A High School Senior /
a sophomore from art class. could he paint. i kept
his scraps of craft paper
and stray eyelashes in a jewelry box my grandma bought
in italy. what he looked like
i can’t say without referencing titian. he became
a friend. no other
word for it then. romance was need, as in: oxygen,
as in: an empty vessel.
i needed him to say he knew all art materials
were the same. water,
oil, charcoal, pain. ceramic, acrylic, suffering. something i believed
stupidly. we knew
from a young age, blood turns red only when
it leaves the vein.
we never knew we were in eden with no clock. we were
all the time inventing
the place. i carved remus and romulus as wooden wolves,
i made a melancholy
owl from clay. every sculpture was me, was an imperfect thing
i needed him to see.
The First Principle of Nonviolence Is Nonviolence Is Not for Cowards
my brother gets a letter from someone
in the family. hate mail is a strong label,
but this letter contains strong words.
the afternoon I read the letter, which my mother
lets me see in secret, no one’s home
except her kitten. my brother’s too young
to know what he’ll call himself—bi, gay, queer—
but he’s already proud. coward,
sign your name! my boss at the nonviolence center
used to say, shaking his fist
at online posts about neighborhood gangs
where we preached m.l.k. send them all
to their own island, let the useless bastards
kill each other. sign your name,
coward. a yellow
ball of yarn in the kitchen
rolls from a square of sun into the shade.
the kitten paws it back and forth. my brother
hasn’t decided what he’s doing yet. when we were
kids, playing with a small, weak boy my age, his father
broke a piece of fence over one knee,
making two crude wooden swords.
he put one in alan’s hand, one in mine, cracked
open a beer, and bellowed, shove that
up his ass! my own dad was fixing
someone’s roof, because this happened
somewhere in my childhood. when alan
whimpered, I put down the sword and ran.
over my shoulder, I heard the father yell, what are you
waiting for. pussy! my brother
grabbed the sword and swung
with all his might. my brother writes back
to the hater. he shows the letter
and response to every family member
one by one. he looks them in the eye
as he speaks. and here I thought
the kitten was my brother, nimble and naïve with
brave little leaps to test his weight.
he is anything but. I haven’t decided what I am
prepared to do. I have not yet let the world make me
Near the End of a Complicated War
One night by the alley I cruise, I find
a bunch of soldiers, men I knew as boys.
Pair by pair of eyes glow with delight
to see me—or with hunger—or from bombs
they’ve seen. Maybe they’re hunters too.
This land has no bush to hide them,
hide the shame of comradeship
that lasts a night but plagues forever—
my shame. One of these friends, love colors
his gaunt gaze the way tomato ripens on a vine.
He toasts the air, empty glass in hand,
and hugs my waist. He resembles Jesus.
Matter of fact, they all do. Tributes, speeches
through the night—no bread. No borders.
Who needs enemies? Little gang lords
stroll among young mothers in broken-
bottle streets. Who needs bullets, who needs guns?
I watch the soldiers sleep in open camp, my little
brothers, and they howl from nightmares here
in the tattered peace zone, their mustaches
no longer romantic. Now grotesque. Like the enemy,
they weep the ancient grief of refugees.
A drunk cop walks by, one I know
hates me. His lazy eye roams while he sings
an old chorus learned from his radio,
his king. A teenager salutes him
with mock-bravery. We cling, abandoned pets
in this pathetic battlefield, dirt sliding down
the side of the world, humbling
and sorting us each by each—cloud from sky,
surf from beach—wearing
nothing, only remnants of a feeling—
Anthony DiPietro is a Rhode Island native who worked for 12 years in community-based organizations that addressed issues such as violence, abuse, and income inequality. In 2016, he moved to New York to join Stony Brook University as a candidate for a creative writing MFA and now teaches undergraduate courses. A graduate of Brown University with honors in creative writing, his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, Anomaly, Assaracus, The Good Men Project, Helen, Rogue Agent, The Southampton Review, Talking River, and The Woman Inc. His website is AnthonyWriter.com.
Featured image courtesy of Lee Coursey.