• Annual Literary Reviews •
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I am bound to you sitting
Beneath an umbrella of warm silence
Your eyes following open-mouthed wrens
Hopping near our feet repeating
Secrets to hushed grass
That carpet the hour we walk through
I am bound to you arching your eyebrow
Asking for understanding
Knowing the angle will melt anger
Heating the surface of my nervous smile
Waiting for comfort
I am bound to you bowing
Opening restaurant doors that promise
Escape from beeper and phone
Intruding upon our valued time
I am bound to you smiling at waiters
Who interrupt our rhythm
Bring us wine when we are already
Intoxicated with each other
Candles of hope
There is a Cathedral calm about the place
Voices echo softly down the hallways
Whispers sound like vespers prayed
We wait against the west wall
Wrapped in blue robes
We sit in wheelchairs
Skeletons, our skin sallow as bee’s wax
Eyes flicker, ablaze in sunken sockets
They flutter hopefully in shining skulls
Blue nubs for the I-V needles
defined by wraps of brown bandage
Await the cool burn of the I-V hose.
We search the parochial beige hospital walls
Van Goghs, Latrecs, Gaugins
Stare back at us
On dead canvas they imitate life
We wait in private heavens or private hells
We whisper the empty question
“How are you today?”
We answer with the lie
“I’m fine. Thank you.”
We sit like fluttering candles
We dare not snuff the fires out.
I found a key chain, or it found me
a zero of beads that dangle, no key,
no ID, just a silver ampersand,
a sign I knew but didn’t understand—
the 27th letter, and per se,
the end that follows Z,
a closed 8, its tails crossed to a T.
It turned me thoughtful,
that silver symbol,
made me add a light-pull
to the short key chain,
so I could wear the ampersand,
priestly round my neck.
feel it with my fingers,
press it to my breast.
I blessed it with a smiling prayer
addressed “tow whom it may concern”.
My vision an ampersand
to bridge the division of signs,
of star & cross & crescent,
divisions of man and man,
of good & evil, hand in hand,
made one by my wholly ampersand.
Shadows of solar eclipse elicit doubt
Our world will survive the darkness.
We live for light, accepting night
As welcome respite from day’s labor.
Our world will survive the darkness
As long as we trust in day’s return.
A welcome respite from day’s labor,
Night might bring love and sleep, deep needs.
As long as we trust in day’s return,
We’ll resist the shadow of doubt
Night won’t bring love and sleep; deep needs
Met, we thrive; unmet, we fold.
We’ll resist the shadow of doubt
That solar eclipses elicit.
Brought love and sleep, deep needs,
We live for light, accepting night.
I Have A Friend Who Signs
I have a friend who signs
for the deaf.
She teaches kids who can’t hear
how to read
and gives them voice
to speak their mind.
hear and talk of course
and has no need to sign
when she’s “off duty”
so to speak.
But even then
whenever we dine
or are engaged in a private exchange
her hands have a way of rising
out of her lap and into the air
like trained birds
her fingers fanning the breeze.
Her hands seem to have a life of their own
and fly higher
if our words are too hot or the soup is not.
she tells me almost in a whisper
“have a thought that when they die
God switches off the lights
so they will know they have arrived
Joseph E. Scalia
Brother Calvin toured East Harlem’s dirty,
drum-rumbling, cuchifrito-scented streets.
In his pockets he packed gum balls, lollipops and quarters
to distribute as limosnas to kids, cripples and beggars.
Flying high — but without drugs or alcohol —
he was buzzed up on benevolence for God’s unfortunates.
One morning on 117th and Lex he spotted
a caramel-colored muchacha perked on a long splayed staircase.
She sat hunched over, her pink-tipped fingers
scratching her arm pits in clow motion.
Ebony hair fell across brown shoulders, breasts
like ripe avocados bulged beneath her nylon blouse.
He couldn’t believe his eyes: men in rags nodded near
his brown beauty, cigarettes burning into their fingers
their arms a patchworks of purple scars.
He thought: these must be the tecatos
Reverend Arquímedes had warned him about.
He slipped into a reverie: he’d resettle his brown beauty
away from this scum of the slum
care for her every painful minute of the way
as she kicked her drug habit.
He’d turn her on to books, museums, plays, parks, and beuna gente.
Her Spanish sighs and naked thighs flashed through his mind
sex would only be icing on the cake.
Suddenly his brown beauty lifted her head
Oye, camarón! Yo, undercover cop!
A loud rustle swept the tecato flock,
eyes swirling fire, glaring down at him
his quarter jingling as he sped off the block.
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