Christopher Grillo

Spotlight: Fragments of a Shoreline Adolescence; Heroes Tunnel: Confessions of a Working Class Slob.; and Charlene Comes Home From College, May 2012

Fragments of a Shoreline Adolescence

Frankie and I protect our town,
on the scoreboard and at the town fair,
still wearing our jerseys, proud of our colors,

behind the movies against Johnny Ferrara
and the Hamden frats, and when the owner
calls the cops, at the BJ’s wholesale club
across the street.

All these places look different in the day,
when we’re not so helpless to ardent dawn,
so hopeful the street lights along Route 5 flicker
long enough to guide us home for curfew.

And all these places look so different, now,
and anything vanilla still smells like canned tobacco.
Frankie still loves to fight, and I still love to egg him on,
but more often than not we turn the other cheek.

Heroes Tunnel:
Confessions of a Working Class Slob.

Its winter and work has run dry like radiator heat.
Black Ice spreads like ivy between paver decks
and bleeds through the retaining walls I poured all year,
finds pockets of air in the mix and expands.

Its cold and the county is stark and we are broke,
but Frankie smiles, This is too easy.
Like we’ve cased these houses all summer.

We forage for metal through Greenwich mansions
where we’ve worked, the kind no one lives in
but the pool runs ‘till November and grass still gets cut each week.

I remember every front gate code,
which had guest homes with unlocked doors,
but Frankie does the legwork, drives and mans the Sawzall.

On the way home he never even toes the break.
He rides hard, head on a swivel for pigs,
while I swaddle the copper in the back of the van.

On the parkway he hits 80 and never lets off the whip,
pushing that lame horse down the last turn.
In Autumn, its two-lanes are swallowed by postcard foliage,

like driving into a flushing commode
when the sun’s shining behind the trees,
but winter is cruel for letting the flowers die.

We spill out into nothing but concrete and glass in Stratford.
Factory whistles sound beneath the bridge.
Men with sleep-tired eyes pass men with smokestack eyes
under a first shift hour that’s not quite day,

as the blackness of night fails and the sun still stretches its rays,
shades drawn, dressing in the dark
by the dim glow of pawn shop signs.

After the bridge we can see the tunnel,
aptly named for the weight it bears,
two eyes shining orange in the pale morning,
staring out at northbound traffic.

We hit its light like a wave and Frankie drives faster.

Charlene Comes Home From College, May 2012

Charlene is the eternal homecoming queen,
so I know she’ll be back eventually.

She can’t help it, sees high school cafeterias
in her dreams, the lights, the dollar store streamers,

all those other girls, their green eyes averted,
gnawing the strands of fallen up-dos.

Yes, Charlene will surely come home,
because she’s not as smart as she thinks she is

but there’ll be no reception.
She’ll have to announce herself

with uploads from the back seat of the family minivan,
every south of the border sign until they hit Virginia,

screenshots from her iTunes, whatever Indie
shit she found at school and selfies.
Ten or fifteen tasteful selfies.

I won’t check Twitter or open any of her Snapchats.
I won’t have to. I’ll have known for days. I’ll have felt it,

the weight in the air that’s just so hard to breathe,
and whether it’s the lack of oxygen to my brain,

or my general hopeless romanticism, I’ll ask her to dinner,
convinced that this time…

Christopher GrilloChristopher Eugene Grillo is an educational professional and second year MFA candidate at Southern Connecticut State University. He has previously been published in Noctua, The Elm City Review, Up the River, Referential, Drunk Monkeys, and Extracts. Christopher moonlights as a high school football coach at his alma mater North Haven High School.