After the Latest Attacks

            …in just a few days the rumor spread
            of the rooms emptied of words
            and filled with screams. Swollen eyes.

                        —Emilio Zucchi, translated by Beppe Cavatorta and Brenna Ward

I’m sitting outside on a cool mid-November evening
the day after the next violence
resting by a little fire I’ve started
smoke mostly
an ember fallen
trying to get up
winter’s blind contour tapestry settled in now
and the trees knuckled and intricate
more tangled and lovely than in summer
I’m watching YouTube
Gerald Stern is reading a poem about a grapefruit
but mostly I’m watching how he turns the page
a kind of excitement or urgency in his fingers
He turns them quickly so that when he says the words
mostly from memory
the next page will be the correct one
an unnecessary reminder that he’s in the right place
The sky is darkening and it is cool and silent
not even the sound of one bird
and the streak along the top of the far hills is pink
(OK I’ll say it)
like a grapefruit
my feeble attempt to make some kind of connection
among all the splintered pieces of everything
hoping that if I can gather together two or three
I may find something like hope
or the reemergence of the sense of the goodness in people
And the burning logs with their square and rectangular demarcations
remind me of burned out cities seen from the air
an image brought to mind no doubt
because today like every day
the world is on fire
It’s burning everywhere
and poor poor expressionless faces
are lit by flames
concealed a little by smoke
but I can see that it’s not sorrow—
it’s emptiness
as they roam the charred streets searching for the lost
though soon enough this too will be forgotten
The burning bodies and the wild words whispered somewhere
explaining the necessity of this
or the horror of that
or the score of the game
will become memory
a vague recollection no matter how terrible
Then I hear a bird chirping quietly
in a tree gone all black these past few moments
That private little pipe in the dark makes me smile
It brings tears to my eyes
and the fire crackles quietly
and how beautiful this dark is
and there is peace I realize
but you have to go down between the black spaces
between the delineations on the fiery logs
deep down beneath the flares and smoke
The world is burning
and the need to know what comes next comes quickly
Ember on the ground
bigger fires burning everywhere
blazing on the next page
When we turn to it it will be on fire
And the chill November night
cannot quench those flames or the next
The hot red flashes of hatred
thrust up into the blackened sky
Could they be a signal
a call for help
for grace
up in the sky with no stars
the fire hissing
the sound of a distant car
going somewhere I cannot imagine
to do normal things
routine chores
unremarkable tasks
though I fear it could be burning there too

John L. Stanizzi is the author of Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After the Bell, and Hallelujah Time! His poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The New York Quarterly, American Life in Poetry, Chiron Review, Tar River Poetry, Rattle, Passages North, Spoon River Quarterly, Poet Lore, Connecticut River Review, Freshwater, Boston Literary Review, and many other publications. He has new work forthcoming in The Raintown Review, Off the Coast, and LIPS. John has read at many venues throughout Connecticut, including the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, R.J. Julia Booksellers, and The Arts Café Mystic, and his work has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. He is currently an adjunct professor of English at Manchester Community College. He lives with his wife, Carol, in Coventry, Connecticut.

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One Response to After the Latest Attacks

  1. Ryan Stone says:

    Evocative, wonderful. As good as poetry gets. Love it.

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