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SONGS

Dedicated to my Mother, Julia Conforti

Gerard John Conforti

 
   
 


 PREFACE

It has been 12 years since the publication of Gerard John Conforti’s first book of tanka, Now that the Night Ends.* Over these years he has continued to write a large amount of tanka that have been widely published in magazines. In addition, he has gathered his poems around events to make additional books – mostly about his family. One of these, For My Brother Victor & Elsa His Wife, compile the poems that were written during Victor’s battle with terminal cancer.
            Songs is Conforti’s fifth book and is dedicated to his Mother – Julia Conforti, who is at this moment lying in hospital dying of cancer. For this reason, it seems appropriate to take a look at her life to see how she influenced the man Gerard John Conforti is today.
            Julia was born in North Carolina in 1913 and as a young woman came north to New York City to work as a nurse. There she met Victor Conforti, a government supervisor of buildings, and they married.
            Julia bore four sons for Victor. The first one became Victor Jr.; the second one was Anthony, and Gerard was the third child. One year later Eric was born.
            When Eric was two years old and Gerard only four, Julia was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and committed to Rockland State Hospital where she has been the rest of her life.
            Unable, or unwilling to take the four boys into his next marriage, Victor Conforti turned them over to the Mt. Loretto Mission of the Immaculate Virgin Orphanage on Staten Island. In addition to the trauma of his mother’s illness, and the separation from her, the boys were then divided up into cottages according to their ages – the final family break-up.
            To this day, Gerard does not know the birthdays of his parents or of his brothers.  In the hustle bustle of orphanage life, these small events were wiped away. The only time the boys were together was on the special weekends when they traveled to the Bronx to see their father. Gerard remembers that his father spent most of the time in a bar drinking beer and the boys quietly sitting at a table alone drinking soda.
            Gerard’s memories of his childhood are of his desire to get away from the noise and tumult of the orphanage by spending as much time as possible outdoors. His brother Anthony was the fighter in the family and was the one who railed against his father’s actions the most. He also had the most fights with the other boys.
            Gerard was, even as boy, tall and thin, very quiet and withdrawn so the bullies and brawlers mostly left him alone. At eighteen, Gerard could have left the orphanage, as his brothers each did, but he asked for, and got, a special dispensation to stay longer until he finished high school.
            Three days after walking out of the orphanage he joined the Navy. When he was discharged he returned to New York City where he became a messenger on Wall Street. The pay was very low and when he could no longer afford to pay the rent he became homeless for over a year. Finally Eric, who had also been in the service, but had now refused to serve in Viet Nam, hunted down his brother, took him in and helped him find a job. About this time, Gerard learned about a program that permitted him to enroll in Staten Island Community College.
            In 1969 Gerard had his first break-down and spent 15 days in the hospital. When he was released he returned to the rooming house where he lived with Eric and continued his studies in literature while all the time doing his own writing and working at Community College.. Only a few years later Eric would commit suicide by driving his car into tree on his way to meeting with Gerard at his rooming house. This sudden and tragic event threw Gerard into another spell of mania and depression.
            In adulthood the four boys, as their Mother had done, developed various degrees of paranoid schizophrenia. Anthony contracted AIDS and died while under treatment. Victor seemed the least touched by the disease and was able to marry. All of the boys were warned that their Mother’s condition had a more than 50% chance of being inherited. When one of Gerard’s girlfriends became pregnant, Gerard wanted her to keep the baby, but she prevailed and had an abortion. He never married.
            From then on, Gerard lived in a mental hospital or in a half-way house in the care of state-appointed mental health workers. His first poem to be published, in 1975, won Third Place in a contest in the Bitter Root Journal. In the early 80s Gerard discovered haiku and later tanka; both of which he continues to publish in journals and on the Internet.
            Through all these years, and the accomplishments and tears, the lives of her boys were a complete blank to Julia Conforti. Occasionally visits were arranged so Gerard could be taken to her, but she either refused to see him or was unable to recognize him. Victor Conforti Sr. died in 1978. When Victor Jr. died in 2004, only Gerard and his silent, closed-away Mother remained of the family.
                       
