-"

,

""\IV ~rERVVA YS: Poetry in the Mainstream July, 1993

VV A ~-"E R V\1 A YS: Poetry in the Mainstream Volume 14 Number 7

Richard Alan Spiegel & Barbara Fisher -- Co-Editors

Thomas Perry, Assistant

Kit Knight

Arthur Winfield Knight Alicia Erian

Joanne Seltzer

Patrick Sylvain

Ida Fasel

Terry Thomas

Michael Daley

John Grey

Waterways is published 11 times a year. Subscriptions -- $20 a year. Sample issues -- $2.60 (includes postage). Submissions will be returned only if accompanied by a scamped. self addressed envelope. Waterways, 393 St, Pauls Avenue, Staten Island, New York 10304-2127

1993 themes from William Blake's "Marriage of Heaven and Hell" .

. © 1993. Ten Penn y Players Inc.

4-9 10-11

Lyn Lifshin Will Inman

12-14 15 16 17-24 25-28 29-30 31-34

Robert Cooperman Bruce Hesselbach Neal Michael Dwyer Hannah Alexander Albert Huffstickler

July, 1993

35 36-37 38-39 40-46 47-48

49 50-56

THE LAST RIDE

KIT KNIGHT

We traded the baby blue Nash Rambler in

the day after I posed

for my graduation portrait.

I wore a red & white sweater. My parents bought

the car wheri. we lived

in Ohio. We drove it

to the navy base in Long Beach, California; after my dad

retired,

we drove it home

to Pennsylvania. The Rambler didn't have the flashy gold cushions

our old Ford did, but I still

could bounce in my seat

most of the way

across Kansas

as my brother & I played

travel BINGO. Mom was always the caller. By the time we got

to Arizona, I informed everyone, whining pathetically,

"My legs are going to wither away from inactivity." Three years

& another 20,000 miles later

I was entering my senior year

4

and wondering. I'd watched Jerry graduate two years before and he was in & out

of the family home.

Mosely out. The new car

my parents chose

was called an Ambassador. Dull brown and its air conditioning system

failed. The Rambler's air never failed. When my family climbed into the Rambler

to drive to the car lot

--the poet Louis Simpson said, the open road ends

at a used car lot--

on 10th Street, I remember floating next to myself

--as if I were watchina-

o

and absolutely knowing

that never again

would the four of us travel in the same car.

5

BOB BIRDWELL, 1932 HIGH RISKS

KIT KNIGHT

My husband is a Cherokee and his eyes give answers that are concealed in language. He says,

III' . d B

m marne to ob." Actually,

my name is Flora, but I've been Bob since before

I was born. Bank robbers are on the lips of America and

my George is partners with one of the most famous. No one who knows Charley ever

-£::I

calls him Pretty Boy, but papers love the colorful name. High risk professions breed bizarre happenings. George's dad

died and Charley went

to the funeral home carrying

his Tommy gun. And George helped Charley stickup his hometown

bank. Such was his reputation,

the sheri ff was 75 feet a way

and refused to realize

something was amiss till after

the men made their getaway with $2,530. Not a big haul,

but that's not why Charley

6

did it. He said

he could almost hear

the applause. The holdup wasn't a secret; close co 50 people

knew. Charley's Grandfather

got new overalls for the event and stood across the street. In

a neighboring shop, Charley courteously touched his cap

and asked Mr. Trotter to layoff the phone. Even though the FBI is modeled after the Pinkerton Detective Agency, which tried and failed for 15 years to catch Jesse James, I'm still worried.

I'

George says he'll never be lost because Indians remember the earth with their feet. And I say

it won't matter which bandit dies first. Charley's wife and I will sit with each other

at our husband's funerals.

7

TOXIC SHOCK KIT KNIGHT

Seventeen out of every 100,000 menstruating women go into Toxic Shock Syndrome. Laura is

the first woman I've met who's had TSS & she's over 30. Once we're that old we're not supposed

to get it. And even if

I were one of the 17,

my chance of dying

would be minimal as long as I told the doctor IMMEDIATELY

what I suspected.

8

Laura remembers a doctor yelling

and calling her stupid for not knowing

she wasn't supposed to use tampons when

she was sick. Her husband was too drunk to take her to the hospital, so David called an ambulance. Laura believes

that sa ved her life.

