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Ten Selected Poems


Joe Dolce


Poetry is Like Looking

Poetry is like looking
for a haystack in a needle.



Something not right woke me from my dreaming.
The cold air, perhaps a premonition?
In the dark, I listened for your breathing.

Tonight in your own bed, you were sleeping,
Beyond my care, my touch, my cognition.
Something not right woke me from my dreaming.

I tiptoed stairs, in the doorway leaning,
(you went to bed in such sad condition).
In the dark, I listened for your breathing.

Windblown curtain. Things not what they’re seeming,
Life-without-you awful apparition,
Something not right woke me from my dreaming.

The rise and fall of your breast, so pleasing,
Call it just some midnight superstition,
Something not right woke me from my dreaming,
In the dark, I listened for your breathing.


Inzuppare il Biscotto
 ('to soak the biscuit’, ie. to have sex)

Who could resist
that Butternut Snap lap
crumbly like an
Anzac in the sack
Scotch Finger steady
on the Tiny Teddy
Swallow’s Bush Biscuit
Milk Arrowroot and
Adora Cream lips breathlessly
mumblin' the
Honey Jumble?

The Jimmy Leg

The torso arm the phantom limb
the itch that just won’t segue
the ticklings that refuse to stop
you got the Jimmy Leg

the urge to move the antsy
the pin and needle flag
the fall asleep sciatica
you got the Jimmy Leg

the restless and abrupt totter
a circadian rhythm lag
the Parkinson nod and wag
you got the Jimmy Leg

the leaping and contractions
the daytime sleepy nag
a crawling feeling in the skin
you got the Jimmy Leg

the sudden jolt wide awake
the sleep depriving dreg
the narcolepsy powder keg
you got the Jimmy Leg

the hypnic twist around and jerk
the sleep-loss twitching rag
the fall into oblivion
you got the Jimmy Leg.


The Fading Art of Write

Letters typewrite onto the page
crisp little taps standing at attention
identical height width length
in latest designer font
dressed by Garamond and Caslon
while actual handwriting
eaten by moths is left
in tie-bags outside St Vinnies

endless childhood hours spent
drawing perfect letters on ruled paper
keeping O’s R’s and W’s neatly
framed between parallel lines
have come to naught

I long for the script and whorl
of home-made handwriting again
my granddaughter a Benedictine monk
sits patiently at kitchen table
slowly crafting single letters

I will steal some of her blue striped paper
and try to earn the gold star.



The sketch was done when
we were both much younger
friends commented on the uncanny
accuracy I achieved his eyes clear and
ready to receive Light his hair
curled and soft on his neck before
it became marred with blood
lips moist full and ripe
to speak the Word he would soon be given

now I am old and they bless
my old friend as The Last Prophet
it is no longer possible by Law
to depict him in any way

still I have this early sketch
friends said it was an accurate likeness
I can never show it to anyone now
Followers would destroy both it and me
what shall become of it?

I will roll it carefully
wrap it in tiraz cloth
appeal to the King of Cockroaches
O Kabi:kaj do not eat this paper
and seal it in a sturdy Meccan urn

perhaps one day after I have entered Paradise
someone will find it
in a more generous time
when it is no longer forbidden
to gaze upon His image.

Little Grandpa Train Ride

Not quite Casey Jones
my little grandpa (to distinguish
from grandma’s father big grandpa)
early engineered the Baltimore & Ohio
steam engines passing behind our Painesville house
he often took me on rides sat me
in the high steel seat near him
the Iron Horse throwing
a ribbony white steam scarf behind
I gazed at vibrating dials handles
wooden water towers landscapes whizzing to sides
as he reached into stacked woodpile
behind open cab feeding the eating red furnace
choo chooing me through childhood
ride over carried home in sooty arms
he always hanged his striped railroad cap
on a hook at the back screen door
later retired from tracks continuing
at the new Diamond Alkalai
synthetic rayon plant until
toxic smoke took his lungs
he sat in the windowed verandah
of the old Owego Street house filling
brown pipes mostly silent
until a buzzing grandkid would ask
about railroads the correct password
he talked repetitively of a single memory
of his own hard-of-hearing engineer father
cut in half by a silent engine
lantern-walking the centre of a railyard track
officials woke his mother at three am
to take her out to the cut body
my little grandpa hearing
everything from beneath his cover
this worn story coupled directly
to the great skipping-record nightmare
he was plagued with for years until he died
the big nigger with the axe, Joey
as he said chasing him down the night
after senility had severed
his mind little grandpa sat in his neglected garden
small kids flitting around him
like landscapes little laughing hands like wind
knocking off the long-faded striped cap
sitting in wonder in his seat watching
with smoky eyes his great-grandchildren
now choo chooing him off.


In the Manner of Cavafy

Certainly Petrius        achieves a somewhat similar
tone of voice        the historical perspective
his unexpected humour     often dividing lines
for emphasis       in the manner of the master
(as this poem demonstrates         by illustration
the beguilement           of the technique)
but Petrius is not           a master
too timid         to step out onto the parapet
into the brightness         of his true self
he remains content         to huddle there in shadow
donning the discarded       personae of the teacher
like a child             in a party costume

do not be deceived Yorgos      by his standing
in academia         his reputation
amongst men of letters       the accolades accumulated
the fine journal           he edits
these are illusions             his poems are forgotten
almost as soon         as they are written
Petrius is a pretender       content to remain
in the shade           of a great writer 
too timid to venture out       onto the terrifying parapet.



  If Hitler Also Spelled Hiedler

Hüttler or Huettler
at seventeen had remained 
in watercolour been accepted 
at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna 
even become a priest as once intended
the swastika would still signify
auspiciousness in Sanskrit 
Israel wouldn't exist
no Berlin or West Bank walls
holocaust would refer to
a burnt offering of Moses
WW I would still be The Great War
I would have had one more uncle.


The Green-eyed Boy of the Rain

Somehow we drifted into this wet place
I just couldn’t feel any pain
he came and stole her away from me
the green-eyed boy of the rain.

I wanted to kill him to tear him apart
until nothing of him would remain
when I thought of him kissing her mouth
the green-eyed boy of the rain.

I thought I had rights to her body and soul
now I can’t even say her name
I drove her away and right into the arms of
the green-eyed boy of the rain.

Anger and sorrow become the same thing
two sides of a dark window pane
I’d give everything to see her look back from
the green-eyed boy of the rain.