Rina Ferrarelli Poet & Translator


Praise for:

Rina Ferrarelli’s   The Bread We Ate

Ferrarelli shows us exactly how the past is neither finite nor compartmentalized.  “I knew another way” sings this poet who catapults

her life forward: in stories of the beggar woman, the stone quarry, the mother and teacher, and the fallible Americanization of indelible memory.  Her narratives of exile and divestiture, of streets and fields, of marriage and art, offer elemental gifts.  Ultimately, we’re embraced by essential ritual: attend carefully to what you see here.

And kiss the fragrant wreath of bread before breaking it.

—Judith Vollmer

The Bread We Ate revels in textile-crafting, carpentry, stone-masonry, and mining not so much to transform the work of her Italian ancestors into poetry, but, rather, to make this poetry—written in a language Ferrarelli herself had to enter carefully, cautiously as a young woman—into handiwork that is as individual as it is consciously communal. Like the carpenter she writes of in "The Apprentice," Ferrarelli is a master who joins her will, the vision of her inward eye, to language in order to make the past, once again, a living thing; and like the furniture that carpenter made, Ferrarelli's poems are "true / from the inside out."

-- Ellen McGrath Smith



The Bread We Ate

The Bread Wreath

When my sons were little,

they wanted Wonder Bread

instead of Italian,

afraid to be different.

Then they discovered

that anything Italian

was good, fashionable.

And now they’ve grown up.

They ask about the past,

that other country,

familiar and strange.”

And sometimes I tell them.

On Sunday my brother

stopped by the Bread Works

on the way over

and bought a collùra,

to have with our dinner.

“Still warm from the oven,”

deliciously fragrant

as only that kind of bread can be.

As we broke it into pieces

and passed it around the table

I told my children

about the seven wreaths of bread

my mother gave to the poor

on the anniversary of his death

to eat in remembrance

of my father, and of the six men

who had died with him.


A strange efflorescence

on the lawn where hidden

roots and stumps

lie below the surface.

Was it the rain, the sun

after rain, the red moon

that caused such profusion?

They glow in the morning

in the silver blue of dusk,

open, and turn inside out

in the bright midday sun --

empty bowls held up the the sky  --

split around the edges

into odd-shaped petals.

Smooth and rough

all covered with fragments

of the universal veil.

A few push up close to the ground

without visible stipes

bronze and gold fluted leaves

like coral of the woods

the color of regret.

Edible agarics or poisonous

amanitas? I wish I knew

There was never a season,

a gathering place.

Our time together short.

Dead in their thirties,

or scattered widely

across two continents,

my people took this

and other kinds of knowledge

with them when they went.

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