Poems by Domenic Scopa

Erotophobia (Fear of Sexual Expression)
sixteen years after the rape

The slam of the screen door,
such a sullen finality –
Tell me, how can I calm
the static field of my awake and trembling skin?
I want to be forgiven with an explanation,
with some measurable fact.
In other words: This is why it happened.
And yes: This is how I’ve felt for years.
And, of course, I’d like to steal back the past.
Maybe I’ll convince myself I can…
But what could I do with it,
except what I did?
If I escape to Prague, again,
will the anonymity of foreign language soothe me,
the husky, Slavic consonants like Novocain injected
before the dentist drills, exchanging minor pain
to numb the possibility of greater pain?
This finality, the weight
of the screen door as it slams –
Why shouldn’t it hurt?
Maybe it will pass,
like morning dew and sunshine…
But whatever’s wiped away will surely return.
Perhaps I’ll find some necessary task,
replacing the record player’s needle,
or fixing the mailbox that leans to one side,
some task that seems impossible right now.
La vie belle, la vie belle –
Don’t think about it:
The science of black holes is easier to explain.


I wish I was the sea, she said one evening, which made me wonder if she saw herself as one specific sea or all of them, maybe strong, or maybe easily manipulated by an unseen force – I don’t get it, I replied, as the cigarette cherry of the sunset smoldered. And she told me if I had to ask I’d never comprehend, which was, I remembered, what I said once about poetry. I was reluctant to mention this, although poetry seemed like the most hopeful subject – Satan Says and Stag’s Leap – some of her treasured collections, terrific lines she taught me how to listen to, so I said of course I understand. After that, nothing was mysterious…And now, weeks later, I still regret pretending to comprehend her comment about the sea. Was it the power? – How it wipes the shore of all its history the way a flame consumes a composition book?  Or faithfulness? – How devotedly it dances with the moon? Or was it deception? – Beginning with all that’s hidden by its depths, bacterium and phosphorescent creatures? We knew what every child knows: that just because something’s hidden doesn’t mean it’s not there, that despite our search, the world conceals itself, as if it earnestly believed it could spare us our wonder.

Twenty Questions

Did I forget to smell the rain this morning
when I first woke up?
Did I miss the cardinals
gathered at the bird bath?
The cracks in the concrete driveway
like scars twisted into shapes
for proving different kinds of pain?
And the trees draped over the gravel street
that leads into town,
the shadows of their stubborn tapestry of leaves,
again, keeping me company as I drive?
Did I notice the deer in the tree line,
idle in its gazing?
And did I marvel at the elegance of nature? –
What if it was the deer that sneaks into the garden
to eat pea pods? Cabbage? Carrots?
Don’t you think I should repair the wooden fence?
How it just sits there – rotted, unreliable?
Would it be wrong to not include happiness?
Or sorrow, its tired twin?
If I had spared that veteran some change
that time when I was seventeen,
would he have stayed awake all night
beside the dumpster?
Then made his bloodstream sing
with a syringe at dawn?
Tonight, will the mosquitoes,
swarming streetlights,
tell me about my life so clearly
that I’ll accept it just the way it is,
their buzzing full
of some outrageous bliss or sadness
at simply being mosquitoes? 
Is the veteran still in the alley,
nodding towards his flipped ball cap for coins?
Why did I assume he was a drug addict?
Am I still seventeen?
Hearing their buzz, or not,
will I let the mosquitoes tell me what they can?
Did I already ask that?

About the Author
Domenic Scopa is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the 2014 recipient of the Robert K. Johnson Poetry Prize and Garvin Tate Merit Scholarship. He holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. His poetry and translations have been featured in Poetry Quarterly, Reed Magazine, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Belleville Park Pages, and many others. He is currently an adjunct professor for the Changing Lives Through Literature program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, New Hampshire Technical Institute, and Plymouth State University. His first book, Walk-in Closet (Yellow Chair Press), is forthcoming in 2017. He currently reads manuscripts for Hunger Mountain and Ink Brush Publications.