John Tessitore

For a minute there, it seemed like something was happening.

A Poem

A time after search engines but before social media. After the Cold War but before the Endless War. After Grunge but before whatever happened after Grunge. The final days of the old media and the birth of the new, when “the stolen beat was the new arms race.” For a minute there, it seemed like something was happening.

A poem about hope and loss and the end of the millennium.


John Tessitore grew up on Long Island and is a long-time resident of Massachusetts. He has been a newspaper reporter, a magazine writer, and a biographer. He has taught British and American history and literature at colleges around Boston and has directed national policy studies on education, civil justice, and cultural policy. He now runs his own strategic communications business. His poems have appeared in the American Journal of Poetry, Canary, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Wild Roof, The Ekphrastic Review, and other journals and anthologies. His chapbooks, I Sit At This Desk and Dream: Notes from a Sunday Morning on Instagram (2021), We Are Becoming Unbound (2022), All the Lonely American Roads (2022), Parchment: A Prayer Quintet (2022), Body Songs (2023), and For a minute there, it seemed like something was happening (2023), and his novella Jigsaw Men (2023) are available in print and for Kindle.

Now serving as Co-Editor Across the Pond for The Wee Sparrow Poetry Press. Learn more

Goodreads blog posts:

All the Lonely American Roads is a poem about starting over. What do we take with us? What is worth saving? What is important to us as people with complicated lives—families, jobs, desires? Which lessons from the past, which stories, which myths? An interrelated series of lyrics, fragments, songs, and dialogues, it is a portrait of a man, and a culture, trying to find a new way forward.

Recent poems appearing elsewhere:

“Rebellion” in the Wee Sparrow collection Still We Rise

“Saturday Morning, Long Island” and “Mr. Harvey’s Advice” in the Literary Revelations collection Hidden in Childhood

“Flashback” and “Warp and Weft” in “Maya’s Micros” at The Closed Eye Open

Body Songs is a collection of poems and photographs exploring themes of love, attraction, and erotic fulfillment.

It is a celebration of intimacy in word and image—from courtly romance to kink, and everything in between.

This special edition is only available in print.

Will Stark returns from war to a broken society struggling to make sense of defeat—a civilization in decline, an environment in ruins.

After receiving a call from a stranger who has news about George Stark, the father Will never knew, Will drives to a distant suburb to see what, if anything, he can learn about his past.

As Will pieces together his father’s life, he creates a new life for himself, and an active role in the life of a struggling community, only to become a soldier once again.

Jigsaw Men is the story of a broken past, a precarious present, and a future of worthy struggle.

This is a slightly edited version of the first edition of Jigsaw Men, begun in 2007, published quietly in 2012, and just as quietly withdrawn from public view…revisited now because elements of the story echo recent events, including the Covid-19 pandemic and the accelerating deterioration of the environment.  

Parchment: A Prayer Quintet is a collection of five poems, each a yearning for spiritual renewal in a troubled age. Inspired by (but not beholden to) the outcasts, beats, and mystics of the American pastit is an urgent, lyric and sometimes-ironic plea for better angels.

To do this now is insanity, I know, 
a prayer for a prayer-less century (so far), 
but is it crazier than relying on
the knowledge of history? 
Is it crazier than denying all progress? 
It it crazier than preferring the darkness of the past?

Available in print and for Kindle.

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John’s Substack

A Very Occasional Newsletter For the Very Curious

I scribbled my way through dozens
of notebooks, for years,
before I started to undo real damage,
the violence of defining my character.

So much easier to spill
today and see what happens later.

–The opening lines of We Are Becoming Unbound, available in print and for Kindle

I am trying to be philosophical

as I lose my philosophy.

I am training a new tendency,

learning to…let it be,
connect a duality as old as my dreams.

–The opening lines of I Sit At This Desk and Dream, a chapbook available in print and for Kindle.

Reading a short passage from I Sit At This Desk and Dream. You can find lots of other readings on Instagram and TikTok, both @jtessitorewriter.

But I do not know the trees
in my yard, the animals that sleep
among them, or the stream
seeping behind the shed, the vein
of some larger drainage system
that flows somehow to the sea
from my home in the hinterlands.

from “Where the Water Runs”

This was my first journal-published poem. A couple of years old. You can read the rest in The American Journal of Poetry archive.

I Sit At This Desk and Dream: Notes from a Sunday Morning on Instagram, Order now in print and on Kindle!


And follow me on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram.

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