ISSN o 197 - <1 7 7 7

;1

vVATERvVAYS: Poetry in the Mainstream February 1995

you would maybe think so

the way some

'Truth is noi'ihe secret of a few' yet

.,. librarians

and cultural ambassadors and

especially museum directors

act

Lassrma Fedinglulti an excerpt [rom "Pictures of 'he Gone World"

V'V ATE R VV A YS: Poetry in the Mainstream

Volume 16 Number 2 February, 1995

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

contents
Albert Huffstickler 4 Kit Knight 22-25 Mary Winters 44
James Penha 5 H. Edgar Hix 26 David Michael Nixon 45
Joan Payne Kincaid 6-8 Frances LeMoine 27-29 Terry Thomas 46-47
Don A. Hoyt 9 Arthur Winfield Knight 30-34 Jeff Parker Knight 48
Gertrude Morris 10-12 Geoff Stevens 35 Will Inman 49
Lisa Kessler 13-17 Joy Hewitt Mann 36-40 John Grey 50-51
Ida Fasel 18-21 Lyn Lifshin 41-43 Albert Huffstickler 52-60 Waterways is published 11 times a year. Subscriptions -- $20 a year. Sample issues -$2.60 (includes postage). Submissions will be returned only ifaccompanied by a stamped, self addressed envelope, Waterways, 393 S[. Pauls Avenue, Staten Island, New York 10304-2127

© 1995, Ten Penny Players Inc.

1995 themes excerpted from Lawrence Fcrlingheui: A Cnnev Island Qfthe Mind.

Copyright© 1958 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. 2

3

Albert Huffstickler

Only God is perfect and he was raised

in a much better environment

i

4

I

I

~~--------~----~--------~.~-.--------------------------- ~~

MAMAS A COMPACT SOUTH SULEWESI James Penha

Under branches of the great mango tree in Marnasa, chiefs of To raja land

sat,

They cooled. They talked and listened. They thought:

Noone

tribe shall dam again the others with drought

or loose mud unto paddies of a neighbor.

Among branches of the great

tree flowers ever bloom as their agreement

all to share one rice field only with the water level and the land since enriches

seasons

wet and dry.

On branches of the great tree I climb,

see blossoms,

but find no fruit

to pick.

In Mamasa

I cannot make myself a king.

5

THE NEIGHBORS Joan Payne Kincaid

At the Village Hall

their extension was to be eleven feet,

su bseq uently changed without neighbor notification

to 14

until yesterday you noticed

the length of two 4xSs ;:; sixteen meanwhile the garage was moving visually and physically

down the neighbor's boundary for four unpermitted feet

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it was time to call the building inspector who came with raperneasure at-the-ready and asked about

a permit

they said (here was none

then he measured (he extension and they agreed ir was 2 feet over;

it's lovely Jiving in the country

with deception

moving In.

INTHE VALLEY Joan Payne Kincaid

The people who live

in the valley centuries before

THE WORLD BANK have lost

the fish

from their

river they

Ire told

iris necessary

since this

MEGA PROJECT

DAM

the people have no say over their future in

this small country do we ask why? Or for whom

is it NECESSARY?

7

WHY

Joan Payne Kincaid

Did our teachers way back then teach us that

the UNwould

solve world problems and bring global peace in the future? Were they:

a) fools?

b) living in delusion?

c) brain-washing us?

d) deceived by multinational propaganda?

e) lousy fortunetellers?

8

FOR THE SAKE OF PROPRIETY Don A. Hoyt

Right in the middle of it

comes the smiling mortician, looking not at what you looked at, looking at you, singing no songs, goosing no statues

(he contracts out all the statues), kissing only his own wife whose hands are much warmer

than the ones he holds all day: yours, as he pumps you out, breaks your fingers and jaw for the sake of

ultimate propriety, the breaking of a jaw

so that all our friends won't be repulsed by your gaping mouth; so thank the mortician,

for without him they'd just wrap you in a sheet

and throw you in a post-hole quick enough

to not miss dinner.

9

THINGS MY MOTHER NEVER TAUGHT ME Gertrude Morris

1.

She never taught me to keep house, or to cook. Perhaps she thought I might be kept?

Still I learned to make a bed with hospital corners tucked in tight as a table.

I barely remember when, or where, I learned. Not at camp. No. I was a champ by then.

