Four Poems

John Pietaro
Courtesy Viktor Bulla

Is There Anything More Punk Than Mayakovsky?

Could there be anything more punk than Mayakovsky, anyone 
More punk? Could there be?
Has anyone ever been more punk, gone more
No wave than he?

Darkest glare, eyes lost as Johnny Thunders’, stance 
as foreboding as Richard Hell, Voidoid, Heartbreaker, TV. 
Lived his dissidence, revolution 
In ways unforeseen.

His poetry turned lives, paintings exposed bourgeoisie, 
Futurist theatre near-exterminated history.
Flaming son of creatives astray,
Was anyone more punk than Mayakovsky?

“Backbone Flute” was modernism’s cannibal. 
He cast the reading room of the streets 
As Transgression did in buildings of decay. 
Mayakovsky’s dagger of desperate words foretold 
Patti’s and “Piss Factory” 
And his skull brimful of verse bred Carroll’s death lament; 
Died, died, cried.

Cried, sang he.
Blank the generation, Underground USA, Stranger was our para-dise yet
Mayakovsky’s far-flung steps crumbled
Miles of streets.

He, the miracle worker of all that is festive, 
Held the fiery lips of streetlamps and 
Embraced the restless new feet. 
But who, who you staring at?

Giorno, Branca bide in night’s air,
I Can’t Wait To Leave Tomorrow, perhaps
The last word Vladamir spoke, baring rotted teeth, 
Was your name.

Could there be punk without Mayakovsky? 
Could anything be more Burroughs, more shock of the new? 
Shaved head, blackened clothes, burning eyes in shadowed sockets. 
Mayakovsky, whose Bedbug theatre lies in graves only grown deeper, 
Freezing at your touch, he cried that “the nails of words nail me to Your paper.”

What might be more punk than Mayakovsky? 
Stop lying to yourself.
Forget Ramones, and Sex Pistols;
No Television, Patti Smith or Blondie,

No sense of finish or start or radical New York City 
In a world that disappeared, 
That never imagined 


A Reading

Like a trowel, the poets gather 
About the microphone

Lured into the spotlight as if 
A fattening delectable

The small room seems smaller than before, 
The walls closer, the air finer

But never refined. 
Down here.

Into the mirror covering three walls 
Steps he, reasonably coy, dryly witty

Whose poetics pour like a carafe of 
Boone’s Farm apple as

Hot white reflections 
Bear down

The handful of chairs and 
Battered leatherette couches

Remain filled from 
The last reading,

Unable to miss the chance at 
The trowel.

The names familiar, 
The words well-used,

Hair greyer where still found, 
Thick glass-covered the gaze

Over faces oblique, 
Staring back.

Godot, it turns out, 
Was waiting for Lefty.


Splintered By Lingering Night

The soundness of their sleep was the first matter to be considered. 
Assured so: Breathless he rose
In muted alone.
Focused only on the moment, he 
Walked hollows of reverie
To birth himself, his coming to be. 
In silence he bathed and dressed,
Contained in flagrant demission. 
He could hear them breathing,
Deeply breathing, turning in air fractured: patchy greys and peeked 
yellows, there were, and 
Lingering night, of course, lingering night. 
A calico disclose, then,
Carpeting each move.
Stepping through questions so distant
As to be unavoidable, he wandered early morning’s sparseness. 
Careful not to walk so heavily,
The brittle beneath threatened
To give way.
And he recalled far legends in chambers, the
White noise effervescent through aged broadcasts. 
And he could just smell daybreak.
Given the lack of trees and grass this 
Was surprising, even to him.
And he pretended to listen to 
The morning birds calling. And he pretended to respond.


Auld Acquaintance

He wasn’t listening, really, but 
The wanton ice storm 
Berated his bedroom window. 

11:59 PM.
The ceiling, still in place, 
Inventoried, remained unchanging as 
He stared down January 1,

Eyes reddened. 
Escaping sacred seconds, 
Calendar set to turn, but 
Who’s really counting?

The biting air barely tolerable above 
The layers of blanket, so he 
Grabbed the flask and
Piled the coat on too.

Close of the year and 
Clock strikes back, 
Still and timeless: 
The ghosts, wayfaring. 
Always wayfaring.


John Pietaro

John Pietaro is an author, poet and performer. He is the author of Innocent Postcards and A Bleeding in Black Leather, among others. He is a staff writer at The NYC Jazz Record and the co-host of Beneath The Underground.

John's Articles on KGB LitMag