The Reason I Am Here, Paul Fericano

A slim book of my poems,
a first collection
published in 1977,
hides its face on a shelf
in the poetry section
of the local library in town.

Gathering the dust
of its own vague history
it anticipates readers
the same way a blind beggar
listens for footsteps.

I am in a tight spot but good company.

I am neatly wedged
between Robert Fergusson
and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

an eighteenth century
Scottish poet,
was an influence on Robert Burns.

Dead and buried for two centuries
he is borrowed regularly,
twice this month, in fact,
and as recently as yesterday.

Ferlinghetti, still with us at 95
is, after all, Ferlinghetti.

He flies off the shelf
so often and so fast
that I am frequently seen
leaning on Edward Field
awkwardly but lovingly
for much of the year.

Visitors can’t understand it.
What are you doing here? they ask.

I am waiting, I tell them,
for someone to check me out.

Copyright ©Paul Fericano




“The Reason I Am Here” is from Paul Fericano’s 2015 collection The Hollywood Catechism (published by Silver Birch Press). As the title of the collection suggests, many of the poems are focused on Tinseltown, and the American religion of Hollywood celebrity. There are also poems about musicians, sports stars and poets.

In this comic, witty poem, Fericano’s first collection, a “slim book of poems” ((his 1977 Loading the Revolver with Real Bullets, published by Second Coming Press), is found gathering dust on the bookshelf between Fergusson (Scottish poet and satirist, 1750-1774) and Ferlinghetti (American poet, co-founder of City Lights Bookshop and Publishers, 1919-2021).

The poem may spark the reader’s consideration of the nature of poetry and poetic immortality; influential Fergusson died young, veteran Ferlinghetti took a populist approach to poetry and published the Beats (although not a Beat poet himself). Ferlinghetti’s popularity means that Fericano becomes better acquainted with fellow American poet and mentor Edward Field (his seminal collection Variety Photoplays published by Grove Press in 1967).

Fericano skillfully substitutes poet and poetry so that the incredulity of the visitors becomes a metaphysical question (“what are you doing here?”).

The ending has a great sense of finality and can be read in a number of ways; being “checked out” could refer to being loaned as a library book, being looked at, or even being consigned to oblivion.


Paul Fericano is a poet, satirist, social activist, editor/publisher of the Yossarian Universal News Service (YU News – Fericano’s most recent book, Things That Go Trump in the Night: Poems of Treason and Resistance (Poems-For-All Press, 2019), was awarded the 2020 Bulitzer Prize.



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