r. g. cantalupo’s work has been published in over a hundred literary journals throughout the United States, Canada, and England. His book of poetry “Say” was a runner-up for the John Ciardi award in poetry. His poetry collections include “Walking Water On Earth”, “The Art of Naming”, “Involving Residence”, “Say”, and “No Thanks”. Cantalupo is a Dual-Genre MFA graduate in Poetry and Creative Non-fiction at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

He is also a two-time Regional Finalist for the American College Theater Festival, and his play “Heart” was presented at the Kennedy Center as a National Finalist. His award-winning memoir “The Light Where Shadows End” was serialized in the literary journal “War, Literature and the Arts” and was selected for the anthology “Best Non-fiction Essays of the Last 25 Years”.  

Cantalupo is the Artistic Director and founder of The Little Theater in West Los Angeles where he continues to write and direct plays.


Notes For The Man Who Leaves
Stone Markers Along Backbone Trail

I’ve seen your signs for over a year now
and I still don’t know which way
they’re pointing,

or even if there is a point,
maybe it’s just the stacking
high up here close to the capricious gods

that inspires you to shape
these diminutive columns

along the way, or maybe
you’re Italian

and these are tiny leaning Pisas,
sculptures of lava and granite stones
spiraling upward from a man--

a man like I who hikes up
into these mountains,
far from the jeweled city

glittering from the finger of the peninsula--
(now and then a jet reminding us
how easily our engines shred the

blue paper of this temporary sky)--
a man like I who needs to leave something
behind even if it’s indecipherable:

a tiny totem whispering callused hands,
an improv of blood and jazz,

a note of I and eye

published in In the Grove and Sou’Wester


Sexual Fantasy

The one I like has nothing to do with dogs,
horses neither for that matter, though
I do have a thing for farm animals, pigs
mostly, the way they rut in the muck like
blissful monks, how serenely they sway as
mud slops over their thin tan skin and
flies buzz round their tender ears, how
resolute they mount, small, useless legs
dangling around the belly of their desire,
tongues flapping out of snouts like pink
streamers as they gallop toward home. No,
give me a cricket, deep brown body, legs
long and tight as violin strings, love music
rising from our body’s friction as we rub
thigh against thigh, skinny hips gyrating like
Elvis toward some grand finale. Give me a
red-eyed tree frog, crooning a soft clicking
song from the highest branch, her blue inner
thighs clenched round my quivering green,
her sun-yellow toes inter-twined with mine
as our blurred reflections play on the rippling
pond below. And forget quickies and one
and dones for her. No, she’s all sticky toes
and suction holding me tight as she clambers
down the trunk to water, lays our progeny
on a frond, then carries me back up the tree,
ready for a second round.


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.


r.g. cantalupo



2012 r.g. cantalupo

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