ISSN 1551-8086
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   poets list
   Francisco Dominguez & Aire Celeste Norell
   Marie Lecrivain & Angel Uriel Perales
   Sheikha A.
   Steve Abee
   L. Ward Abel
   Carl Abt
   Han Adcock
   Elizabeth Addis
   Aderemi Adegbite
   Adeolu Emmanuel Adesanya
   Neil Aitken
   M.I Akande
   Shahd Al-Shemmari
   Lynn Albanese
   Alaina Renee Alexander
   Gwyndyn Alexander
   Nicole Alexander
   Scott Alexander
   Inalegwu Omapada Alifa
   Maureen Alsop
   Rafael Alvarado
   Steven Alvarez
   Keiko Amano
   Veronica An
   Zack Anderson
   Amy Anderson
   Kristine Anderson
   G.D. Anderson
   Lori Anderson-Moseman
   Grace Andreacchi
   Renae Andruse
   Arlene Ang
   Roger Angle
   Stephen Anstay
   Azure Antoinette
   Theresa Antonia
   Aurora Antonovic
   Maria A Arana
   Carlye Archibeque
   Joseph Armstead
   Feral Artist
   Baron James Ashanti
   Charlene M. Ashendorf
    Askew
   Gregory Austin
   Shawn Aveningo
   maeghanne ayers
   Goodness Lanre Ayoola
   John-Patrick Ayson
   Jim Babwe
   Sophie Bachard
   Vasile Baghiu
   Bridget Bagne
   song-hue bahk
   Michael Baker
   Prerna Bakshi
   Anna Balint
   David Banuelos
   Jared Barbick
   J. Mae Barizo
   Peter Barlow
   Matthew A. Barraza
   James Barros
   Jeni Bate
   Jonathan Beale
   Richard Beban
   Gary Beck
   Gary Beck
   Marjorie R Becker
   Lytton Bell
   Hakim Bellamy
   Michele Beller
   Laura Bellotti
   Stefanie Bennett
   Hayley Berariu
   Kevin Berger
   Lawrence Berger
   Mike Berger, Ph.D.
   Tom Berman
   luis cuauhtemoc berriozabal
   Catherine Berry
   Nick Bertelson
    Besskepp
   Mary Rose Betten
   Robert Beveridge
   Cheryl Beychok
   Gwendolyn Beyer
   François Biajoux
   Heitham Black
   Jarvis Black
   Beau Blue
   Rose Mary Boehm
   Bonnie Bolling
   Julie Bolt
   Lek Borja
   Cristogianni Borsella
   Gerald Bosacker
   Amanda Boschetto
   Wendy Bourke
   Jack G. Bowman
   Jennifer Bradpiece
   Bob Bradshaw
   Marcielle Brandler
   Peter Branson
   Sumiko Braun
   Adam Bresson
   Quiana Briggs
   Jack Bristow
   paulo brito
   Alan Britt
   Michelle Brodeur
   Lynne Bronstein
   Charles Brooks
   Adam Levon Brown
   Jason Sanford Brown
   zoey brown
   Leah Brown
   Deborah Edler Brown
   Bob Browning
   Sir Mark Bruback
   MC Bruce
   Jeffrey Bryant
   Kate Buckley
   Robin M. Buehler
   Ron Burch
   Graham Burchell
   Maria Rose Burgio
   Betsy Burke
   Matt Burns
   Richard Burrill
   Tony Bush
   Zachary C. Bush
   Elissa Calvin
   Joseph Camhi
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Neil Campbell
   Dana Campbell
   JR Campbell
   Velene Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Luis Campos
   Janine Canan
   Lyn Cannaday
   Pasquale Capacosa
   Joey Capone
   Hélène Cardona
   Britton Laine Carducci
   D.J. Carlile
   Julia Carlson
   Alicia Carpenter
   Jonathan Carr
   Patricia Carragon
   Oscar Carrasco
   Jared Carter
   Michael Aaron Casares
   John Casey
   Lisa Castro
   Rachael Kelechi Caulker
   Nika Cavat
   Michael Caylo-Baradi
   Steve Ceniceros
   Adrian Ernesto Cepeda
   Michael Ceraolo
    Cerise
   Robert Cesaretti
   Cheryl Chambers
   Lita-Luise Chappell
   Shibani Chattopadhyay
   Lisa Cheby
   Beth Cheng
   Ralph-Michael Chiaia
   Juhi Chowdhury
