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‘SPARTACUS’ and other poems by Wayne F. Burke

By Wayne F. Burke


“Panorama-vision” the big sell of the
movies, back in the early 60’s, the
ornate theater (to my 12 year old eyes)
in the neighboring town
the cushioned chair
in the semi-darkness
hit in the head by
a Juicy Fruit candy
thrown by a fat kid
five rows behind–
I stood and asked him did he throw it
and he said “yeah! What are you going to do
about it?”
His ghoulish face lit by the
light of ‘The Vikings’ on the
big screen, I punched the kid in the face and
he bawled…Meanwhile, the
Vikings scaled the castle walls…
The theater manager-mister tapped me on the
shoulder, motioned
me to follow him
up the aisle
his office
decorated with movie posters
he asked for my father’s telephone number
I said “he does not have one.”
“How come?”
“Because he is dead.”
He asked for my mother’s number
I said “she is dead too.”
He demanded to know who I lived with
and I told him–
he asked if my grandfather would come
pick me up
I said “he is in the hospital.”
He said “go back and
behave yourself.”
And I left,
just in time for the 2nd feature:


March 17

and how green the grass
of Dublin’s Saint Stephen’s Green
next door to a pub
where I drank six Irish whiskeys, six
Guinness stout and
walked out
and into the Kentucky Fried Chicken joint next door;
I laughed at the guy behind the counter
he was a funny guy.
He asked “are you high?”
I said, “no, drunk.”
I navigated to O’Connell Street
and boarded the Dublin-Drumcondra bus,
standing room only–
I fell onto the floor
and was lifted up;
the bus spun out of control
and I lurched seat to seat,
as the people smiled and
laughed at me;
I ran the length of the bus and
crashed into the barrier, turned and
fell out
and wandered until
I found the door
to my sodden basement flat
I entered and
passed-out, and woke
fully dressed and
to rain
and gloom
and in the street
the clippity-clop
of hooves
of a horse
pulling a milk wagon
through my



drops dripping from icicles
on a rare day of sunshine
in cold inhospitable
formidable as
my grandmother
in her chair
a bottle at her feet
cigarette in her hand
smoke curling above
beehive hair-do like a haystack
her goggle-eyes of
reproach and
icy smile
stopped me cold
on approach–
the drops sparkle
like the lenses of her glasses
whenever the sun
broke through the gloom
of that 2nd floor apartment
where love was frozen


Frere Jacques

nine o’clock and “time for bed”
and my brother
same as he does
every night
(though it never does him or me
any good)
“no if’s, an’s, or but’s about it,”
Grandma says:
my brother and me march
like prisoners
up the stairs–
“wait,” she says and
tells us to sit:
she wants to teach us to sing
“Frere Jacques
frere Jaques
–dormay vous!
–dormay vous!”
She swings her arms
like a conductress
as she stands
below us–
my brother can not get the words
or the tune
and Grandma throws her hands up
says, “go to bed.”
The only time we did not
go straight up
9 PM.



a cold rain
and mist rising
from the sidewalk
to my topcoat
buttoned to my throat;
six men ahead
carry a box up
church steps–
my grandmother squeezes my hand
too tightly
my brother and me
step for step
to the big door
opened wide
like a mouth–
at the funeral parlor
Gramp, lying
in the sweet stench of flowers,
Grandma brought me to the casket
to touch his hand
“no! No!” I said.
During the funeral
my sister cried as if
her bones would break
but I did not cry
not then or later
and at the grave site
I waited in the car
until the service
was over.


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