The problem would be getting far enough oucofshock

to remember to tell. Laura spent two weeks

in the hospital. David doesn't remember any of it.

The kids found daddy passed out; Nikki strained to pull her father

out of that doorway. Cereal for dinner.

II Laura's mother moved in and did David's job. Laura quietly glows &

her back straigh tens when she says, "Millicent was magnificent." Later, Laura's hands shook

with grief & rage

as she made the call. As David shuffled

out the door, he looked bewildered & shocked.

9

PRETTY BOY FLOYD WAITING ARTHUR W[NF[ELD KN[GHT

Someone tells Bob

,

III

t "vas an easy death.

He went like that," and snaps his fingers.

I think the man's a fool. There's no such thins

o

as an easy death. Bob says,

"I never seen dad

with such clean nails.

He always worked for a livin'." I stand in the doorway, holding the Thompson, waiting.

10

I lean against the door, a submachine gun cradled in my arms. They're looking for us in five states.

Bob stands

next to the coffin, wipinghis eyes

with the back of his hand. The room smells of roses aAd disinfectant.

ivlA Y 2, 1986 ARTHUR WIMtELD KNIGHT

dreaming,

as another trai n gees by like the ghost of my past. One of these days,

I'm getting out of here.

I'Iie here

listening to the trains go by. Each day

I talk about leaving, but I sit here drinking beer

and smoking cigarettes, the ashtrays filled

with butts. At night

I lie on the brass bed staring at the ceiling

in the darkness,

11

'I

THE RIDE HOME ALICIA ERIAN

He said

he didn't think I had a boyfriend

because there was never

one at my readings. What he figured out in a

minute took me

a year and a half. I tell him it's an

astute observation, and I think back to the time when,

as he puts it,

he was casing my life. Because now

I'm casing his. And about all I can tell

is that he's still with his girlfriend because she's short, and the seat is pulled up close

to the dash.

12

INSURANCE ALIC(A ER[AN

I got hit by

a car and with

the insurance settlement I'm going

co pay back myoid boyfriend for some collect calls I made.

I keep reading the note I'm going to

send him regarding

the international

money order, and especially the last line

which says, It would

be to your benefit

to contact me if it

hasn't arrived by September 30th. My heart beats faster

when I get to that

part. People will do anything for money.

13

"

THE PRIVILEGES OF LOUNGEWEAR ALICIA ERIAN

I'm going to

do my roommate's laundry. She lay on my bed in

her robe wishing aloud that she could pay someone to do

it, and I said

14

I would. She got up off

my bed and tightened

her robe. It seemed to be the natural order of things.

1492, 1992 JOA~NE Sa TZER

The discovery. White worms in my gut. A new naked world. Unsegmented, thin. Indigenous tribes. They eat what I eat. Alien gods. I passed one of them.

Divine tobacco. We share one poison. Smallpox on blankets. End of encounter.

15

16

SYRUP - PATR[CK SYLVA[N

,I

\Ve used to sic on brick fence

all four of us, Reginald, Francois, Bernard, and I; lined up with joy

peeling sugar cane

with our teeth, chewing

on the white root until juices flowed alongside our mouths, down our hands, and into our elbows. Our arms, bare and sticky, became a public arena

for bees looking for sweet flesh to hum their tropical songs.

~!US[\GS \VITH A PAPER:\I.-\TE IDA fA3EL

l.

The French are his friends. They call him Edgar Poe and bend our backs

co the difference Allan makes. They sent a poem

to be his mausoleum,

" zranite bezinninz arandlv

;..L 0 - .;:. .::. b J

and ending with our blasphemy.

As perhaps it was:

the angel still contends, stone hands co stone chin, eternity his,

his brothers, Cain.

2.

In Stratford in April

marchers bring flowers to the grave I a notebook

The legend is dynastic and pure.

Air in the church is clear and resonant. Pardon's the word for all, he said.

The lines over his bones

bad as what I'm writing down.

17

..,

.).

You can be warm, generous, nutty as anvbodv but the minute someone says' , r

you write poetry

everybody clams up.

People don't hate poets.

They scarcely know they are depri ved.

To be a poet is to be willing

to sneeze and miss gesundheit to bruise like peaches in a bag

no one running with a band-aid to rattle like a garbage pail cover down the street

wastebasket's plenty tumbling after

l

Also to read your rejects back to yourself and know in plain words

aw ful.

