Poetry, 2023

Patricia Austin-Puccio

The Other Widow

Years, sitting up nights,

just sitting and knowing.

For the first time

I witnessed my long-lived suspicions.

You made her laugh.

You shouldn’t have done that.

I hear you whistling in the wind.

Click-click-clicking your pen,

tap-tap-tapping your pipe,

keys jangling telling me its time

for another slashing from your tongue.

You’ve whittled me down to a bloody sliver.

My mind moans as you turn the corner,

 I wish you were dead.

I hate this place you love.

I hate this ocean, its coves and bays.

Our dock, the lapping water,

your sharp profile cutting into the burning dawn.

Providence topples your hulking ego over the edge.

No need for my helping hand

to push you out of my future.

Affectionate ropes hugging round 

your caught legs did the rest.

I watch

Your desperate hands slap

the surface in explosions of light.

Schooling silver fish surround you

in twinkling pirouettes.

My attention toward their grace, toward you

gawp, gawp, gawping in airless water.

The undersurface green garden sways and waves.

My mind dives to the depths.

You, sinking soundly into slumber

to a bottomless bed.

And just like that

tender lapping water returns

erasing a crystal-clear death.

Swallowed by the ocean’s appetite.

He swam out to meet the morning’s dawn,

Nothing ever found of him,

I say.

Gathered loved ones memorialize you

on our shore.

The sea,

preparing for its next meal

with its salty-smelling brine,

froths at the mouth,

licks its chops.

It makes me think of her.

An egret stands stock-still in solemn salute.

The sand and gossip squirms beneath my feet.

Why would she lay her grief here, at the foot of tragedy?

Subjecting us to his place of drowning?

they whisper.

Have you ever heard of anything so morbid?

another mutters.

Family and friends offer their two-faced words,

I have two that will not be uttered:  adulterer, abuser.

Without you

the water now caresses my feet 

and it is your chair

that waits cold, in the dark.

Four months,

each unremarkable act,

morning footsteps, bite of toast,

every first without you

I float closer to freedom.

I live minute by minute.

I did not lose you all at once

but woman by woman,

vicious word by word,

wallop by wallop.

The large window overlooking you,

your watery grave

reminds me I am left alone,

safely alive

in my warm wrinkling skin.

Chant Rant

Fuck cracked cuticles that won’t heal.

Fuck dust that must be vacuumed from the floor.

Fuck toilets that need scrubbing.

Fuck sweaters that catch on knobs and jar the shit out of me.

Fuck the fucking knobs that catch sweaters!

Fuck migraines.

Fuck stomachs that can’t digest knotted fear.

Fuck ears for ringing,

teeth for yellowing,

eyes for crying,

jaws for clenching,

skin for sagging,

jowls for aging.

Fuck brains that don’t remember the word…I can’t remember which word.

Fuck that word for not remembering me.

Fuck spinal tap results that say: Multiple Sclerosis.

Fuck spinal taps results that inexplicably say: No Multiple Sclerosis.

Fuck dying of lung cancer.

Fuck cysts in gallbladders.

Fuck pre-cancerous cells in bowels.

Fuck you for forcing me to fight in the womb.

Fuck you for committing suicide.

Fuck hopelessness.

Fuck this pandemic.

Fuck this perverted cowardly world for not reckoning with

our sadistic butchery of animals that caused this pandemic.

Fuck wearing masks.

Fuck you for not wearing a mask.

Fuck depraved hunters who

trap a coyote and chop its foot off while it’s still alive just for “fun.”

Fuck the Ukrainian mother living in Russia for

not believing her daughter who says she’s being bombed in Kharkiv.

Fuck Russian state TV for brainwashing that mother so

she doesn’t believe her own daughter.

Fuck tolerating the fools who believe these lies.

Fuck me for believing the US government is democracy’s beacon.

Fuck …another world war.

Fuck not being pretty.

Fuck the brilliant sun.

Fuck that pillowy cloud.

Fuck that golden retriever, no that’s going too far,

but fuck every other fucking thing

in the last eight unrelenting years.

Poppy the Pig Flies

She laid the scheme late one night

to try her chance at airy flight.

She tip-hooved past her parents’ bed

and placed a hat snug on her head.

She wanted the question settled soon,

“What kind of surface is the moon?”

Her hooves began to flap and rise

as though impatient for the skies;

then at last she vaulted clear.

The ground began to disappear.

A wind whirl swooped her like a kite

as she squealed in pure delight.

But as she rose things ran afoul

with swatting trees and screaming owls.

And when she passed some heavy clouds

she greeted moistened feathered crowds.

Convinced she must be near her prize

since earth looked smaller in its size, 

but when she turned, she felt dismay,

the moon was still so far away.

She huffed and puffed and tried her best,

but knew she needed time for rest.

Then slowly landing safe and sound

the daring Poppy touched the ground.

