Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream, Volume 25, #3

All goes onward and outward . . . and nothing collapses, And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier. Walt Whitman

WATERWAYS: Poetry in the Mainstream
Volume 25 Number 3 Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher Thomas Perry, Admirable Factotum

*March, 2004

c o n t e n t s
Lyn Lifshin James Penha Patricia Wellingham-Jones Ida Fasel Herman Slotkin Geoff Stevens 4--7 8 9-10 11-12 1314 15 Dan Lukiv Joan Payne Kincaid Simon Perchik John Grey Robert Collet Tricaro Fredrick Zydek 16-7 18-19 20-21 22-23 24-25 26

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 11/04) http://www.tenpennyplayers.org

Chicken Woman — Lyn Lifshin
yes, she says, the extermination of seven million broiler chickens is the moral equivalent of the Holocaust. Their hunger wakes her in a house so empty, even the silence seems to echo. It’s dark and still when she moves past Freda Flower perched on the bathroom radiator where Star and Charley used to roost in a cupboard and now frail Dolina and crippled Sarah and plump little Holly huddle. She puts on a pot of coffee. They know the routine. Set back from the woods of Delmarva Peninsula, the house is for the

chickens. One chicken is on the sofa, another on a worn coffee table that stands marooned in the huge living room. No walls of books, no cozy retreats. Every file cabinet like a fortress. Framed photographs of birds, boxes and drawers over flowing with research on the birds. There are 104 of them living there now including one with indoor privileges, all refugees from America’s poultry industry. Most are sick or maimed. With her coal black bangs, frosted pink lips she greets the chickens in the yard by name. Years before, walking thru backyard bramble she found an abandoned chicken coop, only one little white hen cowering in a corner. The bird’s legs and feet deformed, her eye lusterless. The woman who loves

chickens took her home and made a bed near the stove, named her Viva. The chicken, she learned, had been bred to slaughter, to produce a bizarrely large amount of meat while still young and tender. As a result, walking was an awkward, wing-flapping ordeal that left Viva distressed and exhausted. The woman would soothe her, rub the soft bottoms of her feet. She remembers Viva responded with frail beeps and twitching tail. The bird’s condition worsened to the point where she had to be put to sleep. The chicken woman buried her in the back yard. In her diary she wrote, “November 28, 1985, soft Viva died.” Then she began taking in chickens, rescuing them when they fell off poultry trucks, adopting the grade school butcher projects, buying a spent hen from abusive egg farms, her sadness hardening to rage. “I was so drawn to the chickens in a way I can’t articulate. Watching

them take a dust bath was the most appealing and enchanting thing.” Nights she goes out in her red Sunbird to look for birds. She feeds them cabbages and grapes, dabs the infected chicken’s wounds, wishes the chickens would stick to a vegan diet. She’s horrified that they love worms. Her husband’s gone, but she shrugs, he was older, arthritic, couldn’t still help with the chickens. “Loneliness is relative,” she says, “I consider the chickens my friends. I get genuine joy from their company. I love the fact that they want to be with me.” Once she says a neighbor’s dog stole into the yard and killed a rooster. I sat by myself weeping. Then one hen came over, buried her head in my own neck and I did likewise. I put my arms around her. Chickens will purr like a cat, a little trilling sound. She stood there a long time. She knew I was sad. She restored me. I wanted to stay in that moment forever.

Contiguous States James Penha
April snow shower: I don’t hear winter’s swan song ‘til she breaks the fall. Grass has been growing . . . I feel it when the scythe perfumes the air with green.

The young muskrat swims to the tunes of the reeds that used to startle her. Sleeping dogs lie— they smell the squirrel at the tree and appear barking. In the leaves’ damp furrow one pink tongue tastes nothing and is forgotten.

THE GROTTO — Patricia Wellingham-Jones
Next to the road amid burned oaks, seared dirt, a grotto stands. Its back wall a lava rock high as a man’s neck, jagged, lichen-scorched from recent fire. Side walls—piles of the rough stone, cairns balanced at the end of each wing. Inside the hollow propped on a slab of cedar bark


flowers riot in red, orange, pink paint. The Virgin of Guadalupe nestles with photos in crevices. Rosaries, strings of plastic flowers, toy trucks dangle. A perch for ravens and quail, open to wind and rain, the grotto calls forth memories of all those who never returned home.


