You came charging into this place with
your soft-spoken fast-talking voice
mumbling out the fucks that
shocked so many,
and with your beard,
and your tats,
and your checkered past,
and your Buddha beads,
your drums banging out the first day back,
plus your poem you had the
temerity to read on your first class night,
and some teachers’ apple carts got mighty upset.
Yes feathers were ruffled and ways were rubbed wrong
with your if-it-ain’t-broke-break-it approach,
being wise with your whys,
questioning and challenging everything:
the grading systems and
the homework concepts,
the teams,
the schedules,
the sacred cows,
and the old farts, like me.

But, man, we’re awake now, that’s for damn sure.
Some of us know who our friends are now.
Some trust no one.

And now this place,
well it’s not your mother’s middle school
that’s for sure.
The cages got rattled
when kids’ rages you battled
for their sakes,
for our sake,
for their parents don’t have
their yes man anymore,
but you keep your door
if only ajar,
while you check your lodestar
and tackle the next task

or take targets off our backs
or make a meditative moment
to breathe.

And I’m so proud and pleasantly surprised
that our sweet white bread little Board of Ed
had the desire and the balls to hire
and I just hope you last,
and I just hope I last.

©️Josephine M. Cannella



Not Drake’s Fake Love

Not fake.

By fate,

a mate.

He’s male,

no mole.

His moll,

a fragile doll.

Hill or dell,

a share of hell.

Himself and her to heal.

The dream is real.


©️Josephine Cannella

[Shorter version as suggested by David Lehman]

Not Drake’s Fake Love

I’m hoping that this “true love” isn’t fake.
I don’t believe we came to this by fate.
The things we have in common for a mate
Seem random. Plus it’s weird that he is male,
After my years with women. He’s no mole;
In fact, a bad boy, trouble. I, his moll.
He treats me well enough, a fragile doll
He would protect through danger, hill, or dell.
A combat vet who’s seen his share of Hell,
He does his best himself and me to heal.
Come to think of it, I think this dream’s real.

©️Josephine Cannella


A word about the piece. This was in response to a prompt from poet David Lehman in

The American Scholar’s weekly column “Next Line, Please.” The prompt was to write a

poem of no more than14 lines, the first to end with the word fake, and the last to end with

real. The trick was that each subsequent line had to end with a word that changes only one

letter from the end of its predecessor. Thus: fake, fate, mate, male…

It’s also about a real relationship!

Impossible Cannonball

It is impossible to love the same person twice,

A snowflake, melted and refrozen as a new snowflake,

is a different snowflake, though composed of the same water.

We are always different, mutable, inconsistent.

I could even change my mind, my prerogative,

and say I love you again,

force you to stay as you were, in a big glass case,

splashing into that pool, and love the unchanging you,

like Holden Caulfield’s Eskimos at the museum,

or his red haired brother Allie,

writing green-inked poems in his coffin.

A thought is as real a thing as a cannonball.

©️Josephine M. Cannella


A word about the piece. This was in response to a prompt from poet David Lehman in The American Scholar’s weekly column “Next Line, Please.” The prompt was to write a poem of no more than 14 lines, beginning with the line, “It is impossible to love the same person twice,” and ending with the line, “A thought is as real a thing as a cannonball.”

at first sight

since seeing was first,

and words without voice

or regard for rules

were also appealing,

and if images and alliteration were all,

even with neither hearing nor feeling,

they could sense the connection,

a “cord of communion”  

between minds and eyes,

a thin invisible strand,

stretching across the space that separates them.

but that sort of string seeks strength

and surety,

and at their first foray into face-to-face,

it came to them,

an undeniable affirmation of

the initial appeal.

it fortified that impetuous filament

felt between hearts at the start.


and now,

a gentle touch,

fingers that massage hands and caress more,

a soft sigh,

an affectionate embrace,

an admiring eye,

all elements of that lawless link

perpetuate it,

sustain it between long stretches of

words without voice

and voice without view.


©️Josephine Cannella

june 16, 2008

The L Word Redux

Where at first I feared to tread,

turning fool, I’m rushing in.

