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Three Poems by Gary Corseri

Portrait of Asparino—Dad.

By GARY CORSERI

 

I loved his old Sicilian bones;

the way he laughed from inside out;

and how his hands would skip the stones

across a lake—and he would shout.

 

He danced to make the world his own.

He danced because he could not sing

(though never tired trying—alone

in the shower, some made-up thing).

 

His sisters spoiled him—the last child,

the only one American-raised.

He had his mother’s height and his father’s mild

temperament—except when his anger blazed!

 

He wielded shears and every cutting thing.

(His words could cut!)  He measured cloth

to make it fall just right…he liked sewing

and fixing—the things he’d learned in youth.

 

An altar boy, he took a Jew to wife

(and held her reed form when time laid her down).

Iconoclast, he’d wager his own life

to purchase hell or heaven.

 

He’d walk into a room and own it

by virtue of his being there, without

saying anything, simply being alert,

lupine, canny, clever—with the clout

 

of earned composure.

Six foot, two hundred pounds, he knew his strength,

he knew his wiles, he took his measure

and cut the cloth to eighty years of length.

 

He died on a dance floor, in the middle

of a mambo, just falling like a leaf

in a gentle breeze, and with a smile

that lingered like a child’s belief. 

 

On My Way …

By GARY CORSERI

 

I was on my way to the quarterly meeting

of the Georgia Poe-try Society,

and I was running late, as is my wont,

burning with a new poem to read–

a poem that captured the essence of quintessence

in the palpitating state of Georgia–

 

except … I was catching every red light on the planet,

fallin’ behind every peanut farmer in a pickup truck

up from Americus before finally hitting 285.

At which time I gunned my ’95 minivan,

opened the throttle and let that bluebird sing

like a phoenix down the Interstate highway, passing

dieseling trucks belching coal-black smoke. …

 

And it was: Corseri on the inside; Corseri on the outside;

and Corseri coming up the middle, weaving and threading

through the perilous, labyrinthine lanes,

dropping back for a furlong then spurting ahead

leaving Mack trucks biting my dust,

and the wide-eyed spectators agog.

 

But I couldn’t help it, I was crazy with love–

love for the pummeling poem of creation

which I held in my fiery hands;

love for my brothers and sisters and kindred

suffering in silence and thirsting

for the words I was born to give them;

love for the whirling star-worlds congealing

in our prophetic dreams.

 

And then I saw the light in my mirror. …

It was throbbing and pulsing like the blue light of Hades,

like the eye of the Cyclops … ominous! … portentious!

It was the God-A’mighty

GEORGIA HIGHWAY PATROL!

 

He flashed his headlights and signaled me over

and my heart was beating

like a caged bird in the prison of my ribs,

like a bird that’s flown free and feels life closing in,

as I pulled my sad-assed minivan over

and the officer strode beside me

wearing a creased-like-razors uniform

over a prodigiously rambling belly.

 

He had black sunglasses riding his nose

and he said in tones stentorian,

“WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING?”

And I chirped in the voice of a sparrow:

“To the Georgia Poe-try Society.”

 

And he said, “WHAAAAAATTTTTT?”

And I said, “Poe-try. …”

And he said, “WHAAAAAATTTTTT?”

And I whispered soft-as-a-dewdrop

on a baby-red rose in an April garden: “poe-try. …”

 

And he held out his arms and cried,

“MAH FELLOW BARD!”

 

And we commenced to talkin’ ’bout dithyrambs,

And hexagrams, rhyming schemes,

and polyurethane, and all kinds of weird things,

but mostly–poe-try–

and he said, “Let me escort you, mah friend.”

 

And the blue light was a-turnin’ again

and the siren, I swear, was a-whistlin’ “Dixie,”

and it was, Corseri on the inside;

and Corseri on the outside;

and Corseri comin’ up the middle between the lanes

but this time legal and permissible

with the blue light behind me,

like the first light Noah saw after the rain,

like the blue light of love in the eyes of an angel,

like a christening—feeling the world new again.

 

And I got to the Georgia Poe-try Society

bathed in that light, still wearing it,

with the sound of the siren fading… fading. …

 

And I read my poem on the essence of quintessence

and everyone knew it was the light I was singing,

everyone felt it deep in the vortices

of their individual hearts beating together,

and the tears were streaming, washing us clean

as the shout went up from the circle of redemption–

 

“GLORY, GLORY, GLORY!

POE-TRY NOW AND FOREVER!”

 

“The Scream”

By GARY CORSERI           

1.

On the cover of this new book, “Il Grido”—

Munch’s “The Scream.”  (It’s printed in Milan.)

 

Here, the horror’s in the flowing colors—

How everything conspires against the screamer,

Who, we imagine, howls in silence,

Even his body flowing away;

 

Even the boardwalk with its few straight lines

And fence against the river

Flows to the crazed horizon,

Where two silhouetted figures,

Hatted or caped, jacketed, are eyeless.

 

Eyeless, too, the screamer (unless two sockets

In the skull are eyes;

Unless the oval rictus-“O”

Of silence

Is something like a mouth).

 

2.

The river—sea?– horizon seems

Serpent-inhabited.

The screamer cups his skull within his palms,

Over his ears, as though he cannot bear to hear

Himself or the world; or, maybe,

Just to be sure he is still there;

Or, maybe, finding himself there,

He must hold his head in place

To behold again the horror.

 

3.

Aren’t we all displaced?

Sea dragons even now

Converging, merging with

The screaming colors,

Crawling in our skies, ourselves?

 

And we don’t know where to stand or listen

As the pier gives way, and we know we are

Some creature in a schizoid’s painting—

Mad caricature of what we were

But are no more;

Now, pale-green with envy.

For love?  For pity’s sake?  For peace?

 

Or, merely echoing

That deeper green of water–

The inescapability;

The sinking

Isolation?

 

Gary Corseri has published/posted work at CounterPunch, The New York Times, Village Voice, Dissident Voice, L.A. Progressive, BraveNewWorld and hundreds of other venues.  His dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and at universities.  His books include the novels, Holy Grail, Holy Grail and A Fine Excess, and the literary anthology (edited), Manifestations.  He has been a professor in the U.S. and Japan, taught in prisons and public schools, worked as a grape-picker and furniture-mover in Australia, a gas station attendant, a door-to-door salesman.  He has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum. He can be reached at gary_corseri@comcast.net.

Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting)

To submit to Poets’ Basement, send an e-mail to CounterPunch’s poetry editor, Marc Beaudin at counterpunchpoetry@gmail.com with your name, the titles being submitted, and your website url or e-mail address (if you’d like this to appear with your work).  Also indicate whether or not your poems have been previously published and where.  For translations, include poem in original language and documentation of granted reprint/translation rights.  Attach up to 5 poems and a short bio, written in 3rd person, as a single Word Document (.doc or .rtf attachments only; no .docx – use “Save As” to change docx or odt files to “.doc”).  Expect a response within one month (occasionally longer during periods of heavy submissions).

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Gary Corseri has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library, and his dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere. He has published novels and collections of poetry, has taught in US public schools and prisons and in US and Japanese universities. His work has appeared at CounterPunch, The New York Times, Village Voice and hundreds of publications and websites worldwide. Contact: gary_corseri@comcast.net.

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