By John L. Stanizzi


Be on such simple, cordial terms with those under you that when you are all together,
it would be impossible to say which is the superior.

-St. Vincent de Paul

Each log is consumes itself,
reminds me of my own boundaries,
the anticipation with which
I recognize and deflect such thoughts.


The logs crackle
their own distinct staccato rhythm,
and the firmament quietly releases
evening’s snow along the horizon,
idiosyncratic flakes,
hieroglyphs amid hieroglyphs.


Each fleck singular, falling, absorbed,
sighing into itself,
inspiration enough
to take another log,
knock off the day’s snow and ice,
place it onto the austere embers.


Waiting with hope
and just enough anxiety
to motivate me to move closer to the
anticipated flames
and the next
slow blue build of warmth.


Solace that might engender the old dream
of lifting myself into the night sky
by simply leaning
in the direction I want to soar,
the little fire way down there,
embers collapsing.


Terrible things happened at night
in alleys where I used to live,
alleys that during the day
were corridors of light
between gray wooden buildings
where whiskey bottles gleamed,
outlandish booty with which,
if you didn’t know better,
you’d stuff into your pockets.


Blackness pricked by light I could believe
was caused by the ascending embers
of the small fire,
sticking themselves to the sky
reminding me to take it slow.


Fire’s fallen coals crackle a message,
a hot code that says
the flames are dying,
the night is cold,
it’s time to head in,
to sleep and maybe even
dream of flying.


And when I land
perhaps it will be
in a peaceful place
with people strolling along hillsides covered
with bittersweet and sunflowers
and fog,
a thick mist that
conjures a dreamy silence,
the kind that hangs in the air
when the gunfire stops.

The Language of Tunnels
                                          December 17, 2016

The tarp is over the kayak for winter
and I’m resting by the fire pit
10 yards away
listening to a recording of Mark Strand
reading about one darkness and another
while a chipmunk works under the tarp,
his winter industry,
taking whatever morsels of sunflower seeds
are hidden there in the frosty dark
and bringing them to the slightly warmer
darkness of his tunnels in the stone wall,
passageways like rambling run-on sentences
that he has memorized,
sentences he knows by his tiny warm heart
and that I cannot translate,
not even by listening intently,
my cold ear against the frozen stones.
But I am so thankful
to be here and able to imagine him
listening for me fumbling with a language
that he cannot comprehend,
even as I try to assure him
that he will be safe by simply ignoring me
and going about his fervent work.

Winter Birds in Silhouette

            Winter rain cold enough,
but not enough to freeze

gray enough to render birds
on branches buds

fat and blossoming
the same gray as this January ash tree

feeding on the cold
the melting snow

the easy rain that drops
through stripped branches

each click of chickadee
and rain against steely limbs

a tale of hunger            patience
and a kind of love

that truly does
surpass understanding

so pure a love
the blossoms have ripened

with feathers on spindles of limbs
these lungs

that breathe patience   
behind the dripping rain —

the chips and two-notes songs
say love

love you can harvest
from the branch —

short walk through the mud
over patches of clouded ice

and before you arrive
they’ve flown

and their flight
their vanishing

the empty space on the branch
from which they bloomed —

that is the where the love is
in that here one second

gone the next reminder
that all you need to do

is breathe in the absences
fill your lungs with them

and your heart
let them guide you to the silence

of the empty branch
and as you watch

fill you with what is there
what was there

what will be there again
in winter rain

cold enough
but not cold enough to freeze

Fire Flies
…I will hatch.  I am not yet fully formed
                        and ready, but these cracks no longer scare me.

                                                                       from Developments
                                                                       Laura M. Kaminski
                                                                       DANCE HERE

This is not a camp fire
it’s a beacon

Not a warning
but a signal —

I live here too


Sparks from the fire fly
into blackness
toward the moon

That’s not going to happen

Lots of things aren’t


It was our peculiar light
that drew us together

cold light

but so what

We even glowed when we were young


The kindling crackles

The fire blazes a momentary warmth
which I welcome

It’s so earnest
compared to nothing


I will never see why you can’t understand
this is nothing
compared to other things

and I have someone
to touch my eyes
trace my lips
so I’ll live

for a while

which reminds me

We’re only here
a few seconds

Why eat each other?

How quick—
the fire flies

john l stanizzi

About the Author:

John L. Stanizzi’s full-length collections are Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After the Bell, Hallalujah Time!, and High Tide-Ebb Tide.   He’s had poems in Prairie Schooner, American Life in Poetry, The Cortland Review, New York Quarterly, Tar River, Rattle, Poet Lore, Hand & Handsaw, Passages North, and many others.  John’s work has also been translated into Italian and appeared in Italy’s El Ghibli, and The Journal of Italian Translations.  His translator is the poet, Angela D’Ambra.  John has read at venues throughout the northeast, and he teaches literature at Manchester Community College in Connecticut.  His newest book, Sundowning, will be out later this year with Finishing Line Press.  He lives in Coventry with his wife, Carol.