Greg Candela | 3 poems

Big Mouth

Black bass:
all muscle
and mouth
they breach
spit and
shake out 
barbed
hooks

tangle
in weeds 
then
snap
filament
line.

The grit
rammed 
under
their
fingernails
and between
clenched teeth

washed 
down by
home made
red wine
heavy
with 
sediment

Nonni* 
bust their
gnarled knuckles 
on GE
locomotive
turbines.

Their
grandchildren
court
English-Irish girls
above the
Mohawk

on the 
bridge
between
Little Italy 
and
Becker 
Street in
Schenectady.



* Nonni is Italian for Grandfathers

Deer Dancer
Blanca Peak, Colorado August 7, 2016
The Mountain teaches a man his promontory limits


The Ascent

On bunched haunches
rippling. quivering. 
against the hug and tug of earth
on the steep, brutal, narrow trail
humped, sometimes strewn
with talus and scree, lined with
bluebells, red paint brush, pale
columbine—the deer dancer ascends. 
His frozen-stiff brown fur no
longer repels the freezing drizzle.
Cold sweat urges a quick ascent
determined. desperate.
With each upward bound—
guided by metal forelegs
made by L.L. Bean—he 
mounts and sways
to pueblo drums: step step 
step step … heave … step step.  


The Descent

The black hail-laden clouds 
swag and roil Zapata Lake. 
Their skirts of swirling mist
obscure the naked rock-spines
of Ellington Point and Blanca Peak. 
They drive the dancer into a
graceless, frightened retreat.
Zapata Creek swells. Its rock
fords submerge. The track 
melts into  fast-sliding mud. 
He picks, pricks, clicks
his way, leaning into the deep
on weakened forelegs.
Hail cascades, a stinging maraca 
beat. The deer dancer, drugged 
with fatigue, staggers past
lightning-blasted pines. He
collapses, three times, to his knees.

Their Blood Comes Up

Longstreet’s 25,000 men 
raised back and up
a confederate sledgehammer
above General John Pope’s 
exposed left flank.
The second Battle of Manassas 
August 30, 1862, 4:00pm 
the hammer smashed the
5th New York, Zouaves

whose uniforms were 
modeled on the French:
short open-fronted, red-
braided blue jackets 
baggy red trousers
tasseled red fezzes.

On came the 5th and 4th
Texas.  As the massed
confederates came out of
the woods and rifle smoke.
Union Private Alfred Davenport 
remembered, “It was a
continual hiss, snap, wiz  
and sluck” of bullets 
ripping into flesh. 

The hammer smashed
through fresh-baked bread.
The 5th New York, fled: 
Union Private Richard 
Ackerman said, the
men “ran like dogs.”

In ten minutes the 
slaughter ended:
the most dead of
any regiment in
any single battle of
our Civil War.

Confederate Valmore Giles 
recalled the red breeches 
the blue jackets among 
the broom sedge Virginia
hills—some writhing, many
still—colored, torn patches
that put him in mind of
April blue bonnets and red
Indian paint brush blooms
in the rolling hills among
the live oaks of East Texas. 

152 years pass: 
more smoke. 
I stand on this
exact ground where 
my Brooklyn boys
stood,  now
patched in 
undisturbed
snow.

Their blood 
quiet, braided 
siphons up 
through my feet.

greg_candela

Gregory L. Candela has resided in New Mexico since 1972. He has published scholarly articles in American Literature, a volume of poetry (Surfing New Mexico—2001), written seven produced plays and edited 6 volumes of poetry and prose. More recent publications include poems in Circe’s Lament: Anthology of Wild Women Poetry, Malpaís Review, Adobe Walls, Sin Fronteras, Van Gogh’s Ear, Cyclamens and Swords, Monterey Poetry Review and Italian Americana. He has been a member of the New Mexico State Poetry Society, served on the Selection Committee for Albuquerque’s first Poet Laureate and serves as a Poet in the Classroom. He is currently looking for a publisher for his poetry manuscript “Graveyards of New Mexico.”

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