John L. Stanizzi

Note: Mr. Stanizzi calls these ”call and response” poems. The call poems, the first poem in a pair of poems is a "garland," and the response poem, the second poem, is a "ghazal."

Pair 1:


When we moved here thirty years ago there
was an old swallow’s nest pressed up into
a corner of the darkened shed, looking
like a small volcano or a tiny
lava-clump squeezed into that private place.

This summer it seemed that everywhere there
were swallows filling the air with their grace.
I saw one swallow glide into the shed,
which is tucked away underneath the deck,
just as another swallow coasted out.

This went on for weeks; one flew in, one out,
each carrying sticks or beaks full of mud.
First time in decades they’ve gone in the shed,
whose only light is a single bare bulb,
and that is where they chose to build their nest.

The socket into which you screw the bulb
is perfectly round and flat, and that is
where they crafted their nest of sticks and mud.
I snuck up for a peek inside the nest,
and sure enough I counted four small eggs.

I looked in everyday until one day
four little pairs of eyes were looking back.
And then—too soon—the inevitable.
They left, having shown me trust and the kind
of grace that, if you’re blessed, you may feel once.

When we moved here thirty years ago there
were swallows that filled the air with their grace.
First time in decades they’ve gone in the shed.
I snuck up for a peek inside the nest
of grace where, if you’re blessed, you may feel once.

Swallos Perch on the Rim of the Nest

They built their nest in the shed’s shadowy half-light.
All day they carried mud out of the draught of light.

The socket for the bare bulb is round and metal.
They construct their nest on top of that riff-raff light.

All day long they fly in and out carrying mud.
After a week I step into a shaft of light.

There atop the light socket is their little nest.
I walk into the sepia and staffs of light.

This slow adventure is temporal and worldly
and iridescent as when the sun chaffs the light.

The nest is never alone.  One bird always stays.
One day I peeked and saw four eggs, the waifs in light.

And all day, every day, the flying in and out.
Then one day, a tail feather, flagstaff of light.

I was among the first things they would ever see.
I’d stand beside their nest and watch them, stiff in light.

Their smoothest brown heads, their black eyes, their thin white mouths,
the trust that shone through those black eyes in the safe light.

Then the day came when they all perched on the nest’s edge;
The time had come to step onto the raft of light.

And then they were departed and the nest empty,
John standing there in awe of the grace of self -light.

Pair 2:

Of His Own Personal Design
In memoriam, our Honorable Bredren, Vaughn Benjamin
Born August 13, 1969
Passed November 4, 2019
Inna the middle of the tug a war
I, still inna the race so far
I man still inna the race so far . . .
In The Race So Far
Chant a Psalm of praise in the name of Vaughn,
though sadness weighs heavy, walk through the door
on the joyousness and the love of Jah.
Songs are trends and the radio is noise—
fe Honor Jah Music; Honor I King

Search I oh Jah—Jah inna I & I.
Truth is sometimes tougher than the times are,
but if I & I love right and live right
Jah shall keep lightning and wind in safety,
bless I & I where I stand with His love.

Enoch—Execute great undertakings
the Akae Beka did that always.
Do the opposite, the Akae say,
It’s only through resistance you know me;
gunshot can never stop the spirit sun.

Give ear to the words I say now oh Jah.
We are living in a country—Pagan—
Whenever they hand us the pay—pay gone—
Baldhead with dreadlocks come replace Rasta,
But Vaughn site up the book of Enoch light.

I will I point out a mystery—Vaughn’s death,
and uprightness, things that live under the
sidewalk or smoke filling air with sweetness,
the sacred herbs, the blessed King of Kings.
Stand firm with hours of chanting for life,

Chant a psalm of praise in the name of Vaughn;
the truth is sometimes tougher than the times.
Do the opposite, the Akae say.
Baldhead with dreadlocks come replace Rasta.
Stand firm with hours of chanting for life.


Rasta Fari give I and I the means
To get through these times of rapid shifting prophecy

Vaughn Benjamin chant, never shifting prophecy.
We youths listened however shifting prophecy.

He sang of staying one step ahead of attacks.
High holy mountains, rivers shifting prophecy.

Faddah of Zion teach the I to follow you,
whose sacred hymns uncover shifting prophecy.

Teach I the metamorphosis of expression
that I exalt your nether shifting prophecy.

Friends speaking inna parables, money the “King,”
torch and greed make it tremor, shifting prophecy.

Don’t listen the propaganda, propaganda—
You know Babylon clever shifting prophecy,

Never exalt yourself to the false ambitions—
in shadows they endeavor shifting prophecy.

Them tell lies cover dem lies with more lies more lies.
Me wary of whichever shifting prophecy.

Reject Jah, we stamp you destination unknown.
We try trod straightness, sever shifting prophecy.

Stand firm, praise Jah all my life, all my health, Jah live.
I & I in sight never shifting prophecy.

The poison in the air comes from two viruses—
air and politricks, sinners shifting prophecy.

Born day was August 13, 1969,
the morning it moved nearer, shifting prophecy.

Born in Antigua, moved as a child to St. Croix,
Vaughn would learn soon the killer shifting prophecy.

Inspired by wars and Rasta he was touched to write,
to make sacred words trigger shifting prophecy.

After 72 albums Vaughn was taken.
His great loss will make shiver shifting prophecy.

World is in trouble.  Arm a geddeon taint it.
Don’t shed no tears—make silver shifting prophecy.

And on November 4, 2019 Vaughn was
taken, making it quiver, shifting prophecy.

His passing came in Port St. Lucie, Florida,
Holy ground, where him still sing shifting prophecy.

John L. Stanizzi is author of the collections Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After the Bell, Hallelujah Time!, High Tide—Ebb Tide, Four Bits, Chants, Sundowning, and POND. His poems have been widely published and have appeared in Praxis, Prairie Schooner, The Cortland Review, American Life in Poetry, The New York Quarterly, Paterson Literary Review, The Caribbean Writer, Blue Mountain Review, Rust + Moth, Tar River, Poet Lore, Rattle, Hawk & Handsaw, and many others. His work has been translated into Italian and appeared in El Ghibli, The Journal of Italian Translations Bonafini, Poetarium, and others. His nonfiction has been published in Stone Coast Review, Ovunque Siamo, Adelaide, Scarlet Leaf, Literature and Belief,  Evening Street, Praxis, and others. A former New England Poet of the Year, John is the Flash Fiction Editor of Abstract Magazine TV, and he has read at venues all over New England, including the Mystic Arts Café, the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, Hartford Stage, and many others. For many years, John coordinated the Fresh Voices Poetry Competition for Young Poets at Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington, CT. He is also a teaching artist for the national recitation contest, Poetry Out Loud. A former Wesleyan University Etherington Scholar, John teaches literature at Manchester Community College in Manchester, CT, and he lives with his wife, Carol, in Coventry. “Swallows” and “Swallows Perch on the Rim of the Nest” first appeared in Verse/Virtual.



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