   David Christensen
   Phil Clark
   Darice Clark
   Terry Clark
   Terry Clark
   Charles Claymore
   Jeanette Clough
   Kim Cochran
   Ed Coet
   Tobi Cogswell
   Megan Coker
   Bruce Colbert
   Karen E. Cole
   Merrill Cole
   Christopher Coleman
   Larry Colker
   Beverly M. Collins
   Christiane Conésa-Bostock
   David Concepcion
   Christiane Conesa-Bostock
   Brendan Connell
   Alice Constantine
   Jack Cooper
   Flavia Cosma
   Rachel Coventry
   R. Paul Craig
   David Cravens
   William Crawford
   Natalie Crick
   Rosemarie Crisafi
   Carla Criscuolo
   Chris Crittenden
   Benjamin Crowley
   Susan Culver
   Bill Cunningham
   Joe Cyr
   Jim D Babwe
   Morgaine d'Abney
   Karen Corcoran Dabkowski
   Daniel Daian
    Dalton
   Catherine Daly
   Iris Dan
   Marie Lecrivain & Daniel Gallik
   Dan Danila
   Michelle Daugherty
   Piper Davenport
   Kathrine David
   Gareth Davies
   Holly Day
   Frank De Canio
   Gregory De Feo
   Steve De France
   J. de Salvo
   J de Salvo
   kumari de Silva
   Pijush Kanti Deb
   Shalla DeGuzman
   JD DeHart
   Diane Dehler
   Aurelius Demarco
   Darren C Demaree
   Gloria Derge
   Chris Derrico
   Lea Deschenes
   Maurice Devitt
   Theo Diamantis
   Mike Dias
   Martin Dickinson
   Edward J DiMaio
   Mark Dixon
   Peggy Dobreer
   Rosemarie Dombrowski
   Francisco J. Dominguez
   Linsly Donnelly
   Lisa Helene Donovan
   Kevin Doran
   Marvin Louis Dorsey
   Marvin Dorsey
   John Dorsey
   Laura A. Lionello & Douglas Richardson
   Doug Draime
   Donelle Dreese
   Dale Duke
   Jawanza Dumisani
   Henri Dumolet
   Max Dunbar
   Robin Wyatt Dunn
   t. joseph dunn
   Tyler Dupuis
    Durenda
   Walter Durk
   Douglas Dvorkin
   Ron Dvorkin
   Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi
   Alfie Ebojo aka alfie numeric
   Patricia J. Edwards
   Elisabeth Adwin Edwards
   Sabrina Edwards
   Miguel Eichelberger
   John Elison
   Julian Ellis
   Neil Ellman
   K. Eltinaé
   R.M. Engelhardt
   Margarita Engle
   Jon Epstein
   Sufi Erter
   Eli Eshaghian
   Michael Estabrook
   Alexis Rhone Fancher
   Richard Fein
   John Feins
   Raymond Fenech
   Emily Fernandez
   Melissa Fischer
   W.S. Fisher
   Jamie Asae FitzGerald
   Amelia Fleetwood
   Jake Fleshner
   John Jay Flicker
   David Flynn
   Arthur Charles Ford
   Liz Fortini
   Sesshu Foster
   Heather Fowler
   Clint Frakes
   Sarah Francois
   Amelie Frank
   Amélie Frank
   Alex M. Frankel
   Allie Frazier
   E.L. Freifeld
   M. Frias Frias-May
   Suzanne Frost
   Delia J. Fry
   Elliott Gabay
   Steven Gabriel
   Timothy Gager
   Daniel Gallik
   J Gamble
   Ishmael Garay
   Jerry Garcia
   Daniel Garcia-Black
   Gabriella Garofalo
   Vince Garofalo
   Yvonne Garrett
   Nelson Gary
   Donna Gebron
   Ulrike Gerbig
   Janice Gero
   Ursula T. Gibson
   Rebecca Gimblett
   Tony Gloeggler
   Steve Goldman
   Vesna Goldsworthy
   Melanie Gonzalez
   Gerda Govine Ituarte
   Jeffrey Graessley
   Allison Grayhurst
   Timothy Green
   Jeff Green
   Jeanie Greensfelder
   Rhoda Greenstone
   Amos Greig
   John Greiner
   John Grey
   Summer Griffiths
   Danielle Grilli
   Brian Grillo
   John Grochalski
   Wendy Grosskopf
   Andrew Grossman
   Ro Gunetilleke
   Kenneth Gurney
   John R. Guthrie
   Grant Guy
   Debashish Haar
