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E vVATERWAYS:-Poetry in the Mainstream June 1994

~====~'5,_ The stage is all men's mirror clear. They who condemn it, judgment pass Upon themselves. Who fly it, fear

To meet their image in the glass

1

"W" ATE R'\A1 A YS: Poetry in the Mainstream

Volume 15 Number 6 June, 1994

Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher Thomas Perry, Assistant

COIl. t:eIl. t:s
John Grey .4 Joan Payne Kincaid 17 Cathleen Cohen 32
Kit Knight 5-6 H. Edgar Hix 18-19 Will Inman 33-39
Matt Dennison 7 Susanne R Bowers 20 Lyn Lifshin 40
Ida Fasel 8-10 Michael Hathaway 21-22 Terry Thomas 41-44
. David Michael Nixon 1112 Gertrude Morris 23-30 . Albert Huffstickler 4548
Joanne Seltzer 13-16 Arthur Winfield Knight 31 ~

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 stamped, self addressed envelope. Waterways, 393 Sr. Pauls Avenue, Staten Island, New York 10304-2127 1994 themes from William Watson's Epigrams of Art. Life and Nature (1884).

© 1994, Ten Penny Players Inc.

2

. '". - ~ _'

3

MY ONLY CATTLE SALE John Grey

one old man blowing his nose, a thousand bucks at a time.

Rows of seats round the ring, paradoxically sq uare,

a hundred buff-skinned ranchers spoke cigarette smoke

at each other

as thick-hided bulls stirred up red dust

My brother-in-law warned me

to keep my hands safely out of sight as my older sister pressed down

her new, wide-brimmed hat

in uneven struggle

against the wind.

IIWhat am I, what am I bid for this Brahman, what am I, what am I..."

Long before I knew

the power of thought, of imagination, I learned the potency

of something as simple

as fingers twitching nervously in jeans pockets

at the same moment

as I heard the warnings against its use.

The stands came alive with signals,

a finger brushing a cheek, '

a loud clap from the back, .

4

"

SALLIE CHISUM, 1878 CLEAR LIGHT

Kit Knight

At 16, I've spent half my life watching boys show off

for me. This summer is serious; I'm managing Uncle John's house and presiding

over a table set for

twenty-three. My uncle is

Cattle King of New Mexico Territory; 80,000 Chisum cows range part of Lincoln County. And that county alone

is as big as South Carolina. Skies in the west

are huge. Back home, there's nothing like this. Western stars are painted with magic. I'd heard stories about outlaws. Billy the Kid shot men between the eyes at 30 feet and never flinched. Silhouetted

by a sun so bright it was

as if someone had shot

the day off in my face,

I watched Billy race

his mare and casually lean from.his saddle to scoop up cosmos,

the show daisy. He came in 'wearing a six-gun on his hip

and carrying a Winchester and I didn't need to know

who this boy was to know 'what he was. During the War, hundreds of reckless rebs behaved as if they were

in search of death. As Billy

. removed his hat and handed me the flower, he said, "I'm not

as bad as they say; newspapers have me as half-animal." I was stunningly.aware

Billy's body was graceful and slim as clear light. Almost pleading, Billy added,

n A gunfighter ain't nothin' but a man."

5

JOSIE YOUNGER JARRETIE FEBRUARY 13, 1866

Kit Knight

Just when we get to thinkin' there's nothin' new

under the sun because the War is over and we already learnt how to make the dead cringe, my loved ones join in America's first bank robbery. Ever. Two of my brothers,

my husband, and five other men were led by Frank and Jesse James. I was witness

to something original. A little piece of history. The men escaped

6

with $61,000 and my John's cut bought new fences and

a cow. We bought a neighbor

a cow, too. One of my brothers got a larger share because

Cole was actually in the bank pointln' his pistol. Most

of the men stayed outside

and shot the air to warn

people off the streets and away. One college student didn't listen. Guns are

lethally believable. If soineone was wavin'a revolver at me, I wouldn't need told

to back off, Especially after the nervousness of war. Rage

and violence in unexpected . corners. One of my uncles died carryin' potato peel in's

to the hogs. And no one

would tell me who put

four shots in the heart --awesome accuracy--

of the college student; altho John did say the gang learned

. marvelous precision

on this robbery and future ones will be smoother. I considered the dumb student; my husband should have called it "murderous precision."

