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Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream,
Volume 24, No. 4
Maybe there are just too many acts of love that aren’t acts of friendship.
What Friends Are For Albert Huffstickler Waterways Nov. ’91
WATERWAYS: Poetry in the Mainstream
Volume 24 Number 4 Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher Thomas Perry, Admirable Factotum
Felicia Mitchell Herman Slotkin Geoff Stevens M.A.Schaffner David Jordan
c o n t e n t s
4 5 6 7-9 10-13
Bill Roberts 14-17 Robert Cooperman 18 Ida Fasel 19 R. Yurman 20-22 Joy Hewitt Mann 23
Waterways is published 11 times a year. Subscriptions -- $33 for 11 issues. Sample issues — $3.50 (includes postage). Submissions will be returned only if accompanied by a stamped, self addressed envelope. Waterways, 393 St. Pauls Avenue, Staten Island, New York 10304-2127 ©2004, Ten Penny Players Inc. (This magazine is published 3/04) http://www.tenpennyplayers.org
Sugar Bowl – Felicia Mitchell It still had sugar in it, her old porcelain dish with lilies of the valley and forget-me-nots painted on the side — a mirage of summer on a field of white. The sugar lay in creases, crystallized like age in mine, and the dish was just a dollar. I had to buy it. First things first. I did not wash the sugar bowl. I lit a candle that smelled like lilies of the valley and burned it till the sugar melted and the sides of the bowl glowed like younger, rosier cheeks. “Forget me not,” I whispered for her, my voice as fragile as the dish.
Reflections On That Laugh - Herman Slotkin That laughwas it a peal of pure pleasure or was there a wink of mischief, a sniff of mockery, a hint of malice? I detected a hard edge, a hand ax masquerading as rubble. Or is it mine?
Was malice her meaning?
Everybody needs to know someone well who they can blame if things go wrong, it eases the situation a lot but doesn’t work so well with strangers.
What Friends Are For – Geoff Stevens
It is also the hour we call out the national scar, the wan testimony of attractive victims set against a too-familiar backdrop of dust, straw huts, and bloated infants’ bellies, and tell ourselves that we also hurt, and not just in the alleys, but here an the scenic river walk, in matching coats and hands.
What’s fair is there, beneath the blue-green waters both in love and war, prolific with vapid musings from all who have gone before, the pale beams dancing to her arpeggios. It is and it isn’t a time to try men’s souls for comfort and flexibility; it is the hour jets grow small and intensely mean, as if wrongly awakened, summoned to the job, and looked to for an impossible vengeance.
Capital in Wartime – M. A. Schaffner
Letter to the Imperial Chancellery – M. A. Schaffner The people beyond the pale lake subsist on a diet of meat and cheese, auto dealerships, and garagefuls of spare parts. Their noses rust in temperate weather, but cold makes them strong, if a bit morose. Being a practical tribe, they do not try to understand their gods, but worship them in quiet rituals most often performed within the manufacturing sector. They are devoted to their families, and are sometimes good for bail. Young women frequently marry their babies’ fathers once they find work. Often brutal to friends, they are craven and vicious to strangers
not their guests. Indeed, these they feed to excess, and listen to beyond the bounds of reason. In battle they seldom flee but are known to disappear into the earth, the bogs later resounding with drunken cries and shots fired at random. Under strict questioning they have nothing to say, but with four beers they will recount their entire history and add opinions on current events. In light of all the above, the current Policy of neglect is strongly endorsed. I will write to you next from Sheboygan.
Lit, this lamp gleams like love new and warm. Dark, this lamp casts a shadow like love old and cold.
Like love, this lamp comforts the frightened, the ones who hide from night.
This lamp gives off light, like love. This lamp gives off heat, like love.
On my desk sits a lamp, a brass base with a gray shade. It is a lamp like love.
A Lamp Like Love – David Jordan
It is a strange and dangerous thing, this lamp. This love.
You could club a man with this lamp. You could beat him to his knees. You could us this lamp as a weapon, like love.
She was a plump girl but she didn’t realize it, she was too busy riding bikes and swimming and playing dolls with Donna down the block, until the day her dad came home early from work and found her eating Cocoa Krispies on the floor in front of television cartoons. “Penny,” he said, “you’re fat.” He put her on a diet.
Chub – David Jordan
She was nine years old. Lots of fruit, lots of salad, bits of chicken and fish. No candy, no ice cream. No sharing Cocoa Krispies with Roger Ramjet. At eight a.m. each Sunday she would present herself at his bathroom scales for weighing. She would lose a pound a week. If she gained weight, he would lose an hour of daily television for each sixteen ounces.
The first week, she lost
The fourth week, she climbed on her bike
two pounds. Dad gave her a grin and a quarter. “See?” he said. “You can do it.” The second week, she regained a pound. Dad gave her a frown And a one-hour fine. The third week, she regained another pound. Dad gave her a frown, A five-minute lecture on self-discipline and a two-hour fine.
at seven-thirty Sunday morning and fled to Donna’s house. Dad tracked her down, marched her home, prodded her onto the scales. Her weight had climbed another two pounds. “You know,” said Dad, “when I was a boy they called me Chub. I just don’t want you To go through that.” She began to cry. At forty-three, she cries still.
