ISSN 0197-4777

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WATERWAYS: Poetry in the Mainstream December, 1990

The priority is overcoming the injustice, not punishing the unjust.

WATERWAYS: Poetry in the Mainstream

Volume 11 Number 11 December, 1990

Richard Alan Spiegel & Barbara Fisher - Co-Editors Thomas Perry, Intern

Carlo Pittore Ida Fasel Rose Romano Laurel Speer

Sr. Mary Ann Henn Joanne Seltzer Joan Payne Kincaid

3 4·8 9-15 16 17·19 20 21-22


Pat Anthony Susan Luther

Arthur Winfield Knight William J. Vernon Anne Burke

Susan Packie

23·25 26·31 32-33 34·35 36-40 41-44

WATERWAYS is published 11 times a year. Sample issues $2.50 (includes postage), SUbscriptions $20 a year. Submissions will be returned only if accompanied by II stamped, self addressed envelope. Waterways, 393 St. Pauls Avenue, Staten Island, New York 10304-2127. 1990 themes from A Journal of Platitudes by David Fisher.

€! 1990, Ten Penny Players Inc.



"Our reliance is in the love of liberty .... Our defense is in the spirit which p rized liberty as the heritage of all men, and all lands everywhere."

Abraham Lincoln, September 13,1858



Should I know better? Admit it is human nature to be mainly inhuman, predatory, wild?

Candles, I have a wish where the heart is.

Candles, history sputters over the course

of human events with scarcely as much light as yours. Brutality is the order of its pages ~~ brutality at home, in the streets; governments against their people, country against country.

Candles, I dream of a quality of civilization accountable to peace and good will.

If I babble to myself like a humming child, I have grown words for the tune--

words more gentle than sad, though sad,

more pure than innocent, for innocence is lost,

more brave than fearful, fear a constant threat. The more the odds against them,

the more luminous the words.

Candles, first the risk and then the risk. I sway in gale winds as you do,

my staging-area a high white cupola, only a low balustrade for guard,

the plank I stand on level, firm, true, my point of view beyond the limits

of the overwrought city toward all

that is life-giving, reasonable, merciful.

Candles, hold your light to my wish and your dark against the dark.



Which to let go?

The yellow cat or the black? They snarl, they collide,

they fling each other away from me. Karen understands my need for solitude. I keep her in.

Klaus understands my need for a change of scene.

I jog, he gallops ahead. Belligerents, they settle

for their equal but different share in me. We live at peace in a house of war.

We get along not getting along.




you can pray or fire.


you can reload your death machine or walk upright one to one.

Lying flat

you can make the noise of war a glory of cloud and thunder

or reduce the terrain to what it is: an ordinary and unarguable wonder, live, let live, speak the language

of the incredibly right thing.

Imagine you're John.



I am still making discoveries

about myself and the way things are. For instance, my guardian angel turned out to be (when I saw

she couldn't lift a package of books) only persistence,

only myself urging myself along.

Habits were slavery till I made

a good one of paper and ballpoint, like a cave explorer prowling around for hours without a natural horizon, minding the world,

asking pro babies and possibles:


how likely? why not?

getting it all down, over and over -" only freedom,

only myself urging myself along.

And best of all, the Muse I asked for from Helicon

proved no deity by whole or half -only time and over time

only hope

only myself urging myself along.


Ladies! Ladies!

May I have your attention, please, ladies?

First of all, I think we should all give a big round of applause

for this lovely luncheon

and our lovely caterer

who worked so hard

to prepare it.

Now then, ladies, we all know the purpose

oftoday's luncheon.

Today we foment revolution.

And, may I say, ladies-dt's about time!

I'm sure you ladies will agree that there is no need

to run through a long list

of our grievances.

I think we all know

what our grievances are by now.

From the husband who empties an ashtray and thinks he did

our housework for us

to the husband who refuses to take out the garbage because he's too liberated to act according to

sexist role playing-.


I think we all know

where our problems originate.

Yet we have never been able to get together

to plan our revolution.

And have you ever wondered what is the true reason for our inability

to get together

to plan our revolution?

There are many of you here this afternoon who think we haven't been able

to get together

to plan our revolution because we've never been able


to find a day when

we could all get baby-sitters.

Or some of us had to drive a daughter to ballet

or a son to little league.

Frankly, ladies, I, myself was once unable to attend a meeting

to plan our revolution

because I had to prepare dinner for my husband's boss-I absolutely could not

trust the cook to do it.

But those days are over.

We must ensure that those days are over.

That husband of mine has suffered

from premature ejaculation for the last time.

And frankly, ladies, so have It Now then, ladies, permit me to reiterate--

why have we been unable to get together

to plan our revolution?

