The Ballerina

Just before the break of day
she woke from dreams of grand jeté
and knelt beside her bed to pray.

Like a feather, then she rose
and slipped into her warm-up clothes
to dance in silence on her toes.

Evening and the house lights fell.
Curtain up! she cast her spell—
a story without words to tell.


The Dance of Life

Performance of unending grace,
the dance of life proceeds apace
to rhythms played throughout the years,
transcendent music of the spheres.

Exquisite movements intertwine,
their choreography divine;
a work in progress, parts for all,
the never-ending curtain call.


Subversive Rhyme

The censor swings her iron fist
and pounds your name into her list
of those whose verse is not in sync
with what their fellow comrades think.

The cultural pronouncements state
that written word must celebrate
our workers and their noble cause;
you may have broken several laws.

Your poetry is at an end!
It might pervert, it might offend!
Yours is the most pernicious crime:
potentially subversive rhyme!


On a Country Lane…

A country lane,
the storm had passed,
a gentle rain
that did not last.

One summer’s day
the rarest sight
‘midst bales of hay,
a brilliant light,

most precious gold,
no soul can spend,
there to behold
the rainbow’s end.


Joe Tessitore is a retired New York City resident and poet.

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33 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    Very nice, graceful work, Mr. Tessitore.

    I’d italicize the French word in the second line of “The Ballerina.”

    • Joe Tessitore

      Thanks Amy.

      “On a Country Lane” actually happened to me. I would never have believed in “the pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow if I hadn’t seen it.

  2. Mark Stone

    Mr. Tessitore, Hello. Here are my thoughts about “Subversive Rhyme.”

    1. Lines 5-6 read as follows:

    The cultural pronouncements state
    that written word must celebrate

    Line 6 strikes me as awkward. I would change it to one of the following (the first is my preference):

    The cultural pronouncements state
    the written word must celebrate OR
    that written words must celebrate

    2. In L10, I would change the comma to a semi-colon, since two sentences connected like that are considered to be a run-on sentence, I believe.

    3. In L12, “potentially” doesn’t seem right. My guess is that the censor is absolutist and unequivocal in her views about the poet in question. I don’t think that she would say the poet in question is merely “potentially subversive.” So I would replace “potentially” with another four-syllable iambic word. Here’s my suggestion:

    Yours is the most pernicious crime:
    Calumnious, subversive rhyme.

    4. I enjoyed all four poems. Thank you for sharing them with us.

    • Joe Tessitore

      Thanks for your suggestions Mark.
      My initial reaction to “celebrate” was that I liked it better than “elevate”, but in a totalitarian situation it seems to me that there is nothing to celebrate. To keep the mood of the poem, I’d remain with “elevate” – it sounds much more cold and clinical.
      I’all take your word about line 10, though it’s hard for me to accept that a sentence that short could be a run-on. I’ve grown lax in running these by my wife, who is a master of grammar and punctuation.
      I used “might” and “potentially” to suggest that in such a society, even if the powers that be haven’t taken the time to look into a given situation, they would have no problem in making an absolute decision about it.
      I’d stay with “might” and “potentially”.

      Thanks for your criticisms. I do believe that we can all use help in refining our craft.

  3. Kim Cherub

    Joe, I enjoyed all your poems. You do have a way with words!

    I have some suggestions about one poem, if you don’t mind. If you do, please feel free to say so!

    Like a feather, she ((arose))
    ((then)) slipped into her warm-up clothes
    to dance in silence on her toes.

    Evening and the house lights fell.
    Curtain up! she cast her spell—
    a story ((words could never)) tell.

    • Joe Tessitore

      Dear Kim,

      Please don’t hesitate to make suggestions – I can use all the help I can get!

      I like your suggestions, but think they’re about even with the poem as it stands.
      I think there’s a touch more music in it the way I’ve written it.



      • Kim Cherub

        Dear Joe,

        As long as you’re happy, I’m happy!


  4. E. V.

    All of these are beautiful. They were enjoyable to read … again … and again.

  5. Monty

    If I may ask, Joe: in line 6 of the 3rd poem, does “that written word” refer to a single word in particular (which has been written) . . or does it refer to the TERM ‘the written word’? If it’s the latter, then Mr Stone makes a valid point about replacing ‘that’ with ‘the’. For the reader to be in no doubt that it refers to the TERM, it would ideally read: ‘That the written word must celebrate . . ‘, but I realise that this would interfere with the meter. Hence, I favour Mr Stone’s suggestion; and I’d additionally capitalise the 2 words, so the line read thus: ‘The Written Word must celebrate . . ‘. Alternatively, it could be: ‘The ‘written word’ must celebrate’. Either way, I feel that for the reader to be clear that it refers to the TERM . . is of more pertinence than the tussle between ‘celebrate’ and ‘elevate’.