4

My child has an aptitude for writing and I worry. Will he go to bed

with the possible

and conceive the imponderable and wake to the ineluctable

never free of the U.S. POSt Office,

carrying into the deep-pitted magical universe the fear of muggers

bashing in the imagination

or s romping his typing hand?

18

J.

If chis field isn't baptized to new birth, I'll be wiped out. Totally.

r feel like Job hit with every weapon

in God's ample and efficient armament. "Wilt thou pursue this dry stubble?" They say Job's avowal of stubborn faith in suffering was a mistranslation,

that some pious tinkerer altered his words "no hope in him" co "trust in him."

Hope is not a slave of time

but a waiting worth the suspense. Whether or not I'U have a crop this year, the idea of rain takes dynamic form.

I see what isn't there.

I can hold over, if I have to.

19

6.

It's no surprise to salvage something

long forgotten from the pockets of my mind. But to have the gift of a line brought down as if by an angel writing in my hand

and with my pen -- what could be

more joyful? -- the life between us

the bonus of another life, the best weather for flying on a gray day: I drop

300 feet, cruise around a while

[hen zoom higher, my good fortune above the hurly-burly world. Holding steady

I see with a kind of wonder bird and air flying against each other, clearing

the view: only a bright penny of thought but this time mine for keeps.

7.

The poem of this morning could be written no other morning.

The poem of myself could be told

by no one else.

Do not then cruelly take my morning from me with what's for lunch.

Do not phone or ring the bell except in case of emergency.

and you, crossing the street for neighborly coffee,

or jogging, or running your dog,

do not turn to my window with a look, the lonely one in there,

you lonely ones out there.

20

CLEAN SWEEP - IDA FASEL

All summer I fought dandelion Viars, assaulted with spray,

ripped up endearingly open gold, stuffed inca plastic the life-giving leaves. And now a late one, one

I had overlooked, fighting back its globed head a quiver

of feather-tipped arrows shoe

inca my hand, the wounding power years after year. Attack gentle

as hummingbird to flower,

reminding me of return unoffended .. Organs with a rage to live.

21

-~~--------,~,,-

THE C[VlL WAR - IDA fASEL

How did civil, the best of people-co-people come to mean the worst possible brother-to-b rothe r?

I snapped no pictures,

bought no souvenirs, carried no heartbreaking histories home.

It was as if I'd taken the wrong off ramp

into brutal streets

and there was no more way out for me than for the soldiers who had to stay.

Yes, I saw

Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, Petersburg.

I saw that time, this time, time to come.

22

LECTURER IDA Fr\SEL

Stairway scone loses vista, Temple ruins absorb the sky. I doze in my seat.

He does not exactly drone, but his voice has a sandman quality, and the Aztecs built too tall for slides.

Lights go up. He steps away from the lecturn. His smile is kind,

his answers full and serious.

The sore of man who would nit: rip you off or do a drug deal. Held mentioned

airport delays and indigestible meals.

Held never make a fuss -- from the way he stands, courteous to his marrow.

I see him driving 600 miles

with a birthday presenc

and not wanting to inconvenience by staying. Not asking him to.

His eyes are gray-green. My father's eyes.

23

DEARLY BELOVED· IDA FASEL

With these rings we \vitness our vows. I to you, you to me.

With these great expectations we cross to each other,

each other's.

Happiness like music is made

of uneven parts.

With this stan: we set off the light of a star, a long time arriving.

24

VA~IPIRE DIALOGUES TERRY THO~lAS

What does he say or think?

"What a beautiful neck,"

or "Take me co your bleeder." Does he mug with

Abbott & Costello,

playing very straight man, grimacing at humor

with a shaft

of shtick through his heart?

Or has his part now

been Eaken by a midnight trucker, winging down lonely concrete arteries, thinking about metal

and chrome caskets

as he circles

in on the slow pulse

of an innocent compact?

25

OTHER LIFE INNOCENCE TERRyTHm.IAS

There she was, riding a rainbow, draped

for demure council, unaware

that the very root of her naivety

was a hairy issue with me.

Grapple and harden ww heavenly night.

There I was,

hiding a reputation, caped

for impure council, baring

the very fruit of her nativity

because scaly tissue was free. Apple the garden -- have a bite.

