The Winter Without Spring / Rina Ferrarelli


Product Description

poems by

Rina Ferrarelli

ISBN: 978-1-59948-728-1, 64 pages, $14 (+ shipping)

Release Date:  March 19, 2019


About The Author

An immigrant from Italy, Rina Ferrarelli has written and published many poems on subjects and themes having to do with emigration, and has translated as well the work of Italian poets into English. The most recent collections prior to The Winter Without Spring are The Bread We Ate (Guernica), poetry, and Winter Fragments (Chelsea), translation. She was a Poet in Person in the School, and a Poet at Noon through the International Poetry Forum, and has taught English and translation studies at the University of Pittsburgh. She was awarded an NEA, and the Italo Calvino Prize from Columbia University.


Many writers find their importance through telling the story only they can tell. In The Winter Without Spring, Rina Ferrarelli movingly chronicles—in poems where her thoughts are “as spines, burrs in my skin I can¹t shake off”—the long season of physical and emotional exhaustion she spent tending her dying husband. Unflinching and yet tender, her literal caregiving has now turned into a care-giving through and to words, the naming of a world devoid of easy comfort or solace. But sometimes the winter is all we have, and Ferrarelli delivers this world to us with unblinking ferocity and grace. ~Daniel Bourne


Grounded in the rhythms of nature and punctuated by the excruciating daily rituals of caring for a husband slipping into dementia, these brave poems bear witness to irrecoverable losses and small triumphs. Honest, wise, and compassionate, Ferrarelli finds good things in unexpected places: a moment of shared laughter in the midst of exhaustion and confusion, the wisdom of gentle hands acknowledging and forgiving the indignities of the body during illness. Her poems stay with me, reminding me of the precariousness and preciousness of our life in the body. ~ Elizabeth Gargano


These poems trace with unflinching candor a journey, real and mythic, into the labyrinth of a disease. Ferrarelli’s words record the process of her husband’s mental decline: “I lose him . . . word / by word.” In “Reflection,” she writes: “lips part / but no words come out.” This book dramatizes both the physicality and the mental aguish involved in what we call “caregiving” with relentless truth-telling. ~Peter Blair


The Remains


About to leave the house,
you look for the names,

the place, the thread
of a story you want to tell.

You cannot find them,
and I cannot help you.

I wasn’t there at the time.

We walk to our destination,
the remains of our past,

our present between us,
talking, what we both know,

the winter of our disconnection
unfolding without comment:

the deciduous words
have flown one by one,

and every day now the evergreen
drop in snow that fine as silt

covers what tracks we’ve made.


The Morning Protocol


No sign of dawn, white, gold or rosy-
fingered. It’s so early, so dark, it feels
like night. I make coffee, give him oatmeal
with maple syrup, or dry cereal,
and then, his gray capsules, his yellow drops.

He puts on the clothes I’ve laid on the bed,
plus the red tie he insists on wearing,
and he sits by the window, a stack
of mss. on the table before him,
reading and re-reading his paperboy stories.

It’s a place infused with humor
the setting where he meets his friends,
their dogs and cats, the neighbors
who were his customers, cherishing
the inflections left behind coming north,
decent people, eccentric and familiar,
the heroes of the town he calls home.


Second Wife?


I’m reading, cutting a clipping or two
of time, a space for myself, when I hear
the floor upstairs creaking, the steps.
It’s eleven at night, I say, what
are you doing dressed to go out?

I saw the light and decided to come down.
I want to talk. I wonder if he’s awake
or still in some kind of dream. I know
we’ve been together for a while now,
about three years or so. . . right? But, how

did we meet? I can’t seem to remember.
Daughter, sister, second wife? Once more
I explain how we met, who we were when
we met, who we are now or seem to be.


Traveling a Long Distance


Andare a trovare we say for visiting
in my mother tongue, to go find,

no matter where, relatives and friends.
This daughter traveled a long distance

to come find her father, who sits
in a sunny room waiting, rocking

in his rocking chair. She becomes
a child who draws with a thick crayon,

colors carefully within the lines
when she answers his questions:

“I’m your daughter Cate. I’ve come
all the way from Texas to see you.”

And she shows her father where Texas is
on the puzzle he’s trying to put together.

They look at photos of her new place,
at family pictures taken in the house

where he lives, where she grew up. “I want
to go home,” her father, says, “when can I go home?”

“This is your home, Dad. You are home.
This is where you live. I live in Texas.”

“And who are you?” he asks. “I’m Cate,
your daughter.” “And who am I?” And

he looks to find himself in his daughter’s eyes.

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