bull fight

drawing by Bob Avicolli

bull fight


my eighteenth birthday

uncle carlo yells

arms waving in the air

as he watches the bullfight on tv

mutters in italian

munches on salami and cheese

crumbs exploding from his mouth


el matador

drives the knife into 

the bull’s flesh

I run out of the room

remembering my friend’s 

lusty tales a few nights before 

“the harder you do it the more

they like it. If they get mad

ram it in harder”

and el matador does


in another arena

a classmate thrusts his sharpened pencil

into my arm screaming


blood spurts from

the wound

and onto 

the steps 

of our south philly rowhouse

where papa

tells me to stop walking like a girl

the crowd cheers


in space they say 

there is no sound

no sound in the dark bathroom

where I hide

until aunt anna knocks on the door

“c’mon, we’re gonna cut the cake”


uncle winks

his face sinister in the glare of the candles

“c’mon, you gotta have

some vino”

a few sips 

and I’m drowsy

not able to take my eyes

from el matador

in his tight pants

his dark looks

his thick lips


uncle leans over

“today you’re a man”

I feel it in my pants


originally published in Philadelphia Poets, Volume 12, Number 2, Fall 2006/ drawing © 1976 by Bob Avicolli