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\:VATERvVAYS: Poetry in the Ivl a i n s t r-e a rn DeceITlber 1994

Lives there whom Pain hath evermore pass'd by And Sorrow shunn'd with an averted eye?

Him do thou pic)", him above the rest,

Him of all hapless mortals most unbless'd.

~: .'. . ..

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'\IVA TE R -vv A YS: Poetry in the Mainstream

Volume 15 Number 11 December, 1994

Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher

Thomas Perry, Assistant


Sheryl L. Nelms 4 Bruce Hesselbach 24-26 Jennifer Chang 41-42

Sr. Mary Ann Henn 5 Ida Fasel 27-29 John Grey 4348

Michael Hathaway 6-7 Joan Payne 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 1994 themes from William Watson's Epigrams of Art, Life and Nature (1884).

© 1994, Ten Penny Players Inc.


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I Hear the River Call My Name Sheryl L. Nelms

live been fighting them all

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

It isn't hard to get lost

in a big place. [ustwander 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 footstep then echo of a closing door.


,':. ..: .. ~.


Last Supper Michael Hathaway

(for Jean Hathaway, 1938-1989)

i always thought death would be dramatic. i knew she was dying of cancer

but 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 hars h words

that were thought and spoken.

but she just said, III'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 'VVilI 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 that shade with a phosphorescence

of winged nightcreatures, it's your sight more than failing sun chat scorches my looking, i run toward you shielding my own eyes, i can't hold so much darkness, so muchfire-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 muchdark


r.- . ",

.' . ~

. ~ :

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

au t of the body of god filling your song with fin-rhythms and underwater lappings a your deepwet wrapping, sweet as death!


- ~':.·-:r :.,~



Mrs. Scott Moore Moore, 1879 Kit Knight

My hotel serves the best dinners in New Mexico Territory and Billy the Kid is a freq uent

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 a ranch, 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-sand 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 a man. Billy showed us

his newest trick. He'd trained the dog to sit still

while Billy [Ore 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."


~ I

Manuela Bowdre, Christmas Day 1880 Kit Knight

Billy speaks my language; not many Anglos can

speak fl uent Spanish. Not many want to. 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 is in mine. Many

Spanish girls are proud (0 be Billy's Querida, his love. Even for a short 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 a horse so as

to block the door. Billy

had to surrender; he v vas chained co the wagon that carried

my husband's body. Tracks

in the snow. In English,

Garrett told me Charlie's

last words were, "I wish ...

I wish .... " BU( he fell before

he could finish. With all

my baffled rage, I slapped Garrett. Punching him. Hard. My arm hurt.

Shackled, Billy shouted,

PEl murio aSQirando su nombre." "He died breathing your name."


Catherine Boujeau, the Kid's Mother: 1874 Kit Knight

I named 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 first man

I met when I got off

the boat from Jamaica. 1\'1 y dad offered to buy a business--

up north-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 dadd y take seven days [0 die. The child's smiles

were desperate. After the funeral, anocher man wanted to take me

to Kansas. He told me

he owned land there. After one night, 1 never saw him again and nine months later Billy had a brother. I rook my sons west. In Wichita,

1 owned 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 au t,

Billy holds my hand and smiles. Desperately.


Celsa, 1881: The Year the Stars Fell Kit Knight

I was 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 me at dusk. A magic time. I could almost

see the air. 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.

I know lowe my loyalty

to my blood. Pat is married

to my sister. I am married. But Sabal doesn't give the stars my name. It was a night

when the darkness was so thick I almost heart it separating

as Billy left my bed

to look at stars and

shadows. Two 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

J I.'

The detectives were hunting my half brothers, Fran k 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 in the 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'm still white with passion; I'll never forgive. And not a 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

a price on my husband. However, supporting the James Gang

is not the same

. ~ ..

as riding with them. Cheerfully, I carried buttermilk and newspapers to the hideout

on my' farm. On what was Jesse's final visit, he took

a shivering 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.




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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, "B lack Bare, the Poet." Charles wrote chat rhyme years ago about

my blond brothers

when he called them

noble bastards

for giving him a job washing clothes

in their hotel. Charles always smelled like bleach in those days. IE was

a job he hated. 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.


George Standing Bear: Cheated Arthur Winfield Knight

"Have fun."

