Here is my prose poem ‘Gas Bottles’, dedicated to the memory of my grandmother. After all, this too is a sort of translation or transplantation. From memory into ink and paper, from the native Italian of my memories to the acquired English of my writing.
Facing the only upward slope of our gas-top-stove-driven small town, my grandmother would ride half its length. Then she’d get off her Ciao moped – the pedal Pegasus of the unlicensed. My helmet-free childhood sitting on the back rack, going through the motions, and jumping off with the last stride. And off we pushed, uphill, she holding the handlebar and I from the back, up that steep alley named after grandpa’s surname – her husband’s – the same she never adopted in official documents. We forced ten-or-fifteen-litre heavy sky-blue gas bottles up the hill, resting them on the front of the moped where one of any grandchildren would stand in times of leisure but this was business, and off we pushed and lifted the bottles to customers’ kitchens sitting atop of merciless successions of steps. I guarded the rings – the tiny-but-essential rubber seals – which when prompted I’d promptly present to connect the bottle to the burner of needy and useless witch-like old ladies with greyest and most complicated hairdos (let them free and their locks would reach their buttocks). Digging in my pockets, I’d entertain myself fitting the rings around my miniature fingers when hit by the tedium of adult conversations about people I did not know or care about. If lucky you’d get some chocolate, but always you’d fly back down the hill with the vuoto – the empty – and a colourful note displaying too many zeros for its value, inflated, just like my self-worth after helping.