   Erik Haber
   Hedy Habra
   Tresha Faye Haefner
   Matthias Hagedorn
   James Hall
   Tom Hamilton
   Danielle Harper
   David Harrington
   William Harris
   Matt Harris
   Dawnell Harrison
   JD Hart
   Jack Harvey
   J. Alana Hauenschild
   Kari J. Hayes
   KJ Hays
   Ann L. Healey
   Eloise Klein Healy
   Jessica Healy
   Jim Heavily
   Dan Hedges
   Paul Hellweg
   Samantha Henderson
   Jack Henry
   David Herrle
   JD Heskin
   Kenneth Hickey
   Jerry Hicks
   Marvin R Hiemstra
   Ed Higgins
   Carlos Hiraldo
   Sherri Hoffman
   Guy Hogan
   Ali Hosseiny
   Dave Houston
   David Howard
   Eric Howard
   Nate Howard
   Bryon D. Howell
   A J Huffman
   Hunter Lee Hughes
   Roger Humes
   Trista Hurley-Waxali
   Elizabeth Iannaci
   Thea Iberall
   Armine Iknadossian
   Gedda Ilves
   Alegria Imperial
   Victor Infante
   Victor D. Infante
   Augustus Invictus
   Tom Irish
   Susan Irvine
   Alexandra Isacson
   Natalie Itzhaki
   Amber Jacob
   Scott Jacobson
   Larry Jaffe
   Sonika Jaggi
   Emmanuel Jakpa
   Matthew James
   Andrea Janov
   T.A. Jennings
   Kait Jensen
   Ivan Jenson
   Dani Jimenez
   Alex Johnson
   Michael Lee Johnson
   Lois P. Jones
   Strider Marcus Jones
   Tao Jones
   Georgia Jones-Davis
   Jasmin Jordan
   Quentin Josephy
   Liu Jue
   Ruth Juris
   Gary Justice
   Gene Justice
   Pete Justus
   Mikel K
   Scott C. Kaestner
   Sheema Kalbasi
   Peycho Kanev
   Rachel Kann
   Jay Kantor
   Paula Sfier Kattan
   Russ Kazmierczak
   James Keane
   Gretchen Keer
   Aaron Keller
   Collin Kelley
   Kamuran Kelly
   Bernard Kennedy
   Raud Kennedy
   Kathleen Kenny
   Stephen Kerr
   Hari Bhajan Khalsa
   Elisabeth Khan
   Just Kibbe
   Jerome Kiel
   lalo kikiriki
   Robert S King
   Ashley King
   Franklin Lafayette King
   Sofia Kioroglou
   Rusty Kjarvik
   Kenny Klein
   LeAnne Kline
   Julia Knobloch
   Philip Kobylarz
   Deborah P Kolodji
   Tracy Koretsky
   Edith Kornfeld
   George Korolog
   Dimitris P. Kraniotis
   Thomas KrÀmer
   Mark Krewatch
   Chris Krueger
   Amanda Krut
   Gerard Kuc
   Donna Kuhn
   Christopher Kuhn
   Len Kuntz
   Craig Kurtz
   Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
   Daniel Lambert
   Anthony Langford
   Donald Langosy
   Ray Lanthier
   Phillip Larrea
   Phillip Larrea
   Kasandra Larsen
   Wolf Larsen
   Ethan Latham
   Lisa LaTourette
   Marie Lecrivain & Laura A. Lionello
   Marianne LaValle-Vincent
   Kevin Lavey
   Judith A. Lawrence
   Eric Lawson
   Richard Leach
   Anne Lecrivain
   Marie Lecrivain
   Noah Lederman
   Emma Lee
   Pete Lee
   Kevin Patrick Lee
   N.M. Leepsa
   Alexandra Leggat
   Laura LeHew
   Gary Lehmann
   Sharmagne Leland-St. John
   Kevin LeMaster
   Michal Lemberger
   Kim Leng
   Roland Lesterin
   Tiffany Lettieri
   P.A. Levy
   Martin Lewis
   Cheyenne Lewis
   Anthony Liccione
   Cynthia Linville
   Laura Lionello
   Zachary Locklin
   Jessica Lopez
   Harold Lorin
   Tess. Lotta
   B.D. Love
   Adam Lowis
   Ron Lucas
   Andrew Lundwall
   Rick Lupert
   Suzan Lustig
   Radomir Luza
   Stosh Machek
   John MacKenna
   Sarah Maclay
   Stefanie Maclin
    Magdalena
   Gary Maggio
   Holly Magill
   Anthony Magistrale
   Marieta Maglas
   Suvi Mahonen
   Donal Mahoney
   Robert Maiolo
   Kelly Ann Malone