26

FIT YOUR PISTOL TERRY THQ:I;IAS

An old saying, tasting of sagebrush

and dusty as a broncbuster's bottom.

Something that's just right -a sip of whiskey

after filling an inside straight.

Not f tting ...

would then be the opposite -a snake strike

slower

than the kid with the big iron

on his hip,

or the last

slip

of hemp because ofa borrowed horse.

27

VESPERS TERRY THO\[i\S

I passed ash rine coda y - new one,

thrusting roughly up,

sky, scraping souls to heaven. I cruse things churchy (deliver unto me)

and lurched slightly from my straight and narrow -

marrow going cold as Satan's heart - when I saw a sign

(no burning bush)

for holy high jinks:

13[ZARRE.

Was this a bazaar of

a slightly bent f1avor-

enticing money changers, tickets f ngered by furtive lepers, cripples manning

booths and toothless crones selling sugar cookies, feeling for the host of graham crackers?

Or was I blinded by too

much glass and steel?

28

MEN WITH BL.·\~KETS· \[ICHAEL DALEY

From the emerald codes, floating in the clark screen, beeping at the travel agent,

I turn toward the window -again the phone has chirped, again she says "Sorry"

below the beaches of Tahiti

and the Beefeater poster from London. A man in ripped Hawaiian shirt,

faded flowers, sprints across the street, twists his head, arm arcing

the last wine out a green bottle.

29

He spauers (he label

as he drops it in the dumpster, his tongue a shocking red,

face compliant, almost tired of duties, buttoning his shirt like a great athlete.

The reservoir's mirror dances behind him. A white-haired man, skinny, in boxer shorts, sacks of breasts with blue tattoos,

I unges at a jogger, then coughs,

bent to almost falling, face red

between the shaft of quivering knees,

the elastic of his underwear

drooping past his wretched haunch.

I can't take my eyes away,

handed ticket and itinerary.

The man in flowered shire Iays him on the bench,

pulls a quilt up to his shoulder, drapes it, smooths ie.

I wonder are they lovers.

He just sits there, the old man lies still. Wind rimes the reservoir, dust picks up. He stretches, stands to bum a smoke

and is refused, and walks along the avenue.

30

OLD SOLDIER· jOH;\ GREY

Belly hangs out over belt line, he grins dreams of youth through sacrificial teeth

gray as his hair

trumpeting long ago machismo with an occasional burp.

He was in a war,

slim as his rifle then

and eager as the com b

that rattled his hair

in long trench days.

Now, his head celebrates

its famine with light-bulb shine

and his fingers stumble on the trigger of a fork and that gut, like a plaster buckled by flood, threatens his foundations.

But his gruff' voice demands attention, and his presence doesn't go unnoticed as what lingers on

the familiar side of grossness is nothing more than

all the battles he swallowed, the ones that refuse to die

as those ancient assembly line intestines struggle to overcome

the belch of memory.

31

~i/SITING UN€EE GEORGE j@HNGREY

Midnight. Traffic ligh [5

click from red to green even though there's not a car to b:e seen.

Some thin~ not only continue as ifnod\ingreallrhappened but feed on nothing happening, 5aying~Go" or "Stop" to

the darkness, the silence.

Two a.m.

His eyes blink with false breath, tubes link him to

the best this hospital can provide,

liquid pumped down this endless candle wick, no real fire)

merely the pointlessness of persistence.

We drive home from the hospital, grim with memories

half an hour old and shapeless. 32

These lighLS stop us in our tracks

for a few seconds

but are not glad for the company. He lives

longer than expected, propped up by progress, his body saying

"stop", "go",

to the walls, the ceiling.

SCHEDULES 0:0T KEPT Ioux GREY

I dream old water cowers,

splashing snakes in afternoon heat, dancing with the saturated air

to the music of a steam train

that whistles the horizon

towards its grinning vizor face.

And sometimes the platform, bustling with the molecules of travel: suitcases, white caps, trollies,

farewell kisses and sad-wristed waves." Or the ticket window

and its coal-black grating;

switches like shiny steel bo. v s wrapped round the sun-mirror track, that endless cathedral spire

pointing cowards the gods of distance.

But I can never focus on the enzine driver

b I

his blue overalls, wide-peaked cap coo much of a fog,

even the firm red hands

he once wiped clean with oily rags to hold me aloft

now tOO unsteady in my memory to wrap round the fingers

I rollover and crush beneath me as I sleep.

