I remember that lost New Year’s Eve of my youth, staring amazed out of those tinted hotel windows into a vast night littered with raging starbursts and glittery, gunpowder salvos.

They scattered their sparkling ashes out onto the sandy, Vegas floor like some kind of coveted salute – a ceremony held more often there than perhaps anywhere else in the world, but far more rare in its poignance than my childish mind could ever have comprehended.

Through the glass I could see the last remnants of what was once The Hacienda casino, or as I’d eventually understand it, a lingering monument to the days of yore when kids weren’t welcome on The Strip and maturity meant being old enough to bet your entire savings away in one bad hand of blackjack.

I didn’t know it then, but it was approximately 11:45 that late December evening when I was touched by what could merely be described as the specter of my generation’s future – a ghost all parts Hunter S. Thompson and Mortal Kombat, coupled with years of internet addiction and spiritual neglect.

It is only now I realize how the phantom of Raoul Duke himself came to me just before the blast, whispering in my ear the sad disillusionment from his own mythical Vegas journey and the fact how drugs aren’t always needed to see the true distorted mayhem being peddled as facts in front of our bewildered faces.

For it was on that day one of the last true pieces of old Vegas would be blown into oblivion, taking with it a generation of corrupted dreams and frivolous excess that paved the way for decades ahead, ushering in an era of fallen debris mistaken for useful parts called the post-9/11, Millenial wish.

It was what my generation would inherit, what I am forced to sift through daily and contemplate as I mock the shattered pieces of what they claimed would be a future, now no more indistinguishable than the broken smithereens of an aging hotel long past its prime.

They said there would be jobs at the end of our pointless schooling. They wanted us all to work. They guilted us when we failed. Our efforts never seemed enough.

They believed it would be easy, and if it was wasn’t, we were always lazy.

The children of perpetual debt – “snowflakes” far too precious or fragile for the world around them which they agreed was best kept mad.

Or unjust, as times have proven, with innocent blood still lining the streets – men killed from bias and arrogance, both two things our forebears loved.

None of us wanted to gamble with these lives so wracked from evils built on bricks bad fathers told us would sustain what house they left.

Slot machines stacked against us were our options chasing happiness, choosing chance and probable misery over dreams we’d barely earned.

Sadly, soon, our odds grew worse.

I’m not sure their hope was worthy of enduring months gone missing among plagues such guilt has wrought.

Before The Hacienda fell, there was 15 minutes of waiting – a quarter of an hour spent thinking somehow none of this seemed quite right.

Perhaps it was just the lull before bombs brought down that building, or the notion somewhere out there those loud echoes would continue to ring.

Like they have until this day, deep inside my mind so weary from awaiting God’s good fortune so my words might still be heard.

I’ve traded every verse for the hands my wife provided, what true solace fate has gifted while instilling fear towards death.

It’s that panic which insists I should keep these memories naked, write them down and claim significance where I fear there might be none.

I stand by what that winter trip has provided me in hindsight.

The smoke I watched spread thin from the suite my parents rented had dispersed and left me visions of our legacy burnt too soon.

We didn’t even stand chance.

On top came another hotel.

I’ve visited Vegas since, but nothing trumps that memory where today and tomorrow whimper while they clash with continuing sins – an ongoing penance mentioned through its scene of spectacular chaos, an image of collective demons being traded for ones much worse.

We went from champagne toasts and controlling demolitions to fake news with dangerous rumors fueling deaths by pulled-down masks.

I’m still wandering that dark desert with my eyes half-closed in horror, hearing cheers of countless people so oblivious to what comes next.

There I shall dwell confused, without closure but explosions – remaining sick and surely doubtful while my faith’s oasis dries.

Forever yesterday’s neighbor – noise eternal beyond those borders.

Nevada 96’. One hell of a place to be.

  • J. Pigno

I’m pretending
Days don’t pass
To stall what meaning
Dwindles
As it fades
From hours begging
Such short minutes
Find some hope

Lasting only
For what seems fast

When in truth
Reality lingers

Beyond bodies
Always failing
With each dream
Our suffering takes

Doing tasks
Through gasping breaths

Making chores
Of empty spaces

While enduring
Boredom evident
By this fact all faith
Should yield

Under pressures
Measuring lengths
Easy gods
Have called successes

Purely hateful
Though still raging
Against freedoms
Time does hold

Fearing nothing
But men’s laws

Pressing rules
Upon forever

Pitting duty
Against divinity
Losing trust
Between both worlds.

How does waiting
Seem more fair
Than experience
Idly wasted

Immaterial
Though oddly finite

Proving boundaries
Nature’s joke?

Passion thrives
Where doubt recedes
Deeming worry
Inexplicable

Falsely gauged
Among expressions
Swearing feelings
Keep us whole.

Life’s real mystery
Promising death
Knows now art
Outwits extinction

Like those limits
Science has worshipped

Becoming gospel
Inevitably preached.

  • J. Pigno

“Nothing else matters but this.”

I’m watching television late at night with my wife laying close besides me, sharing pillows under our covers by the glow of that bedroom screen.

