Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream, December 2003
It would be nice to love one more woman in that way that’s more starlight than fact, that is like snow falling inside your heart. Albert


Notes for a Death Chant Waterways, February ‘91


WATERWAYS: Poetry in the Mainstream
Volume 24 Number 11 Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher Thomas Perry, Admirable Factotum December, 2003

c o n t e n t s
Ida Fasel 4-12 Joy Hewitt Mann 13-14 Simon Perchik 15-17 Herman Slotkin 18 John Grey 19-20 Joanne Seltzer 21-23 Fredrick Zydek 24-25 Paul Grant 26-27 Robert K. Johnson 28 Bill Roberts 29-30 David Jordan 31-33 Robert Cooperman 34-49 Felicia Mitchell 50-51 Photo of Ruth Richards by Barbara Fisher 52

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 8/04) http://www.tenpennyplayers.org


Bonnard on Location — Ida Fasel
He worked fast to catch the light — commonplaces in light – landscapes like jewels looking in through a window, rich green, the sky as true to blue as blue could mean to one sufficient in his home and art.


A door ajar, rooms of a house, Simple things going on in a house — A dog, a cat, a woman at table: Marthe. Principally Marthe. Marthe in the stillness of her bath, shimmering in gleams of yellow, golden orange, coral rose like some unearthly being, or guest of her glass, a shining one, her robe forming itself to its folds like a rainbow, arching halo by halo. Marthe, a hundred paintings of her. From 30 on she never aged.

Color tells the truth of the world, black and white only its paradoxes. The luminous takes its text from within, every brushstroke a reverence. Sparks of color, luminous expanses, bright molecules under physical pressure of feelings, calmed as he gave familiar things the facts of light they have.


Violet cool inside. No need to tell the days apart. Sitting time, lying down time, eating time, mirror time. Color and Marthe. To his friends a stingy woman with a stinging voice. Color spirals inward on swirls of color. The way he knew her. For life.


Dali in Love — Ida Fasel
The stairwell of his mind endlessly captivated him to climb. Stars made strobe lights of dream’s abundance. Innards dangled from the immense belly of the universe, limp and solid. His resless eyes pierced the dark abyss of consciousness and gave things not of the world their shape — rapture with a reality of its own kind. Only Daly doing this. Dali Dali Dali


loves Gala better than his mother, better than his father, better than Picasso, and even better than money. That serene face, that glowing body, that orderly mind finely tuned to his tempered his inner tumult and put bounds to his boundless careening. My wife, brush never pell-mell.


Her face in profile, leaves sprouting from her head. Tree of his creative life. Her body in full form, front or back. Sometimes glimpsed in a surreal landscape or bordered like a Valentine in lace or abiding like a guardian angel: mad about her.


When she came from her house to his, he sat her in the light and took on light himself. Their marriage became a shared conversation that kept on getting better, she in a deep gaze, he talking from the clouds. But how well she was spoken of over and over whatever his manic symmetry and mighty painter’s means in immeasurable taste for life established the center of the world.

Brushstrokes to wait out, then glass to glass, bubbles nimbly pacing a laugh.

Note: The italicized words are his. 12

Out of Water — Joy Hewitt Mann
We used to walk to the city, four miles to window-shop at the Billings Mall. In Loblaws, we’d buy salami, chunks of cheese, small French sticks and milk in waxed cartons to wash it down.


Standing in the parking lot, your hair as long as mine, both in beads, our feet sandaled even in the chill of late October, we must have drawn attention.

I only think of that now.


Simon Perchik
This window sweetening the air hangs as if some fruit would light your room again — even the walls won’t break off fixed on a window that rises to be lost, its tears falling one upon the other go over it slowly — in time your kisses and the glass shoe

you see through — in time your foot will harden take hold, become the branch that rings the world never letting go the last thing you saw — in time your whispers further than great mountains lay exhausted in the snow


just stop and the air thins out loses its way — a fragrance saddened by the white thread still graceful in the sun — by the hair and thighs and mouths that fit exactly.


“How Do I Love?” — Herman Slotkin
My love is a browsing bear nibbling ripe black berries, longing for your honey. My love is a grand piano latent with lilting numbers, awaiting your touch. My love is a wayward wind whistling in the eaves for your notice, howling in the drains for your attention. Isn’t anybody home?

It Could Have Been Different — John Grey
If I ever wondered what happens to the unpicked apples, then here’s my answer . . . a veritable stew of rot, crunching and sloshing underfoot. It’s fruit I could trip up on, fruit that makes me think of corpses, fruit that even the crows, despite their undertaker black coats, leave alone.


The unpicked women and men, however, do better. We walk through November apple orchards, arms slung through each other. We haven’t dropped to earth, to never bloom again. We don’t turn to mush, and go to much useless waste. We just ask, “How are things with you?” like we’re both still on the tree, like staying put is harvesting.


