I remember
My hands going numb
And the scent
Of that musty basement
While thinking of John
In his casket
Just before screaming
For help.

Our guests upstairs
Wouldn’t know
Until sirens blared
Even closer,

Drowning out noise
Getting lower
As an ambulance wailed
Soon behind

When July 4th laughs
Became moans
And barbecue smoke
Obscured faces
Worried how mom
Began screaming
While my uncles
Carried me limp

Onto pillows
Covered with sweat
Where my beating heart
Kept on racing,

Caught breathless
Imagining needles
Piercing both legs
Sensing pins.

It was summer
Of 2010.

Not a day had passed
Since you left me,

Standing up front
While your parents
Told the church
Their son had met God.

I carried your coffin
With friends,

Stayed silent
Through solemn dinner,

Then cried all night
Despite worrying
The vomit just might
Never cease.

That following day
Was surreal.

I couldn’t even
Hold down soda,

Or a piece of bread
Being offered
By those caterers
Scared I seemed sick.

Such nausea
Persisted so long,

Accompanying scenes
Still repeating,

Growing like weeds
Over flowers
Dying from roots
Feeling starved.

Though shocked,
The answer made sense –

There was no choice
Besides panic
To explode
Hiding seething frustration
Falsely composed
Under loads

Far too harsh
For this soul
Growing real fast
Gaining pressure
Rapidly built
Asking questions
Stealing innocence
Lost overnight,

More than grief
Would explain
Or fear itself
Should endanger
Wishing illness
Held genuine meaning
Besides our deaths
Always sad.

The hospital said
I should eat.

They sent me home
After waiting.

Watching fireworks
Bordered betrayal,

Knowing safety
Forever had changed.

  • J. Pigno

Die dreaming alone –
In the end
No love can save us,

Or words
Redeem our sentence
To a lifetime
Rife with grief.

Such verse
Should always speak
Through damaged wills

Lost souls
Whose minds did wander
Long halls
Where faith escaped

When strength
Meant smashing fists
Against closing walls
Called sickness

Behind said doors
Once shuttered
Now unlocked
After sharing abuse.

Those broken holes
Leave marks
But phrases smooth
Bad patches

So real
Such bare expressions
Show turns
From scattered hurt,

Like memories
Oddly strung
Across each phrase
More daring

Than ignoring pain
Thought normal
While obscuring fear

Some films
Play empty rooms
Relying on scripts

Waiting for God
Or others
Directing lies
Shot cheap.

Getting sad
Reveals hope’s voice
Finding solace
Explicitly single,

Despite being open
Making movies
No one could see.

These lines
Are that best attempt
At changing fates
Grown idle,

By better examples
Of real work
Honestly done –

Giving pictures
Capturing clues
All artists take
Buck naked

Since exposure
Becomes second nature
Spilling feelings
Dangerously true,

How rawest wounds
Might tell
What blood was poured

Versus happiness
Begging attention
Feigning confidence
Never approved.

  • J. Pigno

You always tell me
That people
Live forever on film.

Our mutual
Love of cinema
Is something
Exceedingly precious –

Consistently shaping
My worldview,

Providing solace,

And creating
Countless memories
Beyond creation.

We share
A deep love of art –

Such fascination
With fiction,

Because fantasy
Means gauging experience
For us
And making it better.

It is the rubric by
Which we measure
The beauty of
Mortal narratives,

How we often
Strive for better
And aim to achieve
Like legends.

I always said
We are villains
Or heroes
Defending our purpose,

Action figures
In toy stores
For divinity
To open and use.

But you, mom –
You are immortal
To the people
Who feel your presence.

I am
Well beyond lucky.

I get the honor
of being your son.

There is no higher
Than to hear your thoughts
Like whispers,

Your saddest stories
And fears of
Growing forgotten,

Bouncing off walls
Where daydreams
Are reflected off
Glowing TVs –

Gazing upon
Movie magic,

A type you wish
You had.

In fact,
What if I told you,
You were
That kind of magic,

Taking this time
To contemplate
The odds of
Mother and son?

Infinites variables,
The math which
Accounts for sharing,
One fated bond
Only could Himself
Could bestow?

