John Masella is a poet from northern New Jersey, where he lives with his twin
brother. His primary influence is Philip Larkin, and other influences include
Wilfred Owen and Michael Donaghy. His work tends to explore themes of
impermanence and loss, though he's known to write a hopeful poem every now and
again. John has poems published in The Chained Muse and has poems
accepted and pending publication in Verse-Virtual and Westward
It’s hard for one to coldly speculate
About the fate
Of love’s outpourings nobody consumes.
Late-night letter writing in a dim room,
A load that lightens with each stroke of pen:
In your youth, you called out ‘Mom!’ as nightmares
Roused you from your rest? Such nocturnal scares
Perturbed you then,
But as you grew, we laughed about those nights.
I held you tight,
As I, to this day, hold you in my heart.
I love you!” Poured on pages to impart
A soul alight
With passion. I got the note in the mail,
Between a sale
Notification and a couple bills,
And threw it on the dresser near my pills.
Into the pail
Of trash it must have slipped. I can’t be sure.
A gesture pure
As this fades into air without a son
Or daughter welcoming what was hand-spun.
It can’t endure.
Broken bindings in muted earth tones rest
On the slightly sloped shelf, gathering dust,
Each old work perhaps the late author’s best.
Between covers, musings on what’s unjust,
What’s honorable, wretched, righteous, wrong.
You bought them in earnest, heart warm, will strong;
We’d dive in, together, some December,
On snowy evenings spent around the fire.
But plans fade. In separate rooms, we tire,
And years slip past books I don’t remember.
After the Party
Quietude in the party’s aftermath
Eludes echoes of yesterday’s warm hum.
Only sparse remains of those who had come
Dot the place. Footprints scuff the front path,
Slanted gray folding chairs, not quite pushed in,
Wait in vain for past occupants’ return.
Half-empty cups of stale tonic and gin
Yearn to be drunk. Candles wait to burn.
When souls no longer enliven a scene,
Its life fades away like tides from a shore —
Once, a bastion of joy and mirth in store
For all who arrived. Now, a mess to clean,
Nothing more; once, a look at love, found
During its use. Now, no color, no sound.
A Study of Drinking Habits
Hazy nights’ blurred dreams of drinking
Seven beers before the party started
Creep back into view as I lie thinking —
What had I been numbing? Foolish-hearted,
Anxious kid ignoring his misgivings,
Poisoning nerves like bugs with pesticides
I use to drown the creepy-crawly things;
Ripping up my young, once-vital insides
In the name of “fun.” I could have some,
Without much booze, if social goings-on
Had not been frightening. Instead, white rum,
Tequila, vodka, gin. The fear is gone,
But so is time. Regret I can’t express
Remains. So, hear me: drink a little less.
A hundred grievers gather, linking arms,
Like a fence encircling his grave,
As earth engulfs mahogany where farms
Once sprawled; now, just beneath the grass, the brave
And meek lie side by side, like sheep and steers
In endless pastures under clay white skies,
Unfeeling and cold. In his final years,
His brain unraveled; cataracts changed eyes
To gelatin; his spine curved like a bass clef
As he stooped to be still closer to
His since wheelchair-bound wife (as he grew deaf,
He struggled so to keep her in his view
To try to read her lips with broken eyes).
Behind his cushioned chair, as if to taunt,
There hung a photograph, a lasting prize
Of youth, depicting not a shrinking, gaunt,
And hunching specter but a six-foot tall
Brown-eyed and prepossessing, dignified
Young man, unwary of the pain that would befall
Him sixty years later. Then, when he died,
We took that picture from its post and placed
It near the entrance of the funeral home,
Along with dozens more, evenly spaced
Around the room. I’d brought a tiny comb
To put inside his jacket pocket (I
Cut his hair once it became a chore to
Help him leave the house). Everyone will die
In time; when aging starts, they’ll look for you
In relics of the past, when you were young,
And speak of moments finished as though you
Were someone else and were not there among
Them now, as if you didn’t have a clue.
He comes to visit weekly in my dreams.
There, he appears, much stronger, vital, tall
And sound; my lasting view of him, it seems,
Is not unlike the photo on his wall,
And I’m unsure whether I’ve merely coped
with the unending wrath of aging’s storm,
Or if there lies great beauty in the hope
That memory secured his highest form.