Fountain / Robert Walicki



poems by

Robert Walicki

ISBN: 978-1-59948-776-2, 76 pages, $14 (+ shipping)

Release Date: November 19, 2019


Robert Walicki’s work has appeared in a number of journals including Fourth River, The Kentucky Review, Vox Populi, and the radio show Prosody. He currently has two chapbooks published: A Room Full of Trees (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014) and The Almost Sound of Snow Falling (Night Ballet Press, 2015), which was nominated to the 2016 New York Showcase of Books at The Poet’s House in NY. His first full length collection of poems, Black Angels, (Six Gallery Press, 2019). is currently available from Barnes and and Amazon. Robert lives in Verona with his wife, Lynne and cat, Buttons.

In the tradition of Philip Levine and James Wright, Fountain, by Bob Walicki, dwells in the urban landscapes of steel mills and Wal-Marts, and in the human landscapes of memory, loss and renewal. Whether in the grocery store, the urologist’s office, the therapy session, or your sewage-filled pipes. Walicki gives us a model of clear-eyed, thoughtful and vulnerable masculinity at a time when we most need it. This book is a gift. ~Sheila Squillante, author of Beautiful Nerve


In Fountain, Robert Walicki is a “technician of dissonance.” Concerned with class identity wrought from the hard labor of “screwing holes in hell,” he declares, “When we didn’t know what we wanted to be, / they gave us hard hats to tells us.” In fresh language, Walicki excavates the human condition, leaving us “rocking in the cages / of our own grief,” where we eventually realize, “the dust over everything here is the weather / no one plans for.” ~Celeste Gainey, author of The Gaffer



In Fountain, Robert Walicki immerses us in the earthy, blue-collar world of a plumber/pipefitter, the poet’s own day job. Frustration, vulnerability, endurance and sacrifice are baked into these poems. Humor too. And hope. “No one comes to Jeanette [PA], on purpose.” Walicki shares a multi-generational family story with haunting lyricism, searing detail and hard-won authority. As Walicki says: “Every crack in the darkening sky is a gunshot that hasn’t found us.” ~Joan E. Bauer


If a tree falls


does anyone care if it makes it into this poem?
A poem bone deep and raw, broken into bark

and hanging on to the edge of a season like three years of sobriety?
If a tree falls by Billy K’s bar will anyone get up

off of their bar stools to notice the excavator devouring earth outside,
gutting grooves in the mud for plumbing?

I’m here, laying white pipe down,
like bones in a grave, all of us addicts and has-beens

have made it here before the rain,
for the burial of elm, and maple, thicket of Sweet William

and Sage because an IKEA needs floor drains.
Because Conan, the ex-con is spotting me,

following behind with a shovel, to watch the operator above me
fling dirt in my face, call me pig. I let him

dig me out, scratch a line in the strata, ask no questions,
but watch how close the bucket gets to my head, the burning

length of the day on my face. We step out, share a common moment,
and bottled water, like muddy equals, the sounds of falling trees, all around us.





After a second coffee, I’m still stumbling, knees bending like rusty hinges.
I walk past the decaying doorway where the jackhammer is waiting
with the piles of worn gloves and shovels, steel bars for the hard earth.

I’m here again for the cracked ground. The thunder in my head,
whatever’s under a floor, behind a wall, mining the dark until my shirt sinks
into my skin, the mud clinging to my knees.

I crack open pipes like eggs out of rage or exhaustion,
call it accident. Whatever leaks I leave leaking,
under petrified clay and rock clung troughs, unbreakable ditch lines.

I’m not cut out for this, but I bear down,
as the work fan sucks out the dust I make,
turning into clouds that don’t amount to anything.

Outside an open door, I can hear a couple chirping
about dinner, and the traffic is pushing air around
as cars team to beat lights on Beacon Ave,

where Stevie Ray Vaughan is stretching out a note
like slow gin on someone’s radio. When the light changes,
whatever universe brought him here is taking back its blues,

leaving a way out into the rushing wind
where my foot pushes down hard and I’m opening it up,
past the job and all that opened earth,
down 65, where the hills lift into horizons of burning,

ceilings of blue, becoming muted
yellow, molten red. I’m turning up the volume to look for the classics,
something Rock n Roll to scream me out of this life.

Spiraling guitar solo to leave me nameless
and wrecked, opening me into a sudden burn, this endless smoldering.





Past the road and the nameless turn off,
across crushed salt paths, to a town of closures

and no right turns, dead end arrows and orange signs,
main roads gutted by the excavator, growling pickups

with Yosemite Sam mud flaps, rebel flags and the T
worn off a bumper sticker, so it reads

Rump, Make America Great Again. No one comes to Jeanette
on purpose, only here if you’re lost in this yellowing

of bars and laundromats, half rate flower shops.
I’m driving into a freezing sun,

to this state of the art building to tell a stranger why
I want to be here, why I’m leaving my job

and what’s the worst quality about me.
But my mind keeps drifting to the rumpled guy

I passed six times by the dollar store, to the rusted
out Honda in front of me, with the duct taped muffler.

Here, in this place once king of glass, industrial plants
that flooded the world with plate, bottle and milk,

shine of a living, overtaken by the tree branch
and brick pile, born again in the green of graffittied

dragons, tattoo parlors and the Inner City Truth Center
Christian Church. I’m here to tell her why

I want to be a pipefitter, but the answer falls down my throat
like gravity, like the weight of this life of wrenching pipes

one handed in five degree hells, the year winter left me raw
and screaming into the rattling truck ride home, away

from given up towns like these, where the buildings
all look like gravestones, and the air, sick with burning

fire, gunshot engines, but I’m safe inside,
and the carpet’s beautiful in this temperature controlled office

of a future I’ll never know. She ends asking how
I’ll be an asset, and the question opens me like the vat

of bearings spilling out in the machine shop behind her.
Shower of steel, of shrapnel in this glimmer mill

of metal, crucible of arc and shine, while outside,
winter burns down the light in the hard walk

across cinder lots to my car. I already know
no one will call me back. Even if my key turns

on a choir waiting in my radio, spelling out its one slow note
like it’s Christmas already, like a wave holding on for what seems like forever.

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