Viewer Aggression Advised; This Page Intentionally Left Blank; Minor Loss of Fidelity
By: Peter Caccavari
Viewer Aggression Advised
Castle Hill Avenue, The Bronx, 1989
The day is falling to its knees, hinged against
The pavement whose firmness consoles and bruises.
I roll off the 6 train into the incense
Of spring, walking Castle Hill, which refuses
To be cheered. Two high school girls are up ahead.
Each one in her talk and striding proposes
The canter of certainty to the world, bred
Among the young. I trail the flint of their heels
Which lights my way. Then two cars pass us, noted
When the first brakes at once and the second peels
To the right to avoid the crash but then hits
A stop sign. The first driver seemingly feels
Concern and stops just past the corner. With bits
Of headlight on the ground, the other car’s door
Flies open and an arm with a crow bar juts
Out. Person A travels at the speed of pure
Vengeance and Person B waits swollen with fright.
Calculate the total joules required to cure
The sum of their amygdalae. Assume flight
Is not an option. Crow bar reaches window
But restrains. Words pass through. They must be the right
Words because, despite what seemed ill-fated, no
Windows or lives are shattered this day. The men
Retreat to their interrupted plans and go
On. Are they changed? Confirmed? Loosened? Stiffened? When
Have we witnessed without missing the crux? I
Think of voice and echo, the same, just cloven
In two by hardened surfaces. The girls cry
Out their judgment. “I don’t blame him for being
Pissed off,” the one girl says. “Yeah, the other guy
Had it coming,” the second girl says. Seeing
No more to comment on, they change the subject.
How solid their fortress, how distant their spring
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
It comes in an envelope,
in a skin luminous
with unfounded expectation,
and with a little force, the envelope
gives up the ghost, gives up the fight,
no longer able to keep the inside in.
Out comes the financial statement,
its dollars and ratios
swirling above the page--
rampant and rampaging,
tiny and trembling.
Then I reach a page still
as a pond, on it only:
This page intentionally left blank.
I can feel the page holding
its breath, counting the seconds,
asphyxiating on Mississippis.
The page reaches for blankness
but cannot leave behind
the smear of intention.
A single set of tracks
in the snow that go all the way
down to the dead ground.
Is this what you intended
when you ended your life
in a fierce declaration of blankness?
I remember the redbird you said
was beating a bitter tattoo
within the drum of your skull.
This was not as it should be.
You so admired how in the world
the redbird’s mate was never far away,
how that moving center kept
each bird grounded, even in flight,
as they swirled up beneath
the sun which buffs
the bright and the dun
to a complementary finish.
I was driving home from work tonight
and I-75 filled with brake lights,
making me think of your arteries.
The brake lights were spilling out
the off-ramps and seemed to be
your corpuscles exiting,
each pair trying to find the one
driveway where their engine
could grow cold at its leisure.
Despite your best intentions
blankness evades you still
for I know too much, have kept
your relics in gilt boxes,
secure in the shrine of Our Lady
of the Obstinate Remainder.
Minor Loss of Fidelity
I’ve had Excel on my mind recently,
since I have a lot of time on my hands
these days—not hard time, as they say, but hard
enough for me. Some years back I heard
learning about computers would help me find a job.
I’ve gotten worse advice, so I did learn
about computers, and I found Excel
to be right up my alley. You see,
I have a head for numbers. Always have.
I don’t know what it is. They kinda talk
to me. I know that sounds stupid or crazy,
and it might well be. But that doesn’t make it untrue.
Stupid and crazy can be the most irritating
kind of true there is, but there it is.
Excel is a place where there is order,
not in a Nazi kinda way but in the way
your dog knows that if you throw the stick
you won’t be gone when he gets back with it.
I’m stunned by how inside that glowing rectangle
waits this formula, so generous, so
open to all. I imagine the cell
as saloon doors, and through them walks the Man
With No Name, tired and bitter and alone,
with fewer friends than he has syllables,
but when he hits the bar, it turns into Cheers,
just without deodorant and with a whole lotta guns.
That’s what a good formula can do for you.
It gives a drifting number a place in the cosmos
where things come together.
That gives me hope. But what troubles me
about Excel is versioning. You have this time
capsule, a document in an older version,
and you want to bring it into the light
of the present age in a new version,
but you get this disturbing message:
Minor loss of fidelity. Then it’s decision time:
Continue or Cancel? There’s a dilemma
we don’t often confront, now do we?
I mean, we face it every day, but we don’t
confront it. There’s another message,
this one Significant loss of fidelity.
Sure, that one’s a no-brainer. Who would choose
a significant loss of fidelity?
Don’t need to be Joe College to know you want
no part of that. Have you ever seen
the episode of Star Trek (the original one)
called “The Enemy Within”? Of course
you haven’t. You have much better things to do
with your time. Let me sum it up for you.
Captain Kirk beams down to the planet
but when he beams back up he is duplicated,
sort of, and one version is the kind,
compassionate but now wimpy Kirk,
and the other version is the bold, decisive
but now nasty zero-inhibitions
Kirk. Now that, my friends, is a significant
loss of fidelity. It’s the minor losses, though,
that are trickiest. I mean, how minor’s minor?
Do three minor losses make a significant loss?
There are some minor losses of fidelity
we can cancel, if we choose, before they turn
significant. A laugh which leads to a beer
which slides headlong into divorce.
But there are other minor losses where
the Cancel button is grayed out and you can only
Continue. Take Alzheimer’s, where one day
you forget where you put your car keys,
and heck, who doesn’t from time to time,
but it doesn’t stop there, until one day
you walk into your favorite bar where everybody
knows your name, except you.
Peter Caccavari is Associate Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness at Union Institute & University. He has a PhD. in English from Rutgers University. His poems have appeared in ELF: Eclectic Literary Forum, Connecticut River Review, Ruminate, Dappled Things, Free State Review and The Louisville Review. His poems have also been read on Conrad’s Corner on WYSO 91.3 FM in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He is a Catholic deacon and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his family.
"Viewer Aggression Advised
I was on a trip to California for my job at Union Institute & University, and I was watching TV in my hotel room. A movie was starting, and they gave the standard disclaimer, “Viewer discretion advised.” However, for some reason, I heard that as “Viewer aggression advised.” I thought it was funny and would make a great title for a poem. Shortly afterwards I thought of the event described in the poem, which, with some small changes, I actually witnessed. The poem is in the form of terza rima because I have been reading Dante’s Commedia, which uses terza rima, and I wanted to try my hand at it. My poem doesn’t use the terza rima ending of the couplet rhyming off the end word in the second line of the previous triplet because I wanted to have the poem reflect in form the lack of conclusion depicted in the poem’s content.
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
A number of years ago, a dear friend of mine was seriously considering suicide. Thanks be to God he did not. The poem came about by imagining what life without him would be like.
Minor Loss of Fidelity
In recent history the concept of “fidelity” has become associated with technology as regards the transition from one medium to another. Before Excel, fidelity was associated with the “high fidelity” of vinyl records. Culturally the word “fidelity” has lost much of the human resonance it once had. In the poem I have tried to see where the technological and the human intersect and diverge. I like the interplay between humor and pathos in the poem."