Joey Nicoletti

Joey Nicoletti


A Picture of the Costa Concordia


This was published in a newspaper

last year, a half-decade after the ship tilted

from hitting a rock. What’s left is

a rusted tongue, groped by the hands

of Canary yellow cranes, picking it apart

for scraps. A bridge, lopsided

on the back of the tongue, and no one

is on it. The voices of the 32 people,

the passengers who died here, muffled

by the grinding of gears, the thump, thump

of debris, vanishing in the shadowy waters

of blue and white dumpsters, flanked

by a forklift, grinding its way

toward the tongue’s one clear space.




An apartment building in the distance.

Some of its windows are open, and I wonder:


is anyone looking at the tongue

from their vantage point?


Is anyone feeling despondent, yet grateful

that they weren’t on it?


That they weren’t left to die

by a captain who took his time

to get passengers off the ship;

this man, who testified

I was number one on the Costa Concordia

after God;

this man, who could not bear

the thought of losing his own life, for forsaking

the greater good of those he was sworn

to respect and protect?

This man, who was told

by the Italian Coast Guard Captain,

Vada a bardo, Cazzo!

In English, roughly:

Get back on board, Dick!

after stating that he was on a lifeboat

beneath his ship



while some of his passengers drowned

and the majority of the remaining crew

brought women, children and men

to safety?


The captain’s conduct, or lack thereof seems

decidedly un-Italian

to me: my ancestors having shouldered

the burden of traveling to a new home across an ocean,

to the United States of America, a place

they had never been to, so that their offspring;

their children and grandchildren, some of whom

they would never meet, much less play games with

would have a fighting chance to prosper; to live a life

that would allow them to be on a boat for fun

instead of necessity; a holiday

to stuff their faces with food from lavish, endless buffets;

to dance on floors that light up

under disco balls of privilege; some of whom might have

had multiple dance partners and hookups; trysts

in executive suites; in King and Queen-sized beds

with satin and silk sheets; their love-cries and grunts, bubbling

in hot tubs; waves from unpredictable, powerful waters, slick

on the ship’s hull and main deck;

before they light up smokes;

before they change into tuxedos, evening gowns,

buttoned-down shirts with parrots, palm tree silhouettes

pressed onto scarlet shirts, Bermuda and Board

shorts, sandals, baseball caps, visors,

Sunglasses; their necks, arms, and legs glistening with

sun screen, suntan oil, before they go

to play shuffleboard, to throw shade,

to whisper sweet nothings to each other

as they hold hands, get kissy-face, and take selfies on the deck;

love and ocean salt in the air; in their hair

as they go from port to port, the more exotic,

the more erotic, the better, on the kind of pleasure cruise

this ship; this tongue was designed to provide.


Four boats in front of the building, also in port.

The clouds above Genoa reflected

in the still waters.

Another boat drifts

towards the West,

like my mother and her parents, Ida and Giovanni,

my Nonna and Nonno,

60 years ago.

I do not know

what the prospect

of swapping one country for another

must have felt like for them

any more than I can say

with any kind of certainty

how they persisted in the processes of doing so:

of making preparations

to come to the United States, let alone

how they endured the war-torn circumstances

that made them and other family members, other people

from various countries

make the same decision;

how they persisted, in spite of the cramped, sickly conditions

of the S.S. Christopher Columbus: the ship that took them

to New York; The Statue of Liberty, cloaked

in clouds when they arrived. Ida’s

and Giovanni’s shoulders slouched.


Because of them, I have the luxury

of taking these moments to lament;

to consider the implications

of this image:

the two people, in hard hats, working in the middle of the tongue;

the loss of life it tasted; bitter;

the clouds and snow, outside my bedroom window

tonight; the ice in the cracks

of my bedroom’s sliding door, which I can melt

with a hair dryer

that was shipped overseas

from an order I placed

on my phone, which is where I am viewing

this image.


Because of them, I can find it within me to start

my own quest; to go from gung-ho

to letting go; my feelings loose

like spare change; the coins of stars

in tonight’s weather machine, which might yield

a jackpot of snow

by midnight.


Because of them, I can celebrate

a bottle of Pinot Bianco, chilled

on the porch; my spouse, Boston Terrier, Schnauzer,

and short-haired cat joining me on it. We feast

on what we see at this moment:

stars, planets, and constellations,

the fruits of the universe’s labor;

the best friends of skilled navigators and competent captains;

all of us together, among icicles and snow, aglow

under rusted moonlight.



Joey Nicoletti is the author of three full-length poetry collections and four chapbooks, the most recent of which are Thundersnow (Grandma Moses Press, 2017) and Counterfeit Moon (NightBallet Press, 2016). A Sewanee and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference alumnus, he holds degrees from the University of Iowa, New Mexico State University, and Sarah Lawrence College. Joey lives in Western New York, where he teaches at SUNY Buffalo State College.