When the Cicadas Return












by Gil Fagiani

In his first book of poetry, Gil Fagiani is a rook, “the deepest bucket of whale shit in the deepest part of the ocean,” as the epigram tells us. The reader follows the poet through freshman year at Pennsylvania Military College, Class of 1967, where the spotlight is on the time-honored discipline that transforms young men into warriors. We sit with him on the third floor of Howell Hall “zipped up in his cadet blouse/ hair cut back to the bone.” In “Spit Shines,” the poet teases beauty from the soft rag buffing of shoes,” a Lincoln penny/in black wax.” PMC is located in the heart of the decaying city of Chester, Pennsylvania. Fagiani sets these vastly different worlds into a brilliant counterpoint: one is antiseptic and ordered, the other, shabby and chaotic. In “Local Girls” the daughters of immigrant Ukrainians and Poles “who pull double shifts/in front of the blast furnaces/ of Penn State Casting” speed past the cadets, a cloud of locusts, in banged up Chevies.

While organized violence is bred at PMC, the violence that spills from the town is fitful and random. We visit “Ukrainian Hall” where “somebody smashes a glass pitcher/and waves the bloody handle.” And “The Chester Arms,” is the bar where cadets and locals collide, and the “Isley Brothers preach/the gospel of pussy” while customers slug it out. An aura of presentiment hovers over Rooks: military escalation in Vietnam, political assassinations, burning cities, the larger social conflagration about to engulf America. The imagery of these poems is full of shit-on-a-shingle, grenade throws, latrines, swagger sticks, but there are also “golden-yellow/daisy faces/crushed in the imprints/of tank treads” Fagiani’s language, sometimes gritty and humorous, is always energized and passionate. He suspends his poems often in midair, shocking them into silence.







Pocket Series


about us




submission guidelines


  Rooks - $7.00


Review 1



The Chester Arms

Thanksgiving Fulough


Gil Fagiani attended Pennsylvania Military College from 1963 to 1967. He is a poet, short story writer, essayist and translator. His poetry has appeared in such anthologies as Off the Cuffs: Poetry by and about the Police, edited by Jackie Sheeler, and Sweet Lemons: Writings With a Sicilian Accent, edited by Venera Fazio and Delia De Santis. In 2004 a collection of his poetry set in East Harlem in the 1960’s: Crossing 116th Street: A Blanquito in El Barrio, was published in the literary journal Skidrow Penthouse. In 2005, he won an “Honorable Mention” for both the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards, and the Bordighera Prize.

Fagiani co-hosts the monthly open reading of the Italian American Writers’ Association at the Cornelia Street Café, in New York City. His translations of nine poems from Abruzzese dialect to English were published last year in The Journal of Italian Translation edited by Luigi Bonaffini.