• Ben Nardolilli

Selected Poems by Ben Nardolilli


Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Pentagon Plain

At the Pentagon, you can’t march

up to the building

and plant flowers in a protest for peace,

you can’t even walk up to the stone

columns and shout

up at the windows to call for another war

fences, parking lots, and vehicles

ready for homicide

have shut off that freedom for now

but driving past the Pentagon at night,

discloses the freedom

of imagination with the lights they put up

all around the level asphalt plains,

constellations await

in a medium of orange and yellow glare

Incidental Music

We gather around the table and despite

My attempts to make things nautical and shifty,

The other members of this suburban crew

Are content and competent at keeping subject matters level,

No action, direction, or spinning comes tonight.

The gentry swirls its wine while I take to cocktails,

There are skirmishes with laughter and nothing explodes,

The talk engages us all, but no treaties are drawn up

Nothing is declared or ultimately ratified,

Nevertheless, we pose for pictures for posterity’s sake,

I strive to pull and push the group until I realize

I am only tugging the tablecloth, while minds remain in place

Applauding minor developments in real estate,

Oh my friends, if you all are going to be bystanders

To a burning Rome, at least strike up your fiddles.

The Idea of Ordering at Cocoa Beach, Florida

Strange trembling and shaking,

when faced with the wide open sea,

the world of this bar sits

above the waves, tides, and salinity,

but I’ll let the surf ride under me

because I am the king

and lord over these planks.

End of the country line, yet so fine

to be a point on it,

creaking, dangling, sipping,

active even as I sit still on the barstool,

I grab ahold of everything tangible

to keep my eyes afloat here,

and down a glass of ice for ballast.


“What are you teaching now?”

I think it’s impossible to give a general answer.

Wild and sophisticated, the demon box is fiction,

there are other books that are being kept, real books,

nothing I’m teaching is real

Yes, I pivoted out of substitutions into a classroom,

bearded and hanging on the wall.

Can I hold my pose and not scream at the faces?

I saw that there was a terrific power to these faces

and masks, especially the eyes

You can be an expert at teaching and crude in practice,

the raised outlines of a seal in an enlargement.

The boldness has to be ambiguous

in a close race against students, neck and neck

correcting until you overcorrect and hit a car to your left

I teach whatever I happen to be working on myself.

It’s meant a lot to me as a human being,

neither the merits nor the burdens of real teaching,

looking at reproductions for impulses, and drawing

the Last Supper on tracing paper

What I Got Away With

I tried to be good today, especially at work,

Whatever temptation I give into at home

I know is only a problem for me,

Certainly no theft of a company's time, money,

Or keyboards is involved there,

But at work today, I sinned greatly.

I evolved a new skill, at least,

How it may profit the boss is a mystery,

I think I am developing chameleon eyes,

Capable of keeping one ball

Open over my shoulder, perched as a lookout,

And the other focused on the screen.

Other cubicles complained, I told them

I was simply going through

A defragmentation of files stored

in the main frame of my skull,

it worked and kept away my chief concern:

Human Relations wanting to read what I wrote.


Ben Nardolilli currently lives in New York City. His work has appeared in Perigee Magazine, Red Fez, Danse Macabre, The 22 Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, fwriction, Inwood Indiana, Pear Noir, The Minetta Review, and Yes Poetry. He blogs at mirrorsponge.blogspot.com and is looking to publish a novel.