Mike Pantano

Mike Pantano
3 Poems


Baby Boomer Footage

When JFK was shot part of my father died too.
His blood tears splattered across my childhood.
Holding my hand, his evening scotch drained,
the beginning of the end he would say over and over
watching the fuzzy black and white. Mysterious
new words, ominous phrases, soon probed the psyche.
VC, Charlie, Sirhan Sirhan, James Earl Ray, TV body counts,
Billy clubs and riot gear, teargas canisters, Black
Panther rallies, Haight-Ashbury where handcuffed hippies
flashed the victory sign, peace and love, from backseats of police cars,
while camouflaged boys half a world away suddenly appeared
crouched in pockets of swirling jungle grass, trading
body bags for ammo cases, M60 tracer rounds
strafing murky treelines on our bigbox color Magnavox.


In a Foreign Country

Beautiful are the strange trees
white with dust on either side of the road
as the artillery transports thunder over the hill
into the valley of fires. It is a desert evening
and we are eating rations in the shadow
of a shelled wall, swatting at flies,
reading letters from home, the names
of the day’s dead still warm in our mouths,
O’Leary, Holden, Crane, hunched in the dust,
hoping to sleep an hour before the bitter morning,
though, by now, we know the deep sleep of love
can never happen here, our slumbers broken
by the terrible screams that followed us out,
and won’t stop, or return with us to the flames.


Finding Spring Where You Are

Spring in my Saint Paul is a really sheet of paper
waiting for winter fields to seed, catalogs
for tractor parts arriving by UPS, grocery lists
added to and subtracted from checking late
April pantries, the brick hum of snowbanks
dissolving, the local measurements made,
sun angle and shadow length, mud scraped
from boots, descriptions of breaking ice,
timber piled in thawing estuaries, evening pipes
and whiskey snifters, prairie winds cutting a trail east,
Ivanhoe to Red Wing, an old woman knitting
by firelight, blue stars rising over a million lakes,
the remote icy roads we drove across in snow chains
a month ago, coloring now with starry phlox and wild violets.



Mike Pantano has poems in or is forthcoming in Third Wednesday, San Pedro River Review, the Museum of Americana, Gravel, Flint Hills Review, Slipstream and elsewhere. A husband and father, he lives with his wife and an assortment of spoiled pets in Cincinnati, Ohio.