Our Date

My stepson spent
the afternoon in detention
for lying to a nun.

I told them my name means
pheasants in Italian, 
but no one believed me.

Half white, half Puerto Rican,
Italian last name, nappy hair,
said otherwise. 

At the perfect age of 10, 
my stepson and I
had a date one afternoon.

Determined to teach him to fly,
forget nuns, divorced parents,
over-protective mother,

or, just ride a bike.
A two-wheeler, banana seat,
shiny, chrome, bells, streamers.

He’d run alongside it
throw one leg far and wide
in time to find the peddle

on the other side.
I clutched the back of the seat
sent him off as far as I could.

Like my father did for me,
knowing spills and harm
would follow.

Years later,
a knot in  my heart, 
his dusty, tear-smeared face

lips quivering, telling me
of a quick ride to an Italian
neighborhood in Pelham Bay
where he was chased down

by taunts of 
You don’t belong here.
I tried to tell them my name
but no one listened.

I think of all I don’t know
about courage – how to build it,
pass it on, when to fight, to flee,

and when to leave your bike
behind, save your life,
find your way home.

Copyright © 2013 by Maria Lisella. This poem originally appeared in The New Verse News. Used with the permission of the author.