Squalling / Angela Gaito-Lagnese



poems by

Angela Gaito-Lagnese

ISBN: 978-1-59948-865-3, 36 pages, $12 (+ shipping)

Release/ship Date: May 18, 2021

The Advance Sale Discount price expired March 30. For those who prefer to pay by check, the price is $16/book (which includes shipping and applicable sales tax) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, PO BOX 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227-7001. 


Angela Gaito-Lagnese is a frequent participant in the Madwomen in the Attic Workshop Series at Carlow University. She also has an M.F.A. and Ed.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Pittsburgh City Paper: Chapter and Verse, The Main Street Rag, Nasty Women and Bad Hombres: A Poetry Anthology, The Write Launch, and Cathexis Northwest Press. Angela has lived in San Pedro, California, and presently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she is an Associate Professor of English at the Community College of Allegheny County. Squalling is her first poetry chapbook.

“We fill up the tank in Kansas, she pumps,/ I pay, no makeup, hair knotted in ponytail,/ I’m not going back.” This is how Squalling begins, and I’m all in. Gaito-Lagnese writes the road alive in these evocative poems, ripe with details. After low riders and ragtops, she dives deep into compassion, into a brother’s death, racial and gender divides—so that we feel the sting of poverty, the brimming desire in the moving air. ~Jan Beatty, The Body Wars, University of Pittsburgh Press


Angela Gaito-Lagnese has gathered up the firecrackers of her past and ignited them with the fires of the present to give us, in Squall, a thorough waking-up. The ghosts of loss and youthful vitality haunt and taunt throughout this collection, reminding us that time is not linear but operates on a depth of many fields in a single consciousness where “impossible absurdity” can resolve into moments when everything is “hushed and radiant.” ~Ellen McGrath Smith, Nobody’s Jackknife and Scatter, Feed


In Squalling, Angela Gaito-Lagnese takes us on a journey through her world, Pittsburgh, California, the road: “I lay claim to whatever is left of the coastline,/glimpses of sea…” This collection is a love letter to “49 cent hotdogs, ” and ghosts both literal and figurative: “if there’s some form of afterlife,/I really need to know…” and forces us to look closely, unflinchingly at the grit that surrounds us: the men in the physical therapy room, rats, the real-life things we fear. It leaves truly “hushed and radiant.” ~Kayla Sargeson, author of First Red (Main Street Rag, 2016)

Betting the Spread


We fill up the tank in Kansas, she pumps,
I pay, no makeup, hair knotted in ponytail,
I’m not going back.

The sides of the highway are flat rows of grain,
sky the colors of wild lupine
and I’m not talking to God anymore.

She calls us brave as I’m verging on panic,
loose strands of black hair
sticking to the back of her neck.

The two of us are running west,
not enough money,
heading to Vegas.

My hand outside of the window, dancing,
for the first time in many long months,
I dream awake.

We’ll live on cigarettes, water, and 49 cent hot dogs.
I got a stash of pot and a 6-inch blade
in the glove box.



Homage to Long Beach, CA

after Lynn Emanuel


My name is Angela Michaelene Antionette Gaito
and I live on 4th and Orange, East Long Beach, just below
the barrio and just above the arts district, past the park
where the news reports a found head, no body,
and palm trees, wide steamy sidewalks, the Blackstone Hotel
I’ve only seen before in movies, the Port, and further back,
outlined in thousands of winking blue bulbs,
the Vincent Thomas Bridge.
Low riders drive up and down Ocean Boulevard, ignoring street signs
that threaten fines for cruising, a ’64 Buick dances on two wheels,
jazzy in fresh paint, metallic gold and platinum beige, flashing
under the glare of streetlamps, and I know I lived whole lifetimes
longing for this place.
My name is Angela Michaelene Antionette Gaito
and my home is a one room mansion that I share
with a feral cat, a kitchen with a slow draining sink, a view
of a parking lot, juice bar, Rite Aid.
A ’73 Cadillac Eldorado, white ragtop down,
white leather seats, seafoam paint, fat chrome rims,
drives around my block each morning,
7th to Cherry to 4th to Orange, its horn singing
la cucaracha, sometimes parking in front
of my building. I spend afternoons walking the beach,
sunshine staining my shoulders, sand so hot
that the soles of my feet blister. I light candles
when the electricity goes out for non-payment,
nibble on rations of grapes and bread.
My name is Angela Michaelene Antionette Gaito
and late at night, when the city is mostly quiet, I curl
on the floor in the space beneath my window, and dream
of driving a fresh-off-the-factory-floor Mustang,
dark tint, sleek muscles blooming, V-8 engine
inhaling gas like cocaine, purring
up U.S. 101, past Malibu and Zuma.
I lay claim to whatever is left of the coastline,
glimpses of sea, touristy remains spilling
from oversized trashcans, slopped fish guts
from the pier, waves shattering
against the breakwater.





It is February two a.m., and the storm rattles
against the loose pane of your window.
Sirens wail from somewhere nearby
and the snow is squalling.

By the time we meet, Hillman Library, Fiction,
I trade scars for piercings,
amateur tattoo on my rib,
carrion lily in blurred blue ink.

For you, I try on dictions,
my tongue tangles with your language,
meritocracy, subjugation, insurrection,
don’t use fuck as punctuation,
unless we’re actually fucking.

You say I’ve got quite the mouth on me,
I smile even when I’m pissed.
We drink coffee in Hemingway’s,
and I laugh too loud, but I think you like it.

We read each other for weeks,
your voice a slur of bluesy notes,
characters shallow, conflict thin,
you smell of old books and sometimes whiskey.

We say love now, you call me baby.
You lie, I drape myself across your bed.
I know how our stories end.

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