Green Hills Literary Lantern
Leandro X Rossi, 1910 - 1994

 

You said your name was Lee,

so I was Little Lee.

But when it came time to bury you,

there were no documents that bore

the one name I knew you by,

only the cracked, brown photocopy

of a birth certificate for baby

LAST NAME :   Rossi___

FIRST NAME:   _Leandro

MIDDLE        :   ___ x___

Once you left home,

a 12-year-old migrant

with two hundred in your shoe,

a going away present from

il tuo padre, Leandro,

you were an impostor,

X the unknown,

offering an alias to an unforgiving world.

The year was 1923,

a good year for a Dago boy

to leave the South –

your blue eyes and field-darkened skin

read like a wanted poster

to every cracker sheriff

between Memphis and Chicago.

You never lost your watchfulness,

never regained the knack of easy

friendship, never relaxed

without the help of beer or whiskey.

Your drinking buddies at the Legion

could only help with drinking,

not with loneliness

or the sense that you had committed

some crime, which even after

your law-abiding, small-business-

building, child-rearing, God-fearing

life, would follow you to the grave.

 

Lee Rossi’s most recent book is Wheelchair Samurai. His poems, reviews and interviews have appeared in The Sun, The Harvard Review, Poetry Northwest, The Beloit Poetry Journal, and The Southern Poetry Review.  He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.