Vito Aiuto

Vito Aiuto is the author of a collection of poems called Self-Portrait as Jerry Quarry (New Issues Press). He and his wife, Monique, enjoy playing music as The Welcome Wagon. Their newest record, Light Up The Stairs will come out in late 2016, hopefully.

Religious Music Played by an Antique Musical Box  

Would you let me tell you about the dream you had last night?
You were in a long hallway, swimming upstream, slight,
Pale women moving past, not meeting your eyes but
Muttering, blurry words, faded & slurred, the meaning shut

Behind the windbreak. & how did you feel about it?
Envious! The subtlety of those ladies!

You wish you could be so elusive, feeling as you do
That your own words always beam too bright, like new shoes,
Like the precocious kid who always knows the answer,
So clear, so concise, thus deficient & piteous, sure

To eventually be wilted like a paper flower
Under a 40,000 watt bulb.
 
Then morning comes, the kitchen & radio, the routine.
From the other room the click of an answering
Machine. (We still have an answering machine?) &
The little tape rolls, lapping up the thoughts of an

Unshaven man stationed in the outerboroughs, his prayerbook
Spread wide in his lap, the pages yellowed,

His collar yellowed, & you are heartened to consider
The physicality of them: his words, I mean, conserved
Forever on that little brown strip, written down
By a hulking specter who stands slightly shorter than

A grain of salt. But this mothering instinct some of us
Have: what does it look like?

A handkerchief to tie back her hair? A cigarette break
In the back parking lot of the hospital? An antique
Map of Ohio in the glove box? I’ve always known
This place was teeming with ghosts, but I feel way more alone

Now that they’ve occupied your frame, your taste, your visage, your
Chest a message from beyond, & the distance to the farthest star in the universe
Is only the prologue. That’s only just a place to start.

I’m sure you won’t believe this but I’ve spent almost every night
For the past forty years lying so still, quiet,
Eyes closed, a riot of sound in my skull, retired
School teachers, or my dad (this is my dream now) hired

By the administration to check & see if I’m OK.
If I’ve finally completed my work. I appreciate the gesture,

But no actual help has ever yet come. My granddad
Always drowned the whelps to keep the bitch from weaning, he said
It would hurt her hunt. All of them in a canvas sack
On the dinner table before he left for the lake.

Squirming, but cozy & warm. They did not whimper.
I almost said hideous. I almost told you my real name.

A Present from Frank Sinatra to You on My Birthday

Our summers were spent in the New South, autumn in
the biosphere, winter in a woodstove sand sullying
the hologram, blessing via a twenty-nine cent stamp.
Bleeding through my beloved stocking cap. At the camp
they hired a bloodhound to find my brother but because
the days were cartoons then their sleuth walked on his
back legs, wore a long raincoat and barked with a Bronx pull.
But he was aloof and rarely spoke at all, it was like dealing
with a real dog, responding as he did only to food and booze,
unable to clean the gunk from his own eyes. It’s not as if he was
crying. I’m fearful of what he thought of me when I was
laughing. Sworn statement, ink pad. Maybe he’s never lost
a brother like mine. The pop machine in the lobby ate my second-

to-last, and last, dollar bills, that’s what started me crying. My lessons
almost never get learned. Some people pass out from lack
of sugar, some too much. Some heroin withdrawal, some smacked
in the head with a police stick. Someone’s mother held my head
in her palm and dabbed my brow with the damp strands of a mop
and who could have planned that? My keys a trembling kitten under
the Coke machine, the red glow a falling all over my coat, all over
everyone’s coat. I have many hopes. Urgent: open at once.
One of them is thinking of becoming a nurse in the Third World.
One of them is sinking in the graveyard near my first wife’s house.
Nobody new’s gone down since 1920, it’s like people have renounced
death there, they’re done with that shit. All they do now is start
up cover bands, tracing the outline of each other’s hearts

with fat, innocent fingers, invisible aortas on every thinned white t-shirt.
You’ll find them fishing off the pier using nostalgic cane poles
just as the sun, in sinking low, shines forth its silvery cold
notes. I have many coats and everyone loves to wear them.
Joey can have his dreams, I’ll hound the defiled hem
of the deep. What do you need to sleep? I barely believe
in God but Kathy and I have begun to pray for what you need.
“New York just isn’t your town,” the cop whispered with his hand,
but when I see the picture of my brother standing on the hood
of his derby car I realize it’s worth it. We look at it together,
we hold it under our faces so we can drop tears all over
his face and hold him real close and have feelings we never knew
existed. Could you sign right here, Sir? Blink if you can hear me,

