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ISSN 0197-4777 SAVMUALVM uronsmeA on uy Kay0g WATERWAYS: Poetry in the Mainstream December 1994 r | Lives there whom Pain hath evermore pass'd by And Sorrow shunn'd with an averted eye? Him do thou pity, him above the rest, Him of all hapless mortals most unbless'd. | } WATE RWAY S: Poetry in the Mainstream Volume 15 Number 11 December, 1994 Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher Thomas Perry, Assistant contents Sheryl L. Nelms 4 Bruce Hesselbach 24-26 Jennifer Chang 41-42 St, Mary Ann Henn 5 Ida Fasel 27-29 John Grey 4348 Michael Hathaway 6-7 JoanPayne Kincaid 30-33 Susan Packie 49 Will Inman 8-9 Ralph Gualtieri 34 Cathleen Cohen 50 Kit Knight 10-21 Joanne Seltzer 35-36 Lyn Lifshin 51-52 Arthur Winfield Knight 22 Matt Dennison 37-40 Albert Huffstickler 53-59 Terry Thomas 23 Richard Kostelanetz 60 ‘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 St. Pauls Avenue, Staten Island, New York 10304-2127 1904 themes from William Watson's Epigrams of Art, Life and Nature (1884). © 1994, Ten Penny Players Inc. ; 2 1 Hear the River Call My Name Sheryl L. Nelms Pe been fighting themall the bridge rail the cement pillars the bottomless gully and the river so smooth and black and deep rolling along down there through the night calling to me telling me how easy it would be to stop right here and slip in Loneliness Mary Ann Henn Ttisn't hard to get lost ina big place. Just wander the lonely corridors. No one will follow you. Footsteps going by carry someone away to duty or to play. Loneliness wells up again. Muffled drumbeats of pain beating with each foorscep then echo of a closing door. t —(_ssi‘(‘éCé*‘éC iil Last Supper Michael Hathaway (for Jean Hathaway, 1938-1989) i always thought death would be dramatic. i knew she was dying of cancer bur had never seen anyone die, much less die painfully. i thought she would fight and struggle and gasp for breath. i thought someone would hold her hand, i thought she'd be in a hospital bed with IVs instead of hunched over in a chair, with her pain pills being rationed. i thought she might even avoid it somehow and rise laughing at us all. i had hoped perhaps we would have a poignant bedside conversation and forgive each other for a 12-year-old altercation, for harsh words that were thought and spoken. but she just said, "I'd like a Tootsie Roll and an apple..." so i drove to the Quik Shop and got her a Tootsie Roll and an apple. She said, "Thank you Mike," and ate the Tootsie Roll after mom cut it up for her. she died quietly three hours later. the last i saw of her she was slumped in her chair, dead at three o'clock in the morning. no fanfare, no angels, no trumpets, no mighty struggle, no gasping. after three years, she simply and gladly surrendered to the pain. so much darkness Will Inman i lean into late light looking for you but you stand beyond suncast like a tree covered with its own shadows, your eyes fill chat shade with a phosphorescence of winged nightcreatures, it's your sight ‘more than failing sun that scorches my looking, i run toward you shielding my own eyes, i can't hold so much darkness, so much fire-shadow. i should know to stop now, still i plunge toward you, oh that dark falls on me like great branches, i choke, i cannot breathe, somebody laughs, i pull away, rush into sun, so much dark your deepwet voice Will Inman your voice is a willing pool i kneel into naked to the curve of my ears, you're warm as summer air before rain, you say ‘Yes! with surface ripples, i hear you with my whole body's swimming thrust, your tongue snakes like the root of a dark tree leaning over your thirsty moan, you swim around me without words, fold me in your steep sound as if i were a golden fish come borning out of the body of god filling your song with fin-rhythms and underwater lappings o your deepwet wrapping, sweet as death! Mrs. Scott Moore Moore, 1879 Kit Knight My hotel serves the best dinners in New Mexico Territory and Billy the Kid is a frequent guest. He always rides in sharing his saddle with a small dog. My husband went to school with Jesse James and when the bandit considered leaving his past and settling on aranch, he wrote to Scott for help. A month later, the outlaws met. At first, Jesse was introduced as Mr. Howard, a train inspector. Later, a private meeting was arranged. Billy was thrilled-- the two most feared men in the west were in the same room--and suggested they team up and turn America inside out. Jesse, more than a decade older, said he was tired of being hunted and only wanted a home. A safe place. Jesse's wife was expecting another baby. Billy had babies, too, and waved his hand in dismissal. So what? Mr. Howard was amused the teenager called himself aman. Billy showed us his newest trick. He'd trained the dog to sit still while Billy tore up the