Poets are dazzling people, but not in the way you might think. They are PhDs of observation, CEOs of the sensory world. Non-poets carefully tend to their careers, their families, their possessions, hates and loves. Most of them are good citizens who contribute in positive ways to this world. But they have on blinders that prevent them from seeing the little cracks that are (as Leonard Cohen says) how the light gets in. They aren’t aware that there are huge and miniscule scraps of life that they can’t see or don’t recognize. If you were to bring this to their attention, they would most likely be unimpressed. The fact that it means something to you would make you strange. But poets are strange—although not in the clichéd way that power-stoked America has fabricated about us. I’m lucky I was born into this tribe. — Gianna Russo
* * *
Next time, you’ll notice them
in their Sunday clothes, the orange-yellow
vests that once a week declare to the church-goers
waiting at the red light on Hillsborough Avenue
they are keyless.
Next to them, the newspapers are bundled
like mildewed sheets in the sun. In the rain
they are old loaves, piles of fish.
Just once a week, on the day the Lord
has made, the chairless are allowed to pace
the sidewalks and street corners unmolested
by bureaucrats, who’ve set aside this one day to allow
them to swarm among us
in their orange vests, darting between
cars to sell us news or odds and ends.
Sometimes a family sells
water bottles, Dad standing
in the gutter holding out one in each hand,
Mom sitting near the cooler fanning
herself with the lid of a cardboard gift box.
On the bus bench, the kids bend
their heads over math books. Sometimes
men with arms like tree bark and wind-whipped
eyes, shuffle up to our cars, just stand
there while our idling motors hum
a weekend song, the cool car
air spilling silky and fine. Mirrorless, maybe
they are seers, holding their scrawled
signs, counting the days out in footsteps, their bellies
full of old headlines, brains full of maybe,
their vests like lanterns as they wait here
in the Sunshine State right on the corner where you can see them.
Gianna Russo is founding editor of YellowJacket Press, currently Florida’s only publisher of poetry chapbook manuscripts, for which she won a 2011 Creative Loafing Best of the Bay Award. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has published poems in Tampa Review, Ekphrasis, Crab Orchard Review, Apalachee Review, Florida Review, Florida Humanities Council Forum, Karamu, The Bloomsbury Review, The Sun, Poet Lore, saw palm, The MacGuffin, and Calyx, among others. She teaches at St. Leo University, where she is also managing editor of Sandhill Review.