To look at the old man,
sitting on the park bench
in the softly worn jacket,
near Shore Road,
gently nodding asleep
Il Progresso fluttering
from his wrinkled fingertips,
you wouldn’t think
that anyone cared for him
or loved him.
You might think him utterly alone.
But that wasn’t the case.
In truth, he was the patriarch
of a loud, loving family
who lived a few blocks away.
He came to this country, alone,
at the age of 21,
on a great steamship,
the Giuseppe Verdi,
found work sewing costumes for showgirls,
and later dress suits for men,
fell in love with a dark-eyed girl named Luisa,
had three children,
bought a brick house in Bay Ridge,
made his fortune,
though small it may be,
it was big enough for him.
Many years retired, the old man takes solace
in the park bench, in the quiet reverie,
pretending to read the news in Italian.
Mostly, he just sits and thinks and remembers,
perhaps the first time he kissed his wife,
the day his first grandchild—a boy named Gary—was born,
or recalling the melody of his favorite aria
from Madame Butterfly.
He is often late for Sunday supper,
but they always wait for him,
careworn jacket flapping in the sea breeze,
like the wings of an ancient black butterfly,