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A POET OBSERVES A POET

Poems by Thomas Locicero

 

 

 

What Have We Done to Each Other?

What have we done to each other
with our words, mine too honest,
yours too public? You did not know
me when I lived in fire. I hid
my burns from you to protect you,
to protect me. Who loves the injured
more than the scarred? Who has not
lied his way into love? We present
our very best selves, all trimmed
and powdered, all tender and
polite. We are attentive to the lies
we tell one another. You were not
affected by divorce; I was not
affected by death. We are perfect
for each other. Before you, I used
truth to leave love and I am still
haunted by faces of rejection,
confused faces, the mouths of which
said words like “why,” though the
worst word was “but”: “But I love
you” or worse: “But you love me.”
To one, I said, “If this continues,
I will have to break up with your
daughter, too.” To another: “I
won’t take your virginity. It is
meant for your husband. I am
not him.” If only I used truth
when we met. If only you lied
and said, “But I don’t love you.”

 

 

A Poet Observes a Poet

We watch him, me with a sniper’s eye, she
with a squint in hers. He listens. On this we
agree, and he stares at nothing or so
it would seem to her, but no man who listens
stares at nothing. Only a disciplined man
chooses listening over the upheaval
of hearing. He hunches and leans over
blue-green waters with the edge of the river
a translucent skin. He is going to jump
in, she says. No, I say, he is seeing. What
color? I wonder. What colors? Does he see
what I see? Then he tilts his head as if
trying to remember a lie to cover
another. Only his hair moves. He is mad,
she says. I say, No, he is watching. What
has stilled him? I ponder. Her face is filled
with suggestive doubt as if changing my mind
will change him. If only I could see his eyes,
then I could tell her for sure. For now, we pace
without moving, without flinching. He moves.
Something has snared his attention and his
head follows a “thing” that I do not see.
See? she says. He is insane. He needs a
straitjacket. No, I say. There is something there.
What? she asks. Nothing, I say. How can
nothing be something? she mocks. I know him,
I say. Who is he, then? she asks. He is me.

 

 

 

Waiting in Line

The woman bends and her breasts sway.
The moment is barely perceptible,
but his thoughts conjure up others.
Respectfully, he turns away, but she
has gone from stranger to object in
a nanosecond. He looks for a ring and
does not see one, so he primes himself
to speak. As he inhales, so as to breathe
out something original, a second woman
with a baby in a papoose kisses the first
woman on the mouth. The man finds
this strangely scintillating, then he turns
his focus to the papoose. He recalls a
spelling bee. The origin is Narragansett.
It means “young child.” He wonders
how the word evolved to mean an object
that carries a young child. Then he hears
“Next” and he notices that the woman he
objectified is gone and so is her family.

 

 

 

Lord of the Fly

I spy the dying fly trying
to move with eczema wings.
He is no longer a challenge.
I did the research: he has lived
half his life in my kitchen,
by my windows, near my ears.
I wonder what he might ask for
were he to speak. Only at the end
of your life will you see how
little of it truly mattered:

that of which you dreamed,
that for which you strived,
that which was esteemed,
that which was contrived,
that which you conquered by
love or by power—
what will satisfy
in your final hour?

The fly is now a death row inmate. I ask,
What would you desire for your last supper?
I sprinkle sugar and yank his wings so that he
could walk to it with a sense of awe, the way
toddlers and the dead feel on their first walks.

 

 


Zaba
(for Artie)

His thoughts are the colors of cheap Scotch, of
table wine, and the brand of beer only
broke teenagers buy. I have never seen
him drink a glass of water. It is not
something he had planned not to do, a brag
he would tell as he feeds squirrels peanuts
by hand while resting on his deck, naming
clouds and, later, constellations, calling
us old men slang terms for not keeping up.
He has outlived his teetotaler wife
in terms of years, but he still has his boat,
Zaba, which translates to “frog” in Polish,
which is the language of his wife’s people.
They never seemed to me to be married
and yet he did honor her with his boat.
We would launch from the docks at Great River
and navigate the Great South Bay, anchor
at Fire Island, always retelling
the time he miscalculated a wave
and Chris went airborne, landing hard on his
testicles. Why do men celebrate pain?
These are the waters of the captain of
Zaba. He is safe here and not yet drunk,
so I bring up Joanie, hoping to see
a husband’s response to a loss of wife.
His glare says, Stop talking and start drinking.
I crack open a good imported beer,
for I am no longer a teenager,
and he…he did honor her with his boat.

 

 

 

 

 

author

About the Author
Thomas Locicero is an award-winning poet, short story writer, and essayist, as well as a playwright and monologist. His work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Boston Literary Magazine, The Long Island Quarterly, Riverrun, Omnibus Arts & Literature Anthology, A&U: America's AIDS Magazine and Beginnings, among other literary periodicals. Originally from East Islip, Long Island, Thomas resides with his wife, Lil, and their sons, Sam and Ben, in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.

Twitter: @ThomasLocicero

 

 

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