Paul Fericano

Paul Fericano is a poet, satirist, social activist, and editor/publisher of Yossarian Universal News Servicethe nation’s first parody news syndicate, founded in 1980. His poetry and satires have appeared in numerous publications and media outlets in the United States and abroad since 1971, including The Realist, The Best American Poetry, Saturday Night Live, The New York Quarterly, Mother Jones, 2 Bridges Review, Krokodil (Moscow), Punch (London), Charlie Hebdo (Paris) and Satyrcón (Buenos Aires). He is the author of several books of poetry, including The Hollywood Catechism (Silver Birch Press, 2015), and Things That Go Trump in the Night: Poems of Treason and Resistance (Poems-For-All Press, 2019), winner of the 2020 Bulitzer Prize. Fericano is a survivor of clergy sexual abuse and an advocate for other abuse survivors. He served as director of the nonprofit Instruments of Peace / SafeNet from 2003-2013, and his essays on the healing process are archived and available on his blog, A Room With A Pew. During  the 1970s, he helped promote a greater awareness of the importance of small and literary press publications. With a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, he established the Small Press Racks in Libraries project (SPRIL) which made small press books and magazines accessible in 10 California libraries. He is a San Francisco native and a resident of San Bruno. 

Poem on Belonging

I AM SICILIAN

My nannu lived with us in San Francisco
Sat with ghosts at our kitchen table

Spoke softly intently out loud
To no one in particular any time of day

Sugnu Sicilianu he would say again and again
I am Sicilian

Reminding repeating remembering
Sugnu Sicilianu

Whispering riddles Canusci la tò famigghia
Know your family

Breathing secrets Dicci cui sì
Tell them who you are

My mother his youngest child would nod her head
Bring him dark bitter coffee in a small cup

Thick slice of bread with butter rub his shoulders
Coax him to eat papa, manciassi

Me listening as a young boy listening watching
As though I too was old and wise and crazy

Sugnu Sicilianu I would say
To my nannu fading like the wallpaper

To the Maltese nuns who tried to teach me English
The German grocer who knew better

The aunts and uncles who always seemed amused
The doctor who gave me a tetanus shot

Told me I was a brave little monkey
Sugnu Sicilianu I would say

Showing off my olive skin
Some mysterious truth I couldn’t confirm

Like a menacing tattoo on my upper arm
Or a hideous scar on my chin

Struggling to recall its meaning
How it got there who gave it to me

Old enough to sense it wasn’t the same
Growing up normal ordinary predictable Italian

Absorbing the same slurs and thoughtless abuse
The crude animated stories insults jokes

Learning retelling for laughs acceptance
Skinny butch cut Jerry Lewis kid

Good sport regular guy took a punch
Sugnu Sicilianu I would say

Bearing the added weight of mafia shame
The great kissers romancers of death

Shadows with handshakes that never washed off
Cobblers of cement dress shoes

Unwanted messengers who carried codfish
Wrapped in the Sunday comics

Muscular waxed mustachioed men spitting smoke
From greasy cigars that stunk up the park

Sugnu Sicilianu I would say
Listening for clues mumbled in noiseless rooms

About the fascisti and starched brown shirts
The vicious landowners fat with lust

About the fear infecting the island
The fury rage the sorrow in Palermo

The betrayal distrust the sealed lips
Before and after wars were won and lost

And about my great-grandfather Graziano
How nobody ever spoke of him

How he went menzu pazzu crazy with grief
The night a wild pig from the woods

Mutilated his infant son only three days old
Asleep in his crib

Dark brutal sounds retreating into the underbrush
His wife wailing moaning collapsing

And him hysterical
Running naked through the unbelieving streets

Clutching his only other son my nannu
Cursing god the devil the world

Screaming his lungs out in the dark
Sugnu Siciliano

In a town where everyone knew
Who he was

Copyright © 2022 by Paul Fericano. Used with permission of the author.

Find Paul’s books in the library!

Stoogism Anthology (1977)

Civic Engagement

Founded Small Press Racks in Libraries (SPRIL) in 1976 with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, which made small press books and magazines accessible in 10 California libraries.