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Read an Excerpt from Rocco de Giacomo's Casting Out, a Poetic Memoir of Leaving Evangelical Life

black banner image with an image of the cover of Rocco de Giacomo's poetry collection Casting Out and text reading "Excerpt from Casting Out by Rocco de Giacomo. Tomorrow/so very much needs/ your tiny belligerences"

Rocco de Giacomo's childhood was filled with TV faith healers, tense and frequent predictions of the rapture, and the dramatic and sometimes problematic practices of the extreme Pentecostal religious community in which he grew up.

In his fourth full-length collection, Casting Out (Guernica Editions), de Giacomo grapples on looking back at those years, his coming of age and eventual rejection of the Church's tenets and dogma, and the emotional debris left behind as he works to raise free-thinking and strong willed daughters – in opposition to the misogynistic models he witnessed growing up. 

Engaging and powerful, the poems are written with a matter-of-fact, streamlined lyricism that belies the turmoil below, as de Giacomo grapples with leaving a system that, though problematic, promised community, familial love, and an easy answer to life's most existential questions.

The pieces range from darkly witty to deeply longing, painting a complex picture of three generations of a family trying to do their best by their children, albeit in wildly different ways and with very different results. Rather than casting blame, de Giacomo thoughtfully explores what motivated his mother, in particular, to cling to her extreme beliefs and reject evidence-based arguments, and also explores his own fears and hopes as a parent himself now.

Open-hearted and complex, these are poems that confront our deepest questions and desires, and we're excited to share an excerpt here today courtesy of Guernica Editions

Excerpt from Casting Out by Rocco de Giacomo:


photo of author Rocco de Giacomo

Poet Rocco de Giacomo

I grew up in a Pentecostal household. Pentecostalism is a Christian movement emphasizing the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The name refers to the day of Pentecost when Jesus Christ’s apostles spoke to crowds of people in what was later interpreted as God’s heavenly language. Once baptised, members of the Pentecostal community can then speak this language, or “speak in tongues.” Some believe they have additional gifts. My mother, my sisters and I believed we could cast demons, heal with prayers and olive oil, and prophecy dreams and inexplicable occurrences as signs of the “Last Days”. Such activities we routine events in our house.


For Then Shall Be Great Tribulation

Bank cards are the beginning,
Mom says. The Antichrist will make sure you can’t buy food,
not without his number tattooed on your arm.
Gramma sits beside me in the back seat
says six, six, six as if completing
one of her crosswords; Dad pumps the gallons
dwelling not on the opening of seals
nor the sun turning black
as sackcloth, but the development
of prime real estate outside Wakefield,
Rhode Island. They are already turning
against Israel, mom says. Whatever
you do, you must never, never, side against Zion.
Won’t matter anyway, Gramma says, we’re all going
to be taken up. Except your father (giggles Mom)
as he climbs up into the van; he doesn’t respond
although he can guess, and this
has been a nine-hour drive
already. Goddammit, the end times
at a Sunoco in Cheektowaga. Is she gonna talk
about this all day? Anyways. Harriet, would ya stop
he’ll eventually say
loudly, and maybe she’ll stop.

Or she’ll take a long sip
of her Pepsi through the straw, peer
down the remainder
of the I-95 and decide the rapture
may happen over the Peace Bridge
and then poor Vito, suddenly alone
in all that quiet.