Well, let me ask you this-how are we supposed to have a revolution

if someone's always having her period?

Noone I ever knew

all through high school would go to gym

when she had her period-how can we expect anyone to go to war

with her period?

Don't ladies plan their wedding days, and their wedding nights,

so they don't get their period d uring them?

Who wants to psych herself up for a revolution

when she can't even

fight her way through

a depression?

Who wants to stand tall and look tough

when she's doubled over


with cramps?

Who wants to fight

in hand-to-hand combat when she's got

lower back pain?

Who wants to go looting with a headache-especially knowing

how rude sales help can be?

Who wants to lie in a trench with diarrhea--and

who wants to

lie in there with her?


How absurd!

How impossibly ridiculous!


It is when we have Ol.IT period that we have Ol.IT power.

It is when we have our period that we are truly

like the goddesses.

It is when we have our period that the rich, red blood

of birth and re-birth

flows to prove our strength.

Yet we have been trying to plan our revolution for a day when

none ofus

has her period.

But those days are over.

We must ensure that those days

are over.

It's all been a terrible mistake.

All this time, we should have been planning our revolution

for a day when

we do have our period.

N ow then, ladies, the first thing we must do

is get out

our lunar calendars and chart our cycles with great care.

We will all have special assignments according to what phase

of our menstrual cycle

we are in and

how heavy our flow is.

For example, those with a heavy flow will serve as decoys.

These ladies will appear to be wounded,

their own menstrual

blood smeared on their clothing.

N ow then, ladies, do you remember your glorious foremother,

that great and powerful warrior, the Amazon Queen Penthesilea?

Do you remember how she was raped as she lay dying?

Imagine yourself lying on the ground.

A man lowers himself


upon you.

You reach up, knife in hand and, bringing your arm down in a swift arc, bury your knife in his back.

Now, ladies, have you begun to suspect that I've forgotten

those of us who suffer fromPMS?

Do you really believe I could have overlooked the special services such ladies are able to offer?

Let us remember--it takes


a very angry lady

to make a revolution.

Yes, all of you ladies

who suffer from PlVIS--

think of how glorious it will be, of how appropriate it will be, to use your PlVIS

in the service

of our revolution.

Think of how consciousness-raising it will be, of how liberating it will be,

when you no longer have to control your bitchiness.

And, yes, ladies--think of

how satisfying it will be, of how much fun it will be,

to bash in a few mcp skulls while under the influence of a problem they claim

is all in om minds.

And so, ladies, as we proceed to plan OUI revolution, let us remember

the smiling young lady in the tampon instruction flyer

who dares to wear white short-shorts during her period.

Let us remember to emulate her and to bleed proudly

for OUI sisters.

And let us remember that OUI husbands

envy our ability

to bleed and yet remain unharmed.

And let us remember it is up to us to help our husbands

bleed as we do.

And, yes, ladies, when OUI husbands come to us to tell us

that though they bleed

as we do, they do not

remain unharmed,

let us remember

to tell them

it's all in their minds.



I want to recall Mussolini's end. I had occasion to look it up; a long time ago and not much recalled anymore. Here it is:

A Communist partisan found him with Clara in a farmhouse on Lake Como. He and his men drove them to a wall and shot them. Bang, you're dead.

"I execute the will ofthe Italian People," he said. Their bodies

were brought to Milan and given up to the mob; kicked, beaten, hung upside down by their heels; shot again - "Five shots for my five murdered sons," yelled a mother - finally cut down, secretly

buried, the grave found, trampled, spat on.

It was some moment in history; a reversal; justice meted out; a frenzy. Few moments yield such satisfaction; such reprisal; such gouging out. Hurrah for us.

first publislied: Sulphur River Literary Review



SR,l\LlliY A'iN HENN

We're that rich when it comes to war? But when it comes to those who need more like kids in our Mississippi or our elderly or

El Salvador we can't afford nuthin?? Which comes first people

or war?



crammed into jail cells

like turkeys grown in cages. No space, no time to grow no good no minds.

When turned loose returning to former ways ways of repeating

repeating why not HELP that murderer

to see what he is doing what he could be?


MURDERERS - SR.lVl<\RY fu"m I-IEl'1'N


That Black Man

is a nigger," he said. "That's all he is. He doesn't need what we humans do. Get him outa here."

So what if we punish

the yeller? He may be silenced but someone else will quote his call unless we grow to a higher stage lifting that Black Man

to where he has

the right to be.


MUSE TALl{ - JOA.l'lNE SELTZEfl A poet must be true to her muse.

No need to tell you what a muse is.

I have the world's most difficult muse-his superego gives me no choice.

If you are a poet you wonder,

"Why do I do it? Why me? Why Him?" "God chose us," is the only answer that satisfies. I write this poem

out of anger at a language which

is not without blemish. Every leap forward is followed by two leaps back-after making love we fall asleep.