That’s how I swear
You and me
Are significant
Through mutual journeys
Those answers waiting
Remaining blessed
Through hurt.

Your ripples
Scatter across
This pond of
Transient stories,

And to me
They are giant waves
In an ocean
You’ve given life.

How is that
Not eternal?

Remember now
You’re my star,

In our motion picture daydream
Tracing lines with lasting legacy,

A celebrity saint
Still walking
Her red carpet
Within these words.

Theaters outside
Go dark.

But the ones within
Stay lit,

As long as we’re willing
To savor
Those reels our time
Has shown.

I’ll always watch
What’s passed.

And I know you’ll
Be gazing back at me.

Heaven and Earth
So sacred,

Feature presentations

  • J. Pigno

“Some things
Are far more precious
Than keeping this place
Always open,”

He told me
With both arms folded
After hearing his rent
Had been raised,

But an increase in bills
Wasn’t worrisome
When spending what time
Remained crucial

While visiting all night
At the hospital
To sleep by her bed
Where he prayed.

We listened with tears
Through his speech,
Believing each word
An example

Of our crossing paths
Being fated
For relearning truths
Often lost

In our daily lives
Feeling blessed
Despite sacred gifts
Left forsaken,

Whether breath itself
Or one moment
Still seeing God’s sun
Between clouds.

My wife held on
Extra tight
As we walked back home
Sharing glances

Which reminded us,
Even together,
How hardship comes
Testing faith –

From that man
Whose name stayed unknown
Believing those words
Made impressions,

Indelibly marked
Facing sickness
Mortality wields
Over love.

  • J. Pigno

The Inner Harbor
Looked so gray
At the peak of that
Particular summer,

Covered by clouds
Nearly offset
With rays of sun
Peering through,

As I walked past crowds
Sharing tables
Along those fronts
Sporting awnings

Where couples would stop
For their dinners
Dodging such storms
Soon to hit.

It made me think
How my future
Was like those rains

When seeing thick fog
All around me
Build over time
Out of fear –

Worried how lonely
I’d grow
And continue this path
Near the ocean,

Watching small waves
Rattle vessels,
Disturbing big boats
Even docked.

My seaside walk
Had persisted
Well into days
Beyond winter,

Through springs
And autumns apparent
As life still waned
Like that glow

Amid long skies
Hiding woes
Where hopeful beams
Appeared brightest,

Scorching this ground
Getting hotter
And burning each dream
Left behind.

I was lost
Among costumed faces
And stuck between
Visitors laughing,

Truly happy
Besides their partners
I was certain
My God wouldn’t grant

To men like me
Always jealous
As the city itself
Felt ignited

While vacationing pairs
Took their pictures
And attended cons
Dressing up.

My tomorrow
Was laced in regret
Staring back
On empty hotel rooms,

Having nightmares
About strange phone calls
From muses
Who never picked up –

A clock turned dim
Over stoves
Hanging near screens
Quickly flashing

Amid silent suites
Begging questions
Asking answers
She couldn’t reply.

My wife stirs slow
During sleep
As I grab her hand
Just to kiss it,

Still recalling
Those years long before her
When her husband
Was homeless inside –

Suffering fate
Not responding
Across those streets
Once congested

Where his angels
Strolled angry boardwalks
Hearing prayers
Facing heatwaves endured

In museums
Once wandering shipwrecks
Pushing limits
Of imagined disasters,

Throughout memories
Become second nature
The August
Baltimore died.

  • J. Pigno

We’re alone
At the end of this world –

Still disturbed
And sullenly waiting

For an answer
Once spoken in symptoms,

Seeking pills
Knowing God’s unwell,

And carrying dreams
Through our germs
Letting empty words
Offer vessels
Of infected lines
Losing focus
Each time these ills
Try to write.

Their terms
Yield cancerous proof
How unsung hurt
Grows malignant –

Poetic relief
Seizing chaos
Those bodies so weak
Often tell.

Pain means fate
Drawing near.

Damages earned
Demand solace.

Truth brings death
Never witnessed,

An apocalypse
Held deep within –

Coughing up phlegm
After blows
Life’s long wars
Keep inflicting,

Getting kicked while down
Staying honest,

Now screaming out loud
That’s enough.

