Long Nights with B
B liked to raise his fists,
sneer at me with booze breath,
College boy, what you got on me, huh?
B liked to call next morning,
not to apologize, but to plan the night,
promise to buy first rounds.
B liked to forget how he tangled with friends,
shoved our chests, crouched in alleys,
hid in bathrooms at 2 a.m.,
until we found him, clenching his knees,
rocking back and forth,
shirt wet with spit and sweat.
We waited outside whenever B stopped home,
but still heard his mother shriek,
You son of a bitch, coming home like this.
We rarely saw his dad,
who sometimes offered a wad of cash
as though trying to pay for leaving.
B held out his sweaty palm,
waiting for the dough,
what he felt he was owed.
Years later, I still remember B’s raised fists,
his face pale under streetlights, a few slurs and jabs
before he broke into sobs.
Silence on the Long Drive Home
You stare at tufts of clouds,
their edges pink like tissue.
They sky threatens rain,
rumbles of thunder, flashes of lightning.
We say nothing of the day’s news—
50 shot dead in Orlando.
We gaze ahead at the PA Turnpike,
snaking and bending around thick patches of trees,
the rolling Appalachians that could swallow us.
I keep driving, squeeze your hand, as we listen
for thunder to crack the sky
like rounds of gunfire,
and then the soft rain that follows
the fury of a storm.
I Imagine Myself a Cat
These days, I mute TV news, but not enough to silence
images of Dakota pipeline protests, Native Americans
with paint striping their tan cheeks, feathers pointing tall
from their waves of black hair, reports about water hoses,
tear gas, rubber bullets used to dispel them. These days,
I imagine myself a cat, easily amused by a red dot on my paws,
dashing across the room, befuddled that I can’t trap or bite it.
I imagine myself perched on windowsills, wide-eyed, tongue clicking
against the sound of birds chirping. I want to dream about the hunt,
stalking prey in early morning, feeling the cool of grass.
I want to lay in streaks of sunlight, feel warmth
against my fur, stretch out without the interruption of headlines,
about the way batons and bullets break against bodies.
I dream of being an animal, ancient, connected to its instincts and the earth.
Brian Fanelli is the author of the chapbook Front Man (Big Table Publishing) and the full-length collections All That Remains (Unbound Content) and Waiting for the Dead to Speak (NYQ Books). His poetry, essays, and book reviews have been published by the Los Angeles Times, World Literature Today, Verse Daily, Paterson Literary Review, Main Street Rag, Louisiana Literature, and elsewhere. He has an M.F.A. from Wilkes University and a Ph.D. from SUNY Binghamton University. Currently, he teaches at Lackawanna College.