• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 09

Al played the banjo

under the expanse of an ancient Salerno sky
our bisnonna regaled us with tales of the old family
painting times of nurture & culture
war & division
strife & tyranny
unpalatable times of poverty & final departures
late evening celebrations mark harvest home
stained with red wine & fleshy tomatoes
melting with the signature of roasting chestnuts

her call mesmerises across four generations

the power of a canvas across chasms
distant figures never met yet always known
sharing blood and scars
music palpates the soul
Luca's fingers dance on his guitar
Giacomo works his accordion
pumping the very lungs of heaven
invoking the gods to delivery another good crop
molten history radiates their bones
narcotic incantations drift from their lips
honouring those washed away in hard times
restless shadows quit our shores
rebirthing, reinventing in the Americas
finding fortune, shame or notoriety

from our vertex we see


Al played the banjo

Gabriele and Teresa with young Vincenzo
cast their hopes ashore at Ellis Island
Vinny abandons his New York home
only just in long trousers
he spurned grape & grain transmuting to James
a war hero
protector of presidents
prohibition officer & finally
a justice of the peace
his younger brother Alphonse born after the replanting
earned his infamy with gang and gun
eventually playing the banjo in a prison band
not in harmony with his Capone uncles

under the Salerno sky