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

find out.

 

Near the End of a Complicated War

after Pasolini

 

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.