2020-12-18 22:10:48 UTC
As a long term poet, I have gotten best audience with those who are not
poets, so I'd like some feedback.
This poem was written by a WW-II paratrooper who was stationed in Italy
after it was liberated, but prior to war's end. It was circulated
amongst the GI's who copied it onto paper with fountain pen.
On a FB poetry group, one member had found it with his grandfather's
memorabilia. Due to aging and water damage, portions of it were
illegible and he was seeking help.
I cut and pasted several stanzas into Google and found two places where
it had been published back in 1944. In both cases it had been edited and
several verses were lacking...but I had enough for a complete poem which
is an IMPORTANT piece of history.
I was able to Google any terminology I did not understand and am quite
PANORAMA OF SICILY
Lt. James A. Pryor 1944
If I were an artist, with nothing to do,
I'd paint a picture, a composite view
Of historic Sicily, in which I'd show
Visions of contrasts; the high and the low.
There'd be towering mountains, a deep blue sea;
Filthy brats yelling "CARAMELLA" at me;
High-plumed horses, and colorful carts;
Two-toned tresses on hustling tarts.
I'd show Napoleonic cops, the Carabinieri;
Dejected old women, with too much to carry;
A dignified gentleman, with a Balbo beard;
Bare-bottomed bambinos, both ends smeared.
Castle and palace, opera house too;
Hotel on a mountain, marvelous view;
Homes made of woods, brick-bats and mud;
People covered with scabs, scurvy and crud.
Fine old homes, pride of the nation,
Beautiful to see, but no sanitation;
Well equipped schools, without a scholar;
Temples of learning, surrounded by squalor.
Chapels and churches, great to behold,
Each a king's ransom, in glittering gold;
Poverty and want, men craving for food,
Picking through garbage, practically nude.
A hill-top village,a walled in lane;
Grimy old hags, all twisted with pain;
Beautiful image, most blessed of mothers;
Scalped monks and alm-asking brothers.
Stately cathedrals with high-toned bells;
Ricovero shelters, with horrible smells;
Moulding catacombs, a place for the dead;
Noisy civilians clamoring for bread.
Palatial villas with palm trees tall;
A stinking hovel, mere hole in a wall;
Tree fringed lawns, swept by the breeze;
Goats wading in filth up to their knees.
Revealing statues, all details complete;
A sensual lass, with sores on her feet;
Big-breasted damsels, but never a bra,
Bumping against you, there should be a law.
Sweeping boulevards, a spangled team;
Alleys that wind like a dope-fiend's dream;
Flowers blooming on the side of the hill;
A sidewalk latrine, with privacy nil.
Girls with shoe soles, two inches thick;
Unwashed peddlers, whose wares make you sick.
Grapes, lemons, postcards and nuts,
Dolce and vino, to torture your guts.
Two by four shops, with shelving all bare,
Gesturing merchants, arms flailing the air.
Narrow gauge sidewalks, more like a shelf;
Butt-puffing youngster, scratching himself.
Lumbering carts, hogging the road;
Nondescript trucks, frequently towed.
Diminutive donkeys, loaded for bear;
Horsedrawn taxis, seeking a fare.
Determined pedestrians, courting disaster;
Walking in gutters, where movement is faster.
Sicilian drivers, all accident bound;
Weaving and twisting to cover the ground.
Homemade brooms, weeds tied to a stick,
Used on the streets, to clean off the brick;
Bicycles and pushcarts, blocking your path;
Street corner politicos, needing a bath.
A crowded train, with fares in the cab;
More on the cow-catcher, one breeding a scab;
Miserable buses, which move with a grind,
Packed to the roof, more left behind.
Arrogant wretches, picking up snipes;
Miniature fiats, various types.
Young street singer, hand organ tune;
Shoeshine boys, a sidewalk saloon.
Garbage strewn gutters, reeking with a stench;
Weather beaten beggar, a God-awful wench;
A boy on the corner, yelling “Gior-nal-e”;
A half dressed urchin, fly-covered belly.
Barbers galore, with manners quite mild;
Prolific women, all heavy with child.
Il Duce's secret weapon; kids by the score,
Caused by his bonus, which is no more.
No birth control, in this fair land;
One child in arms, two by the hand.
Page Margaret Sanger, just turn her loose;
Her gospel is needed, put it to use.
A beauteous maiden, a smile on her face;
With a breath of garlic, fouling the place;
Listless housewife, no shoes on her feet,
Washing and cooking out in the street.
The family wash, of tattle-tale grey;
Hung from a balcony, blocking the way;
Native coffee, God what a mixture;
Tiled bathroom, with one extra fixture.
Families dining from one common bowl;
Next to a fish store, a terrible hole;
Sicilian zoot suiters, flashily dressed;
Bare-footed beggars, looking oppressed.
Mud-smeared children, clustering about,
Filling their jugs at a community spout;
A dutiful mother, with look of despair,
Picking the lice from her small daughter's hair.
Capable craftsmen, skilled in their art;
Decrepit old shacks, falling apart;
Intricate needlework, out on display,
Surrounded by filth, rot and decay.
Elegant caskets, carved out by hand;
Odorous factories, where leather is tanned;
A shoemaker's shop, a black market store;
Crawling with vermin, no screen on the door.
No sense of shame has the soliciting boy;
Unfortunate children, with nary a toy;
Pathetic monstrosity, the hunch-back dwarf;
Oil strewn sea shore, craft rotting at wharf.
I've tried to describe things I've seen,
Panorama of Sicily, the brown and the green.
I've neglected the war scars, visible yet;
But those are the things we want to forget.
I'm glad I came, but damned anxious to go;
Give it back to the natives, I'm ready to blow.