Read Three Poems by Robert Walicki…

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Littsburgh is thrilled to be able to share with you three poems from Robert Walicki’s latest collection, The Almost Sound of Snow Falling (now available from Night Ballet Press)!

The Almost Sound of Snow Falling is a fragile stay against ‘clocking in,’ yet a keen reflection on the working and living world.” — Sandra Marchetti, author of Confluence and Heart Radicals

“Walicki, who curates local reading series Versify, allows keen description to do the heavy lifting in sometimes-raw emotional moments. The strategy plays well.” — Pittsburgh City Paper

 

Rain Leader

(on running storm pipe under a bridge near Akron, OH, 1997)

When the only heat is from the coffee
at 5am, and less than 4 degrees outside,
you’ll learn to wear enough layers,
or better yet, keep moving.

Some biker dude will laugh, blow frost,
Marlboro smoke in your face.
First day, it’s “Hey rookie” and “Don’t look down”
It’s lift this 8 inch, cast iron pipe.

First day, It’s “Go down to my truck and get
my pipe stretcher”, and then you’ll realize
there’s no such thing 4 stories down.
First day, men will want to break you,

Like they’ve been broken, their riverbed faces,
grizzled beards twisted like dry rotted wire.
Last night’s whiskey, sweating from dirty skin.
You will nearly lose your finger, when the ice forms

on the pipe, straps loosening, metal slamming flesh.
If you can make it past this, there’s a Miller Genuine Draft
There’s a welder sitting next to you, buys the first round,
lays his steel hands on your shoulder

Like the father who couldn’t bear it.
If you can make it past tomorrow,
you’ll have to trust the pig iron,
this foot width of rust,

and walk this I-beam, 50 feet of cross cut steel
falling into nothing. There’s a strap that holds
your waist, a broken man who leads you.
he’ll walk like a free man across 4 inches of steel.
He’ll never look back.

 



 

1st Coat

We do it, as they say for the money,
you transformed in five minutes from business to babushka,
gabardine slacks to a paint specked tee.

I stir color in a five—the faintest coral ‘til it’s buttery smooth.
‘Til the dizzy buzz of paint fills our noses and the room
with its slick skin, ‘till the walls sweat with our labor.

Talk, soon gives itself away to music—
static radio and the sticky pull until a ceiling is covered,
overlapping the lines I made to the brushes stiff edge.

Each 15 x 20 room we do is a cable bill, each bathroom ceiling,
a steak dinner. Every color must be stared at a hundred times.
Every drip and wet smudge, caught before it falls,
and still neither of us can trust what we see. Like grief, color dries in stages.
The thin grey veil of the past disappearing under the newer white—

fading back and forth until we keep shifting on tired legs,
wet rollers in our hands, second guessing whatever we’ve done,
what we’ve lost, everything we love, and suddenly, we can barely feel it
when that first pass leaves the wall glistening, then fades true.

We are unsure of it, how it will look in the morning. We stand back from
ghost white walls, satisfied when pistachio green has become porcelain,
amaretto crème. Each color name fills the distant taste of French coffee
in our mouths, the Paris wind on our faces

We work at it, until dark, our faces flecked with semi-gloss and all that natural light
fading until at last we lose it.

Time to hammer those lids down again, run that water till our brushes are clear.

 



 

The List

We place our clothes on the mattress next to each other,
laid out to keep from wrinkling.
Your dress shirt with the glitter attracting the cat hair and lint,
that working class fallout that settles over everything.
And I can’t help but think how much
our empty clothes resemble us,
a little exhausted, rumpled
with the compliance of any poly cotton blend.

At the end of the night my hands are feeling for the dark of your hands,
eyes closed to the extended weather forecast at eleven.
But what if I added light to this memory?
Poured it through sheer curtains,
held on to it the way yellow does to that empty coffee cup,
lost and sparkling in dishwater,
warm as my hands that rub the stains off of it—
touch the door as I leave, the edge of your thigh.

What if that backyard mimosa rebounds,
grows again next summer?
Fills the view of a two lane road,
becomes the wall again of green no one can see past?

It’s 1 am and I keep looking out of the upstairs window.
where the trees behind our house keep
sashaying like awkward teenagers
or shampoo commercial models—
luxuriant and ridiculous,
as if all they wanted was our attention.
But they turn their backs to us, shake
their chemically treated hair
and a few thousand leaves for us to rake up every October.

It is summer, a Friday
and we are sitting in a diner making a list
on a ripped napkin on how to change our lives.
You take an aching back, tuition, a mortgage and promises,
add to this a glass of wine, the scent of mimosa,
the drive home with the window rolled down—

my hand on your thigh,
every part of yes this is equal to.

 
These poems published here courtesy of the author and Night Ballet Press.
For more information, visit Night Ballet Press.

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