Papi Mi Ha Insegnato

by Lisa Masé 

“Luzellette mi ha insegnato” Papi would explain
how she had taught him to dig under fallen oak leaves
for morels after spring rain, to scour southern slopes
for boletes and chantrelles once summer solstice waned,
to respect the fierce red amanitas and let them go by.

Papi and I decide to make egg-basted asparagus,
a recipe from great-grandmother Luzellette,
Little Bird, who lived and died in Gaby
near the Alpine stream that bouldered down
the steep slopes she walked with pack basket
and sickle to harvest fresh grass for her goats.

Nothing but goat milk, potatoes and polenta
in those war years where he learned not to get kicked
while milking, to hide milk in the stone house
where it waited to be shared with hungry neighbors
who had sold their animals for flour.

He taught me to chase chickens during summers
at Fuchshaus in the high Alps, showed me how
to kill a viper darting between rocks on a trail
above treeline. The snake would not deter our hunt
for wild mushrooms and greens in the forest,
Papi’s home second only to the kitchen.

I learned early on that the asparagus recipe is a story,
cooked so it would not be forgotten, told every time
it is prepared to honor the first truth of green spears
finding their way through black dirt, earth arrows
that we gather and steam before they grow
delicate fronds and seeds like tiny globes.


Lisa Masé (she/her and they/them) has been writing poetry since childhood. She teaches poetry workshops for Vermont’s Poem City events, co-facilitates a writing group, and has translated the poetry of writers from Italy, France, and the Dominican Republic. Her poems have been published by Open Journal of Arts and Letters, Jacard Press, The Long Island Review, K’in Literary, Inlandia Review, Press 53, and Silver Needle Press among others.