ground around the whimpering animal with his pistol. How close could he come without making the dog bleed? I'd seen Billy do this with drunks. He'd give the man a bottle if he promised to hold still. Once, Billy grazed an old sot's nose. ‘As Jesse watched, he said, "That boy will never see 21." Manuela Bowdre, Christmas Day 1880 Kit Knight Billy speaks my language; not many Anglos can speak fluent Spanish. Not many wantto. The tall white men only want our land and they take it. Might may not make right, but it does make what is. My Charlie has been dodging the law, for years, with Billy the Kid. The boy can talk to me better than Charlie. Gossips in the village say the Kid does things with me that only Charlie should be doing. But Billy with his smiling blue eyes is as welcome in adobe huts all through New Mexico Territory as he isin mine. Many Spanish girls are proud to be Billy's querida, his love. Even for ashort time. Abrana just had Billy's second child and everyone knows Billy also fathered Nasaria's daughter. Wearing Billy's hat, my Charlie stepped out of the rock house and sheriff Pat Garrett shot him. Carefully aiming, Garrett also dropped 2 horse so as to block che door. Billy had to surrender; he was chained to the wagon that carried my husband's body. ‘Tracks in the snow, In English, Garrett told me Charlie's ase words were, "I wish... Iwish....” But he fell before he could finish. Wich all my baffled rage, I slapped Garrett. Punching him. Hard. My arm hurt. Shackled, Billy shouted, "EL murio aspirando su nombre." He died breathing your name.” Catherine Boujeau, the Kid's Mother: 1874 Kit Knight Inamed my son Bill, after his father. My Billy was born in New York, but conceived in the sultry air of New Orleans. Bill was the firsc man I met when I got off the boat from Jamaica. My dad offered to buy a business up norch--for Bill, if he'd marry me. Up there, Bill found a grave. Another man shot him. Over me. Baby Billy was only three as he watched , his daddy take seven days todie. The child's smiles were desperate. After the funeral, another man wanted to take me to Kansas. He told me he owned land there. After one night, I never saw him again and nine months later Billy had a brother. [ took my sons west. In Wichita, Towned a laundry and my hands were always red and chapped. Bleeding. Billy was 13 and made no secret of not liking his new daddy when I married again. We moved to New Mexico, hoping the dry air would help. I bleed if I breathe deeply and it's been over a month since I left my bed. Billy frets, Waits. Watching my tortured breathing. He's a boy of action. I watched as he threw a heavy chair at Mr. Antrim and knocked my husband out. As I listen --trying not to breath-- to birds singing hard enough to tear their throats out, Billy holds my hand and smiles. Desperately. Celsa, 1881: The Year the Stars Fell Kit Knight Iwas married when I met Billy the Kid. Sabal didn't like the Spanish speaking gringo around. The first time Billy approached me, he wasn't drooling; many men, particularly those with a reputation, believe they can always buy the night. Billy came to meat dusk. A magic time. I could almost seetheair. He carried his hat in his hand and said women carry their brains and their hearts in their hands and wished he were that smart. He said he was going to marry Paulita, but not tomorrow. New Mexico is assured statehood if lawlessness will end, an awesome task. The postmaster for Lincoln County has wanted bills for over 5,000 men. But Billy is best known. Pat Garrett was a buffalo hunter and a bartender, but he rode with Billy and knows exactly where the Kid stays. Solely on that basis, Pat was elected sheriff by the landowners. Tknow I owe my loyalty to my blood. Pat is married to my sister. Tam married. But Sabal doesn't give the stars my name. It was a night when the darkness was so thick Talmost heart it separating as Billy left my bed to look at stars and shadows. Tio shots blew holes thru the quiet. Sabal was on the coroner's jury that declared Garrett's traitorous shot-in-the-dark "justifiable homicide." Sallie Nicholson, 1882: Shivers Kit Knight ‘The detectives were hunting my half brothers, Frank and Jesse. It was a hideous blunder, Neighbors even knew the bandits weren't home that January night. I was upstairs when the glass burst and the cold rushed in. I've never felt cold as cold as that. The Pinkertons threw a bomb inthe kitchen. A shard tore off my mother's hand and a larger chunk ripped into my . baby brother's chest. Six years have passed since Little Archie shared his coffin with our mother's hand, I'mstill white with passion; I'll never forgive. And nota day passed that someone in the family doesn't get questioned. The police are no good; they never brought anyone back to life, I've seen what happens when an outlaw is around, so when I married I vowed there'd never be aprice on my husband. However, supporting the James Gang is not the same as riding with them. Cheerfully, I carried buttermilk and newspapers to the hideouc on my farm. On what was Jesse's final visit, he took ashivering puppy for his son. On horseback, for 40 miles Jesse carried that pup under his coat. To make room, he gave one of his guns to another gang member. A week later, puny Bob Ford topped the cold list of traitors when he shot James in the back with that Smith & Wesson. 