33

WINTER COM~[UTE JOHN GREY

Winter trees from train window fold up into one.

My eye knows this gaunt stranger, wind-snapped into prayer

bald arms flustered

by bitter cold.

He is the old man in the train station,

begging the guilt out of me. Or the former lover

I spilled like coffee

one hectic selfish morning.

My father's stroke, my mother's "lords,

a cousin vamped by cancer, or even the pale face

pressed against the restaurant glass that swallowed my fat meal

deeper than I did.

One tree summarizes all trees and all trees know

no matter how fast we travel, this train can't hurtle me

out of anything.

34

--

MARILYN MONROE He probably was bur softer and with lining up satin
READS ABOUT hiking, and put up the moon and the pillows wrisslins
, bb· b
THE MAN camp and died and leaves zoinz blood deeper as this man,
b b
BURIED 5000 YEARS it got very cold. and cherry, berries still intact, as if
Marilyn shivers, she could make waiting for her,
LYN L!FSHIN thinks of nights a sloe gin to dull letting the moon
alone where nothing the cold in her wash him, waits
discovered intact, could warm her. fingers or to she smiles, pouring
not even bugs She imagines nibble between more vodka for her
gnawed him, not the deer skin she pills. He placed tongue to melt
a fox or a vulture could wrap in warm- his tools around him him back to life.
as she's felt the ing her like an she reads, taking
teeth of so often. electric blanket off her diamond
and ruby bracelet,
35 I I

HER SOUNDINGS - WILL INMAN

her father declared his family had no vision, but she could make with her voice

a skein of sound, she would plait the sound into a rope of reach. It stretched inside

those who listened and wrapped around their secret knowledge like hungry roots. she would retrieve that awareness with her plaited soundings. i never quite understood how she did it, but i could watch her eyes and tell

when she'd gained from within me what i myself had forgotten or had never known was there. i didn't know how to sound back into her for

what was mine. she would weave that knowing

36

like a rug of green rushes, would tread that resonance the wayan adept can walk on water. she'd dance to rhythms i had no ears for. my heart moved to a tamer beat. not so with her. she could take a quiet pulse and swiften it into a tarantella. with spider's bite, coo,

for weaker listeners.

later, i was able to

tell her no, was strong enough not to listen, not allow her sound to enter me, could cut off her voice like hair, let it fall

between us, such winter leaves. her mouth would shape curses i refused to hear, i'd laugh and wade her fallen shadows, they'd sting my feet, toughen my step. i used her

to grow by, how she swore, her sweated lava scorching my ankles.

strong enough now to stand outside her sounds, so, i can join in her reaching with all things

first published in Charninade Literary Review spring/fall 1992

37

, I

THE LAISTRYGONES DESTROY ALL BUT O~E OF ODYSSEUS' SHIPS ROBERT COOPER~IAN

38

We knew what he wanted, his ships tacking into our inlet of cliffs

like wolves careless for an easy kill. We gave him a booty of boulders, sent all but one of his ships down

along with their crews, pirates so proud of their victory at whoring Troy

they thought any city would fall to them like silly girls you have only

to smile at and steady your arms

for their swooning, mastered weight.

We gave them something co ponder when he crows about the hoax

of his Wooden Horse, the heroes

his arrows dispatched

with their hiss of distant terror;

when he brags of (he shields he took, the silver and gold trays and tripods lading his boats so heavily it required only a sparrow's weight of scones

to make his men swallow all the water their avid mouths could hold.

Maybe he'll learn the world is not his for the plucking,

that men who live on rough cliffs

have a right to their treasures,

co the love of their women and children, lives they will kill for.

Let him ride the waves forever, drinking sale. like a witch's blood, dying of thirst in sight of land. Cruel of us? One gets that way living on cliffs of heel-tearing scones that overlook the eternal, brutish fists of the sea.

39

5.·\0:T(\ ROSE DE Tr;\GUIDr~ I3RLTCE HESSE L.B,\C H

Wrestlina skv of dark and lizhr

OJ· 0 ~

aquamarine and blurry clouds, fitful as a dolorous night.

The tall adobe bclltower looms above the peaceful hacienda where the allamand::t blooms,

where the winding streets are led along the dormant gray stonewalls like rows of baking friar's bread.

