PoetryIssue 10 | September 2010

Italian Cuisine

by Paul Hostovsky

I’m visiting my half-sister Olga
in Bologna. She’s 45 and married
to an Italian. I’m 15, American, and the only
Italian word I know besides spaghetti

is baloney. My family
history reads like one of those libretti
where everyone is falling in love and jumping
out of windows. Alleluia. Allioop!

My nephew Dario, 4 years older than me (go
figure), takes me to a party on the Via Faenza
where everyone is smoking and eating
pot brownies. They take turns

practicing their English on the American.
I feel famous, then exploited.
Someone is telling a long hilarious joke
in Italian. All of my interpreters

are cracking up and rolling on the floor,
mute with laughter. I smile helplessly,
sweep the floor with my eyes for the dropped
English. It evaporates like water in a pot

of giddy spaghetti. The brownies kick in.
I float to the window, look out at the porticos leapfrogging
to infinity through the streets of Bologna.
I close my eyes and see:

Olga in her kitchen, holding a rolling pin;
my father in Prague, holding a cigarette
like a leaky pen, pointing it up
at a portrait of Jan Masaryk who

jumped (go figure) out a window.
I see Wendy Lazzoni back in Jersey
at the end of a long tunnel in space, smiling…
I can see the gap between her teeth perfectly,

I can even see the gap between the buttons
of her blouse, which was always space enough—
when Dario taps my scapula and we lapse
into English. Back at Olga’s

it’s rigatoni for dinner—
little fluted tunnels floating
in a white wine sauce. I’m still
stoned. I hold one up

to my left eye while closing
my right: Olga floats into focus
glaring like the Inquisition at Dario
who’s holding a rigatoni telescope

of his own, peering through it across
the dinner table at me, the American
Galileo. “Nevertheless,
it moves,” I say to him. He explodes

into exorbitant laughter.

About the author

Paul Hostovsky’s poems have won a Pushcart Prize, and the Muriel Craft Bailey Award from The Comstock Review. He has been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer’s Almanac and Best of the Net 2008 and 2009. His most recent book of poems is Dear Truth (2009, Main Street Rag). Visit him here.

Read our current issue:


Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok