This week has been resurrecting some of the initial sting of loss that I felt when we left Italy in December. There are some obvious triggers: Tyler is back in Milan for work, taking photos of the Duomo, and eating gelato from GROM, and having dinner with old friends whom I deeply miss. His absence, and the knowledge of where he is, has also prompted a few sniffles from the kids bemoaning “my real friends” left back in Milano. Then there was the poignant blog post from a good friend who, this week, is following us in her final departure from our former adopted city, recollecting memories and emotions that had been, for a time, swallowed up by the quotidian tasks that have grown to fill my days here in Jersey.
And then there was a snatch of overheard conversation at the grocery store yesterday. It was just an inexpert effort of the checker to reach out to an Italian-speaking customer, but it struck home, making evident with sudden clarity just how much I am missing the loss of daily exposure to my second tongue.
And so, today’s poetry offering reflects upon that loss.
Missing To Me
The grocery line – a checker salutes a man he clearly knows.
“Mille grazie.” A thanks for bagging milk and bread.
The words flare up inside me like a fire with no smoke,
invisible flame that burns inside my head.
I miss the language of the land I sojourned for three years.
Though, then, I mangled it in daily tasks.
The lilting roll of opera’s tongue seduced my willing ears.
“Will I now always miss it?” my soul asks.
Italians say “mi manca” to express this kind of loss.
The literal translation means “(to) me it’s missing.”
The agency is with the missing object, far across
the sea, while I stand silent,listening, wishing.
I try to keep my effort up, insert familiar phrases,
when speaking to the kids throughout the day.
But missing is the boisterous hum pervading public spaces,
the sound that now just memory can replay.
My heart now knows, I understand a language is much more
than words and grammar structured to give meaning.
This language lives inside the lives of people, at its core.
The life I left behind is what I’m grieving.