,\VATERvVA YS; Poetry in "the Ivl a i ri s t r e a rri NIay 1995

Not like Dante

discovering a comtneclia

upon the slopes of heaven

I would paint a different kind

of Paradiso

Latsrence F erli''lgl/tlti an excerpt/rom '''1 Coney Island of the AI ind"

1

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

Volume 16 Number 5 May, 1995

Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher

Thomas Perry, Assistant

Ruth Daigon Ida Fasel

Bruce Hesselbach Gertrude Morris Lisa Kessler Christien Gholson Geoff Stevens

Kit Knight

4-6 7-9 10-15 16-17 18-20

21 22-23 24-27

con.tents Arthur Winfield Knight 28-29

John Grey 30-33

Duane Locke 34

Joy Hewitt Mann 35-37

Terry Thomas 38-39

Sr. Mary Ann Henn 40

James Penha 41-43

David Michael Nixon 44-45

Matt Dennison Mark Smith Will Inman Lin Lifshin

Albert Huffstickler Dante Alighieri

46 47-49 50-51 52 53-61 62-64

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

@ 1995, Ten Penny Players Inc.

1995 themes excerpted from Lawrence Ferlinghctti: A Coney Island of the Mind.

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

3

Moment - Ruth Daigon

In the mind of winter

it's been cold a long time and the north wind blows in the same bare place.

A snowflake resting in a child's palm makes of her life

a simple moment. This

The sun skids on frozen surfaces and fog

chokes off all sound.

moment

emptied of all memories but one.

The eye blots out

images of green, finds calm in brittle landscapes and comfort in bare limbs.

4

Wet World - Ruth Daigon

Expect a certain absence in me during winter. I still inhabit

those bronze days down at the pond with the sun grafted to my knees.

It is everything that wet,

green place. Reaching into it,

I discover the water inside the water and hold that liquid world between

my hands. Guided by invisible springs,

the body dissolves like a wafer on the tongue. The depth that drowns supports me,

water's my protection against water

and one ripple return me to the shore

to life full-length and mindless

tasting of sun and sweat and me.

5

Ancient Rounds - Ruth Daigon

I wake early, climb

the oak's thick trunk up to its sweet armpits.

The long night fades like an image

on an ancient wall.

No one looks for me among the brittle leaves, the furthest tip of air.

6

The year makes perfect circles, snow-scented, leaf-smoked,

a blending of decays

that spin me back.

Again I'm short-sleeved in

October, snow-bound in December.

Again I'm seventeen and old and wise as all of womankind.

--

I

Driven Out - Ida Fasel

vVe gardened our fingers to the bone for him. We prayed our thanks night and day.

We kept the place in perfect condition. Whore's the respect he owes to us?

His greatest angels are on guard,

burning red as devils.

And Michael, the greatest, strong-arming his sword. Sword of your loving God!

As if we were dreck, not first creation, Why didn't you speak up?

You, his favorite.

You left stones wherever you bowed your head. They bruise underfoot. I spit on them.

I kick them. What more can he do now?

Of course he could have sent us

to the valley of the shadow of death. If we knew what it was, would it be any better than where we are going? Where are we going?

Oh Adam, let sorrows come, my hand in yours.

7

A Swan Queen, Maybe - Ida Fasel

I was in love and knew it.

"Let me see you turn out" -- my first teacher. She showed me. From the hips.

After that, years of blood, bandaids,

patched pointes and unpatchable pain

(a fall only a coming back to rise again),

no other way to move but by the elements, no other dream but to leap

and come down

with the vanishing lightness of virga and make a whispered landing

on pure poise,

partnered all the way

to reverence and roses, fulfilled

8

-Time-honored number of rums, N:.t III, Swan Luke,

9

in the contours

of a courteous skillful hand.