   Michael Malota
   Shahé Mankerian
   Angela Consolo Mankiewicz
   Chris Mansell
   H.E. Mantel
   April-May March
   Rick Marlatt
   John Marshall
   Agnes Marton
   Francis Masat
   Hyatt Mason
   Lee Mason
   Anthony Mason
   Johnny Masuda
   Mira N. Mataric
   Ellyn Maybe
   Michelle Mazzetti
   Mary L. Mazzocco
   Ted Mc Carthy
   Austin McCarron
   Terry McCarty
   Paul McConnell
   Brendan McCormack
   Deborah McCreath-Akbar
   Catfish McDaris
   Bray McDonald
   Karen J McDonnell
   Matt McGee
   Allen McGill
   Afric McGlinchey
   Terance James McGunigle
   Cat Angelique McIntire
   David McIntire
   david mclean
   Isobel McQueen
   Fernando Meisenhaulter
    Mephistopheles
   Corey Mesler
   Melissa Michaels
    Mike the Poet
   Scott Miller
   Richard Lee Miller
   Robert John Miller
   Hany Haggag Abdl Mobdy
   Richard Modiano
   William Mohr
   Sonnet Mondal
   Jason Monios
   Leslie Monsour
   Amanda Montei
   Patrick Mooney
   Carl Moore
   Greggory Moore
    Albert Lee Moran
   A.J. Morelli
   Christopher Mulrooney
   Frank Mundo
   Barbara-Marie Mundt
   Augusto Munoz
   Mark Murphy
   Craig Murray
   Kristine Ong Muslim
   Genie Nakano
   JL Nathan
   Nimah Nawwab
   Leslie Maryann Neal
   Jason Neese
   Raghab Nepal
   Robbi Nester
   Mindy Nettifee
   Martina Reisz Newberry
   Beth Escott Newcomer
   Peter Nezafati
   Scott Nichols
   keith niles
   Dave Nordling
   Aire Celeste Norell
   Steve Norwood
   Laura Nye
   Charlotte O'Brien
   Toti O'Brien
   Suzanne O'Connell
   Katie O'Loughlin
   Peter O'Niell
   Tom O'Reilly
   Akor Emmanuel Oche
   A.J. Odasso
   Rita Odeh
   Kirsten Ogden
   Daniel Olivas
   Maurice Oliver
   Marc Olmstead
   Philip ONeil
   Nzingah Oniwosan
   Chika Onyenezi
   Sergio Ortiz
   David Ishaya Osu
   Scott Thomas Outlar
   Holly Painter
   Lizbeth Palma
   Heather Palmer
   Greg Patrick
   Miss Natalie Patterson
   David E. Patton
   Jared Pearce
   E. Martin Pedersen
   Tim Peeler
   Steve Pelcman
   Angel Perales
   Alice Pero
   Angela J. Perry
   Helen Peterson
   Brenda Petrakos
   Adam Phillips
   James G Piatt
   Rebecca Pierce
   Gareth Pike
   James Pinkerton
   Rob Plath
   Kushal Poddar
   Contributors to poeticdiversity
   Meg Pokrass
   Traian Pop Traian
   Bethany W Pope
   Wayne E. Popelka
   Elisha Porot
   Adrian Potter
   Ren Powell
   Frank Praeger
   Kristena Prater
   Luke Prater
   Shannon Prince
   Stephany Prodromides
   Hattie Quinn
   Octavio Quintanilla
   Beverly J. Raffaele
    Raindog
   Catherine Rajca
   Steve Ramirez
   Mauricio Alejandro Ramos
   Vishnu Rao
   Ingrid Rattay
   James Rauff
   Kasey Ray
   Bili Redd
   Brian Redfern
   Marie Rennard
   Luivette Resto
   E.W. Richardson
   John Richmond
   Francisca Ricinski-Marienfeld
   Kevin Ridgeway
   Lillian Ridgeway
   Dee Rimbaud
   Elijiah Rios
   Cat Risinger
   Ariel Robello
   Ebi Robert
   John D Robinson
   Paula Rodriguez
   Nydia Rojas
   Daniel Romo
   Emily Rose
   Rina Rose
   Diana Rosen
   Poet-broker Rosenthal
   Alison Ross
   James Robert Rudolph
   Walter Ruhlmann
   Gina MarySol Ruiz
   Cody Rukasin
   Cody Rukasin
   Ashley Rumery
   David W. Rushing
   Maryann Russo
   Sonya Sabanac
   Miriam Sagan
   Howard Sage
   Russell Salamon
   April Salzano
