Hippocampus Forgets

I’m excited to share that my short story “Hippocampus Forgets” appears in Issue 990 of Bewildering Stories, an online magazine for speculative writing. It’s a fantasy story about a female hippopotamus. The idea sprang from a goofy thought I had one day—what if a hippopotamus named Hippocampus suffered memory problems? The idea set me off on a long road of writing, revising, and rejection before finally getting accepted.

Image by brgfx on Freepik.

The best part of the whole process was following the internal drama of the character Hippocampus, a mother of four who keeps forgetting the name of her youngest child, her son Corpe. Her memory lapse stems from a violent premonitory dream that serves as a warning as Corpe’s fifth birthday approaches.

Image by brgfx on Freepik.

In writing the first draft, I felt like I served as a portal for Hippocampus to materialize. I wasn’t so much writing as dictating the story from her. It’s a rare occurrence for me, but in this case, I followed the characters where they wanted me to go. And nearly six-thousand words later, “Hippocampus Forgets” was born.


Dostoyevsky Doorstop

I just finished reading David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Clocking in at nearly 800 pages, the book remained in my Kindle library for more than a year. Even as I skipped through page after page, the completion rate remained at about 62 percent. I thought I would never finish. Now I am tackling another classic tome of literature—The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I’m only 27 pages into it, and I’m already confused by the multiple characters the author has introduced. But I think having a print copy will make the reading easier than Copperfield.

I always struggle with longer novels, but they can also be the most satisfying. Two of my favorite novels are longer works—Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe and The Town and the City by Jack Kerouac.

I’m approaching Karamazov like I mentally approach a Central New York winter. You can’t see the end of winter in late October. You have to take it one day at a time, one snowstorm at a time. So I can’t anticipate reading the last sentence of page 985 and then closing the book. I just have to plug along, page by page, day by day until I reach the end. My goal is to finish by Christmas.


Memories of Mr. Lanzi

Francis DiClemente

I heard the sad news that one of my favorite teachers, Anthony Lanzi, passed away. This is an essay I wrote about him a few years ago.

Mr. Lanzi’s sixth-grade class, DeWitt Clinton Elementary School, Rome, New York (1980-81). I’m third from the left in the first row.

Our sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Lanzi, was a towering figure with a swarthy complexion and dark, wavy hair teased high and coated with hairspray. Not a strand seemed out of place. Imagine, if you will, a taller, thinner, nattier version of Elvis Presley. That’s how I remember Mr. Lanzi.

I think he had previously studied or worked in the theater, and he wore a hint of makeup to class—light powder on his cheeks—as if he might be called upon in the middle of a school day to fill the role of an understudy and he wanted to be prepared to take the stage…

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Tree on the Horizon

I know winter is not over yet, but my favorite time of the year is snowmelt season in Syracuse. A blanket of white still covers the ground, but the roads are mostly clear. I have probably jinxed us with a big lake-effect mess in the near future.

I like how the trees remain stoic with their naked branches (prior to blooming in spring). I captured this photo while traversing through my neighborhood on my Sunday walk.

Tree on the Horizon. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

March is filled with good things. We have Lenten fish fry specials and St. Patrick’s Day. And I think it’s the best time of year for sports fans. The NCAA basketball tournament, NHL and NBA playoffs, and the start of the MLB season all loom on the horizon. So I will enjoy these March days as we get ready to transition from winter to spring.


Glimpses of Existence Now Streaming

I am excited and honored to announce that my experimental documentary short Glimpses of Existence has found a distribution home at OTV – Open Television. You can find it here.

“OTV is an Emmy-nominated nonprofit platform for intersectional television, with artists and their creative visions at the center.”

Glimpses of Existence premiered in 2021 in an online screening presented by NewFilmmakers NY.

It’s a zero-budget film in the form of video collage. I took inspiration from the experimental films of Jonas Mekas, in particular Walden. Using poetry and scenes captured with my iPhone—primarily during the pandemic—the film attempts to find meaning in the ephemeral moments of our lives, seeking the extraordinary amid the ordinary.

The central focus of the film is my son, Colin, who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Despite his condition, Colin finds joy in everyday activities, and through his eyes we recognize the importance of treasuring the tiny segments of life we are granted—minutes, seconds, hours—while being reminded about the transitory nature of existence.

Glimpses is a companion piece to a previous experimental documentary—Fragments of the Living. You can download the @weareotv app Free on Apple, Android, Roku, and FireTV, or stream at watch.weareo.tv.


Celebrating Seven Years

I don’t usually post family-related stuff on this blog, but I wanted to share that we celebrated Colin’s seventh birthday on Sunday. And last Friday morning, Colin completed his feeding therapy program at the Golisano Center for Special Needs. The amazing staff there gave him presents, a card, a certificate, and a cap and gown—which he refused to wear.

Colin is not interested in wearing the cap.

Staff members streamed into his therapy room, saying things like: “Congratulations. Way to go, buddy. You did it. You worked so hard. We’re so proud of you.”

As the father of an autistic child, I realize the importance of celebrating these milestones, these little victories along the way. But the main credit belongs to my wife, Pam, who took Colin to therapy every weekday morning, drove him to school afterward, and employed the tools of therapy at home.

Colin playing in the feeding therapy room.

