Paola Corso


Mute Poets


After Ferlinghetti’s “Blind Poet”


(to be performed while wearing a surgical mask)


No sitting on a stoop—

Phyllis steps above,

Gabriella steps below,

me in the middle.


The Ferlinghetti Girls are furloughed.


We’ve suspended

our Zuppa Nella Stoopa

open mics where we make

a pot of soup to share

on Phyllis’ stoop,

send loving barbs from bards

to neighbors passing by

as we toast with Prosecco,

lick luscious lips

made by the chocolatier.

I bought bunches of escarole

and cans of cannelloni

for Italian greens and beans

but they’re on ice

in the big freeze

ever since the cad isn’t

with his caddie on the green,

isn’t railing away at rallies

and let the doctor step

up to the mic to speak science.

Our bunny baskets were filled

with hand-sewn masks

the color of eggshell blue,

pink peeps, and jellybean cheer.

We’re not boardwalking our poems

in our stay-at-home state,

wondering where

our next roll of toilet paper

is coming from,

baking too many cookies

and reading about a dutiful son


standing in a bucket truck

three flights up

outside his elderly mother’s

nursing home window

so he can visit with her.




Ferlinghetti Girls who’ve got

his Coney Island of the mind.

Our voices penetrate

polypropylene plastic,

voices loud enough


to blow your house down

as mother poet

Maria Mazziotti Gillan would say,

voices in three-part harmony

of our Italian American experience

as women who don’t wave

wooden spoons to get you to mangia,

but stitch and stitch and stitch

like garment workers embroidering

our stories together,

sharing the same seam


as we sing.


Paola Corso is the author of six books of poetry and fiction, all set in her native Pittsburgh where her Italian immigrant family worked in the steel mills. Corso’s latest books are The Laundress Catches Her Breath, winner of the Tillie Olsen Award in Creative Writing, Once I Was Told the Air Was Not for Breathing, a Triangle Fire Memorial Association Awardee, and forthcoming Vertical Bridges: Poems and Photographs of City Steps. She is co-founder and resident artist of Steppin Stanzas, a grant-awarded poetry & art project celebrating city steps. Visit