Poem With Wisteria Growing Along its Margin

The five cool stars above this town look down
upon the main drag & the bar where a guy once fired
four bullets into a biker who said nothing

to the man, who had just laughed too loud & at an inappropriate moment.
The first shot sounded like the break
of an eight-ball rack, but louder
                                 more resonant. The subsequent squeezes
of the trigger--redundant, more resounding

as they mixed with the shrieks of beer-drinkers.
Hysteria speading among them like wisteria

along a garden fence; its occasional balloons of violet
flowering vividly in the green mesh of its leaves. I remember

lying in such a garden.
remember the lush cologne of pollen & the garnet bees
buzzing their cargo routes between blossoms & a distant apiary.


I had thought there was nobody else
in that place, so I was surprised then, when walking its paths later,
to hear weeping. I was amazed
by how sudden & communicable sadness can be--

and how embarrassed the woman became when she glanced up
to see me standing there, the white heart
of a wisteria blossom barely beating in my extended hand. She shook
her head & smiled.

Her face so fragile I thought she'd shatter.


Consider the ordinance of griefs:
should one begin with the phenomenal or the ordinary?

I count them on the threads of my shirt
and on the gem-like sparkling of dust

in the slide of light that entrusts itself to my vision.
Then I lose track, distracted by a concert of ambulances & police cruisers: their cacophonic call-and-response.


The next morning I heard how the biker's wife insisted
--insisted was the paper's word--it was all her fault:

she had wanted to go out that night.
And her husband, because he loved her
and because it was a lovely October evening & he knew soon he'd have

to stow the Harleys away for winter, because of these things
he agreed, although it was a weeknight
and there'd be an early morning the next day, driving a propane truck.
The jukebox was shaking AC/DC's "Shook Me All Night Long"

and he had just gotten up for another round . . . 
She never mentions the expression on his face, mouth agape,
suddenly soundless. Then the remaining patrons screaming.


After the questioning
and after the gunman took his position in a squad car's back seat &
shrank to two dimensions with its slamming door, the officers
let the bartender back inside

and the owners. The three men sat at a table while one of them
poured whiskey into tall tumblers cored with ice. Nobody spoke.

When they finished their drinks
they simultaneously stood, and, still speechless,
went about cleaning up: one of them counting the till;

the others filling buckets with rags & suds
to start removing blood from the walls & carpet--
a task they knew to be futile

but necessary
like this poem, in the end, whatever its message.


Weeks passed & still his bike, a 67 Roadster, stood
outside the bar, reverent as a statue.

Then it was gone although nobody knew where it went
or who took it. But I last saw it

parked there beneath a thin skin of fresh powder
and the splayed glove of light from the bar's bay window.
Inside: a small splatter of what may have been blood
blemished the pool table felt like a location on a map

you can't return to, & the new barman
polished the heavy glass mugs with a rag. Outside
the snow wafted scattershot
like blossoms on a dark wall of ivy.

From The Window Facing Winter by Gerry LaFemina, published by New Issues Poetry & Prose. Copyright © 2004 by Gerry LaFemina. Reprinted by permission of New Issues Poetry & Prose. All rights reserved.