NICK1S Matt Dennison

from bare kitchen cabinets.

The players had style. They existed firmly within the sawdust music

nights.

At less than twenty we sat. in Nick's bar watching

the same pool players night after night

until of necessity

we named them

to allow ourselves shorthand discussions

of their various

approaches to the game after we had crossed

the field behind the bar and returned to the house where hungry rats jumped

They appeared at least angels of a sane and sufficient universe

They could dance,

laugh and demand money, make them balls do what they told them

to.

....

7

THE EXAMINED LIFE Ida Fasel

The nurse leaves me

to wrap myself in paper and I think

here of all places

and now of all times one could be expected to totally expose all -but I am grateful for

a last refuge of modesty.

I miss a smidgin of embarrassment in human affairs.

8

DEBRA DRINKMAN Ida Fasel

She only asked to be known for herself but what she disowned ethnic, shmetnic

would not disown her. She fine-threaded herself in retail-outlet clothes. At the end

of a long focal lens saw her ancestors

disembark in 1630, John Winthrop their governor, the Bradstreets their neighbors. Royal Arbella godmother to their first child in the new land, elegant handstitched baptismal dress lace-spangled with light from the sea.

She grew up in a historic landmark,

fanlight a sun's glimpse of the sea's

gemstones. And they dressed every night

for dinner on damask, under crystal.

Windows were casementswide to flowers. Thoughts set on quality and tradi tion opened to streets hung with red bunting,

She walked dancing, guilt scarcely noticeable.

The mortuary artist painted over

the mask, straightened the accident-twisted mouth,

approved her for passage. To death

her face was only the naked semblance of an honest disguise.

9

I __,j

ANY GLASS Ida Fasel

, ' Any glass, any window anywhere I have lived

the straw in the wren's beak

still closer

true exchanges inside to out --

things so real, so silent in their light and sound

1 stand in the deep knowing of unknowing,

in awe of all we know.

gives me the outside inside

attentive to the familiar

that keeps me constantly curious brings up close

the trees, the sky, the grass,

the bird flying over brings up closer

spruce boughs gently fanning, wizard clouds changing form,

10

THE GIRL IN THE BLACK RAINCOAT

David Michael Nixon

She talks to everyone as though

they were her uncle or her aunt---

even theother kids her own age---

even the younger ones. In fourth grade, she works on many easy problems, finishes quickly, and still has

plenty of time to dream, to talk.

On sunny days, or in the winter,

she looks a lot like all the others, walking home from the old brick school, stopping at times to talk, to play.

But when it rains, no other kid goes home in a slick black raincoat, standing out among the yellow,

the, red, the blue coats in the wet air.

Today it is raining, school has let out,

and she is walking home down High St., her black raincoat dripping from hood

to hem. She thinks of her only Aunt

and Uncle, who live in the country,

who own two horses. She almost smells

the wet hay. The girl in the black raincoat is smiling as she strolls through the puddles along the sidewalk. Soon she'll be home. She remembers the mare's dark mane.

. ... -;

11

j

ANOTHER BLUE NIGHT David Michael Nixon

"

How many packs ofother's smokes inserted forever into' my blood?

Poems pounding into my face

leave it unscarred, until one caresses and I find a cheek missing.

12

AS YOU LIKE IT Joanne Seltzer

Since all the world's a stage, here we are, doing our bit to keep the angels happy

and the show from closing down.

Remember me God? I'm Jacques. Don't you feel catharsis

watching blind humanity

go the way of Oedipus Rex?

