DEATH BY RENAISSANCE
Poems by Paola Corso
Photographs by George Thomas Mendel
(Bottom Dog Press, 2004)
"Paola Corso's poems are tough, edgy, often unsettling—populated with tender sinners and tough-as-nails saints. She blends the political with the mythic, family life with social annotations, to create an urgent and compelling collection. She is a poet we root for!"
—DENISE DUHAMEL, author of Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems
"Few books address the anxiety of moving between classes and the assimilation of second-generation immigrants with such urgency and poetic capability Paola Corso's first collection of poems Death by Renaissance.”
—THE INDIANA REVIEW
"Poems drawn out like monologues from an Italian John Wideman, Corso's work captures the voice and rhythms of her remembered world."
"Varied in sound, form, and voice, Corso’s poems are united by a vivid immediacy of people and place and an elegiac core. Through the rhythms of machinery, speech, memory, and human interaction, she makes us realize the vitality we lose when a community dies."
—WALTER CUMMINS, Literary Review Editor Emeritus
"Personal poems that make the sounds of an entire community."
"...Paola Corso’s Pittsburgh through-and-through. The Italian immigrants there finds in her poetry a mythological home more bleak than most, but suffused with humor.”
—NEW YORK PRESS
"Refusing to be too easily understood, these poems demand and amply repay repeated reading."
—MICHAEL PALMA, author of A Fortune in Gold, Inferno: A New Verse Translation
"Like Corso's poems, George Thomas Mendel's documentary photos of the Pittsburgh area today revel in shaking up and restoring the reader to meanings and location and shift the nature of the book from poetry collection to scrapbook to historical document."
The river from a distance is not the same
as the river up close. In this dream
I find myself walking toward the bank
soupy with algae and slime but I dive
straight over, my projectile suspended
in the mist until I reach a clear swirl of water,
my arms an arrow spearing crystal that cracks
into a thousand pieces, each one a reflection
of me for when I don’t want to see anything
but my own vision of what is to be.
The river up close is not the same
as the river from a distance. In this life
I find myself walking away from the bank,
clumps of leaves caught between my toes,
the smell of fish and worm baiting my skin,
wetness hardening, settling into my joints
so that every move dries stiff and brittle
enough to snap off a finger or toe, a limb
if I’m not careful as I crawl up the rocky bank
that scrapes away edges of my life, pieces of dirt
rolling back into the river, into stillness earthed.
A current saved up, the pause of so many days
waiting with abandon.
My father drove 382 miles from Pittsburgh to Brooklyn and didn’t find a parking space. His welcoming was a $60 ticket and sticky sap all over his windshield from the sycamores on our tree-lined street. We moved the car to a legal spot then took a taxi to Home Depot to buy light fixtures and to Home Depot again for a toilet seat because I couldn’t leave a nursing baby for longer than a few hours at a time. After my father hung the ceiling light, he picked up operations instructions for a Purely Yours breast pump. I sat at the kitchen table with my nursing bra flaps down, exposing breasts hard and engorged while he rigged tubing to the machine, set the dial, and handed me the suction cup. When my milk began to sputter into the bottle, he winked and left me with a pitcher of water to drink as I expressed one breast at a time in calibrated dribs and drabs. The room grew dark, but he came back to switch on the ceiling fixture he had just installed. And in his light, my eyes gradually began to adjust to the bold pattern of the newly hung wallpaper, to the full bottle of milk in front of me, waiting to see my cream rise to the top in the freezer before the faint tint of blue.
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