Il Herculano è Solo

Dirt rain clings to my spoiled

marble, gathers in oiled puddles

in the basin of a mosaic. The

lemon sun grows shadows

from ombrello pines like

the sparse weeds of my stone

garden. Still, the sidewalk cracks

from the pads of feet. No vendor

stands in the ashes of my

market, zucchini-iron fences

coil like garlic, my dry bones

reach beyond them for contact.


Nonni pause beyond my gated

serenity and lift their wilted eyelids.

I am a graveyard among living

houses; restful and untouched.

Pompeii would love to gather my

rubble and we could breathe

in the smoke of Vesuvio, but I

lay in the centre of Pozzuoli,

stretched like a single painting

hung in a gallery of walls.


When I stopped being an angel

I filled the freezer

flowers, marigolds, lilies, dandelions

trembling lovely in the white emptiness

stems brittle, petals cracking

my faith dry and scattered


God; my hope, my fear


I was told a lie, pain inflicted upon me and my people

6 million: Auschwitz, Krakow, Bergen-Belsen

yet I did not scream for revenge

if another must suffer for my suffering

then I too deserve to suffer again


someday I will build a mountain

show you to love all your people

because if god is unjust

the world is a prison with no reward

the light at the end only a future of consumption


your promises so many times broken

oh-so-holy-glares from the best of humanity

because they still have faith



following a coyote into his den

convincing yourself his bite is only a test

as he tears your skin apart


You broke your promise

left me here alone

on the frozen streets of America

where the sun is never hot enough

to burn away the inequity


didn’t answer my cries

didn’t guide me when I was lost

in your mess of creation


no, my eyes will not lower

as eyes have lowered to me

I am better then you

don’t make promises I can’t keep


you selfish god

happy as long as praised

children cursed for their fathers’ sins

and me



toward hell

somehow lost my way.


I used to be an angel

eyes strong, pulling you toward me

fingers forever clasping yours

now I am a shadow

hands grip each other

eyes avoid yours

tomorrow I will be a bird

free again

raise my eyes like wings

as I fly toward yours

77th and Madison: Top of the World

The elevator was wood paneled with a dark reddish luster, and the doors were covered in gold leaf. We stepped inside and began our ascent, above the rest of the city. Madison Avenue and 77 th street, top of the world. The doors finally opened to reveal a dimly lit hallway with three doors. Mike knocked on the first one to the right. A thin girl wearing tight jeans and an even tighter black tank top opened the door. Her eyes, covered with eye shadow, seemed as though she peered out from two cavernous holes in her face.

The skin on her forearms was barely visible due to the innumerable bracelets which covered her arms.

Mike quickly brushed past her without any sort of salutation. As I walked up to introduce myself she quickly turned her back to me and followed Mike deeper into the apartment.

“Mike, did you bring me my cigarettes?” she whined as she trailed after him through the apartment and into the kitchen.

I paused a moment in the doorway to imbibe the surrounding atmosphere of the apartment. I looked around incredulously at the elaborate decorations of the house. To my right hung some sort of old portrait which could have dated back to the colonial America. The entire floor of the apartment was lavishly covered with an immaculate white carpet.   I thought that these kinds of apartments were merely myths.

I proceeded to explore the depths of the apartment in search of Mike. As I looked around I noticed a door cracked open, I peered inside and opened it slowly. There was indeterminable number of people on the bed watching a movie. I stood there for a moment debating whether or not I should I go in and introduce myself, until someone got off from the bed, walked briskly to the door and closed it in my face. I decided not to go in.   I hurried into the kitchen.

The kitchen was at least twice as large as any room in my house. Mike stood by an industrial sized fridge and beckoned me towards him. As he rummaged through the fridge he paused, and reached into his coat pulling out a pack of cigarettes, he tossed them to the floor in front of the girl with too much eye shadow. She lunged fervently for the box and began to tear it open. Mike reached into the fridge and passed me a coke, while retrieving one for himself as well.  

“I’m telling you man this girl is so rich—Just look around!” he exclaimed.

