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 Steele book.
She delivers no rebuke, though,
but merely clasps her nut-brown rosary beads,
and brushes them gingerly
against the disfigurement.
First Time at the Movies
A Sunday night in Rome, New York,
the middle of winter in the 1970s.
I remember neon lights that spelled out:
“Now Playing . . . The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams,
Starring Dan Haggerty . . .”
Snow traipsed in on the red carpet,
salt stains in the Capitol Theatre’s lobby,
gilded railings leading to the balcony,
which looked to me like bleachers extending from heaven.
We hurried down the aisle and piled into the front row,
Mom placing my sister Lisa and me between herself and Dad.
We were the buffer zone in those seats that strained our necks.
With the aroma of buttered popcorn swirling around me,
the burgundy curtain slowly parted, revealing the silver screen.
As I chewed on Milk Duds and nibbled black licorice,
the projector flickered and the soundtrack crackled.
And I recall squeezing my sister’s hand,
unable to control my first-time giddiness.
Mom and Dad ignored our exuberance,
kept scowling in unison, caught up in their own close-up shots.
But I took it all in, mesmerized by the Magic Lantern’s dancing light,
instantly hooked by the cinematic illusion.
And as I focused my gaze on the wide screen surrounding me—
the altered reality created by the camera lens ignited my imagination.
I was no longer trapped in a scene charged with domestic quarrels.
I was cut loose from the tentacles of my family—
free to get lost in Tinseltown’s glittering lights and make-believe magic.
Overdue First Kiss
My first kiss did not come when I needed it most.
In adolescence, when other boys were rounding the bases,
I was left to wonder what it might be like one day,
To actually kiss a girl on the lips,
To get my first taste and notch my first conquest.
And I realized early on, sophistication in the game
Of sexual interaction would never be mine.
But I waited and waited for my pitch,
and then I legged out an infield hit.
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.