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Richard Modiano: California Poets Part 7, Three Poems

Richard Modiano

July 1st, 2024

California Poets: Part VII

Richard Modiano

Three Poems


I worry that people easily become too used to shocking images and stories.

Vast swaths of Gaza and Ukraine blown to bits by bombs, children buried in the


“oh well, that’s life.”

Another ship of desperate Africans fleeing climate-related poverty drowned in the


“well, yes.”

Yet another mass shooting ends the lives of innocents in a school, restaurant, or

shopping center…

"that’s standard now.”

Mothers and children trying to escape misery in Latin America caught in razor wire laid

by vicious nativists at the southern border… 

“of course.”

One of the United States’ two major political parties goes virulent and Nazi and the other

one stays hollow and Weimar… 

“ain’t that America.”

Once Upon a Time

As soon as we hit the sidewalk

we were braced by the cops

a hot and humid summer night

"Did you just come out of that building?"

"No" I lied

"We saw you come out of that building"

"We were only under the stoop officer"

Brett smiled her charming smile

she was braless in her tank top tee shirt

the outlines of her nipples apparent

"What were you doing under the stoop?"

"Talking" she smirked

The bad cop shook his head and looked at his partner

"Tilt your head back"

we obeyed and they checked our nostrils for powder


The sleeves of my blue work shirt were rolled up

"Turn your wrists up"

no track marks

The bad cop ran his finger over the breast pocket of my shirt

no joints 

The good cop chimed in.

"What were you kids really doing?"

I looked at Brett

"Tell them baby"

"We were making out"

"Is that all?" said the bad cop smirked

"Hey Jimmy these kids are okay"

"Yeah, if you say so"

"We're gonna let you go," said the good cop

"But you should know that 

that building harbors drug dealers, and I'm not talking about pot"

"We didn't know officer" Brett looked contrite

"Get outta here"

We slowly walked to the corner

and then headed to Vinnie's to deliver

the dope concealed in Brett's undies

Say You’re Sorry

Sometimes I watch movies about men heading to death 

like Gary Cooper in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Sometimes I don't look back at a younger self.

Sometimes I don't know what I look like.

Sometimes dementia is a new idea.

Sometimes I think I will be killed riding my bike..

Sometimes I can't see myself dying.

Sometimes I think I should prepare for things that are inevitable.

Sometimes I don't think inevitabilities apply to me.

Sometimes I think this makes me like everyone else.

Sometimes I think people work too hard to release their resentments.

Sometimes I don't think this is possible and it doesn't matter one way or the other.

Sometimes I think I will be left alone forever.

Sometimes when I go for a physical, I think concretely about cancer.

Sometimes I realize people see me in ways I do not see myself.

Sometimes I know this has always been true and it's funny.

Sometimes I mistake what I call resentment and it is actually something else.

Sometimes the unhappiness I feel at being alone is all I feel.

Sometimes I don't want to change anything about myself.

Sometimes I don't care if this bent of mind helps or hinders what I write.

Sometimes I think the only way to go forward is the way you have always gone forward and the concept of "adjustment" is a con.

Sometimes it scares me that I will find myself at the mercy in various ways because I haven't prepared for what's ahead.

Sometimes I enjoy the fact I don't make plans.

Sometimes I think I am guilty of everything and I need to apologize to everyone, especially at Yom Kippur.

Author Bio:

While a resident of New York City Richard Modiano became active in the literary community connected to the Poetry Project where he came to know Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, William S. Burroughs and Ted Berrigan. Modiano served on the board of directors of Valley Contemporary Poets from 1995 until 2001.  In 2001 he was a programmer at Beyond Baroque Literary/Arts Center, joined the Board of Trustees in 2006, and from 2010 to 2019, he served as Executive Director. In that time he produced and curated hundreds of literary events, and with Henry Morro, Suzanne Lummis and Liz Camfiord co-founded and named Beyond Baroque Books’ sub-imprint The Pacific Coast Poetry Series. In 2019 he was elected Vice President of the California State Poetry Society. In 2023 Modiano joined the board of directors of the Los Angeles Poetry Society. The Huffington Post named him as one of 200 people doing the most to promote poetry in the United States. Modiano is the winner of the 2022 Joe Hill Prize for labor poetry and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. His collection The Forbidden Lunch Box is published by Punk Hostage Press. Richard is a rank-and-file member of the Industrial Workers of the World and a member of the National Writers Union.


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