Mike spent the majority of the taxi ride uptown divulging exactly “how rich this girl was.”

Natalie walked over to Mike and looked at me carefully from head to toe.

“He looks like an icky homeless guy” she said decidedly. “What’s his name?” she inquired.

I looked up, a little surprised.

“Ben meet Natalie—Natalie meet Ben,” he said in a slightly restless way. After this cordial introduction Mike quickly took a seat in front of the television and resumed his concentrated video game playing. I smiled jovially at Natalie to show that I wasn’t annoyed, she merely looked past me. I proceeded to sip my coke quietly as we both watched Mike play Nintendo silently. As we stared out into nothing my eyes drifted to Natalie’s; those black holes in her face. She looked up at me and for a split second, her eyes begged for sympathy and escape.

“Excuse me, I need a Perrier,” she whined.

She quickly turned from me and went to the furthest point of the kitchen to get one. Mike turned to me with a look of enthusiasm in his eyes, “how ridiculous is this house?” he exclaimed enthusiastically.

Before I had a chance to answer he resumed his playing and began muttering exactly how rich and how nice Natalie’s house was. A raspy almost seductive voice called from the doorway:

“Mike! You’re here, finally it’s been so boring here, let’s go somewhere! Do something already!” she exclaimed desperately.

This voice belonged to a girl wearing a blue slip with feisty green eyes. she had a voluptuous body which filled her blue slip nicely.

“Yeah, whatever soon, just chill! I’ll figure something out” Mike said coolly. He turned to me and shot me a smile as if to say: hey look I’m in charge here.  

I stood up to introduce myself, and just as I walked toward her she walked through me and sat in my seat at the table.

“I need another cigarette. Pass them here Ashley” whined Natalie.

“You know those things will kill you” I said teasingly.

She abruptly turned to me and glared out from the black holes that were here eye sockets. She smoothly turned her back towards me once again, and proceeded to take another cigarette out of the carton bringing it to her lips and slowly lighting it.

A small, black poodle which defied Darwin’s laws of Natural selection pranced into the kitchen yapping and jumped around. Ashley picked up the dog and placed it on her lap; she took a drag on her cigarette, and subsequently exhaled a cloud of smoke into the dog’s face. The dog, assaulted, leaped down and retreated to the safety of her cage.

A small grin slowly creeped across Ashley’s faces, and faded just as slowly. It was the first sign of emotion I saw from her all night.

“Let’s get out of here, I’m like so bored just sitting here!” Ashley winced almost painfully.

“We could go to John’s house, I heard that he was gonna have people there” suggested Natalie.

“Eww I really just don’t like John, his house is so cramped and small” Ashley complained.

We all sat in silence for a few moments until Ashley finally got up and proceeded to the kitchen door; she paused and shot Mike a seductive smile. Mike quickly followed her out of the kitchen.  

This left Natalie and I alone in the kitchen together. Natalie sat at the table while I sat on the floor.

“So do you have these sorts of gatherings often?” I inquired.

Her eyes remained fixated on the wall ahead of her as she answered me.

“Meh, they just sorta show up” she paused looking a bit downtrodden “I don’t mind though, their friends of mine” she continued with a twinge of forced cheeriness in her voice. We sat in silence for several moments until Natalie went to rejoin everyone else in the bedroom. I sat in the kitchen alone. I let myself out and rode the elevator back to reality. I walked along the deserted Madison Avenue under the pallid glow of the street lamps overhead.

Dreaming Dusk

All the light of heaven’s gloaming

Seeks the valley I am roaming,

Flashing, cutting, pierce the darkness,

Fill it with the twilight starkness.

Flying! Trying!

Flying is the daylight leaving,

Trying is the night of grieving.


Twilight speaks the tongue of knowing,

Freeing day and midnight blowing

Of constraints that bind the living

In the blackness unforgiving.

Whiteness! Brightness!

Whiteness blinds the eyes enlightened,

Brightness keeps the darkness frightened.