Practice fouettes soaking wet, baiting myself with Odile, Odilel I remembered the grassy bank lid rolled down once, the world

not letting go at bottom

but whirling me on. More and more I took control of balance,

whipping in place, my fixed point

a sparrow on the window ledge

and a Swan Queen's crown of feathers white as his throat,

if only I could make it to 32. '*'

California Across the Street- Bruce Hesselbach

I will show you California, Far-off, exotic California, California across the street in a vacant lot:

low brush in the front, mowed over several times; a few trees farther in.

It's a world to see,

if you're a kid of five,

and you haven't been around the world like your older brother has.

California the Golden, California-I-A.

It's as flat as the rest

10

of Massapequa, except a t the back someone years ago dumped a big load of dirt.

It's a mound, it's a hill.

Hell, compared to this town, it's a mountain.

A big chokecherry covers its summit, and dense brush. Why anyone ever dumped on that lot in the first place beats me.

We fought on that hill,

all the neighborhood kids, with guns and imaginary guns and dirt bombs

fists and words and hurt feelings. Da - da - da - da. I got ya.

Ya missed me. JIm a new guy.

We struggled through the stickerbushes

11

r

I !

like barbed wire

and hid in the shelter of the tree from the traffic down old Broadway.

In those days you could go from one empty lot on the corner to another

and another all the way up that busy street for miles even, finding

locusts, Japanese beetles, mantises, sumac groves, big oaks and pines, cocoons, salamanders, chunks of concrete, wrappers from candy, a torn up

Report Card that some poor kid threw away rather than accept his failing grades.

I took my brother across the street and showed him what I call California

and it was glorious.

12

I

Chincoteague in April - Bruce Hesselbach

Forest floor covered with pine needles Sound of the ocean heard clearly a mile away

a restful sound

calm breeze through the forest underbrush of bayberry and greenbriar small ferns

beginning to break out

Loblolly pines 100 ft tall sway very gently

in the wind

Yellow pollen from the pines:

forms oil slicks on the ponds and channels on Assateague channel

13

on Black Duck creek and marsh

covers the cars like a thick layer of dust

snows on the roads and trails, on chairs and picnic tables little drifts on the sides of roads, on paths

The deer and ponies are cautious

There's a big snapping turtle with its mouth gaping

The Delmarva fox squirrel walks, doesn't hop blends in with the bark of the loblolly pines

Blue sky

Strong sun

marsh grass brown fields of

14

---

salt meadow hay in high marsh salt marsh cord grass in low marsh

thick growth of moss on the trees

like reindeer lichen patches of moss on the soft ground

unreachable islands of pines float in Black Duck marsh hoofprints cross the sand and mud

horses materialize, then disappear

a mild smell of pine, pleasant, not overpowering a quiet persuasion of pine

Life seems so calm and slow here the sound of ocean in the pines

15

Way Down East - Gertrude Morris

(from a news item)

An old woman in Maine kept nine chickens a goose and a goat she'd never eat,

(they were her friends; each had a name.) eggs every day and milk to sell.

After a storm she went out to see

to them. The goat and the goose were ok. Counting chickens there were only eight. Where in the world had Josie got to?

Poking around the drifts she found her stone frozen near bald as an egg.

Her comb as hard as cherry candy. Anyone else would think: fricassee.

16

But this lady she took Josie inside put her to thaw on the heat register. After a while one leg twitched. Right then she gave her CPR.

she'd seen it on Rescue 911.

Press release press release breathe into open beak.

Josie let out a ragged squawk ..

She stood up on wobbly legs.

Two days later she laid an egg!

17

First Take - Lisa Kessler

March 23 and the pear buds burst!

Okay, i forgive them, though they are a micro-equinox late

(there was a conspiracy)

the tree lay in wait with the strongest of lusts the lust to birth in the full face of the moon her flowers

would be born in splash tidal concurrence and

if overdue,

she has brought forth a copious bloom

the productive contraction of nature, insanely complete.

