Andrew Periale

Girl Leaves Nest

A hometown is a prison, an eternal flame ghosting in a storm’s loose electrons, this one

a village of thinly-veiled peepholes: happy days wrapped in slender, white torsos.

Then, a beer bottle’s hurled through the gin mill window. Below (smirking, smoking)

a waif loiters – a lip-smacking wacky piece of crackerjack maidenhood, solitary.

She flees before the bees emerge, hightails it for the company of carnies & mountebanks,

those goodhearted swindlers who succor the lost and blend into the forest of fever trees

where keening cicadas bask in the half-life of a too-warm midsummer’s eve; she looks

back once: a dog barks at nothing, someone’s set fire to a snow tire in the windless dusk.


 

The Illness

 

February 29th feels unfair – it should be March by now.

Polish sausage beckons from lunch bag, the clock has stopped at 9:03.

My wife has posted a video, but the school server is blocking Facebook.

The walk from car to school was the happiest two minutes of my day.

 

Then: the broken heart. I sleep through March, am fed through a tube.

If I dream, it is of scrambled eggs and Camembert, eggplant Parmesan.

My roommate insists on soap operas; I long for something by Fellini,

and my chest aches when I remember my Sicilian grandmother.

 

By late April I am home, there is a new wheelchair ramp.

I am allowed egg whites, but no cheese and little salt.

We donate the television to Goodwill and stream Italian films on the laptop.

The smell of damp earth on the warm breeze makes me weep.

 

Now June and I can walk with just a cane. In the kitchen garden

I fill my colander with early spinach leaves and snow peas, 

become addicted to YouTube videos on composting – life springing 

from rot fills my heart with joy, like a boy filling a balloon with water.

 

How the Old Act in Love

The backstage cranking of Nature’s engine – 

that’s what needs lubricating: creak and tingle 

of nerves stretched to the breaking point,

strain of hemp against pulley, complaints of valves 

ticking open and closed behind impatient curtains….

 

What if she hears? he thinks. Well, what if she does?

Aren’t they in the same damn boat? the patched-up,

adorable pink canoe of geriatric boffing? Relax.

Trust her to take weight, to do half the paddling. 

 

And anyway the current only seems strong,

their abject terror a bit over-acted behind whitecaps 

like so many painted teeth on canvas waves, 

a slow back and forth—stagehands reciprocating

like lumberjacks with felling saws; 

 

a last moan 

before the waterfall; someone screams; supertitle: 

“Done for! Goners!” [Blackout. Lights up on canoe] 

They lie back, entwined against the stern-thwart, 

Blood-rush in the ear canals roars like applause; 

audience has filed out in silence; no one cries Encore.

Andrew Periale is an Emmy-nominated artist, and has toured throughout the US as actor and puppeteer. He’s been the editor of Puppetry International magazine for 35 years, and has written plays that have been performed around the country. His poetry has appeared in Light Quarterly, Yellow Medicine Review, Entelechy International, Burnt Bridge and others, as well as in numerous anthologies. A long-time member of City Hall Poets (Portsmouth, NH), he also served for four years as the Poet Laureate of Rochester. He currently tours solo with Mano-a-Monolog, and Forman Brown, New Hampshire’s Forgotten Poet.

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