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R.A. Pavoldi is a self-trained poet writing over 50 years. He credits the Napolitano American dialect and school of hard knocks for his voices. Some places he is grateful to have published include: The Hudson Review, North American Review, FIELD, Cold Mountain Review, Crab Orchard Review, Hanging Loose, Tar River Poetry, Ars Medica, Italian Americana, The American Journal of Poetry, recently in Viewless Wings podcast, Sky Island Journal, Atlanta Review, Slipstream, and I-70 Review.


a souvenir photo


Somewhere in the Midwest

you don’t know who you are

or where you came from beyond having to hightail out of

Freeport last week after a night

of drinking at Rondo’s farm, who was gracious enough to let you stay

a spell, an all-nighter

after an all-day barbecue, smoked

brisket, Lone Stars, too much Jack

the guy from Angleton with a

Buck knife on his belt all night

trying to goad you into a fight, the roadhouse cabin with dirty sheets

the shower full of spiders the desk clerk with a lazy eye pulling a silver six gun when you

demanded your money back,

backing away, hitching a ride to

the Galveston Ferry, then north

on foot, four, and eighteen wheels

rolling up the highway you recall

the lunch counter at Woolworth’s

orange and grape soda splashing in the square glass reservoirs, in the basement where they sold

painted turtles, fish, and small birds,

a guy who dressed like Elvis

before anyone dressed like Elvis

sitting there all day, every day

when you were young and bouts

of madness and melancholy were dramatic and fierce, like

playing chicken in an old jalopy

barreling down a gravel road

head-on toward some lunatic

you knew would never swerve.

Today you are just thirsty, tired,

and cautious, thumbing a ride

looking for something familiar

asking God for another turn

some hometown, slow town

you long to go back, because now

madness and melancholy are

in slow mo, dream lit or sunlit

you are alone, in a staring contest

with someone you know

has never blinked in their lifetime.


Last night was not the jagged sleep of broken glass

but the lush green sleep of closed flowers, the ivory sleep of the crescent moon cradled in deep black dream behind the stars. There is a man on fire near the pick-up

he was working on, his head in flames

from burning gasoline the carburetor

spit back dousing him, a volunteer fireman who later said he should have

known better than to pour gas down the carb,

said he wanted to run across the field behind his brother’s farmhouse to the river but stopped, dropped, and rolled in a small puddle,

the fine gravel picked from his melted face, said he knew running would have fanned the flames

yet he wanted to run to the river.

Last night was not the scream sleep of sirens but the morphine sleep of wild windblown grass,

the facedown sleep of fallen headstones, the etched granite sleep of lichen filled names.

He longed to be a painter, fill his canvas with wildflowers, dreamed in stamens and petals

all night running wild, loading his palette with the colors and gusto of a child. He became a printer, keeping some

of his life in color, tending the press

like a pining heart beating perfected sheets layering in stacks like his dreams, recurring dreams where other dreams

collect at the mouth of a river, the delta mud of early mornings, the delta sleep of dreamers run aground.

There is a man smoldering in delta sleep

where journeymen suspend operations,

when the press is stopped between shifts

washed down, and readied for fresh plates.

There is a man on fire where wildflowers

run to the river, blazing orange, yellow, and red,

flailing his arms around his head, his face

wild rose, black-eyed Susan, Queen Anne’s lace

a man on fire in a field

flaming dandelion whirling

under spinning clouds and spiraling sun

surrounded by the riotous noise of blooming,

there is a man on fire in a field

painting flowers and waving his brush

and howling, a pinwheel ignited and twirling

face flying like sparks from its bones,

there is a man on fire in a field

moving his easel back to paint himself in,

thumbnail sketches taped around the edges

each with a detail of daisy or cool river,

a man on fire in a field

daffodil and daisy, cosmos and cornflower,

bee balm, buttercup, periwinkle, and morning glory,

there is a man on fire in a field

stitchwort, groundsel, colt’s foot, and sunflower,

blue bell, primrose, speedwell, and windflower,

there is a man on fire in a field

wolf’s bane, forget-me-not

dazzling and turning, sparkling and consumed,

there is a man on fire in a field

who knows he shouldstop, drop, and roll,

but he is running wild to the river.


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