Poetry: Selections from John L. Stanizzi
He’s singing a song for you at his own expense.
-You’re a Big Girl Now
Another summer come begrudgingly,
El Nino, furtive, spirituous,
out there with the yellow warbler,
wood thrush, the next secret surprise.
These are the first hot afternoons.
Temperature near 90 three straight days,
everything left undone.
As soon as the rain calmed enough
to be gentle
the frogs started.
Shadows and lights,
the surface of the pond,
silhouettes of birds darting,
the deck liquid,
chairs and plants floating
on the slick surface.
You know as well as I what it is to float,
burdened by deep water.
louder than geese in fog
exquisite and peaceful
rain all night
thick clouded gray morning
just after sunrise
leaves absolutely still mist
rising from the river
pond black and gray
the whole scene lit
by the diamonds of dew
on the tail of a grackle
fingers poised at the keyboard
The stars shine tonight,
boundaries of brilliance,
Perhaps that is the blessing.
Otherwise the one desire
might flicker and vanish.
Who are we to say,
in among the shadows,
the lights, the movement,
that there will be something else
that will make us burn.
There is good cause for mentioning birdsong,
for being drawn in, over and over again,
to its constancy.
You know, the fog, the river, the clouds.
You’ve heard it all before.
Gawking at the hills,
waiting like a fool
to be battered…
A strand of haze,
a brown branch snapped, hanging down,
all that green,
or perhaps a shadow
whose corner is lifted
to find what has been swept under it.
There is such ease in crafting excuses.
Each bird singing at his own expense,
and the room crowded with laziness
while out there,
(OK, I’ll say it again.)
the horizon is crowned with an aura of mist,
entire flocks of sparrows come to eat;
the dirt road is soft clay,
the stream misplaced in the woods,
reflecting all of it,
all the gestures,
and all the stagnant waiting,
wedged between nothing to say and less.
First trace of coolness,
the wide, straight shadows
of the corral on the clay road
fade under spreading clouds,
the same hills, trees, water,
a diary where it is written patience,
after which winter arrives rudely,
taking its slow dragged-out time
Footprints in the sand validate the moment.
No matter what I am doing, I am faithful to
the day’s wild unpredictability,
the bedlam, the quiet, insidious formlessness,
a day that smolders away
like shadows on water in sunlight.
The sand undulates, erases its own punctuation.
How often what we say to each other,
and how we say it,
in spite of all we know,
confirms the idyllic perfection of isolation.
Mid-summer, young doves poke at sunflower seeds,
the haze to the north scrims the hills,
the cloudless sky is taut and glossy,
the air remarkably thin and overflowing
with the sound of birdsong,
and nearer, the gratifying sound of feathers.
Red-winged black bird like a god or some jeweled royalty
audacious yawns at the feeder before gorging
blasé in his mottled blackness
and I keep returning to the same question year after year
It has become unbelievable to me
this unmitigated persistence that on occasion
crosses the line from irritating to funny
So today or now anyway
I will gather what’s in front of me
inkling of sunshine brightening the fog
hangover and the patience
to wait until morning for relief
birds in all directions
cluck and coo and melody
humidity burying its head in everything
birdseed distended and juicy
mockingbird doing cat cry
jay call hawk screech wren chatter
and the voices of children playing
as I fight the urge to yawn
the urge to consume everything at once
asleep with thunder asleep with lightning
under wet blankets of rain
lightning the color of daylight in dreams
morning’s slow breathing
bright tunnel of recollections
and the ghost of delusions silently closes the door
twenty sparrows’ tracks
where they have flown
in the sky
silver spotted skippers dance in the close air around the butterfly bush
touch down on purple blossoms
the day moving forward slow and enormous
and exactly like this
just this once
morning’s wrinkled sheets
stiffness in the body
and the bones of annihilation in a heap at the door
John L. Stanizzi is author of the collections Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After the Bell, Hallelujah Time!, High Tide – Ebb Tide, Four Bits, Chants,Sundowning, POND, and The Tree That Lights The Way Home. Besides A Thin Slice of Anxiety, John’s work has been widely published including in the journals Prairie Schooner, The Cortland Review, American Life in Poetry, Praxis, Rust & Moth, The New York Quarterly, Paterson Literary Review, The Laurel Review, The Caribbean Writer, Blue Mountain Review, Tar River, Poetlore, Rattle, Hawk & Handsaw, Plainsongs, and many others. His work has been translated into Italian and appears widely in Italy, including in El Ghibli, The Journal of Italian Translations Bonafini, Poetarium, and others. His translator is the Italian poet, Angela D’Ambra. His nonfiction has been published in Literature and Belief, Stone Coast Review, Ovunque Siamo, Adelaide, Scarlet Leaf, Evening Street, Praxis, Potato Soup Journal, The Red Lemon, after the pause, and others. Potato Soup Journal named his story Pants “The Best of 2020” and it appeared in their anthology celebrating those works. John has read at venues all over New England, including the Mystic Arts Café, the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, Hartford Stage, and many others. For many years, John coordinated the Fresh Voices Poetry Competition for Young Poets at Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington, Connecticut. He was also a “teaching artist” for the national poetry recitation contest, Poetry Out Loud; he spent a decade with Poetry Out Loud. A former Wesleyan University Etherington Scholar, and New England Poet of the Year (1998), John has just been awarded an Artist Fellowship in Creative Non-Fiction – 2021 - from the Connecticut Office of the Arts and Culture for work on his new memoir. He teaches literature at Manchester Community College in Manchester, Connecticut, and lives with his wife, Carol, in Coventry, CT.