   Bryan Sanders
   Lisa Marie Sandoval
   Cecile Sarruf
    Sasparella
   Ethan Sassouni
   John Saunders
   Lorraine Sautner
   Rati Saxena
   Iftekhar Sayeed
   Frances Schiavina
   Kim Schroeder
   Carol Schwalberg
   Iris N Schwartz
   Peter Schwartz
   Ken Scott
   Sondra L. Scott
   David Scriven
   Justin Scupine
   LB Sedlacek
   Lisa Segal
   Anthony Seidman
   Anthony Seidman
   Oleg Semonov
   Margarita Serafimova
   Sanjeev Sethi
   John W Sexton
   Jack Allen Shafer
   Dahn Shaulis
   Tom Sheehan
   Jake Sheff
   Steve Shickman
   Nancy Shiffrin
   June Shiitake
   Ferrari Silverpowder
   Rishan Singh
   Durlabh Singh
   Rishan Singh
   Kalpna Singh-Chitnis
   Bobbi SInha-Morey
   Apryl Skies
   Knute Skinner
   Sam Skow
   Ratpack Slim
   Lee Sloca
   Carol Smallwood
   Clinton Smith
   Spencer Smith
   Danielle Smith
    smzang
   Kate Soto
   Ghetto Speare
   Jeanne Marie Spicuzza
   Richard Spuler
   Matina Stamatakis
   Jan Steckel
   Julia Stein
   Eric Steineger
   Carl Stillwell
   Bruce Stirling
   Alex Stolis
   Karr Stratynberg
   Kevin Stricke-9
   Keith Stump
   Daniel Suffian
   Annette Sugden
   J. C. Sullivan
   Mani Suri
   Ann Christine Tabaka
   John Duncan Talbird
   John Talbird
   Sister Taxi Hopscotch
   Barbara A. Taylor
   Jonathan Taylor
   Allen Taylor
   Mark Taylor
   Paul Kareem Tayyar
   Alene Terzian
    The Unarmed Man
   A. Thiagarajan
   G. Murray Thomas
   Lynne Thompson
   David Thornbrugh
   Kari Thune
   Sarah Thursday
   Ilona Timoszuk
   Tim Tipton
    TJungle
   Chrys Tobey
    tolbert
   Imani Tolliver
   A. TOMIC
   Anthony Torchia
   Mary Torregrossa
   Zev Torres
   Evan Traiger
   Davide Trame
   Tri Tran
   Ryan Tranquilla
   Alain Marcel Treadaway
   Pedro Trevino-Ramirez
   Ben Trigg
   Paul Tristram
   Maja Trochimczyk
    Troy
   The TruthHearse
   Tatiana Tulskaya
   Yelena and Roman Tunkel
   John Turi
   Danny Uebbing
   Amy Upham
   Amy Uyematsu
   Philomena van Rijswijk
   Gene van Troyer
   Wanda Vanhoy Smith
   Brenda Varda
   Luis Rubio Vargas
   Carmen Vega
   Ms. Veronica
   Papa Vic
   Clee Villasor
   Ajise Vincent
   Curran D. Vinson
   Jason Visconti
   Anca Vlasopolos
   Daniela Voicu
   Claire Walker
   r.k. wallace
   toren wallace
   Evan Walsh
   Sharieff Walters
   John Wariner
   Deborah L Warner
   Christopher Watkins
   Brian Watson
   Lafayette Wattles
   Charlie Weber
   Ellen Webre
   Justin Weiler
   Viola Weinberg
   Viola Weinberg
   Florence Weinberger
   Desmond Weindorf
   Cindy Weinstein
   Denise R. Weuve
   Rev. Dave Wheeler
   Kelley White
   Leigh White
   Megwynn White
   J.T. Whitehead
   John Sibley Williams
   Cade Williams
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Iris N Schwartz
November 2017
   

 

The Brothers Salerno at Home

    Little Johnny and Anthony had been sharing a room for as long as Anthony could remember. Their mother Gina swore the brothers hadn’t roomed together back in the old Brooklyn neighborhood, that Little Johnny had been allotted the twelve-by-fourteen living room with the queen-sized, plastic-covered, foldout sofa. Anthony didn’t recall that. He was five-and-a-half when the Salernos moved from Canarsie to cleaner, quieter Bay Ridge, but wouldn’t he know if he’d had his own room?