And Colin has made significant progress. Before we started the program, his diet consisted of milk with yogurt, Entenmann’s Little Bites muffins (brownie flavor), Chips Ahoy! and Oreo cookies, and different varieties of potato chips.

Now he will eat yogurt with a spoon, cereal bars, Life and Cheerios cereal (no milk), French toast, and pizza.

He entertains me with the way he eats pizza in stages. He eats the cheese first and then the sauce, before digging out the dough and leaving behind the crust, like a shell (which I usually eat).

Colin’s feeding therapy certificate.


On Sunday morning, Pam made pancakes for his birthday, but Colin opted for potato chips. Later in the day, he blew out the number 7 candle on his cake, licked some frosting and ate the candy balloons on top, and then picked at a slice of Wegmans’ cheese pizza.

Colin’s birthday cake.

He also played with the foam blocks and dice Pam bought him, and he slipped on the slightly oversized Pokémon Crocs. I think the shoes were his favorite present.

It’s hard to imagine he is now seven years old. It seems like just yesterday we brought him home from the hospital—Pam and I both nervous (me terrified) about being new parents. And about two-and-a-half years after his birth, we received the official diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and adjusted our expectations for our child.

Colin celebrating his seventh birthday.

Life with Colin is fraught with challenges, but the joy of his presence illuminates our days.

And he’s showing improvement. He talks a little when prompted by Pam and he can add and subtract now.

I am grateful for this little boy, and he has taught me love and patience beyond my perceived ability, beyond what I thought I was capable of.

I’ll leave you with a silly little poem.

Poem for Colin

Seven years old.
The joy of our son.
Sadness for
Lack of communication.
But love everlasting.

Colin sporting his new Crocs.


Musings by Marcus

I recently finished Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, and so many poetic passages in the book stuck with me.

This line in the Amazon description sums up the book: “Nearly two thousand years after it was written, Meditations remains profoundly relevant for anyone seeking to lead a meaningful life.”

Meditations: A New Translation Paperback by Marcus Aurelius and translated by Gregory Hays.

Here are some of my favorite passages.

Book Two: On the River Gran, Among the Quandi

17. Human life.

Duration: momentary. Nature: changeable. Perception: dim. Condition of Body: decaying. Soul: spinning around. Fortune: unpredictable. Lasting Fame: uncertain. Sum Up: The body and its parts are a river, the soul a dream and mist, life is warfare and a journey far from home, lasting reputation is oblivion.

Book Three: In Carnuntum

10. Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see.

Book Seven:

22. To feel affection for people even when they make mistakes is uniquely human. You can do it, if you simply recognize: that they’re human too, that they act out of ignorance, against their will, and that you’ll both be dead before long. And, above all, they they haven’t really hurt you.

Book Eight:

36. Don’t let your imagination be crushed by life as a whole. … Then remind yourself that past and future have no power over you. Only the present—and even that can be minimized.

44. Give yourself a gift: the present moment.

Book Nine:

13. Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions—not outside.

Book Ten:

17. Continual awareness of all time and space, of the size and life span of the things around us. A grape seed in infinite space. A half twist of a corkscrew against eternity.

18. Bear in mine that everything that exists is already fraying at the edges, and in transition, subject to fragmentation and to rot. Or that everything was born to die.

Book Twelve:

2. God sees all our souls freed from their fleshly containers, stripped clean of their bark, cleansed of their grime. He grasps with his intelligence alone what was poured and channeled from himself into them. If you learn to do the same, you can avoid a great deal of distress. When you see through the flesh that covers you, will you be unsettled by clothing, mansions, celebrity—the painted sets, the costume cupboard?


Words in the Night

This never happens to me—a poem came to me in a dream. Granted, it’s not much of a poem. But I appreciate the intercession of some muse tapping on my head while I slept.

In the dream, a news report revealed that artist Alanis Morissette had suffered an accident and had lost her singing voice (fortunately not true).

I was standing in the middle of a coffee shop when I heard the news on TV. I then announced two sentences to the baristas and a few customers seated at a long wood counter. I’ve edited the words slightly, but here’s the result:

The One Thing

What is the one thing
that makes you
uniquely you?
And who would
you become
if you lost that thing?

The beauty (and terror) of the question is that the response is different for everyone.


Literary Words of Wisdom

While walking yesterday, I encountered the words of famous writers with connections to Syracuse. The quotes were hung on panels attached to a fence adjacent to Forman Park near downtown Syracuse. The Syracuse Writers Project is a public art project created by the Locus Design Group.

The stunning prose of Joyce Carol Oates, an alumna of Syracuse University, captured my attention, and the excerpt from her 2002 novel I’ll Take You There seemed suited for the overcast skies on a warmer-than-normal early January day.

Joyce Carol Oates’ quote, excerpted from I’ll Take You There (2002, Ecco Press).

Joyce Carol Oates’ quote, as part of The Syracuse Writers Project.

Tree and sky. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Other writers quoted include Twilight Zone creator and Syracuse native Rod Serling; F. Scott Fitzgerald, who resided in Syracuse as a child; the late Syracuse University alums Shirley Jackson and Lou Reed; the late poet, short story writer and creative writing professor Raymond Carver, who taught at SU; and the late writer Toni Morrison, who once lived in Syracuse while working as an editor.

Rod Serling quote.

F. Scott Fitzgerald quote.

Shirley Jackson quote.

Toni Morrison quote.