The Instrument of Others


ISBN: 978-1-929878-33-8
Publishing Date: Mar. 2012

Leonard J. Cirino passed away on March 10, 2012
He is greatly missed.

Leonard J. Cirino (1943 – 2012) was the author of nineteen chapbooks and seventeen full-length collections of poetry since 1987 from numerous small presses. He lived in Springfield, Oregon, where he retired and worked full-time as a poet. His full-length collection, Chinese Masters, is from March Street Press, 2009. His 100 page collection, Omphalos: Poems 2007 was published in 2010 from Pygmy Forest Press. A 64 page selection, Tenebrion: Poems 2008 is from Cedar Hill Publications, in 2010. His 60 page collection, Triple Header is due from Cervena Barva Press, E. Somerville, MA in 2012. His collection, Homeland, Exile, Longing & Freedom was published by AA Press in 2011.

About the book:
In the late 80’s some friends of mine traveled to Europe and left me with several anthology translations from the southern and eastern Europeans and my interest in poetry was restored. I had become very despondent with the quality of US poets since the deaths of Lowell, Berryman, Sexton, Theodore Roethke, and James Wright. Very few US poets spoke to me then and they still do not now. I think this is when I began to find my own voice mixed among the voices of many poets I could relate to – men and women who had been through either the Spanish Civil War or World War 2 – either under Nazi or Communist occupation.

I still devote most of my reading, except for magazines, to poets in translation. I’d say that 75-80% of the poetry I read is in translation because I find people from around the world have far more to say than the poets in the US who are either self-described “outlaws” or belong to the privileged or academic classes and I don’t relate to either of them.

As one of my poems says, “He was hard at work being unemployed,” and only in the last five years of working did I live above the poverty level. I always had food and shelter and enough street smarts to trade for used books and I didn’t want for much more than that. As far as where my writing is going I just keep on keeping on. I have received no awards or grants, won no contests, yet I am among the most devoted, well read, and hardest working poets in the US or anywhere. I don’t have many illusions about success—especially in today’s literary market—so I will go on in my suburban hermit mode and do the real work. Most likely I will keep on reading translations from all over the world and use the poets I read to “inspire” my own work. As this title says, I have become “The Instrument of Others.” — Leonard J. Cirino

“Poets like Cirino, who trust in metaphor as a path to poetic and perhaps spiritual enlightenment, who follow European symbolist models in the attempt to de-familiarize the ordinary and expose its full dimensions, and who approach the world with a generosity of perception rather than an intellectual full-court press are not currently in fashion. The publishing world is only occasionally friendly to them.”
— William Doreski (from the preface)


Some samples…

A Sacred Madness
I didn’t want to listen but the wind, the sea,
howled the world’s blood-stained torments.

I turned my thoughts inside my ears
and there a scarlet madness screamed.

Behind the sky, the moon succumbed
to dawn, the twilight gleamed in pain.

My head bowed to darkness,
life was wretched, struggle dreary.

Years later I lay down in woods
and bloomed among the ferns.

The Abyss
It was clear at first, later my brain shattered.
After a few years, suddenly I’m old. Back then,
when the wind called I would answer, the birds
tormented me and the ocean’s cries caused aches
in all my tissues. Now, I spy on nature’s aspects;
the alders blow away in peaceful thoughts,
rivers lament the passing of loved ones
I remain grateful to. Man of few talents,
with even less to do, I guard my leisure jealously.
The times are fast, and I am even slower
than past centuries when people carried on
at a graceful pace. Methodical, I walk my dog
in the woods, go out to the hills and streams
fearing the abyss will crush me for having too much.

Born a small stream, bare trickle,
I grew into a storming river
but learned my place
when I entered the great sea.

The Way Out
after Du Fu
The way out of these mountains forgotten,
checkered moonlight covers the forest floor.
I walk with old ghosts at my side,
my feet make little skitters in the duff.
I don’t know which path to take. A glow leads
us to a logging road. Dog at my knees,
we’re down to meadows and streams. The clearings
temper my fear. Not too far ahead,
my brother’s barn where we will find refuge.
Ten thousand sad atoms twist in the wind.

The Windows
One’s life lasts an hour or two
in the grand scheme of things.

For a while we hear the larks,
the blows come later.

What happens when birds sing
and then death stabs hard?

One late summer night a voice
reaches down to life’s remains,

things calm, the windows close
and open to a different scheme.


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