Inform, Entertain, Inspire
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles - Jo: A Little Snug in our Hugs

Annie and Jo Pacini with Nina Magnan-Park
Anne Magnan-Park
Annie and Jo Pacini with Nina Magnan-Park

If, like me, you’re from the South of France – which, from where you’re listening, I realize, is highly unlikely – then you may appreciate the subjective truism I must trumpet today. From a Mediterranean perspective, greeting loved ones in a Midwestern fashion is a dispiriting and unnatural exercise in physical and emotional restraint. Can I say it plain? Engaging in the chaste, honey-starved, Midwestern A-frame hugs makes me weep. Bear with me, listener. I am aware that A-frame hugs have their own Puritan history, unchallenged cultural raison d’être, and, no doubt, understated poetry. All I am suggesting is that we add a little snug to our hugs, a greater tease to our squeeze. Don’t take offense, but truth be told, when you come from a culture of profoundly effusive greetings, “Flat Stuff” hugs feel something like this: Wait? What? Oh! Wow! That’s a welcome? That’s happy? No! Wait! Who is calling my name – the way I heard it when I was born – with sunshine climbing the grapevine of their voices? Where are the open arms shawled in laughter, and the soul-meltin’, sweet somethin’ we purr, our heads cradled in each other’s necks and our joined torsos swiveling like sunflowers ad-libbing in each other’s arms. I want my cheeks kissed with the delectable “mmmm” and that smacking sound, I want to wipe the tears of joy from your cheeks, hold your face, and alight on my reflection in your eyes. I want your home-sick heart to feel: I have arrived!

Do I hear you shuffle in your seat, Indiana? Do I hear that you’ve experienced those bounteous greetings too – thank you very much – or do you know someone less demonstrative who still makes you feel this way? If not, I urge you to find them. I hasten you to be that person for another hug-disillusioned someone. When you do, we’ll all be in good company to climb the A-frame step ladders of our hugs, meet up top, and hang on to the wobbly view and to each other! If you’re like me – though not from the South of France, but stuck running the old gauntlet for a spell – the sheer memory of those larger-than-life-greetings are your North Star.

Mine is Jo Pacini, my godfather: the child who immigrated from Tuscany to Provence, the poet who talks to stones and olive trees of desire and sorrow. He is my one and only mentor who gifted me with my first poetry book, the nonsensical Qu’est-ce qu’il n’y a by French poet activist Paul Vincensini, illustrated by an artist with whom I share a first name. My name! In a book! Planting its indelible seed in my 6-year-old impressionable brain. My Padrino’s hugs made me a writer. Indiana, indulge me in sharing a snippet of the language of our greetings with you:

Jo: Look out world, our Sun is here. At long last. Fig tree, pinch me please! My eyes deceive me! Wait! It is you. You are here. My poor heart leaps as it weeps, it blooms with arcobaleni, il desiderio de la terra, di giorno in giorno. Tell me. I am listening. We have time. Look, my mouth is full of untamed words I’ve been saving for you. My mind is filled with globes of insights I want to hold with you. My hands can’t stop dancing around you. This is the dance. This is pure joy. I feel it in the old drum-set of my bones. We both do. I am old, but we have time. This, this is so much. It’s almost too much. Olive tree, hold my heart! Anne, sweet, I can hear your father in your voice. Let’s walk together in the olive grove, look at my irises, and oh, here, my latest poem. You’ll tell me what you think. But, hang on, where is your cicada girl at? I need to give her my love. So much love. There is little time. Here she is! Are these acorn earrings? A real flower doll with its crumpled petal dress, poppy bud arms, and poppy head you made just for me? Oh my heart, so much beauty!

Anne: Sweetest Jo. These sprightly tendrils of joy lacing our embrace are my lifeline. I show up here with a ghost to your eyes and ears. Since we cannot disentangle him from either of us – your life-long friend, my father – let him geyser our laughter, let him ride the waves of the murmuration of words we relish so much, but that he trusted so little. Here we are, Jo, we are here, you and me, and the whole bursting-with-poetry-for-each-other lot of us. Beyond grief. A Mediterranean sunshine choir for my Hoosier cicada girl. Hush! Can you hear it too? This unfamiliar star in her rising song?

For Michiana Chronicles and for Jo Pacini and family, this is Anne Magnan-Park.

From Ella, happy birthday to Helicopter Man.

Music: “Je reviens du silence” lyrics by Joseph Pacini, music and vocals by Antonio Bataroli

Anne is a literary translator focusing on Indigenous literatures of the Pacific. She has been writing for Michiana Chronicles since 2019.