Creeping through these shutters flows a breeze within our windows, ushering traces of gentle echoes from a world now growing dark.

I’m thinking about what it’s like – being out there among the silence, the whispers of evening gusts dragging paper bags down my street.

Today, I’m lost in dreaming, wandering places where I’m not – believing there is freedom beyond memories called escape.

A show plays as we fall asleep. It’s a classic from when we were kids. A comedy featuring segments, displaying silly scenes on loop.

My eyes are almost closed.

It’s now 1995.

Mom takes me to see a movie every Friday after school.

She buys me a burger and fries. There is a toy inside each package – a doll from the films we attended.

I still have them to this day.

  1. I wake up dreading morning.

Sunlight finds me withering slowly – not outside, but where it counts.

I’m staring at another game, thinking someday I might learn answers at the other end of this small controller always drenched from nervous sweat.

In 1995, toys were reasons for adventure. I’d imagine I was a hero chasing quests wherever I went.

Perhaps it was just the yard. Somehow spaces felt much bigger.

Everything had potential current fears just seem to crush.

That’s how I know it’s gone – what was perfect and always special. I can’t leave my house from worry or the fact this world will end.

I’m repeating the same dawn twice.

No, three times.

Soon, forever.

My anger keeps me wishing that tomorrow things can change.

Will I ever see the sea shore where I spent my summers young?

Again, without exposure or concern my life should cease?

I want my wife to see one last time before this virus lays true waste to every virtue even God himself has lost.

Once more, she should enjoy what was oddly taken for granted – simple moments sharing dinner amid friends whose laughter warms.

Back in 1995, I am walking near the ocean. My father clasps my fingers making sure I will not fall.

I fear I may have broken as I cycle through these minutes, these empty sighs of waiting stealing breaths I’m sure are weak.

The TV flashes dimly. It’s another dusk together.

She’s smiling while she holds me. And it all makes so much sense.

I’d endure this pain again. Not for me, but gaining meaning.

Finding reasons she has given choosing me forever as hers.

We might never accept our present.

I don’t think it’s safe exploring.

2020 I’d gotten married. 1995 be damned.

“Nothing else matters but this.”

I miss comforts surely fleeting.

But childhood is found between us.

Stuck at home is fine by me.

  • J. Pigno

To God
I’m a disappointment,

And the rest
Just His running joke –

That son who could
Always be better,

Some child
Still failing at work

In ways
Where rebellion lingers
As idleness
Sought before toil
Values leisure
Rather than meaning
Or expression
Earned over cash,

Knowing people
Prefer their safeties
Precede what dreams
Should elude them
When seeking life
Amid reasons
Other doubters
Believe are true.

Perhaps this fear
Is successful,

Though sensibly ruined
Seeking ignorance,

Which dictates loss
Deemed essential
Pushing faith
So reliant on proof –

But hilarious lies
Disappear
If evidence learned
Becomes jaded
Through distractions
Constantly laughing
Among whispers
Hiding my words

While speaking
Behind thinning veils
Sharing truths
Most fools never witness,

Watching grownups
Worship disaster
Chasing snickers
Created with sin.

Soon every wish
Will gain dust,
Sitting shelved
Among ludicrous giggles –

Sharing wisdoms
Silently mentioned,
Telling tales
By appearance alone.

I humor those souls
Fallen deaf,

Too scared
For hearing new voices,

Or guffawing now
All around me

As comedy
Judges right back.

  • J. Pigno

Abandoning
These words
Is like running
From my God
As they find me
Facing penance
For what sins
Such silence brings,

Grieving days
Now lacking light
By their absent flame
Once kindled –
Bearing wisdoms
Left extinguished
Held inside
Like dying truths,

Since this ash
Shares certain smoke
Where each fear
May mother candles
Long before
Beliefs can answer
Through new wicks
Lost faith must trim.

There is scripture
Being burned
Upon tongues
Obscuring fire,
Hiding open pits
Still raging
Within mouths
Who’ve fallen mute.

I’m convinced
Creation suffers
When depression
Stifles meaning,
Trying hard
While missing nothing
But that peace
Remaining numb.

Some expressions
Force our wills
Towards redemption
More outspoken,
Knowing morning
Beckons waking
Only if blue skies
Show sun.

Should tomorrow
Seem less dark
Than gray clouds
Today has sheltered,
Trust how color
Follows efforts
Fueling dreams
Real feelings rain.

Purpose flares
Among dim stars
Only shining
Before spirits
Never giving up
Those wishes
Across heavens
Gleaming ink.

  • J. Pigno

How I’ve missed
These graphic tales
Which inspire dreams
Through heroes
Tackling feats
Sustaining wishes
Despite life itself
Gone wrong

Across panels
Side by side
Spread like murals
Faith inhabits
Where our myths
Gain honest meaning
Letting pictures
Show us God

Knowing deities
Do exist
Not in skies
Or drawn on pages
But much closer
Than expected
Sharing visions
Hope imbues

Watching failure
Run its course
Making villains
Seem more special
While true legends
Rise above them
Learning losses
Build strong wills

Fighting fear
Though still unsure
Any wisdoms learned
Can linger
If that issue
Come tomorrow
Should find stories
Incomplete

As each destiny
Unfolds
Over eras gold
From virtue
Turning silver now
Soon brooding
Almost bronze
Since darkness waits

Beyond duties
Never done
Finding reasons
Worth enduring
Turning underdogs
Towards glory
Along journeys
Seeking fate

Squashing doubts
With every pose
Proving innocence
Eternal
Among hearts
Whose champions capture
Imaginations
Left untouched.

