Three Italian Women Remember: A small collaboration. We, in the Italian American community, are used to using our hands in perhaps one too many ways: to talk, to make, to garden, to cook, to hammer. But one other way is to give a decent smack to a friend, in a loving way to say hello; or to express an exclamative, “What a great idea!”; or provide a gentle back and forth on the shoulder which means, “Get out of here, that’s ridiculous.” My father said that a smack was dusting the other person off. Getting rid of them so to speak. In this dialogue between the three of us in a 100-word writing group, each of us wrote a piece, randomly, unexpectedly about slapping and smacking. We think they belong together.
I’m going give you such a . . .
We were always together; our parents were friends. Curly-edged pictures show us holding hands at the beach cottage our parents rented in Truro. They joked we would be married someday. We went to kindergarten in the basement ruled by the not-quite real, dark fairytale creature, Sister Scaryname. One day, walking home with his mother I turned and slapped him across the face, open handed, full force like some miniature Mildred Pierce. I don’t remember why. What prompted this? I am stunned that I did this in full view of his mother. Maybe it was meant for the dark-souled Sister Scaryname.
Marianne Leone is an actress, screenwriter and essayist. Her essays have appeared in the Boston Globe, Lithub, Post Road, Bark Magazine, Coastal Living, Solstice, and WBUR’s Cognoscenti blog. She is the author of two memoirs, Jesse (Simon & Schuster) and Ma Speaks Up (Beacon Press.) She had a recurring role on HBO’s “The Sopranos” as Joanne Moltisanti, Christopher’s mother.
italians to the left, italians to the right, italians up
and down the block. One rare night Mom & Dad went out,
probably to some family event,
but what event could it be where kids weren’t welcome?
Kids went everywhere, every wedding, every everything,
but one night, for some mysterious reason,
I was left with a babysitter, the teenage girl next door
who I adored and looked up to. I was 3.
As a show of affection, as we played on the couch,
I smacked her face as hard as I could with my flat
open hand so hard, her cheek turned red.
She screamed at me and said, “Don’t ever do that again!” “Why did you do that?”
I was so confused. I thought that’s what I was supposed to do.
Annie Lanzillotto is the author of the hybrid poetic memoir Whaddyacall the Wind? (Bordighera Press), the double flip book: Hard Candy: Caregiving, Mourning, and Stage Light; and Pitch Roll Yaw, (Guernica World Editions), L is for Lion: an italian bronx butch freedom memoir (SUNY Press), and Schistsong (2013 Bordighera Press.) Visit AnnieLanzillotto.com for more info.
- And Slap
Bernadette, a shy, timid friend in Grammar school, one day she defied my bossy-self. I hurried across the classroom and slapped her across the face hard. The room stunned, quieted to nothing. That was when I realized that what I had done was ghastly. The teacher was out of the room.
Even the other working-class kids didn’t think this was as ordinary as I did. I should have been expelled. I should have been dealt with, but no one said a word. Too stunned were we all by the hard crack across her soft cheek, the shocked expression on her face.
Joanna Clapps Herman
Joanna Clapps Herman has had 34 publications during the Covid era, many of them poems or micro prose pieces: in Odyssey PM, MUTHA, Pummarola, The Ocean State Review, Italian Americana, Persimmon Tree, Fatal Flaw Literary Magazine. Her book length publications include, When I am Italian: Quando sono italiana, exploring the question of whether it’s possible to be Italian if you weren’t born in Italy, No Longer and Not Yet and The Anarchist Bastard: Growing Up Italian in America. She has co-edited two anthologies; Wild Dreams and Our Roots Are Deep with Passion.