Two Poems from Carmine Dandrea’s “In a Kept World”

Carmine Dandrea is a retired English professor, Korean War veteran, and world traveler whose diverse life experiences inform his award-winning poetry. The work he has published with us at Winning Writers spans a train ride across India, a pilgrimage along China’s historic Silk Road, and a child’s memories of an Italian-American family funeral.

In contrast to these world travels, his latest chapbook from Finishing Line Press, In a Kept World, takes the reader on an inner journey of introspection, grief, and hope. This 17-poem cycle is voiced by a solitary older man inside a house in Michigan in deep winter. As the “prime suspect” of his own examinations, he reflects on mortality and time wasted. Women from his past reappear as nameless sirens and ghosts, arousing both desire and regret that he did not value their intimacy enough. Despite the assaults of unforgiving weather and the temptation to succumb to darkness, he also finds moments of sensual joy and radiance in the ordinary furnishings of his monastic cell. The recurring image of the garden comes to represent not only the literal promise of spring but the “seeds of love” and “sureness of life” that he wants another chance to cultivate in his soul.

Carmine has kindly allowed me to reprint the two poems below.


Snow’s Role

A heavy wind is blowing
off Lake Michigan;
there is nothing but darkness
to stop it on its way;
it roams the corners of the house
like some fast beast of prey
unleashed until the break of day.

The wind has done strange things
with snow,
has made it go in ripples
through the field,
has molded it peculiarly,
fitting it like fleece
to the bark-dark trunks of trees.

Snow is a warfare for my mind.
It lies here,
a barrier to the world.
I want to close my mind to it,
to let it stay outside
the tight parameters of light
around my planted fields;
yet I know that snow
must have its role
in plotting gardens,
even though it slows
the heart that’s beating
in the summer sun.

But I must remember
that day has passed
into the night.

The snow has filled the ugly field
across the ugly street;
the railroad tracks beyond
are slick runners
disappearing out of sight.


Fire in the Cave

How cold the darts of winter rain
that cut up light—
points that pierce naked bone
and make the bone like stone,
sore with winter weather.

The sun shining through
persimmon curtains casts
that semblance
of the fire in the cave
where my mind,
intent on artifacts,
is ecstasized with little things:

the chaste silver catching light
upon a slender throat;
the slight uncertain gleam
seen in an eye half-closed;
the degree of pressure
in another’s touch;
a soft finger on the lip,
an eyelash trembling
on a cheek,
a slight lilac breath
caught in the ear’s conch.

4 comments on “Two Poems from Carmine Dandrea’s “In a Kept World”

  1. Linda Yeaton says:

    I would not have become a poet without Mr Dandrea’s encouragement and guidance at Elmira College in 1971 and was stunned when I was named at graduation for the 1917 Prize. If you have his address would you let him know that I went on to do an MA in creative writing when I was 50 and then was lucky enough to have four volumes of poetry published by Anne Miniver Press (my editor was the late Alan Seaburg a very fine poet in his own right). None of this would have happened without his encouragement at this special time in my life.

  2. Jendi Reiter says:

    What a lovely story. I have emailed your comment to Mr. Dandrea. Best wishes for your writing!

  3. Linda Yeaton says:

    Hello Jendi! How wonderful of you to do this and thank you very much for your best wishes. This is so nice to hear in lockdown! Please stay safe and well.

  4. Sharon Klemm says:

    Carmine Dandrea was first my teacher, then my colleague. His office was next door to mine; he always wore a carnation in his lapel. Often he would stand looking out the window and comment, “The armada has arrived,” referring to the flock of Canada Geese that landed in/on the pond.

    I also remember listening to him present a lesson on Othello and nearly fell out of my chair it was so good. I remember thinking, this is top of game, it doesn’t get better than this.

    Carmine is a scholar, dignified and a poetic comment on class. No one I ever met has done that better. My best regards to him.

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