Monday, January 29, 2018

Poetry by John Stanizzi

                                    America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing…
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.

                                                …from America by Allan Ginsberg

America, I’ve also given you my all,
more or less,
and depending of course
on what you mean by all.

I too am rapidly becoming nothing,
bluffing about what I know
of the suffering of the aboriginals,
which always results in bloodshed and hatred
and a brand of entitlement
that deserves a slap in the face,
hands around the throat,
or at least a fistful of orange hair.

There’s always the perpetual return of olive drab advances
to the precipice
(again, as usual)
of Whitman’s debris and debris of dismal soldiers
whose woeful sighs always
run in blood down proverbial palace walls.

Even when we were kids
we were troubled by nightmares
of what began simply as odd sounding words
which morphed eventually
into things to be feared -- 
rice paddies, hooches, booby traps,
Charlie, Gooks, VC,
daylight whores, massage parlors
with “additional services,”
flower boats afloat in the channel,
places to get the “plumbing cleaned.”

I read about the place where you killed --
Quang Nam Province --
so close to the beach
I’d bet during your first few minutes there
you thought it was beautiful.

4,000 impermeable square miles,
solid dense green and black shadows
and heat heat heat
just this side of flammable,
and where thousands “soldiers” were
shredded burst pulverized minced milled immolated detonated.

I imagine you were listening to
the melancholy seduction of the sea
as you stood guard duty that night;
there would be no leaving your post,
not even for the siren song you were sure
was just a couple of hundred yards that way,
through the jungle.

There were tense weapons
hanging from tree limbs
and buried in the ground,
and you, who could be darkly serious,
magically perceptive,
could not have pictured,
even in this place that rained death,
the “other” weaponry,
the cigarette smoking vaginas,
the ones that shot out arrows,
or the deadly ones that hid razors.
You were an 18-year-old Marine
from East Hartford;
such things were unimaginable.

And not that it would have mattered,
but there might have been a cautionary tale about the sniper fire
that would slash through black leaves
in the black dark,
blasting through your neck,
spraying out your life
with one small spatter of blood,
a few strips of ragged skin,
and all the memories, plans,
bravado, loves, hates, fears
detonated in that splash
before your heavy falling,
your limp-kneed blank collapse
onto the teeming jungle floor,
absorbed by the creatures there,
consumed by the noise of a fire fight,
the sound your dropped M-16 made
clanking against your M-1 helmet
launched from your head by the impact,
and I still can’t say what it was you died for.

You became 19 forever that moment,
getting rained on, stepped on, eventually forgotten,
while the rest of us were
wasting our lives
getting high, drunk, depressed, divorced,
panic sieved mental cripples
whose wrinkled notion of aging
meant not raging against the dying of anything,
not even our faded out brothers and sisters
who have been holding perfectly still
for decades
waiting for absolutely nothing.

…the human engine waits
Like a taxi throbbing waiting…   

T.S. Eliot
            …from The Fire Sermon
            The Waste Land

May mist lifts the mansion
from its foundation
swirls it off   
away from this back-country road
to some other place
more prepared for such flashiness –
gone the massive black mechanical wrought-iron locking gate
the heated driveway long as a football field
lit by a row of lamplights
under which no taxi throbs
waiting for no one
for there is no time
not this evening
not under this starlight
not for you
not for me --

vanished the topiary of bizarre spirals
the perimeter of boulders along the shoulder of the road
which whisper keep off the emerald grass
which is also gone
and gone too are the bluebirds
who ignored the bluebird houses
with their kitschy copper roofs --

all that remains is a field
of overgrown recollections
one gaunt cow lowing
and a sparsely clouded sky
stirred by swallows
who will never know the tawdry scene
or the vulgar little houses
they would have been expected to embrace --

I think of summers in Hartford
the sidewalks
where pigeons would soft-rattle their iridescence
just out of reach
close enough to touch
close enough to think you might be able to hold one
and oh how their tumbling syllables trilled
simple and rounded
their glowing rings shone
and their pebble-gray wattles
were stones of proud bone --

I learned from them where I belonged –       
in the luxurious landscape of stillness
way out there
the city dwellers would comment

and where I didn’t belong –

in the newly brute landscape…


  1. Great poems. Robbi, I hope you will send some poems our way. If you like, of course.


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