What do we offer tonight? Comedy, tragedy, kinky sex (whatever the audience will buy) and love ~n the nuclear age.

How bored you'll grow of heaven without this entertainment.

13

WELCOME TO ACT 1 Joanne Seltzer

We take, each of us, whatever bit part fortune has assigned

so please don't catcall, boo, walk out when we falter

hoping to mitigate life's tragedy

with humor

even though it's clear God in a machine will never descend.

14

CURTAIN CALL Joanne Seltzer

Don't feel cheated when I tell you

this is a one-act play.

You expected

five, orat least three, Shakespearean segments but now the curtain flutters down

and the lights flicker on.

You recognize the shabbiness of your own reality.

' ......

15

TONYA HARDING AT LILLEHAMMER Joanne Seltzer

She uses the triple axel

for alibi as though

reality began with ice, glides on ice like a lithe cat, will die when the ice melts.

Still struggling in the arena, dwarfed by life, obscured by vapor, predator and victim share

one silhouette.

Blades (or are they claws?) attached to golden feet promote the magic of ice while other skaters brush loose particles from cold skin.

16

L

WITH NO NEED

OF NOTEBOOK AT NIGHT OUTSIDE TEN GAY STREET Joan Payne Kincaid

We stand outside the place

a room kitchen bath with mirrors

same diamond tiles on entrance floor . looking in where we had looked out staring at sorneone's closed white curtains eye-level ground floor

that held projectile dreams

daybed pulled out each night covered with black corduroy by day

I studio piano cornered for gagged arias tenants didn't want to hear

the small ancient closet on the right looking in before children came

as if you never left the gold frame mirror as if the curtains being pulled back

you both would be inside with the cats looking out

.~ .~

17

SHOWING THE NIGHT H. Edgar Hix

" Yellow street lights darken the country

girl's eyes. until they're the only stars there. Garish pink lights flicker on arid off, reflected through her contact lenses. The red/blue siren drains the moon into ten thousand headlight's

that rumble, roar, honk and screech like all the summer's bucolic nights of thunderstorms, coyotes, late geese

and bobcats recorded into one and played back all at once.

18

_'

Sometimes, headlights will turn into the

alley like huge, slow falling stars, '

and go down to nothing, no light at all. Then the country girl, dressed in neon

, and nylon,

who used to know all the constellations in the Zodiac,

will show him the night.

5:40

H. Edgar Hix

Packed into this commuter so tightly only the reflections in the windows can breath.

I wonder why trains are lonely images? Their whistles cause crowds of cars at busy intersections, wake countless

dogs, birds, babies; they're so loud 11m afraid when we pass the cemetery.

Still,

the image climbs on with me, reminding me I am alone; 1 am hungry for home.

19

ATTACHMENTS Susanne R Bowers

. My friend is attached

to old clothes twenty five cent Jeans

from the village rummage sale

her ex-husband's worn ou t shirt sweaters with holes and stains

., shorts with dirty cuffs

20

which upsets

her sister and her mother

She hangs on to the house

and the neighborhood she has outgrown

which has outgrown her something of a relic she's the only

single person

on the block

On her windowsill a glass vase filled with ten year old popcorn

aesthetically pleasing she says

in a goldfish bowl her marble collection from childhood shooters

and aggies

she remembers each one.

for billy t.

Michael Hathaway

i was trying to convince myself that nothing mattered

writing tiny stupid poems about meaningless trash detaching myself from feeling denying all needs

trying to die without pain trying so hard not to cry

when the mailman brought you into my life with your poems of isolation, pain, damnation you stabbed the very place

in my heart that i was trying

to shutdown

once again i opened up to a

stranger because i couldn't bear to know you were giving up

i care about you

a face i've never seen

a voice i've never heard

a lonely boy surrounded by thick darkness crying out . through your typewriter your sad sad songs

hold on sweet boy hold on there will always be love living here for you

there is always love

you must never give in to the harsh winds of hate

not when love will burn for you so strongly

so loud so hot

21

THE BURNING BED Michael Hathaway

After almost half a lifetime of being beat on

by parents, brothers and husbands and lovers,

of being a martyr to all their frustrations and failures.

