Small Talk

Gary Corseri was a good friend of Joe’s. This poem was originally published in Poets’ Basement, September 2008.

By Gary Corseri

In memoriam, for Joe Bageant, 1946-2011

This one—tack-witted, sharp of tongue—

thinks he’ll die soon, and so,

smokes on (although he loves his wife).


He has made peace at 62 (my age)

with demons, destiny, and even

the C.O.P.D. that will

kick him in.


We ramble on on his southern porch,

his whisky tone better than my northern drawl.

Following an ancient beat, we weave

jeremiads for our country’s loss—

the country of our fathers curls

like smoke in the pale, yellow light.


Nobody grows old, we conclude.

One day you are young

and the next—

you are full of all you’ve ever been.

After that—you’re smoke.


There is a way to look at a plant, he says,

and everything you know about plants

is in the contemplation of that moment.

And that … is dialogue.


We can also assure one another

that thoughts like ours have slunk around before,

were lofted by grizzled men before

campfires, under shooting stars,

and may yet float again

in the froth of this world’s flotsam.


If not … in another world. …

If not … then merely in

this moment’s grim



Gary Corseri has published articles and poems at Georgia Review, The New York Times, CounterPunch, Village Voice and other venues.  He has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library, and PBS-Atlanta broadcast one of his dramas.  He can be reached at or

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