The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Russell Scott Valentino

Sense of Self


If Mr Confidence has a sense
of self it is a social science self
not an identity let alone an Idea
like a garment self Confidence
recalls coming to terms for it
not haggling over much over
details an off the rack pre-owned
self this is not like an entity with
moving parts more amoeba-like
soft and strong substance at once

He would like to think it can be
discarded exchanged for some
other like but perhaps stronger
and it’s true at times he almost
feels his skin peeling back as
other different skin takes its place
green spotted less permeable
poison to the touch or transparent
revealing tendons leucocytes
it does not work that way he knows

Putting on and taking off grows
troublesome with age Confidence’s
joints stiffen he likes this shirt
those trousers these fit so too
this self this one grown comfortable
looser in the waist at the collar
fit for any occasion waking sleeping
laughing weeping this self of his yes
even if it has begun to smell like piss



Russell Scott Valentino



The screaming had pretty
much stopped by the time
young Confidence

was old enough
to notice

that slamming doors
and shattering mirrors
might not be common
in other homes

            five girls make a village

a suntan lotion mysteries
of mascara village a panty
hose eyeliner girl friends
village the flow of goods
a hairspray waft a cookie
village an ointment
village and services
cakes crusts

            knives the only

knives are in the kitchen
necklace panty strewn
pies down the main lane
a village a wave of words
Confidence and not only
words a gift economy entire

            his brother too

learned to put the toilet
seat down or else and to
understand how a boy
might fall in love not
with a girl but with
a village of girls



Russell Scott Valentino

Mr Confidence Thinks about Trust


About as far as you can throw him
went a popular form of expression
now old and fit for bouts of supervised judo
screaming nearby fans themselves deserve throwing
a minor contortion in the bulky history
of humanity’s fatal errors this is neither
trust nor intended as trust but has
a similarly empty core ripe for filling
blueberry rhubarb heron-thoughts
perched beautiful on the breakwater
even if rather smelly from all the seagull shit
creditors live on faithful

Below down there somewhere
is the earth’s firmness feet planted
while we in the liquids and gases
higher up though not high enough
inhale and exhale with the gratitude
of the Sufi between each breath the
silence between is empty in the same
way promised mortgaged the step
we have taken or shall have taken
Confidence both loves and hates
the future anterior tense perhaps
it is not silence but noise and all
else is the silence of foreboding

Faith and regret set to music
lots of music with words by Neil
Diamond Donna Summer and the Bee
Gees hot hot hot stuff baby
gonna get some rhetoric fills the
screen silence and its accompanists bounce
wave their arms frantic for our ears
and eyes and hearts all this silence
Confidence wishes he could watch
and listen the volume on maybe two
like an ethnographer one eye on his research
questions rid his mind of the dark
silence pushing out the light


Russell Scott Valentino

Confidence Reflects on Going Blind


When to see a doctor is unclear blurred somehow by the common
conceit of clouds or fading halos the angelic photographic wings
of memory dream vision night doubled magic candle light

even by perforation prescription diagnosis
vessels broken oozing that thick clear from
the eyeball this trauma scripted treatment
retinal fear optic neuroses suicidal detachment
deletion occlusion and deficiency
this terminality
minus syndrome
plus poison
melancholy posteriority

no one wants
to see Venice
for the last time




RUSSELL SCOTT VALENTINO has authored two monographs, edited three collections, and translated seven books of fiction and literary nonfiction from BCS, Italian, and Russian into English. His essays and translations have appeared in The New York Times, Modern Fiction Studies, Slavic Review, and elsewhere. He served as Editor-in-chief at The Iowa Review (2009-13), President of the American Literary Translators Association (2013-16), and senior editor at Autumn Hill Books (2005-present). His translation of Miljenko Jergović’s 2013 novel Kin is forthcoming from Archipelago Books.



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