Gerry LaFemina

The Only Meeting of Our Late Night Philosophy Forum

All that long evening we talked metaphysics
because we’d tired of books & movies, emotions,
cities we wished to visit, vacations we didn’t take,
didn’t even plan.  We couldn’t get 
enough of those deep thinkers.  I remembered Hegel,
forgot some finer points of Hobbes & Aquinas.
God lurked in the subtext.  Ditto, desire.
Heidegger would have some things to say,
I should hope, about the nature of our narrative.  
Jerry-rigged arguments, tortilla chips, & Coltrane
kept us going.  Funny, we sidestepped aesthetics.  That tenor
lilted through “I Want to Talk about You” until 
mercy’s virtuous nature appeared alongside justice, &
Nietzsche was brought up: would the ubermenschen
–overman– have compassion?  Some said yes, others no.
Philosophy with whiskey goes as such: no answers, just
questions & more questions.  The unexamined life, et cetera.
Realize: we were nearly playing roles, a real life
symposium without a wise man, just wise guys & girls
telling phenomenal lies to decide the merits of relative versus 
universal truths.  The music ended, night seemed to
vanish in the coming dawn.  Someone slept on the sofa
while we last two kept at it, checking Sartre, Mill,
Xenophon off our lists.  I wanted to kiss you.
You didn’t resist.  This was our only sublimity.
Zeno of Citium–that stoic–would not have approved.

Second Avenue Station, Heading Home

Guy on the train sang Otis Redding,
                                                                 used his collection plate
as a tambourine.  Topside, snow flurries
as if the weatherman couldn’t care less
that the calendar calls for spring.  I told myself

I wouldn’t write about the subways for a year, 
told myself I wouldn’t fall in love, too.  
                                                                      Fat lot of good either did me.
The dollar store still displays Valentines in its window– 
all those hearts, those stupid cupids.  Maybe they’re an omen.

On the platform, Sister Tarot
                                                     like a three card monte dealer
with her box & arcana.  When she sees me coming she offers the deck.
Mine are the Priestess, the Two of Cups & Strength.

For a one-spot she’ll divine what they mean, but my budget’s tight
& shouldn’t she know that?  
                                                    Yes, I gave a buck to that hopeless crooner,
the way I shared one with the pregnant teen who’d once swooned
for a man who left fingerprints on her neck’s pale flesh. 
Everyone’s got a sad story to tell, 
                                                           or else they’re writing one.

I’ve said my prayers for the future, down on my knees
like a penitent, though I’m sorry for nothing.
Or is it I’m sorry for everything?
                                                          Walking past her box again
all those cards appear reversed & I think that means something else.

I only have a few dollars left for these offerings that absolve little;
At the turnstile I give one to an amputee vet, who thanks me
& grants me a blessing from any god I choose.

Gerry LaFemina

Gerry LaFemina is the author of several books of poems including 2011's Vanishing Horizon, three books of prose poems, a short story collection, and Clamor, a novel. In 2014 Stephen F. Austin University Press released his newest poetry collection, Little Heretic, and a book of his essays on prosody, Palpable Magic.  The recipient of numerous awards and honors, he serves as Executive Director of Poets at Work and directs the Center for Creative Writing at Frostburg State University.  He divides his time between Maryland and New York.