Nino Provenzano

Nino Provenzano


Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center—Pages Unread

We are on Fifth Avenue
Rockefeller Center, New York
where the largest Christmas tree
is already in holiday garb giving the signal
to the stores artistically choreographed,
to inspire pomp and cheer.

Across, in the window of a gallery,
painted canvases can be observed
of every size
caressed with lights.
Each canvas enclosed in its own frame,
furtively seems to look at its neighbor and say
“I am greater than you,
so said my maker!”

Outside the window,
on the sidewalk,
there is a canvas without a frame,
fluid, alive,
appearing unfinished and choreographed by an artist who is not present.

What one sees at the moment
is a man with deep eyes, and skin and bones,
sitting on the floor with an almost dignified demeanor.
His gaze absent, distant.
His expression neither haughty nor pitiable.

People go by, but no one notices,
no one looks at the floor the cardboard
on which is written “Homeless, with no food to eat….”

No one sees the writing,
even if the first line is in large characters,
and red ink, the color of blood
and the second, in black ink,
black as coal, as the deep night.

Tied to the man’s left foot
there is a dog with a short leash and a muzzle.
It’s not a watchdog, or a hound or catch dog.
It’s thin like its master,
eyes tired, mopish,
silently looking at people bundled up
against the cold, angry wind.

Outside the box, on the ground, there is a book that no one reads.
Only the wind intermittently turns a page,
at times two, three, four.
Unread pages, one after another.

A robin flies in circles above the scene
then lands before the man sitting on the ground
as if with compassion.

Why right here? A robin
on Fifth Avenue, on a smooth sidewalk,
without breadcrumbs or worms. Why?
The bird flies away, then returns.

Tweet, tweet, tweet,
Hops before the man there for no one.
Hops before the empty box.
Hops before the dog with spent eyes.
Hops before the pages that the wind continues to turn……

Tweet, tweet, tweet,
and while moving it turns
two, three times, like a model strutting on the catwalk
to show profile, line and form.

It flies.  Two circles in the air and returns again,
anxiously, as one that forgot
to say an important thing.

Without tweeting, in front of the man sitting on the floor,
the robin with head held high and chest forward,
insists on displaying his wounded heart
Wounded forever.  Born wounded and never healed!
Then it leaves… Only the dog watches the robin….

There… A passerby stops, reads the sign, observes the scene.
Puts his hand in his pocket and pulls out a fifty dollar bill,
saying to the man “This is yours, if you free the dog.  I’ll take it with me.

The two men remain with eyes fixed on each others’ with a hatred
that transcends class and justice,
while the wind hurriedly closed the last page of the book,
to preserve its unread history.


Nino Provenzano was born in Sicily, and lives in the United States.  He is Vice President of  Arba Sicula. He has published three collections of bilingual poetry, Sicilian-English. His latest, Footprints in the Snow, was presented at St. John’s University September 2016.