Lee Rossi was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He studied 5 years for the Roman Catholic priesthood before leaving the seminary. He has published two ESL (English as a Second Language) textbooks from Prentice-Hall, as well as a critical study of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. He is the author of two books of poetry, Ghost Diary (2002) and Beyond Rescue (1992). His poetry, reviews, interviews and essays have appeared in numerous journals, including The Sun, Poetry East, Chelsea, The Wormwood Review, Nimrod, Beloit Poetry Journal, Poet Lore and many others. He is a winner of the Sense of Site poetry contest sponsored by the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two small children.

Pantoumime

A producer took my pantoum to lunch.
He's on his own now and needs a free meal -
at least that's what he says - and he talks a lot -
he's got this compulsion to repeat himself.

He's on his own now so he needs a free meal
and someone to listen while he complains
about his compulsion to repeat himself.
It's hard for him to meet girls when all he wants

is someone to listen while he complains
about being the river that runs beneath the river.
It's hard to meet girls when all they want
is a pretty boy gazing in a pool

where the river that runs beneath the river
suddenly surfaces. He wants to say,
I'm more than a pretty boy gazing in a pool.
I'm the shadow that refuses to lie down

and suddenly surfaces in what you say.
I'm the reverses you suffer looking in a mirror,
the shadow (there I go again) that refuses to lie down,
the echo when you have nothing to say.

You suffer, don't you, when you look in the mirror
and there's nothing to say, not even an echo.
That's what he said he said - and he talks a lot -
the producer who took my pantoum to lunch.

 

When I Lost It

I was crossing a glassy stretch of middle age,
the farther shore still not quite visible,
when my mojo quit. My wife had turned gray,
my daughter was angry about her breasts,
and my son had wandered into a cornfield
and wouldn't come out. (I don't remember
what actually happened, this is just how it felt.)
I checked the gas tank, and though I'd been riding
for days, the tank was still full. I went to see my doctor.
He simply took it out (my mojo, that is), put it on
the examining table, poked it, walked around it,
slowly as if it were a piece of modern sculpture,
and said it looked fine to him. I felt better
when I left. Having it poked. Having the doc say
it looked okay. But it still didn't work.
My wife could tell you. Except she's too embarrassed.
So I took it to a plumber. He pounded it for hours.
Sent his snake all through it, replaced a bunch of pipes
with high-quality copper. Again I felt better,
like some test subject full of sugar pills.
But still no mojo. I called my friends,
who gathered around my bed. "I'm not dying,"
I said, "just . . . just . . . depleted, like a battery
or my bank account." Some said to eat less fat,
more roughage. Someone said I needed a vacation
at one of those all-naked resorts in Jamaica.
Judas said (there's always a Judas in every group),
she said I never had no mojo to begin with.
Maybe she was right. I stood up, or tried to --
I wanted to shove it in her face --
but couldn't remember where I put it.
Thank God for TV. Now that I've forgotten
how to stand (I'm not speaking literally, of course,
this is just how it feels), television is the only thing
I'm good at. I close my eyes and replay the story
of my life. I'm still editing -- adding characters,
deleting birthdays, adding lots and lots of mojo.

 

Rocket 88

There's more than a touch of tomorrow in the Rockets of today
- Oldsmobile marketing slogan

How I hated my father's unbending hardtop,
stubborn un-covertible,
stupid earthbound spaceship.

All aspiration, I ached
to rise above water, earth, & air
into the fiery furnace.

Like Icarus, like Phaeton,
I hungered for curved vistas,
an eagle's vision, a cosmonaut's.

I knew that only fire could propel me
into the kingdom of fire where Jesus
spoke with tongues of flame!

Every day, it seemed, new prophets rose,
astronauts with their squeezable stew,
their Tang, and anti-grav lavs,

untouched by their travels,
pencils and dandruff afloat
in dirty, recycled air,

while homebound I leaned on a fender
gazing skyward, bent backward,
a small tree snapped by Pentecostal winds.

 

Lee Rossi Moonday poetry reading

2006 Lee Rossi


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