To Chuck Berry, 1926-2017
I was a chronic bed wetter. My teachers mangled
my name, called me Fag-ee-annie, no matter how
many times I corrected them. I wore orthopedic
shoes and had stomach cramps in class. I couldn’t
sit still and Miss Harrison tied me to my seat with
jump rope. When I couldn’t recite my homework,
Miss Wilson shook me, leaving nail prints in my arms.
Then I learned how to turn on Chuck Berry
in my head. His voice jolted me out of my stupor,
his guitar chords, like a tommy gun, riddled
the blackboard, the bookshelves, the display
cases with prize-winning science projects,
the Stars and Stripes, the Pledge of Allegiance,
the portrait of the President of the United States.
Gil Fagiani is a translator, essayist, short story writer, and poet. His latest book is Logos (Guernica Editions, 2015). Gil co-hosts the Italian American Writers’ Association’s monthly readings in Manhattan. In 2014, he was the subject of a New York Times article by David Gonzalez, “A Poet Mines Memories of Drug Addiction.”