18

One-two-three, smile you tree

postpartum

heaving and camera-ready

you are the year's sweetest picture--

'till tee_nage males of my species round the tree in full strut

block my shot, walk-Swing

they are the carnal intention jazzed-Spring

jutting its shoulder towards the opposite foot

the bobbing of their heads is a fantastic community of longhaired flame!

19

(I watch them through the eyepiece) they range

bully-bare-chested

to t-shirt draped

the words on one shirt, "Time to Talk Trash"

One of them [urns and

waves at me.

winks and

20

Everything Is Itself for Once on Easy Breeze Street - Christien Gholson

The sun clangs in hot leaves.

A beat-up blue Valiant waits for deliverance at the curb. Cicadas make a circle of noise a lens,

examining the line between light and leaf.

A baby in diapers drags her stuffed monkey through the dirt. Nothing is for rent today.

No fuck-whistles, angry mouths, stumbling drunk gestures.

No radio billboards trading the sun for a new pair of shoes, honey. Just us.

Interpreting the sun by our own shape

21

(

Moving Apart - Geoff Stevens

A small island

from which can be seen

the signs of occupancy

by men that frequent pubs, the means to travel

to the bookshops,

the galleries of town.

A small island,

a river one perhaps,

is what a man requires

at times a place cut off

from strain and stress, an island in Lough Erneits farmhouse surround

of lush grass thinned

by shallow soil

22

\

that barely covers the foundation rocks of Celtic past a place where sheep roam behind a fringe

of trees

which check the breeze, the ruins that men left,

the tower pointing to

the heavens, the river flowing, the colour of blue Gillette, past other islands;

islands stretching to the ends of earth, available for landing should this one

seem inadequate.

23

Wednesday's Bread Kit Knight

"1 hate to even serve Wednesday's bread," Julie said as she put the basket

on our table. She explained the restaurant doesn't receive fresh bread deliveries

on Sundays or Wednesdays, Both our mothers

-2500 miles and

one decade apart--

are diabetics and both just had open heart

surgery. Upon arriving home, after having leg veins lifted

24

and transplanted and their breastbones sawed open, both women wanted

to have their hair done.

My aunt, upon coming home after a suicide attempt, also went to a beauty salon. And the stylist, who had the wits of a duck, said, "You can't

fix your troubles anymore than you can drown a duck." Both our mothers appear to be doing well. Although,

as they repeatedly

warn us, things

could change. Julie told us her mother loved butter,

lots of it. She'd spread it thick and sprinkle sugar

on it. Sometimes, brown sugar. Julie pushed the basket with outstretched fingers and said, "No more, my mother

isn't allowed any fats. She gets all excited

thinking of her special treat, then she slumps."

Judith Henry, 1861 The First Civilian Casualty Kit Knight

I sing "Dixie" and am honored the first battle of

The War Between the States is on my land. Sheltered between the Blue Ridge and the Allegheny Mountains, Indians called

the Shenandoah Valley

--so green, so blessed-Daughter of the Stars. Fields in this valley produce wheat at nearly double the yield of farms elsewhere in

Virginia. Out-of-staters and European visitors come to our hot springs to soothe

feverish bodies. We had our own limestone quarries. Both the north and the South crave

this valley. Manassas is

only 36 miles from a worried Lincoln. Stonewall Jackson says, "If this valley is lost, Virginia is lost." And everyone knows if the South's richest state is lost, then the Confederacy will also be lost. I'm a widow, an invalid. And I watch

rebel sharpshooters crouch behind my house and I watch federal soldiers lob shells thru my bedroom. One rips off my foot. My daughter screams; my servant screams; the men outside

are screaming. But I hear my son's words

from under the shattered peach tree. Oh God, Johnny must be under fire from both sides;

he wails,

"They've killed my mother."

