George Guida

My Father at the Piano 

Inside the house where our parents raised us 

he is alone, 

my sisters with families of their own 

not far away. 

I am visiting for the weekend, my own family 

hours from here. 

He is playing something he’s always played, 

an aria 

about a mother near death 

in grief 

for a son that destiny stole 

for a king. 

It’s all too dramatic, from where I’m standing 

outside his door. 

He is not playing to remember 

our mother. 

He is playing not to remember 

and not to forget. 

He is filling the house with cadences 


as his wife’s voice when the phone rang 

for him 

as he sat here, neither aged nor alone, 

but absorbed 

in a melody that comes to him 

and goes 

like the upstairs laughter of children 


when they hear the music that is 

their home.

Music for an MRI with Contrast 

Slide me in and I’ll remember. 

Ask me what music I’d like, 

classical or classic rock. 

We’ll go with what’s on. 

With the mirror in place. 

I can peek out of the tube. 

But first, dark memory. 

Vivian the nurse adopted girls 

with accents: Anna Maria and Elise, 

Italian when I was wholly so, 

when my mother took me to visit: 

backyard, lawn and concrete, 

umbrella clothesline and plastic trays, 

antipasto in the summer sun. 

Golden rays across my arm 

felt like my father tucking me in 

and leaving the radio on. 

My mother in the mirror 

at my feet, with cardinals’ wings 

my sisters knew she’d have. 

My father, 85 now at the table 

shows me a shot of his girlfriend, 

my mother two years gone 

and now back 

sings along to “Freebird,” 

flapping like a fledgling. 

Vivian delivered her 

when my mother’s mother 

ran the NICU ward 

named for a doctor and sage 

who wrote down principles of faith. 

I believe the Italian girls 

are sliding gently into tubes, 

their ancient music playing 

until mine stops, spooking 

my mother, who flies to them. 

The voice from the booth 

says I’m doing fine. 

It will all be over soon. 

Mick Jagger sings

You can put me out 

with no shoes on my feet. 

It’s too cold to go barefoot 

today unless you’re in a grave. 

That’s a morbid thought, 

my father would say. 

Don’t worry, the sun’s out. 

It’s warmer than it should be. 

I don’t look beyond the tube. 

The next song was recorded 

to outlast MRIs—

wail-outs and drum fills. 

I forget the lyrics. 

I wait for the voice, 

but all I hear is hum, 

the universe without music, 

a sound to erase 

what machines discover.

A Puzzled Mason 

A low brick wall at the driveway’s foot 

means no parking forever, 

means folding chairs on concrete 

and a metal awning to protect them, 

means stone flower pots for privacy. 

It means a son who wouldn’t leave 

and a mother who didn’t drive, 

means a father who didn’t live 

and a puzzled mason. 

It is six layers of argument, 

is a methodical exorcism, 

is a sideways stack of votives 

casting an absent shadow 

on an altar to egos.

More Like Louis Prima 

I look more like Louis Prima every day, 

like my great aunts in fading color 

Polaroids from 1975, the year he went 

into a coma and never came out, 

which is pretty depressing until you think 

that he’s been dead for decades and still 

people know his songs, if not his name. 

To some he is the dear great uncle 

they never knew well but loved from afar. 

You may say that a few decades mean nothing, 

the time from Storyville to The Bomb. 

Just two decades back I could be seductive 

as the Storyville women of the night, 

who were not the vampires you might conjure, 

but wayward Black Italian girls 

like the one who had me on Canal Street 

at a conference for people who love Louis Prima. 

How could I know my life would come down 

to how attractive women found Louis Prima, 

to how my friends have welcomed his face, 

to whether or not they expect me to sing 

“I Ain’t Got Nobody” and care to leave 

do-be-do-be-dubious traces when I do.


Anastasia, take the empty jugs 

and untie the goats so they can eat. 

The journey begins again tomorrow. 

We may drink from the rivers and streams 

if the soldiers haven’t poisoned them. 

Gather the children’s best clothes 

to wear when the rains come 

and after, if bombs still fall, for 

the cold and snow and shelter 

with whoever may take us in. 

I am leaving now in search of gasoline 

as far as what’s left will take me. 

If there are checkpoints 

and I don’t return by morning, 

I will call to say it’s time 

to escape however you can. 

Remember that you know nothing of war 

except for the explosions you hear. 

Your husband is gone, and you are 

frightened. Your children are hungry. 

Your neighbor’s house has been destroyed. 

Treat the soldiers as though they were our brothers 

gone off to fight in their country. 

Offer them a crust of bread and a drink. 

Everyone needs a rest. No one knows 

what we need to keep ourselves. 

George Guida is the author of ten books, including five collections of poems. His collections Zen of Pop (Long Sky Media) and New York and Other Lovers (Encircle Publications) appeared in 2020. His debut novel Posts from Suburbia (Encircle) appeared in 2022, and his second novel, The Uniform (Guernica Editions) is due out in 2024.