Oh, that time between the weary

Toils of the daytime dreary,

And the chilling nights of sorrow,

Breaking for the pains tomorrow.

Dreaming! Seeming!

Dreaming dusk, I start to ponder,

Seeming that my thoughts a-wander.


Seeks the valley I am roaming,

Flashing, cutting, pierce the darkness,

Fill it with the twilight starkness.



of nature

and its tendency for life.


I will ride to the sun

on the chariots of gold,

and listen the mountains play

what stars have long foretold.


The lake does live and breathe,

the wind does speak to me,

the trees are still immortal,

and the rivers know the sea.



of nature

and its tendency for death.


Does not the earth still quake

at every command of God?

Does not the wind lash out

and beat us with its rod?


And hail of heaven and of stone

that is the poor man’s plight,

and storms that send the land abroad

into the simpleton’s sight.



of nature

and its tendency to be.


It is early in the morning when I rise. The light of day has yet to grace this side of the earth with its presence. No longer do I need my alarm; my very instinct, something deep within, tells me when it is time to awake. Gathering my surfboard, a swimsuit, and other necessary equipment, I step outside and pause at the bottom of the stairs. Listening intently, I realize that the shouts from the amusement parks have not started, and the noise of civilization has yet to arrive. Everything is virtually silent save the waves crashing in a location just beyond my view and the summer gulls trying to collect their food for the day.

I smile and begin to walk. Up ahead, the boardwalk comes into view, and memories abound within me from childhood summers spent on that walk: bike rides I’ve shared with my family, trips up to the shop in the evenings for ice cream, chasing seagulls and even learning how to fly a kite. This boardwalk defines my past, each individual board somehow tells a part of my life story. As I make my way up the steps and onto the worn, splintering boards, I look down both lengths. The numerous stores that line the expanse are closed. Their lights, once welcoming and bright are off, as if they need a rest themselves. As I make my way across and finally off of the wooded walkway, the undeniable and easily recognized smell of the beach, a combination of salt and seaweed, overwhelms me. I pass through the dunes, covered with ocean grass and the most beautifully natural sight greets me.

“Tranquil,” I think to myself. If any word could possibly be fitting enough to describe the sight before my very eyes, tranquil would be the word. It might even be something beyond that, to some it could even be considered spiritual. It is a beauty recognized or at least acknowledged by the common person, but only truly appreciated by those like me.

We’re more than surfers. Our love of the single sport that binds us is built less on our own skill than by the secret we share, that the ocean is mystical. It heals inner wounds that nothing else can and is capable of consuming your very soul. Respect for the ocean, the result of the driving force of nature and our communion with it, define who we are.

As I sit on the sand, still cool from the previous night, with my board by my feet, I realize beyond a doubt that I am the luckiest person on the planet. The waves are breaking in perfect sets of four, some splashing into the jetties, while others make their way to greet me on the shore. I take a moment to close my eyes, and everything is free and completely at rest. Like the pieces of even the most intricate puzzle, everything just fits.

Then it starts to happen. This is something I have been a witness to on countless occasions before, yet it still never ceases to amaze me and never will. The sun, the very light of the world, begins to make its appearance over the distant, ever-present yet mysterious horizon. It is almost as though a giant light switch has been flipped on as glorious rays of silken purples, radiant pinks and delicate blues shine bright. The sun’s likeness reflects off of the vast ocean waters in front of me, and, despite its blinding qualities, it is mesmerizing. I do not blink at all, for fear I will miss a single second of the sight that is far too beautiful for words: something beyond mere mortal comprehension.

Now, almost as quickly as it had begun, it fades away before ceasing. The moment in time connecting the opposites night and day is gone. The sky shines clear and blue and the coolness of the night before vanishes. The day has brought its life and night has been chased away under its vanishing horizon to bring darkness and mystery to the rest of the world, before making its return.
As I grab my board and head for the ocean, the wholeness of day and with it, reality returns. I face it with excitement, regardless of the unknowns because this one thing I know with certainty. Tomorrow, that marker in the space of time will return and once again I know I will be awed and captivated by a secret known only to those who fail to take it for granted and remain humbled by it.