My Father the Tennis Player — Joanne Seltzer
Sammy met Ethel on the Belle Isle courts during happy days now remembered as the roaring twenties. When their game began to get serious she aimed for the net, connected with the air, sought the score of love.


He complained, told her tennis is about the stroke not the spin. After that she won almost every set while he lost proudly. And they married. And they were happy. And I came along. And they rejoiced. And the jealous gods soon took him away.

He turned into words written on stone, grass enhanced by flowers, metaphoric youth associated forever with clay.


Thoroughly Married – Fredrick Zydek
My dreams still can’t keep their hands off you. It’s nearly thirty years now, and I’m still putting your name to ink and lost in the mystery of your touch. Strange how the sweet history between us has become more than half the matter. Your kiss is still the flint of meaty poems, and your smile continues to be the key that opens metaphors like small and perfect lockets. It is not so much that we are one soul in two bodies. It is more. We are the nest for the other’s journey.

This is no fragile bond. It is deeper than bone. We have buried each other’s dead, wandered great deserts seeking fine and shining kingdoms only to learn they were always within us, and locked ourselves away from the world when it got too busy. Sometimes this dance deals more with energy than with form. We are as willing to be with one another as rain is eager to gladden the leaves and lawn. At night, when we read ourselves to sleep, I revel in knowing we’ve lost the fear and need of the hunt.


True/False Love — Paul Grant
That woman says I should call her, that I must. She really wants to talk to me, she says, she has secrets to tell me, and she’ll understand mine if I choose to tell them to her tonight. She says she knows what I want, knows what I need. Her hair falls over one eye like Veronica Lake’s (an actress whose name would strike no chord in her), and the tops of her breasts are glistening with what is doubtless supposed to be passionate sweat but is probably Wesson oil. She lies on her side her telephone number and general intentions spelled out in a four-letter acronym hovering over the bottom of her teddy.

I wouldn’t touch her with somebody else’s dick, but maybe I should at least call her. It’s only $2.99 for the first three minutes, and I’m over eighteen with a ragged credit card no closer to being maxed out than my heart is, and maybe — just maybe — she knows something I don’t. Probably not . . . but stranger things have happened. Stranger things have happened to me, as a matter of pathetically fallacious fact. So maybe I should call her. God knows, the nights are longer every year. Maybe I should at least call her.

Night Time — Robert K. Johnson
Now, if we undress in front of each other’s eyes, our awareness — blunt as a slap — of our body’s every blemish reddens our cheeks hotter than they were on that first night forty years ago.


Interlude with Mary — Bill Roberts
That evening had been arranged pretty carefully by our basement boarders, Jim and Pheenie, and they reassured me it wouldn’t hurt a bit. We rehearsed where we’d go, what would and wouldn’t be said, how Jim would pick up the tab for any food, beverages, the tickets, and how if I had a mind to, I’d hold Mary’s hand in the backseat of their car and possibly kiss her goodnight, if I was so inclined and didn’t mind too much. It went pretty well according to plan, except I was shaken by how simply lovely Jim’s niece turned out to be, and we all knew she’d be thrilled to watch stockcars

go round and round a dusty dirt oval. I could tell she’d have a cheeseburger too, if I ordered one myself. She only ate half of hers, explaining partially why she was so slender. I held her cool hand in the car and kissed her on the front porch of the house where she lived. She said goodnight, smiled, and met me with urgency when I kissed her a second time, then hurried in the house. Jim thanked me, which wasn’t necessary. Pheenie couldn’t find words, which was okay. I told them I’d enjoyed meeting Mary. We’d rehearsed everything except how we’d feel when she died a few weeks later.

First published in the April 2001 issue of ‘Offerings.’

Scarlet Woman – David Jordan
I bought my shy wife a nightgown for her birthday. I had little money, knew nothing about cloth, so the nightgown was cheap and flimsy, but it whispered to me in passion’s voice. It was scarlet. Lacy at the chest and neck. Diaphanous. When she slipped it on, the shadow of her body, pale, enticing, shimmered through a cloud of scarlet.

We made love, nightgown bunched at her breasts, slid into sleep entwined in damp embrace. Rising from bed next morning, she hesitated, opened the nightgown, peered inside.


Oh, she whispered. Oh, no. I looked up from my pillow. I’m all red, she said, lifting the gown. Streaks of scarlet trailed down her body, across tiny breasts, over sloping belly, along slender legs, creeks of red slicing soft, milky countryside. I laughed. Tears leaped to her cheeks. She dashed off, locked herself in the bathroom. I knocked, tried to apologize. The shower hissed to life. She washed away every trace of scarlet woman, tossed my nightgown in the trash. The marriage lasted five years.

