Justin Vicari's work appears or is forthcoming in American Poetry
Review, Interim, Rhino, Eclipse, Slant, Third Coast, Disquieting
Muses Quarterly, Gin Bender Poetry Review, Poetry Motel, Poems
Niederngasse, Memorious, Aught, Flashquake, Perigee,
and others.
He is the author of the chapbooks, In a Garden of Eden (Plan B
Press, 2005) and Woman Bathing Light to Dark (forthcoming from
Toad Press, 2006). In 2005, he was nominated for a Pushcart.

For A Whole Day

everyone walked around petrified
of whatever loved them, turning
cracked egg faces toward each greeting shout.

Love drank from the chalice of violence.
Discomfort was my main emotion.

Everyone, thriving along on a relatively low incidence
of maternal memories.
Yet, there were benefits to living here.
Civility, gentility,
stuffed in like packing around an elderly table
while the city, you know, slept
and a high voice, smothered as if under a mattress,
kept making its ripe-pear plea.

I had no choice but to grow tunnel vision.
Discomfort, still my main emotion.

In the building that didn't blow up,
a magic blessing,
I ran from power like a third cup of coffee,
what was left of the delicacies
crying out Yes I am ready, yes,
for the approval of others!
and to hold perfectly in my arms
a young blind girl.

Ivy Street Efficiency

A record heat wave that summer, smoking
a cigarette on the sidewalk was like someone
coming up behind you
and grabbing you hard around the throat.
I lived alone, without air,
buying dope every week from an older couple
in the neighborhood.

Once a week I knocked on the door of their apartment
where their three sons (held back
at school) bunked in one room.
A scale and baggies on the dining room table
replaced the usual floral centerpiece.

Fred meandered from couch to chair, shirt-
less, the scar from his open-heart
pouting. He'd comb out his thick mustache
and talk about the teenage girl
who let him finger her, parked
and stoned, the night before. A few feet away
Martha sat on the carpet,
labeling the shows she taped from PBS.

It was all just business,
but now and then, when I caught her alone,
her kids out shooting the neighborhood
courts, Fred MIA, she became Mother
Earth, tilted me out a fatter bag.
We never spoke of what it might mean,
I just gave her the sixty I was supposed to save
for the electric, the rent, week
after week knocking on the door,
needing them to be there.

I was running away from my family
but found them everywhere I went. The regulars
at the Luna, spilling their bios for handfuls
of salty nuts. Those hopeful, tired faces
in the office, who couldn't stop the boss
from letting me go. And three blocks away
from my Ivy Street efficiency, Fred and Martha
rolling away from each other to sleep.

Who Is He?

This "he" of the text -- who is he?
what is he doing here?

He comes like the saw that keeps
on crowing, like the snow that keeps

coming because it doesn't know
I'm done now with the dervish

ice that never melts its mess away.
(But not until years later when he

turned up at a party, red hair all
shaved to the glaring, impaled

stare of an ikon: at the end of the night,
dropping him off, I watched his glowing

skull race across two lanes of black
top highway, to sleep above the blind

stained-glass shop, down that jagged
alley -- and I knew I've never loved

anything in this world
that wasn't broken as a star

sliced clean from its own constellation.)
No route can be traced or tracked

across the smooth pelt of light,
but maybe the ice will preserve my heart

where I've dropped it for some future
thaw to find.

Back to Front.