Sometimes I am not true to my muse.

Sometimes I write about injustice.


To your congressman when the innocents are killed and bleeding they know what ... send you back a letter telling you it's perfectly ok

because they took

a trip there

and know.




2 Siamese cats bed

plaster cold as death she can't see

but knows there's a new war and cormorants in the harbor like women with lifted skirts a stray male makes the bitch

sing her lovesongs;

the man saying to the woman "I'll bury you"

in a journey without redemption


meets someone at Roy Rogers in a cotton halter-dress;

he says "You're strong"

and she pretends

but loses him

to a preference for bachelorhood; she prefers the company of animals

gags at the government's destruction--

no one sees the men landing there

or the mountain lions

in their lifeless



How do they feel or do they know themselves to be the other?

Their coats' color so unlike brownselved ancestors of black noses, white sent, and lemon freckled young?

And are they envied in late night when muscles ripple into fast moving snow drifts in the moonlight? Or when, at leafs rustle, they freeze into warmblooded marble fawns?

In good season, their great white bucks fill the bellies of their does

with kicking young and bring

more changelings from the dappled shades. Themselves recognize

no distinction save dark and light.

Shades of brown, like historical coincidence, left to humans cowering in blinds

along woods' fringe. Herds content to

sport eight and ten-point velvet racks.

To nose aside leaves that already thicken in cooling streams. To remember where moss will green, midwinter. To sharpen the universal instinct: black and white business

so understated as survival.



She has ridden

the busses for two

hours in her starched dress. And walks in

now, damp, wrinkled; strands of hair straying from the black mass pulled tightly into a bun on her nape. I sense another attempt on her part

to argue me into moving back home and want to tell her,

before she speaks, about

the futility of it all.

But she offers me a twisted grocery bag, smelling of damp kraft, and says simply, smiling, "I thought perhaps you

could use some oranges."


GENERATIONS - SU5Al'i LUTHER Companeros 'via simple and complicated circumstance, we temporarily take tea

& compensation, conversation

suddenly turning to chicken-

pox, shingles, childhood diseases

with adult consequences we have

or haven't had. Polio was, of course,

we agree, the worst dread when we were young. I recall (to us) hilarious

jokes at the expense of "sabe another oral," sweet--no sweetened=vaccine we drank from miniature

paper cups. Then, trading far-off

aspirations, one explains how, artist

now, what once seemed glorious was to be



a policeman, just like daddy: to be a good soldier.

Days later, I wonder whether "good soldier" signifies literal

or figurative, keep remembering things I didn't know I'd repressed or forgotten, walks home

from kindergarten, passing daily the slightly older child

whose braces & crutches still say, 'Look, I wasn't so lucky

as you.' How later lance married

and then, tired of the confining life, left a very good soldier. How I'd watch

the 82ncl Airborne drift out

ofthe sky like white


puff-balls come

to land, ripe cumulus discharging its smoke

like seed: how I'd never read

the novels he, my gung-ho Ranger, recommended

that would convince me

The War was right

and I was wrong. How nevertheless I wrote to him at Bien Hoa nearly every

day, vowed & behaved the whole time (in spite of inclinations)

as though my faithfulness

might save a life. Now, married

again to one whose earlier war


was itself never officially called more than "a police action," knowing his sore misgiving that for him & lost compadres smashed at sea

by the U.S.S. Wasp

there is yet no adequate

memorial, what comes home

again is the Viet Vets truck that's scheduled for another pick-up at my house Friday week, the wall one day

I must go to but not alone

to construe

the braille of the familiar

and unfamiliar names of my brothers, good soldiers all, there and here, whose expense

of spirit I can no longer simply call

a waste of shame.






"It's just one of those freak things ... " Recuperating in his hospital bed from gunshot wounds,

the Senator says

he isn't mad


his friend mistook him

for a turkey

(out on a Saturday shoot

in the woods outside of Jackson he got dropped

in the swamp when his lifetime buddy


spied motion behind an oak tree, misread camouflage suit as feathers)--

though he's lucky he isn't dead.

(He is, however, pocked for good

in several strategic places.

... And can he be sure

said misfiring was altogether a mistake?

Haven't all of us, one time

or another, suddenly found our congress less of flock

than alien feather, found ourselves secretly praying

for some dead ringer in the brake?)