Perhaps it was in P.S. SO on Hoe Avenue, in the Bronx. In Domestic Science there was a little house

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with flocked curtains on windows facing a wall, a practice bed, not a real bed, but a padded box

covered with sheets. (Later hospital corners were made obsolete by fitted sheets,

and another small skill was history)

In that doll house I learned to be Mrs. Goodwife,

to wait for a husband who never came. (or were surrogates brought over from the boys' school,

something I seem to remember.) Scared as I was I dared to light the stove with a stick match.

I sewed an apron to wear when I cleaned. I cooked white bread toast on the range,

stewed prunes, applesauce, and fudge, scrambled eggs and brownies. In time,

I cooked other things, for both of us, when Mother was old ... too old to defend her turf.

11

2.

Mother never told me about sex, but I learned at the hands of others.

Dr. Berger was one of them. He was small as I; (he carried a package on his back

he could never mail away.) He was also a sculptor with long prehensile fingers of a lizard,

who formed perfect women in clay.

While examining my eyes in a darkened room,

he busied my bud breasts, When I told my mother, all she could say was

tell him to stop, and she took me back. When he slipped his hand in my blouse

12

I pushed it away and he stopped at once. Was he inured to rejection, or was he

a kinder, gentler, child molester? There were others as r was growing up

I would name them in neon if I could:

The one who couched me there

another who forced my hand, and that one with the Phi Beta Kappa middle finger

who painted pictures on my body

I never saw before; but my little corpus

betrayed me ... and wanted more.

PERTINENT CURRICULUM Lisa Kessler

Norman Moon did not speak for weeks.

A pacifist, his smudged hand flatly opposed questions. He never rose

to indicate that-sound-that 'B' makes.

Even when the noises of pigs and ducks were encouraged, were imitated in fact free-far-all, everyone flopping and oinking under tables and chairs to prepare for the next day, when a REAL farmer would bring Marlo the REAL pig-desisting, Norman Moon sat indian-style.

13

Through winter to spring

through Mrs. Worth's calculated inclusions

unassuming solicitations

assuming directives, "I'm sure Norman would like to answer this one .. "

Norman slumped, void.

(Then the year near gone and summer soon coming) gray groundhog

came off of the bulletin board, to make way for THE PLAj'\jT UNIT, the objective, to advance the understanding of seed and germination

(not mastery, just an introduction)

a transcendental experiential inculcation

wherein, a great planting ceremony solemnly commenced at high noon on the initial day of Spring

with the gathering of ritual implements

I

14

sacred pint milk cartons, ripped fleshy at their mouths, rinsed, brought shake-dried from lunchroom to classroom where a 20-pound bag of Pearl's Miracle Potting Soil waited atop spread newspaper, alongside

white recyclable spoons and bulging glossed packets of Hybrid Kentucky Wonder Green Bean Seeds.

In tribunal configuration, the after lunch-bunch (all but Norman)

encircled the great sol bag with eager anticipation

and Mrs. Worth began an important explanation

regarding the centrality of insertion p-r-o-c-e-d-u-r-e

"after you fill your carton this-full,) (she demonstrated) "press your seed into the center of the soil, but-not-too-far" and each one spooned and filled and poked the seed just-so-far-and then a little farther, giggling and gaggling, dumping and throwing, until

15

~'

l

I I

NORMAN rose slowly took

deliberate steps

and the clan froze instinctively

lest-he lest-he-from-enwlight-en-ment-turn-back

but he too crouched by the great bag, picked a waiting carton spooned soil and plucked a seed

and then,

Norman

spoke.

The attentive listeners held their collective breath as he began to show-and-share REAL words

(he talks! someone whispered)

16

..,

about his Uncle Matt who's tall and r-e-a-l smart

who knows ever'thing about seeds who plants his seeds in cartons

seeds that come in folded brown paper seeds that grow this-tall, and have long pretty leaves and little white flowers up-an-top, Norman pointed, and I help him Norman said

"That kind of plant is called a weed, but it's not a weed," Norman explained expertly and he wasn't finished=

"You water it, you grow it big," (he indicated the optimal height)

"you let it dry, then" he instructed them knowingly lifted his brows at Mrs. Worth

his fingers to his lips ....

"Then ... YOU SMOKE IT!"