25

So Many Wounded Birds Kit Knight

Over a century ago Rutherford B. Hayes signed the document that made my husband's great grandfather

a notary. Before Hayes became president, he was

a general in the UnionArmy. A Confederate musketball shattered his left arm

at Antietam, Over 22,000 men died in that single

battle. Over 17,000 wounded, bleeding, limping. It was

26

the single bloodiest day

of that War. Hayes' wife, Lucy, tended his wounds and later helped him put on his Presidential coats. As my husband left the shop that was interested in old famous signatures and ran across the street toward

a park with old cannons --elongated tears--

he fell. His left shoulder and right wrist took all

the weight Arthur came home, limping, and said he'd sat on the parks' steps for ten minutes and waited

to pass out, Over 130 years after An tie tam «rebels called it The Battle of Sharpsburg-I tended

my husband's wounds. Bathing his knee and applying ice

to his wrist We watched it swell and turn purple. Arthur couldn't turn

the wheel to drive and weeks passed before he could sleep on his left side. I helped mow the lawn and take off his shirts. More than

17,000 wounded.

Anna Jackson, 1863 The Last Portrait Kit Knight

My husband hadn't been home in two years and

Thomas had never seen

our daughter. She was only a year old and those eight spring days were the first

and last times my husband --whom all the South called Stonewall=held

his only child. Hundreds

of Yankees couldn't get past any position held

by troops my husband

led. Sobbing, I listened to Thomas describe

how his men marched 36 miles --some barefoot, all hungry-and left glittering bloodstains

on the snow. He was proud of his men. So proud

they followed him, instantly. Proud

of their ability to keep

the Shenandoah Valley

safe. General Lee trusted my husband above all

other generals. when Thomas' arm was amputated, Lee said, "He has lost

his left arm, but I

have lost my right," Before the battle at Chancellorsville, I arranged Thomas' hair

for an official portrait.

And I never

saw him look so handsome and noble. Thomas' wounds led to pneumonia and his death was called "The Heartbreak of the Confederacy." when the body came home, I saved several long curls

fat the baby who will never know her father.

27

Bill Doolin: Rheumatism Arthur Winfield Knight

I was naked, soaking in the mineral baths

when the marshal caught me. I'd gone to Eureka Springs for my rheumatism,

and Tillghman followed me into the baths, disguised

as a preacher. By the time

I knew he was there,

it was too late. I rose up out of the steaming water

like Neptune rising from the sea, like some fisherman from Galilee,

28

water dripping from my scrotum. I held my hands high.

When Tillghman brought me in five thousand people met us

at the Guthrie station.

My bones ached from the cold. The crowd cheered

and I held my hands high.

My arms pressed against the sky. The snow came down hard.

It was January and I knew

it was going to be a long winter.

Joseph Spotted Tail: Pain Arthur Winfield Knight

The pain begins

in my lower back, going down my thigh. My knee pulses.

At 3 a. m, I'm up, sitting in the dark, then I lie

on the long couch with the faded yellow flowers.

I take 2 codein, washing them down

with wine. Jenny Moonbeam sits beside me,

holding my hand. We watch the darkness together.

"l don't like it," I say.

I hate pain.

we had to walk 4 miles each way

to catch the bus when we attended the white high school in Point Arena.

\Ve left before dawn

and came home after dark, Everyone laughed

at our names and our clothes came from the Good Will. live never liked it.

29

The Missing of You John Grey

the drive home, eleven o'clock

at night, fueled by a brief glimpse of you through a bar window. Miles, stirred up by car headlights, slap against my face,

air agitated by thoughts tangles with that

quick photograph of memory, your hair, your shoulders,

the way one feeds the other like morning sunlight

on a lake.

I have been with friends

30

who stroked my intellect but brushed me by, filling their hollows

with alcohol

while I wallowed on theedgeofconve~ation prowling the dark corners of my latest mood. Nothing stirred me there but, in that late

night theater of the sidewalk, peering through windows, struggling for my keys,

I exposed myself

in one giddy flicker of sight and sucked up all of what

I have missed these past

few months in a shameless straw.

