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  • ZiN Daily

Lee Patton





ZITA’S TICKET


My tries at social graces with my distant cousins

fell to blunder––I bore wine and fruit across flimsy

commie thresholds, things cheap in Yugoslavia,

where they craved good coffee and hard currency. 


Alone, thirty, too casual in that irritating

American way, I stumbled, stray, into a cousin’s 

wedding preps, the ladies making paper flowers

in a circle around where I, sudden guest, got


the best chair, my hair askew, my cutoffs stained,

my last shower scores of kilometers back in parts

of Italy too vague for maps. With no common words, 

I knew what they were thinking––where was my wife?


Did I have any hard currency? Was I rich?  (No. 

What grandee wanders Europe with a canvas pack?)

So I drew a family tree with granddad, Josef,

and grandma, Yelena. That hit a sentimental


sting, “Yelitsa!” Long dead teenager sent to America

to toil in her uncle’s bar. Yelitsa, still missed,

still loved! I drew a pencil line straight to her daughter,

my mom, Zita. “Zita!” Even deeper elation,


felt decades after Zita’d sent goods from America

to ease their postwar scarcities.  (How had she

done it? Tubercular, penniless herself, she’d posted

boxes of clothes and cans in stuffings of hard currency.)


Now they adored me––express ticket to approval.

Offering a rare treat in July heat, they rushed

to serve me thick black coffee. So I’d gained bona

fides and forced back sips of sour commie mud


from who knows what tropic friendly with the Soviets.

After that debut in Rijeka, “Zita” opened doors

in Loborika and Lanicsce that would’ve been barred

to some sunburnt guy from Colorado. Grappa


would pour, hidden behind stove chimneys, covert

and quickly drunkening, potent moonshine. I basked

in local reknown, Zita’s son, much as I basked 

in unearned prosperity, postwar American guy


crossing borders and ideologies, clueless, breezy,

blessed in Yankee currency, too spoiled to be uneasy.



About the Author: A native of California’s Mendocino Coast, Lee Patton has enjoyed life in Colorado for decades. His first poetry collection, In Disturbed Soil, was launched in 2021 from Kelsay Books. Recent poems appear in Global Poemic, Heirlock, Impossible Archetype, and New Verse News. His fifth novel, Coming to Life on South High, also came out in 2021.


 

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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.

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