Tony Magistrale: Going Back to the World

Tony Magistrale is the author of two books of poetry: What She Says About Love (Bordighera Press 2008) and The Last Soldiers of Love (Literary Laundry Press, 2012).  “Crime Scene” is part of his new poetry collection entitled Entanglements (Fomite Press).

Alone Musing in Front of the Barnes & Noble Magazine Rack

Ten below zero, my world colder than Juneau,
reduced to solid blocks of white & gray;
who can blame a man coughing at the bottom of January
desperate for change & some color, who finds himself
slightly eroticized despite heavy layers of clothing,
his heart blossoming among a succession of telescoped
headshots of high-glossed pouting lips
& wide-eyed mascara-layered eagerness
adorning models, movie starlets, & flavor-of-the-month celebrities,
little blond soldiers of capitalism.
Although guilty of far worse infractions,
I am embarrassed by my prurient fascination—
a gender interloper, spy behind enemy lines,
more than a little curious about the location
of that elusive G spot and the must have
for spring. The covers track merrily
the seasons melding into one another,
a smooth & orderly transition, and while
none of these women looks very cold
or bored or old, I’d be willing to bet my woolen hat
every one of them would teeter
across their covers atop stiletto-heeled shoes,
might even relinquish some haughty complacency,
for the promise of a well-made hot fudge sundae.

Crime Scene

The cop shows have taken my television hostage
a nightly line up of criminologists, forensics, & SWAT teams
righting an array of dark atrocities,
subconsciously reaffirming to inert & terrified TV Land America
our collective vulnerability & need of police intervention.
Cops on TV don’t bludgeon unarmed citizens because
they can. They are regular guys & gals
balancing superhero powers in uncomplicated harmony:
equally at home in soup kitchens & ballistics,
prone to violence yet psychologically nuanced,
holding compatible degrees in martial arts and marital therapy.
No TV cop is ever a drunk, on the take, or criminally insane.
Police dramas whet the insatiable American appetite
for a sip of ferocity before bed
tinged with a short moral chaser;
each creepy, sociopathic nut job
gets his fifty minutes of mayhem
as prelude to teary lock up, or bullet-riddled resolution.
If TV cops patrolled the world,
prostitutes would regenerate their virginity,
abandoned kids would get furnished apartments at Disneyland,
& Jesus would pack a .357 Magnum, just in case.
Meanwhile, the rest of us would behave
as if we lived in church
& spoke only with library voices.


With so much to admire
it’s easy to overlook the perseverance—
the getting up each morning to paint again,
to drink another cup of bitter coffee
and go back to work. This was long before
any of the work—yellow sun and star clusters
spackled to the blank faces of white canvas—
auctioned for millions of euros.
What he remembers is slightly less wonderful—
so much failure to overcome:
not lucky in love, not lucky with friends,
not lucky selling the damn paintings.
Somehow he kept finding purple irises
rioting inside the cracked wall of an asylum,
a haloed sower tossing sunflower seeds at barren soil,
the white explosions of peach blossoms
blooming hysterically in some absent farmer’s orchard.
When achievement finally trumped failure,
museums constructed entire rooms of rolling French
landscapes and flaming gardens in midsummer heat,
a tsunami of colors that defied Nature’s own
bright enough to blind the human eye,
ignite an internal blaze.
Visionaries always find their own way;
legacies come from equal parts talent
and refusal to quit. In the time it took
to stretch a canvas and drop himself down
into another painting, for those few hours at least,
beauty reigned.
Cultural Weekly is proud to premiere “Alone Musing in Front of the Barnes & Noble Magazine Rack” and “Failure” in this edition.

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