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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,
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!”
By GARY CORSERI
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”
Is something like a mouth).
The river—sea?– horizon seems
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.
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–
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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