I hock my pistol,

a Saturday night special, because it's the weekend and I want to have fun.

I don't need a pistol,

I shoot two games of pool with a cowboy

from Dos Rios and lose, then 1 have a few beers and a blonde snookers me out of what I have left.

It isn't much.

The battles ended a century ago,

and my people lose.

The man at the pawn shop gives me thirty dollars

and snickers when he says,

I take the bus

back to the reservation, still feel ing

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 he! 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 pare mage. "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,

I've corn it up (either she gave

it -- or it was from Santa Claus).

I don't object to your moving in,

but will you be good to me?


Sestina for Muhamed Isa Bruce Hesselbach Dedicated toM t. Kailas, also known as Kong Rinpoc!u, t!:e holy mountain.

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, aU he sees is rock. When one craves water, all he wind.


r .'

Chang Tang -- the homeland of (he 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 then 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 as a rock.

2- J.



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 Tugri 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 a 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?


Excusing 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 trial by ordeal by ordeal by ordeal. I 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.


______ u

Eating Breakfast in View of the Dom Ida Fasel


How many fell

from intimations of the infinite. How many will.


"Gutten Tag," The waiter

'who gave us outdoor communion. Eggs gold and white

on a white and gold plate.

A sound came up, a rumbling


like the end of the world: youths on roller skates spread legs to stop.

All at once

the leader

extended his hand in a horizontal line elegant, precise as a position in ballet. And held it. Straight at me.

Then laughed swerved and stamped his start in the wake of the others

and left me

to this day


with a nail,

If We Were Ida Fasel

If each of us were a Guarnerius how deep below the surface

the pitch of our lives would be -(true pitch isthe 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 faulrline

of the world's atrocities

and break them up. We'd never again have a civil war, never again

make Auschwitz happen, never again sell our lives for scuttlebutt.

We'd keep OUf quality, sound as centuries of a Guarnerius,

If each of us were a Guarnerius,


.... -~

Days That Will Not Dawn Again Joan Payne Kincaid

Tire past is paradise - Proust

It 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 sevenryfive years lase week calling her niece in Brewster

she'd always been willing to sit 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 politics

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;


, '

instead of leaving the house to Ruth he left half co her prosperous married brother.

Ruth never married and wanted to move to a 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.


Ruth is up in Brewster where her niece tells me

by phone she will be challenged at senior citizen affairs

but Ruth 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.


The Old Transvestite Ralph Gualtieri

No one cares any more.

I wore 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 I opened up their eyes.

I 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.


My room is near the nurses' station

just between the men's and ladies' wings. It's easier for everyone that way -

I can sashay out through the patio without passing any unfriendly door.

These days I am pretty much ignored. But chat'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,

I fell and no one laughed.

Oil on Panel Joanne Seltzer

Weall have handicaps I tell myself

watching the special class cross the street

Those who can walk push wheelchairs and hurry to outwit the impatient light

while gooseherds called teachers shoo them across.


Some hide their specialness, Can they speak; hear?

Do they know what normal is?

I have 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.


At last I 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

r wonder about my long dead uncle, Basil, mother's younger brother,

who died ofTB

in srnalltown 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,


and that was all that was all it took.


I see a slung hac, a grin.

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 smalltown boys

for loving (he white and flickering faces around corners and above

and having fathers who spoke in the German

grunt and called milk

chalk water.

I wonder what he looked like, what his death

was like.

I can't imagine the death.


Nevada Dog Medicine Mart Dennison

With the hill as steep as the nights were dark, I could usually count on a fair amount

of stumbling and cu rsing before finding a spot that would not quickly send me

back to the bottom

and when, every night,

the dog,

bigger and blacker than any I had 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

would come sniffing up from the junkyard that lay at the base of the hill,

find me and cover me

with th e dirt of another hole

dog with 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 Revil?{;,' 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

him upright, stiff through 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

But don't you realize everyone knows

Mommy dressed you this morning in pure hand-me-downs

You sit alone

in the claustrophobic subway car filled with people-shovers

eery emptiness surrounds you

Anyone with eyes can see That food-stained coat Those ragged shoes

Your ghostlike hood

Your learned and so-tired face

It'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


Hard-times dirt embedded into your skin like a forever tattoo

A blinding banner on Broadway


• ~ ':. "' • • .; "4 ~:~ • or , .;".. "I

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

I hope I see You some day

And I'll be that kid:

The very first one.