• I •

it s a promise ...

It's not just a book setting on her shelf. One hardly noticed it while visiting with her in her living room.

The Burning Bed is not just a book

setting on her shelf,

22

SATURDAY AFTERNOON AT THE MOVIES: THE WHITE SHEIK Gertrude Morris

On the silent screen, a silent scream of ecstasy

as he carried the blond away on his Arabian steed to a silken tent in a painted desert.

And after he had his way with her white virgin flesh she was his love slave maddened with lust.

Or when he danced the tango with an ugly smitten girl, black hat rakish, gaucho pants shimmering,

languorous eyes rimmed in kohl,

rouged mouth revealing perfect little pearls, the world was thrilled and then, and then,

he dipped the wench and tossed her "away.

23

When the talkies came, his voice, high-pitched and squeaky, almost ruined it for him. But then he died

and an endless harem of besotted women

followed the funeral procession to Forest Lawn.

0, it was grand as the burial of a prince: wailing, beating their breasts,

rending black diaphanous veils,

they fought likecats to fling themselves on a casket mounded in flowers.

To this day

a mysterious old woman heavily veiled in black visits the grave and leaves a single red rose. '

She bows deep, stares down piercing the veil of earth and years,

where Rudy lies still beautiful. .

, . 24

TV -1 Gertrude Morris

'.

In an old Columbo show

the housekeeper is seen watching TV

unaware that a murder is being committed elsewhere in the house. My brother, the Actor appears on the tiny screen she watches

a small facsimile of his larger self,

faded, barely audible, but unmistakable. There he is behind a screeri I cannot enter, or reach in to call him back.

He sticks to the script he was given

until the screen goes dark and my brother dead for many years dies again.

Somewhere out there, a Star wanders among the stars and I can only hope for a second coming:

"his resurrection in Video.

~.

" ..

25

~ ..

TV-2 Gertrude Morris

The King Snake, without venom, or prejudice kills and swallows a rattlesnake

inch by inch, lumpy as a swollen plum.

Owl soundlessly glides down on a mouse, eagle, or hawk on a rabbit;

vultures and hyenas tidy up the remains.

We see elephants, gray eminences, upright, fantastic beasts tender to each other and their young,

shot down for ivory and drop like thunder.

We view the mating and courtship of lions,

and pigs and elephants, of waterbirds who mate for life, unlike humans who have the choice,

26

, .

of snakes en flagrante delicti

surprised that a snake has a penis very like a man's, and after hours of copulations, she may eire of him

and glide away, dragging him along ignominiously. He's so attached, he won't, or can't let go,

an all too familiar predicament,

metaphor of certain love affairs:

one who's loved; the other who loves,

a hanger on who doesn't know when it's over,

And so, ladies and gentlemen

through the magic of TV

we become voyeurs, through a glass,

of prurient and violent episodes,

of sudden death and sex among the beasts

a mirror of ourselves that makes of innocence, pornography;

27

28

THE MIRROR Gertrude Morris

Only a mirror remains of Mother's boudoir set, framed in faux-ivory celluloid,

turning yellow now.

The rest disappeared: comb, brush, tray, shoe-button hook, hair receiver, covered powder jar

with goose down puff, nail buffer covered in pale chamois.

Once mirrors had the power of menace,

of witchery: a doppelganger in the glass,

, (break one and see.)

Mirror, I hold you now without fear of spells; you are perfectly round with bevelled edge,

worn, but still beautiful; your handle curved like a woman fits well and easy in my hand.

':a

You alone are left of all the other things that lay with you companionably.

The still pool you resemble reflects the sky, gives back day, to day.

