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Frances Lombardi-Grahl

Crossing Over

They aren’t foreigners anymore
my immigrant students who visit the Paterson Museum
for the first time today.

They see Abbot and Costello, Charles Lindbergh,
the first submarine,
and read all the signs in English.

Their Paterson is not the same
as in these black and white photos.
Bodegas are the new mom and pop stores.
Spanish is the first language spoken here.

When we visit the Falls,
I tell them about the newly-married couple
who had disappeared,
their screams muffled in the cascading roar,

They step back from the guard rail,
make the sign of the cross
and shiver when the spray hits them.

We hear the cadences of poets
who have found their muse in these waters
awakening poems in all those
who dared to cross over
from the other side.

*

Motorcycle Ride with Marlon Brando

Whenever I see Marlon Brando riding a motorcycle across the screen,
I want to be sitting at his back
with my face against his jacket,
imbibing its leathery scent
as I hold onto his waist
and rest my thighs against him
while the wind blows through my hair
which strokes his helmet as we zigzag down the highway.

What I would give to ride with Marlon
even though my heart would lodge in my throat
every time our bodies swerve through cars and trucks
that might at any second splatter us across the road,
ending our beautiful, reckless lives.

*

My Father’s Feet

He always had long feet,
a little like mine,
only hairier.

Even when he gained weight,
his feet remained skinny.

My mother would touch them
before leaving his hospital room.
She’d clasp his big toe,
then throw him a kiss.

I remember these feet,
flapping like fins in our backyard pool,
disappearing in the sand at Ocean Beach.

These feet ran in the jungles of Guadalcanal,
stood beside boilers at the plant
where he worked,
trudged through snow that came up to his thighs,
ambled through his garden,
where tomatoes multiplied.

I remember these feet
as I hold his shoes,
brown like the earth,
still where he left them.

*

About Frances Lombardi-Grahl

Frances Lombardi-Grahl became involved in poetry when she joined the Bergen Poets in the late 70’s. She has been published in The Paterson Review, Lips, and Italian Americana and attends workshops at the Red Wheelbarrow Poets and is appreciative of their support and friendship. Frances teaches ESL at various locations.

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