Jane Reichhold
November 28, 2008

 

Gerard J. Conforti's Books Online

Now That the Night Ends

For My Brother Victor & Elsa His Wife

Spirits of the Wind

Sometimes the Rain: Letters to my Mother

 

     
I don’t know how to love
This small red rose
Which has blossomed for me
And now has gone away
In the autumn of our live

 

I can view the blue sky
So far and distant from me
Where there are no stars
In which a passing cloud
Has covered the blazing sun

 

I view the falling snow
On this wintery day
Where there are only footprints
Leading into the bare woods
Without anyone there

A spiral of dark clouds
Swirl within my mind
Only to view the light again
And view the rising sun
And dream beneath the moonlight

This life has been
A loving rose to me
And a hedge of thorns
In the spring and winter
Which have been both to me

 

 

This yellow daffodil I view
Has brought a bliss of love
To my heart
A flower which lasts
Only for a short while

 

I sometimes wonder
Why they name the trees
A willow, a chestnut,
An oak tree and a beech tree
And why they name the flowers

 

The open window blinds
I close at night
Will open again in the morning
To let the sunlight in
And leave the darkness out

 

The river rushes down
Deep in the blue
Where the leaping fish
Jump upstream
Against the current

 

In the heat of summer
In the parking lot
Where cars park
The heat rises from the roofs
Visible to my eyes

 

I used to be startled
By the traffic going by
Where huge trucks
Bang against potholes in the street
But not anymore

 

How quiet
Can a meadow of flowers be
When I view them
From my motel window
In the silence of a summer day

 

The wet mist
On the sliding door
In the living room
Flows down in drops
In the air-conditioned room

 

I do not know
The name of a tree
Outside my window
When, in the autumn
The leaves turn red

 

At night
When my eyes close to sleep
I sometimes dream of her
A woman I used to know
A very long time ago

 

 

 

I think I know
What they are thinking
It shows on their faces
The hateful look
In their eyes

 

At Snug Harbor
The lovely blue bells
On the hedge
Look as blue as the sky
In the blazing sunlight

 

How chilly and cold
Life can be
In the winter of our lives
There is love
To warm our hearts

 

When the lights go out
On a stormy day
We light a fire
In the fireplace
To warm our hearts

 

A pool of heavy rain
Can flood the streets and pavement
On a stormy day
The rivers can rise
Over the roofs of houses

 

 

 

There is hope
In a loving rose
Where endless love
Lasts through the seasons
And passes away in a lifetime

 

The loud voices
Come through the plastered walls
Of my bedroom
The muffled voices
I cannot make out

 

On the green hedge
Near my doorway
There are white lilies
Which drop their buds
One by one by one all spring long

 

Never have I gone
Further than a bird in flight
Which kept me standing
Viewing the bird
Till it was out of sight

 

Alone, once again
On the winding road
I used to walk
Hearing birds singing
In the silence of morning

 

 

 

The summer winds blow
The dust from graveled roads
Where I used to stroll
With no one in sight
A very long time ago

 

As a child
I held my younger brother’s hand
As we walked a road
Leading toward the sunlight
The sky’s blue as violets

 

 

 

The heart beats
To the music of life
Just as poetry
Beats to the beating of drums
And sings to the songs of poets 

 

At the meadows end
The river meets the banks
Hung with trees
With dew drops on their leaves
Withering in the autumn breeze

 

The night falls to the east
Where the morning sun
Climbs to meet the noon
Then the stars begin to glimmer
And day falls into night 

 

Dreams come alive
In sleep and in life
Dreams of places far away
And dreams of places here
On this beautiful Earth 

 

Open a book to life
And view it move across the page
Of stories old and new
Stories of today
And stories of yesteryear 

 

I watch the dry leaves
Fall through the tree boughs
In the stillness of day
The crows flutter their wings
As they tear through the nest 

 

Now is the time to live
Before life takes flight
Into the years of old age
And looking back
What did you accomplish?

 

 

Gather the leaves
Which have fallen through your arms
And view the spring
Which has left the decay
Of what life could be 

 

I’ve traveled the miles of my life
And found nothing there
Till you came into my arms
And showed me the way to love
What miles and miles could not bring 

 

Dust settles everywhere
Everywhere outside and inside
It seems
We were made from dust
And will one day return to it 

 

Where will we go next?
The road seems endless
But there are paths
Leading everywhere
Be aware of them 

 

Just round the bend
There is a farmhouse
Where he will stay tonight
Just another bend
Leading nowhere

 

 

My life
Has been nothing but roads
Roads leading everywhere -
Endless roads of hardship
Which I have come to know 

 

I’ve tossed a stone
In the center of a lake
In which the water rippled
And distorted my image
As I viewed into it

 