When animals come to drink they see an image of their kind.

But wind wrinkles forest mirrors and breaks the glass,

drops of sun go down flickering like coin. Ancient, shadowy carp browse moss-grown stones and in the crepuscular dark

among the creatures, violence goes on.

29

30

Faithful mirror all these years

you have given back a child's, girl's, woman's face. Now a white haired stranger stares at me.

I look at this mug, this map with all its rivulets; it tells me where I've been and where I'm going. Mirror once held in her hand,

reflecting her face (where is it now?)

She is there,' I think, peeking over my shoulder; she gloves her hand neatly over mine

(how well it fits).

Mother, I see you in the glass: your face, my face,

the child I was still there behind a mask.

It

GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUSTER:

LIFE INSURANCE Arthur Winfield Knight

Ldori't need life insurance, I tell Libbie, but she says my job's dangerous.

What would she do

if I died?

There's no chance of that, not as long

as I'm stationed out west, fighting Indians.

Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse will be back on the reservation before summer ends.

But Libbie worries 50 I take out a policy

for five thousand dollars. It cost me $127.80

from a company in New York. res a waste of money,

but it makes Libbie feel better. I'm 33 and healthy.

I'm not worried

about a bunch of heathens with paint ~n their faces.

31 .

REMEMBER Cathleen Cohen

Recite four times.

Scribble it down on a notepad but don't forget

to transfer to the calendar. Use bold red letters

or black.

Tie a string around your left thumb.

Highlight in yellow. Beg a friend

to remind you.

Call home

and leave a message.

32

t"

Find a word that rhymes with it.

Hypnotize yourself:

I will remember this the instant I raise

the" first bite of dinner to my lips.

Compose a song about it. Hum it to yourself throughout the day.

Hire a secretary

to remind you.

Copy it on computer file " but beware of blackouts.

"-.

Stick a note on the bathroom mirror

so you see it

when you brush your teeth. Do it now

so you don't have to remember.

I r--

CODE BLUE will inman

She walks into the witness box and turns blue. I can't read such body language. The prosecutor gives her a hard look,

then proceeds with questions. She answers in a quiet, firm voice. Now he asks her

if she were lovers with the deceased. She gives a hard laugh. I'm hot a necrophiliac, she replies coldly. The prosecutor rephrases the question. She tells him, No. Then why did you kill him? he persists. Her blue deepens to mauve. Why didn't I? would be the more appropriate question, she calmly" observes. The prosecutor is displeased.

33

34

l

Your chameleon game fools no one, he

protests. She's plainly puzzled. Doesn't she know she's changing colors? The prosecutor snorts. We have concluded the People's Case, Your Honor. The judge lifts his eyebrows but nods. The attorney for the defense rises. He, too, has turned blue. 'What in hell's going on around here? Defense moves for acquittal on grounds of no case proven. Defendant smiles. The judge denies. Defense calls me as first witness. The judge wants to know why I have turned blue. I look down at my hands. I don't know, Your Honor. I'm sure I've never turned blue before. Commotion in court. An old lady stands up. He's mistaken, Your Majesty. I was nurse when he was delivered, He was born blue.

Feet first. Consternation. Now everyone knows. Three breech births and one dead man.

The pattern is clear. An example must be made. Hey! Everyone in court has turned blue. The judge turns purple. The body is exhumed.

The dead man is blue. Someone must be

guilty. Someone must be made to be seen

to be guilty. Justice is color blind but

prefers blue. I question the two attorneys.

I'm found in contempt. Oh. Now Justice has hidden in the microphone. Between the lines

in the recorder's notes. Has Justice changed color? Is Justice a moot question? Will

someone please adjust the set?

