Jon Riccio is a queer poet living with acute macular neuroretinopathy. A PhD candidate at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers, recent work appears in decomP, SUSAN, Word For/ Word, and Wordgathering, among others.
Therefore My Family
When the upstate relative offered me a job
selling solar-powered chainsaws, I asked
if the teeth ran on class. Another cousin
married the Brawny Paper Towel Man,
stability the kind of mustache you throw
in a shopping cart. At reunions, aunts with
chiropractor sons learn about my Obsessive-
Compulsive Disorder over pasta e fagioli,
an uncle’s basement full of T-shirts lionizing
the greasy spoon that employed five offspring.
Of twelve grandchildren, I’m the one with
breakdown sewn on his sleeve. Oh, those
marathons of mental-illness TV. So beautiful
the set-dressed scenes where compassion funnels.
At my germophobic worst, I imagined a nightstand’s
sneeze vector more Armageddon than armoire so
I shot-put it into a wall. True, we spent a mantle-
less spring, but when family needed an ad hoc
virologist to shield them from the great pathogen
debacle of 2003, I came through with flying mahogany.
Confessions of an Almost-Prodigy Turned Building Washer
The deli remodel means more chipotle.
I say chip ottle, pass the tabloids
wondering where in The Enquirer
they venerate Tony Danza. All this
schooling and hell if I can spell
onomatopoeia by hand. Window
washing leads to the Performing Arts
Center, pane brilliance drudged by streaks.
You try scaffolding a city’s seed coat or
hitching your knuckle to cornice sparkle—
you won’t look at brick the rest of your
atrium days. There was a cluster of us
near-prodigies fluent in perfect pitch.
Pegging the solo in Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole
meant TALENT: good for an autograph
hound in a cover singer’s basement,
or a still of me at The Barking Spider
guessing notes to a Leinenkugel octet,
coaxing the chipped throttle. A pharmacy
off 40th sells dizzy-cancelling generics—
height reticence, washing’s cost.
The words Persephone homophone
have more visual than literary cachet,
each portico a pomegranate, algae to
a prodigy’s gift underwater. My penny
for the meta, ammonia manifest.