Brett Peruzzi


Copper Pots

They hang unused in my hearth now,

mere decorations.


My great-grandmother, Maria Pieri Bettini,

carried them from Italy

more than a century ago.


I picture her, this tiny woman

I know only through photos

and my nonna’s stories,

walking up the gangplank

of the ship in Naples, weighed down

by luggage and three children.

Sent for finally

by her husband,

who had labored long

in the stone sheds of Quincy

to afford their passage.


So much of her past had to be left behind,

but she wasn’t leaving without her cooking pots.

Hand-hammered, their burnished bellies gleaming,

the copper pots with their wrought-iron handles

swing on a rope

draped over her thin shoulders.


She didn’t know what she’d have

to put in them in this new country,

hopefully more than the starchy bulk of polenta

that had quieted many a growling stomach

back in their mountain village.


But Dio mio,

at least it would be cooked right.




Naples, there’s as much to hate about you

as there is to love.


The piles of uncollected garbage

that rise like fetid mountains from the sidewalk.


The bitter roasted perfection

of a cup of espresso

from a tiny street cafe`.


The thieves that buzz your narrow streets on motor scooters

who will tear gold earrings from women’s ears.


The pizza margherita as delicate

as a lover’s kiss.


Crossing a wide boulevard

where the clot of cars never abates

and traffic lights and stop signs

are seen as mere suggestions.


Like New Yorkers on steroids

your people alternately

infuriate and charm me

with explosive outbursts

in a dialect many Italians

find inscrutable.


It’s said that Neapolitans

embrace every day with abandon

living in the shadow of Vesuvius

never knowing when it’s going

to erupt again and bury them

in volcanic ash like Pompei.


Am I the only one

that sees a puff of smoke

rising from its summit,

and smells a whiff of sulfur in the air?


Nun sputà ‘ncielo

ca ‘nfaccia te torna

Neapolitans say,

tilting their heads upwards

with a wry smile –

Don’t spit into the sky because

it’ll land on your face.


A truism spoken by people

who instinctively know

that the heavens

will somehow determine

their fate.



Brett Peruzzi lives in Framingham, Massachusetts. His poems and prose have previously appeared in Ovunque Siamo, The Boston Globe, Exquisite Corpse, Toasted Cheese Literary Journal, Sahara, Pine Island Journal, Boston Poetry Magazine, Gloom Cupboard, and other publications. His family came to Quincy, Massachusetts, near Boston, at the beginning of the twentieth century from the Rome area and the province of Lucca in Tuscany. Both branches of the family worked in Quincy’s granite industry, eventually owning their own businesses, which specialized in cemetery headstones and other monuments.