I am the 2014 recipient of the Robert K. Johnson Poetry Prize and Garvin Tate Merit Scholarship. I am a student at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I study Poetry and Translation. My poetry has been featured in Misfit Magazine, Poetry Pacific, Untitled with Passengers, Gravel, Crack the Spine, Stone Highway Review, Apeiron Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, and Literature Today.
All was moving.
Teammates crowded Richie
who was fetal,
cradling his broken ankle.
The coaches huddled
with a first aid kit,
rummaging for gauze and tape.
Grass stained my soccer pants.
I had slide-tackled Richie.
My babysitter scolded me.
Inside my nightmares,
my babysitter's in my childhood room.
He unclothes himself,
his naked body walking
window to window
drawing all the curtains,
so daylight will not wake us early.
He kills the lights.
I turn them back on
and hope he will not show me
how to move my tongue
the way that gets him off.
The soccer pants are still crumpled
in the closet's corner
where the babysitter tossed them.
I was afraid of my closet
for years after he took me.
People ask me what happened to Richie.
I don't know. I haven't seen him
since I broke his ankle.
Nothing can tear down the walk-in closet
where bony hips slammed into me,
my virginity stained to the shag rug.
I thought I could leave it there.
I was seven, I knew nothing.
What was more wonderful
than to be a virgin, clean and sound,
on such a night.
He held my hips, his "tip" for babysitting,
the way I held my girlfriend's when we made love,
when she pleaded "make me scream," "make it hurt,"
before I pushed her head to the mattress.
I tried to make it hurt that much.
Little Lake Sunapee
The buoy beacon bobs
and repeats its single rhythm,
its base, barnacled and mossy.
I don't think I'll reach it.
My pupils widen
with the crescent moon
casting tints of false silver
on the surface
of this crypt-cold reservoir.
The dainty shoreline cottage
with its rickety dock,
like the travel journal
you gifted me last summer,
while sparrows bickered
from the smokeless chimney.
Our drunken quarrels
always had an explanation.
When have I never loved
the pain of jealousy?
But this has gone past jealousy
to a mania with the clench
of a madman, a leaping
from the cliff of reason.
You never liked to swim here.
The water must have been too frigid.
for my grandmother
Your opera career in photographs.
A choir. Which of them was you?
Perhaps it was your cropped pearl hair
that shed its color early.
You never dyed it.
And your neck.
Your taut singer's neck strained
for the audience, your children, my breastfed self.
The teapot whistled
from your tacky, jaundiced
hutch of a kitchen.
You commanded me to bring Earl Grey
and mistook my name,
a sour odor seeping where you sat
with your legs propped on the velvet recliner.
I could hardly believe how irritated I felt.
You had been doing so well
with names and faces,
your memories now a half-erased
Etch A Sketch portrait.
You always said that Grandpa
was "difficult" and "crazy."
Either walking his rottweiler too often
or picking extra hours up as a janitor at Walmart,
so he could "get away from you."
If that was his reason, I can't blame him.
I'm filled with nothing but shame for writing it,
but I couldn't tell you. You'd just forget.
The Fourth of July We Met
For hours we swung in the dark,
hearing firecrackers mark the occasion.
Somewhere, your ride
honked her horn.
Your feet splashed puddles
when you anchored them to stop the swing.
If i could have read our future
as some message folded
in our scattered beer bottles,
I would have parted with a handshake.
Armani the cat was blind in one eye
and his brain was hemorrhaging.
I was livid at the nonchalance as the doctor said it.
Her syringe emptied its contents.
I put my hand on Jessie's shoulder
as though I understood something of her loss.
She caressed his stationary paw,
saying more with her company at that moment
than all their years together cuddled up in bed,
while she highlighted textbooks
or read short stories of Shirley Jackson
as if the cat could comprehend "The Lottery."
Euthanasia, Greek for "good death."
Jessie couldn't even pay for it.
Every month her mailbox housed that death bill,
its flag raised like an arm begging
to ask a question, just feet
from where Armani would lie
on the concrete walkway,
poised and tame like a mini sphinx,
waiting for us to come home
just as we waited for the vet
to administer the waxen cobalt
that appeared almost edible in an IV.
©2014 Domenic Scopa