]7

MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE Ida Fasel

. I

The right rejoices,

the left rejects.

See-sawing, cliff-hanging, my brain has it both ways,

Ice Age evolved 50,000 years ago.

Everything changes but causes and for these

I have another brain whatever it is, undivided. Not cosmically scaled, like an astronaut's

but earthly-worded,

18

I

leading out of myself hopefully

always toward always almost

in and ou t of the hidden

never to find it, see it, touch it but to know it is there.

How can you know

what cannot be known?

Take my word for it:

vision or thing,

battered burlap or beaten gold artists cuff

valuable all day long.

How much room does the hidden take

to keep you looking and looking and liking it that way?

How can what's unseeable be seen? If you own your own boat

at a certain moment

you cut off the engine

and leap the side for a swim. When you approach the hidden, the hidden remains hidden,

but it sees.

Everything becomes present, prime, precise. At the verge, you take offfor the place where light meets light

and binds you with a belt of leather so soft

it makes the fabric it drapes festive.

In a world where the only certainty is death,

uncertainties have great potential. In a world so strange and familiar, everything is plausible.

So much to learn, so much to forget, both ways a yearning.

in and out of the kitchen and in again, at rest.

19

LOST Ida Fasel

When I was lost on the mountain and the whirligig snow

made up down and down up,

my stumbling feet were whisked through space chat had plenty of give. Easy going to such lightness. Lightness of being in good hands.

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Meister Eckhart says

an angel is an idea of God. And 1 agree

Angel of presence

in fact a fact chat day, too hard and rare

for me to understand

but what perfect ease [0 believe.

A COMPLETE HISTORY OF CIVILIZATIONS Ida Fasel

From creepy crawlers to upright brawlers

From either/ ors and wars on wars

From end to end In layered end

Like Troy, rock-prized Rock-memorized

Will no one bend?

21

SARAH MORGAN, 1862: FLY AWAY Kit Knight

The dirty Yankees have taken New Orleans. I\1y town

is next. Baton Rouge is only up the river. I gather essentials and put them in

my 'running bag.' Mother tells each of us girls to be sure

we have a comb. She wants

to save my father's attorney paper, but when

the shells starr screaming, can't remember which

are important and grabs

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~dershirts. Soiled.

The ground shakes and it seems as if the house takes a deep breath. Walls heave in, then bulge om. Furniture flies. Outside,

we run and I clutch

my canary's cage. My baby brother gave me the bird because James knew, with him gone, I'd need something

to pet or I'd go

mad. Even if

I could carry the cage, the Jittlebird would

starve. Around me, women are screaming, searching for babies, frantically looking for that one last important thing to save.

I'm going and I don't

know where, I kissed

his tiny yellow head and tossed Jimmy

toward the trees, away

from the Mississippi. Once, he chirped, as if

he didn't know where to go, either. Fly. Away from home.

23

SALLY TOMPKINS

THE ONLY WOMAN EVER COMMISSIONED IN THE CONFEDERATE ARMY Kit Knight

Shiloh was the cruelest battle of The War Between the States because the South won

the first day and the north won on day two. Hope

made a fool of reason. Shiloh gave Tennessee [he honor

of having the first tent-hospital ever established on an American battlefield. After the slaughter, the bodies lay in piles, some headless,

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others disemboweled, and many cut in half

by cannon fire. Several rebels were killed

by falling trees shattered by federal artillery and everywhere

wounded men cried and whimpered. The air was soft, a perfect southern spring day. That night, hogs gorged

on the bodies. Methodists build the one-room log Shiloh Church and it was used in turn

by both armies

as headquarters. Its Biblical name meant "Place of Peace." Then,

the armies came. Afterwards, my brother could have stepped one-to-another

on dead men without touching the ground. When Jeff Davis made me a captain and

gave me command

of the hospital in Richmond, I accepted, saying, "I will not allow my name

to be placed upon

the pay roll of the army. II

25

TWO WOMEN ON A BEACH

H. Edgar Hix

You slowly walk the edge of the surf,

and the marks of your passing pass quickly.

At the cost of wet ankles, you leave the beach a virgin.

Later, someone will come like a critic,

leaving their footnotes behind her.

She will carefully spread her big blue beach towel

on the hot sand. lie down in lotions and a black bikini, and smile to herself: the first to see the morning breakers.

