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Keith Montesano


Before the Fires

This was before the fires, before boarded doors
and everyone clawing, before a way out, roads collapsing

into potholes, telephone poles snapped in half,
hanging by the last nerve. There was this man:

earrings and make-up stolen from his dead wife,
pink dress with white pumps clicking on the floor

of the East Side Dairy, where we rotted our teeth with candy
before grade school. We knew nothing of love and obsession,

madness or plain speech: the way his voice heightened
toward the pitch of hers, his fits of tears at the counter, palm

on a pack of Camels. There was the checkout girl glaring through
the man's eyes, trying to conjure her own future: her first

backseat groping, mansion and five children, anything but a soul
torn from the love of a man and his wife, something you could

actually see, maybe, through the smudged shadow and sweat
on the counter. And if you look now, something's there-

passing through, stopping to offer the difference
between the space of our world and the next: the sweet, stained

tongues of children, and those wrenched sobs of a man
who could never find his own way out.

Prayer: 3200 Hanover Avenue

Bless the arm of the hand of the fingers soon to put the metal
        to his chest, fingertips stretching over the counter,
their slips and misses, bless the smeared windows, the shades

        within reach, bless the method of it all, radio between
stations, static flips to thinner voices, bless your work boots
        and their echoes above, the microwave's hum and ring

through the ceiling, years-passed and caked-on rain, bless the fire
        escape and faces jarred from sleep, soles down the steps,
your eyes toward lovers from doors onto balconies, bless

        your fingers for dialing, hands for their holding,
your voice for its speaking, legs for their shaking, bless
        the rest in your building, hands gripped around phones

and their mouths, and bless the minutes, the wait, the wait
        still passing, split-crack of the barrel, the one
empty shell, bless the snap of the gurney into place, bless

        the whiteness, his shrouded body, bless the police tape
rolled to unroll again, the wheels as they move once more
        bless the arm and the hand, the fingers, that metal.

Watching Youngstown

The chopper's scanning fields and woods beside me
for someone escaped-mentally unstable

or a murderer I'll never know. I make it outside
as the snow keeps drifting down, beating soundlessly

its precise, pale fire.
                             Stomach flu and wrist-thick
knots curling through the gut-whirled blades

still seething over the house like hawks soaring,
methodically plotting the best route to a field mouse.

Back inside: skewed mug shots on television,
local Youngstown news: raped girlfriend, duplex

cored from arson, a son shooting his mother. Stories

always the same: pummel and discharge, strangle

and blood clot. And while I'm lying flat, willing each deep
breath, I forget the process:
                                        How do you escape a home in flames?

                   -from Ghost Lights




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Christianne Balk 07-27-07

Brian Barker 07-07-07

Polina Barskova 09-13-2010

Bruce Beasley 11-22-08

Nicky Beer 09-06-2010

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Nathaniel Bellows 04-27-09

Ciaran Berry 01-25-09

Linda Bierds 08-31-07

Kristin Bock 08-17-09

Brian Brodeur 03-29-09

Michelle Boisseau 09-20-2010

Anne Caston 09-24-09

Nicole Cooley 04-05-09

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Elizabeth Dodd 09-05-08

Karen Donovan 04-15-07

Mark Doty 04-11-08

Stephen Dunn 11-09-02010

Lynn Emanuel 08-30-2010

Lynnell Edwards 11-22-2010

B. H. Fairchild  09-04-09

Nick Flynn 10-04-2010

Carolyn Forche 09-21-07

James Galvin 02-23-07

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Dana Gioia 08-23-2010

Eugene Gloria 09-20-08

Louise Gluck 03-17-2010

Kevin Goodan 08-29-08

Matthew Graham 11-28-2010

Robert Grunst 11-16-07

Elizabeth Hadaway 06-15-07

Donald Hall 02-10-07

Jeff Hardin 08-10-07

Brooks Haxton 03-08-10

Seamus Heaney 09-11-09

Jamey Hecht 12-05-2010

Dennis Hinrichsen 11-02-07

Andrew Hudgins 11-21-09

Lynda Hull 05-20-07

Major Jackson 05-02-2010

Mark Jarman 10-19-08

Rodney Jones 10-26-09

Barbara Jordan 02-02-09

Brigit Pegeen Kelly 10-12-08

Jane Kenyon 04-01-07

James Kimbrell 04-07-2010

James Kimbrell 01-19-07

Galway Kinnell 11-09-07

Yusef Komunyakaa 07-15-07
Phil Levine 06-03-07

Eleanor Lerman 11-02-08

Larry Levis 04-04-08

Larry Levis 02-08-2010

Sandy Longhorn 04-26-08

Corey Marks 10-03-07

Adrian Matejka 04-18-08

Davis McCombs 01-18-08

Michael McGriff 02-22-09

Jay Meek 01-16-2010

Anne Michaels 01-18-09
Nils Michals 02-29-08

Keith Montesano 12-12-2010

Malena Morling 05-12-08

Simone Muench 02-08-08

Sharon Olds 02-22-07

Sharon Olds 10-19-07

Michael Ondaatje 02-01-2010

Eric Pankey 09-07-07

Gregory Pardlo 06-22-07

Ed Pavlic 09-28-07

Oliver de la Paz 02-15-2010

Lucia Perillo 12-04-09

Donald Platt 02-15-08

Joshua Poteat 11-3-09

Amy Randolph 03-01-09

Robert Randolph 12-12-09

Adrienne Rich 04-20-2010

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David Roderick 12-07-07

Pattiann Rogers 3-21-08

Steve Scafidi 10-09-09

Jim Schley 10-19-09

Tim Seibles 10-08-07

David Shumate 10-26-08

Dave Smith 04-10-09

Katherine Soniat 11-30-07

Gary Soto 03-23-07

Mark Sullivan 08-28-09

Frank Standford 10-25-2010

Mark Strand 02-22-2010

Mark Svenvold 03-23-09
Brian Turner 05-13-07

Tribute to Virginia Tech 04-24-07

Charles Harper Webb 10-12-07

C.K. Williams 05-25-07

Susan B.A. Somers-Willett 06-29-07

Charles Wright 01-27-07

Robert Wrigley 10-11-2010

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