Joey Nicoletti


For Tony Hoagland, 1953-2018 

I can see it, even though it’s different  

            from the one I spot


in a Ponderosa Pine today.

I can see the oak walls of Tony’s birdhouse,

            spread out on a table


in his backyard,

            before he made it;


before he created a space for others

            to feel welcome in, like he did for me


when I moved from the heartland

            to the desert:


a public library’s worth

            of magazines and books


for me to read and keep;

            a bicycle to ride,


so I could get around

            and see Yuccas, Pecan trees,

Lombardy Poplars, feral cats, roadrunners,

            and grackles coexisting with ease.

I can’t tell Tony any of this, which makes me cry.

But I can feel him in the ponderosa; his gifts

            of friendship, kindness,


and generosity, spinning in the wheels of my mountain

            bike, as I shift gears and push


up this steep hill, which is what I have done

            all of my life: persist,


whether it’s because of family estrangement,

            a romance gone sour, confusion,


the end of a remission, or the death

            of a dear friend.

I can persevere better because of Tony,

            because of his poems,


especially the one about the birdhouse,

            where I can imagine the trills


of Pine Warblers; the sweet talk of finches

            in the comfort of their new homes;

speaking and singing from their hearts;

            like Tony in his works of art,


all made and perfected from the core

            of his donkey soul, as is the case


with the one I see today, swaying

                        in the breeze, and I taste


the ponderosa bark, sweet with vanilla; I hear


and smell a fragrant whisper

            of honeysuckle; a vine


twisted on a wooden, indigo handrail. 

Joey Nicoletti’s latest book is Boombox Serenade, which is forthcoming later this year from BlazeVOX Press. He teaches creative writing at SUNY Buffalo State.