Saturday, April 27, 2013

Day 27: John Ricotta

Voice of The 5-2 John Ricotta reflects on Angel Zapata's "Housekeeper", as performed by our friend, Deshant Paul, on Day 27 of 30 Days of The 5-2. —Gerald So

I’m a frequent visitor to The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly, and when Gerald asked me to contribute to 30 Days of The 5-2, I instantly, yet cautiously, said, "Sure. Put me down for April 27th." Toward the end of the month, i.e. maximum allowance for procrastination? Yes. Copious time to see how everyone else wraps their brain around their selected poems? Hey, why not? (Although I wish I'd read more of them.) I ended up selecting "Housekeeper" by Angel Zapata for a few reasons. While I've never met the author, the reader of the poem is an old friend of mine, and his haunting reading of Zapata’s work back in November 2012 has stayed with me. Also, I seem to connect with poetry that can read more like straight prose, and the narration of Zapata’s "Housekeeper" reads like a slow-burning short story. Lastly, I once randomly jammed with two other musicians in the side room of a crematorium while a "guest" was being cremated, so I've since been morbidly interested in the practice.

John Ricotta
We enter the mind of a man who’s committed patricide, but it's an initial, seemingly innocent deceit that thrusts us into the piece. This man does not smoke, yet he watches his housekeeper empty multiple ash trays into the trash. "Misdirection," he calls the crushed cigarette butts. The revelation that they are his own murdered father’s ashes causes us to circle back and question whether this man is attempting to silently admit his crime, or simply reveling in his clever ruse while the evidence is gradually removed from his home.

Zapata’s use of ash, dust on the mantel, and "the gray shape of father’s urn" works so fluidly as a tone-setter in the piece, and it's a perfect setup for when the narrator discloses the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father.

Dr. Rowe said I'd learn to let
dad go a little at a time

This section is the brilliant basis for the events of the poem, perhaps even the impetus for the narrator's murderous plot, if not only the bluntly literal means of getting away with the crime.

There is no remorse to be found in the words of the narrator, but his interest in the housekeeper's awareness makes us wonder how truly apathetic he is. When Zapata provided some background for his work, he openly wondered how a killer would interpret the concept of "letting go of the past." His narrator's literal interpretation of these instructions from therapy is more than just a play on words, but a means to an end for the narrator as he gradually rids himself of the man who abused him, the man he killed. —John Ricotta

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