There is a moment Sunday,
an inexplicable instant of clarity
and purpose the dying often summon,
when my mother extends a hand through the mist,
lifts off her bed and makes for the kitchen.
On a marble slab, she mixes egg and flour,
salt and water, rolls flat the shroud of dough,
snips it into tagliatelle,
and covers it with a sheet.
Even the rain halts and the sun appears
to allow her passage into the garden
for Romas, parsley,
garlic and basilico.
So that when we tiptoe into the etherized hush
of my parents’ apartment,
and the long afternoon of one breath
and then one breath less,
we smell the sauce and hear Connie Francis
from the stereo singing Al Di La.
In the dining room: long still-warm
loaves of Siciliano; china
stationed at each place for primi, secondo,
the unhurried, comforting office of the table;
light, as day latens, flaring
in pitchers of purple chianti.
Her back to us, my mother
stands over the stove. At her side,
my father grates the Pecorino,
parries our looks of astonishment with a smile:
he knew all along she’d snap out of it.
In the large silver pot
we have worshipped all our lives,
water with the pasta
roils like an oracle.
My mother peers into it, stirring;
then turns to greet us:
red apron, pearls, sweatpants,
old-fashioned ladies white tennis shoes.
she elevates the wooden spoon.
Behind her, columns of steam
rise and roost
in her white hair
like little statues.
Joseph Bathanti is North Carolina’s Poet Laureate, and “acts as an ambassador of N.C. literature, using the office as a platform from which to promote N.C. writers and the potentially transformative qualities of poetry and the written word.” He shares this poem in honor of National Poetry Month. “Maria Roselina” was first published in Restoring Sacred Art, Star Cloud Press, 2010. You can view upcoming dates for Bathanti’s appearances read more of work on his blog.