Elegy and Legacy: A Poem for Father’s Day

Photo from Ryland V. Anastasi – “The Anastasi Brothers”

I have been waiting all year to post this one! Although I wrote this poem three years ago, I’ve had it lingering in the digital wings for a variety of reasons. I had big dreams of this being published elsewhere, in some “reputable magazine,” but a few rejection letters later, and I’ve put that thought to rest. And it’s fitting that it should find its place of first publication here as a testament to my father and grandfather as we celebrate Fathers Day.

The poem was inspired by artifacts of my grandfather, Vincenzo Anastasi (seated on the left in the photograph), which my father sent me in the mail back in 2018. (Yes, I was named after him!) My grandfather passed away when my dad was only eight, so I never met my namesake. However, his name, which is also my father’s middle name, will continue on in the Anastasi family tree as it is one of the middle names for my second youngest son, Samuel. (Yes, he has two middle names.) I’ve told him he MUST name one of his sons Vincent to keep the streak alive!

Touching those artifacts that my grandfather held, that my father then touched as he placed them in the envelope, which I then held in my hands, felt like a bona fide wrinkle in time, a portal that linked me to my father and grandfather (and the many lives those documents represent). One day, I’ll pass those mementos on to my children and the story will continue, a reminder of where we’ve come from, an elegy and a legacy.

Elegy & Legacy

Vincent H. Anastasi - 2018

For Vincenzo Anastasi

If fingerprints like record grooves
could be played by second touch
then, oh, what songs would these pages share
whose fading ink and well-creased folds
hold the dreams of a century past:

Hear the bow waves breaking,
spreading out defining the wake you made
linking Randazzo and the Upper New York Bay
in the one-hundred-forty-third year of our Independence,
the first of yours;

Hear the toddling English, Italian-tinged
in robust voice of a ruddy, brown-eyed,
black-haired twenty-three-year-old bricklayer
who never partook in the percussion
of machine guns on battle’s stage
but sailed to serve in France
in the Great War of Civilization;

Hear the orchestration
of trowel and mortar, brick and stone,
a song of brothers
in the City of Brotherly Love,
“estimates cheerfully given,”
the ’54 Ford pulling up to Tyson Avenue
where grape crates populate the alley
behind the row houses,
and a mail order bride and five-year-old son wait.

Forty years abridged in paper and cardstock,
memorial stones
tucked neatly in an envelope
by my father,
the five-year-old approaching seventy,
a wave of my grandfather’s
every widening wake
as am I and my children, surname-linked.
I am a verse in that song,
an echo of his words –
the fingerprints on this page.

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