Poetry: Selections from John L. Stanizzi
-to my son
Through high blushes,
amid all that green
it presents its first scarlet leaves,
and the chickadees are little crescents
of light flickering
among the branches.
I’m starting to work on
living without summer.
It’s rather like learning
to live without a child who has,
for his own reasons,
taught himself to live without his father.
You must learn to say,
Now I will live,
even now, with a stalled hurricane
spinning backwards off the coast,
the drought persisting,
the pond more shallow every day,
its banks bone-brittle,
and winter hiding in the landscape,
gathering its pitiless gray forces.
- A golden shovel – after Terrance Hayes after Gwendolyn Brooks after “We Real Cool.”
Every morning Daddy left for what we
Feared would be years, and the sadness was real.
Until we realized one dark and cool
Summer evening late into June that we
Were completely wrong. The truth was he left
On mornings before we headed for school,
And he was nowhere to be found when we
Would get home, after our frightening lurk
Through the trash-laden alleys that, of late
Had begun to frighten us because we
Heard that a bad guy hung there, and he’d strike
You in a second, snatch your cell phone straight
Out your hand, his greasy smile saying We
Sorry kids, in a voice that seemed to sing,
Speaking 3rd person, like 1st were a sin.
Fear rose in us, overcame us and we
Ran terrified through the dank, misty-thin
Air of the alley, which smelled of hot gin.
And looking back now I wonder what we
Were afraid of. Could it have been that jazz
About ignoring strangers? It was June,
And it wouldn’t be too long before we
Knew where Daddy was, knew he’d never die.
We played carelessly, sure he’d be home soon.
Closing Time at the Venus Lounge
It’s 2.15 a.m., closing time.
No one in the joint but us.
Wendy has put her clothes on
and is seated at the far end of the bar
counting her singles
and eating a burger.
I’m on the pinball machine
next to the wooden 12 X 12 stage,
eighteen inches high.
Marky is wailing along
with Hot Blooded as he watches me play.
Doc is tossing stools up onto the bar.
Phil and Billy are waiting by the door.
Billy is buttoning up his pea coat,
Phil is taking a long haul
off the pint of Black Velvet
he keeps in his inside pocket.
Golden, the bouncer implores,
Alla you get the fuck outta here.
C’mon, man. Closing time!
Tommy bounces out of the men’s room
zipping up his fly.
What’s goin’ out here, men?
You’re leaving, shouts Golden,
as my father raises both arms above his head,
six beers, 3 between the fingers
on each of his meaty hands,
Nobody’s leaving, Golden Boy,
Nobody’s leaving ‘til we finish
these fucking beers,
and Golden shakes his head,
smiles at my old man,
and takes a seat on his stool by the door.
John L. Stanizzi authored eleven collections - Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After the Bell, Hallelujah Time!, High Tide/Ebb Tide, Chants, Four Bits, Sundowning, POND, and The Tree That Lights the Way Home. He has been published in Prairie Schooner, American Life In Poetry, New York Quarterly, and many others. His translations appear widely in Italy and his nonfiction has appeared in Stone Coast Review, Ovunque Siamo, after the pause, many others. As a former New England Poet of the Year, John received a Fellowship in 2021 from Connecticut Office of the Arts. He ives in Coventry, CT., with his wife, Carol.