My father, last on his block to buy a color TV.
Not me, not this time.
Already got me my liquid nitrogen freezer –
A little bit of Antarctica, right in my basement.
I see neighbors talking, yeah.
Every day, I have to look,
Have to open the door, thick as a wall.
Love the way that frigid nitrogen vapor
Seeps up and out, then down the shiny sides
And along the concrete floor, until it just disappears.
Inside, the vials. Scores of them.
Rubber-capped and labeled,
The hemispheric bottom of each
Cupping a permafrost bead of biology,
Each charged with seeds of resurrection.
Got cells in this freezer, not just mine.
Cells from my mother. Cells from my father.
Cells from my sister and brothers.
Cells from my children, their cousins too.
Aunts and uncles; the whole wedding list.
A few vials for each; I’m taking no chances.
Even got vials with codes for my pets.
A pair of microscopic cells is all it takes.
A cheek cell, a blood cell, who cares what sort,
Gingerly extracted, its genome is the ticket
Thrust into an egg, itself de-gened lest things get too crowded
(Got vials of these too; I’m no dummy).
Then, a zap of electricity, I kid you not, sex-a-matic.
The clonal clockwork unfolds, new clay from old.
Death isn’t what it used to be, not in this house.
Terminal disease, drunken drivers:
That forever-gone business no longer applies.
© Ivan Amato
Published in Potomac Review, Issue 34, Fall/Winter 2002-2003
My White Shirt
At three thousand feet per second,
a two-twenty-three caliber bullet,
booming from the sniper’s Bushmaster XM-15
would complete its subtly arched trajectory,
thud through my cotton shirt and rice-paper hide,
splash into my blood-logged heart,
or custard-texture brain,
way before the sound of the shot
meandered the unfettered stretch
from its reptilian-still gun barrel
to my already dying ears.
Not a time for easily-stained,
white, button-down shirts, I think
while rifling through the closet,
listening to the radio for news of another kill.
An irrational thought; I know that.
Statistics are way in my favor.
The snipers’ jurisdiction swells each day,
already encompassing thousands of square miles,
and five million human anatomies.
He could off one of us
every day for ten years, every hour even,
And the chances that my white shirt
Will ever wick up my own bullet-loosed blood
Would never be better than yours.
©Ivan Amato 2002
Published in Potomac Review, Issue 37, Spring/Summer 2004
Its flat boxes holding unprettied letters and numbers
in a seemingly anything-goes polygonal frame
bearing no resemblance to anything familiar.
If anything, its name recalls unnatural aromas
and longings for class to end, now, now.
The teachers forget to tell their students:
The Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements
is a mandala of creation.
It is every color, every texture.
It is the encryption
of every thing that ever was, is, or, will be.
They forget to say:
Take off your goggles and gloves
and stare at the Table as if it were
the Burning Bush itself.
They forget to teach their students
to praise the omnipotence of the Table’s
mix-and-match atoms that are
the fountain even of matter that thinks and weeps
and comes to know of universes.
The Table should be set in a rococo frame,
gold-leafed and intricate,
flanked by candles day and night,
never coiled up like a window shade
unfurled merely for academic reference.
© Ivan Amato
Ode to Litter
A cigarette butt on the sidewalk
Scraped underfoot into a stain:
Onionskin paper, filter, and tobacco
Vilest of litters
Born of noble lineage
Papyrus and velum, its kin
Synthetic hair, once oil
Reformed by chemical invention
Nature’s own weave that turns
Sun, sky and water into living body
The butt, a palimpsest of
Life, intelligence, culture.
Vile and magnificent.
© Ivan Amato
Lightyears of Our Own
Go anywhere else in the universe
And our over-the-top Sun,
Here so crass and garish,
Will be preposterously far away, there.
Those damned lightyears lick its light dark,
It always does, space.
And with the vanishing light
Goes any marker of any sun’s life,
Stranding thousands of local intelligences
With only themselves to love and hate,
With no way ever
To share each other’s awkward styles of awe.
© Ivan Amato
Winding between up and down
Wrenching time into solid tension
A vine’s way
Brittle with the growth
Scaled with the ordeal
It accretes into
A dumb noose that lives
Cousin of vine, my spine
Winding from neck to ass
Wrenching sensation with thought
A mind’s way
Startled by its own self
Convoluted by the ordeal
Devoid of dumbness,
It dreads the growing tautness
“DNA: the web that spins the spider”*
Not a bad metaphor for a molecule
known by most as a three-letter word,
an impersonal acronym like IBM or NBC,
This one denoting a mouthful: deoxyribonucleic acid
Each syllable of which specifies
primordial molecular anatomy,
whose marriage of form and function
has performed the vastest of miracles.
A web that spins a spider
would bear a creature
that spins a web
that spins a spider.
A self-making circle
Or more like a spiral
that winds and winds
the way GODNA does
into an all-knowing helix
whose embracing strands,
when viewed down their axis,
look like a web.
This molecular web,
its helical partners decouple
only to reform replicas
of their former partners.
One becomes two.
Even better than a web
that weaves only one spider.
*The metaphor was devised by Trevor Spencer Rines
© Ivan Amato, 2009