No angel blushing,

I’m gushing,

crushing on you,

a hormones hung-up

adolescent idolizing,

reveling in your idolatry

of me,

poring over pictures

of you, of me

for you.

I fear being hurt.

I fear hurting you

if these are fleeting feelings.

I know infatuation.

I know delusion.

I know foolishness.

I know

I know



I don’t want to.

©️Josephine M. Cannella


Medicinal Purpose

I sanitized your glass,

first by kissing the

rim all around. Next,

by pouring in vodka

and swirling that around. 

I then added ice,

crushed. I instilled some

cranberry juice, fresh lemon,

and a dash of

bitters for good measure.

I stirred it around. 

Drinking it down, I

call the concoction a

Bitter Kiss Good-Bye.

©️Josephine Cannella
8/10/2018, revised 1/9/2019

By Now

By now, I’m sure my name is

a stranger at your voice’s door,

my words collect dust on your shelf,

and in your rolodex memory

the blurred image of me is filed “inactive,”

at last.

And I,

I’m not like Sampson.

I cut my hair,

stronger without it

never being stroked.

But sometimes,

    “When I least expect,

    it surfaces,

    like a shiver,”

or the sudden chill of a cloud

on a sunny day,

and I am seized by the downpour.

In some twisted revival of my old fantasy,

hot, angry tears

trace the same path my fingers imagined

your kisses would take:

    my eyes,

my cheek,

my chin,

my lips.

Raw, burning emotions

scald my neck to my blouse,

bleeding through

to the void left by your kiss,

giving the old wounds

a grand reopening.

The most potent reminder,

that music,

“one damn love song after another,”

which drew me to you,

like a butterfly

to the cool blue light

of a bugzapper,

mocks me now

with promises never made.

Is it my desire to become inured to this pain,

or some morbid masochistic tendency

I never knew I had,

which prevents me from

pulling the plug?

©️Josephine Cannella


Bluejean Eyes

Your bluejean eyes

clothed my unspoken words.

Secrets I had lost

burrowed deep in the pockets.

Not even a chocolate brownie sundae

could have been more satisfying.

And now, the smell of your cologne

still drifting through my memory,

my eyes close involuntarily,

my fingers trace my eyebrows,

    my cheek,

    my chin,

    my lips.

Untasted kisses

dance on passion’s grave.

Cruel, unfelt memories

tease my imagination,

    the bristle of your beard,

    the warmth of your hand,

    the gentle crush of your embrace.

And worst of all,

your music,

one damn love song after another,

taunts me


with possibility.

©️Josephine Cannella



One separate with others around
is still one.
The cold truth is:
alone is our passage.
Though we may stand with another,
raise another,
care for another,
alone is how we came
and how we will go.
The sense of togetherness
is just an illusion.
Some feed the illusion with substances,
some with sex,
others with work,
but in truth alone is
all there
really is.


I am
and you

I thought you were
so much a part of my life
that you were in my very
but my soul
is sole
and solely mine
and yours is only your own.
One of us will always be
one of us,
and the other
always the other.

Swimming in the
sorrow of knowing your heart
swam in a sorrow of
your own,
my heart longed for
that sense of togetherness again.
When I saw that there was
no effect on your heart
to see mine broken,
I saw at last
that I am alone.
I love you, but I am alone.
When I go I will be alone.
Tonight I am alone.
Always I am alone.

So if I do not drop all
to make things ready
for your eventual appearance,
it is because I am alone.
And you are alone.

It is nothing even to be
angry about anymore.
I am alone,
that is all. Alone.
A stone, alone,
that is all. One.


©️Josephine Cannella

2 10 00

Anticipatory Set

Exciting possibility and fear
are walking hand-in-hand as each draw near.
I may be setting myself up to fail
by thinking this one is the holy Grail.
I jump the gun and rush into the race.
With finish line too soon I’m face-to-face.
Why do I always do that to myself?
Why can’t I wait? Put prospects on a shelf?
I am my own worst enemy. If it’s
a chance at love, I’ll blow it all to bits.
This kind of habit has grown hard to break.
To try to have and then to eat my cake.

©️Josephine Cannella