    Regarding ‘Country Lane’: Yer a lucky man, Joe, to’ve seen the ‘end’ with yer own eyes. Can I tell ya that I’ve also seen what you’ve seen; but in enhanced circumstances.
    Allow me . . . One time in the early 90’s, 3 chums and I decided that we wanted to perpetuate the night we’d just spent on psilocybins; so, at the crack of dawn, we drove out into the countryside to pick some more.
    Picking duly completed a few hours later, a rainbow appeared: one end of which seemed to be in the vicinity of our parked car half a mile away. The closer we got to the car, the more evident this became; and eventually, we turned a certain bend . . . and there it was, right in front of us: the ‘end’ (I’m sure I don’t need to try and describe the effect this had on our already-enhanced state). There was, alas, no ‘pot of gold’; but there were four grown men leaping and jumping around uncontrollably . . . right in the middle of the end.

    • Joe Tessitore

      It’s obvious to me that “written word” doesn’t refer to a single word in particular – within the context of the poem, what word could that possibly be?

      I was on my way home from Mass when I saw the end of the rainbow – a different version of enhanced circumstances.

      • Monty

        Agreed, Joe. It also seemed obvious to ME that it must refer to the term ‘the written word’; and I’m sure most readers would deduce the same thing. But I did have to stop and think about it, and I imagine that the very act of ‘stopping to think’ is what Mr Stone was referring to when he used the word ‘awkward’.

        When we refer to that term in general, we always (as far as I know) precede it with a ‘the’, as in: ‘I’m a great lover of the written word’. But if one were to say: ‘I’m a great lover of that written word’, a reader could be forgiven for wondering if it referred to a specific word that’s been written. We might say: ‘THE birds are singing’ . . or ‘THAT bird is singing’; that’s why the word ‘that’ normally refers to a specific thing . . that girl.. that song.. that written word. Hence, I feel that replacing ‘that’ with ‘the’ would eliminate any potential ambiguity.

        I’m glad that ya saw the ‘end’ under yer own kind of enhanced state. It’s the enhancement that matters, not how we attain it. As we sometimes say over this side of the pond: Different horses for different courses.

  6. Monty

    Regardless of my above perception of the particular line in question, I should add that in regard to all four pieces as a whole, I think Mr Salemi’s description is most appropriate: graceful.

  7. Joe Tessitore

    I think that reading rhythmic poetry should be an effortless, lighter-than-air experience for the reader and that it’s the our responsibility to provide it.

    We cannot make them understand – we can only try our best to get our point across.
    I think we are safe in assuming a certain degree of literacy and/or comprehension, else why would they be reading poetry?

    • Monty

      I couldn’t agree more, Joe; that’s how it should be in general for the reader . . effortless: and to make it so, I feel that a writer should always try to eliminate, where possible, any potential ambiguity.

      Coincidentally, a perfect example of what I’m trying to say transpired only 2 days ago. I was exchanging text-messages on the subject of wild-boar with a (non-writer) friend who lives in London, whose parents have a house near where I live in France. One of his texts read: ‘Funnily enough, I was dreaming about wild-boar in my parents garden last night’. Now, I obviously knew that he’d dreamt ‘in London’ about his parent’s house ‘in France’; and the sentence quite clearly conveys that. But it could equally convey that he’d had the dream in his parents garden! That’s how easily and innocently a sentence can be written ambiguously (it may be the case that the only reason I spotted this is because I’ve always held a mild fascination for the contrasting ways in which different humans can interpret the same sentence/phrase; some of which, on rare occasions, can be near opposites!). It’s for this reason that, after writing something, I always re-read it assiduously.. even painfully, given that this might entail re-reading it 5-10 times.

      I don’t say the above with regard to me deeming myself to be any kind of perfectionist . . but more in the sense that The Animals tried to convey in their song from the mid-60’s: ‘Oh lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood’.

      • Joe Tessitore

        From the Prayer of St. Francis:

        …grant that I may not so much seek…to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love with all my soul…

        Something for you to think about.

      • Monty

        Different subject, Joe.

        There has never been, and never will be, anything in any religious text for me to “think about”; I’ve always been too absorbed in real life to consider something unseen and unproved. I categorise religion with UFO’s . . an assumption.

