JOSEPH VITO ROMANO - POEMS
We’ve been here for nearly a year, the longest
yet. It’s fall in upstate New York and the colors
of the world bleed out like an open wound
the rotten deck we’re seated on wishes to give up
to return to the forest, to oblivion. Loud creaky joists
call out and red sugar maple leaves whisper welcome
home. You talk once more about leaving. How we’ll
break the lease, flip over the beds to hide the stains,
patch drywall, wrench out copper pipes to pay
for our move. You ask me what I think
tell me how things will be different in our new
home. It’s our ninth place in as many years.
How neatly a lifetime can fit in a duffel bag.
Desperation tricks us into thinking the same sun
on a different latitude is freedom. It has us believe if we
rot colorfully enough we may cheat cold grey winter.
You tell me once more we’re leaving
You ask me what I think
I want to tell you I need a place to call
home. And then I’ll tell you where my heart is
I’ll tell you where my heart is
I’ll tell you--
I tell you I’ll start packing. From the deck
the warm smell of ripened leaves comforts me.
I look out one last time as the late fall
sun moves beyond the rolling hills.
Night takes back bleeding colors of the world
still young, but I swear I hear it slipping away.
Some days after the funeral
in the basement,
a sunken concrete room with a singular bulb
and a sea of boxes
I squint at each lid
to trace the dusty outline
of your old hands.
Coming away with boxes now, heavy with
age like sunken ships,
I organize them searching
for something passed on
I’ve been at it for hours yet
I don’t know what it is.
From the depths I haul up a short cracked plastic case
the handle busted and the rusty latch bent
eyes closed I remember-
I unload from the case a projector and film
and set to feeding the film
through locks, and dials, and plug it
in and switch it
on, but it’s in reverse,
and the burning 8mm smells
like a funeral pyre.
The projector fan hums in low forgotten decibels
a pitch not meant to be heard again
the projector bulb comes alive
dust motes caught like trespassing stars
I get the film feeding forward
silent images flicker on the dim concrete wall:
The ocean a grey blue,
the suns reflection a broken mirror,
old bathing suits, old women, old thighs
wrinkles, chest hair, bald heads
smiles. No sun screen, no towels
No care. They wave but I don’t wave back.
A shot of hundreds of them
wading into it
pushing it back.
A long shot of July 1958
drawn in the sand
the next shot the ocean foam
sweeping it all away.
A singular silent image of my father
a year old smiling
buried to his head in sand, and
for just a moment there’s a world
in which my father waits to be unburied.
I ask, “How do you turn this off?”
Through the low hum and flickering
inaudibly from somewhere else
he tells me only, “Keep going.”
Tonight there’s only pin light stars
glazed moonlight, grey vignette forms
in the dark a coyote calls out and its pack answers like
a breaking wave, a formless choir, a
single silhouetted hymn that would echo
if not for the blasted desert caliche.
They celebrate a kill, maybe
warm blood evaporating quick
in the heat, or
they scream to mark their territory
a welcome to what they know
and a warning to what lies beyond.
I read once that Song Dogs sing
when they lose one of their own.
A cry for more
a call to friends
a plea to ancestors
there’s no joy in this chorale.
Their dead siren song
is one I know. They sing:
he was too young
we could’ve done more
it’s our fault.
They sing that there must be something
I want to sing your song but I don’t know the lyrics
I want to bring it forth so the world can see
that you couldn’t be a cynic that
you had too much love.
I want to sing you a song but I don’t know the lyrics
so I do my best to keep the
rhythm in my heart.
The wind carries all voices down range
until their lost
the song is sung
the pack moves on
the world spins again
I keep the rhythm only
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