Jennifer Romanello

Jennifer Romanello


My Children Play Ping Pong

in the backyard of the house
where my father was born.

They do not know the miles
I’ve traveled to arrive here,
where my parents once were happy:

the “before” part of their lives,
when the rooster’s crow reassured them
day would come,
oleanders scenting
now-forgotten roads walked each morning
on their way to the country.

A clear Calabrian evening,
the little ball playing
back and forth, fading
as the sun goes down,
its clinking mingled

with squeals of victory,
and in the distance my mother’s long-ago laughter
closer, here, now,
my father’s smile
lighting the rooms,
until I know, I know,
I’m not the only one watching
our game.



“I Terri”

Your voices whisper
to us as we walk the ground
where the chamomile flowers
my mother planted sixty years ago
still grow.

This was Eden,
the road bent just so
upon your early morning arrival.

The almond tree, still elegant in its sad beauty,
beckoned my father
to take his afternoon nap in its shade,
after hot mornings working the land.

Wide, open Calabrian sky,
in anticipation of
pasquetta and ferro agosto
with the people you loved most.

A pristine and lost Italy:
were you conscious of it?

and the whispers rush back:
I terri
I terri
erano belli
e l’abbiamo abbandonati

the land you bled for,
Ithaca of myth,
is ours now,
ghosts walking behind us
on the hardened earth
slightly moistened
by tears.



Jennifer Romanello was born in Calabria, Italy and immigrated to the United States when she was four years old. She has spent most of her career in book publishing, where she was most recently VP, Director of Publicity for Children’s Publishing at Simon & Schuster. Some of the authors she has worked with include Nicholas Sparks, Nelson DeMille, David Baldacci, Jennifer Weiner and Cassandra Clare, among many others. She is an adjunct professor in the English department at Hofstra University.