        So, let’s get back to real life: In a writer-reader context, I see the key word as ‘deciding’, not “seeking”. It’s not a case of the writer “seeking” to be understood; it’s a case of the writer ‘deciding’ that he has a duty to make himself understood to the best of his ability. In that context, the ‘fear’ of being misunderstood (which I possess) is brought about only by what the writer perceives to be his own failings.

  8. Joe Tessitore

    Were you absorbed in real life when you were on psilocybins and drove around looking for more?

    • Joe Tessitore

      And who was Eric Burdon singing to when he cried out “O Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”?

      • Monty

        Considered responses to . . Question 1: Yeah, we most certainly were; because who’s to say that that’s not more REAL-life than real life is? No one who hasn’t indulged can ever claim otherwise: they can only guess . . and opine. Like I said: horses for courses.

        Question 2: They were street-kids from a tough, northern british city: hence they were probably not only ‘non-believers’ . . but ‘not concerneders’. D’ya really think Burdon was making a genuine appeal to a lord when he wrote that? To suggest such would be to suggest that whenever an american says ‘oh my god’, they’re making a direct appeal to ‘him’. It’s just a simple figure of speech. He may’ve initially pondered over whether it should be ‘Oh man.. Oh my.. Oh lord . . and decided that the latter sounded more fitting in a vocal sense.

        In the same vein: who knows what was on Mr Wilson’s mind when he wrote God Only Knows . . or what was on countless other songwriter’s minds when they wrote countless other songs?

  9. Joe Tessitore

    Question 1: Were you absorbed enough in real life to realize that you were breaking laws and could easily have killed yourselves and others?
    Or are we to believe that you had a designated driver?

    Question 2: You trivialize religion and dismiss it as an assumption, and then go on to assume that you know what was or wasn’t in the minds of countless songwriters when they wrote their lyrics.
    You can’t have it both ways.

    • Joe Tessitore

      And my, what a broad brush we paint with!
      Religion hasn’t achieved a foothold in tough, northern British cities?

      • Monty

        Further considered responses to . .

        Q1: I blame myself, Joe. I should never have divulged information of that nature to such conservative shores (the birthplace of political-correctness). I just got caught up in the whole ‘end’ thing. To see the ‘end’ is not only a once-in-a-lifetime event, but a once-in-not-everyone’s-lifetime event; and I simply and spontaneously wanted to share it. I just jumped straight into it . . without thought.

        But, given that you’ve asked (and who could argue with your concern); I feel mildly obliged to qualify my account . . . By the time we drove out to the country at dawn, the full-effects had receded by half, so it weren’t as dangerous as it sounds. I realise that this won’t carry an ounce of weight with you (or with anyone else who maybe reading this); but I should add that we were in our early-30’s at the time, with 15 years experience in such matters: seasoned pro’s! So it’s not like we didn’t realise what we were doing.

        Q2: I’m nothing less than shocked that you’ve so patently misread such a simple sentence. Do I really have to explain that when one says ‘who knows’.. that clearly implies that one doesn’t know oneself. So, when I said “who knows what was on Wilson’s mind.. or countless other writer’s minds . . ” I was asking the question. And when one asks a question, it’s because one DOESN’T KNOW!
        So, I’m still trying to work out HOW you could’ve read it as “I do know what was on their minds”. That was very clumsy of ya.

        ‘Trivialise’ is your word, not mine. I could never trivialise something which has resulted in so many millions of deaths across the globe.
        ‘Assumption’ WAS my word: and it’s not a dismissive one . . I firmly believe it to be the right one. If anything ever transpires while I’m alive to prove that it’s more than an assumption; I’ll be the first to stick my hand up and say: “How wrong was I”.

        Q3: It’s been said (humorously, no doubt) that a question’s not a question when the asker already knows the answer . . but I’ll answer it anyway.

        So.. Yeah, we both know that religion, at that time, had achieved a major foothold in ALL aspects of british existence; but it had a vastly lesser hold on inner-city street kids/teenagers. They were the ones of their generation who first started to question religion; who first recognised the perils of societal indoctrination. This is clearly evident in the lyrics to hundreds of songs wrote by british songwriters in the 60’s; not least, Lennon and McCartney, who covered the subject in such a sophisticated, even esoteric, way.

        I hope and trust that ya now regard my brush to be a tad thinner . .

  10. Joseph Tessitore

    This has become tedious.

    “I categorise religion with UFO’s…an assumption.
    So, let’s get back to real life…” are your words and they trivialize and ridicule religion. They are also intolerant and offensive.

    You lack the courage to comment under a complete name and you lack the courage to take responsibility for the comments that you do manage to get published.

    You suggest that Burdon and The Animals “were probably not only non-believers…but not concerneders.'” This is not a question. It is yet another example of you not wanting to take responsibility for your own words.