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



Boxing Day John Grey

The Christmas dreams are all transparent, faceless as rain that refuses to be snow

or 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 the tear you did not ask for,

as cold as the breath you have no wish

to fight for as 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.


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 misunderstand ing.

Even dig down into soft, fertile loam, once concrete hard,

now easy as forgiving words dug with the trowel of my lips.


Remembering demands no blood, no dru nken 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.

Lizard In A Burning Tree John Grey

Fire squirreling up

sides of bark, wrapping tight fingers round swelling gums, scraping panicked branches with long slithery nails -

black lizard eyes through rings of smoke,

not blinking,

still as death,

staring straight ahead at particles of light

that form a bright ring of reptilian angels but fail to dazzle this stiff creature -



rabbits scamper in seven directions at once as graphic heat moves swift shadows into the forest-

this buck-skin squats in

concealed anger -

something has rumbled him awake - lizard's blood is too cold to die -


string of flaming bare branches

wraps round him in an orange shroud, his tough shell melts into a

soft, gooey liq uid -

the essential lizard being

inside the outer lizard sits calmly waiting for the end,

a superior smirk cracks cross his crown head, a black tongue leaps out for one last gasp, searching for" the ghosts of insects.


In Touch With The Enemy John Grey

We Australians wear the British

in our saddle-bags, round the rims of hats, even under finger-nails.

We hate what we can't get rid of, cursing their speech, their customs, the way their little finger rises

like a swan's neck when they

sip their tea.

We are the Chinese to the Japanese invaders, damning their Toyotas, their Sonys even now when we tell ourselves the outback sun has scorched chat mother country ou t of us forever.


American companies move in, buy up our land, our minerals,

our forests, and, if we berate them it's out of respect for the raiding army smart enough to have

bigger weapons, but the British conquer in a much more furtive way, sneaking into the Trojan horses of our bodies at birth, whispering tales of empire,

a sun that never sets, the Union Jack fluttering like a cavalier's cape in some forgotten outpost,


and even those of us tanned Mediterranean or Indonesian or Polynesian find ourselves defending some pitiful convict ancestor whipped to pulp by a British soldier, smile smugly when they leave

that cold and smoggy England

of our blood and spit

in their tens of thousands, migrate to Australia,

and look for opportunity amidst our misery.

Conti ngencies Susan Packie

He kept a statement

of his financial worth together with his will

in a safe deposit box.

There would never

be any complications.

\\'hen his physician recommended minor surgery, he was not apprehensive.

He was prepared.

The operation

was a success,

but the patient died of loneliness,

the only concingency he had not foreseen.

He had his life sliced down to the essentials.

He would move

into an apartment

upon retirement

and hire a maid

to replace the wife and children

who had left him. If hospitalized, he would employ a full-time nurse to care for him upon his rerum.


Movie Line Cathleen Cohen

A boy drops

his popcorn cone.

Kernals bounce at random like the chaos in a bingo cage

before the lucky number comes up.

His mother shrieks Into the hot summer sky.

Words spit and crackle. You clumsy.

You dumb.

Can't you ever get it right?


I wince

and pull my boys back as if a fast car jumped the curb.

They turn watchful eyes to me, pull at my fingers,

testing the strength

of my hold.

r ,
In A Catalogue
Delivered By Mistake,
Cashmere Sox,
Cashmere Sweater,
Cashmere Coat light weight one was warm and
Lyn Lifshin she loved. She light as so
bought black little in her
The kind of coat heavy wools life was. Cuffs
my mother wanted, she couldn't bear on cuffs, strands
years hunting lugging thru malls, of white hair
coat racks, pushing light cotton rain on the worn collar.
aside the wools, coats that vanished. Seeing what she
the corduroys, She sewed new wanted now haunts
the fur blends cuffs on the torn as much as letting
and finding no- and worn black go of what I had to
thing like the cashmere that
Sl .__'_'~~':-"""" :T'. ._ ••. - ~
The Doctor Says
My Mother Is Fun is pulling up its now says "of course, mother is fun" and
Lyn Lifshin
feathers to smile, I must know exactly my mother jokes as
My mother perches, hide the wall all what tests show" she will even back
a shivering bird that is inside hurts. and I feel faint in her room, grin
for 55 minutes on
the examining table The doctor, about 30, as the doctor talks "I'm fine" to people
her arms, a sparrow's in her pale apricot of bad cells spread leaving her alone
hunched, wing under dress talks in a ing, closing off to let what is sink
a blue suit that soothing voice, her throat and then in as she sinks in
hides legs and arms, doesn't answer, as of something in the the words she knew
a rump close to my mother, unlike lung. My mother is but kept separate as
skeletal. Perky, what she earlier bubbly, laughs. The a wild animal pressing
joking, every begged not to know doctor says, "your closer on the other
thing left in her side of glass
S2 r