20 Mrs. Charles Boles: Abandoned Kit Knight ‘The papers call my husband "the gentleman bandit" because he never shoots anyone--indeed, his shotgun is always unloaded--and he asks the driver politely to please throw down the box and he always waves. Although I haven't heard from Charles in more than six years, I know this stagecoach bandit in California is my absent husband. The newspaper quoted a poem he left behind in the shattered strongbox: "I've labored long and hard for bread, for honor and for riches, but on my corns too long you've tred, you fine haired sons of bitches." And the verse was signed, "Black Bart, the Poet." Charles wrote that rhyme years ago about my blond brothers when he called them noble bastards for giving hima job washing clothes in their hotel. Charles always smelled like bleach in those days. Iwas a job he hace. But getting wounded three times during the Civil War hadn't prepared him for much else. I'm not surprised Charles chose to call himself Black Bart; stories about the southern villain always amused my husband, He went off to the gold fields. I remember him waving to our four children as he left our Iowa farm, as he left me. a George Standing Bear: Cheated Arthur Winfield Knight Thock my pistol, a Saturday night special, because it's the weekend and I want to have fun. I don't need 2 pistol. The battles ended acentury ago, and my people lost. ‘The man at the pawn shop gives me thirty dollars and snickers when he says, "Have fun." I shoot two games of pool with a cowboy from Dos Rios and lose, then I have @ few beers and a blonde snookers me out of what I have left. Ic isn't much. J take the bus back to the reservation, still feeling the blonde's fingers, woozy from alcohol, sick from the exhaust.. My Last Roomie ‘Terry Thomas Come in. Sit down. Let me move this box ~ there, Gennie. Take a look. Some panhandler sketched her on the back of this calendar. See how her hands clench in anger. And those eyes! Always flirting with strangers, crying over dead birds, dieting on fruit, offering opinions and arguing with me -- sometimes slurring my parentage. "Watch it," I said, "Watch it” — many times. Then I saw her smile fade like her footprints in the muddy yard. Hey, this calendar is old; there, T've torn ic up (either she gave it -- or it was from Santa Claus). I don'e object to your moving in, but will you be good to me? 23 24 Sestina for Muhamed Isa Bruce Hesselbach Dedicated to Mt. Kailas, also known «as Kang Rinpocke, the holy mountai Ladaki by birth, by choice a traveler who in his lifetime many lands would pass, Muhamed Isa was unique. The wind of fortune brought him wealth and fame. A rock of faithfulness, enduring bitter cold and hunger, making heavy burdens light, he guided many expeditions. Light jokes were not his style; a traveler through Tibet must be on guard. The cold is deadly; wolves and ravens watch each pass. When one seeks pasture, all he sees is rock. When one craves water, all he finds.is wind. Chang Tang ~- che homeland of the icy wind where salty lakes deep blue in wintry light are girt about by endless sky and rock. No fertile meadows for the traveler, but flows of ice and fields of snow. The pass at Nimalung replaces air with cold. And chen you see them, in uncanny cold, the Himalayas, soaring over wind, each cloud-surpassing summit, time-carved pass as huge as Earth, yet flying high and light where air can barely reach, and traveler must plant each foot as slowly 2s a rock. A stroke at Sakadzong caused him to rock and tumble down half paralyzed and cold, and nothing could be done. The traveler gave up the ghost. A sighing mountain wind sang dirges on his grave. In daybreak's light the caravan moved on to Tugei Pass. In time the grave drew notice. It came to pass that shrieks and groans were heard from under rock, and dreadful apparitions' eerie light affrighted villagers who felt the cold unquiet stones and heard 2 moaning wind: dire portents from a restless traveler. How shall the traveler ascend the pass? ‘What wind will bear him from this frozen rock to Kang Rinpoche's cold and holy light? Exousing Myself at Buchenwald Ida Fasel Jews are a saga only God could write. He has been writing for centuries with finger of fire and hand that wants to get Sistine close but can't quite reach. ‘The theme is eral by ordeal by ordeal by