In The 13th Sunday after Pentecost, Joseph Bathanti offers poems that delve deep into a life reimagined through a mythologized past. Moving from his childhood to the present, weaving through the Italian immigrant streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to his parochial school, from the ballpark to church and home again, these contemplative poems present a situation unique to the poet but familiar to us all.
As Bathanti recalls the joys, struggles, and confusion of his formative years in the late fifties and into the sixties, he gains a deeper understanding of the often surreal, always paradoxical world around him. He explores the perceived injustices of childhood, observes the mysteries of religious rituals, and examines the complex emotions families experience as children grow up and parents grow old. These poems divulge an eventful life, compelling us to reflect on our own as we confront a world of wonder and uncertainty.
Across the strike zone swoops a dove,
maybe an angel. You’re in Pittsburgh,
March; it’s snowing. All week
you’ve seen angels; everyone’s tired,
proclaiming even horrid things angels,
intimating miracles. Johnson’s pitch
obliterates the bird—
a hail of feathers and dander,
as if inside a tiny bomb detonated.
Like a cartoon. Thoroughly unbelievable.
Around you, people are dying.
But you ignore it.
You laugh at the massacred dove.
It’s not funny, but you laugh.
You could cry, rip your hair out, your clothes off,
crash through the seventhfloor window
into the slushy black streets of the city.
It’s funny because it’s not.
JOSEPH BATHANTI is professor of creative writing at Appalachian State University. He has published novels, nonfiction, and ten poetry collections. He served as the Poet Laureate for North Carolina from 2012 to 2014.
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