W R I T T E N · W OR K



by Robert Ranieri, 1984



 Dying fall to the floor boards
an ebbing pulse no blood in temples.
Lie in the dust, the end then.

You think you can come back to say goodbye,
you, family, you that remember for now.
Hard working loving parents long gone,
Papa's remote silence to shield Mama's restless argument.
My father's deep respect and care till
terminal illness took her.

My excuse?
To sit vacant eyed in school, not hearing;
smiling baby pictures to repressed anger ....
versus older brother's place in the secure world.

I had wanted my father to disappear, the little
tailor -furrier. Never mind if he had squared
a new life as a man of sixteen in Philadelphia.
Hard bread and Dante,
childhood blames come out sing-song as
nature's gifts reconstitute the man
my father made me.
              Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
              mi ritrovai per  una selva oscura,
              ché la diritta via era smarrita.
Danger signs all around, though voices guide us
through the woods. Wife and daughter beatitudes.

Beachcomber scrounge, live off the land, the handout.
Family and friends saved me to the moment of artistic maturity,
still to jump the high hurdle.
Nightmare at 3 A.M.,
my daughter clinging as I race to escape the rising dark.
Groping, I find my clothes, make coffee and go outside,
weakened by the fear of failing.

Water in the tub at 4 A.M.
Yesterday, the longest day of the year, the wind broke the trees.
Maia enthralled and unafraid, we watched the thick rain
through diner candlelight on window glass.
Marat in his tub.
Middle-aged for twenty years, tired
because depressed, or depressed because tired.

My attention focuses on new painting before me.
Really I'm lucky.
My daughter is singing, the young Mozart inventing his
hasty notes, while Maia hugs her pillow at passing clouds.
We had a small marble portrait bust of Mozart
at home in Philadelphia. It stood on a low sideboard.
I used to lick it for the curious salt taste.




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