Josephine wore those bracelets from the old country,
a reminder of the thin border between the mother tongue
of her heritage and her new homeland.
Her hands spoke that language every time she argued
with a stranger about the meaning of love—the bracelets
translated the genealogy of her colloquialisms.
Even when she didn’t have a pot to piss in,
or a window to throw it out of, Josephine
broke small pieces of herself,
sacrificed them beneath her praying hands
so everyone she met become holy.
Josephine kept the bracelets on her wrist as a glimmering
reminder of what she inherited from her mother,
the muscle memory required to knead
and cut dough into perfect gnocchi. How to
recite the Hail Mary for our lady of the rosary
with such passion that the brackets trembled
in the flickering light of the prayer candles.
When Josephine was tempted by the fruit of anger,
she remembered the grace she felt
as she knelt before the Virgin Mother who made
her bracelets and her pulse beat in her wrists as penance.
She was the patron saint of forgiveness
when she drove to the hospitals and prisons,
bracelets swaying beneath the steering wheel,
a visible promise to redeem her family from any jam
that threatened to keep them in captivity and detour
the path to the grace of a Sunday dinner at her table.
Josephine passed that absolution to me as a birthright
when she was the first to hold my bloody body
in the delivery room and the bracelets grazed my head.
The sound of my youth was the mercy
of her jingling bracelets as she held my hand
and we walked around her neighborhood.
She composed the soundtrack of my life in the rhythm
of her bracelets as she swayed her hands in time
with the tune of Christmas carols.
Josephine became a chorus of bells that shared
the good news louder than musical nativity scenes
and Salvation Army criers with their kettles.
When she forgot what street she lived on,
Josephine followed the sound of her bracelets
back to the source of her home address.
Even as I window-shop from the sidewalk,
and her bracelets are bought and sold by a stranger,
I still feel the generational linkage,
a golden circle around my memory, jewelry
I wear every time I tell her story to a new audience.
Christian Sammartino is the Editor-In-Chief of Rising Phoenix Review and the Managing Editor and Poetry Editor for L’Éphémère Review. He is currently studying Philosophy at West Chester University. His poetry is influenced by life in the Pennsylvania Rustbelt near his hometown of Coatesville. His work has appeared in Words Dance, Voicemail Poems, Lehigh Valley Vanguard, Ghost City Review, Sea Foam Mag, Thirteen Myna Birds, Yellow Chair Review and others. He was a Resident Poet for Lehigh Valley Vanguard during the summer of 2015. His first chapbook, Keystones, was released by Rising Phoenix Press in December 2014.