COG Poetry Awards finalist Jeff Santosuosso is a business consultant and poet living in Pensacola, Florida. A member of the Florida State Poets Society, he is co-editor of panoplyzine.com, an online journal dedicated to poetry and short prose. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Illya’s Honey, Red River Review, Texas Poetry Calendar (2012, 2014), Avocet, Red Fez, Alalit, Extract(s), First Literary Review – East, and other online and print publications. You can find him on Facebook.
Faded Black Cat Wrapper
My cousins lived in the projects
Greasy beach, carny barkers on the take
greasy dog track, pothole parking lot to break
a greyhound’s legs
far from where townies cavorted
greasy accents twisting language into potholes
Firecrackers Fourth of July
explosions and color bursting sno-cone syrup in the sky
and I’m seven years old summer night sticky
Junior Walker and the All-Stars, the Delfonics
Timmy Thomas, “Why Can’t We Live Together” on a m radio
Aunts and uncles and grandparents with rolled up sleeves
and let-down hair
in the kitchen curtained off like their voices
Whist, gin and rummy
red wine in highball tumblers, cocktail glasses
and Dixie cups
Fresh-baked chicken and manicotti with oregano
exploding firecracker savory
pizzelles layered like poker chips
A tribe of hunger-less kids out in the grasses
to fetch fizzling-fused duds
In the black night of my youth
by my ear like a gnat with a nuke
Dizzy, clutching my ear, surely blown off
No, just hot and ringing
like now, 40 years later
far from Revere
Gentrification, toney townhomes, two-car garage gated
Sirius XM radio, satellite tv affinity marketing
blowing over the beach breezes to please every palette
smooth as the roadways
Those projects plowed under
Just dig and you’ll find a faded Black Cat wrapper
faint flavor of gunpowder to the lips
like a sno-cone ice cream truck for a dime
Sticky fingers and one last sugar high on the ride home
Time to go, Morpheus in the back of the station wagon
one ear ringing me to sleep
New Jersey Nighthawks
A baleful gale full of winter’s forefight
blows on Atlantic City
like some 13th bad luck losing streak,
icy down the collar, raw up the sleeves
Beer and neon warmth nearby
pizza, sausage, jukebox and billiards
oreganomic cheese slide dripping heat
pea coats, wool scarves and gloves shed
shivering hunched backs relax
the final shudder shaken away
like summer sand when beach day is done
the darkness and the Atlantic and the northeast wind
outside the glass
like on a map
like across the street in the glass-broken
cheap whorin’ drug scorin’
on some $4 rent Baltic Avenue
Might as well be the Atlantic Ocean
throwing waves onto the shore
ripping the tide
harboring some blue barnacled drowners
never claimed after ages on the widow’s walk
Buoys bobbing armless in the silence
black nightwaves warn against swimming
Titanic arrogance that, swimming these black nightwaves
Friends wash down the cold with the suds
melting frost slips a vertical mugslide
rings on the thick-lacquered boothtops
coasters cast away like the armless keyboardist
stylin’ in his plaid pork pie hat
on the footless particleboardwalk
tonguing and toeing for tips to buy a pork pie or pizza
to beat back the black nightwaves of hunger
His music brushes off the sand,
away from the wannabe summer swimmers, feasting in the light
The penny whistle’s squeal cut into my eardrum
leaving it hanging like some torn sail
from a tall ship fleeing Blackbeard the Pirate
who lit candles in his braided beard and fuses in his fur cap
to terrify the sailors cringing from the thought of salty disembowelments,
into a penny whistle howl of their own,
conduct so unbecoming of a rugged seaman,
a British tar, Queequeg or other argonaut.
The sight of the great rapist and pillager
he, greater in legend than the Seven Seas,
greater than any Moby Dick
even to the most even-keeled Starbuck or innocent Ishmael,
turns them limp like a sail at horse latitudes,
scares them right out of their breeches.
Sided by a sunburnt, syphilitic crew
who cathetered themselves with mercury,
he appeased their pain with rum,
soothed their agony by pickling hostages in brine,
keel hauling them against spiny barnacles
as victims surfaced to gasp for air,
suffering whistle taunts of their captors.
The great pirate was then betrayed, shot 5 times,
hacked through his stygian whiskers and his throat
until his bloody locks littered his chest,
gang-stabbed like Caesar, and beheaded,
his ghastly crown hanged from the bowsprit,
his raven locks whistling in the wind.
I slept in this hotel room
outside San Francisco,
sleepwalked out the door
off the patio into the pool,
a trapezoidal pool,
with the slanted water.
I backstroked the length,
then back again
until winter rains finally fell,
filling the pool just a little more.
I sleepwalked out, stepped
onto the grass as the sprinklers
at my feet
sprayed up into the rainfall,
just enough to make the Mojave cry.
Like the irrigation I rose up
the stairs to my room,
weeping the dry tears of drought,
toweling off in the sheets
as if I’d broken a fever there on the bed.
I awoke before dawn,
which emerged sunny and parched,
the dusty umber at my feet.
After she went home,
the meds wore off.
Cradled in her palms,
a soft and warm cooing;
a huge day in their lives, an enormous thing for her to do.
He stood by.
He didn’t realize
how much it hurt.
No matter how many times
he’d been down there,
he hardly understood.
She tried so hard,
feeling stiff and rigid,
not like him.
Back to back refusals,
covers pulled closer,
she seemed so
out of touch.
Why he never
is beyond him.
Why she never
she can’t say.
Something inside her.