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May 28, 2014

REMEMBERING FRANKIE: POEMS & PICTURES

It is so hard to believe twenty-five years have flown by since our young brother Frankie is gone. Of course, we miss him everyday. We hope to reunite with him in Heaven when it comes our time. 

I wrote these poems and post these photos in remembrance of Frankie: brother, godson, and friend. 


My sister Anna and I: Godparents of Baby Frankie: 1955


TO MY YOUNG BROTHER

that January 4th you were born
I served the 7:30 morning mass
at Holy Family Church and then
when mass let out
I distributed bubblegum cigars 
to all my classmates
before the morning bell sent us
scurrying to our eighth-grade classes.

Too many Januarys have come and gone 
since that May you caught the fast train
and I wonder how sweeter life
might have been if you had stuck around
and trusted the words you read each night
in the Sacred Book of psalms and gospels
if you could have found new laughter
to buoy the sorrows that drowned you

                       #
© 2009 Salvatore Buttaci

Papa. Mama. and Frankie: 1980

Frankie and I in 1979

Frankie on Christmas Day, 1965

  1. FRANKIE ON HIS BICYCLE

in the photo you sit on your new bicycle
the Christmas tree behind you
its lights nowhere as bright as your eyes
and you are wearing a smile 
I would give all I own to see again

in the photo you are ten years old
Mama mails it to me all the way to Sicily
I show the relatives my little brother
on his bike and Uncle Frank says
how proud I am of you

the photo sits in the palm of my hand
it is my favorite memento of you
who rarely smiled in your grownup life 
our eyes dimmed by failed dreams
twenty-five years of Christmases gone

and I still miss you, young brother...

                                 # 
© 2014 Salvatore Buttaci




FRANK WRITES SONGS

he sits for hours
strumming chords
picking twangs
up and down
guitar strings
blue eyes closed
lips working
ad-lib lyrics
about broken hearts
castaway promises
ugly sneers of The Man
for hours 
his fingers 
twang notes
along the fretted neck
and all around him
the rest of his life
on mute.

      #
© 2009 Salvatore Buttaci




Pamela Brown & Frank Buttaci: July 19, 1981
Frankie, 1986

GRIEF

These are pebbles
loosened from a rock sky
tumbling from the heights
of heart into abysmal greyness
unlike hail that pelts the earth
or rain that mimics tears

These pebbles
soundlessly free-fall
through the cloudless expanse
bloodlessly beyond the main
far from arterial reefs
–– misshapened chips
of gravestone
sculpted by sorrow's
mallet and gouge chiseled 
against the cold block
of a beaten heart

These are pebbles
in the mourner's throat
rock-confetti stars
hurled from stone skies
hurled from a diminished heart
still mercilessly beating
   paths to doors ajar:
granite Hansel crumbs
mark   and   mock   and   mask
  a shifting underfoot,
  a faulting that is blameless.

                     #
© 1990 Salvatore Buttaci



LAST PHOTO

Cemetery Sunday after mass 
you buried that last photo
deep in the hard earth
just before autumn ended
and another winter exhaled
its first white breath

Like a relic under the marble
floor of some cathedral
the last photo of your son
blesses the dark dirt
keeps away destroyers
sanctifies this place

You touch his name
chisteled in the gray stone
the dates of his life & death
pat the ground where the photo
rests below in cellophane,
then, eyes closed, you kiss your fingers

                           #
© 1991 Salvatore Buttaci

REMEMBERING FRANKIE

You called him an angel when he died;
it didn't matter that angels 
were created en masse
and God announced to all of them:
"That's it.
No more angels!"

You called him an angel when he died;
you talked of how Frankie's new wings
might need some getting used to,
how his long white robe was,
like St. Paul said,
"Whiter than snow."

You called him an angel when he died;
you said how Frank's angelic face
beamed beneath his red hair
and all angels and saints
marched around him.
"Welcome home, Frank!"

You called him an angel when he died;
it didn't matter I called him
another saint up there,
but you rejected that,
saying, "He was always
an angel to me!"

You called him an angel when he died;
you spoke of how he had been a gift
to you, a son on loan,
an angel on leave from heaven.
You said, "Believe what you want ––
He was –– yes! –– an angel!"

                    #
© 1996 Salvatore Buttaci















A FORMER LIFE

I remember how the world changed you;
how the fire burned out your eyes, a cloud
hid you, collapsed your head orange and empty, 
your brain scraped raw by perilous enticements,
your former life forgotten, a blemish 
on the acned face of racing time.

a memory returns you to me: 
you are seven, marching in a procession
for First Holy Communion. I'm standing sideways 
in the church pew, heart swollen with pride
as you pass by in your white suit, hands folded, 

eyes uplifted, stepping towards the threshold 
of reason, a young boy full of promise.
The last time I saw you, sound asleep, 
you wore a dark suit,
your hands again folded prayerfully.

