On the Way to Paradise

We began in Hell
each week wandering further into Dante’s circles;
the liquid Italian poured off her tongue.

Then there were the small steps taken,
a ride given on a stormy morning;
an invitation to come in for coffee;
to watch Italian or French movies,
chosen for happy endings;

lunch at the Greek’s,
spanakopita with flaky pastry
hiding dark green spinach
and creamy feta cheese,
or avgolemono soup with
its steaming lemon fragrance.

Always classic in simple clothes,
her feet elegant in little black boots
she swore you could get only
in a little Italian shop in the North End.

Her manners delicate, a little formal,
betraying wealth in her youth,
“well brought up” as one could say.
But once when she was the driver
and someone cut her off
she rolled down her window
and flooded him with Italian curses!

Later, she tired easily and
we would play cards,
a version of double solitaire
that her father had taught her in Italy.
I wrote down the rules, all their
arcane complications, to put away
for the day when she would not
be there to teach me.

Lari Smith