    Gina was always trying to show Anthony up, even though Little Johnny said it was just Anthony’s imagination—and that Gina didn’t care for either one of her sons.
    Little Johnny was the important one here, not Gina. Anthony scratched the back of his neck. Why was Anthony thinking of her? Anthony’s father, Anthony Sr., said his son always went off the topic when it suited him, when he didn’t want to deal with something important that was staring him right in his stinking, punk face.
    Anthony Sr. had a bug up his ass about “the straight and narrow” and “the redemptive powers of work,” stuff he’d read in books. Anthony scratched his balls through his dirty jeans. What did his father know, anyhow? Anthony Sr. fixed cars. He came to the breakfast table every morning with grease under his fingernails.
    Maybe Anthony hadn’t shared a room with Little Johnny in the hinterlands of Canarsie. If Anthony closed his eyes and squinted hard, he could make out a house with black iron railings and front and back yards, and his parents, young and happy, and Little Johnny, Aunt Viola, and Grandpa Vincenzo. Plus Grandpa’s friends, a bunch of old guys with rounded backs playing bocce and spitting tobacco juice on the back yard grass.
    Little Johnny told Anthony that Anthony must have made that up, that it was too stereotypically Italian to be real. Anthony probably saw it on TV, Little Johnny said smugly, but Anthony knew it was real. Besides, they called Johnny Little because he was the youngest, so he didn’t remember anything either, including being spoiled enough to sleep on a queen-sized bed at the age of four. What did Little Johnny know?
    Now Anthony scratched his rear end. Why was he so itchy? “Maybe if he put his pants in the washer more often,” his mother Gina was always telling his father, “if, God forbid, he’d do his own laundry and clean up his side of the bedroom rather than expect his mother to do it for him....Sure, I’m working now, but I’m not gonna be around forever.” Out of the corner of his eye Anthony often saw his mother scowl as she grabbed sweat-stained T-shirts, uniforms, and foul-smelling socks off his side of the bedroom─but she continued to pick up after him.
    Could be his mother was right. Anthony knew how to operate a washing machine. Or he could figure it out. Nah, he must have this rash from the store-brand detergent Gina started using ever since his father told Anthony’s mother that “name brand or no brand didn’t make no difference when it came to household supplies.” Anthony Sr. was cheap, no-family-vacations cheap, no-money-for-movies cheap, “pay-your-own-way-if-you wanna-go-to-college—like you’d get in with your grades”—cheap. Anthony rubbed his itchy back against his brother’s bookcase.
    Little Johnny and Anthony had been roommates at least since the Salernos had moved to Bay Ridge, and Anthony thought there were no two brothers closer than them, he’d bet on bocce no two friends closer, because Anthony considered Little Johnny his best friend as well as his brother.
    Not Little Johnny, though! His own brother—who’d won a spelling bee in junior high, the kind of so-called accomplishment Anthony thought a guy should be ashamed of; his own brother—who took the subway into “the city” with friends to go to concerts, museums, and bookstores; his own baby brother no doubt imagined somebody other than big brother Anthony to be his best friend.
    Anthony’s nails picked, through his blue jeans, at the skin behind his right knee. Anthony knew there was no other reason for what Little Johnny had said this morning while Anthony hiked up his work pants and Johnny wiped sleep crust from his eyes. The only explanation was that Anthony was not Little Johnny’s best friend.
    “Jesus, Anthony!” Little Johnny had said, even though Anthony could never get away with using the Son’s name any place other than church, “I’m just talking about moving out. And I’m talking about moving to Northern Manhattan, not to New Jersey or the West Coast! It’s not like you can’t catch the subway to visit me.”
    Anthony would have sworn up and down Bay Ridge Avenue that Little Johnny had rolled his eyes then, even though Anthony couldn’t prove it. No, little brother was too shifty to get caught. Anthony didn’t know if he trusted his brother anymore. Could be Little Johnny was underhanded enough to move out in the middle of the night, leaving Anthony with one half-empty closet—and one half-assed note.
