Every time I empty a bottle of vinegar, wine, or oil
I think of my Italian grandfather (who had the romantic name of Valentino DiSalvo)
and how he’d bet people that he could get 30 or 40 or 50
or more drops out of a seemingly empty bottle.
I can hear him making this statement in broken English
to the neighborhood people in his corner grocery store.
They gather around a wooden table, their shoes scuffing
over the floor boards, dragging chairs and crates across the floor.
Then there’s the slap of pocket money laid down in a pile
as the laughter and voices fall to a hush before the show begins.
I see my grandfather, who waits for just the right moment,
slowly tip and turn the bottle in his sturdy, dark hands.
The drops land with a faint plop and are counted in Italian,
“Un, due, tre, quattro, cinque, sei, sette, otto, nove, dieci…”
Slower and slower, with longer anticipation between each drop,
until they finally get close to the chosen number and the shout of the last one.
Then comes applause, animated talk, and pats on Valentino’s shoulders.
Soon the store empties, the dust descends, the day dims to sepia.
And I see my grandmother (her name, Santangelo, means “saint of angels”)
who all along pretended not to count every drop or smile,
break into a beam as dazzling as sunset
as Valentino hands her the winnings.
(c) 2007 Marissa Dodge