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Poetry: The Urchin From Naples


My first visit to Naples, Italy took place in the summer of 1982, with consequent visits at Christmas in the same year and then at Easter of 1983.  I eventually travelled to live in Naples on 1 July 1983.  However, I had already “visited” Naples through a book that I read in early 1981.  The title of the book was Children of the Sun – The Slum Dwellers of Naples, and it was written by Morris West.

I was taking a year-long night school class at the time and was looking for an end-of-year project to present as my final paper.  The book not only gave me the subject for my project, but also had such a profound effect on me that it had great influence on my decision to live in Naples when I returned to Italy a few years later.  (I highly recommend reading this book if you are going to visit Naples, Italy.)

The following poem was inspired by the book and became an integral part of the paper that I presented at school. 

The Urchin From Naples

Don’t push me aside Mr. Tourist

When leaving your five-star hotel,

I may be all dirty and tattered,

But I have my self-pride as well.

Don’t look down your nose when you see me,

With hand reaching out for a dime.

I’m a person with senses and feelings

In spite of my face full of grime.

I come from a family of seven,

And worked from the ripe age of five.

School didn’t exist for an earner

Who could help keep the family alive.

My mother was busy with babies,

My father was touting for bread,

M sisters were selling their bodies

To make sure we all had a bed.

And so from this ‘home’ I escaped,

To fend for myself all alone,

In the back streets of Naples I wander,

At least what I earn is my own.

I see that you ask why I did this,

Chose my roof as the sky up above?

It’s not just my belly got hungry,

My heart too was starving for love.

At home I was forced into manhood

Before I was ever a child,

My innocence now has long left me,

Broken and wounded – defiled.

But I too must live Mr. Tourist,

So if I am forced to ask alms,

Then give without making me wheedle,

Don’t leave me with cold empty palms.

And when you go home to your children

And hold them within your embrace,

Remember this urchin from Naples

Has feelings as well as a face.


March, 1981

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