Dan Chelotti


Grieving in the Modern World




When someone died

In ancient times, say,

In a battle, or from

A thorn and the lack

Of penicillin, the women

Were said to let their hair

Down. Their grief freed

Them. Over time, this

Custom was lost, and is

Now represented by

Over-edited movie

Scenes where a woman

Cuts her own hair

In a fluorescent bathroom.

The cut comes out uneven

But cute, striving after

Ingrid Bergman in

For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Woodie Guthrie also spent

A lot of time striving

After Ingrid Bergman.

He kept a broken watch

In his pocket to symbolize

How time stopped when

He saw her. Woodie Guthrie

Never got to use that line –

But he did, for a time,

Save the world. It would

Seem fitting to let my

Hair down to show how sad

This makes me feel,

But the microwave is

Almost finished heating

My dinner, and the Jim Lehrer

News hour is about to begin.









One of These Days



If only the moon

Would part the clouds

I could see him better:

The melon vender,

Bored, unable to leave

His stand. I buy a melon.

I don’t. It’s different

Every time. I move

My hand in a room

So saturated with light

My shadow is nothing

More than the sound

Of the lathe next door.

I let go. I have to.

He hasn’t been there

For ten years, and for that

He was only there one

Night. I hardly even

Noticed him. Why

Do I remember him?

Why do I fantasize

About buying or not

Buying a melon from him?

Why do I remember

The cobweb outside

Sears and Roebuck

On an early winter

Day in 1987 when

I am standing

In a supermarket

Looking at the fat

Content on a bag of chips

For God’s sake

Where do the things

That matter go?

He hands me a melon

And doesn’t answer,

He just smiles

And refuses to take my money.










Ode to Hephaestus



Craving a smoke

In the half-assembled

World, I rely on Hephaestus.

When I fake a limp

Coming out of a handicapped

Bathroom stall, I think

Of Hephaestus.

When I see an injured crow,

When I check the tire pressure,

When I hold a book

Over the recycling bin

Debating whether I’ll ever

Read it again. I put it back.

Not because I will

Or won’t read it,

Because of Hephaestus,

Of the way he shifts

His weight as he bears

Down on the white hot metal.

I see his eyes

Just above the weld:

How he might as well

Be staring at a cold cup of coffee,

And feel better

About not smoking,

About circuitously walking

Toward an injured crow

With a tire iron

I’ve dubbed Mercy.









Fake It



There is a café

In San Luis Obisbo

I’ve never been to,

But I say I have

And no one questions me.

On the wide scale

Of lies I tell daily,

This one barely registers.

Pretending to be Catholic,

On the other hand,

Registers. I never say it

Out loud, I just nod

Quietly. To quietly nod

One’s head is the most

Fierce kind of lie.

You believe in it

The same way you believe

In the stink of a rotting

Pig’s knuckle in the closet

Under the stairs –

The same way

I artfully avoid looking

At the holes I punch

In the walls, or artfully

Tie silk ribbons to the trees.

I masterfully arrange

My books in the boxes

So if anyone sees me,

They will see how intelligent

I am. I stare down

The long highway

Of mice and fake it:

Because it is clever:

Because it keeps the floor clean.












Don’t bother

To notice the light

That makes you plunge

Your hand in the sand.

You might find

A word you don’t want

To find. It will find you

Eventually, like I found

You eventually,

But it was too late

In the evening,

You had to get home,

Tend to the roast

And your table

Of contents.

You left me standing

Under a lamp post.

I am always standing

Under a lamp post,

Even when I am not.

I use this construction

As binary stars

Use gravity.

I use this miniature

Compass to find

The northmost fountain,

The one by which

I spend my nights

Waiting, the one

You told me to wait by.

Sometimes when the moon

Finds its way through

The branches

I find a way

Back to the street

You paved.

You nod, whisper

Get on home with yourself.

Good to see you.

Say hello to the rest

Of the ghosts.

Say hello to the rest

Of the ghosts.



Dan Chelotti’s poems have appeared in Boston Review, Tarpaulin Sky, Free Verse, and in the anthology, State of the Union: 50 Political Poems. A chapbook, The Eights, was published by the Poetry Society of America. He lives in Connecticut, and teaches writing at Elms College.