Silvio Vincenzo





When I look at stars
I think of my father,
trapped by the seatbelt
in the ambulance he drove,
his partner burn to death
in the passenger seat,
in an ocean of flames
that moves with the moon.
My father. Struggling.
To free himself. Red
blood in his mouth.
The night as black
as charred skin.

He couldn’t have known
the apartment
my mother and I would move into
after the divorce,
the stars invisible
in a smoggy sky
would never see my back
lashed with the calligraphy of scars
from sexual abuse
I suffered there.

I was seven. My father
crashed the ambulance.
City lights obscured
light from already dead stars

his partner cracked in half,
body curled
into that final position
burning things
so perfectly assume.

Moving to a Different State


My grandmother has smeared
her shit all over
the bathroom again,
her face unknowing and contorted,
the face of a dementia patient
paining to connect names

to family members
circled around the dinner table.

My brother (not yet fourteen)
sprays a mist of disinfectant—
starts to swab the all,
forearms flexed and taut
from jump shots practiced
all summer—I taught him
basketball as best I could.

When my grandmother sits back down
in her daybed,
she will not know
why her husband shoots
dirty stares.
Initially, she will not know
his name or mine.
She will not know my brother
swabbed the bathroom wall.

I know his hands
have acquired skills
that cannot be taught,
and that I can leave
for good now.



for my love,

I couldn’t get the condom on tonight,
the latex-free type
lubed to numb,
all the masculinity
of lasting.
My naked frame
flushing redder
than a bit lip
reminded me of my own

I couldn’t get the condom on—
its chokehold
handcuffs memories,
the obscene fingers
of a family friend
all over my body.
I couldn’t get the condom,
the kind you like,
marvelously ribbed
for pleasure, right?
I thought I finally could—
once again,
you let me force you
on your stomach
in front of the full-length mirror.
I couldn’t get it on tonight.
It reminded me
of everything
that hurts
the dusty light bulb
in the walk-in closet
smoothly swinging back and forth
with the exhilaration of his labor
to restrain me,
to show
how he preferred me
even though he knew
how small I was—
Those smug, smiling eyes.

I couldn’t tonight.
It reminded me
of his thumb and pointer
unraveling the foreskin—
ruined the seduction
of rolling up
your striped stockings.

I couldn’t get the condom on tonight,
because it reminded me
how tolerant you have to be,
a coyote
that will not leave
its car-struck mate
collapsed in the breakdown lane.
And my cruelty,
when you massage my back
to reassure me.

That goddamn condom
betrayed my strength,
the responsibility
I bear
to just forget him,
to just be mindful
of the moment taking its course:
focus on the kisses,
the sighs,
your smell
But I left
thinking how much I love you,
how you must turn my pain
inward. Like me,
you have this sort of pain,

that unused condom
tossed on the carpet—


Silvio Vincenzo is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the 2014 recipient of the Robert K. Johnson Poetry Prize and Garvin Tate Merit Scholarship. His poetry, translations, and fiction have been featured nationally and internationally in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Poetry Quarterly, Belleville Park Pages, Visions International, Cardinal Sins, Misfit Magazine, Poetry Pacific, and many others. [no photo available]


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