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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.