Geist - - Endnotes - —Jill Man­drake

Joe Fior­ito’s City Po­ems (Ex­ile Edi­tions) por­trays the in­ner city con­di­tions that re­sult from poverty, abuse and ne­glect. Most of these po­ems con­sist of only a few lines, and al­most all con­vey the real hope that some­thing bet­ter lies ahead. “Silent Night on Clarence Square” de­liv­ers, in only eight lines, a mod­ern retelling of a story from St. Luke; “Karaoke Memo­rial” eu­lo­gizes a man via his supreme karaoke skills in an un­named pub; “She Walks the Hall­way, Singing” tells of a woman who, in her own un­reach­able way, rises above the sur­round­ing squalor (“she had the kind of thoughts / tin hats won’t pre­vent”); and “Pi­geon Park, Early Af­ter­noon” is about do­ing your per­sonal care in a not-so-pri­vate place, in this case “a foun­tain on the square.” The author, who is both jour­nal­ist and poet, also in­ter­prets bleaker sit­u­a­tions. For ex­am­ple, “The Things You Re­mem­ber” de­scribes a man’s rec­ol­lec­tion of elec­tro­con­vul­sive ther­apy. In my opin­ion, this is the sec­ond-best short poem ever writ­ten about shock treat­ment and its ef­fects. (The best short poem on the sub­ject is “Two Years Later” by the late John Wieners, which be­gins, “The hol­low eyes of shock re­main/elec­tric sock­ets burnt out in the skull.”) Joe Fior­ito’s poem, with a strik­ing re­sem­blance, ends “Elec­trodes, mouth guards and— / noth­ing. All I re­mem­ber now / is that I for­get.” The most sig­nif­i­cant poem in the col­lec­tion might be “Two Girls, Street­car.” The author ref­er­ences T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Wil­liam Car­los Wil­liams and Ezra Pound, all in a four-stanza poem about two girls at the Oss­ing­ton bus stop. The lines man­age to link older po­etry with a younger sub­ject, in a new way to ex­press an age-old en­cour­age­ment: life goes on.

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