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    Room 51 • Poetry Hotel 

Four Poems / Paul Fericano




I believe in Brando,
the Godfather of enormous weight,
creator of mumbling and angst,
and in James Dean, his only ward, our Jim,
who was sold into celluloid by Jack Warner,
born of the hustler Strasberg,
suffered under Rock Hudson,
was speeding, died, and nominated;

descended into gossip hell;

and on his third film was chosen

again from the dead;

ascended into Giant heaven,
and is seated in a bathhouse with Brando

the Godfather of enormous weight;
from where he will come to judge

all performances.


I believe in the Holy Spielberg,
the holy casting couch,
the communion of press agents,

the forgiveness of Sally Field,
the resurrection of my career,
and life everlasting without Tom Hanks.





The director yells Cut! and everyone on the set

is relieved to feel the weight of the day lifted

like a dark comedy of unscripted errors,

no one more thankful than Curly Howard

who retreats to his trailer for a quick smoke and a drink,

rubbing as he goes his shaved cue ball head,

where once the hair grew so thick

he actually appeared handsome to women

who fought to run their fingers through it.


He’s reminded now of the sacrifices he’s made,

the punishment he endures at the onscreen hands

of his older brother, Moe, who lovingly calls him Babe,

the mixed emotions he feels with each conk on the head,

each slap of the face or fingers poked in bewildered eyes,

and all the bricks and bottles and picks and shovels

and falling pianos and entire buildings collapsing

down around him in heaps of lowbrow humor and pain  

can’t hide the desperation of his clownish art,

the dreary midnight in his laughter.


Sitting alone, the alcohol convinces him otherwise

and he imagines himself a student of serious literature,

finding wisdom in the works of Edgar Allan Poe,

reading tales of unspeakable horrors befalling others,

grateful for this small refuge of scholarly insight,

and he commits to memory poems of young love dying,

mourning loss in a small room, much like this one,

childlike and powerless to rescue the slipping away,

the black doom of wings waiting above the door, 

and he reads as he rocks, repeats the line                     

Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermoe,’ over and over again,               

until he knows it to be absolutely true. 




In junior high school I knew a sweet but awkward kid 

who apparently slept with a bowling ball. 


We weren’t close friends but I think we wanted something

from each other that neither of us knew how to give.


We hung out a few times after school

mostly because I needed an excuse not to go home.


One day I went over to his house

to listen to 45s on his portable record player


and saw this big, round lump under the blankets on his bed.

"That's my bowling ball," he said acting cool,


which was weird since he was anything but cool.

He told me he gave his bowling ball a name,


a common boy’s name, something like “Johnny” or “Bobby”

or “Jimmy” or maybe it was “Ralph”,


which wouldn’t make much sense since that was his name.

But I can’t remember for sure.


I think I blocked it from my memory  

to keep from explaining how I really felt


sitting on his bedroom floor listening to Roger Miller

singing about trailers for sale or rent, midnight trains


and old stogies, short, but not too big around,

touching one another in places just beyond our reach. 


Over the years I've tried to recall the name

of that bowling ball as if it would make any difference.  


All I ever manage is a face, a soft, inquisitive face,

and me, wondering what it was like under those blankets,


to curl my body around something so smooth and hard,

to sleep with something cold enough to keep me warm.  




                                                          In Memoriam: John Ashbery (1927 - 2017)

 I try not to think a lot about it,

Not think quite a lot about it --

The constant reality of being interpreted

While what I stand for is still almost a bare figure of speech:

A few adjectives, that may be metaphors, perhaps

Not even these but quotes, exaggerations…


And it is absurd then to imagine

That this fuddle is the crumb crust of a cosmic cheesecake,

Flavorless, except for its stale, sour dough,

The pie one tosses in the face of God,

Not the rich creamy filling

We save for our sarcasm,

Cartooned apart piece by piece,

Trash from an old trashman, a sneeze of seasons,

Friends entering their twilight zone.

If I could not write about it –

The interpretation  --

Nonsense under the breath of it, but who

Knows anything about what we are saying?


Remember what it is you’re trying to get out of,

Never into something like a membership club

Where no one has ever joined

Because they can’t afford to.

Curiously you read your own poem.

It has begun to show.


About the Author

Paul Fericano is the co-founder and editor of YU News Service. His most recent collection is Things That Go Trump in the Night:

Poems of Treason and Resistance   (Poems-For-All Press / Little City Press, 2019).  


Acknowledgements: "The Actor's Creed", "Curly Howard Misreads Edgar Allan Poe", and "The Boy Who Slept with a Bowling Ball" previously

appeared in The Hollywood Catechism, by Paul Fericano (Silver Birch Press, 2015)

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