to tell her my
fingers crave feathers, nibble, fuzz. I've
always wondered how Mimma maneuvers
that miniature mirror inside my mouth. I
finally rinse before the brushing, rushing
to tell her I'm just an organic seed, a chip
of cuttlebone for this accidental child. My
only child. Cats are Mimma's children.
The bird mirror is bigger than hers. His image
is his star. La sua stella who tracks his every
fox trot, mambo. His tango nuevo. I still haven't
looked up the word for "until." One day it will
hop into my head without my even begging.
Judith Terzi's poems appear in journals and anthologies including Caesura, Columbia Journal, Good Works Review (FutureCycle), Myrrh, Mothwing, Smoke: Erotic Poems (Tupelo), Raintown Review, Unsplendid, and Wide Awake: The Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond (Pacific Coast Poetry Series). Her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Web and Net and included in Keynotes, a study guide for the artist-in-residence program for State Theater New Jersey. Casbah and If You Spot Your Brother Floating By are recent chapbooks from Kattywompus Press.