Writing

Portfolio of published clips on Contently.

POETRY:

Sidewalk Stories (Kelsay Books, 2017)

In Pursuit of Infinity (Finishing Line Press, 2013)

Vestiges (Alabaster Leaves Publishing/Kelsay Books, 2012)

Outskirts of Intimacy (Flutter Press, 2010; second edition 2017)

POETRY EXCERPTS:

Sidewalk Stories (2017)

Stooped

An old woman hunched over,
looking down at the sidewalk,
adjusting her knit hat.
She limps forward,
shuffling along,
riddled with pain.
Her face reveals
the hurt she endures.
She receives no aid,
no intercession
from human or heaven.
I pass her on the sidewalk,
and I say a quick prayer
that her suffering wanes.
It may not do any good,
but I send the thought aloft
and hope someone is listening.
The woman crosses the street
and fades out of sight.
I then hear an inner voice say,
“You were there,
you could have helped her.”

Hard Shell

What goes through the mind of a turtle
When it’s sprawled on its back and can’t roll over?
Does it panic as its legs squirm in the air?
Does it stick out its tongue and try to scream for help?
Does it curse its maker as it writhes on the asphalt,
With the sun scorching its belly?
How long does it wait before giving up and accepting fate?

No. This turtle does not think.
It lacks the capacity to reason.
Instincts fire as it battles to survive:
“Get off your shell. Roll over. On your feet.”
It rocks from side to side as it labors to turn over.
It strains, twists, and kicks … but fails.

And no one will intervene—
There’s no Tom Sawyer kid with a hickory stick,
Skipping along and flipping the turtle over.
No semi truck rumbles down the road,
Stirring up a blast of air and setting the turtle upright.

It struggles alone, refusing to quit
As it attempts to conquer physics.
The turtle keeps working
Until the sun desiccates its flesh,
And it releases a final breath—
A low croak that goes unheard along the deserted road.
The turtle is gone and no one witnessed the fight.

Ode to Thomas Wolfe

A pebble, a brook, a passageway
to time flowing in reverse,
a mirrored labyrinth reflecting
memories of adolescence.
A path leading back
to the days of my youth,
from whence I came,
to where I am,
brimming with a hunger—
a gnawing restlessness
that never wanes.

Landscape

Beauty abounds.
Just look around
and you will see—
a quivering leaf,
a patch of grass,
billowing clouds,
and a slash of light
beneath the bridge.
It’s not a bad world, really—
we just need
to train our eyes
to gaze with wonder,
and marvel at the
transcendental pageantry.
It’s there before you.
But you must zoom out,
zoom out
and refocus the image.
There. Hold it.
Do you see it now?

Rise

To find peace
One must
Unravel the self,
Let it fall away,
Drop to the floor.
Unencumbered by
This anchor weight,
The man or woman
Who pursues
Spiritual freedom
Discovers the
Ability to soar.

##

In Pursuit of Infinity (2013)

Dreaming of Lemon Trees

I dream of words
I strive to recapture
When I awaken in the morning.
I dream of stories with endings unknown,
Vibrant scenes imagined in my sleep—
A Degas ballerina alone in her dressing room,
A wagon train backlit on the horizon,
A hummingbird dancing on the windowsill,
And a lemon tree in the church courtyard in mid-afternoon.
Wherever I go in my dreams,
The air is balmy and sunlight abundant.
Trees sway and the scent of evergreen finds its way to my nose.
I dream because when this tired body hits the mattress,
It relaxes, then releases and gives up its earthly weight.
My eyes close and I sink to the deep recesses of my mind,
Setting the subconscious free.

Morning Coffee

My mother sits
in the kitchen chair
after she recites
her morning prayers.
Sunlight streams through
the lace curtains
and cigarette smoke
is suspended in the air.
She bows her small head
and presses her fingers
to the bridge of her nose,
as she contemplates
the chores for the day,
while her milky coffee cools
in a blue ceramic mug,
resting within reach
on the laminate counter.

The Shed

Independence Day, 1979 (Rome, New York)

Whipped-cream clouds smear a powder blue sky,
while Grandpa nurses a carafe of Chianti
and dreams of waltzing down Bourbon Street.
The DeCosty family gathers on the patio,
with Uncle Fee roasting sausage and peppers
and Nana dribbling olive oil over fresh tomatoes,
then adding alternating pinches of basil and parsley.

Inside the backyard bordered by overgrown hedges,
the rambunctious cousins wham Wiffle balls
with a thin banana-colored plastic bat,
evoking the hollers of Grandpa . . .
who watches out for his mint-green aluminum shed,
situated perfectly in left-center field—serving as our own Green Monster.

And when we get ahold of that little white ball,
it smacks up against the aluminum obstacle,
clashing like two marching band cymbals in a halftime show.
And with sweat coursing down his neck,
Grandpa barks out his familiar line under the patio awning:
“Son of a bitch . . . keep that goddamn ball away from my shed.”
But Nana is always on our side,
and cancels out his power and keeps him in check.
“Fiore, you let those kids play and mind your mouth,” she says.

Grandpa abandons his no-win cause,
turns up the volume on the Yankee game
and pours himself another glass of red wine.
He watches quietly as the shed stands erect in the late afternoon sun,
sacrificing its facade for our slew of ground-rule doubles.