You sat in the dawn waves with your legs spread

while they beat against you like an eager young lover

and the cool sands swirled around your wrists, hips and thighs.

She'll send picture postcards to the other secretaries back home. You'll clean the shell you found, hold it to your ear, and listen.

26

GOD IS IN THE RUST INSIDE YOU Frances LeMoine

God is in the rust inside you

that flecks each gesture with grime and in stretch marks, maps of proof in olive green eyes

in a day so cold the windows fog

and in the initials that appear on the glass over and over again

in that smell under rotting linoleum floors, damp and stained

in honeysuckle in New Jersey, in [he summer, on a hot morning that shouts warnings

of an even hotter afternoon

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and always in what I almost notice. God is in the taste of any tear

in blisters on a heel

in some sacrifices

and in purple excess.

But

no! in trees or in oceans

or in smiles of babies or in everyman's heart Doesn't wish to be.

28

God is in the sound of old feet

on wet pavement under injured els on

syrupy nights and in the stumbling tumblers dropped and clink of cubes

at bars that won't close

Not in clouds or in calendar scenery but in the faces of abandoned mines. Like ours.

And in broken ampoules, the gold now garbage

and spinach jungles hammered by the constant iron air

and in some tattoos.

God laughs tornadoes.

FIVE FIFTY-FIVE

Frances LeMoine

A bald woman moans to her mirror an ocean of wool laps at her feet her mouth a closet of teeth, gum and loose laughs

she pinches herself.

Far across a map of

cushioned Persian landscape,

past a sweeper and a vise,

beneath and eggy orange cable plants chatter,

LCD green and doughy leaves blush, shiver and weep for light and warm the alarm clock rouses

disclosing the day.

29

r

BUTCH CASSIDY THE BANDIT INVINCIBLE Arthur Winfield Knight

named William Phillips and I married

the most beautiful woman in Adrian, Michigan,

But she died right after we moved to Spokane.

I became an Elk and Mason and bought the fastest car money could buy,

but I could never go

fast enough. When I was wiped out by the Depression I wrote the story of my life, The Bandit Invincible, . but no one bought it.

Now I'm dying of cancer

at the county poor farm.

I should have died with Sundance.

The Pinkertons like to say I was killed by soldiers

in Bolivia, but they're wrong. Sundance died there,

but I put on the uniform

of a soldier we shot

and slipped thru their lines. I made it to the coast,

then sailed to Europe

where 1 had my face changed by some doctors in Paris. Back in the states,

I told people

I was an engineer

30

THE SLUMS OF PARIS Arthur Winfield Knight

Nobody wants to see you naked, Brigitte Bardot,

When you offered to pose, nude, to raise money

for an animal rights group, they. told you

to keep your clothes on.

Em I remember people lining up to see you naked

in God Created \\loman

the year I got out of high school. It was '56, and you were

'already famous,

two years older than me,

your naked image everywhere. People called you a sex kitten and imagined you purring

as they touched you.

You were hot, hot,

your breasts firm,

yO.UT lips pouted,

as you lay in the SUD,

naked, in Technicolor, Now your breasts droop

and your face is shot.

I t is I ike looking

at a street map

of the s lu ms of Paris. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.

Nobody wants to see you naked.

31

ELZALAY WATERMASTER Arthur Winfield Knight

My first wife divorced me because she didn't want to be married [0 an outlaw; she said I was a fool. I took my share of the eight thousand dollars Burch and I made

holding up a train in Utah and blew it on a good time. Butch always called me

the educated one of the bunch, but he was wrong.

I helped the Ketchum gang

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- - ---

stick up a train in New Mexico, but I was wounded twice

and the posse caught up with me at Turkey Creek Canyon.

I was sentenced

to the territorial prison

for life, but they let me out when I helped stop a riot. It was a long six years,

but my wounds still throbbed.

I wen t back to Baggs, Wyoming, where I'd bucked hay

for a living, then I married (he boss' daughter

and we came west. Out here, Emmett Dalton and I get together

once in a while, talking about the old days neither of us miss. The sun feels good

on our old bones

and the beer's cold.

Emmett's into real estate

and the movie business

and I'm head watermaster

of the Imperial Valley Irrigation System.