I miss those whispery blue eyes, the delicate angles of your face swept clean and eager

over your cheek bones,

that sweet sandalwood perfume, the soft, lawless mouth,

but mostly I miss

knowing enough of myself to understand these are not what I'm missing,

that beyond all of you

is more of you,

that what I glimpsed was not the head-shot

but language we share long unspoken, territories carved out, sensitive, dream-like, in crazy combinations, not words exactly,

but how we make the words and why we string them together. These are the absences that nag at me,

that shape this ride home, that press hard against my chest and drive your name

out through my throat

I miss those times when I become as irrational

as children splashing in water,

when everything rides

on hands across a cable, when nothing of me is safe and poetry is shaken

out of me

like fall leaves. Having seen you

I've seen nothing of you, though I'm driving out of you and into you, nerves whistling, eyes drowning in the road, hands coaxing the wheel into finding the longest way home.

31

Betrayal John Grey

It was up until the time he stole my wallet. .. before then, I thought his handshake was a star, one of those twinkling coffee-house shiners where I could read all the books I ever read, see clearly every opinion I'd ever held.

He listened to my worth

or talked up everything I showed him, while slipping his hand inside my jacket without even rustling the lining.

I never thought of myself as being a few bucks and some credit cards

32

stashed in faded leather.

I was the hot-dog intellectual spiking the ball in that Colombian blend end zone.

I was rocket boy spinning around the ceiling on jets of poetry.

I was looking for a mentor

who could pat my million and one backs, confirm what I always thought about myself.

But instead, he took the things that didn't matter and I drowned in java steam for a week

cursing how much it mattered.

33

Brief Encounter Duane Locke

It was the milk-white vase, shaped like a tulip coming out of tulip leaves. We saw it together. Our eyes met

before averting to the gray lavender wall. OUf heads returned for face to face face.

Now 11m alone, folding a handbill advertising massages.

34

In Limerick Woods Joy Hewitt Mann

Here I have remembrance, eyes again,

friends wander wooded days still slim, yellowed leaves bridge time

where weeds green-drip on year-worn stone and youths emerge from hilly fields

and slip by me again.

We all were hungry Nature eaters till cities ate us.

Sad,

western shine-rich light struck us friends

and silent landscapes veiled our hearts.

But come,

we're here again, little,

pale,

watching shadow-love of leaf and sun and walnut trees grown rich with birds and ancient ivy usurping slender elms, swinging our lives through twilight, through wheeling bats,

rolling hills like kegs of joy.

My vacant, wasted life is filled with sense again,

I live our sharing hearts.

The clearest path was always through the dusky air

with laughter lighting up our way.

35

One Day

Joy Hewitt Mann

Sitting alone

on the trick-stained bed she shakes off the bruise high on her cheek

licks the trickle

on her lip

gently

and dreams her dream.

36

Five years ago

she bought a forest a small

naked part

and one day

when she's saved enough she will build a cabin there

and one day she will paint

or write poetry one day

when she is healed.

Horses to Ride Joy Hewitt Mann

The farrier's son

loves the fleshy girl with garlic-breath who laughs

"You'll break your neck"

as he swings from horse to horse over the musky stalls

stroking flanks with eager thighs thewy arms clutching crossbeams while whinnies and prickly nickers and steam rising in warm yeasty smells to feed the air

seep through his skin

as he turns on love's great witless wheel . breaking his neck on the clapping of her hands offering himself on a swarm of flies

lithe body gliding into gap-toothed smiles and wide hips (and fat babies)

when the horses

are bedded down

when her laughter is put to sleep.

37

Nightmare Terry Thomas

Drowzy --

dropping into a bottomless bed. Rough blanket tucked

under a stubbly chin.

Dreaming --

snort and snuffle,

ruffled hair rising on end; mane mangled with sweat. Helpless --

trying to stop but along for the ride. Body bucking like

an aroused stallion.

38

Runaway --

fear galloping behind your eyes -heart thudding hoofbeats

in a heaving chest!