The three-legged dog lady has a severe limp when she walks her three three-legged dogs each a different breed and obviously not so well bred, plus they’re different sizes, yet even the smallest one has to slow down for the three-legged dog lady who takes them lovingly to the park – rain, snow
The Three-Legged Dog Lady Bill Roberts
or sunshiny day earning my deepest respect, not just because she’s a doggy person but she’s a true friend to animals few others would have chosen, possibly because she herself has that gimp leg which she valiantly shows the world isn’t a handicap at all but just another of life’s challenges that may slow her and her three three-legged dogs but damn if it’ll stop them.
And my premeditated date with Joyce, also reputed To be fast, though not racing to class or on macadam, That was one of the fastest takeoffs of my life. But Joyce taught me to slow down: with our first kiss
Tennis shoes – the rage in my day – made of Black canvas miraculously bonded to real rubber soles. How swift I was running to school, switching Directions on the macadam basketball court.
We guys, you understand, are motivated differently, Even mechanized with different equipment That propels us into the faster lanes of life. How well I remember that first pair of high-top
Fast Learner – Bill Roberts
In a darkened movie house, I forced my anxious Tongue into her mouth; she was chewing popcorn And kept chewing. My tongue took several weeks To recover as I walked to school, digesting the lesson.
So fascinated was she that rather than punish me for the notes I’d written to my teacher for her, she asked me to sign numerous checks she’d made out but hadn’t yet bothered to sign.
My mother was fascinated to learn I could sign her tidy little name as well as she could, even better— I crossed all the T’s, dotted every I. It really was quite amazing.
Crossing T’s, Dotting I’s - Bill Roberts
When they all bounced, she tearfully told the cops, who showed up at our door several weeks later, that the signature on the checks wasn’t hers – she never dotted her I’s, crossed her T’s. The befuddled cops finally left My mother stared at me, long and hard. I learned my lesson: never again did I cross T’s, dot I’s or forge signatures…. except when ab-so-lute-ly necessary.
“Don’t leave,” he’d beg your father. “I’d get the heebie-jeebies alone,” and would switch on the radio to Big Joe’s Happiness Exchange,
“Should be, ‘Professional waster,’ “ your father snorted, always the one who hauled him home, collapsed in a bar.
When your grandfather died, the neighborhood saloons emptied in his honor, patrons filling the church with sweet whiskey tears. The obituary read, “Matey Cochran, retired law enforcement officer.”
More Entertaining – Robert Cooperman
women calling in their sorrows, listeners sending donations, Matey pledging huge ones, though when the bills arrived, he cackled, “What kind of greenhorn do they take me for?” One night, when none of the local gin mills called for Matey to be collected, your father drove to his house.
“Jesus,” a woman muttered, “the old coot died in the saddle.” Your father called your mother, then switched on the radio, women phoning in tragedies terrible and entertaining.
The Immortal Is Always As It Was – Ida Fasel The murmuring pines and the hemlocks will always be Longfellow’s. and the boy-swinging birches, Frost’s. And these seven spruce trees so high I have to pull my rib cage up and tug on my head to get it hard back into the nape of my neck for the angle of my eyes to reach the top belong to me ankle-deep in needles and cones tossed from their Gothic spires, back yard litter, the nobody at this address.
then I do I can’t lift her weight from this crumpling heap and look for someone to help set her straight the p.t. arrives
tiny figure skin without color slumped to the side slipping lower and lower in the wheelchair she’s tied to I don’t recognize her in this line-up of ancients
(for Galway Kinnell & Robert Cooperman)
Sun City, AZ – R. Yurman
You have to sit up, dear. Can’t, the bundle mutters. Of course you can. Just try. the p.t. hefts her to sharp upright Ow, my mother cries, I’m gonna fall, I’m gonna fall. No you’re not, you’re in the chair. I want to lie down, take me back. Maybe you should, I break in. I’m gonna fall. I’m gonna fall. Without a word the p.t. wheels her down the hall
at the bedside gives the chair a quick spin
My mother’s breath rushes out her back settles on the bed the p.t. grabs her legs
Oo-Oo-Oo, my mother cries, ankles turned like a poor skater’s. You’re hurting, you’re hurting, the stroke flattened arm hangs down the p.t. grunts gives a wicked tug.
sets the brake. I’m going to need your help now, Rose. Push down against the arms for me, dear. Can’t — no strength. Yes you can. Come on, I’ve got you.
swings them into place. You’ll crack my ribs, her sharpest cry.
A final shift and the pillows surround what’s left of her hair You’re all right, dear, the p.t. chatters on plumps the pillows raises the side rail and is gone. At rest sheet pulled to her chin hint of color returned to her transparent cheeks she is my mother again alive enough to shape the bed
Get me a gun, she says. A gun? What would you do with a gun, you can’t even lift a spoon? I thought she’d laugh with me then my Rosie still.
I want you to help me die, she says. None of the others will but I knew you’d understand. when have we ever understood each other I want to reply
I reach for her good hand but she wraps it around the bedrail so I can’t take it turns her head away and leaves me.
first appeared in Giraffe a chapbook by R. Yurman March Street Press, 2002 22
Crab grass and the palm of the hand – Joy Hewitt Mann Crab grass and the palm of the hand: something my father taught me while I was contemplating the blue of his eyes trying to get the whistling right.
You guide my lips along the blade remove the blood with a kiss.
Love makes us more deaf than blind. I misheard your indecision as thoughtfulness your arrogance as maturity.
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