30,31 December 1990, Tucson 35

our common blood flows through this swamp of me, mire at the edges through which dark presences leave deep tracks i'm beginning to learn to read. they stalk me, but i'rn following them, they're looking for who i was, for whom they terrified me into becoming: i'm out to discover what they were before they entered me with their hooded eyes and clawed wings, before i became something them, hiding them in me, from me, so that they could feed me and feed on me

while i pretended not to know

who they are or how i was becoming their creature.

'-36

tracks in our blood will inman

too long we've blamed our meanness on some devil or other, some shadow of god we do not want to acknowledge as our own. no.

o but .

those who leave tracks in our blood,

those who pursue us for nourishment and sight, they hatch in us out of our negative encounters, how we treat each other as less than we are, a so those broken creatures with their toothed beaks grow out of our less than love, how we rape our centers and beget diminished selves.

you

are half their parenting, but i cannot blame you for the tracks that thicken my blood with directions i no longer want to follow, nor feed, nor feed upon.

i stand in our common path mining the black emeralds of our broken trust

8 june .1992, tucson

forkand r

."

0:

rpi

in the prison of my heart, why do i keep? will inman

in the prison of my heart, why do i keep me? what is it i give them i help them keep me inside me? who am i that i stay

less than myself, measuring me by their looks, by their eyes, their words, their

tones? who am i that ican outgrow my own turning

ofkeys? who am i that i can reach .

from inside me' where i am free to shut doors in my own face?

let me rediscover space

in me. let me rediscover a place

no one can put bars and locks 'to. let me, _

for myself create earth and heaven in my heart,

37

earth and sky that will not deceive me nor diminish me. let me prepare myself inside me so that, when bars and locks come down,

i will have a larger freedom in me

than that which waits outside me, a larger freedom that cannot deceive me

even when the one outside tells lies .

. help me to be strong to make real choices

that will take me ou t of the hands of impulse beyond the hands of somebody else's fear beyond the hands of somebody else's power.

let me

live from within the open circle of my own hands, let me live in a circle with those who will not

use me false nor tempt me to use them false ...

38

J

let me discover a way through these inner bars to that space in me that cannot be taken away, let me plant trees and flowers of my love in that space, let me grow oceans here and mountains and fresh air, so that, when i find myself outside bars and locks and the razor wire, i

. will not carry them inside me

but will give birth to this space living within me where freedom tells me who i am and who you are. in the prison of my heart, i will let me go.

18 june 1986, tucson

... ....

~ 39

IN THE BATHROOM MIRROR Lyn Lifshin

the medicine chest reflects the long mirror. Here I can

be myself. Let the bones of my chest jut out or muscles go. My body flows like oil into a shape

I've never chosen.

I see my fake rose tattoo reflected in a reflection of

a reflection of

a reflection, each clear as loss coming back in dreams

as the mirror speaks to itself, talks to me,

talks about me

40

,-

F

CHINESE WOMAN'S BALANCE Terry Thomas

Olive running back years, silk shrouded, crowded into steamy dens

or bending to curves, steel nerves of the west.

She's best with her ,eyes closed, nose pointed, inscrutable, dutiful to dollars

and hollers from passing cars.

Tranquil in tapestry,

thigh traded like tea on high seas, romance of corners

and whispered conquests-Yankee gunboats.

Fragile as porcelain,

stained by too many trysts, wrists transparent as

a bird's wings,

she sings indecipherable songs, longing to leave the wall.

41

SATAN AT SUNSET Terry Thomas

Aunt Rose would get skittery at sundown.

Her frowns would deepen

and fork when shadows stalked the near woods and you couldn't tell the clicking of yellow teeth from nervous knitting needles. "Want a shawl, Auntie? Lemonade, iced tea or coffee?" . I always asked, but she never

. heard -- she'd peer into the gloom like she could see through red day's doom.

4.2

"Corne inside. Your room's cozy, lamp's lit. come inout of the damp." Even Mom would try, but Rose would sit firmer in her rocker. "Nope. I'll see him this time.

