Matthew Cariello

On the Night John Lennon Dies

It’s December 8, 1980, and I’m up too late typing in the apartment of a girl I won’t ever marry and it’s almost my birthday and it’s large and loud and electric and thumps  angrily when I hit the return key, so it sounds like someone knocking at the door, and even though we won’t marry, I take it as a sign and head up the steps to where she’s sleeping but something makes me stop and turn on the radio and there’s nothing but that music for some reason and all the stations are the same so even though I might wake her and maybe because we’ll never marry I sit myself back down and just keep hitting that return key.

Mr. Hard Welcomes Me to GG White Middle School, September 1971

My father’s rusty Chevy rumbled down Liberty Hill and stopped in plumes of blue smoke at the edge of the curb. He smiled.  “Today’s the day, son, today’s a new day.” Across the green expanse of lawn, a door stood open to the gym, and at that door, a hand beckoned. I remember the thud of the car, the soft crush of grass beneath my sneakers, the stink of fresh paint and tar, the huge shadow of the building stretching out to meet me. Inside the gym it was silent. I was late. But the man at the door stopped me. “You,” he said. “Why did you walk across the grass?” I stared down at my wet feet. “Go back and enter correctly.” I looked at him, then gazed behind at how the green was bent toward my path. “Back over the grass?” I said. “Smart ass,” he replied. I wept as I laughed as I trotted back through that vast lawn, found the hard path, returned to the door, and beneath his watchful eye stepped into that new day.

Matt Cariello’s two books of poems, A Boat That Can Carry Two (2011) and Talk (2019) were both published by Bordighera Press. He’s had stories, poems and reviews published in Voices in Italian AmericanaPoet Lore, Evening Street Review, Modern Haiku, The Long Story, Indiana Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Modern Poetry Quarterly Review, Typehouse, and The Journal.  He’s currently a senior lecturer in the English department at OSU in Columbus.