Five years from the time I last saw him
I return for a visit mid-September
with Michelle and Christy, my two young daughters,
to find Nonno continues the practice
of drying vegetables and seeds on tarps of jute,
though, mostly, it’s peppers and beans,
peppers and beans, and zucchini,
he grows, in profusion,
to dry and give away to the Filipino families down the road
who’ve traded us lettuce and rhubard
for brown eggs and wine since I was a child.
I point out to my girls the glossy bodies of peppers,
deepening yellow, ocher, orange, red,
because this is the first time they’ve seen
the home-grown produce of Salinas
their great grandfather, Ercole Angelo Bianco, is known for.
We’ve been living in married-student housing in Tampa,
shop only at Publix,
near the University of South Florida,
or A & P
where we find black-eyed peas for nine cents a can.
I kneel down near a crumpled burlap bag
strewn with the litters of green peppers and tomatoes,
tendril vines still attached,
unlike store-bought that’s sprayed, kept from ripening,
wrapped in Saran wrap,
sticker priced, stripped of roots.
We have babies, my daughters squeal, cradling peppers
in their matching plaid cotton T-shirts
stretched out in front of them like aprons.
I tickle under their chins with a bleached blonde horsetail
picked from a sidewalk crack.
They giggle, scrunch up their shoulders,
and twirl out of reach,
dancing and squealing on the canvas of Ercole’s peppers,
deepening yellow, ocher, orange, red.