Luncheon Special — Ida Fasel
We were having lunch on the 54th floor of Security Life, enjoying every hair of our seafood-sauced angel hair pasta when someone stepped off the elevator, picked up the extra chair, smashed a window, jumped. Man overboard. I remembered reading in Melville, “I thought I was dreaming.” Instantly his rope went down. The man played with it, let it go. Watchers cautioned. “Not too close.”

The man tilted his head back, pillowed it cosily. A death at sea when the sea was calm. The ship moved on. Like kin we trailed one another looking perilously down as the siren closed in on our crême brulée. Why should anyone cheat death of a death, life so good to have? From the blood-spattered concrete he still turns up to me his astonishing face. “It was merry,” Melville wrote.

On And On – Herman Slotkin
In just one instant your fond face was wholly blotched to black on black, in five erased to white on white, the world now ever cold on cold. That moldering flesh is stripped of you, like bottles emptied and returned. I am quite sure where you must be. You’re wandering all the wrinkled nooks of lovers’ thoughts and dreams we clutch and hold in precious darkening light.

You write all Lenny’s listed tasks. You move in Dana’s dancing walk, in friends devotion to The Cause. And who can tell in what strange place, on what brave and blooming face your warming smile will reappear.


Death’s Alternatives — Geoff Stevens
Pain or distress prepares some people slowly for death makes them fully aware of the process while with others it creeps up and stabs them in the back or extinguishes them in sleep Anyway, death is inevitable.


The Lady Who Lived Across The Street — Dan Lukiv It’s hard to forget her gestures, Her mad, terrified eyes, As she told me about the two planes— One passenger, one tiny—that Collided above the Saskatchewan town, Sixty years ago now, Falling apart, Tossing people—children!—onto Dusty roads, ploughed fields, A car roof that collapsed, A lady near her, looking up, Being killed.

“Children!” she said, Her eyes round with memory: “Falling from the sky!” She told me about the pregnant woman Who splattered. Then she held Her breath, her nostrils flaring. I remember her mad, terrified eyes, Her awful gestures, And those nostrils.


There Was Always Music Then — Joan Payne Kincaid
No more days of being in love with love that endless lost plateau of delusion that led to nude swims in dangerous surf to illicit meetings driving away in roadless snowstorms at risk of life and limb to desire and rapture

in the romance of spring or the fear of death in fall no more wasted plans and energy on how to accomplish dependent relationships plotted to achieve being taken for granted then walking away forever leaving someone suddenly desiring that which it was your turn to withhold remembering the numbers crossed-off in the book.

Simon Perchik
Death likes to kneel, work nearer the ground, likes to drop and under both knees all this sun waiting for the end for its lips to cover my wall red though the bed weighs almost nothing the sheets pull as snow will spread its sky closer and I don’t smoke — a match would be enough, struck near my throat as if I could capture the sun’s last breath — every evening now Death strangling this floor

closing its knees underneath never again running away or after you — your name so cold — where were you! Even I hear better on my knees without a shadow to lift room to room. Death needs to kneel. A name is so heavy. It can’t be written, every page now too weak. Even gravestones too—. I know you’re here. Only you can say it can bring me to my knees and lifetime.

A Time Spent Caving — John Grey
I’m afraid that, if I explore my beleaguered head, I’ll find myself wandering through a labyrinth of eerie grottoes, each rocked tight around the rough grave of an old love. Instead I climb the basalt ridge, tear through the salt-bush mask, follow a fissure’s grin into the desolate crypt of an ancient Aronan pueblo.


I’m fearful that, if I take myself too seriously, I could wander around in the worst of me for days, for years, stumbling over deceit, despair, permanently distracted. Instead, my curiosity chips away at other times, other lives, scours dirt blotches from the warrior’s skull, holds it up to my light, intrigued, exhilarated, the dead so real the living can’t be.

Night Visitor — Robert Collet Tricaro
Death walks in, wearing a beret and holding a palette with a single color. With a wink he slowly tilts the palette. Catching moon’s dim light, the color seems fluid, tasting like fine claret without wetting my lips. It seems solid, feeling as

silken threads of cashmere as if spun by a versatile worm, with no touch to my skin. Appearing without form, it sounds like the purist notes bowed on Guanerius del Gesu, without conveying notice to my ear. A color that draws me to it like January sun. A color I could stare at, forever.

The Obituary — Fredrick Zydek
Out in the sea all the coral is dying. This death writes the obituaries of the trees, the elegies of great whales. requiems for those who still dream of circling other stars.

27 Day of the Dead, Port Richmond, NY photo by B. Fisher