the fade out by Vittoria repetto

The following poem is appearing in the 38 issue of the Paterson Literary Review.

the fade out

by Vittoria repetto
i miss the first signs
him speaking only in italian
figured a chance to practice mine
said the sunday times
has stories of people he doesn’t care about
figured his usual lack of caring
not trouble reading

new year day ’99
i call dad up
to wish him a happy new year
says he was tired
went to bed early
when i ask what he cooked
he can’t remember
says i opened a can
a can of what, i ask
he can’t remember
he gets annoyed
cursing porco di madonna e jesu
pig of madonna and jesus
the same curse to my mama
on the day she died
the 12 yr old in my head
looks around
sees the martial arts
the medical knowledge
in my brain
whispers in my ear
we know how to kill him now
i shut the kid up
as dad says piselli
a can of peas
and i say ciao
see ya dad and hang up
2 days later
he walks into my office
a 2 day old beard
he couldn’t find his razor

hospital referral
not enough piss
for a test
we hit the local bagel place
some coffee
hoping to load him up
he stares at the counter
the signs.
not talking
i wonder
can he count on one hand
the times he’s had a bagel
italian chef
50 yrs
in the foreign land of new york

he goes off
just after easter
his usual 6 months in italy
to make this year’s wine
3 days later
he’s wandered off
lost somewhere
they search in the wrong direction
down the hill
dad’s face on TV
for 4 days
more than warhol’s 15 minutes of fame
back in l’merica
he wanders again

police phone me at 5am
he’s at st. vincent’s emergency.
i put some clothes on
get up there
he ids his butch daughter
to the attending
as his brother.
on way out of the assisted home
to a restaurant
gnocchi with pesto
he hovers over
the pretty young girl at the front desk
thinking he’s the cat’s meow
not seeing himself
bent and befuddled



he’s waiting

for the free barber,

he complains to me

not enough money in his wallet.

he explores,

throws a chair.

i back up

to protect him


my demon.


i finally start
to clean his apartment out
the containers of farina, polenta all ajar
and full of bugs
the pasta machine
the coffee grinder
the potato masher
for the swiss chard pie
all dirty
and busted
the frustration  of not knowing
before lunch
we call italy
tells franca
he never sees me
she says call her
and you will see her
and i sit in front of him
and watch
as he calls

too unmanageable to go out
i bring him some gnocchi
for me
some fried calamari and broccoli di rabe.
i sit him down
refuses to eat
so i eat mine
he stares at me eating
somewhere in his head
a voice says eat
and he does

on the way up the elevator
from the early thanksgiving dinner
he seems to know me
talks a little
i lean over
and even though
it was never enough;
i whisper in his ear
dad i know you did the best you could
you understand?
he nods yes.


his 80th birthday

the social worker brings a sheet cake

i feed him

he is old man

his head drops

leaning into the plastic fork

he is child

his head drops

he is protozoa

cytoplasm engulfing the fork

i lift the prongs into his hard palate

he lifts his head

looks at me

says in italian

i know you

you’re the one w/ the money


in the hospital
diagnosed w/ malignant colon cancer
he keeps ripping
the feeding tubes out
they tie his arms down
6 months or more to live
legato giu come un cane
tied down like a dog
let him go
i lift the sleeping eyelids
eyes three whites
blue iris
no pupil
person gone
a shell
i stroke his cheek
kiss it

i come home
holy saturday
dinner w/ friends
answering machine message
that he’s passed
remembering him saying
to an 8 yr me
not to call him dad
pronouncing it
w/ an e thrown in
I’m papa, no dead
and now
dad’s dead

 © 2008 –Vittoria repetto

Posted on September 23, 2010, in, butch poem, italian american lesbian poet, italian american poet, maria mazziotti gillan, NYC lesbian poet, NYC poet, paterson Literary review, poetry, Women's & Trans' Poetry Jam,, and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Intense. Reminded me of my grandmother…. wow.

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