Pay Phone on the Ground

Instagram Poem #6

Pay Phone on the Ground. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Pay Phone on the Ground

A metal pay phone
splayed on the ground
near my apartment
building dumpster,
a relic from the
pre-digital age—
anthropological
evidence of
20th-century
American life.
Model discontinued
and no iOS update
to install.

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Church Park

Instagram Poem #5

Church Park

While walking to work,
I pass a little park
located next to
Grace Episcopal Church.
It reminds me of the scenery
from the movie The Quiet Man.

And in the early morning stillness,
I half expect
John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara
to come striding toward me
along the path.

It’s yet another example
of how I have to live vicariously
through cinema,
since I am confident
my feet will never touch
Irish soil.

The Quiet Man movie image.

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Sunday Morning Poem

Instagram Poem #4

Slippers found near a park bench in downtown Syracuse. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Mystery Slippers

Sunday morning:
a pair of white slippers
left near a park bench
in downtown Syracuse.

Questions abound:
Who owns the shoes
and where did the person
sleep last night?

No answers to be found,
so instead cue Johnny Cash’s
big, beautiful voice singing
“Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down.”

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Lonely Tricycle

Another example of an Instagram poem.

Discarded tricycle. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Lonely Tricycle

A tricycle
left near
a dumpster,
discarded.
Now in need
of little feet
to power
the machine,
spurring movement
on the sidewalk
and evoking
hollers of joy,
while parents
follow close behind.
Or at least
that’s what I see
in my mind.

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Instagram Poems

I am doing a final edit on my next poetry manuscript, entitled Outward Arrangements, as I prepare for self-publishing. It’s a full-length collection of narrative, philosophical and observational poems written in free-verse style.

Several poems in one section of the book originated as the text in Instagram posts. All of them are short, and the images, scenes and words came to me as I walked in my city of Syracuse prior to the pandemic.

During the month of December, I thought it would be fun to share some of the poems and the photographs that inspired them. The first image points to a mystery I encountered while jogging one day.

Baby Stroller on Sidewalk. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Baby Stroller on the Sidewalk

A stroller parked
on the sidewalk.

No parent present.
No wailing heard.

Just a question
Without an answer:
Where did the baby go?

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Poems Out Loud

In the past I posted numerous poems to the site PoemHunter. When I visited the site recently, I noticed the poems had an audio component created by a computer-generated voice, which I found very entertaining. Here are a few examples.

 

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Three Poems

With today being Halloween, I want to share two seasonal poems and one speculative poem.

The first is a narrative poem that attempts to capture the spirit of trick-or-treating in a rural area.

Photo by James Wheeler via Pexels.com

Halloween on Lamphear Road

Blackness shrouds the land
between the houses on a
long stretch of rural road
in Rome, New York.

You and your best friend
are shining flashlights
as you go trick-or-treating
on a Halloween night.
The smells of cow manure,
burning leaves and ripe apples
permeate the air.

You and your friend walk briskly
along the edge of the road,
chattering about sports,
movies and girls—
trying not to express
the terror you both feel as you
navigate the darkness.

You fear a witch, a ghost
or another malevolent force
will emerge from the adjacent fields,
snatch you and fly away.

You tell yourself to calm down
and keep walking—you are safe
and there’s nothing to be afraid of
on this country road.
And all you have to do is make it
to the next house, the next doorbell,
the next fun-size Snickers bar.

Photo by Eberhard Grossgasteiger via Pexels.com

This next poem has bothered me for several years. It doesn’t sit right with me and I probably shouldn’t post it, but it has a strong autumn theme and it seems appropriate for a weekend in which we turn our clocks back.

Falling Back

Alone on an empty school playground in Toledo, Ohio,
my worn-out sneakers shuffle on concrete,
as I practice left-handed hook shots
on a bent basketball rim with a rusted chain-link net.
The sound of the bouncing ball reverberates off the school’s red brick facade,
as my reflection jumps out at me in the first-floor windows
adorned with orange paper jack-o’-lanterns.

A towering oak tree with thick branches
observes me as I throw up an air ball from three-point land.
It studies my movements while a sharp wind
strips away its cloak of golden-brown leaves.

The cold sticks to my fingertips as I lick them
to get a better grip on the Spalding rubber ball.
And with my nose running and my chest heaving,
I swallow the chill in the air, trapping it deep inside my lungs.

I pick up my dribble … stop … smell … look and listen.
Street lights flicker on,
and across the road a pumpkin is perched on the porch of a white house.
The smell of burning leaves wafts through the suburban neighborhood.
Charcoal-gray clouds dominate the sky,
and on the western horizon, near a row of pine trees,
there’s a feathering of soft pink light.

At the nearby park, soccer goals stand idle,
and on the gravel softball field,
silence reigns on the base paths and outfield grass.
In the schoolyard, monkey bars are free of tiny, groping hands,
and empty swings sway in the stiff autumn breeze—
as the wind calls out for the children to return.

Photo by Dominika Roseclay via Pexels.com

The Chill

Marble statues, pale and worn,
flash me scowls
as I take a long walk
down the aisle eternal,
where a bride in white
stands lovely and radiant.
She beckons me closer,
waving me on, until I
drop into the everlasting abyss.

She shrieks as the earth
swallows me whole.
But this place hath
no fury or fire, only a toll,
paid with collected sins
and a blackened soul.

And this domain is
no less dreadful than a
frigid castle or cardboard box.
It is without torture and torment—
no gnashing of teeth,
just a mundane domicile.

Yet something is amiss.
Ah yes,
despair clings to the walls
since God has been thrown out
by the occupants.
His spirit is absent and ignored
in this dank stone place
lacking light and an exit.

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The Best of Kindness Anthology

One of my poems is published in a new anthology titled The Best of Kindness 2020. It’s a collection of poems written about Kindness from the Origami Poems Project’s summer 2020 poetry contest.

Cover art by Lauri Burke.

The poems fall into the following categories: Compassion, Constancy, Gratitude, Adversity, Our Muted Brethren and Perspectives. My poem was a finalist. Here’s the verse:

Class Photo

Seeing every person
As a 12-year-old child
Taking a school photo
Eliminates any animosity
You may have for that person.
When you imagine
The awkward kid squinting
At the camera lens—
You discover yourself
Staring back at you.

My sixth-grade class photo.

 

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