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Contemporary Italian American Writing

1st Runner-up: 2007 Bordighera Poetry Prize
Sponsored by the Sonia Raiziss-Giop Foundation
Gary Ciocco

MJ’s | A PRAYER FOR MY SON, FOUR YEARS PAST DUE | MALE BONDING IN VILLANELLE, WITH ANCIENT AFTERWORD IN TRIOLET |

GARY CIOCCO teaches philosophy at Gettysburg College, York College and other schools. He has also taught English. He feels there is a relationship between his philosophy and his poetry, but he can’t explain it. His poems have been published in National Catholic Reporter, Shadowtrain, and Paper Street and he haunts the poetry venues in his area, to read and listen. He recently published an article on the relationship between the Beat poets, American pragmatism, and the Grateful Dead in The Grateful Dead and Philosophy. After living much of his life in the richly Italian environs of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, he now lives in Gettysburg, PA. He, his wife, two children and two beagles encourage others of Italian heritage to join them in central Pennsylvania.

Distinguished Poet-Judge of The Bordighera Poetry Prize, 2007, Michael Palma, wrote: "The most immediately infectious qualities of Gary Ciocco's writing is its liveliness and dexterity—qualities that Ciocco celebrates in his tribute to Michael Jordan, modeled on E. E. Cummings’ classic poem about Buffalo Bill Cody. The poems crackle with the intelligence of a quizzical mind playing over both familiar and unfamiliar situations and energizing them all with its curiosity and verve. And they crackle also with propulsive rhythms and rich verbal music that delights the ear with frequent clusters of (often internal) rhymes and near-rhymes. The collection is impressive in its range of emotions, from celebration of the exhilaration of being set down in the midst of this endlessly fascinating world to serious reflection—as in “A Prayer for My Son, Four Years Past Due”—on the hopes and dangers that accompany us on our journey through it."

Sample poems of Gary Ciocco MJ’s
(After E.E. Cummings)

MJ’s
deflated
who used to glide and shoot through air and space
like an organic coil
like a friendly, deadly cobra
and leaped&spun&plottedhiswaytowickedwealth
from our need for admiration-cum-inflation.
our new desire for a leaper-come-lately.

Lord
he was bigandslim muscledandtrim blackandbald
and oh so lofty,
smiling
beautiful
photogenically.

What I’d like to know is
what will it feel like to walk on land
with a limp
without a father
superman dunker
salt of the earth?

A PRAYER FOR MY SON, FOUR YEARS PAST DUE

He has gone from skinny saxophone cheeks
to bone-skinny electric guitar fingers.
Now a man-child, proverbial and prefab.
What do I pray? That he rock steady,
set up perfect barriers
to bohemian dreams of excess. I pray in vain.
Such steady perfection does not exist.
That he already knows this is unfair,
since his own perfectionism
may cause cataclysms.
I wish for a secluded meeting place
that will keep him sane.
Or a beautiful path he can wear thin
while walking and thinking slowly.
I wish that all his hip mistakes in grammar
lead to better discussions of what's real.
I pray for him to know too much
and act upon it. I ask that he seek my advice
and follow only part of it.
I beg that he find his own way, provided that I
can at least comprehend the direction.
If I am being too general I do not apologize.
I pray that his star will rise and
that the inevitable explosions
will all occur in my lap
before my soul and my wallet are empty.
At fourteen he needs a prayer.
At forty-one I need to pray.
On this day we ask, please let us be
simple needy men. Amen.

MALE BONDING IN VILLANELLE, WITH ANCIENT AFTERWORD IN TRIOLET

IAgain the men are home alone.
They burrow briskly, like hunting dogs.
One young and one old, they burrow into untested loam.
They eat cold pizza, yes. And moan.
But pessimists and curmudgeons can be princely frogs.
Again the men are home alone.
They each wonder if they are in the other’s poem.
They change their minds like movie star heartthrobs.
One young and one old, they burrow into untested loam.
They drink beer, smoke cigars, sip tea, eat scones.
They try to have it all and refute Hobbes.
Again the men are home alone.
They have unlimited freedom to phone
But don’t. They avoid unnecessary memory jogs.
One young and one old, they burrow into untested loam.
Each retires to his own room, to roam.
One dreams of harmony, the other of clogs.
Again the men are home alone.
One young and one old, they burrow into untested loam.

Copyright © 2007 by Gary Ciocco. All rights, including electronic, reserved.

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