Laugh right in those hellish eyes and keep his damned lies from my peaceful sleep. Let me be. I

can hear him creeping round

the old boarded welL"

Hell never claimed Auntie,

but death sneaked in one night -we found her staring into

the innocent dark of dreams ..

~.--~-----,.------:;------

F

RIDING HOME Terry Thomas

The old nag is pointed in the right direction,

noW - - brown coat peeking, quaking under the primal flake of past passion.

I'm guilty, in a fashion;

green devil riding my hood like a horned ornament Took my six shooter to town, slapped leather, danced, (saw the elephant)

but don't want to pay the piper.'

Wiper's flicking salty fears - - wet night, all right.

Hope the homestead is safe - - no marauding redskins lurking to jerk hair, little livestock bedded down, and the domestic asleep in her bed of sterile straw.

4~

I~ 44 ~t.._

THE GIANT'S LAMENT Terry Thomas

Fe fi, oh hum--

I'm bored by children's fear and attention. And don't mention golden anything

(I got hungry for something fowl).

Don't even harp on

my attitude

(l'lllounge in a large

nude sprawl if I want).

If you mention beans I'll rain all over you. No, enough of that-I want to flex pees, hit the flicks,

slap the big boys around, cut my own contract deals and get a feel

for large studio profits.

HIM AND JACK Albert Huffstickler

He said he was on the road because he was looking for a place

where his demon couldn't find him. He said his demon was named Jack and the only reason he could find for that

name was that it was always trying to jack

him around and so far

it had succeeded. Jack had beaten his first

wife bloody and he'd left with the law on his

trail and he'd crossed half the country before he stopped and thought he found a

place where Jack couldn't find him. He even changed his name - from what to what he didn't feel obligated to say -

and thought he'd finally gotten rid of him but then one day the guy

he was washing dishes for in the kitchen of

the Half-Moon diner

just looked at him the' wrong way and Jack

happened

to have a chefs knife

he was washing in his hands. He hadn't stopped since he left there. He thought he'd just stay

on the road. He didn't think there was any

place he could go where Jack couldn't find him but maybe if he'd just keep going long enough he could outlive the

50n of a bitch.

first published in The Avant-Garden vol. I, no. I, 1994, Interlachen FL

.,~~

45

A MANTRA FOR THE MISBEGOTfEN Albert Huffstickler

So you're walking down the street in the bright sun and you're walking with your head down but

you're feeling everything around you and you

just got through a day's work at the day labor office and you only went there because you couldn't think of anywhere else to go for a job and you guess

you'll go back tomorrow because you're just back

in town and staying with Bob and you don't know how long you can stay there and you don't know

if you can earn enough to rent your own place and you're so ashamed, ashamed because you don't know how to do the things that other people do

and you're forty-six years old and by now those things are supposed to have come to you and you

46

r

don't know why they didn't and you don't even know how to tell anybody and you feel that sun burning

into you and it's like your shame or it's there

to light up your shame so that everyone can see it

and know you're not supposed to be here because you don't know how to do anything at all but put words on paper and everybody knows that that's not anything real and so you're walking down to the bus stop to catch the bus back home and your guts are rumbling and it's late afternoon and hot and God, how did you ever get here and who left the directions off the can and what comes next and it's like some great and beautiful person told you long ago that you're nothing, really, really nothing and don't

even deserve to be thought about and you walked away into the hot glare and were never able to

~

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do anything right again and so here you are now walking down this street and it's time to start

your life over for about the seventy-fifth time

and you don't know anymore than you did so you're doing day labor with the kids and the v vines because that's ~1I you can think of to do after

half a lifetime on this planet and you wish you

. were at some distant place where no one knew your name arid you could sleep in the shade till

God came back but there's no way, there's just

this: walking along in the hot glare, smelling yourself because it's been a long, hot day and nobody made it this hot or this long but you and

if you think this is bad, then just wait till you

see tomorrow.

first published in The Avant-Garden, v.l, no.1, 1994 Interlachen FL

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