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Poem: "Passo a Passo" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Passo a Passo"

This poem came out of the August 6, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from rowyn.  It also fills the "orphans" square in my card for the Hurt/Comfort Bingo fest.  It has been sponsored by technoshaman.  This poem belongs to the series Fiorenza the Wisewoman.




Passo a Passo


There were always pilgrims in Italy,
most of them going to Rome
to see the relics of St. Peter,
and sometimes the pilgrims
caused problems along the way.

When the pilgrims got up to no good
with the young men and women,
people complained to Don Candido.
When the pilgrims got into fights,
people came to Fiorenza
with bruised eyes and bloody noses.

It was Giacinto who first noticed the thefts,
but could not solve them on his own,
so he traveled to Nocciolaia
to talk with Don Candido and Fiorenza.

Some people suggested that fairies
must be stealing things from them,
but Fiorenza saw no need
to look for a supernatural explanation
with a natural one close at hand.
She pointed out that pilgrims
low on funds and inept at begging
might resort to theft instead.

So they followed the pilgrims about
and asked around town all day,
but nothing came of it until
Fiorenza heard her aunt Graziella say,
"That Otoniel!  He thinks he's too good
to leave a bit of bread on the windowsill
for the less fortunate.  It's no wonder
the poor children take to stealing."

Then Giacinto flung up his hands and said,
"To be sure, we have no shortage of misers
in Faggiola either, who care nothing for other souls.
The Savior would be ashamed of us all!"

"Leave the Savior and the souls to me,"
Don Candido said firmly.  "Go and see
what you can do for the pilgrims."

Fiorenza sent Giacinto to her garden
to gather ingredients for a supper.
Then she went to find Bettina and Arrigo,
asking them for their help cooking.

Finally Fiorenza spoke to the pilgrims,
a little cluster of men and women
sporting devotional medals and badges
from all different shrines.
"We are serving supper at church tonight,"
she told them.  "If you are hungry,
you may come and eat with us."

"Those children have been making trouble again,"
said the fat man who led the pilgrims.
He glared at them, a boy and girl
who might have been in their early teens,
dusty and skinny and clearly hungry.

Fiorenza put her hands on her hips.
"Well if you would feed them,"
she said tartly, "perhaps they would not
give you all such a bad reputation."
Then she beckoned to the children.
"Come with me to the church now.
You may help us prepare supper."

They came, shy and wild as deer,
following Fiorenza to the church.
Don Candido did not mind everyone
taking over his little kitchen.

Giacinto arrived with a vast basket
full of vegetables and herbs.
He managed to coax names from the children --
the boy was Tommaso and the girl Teodora --
as they chopped roots and cleaned leaves.

It was Fiorenza who found out
why they were traveling.
"Our mama died," said Tommaso.
"Then our papa took us on this pilgrimage."
Teodora added, "He died too.
Now we're all alone in the world,
and the other pilgrims don't like us."

"I thought I was an orphan too," Fiorenza said
as she wrapped an arm around each of them.
"Recently my father returned to the village,
but I hardly know him.  It is not so bad, though,
because I have other people around me."
She dropped the oxtails into the big pot of stew.

"We only have each other,"
Tommaso said, and his sister nodded.
They helped Bettina put the pignoli into the oven.

"Well ... there is an old man in Faggiola
who lost his children to a pox," said Giacinto.
"If some young people made themselves useful,
Aldo might grow quite attached to them."

"We're going to Rome," said Teodora,
"to see the relics of St. Peter ..."
"... but we could come back this way
and visit him later," Tommaso said.

"I think he would like that,"
Giacinto assured them.

"You are good at baking,"
Bettina said to Teodora
as they took out the first biscuits.
"That is a useful skill to have."

"I can sew," Tommaso said quietly.
"Papa was a tailor."
"Faggiola has no tailor,
only a woman who does some mending,"
Giacinto told him.

By the time they finished making supper,
the other pilgrims were slinking into the church,
still stung by Fiorenza's earlier scolding
but unwilling to miss out on a free meal.

Bettina and Arrigo set out the food
and everyone filled their dishes.
Don Candido delivered a blessing
and spoke about the importance
of caring for the poor.

Fiorenza and Giacinto kept the children
tucked between them as they ate.
To the wisewoman and the witch-son
this was not a matter of sermons.
It was just something you did,
because you never knew
when the beggar at your door
might turn out to be a saint or an angel
or the Savior Himself in disguise.

The next morning,
they watched the pilgrims depart.
"I do not know how you do it,"
Fiorenza said to Don Candido.
"You take care of the poor all the time,
and there is never any end to it."

"You look after the sick," Don Candido said,
"and there's no end to that either."

"We each do what we may," Giacinto said.
"A little progress is better than none at all."

"Passo a passo si va a Roma,"
Fiorenza said softly, and they all nodded.
Step by step one goes to Rome.

* * *

Notes:

Italy and Rome were popular in Renaissance pilgrimages, especially for St. Peter's relics.
Assisa, Padua, and Rome—the site of St. Peter’s relics— attracted pilgrims from all over Europe.

Devotional medals and pilgrim badges were souvenirs and signs of recognition.

"Step by step one goes to Rome" is a famous Italian proverb.
Passo a passo si va a Roma.

Pignoli are Italian biscuits or cookies made with pine nuts.

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8 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: technoshaman Date: August 8th, 2013 05:30 am (UTC) (Link)
I love the cooperative leadership displayed here. Would to all the gods we could get similar cooperation out of the ones in the other Washington...
rowyn From: rowyn Date: August 8th, 2013 04:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes! I like stories where people work together and don't demonize one another. :)
From: technoshaman Date: August 8th, 2013 04:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm happy to say I know of a real-life version of that... they haven't got to the point where they solve the community's problems yet, but at least the vicar and the kitchen witch are friends and have a cuppa on a regular basis... it's a start.

Waitaminit. You're like, *here* and stuff, if I'm reading right... somewhere in Pugetopolis? *waves from down near those big cranes in the harbour*
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 8th, 2013 07:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

>> I'm happy to say I know of a real-life version of that... they haven't got to the point where they solve the community's problems yet, but at least the vicar and the kitchen witch are friends and have a cuppa on a regular basis... it's a start. <<

That's always good to hear.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 8th, 2013 07:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to write those.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 31st, 2013 07:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'd like to see more cooperative leadership too. I wanted to capture the sense of how, in a small town, everybody not only knows everybody else's business but also their skills and resources. So then you can work together to solve problems.
rowyn From: rowyn Date: August 8th, 2013 04:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Poor kids. I hope they make it to Rome and back again all right. Pilgrimages are expensive and hard work!

Also, thank you for the poem! It's good to see Don Candido and Giacinto and Fiorenza again. n_n
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 8th, 2013 07:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> Poor kids. I hope they make it to Rome and back again all right. Pilgrimages are expensive and hard work! <<

You can always prompt for that later.

>> Also, thank you for the poem! It's good to see Don Candido and Giacinto and Fiorenza again. n_n <<

I'm glad you liked this!
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