Thomas Locicero’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Roanoke Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Long Island Quarterly, Riverrun, The Good Men Project, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Jazz Cigarette, Quail Bell Magazine, and Rat’s Ass Review, among other journals. He resides in Broken Arrow, OK.
(for Thomas James)
The early deaths of parents make the child
a madman or a poet; perhaps both,
for mutually exclusive they are not
but travel along the same grain of wood,
buffing it with their feet till it is dust
and all that remains is damned potential,
but let us not forsake the brilliant start,
for few who’ve finished hope to fare as well,
who’ve captured yet the space just north of hell.
Calverton in December
(for Rosario Bucaro)
Though the peculiar white sun, lazy and thin,
reveals itself, albeit feeble and frail,
none of us can remember being so cold;
that it is seen at all is its testament.
I know little about the ceremony,
having seen it only once at my father’s
service, but I know enough not to rush
the priest. He speaks in a soft monotone
with a nasal accent; a drop of liquid
has iced up on the corner of one of his
nostrils. His gloveless hands do not leave the
black leather Bible from which he reads out of
the Book of Psalms and, later, from John’s Gospel.
We discreetly shimmy to avoid frostbite.
I have not visited Calverton since my
father was buried here five years ago.
He died in August, which is bearably hot
out east on Long Island, but this December
even the snow and the wind seem to be
complaining. The man we are burying,
who would have been my father-in-law had he
lived just eight more months, deserves to be honored.
So many of us imitate the frigid
temperature, turning taciturn, and concerned
with time rather than the elegiac words.
We whisper of the warm limo, still running.
The only ones who seem content on this day
are the soldiers, who stand at attention,
still and not shivering, one of whom will
play Taps while others shoot their gun salute
and still others triangular-fold a flag.
As I watch them, I am struck by my shame.
What a small sacrifice it is to stand cold
with every drop of my blood in my veins,
with all my limbs intact and hopes and dreams safe.
Somewhere, a soldier is colder than I.
My indignation is now resignation,
so I give honor where honor is due:
to them, the priest, and to my father-in-law,
who lived his life without recognition,
who will rest alongside the honorable.
A foray into the unknown
does not necessarily have
to be calamitous. Necessarily.
It was birth. From the dawn
of man, billions of women,
with full disclosure and full
expectations, have willingly
chosen to participate in a
spawning, a breeding,
a procreation. As amateurs.
More than willing, they are
eager, enthusiastic. They
tell their family and a close
friend or two before the
12-week mark; others after.
They are overwhelmed by
love. They hear heartbeats,
see ultrasounds, marvel at
4-D images, think of names,
all the while stretching to make
room for a growing body. But
they know that pain is on its
way, and they simply welcome it,
accepting it as an evidence of life
like brain function and breathing.
Some are shy. They got this way
in the dark, discreet as nuns,
but not when they are in labor.
It is difficult. Nothing wonderfully
made is easy. But the process
has simple steps: spread, breathe,
push. Still, Vicki died giving birth,
and Michelle. One child survived,
the other did not. The survivor
child is a mother now. An act
of pleasure leads to pain, then
leads to pleasure, but not always,
not necessarily. Thus the foray.
Consider the synonyms: expedition,
venture, attack, assault, raid, incursion.
I watched them pierce his little body,
which, by now, was translucent,
black veins spider-webbing this way
and that, a map most fear to travel
alone, and so he will not be alone.
He is all flinch and moan, no words,
and I am silent, thanking the pain
for convincing me that he is still
alive. He is braver than I, I think.
I want my veins to remain green,
my weight to cushion my bones,
to know how he, so frail, can measure
up to death, but I could do without
the knowledge, the image. How much is one
year worth? Were I the owner of all
the cattle on all the hills, I would sell them
one by one to the highest bidder. For him,
I would even consider giving them away.
Were he my son, I would count myself
among the cattle, begging to be purchased,
begging to be taken. Begging.
Without Grace or Mercy
If God were to look down on His creation
Without grace or mercy, and I alone knew,
How unrecognizable would I become to you!
“Where,” you would ask, “did your humor go?”
“Why won’t you undress with the lights on?”
“Why won’t you make love to me?”
“What has happened to your poetry?”
I would spare you of this knowledge to
Protect you from the end of the world.
In time, however, I suspect I would get used
To Him the way actors no longer see the cameras,
And I would come to admit that anything
Graceless and merciless, even God,
Especially God, is worthless.
And I would return to you, and you
Would receive me with grace and mercy,
You who is not God; you who will not
Undress with the lights on.