Jennifer Martelli

Jennifer Martelli



I searched the internet for an Italian

sonnet, found: two round stones
tied with string, a tintype of an old

master wearing a crown of twisted linden
leaves, a prehistoric painting

from a cave deep within Avellino
of a fat dusty umber owl


its head in full rotation—

Yeah, so, I’m looking for the cervical
turn, the way to the way back—
a volta protected by

fourteen vertebrae. My quarrel
is this ancient blood within myself: the black
linden leaves reflecting a million eyes.

Panis, Panis, Angelicus: A Cento

I love you because I am Italian and you wear it better.
I am afraid I shall not know an American with a familiar kind of face.

I’ll brew my wine from gold to gray,
my nipple like the nib of a pen.

Your flesh was unused tissue:
they say you lurk here still, perhaps.

I got lonely because I was going extinct
from giving and giving and giving.

There was a smell of woman made spring there–
narrow windows on a narrow alley,

only the evil eyes of a thousand buildings
that nothing, nothing can shatter.

The heat sits on my body with the cumulative weight of dream men:
He is creeping prick first/into my sleeping bag cunt.

(We wish to dam this female tide:
Something would have to break through with a life of its own.)

Sources: [Grace Di Santo, Elaine Romaine, Anne Paolucci, Kathy Freeperson, Phyllis Capello, Diane Di Prima, Elizabeth Marraffino, Daniella Gioseffi, Maria Iannacome Coles, Anna Bart, Sandra M. Gilbert, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Jacquelyn Bonomo, Theresa Vinciguerra]

Colonial Acres

Up from the beach and near the clay farms
where the Mulligans raised pigs,

Mr. Festa built rows of ranch houses with pink or
burnt sienna kitchens and named three streets

after his kids—Anne and Johnny and Joey—named
one after his wife Camille, one for his mother Assunta,

and called this Colonial Acres in gothic font. Some homes
had Pilgrim touches: lanterns with electric flames

on front porches, gold eagles on flag poles,
eagles spread-eagle above the doors. Noe, Simonini,

Grenga, Cardinale
(who was shot execution-style), DeNitto, Caporale,

Magnifico, Ceci (whose mother was a witch),
Stagno, Gravalese (who ground pork

and sage into translucent gut tubes with a steel crank
grinder on the flagstone patio). The leaves on the grape arbors

were olive-green-black and at night steam
rose from the gardens and there were bones.

Trump Tweets About Bloody Women

At the gelataria on Via Fausti Dionisi,
a British couple read their Twitter feeds out loud.
I think about passing for Canadian.
I wish I spoke Italian, but that tongue
was long ago nailed to the wood paneling
by a great-great-grandparent
next to the pepper in the second kitchen
downstairs, where I wasn’t listening.
There was a sadness to the language, all gun-
metal, pulled from the sulfur mines deep
within the heart of that old country, but
who am I to guess what it meant?
They were so proud to be rid of the tongue
that jutted out of Medusa’s head and broke
legs. Here in Italy, I can’t pass—not even
with my black eyes, my hair, not my olive skin.


Jennifer Martelli is the author of The Uncanny Valley, Apostrophe, and After Bird. Martelli, a third-generation Italian-American, is currently working on her second full-length manuscript about Kitty Genovese. Her work has appeared in Thrush, [Pank], Glass Poetry Journal, Five-2-One, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. Jennifer Martelli is the recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry. She is a book reviewer for Up the Staircase Quarterly, as well as a co-curator for The Mom Egg VOX Blog Folio.