Cathexis Northwest Press

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Viewer Aggression Advised; This Page Intentionally Left Blank; Minor Loss of Fidelity
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--

 

A reckoning

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.

00:00 / 02:16
00:00 / 02:22
00:00 / 03:46

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."