ordeal. T huddle alone in the tour bus, flesh one-millionth of an inch thin. Above barbed wire their faces took the sun's meager regards. A quick sweep of them in showers, land washed clean of the sacred, herded rock not yet eroded. Bach, Goethe, Schiller, Liszt, all lived nearby, in Weimar, beautiful Weimar, What difference had they made to the neighborhood? Primo Levi survived, humiliated beyond healing. I am reading him now. I miss the books he will not write more than the whole lost library of Alexandria, 27 Eating Breakfast in View of the Dom Ida Fasel like the end of the world: 1 youths on roller skates spread legs to stop. How many fell Allat once from intimations of the infinite. the leader How many will. extended his hand in a horizontal line elegant, precise as a position in ballet. 2. And held it. Straight at me. | Then laughed swerved and stamped his start ' "Gutten Tag." The waiter in the wake of the others | who gave us outdoor communion. and left me Eggs gold and white to this day ona white and gold plate. pierced | A sound came up, a rumbling with a nail. 238 . If We Were Ida Fasel Ifeach of us were a Guarnerius how deep below the surface the pitch of our lives would be -- (rue pitch is the truest health) holding strong against the day's catch-words, and clocks set by what's in, what's out. Music would sound along the faulcline of the world’s atrocities and break them up. Weld never again have a civil war, never again make Auschwitz happen, never again sell our lives for scuttlebutt. We'd keep our qualicy, sound 2s centuries of a Guarerius. Tf each of us were a Guarnerius. 29 30 Days That Will Not Dawn Again Joan Payne Kincaid The past is paradise - Proust Te was the vitality of the family the history of everyday and holidays with grandparents and aunts and uncles all gone now the best days the happy days of growing the love and warm dialogues all gone to graves leaving only dispersed relatives empty echoes and intense longing to return. Full House, Empty House Joan Payne Kincaid She was born in the house next door living there seventyfive years last week calling her niece in Brewster she'd always been willing to sic our cats and we talked over the back fence I'd give her tomatoes every summer she was gracious and innocent our minds were one from polities to cats; she had been the town librarian after her father refused to let her work in a defence plant during the war because she had to be driven by a man, never having learned to drive herself, 3h instead of leaving the house to Ruth he lefe half to her prosperous married brother. Ruth never married and wanted to move toa college community to seminars and classes and intellectual stimulation but feeling ill, she made the fatal call to the niece who inherited her father's half says the house is too large and more than Ruth can deal with and that she's never coming back; that the house will be sold. 32 Ruth is up in Brewster where her niece tells me by phone she will be challenged at senior citizen affairs but Ruch is going to fade up there with 100 cats and a cow; there is a great gothic emptiness in the old house standing alone. Christmas Again Joan Payne Kincaid And soon spring the days dropping like snow in a history of drift memories that pile up then back to the garden buds large as crumbs and lists that don’t get accomplished memories that build up and can't be carted away. 33 ‘The Old Transvestite Ralph Gualtieri No one cares any more. Iwore my new velvet evening gown in the dining hall last week but the nurses hardly noticed. When I first arrived, here at the Happy Hills Rest Home Lopened up their eyes. 1 flashed those long slit skirts down the hall past the men's open doors. Finally they moved my room to the very end and told me to desist. 34 My room is near the nurses’ station just between the men's and ladies’ wings. It's easier for everyone that way - Tecan sashay out through the patio without passing any unfriendly door. ‘These days I am pretty much ignored. But that's ok, darlings, lately it's getting harder and harder to manage those spiked heels I like on me. And yesterday, on the patio steps, doing my famous pirouette, T fell and no one laughed. Oil on Panel Joanne Seltzer We all have handicaps Tell myself watching the special class cross the street. Those who can walk push wheelchairs and hurry to ouowit the impatient light while gooseherds called teachers shoo them across Some hide their specialness. Can they speak, hear? Do they know what normal is? Thave one bad leg and many fears yet I'm wandering for want of a taxi through this run-down neighborhood on Chicago's north side hoping I didn't misread the street map. 36 Atlast [reach the lake and the historical society where an exhibit on Romanticism includes a portrait of Lord Byron, the spirited head and the noble torso immortalized without the clubfoot. Sweet Basil (d. 1933) Matt Dennison Iwonder about my long dead uncle, Basil, mother's younger brother, who died of TB in smallcown Indiana when all the pictures and streets were black and only barely white and even shoes were rare. He hung around the Strand Movie Theatre, smoking cigarettes in the dark damp places I was told, once, and that was all that was all it ook. 37 Twonder what he looked like, what his death was like. Iseeaslung hat, a grin. Ican't imagine the death. 