“The Preakness” by John Colasacco

John Colasacco


Jesus wasn’t going to make it, Jim kept coughing and crying
on the floor next to the blue crib, the longest hair
on the backs of the girls—none of it came back, a moth came back,
in the noise it wasn’t possible, the garden
wouldn’t turn around and show its face, it wouldn’t open, yes the black
and white story lady music teacher tells about a phantom, I listened to it,
I found out you could die with your eyes open, I went with E.
and D. upstairs and we played die with your eyes open
in the room with the sandpaper door like doctors
flying, flying around, one having more sadness than the other, one listening
close, and I needed to blink, but I was dead, so I tried to squint and I saw
a knuckle in a black tree branch, I saw my uncle saying it’s diseased
I saw my marker drawing of a snake, a brontosaurus,
and a t-shirt, and
a glowing in the dark; one had her wrist
over my eyes saying yes
this happens, how it can happen, and whether
it actually happens we answered in part, we were starting
to improvise and the bathing suits
had lives of their own with water in them under water. There was the week
my uncle took both pairs of scissors away
and didn’t tell me where they were; I found out about the insides
of my eye, and what was in there; I didn’t want to do it, but
I wanted to do it, and I said so, but I shouldn’t have said so,
and I tried to draw the knuckle but it came out nothing,
I was mad, the basement was on a slant, we put gasoline
in a coffee can, we kept playing but I blinked, it was fine, I explained
again the point of the game, I forced
them, I had a little sale. Some pretzels
and a deck of cards, it’s not called a brontosaurus
anymore and then some daisies died in my hand
when I picked them for this picture, this blue one,
with Jim, in a wagon. The fruit trees
would sting you outside the woods would sting you.
I fell into a log full of hornets and died.
I fell into a plastic swimming pool and died.
I had to cough. I forced it. It was Tourette’s. I wasn’t born. My uncle
was following me like gasoline in a coffee can, rows of snakes moved
in the garden and I caught one and killed it and my shoe sunk halfway
down like a thought, the garden stung you,
the basement was on a slant.
I had my own hatchet. My uncle
had a hatchet. The moon came out, they tore the kneelers
out of St. Edward’s and chopped them up for money, we chopped
branches off the branches, we chopped stakes
for the vines to climb and ate all winter, some lighters died, the for sale sign
was gone, my uncle said Who you like in the Preakness, when we were Italian
and the girls knew what I knew, my eyes were going; I blinked
at Jim and he came back, we took out two pairs of scissors, I found
out about scissors and water, my uncle swung a bucket of water
over his head and said Centrifugal force.

from Rattle #29, Summer 2008


John Colasacco: “I want to thank my teachers Michael and Chris for helping me with this poem. It started as an exercise; I was basically listing as many distant memories as I could, especially memories that seemed mostly visual. While I was making the list I became aware of a frustration I have with my memory, and with list-making. After that the poem’s movement started to jive more closely with my frustration, and it seemed to become its own thing.”

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