\Ve don't have to rob banks or go into hiding

and we have plenty of money. My first wife was right:

I used to be a fool.

33

VIRGIL EARP WOUNDED Arthur Winfield Knight

Someone's singing 'Silent Night"

as 11m helped up the stairs at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Someone's moaning,

"Help me, help me."

It might be my voice.

They ambush me

as I'm crossing Fifth Street in the dark.

It's almost midnight,

three days after Christmas, and there's snow in the air.

I don't want to die in Tombstone

or anyplace else for a long time,

but I'm bleeding, bad. I'm hit in the thigh

and my left arm's useless.

My wife begins to cry

when she comes into the room and sees all the blood

and the look on Doc's face.

When I tell Allie, "Never mind,

I've got one arm left to hug you with," she cries harder.

34

Circus strong man: he mates eels

with snakes

the limpid

with the flexed the tangled

with the free. There is a sinew beneath

the tortured skin that winds

his sculptured shapes and angles

so sharp

they must rely

on the broken

and the bent. Serpents of the land and sea

he shapes with strength and lifts en masse

to frame

the sky

in a lattice

where no creature knows which head

which tail

is his.

THE REPTILE HOUSE Geoff Stevens

35

OUTOFGRACE Joy Hewitt Mann

His only flock the pigeons in the park, the seeds he sows chastising sinners for their coins --

strumming a two-stringed guitar, threads

hanging bare as Jesus' feet

"The Old Rugged Cross" flows from eyes

dry as a virgin's kiss,

his pulpit built on blood-red wine. his heart a dog-eared bible

re-read

re-read

looking for the words he lost.

36

F'

CHARITY Joy Hewitt Mann

Does giving to the poor make me feel good? Hell no!

I feel terrible afterwards when I see

how little they have when I think

of how much I have

and how I cling to my much ness as ifit were

as little

as their own

and somehow connected to my own mortality.

BATTERED WIFE FOUND GUILTY Joy Hewitt Mann

It is written on her face

penned in her skin like birthmarks the locked door the kitchen knife the silent throated screams of birds. There are noises in the night

birds battering their cages

the feathered quiver fain t heart

the moans of small birds trapped inside while night hawks seek their prey.

Sometimes she hears his beating wings his carion cry as he turns the key; sometimes she sees the beak

that pierced his heart.

38

f

X-RATED Joy Hewitt Mann

And now, today, a child, thirteen, killed because STOP

was weaker than a "wheely".

What is this death? Lately it seems [0 stick to me

like something unmentionable I've stepped in.

A young man

my neighbour's son dead at twenty-two. The same day

two boys died eighteen and nineteen "A fiery crash,"

the paper said.

Last night

Jim Henson died

the youngest of them all in spirit.

I wish death were a movie, Jim. Parental Guidance.

Adult Accompaniment. Restricted

to the very

old.

FREAKS

Joy Hewitt Mann

I saw the two-headed calf stuffed at the country fair and people

indifferent to its accident of birth thought it was a joke.

The two-faced man

illusion of God's love

filled the tent with voice

and people

thought it was for real.

40

MY MOTHER AT SEVENTY NINE

Lyn Lifshin

her dark eyes losing their mahogany. Someone in the hollow of her cheeks whispers the night aid with an accent is a murderer,

a monster and she hisses her our of the room, complains I don't

stay at her side as she hoped.

She doesn't want me

to bathe, talk on the phone. I'm not what she thought, Hunched in the bed with bars she's a ravenous bird,

. ,

mostly claws and beak no longer able to boss me. Now, no longer the obedient good girl I can love her with no 'ifs', care for her as

if she's my child but I don't think she wants that and I am her daughter, Rosalyn Diane, daughter of Frieda May who, not

knowing what to tell people with a newborn said,

"use it well."

41

HEARING ABO UT IT Lyn Lifshin

pudgy, cottage cheese white. Her mother would pick her up, hug her give her pastels [0 draw a

self portrait where she could be as tall, as

thin, have hair as

straight as she half believes she can until, overhearing the grown ups go on about the sister's blond beauty the other's heavy thighs

as trees drip and

smudge she loses even the image of that image

She tries to remember the black horse she heard her father brought her when he cradled her, told

her stories every night that dissolved, lasted

less time than the stain

of his head on the gold chair she can't

even remember the color of. Raspy cloth scratchy as the hairy stalk of holly hocks

or legs that always were

42

p=' - -, -

BRINGING MY MOTHER'S THINGS TO MY HOUSE Lyn Lifshin

The kind of ice

cream scooper I always wanted and silver dollars, that's

easy. But [he sun dresses she kicked

up her heels in

all curves, before

she starred, even

four years ago,

leaving, a pound

at a time. Roses

and jade swirls I

couldn't wear, would,

if I sewed, have kept squares of for a quilt.

