Tony Trigilio


I was stuck, a nail in a log. I was in a math classroom, teaching how to bolt and fire the Mannlicher-Carcano. With a stubbled bar of soap, I scraped ants from my shins.

Clip, cartridge, spring.

Brought my books and 27 graded algebra exams. Forgot the rifle, carried them in a rolled-up rug.

Where's the rug that should be hiding in Ruth's garage?

The rifle costs $12.78, mail order from Chicago. Just about every combination of those numbers divisible by 3, even though there's a 7 inside.

The Kabbalah is hopscotch. Everyone is afraid of Zoroastrianism. When the Romans came along, they turned a 5 into a "V."

Everybody forgets this—they turned everything into a "V."

It was one of those dreams: I looked down and was lecturing in my underwear, no one listening of course. My mouth full of grass.

Warm bikini cotton. This is the sacrum. Everything sacred comes from this.

Oct. 21, 1959: Poor Rimma stays by my side as interpreter (my Russian is still very bad) far into the night. I tell her "go home" (my mood is bad). But she stays. She is "my friend." She has a strong will. Only at this moment I notice she is pretty.

The "5" in the hieroglyphs of Egypt is a "V" at one end and a "V" on the other.

Add the cost of the scope, Japanese model, and postage, the rifle was 21.45. Which can be reduced to "3" despite the "5" inside.

Rimma tries to be a friend to me. I am something new.

School is a metaphor hiding in the dark. I remembered the blackboard, girls' skirts and socks, the dusty tiled floor, red-alert drills, the bathroom smell from the back of the classroom so strong you needed to cover your ears not just your nose. I made a point not to go.

Everything meant something else. Miss Bush, her flabbed arms whipping when she wrote on the board. We just started studying the atom.

I figured she knew I wanted to talk all the time but couldn't. She must have been sorry for me—somehow sorry, I thought, but couldn't know why.

Something like something else, in the dark and behind a tree.

Oct. 23, 1959: Rimma makes me very glad to be alive.



When they're not looking,
I run my fingers along the grill.
The Zigers are lucky to have a car.

Anita's ribs sing to me
through her swimsuit.

The fear in Alfred's brooding lips—
her boyfriend, silent, Hungarian.
He's uncomfortable in open space,

the swarm of air closing around him.
They park the Moskvich beside the road.

We walk into the pine forest.
The thin trunks pick up signals
from behind my closed eyes.

Anything can happen to the body.

The Moskvich grinning,
a concise rattlebox of fume,
gravel pops under our feet.

An object all of us share.
What can happen to the body
in the forest.

There's no suspicion
in enclosed places,
your shoulders touch.

Black scent of oil.




These poems are part of a book-length project that reconsiders the Kennedy assassination through the myths and texts of Lee Harvey Oswald, “the son of an insurance salesman whose early death left a far mean streak of independence brought on by neglect."