The Brooklyn Rail

MARCH 2023

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MARCH 2023 Issue


God Provides

In Italian, Dio provvede. A mother’s
dandelion greens cut from her own backyard,
chicory, beet greens too. Even weeks-old
slimy lettuce (they’ll never know, skilleted

with a pinch of salt and cayenne)
that we continued to buy her in those wasteful,
fancy plastic receptacles. Annoyed
after repurposing them for the umpteenth time.

How many sewing kits can we need?
How many plant-germinating containers?
In 1936, when Edith Wharton reimagined
“Roman Fever,” more than 700,000 Ethiopians

were on their way to slaughter or famine
at the hands of Italian colonialists. Our grandfather
fought in earlier incursions of that war—
this is not apocryphal—but Dio provvede,

he returned in one piece more or less
as Mussolini likewise had just laid waste to eight acres
of centuries-old habitations, churches, villas,
hills, gardens, making way for Via dei Fori Imperiali:

wider roads and improved tourists’ view.
That same year, Ralph Ellison pens
“Party Down at the Square” and leaves
his riveting tale of an anonymous lynching

hidden among his papers not to be discovered
until after his death late in the century.
A decade earlier, in the mid-and-late 80s,
two defining incidents: Michael Griffith

a Trinidadian immigrant struck dead by a car
on the Belt Parkway, after being chased
by white men from mostly Italian American
Howard Beach. Yusuf Hawkins, a black teen,

shot to death by a bat-wielding
mob of thirty mostly Italian American
young men in an act widely described
as a lynching. What did God provide then?

What does God provide now,
as some conservative Italian Americans turn away
from their immigrant roots, to sit
protectively in green and vegetable-filled gardens.

American Horror Story on Demand (Season 3)

Cut to three adult children locked in an attic-cage
torture chamber. Every time the famous
hoop-skirted actress sees blood, New Orleans, 1830,
she tries to break open the deflowering light.

What is this indiscriminate appetite for violence?
Exploitation run amok, racist guilt.
When the dutiful butler accidently cuts himself
the sight sends her ballistic, bloodthirsty.

Another famous actress comes back to life
as her balding monstrous self (great makeup).
She warns her daughter, the new Supreme, not to
usurp her power. The viewer’s mother’s

had six months to live for six years. Every night,
the viewer watches two-to-four inches
of salacious cell phone posts to calm down.
This appetite too, Red Tube’s magical subtext.

Can there really be that much good sex in the world?
Every few minutes they load another post
of torturous (to the viewer) sex videos. Apparently,
there is that much good sex. On another

sleepless night, the viewer watches actors torture
their children till three in the morning
on American Horror Story, then he watches Red Tube
before bed—this rhythm, this voracious

appetite too. The viewer demands no more skin
in this sick game. He no longer traffics in
tropes of denial or war; he’s trying to curb
his appetite for the deflowering light.

Ghost in the Light Switch

We regret we cannot attend    your Zoom party.
End of the semester    we’re between sizes
and digital platforms.    We keep conversing
with the dead.    Glad for his catatonic hoarding
and garbage collecting    those last twenty years

of penitent life.    Shhh    he’s likely to yell
dinner’s late    but he’ll settle down.
We’re playing    basebal    smacking our dead
harder    harder    swinging for the fences.
We all wanted    the abusive priest
on Netflix    to be stabbed    multiple times.

Our near-dead still alive in the nursing home
(five isolated cases).    After years
of perpetual grief    lurid    unable
to toilet.    We worry    we’ll pay for
the ultimate sins    of betrayal    in a level
of Hell    lower than expected    not the Wood

of Suicide or    fiery rains    but frozen in ice
scalp    and neck bone    gnawed.    Ms. Vivi
our pup    woofs at the air.    There’s a ghost
in the light switch every time we turn the cellar
lights off    someone/something    turns them on.

Prostate Biopsy (2)

None of this psychic humiliation is lost on me.

The voices that shriek payback, but don’t finish

the life sentence. Re-enacted trauma of intrusions,

brutalizing re-memories. Boast that his spit

was the only way to clean the uncircumcised

because water was scarce. Plausible enough

in the isolated secrecy of that primitive mountain town,

poverty’s scar snaking the never-ending road

of remorse and inherited hoarding, as if the refuse

of others could stave or blunt or bury burden.

2020 consumed in the fugue of a mother’s decline;

an in-law’s sudden bladder cancer; a partner’s

growing estrangement and now this too, too ridiculous

to dwell. The staple gun probe and hours of bloat

and nausea afterward are not news and will dissipate

but that immigrant gagged desire will not;

and this is no apology or retribution, it’s the mute specter

made word and necrotizing flesh in the fucked-up living resolve

of leaving a trace, castrated bull clamoring down the penned-

in roads closing in, sparing the stake.

In the lateness of the world iniquitous apocalypse

I can’t speak Italian when I’m driving to the park
I can’t navigate fingers Breezy Point Rocky Point to walk the dogs

Happy pride month as an H month autocorrect
Happy Hell Help

I was reading Mr. Curly

Reading Ms. Vivi only ice cream with a spoon
No swishing

Around in your mouth to preserve the stitches try not to lick the string
in your mouth

At the event

With all my favorite famous poets drumbeats now

wind in sails


no words

lost in the lake

the pain and deep hole

in my mouth culls the layers falling away floating darkly

after osseous surgery

cold Wind in my gengive gingivitis car honk

heavy lidded

seizures in the night

really masturbation

To no buff muscle asses hookup from Grindr

The wind in sails

of night poets

Komunyakaa / Forché so nice no ice


or acetaminophen no substitution

I awe you an email a text aphasia

The biopsy appointment

I’m not ready for a long visit to Ljubljana yet or death
Mr. Tomaž Šalaman dead in a few months still books coming out long paper Covid.


Peter Covino

Peter Covino is a poet, editor, and translator whose poems are widely published in the U.S. and Italy. He’s the author of four books including Cut Off the Ears of Winter and The Right Place to Jump. A former social worker in NYC, he’s currently an associate professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Rhode. He’s one of the founding editors of Barrow Street Press, and the Ocean State Review. You’ll learn more than you need to know about him if you google or at


The Brooklyn Rail

MARCH 2023

All Issues