Letter from Kansas

file7201265025021

I was a military brat. My return to the U.S. after attending high school in Italy was, well, interesting. Junction City, Kansas was definitely not bella Napoli. This poem came from that experience, albeit a few years after, and was published in the mid-80s in the Allegheny Review, a national journal of undergraduate creative writing, and was republished by Silver Birch Press in 2017. The kid who wrote it still exists. Somewhere.

 

Letter from Kansas

Caro amico,
Driving the stretch to Junction City,
I look for familiar faces in the cars
we pass, but see only strange grasses
gliding by. Three weeks ago
I slept on a stone-littered hilltop
overlooking the Bay of Naples.
Now the prairie laps at our front door.
A mile from the house two corralled bison
munch dull hay thrown daily
from a truck’s flat bed, and past that
the Discount Center’s sign
spells America. What I wouldn’t give
for a deep draught of Pozzuoli’s
summer stench and the strong
yellow wine that Michele’s father
makes. We mixed it with the gardener’s
red, creating our own bouquet,
remember? And here they say
I’m too young to buy beer and wine.
Without them the food is flavorless,
like the single language spoken.
I understand it all,
and miss the difficulty. Maybe Texas
will be better. Ci vediamo. Bob

 

This was one of my first posts on the blog, and as you might expect, very few people saw it. I wrote the poem in the summer of 1983, when I was new to poetry, still tentative, exploring. A few weeks later I attempted the sonnet form, and, well, everything changed. Everything.

 

Ossuary / Arco Felice / 1974

file000127533917

Ossuary / Arco Felice / 1974

Sometimes the bone man clattered by, his horse-drawn wagon heaped high with the stripped remains of dismembered corpses, a cloud of flies in his wake. I would watch him from my perch on the hillside above the street, contemplating the wondrous creatures that could arise if only one possessed the imagination and ability to assemble and reflesh the various rib cages and skulls, the scraped and articulate bones and fragments stacked on the wooden bed. I never considered a destination, never thought to follow, but instead wandered elsewhere, down to the waterfront, or along Via Domitiana to Lago d’Averno, Hell’s entrance, not far, they said, from the River Styx.

Odd, I think, that I never once contemplated the various paths taken to bring that wagon before my eyes, to that very intersection, on those particular days. Nor did I wonder that it was drawn by muscle and sinew rather than engine, that its wares, while tarnished with dried blood, seemed curiously bereft of flesh and stench, and that its passage seemed unnoticed. Perhaps it was merely a parenthetical statement in the day’s phrasing, and I lacked the proper context with which to read it. Perhaps. But even at fifteen I knew that such sights were not long for my world.

Now, from this Texas hill, I listen to distant gunfire and wonder which bones will come my way, which offerings will appear at the roadside, what the dogs will bring. I have fifty-four years and much patience. The breezeway is lined with antlers. I wait, no destination in mind.

This prose piece was one of my first posts, and last appeared here in July 2015.

Antica

Recording of “Letter from Kansas” at Words and Feathers

kansas

I’m participating in the Open Mic at Words and Feathers. My contribution is “Letter from Kansas,” which appeared here last month. Kudos to Crow for hosting this virtual reading!

Ossuary / Arco Felice / 1974

file000127533917

Ossuary / Arco Felice / 1974

Sometimes the bone man clattered by, his horse-drawn wagon heaped high with the stripped remains of dismembered corpses, a cloud of flies in his wake. I would watch him from my perch on the hillside above the street, contemplating the wondrous creatures that could arise if only one possessed the imagination and ability to assemble and reflesh the various rib cages and skulls, the scraped and articulate bones and fragments stacked on the wooden bed. I never considered a destination, never thought to follow, but instead wandered elsewhere, down to the waterfront, or along Via Domitiana to Lago d’Averno, Hell’s entrance, not far, they said, from the River Styx.

Odd, I think, that I never once contemplated the various paths taken to bring that wagon before my eyes, to that very intersection, on those particular days. Nor did I wonder that it was drawn by muscle and sinew rather than engine, that its wares, while tarnished with dried blood, seemed curiously bereft of flesh and stench, and that its passage seemed unnoticed. Perhaps it was merely a parenthetical statement in the day’s phrasing, and I lacked the proper context with which to read it. Perhaps. But even at fifteen I knew that such sights were not long for my world.

Now, from this Texas hill, I listen to distant gunfire and wonder which bones will come my way, which offerings will appear at the roadside, what the dogs will bring. I have fifty-four years and much patience. The breezeway is lined with antlers. I wait, no destination in mind.

This prose piece was one of my first posts, and as very few have seen it, I thought I’d release it again.

Antica

Osso Buco

file00029145808

Osso Buco

The reconciled, the residue of one’s
virtues displayed or absorbed

that within become the basis for
talk: furtive movements, the knife’s

gentle persuasion, wine
afforded the quality of enhancement.

We must preserve the truth, and other
disingenuous phrases, as if we may

admit our tastes only at great cost
to our politics and sense of being.

And fruitful loss – the reduction
sauce, or stock evaporated – which

attaches in dissipation
the grace of subtlety. To be more

with less. To be apparent yet
concealed. To be, in turn, aware.

file00092920180

Letter from Kansas

file7201265025021

I was a military brat. My return to the U.S. after attending high school in Italy was, well, interesting. Junction City, Kansas was definitely not bella Napoli. This poem came from that experience, albeit a few years after, and was published in the mid-80s in the Allegheny Review, a national journal of undergraduate creative writing. It’s a flawed piece, and doesn’t resemble today’s work at all, but I think the kid who wrote it still exists. Somewhere.

Letter from Kansas

Caro amico,
Driving the stretch to Junction City,
I look for familiar faces in the cars
we pass, but see only strange grasses
gliding by. Three weeks ago
I slept on a stone-littered hilltop
overlooking the Bay of Naples.
Now the prairie laps at our front door.
A mile from the house two corralled bison
munch dull hay thrown daily
from a truck’s flat bed, and past that
the Discount Center’s sign
spells America. What I wouldn’t give
for a deep draught of Pozzuoli’s
summer stench and the strong
yellow wine that Michele’s father
makes. We mixed it with the gardener’s
red, creating our own bouquet,
remember? And here they say
I’m too young to buy beer and wine.
Without them the food is flavorless,
like the single language spoken.
I understand it all,
and miss the difficulty. Maybe Texas
will be better. Ci vediamo. Bob

This was one of my first posts on the blog, and as you might expect, very few people saw it. I wrote the poem in the summer of 1983, when I was new to poetry, still tentative, exploring. A few weeks later I attempted the sonnet form, and, well, everything changed. Everything.