_. ..' ., '. :'

Lonely and Anonymous Albert Huffstickler

My name's Harry and I

don't know how co talk to people and women scare me and I spend half my time making up conversations I'll never have because I'll never have the nerve to go up

co anybody and stare a conversation and if I did,

it wouldn't be any of the bright things I make up

but just some stumbling, asinine mumble that the other

person probably couldn't understand anyway. And it's not getting any better and it's probably getting worse and the years are passing and I'm afraid

I I. •

It S JUSt gorng to go on

like this and then one

day it will be over and nothing will have happened, I'll never have gotten to know anyone, I'll just disappear from the face


~ .. "_ .

.. .....

of the earth and no one will even notice. And I don't know how to do anything about it and I just wish there was a clear

space somewhere where you could go and there would

be people and you wouldn't have to tell them you were an alcoholic or a drug addict or a Christian or anything, just go and be there and they wouldn't ask anything of you and would jus t let you sit or stand there for

as long as you wanted to


feeling them around until

one day you felt like saying something ro someone and then if you wanted to be

quiet for another month, they'd let you and some of them might just like you without you having to say anything and so you could

just be there and relax

and have a little human companionship without having to do anything and no one would think it was strange,

and maybe then finally you'd really start talking to some-

~ -: '.'

one or maybe you wouldn't but even if you didn't, there would still be that room

with people in it where you could go and be and not have to go back to that empty room and just sit or read

or watch TV, which is all the same anyway and maybe those dark, sick thoughts would

stop coming in the dead of night and maybe you'd begin to feel finally that you

had at least one foot on

this terrible, terrib Ie

planet. But of course, there's

no place like this here,

down here, and there's no place to go and the days are stretching ou c and I really don't know how much longer I can keep doing this ... doing this ....

July 10, 1994


What Men Do Albert Huffstickler

This is what men do:

they sit and look at the walls

til the .. valls start talking to them. Then they go out and look at the stars and the stars say nothing.

Then they go back inside

and turn out the lights and lie down

and wait for a star to appear on the ceiling and speak to them.

They lie there like that for hours and nothing happens.

Finally, they get up and turn on the lights and sit and look at the walls

til the walls scare talking to them.


I .

r ,

If you asked them if they were lonely, they would not know v v 'hat you mean, When a condition is total

an alternative is inconceivable.

first printed in Riversedge, v, 8, no, 1, Fall, 1993, Edinburg, Texas

Gullied Lives Alberc Huffstickler

Raw ravines corrugated

by wind and rain and time.

Hearts don't break.

They weather.

June 17,1989, Burch's Restaurant


, r


I,' •

Past Life Albert Huffstickler

I know 1 died on a strange city street, died of hunger and cold and exhaustion and loneliness, just fell over and they let me lie where I fell because no one knew me and no one cared and I know that I stayed with that body for a long

time because I couldn't remember anything, I was too lonely and cold and exhausted

to remember that I didn't have to stay

there, that I didn't have to be it anymore, that I could go on. And I know that when

I finally left, a part of me stayed and

is there yet, hovering over that lifeless


· \ .

bit of flotsam that no one cared enough to even move out of the street. A part of me waits there over it trying still

to put life inca it, to help it because

no one else would and that's not the way people are supposed to do. And a part of me will always be there telling me to never forget how it was and to never forget this part of my destiny because no matter how much we try to deny it we're all down here together and if we leave at all, we're all

going to leave together.

July 10, 1994


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c 0 M P L I i E
P L E T T c'R E
L E T E R A T U Richard Kostelanetz
design by Nan Wilder
60 T E L Y T U -R E