Sir. But I never did mind the dying, it was the funeral home I couldn’t stand.

All the Morning Birds

In my kitchen there are mottled clouds
on the ceiling, puddles of light
on the floor. New York City never really

gets dark & I try to find comfort
in that we’re all standing or sleeping
in the same half-light. Before

the sun comes up my heart
is quiet. Afterwards the blood drains from
the streetlights & it’s time to wonder

what words to say, what thoughts to think,
how to hold my hands when standing in line
at the grocery store. Trying to find the correct

amount of change in my pocket I find
only keys: the keys to my house & my office &
my car & plus lots of other keys

I don’t know what they’re for anymore.
But doesn’t it just seem wrong to throw away
old keys, like throwing away an old ID or baby photos

or even money? Yeah, money. No,
listen. Because someday you may find yourself
throwing away a vast amount of money,

an infinite amount.

I’m not kidding. & I don’t mean like,
“You know, to not be thoughtful about what you buy
is to throw your money away.” I mean that someday

you’re going to be homeless &
penniless & heartless—you actually think
this won’t happen to you, don’t you?—and someone

is going to come along & offer
to cover it all. She’ll hand you those crisp bills,
more money than you can even say,

& there won’t be any strings attached.
Can you imagine that? & as you watch
those notes tremble in your soft hand,

at some point you’re going to be sorely tempted
to throw the gift down, ground it down with your heel,
then run away & never look back. It’s going to feel

necessary. So delicious. You’ll want it like air
or death or love. It’s going to be bigger than you,
so you’ll really have no choice. But still, I’m begging you,

Please: Don’t do it.

Stadium Flowers

I thought that if I could begin in a pasture, an indigo
river stretched out next to me.

But there’s no way to begin or enter in.  I only
opened the door for lack of anything better
to do.  In come the children, waist

high and wet headed, locking their swords in
an immigrant embrace.

Outside the planes go down like drugged birds, blackening
the grass and beginning to imitate acceptable corpses,
a field of dead bodies good for so many things
and not one of them

must we want to think about.  In New Orleans

we flew our plane in a vertical bank, one wing in the street, the other
in our arms, the other formerly caustic but now learning how
to love the culpable, the other

as a cradle to carve from the wet wood of the only tree for
miles and miles and miles, genial home of Mr. Bobcat
double crossed and frozen

in the deep freeze. And in our lovely plane
we passed within ten feet of the façade,
the roar of the motor rattling
the panes like castanets.

After that siege fires were made, dotting the countryside like Christmas
lights, cauldrons like enormous cannonballs cradling bubbling stew.
The Chinese cook (an unintended cliché, I wonder?) is stirring
our pot with a white, plastic canoe paddle.
He speaks to me without looking up:

After our plane crashed it kept humming, the engine ticking like a cricket.
For many, many days like a clock…

But it depends upon where you start: you may view the workers
with pride and romance, none weary seeming though all
the while they drip with sweat.  But the division

more recently arrived are talking attack, their sights set at dusk
(locally called ‘the hour between dog and wolf’).

Last night at the officer’s party a raven told me: “Where I am from
when you’re flying in the morning you can hear someone
whisper on the other side of the county.”  It was then
I noticed the sandwich I was eating
was coated in mold. God

who has made the heart to see, will you miss me
when I’m sold?  We hung our harps and
stopped our songs. Oh, darling,
where you been so long?

photo by: Carlos Gracia