The HyperTexts

Martin Itzkowitz

Martin Itzkowitz teaches in the Department of Writing Arts at Rowan University. He has served as non-fiction editor and executive editor of Asphodel, a literary journal associated with the department's graduate program. Having begun writing poetry shortly after the flood, Martin has published in various venues, most recently in The Lyric and Moment.

Occupational Hazard

Every day for fifty years
Salvatore Licari worked
At fitting pipes in public schools.
He paid his rent, then bought a house,
And later sent a son to State.
His income rose; his back was bent.

Now on summer days he sits
At public concerts in the park,
Listening while the brass band plays.
A finer plumbing than his own—
He taps his feet and claps his hands,
Yet measures with a level eye
How such twisted instruments
Should lie in clay or under stone.

Manifest Destiny

Grandfather's first forefinger joint
Bent at near right angle to the rest—
Pointless— an anvil accident—
No maimed attempt to free himself
From service in the army of the czar.
Grandmother lost a little finger
(Blood poisoning set in)
To an iffy kitchen knife and sanitary scalpel—
Left a knob
Between twin whiffs of ether and carbolic swab.
Sammy G. gave up a knuckle to a Nazi bullet
(Dicey business—war—)
While at his workbench Cousin Jack was reft
Of several more—
Betrayed by reckless inattention
And a fickle saw.
Vicissitudes too great
To clench a common fist
Against a common fate


some could not forgive
the brown floor soap
used to wash her face
the dentures laid
beside her dinner plate
the litany of “ain’t”
her utter domesticity
and lower east side taint

some could not forget
the visits once a month
complete with gifts
of dime store candy
coloring books and crayons
for the kids
talk of this and that
a horsey laugh
above the sound of dishes
washed unasked

some unsettled still
in new prosperities
of mind and means
could not risk (they felt)
a backward glance—
fearful of salt
and shattered mirrors—
so, once uncle o was gone
she fell apart
they left her
ward of wards
long decades
after all repair was done

some on certain sundays
rode the long slow rails
toward kings park
bearing small news
and corned beef sandwiches

the avenue/winter night

“say hey, piet, what boogie-woogie now?”

street of light
shop windows white
red—blue—green above
all mannered
awhirl in razzle
on loew’s marquee
sequences aswirl
in fullest dazzle

yellow streetlamps mellow
but cars and buses
bug-eyed glare
with cyclops trolleys
in their single stare/
cigarette—cigar ends
dot the dark
and oven glow
from coal-grate mouths
of sweet potato carts
as off odd corners
steel drum sconces
blaze against the cold

before the savings bank
huddlers themselves inflamed
with talk of war and whether
whatever in the news
their several anathemas—creeds—views
gather and remain/
others pass—some striding
brilliant in their dress
fete—at restaurant
or wedding hall—assured:
sequins shimmer—
feathers in fedoras iridesce/
more move in staccato—
step and halt—for luster
of a pair of patent shoes—
fur—hat—a sabbath suit/
at edges of the scene—
less resolute—others hope for halo
in suffusion of a scattered beam/
a few—pillars perhaps
on which the world depends—
seek with steady gait and inner eye
some rarer fire that transcends

these—by whichever light—
shoppers, window and real—
corner talkers—passersby—
sole strollers—youthful clusters—pairs—
hawkers—merchants—movie goers—
wedding guests—and diners—
each and all illumined
full willed and blent
(despite a thousand disparate strivings)
in quest for stuff and spirit
of survival and ascent—
destinies envisioned or past sight—
these—oh papa walt—
flare—flicker—or flame—
these are your flambeaus of the night

The HyperTexts