                          #
© 1999 Salvatore Buttaci



THE LONELY YEARS THAT GRIEVING TAKES

Look at the wounds that sorrow makes:
The battered soul, the welts, the scrapes.
Look at the wounds that sorrow makes:
The tearful eyes, the sighs, the shakes.
The dreamer asleep who will not wake.
Look at the wounds that sorrow makes:
The lonely years that grieving takes.
Tomorrow’s dreams wiped from the slate.
The dreamer asleep who will not wake.
Look at the wounds that sorrow makes:
The lonely years that grieving takes.
The frozen smile chipped to flakes.
The trembling hand, the heart that breaks.
Look at the wounds that sorrow makes.
                 #
© 2000 Salvatore Buttaci


FOR FRANK
(01/04/55-05/28/89)

I wrap the blanket of those years
we walked as brothers once
under dream memories
flimsy as the opaque wings of mayflies 

too soon you were gone from this world
leaving us in dark sorrow
I pray one day we’ll all meet again
on richer ground than this earthly plane

we will again know laughter there
our souls shining in God’s Holy Light
two souls far from tears and heartache
alive without the need to dream

                         #
© 2009 Salvatore Buttaci



Salvatore Buttaci first was published in The New York Sunday News in 1957 and since then has seen his work in print numerous times here and abroad. 

His two short-short story collections, published by All Things That Matter Press are available at Amazon.com.



He lives with his wife Sharon in West Virginia.  










April 18, 2014

REMEMBERING PAPA: POEMS AND PICTURES

Mama kisses Papa on his 80th Birthday

IN MY SCRAPBOOK

I used to think in the photo
sometimes your eyes 
would blink, your lips
tremble slightly.
I would stare hard and long, 
Waiting for miracles,
for you to wave
your hand at me.

In dusky light, in morning sun,
I stared away,
pretending life
had never changed,
that death had failed to conquer you,
that you had found
a place to hide 
far from Death’s wrath.

I told myself to keep the faith.
You would return,
absent yourself
from the spring scene
of that photo, leave behind trees
and your sidewalk,
and suddenly
come back to who

you were to me,
father and friend,
not a snapshot anymore, not
old memories
poured into this broken heart,
not a shadow
but flesh and bone.

           #

© 2007 Salvatore Buttaci


My father Michael at age 2 in 1907
                                                   


Papa at 16
                                                             

Papa at 20


TRANSFORMATION

Today I gave my father back his face,
Returned dark brown eyes, a voice,
Graying hair, that smile lost in time.
I lifted him from the flatness of a photo,
Brought his appearance into focus 
So that in his familiar shape and form
He would somehow come to life.
Why punish myself like that?
Why disturb him from a decade's sleep?

At Sunday mass during the consecration
I should have contemplated Christ's Passion.
Instead I resurrected my father –– not his ghost!
The flesh and blood of him! The father
I had kept at bay since death, his face
Freed from the stillness of photographs, 
I had allowed  my mind to conjure dangerously:
A likeness much too painful to recall.
But I was lonely; I missed him.
All at once, ashamed of my irreverence, 
Afraid my prayer would be answered, 
I blurred  the vision of his transformation
Except for a hand waving in misting memory,
Except for the voice of that gentle father spirit
Attempting to speak words of forgiveness
To a son tottering between wishing him and wishing
Him away. Then an old photograph circa 1952 
Flashed in my memory: on a porch a young boy and his father.
It is summertime forever. The sun is shining. They smile.

                                       #

© 1997 Salvatore Buttaci


   
                                                           Papa and I in 1955

PAPA’S HANDS

My father’s hands
fluttered like bird wings
when he told stories

they felt gentle around my shoulders
made me know without doubt he loved me

applauded life even in his pain
trembled in those final deathbed days

and when I look at these old photos
Papa is waving at the camera, as if death…
as if it never happened.

                    #


© 2008 Salvatore Buttaci


FOR MY FATHER

Despite these twenty-seven years 
empty of your laughter,
I can still see you 
smiling at the camera,
cake knife in hand,
slicing that first piece
of your birthday cake
Mama baked
which 
(after the click and flash)
you gently let fall
into her plate.

          #


© 2008 Salvatore Buttaci

Mama, Papa and I in 1975


                                                  
Mama and Papa in 1932



WORKING CLASS FATHER

My father never missed a day of work
In all his years of labor: from dishwasher
When he was a teenager new to this land
To welder at the Curtiss-Wright plant
In Woodridge where daily he inhaled
The noxious fumes that in the end proved
The cause of his sad passing.
We sons and daughters learned from his example:
Pretend we were too sick to go to school?
Why, we wouldn’t dare!  