How shall the coilinz farmers learn

.:> '

unless the belltower sound the: time

co end their labors and return:

Wrestling sky of dark and; light, aquamarine and blurry clouds, fitful as a dolorous night,

40

DOWNRIVER TO LOP l\"OR BRlJCE HESSELBACH

In 1901 the explorer Sven Hedin predicted (hac a river in the Takla Makan desert would change its course so that the dry basin of Lop Nor would again become a lake. He reasoned that wind and water erosion over long periods of time would cause the river to shift back and forth between two courses, the last shift having occurred in 334 AD. Many doubted his prediction and some wrote ingenious refutations of it, but the river rebutted them by changing course in 1921. When Hedin revisited the area in 1934, the banks of the new river were still uninhabited. In recent times the Lop Nor area has been used by China as a nuclear test site.

Once a youthful wanderlust led me to travel here By camel down dry river to the dry lake of Lop Nor,

41

Discovering a town that had been lost a thousand years And prophesying truly that the lake would live once more And a river change its course to fill the salty shore.

Who could know that in my life such wonders I would see, Tb return when old to watch the grebes and ospreys soar? Yet on the lonely river no one travels now to save me.

A thousand graves are found here: one a silk-enwrapped young girl In boat shaped coffin perched beyond the river's gentle shade.

Part of a crossbow, lacquered hairpins, potsherds and a pearl

Recall the Silk Road and the endless flow of ancient trade.

On overhanging bridges once, reflected water played.

The hearts of travelers beat faster, voices filled with glee

Their eyes lit up to see the fountain, lawn and fertile glade.

Yet on the lonely river no one travels now save me.

42

Karuk Daria, thirsty river, flood of molten snow,

From immortal glaciers where the angry dragons growl Down to gravel desert slow as Sisyphus you go.

The cyclic river lives with lizards, tamarisks, wild fowl, Growing beds of rushes, anxious weasels on the prowl, Crying bitterns, feral camels full of dignity,

Jagged rows of yardangs where the winds of gypsum howl, Yet on the lonely river no one travels now save me.

Here fantasies abound; mirages float upon the sky.

No one dwells here but the ghosts that sit on every tree. Rebirth is overshadowedby the desert's empty sigh. And on the lonely river no one travels now save me.

43

TO;vlBST00-IE CEREMONY ON VA0.:U ISlAND BRUCE HESSEL BACH

The procession came back loudly from the dead Wearing painted masks, the symbols of their clan, With a corps of singers at their head

And two guests, a woman and a man.

The yellow sun was dripping from the trees

As they came in columns beating drum and gong, Pacing, turning, bending from their knees.

The revelry, she feared, would last too long.

Then the women did a dance about the sea, Swaying back and forth, an azure moon.

How their feathers rose and crested urgently Like Torres Island winds in the monsoon.

..

His influence was secure among the clan

For they respected knowledge. Mountain goat Or lobster to their eyes, he was the man

To build an engine that could power a boat.

He stood among the natives, felt their song, Blessed their harvest, cursed the times the sea Betrayed them. A smile for each sarong,

He'd flatter island beauty gallantly.

Yet she was still the missing prize,

The treasure that he saw beneath the waves Beyond his grasp. Her bedroom eyes

Had given way to panic-stricken caves.

The turtle shells were stuffed and laid on fire In earthen pits to rhythms beat by hand.

45

She called herself a hypocrite, a liar,

To flee his world of palms and powder sand.

He advertised for her in Melbourne once.

He sought a "wife", in quotes, for island bliss. But he was just a fool and she a dunce

To think that she could ever live like this.

He didn't really mean for just a year Although he'd said so on that printed page. And, yes, his quotes were all too cavalier, But what did he expect in middle age?

In time the songs grew quiet, and the crowds. Breezes settled, singers snored in tune.

The moon was fleeing from the hungry clouds; The lemon sharks were baying at the moon.

46

AVEi\'UE DES FLEURS - NEAL \IICHAEL DWYER

You were not mad, but dented -

the painter of!lAngst" and other frarncless works.

'We sac. You, large in your kitchen chair, found it

hard to breathe, smoke after smoke. I coughed a little toO

down dark halls of your home no prayer of light could crack-

I found it hard CO sit too long with you.

