2 poems by Antonio Vallone

Let’s accept Hate

Start with hating the things
of the world—water, air,
the earth itself—dirt 
and all its organisms. 
Hate animals, birds, insects,
Those pesky insects.
Hate literature.  Hate history.
Hate science and all ideas.
Hate truth.
Hate everything but money, 
and then hate money, too.
When you hate all things,
begin to hate people.
Hate people of other races
or religious affiliations.
Hate people whose sexual orientation
Is different than your own.
If you’re a man, hate women.
Hold them under your boot heel.
If you’re a woman,
you probably have enough
reasons to hate men,
maybe not individual men
but the concept.
If you’re well,
hate the ill and disabled.
If you’re ill and disabled,
hate those who are well.
If you’re old, hate whoever is younger
simply for their youth.
If you’re young, hate the old
and all their groans.
Blue collar workers, 
Hate white collar workers
And their sickening odor of envelopes.
White collar workers, hate the blue, 
the filth trapped under their fingernails,
the grit worked into their skin.
Northerners hate Southerners
with confederate flags folded in cedar chests.
Southerners hate northerners
smug in their ancient victory.
Hate the Midwest.
Hate both coasts.
Hate Mexico and the Middle East.
Hate China and all of Europe.
Hate Japan and the technology
risen out of the mushroom cloud
that we’re addicted us to. 
Hate Canada 
for looking too much like us
through all their politeness.
Democrats, hate Conservative Republicans.
Republicans, hate Democrats.
Hate third-party voters.
Hate non-voters.
When you run out of people 
different in some way,
any way,
for you to hate,
hate those most like you
but not you.
Hate your friends.
Hate your family.
Hate your children
who look like you
and remind you 
too much of yourself.
And when there is nothing and nobody
left to hate, hate yourself.
Hate yourself so much
your physical presence is reduced
to pure hate,
like the body of a road killed deer
left out in summer weather
is reduced to a puddle of black sludge,
unrecognizable as something
that ever took a breath,
but, as you look into it, 
wondering what it was,
captures in its oily sheen
the reflection of your face.

Sharpening my Oyster Knife

Quintuple heart bypass, cancer-
infiltrated kidney surgically removed,
dialysis three times a week
for the rest of my life
unless, in five years,

yearly Cat scans declare
I’m cancer free
and eligible for a transplant
(if only I can find a donor),
amputation of two toes, and…

Friends ask, repeatedly, 
how I remain
upbeat, therapist
and happy drugs free. I shrug

and quote Zora Neale Hurston:
“No, I do not weep
at the world.  I am too busy
sharpening my oyster knife,”

prying open whatever
crusty, clamped-shut bottom-dweller
fate sets in front of me,
searching for their illusive pearls.

Antonio Vallone, associate professor of English at Penn State DuBois, founder of MAMMOTH books, poetry editor of Pennsylvania English, co-founding editor of The Watershed Journal Literary Group. Published collections: The Blackbird’s Applause, Grass Saxophones, Golden Carp, and Chinese Bats. Forthcoming: American Zen and Blackberry Alleys: Collected Poems and Prose. He can be reached at ajv2@psu.edu
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