Tuesday, April 23

Poems: Teaching Tools, Rapini

By Joey Nicoletti


Teaching Tools

My brother, am I allowed to work less

on reactions, which are taxing

for me to manage in the moment?


For instance, did I hear you correctly

when you said Buddha is

a four-letter word?


Did I understand you

when you said

Ahmaud Arbery wasn’t murdered?


Do I have to be on the same timeframe

that everyone else is on?

Am I allowed to go for a walk, stop


and enjoy all that any moment has 

to offer me, such as a shot of Bailey’s 

in a fresh cup of hot chocolate?


The look of concentration

in a muscular acrobat’s eyes,
as he throws a chair


and a petite woman 

in the crisp December air,
one after the other?


Am I allowed to marvel 

the radiant smile 

on the woman’s face


when she lands in the chair,

his ripped arms as still

as the lake behind the stage?


Am I allowed to listen

to my mouth 

when it suggests zeppoles, especially


if the powdered sugar melting 

on my delighted tongue 

helps me to understand 


that it’s better for me

to feed my curiosity

instead of my frustration?  



Do I have to eat anything

that makes me sick,

even if it’s something

that other people enjoy?


Take broccoli rabe, for instance,

which is also known

as rapini: a delicacy

in my family. I was


a child the first time

I tried it. Dreadful.
It was as slimy

as an eel, and all


of the garlic in the world

could not mask

its bitter taste,

or keep me


from sprinting

to the bathroom:
“the Throne Room,”

as my father called it,


faster than anyone could

say “Mangia.”
When I emerged

from the Throne Room,


my father put me to bed

and interrogated me

like the cop 

he wanted to become


but couldn’t, because 

he was too short.

How could I not

like rapini? Why


did I have to be 

different? I shrugged 

my shoulders.
My father mumbled


“Good night, Joefish”

as he turned off the light,

a crown of neon green stars

aglow on the ceiling.


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