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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 3: May 2020
Poem: 284 words
Credit Notes: 228 words
By John L. Stanizzi

When I Get to Heaven

 
For John Prine (10 October 1946 – 7 April 2020), who died
of complications from COVID-19: Rest in peace, my brother.
Did Mr. Peabody’s conscience ever bother him?
—John L. Stanizzi

Yes sir, this old man is going to town. 
An early duck glides on the misted pond, 
sweet reminder of days of purity. 
But now someone has taken all the masks, 
our faces raw in the poisonous air. 

Smile they say. Stay safe. Keep your hope alive. 
See me tonight with an illegal smile? 
They have taken all the thermometers. 
The cotton swabs have vanished from the shelves. 
Beyond the closed windows the spring birds sing. 

All I can see now are your eyes and they’re 
so lovely; your face hidden, but your eyes... 
Don’t pass by and stare. Say “Hello in there.” 
Your lovely eyes above that ghastly mask, 
your hair wispy behind the elastics. 

Your face hides, safe, behind that horrid mask. 
There are two pandemics; one is human, 
yet the oriole glows in the plum tree. 
My love is true; my love’s only for you, 
and the rain will wash the poison away. 

The air is toxic, and not an image. 
April snowstorm has me nailed to the wall. 
Mine is a quiet voice, the wall a balm. 
When will this leave, wash away like the tide? 
Sorry, my son, you’re too late in asking. 

Yes sir, this old man is going to town. 
See me tonight with an illegal smile? 
Don’t pass by and stare. Say “Hello in there.” 
My love is true; my love’s only for you. 
When will this leave, wash away like the tide? 
Sorry, my son, you’re too late in asking. 

 

 

Credit Notes:

1. John Prine was an American country/folk singer and songwriter. He was active as a composer, recording artist, and live performer from the early 1970s until his death at the age of 73, and was known for an often humorous style of original music with elements of protest and social commentary (source: Wikipedia, 2 May 2020).

2. Epigraph refers to the coal that Mister Peabody hauled out of Paradise, in John Prine’s song of the same name.

3. “Yes sir, this old man is going to town” refers to a line from “When I Get to Heaven” written by John E. Prine.

4. “See me tonight with an illegal smile?” refers to a line from “Illegal Smile” by John E. Prine.

5. “Don’t pass by and stare. Say ‘Hello in there.’” refers to lines from “Hello in There” by John E. Prine.

6. “My love is true; my love’s only for you” refers to a line from “I Want to Be With You Always” written by Jim Beck and Lefty Frizzel, and performed by John E. Prine.

7. “When will this leave, wash away like the tide?” refers to a line from “He Was in Heaven Before He Died” written by John E. Prine.

8. “Sorry, my son, you’re too late in asking” refers to a line of dialogue from the song “Paradise” by John E. Prine.

John L. Stanizzi
Issue 3, May 2020

is author of the collections Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After the Bell, Hallelujah Time!, High Tide—Ebb Tide, Four Bits, and Chants. His new book, Sundowning, was released in fall 2019 by Main Street Rag. His poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, American Life in Poetry, The New York Quarterly, Review, The Cortland Review, Rattle, Tar River Poetry, Rust & Moth, Connecticut River Review, Hawk & Handsaw, and many others. The poet has read at venues all over New England, including the Mystic Arts Café, the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, Hartford Stage, and many others. His work has been translated into Italian and has appeared in El Ghibli, the Journal of Italian Translations Bonafinni, and Poetarium Silva.

Stanizzi is a teaching artist for the national recitation contest, Poetry Out Loud. A former New England Poet of the Year, named by the New England Association of Teachers of English, he teaches literature at Manchester Community College in Manchester, CT and lives with his wife, Carol, in Coventry.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

An e-Chapbook of PONDs by Stanizzi, with poet’s commentary, in KYSO Flash (Issue 12, Summer 2019)

 
 
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