Poems written by Carolyn Fargnoli


A lost song of morning.
If it weren’t for the mockingbirds
all night, you’d be rested.
You never change &
you are lost in winter

& I can’t understand
what is so wrong &
the one-eyed owl hisses in its cage:

he can’t see you approach & danger
is too certain. You never change,

a sparrow on a mailbox. An inability
for directions. The wrong letters
delivered & this doesn’t bother you

& you compose the letters you want,
inscriptions of night, weathervanes
& a surprise ride on a carousel,

the last ride of the night
in Endicott & the horses
are fast & the Wurlitzer

alters a sullen view you’ve fallen into,
a repeating sorrow that bores the town:

you have secrets, quiet & bright:
you know the location
of the secret bakery, you
know shortcuts, you know
if you repeat a fear
long enough it will storm
& evaporate at dawn.

Local Matters

The trouble with moving a house through towns
occurs when the floors creak and sag
and the wheels transporting it are stuck, broken,
unreliable truck. The house heaves with agony
at the owner who insists on better land—extracting
it from concrete and soil, a 1929 foundation.
The windows may break, doors may warp—the house
will suffer for this dislocation.
What happens to anything forgotten in that house?
Forgotten medicine bottles, tea kettles,
typewriters, victrolas, radios jostled and clanking around.
What happens to any ghosts
that belonged to the lot and the house
that must now make a choice of where to settle?
And what happens to the rickety fence
on the new lot? The falling down barn? And the old couple
who sells the green house because they needed the money?
On Meyersville Road, traffic halts, business transactions
cease. The main road, blocked for two days by this house.
The hubbub of it, onlookers awash, gaping with glee and disgust
over the flaws of machinery. The big white house wheeling
through towns like a parade with only one float.
The typewriters in these towns and throughout this state
clack and clatter over this commotion. This mistake
is Star material, a Star Ledger reporter writes about
how the economy of these towns broke down
for two days over a house relocated to the middle of a road.
The news reaches California and Florida.
Trouble for days. Trouble finding a way
to work, delivering news, mail,
and buying bread, eggs, and milk.
Trouble taking a walk on the main road at noon
except when we trespass across our neighbor’s lawn.
We’re sent the long way
through the Great Swamp to get anywhere.

The Mermaid Parade

Sideshow by the seashore
near Neptune Avenue
where the ocean is opened

for the summer by a key
carried by the Mermaid
King and Queen.

The rundown row houses where
we live disappear
when we leave.

Where a woman wails all night.
Where rooms for sleeping have no windows,
suffocating in summer.
Where drunks stop us in the morning,
the corner by the Greenpoint Avenue subway station,
for nothing or cheer. Sometimes I had none.

We’re rambling
about the imagination as a vortex—poetry
of shipwrecks—a Tilt-A-Whirl—
shoving us side to side and I want it to stop.

Worries dissipate
on such days when costumes
disguise our shapes, jelly bodies, busybodies,
nobody in particular, jelly arms, jelly legs,
a crowd in a procession
to the sea show, the side shore.
Camisoles, trousers, sandals, glitter. We follow
the King and Queen down to the water.
Fish bowls worn as hats. A man studies
the sand with a magnifying glass—fish scales
painted on his body. He understands the situation.

Why don’t you walk along the most unlikely road, sweetheart?
The one struck by lightning twice.
The one like a haunted grove.
I’ll meet you where the sun looms, where I’m quiet
and brightly empty of regrets. The train leaves this Friday.

We follow them
down the wooden plank slanting into the sand
where locals sunbathe. We are salt
and mischievous, painted blue and silver,
wearing capes made of netting, cheesecloth,
dragging anchors, ankles buried in the sand.
We sprawl on the sand like starfish.

I leave for the parade into the sea
each June in Brooklyn and we feel like jellyfish
on the subway car floating above the Green-Wood Cemetery
enchanted by clouds puffed like cotton
candy: sugar spun delirium of noon
and little to do, but inhale the sea under parasols.
I’m partial to antics, shipwrecks.

On that day you stayed home.
I’m wearing a big green hat made by Amy
somewhere near Rivington,
she stands in buckets of ice to keep cool,
and I stroll into the crowd with Val,
eyes sting from too much sun-tan lotion.
I’m sea salt. We swim in—
floating out there with strangers
after watching the rickety revolutions of the ferris wheel.
The ferris wheel is the wheel of fortune
we found on a tarot card
discarded on the street at night
near bins of records—predictable rhythms—
when you walked me under a blue umbrella to the subway station,
then didn’t walk with me at 4 a.m. down Bowery, forgetful
of birthday cakes. The ferris wheel is like a giant lollipop.
Sometimes living alone is best.

We’re shipwrecks
taking down all remnants of beauty
and some ends are bittersweet,
some means are wrong, cruelty. Sweetness
and all of the trouble it brings.
You’re a sunken thought.
You were like the Tilt-A-Whirl
and I was shoved side to side, sea legs,
sea sick. Jelly arms, jelly legs.

I turned into the man
who wanders around in his pajamas
by the benches outside your building
at night, barefoot, reading the morning newspaper,
befuddled, too late under the moon haze,
nonsensical, commonsensical.

I peer into tidal pools
looking for songs in miniature.

I love days when I
walk the sea and listen to the radio
and most songs are unlike you:
sugar spun pink bubblegum lucky simple.
The sunbathers,
the swimmers,
what we are not.
Nothing sweet.

I turned into a somnambulist.
We are nothing like the horses
I saw galloping by the water in Brighton Beach,
the week before the parade.
Nothing like sea galleons.
Nothing like a parade
of marauders, floats passing by.
Nothing like jellyfish, transparent brains.
We are not in Coney Island.
At night I look at a sky, a scattering
of aluminum foil stars.
Only a vocabulary for ghosts.

Carolyn Fargnoli lives in New Jersey where she contemplates the sea, illumination, foxes, grackles, and infinity.

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