The night seems endless-
Outside I can hear the winds
Blowing in a storm of rage
With boughs broken down
And telephone wires electrifying the night 

 

Tonight, I will stay awake
Just to stay awake and not sleep
Like I normally do every night
But tonight is so peaceful
I could feel the silence 

 

I love life too much
To take my life
Like I tried to a couple of times
Now I’m content to live
Now that those days are over

 

 

Coming and going
In and out of doors
Into night and into day
There are many doors
We need to survive in and out of

 

When we level a tree
To build a house on earth
We also need trees
To write on paper
But we also plant other trees 

 

In the nursing home
The care-givers come and go
While the elders
Lie in bed alone
Some without relatives 

 

It was a mistake
Not to walk up to her
Just to say hello and fall in love
It would have helped
If she called my name 

 

The next chance I get
I will not make the same mistake
I paid for the last one
But I’ve learned
Not to be so shy

 

 

Late this morning
I woke up in a sweat
It must have been a bad dream
I had that night
Bad enough to sweat

 

Next year
I feel will be better that ever
I know this
For my heart tells me
I will fall in love 

 

I could never forget
The kiss she gave me that night
It was a farewell kiss
A kiss I’ll never forget
Since I was in love with her 

 

I could remember
All the roses on the hedge
Of the house
But when I went back to view them
They were gone

 

The frozen streets
Have sheets of ice
Some ice which one can’t see
In the darkness of night
The snow begins to fall again

 

 

Living on the edge
Can be precarious
When you don’t have the money
To move about the streets
In the comfort of a car 

 

A lamp can start a fire
If it has no lampshade
If it falls over onto the floor
The bulb will break
And people will die 

 

In the blue fog
The sunlight streams
Through the tree boughs
In the green haze
The sun will stream a hazy green 

 

The black floor lamp
Stands still in the room
I will not put a bulb
In any of the sockets
Since the steel can burn 

 

The time passes quickly
One minute it’s morning
The next minute it’s night
In the dark and light
Is what we have to live with

 

 

The train
Moves slowly down the tracks
Before it stops
And the doors slide open
And the bell sounds to life 

 

The falling rain
Patters the tarred street
As the traffic makes its way
Through the mist and fog
On this autumn day 

 

The path in the woods
Leads to the shore
Where a misty haze
Lingers in the air
And the gulls cry out 

 

On the jetted rocks
The tides of the ocean
Splashes against them
Beneath the rocks
The tides recede 

 

On its axis
The earth moves round the sun
Where gravity
Prevents the earth
From spinning away

 

 

The harvest moon
Lingers in the autumn sky
Like a large orange
Lingering on a tree bough
Till the orange drops 

 

At Christmas
The elderly in nursing homes
Touch the solitude
With their hearts
A solitude they don’t want to hang onto 

 

Many memories
Go through my mother’s mind
As she lies in bed
Gazing at the ceiling
So much alone

 

There in the night
Are the dark hearts
Which don’t care about life
Someone else’s life
They want to put an end to 

 

When the morning comes
I’ll take a stroll outside
And touch the sunlight
On my face
In the autumn winds

 

 

There are songs to sing
A melody of the heart
A beating heart of a robin
Nesting in the trees
A song of life beneath its wings 

 

There is a band
Marching up the streets
With beating drums
And instruments playing
To the tune of life 

 

Next spring
After the snow has fallen
I will go out on my birthday
And view the yellow shoots
Of daffodils beginning to blossom 

 

When blossoms bloom
In mid February
This is not a good sign
For a warming current
Which can flood the earth 

 

I wish I could
Hold her hand in love
And feel the warmth
Of her heart
Beating each to each

 

 

A stir of dreams
Come when I’m in her arms
In the candlelight
In the middle of winter
The window frost melting 

 

The church bells ring
At a certain hour each day
When the falling snow
Clings for a second
Then it lets loose 

 

The white painted walls
Stand like death
They can’t speak
But can listen
To their indifferent ears 

 

It is three in the morning
And I’m awake
Just like I said I would
It’s a good night
Like almost every other night 

 

How did I
Write so many poems tonight
It’s what a person does
If they like what they are doing
Like I do

 

 

Tonight,
I wrote to you, Julia
And want to share my love
For everything you went through
Over the long years

The world is asleep
At least in this house
Except for me flowing my pen with words
Into poems
I hold against my heart

 

 

 

   
   
  All poems in Songs
 Copyright Gerard John Conforti 2008.
Online Version  Copyright AHA Books 2008.

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