    Anthony unzipped his fly and poked around his privates. Had he locked his door? He didn’t need a rerun of two weekends ago, when his parents burst into the bedroom to tell him Aunt Viola had made her spinach manicotti and that if he wanted some while it was hot he’d better take a ride with them now! You’d think his mother had never seen a silk hankie and a jar of Vaseline before.
    Now Anthony had what his father would call a “legitimate medical reason,” but Gina and Anthony Sr. would be the last ones to believe him. He lowered his head to examine himself. Where Anthony had been scratching everything was blotchy, and when he looked real close he thought he saw black specks. This couldn’t be good. Anthony needed his brother for advice, but didn’t know where Little Johnny was—maybe half-moved-out already.
    Just Anthony’s luck, to get fleas or mites or lice down there—when he hadn’t even been laid yet. Maybe Little Johnny was moving out because of Anthony’s fleas. Or Little Johnny could have shoved fleas under his sheets so he could justify running away to Manhattan.
    How did Anthony know his father hadn’t planted them there—to prove to the family that Anthony Jr. was a slob? A brain-drained, embarrassment of a son? With fleas. Or mites. Whatever the hell they were.
    Anthony picked and scratched—his testicles, his inner thighs, the back of his neck, the small of his back. What was he going to do? How could he see the family doctor about this?
    Anthony had just finished zipping up his pants when he heard his baby brother knock on the door. Little Johnny always knocked, unlike their mother or father, or Grandpa Vincenzo, or Aunt Viola. Little Johnny had class. He was a Benedict Arnold, but he had class.
    At first Little Johnny was reluctant to inspect Anthony’s private parts. Johnny exhaled loudly, shut and opened his eyes, and shook his head back and forth.
    “Come on,” Anthony begged him, “it’s not like I’m a pervert. And this is a legitimate medical emergency here!”
    “All right,” Little Johnny finally gave in, “but get your nails out of your private parts, which, by the way, are called that for a reason. Reason number one: your brother shouldn’t be seeing them. Jesus! Seriously, stop picking. You’re going to make things worse.”
    Anthony felt his skin redden with shame as his brother peered closely at Anthony’s privates, his legs, behind his ears, his neck, even between his toes. Anthony was starting to feel sorry that he’d ever asked his brother for help.
    “O.K., big brother, you can cover up now.” Little Johnny threw Anthony’s pants and briefs at him, then grinned the biggest grin Anthony had seen on his little brother’s face since Johnny had discovered Anthony Sr.’s dog-eared Playboys in four boot boxes in the garage.
    “What’s so damn funny?” Anthony’s left hand flew to his backside for a good scratch.
    Little Johnny was laughing now, and he continued to shriek like a mating hyena for the next minute. Anthony pouted, and wondered why his own brother was happy as a nun on Sunday at Anthony’s expense.
    Johnny’s laughter subsided. “Well, Anthony,” Little Johnny managed to squeeze out between gasps and hiccoughs, “it looks like, for once, mama Gina is right! Papa Anthony, too.”
    Anthony glared at Johnny, this traitor against Anthony and Bay Ridge, now siding with their parents, too!
    “You don’t have mites. You don’t have ticks. You don’t have fleas. What you have, brother, is dirt! I’ve never seen so much dirt on a person with a solid roof over his head. Anthony, when was the last time you showered? Madre di Dio! No wonder you’re drenched in buckets of cologne!”
    Anthony hung his head. “I don’t know when I showered last.” He looked at his feet. “A couple of weeks ago?”
    Little Johnny muttered words Anthony couldn’t understand, then headed for the bedroom door. Anthony jumped over his bed and playfully blocked his brother. Little Johnny swatted malodorous air.
    Anthony stepped back, stuck his hands in his pockets, and peered into his brother’s eyes. “Johnny, are we still best friends?”
    Johnny Salerno took a deep breath. He placed his hands on his older brother’s shoulders.     Anthony knew he wasn’t going to like what he was about to hear. “I love you, Anthony, but I’m still moving out. You can visit me anytime—but take a shower first.” Then Little Johnny walked out of their room.
    Anthony quietly ventured into the hallway, scratching his balls through his jeans.
    “Jesus,” he heard Little Johnny grouse, “I can’t wait to get out of this place.”

copyright 2017 Iris N Schwartz