Startled sheep in wide-eyed wonder,

“Who woke us from our comfy slumber?!”

Out of breath but proud as can be,

Poppy proclaimed quite gleefully,

“Next time I’ll get there, wait and see!”


Look to the Light

Look to the light when you are born,

            placental abruption, fingers twisted in inherited shame.

Look to the light when you drop the pass,

            and father turns away then makes you run home.

Look to the light when your face erupts,

            pocks of blemishes elicit mocks from your peers.

Look to the light, boy, look to the light.

Look to the light when mother speaks with her fists,

            your only contact in two weeks.

Look to the light when the cop hunts runaways,

            the shelter is ahead and there might be a bed.

Look to the light when you steal the egg sandwich,

            the cameras don’t work. Hide it up your sleeve.

Look to the light, boy, look to the light.

Look to the light when they hold your body down in Centennial Park,

            there’s too many to fight. Let them have their way.

Look to the light when you fumble for the bright neon balloons of H,

            check your burner. Fiends need their fixes.

Look to the light when the clinic nurse brings the antiretrovirals.

            Let her be good to you. Her kindness is blinding.

Look to the light, look to the light.

There’s a fight in you, boy.

Look to the light.

Blue for Breonna

The following poem is a response to the painting featured in this article:


for the sorrow of her family

for the collective horror of the whole world watching

for the box that should have held her engagement ring.


for the uniform that kept them ol’ boys safe

for the raid that was blown

for the door they insisted on busting down.


for calm, for intuition, for relief

for both flag and seal of her city

for the Ohio River and its spectral tranquility.


because red and blue lights

might bleed into a regal purple but

no knocking

of your tools on my noble easel,

not today.


means reckless execution

of operations and meddling

means no justice, no peace

means dead



ripped apart

bruised and broken.


for unserved justice.


for Breonna.

Telling Time

Telling Time

  1. I tempt.

I twinkle at him from the shop window, among icy diamond cuffs and cool Mikimoto pearls, and he ducks inside to escape the oppressive Singapore heat.

His Omega was just stolen, but he is taken by me.

He hides from sunlight. He is hides from the bottles in his hotel fridge, and the

ones undoubtedly lined up at the company dinner tonight.

Turning me over in his hands, he beams. My gold and silver links wink, glinting memories of running down dirt roads in South Carolina, of putting himself through college, of his wedding day.

I am the didn’t-buy-vodka watch.

I am the hard-work-pays-off watch.

Suddenly his mouth is dry, absent of the sharpness of alcohol.

He swallows hard and produces his credit card.

2. I think.

I rattle nervously on his wrist as he paces the floors of the hospital.

Six-thirty. It must be six-thirty.

His first grandchild, overdue by weeks. I’m unfamiliar with lateness.

I expect, and so does he.

Presuming due dates, anticipating,

we operate with numbers.

Crisp, clean outlines.

The engineer and the engineered.

He holds me to his ear.

I’m wound. I’m fine. She’s coming.

A nurse delivers good news in a swish of soft pink scrubs.

He checks me. Six thirty-six.

3. I trust.

There’s padding of little-girl feet as Granddaughter moves from bedroom

to playset to the threshold of his door. Three tiny knocks.

She climbs into his lap and he slips me over her tiny wrist. Then, before he follows suit with his college class ring, he holds it up to the light so she

can see the amethyst change color.

Their routine.

I’m the third-wheel.

I feel safe with her. I feel held by her.

Duplicitous, I tug the fine sable hair along her forearm.

She pulls a face.

Mommy said silver and gold don’t go together.

He belly laughs. So does she. My second hand shakes slightly in return.

4. I torture.

There’s padding of grown-girl feet as Granddaughter moves

through the silent house to the threshold of his door.

No knocks, just silence, hanging heavy as the wool coats in his closet.

If she finds me in my silver dish, it means there really was an accident.

Briefly she flashes to the time she had the stomach flu, and terrified by her own impending waves of nausea, she ran to her Pa-Pa’s room, hand clapped

over mouth and hiccupping bile that pooled on the floor.

He swallowed his vexation then but now she knows the stained carpet pained him.

She swallows her tears, hot and salty, and peers down at me in my cold cradle.

Here I am, ticking. Waiting for him, beating on, as his own heart

has been stopped for days.

Collecting dust in my torpor. Her soft finger traces my face. I thrum to life.

5. I trigger.


The air is thick as the murky pond that claimed Pa-Pa.

Mom isn’t looking at Auntie. Auntie will only speak to Grandma.

Granddaughter’s hands clasp tightly around my green box beneath the table, beads of her palms’ perspiration nearly causing my velvet home to slip

through her fingers.

I am her olive branch. I am meant to diffuse the tension.

But I belong to her.

When Cousin gingerly accepts the box, I feel taken. Yanked

from her. Does he know I was promised to her?

Does he know what I mean to her?

I forever tick slightly softer for him.