Over Hair Brushings
for Agostina Gonella Bianco, 1887-1981
I learned Nonna Agonstina's stories summers on the farm
in Salinas Valley where fog rolls in even in July.
Sparrows and crows in rows on clotheslines anchored
mornings as I spooned Spreckle's brown sugar over steaming
cream of wheat
When sun broke through, she'd tease out stories brushing
and combing and brushing my hair.
Weaving ribbons to dance to accordion polkas in my braids,
she told me - Blame is an ugly animal. No one wants him.
My grandmother's hands cannot carry logic.
If she lived her life in Montaldo Scarumpi, Italian village
of her birth, she'd take after her mother,
not a saint, but a mediator,
weighing for the people their baskets of sorrow,
holding their questions,
taking from her pockets, balm, a peacemaker.
Twirling unruly cowlicks
I feel where a lesson,
a kind of insight was planted.
-Denise Calvetti Michaels