You told me you 'were up at four,

so racked with colors you couldn't dream

or sleep, and that your asthma forced your wife

to steep alone. 47

In your studio, chipped

and splattered with a hundred mornings,

I found once, under poems, a photo of you young and married, thin et beau - unaltered by shards of Nicois light.

You were, enfin, successful.

48

But a dim bulb hung high

from a high ceiling, over a drippy sink, your shaky monologue, two old dogs.

And a front room of works on the floor gathered shadow for as long as I knew you.

GRIEF - H!WNAH ALEX:\.\,DER

grief is a ravenous wolf

crouched outside the circle of light created by small flame, lit and kept alive by finite courage

were I to extinguish that fire with tears or by the breath

of desolation, the wolf named grief

would leap to my throat and drink the blood poisoned by your death

no longer nourished by the touch of love.

49

t\T WYATTIS CAFETERIA ALBERT HUFFSilCKLER

The black lady behind me never stops talking.

She's her own Greek chorus. It's not intrusive.

She catalogues and comments on

each dish

with asides about the prices,

her digestion,

conditions in general

in a sibilant monotone

not unlike background music. Muzak with soul.

The meal progresses melodiously till, sated, she sics back

blessing each empty vessel

with her silence.

May 9,1987

so

BRIEF POE~'I ON WO~IEN ALBERT HUFFSTICKLER

I don't think I

could take somebody into me the way a woman does.

And I don't think I

could let somebody

out of me either.

I don't know which calls for more courage.

In the one case

you're completely vulnerable to invasion;

in the other,

co abandonment. And that's as far

as I can get with this.

3/6/90

51

.1

AIRPORT, ALBUQUERQUE - ALBERT HlJFFSTICKLER

Having blundered my way through three airports and arrived in Albuquerque with no major mishaps, I feel comfortably anachronistic in the knowledge that I will never

be at home off the ground.

However, I will not pray anymore that the Chase Manhattan computer will lose my Visa account

for fear that that same computer, malfunctioning, will drop me out of the sky over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

I am, very simply, overwhelmed. I don't know anything.

I am more than content to ask directions of anyone in a uniform or with a burton on their lapel, having ascertained to my satisfaction that it takes longer to find a place to pee in Dallas-Ft. Worth 52

chan it rakes co fly to California.

1 have learned the true meaning of the word surrender

and I was never so proud of my fellow countrymen as when I

discovered that they could run an airport.

And I have learned trust by being guided by strangers to a vehicle whose workings I do not comprehend that flies in an out and around other vehicles

and gets me where I'm going with no help on my part whatsoever. 1 begin to understand the true meaning of the word Destiny.

1 understand the cessation of thought:

I died in the terminal at Austin to be born again in Albuquerque as will-less as a fruit fly.

And now, having witnessed the Twentieth Century miracle of air travel,

I await the shuttle that will take me to Santa Fe, 53

which will take slightly longer co get me those last sixty miles than it took me to get here from Austin.

But do I mind? Of course not.

Mind is no longer a word in my vocabulary.

I sit here in the terminal restaurant drinking coffee at only

a dollar a cup

while everything around me glows with a supernatural light.

Surely Delta and Southwestern will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell (eventually) in the Hotel St. Francis for six days--

if the computer hasn't lost my reservation.

.

Albuquerque Dec. 21,1989

S4

HOW I DISCOVERED THE UNIFIED FIELD THEORY ALBERT HUFFSTICKLER

It only cook two beers.

That was when I was a freshman at theUniversity of North Carolina. I was sitting in a bar called Pat's or something,

alone, JUSt finishing the second one,

well on my way to enlightenment.

I had just read Lust for Life and was thinking about

something Stone had said about Van Gogh's drawings of peasants. You couldn't cell where their feet ended and the earth began.

The idea engulfed my beer-saturated mind and I understood: there was no division=between peasants' feet and the earth, between anything.

It was all a single creation. Everything fit together.

I sat there revelling in the thought for minutes or hours and it came to me that that was what I was about:

telling people that there was no division. Later, my world collapsed.

There was nothing mystical about my binges anymore.

Now, almost 62t I evoke that memory and think of all that has

happened since:

water under the bridget water over the dam.

B tit somewhere, beneath it all, that revelation persisted, vanishing only to resurface at certain crucial moments in my life. It carried me through the Sixties.

It is with me now.

I am not afraid to die. There is no division.

Nothing is ever lost.

56

first published in Paisley Moon, 1992