First day of high school,
where I knew no one
except the five or six who also came from St. Mary’s
after outgrowing their uniforms.
I stood among a swarm of kids
in everyday clothes outside the gym.
The overwhelming size of the building,
the massive number of students,
the rush of adrenalin-infused freedom.
I had been liberated from
the cloistered mahogany and brick of St. Mary’s,
its uniforms, its severity.
But about three months in,
there was Dallas, the book depository,
and a nation draped in black,
We found out a little after 2 that Friday afternoon,
when Mrs. Wilson came on the loudspeaker
and had to try twice to tell us what had happened.
I walked home that afternoon with Billy McGowan,
Burnside Avenue stretched out
in unyielding black and white silence,
the horror and sadness
troubling the November clouds.
And Jimmy, how could we have ever imagined
that the world would quake with grief again,
five short years later to the day,
Quang Nam Province,
your last day. Kenny, Alex, Jimmy,
I could tell you how the world has changed
since you’ve been gone.
Much of it would be
truly impossible to believe.
You’d marvel at it.
You’d probably be stunned with delight.
Though what you might find more unbelievable
is what has remained the same.
War is an everyday thing now.
We watch it on TV.
It’s what we do.
And yes, kids your age,
kids who might have been your grandchildren,
still go off and die, like you,
for reasons as shadowy and dense
as those heavy November clouds in 1963.
Jimmy, you had written in my yearbook,
Johnnie, remember the summer we just took off?
I do remember,
and though we never had the chance
to take off again,
every now and then
I dream us somewhere under a hot July sun,
arms around each other’s shoulders,
laughing at the foolish choices our young selves made,
singing Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings”
to the top of the sky,
out of tune with everything.
is the author of eleven collections: Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After the Bell, Hallelujah Time!, High Tide—Ebb Tide, Four Bits, Chants, Sundowning, POND, and The Tree that Lights the Way Home.
Besides in MacQ, John’s work has been widely published in journals such as Prairie Schooner, The Cortland Review, American Life in Poetry, Tar River Poetry, Praxis, Rust & Moth, The New York Quarterly, Paterson Literary Review, The Laurel Review, The Caribbean Writer, Blue Mountain, Poetlore, Rattle, Hawk & Handsaw, Plainsongs, Imspired, and many others.
His work has been anthologized in Waking Up to the Earth: Connecticut Poets in a Time of Global Crisis, edited by Connecticut Poet Laureate Margaret Gibson (Grayson Books, 2021); Accidents of Light (fifth annual KYSO Flash Anthology, 2019); Accept Apart (Scars Publishers, 2018); Cardinal House Poetry (2016), a collection from members of Connecticut Poetry Society; The Best of Boston Literary Magazine (Volume One, 2016); Editor’s Choice, III: Fiction, Poetry, & Art from the U.S. Small Press, 1984 to 1990 (The Spirit That Moves Us Press, 1991); the Anthology of Magazine Verse and Yearbook of American Poetry; and several others.
Angela D’Ambra has translated John’s work into Italian, which appears in El Ghibli; Poetarium Silva; The Journal of Italian Translations (editor Luigi Bonafini); and others.
John’s nonfiction has been published in Literature and Belief, Stone Coast Review, Ovunque Siamo, Adelaide, Scarlet Leaf, Evening Street, Praxis, Potato Soup Journal, The Red Lemon, after the pause, and others. Potato Soup Journal named his CNF “Pants” among “The Best of 2020” and published it in their anthology celebrating these works. In 2021, he was awarded an Artist Fellowship in Creative Non-Fiction from the Connecticut Office of the Arts and Culture for work on his new memoir.
John is the Flash Fiction Editor of Abstract Magazine TV, and he has read at venues all over New England, including the Mystic Arts Café, the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, Hartford Stage, and numerous others. For many years, he coordinated the Fresh Voices Poetry Competition for Young Poets at Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington, Connecticut. He also spent a decade as “teaching artist” for the national poetry recitation contest, Poetry Out Loud.
A former Wesleyan University Etherington Scholar, and New England Poet of the Year (1998), named by the New England Association of Teachers of English, John teaches literature at Manchester Community College in Manchester, Connecticut. He lives with his wife, Carol, in Coventry.
Author’s website: http://www.johnlstanizzi.com/
⚡ An e-Chapbook of PONDs by Stanizzi, with poet’s commentary, in KYSO Flash (Issue 12, Summer 2019)