Aaron Angello ~ Four Poems


Patterns of silence in pri­vate, sup­pressed whelps, dead air. A woman curled into a ball at the top of the stairs, weep­ing, apoplec­tic. A few months ear­li­er, there were two para­keets that freely flew through every room in the house. This isn’t a metaphor – they were pets. In a win­dowed sun­room, the entry­way at the top of the stairs, the place where the woman was now on the floor, fetal, weep­ing, I had screwed two knot­ty, crooked, branch-like perch­es into the wall, and the birds took to them instant­ly. They devel­oped a sim­ple flight pat­tern through the apart­ment. They would fly from the perch­es in the sun­room to the cur­tain rods in the liv­ing room and back again. Now the birds were gone. They had each indi­vid­u­al­ly escaped, flew off into the wilds of Venice Beach. There were flocks of Mexican para­keets in the palms. I like to think they found their way to those flocks and were accept­ed as part of the gang. Now the birds were gone, but the perch­es were still there. The bird shit was still on the win­dowsill. My books were still on the shelves. The sound of the board­walk could still be heard. The air still smelled of salt and exhaust. People stood in line out­side the tiny cof­fee shop. The girl on roller skates pushed her way down the alley, singing loud­ly and off key to the music in her head­phones. Traffic and car horns on Abbot Kinney. Drums. Guitars. The pub­lic piano in front of Sidewalk Café. The room still. The dust hov­er­ing in sun­light, unable or unwill­ing to move.



A woman in her mid-for­ties, recent­ly divorced, was work­ing alone in her gar­den. It was late morn­ing, and the sun was par­tic­u­lar­ly oppres­sive. Beads of sweat rolled down the back of her neck as she pruned the basil and har­vest­ed a few pep­pers and toma­toes. She wished, aloud, for a light breeze, but it wasn’t one of those days. It was just hot. She took a toma­to from her bas­ket and bit into it. Juice ran down her chin and her wrist. She looked back toward the house, thought about its silence, its empti­ness. She took anoth­er bite, and she bit into some­thing hard, like the pit of a peach. It was an old six-sided die, made of ivory. She dug it out of the pink flesh with her fin­gers and exam­ined it. There was noth­ing extra­or­di­nary about it. She put it into her mouth and sucked it, clean­ing it of seeds and bits of the tomato’s flesh. She leaned back, stretched her body out beside a row of cab­bage while she moved the die about with her tongue. The cloud­less sky. The ground beneath her felt cool and pleas­ant. She thought that maybe she could stay there for­ev­er, supine in the dirt, next to the cab­bages. She tried to iden­ti­fy the par­tic­u­lar sides of the die with her tongue. She found the side with only one dot. She began to dig with her fin­gers into the soil beside her, dig­ging ever deep­er, lux­u­ri­at­ing in the moist soil between her fin­gers. She felt some­thing, a thick root, a tuber. It moved slight­ly. Without chang­ing her body’s posi­tion, she dug around it more aggres­sive­ly. It was a hand, a small human hand, and it grabbed hers and held it tight­ly. She squeezed it lov­ing­ly, caressed it with her thumb. She looked at the cloud­less sky through a film of tears and swal­lowed deeply.



An old man, a blues gui­tarist and singer, after fin­ish­ing a gig in a bar in an Albuquerque strip mall for which he was paid $35 and two free beers, decid­ed to get on a bus and go to Mississippi. He was 72 years old and had been a musi­cian his entire life, and for his entire life he had been poor. He was on food stamps, evict­ed from apart­ments, often slept in his car when he had a car. It was, in his words, a mis­er­able life made of pen­ta­ton­ic scales, minor chords, and fail­ure. He got on a bus to Mississippi to do what he should have done a long time ago but was too afraid to: to make a deal. At 72 years old, he was final­ly ready to nego­ti­ate that Faustian bar­gain, to strike a deal with the dev­il. Every blues­man knows there’s only one place where you can make that deal. The cross­roads. The same cross­roads that Robert Johnson sang about near­ly a cen­tu­ry ago. The old man, though, didn’t know where the cross­roads were, nor did any­one he spoke to once he arrived in Mississippi. So he began to hitch­hike, mov­ing aim­less­ly along the rur­al back roads with noth­ing but his acoustic gui­tar. Whenever he came to a cross­roads that looked promis­ing, he’d ask the dri­ver to stop and let him out. He’d take his gui­tar out of the case, sit cross-legged at the point where the two roads meet, play and wait. He would play for hours. Occasionally, a pick­up would rum­ble by, kick­ing up dust. He kept play­ing. If he could only make that deal, make a record, peo­ple might hear his music, know his name. He might be able to have a lit­tle mon­ey in his pock­et. He kept play­ing, but the dev­il nev­er came.



A neglect­ed side­walk, grass grow­ing through cracks, runs par­al­lel to an untrav­eled street. There is a wrought-iron fence between the side­walk and an emp­ty lot. The lot is clut­tered with dis­card­ed house­hold objects: emp­ty tur­pen­tine cans, clothes hang­ers, a coat rack, an old refrig­er­a­tor, a cracked, red hot water bot­tle. In the back cor­ner, there is a weath­er-beat­en, bro­ken piano, it’s key­board entire­ly intact, but its ham­mers strike only air. A boy lies on his back in the mid­dle of the lot, his arms out­stretched, extend­ed, hand­fuls of weeds in his fists. He is singing a made-up song, made-up words, made-up tune. A siren in the dis­tance. The gate on the fence creeks, and the boy looks up. No one is there. A car rolls by. A sin­gle jet with a long, undis­turbed con­trail. The boy singing. Somewhere else, peo­ple play foot­ball and grill hot dogs. There is a net­work serv­er. A sculp­tor in her stu­dio. A box­er hit­ting a speed­bag. A man scrib­bling into a note­book. A cat watch­ing birds through a win­dow. A new­born baby. A reporter drink­ing cof­fee at an unre­mark­able café in an Istanbul neigh­bor­hood that is pop­u­lar with young peo­ple is about to be abduct­ed by a mil­i­tant group. A farmer sits in his truck out­side of a Wells Fargo in Des Moines. A teenag­er gets her peri­od in the mid­dle of class. A wed­ding is called off. A group of actors rehearse the mechan­i­cals’ scene in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A woman spoons puréed veg­eta­bles into her mother’s mouth. A social media app is updat­ed. A flock of pigeons pecks at paving stones around a court­yard foun­tain. The boy stretch­es his arms and legs, sings, makes snow angels in the dead grass.


Aaron Angello is a poet and the­atre artist liv­ing in Frederick, MD, where he teach­es at a small, lib­er­al arts col­lege. His first book, Close Reading, is forth­com­ing from Rose Metal Press in 2022.