Awake --

trembling and chilled;

lips foamed but mouth dry hoofprints on your psyche.

I Rake Sycamore Skins Terry Thomas

I rake sycamore skins into the empty garden,

bare breath tingling, mingling with dusty twilight.

Hands into earth--dry, brittle; spittle moistening rough ground, heart rustling around in my deep chest like an old leaf

asleep in winter's cold.

I turn brown/black,

putting back green covenant, content that my continual contract will enact the miracle.

When I'm turned into bare earth my skin will sprout anew.

Look for me in young blooms seeking room-pathways

for the progeny of spiraling days.

39

I Dream That Sr. Mary Ann I-Ienn

Earth will be Nirvana

Nothing will die not grass nor flowers trees birds bees squirrels rabbits nor man In all its beauty and perfection It will be the way weld like

it to be NOW no garbage no pollution no war Wewon't need cars or planes or highways It

will be wall to wall green and growing because like angels we'll be able to fly wherever

40

we wish to go all will be peaceful everyone everything will be safe No need for bombs or guns No reason to fear each other or death or God

What Clown Made Me?

James Penha

What clown made me?

Of what circus? with how many rings? In which ring do I perform?

What clown made me dance?

What clown conducts? what clown's composition? Whose steps do I follow?

What clown made me laugh?

What clown fired the seltzer bottle? What whipped the custard? Who was aU wet? Who faced the pie?

41

What clown made me cry?

What clown swept the spotlight from its edges 'til I remained in blackness and a void?

How many clowns did I fit in my little car? What clown drove? and where?

What clown remained alive there?

What clown made me climb the ladder to save

the awful child in the big top fire?

Why the fall?

Do we? who fell? survive?

42

What clown made me the clown I am today?

What clown puttied round my red nose? washed me white?

outlined in black a smile?

trimmed me blue with frills?

What clown armed me with a slapstick?

when he made me fill his monstrous shoes?

What clown made me

finish Clown College first?

What clown taught me then to see the fun house mirror?

ask what clown made me

proud to be a clown?

43

Don't Wake My Mother David Michael Nixon

God is not dead, she's only sleeping. Her snores curl like a warm cat

around the head of a man on a blue pillow.

Made in her image, the man is sleeping, dreaming of warrn, soft fur and a paper dragon

that clatters after him, burning his mind toward morning.

44

Dream of a Blue Sheep David Michael Nixon

A blue sheep eating the cracked corn under the bird feeder;

turkeys exploding off the ledge and flapping through the woods above the creek; moose moaning in the distance, a deep chorus

of sexual pain. The sheep raises its blue face, stares at the house impassively, then lowers its head and goes on eating birdseed

4S

Ed Can't Walk Matt Dennison

Ed in his white cap holds the railing with his shaky left hand, cane

working the ground

as he smiles hesitantly, desiring to approach.

"Ah," his wife says, sipping her tea, observing

the sad spectacle from the viranda.

46

"As you can see,

my husband cannot walk. The War--horrible wounds, not to be mentioned.

His lungs, at first,

black spot small

as a quarter

and then

the brain which reduces the spinal column

to grease and gravy

and there you have it. Shall I pour?"

l

Ed shook, almost fell, then staggered toward us like an idiot

puppet.

Later that night, looking out my window, I saw

Ed slide out the back door, look twice behind himself, hide his cane behind

the potted flowers,

spread his arms

and flyaway over the house into the moon-lit clouds for a little wifeless

while.

Monuments Mark Smith

The Washington Monument ascends from a flapping ovation of flags,

a glorious, floodlit national souvenir of heroism.

While far below, just outside the circle of light, ragged men huddle in shadow,

eating garbage.

It's winter in Washington

from DuPont Circle to the slums southeast.

The Treasury, straight from the back of a ten-dollar bill,solid sawbuck of a building,

47

sharing the street corner where

bankrupt America passes a bottle of port wine in a paper bag, panhandlingthetouris~.