The Bridesmaid

The most adorable pregnant bridesmaid ever
Waddles down the church’s center aisle,
Unable to hide her protruding belly.
And with her feet swollen,
Her lower back sore and forehead warm,
She endures the ceremony standing
On the altar beside the joyous couple.
But she nearly passes out while
Posing for pictures in the lakefront park.

Inside the reception hall,
She almost vomits at the sight
Of shrimp cocktail and chicken Florentine.
She orders hot tea and lemon from the top-shelf bar,
And dines on rolls and garden salad.
This single-mom-to-be, though not merry,
Offers a smile when others turn to stare,
And bobs her head to the music
As the guests hit the dance floor.

She nibbles on a sliver of white-frosted wedding cake,
And asks for guidance from her parish priest, wise old Father Meyer.
Then the bride overthrows the eager females huddled
Near the dance floor and the bouquet lands
Softly in the expectant mother’s lap.
Her face turns red as everyone looks at her.
So she just grabs the bouquet and throws it back.

##

Vestiges (2012)

Father’s Day Forgotten

Daddy and Christi parted ways at a bus depot
In the early morning hours.
No big scene, just a kiss on the cheek,
Then she turned around and was gone for good—
Hopping aboard the Trailways bus headed westbound for Chicago.
And she never looked back.

Daddy went home to his beer bottle and sofa seat,
And he drew the living room curtains on the rest of the world,
Letting those four eggshell walls close in and swallow him up,
Wasting away in three empty rooms and a bath.

And the memories can’t replace his lost daughter and wife.
So he tries not to remember his mistakes
Or how he drove them away.
Instead he recalls Halloween pumpkins glowing on the front porch,
Training wheels moving along the uneven sidewalk,
Little hands reaching for bigger ones in the park,
And serving Saltine crackers and milk
To chase away the goblins that haunted
Dreams in the middle of the night.

Now Christi has a life of her own,
And she lets the answering machine catch
Daddy’s Sunday afternoon phone call.
She never picks up and rarely calls back.
So Daddy returns to the green couch
Pockmarked with cigarette burns.
He closes his eyes, opens the door to his memory vault
And watches the pictures play in slow-motion.
He rewinds again and again without noticing the film has faded
And the little girl has stepped out of the frame.

Man Versus Ant

an ant races
across the sidewalk,
intent on getting
to the grass
on the other side.
I face a quick decision:
do I step on it
or avoid its path?
better leave the ant alone,
I think to myself.
what if that’s me
in the next life?

Side Dish

A mundane scene of modern living
played out one evening
while I walked along Ninth Street
near East Grovers Avenue in north Phoenix.

I heard the sound of a sliding glass door
opening from behind a retaining wall
running parallel to the sidewalk.

And although I had
no intention of eavesdropping,
I then overheard a woman call out:
“And now the great vegetable debate, green beans or corn?”

The question evoked a few seconds of silence,
followed by a man’s reply:
“Uh . . . both,” he said.

And as I turned the corner,
heading up the next block,
I was tempted to stop and ask the couple,
“Hey, what else is for dinner?”

Perseverance

You can’t expect the world to fall in line for you.
You can’t will happiness or alter your existence by whim.
You have to accept you are not in control.

Work and sleep.
Sleep and work.
Monotony and solitude.
You march on with stubborn persistence.

I believe there are other forms of bravery
Besides firefighters scaling burning buildings
And plucking toddlers from the top floor.
There is courage in accepting your condition,
Realizing you have fallen short,
But not quitting, not becoming bitter,
Not drinking yourself to death,
Or giving up and erasing your place in the world.

There is dignity in continuing to endure an unhappy life.
By making due and moving on,
You shine forth and elevate your humanity—
Even if no one notices or your situation doesn’t change.

##

Outskirts of Intimacy (2010; second edition 2017)

Stanwix Street

A vanilla ice cream cone
covered with sprinkles of dirt,
a handful tossed by small grimy hands
across a chain-link fence.
A blond child’s whine—
flat, constant and eerily melodic.
The girl then turning away,
screaming upstairs to her mother,
sound asleep in the mid-August heat,
the lime-green curtains fluttering in the
second-story window of the adjacent brick building.
The child just standing there, scraping off the grit
and licking the melting residue
trickling down her forearm.

Post-Op Image, 1984

Sprawled out on my mother’s bed,
I hear chunks of ice falling from the roof,
and a city snowplow rushing past our house.

I tilt my neck to glimpse at the wooden crucifix
perched above my mother’s head,
and feel my putting-green hair and
surgical scar meandering from ear to ear.

I then pester her with a flurry of questions,
diverting her attention from a Danielle Steel book.
She delivers no rebuke, though,
but merely clasps her nut-brown rosary beads,
and brushes them gingerly
against the disfigurement.

St. Peter’s Cemetery

I extend a hand to touch an angel trapped in marble.
Its face is cool and damp, like the earth beneath the slab.
I pose a question to my deceased father,
Knowing the answer will elude me.
For his remains are not buried in this cemetery,
But instead rest on a shelf in my sister’s suburban Ohio house.

##

PLAYS:

Beyond the Glass, a full-length play produced by the Las Vegas Little Theatre (2017)

End of the Line, a short play, published by Prick of the Spindle

Automat: An Interpretation, a short play

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