Now that season 3 of The Sopranos sleeps with the Swedish fish
in the plastic and cardboard sea of DVD cases
of a supermarket endcap;
now that James Gandolfini,
the actor who played Tony
Soprano, the lead role, is dead,
I shake my head as I get in line
and my spouse informs me
that Tony will get screen time again,
that he will return, like Polio,
in the form of a prequel movie
set during his childhood.
My spouse checks our cart: we forgot
to pick up ice cream.
She tells me to scan as soon as I can.
She will be back
in two shakes.
As I wait for a lane to open up,
I consider my feelings about why
I hate The Sopranos so.
Its popularity is not
the bane of my existence,
but it hits me like a nightstick
when I hear people express
their enthusiasm for the actions
of Tony’s family and crew;
their propensity for abuse;
for murdering anyone
who gets in their way
or who they believe
has slighted them.
I abhor the show’s writers,
their use of pidgin Italian
for comedic effect;
to make people believe
what they see and hear;
to keep watching; often insensate
or blasé to the possibility
that such is a misguided view;
a flawed understanding
of the majority
of Italian Americans.
It’s fun for them
to watch Tony behave
like a stronzo.
Not enough Americans know
about Sacco and Vanzetti.
Not enough Americans know
about the interment of its citizens
of Italian descent in World War Two—
Americans of Japanese descent, too.
I want to say that Italianness is more
than electrifying performances
or studied interpretations
of tough, cunning characters;
I want to believe
that being famous in pop culture is a sign
that people of my heritage
have come of age;
have made it big in America.
But such portrayals and shows don’t account
for those who haven’t led lives of crime;
for those who dedicate their lives
to helping others. They devalue
the achievements of scholars, doctors,
and other community leaders.
any chance of Italian Americans being seen
as people who are not always
trigger-happy, mercenary, devious, vulgar,
or have an insatiable appetite
for power. My spouse returns.
She asks me
what I’m thinking about.
It’s time to raise awareness, I say.
I want to change
into bada no stereotype.
I think it can start
with being different
in movies and TV.
My spouse smiles. I hope
we get the Breyer’s
Neapolitan ice cream scanned
before it melts, she says.
I want us to be at ease.
I want us to please
our troubled, tired, mouths.
Let the rain drain you.
Let the rain serenade you.
Let the rain be your pilot
as you board tonight’s Boeing 737 of sleep,
as chickadees wait for their chance
to perch on the back porch;
to eat some seed
before fingers of mist strum
guitar strings of power lines
with its blistery fingers. I regret
that your head hurts, my love; I’m sorry
that the pain is worse
because of what I said
and how callously I said it,
a Mocha-brown blanket with a hole
in the middle, rolled in a ball
on the love seat. I take
deep breaths. As much progress
as I have made in weathering
storms inside and outside of me,
I have more floors and sidewalks to cover.
I will turn off the lights, and listen to music
on my iPod. Old school. Noise rock.
I will stretch out on the couch by choice
with the cat beside me, so that he doesn’t scratch
on the bedroom door, as you try
to rest. I will try not to think
of my father, of the many nights
and mornings he slept in the living room
at my mother’s behest
when I was a child. A Lee Renaldo lick
kicks off my slumber set, a sonic massage
for my aching mind and heart.
Joey Nicoletti’s latest book is Boombox Serenade, which is forthcoming later this year from BlazeVOX Press. He teaches creative writing at SUNY Buffalo State.