Tullio Di Sandro sings


a song of remorse a song
for the dead muddled
in his native tongue
in his immigrant heart
wanting life for her
not death

Mia figlia, il mio cuore 

a dirge for what
cannot be undone
a lament for love and fear
wed in the catastrophic instant

she dropped from
his coarse and tender hands

the little girl he
meant to save from
a sinking ship

In cerca della tua vita, 
ho dato a morte 

He will hear the dull
thud of her skull
on the gunwale of the lifeboat
when he is too old to hear
anything else

and feel all his days
the monstrous God
of his fathers,  who did not
calm his panic, who did not
change his mind, who did not

send a wave or
a wind or
a blessing that —

her small body already falling —

might have landed her
safely, after all, in the future
he came so far to
give her, might have spared
him the song he will sing

for the rest of his life

Ti amo perdonami 
Ti amo perdonami 



The Andrea Doria sank 63 years ago, on July 26, 1956. Forty-six people died as a result of the Italian luxury liner’s collision with the Swedish ship Stockholm. While more than 1,600 passengers survived the impact and were rescued in the 11 hours before the Andrea Doria sank, a handful died during and after evacuation. Among them was 4-year-old Norma Di Sandro, whose panicked father Tullio — trying to save her life —  dropped her on her head from the severely listing liner into a lifeboat.  She was the only child of Tullio and his wife Filomena, who had left their Milan home to sail in tourist class to America, where they hoped to give their daughter a better life.  




  1. Norma was 1 of 11 children under 14 that died on the ship. Her parents eventually had 3 more children in America. A son named Ermanno and daughters Norma, named after her, and Brigida.


    1. Thank you for adding this interesting information! It’s a consolation to think the Di Sandros had more children.


  2. You have made the moments stand still. One can’t write a poem like that unless one has lived the moments, or empathised to the extent of being one with the protagonists, which is the hallmark of greatest poetry.


    1. What a gracious and powerful compliment. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Riveting, and so terribly sad.


    1. Indeed. Thank you for reading and commenting, Leah!


  4. Heartbreaking.
    The thrice ‘who did not’ – you make us hold our breath.
    Thank you.


    1. Thanks, dear Cousin.


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