To a Man Who Died the Year Before I Was Born- by Steve Nickman

i.m. Alfred A. Hoare

Living alone now I miss your words
that once were my companions.
The sensible manager who moved me from house
to condominium advised, “Don’t put books
in storage, you’ll never take them out.”

Still boxed in a vault
is your Short Italian Dictionary,
nine hundred pages bound in green buckram,
your playfulness evident in the title.
Your forte was the suffixes, how Italians
decorate their nouns, caress and slap them.
Ragazzo, boy, ragazzino an urchin,
a big sturdy lad a ragazzone,
and ragazazzio a delinquent.
Donna, woman, donnaccia a lady of the night,
donnuccia, poor little thing.
The marvels of naso, nose:
Nasiccio, nice little nose, nasone, nose of important size,
nasaccio, snout.

I looked for you online, wanted to know
the man himself. Facts didn’t help much: private banker,
economist, nonpracticing doctor
died the year the Nazis invaded Austria.
No mention of Italy, I was left to guess.
I think your first love was a signorina
somewhere in the Veneto. I think you read Dante
and D’Annunzio and walked from town to town
with friends you met in osterias,        played bocce,
borrowed to pay debts when you lost at cards,
hid from Mussolini’s blackshirts,
never lost your British accent,
died laughing

Steve Nickman’s poetry collection, To Sleep with Bears is now available from Wordtech (2022). He is a psychiatrist who works mainly with kids, teenagers and young adults. He has a strong interest in the experiences and dilemmas of adoptees and their families, and is working on a book about therapy, The Wound and the Spark. Steve’s poetry is has recently appeared in Pleiades, Nimrod, Summerset Review, Tar River Review, Tule Review, and JuxtaProse. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts and is a member of Poemworks: The Workshop for Publishing Poets.