Ij ~e do 11il/ kl1ilw IL'hc! the faa of tyrnnny locJ:s like,. and what our moral re:;/Xlmibiliry u'hen conjrorJed by iJ is, it is too late

[or anj1hir.g to teach IJS. - ROVJI Zallu

feeling sorry

for myself

because one's taking to school

his daughter, a life

I never was or will be

part of except

as my parents' child

& another, past forty, still thinks

of a family he may have -- because

a woman's biology claims her so much

more completely & so early: then I read

a headline, find how many will no lonzer


read, I push my chair back notice the scrape of metal

on glazed clay as music


there are children

wake up face

this face

this tyranny



we'd just finished breakfast when We heard

a loud shot

l'vlomruy rushed

into the other room screaming

I ran after her and saw Daddy lying in his blood Mommy was

on her knees

by his side



a few minutes later

a crowd began to gather on the lawn

in front of our house I grabbed

Daddy's shotgun aiming it

at the people coming up the hill I was only six screaming


but Mommy grabbed the barrel her hands bloody

taking the gun

away from me

as the crowd

came up the hill Mommy was cry-ing bloody

GET AWAY FROM HERE but the people

kept coming and coming yelling



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DURli~G THE SUi\ll\IER RIOTS - WILLIAM J. VERNON Houses burned. Cars were stoned on Third.

Firemen were shot at. Evening News

pictured looters, ransacking stores,

and cops chased by teens. One threw

a Molotov cocktail, was caught

and beat senseless. Threats were phoned in to radio stations, then broadcast.

Anger, condemnation, hate: when

the shock let us think, we knew why

there were laws. Why restraint should be taught. Why respect and justice lie thumping beneath social order. We

watched machine guns aim across bridges--over the river that set

off the ghetto. The hot mist rose, smog banks like poison gas that

had been sprayed on the city. The Still merely thickened the air. We tried talking, tried to understand one

another. What really worked? Time, applied

like a bandage. Tolerance given

with forgiveness. Now we share common, wider streets, our interests woven.

Our smiles hide the one simple reason.



OF A DISSIDENT* . ANNE Bumrn "He felt that the world

had forgotten him"


white fish (now 1 know drained of blood) bulging red eyes

the body of a man

was discovered that night drowned in his own blood on the living room floor

a shotgun lay beside him and his eyes use to be blue


once he lifted weights

went to the movies, ate chinese food and sat in cafes lU1tillate at night

talking about the world contemplating


to economize he had moved to an unfurnished room bare except for a typewriter he slept on the floor


to avoid windows (the threat of hands

reaching through to snatch him up in the middle of the night)


he felt demeaned by personal business ventures that failed

his occasional jobs, drywalling

and bus driving, it began by missing shifts on his job as a security officer first for an overdose of sleeping pills and then the wrist-slashing episode he decided the only sure

way was with a gun

his name was mis-

spelled on the will

and the note was typed

a gentle explanation of injustice no evidence of forced entry


he would wake screallllng

from a nightmare he would dream

that his father was still alive somewhere, waiting

for his help

Amnesty international sends for immediate release another list of urgent appeals

this time actors, held without cause free-thinkers in a country without thoughts

A pattern of death threats

abductions, torture and in a few cases killings by clandestine forces

has developed


the brutality of it rankles how secret police broke into

your father's small publishing office located in a garage

repeatedly shot him with a handgun then split

his skull open with an a,'(e. The killers were never captured

I take up an axe, instead of the pen

finger the edges cautiously turning the blade over and over white-hot in my hands

"Dumir Durehouic, son of author Stjepan Durehouic, leader in the Calgary Croatian. community.



You think it's cool to saunter into school with the dark shades over the eyes

and the cover over the brain proclaiming "I don't need this to live on the street.

I don't need somebody else's words and ideas, grammar, sentence structure,

and thoughts with beginnings and ends. I only need power.

If I'm loud enough and use enough slogans ... " You think it's bright

until the affects of last night wear off, until you're standing alone in the cold and nobody anywhere

is listening to your pleading,


until you realize that no one even understands the plight you can't quite articulate,

until you see that power comes through

taking the shades off your mind

and beginning to fight,

not with your fists or om curses, but with your brain,

and you catch on

that is where it's at.



They line up one-by-one on my ark standing side-by-side

staring out at the rising tide

of bigotry and violence

the flames of hatred

consuming the dry land

leaving only the eternal sea.

The ark holds no place

for sexual domination

throws stereotypes out the door he, she, it becomes meaningless in the oneness of creation.

No Ararat looms on the horizon. The ark idles in the water.


No progeny is planned in a world hell-bent on self-destruction.

No seed flows between species.

The future will have to -'

,I!!: .-

take care of itself _ ...... , .. :/Y ...

if a future there be. -~~'" ;{:,;.~"S:}i,} .. ('.:.::';:,-'-'1

-<~~, :;-.; .. ~.\.~ .. ,.-. ,

A dove scans the horizon for leaves. '~~~i'~;:~,. :'" <r:·-::.I





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