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Two Poems

Chris Campanioni

Anytime Anybody

asks why don’t you go back I shrug my shoulders. Tell them I’m waiting for my father. I’m waiting for my father to answer that same question. I don’t say can you imagine what it feels like to leave & not ever not ever return. I don’t say can you imagine the faces of your cousins & uncles & aunts, can you map their faces from memory because it’s been over half a century since you saw them in the flesh. I don’t say memory is another form of death. I don’t say my father will die without stepping foot on the street on which he learned to walk. I don’t say he’ll never not ever go swimming at Siboney again or fly kites on the roof-deck of the high-rise on the corner of San Basilio & Clarín, the sky above or below. A throne of ceiba from which to hide & seek. I don’t say that when he left, Operación Pedro Pan would go on & go on to become the largest migration of unaccompanied minors in the history of human passage. I don’t say what he cannot say, because I know silence is another word for a bomb. I don’t say what I know what I’ve always known. That I feel it too. Somehow. Like a cut that stops bleeding but saves the scab where the untouched flesh once was. Mom, my mom. My mom was allowed to go back in the Nineties, after the Walls fell. Always plural. But no one ever asks me about that part of myself anyway. Which makes it easier & also hard. Easier because I can stay silent. Hard because I can stay silent. Everything, you know, is worth repeating. Everything I write out I write twice. The interrogation of strangers, historical time vs. personal time, drizzling, the damp sand. I want to say—but I’m angry now, & bitter, & my face—my face is something I can feel just by looking at the person who’s asking—so I say nothing but nothing, I don’t say anything but smile, as is my custom. & I do it by baring my teeth. & I do it by wondering where oh where are the great forgetters. I say my father took to America so much, he never wanted to leave. I don’t say America took my father in its arms & crushed him. I came out, like puss from a poisoned wound, the ribs of these United States. I don’t say I ever liked it, as if I ever had, you know, the choice.

&now (2019)


 

                                                                   you have it

                                   but you don’t

                                                                                                             have it


 

in a poem

                                   meanings converge                  (into/without)

collapsing. this is


 

                                                                   its power—the ability

to                                     (carry/dissolve)

             the terms of 


 

its own              (composition/interrogation)

           the poem as a technology

                                                               made for (dis)play & made for                         (dis)placing


 

the body with(in)                     its myth. like 

            dreaming in deep water

                                                                                       like a dream of deep water


 

like my sweat

                                       which can tell you                               almost

            everything once


 

            collected

as if rubble could produce

                                                               a reliable surface.


 

as if reliable surfaces.

                                                                         the memory of a goldfish

                                                                                                                            the sound of one


 

                      chopstick clapping

under the table my poem

                                                               contains multitudes                               all I contain


 

            is this poem

really                            I see myself

                                                                          in almost every text


 

I turn toward                            a mirror

                      for instance, this

is best viewed


 

                                                                                                                                                      on

                                                                                                                                           larger screens

like the ocean that exceeds

                                                               comprehension. like the torso


 

that exceeds metaphor. the torso that exceeds

                                                                                                             an outstretched palm, a lunging jaw

            et. al (you get


 

            it or you don’t & then

                                                                                       that’s the point)

the poem as                              (shimmer/shift/shaft)


 

which asks to be handled or hitched

                                                               to a vehicle                              or something suggestive

            of a spear or arrow                                                ’s                              cylindrical form


 

the sharply delineated beam of light

                                                               which shines through                         an opening

all experiential echoes which                                                        beg


 

                                                                         whether we need a second

language in order                     to translate        ;                       hyperlinks                                        as

literary cruising 

                           ; digital spaces           as receptacles for picking up


 

things                 (&/as) bodies                        (resemblance/assembly)                                             our

                                           hunger to be cut 

horizontally.                   I have no right to keep

                                                                                  quiet about the synthesizer


 

                                                 I have no right to 

fall into feeling 

                                      (I’m not god     /     I’m not good)


 

                                                                                             & what would you say                         

                                                                                             if you could

Chris Campanioni is the son of immigrants from Cuba and Poland, and the author of six books, including the Internet is for real (C&R Press, 2019), which re-enacts the language of the Internet as literary installations. Recent writing has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, M/C: Media & Culture, DIAGRAM, Ambit, and Poetry International, and has been translated into Spanish and Portuguese. His selected poetry was awarded an Academy of American Poets College Prize in 2013, his novel Going Down was named Best First Book at the 2014 International Latino Book Awards, and his hybrid piece This body’s long (I’m still loading) was adapted as an official selection of the Canadian International Film Festival in 2017. Today he teaches at Pace University and Baruch College, and serves as a MAGNET mentor and Provost Fellow at The Graduate Center/CUNY, where he works on converging media studies with studies of migration.

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Nat. Brut is a proud winner of a 2020 Whiting Literary Magazine Prize