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Joseph Lisowski



"I have the directions," she says,

"I just don't know the way."

We are new in relationship,

cautious not to offend.


I offer daisies, the day's eye.

She gives lavender, urges easy sleep.

We talk a walk along ruins—

how we were young, easy lies

believed, lived and dismissed

without fault. The wonder grows.


I forget for a moment and daydream

of a Caribbean cottage I once owned

shaded by almond and manjack trees,

clear blue water nudging rocks nearby . . .


A breeze gathers; her hair flutters

across my face. My skin tingles.

I am pricked awake. She smiles.


"It's not far," I say.

"You'll recognize the way."



A white day in the garden.

Plants have surrendered chlorophyll

to a sun who cares nothing

for color, sacrifice, or shape.

Bees and ladybugs are lost—

they mistake my hair for hives,

holes, horns of plenty, for harvest.


I wave them away,

an inadvertent signal

for more to come.

I want to gather all that is golden.

But love is no longer in season.



They've been gathering forever,

the fears, I mean,

taking the shapes

of old friends, discarded lovers,

family long and recent dead.

They stomp on stage

somewhere between 2 and 3 a.m.,

a shabby rehearsal

in a darkened theater

before an audience of one.


Sometimes in soliloquies, often a short scene

I am threatened nightly.

I turn on the light,

the curtain falls.

Behind the arras,

those I've hurt grumble.

Small drops of blood 

leak from my ear.

From 1986 to 1996, Joseph Lisowski was Professor of English at the University of the Virgin Islands.  He taught at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina from 2002-2014. He is now retired. Some poetry chapbooks include JB, a dialogue in poem form between John the Baptist and King Herod (PoetryRepairShop), Stashu Kapinski Strikes Out (Rank Stranger Press), Fatherhood at Fifty (Tamafyhr Mountain Poetry), Sketches of an Island Life (dpi press), Art Lessons (Tamafyhr Mountain Poetry), Stashu Kapinski Gets Lucky(Pudding House Press), and Stashu Kapinski Looks for Love (erbacce-press, UK).


After growing up under the shadow of Heppenstall Steel Mill in Pittsburgh, Pa., Joseph Lisowski has spent much of his life near the sea, including 10 years in St. Thomas, VI., which serves as the setting for his three published mystery novels, FULL BODY RUB, LOOKING FOR LISA, and LOOKING FOR LAUREN.


He has lived many lives: as a wide-eyed boy, a keeper of keys, a beach comber…   (There are poems somewhere commemorating them all.) He recently won the University of North Carolina Board of Governors Teacher of the Year Award (2013).  His most recent full length book of poetry is STASHU KAPINSKI DREAMS OF GLORY (Sweatshoppe Publications, 2013).

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