Melissa Eleftherion

Dream about Nonna after Vito died

You were young and honey-haired, cupped us from winds

Though you couldn’t save your own daughters from his throbbing 

Hands his stern glances or vile misery how he menaced 

Our laughter so we feared even those spontaneities of joy

You cupped us conch-like spiraled together as your eyes 

Sought understanding or jaundiced forgiveness

Maybe just subconscious desire to claim this peace to move on 

There were many bistro tables arranged in the small dining 

Space near the door & a boy carried a small snake which would

Conveniently disappear & re-emerge from under the table

During the graduation ceremony

These cupping embraces were a protection 

She thought love alone could protect us from this wrath of the sick

& pockmarked hollow the vituperative 

suffering of his inconsequential malehood

She says Tell me about a time when the men were good

She says Tell me my love is enough 

Ode to a Fire Hydrant in Bensonhurst

O johnny-pump –

You wear your gushing heart like a sieve

How you adorned us street kids

With relief from the 

Volcanic pavement

How you lifted us into

Your arms as though 

we were loved.

Self-Portrait as a Series of Paintings we found on Milvia Street


Her face made and remade of pastel shapes

One eye whimsical, one eye berates

Lips pursed with holding

Her pieces vary, contradict, pull apart 

Under a window 

Under a spider

She makes decisions and decrumbs

She pauses before a bedroom door


We found your paintings on the street

We hung them on the wall

We hung your expressions 

We hung your ghost

We are strangers yet you have lived in our home for two years

How do you do?

Did your children put your art out to pasture?

We wonder and want.


Scalene the triptych of your living, of your death

When I gaze back at your conflict, you begin to burn 

into phosphenes and I have trouble sleeping 

with your eyes gazing, shaped like you have seen too much to bear.

King Kong

Who am I to miss a father 

Who wasn’t around very much philandering

& dreaming of being a gangster

Gambling away my sweet sixteen birthday money

My trust fund the mini-townhouse 

Where we wore out Rock of Ages & twirled

Our spiral phone cord around

The bend in the carpeted stair.

Who am I to miss a father

Who used belts on us & wrote me songs

Dealt coke to pay the bills

A father we actively referred to as 

“Sperm donor” for years who

Pretended to be on the lam & said

He’d make it up

Who am I to miss a father

Who was sometimes tender sometimes honest

Outcast & emotionally bullied in his home life

An un-fillable hole of his own

Scapegoating children into a wild unconscious 

Storytelling traumas into a wicked armor 

Who am I to miss a father

A faker a baker an insecure embezzler

Who fainted during my birth 

Fanned like a maiden in distress 

While surgeons cut my mother open 

Who am I to miss a father

A feather an eggshell of a dad

A donut baker a dirty bag

Of Pall Malls off the back of a truck

Who am I to miss a father

Whose mischievous eyes gleamed as he lied

Gold chain & track suit, splash of Drakkar from Canal St.

Who am I to miss a father who sat with me

Top row of the King Kong ride screaming to the sky

Melissa Eleftherion is the author of field guide to autobiography (The Operating System, 2018), & eleven chapbooks from various small presses. Her poems & prose have been widely published in journals including Paperbag, La Vague, & Entropy, & nominated for the Pushcart Prize & Best of the Net. Born & raised in Brooklyn, Melissa now lives in Northern California where she manages the Ukiah Branch Library, curates the LOBA Reading Series, and serves as the Poet Laureate of Ukiah.