38 My mother blamed her mother for the death: kept him in dark rooms, she said, no fresh air, no fruit, as if that would make a difference to the one who punished smallcown boys for loving che white and flickering faces around corners and above and having fathers who spoke in the German grunt and called milk chalk water. = With the hill as steep as the nights were dark, [could usually count ona fair amount of stumbling and cursing before finding 2 spot that would not quickly send me back to the bottom and when, every night, the dog, bigger and blacker than any Ihad ever seen and looking as if he had borne every blow from every man and every beast on every inch of his solid dumb face Nevada Dog Medicine Matt Dennison would come sniffing up from the junkyard thac lay at che base of che hill, find me and cover me with the dirt of another hole dog wich steady, giant earnestness, heave a mournful sigh and settle his massive body across my legs the better to gaze upon my face, I would tell myself dog medicine is better than no medicine and look into his eyes. (first published in George Washington Review Spring 1992 39 The Boy by the River Told Matt Dennison The boy by the river told to await his father's return plays with pebbles, kicks at rocks as the night rises up from water, drops down from trees to fashion a statue cast in grey then black when the last spark of faith flickers, falters, and goes out, the night rushing in, floating 40 him upright, stiff chrough the woods to lie in bed listening to water spilling, splashing from room to room, door to door, the whole house shivering, shaking, breaking down under water trickling, flashing, flooding quietly down the stairs, one by one, pooling, stopping, crawling past the father unseen. Dear Man on the 4 Train Jennifer Chang You sit alone : in the claustrophobic subway car filled with people-shovers eery emptiness surrounds you I's day one: First grade No friends yet you wait with butterfly-stomach, eyes shimmery pools of hope, for a kid to plunk down chattily next to you Buc don’t you realize everyone knows Mommy dressed you this morning in pure hand-me-downs Anyone with eyes can see That food-stained coat Those ragged shoes Your ghostlike hood Your learned and so-tired face Relentless Hard-times dirt embedded into your skin like a forever tattoo A blinding banner on Broadway 4l I guess I'm too snotty Or just overly shy Maybe scared to be the first kid to talk It's so much easier security among people-shovers Smushed up against kids I don't even like just so I don't gotta talk And you're not real Please forgive me for being too spineless to break this boycott 42 Thope Isee You some day And I'll be that kid: The very first one. Boxing Day John Grey ‘The Christmas dreams are all transparent, faceless as rain that refuses to be snow cor carols that wind down their glories to die in distant corners of the room. Boxes are open, paper and candy curl ribbons scatter across the floor, presents stack high like totems to expediency and relief. ‘There was a sense of size to tree and gifts beneath, that possibility had shape, could be squeezed and guessed at, that the tiny cards fastened to flashy green and red paper connected you to all these others. But now everything is so small, even what you wanted is not what you want, not now, when it balances in your hand, as finite as che tear you did not ask for, as cold as the breath you have no wish to fight foras you drown in a sea of wrapping, as season becomes day, good cheer chokes in your head, lights burn out one by one, angels lose their voices and decorations are like drunk, despairing relatives who've overstayed their welcome. 43 That Garden Stroll John Grey After our dark history turns gold with memory, I will stroll into the garden, sniff the red and yellow petals of the arguments we planted, run my fingers down the sleek, green stamens of misunderstanding. Even dig down into soft, fertile loam, once concrete hard, now easy as forgiving words dug with the trowel of my lips. 44 Remembering demands no blood, no drunken fire, no fists crunched deep into a wall or feet stamped on floors so hard, bones collide with reason. It is the gentle walk outside, swallowing honey sun, breathing the fat of the air, bending down to kiss the colors. I know anger cannot run these marathons. Once the sprint is over, it turns to seed.