Sense of Place

volcanic light.
Anazazi ruins and dust
cover hollow eyes
of Apache warriors.

In the shadows, pale-lipped thieves fondle
temples and Mexican peasants.

Cattle rustlers watch cable television
on the banks of asphalt streams.
Metal roofs brace western railroad tracks
carrying Caribbean rum
on the spines of burnt field workers,
whose knotted hands hold nursing babies.

Tendril barbed-wire fence
frames a post card
for a Tucson gallery.

Carefully we approach the town from
a covered wagon given to us by
Geronimo’s uncle,
who repaired his Cadillac
with sagebrush wrenches and whiskey fists.

All taverns are closed for Sabbath.
I bless the alkaline soil and dig
Cholla roots to place on a grave
of a slain cowboy
near the empty arroyo.


John’s Newfoundland

Wood frame homes of plum and vivid mustard-
past Duckworth Street-
survivors of past century fire.
Scaffold canopy braced on wooden stairs,
plaster and nails restore
houses of former 19th century sea captains
and Water Street shopkeepers
where streets
lit by gaslight
as streetcars rumbled.
A place for criminals and exiled,
cod and whiskey runners
searching for another dark port.

Water Street once a haven
for whores and saloons,
now tidy for the tourist trade.
As children and their mothers watch and gesture.

Hills descend into narrow sidewalks of
George Street whose musicians lure
the British Islands into North America.
Large iron freighters slowly dock in the harbor.
Men unload cheaply made curios
then descend the metal steps
in search of whiskey.



Empty moonlit piazza
smooth grey cobblestone and

ghostly burnt sienna walls.

A solitary figure, standing suitcase in hand
looks at me
offering no emotion
or quip
near a dim arched walkway by
the narrow canal where an empty boat is docked.

Vaporous opera echoes from a window.
A white haired woman with deep creases on her face
and grey eyes
pierce the night,
as the man with the suitcase vanishes into deep shadows.


I am here tonight
and the next day
staying in a tight pension
where sensuous moans
emanate from the next room.
A reminder of someone in their prime
captivating the dark avenues under a lone streetlamp
where the scent of expresso warms the night.

I will return in thirty years
when I am alive.

Trout River Newfoundland
Western outpost
of sailors
and fishermen-
now idle.
The salty cod vanished
in greed

Fishing shacks
faded maroon paint
peel off into the wind
near the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Weathered lobster traps and buoys
stacked neatly,
wait for another season,
as a man with red calloused knuckles
slowly stretches a fishing net to dry-
stares at the man with the camera.

The cramped grocery store
has frozen ham steaks
and canned vegetables-
along with bandages and tobacco.
Elderly men sit
near the door in wooden chairs
and observe all,
saying nothing
only a barely perceptible nod
as someone passes.

A man repairs a pick-up truck
in a beat aluminum garage,
turns to watch
someone walking
on the muddy gravel road.
near an idle lumber mill.

The majestic fjords draw tourists
who pass through town
and leave
with photographs.

The one-story school braces for September
as children will soon gather,
later to flee for jobs and city life,
all who remain
just sit.


Cenote in Sian Ka’am

Craters of sunken limestone
surround Mayan children and tangled mangroves
where a jaguar lies
waiting for the final footstep
into the rainforests
of Guatemala.

A refugee washes dust from a night bus ride
in a cenote.
Where the sky is born
and the earth breathes.


John Raffetto

John Raffetto

A lifelong resident of Chicago. Some of his poetry has been published in Gloom Cupboard, Wilderness House, BlazeVox, Literary Orphans & Exact Change. Has been writing poetry for over 30 years; runs an online poetry portal, Bongo Wilderness Poetry; holds degrees from the University of Illinois and Northeastern Illinois University; and has orked as a horticulturalist and landscape designer for many years at the Chicago Park District. Currently, he is an adjunct professor at Triton College.