rg cantalupo on Poets Cafe

Photograph of rg cantalupo and Teresa Mei Chuc.

The following interview of rg cantalupo by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).

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Biographical Information—rg cantalupo

rg cantalupo (Ross Canton) is a poet, playwright, filmmaker, novelist, and director. His work has been published widely in literary journals in the United States, England, and Australia and is the winner of many writing awards. A war veteran who was awarded three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with a Combat V for valor for courage under fire, he is also an anti-war activist and environmentalist who has been targeted for surveillance by the FBI. He graduated from UC Santa Cruz where he studied under such luminaries as George Hitchcock, editor of Kayak, Gregory Bateson, and Norman O. Brown, and received his MFA in Poetry and non-fiction from Vermont College of the Fine Arts. His books include Involving Residence, No Thanks, Walking Water On Earth, The Art of Naming, and The Endurance: Journey To Worlds End, a lyric novel, You Don’t Know Me, a novel, The Light Where Shadows End, The Last Unknown Soldier, memoirs, and a number of plays and stage adaptations. He is the founder and artistic director of Studio Theater West and The LA Little Theater in Santa Monica, and the founder/originator of Movie/Poem, Inc. a multi-media platform for cross-genre poetic expression. He is an ongoing contributor of The Veteran the quarterly magazine of the VVAW. He lives in the Los Padres Mountains where he, his long time companion, and his four dogs often spend meditative afternoons contemplating the serenity of trees.


No Thanks
after Komunyakaa

for the fire ants parading red
stripes down my forearm as I
radioed in grids for napalm
bombs. Their flaming edges
still serrate the black-pajamaed
shadows beyond my window
in this dawn’s early mist. No
thanks for the blue sliver of
freedom I sought low-crawling
through elephant grass as bullets
ticked off human flags. Between
the blades of a lover’s fingers I
still wake an arm’s length away
from Lonnie’s open mouth bobbing
in that stream. No thanks for the
white, shrapnel stars constellated
around my heart’s tattered colors.
There aren’t enough surgeries to
defuse them from my chest’s
black walls, nor enough names
engraved on my imploded eyes
to survive me from their ghosts.
Take back your phantom limbs, the
severed lifelines on my mother’s
palm, my wife’s unnamed, aborted
son. I never wanted their surrender.
Medal these untagged body parts
hurling through night patrols, these
blowbacks of fourth of July fire-
works ricocheting off hot LZs, my
unexploded mortars waiting for a
child’s foot to skip by. And don’t
ask me for the bruise of honor
shaped like an oak-leaf cluster,
nor the bronze star poured out of a
war criminal’s eye. I’ve offered
all I’m grateful for: You cannot
take what I will not kill to give.