Ian Gioseffi was born in Newark, NJ, in 1951 to Italian-American parents. In 1952, Ian contracted polio, resulting in paralysis of both legs and a lifelong challenge of mobility. In 1994, he laid aside his braces and crutches to adopt the use of a manual wheelchair which has provided greater freedom and mobility. Writing in several forms since adolescence, he has created screenplays, television situation comedy treatments, political and social essays, a substantial volume of poetry from which work was reproduced in The Denver Press, as well as many completed short stories, a novella, a children’s book and a novel-in-progress. With such a body of work, it may be surprising to learn Mr. Gioseffi has never pursued a literary career. That distinguished achievement belongs to his first cousin, Daniela Gioseffi, whose father Daniel Donato Gioseffi was Ian’s uncle. Galileo Ian Gioseffi who goes by Ian, is successful in the field of clay sculpture. He currently owns a small art studio/gallery in Albuquerque, NM, and continues to write poetry and stories. He is also a skillful painter, and according to his cousin, Daniela, a brave and productive man of many fine talents, and a fabulous cook and baker, too.
THE EMPTY LEOTARD
There aren’t any swans
at the lake of longing which fills
a bottomless gorge hiding just behind my bright eyes.
Only the molted feathers of unrealized desire remain, lying
crushed among the glistening pebbles which look, to me,
like many tiny ballerina toe prints at the water’s edge.
ghost floats effortlessly in the ephemera
of a long-held dream unlived, while Fonteyn, in her cruelty,
curdles my blood with cold titters washed over my lame lament.
Only the wind dances, whistling across the waveless water
of creative movement unchoreographed, listless and stillborn.
ectoplasmic Balanchine grandly gorges on the vanity
of his perfection and unfettered capability, as my brain creates images
of miraculous chasses. Somehow they are tattoed into the flesh of my
valgus limbs and the pain becomes so real, so agonizing, that I must
lie unmoving to count tutued ballerinas like sheep before I can sleep.
I imagine softly lit
stages, draped in billowing chiffon where tangos
which tear at the heart are endlessly danced. The music is so faint it
evokes Merce Cunningham. Some nights flitting sprites and sylphs
laugh mockingly to the world, “You don’t belong here, fool!” and
then dissolve themselves on the sheets as unprovoked ejaculation.
When possible, I
invade the rehearsal halls of community playhouses,
from the shadows desperately clinging to the sound of every toe tap.
Carried home in my ears, they help deliver me to a troubled slumber.
This cruel rest harbors distorted dream fugues wherein my jazz hands
imprison the “Tiny Dancer” of musical fame behind my lips.
Tickets to darkened
theaters are bittersweet passports to heavenly
agility, sneakily stolen from the dancers by my mental osmosis.
I hunker in my seat, orchestra section, third row, on the aisle of dreams
and achingly crush my own heart with the plunder. Phantom acrobats, jesters and imps soon spring from my brain to perform invisible adagios.
The swallowed bile of
chronic paralysis yellows my fractured,
wounded aura while the real dancers joyously perform,
not seeing me as I see them. Jealousy turns the yellow to green, and love- hate changes the green to black like the soot of burned destinies.
My soul is in a hell of obsequious motion, unavoidable,
detested yet adored, with Terpsichore scoffing near my elbow.
I was born, then
stilled, to live motionless, without lightness of step.
I force myself across dance floors of splintered wood and broken tiles.
Earthbound, I must abide my fate, and do, awkwardly comforted by discomfort. The movement of breeze-blown flowers and leaf-laden
branches ease suffering by gifting me with Mother Earth’s choreography.
In my head, Nijinski
and Baryshnikov rest their muscular
thighs upon the rough cushion of my brokenness.
Their sinewy strength and beauty can lift me
from wallowing in pain to the joy of simply standing upright. Yes!
I can dance! In daydreams, enveloped by flowing folds
of Graham’s silky gowns,on Fosse’s thrusting hips
and in Pavlova’s arms as she assumes the first position.
With a perpetually
forward-bent torso cruelly arched
by imperfect vertebrae, legs akin to the gnarled roots
of a banyon tree and warped, concrete feet
hardened by an infantile viral thief, I still wait.
I’m here! See me! On the other side of the procenium,
just beyond the footlights. I anticipate my entrance,
which can only be a grand jete’ from immobility and darkness
to Joffreyesque infinity.
THE FLY SWATTER
“Che la vergogna!
Che la compassione!”
the old aunts in black lace dresses cried.
What a shame! What a pity! Flies carrying
a debilitating disease was beyond their thinking.
My father lied to his
elders by claiming blame
for the tragedy, usurping my place as victim.
Pity, you see, is doled out readily in la famiglia
and can be almost as comforting as love.
Neglected, he sought
attention and love since boyhood,
yet failed to give such love to his damaged son.
Selfishly he centered himself in the polio tragedy
that destroyed a healthy future for that young boy.
A poisoned fly snarled a
long-awaited child’s legs
to the misery of eyes filling wet handkerchiefs.
The father pitied himself as terrible instigator
for swatting down a fly, landing in my playpen.
Did my curiosity lead me
to pick up, inspect and
swallow that fly and forever change both our lives?
Not likely. Flies abounded in the city that summer long ago
when no one knew they carried polio in their bite.
Wail! Oh, wail! That the
father should suffer so
the loss of his healthy and robust only boy child!
Into my adolescence I watched him absorb those
condolences as I, stilled, sat distantly on the stoop.
I am grown, much older
than he was then, only now
realizing falsified sympathies never relieved his loss.
He was changed by my frailties; all things fatherly
departing his heart, soul, and burned psyche.
He clung until his death
to that lie of self-blame,
although the truth tellers of the family refuted him.
That fateful September day? He was far from home
visiting a favorite sister in her home near the seashore.
“Che la vergogna!
Che la compassione!”
Old aunts long-dead cannot cry now, and I can’t
cry for him who never cried with me,
as I cry alone for my undanced dance.
“Ode to Tamara DeLempicka”
Porcelain Clay & Glaze Sculpture by Ian Gioseffi