Café at Noon

A youth one might describe (if one noticed
him at all) as thin, delicate even, perhaps sensitive,
like a poet, or ascetic, like a monk,
steps into the midst of the afternoon
tables, his backpack laden
as one would expect of a young scholar.
The detonation, however, is a textbook
demonstration of pure physics.  The shockwave
a wall of air compressed to the density of steel.
The phenomenon lasts less than a millisecond,
imperceptible to the mind.
Its effect on the body, profound.
The ones closest to the epicenter
are compressed so far beyond their physical
tolerances they explode,
are literally torn asunder.
In the aftermath, lumps of flesh
might be found up to a hundred meters
away. Flesh.
From the Old German fleisch,
as in the Word made flesh
as in the flesh sacrificed
for the atonement of sins
as in sins of the flesh.

by Eugene A. Melino


Coffee Shop on West Fourth & Mercer

Sitting in Swensen’s the lunch hour passed
I look up from my book black clouds unfurling
the plate glass window like a Gericault
all storm and swirl
sudden rain dousing the wet girls  
I didn’t know how much I loved a storm
being dry and alone the place all to myself

quiet like a chapel the food an offering
the tepid coffee a libation
I never realized how much I loved chapels
hidden holy sanctuaries like the one in Antibes
where I saw the Guernica how I loved the screaming
horses the rage the sun the light the topless beaches
the girls bearing their breasts to the sun like desire didn’t matter
but desire was everything how I loved desire the ache and arc of it
forlorn and unrequited I lived to get my heart broken
the countless years spent falling in
and out of love I used to think how I wasted my life
but it was the best education

I like to count the women I made love to
not to keep score but to never forget each one
their bodies their love their charms
all I have left really so I count them every day
like a litany the first one that strange girl all arms
and legs how she liked walking in the cemetery
my arm around her waist so quiet and calm
I didn’t know how much I loved the wedge
of a woman’s hip in the cup of my palm

The rain sweeps across the emptied street
diminished Toyotas and Hondas wading along Mercer
their headlights like a funeral procession
for some silent era movie star
long reclusive but beloved in death
I never realized how much I missed American cars
the Electras and Eldorados Thunderbirds and Fairlanes
they lined the streets of my youth
stood background in all those pictures
my mother a beautiful young thing
my father looking handsome and heroic
my cousin Jim when he could still walk
our first college graduate poised and grinning
because he had the world on a string
had survived so much already

I never realized how much I loved those old songs
Sinatra on the stereo Saturday mornings
me sitting cross-legged on the floor a little boy
my father lounging long legged across  
brand new Lionel trains deployed between us
slow on the turn don’t jump the track the best toy
ever with a headlight like a real diesel electric
I am the luckiest boy in the world
except the day President Kennedy is shot
no school no Popeye no I Love Lucy
Walter Cronkite so sad John Boy saluting his father
he was younger than me

I see myself in the clouded plate glass
still that same round face smiling at the lights
his grandfather leading him by the hand
flashing jostling circus fairway the clowns
the crowd the boy half running half skipping
tiny hand holding grandpa’s calloused finger
hanging on for dear life the bounding strides
I never realized how much I loved my grandfather
the black sheep his brothers called him
how he broke down our door that night
so drunk and angry at the world
grandma hiding with us when he found
her my father had to knock him down

I never realized how much I loved these people all
gone now common as salt strange as exotic birds
their hopes their sins their endless striving and falling
now the rain washes away all things cleansing
the world making it new and ready  

by Eugene A. Melino


Eugene Melino lives and writes in New York City.  He is currently a master class student at the Writers Studio, an independent creative writing school founded by the poet Philip Schultz.  Eugene earned his graduate and undergraduate degrees at New York University, where he majored in English education.  He also studied journalism, filmmaking, and art history.  For many years, he worked as a corporate writer.  These days, he devotes his writing efforts entirely to poetry.   


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