top of page

C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Cadenza in the Key of G; Ride or Die

By: Angela Gaito-Lagnese

Cadenza in the Key of G

Huntington Beach, years since I called California home, 

just ahead of losing myself again, we stay extra days in a beachside room,

artsy and small — an old lover, a new hotel, nothing the way I remember. 

We await news from the hospital, share ice cream, tell Gary-stories, pre-

pancreatic.  All this, mere days before the earth rattles and shakes.  

My last night here, I walk the pier as the sun starts its slow metallic dive

its final embers framing the boy with violin into a portrait. 

I lean against weathered wood, one more silhouette amidst strangers. 

The boy’s strings vibrating in a smooth and practiced arc

beneath kites and souvenir balloons in darkening moons of blues and reds. 

As if on cue, a girl of maybe three or four, spins out from the crowd 

into open sound, her hair a spray of sepia curls. She dances 

in improvised pirouettes, a squall of spirals. 

Nearby, a voice whispers bonita.

The waves beneath the pier crash and grind against the shoreline. 

The music swells, the bow whips the strings, 

pitches and stings in fevered revelry, a deep discordant ache.  

There is no time to explain how I will leave again.  

I’m leaving.  This one moment, if this is all there is, 

will have to be enough.  A memory to caress later, 

a tune to hum without thinking.

Ride or Die

                                                          Come with me, Hail Mary, 

                                                          Run    quick    see

                                                          what do we have here


Girl packs her trunk, suitcases, boxes, 

backseat layered in blankets, pillows, the cat, the dog; 

glovebox stuffed               papers, letters, a knife, flashlight, burned CDs—

Girl turns in her rental keys, tells boy to come if he wants, 

but this is ride-or-die, get-out-of-town, no-turning-back, 

whatever-boy-decides-is-fine.  This is no vacation. 

This break will be clean.  

Boy folds himself into passenger seat, emaciated, wasted. 

Girl drives.         Pennsylvania                     Illinois                    Missouri

no stories, no grace, they race through great wide swaths of spoiled grain in Kansas 

yellow fires against the horizon      smoke plumes in tornado shapes.  

Into New Mexico               the mountains contort into limbs of dried clay 

wild bruises of purple, sun-rusted reds.    Girl drives past the great meteor exhibit, 

wounded hole of earth that was left, the dinosaur relics, the petrified forest.  

Boy is petrified already.                  Girl plows gas to metal through Arizona . 

they rest near the Grand Canyon                 half bare pines, bland soil

about as close as they get when he really gets sick;            

Rolling Stones kick from the radio to keep his mind out of his intestines.

I know I’ve dreamed you               a sin and a lie…

                                                                                               wild   horses       couldn’t drag me away

The Mohave during a windstorm                  tires all over the road

               girl clutches at the steering wheel                 pale stubs of bone from her fist 

Two thousand six hundred miles past Redondo and Torrance 

south on the 110, ramp to PCH, boy flails into seizure     

girl prays to nameless god that boy lives  

ambulance wails, takes him—

               powerless, unmanageable

Girl smells freeway exhaust, jasmine, ocean

hears the heady bass from a passing car;

completely alone in a brand-new city,  

she breathes in deeply to keep from screaming, 

imagines many possible endings   

 La da da da da     la la la


Angela Gaito-Lagnese holds an M.F.A. in fiction and an Ed.D. in Language, Literacy & Culture from the University of Pittsburgh. Her work has appeared in The Pittsburgh City Paper: Chapter and Verse, The Main Street Rag, and Nasty Women and Bad Hombres: A Poetry Anthology. Angela has lived in San Pedro, California and presently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she is an Associate Professor of English at the Community College of Allegheny County.


bottom of page