Selected Early Poems
by Joe Andriano
This priest, how can he possibly believe?
he's the same one, isn't he? yes it's he
who shut my father's eyes--how can he
this fatherly non-Father, having seen
having been my father's last sight
how can he still believe?
This hitchcock profile behind a screen
(I've seen him so many times cut
the air with rigid palms, gesture crosses
and bow to book with holy kisses)
waits and wonders why I don't start
my whisper, mumbles 'go ahead'
Bless me Father for I have masturbated
even on the night he died
coaxing myself to sleep the only way
I knew how, and what you must say now
for me to believe you're more than shadow
on screen is That was no sin, my son.
But your program is another response
exhorting me to penance, absolving me
assuring me forgiveness will be mine--
I go out among the others mumbling
humbly at the altar rail, a whispering
penance-cloud rising like incense smoke,
I kneel and conjure Dad casting for bass.
Poem of My Names
Desperate perhaps to be American
my Calabrese Grandpa changed his name
Rocco Andriano Rocky Andrews now
but as butcher still selling capacolla, prosciutto.
So I was born Joseph Andrews,
no problem for me until I changed
my college major to English and learned
of a novel entitled with my name.
In literature classes I endured the laughs
from literati who asked Are you still chaste?
Are you even real?
For years I avoided that book
and friends were disappointed I never took revenge
writing Henry Fielding by Joseph Andrews.
Instead I changed the name back: "I refuse
to be the figment of another man's muse!"
Actually it was Dad's dying wish: we sons
must undo what Grandpa had done.
And now in my more paranoid dreams
the dark suits begin the interrogation
Joe Andriano? alias Joseph Andrews?
Women often say we men are omehow
wired to control the remote
so we may still be hunters, hunting now for shows.
I find a pride of lounging lions sated from a recent kill.
I put the remote down and delight in their contented grunts
that change to roars as they up and pace and suddenly
they're surrounded by manic hyenas. Sharks with legs
they overpower the pride by sheer numbers, winning
the remains of the prey. I reach for the remote but stop--
a change of scene, now a lioness carrying cubs away from carnage,
finding a nook she thinks is safe but unaware
she's carried her cubs to a cobra's lair.
The snake kills them all, one by one,
and strikes the mother too.
Hyenas come and eat her dead babies,
surround her too as she lies in agony of venom and loss.
I can't take it anymore, switch it now to some innocuous
video, but can't resist the lure, switch it back.
She endures for seven days, lumbering alone, hyenas biding
their time. But she recovers, seeks her cubs, and roaring
maternal woe at the deep blue sky, rejoins her pride.