But I don't. Or maybe

I could make a collage

of the 1950's, a sweater, braids of what held me as a child. Her beaded flapper silk dresses would stun under glass. Where will I ever keep the gold dishes we ate beans and barley out

of under the caramel

-----,

light that's over my dining room

table now. The silver,

the blue lave blouse, how could I give away the

dog whose rubber

skin sun tanned

to almost bark and the blue horse puzzle, crystal, amber, dead watches, gold, there now to be pirated. Only now that I

can finally decide what I want and don't want, It's (00 hard to

43

CREATION EXPLAINED Mary Winters

Long long ago, or maybe tomorrow, or maybe just parallel to here, or there, a boy of about eight years old used too much bubble bath.

This was kept well hid from his tidy, economical mother; those bubbles just foamed and foamed, higher and higher, wholly delighting the boy. Then an

unexpected, very subtle spark of static electricity, tiny -- maybe from the boy's lovely hair, or the

44

soaked, in parts, bathroom rug Of the sale of his shoe near the tub -flew and ignited the air inside one of the smaller bubbles,

one rather near the drain.

An entire worJdsprang up -Ben immediately noticed and lifted the bubble to

peer inside its dome --

he is holding it still.

Thus was our universe formed -we know for certain by now.

Scholars debate, of course, the meaning of it all.

SWALLOWING THE BLUES David Michael Nixon

No one swallows the blues the way you do: they grow inside you, a strong tree, tiny at first, but soon

larger and larger till

roots and branches reach all over your body, and

when you open your mouth, evergreen branches soar Out, blue needles getting under everyone's skin.

4S

VISITATION Terry Thomas

I caught a cat

basking in the moonlight, lapping albino beams fresh as new milk.

A calico--tan washing into vacuum and brown bleeding into black. She was on my porch, perched on a railing, trailing a quiet

tail into nothing.

I pecked on the window, expecting a Ja unched explosion (my notion) but she turned,

like the slow revolution of the moon,

looked at me with wise green eyes, stead ily, and yawned.

Come dawn there was no evidence of the visitation.

DIALOGUES Terry Thomas

I found my voice in pulse, bone and skin--into the holly bush, red with berries and blood.

!'We have to talk. Dealing with feelings, and losing."

I'm bound by bells and childish laughter, bonded by links

older than words in print.

"Control, order; place for proper things. Can't face the look on your face."

I'm wound tight=write/talk it out-but I'm under the wonderous rebirth of Spring, fumbling flowers.

ItI want ... "

"Want has nothing to do with it."

47

EMERGING Jeff Parker Knight

She used to look at me the way you see people looking at (hose magic pictures,

at the mall,

lined upat a line,

straining to see (he real image

emerge from behind the obscuring pattern.

ANALYSIS anally sis Will Inman

once i collected small jars full of

waters from lakes and rivers and ponds and even surf along beaches in my home state of north carolina. took me awhile

to realize water once it's stolen from

its flow is just specimen and no longer alive just as a butterfly impaled on a

pin is just an impaled dead insect. scientists wired up two lovers with electrodes to glands and pulses, nerves and muscles, graphed it all while

the two made love, but what was love stayed throbbing in the two, the graphs

caught only what washed up on the beach not the storm: truth can't be trapped even in a line of poetry unless its

force comes to live through somebody's ears or inmost knowing where it always waited and just needed waking. Collectors are caught up in pieces,

give you a bit of wood from the true cross or teeth from ovens, spare you pain, spare you bliss, spare you wisdom of human meanness in the cause of truth, anything true outreaches definition or proof, truth lives

steep in viscera with memory and hope

49

MOUTH John Grey

Mouths say their vowels like fish swallowing,

the consonants like clamping down on bone.

When you speak it, I wish my name

had more "ailis and "OIIIS,

more excuses to cup the air with its roundness,

with that sweet crack

in its crimson landscape.

