Suspended Reanimation


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

each morning

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


God’s Table

The Periodic


Of the




Woefully clinical.

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

Discarded, unwanted

Scraped underfoot into a stain:

Onionskin paper, filter, and tobacco

Vilest of litters


Its paper

Born of noble lineage

Papyrus and velum, its kin

Its filter

Synthetic hair, once oil

Reformed by chemical invention

Its tobacco

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


Twisted wood
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

Ivan Amato
“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

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