Pat Robertson tell us

to touch the screen, says distance is no boundary
for the holy ghost. Mom leans close
to the cathode ray tube, touches it;
I hold hands with her and my big sister
as Pat leans into us. In a voice as smooth
as Virginia Beach, Virginia, he says may the anointing
of the holy spirit
come upon you. He tells us
there is someone
with a bowel obstruction, in terrible pain. At this
a knot appears in Pat’s brow. You’ve been to the doctors
and nothing has worked. We pray for you now
and your intestinal tract is being healed
as we speak, loosened and cleared
in Jesus’ name. My hands grow
moist in the prayer circle. In Jesus’ name
Mom whispers as Pat tells us
there are many suffering from depression,
feel hopeless, scared and that this
is demonic, and we banish them
in Jesus’ name, we banish
the suicidal spirits from your lives.
My knees burn against the thick carpet
(that looks like spilled noodles). In Jesus’ name
Mom whispers as Pat tell us
we will find joy in the holy ghost. There is an impacted tooth
– not a wisdom tooth – but it’s causing
great discomfort and Christ
is healing you now; you feel the heat
of healing in that tooth. And I swear
I feel it up my legs and there are blisters
on a forearm, Pat says. You don’t know where
they are from, but they are vanishing
as we speak. With this, I look up from my prayers,
wondering if it could mean Grandma, but
if mom thinks Pat’s prayers
have reached the right ears
to save Grandma, she gives no sign,
looking as she always does
when communing with Christ, as if having
the most pleasant dream. Pat Robertson
ends the prayer circle with an Amen, draws
away from the million living rooms, the thousands
of broken backyard windows and carpets soiled by cats.
He’ll spend the next hour telling us
about fetus farms planned for Missouri
and computer chips the New World Order
wants to plant in our wrists. Only Christ
can save us from our doomed flesh, only our donations
can deliver us from this cursed earth. 


Please Don’t                             

notes to my daughter 

In the playground, you show me a broken 
bracelet you found and say maybe those girls over there
want to see it? I hold the pieces
and weigh their forgettableness against
this keen new want; you watch the older kids
as one would bite into a nearly ripened apple. I place
the bracelet between us on the bench and say nothing
to discourage you. You’re three and a half; you need to belong
and I must remember that I was much older
the first time I was shoved into a locker door,
called ‘loser’. I should forget this, but when you take
a step closer, I touch your shoulder, suggest we play
hide-and-seek together. I count to ten, slowly
to give you all the time you need
to make yourself invisible.


A silent and loving woman is a gift of the Lord

Eccles. 26:14-15

I want you to know Tilda  
that despite the fact  
that I grimace and pinch 
the bridge of my nose and utter  
things under my breadth
as you trail behind me
you are right to complain 
that you’re tired of walking, even before 
we’ve exited the garden gate. And that your socks  
feel funny. And that you don’t want  
to blow your nose. That your sister 
won’t share. That your sister  
won’t play. That you don’t want  
to play. That you never 
get a treat. That sharing  
is caring, Ava! That you hate  
your sweater and your snowsuit. 
And you never get to watch
YouTube.  That I am not 
the boss. That no one 
is the boss. Sometimes            

I succumb to the temptation 
and tell you to quit whining. Oh,
let’s be honest 
it’s more than sometimes. It’s hard
really hard not to, and I know 
I should let just you swing away 
at the way things aren’t. On every
screen, a principal is sending another 
girl home because of her shorts, a bro 
is trying to explain primates 
to Jane Goodall, and another council
of old men make decrees on women’s
bodies. It’s God’s plan they say.
                        Tilda, I have to learn
to keep quiet while you stretch
and flex your disgruntled yawp
against the unfair kitchen walls
the oppressive snowbanks
the unjust bedtimes
we’ve set. Tomorrow
so very much needs
your tiny belligerences.


Excerpted from Casting Out by Rocco de Giacomo. Published by Guernica Editions. Copyright 2023 by Rocco de Giacomo. Reprinted with permission.

Rocco de Giacomo is an internationally published poet whose work has appeared most recently in The Malahat Review and Canadian Literature. The author of numerous poetry chapbooks and full-length collections, his latest, Casting Out, is being published in 2023 through Guernica Editions. Rocco lives in Toronto with his wife, Lisa Keophila, a fabric artist, and his daughters, Ava and Matilda.

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Casting Out

Casting Out chronicles the author’s entry as boy, progression through and eventual exit, as an adult, from the Pentecostal world. It’s an attempt to reconcile the evidence-based reasoning of the speaker’s present with the angels and demons of his past. This collection confronts what it means to be loved in a system that the speaker now finds not only irrational but hateful. The poems address the struggle to raise children in the absence of spiritual beliefs and contemplate the questions of whether imparting secular values is enough of a foundation, and how much should a child — even if it is back towards the religious tradition the speaker has left behind — be permitted to find her/his own path.