  • J. Pigno

I’ve got holes
In empty walls
Where this fist
Leaves jagged imprints
Making marks
Of disappointment
During days
Such anger builds,

Screaming loudly
Down long halls
Thinking no one
Ever hears me
Except ghosts
Whose silent vigil
Judges memories
Hands express

And mouths bleed
Through spoken angst
Spilling verse
Once thought cathartic
Soon replaced
By brutal methods
While still crying
Fears out loud –

Causing echoes
Cursing pasts
Lacking reasons
But obsession
With that hurt
Recurring always
Every day
Her words ring true.

How our picture
Went right there
Holding spaces
White from blankness
Tracing outlines
Accidentally
Marking dust
Around each frame –

Happy scenes
Like better days
Now long gone
Among lost portraits
Beneath attics
Near old comics
Where all heroes
Go to die,

Under boxes
Shedding dust
Finding innocence
Going dormant
Burying childhood
Getting married
Having kids
Then getting sick.

Some realities
Temper faith
Despite miracles
Caught on camera
Once removed
Though felt forever
Even present
As they fade.

  • J. Pigno

I’ve closed
An open burner
Because flames
Are always jealous
Of those chefs
Who cook inspired
By what faith
Remains so cool,

Even under
Heavy heat
Or those lies
Which keep us guessing
Whose expression
Says it better
Felt with meaning
Much more pure –

Always real
Despite man’s needs
For this flesh
Still being nourished
Begging truth
And taste substantial 
Where cuisine
Becomes our hearts,

Held inside
These stomachs raw
Now ingested
Like we’ve waited
For that special love
God promised
On His table
Breaking bread.

Yet some stoves
Ignite from dreams
Boiling wishes
Once unnoticed
As they seethe
Without attentions
Left neglected
Till things waste,

Making smoke
When ovens burst
Hearing whistles
Loudly wailing
Over reasons
Turned to cinders
Finding life
Has no alarm.

Forgive skeptics’
Charred remains
Among wordplay
Lacking beauty
Knowing phrases
Melt disaster
If implying
Blazes work,

Torching lines
Good food ignores
Only pleased
While savoring talents
Atop tongues
Such sweetness lingers
Chewing prayer
Alongside art.

  • J. Pigno

We are never
Relieved of shadows
Which trace our pasts
Like phantoms
Chasing steps
Each darkness follows
To remind us
Time stands still

Where memories
Pursue this pace
Towards tomorrow’s grief
Uncertain
Of the shape which
Yesterday colors
Trailing changes
Misery loves

In haunted walks
Through sunshine
When guilt itself
Chews brightness
And fear ensues
While believing
Beneath that sky
Unsure

If God looks down
Disgusted
With sins who stroll
Besides us
Even more pronounced
From daylight
As beating rays
Cast stones

Since silhouettes
Mock our stride
Dancing close behind
Though exposure
Means further proof
Their existence
Threatens those
Whose life seems fair

Or pleasant
Before they strike
Smacking grins off
Smiling faces
Like pure souls
Suffering torment
For these reasons
Now long gone

Learning pain
Has multiple forms
Whose features
Deceptively carry
Tiny truths
Upon old figures
Good gestures
Never quite fix

Only building hells
Less known
Than deepest pits
Always nearest
By turning backs
Just adjacent
Finding demons
Pressed against walls.

  • J. Pigno

Relieve me
Of empty breaths
Where each gasp
Means struggling daily
Through their effort
To find what cadence
Still exists
Inside this chest,

As I wrestle
With stifling words
Whose pressures
Weigh down on solace
Leaving burdens
So vaguely inspired
Placed above what dreams
Should talk –

How my heart
Heaves heaviest loads
When believing whims
Beyond reasons
Worth losing sleep
For expression
Or dying young
Chasing art,

Each sudden wish
Once pursued
Now finding air
Much more precious
If neglecting
Spontaneous pleasures
Like these lungs
Whose inhalation fails.

Just accept
Forever is gone
While the mind which speaks
Stays silent
Growing lethal
Besides that anger
Since abandoning faith
Through life’s pen,

Always claiming
Tomorrow has jaded
An impossible phrase
Learning patience
Seeking heaven
Between some pages
No truth but hell
Could perceive.

God’s answers
Rest soundly with pain
So peace itself
Might seem harmful
Disappointing lies
Sharing beauty
Only tired lines
May convey,

How poems fear
Being wrong
By agreeing prose
Lacking color
Approaches ends
Coming quickly
Begging purposes
Forcefully felt.

  • J. Pigno