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After the Poetry Reading, a Condom







We publish an extra poem this week in celebration of the arrest of a suspect

in the murder of four people in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa, Florida.

Gianna Russo wrote this loving picture of her neighborhood, and we accepted it,

before these murders began. We hoped that the perpetrator would be found

so that the casual vivacity of the area could be restored before we published

the poem. Today we hope this nightmare has ended for our friends in Tampa,

and we celebrate the joie de vivre of that area with Russo’s work.


I stepped away from the bar at Ella’s where the din is handcrafted and foams up to a roar,
 as the famed poet served us his lines succulent and Southern.
With his Rhett Butler accent, the poet summoned Old Uncle Walt.
So Whitman came among us with his taste for bacony bodies and sweat-odorous men,
draped his arm over the poet and reached for the jalapeno poppers.


I stepped away from the cherry martini that had me teetering
on those heels I hardly ever wear anymore since they kick up my bursitis,
 but I’d put in my contacts, too, so what the hell.
I stepped away from the wine-rinsed laughter and the joke I told
if a place could have its pants down, this one does—
this mugshot of a neighborhood where I live
 with its one long avenue stretched like a nekked leg.


And what about that woman in the towel once, right there across the street,
three a.m., outfoxed by the absence of a bathtub and her mislaid name?
Of course the cops were called and they folded her like a burrito into the back seat:
 just another Tuesday night in Seminole Heights.


The night was just three beers along when I left the julep-voiced poet
 singing of Lincoln Continentals cruising the side streets, their flopping mufflers.
I walked into the after-rain on Shadowlawn Street.
Twilight sorted its lingerie in the leaves, rosy and white,
and I tottered down the block toward my car, while in all the yards,
confederate jasmine mounted the fences, bouquets on the bridal veil bushes shuddered
 and the magnolia tree came inside each mammoth blossom.


Then just as I leaned to unlock the door, I looked down at the old brick street
and saw it lying flat in the dirt, the deflated jellyfish of lust:
 used, tossed over, open-mouthed, smiling,
it was the remains of someone’s poem, or at least the start of one.



Gianna Russo

Gianna Russo is the author of Moonflower, winner of the Florida Book Award Bronze Medal and the Florida Publishers Association Silver Award. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has had publications in Tampa Review, Ekphrasis, Crab Orchard Review, The Florida Review, Florida Humanities Council Forum, Karamu, The Bloomsbury Review, The Sun, Poet Lore, The MacGuffin, and Calyx, among others. She is the founding editor of the poetry chapbook publisher YellowJacket Press (www.yellowjacketpress.org). She holds an MFA in Poetry from The University of Tampa.  She is Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Saint Leo University. Her newest collection, Florida Avenue Torch Song, is in circulation.