Wake

            for my father

You never said a word about where you went
that time you disappeared for 5 straight days.
At my bedroom window I would invent
your car pulling in and what you would say

about where you had gone to, but no one
ever spoke about that, or about when
your angry, broken sternum looked all done,
a hard-boiled egg just beneath the skin.

The only thing that you would ever do
whenever someone mentioned you and Gus
coming home all bloodied and carrying your shoes
was laugh a wily laugh about the fuss

and say that you’d bring that tale to the grave.
You never spoke a word about the tiny rooms
in the two-bedroom walk-up where you’d have
to share the rats, the noise, the booze, the gloom

with Angelo and Jenny and eight kids,
or why you chose to change your name to John;
was it some fear you’d end up on the skids?
Giovanirro Emmanuelle needed to be gone?

You never explained the demons in your brain
that dragged you into the Venus Lounge each night
just ahead of closing time, disdain
ablaze and brandished in the beers held tight

between the fingers on both your meaty hands,
eight beers held and spilling above your head,
a message to the bouncers to just stand
aside awhile and watch the way you’d feed

the jukebox, chromium, decadent UFO,
blasting “Dirty White Boy” through the roof,
or Lou Reed telling us how the colored girls go
in doo-wop speak, a nonsense kind of truth.

It’s hard to imagine how much you didn’t tell
about the cases of gallons of Gallo in the car,
the pills you used to crash but not to fall,
how you became the mayor of every bar.

We’re cracking the seal on a brand new bottle of Jack
next to you here in the maudlin funeral light,
you looking like you’re about to express some “fact,”
us raising a bottle in the air to God knows what.

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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