I want that mouth to bait me with its ballet;

50

roaming across your face or pulled back like a bow by your chin-bone.

For those lips can tame wild things or swing the fever wide

like doors to cabinets.

They can spit and rub

and relate like heat,

ride mine like legs on horseback or corral them tighter

than a dream.

Those are tickets (0 imaginary places or the portal into reality's

most endearing licks.

THIS LIFE, PRICELESS John Grey

I have not been idle.

This room is testimony to that. Papers filled with poetry, sketches, reviews,

scatter across the floor

like cigarette butts.

I'm comfortable here, surrounded by tidbits

of my history,

ten years of convincing the walls, the ceiling they're otherwise,

of imagination

pacing the floor with words, ] am the perfect bum,

the one reduced to penury not by idleness

but through artistic vigor. Philistines drop pebbles into my cup but

on penniless fall afternoons, I am a disciple of myself, the resolute husband

who married arc for love, passes [he whiskey bottle of imagination,

sucks it dry once more, has faith enough

to believe that something will always refill it. Dressed in dreams

of the next great masterpiece, I go without in style.

Sl

IMPROVISATIONS ON FOUR DREAM FRAGMENTS Albert Huffsrickler

1.

I had moved back to myoid apartment on 45th Street after sharing a house with Monty for three years. It had changed. There was a yard

where the asphalt parking lot had been. It looked neglected. The shrubbery was overgrown and the grass was high. It was evening. The lights were on. "Nothing stays the same," I thought. "Maybe I shouldn't have moved back again." I had moved back once before after a long stay in the hospital. Lacer, at the mailboxes, I couldn't tell which box was mine because they weren't numbered. I tried my key. It fitted all of them, My apartrnen c was no. 105 so I counted 5 boxes from the end and opened the 5th box. It was empty. Maybe my mail hadn't caught up with me yet. Maybe it never would. Maybe you can move back [Q a place once coo often,

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2.

I was standing on a ledge while a large red snake climbed towards me up the side of the cliff. It looked dangerous and intent. There was no way to climb higher so I leaped from the ledge to the ground and stood watching. The snake reached the ledge and lay there. A smaller red snake began climbing the cliff after him. The smaller snake reached the ledge and the (\VO of them coiled around each other. "They're male and female," a woman told me. "They're mating."

3.

In the apartment on 45th Street, a woman was playing a cassette. The music was very romantic, something from Tchaikovsky. A man had sent it to her. She was very lonely but the music comforted her. I wondered if I should send my mother a cassette, She was old and living alone. She was also very feeble and her sight was failing. I wondered ifshe would even be able to play the cassette. Perhaps it would be just one more frustration.

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4.

Night was falling. I was standing outside the apartment on 45th Street. The lights gleamed in the darkness. I looked in the window. The small, cluttered living room looked warm and comforting. I felt lonely, lonely for myself ~~ as though this person on 45th Street still existed but was no longer me. For a moment, time seemed to have stopped and I wondered if I would stand rooted outside that window forever. Then a voice sounded from the distance and it came to me that there was somewhere else I had to be, someplace new and strange and a little frightening. I knew then that I had come back to this place once too often. The apartment vanished and a long, dark road stretched before me. From far off, music played, something sweet and romantic by Tchaikovsky. In the sky above me, the two red snakes lay coiled together motionless -- as though they were asleep.

first published in Unsoma, No.1, Pelzer, S.C., 1994

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TO WHOM IT SHOULD CONCERN Albert Huffstickler

I'll tell you this:

there are more lonely people in this world than anyone imagines. And it's not getting any better. It's getting worse.

And nobody knows what to do about it

including the ministers and psychiatrists and the government because they're lonely too

and, if they don't know what to do about their own loneliness, how could they possibly know what to do about anyone else's? All they know is that there's some kind of wall between

these people and others and it never seems to come down. And that's not all:

there is a way of dealing with loneliness if you can accept it and go on but most of these people can't do that because

it's like long ago they were stricken suddenly by loss

and driven into loneliness and they're still there in that first shock

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so that even if someone comes along and wants to be with them they don't know it. And so they trudge down their grey days without hope or respite

and don't even talk about it, don't tell anyone

so no one even tries to help because no one even knows.