Some scars
Heal better ignored
Since wounds which bleed
Often thicken

Until such skin
Becomes ready
For enduring new scrapes
Yet again.

But viruses
Tear us apart.

Soon secretly simmers.

Curing them
Requires more miracles
Holding up walls
Humans build.

Providing hope
Doesn’t work.

Fear will pierce
Every armor,

Seeing darkness loom
Behind sunshine
Daylight hides
On repeat.

  • J. Pigno

We might have held
That beautiful wedding,

So serene
On Floridian waters

With an orange sun
Setting behind us
And signaling dusk
As we kissed

Where our hearts
Would trade vows so pure

Turning words
Into something more special

While fireworks
Danced across treetops
And castles loomed
Far overhead –

A miracle
Born in those eyes
Beneath your veil
Sharing glimmers,

Seeing stardust
Shimmering softly
Throughout such curls
Fallen still

After our chance
Finding hope
When magic felt real
For one second

Before waking today
Being nauseous
And crying
From knowing it’s not.

We might have had
A cute little girl
Who looked like mom
Growing older,

But resembled her dad
Very early,

Loving us both
All the same.

Just thinking these things
Shows me God –

Even though pain
Means they happened
Someplace else
Now without me

But potentially real

Remain close by
Until death
Reveals such dreams
Are authentic.

If this is soon fate
I must suffer,
Let me capture it
Poetically first.

  • J. Pigno

My mother had
Bought me a train,

The kind which played
Lights and music,

To remind
How her child is crying
Still somewhere inside
This old man.

I won’t let mom
See any tears
When hearing that toy
While remembering,

Wishing those scenes
Weren’t daydreams
But forever our time
Spent alone,

Not stories
My wife will just learn

Or ghosts
Left having long lunches
Between tables
At restaurants shuttered
Before all hurt
Became real –

Sundays spent home
Without meals,

Worrying sick
Over nothing,

Fighting so long
Even baskets
Bearing gifts
Cause problems
Too much.

Christ did rise
Every Easter,

It’s what we were told
Despite grieving

These once great lives
Getting ruined

Finding sin
Means losing belief –

By doubting God
Through each fear
Built on death
Always looming,

Like being grown up
Around family,

Always silently
Suffering pain.

Thoughts don’t age
But our senses
Fail those truths
Staying youthful,

From knowing disaster
Inevitably falls
After joy –

Behind bright rains
Beneath rainbows
Over grasses
Carelessly watered,

Letting storms
Taint better horizons,

Thinking clouds
Serve blossoming truths

None will feel
Gaining figures
Speaking of love
Soon eternal

Since smiling dolls
Offer solace
Innocence holds
Lacking voice.

  • J. Pigno

I’ve never been
Quite this relieved
From feeling so
Utterly hopeless
When living in fear
Of each heartbeat
Now losing their strength
More and more;

These arrhythmias
Breaking that pulse,

Finding misery
Closer to freedom,

Beyond what breath
Remains fleeting
While clutching my chest
Late at night –

Where God Himself
Wouldn’t pray
Near windows cracked
Along bedsides

Still ignoring words
Barely whispered
Those lonely streets
Never hear

Under fading lamps
Like our own
Watching burning bulbs
Get extinguished

After bearing light
Over decades
Letting surges
Bring them relief

Through electric
Taken by mouth
Sharing answers
Tragedy beckons
If swallowed whole
Before eating
Letting medicine
Numb every nerve

During episodes
Happening fast

(Merely real
But hardly accepted),

Almost comfortable
Knowing death’s coming,

Swearing pills
Will work very soon.

  • J. Pigno

I can’t shake
The ceaseless swaying
Which prevents my days
From meaning

But inspires
This reeling body
To fight
By standing still

And answering
Riddles with verse,

These unsolved ills
Now spoken,

That become my lines
With a fear
Soon censoring souls

Through dizziness
Capturing ways
Such honest words
Feel dangerous

When weighing on minds
Left spinning –

So disturbed
Yet oddly content

While orbiting
Every last dream
Ruined where lives
Fake purpose

Around their hopes

Forgetting how needs
Will whirl.

  • J. Pigno