On L'Enfant's grand ellipse,

Homeless sleep in garbage bags, wrapped in newspapers. They can see from where they lie chandeliers

winking in the White House

and maybe a man in the window. Can he see them, too?

Or does the dark glass give back only his own face?

Winter in the land,

cherry blossom spring cold months away.

It's cold tonight and men and women huddle

48

out of the wind, beside a thick gray wall--do they know it's Justice?

Or do they care?

The armies of despair sleep outside on heating grates, in doorways, in the stations of the Metro.

And we cross the street

or give them money

or turn our brimming eyes away up from the miserable streets

toward the bright colonnades, the domes, the spires-remembering,

yearning,

pretending.

March 1994 49

Let My People Will Inman

no longer a christian never quite a jew still i

listen to Handel's Israel in Egypt, typing my poems, come to that song of Miriam, Our Lord God Reigneth For Ever and Ever! hair stands up on my arms and back of my neck: i know in that sound what Miriam knew, what old George Frederick caught in his choruses larger than any bible

legend or fact truer than any padre or rebbe

carries under his orthodox tongue, whole

universes strive baroque as quarks ancl brothersister subparticles, Dante's Paradiso wears cobwebs alongside that resonance temples and churches squat beside and weep, heaven

50

borns me through my risen pores this instant. what i know is all that is wakes down me and has voice i can taste to the grotroot of god

hell is being without. walk the water of that sound. Miriam sets fire to the talking bush. she knows what her brother's ears are turned to hear: Go down, Moses, let my people cross over

September 3. 1994, Tucson

Sl

Advanced Ballet Class Lyn Lifshin

no one here isn't skinny

pointe shoes gleam like eyes of a gambler playing pinochel

deep past night

red veins bulge

no one looks down as if to ignore what's burning,

52

raw crammed in to where it matters more to look

like you Jove what you're doing

never In pam

like a good stnpper,

What Counts Albert Huffstickler

She's wearing dark wrap-around sunglasses

and has a bandage over one eye, only partly concealed. She has to keep turning her head, bird-like, to see.

I think a man hit her. Pow!

I think she's thinking about him now,

wishing she had a knife in one hand and his scrotum in the other and at the same time, she's crying over the indignity.

Because that's what will last

The eye will heal but the indignity

will be an open sore long after he has vanished from her life. It will give form to her rage.

I t will shape her

S3

and one clay; having reached whatever pinnacle she's chosen to prove her dignity,

she'll sit there at the top crying over the way people treat each other, not sex or gender or hate or Iove--jusr that:

the way people treat each other.

from Poetry Notel, Deluth, Minn, 1991

S4

Lament Albert Huffstickler

The she that's me

didn't get here.

She's on a holding pattern

out near Mars,

circling, circling. She'll wait out there

till I get back

which means die

down here then we'll head back

to where we came from

and this mistake

will be over.

55

I feel her out there

Sometimes at night

circling, circling lonely in the cold

out near Mars.

Sometimes in my sleep

. it's me out there

like a rnateless bird

circling, circling,

lifting and falling

on the winds of space.

from Cosmic Trend, Ontario Canada, 1994

56

What It Means to be Free Albert Huffstickler

We forget

til the bus to New Mexico stops at the Kettle

in Del Rio at midnight and we troop out strangers

half-asleep

to mingle with the natives order hamburgers

and coffee

crouch in a booth

eating and watching

safe in the knowledge

that no one knows your name.

Finished, sitting back

to light a cigarette watch the old cowboys stomp up to the counter, couple in a corner making shy love.

You bless them from

your magnificent distance order a second

cup to go

then amble out

to the star-crisp night stand looking up then climb aboard.

The engine revs. You glide off. Lighting a cigarette, you sip your coffee lean back

watching the night stroke past contained

content:

for this moment,

there's nothing you need.

from Exit 13, No.6, 1994, Fanwood, NJ

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At the Museum Albert Huffsrickler

They're here - all of them. They meet your gaze serenely.

