Nothing Grows in One Place Forever: Poems of a Sicilian American

by Leo Luke Marcello


Burning Leaves

in an instant
the odor of burning leaves
brings you back to me,

standing by the metal cans
where you stirred up smoke
from the cinder-hot
pecan-leaf inferno

singeing some back-hidden
pleasure center of our brains
by sending pungent arrows
of pulsing fire-clouds
up through breath

a cold winter day years ago,
when you were alive and
burning leaves out back
was legal.



This book reaches from one side of the ocean to the other, from the past to the future. Here are poems lamenting the disappearance of the Sicilian-immigrant culture of a childhood, yet here too are the joyful songs of someone grateful for every discovery — a paper cup, the voices of ancestors, a handwritten will. Part 1 spans the wide sea of immigrants voyages and their arrival in the New World. In part 2, a father dies and returns years later, a memory as delicate as a piece of paper folded into a paper cup or as intense as hot cinders swirling up out of burning leaves. In parts 3 and 4, relatives and friends gather, and tables are heavy with the feasts of Old World dishes. Part 5 begins with the ecstatic poem "The Infinite Possibilities of Desire," and the title poem from an earlier manuscript, which received the first David Lloyd Kreeger Award. Part 6 looks to the future.

Here a weary traveler finds a place to rest and reasons to rejoice. Experiencing the loss of a parent, an ancient language, even the Old World itself, the poet finds music in discovery, in love, in celebration.


Leo Marcello is a keen observer of the depth and richness of life. But for all the vivid details of experience in these poems, what haunts the poet most are the empty spaces, to use Robert Frost's term, which both frighten us and leave us in loving wonder. These poems face up to the hard, beautiful truths of looking back, and then they turn forward.
— John Bensko, author of The Waterman's Children

Leo Marcello is one of those rare poets who knows how to peel back and examine the delicate layers of the past. Often these poems find occasion for celebration, but just as often for lamentation. Always, though, they are the hard-won affirmations of an honest and searching heart. This book is a beautiful study of how our histories, personal and cultural, not only inform our present lives, but indeed, make us the unique individuals we are.
— David Bottoms, author of Armored Hearts