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Gerry LaFemina

Gerry LaFemina is the author of a number of books, including Little Heretic (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2014), Notes for the Novice Ventriloquist (Mayapple Press, 2013), Steampunk (Smalls Books, 2012), and Vanishing Horizon (Anhinga Press, 2011). He is the recipient of the 2003 Anthony Piccione Poetry Prize from Mammoth Books, the 2003 Bordighera Poetry Prize, an Irving Gilmore Emerging Artist Foundation Fellowship, and a Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs Individual Artist Fellowship. He is the director of the Frostburg Center for Creative Writing at Frostburg State University, where he is an associate professor of English, and teaches in Carlow University’s low-residency MFA program.

By This Poet


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.