They have nothing to hideMatisse the child,

the droll Picasso,

Van Gogh mad

as a hatter

but peaceful now gazing out from grey rock and pale white sky.

I look and

look, feeling them inside me

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commenting:

This is what

I was trying

to do here,

you see?

How can anyone say

that life stops with death?

If you come back next week, it's all changed, The voices will tell you different things.

Van Gogh

whispers in my ear,

"It helps to be crazy," Matisse says,

"Play with your toys." "Keep your distance," warns Picasso. Bonnard murmurs, "Love will find you," "Stick to the facts," says Hopper,

"and the principal fact is light."

"Well, I don't know," I say.

"Of course you don't," they answer in unison. "That's why you came to us."

from Tlw Pku~~ T""",", Bowie MD No. 19, July 1994

A Theory that Explains Everything Albert Huffstickler

Suppose there were signals

that you didn't know you were giving and the other person

didn't know that he was receiving-like touch ing the left side of your nose or scratching your right ear--

and this identified you as a Martian or something and if the other person picked up on you,

your paths would cross later, seemingly by accident, and you'd begin talking

and find that you had all these things in common-even your most secret thoughts--

and know you'd met one of those few people

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in the world who are really real to you-and you know how rare those are. What I'm saying is

what if all this surface stuff is a mirage and what's really going On

is another level far down below your consciousness and a whole different language exists

that you don't even know

or at least don't know you know?

And suppose this is what's ~ going on? Makes sense, doesn't it?

I mean, doesn't that make a lot more sense than what's going on around you?

Hyde Park Ba.~ery, January 22, 1995

60

What Every Writer Knows Albert Huffstickler

Every writer knows

that deliverance will come by mail. One day, he'll open the mail box and a tiny golden angel

will be standing there holding a trumpet. And she'll raise the trumpet to her lips and blow a long blast

and the sky will cloud up as

a million white envelopes fall from the sky, each with a check and each

with a note from the editor

assuring him that he's the best-no, the ultimate. And from that day forward,

the mailbox will be full every day

and everyone will be kind and admiring and want to hear all about you

and the sky will be full of stars

that burn both day and night

and love--why, love will be common as grass and--welt, I don't need to go on,

you can finish this yourself

But just remember:

it will all start with the mail. It couldn't be any other way. Every writer knows that.

January 20, 1995 61

from The Divine Comedy Paradiso

Canto x.'"XII

Dante Alighieri

An excerpt translated by Henry H0dsworlh Longfel/ow

Oppressed with stupor, I unto my guide Turnecllike a little child who always runs For refuge there where he confideth most; And she, even as a mother who straightway

Gives comfort to her pale and breathless boy With voice whose wont it is to reassure him, Said to me: "Knowest thou not thou art in heaven, And knowest thou not that heaven is holy all, And what is done here cometh from good zeal?

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After what wise the singing would have changed thee And 1 by smiling, thou canst now imagine, Since that the cry has startled thee so much, In which if thou hadst understood its prayers

Already would be known to thee the vengeance Which thou shalt look upon before thou diest.

The sword above here srniteth not in haste Nor tardily, howe'er it seem to him Who fearing or desiring waiteth for it.

But turn thee round toward the others now, For very illustrious spirits shall thou see If thou thy sight directest as I say."

As it seemed good to her mine eyes I turned,

And saw a hundred spherules that together With mutual rays each other more embellished,

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I stood as one who in himself represses

The point of his desire, and ventures not To question; he so fearcth the too much.

And now the largest and most luculent

Among those pearls came forward, that it might Make my desire concerning it content.

Within it then I heard: "If thou couldst see

Even as myself the charity that burns

Among us, thy conceits would be expressed; Bur, that by waiting thou mayst not come late

To the high end, I will make answer even Unto the thought of which thou art so chary .... "

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