Category Archives: butch poem

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
1
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

2
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

3
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

4
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
.
 
5
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.
6
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

 

7

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

from

my demon.

 

8
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
anymore
9
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
vittoria
vittoria
vittoria

10
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

11
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.

12

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

 

13
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
or….
let him go
14
i lift the sleeping eyelids
eyes three whites
blue iris
no pupil
person gone
a shell
i stroke his cheek
kiss it
ciao

15
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
dead
dead

 © 2008 –Vittoria repetto

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butch poem

2nd ave

not that she reveals more

than say

short shorts

it’s just a naked leg

20 something

uncovered of a summer dress

by a summer breeze

as she passes by

on a bike

making you sigh

softly

©- 2008 – Vittoria repetto

About Vittoria repetto

Vittoria repetto is a native downtown lesbian butch who grew up in the Greenwich Village. She is the daughter of immigrant Italian parents; from Liguria on her father’s side and Lombardy on her mother’s side.

Vittoria repetto has been published in Mudfish, Voices in Italian Americana, Rattle, Lips, The Paterson Literary Review, Italian Americana, Unsettling American: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry, Identity Lessons: Learning American Style, The Milk of Almonds: Italian American Women Writers on Food & Culture, and Harrington Lesbian Fiction Quarterly among others.

She has a chapbook entitled Head For the Van Wyck that contains a poem that her current publisher refused to print for fear of being sued by Camille Paglia.

In 2006, Guernica Editions published her first full length poetry book, Not Just A Personal Ad.
Since its release in Fall 2006 Vittoria repetto’s first poetry book Not Just A Personal Ad has won accolades; in a Lambda Book Report column, poet and reviewer Rigoberto Gonzalez wrote “Poems of intense sensibility and gorgeous imagery are a rarity these days; but this book of verse by a distinctly working class, distinctly lesbian, and distinctly Italian American voice is a must for all readers of good poetry.”

Chuck Forester in his Winter 2007 Lambda Book Report said: “My joy in reading these poems was Repetto’s rebel energy. She revels in her lust without avoiding her history. This is also a woman of courage as she negotiates the complexities of a multicultural existence. She tunes in to people who ride in her cab; she loves the city and the love of women. For her sex is freedom to indulge her desire; it is not possessive but an exchange of pleasure. Growing up in an age when all things sexual were disguised in metaphor, or never mentioned. I found her candor refreshing and stripped of anxiety.”
And the poet Edward Field said: “Her poetry has what T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens and the rest of them lack, clinging as they all do to their elitist view of poetry. I’d say she’s exactly what poetry needs — she returns it to the people, even if the people, as Gerry Locklin says, don’t read poetry. But maybe if more poets start writing like her, they will, or at least listen to it.”

Her poems have been chosen as “Editor’s Choice” in the Paterson Literary Review for five times since 2003.
She was a judge in the 2005 Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry & Thomas Gunn Award for Gay Poetry
Vittoria repetto was the vice president and the newsletter editor of the Italian American Writers Association from 1992 to 2012 and she has been hosting the Women’s/Trans’ Poetry Jam at Bluestockings Bookstore since its opening in 1999.