Barbara DeCesare


Before that, when he came home from work,
he put on his ratty shorts, the ones with the drawstring,
bent down low to step into them⎯
his body, lanky and light, trying to be small,
his gray head bowed
to the ugliest garment he owns.

Then I helped him put my old kitchen table into the attic.
There was nowhere else for it to go.

Now hes watching the ballgame in the chair he had in college.
His legs slung over the side, hes trying not to fall asleep.

If I told him every time I thought it,
how I love him, wish I could keep him just like this,
I would grind the words to dust.  Hed never believe
that everything he does, I watch, as if he was a child
with a fever or a match.


There were a few who bared their souls⎯
James Dean and the Fonz,
Rocky Balboa⎯
and I dont know how it happened
that those shirtsleeves rolled up meant so much
more than strength.
I might trace it to any couple of guys
high fiving on the basketball court,
saying something,
Youve got soul,
when my eyes were fixed
on the curve of a brown bicep,
sweat adorned and firm.

You can imagine what my doctor thought
when I asked about breaking my soul,
how I took for granted it was in there with the breakables.
Why else was it so important
for the boys to mug with their tiny muscles flexed,
for the display of this one body part
to carry the strength of the whole self?

When things started to go bad
and it looked like I might
never get to heaven, my mother
wagged her finger; her soul
sloshed around in the flabby wing of her arm
and I thought it might
get sick from that.

But I found the picture of Rosie the Riveter,
and knew there was a place for me in Paradise.
The look on her face was the look
I always got in trouble for making.
There she was, with her soul out in front.
We can do it! she told me,
the four-word gospel
on which eternity depends.



Mike Tyson bites off Van Gogh's ear.
Who's the champion now, bitch?
Michael spins around,
tries to bite the ear off one of the self portraits.
There he is, his face stained with straw-colored oil,
his eyes wild as swirls in the sky.
He holds the ear between his teeth.
That's mine. My ear.
Vincent says.
This one here
he points
This is yours.

1 a.m.

Walt Whitman visits Oliver North
in the prison hospital.
Ollie falls in love with Walt,
but cannot come to terms
with his physical feelings for him.
Instead, he vows to name his first son
Walter and to be a soldier for love.
Later, Oliver North gives birth
to Walt Disney, then Walter Cronkite
and the greatest of these is love.

2 a.m.

All the girls named Laura
have a fight with all the girls named Rebecca.
It happens like that every now and then,
although it is not planned.
The girls with long braids cry first.
Usually it's a Rebecca who wins.
No one knows why for sure.

3 a.m.

I wouldn't kiss you if you were the last man on Earth!
What if I was the first man on the moon?
Maybe I would kiss you then.
He picks her up in the crook of his left arm
and sticks his right fist into the sky.
1) Nothing happens; or
2) They arrive on the moon, but she is already dead.
Either way, he doesn't get the kiss.

4 a.m.

I am a race car driver.
I race against a car full of birds.
The birds fly inside the car,
propelling it with double force.
My car is falling apart.
The birds are in the lead.
The crowd really wants the birds to win.

5 a.m.

Once you get to the hotel,
Todd's dad arrives.
He knocks once and lets himself in,
immediately opening the suitcase
full of Amway products
and beginning the speech about
No better cleanser
Fast acting
Safest insect repellant on the market.
You agree to buy lip gloss
for your daughter.
It looks like a lava lamp.
Todd's dad is pleased with your choice.
He offers to gift wrap your purchase.

6 a.m.

Donkeys fill the grocery store
and Jonathan Winters stands on the meat cooler
with a megaphone
directing traffic,
but in a mischievous way
that steers the donkeys
away from the aisles they are looking for.

7 a.m.

Susan B. Anthony's black eye is hideous.
Her cigarette is mostly a miracle extension of ash.
If I was a little faster,
Susan says,
just a little faster.

7:15 a.m.

Let's watch Hogan's Heroes until we wake up.
Well, that sounds like a good idea, but ten minutes
into the show, you realize you've seen this episode
and it isn't such a good one.
The real problem is that now it's too late to find something else to watch
and really get into it,
you know,
you missed the first ten minutes,
plus this time you spent worrying about it.


Call this spit your shower,
or your supper if you want,
then lie down here beside me
and we'll do our best to breathe.

If there's a dollar in your pocket
then nothing's wrong, my dear,
just lie down here beside me
and we'll do our best to breathe.

A comic book heroine I
used to once resemble
wrapped her wrists in thick gold bracelets,
hero places I should open,
had a magic truth-tell lasso and plane I couldn't see,
but I knew there was a plane. I had faith. I have faith.

I call this faith my shadow,
or my supper when I want,
then I lie down beside you
and I do my best to breathe.

It's this breath that keeps us empty
of the things that we desire.
Darling, here's my magic lasso,
let's play hangman till we win
and I'll lie down here beside you
where we tried our best to breathe.

Barbara DeCesare
Barbara DeCesare lives in York, PA, where she works as a paralegal. She is amassing a depressing collection of cute pumps.  Her first book, JigsawEyesore (Anti-Man Press, 1999), was described by The Baltimore Sun as what thunder looks like in writing.  A 2003 Pushcart Prize nominee and the Poet Laureate of the 8th biggest rock n roll radio show in the nation at WIYY 97.9, Baltimore, her poems have found homes in Poetry, River Styx, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Evansville Review, McSweeney's, Gargoyle, and many other journals.



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