He was at the mercy of his mother,

Strong fingered hand gripping his little boy paw

Pulling him down the street to run errands.

Back then, there was still the butcher and the baker

And the vegetable man to visit, all along the streets of

Sunset Park. She bargained while he cringed, hoping

Just once she would pay what was asked. Hoping just

Once she would not reach into the oil-stained paper bag

In which she kept her money, the garlic scented money,

Waiting for the inevitable discount, leaving satisfied

And just a little smug. He used to say that she could

Calculate compound interest in her head, this peasant girl

From the old country, who never saw the inside of a schoolhouse.

Still, the child in him wilted as they walked down 20th Street,

Past the banker and the milkman and the fruit vendor, Daddy

Aching to be nothing more than American.

Linda Dini Jenkins is a poet and essayist. She is the author of Journey of a Returning Christian: Writing into God and Up at the Villa: Travels with my Husband. Her poetry has been published in VIA (Voices in Italian Americana), Vermont Voices, South Florida Poetry Review, Phoebe, Poeti italo-americani e italo-canadesi, Tampa Review, and Peregrine. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts and Sulmona, Italy.