If you’ve never heard of J.T. Barbarese, (Jabber, stare), join the crowd. I could find no biographical data on him other than his birth year of 1948. A glance at the title below should explain why he is today’s selected writer. Let’s stroll desultorily through his references here:
Primo Levi (1919-1987), Italian chemist and writer, and perhaps most importantly, Holocaust survivor and author of the memoir “Survival in Auschwitz.” Levi died after a fall that the coroner ruled a suicide, which Levi’s friends and colleagues disputed. I believe Levi’s ghost appears in the poems’ final lines.
Bouchon, Thomas Keller-run French bakery and bistro on W. 59th street.
Lager, short for konzentrationslager, the German word for concentration camp.
Che Guevara, who abandoned med school in Argentina to foment communist revolution in Guatemala and Cuba.
This poem is very nearly a sonnet, with its ABCB quatrains totaling 16 lines. Barbarese uses slant rhyme in the first stanza to throw us off the scent, but the remaining three are pretty tight and traditional. This is plain American language, wrapped without fuss around a tough theme. I like it. Enjoy your week! -ed.
READING PRIMO LEVI OFF COLUMBUS CIRCLE
Re-reading him in Bouchon
past noon, it is mobbed midtown,
like an ant farm seen through painkillers.
God, what a bust it’s all been,
capitalism, communism, feminism,
this lust to liberate.
Che should have stayed in medicine.
The girls here admit they can’t wait
to marry and get to the alimony,
before they hit thirty. The men,
heads skinned like Lager inmates,
know only the revolutions
in diets and spinning classes.
Still, one table away,
these two, with gnarled empretzled hands,
seem unhappy in the old way.