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Len Gasparini

Len Gasparini is the author of numerous books and chapbooks of poetry, five short-story collections, two children’s books, and a one-act play. His work has been translated into French and Italian. His collection of short fiction When Does a Kiss Become a Bite? was published by Ekstasis Editions in 2009. He has lived in Toronto, Vancouver, New Orleans, and Washington State, and now resides in his hometown of Windsor, Ontario.


Halloween 1945

I remember riding on my father’s shoulders
when I was four years old,
gazing at the starry sky
up above the world so high.
On front porches, jack-o’-lanterns
leered, grinned, or grimaced.
Silhouettes of bats, cats, and witches
clung to lighted windowpanes, trying to flee
into the deepening shadows outside.
Across the street a huge maple tree
stood in the midst of its own darkness.
Masquerading children chanted:
Trick or treat, smell my feet,
give me something good to eat.

On such a night old terrors crept to life again.

What mischievous djinn assumed the shape
of a mushroom cloud? What mystery split the atom
for better or for worse?
“The spirit of the Perverse,”
said so-and-so, quoting Poe.
Or was it Oppenheimer’s horror-scope?
“Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
A gang of children gamboled around a lamppost
where a boy, dressed as the devil,
had built a bonfire of dead leaves.
The children danced with impish glee,
doing wrong for the wrong’s sake,
feeling the thrill of fear.
And I, safe on my father’s shoulders,
thrilled at the spectacle.

The Social Life of String

When did you last see a piece of cotton string?
String, you know—thinner than a cord
and thicker than a thread—used to tie, hang,
or fasten things. String: a strong word,
cosmological too, like the string theory.

Try to sing, I’ve got the world on a string
when you’re living on a shoestring budget.
The blonde starlet in the string bikini
lounged poolside, fingering a string of pearls.
This tableau tugged at Errol Flynn’s heartstrings.

Said Frank Costello to a crooked politician:
“I can pull strings, with no strings attached.”
A verb with verve: string someone along;
string someone up; strung out on crack, smack…
You don’t see string around much anymore.

Film Noir

Are you contrite?”
~ Eugene McNamara to the author

The shadowy woman in my dream
standing on a rain-glistening street
in front of a neon-flickering hotel
impressed herself
on my subliminal memory.
I only recognize her as you would
recognize the compulsive figure
of your desire when you waken alone,
late at night, clutching a gun
in a strange room
on some journey whose purpose
you can’t remember.

In the Bar of the Pontchartrain Hotel

The old man sitting beside me in the bar
of the Pontchartrain Hotel was talking nonstop.
The barkeep poured him a slug of whiskey.
He swallowed it faster than you could slap a tick.

Yessir,” said he, “I used to be
an agronomist—oh, way back in sixty-three
when boll weevils deviled the cotton,
and floodwaters hurled the levees—”

Suddenly he nudged my arm, looked at me…
“What’s the loneliest bayou in Louisiana?”
I didn’t know what to say. I smiled.
“Bayou self!” he chortled at his own pun;

asked where I hailed from, and said: “I live
in town now, but I’m as country as a plate
of butterbeans”; then gestured to the barkeep:
“Bourbon, straight. With a bourbon chaser.”


From The Social Life of String
by Len Gasparini
© 2018 Len Gasparini
Published by Ekstasis Editions