by Natalie Martusciello


My father and his brother hovering watchfully

over the hissing stovetop, raw shrimp and squid


falling into the yellow bath of canola oil.

My sister and brother and I roaming the quiet


neighborhood after dark to admire the Christmas

lights, glowing brightly against the indigo December


night and breathing warmth into the frigid air.

From the opposite end of the street we can still


smell the savory, fattening aroma of fried seafood

wafting from the window above the sink. Soon


we are racing back to the house, and I am not worrying

about the way my stomach might bounce slightly as I run or the


estimated calorie count of our seven-course meal that

will stretch into the early morning. I am thinking only


about the chocolate reindeer Aunt Mary gave to

me and the lemon meringue pie and tiramisu we


can eat only after dinner and watching my step as I

dash down the frost-covered pavement so as not to slip.


I wonder now whether my great-aunts loved or loathed

their curvaceous Neopolitan bodies, whether they worried


about the unconcealable curves of their bellies as they

bent over to retrieve the Baccalá from the refrigerator,


or flaunted their figures proudly in the tenements

of Little Italy the way I wear the silver Cornicello


around my neck, an unmistakable mark of our culture.

As they posed in the black-and-white photograph beside my


slender grandmother on her wedding day, French blood flowing

elegantly beneath her powdered sugar skin, a-line gown hugging her


petite waist, feminine and desirable, did they too hurt the way that I do,

trapped within the riptide of perpetual comparison?


I am my great-grandfather’s refusal to alter our family name

upon his arrival at Ellis Island. I am the Parvotti and Caruso that crackled


from his phonograph and filled his living room with emotion

and reverence. I am the iridescent sapphire of the Gulf of Naples.


I am the lost language my grandmother disapproved of her

late husband’s family using in her presence. I am the embodiment


of a history not entirely lost.


Natalie Martusciello is originally from Long Island, New York. She is an English major and Creative Writing concentrator at the College of Charleston. Her short story “Superstition” was published in the spring 2021 issue of MSU Roadrunner Review. This is her first poem that has been published.

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