An ocean sunrise, tranquility at its best.

Did You See the News Tonight?

I saw a man in his prime

shrunken and emaciated,

eyes tinted red and unaware

his whole image stretched out

on a 12-inch screen.


“James R. Thornwell died today

of an epileptic fit.”


Moments of unconscious

rolled by like white-washed waves

in a black sea.

Up and down, flowing with

the current and then crashing

on sandy banks.


Heart beating in a fury,

eyes shocked wide,

fingers embedded into

white sheets as soft as clouds.


The sense of touch is lost.


“James R. Thornwell died today”

He left the manic depressive

world of floating orange clouds

and transcended

into a plane of floating light.


The cornhusk is

oblong and green with overlapping peels.

The interwoven quilt covers

a sheet of silky threads that sticks in white,

fades to yellow and then brown,

twisted ragged at the top.

Huddled underneath are the kernels,

deep yellow dulling to white

through the cob’s length,

little teeth,

stuck in close and rooted deep.


Row by row the kernels dig into

the bed of the cob,

which nestles them close,

a firm mattress forming

to their soft, waxy skin.


I wonder how it is that they never argue,

lying so close together like that,

like my mama and daddy argued

before they divorced.


Now I have to find my way,

my teeth navigate the cob,

from Rock Hill to Cross Anchor,

with Lockhart in-between

and McConnells on the way

to Lockhart from Rock Hill.


Silvery Silent

Out here in the moonlight

Half light, night light

When the pity and despair in your eyes

Says a thousand more words

Than could ever be uttered from your lips


You’re mercury

Fluid and liquid, but steady


While inside you’re violet

Transcendent and flickering

With droplets of every rainbow colour


In the furthest,

Beneath your silver shell,

There is no jeering laughter

If you’re not what they expect you

To be;

But this you cannot show them

For fear that they will smother it

Or snuff it out

With their foolish consistency



I am rocked with uncertainty.

My mama taught at Whitten Center.

Where the retarded children rocked


And forth

In their seats. I wonder what they thought.

I remember my thoughts as a child.

I knew them, but could not say them right

Out loud.


I am rocked with uncertainty.

My mama got sick when I was in first grade.

My grandmama came to take my sister and me to school,

And I got there late for the first time.

Ms. Kelly was eating lunch with the other teachers

In the reading room.

She asked me to bring her a fork from the cafeteria.

I did.

I told everybody that the teachers did not eat in the teachers’ lounge,

They ate in the reading room.

No one believed me.


I am rocked with uncertainty.

I dreamed that I had extra toes on each foot.

It was so real.

I did not worry about fitting into my tennis shoes.

I was sad that I could not wear sandals.

When I woke up, I was so relieved.

I had five toes on each foot.

I slid them into

A pair of sandals.  My toes looked like cute pink piggies,

And I was pleased.

I have not worn a pair of sandals in eight months.


I am rocked with uncertainty.

I think of the rocking chairs on the porch of the Cracker Barrel

In Rock Hill.

I sat in one as my sister and I played checkers on a blanket board.

Mama had taught us how.

No one could beat me at checkers.

I moved my king back and forth in the corner

Until she tired and gave up.

I have not played in four years.

I don’t know that I could still win.


I am rocked with uncertainty.

I am sure that I will go to heaven when I die.

Dr. Shrum’s son killed himself by overdosing

On that stuff the dentist gives you to numb your mouth

Before he pulls.

His father was a preacher.

Did he go to heaven?

Dr. Shrum read a poem someone had written called

“Spring Will Come Again”.

I remember a sermon about how everyone passes through

The Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus did not want to be crucified.

Allen Navlyt committed suicide in the eighth grade.  He shot himself.

He had been sick with some kind of muscle disease.

He could not take gym class, so he was the library helper after I was.

He finished a poster I started – clouds and kites for March.

He put all the grey clouds together.

I wonder if he went to heaven

I wonder what he thought

Before he pulled.