And that's how it is and that's how it goes on year after year after year.

And if there were just a few of these people then perhaps it wouldn't be so important but I'm telling you there are more of them than you ever imagined

and the number is growing all the time.

And as the number increases, hope goes out of the world so when the great brains of this world get ti red of dealing

with facts and figures, economics, peace on earth and model societies, let them put their attention on that for a while

and let me know what they come up with

because I don't have the slightest idea what to do about it And I don't think that they do either.

Emergency Room, Seton Hospital, Austin, Texas, Nov. I, 1994

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HO\V A TIME BECOMES PAST Albert Huffstickler

I thought it was going on forever--those years when I walked evenings to the Sundae Palace, the coffee and ice cream shop where I wrote every day after work, trudging down the long evening from my apartment on 45th Street to sit scribbling in a notebook to be typed later. I had gathered up all the threads of my life by force of will and now I was going to weave them into something beautiful and real--now, in this place, in this time. It went on endlessly-from 1975 to 1978 when I got sick and then, when I moved back to the same apartment after I'd recovered, from 1981 through most of 1983. Then I moved and picked it back up in the new place only by then the Sundae Palace had closed. I'm still doing it=with a few minor changes: I write weekends in the Cafe du Jour and evenings often in Burch's which has replaced the Sundae Palace in the same location. But something has changed. That part of the time that belongs to 45th Street and the Sundae Palace is past now. It went on for so long that I thought it would never happen but it has. I can look back now on that hunched figure trudging down Duval Street in the [ate evening and he's almost not me. Almost.

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There's a line between us, a link that will keep me from ever seeing him with a marked degree of objectivity. But as much as any part of you can become no longer a part of you and other, he has become past. I observe him. I feel his loneliness--the loneliness of someone who has set a course and will not, cannot deviate. He moves through the seasons, his garb changing from coat to shirtsleeves and back, hunched into himself, sits hunched into himself in a booth as far back as he can get from the door, writing and watching. He walks home through the darkness, a remote figure, the son of distance, seen always as he sees himself, from far away. He is lonely but he will do nothing about it. He will do what he has set himself to do and then get up in the morning and go to work because that's a part of it too. There's a fugitive air about him. He's a stranger to his surroundings, the surroundings he no longer sees they've become so familiar. The loneliness and the fugitive air are a part of what he has become -- as though an agreement has been reached: he can move through the environment and do what he has to do with the understanding that he will attempt no meaningful contact. From time to time, he attempts to break the agreement, break through to someone but the attempt is invariably frustrated, either by rejection or his own lack of attention. In the end, he always gives up and goes on with what he is doing. An invisible rain falls inside his small apartment, runs down the walls to puddle on the floor. The years

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through their seasons but the days are stopped; each day is a grey wall on which he scratches out his message with incredible parience. He is a prisoner serving a life sentence by

. - building a matchstick replica of the prison that encloses him. He is not unhappy. Happ iness and unhappiness are.conditions relevant to time and hope. He is beyond hope and timeless. He is still there. And I, finally am here, where I am, sorting and cataloging the words he wrote, adding new ones, At some point, unknown to myself, I emerged from the prison of days and stand blinking in the light.

Everything has changed, taken on a different luster. I left my life many years ago and return to find everything changed, most of all myself. My hands move up to my face, tracing the new lines. This is not the face I began with. It is the face of someone who has seared into the wind too long. It is a face no longer young.

first published in Coffeehouse #15, Bethoud CO, 1994

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NATIVITY Albert H uffstickler

Jan holding her dying parakeet and sobbing, shaking with each spasm of the small grey body, then holding it dead, weeping inconsolably.

I didn't touch her.

There was no one there to touch. Later, she wouldn't talk about it.

It was a door closed on an empty house. Much later, I took her to a pet store

.-"",,"

and bought her another one.

She didn't want it. The door was closed.

Then suddenly she loved it

and cupping it in her hands, crooned to it softly.

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It was Christmas eve.

I watched her, thinking of the terrible wounds

children survive,

as she knelt oblivious to me now, holding her new-found treasure, crooning so softly,

cupping it to her,

the tiny heart beating against her palm,

her eyes, bright still from old sorrow, glistening with wonder.

December 24, 1984

first published Hyde Park Poets Pecan Press, December 1994

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