The Long Black Veil: On His Deathbed, Emmett Ritchfield Robert Cooperman
“I spoke not a word though it meant my life, for I had been in the arms of my best friend’s wife.” — The Long Black Veil

I wanted to tell my wife, “Now that my life’s running out in spasms sooty as our coal-fouled river, all I can think of is the unhappiness I heaped on you when I failed to say, ‘Go to Miller, find some joy in this life that’s all we know of heartache and glory.’ “


I had my own guilty secret in Grace O’Brien, but feared scandal more than I loved my mother’s buxom servant. Worse, an envious mastiff, I made a gilded prisoner of Emma in my dark and bitter mansion.


Worst, I wanted Miller to myself, the friend of my childhood and youth, the boy I played Indians and swore a jackknife-bloody brotherhood with. Still, I let him hang for a murder I knew he didn’t commit, raging at his betrayal of our boyhood, when he and Emma would steal away for passionate interludes, deluded that I didn’t know.


For all that, I tried to beg forgiveness of Emma, but what fell from my carrion lips was that I’d glimpsed Miller in the life beyond, and he’d cursed her cowardice for not shouting in court they were together when Edwards was murdered.

The dark rumbling of a monster from hell Claims me, for that last act of lying malice.


The Long Black Veil: Emma Ritchfield, As Her Husband Lies Dying Robert Cooperman
“But sometimes at night when the cold winds moan In a long black veil she mourns over my bones.” — The Long Black Veil

Emmett raved I would smother him with a pillow: “Vengeance,” he rasped, “for your lover hanging for a murder he didn’t commit.


“I’ve seen him on the Other Side,” he continued, after a cough rattled him like a coal car. “He curses your cowardice,” a last spasm lifted my husband, like a canary’s frantic wings at the first whiff of gas — and he was gone.


Strangely, I wept, though we’d been enemies from the moment Miller stood upon the gallows, Emmett silent about his innocence: vengeance for our betraying him. But I was no better: wild as a ferret in Miller’s arms while the banker was murdered elsewhere; still, at the trial, I too said nothing.


Death’s grim smile widened on my husband’s stretched-thin face. More tears poured from me, torn between wanting to spit at him, and knowing the truth he spat at me, adrift now, without the man I had sworn to love, but couldn’t, even before I was first warmed by Miller’s smile.


The Long Black Veil: Emma Ritchfield, at Her Husband’s Funeral Robert Cooperman
“I spoke not a word though it meant my life
For I had been in the arms of my best friend’s wife.” — The Long Black Veil

Go quietly into the ground, dear Emmett, and find a peace you never knew and I never gave you once you brought me home to these coal pocked hills, when I discovered, to my wedded shock, that I opened like a mountain rose, only with your boyhood friend, Miller Waggoner.

Though you never forgave me loving him, nor his betraying your eternal bond of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, you kept your own mistress, and even on your deathbed cursed me, while I had to stop myself from flaunting my consuming fire in Miller’s arms that in yours never even singed me.


“Dear Emmett,” I sob now — while the minister drones on about dust, ashes, and resurrection’s uncertain hope — my tears jagged as chunks of quartz, “can we not forgive each other?” Your answer: the silent clatter of freezing curtains of rain.


Still, I pray that you and Miller clasp blood brother’s hands in Paradise, grip fishing poles, a jug of good mountain liquor, and find the trout stream woodsmen dream of.

While I conjure that sweet fairy tale, I tell myself you’d have forgiven me at the last, had you the strength to speak.


The Long Black Veil: Nettie Greenblatt, Widowed Peddler Robert Cooperman
“I spoke not a word though it meant my life, For I had been in the arms of my best friend’s wife.” — The Long Black Veil

While everyone else in this coal town tossed me coins, afraid my touch meant they’d have to scrub off my “Jew-dirt,” Mr. Waggoner’s housekeeper served me tea in her kitchen, clean As my mother’s house on erev Pesach. She craved someone to sigh with her: her heart beating for her employer like a caged wolf banging against its bars.

She’d dream of him, pressed against “my yielding softness,” while I smiled: she’s all elbows and knees hard and sharp as a blacksmith’s tongs. While she cried, I thought of my Hiram, and our peddling the roads for years, until he sighed, “How I love you,” and died in my arms, heavy as the stones of the smashed Temple.


He’s with the Almighty now, Mr. Waggoner too, though hanged for murdering Mr. Edwards; he was guilty only of King David’s sin of loving another man’s Bathsheba, he and Mrs. Ritchfield sneaking off for infrequent, secret meetings.


Now Miss Early cries he wasted his life “on a worthless female,” and I remember my darling husband, who pointed out the stars to me, each one pulsing, he kissed me, “With the Kabbalah’s secret for prosperity, long life, and eternal love.” At least he got one of them right.


Joy — Felicia Mitchell
Joy comes in a bottle. You can buy it at any store. At the supermarket, it smells like lemon. You can pour it in water and let the fumes rise like incense in a temple. At the department store, it smells like roses and costs more but if you refrigerate the bottle joy will last as long as you want it to.


You can take it out and dab some on any time you’re in the mood, and if you mix lemon and roses in the same kitchen there’s no telling the height to which you may soar.



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