He was a fine man of principle who refused
To follow the work antics of the sheepish crowd.
“I do what’s right,” he’d say. “To hell with
who likes, who doesn’t like! Remember this:
Give an honest day’s work for an honest 
day’s pay. Don’t look to fool the boss.
He’s a worker too. You want him to be fair?
Then you be fair with him!”

My father conducted his life strictly 
by the rules. Into his 80s, he still walked
straight as a soldier, his head lifted high.
That man was unafraid to stare life in the eye.
He taught us there’s no shame in hard honest work;
Still, he encouraged us to go to college
So we would earn more, working with our minds.

“In your success,” he’d tell us, “never look down
on those who work with their hands. We workers 
built this country!” and you could hear the emotion, 
the pride, choking in his throat.
His voice would tremble when he’d say,
“In the walls of every tunnel, 
down in the dark subways, all those miles 
across every single bridge,
you’ll find a piece of us. God bless the working class!
We made America what she is today.”

#

© 2004 Salvatore Buttaci

Papa posing as a farmer: 1932

Papa hunting in Pennsylvania: 1928






MY FATHER VISITED ME TODAY

Dear Papa, when images of you tiptoe 
to mind and suddenly I think you standing there,
once more in flesh and bone,
my heart's desire is to embrace you
listen to your voice speak tenderly,
together spin technicolor spheres of laughter
in that quiet meeting hall of memory.
It is a temptation to which I gladly would succumb
to hear you once more say how, though gone,
you live on in sweet Paradise, but I am too strong,
too weak, unable to disown the world of breath
and stone. Instead, like a boy unsure, lost, confused,
in the gray of this joyous reunion, Papa,
I hesitate and you are lost.

                           #

© 1999 Salvatore Buttaci

Papa in 1969

Papa in 1984



Papa and Mama renew their vows 50 years later:1982




PAPA'S HORSES

I can still hear Frankie ask, 
"Why didn't we save at least one 
of Papa's horses?" as we all
gathered together that sad old 
April Papa passed away.
Those little horses Papa sketched
in the margins of his papers,
those little horses with reins
and funny-looking cowboys 
sitting on saddles, booted feet
in stirrups, tall wide-brimmed hats
above mustached smiles ––
"They look like dogs," I told him.
"They look like horses, dummy,"
Anna said.  "Horses are bigger,"
I said. "They're dogs," Then Papa
took up his pencil again, this time
stretching the little horses' legs,
thickening them down to wide hooves,
fattening their bodies and their heads.

"The cowboys look too small now,"
I said, to which Anna shook her head
disgustedly. But Papa was patient.
He sketched some more, his hand
rounding out, elongating, shading in
the faces, extending boot size, giving
the cowboys twenty-gallon hats that
would've buried their heads had Papa
not allowed them to float in the air 
above his cowboys' eyes. Papa's horses.

We all remember them. How can it be
in all his notebooks not one single
little cowboy rides one single
little horse inside the confines 
of the paper's red margin?

                               #

© 1998 Salvatore Buttaci


SAVING MY FATHER

I saved my father in a book,
wrote his marrow and his bones
on blue-veined lines
and delighted how he walked
through the stanzas of my poems.

I saved him in a book,
traded sorrow for sweet songs
sung in happier times
and recited all his wisdom
inside the pages of these poems.

I lured my father to this book,
enticed the fellow from his stone
with magic rhymes
inviting him to stay
in the shelter of these lines.

I saved him in a book
in the comfort of these poems
in the heartbeat of my verse
in the cadence of these words
in his dance across the pages
where he lives forever ageless
I saved Papa in this book

                   #

© 1997 Salvatore Buttaci


Michael Buttaci was born July 05, 1905, and died April 20, 1987. I was blessed to have had him for my father. He taught me the importance of being honest, honorable, and true to myself. By example he showed me how a good man loves God and family and others. 

Once when I was a teenager, my father was relating a story about his mother who had passed away in 1939. Throughout the story he held his white handkerchief, dabbing his eyes and blowing his nose, until finally I said, "Pa, Grandma's been gone for twenty years. Why are you still crying?" He looked at me, flashed one of those enigmatic smiles and replied, "If I live another two hundred years, I'll still be crying." 

Oh, Pa, in your absence, I know exactly what you meant. Time heals, but it leaves scars. And wonderful memories too.
                                                                    #

Salvatore Buttaci writes poems, stories, articles, and blogs everyday.

His two flash fiction collections were published by All Things That Matter Press and available at Amazon.com.  

His book about Sicily and Sicilians, still selling copies after 16 years: A Family of Sicilians...

He is the author of two recent chapbooks:  
What I Learned from the Spaniard...  (Middle Island Press) 
and Boy on a Swing...  (Big Table Publishing)

A retired teacher, Buttaci lives in West Virginia with Sharon, the love of his life.