    Your rationalization for driving under the influence is woefully inadequate. Small wonder that you seek to remain anonymous.

    • Monty

      That’s the end of it, Joe . . for two reasons:

      a/ Anyone who knows me will tell ya that I will gladly converse with most people on most subjects: but never politics or religion. Literally never (to those around me, it’s common knowledge). Thus, if I ever feel that a conversation is veering that way, I’ll either try to steer it in another direction . . or simply depart the conversation. Neither of those subjects have ever had any bearing or influence on my personal existence . . thus I intently avoid any exposure to them (I don’t watch telly or read papers). As such, given that this discourse has now veered towards one of those subjects . . the conversation ends.

      b/ You’ve now strayed so far away from the original banter, as to make it impossible to continue, even if one wanted to. In my 55 year-old experience, I’ve learnt that when humans are having a debate or an argument – mild or fierce – it’s generally identifiable when one party starts to lose conviction in what they’re saying, ‘cos they start to deviate from the initial subject.

      Although our previous correspondence was conducted from polar-opposite viewpoints (which, if we’d known from the start, it’s obvious that neither of us would’ve began it), I still felt that it was a healthy discussion on a unique phenomenon that we’d both witnessed. But your last missive was so flagrantly . . well, ya said it yourself: tedious; straying into irrelevant and unnecessary territory. But, like I said, I understand why.

      “Remain anonymous”? I can picture how you’re gonna feel in 30 second’s time, when you’ve read the next few sentences. Monty is MY NAME. Admittedly, it’s only a nick-name, but it was attributed to me 35 years ago (initially in jest, just to immortalise a memorable occurrence involving me and others) . . but within 6 months it’d stuck! Then I moved to the South of France 18 years ago, and it was Monty all the way; no one here knows me as anything but! Then I started a little (only 3 cars) english taxi-company called . . Monty’s Cars! See, Monty’s my “complete” name; in Britain.. in France.. and in Nepal (where I live for 3 months every year). The ‘med’ part of the name is just down to misfortune. When I finally succumbed to the internet several years ago, I had to invent an email address. It wouldn’t let me have just ‘monty’, so I tried several variations: without luck. Subsequently, I then tried montymed (‘med’ being the first 3 letters of where I live: the Mediterranean).. and it accepted it. When I became affiliated with SCP, it became apparent (for reasons still unknown to me) that I could only be listed as Monty Med. As an email address, I’m indifferent to it, but as a name on SCP, I utterly despise the ‘med’ bit; I think it looks stupid . . and would give anything for its removal.
      So, how d’ya feel now about accusing me of “lacking courage . . by remaining anonymous”? I’m out there!

      Regarding my presumption that The Animals “were probably non-believers”.. you’ve stated that “this is not a question”. How unnecessary: of course it’s not a question: anyone can see that. A question might read: ‘Were The Animals non-believers?” But the above reads: ” . . were probably non-believers” . . that’s a presumption, not a question, so why did ya feel the need to inform me that it’s “not a question”? Again, irrelevances . . straying from the subject.

      Another 2 words of yours: “intolerant” and “offensive”: as for the former, I feel sure that the word ya were really looking for was ‘intolerable’, so I won’t comment upon that. But regarding the latter: have ya still not worked out in this life that no one has the right to say something’s offensive; they only have the right to say something is ‘offensive to me’. To claim that my words were ‘offensive’ is to infer that my words offended everyone . . a claim which you’re not in a position to make.
      If you’d have simply said my words “were offensive to you” . . that would’ve been understandable. The same with your uttering such unfounded drivel as “me not wanting to take responsibility for my own words”. Do ya really know what ya mean by that? I suspect not; ya can’t know! I can only imagine that ya said that in the same sense as all your other claims, accusations, inaccuracies, attributing words to me that I didn’t use, irrelevances . . all deflecting the truth.

      Can ya now see how your last missive degenerated from all the previous ones. Have a look for yourself: compare them. It’s glaringly apparent. And I’ve already declared my perceived reasons why one starts to stray from the subject in a debate.

      Like I said: that’s the end of the matter. I’ve got nothing else to say . . so feel free to have the last word if you’re so inclined.

      • Joe Tessitore

        The last word is yours. I write only to correct and reinforce my previous comment.

        To say that your excuses for DUI are woefully inadequate is to imply that there ARE adequate excuses for doing so, and there are not.

        Your repeated attempts to excuse yourself are shocking.

  11. Joe Tessitore

    As you refuse to accept the reality of your own words, you refuse to accept the reality of your egregious errors.


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