b.-::~' .... ~ :':?:~O;-:::'.::;,!~~.~"; ::,:,~.,::.,...

o

.. -

-.

-

...

.... ::r t'll

3

WATERWAYS: Poetry in the MainstreaIll June, 1996

o 0 6

o

1

-v\T.ATER"VVAYS: Poetry in the Mainstream

Volume 17 Number 6 June, 1996

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

Jo Lynne Harline Will Inman

Ida Fasel

John Grey

4-11 12-17 18-19 20-21

COTl. teTl. ts

Florence Elan 22-23

James Penha 24

Geoff Stevens 25

David Michael Nixon 26

Karen Kirby 27 -28

Mary Winters 29-30

Albert Huffstickler 31-36

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 © 1996, Ten Penny Players Inc.

1996 themes are pictographs from the VVALUl OLUM (An Epic of th e Lenni Lenape),

2

3

Wind-racers

J 0 Lynne Harline

(Awenita - Little Doe)

\Vild horses charged through my dormant mind across wide grasslands

towards the dawn ...

with hooves barely touching the earth, they tossed their heads, neck-cords straining, keeping pace ...

They had no glistening withers, steamy breaths, nor half-crazed fear in

the whites of their eyes ....

just blaek bodies, wraith-like, thin, as if they were smoke the wind had blown into shadow-shapes ...

Then I ran with the restless herd, with joy that never knew corrals, raw energy that never tired ...

I sensed their oneness with the wind and prairie spaces, running swift,

til I with aching lungs slowed

down to watch them gallop toward the skyline, disappearing in the East,

as I shivered, alone in awe-

a witness to their final journey -

and wondered at having had the honor of racing spirits in my dreams.

4

Urban Pow-wow Jo Lynne Harline

(Awenita - Little Doe)

Some Saturday nights at the Walk-In Center, something's going on in the heart of the city when a couple of hundred "urban Indians" -or Native Americans- and other folks all cram inside for a spiritual celebration ...

Over two dozen tribes are represented and it doesn't take long for lines to blur between traditions, between cultures and the colors of our skin, or those in

alcohol recovery (most here are sober all the time and when someone's bounced out,

5

caught with booze, there's no one laughing) - It's like one big reunion: many transplants from the rez, relocated, readjusted, locals

or from out of town or out of state, they come to dance or watch the dancers and hear the singing and the drum, our sacred heartbea t. ..

The Vets come, and the Honor Guard presents the flag with the honor song and then we

see the regalia like a rainbow: there are

jingle dresses, fancy shawls, ribbon shirts

and traditionals, grass dancers, roaches, bustles, whirling fancy dancers and sacred Eagle feathers, and a special Coming-Out dance, all with prayers in their hearts as

they dance with strength and energy ...

6

And then out in the arena come tiny tots - our future leaders with smiling eyes and

we watch with pride as they dance around. , . And the Cherokee, my people, some of whom are paler folks, are welcome here and no one asks for proof of quantum, or where we fit in

this big scene ... So the sacred hoop of

Black Elk's vision is happening, encircling

all of us who lay aside our differences to

join hands in one more round dance,

and the spirit there is strong.

7

Survival of the Meekest J 0 Lynne Harline (Awenita - Little Doe)

A doe lay across

the snow-covered trail, no pulse, eyes glazed - March came too late

for another starved victim of winter kill ...

I had seen the herd running like brushfire,

frantic in the dusk-light, down through scrub oak and

sage to the clearing ...

8

Food-troughs held man's scent, but hunger pushed away their fears as they filled their bellies

with alfalfa-pellet manna ...

And those who protest

the helping hand say Nature's cycle is breaking, blaming sportsmen for growing numbers of malnourished muledeer

and fewer fawns

born in the spring ...

Still others say it's

Winter's challenge for

grass-eaters to either survive the hunt and enjoy the feast, or

fall behind like the doe I found on that

bleak hillside, whose spirit I offered a

prayer for, remembering that Awi (Deer) is the Teacher of Gentle Ways.

9

City Transit Blues J 0 Lynne Harline (Awenita - Little Doe)

I ride the bus home at 10:20 p.m. year round in this city and it happens, as it sometimes does, that a brother, often two, will get on board and they stink so bad of gin as they try to find a place to sit

and as usual the other passengers gasp or snicker or make selfrighteous remarks, especially after the bell is pulled and these

Indian guys lurch down the steps and stagger out into the night ...

10

I glare at anyone who catches my eye and I hold back words of helpless anger, stung by those who make a joke or act so utterly repulsed by the

lack of sobriety among my people,

so I quietly sit with a heavy heart

and look out the window as lights whiz by and pretend I'm alone,

though I might as well be ...

I think of a man I never knew, who sat crippled in a wheelchair day

after day ... alone in a 'home', GreatGrandfather died of booze and neglect and a broken heart, too, and when my stop comes I remind myself as I'm walking home how much I hate to ride the bus, how much I want to get a

car, and in my sleep the dream comes again, of my ancestors riding

horses like they used to.

11

42 Avenue B - July 1957 - Lower East Side Will Inman

The old walk-up tenement throbbed hot all summer. Sun sank into the bricks, and strove. The harbor shook with tides breathing hot air into that

swollen day.

The man lay on his torn grey sheet and sweated into the mi d-rut of his second-hand mattress. His own stink was ajealous lover that kept off others.

Footsteps on three flights

of stairs patrolled his ears with different

messages. The withered Ukrainian crone who scavenged garbage and throwaways every day. The fat puertor iquefio and his handsome cousin who taught boys in the gym that speaking espafiol y ingles

was a double resource, no matter what their

12

Manhattan schoolteachers vowed. The Jewish pianist who borrowed money for an abortion. "It's not very aesthetic to talk prophylactics when making love." Like the man, she sunbathed palely on the roof

and noted, "Oh: I didn't know you had a potbelly,

too." The Russian woman in the flat below who summoned him to assist her stroke-broken husband to the hall toilet. The Columbia U student who swore he'd cut his throat if rain didn't soon break

the heat inversion. The black saxophonist who was famous in Missouri and played to crowds in a Third Street bar. The crazy man who built fires in a steel drum in his kitchen and sang down the air well in Yiddish at three in the morning. The Italian

who was mugged on Avenue C, had his trousers ripped with a razor blade to get at his wallet. The Pole

wi th sl ant eyes who asked the man to come see if

his wife had 'gone away.' 'Don't you know jf your

13

own wife is gone?' She lay stiff on her side

of the bed. The man telephoned the police for the husband and then the mortuary. Teen-age hustlers seeking tricks and money. Poets in high heels or in sneakers, hands clutching sheets of sacred visions ..

A drug-addicted couple, dapper man, moon-faced wife, who begged for $35 to get 'medicine' when they were taken 'sick:

Rain finally drove through lightning and high wind. Footsteps sucked the stairs with wet and mud. Along Avenue B, traffic sloshed.

The student didn't have to cut his throat. The man lay naked on his damp bed under the window open onto the air shaft and blessed the storm.

The ancient bricks hissed, cherishing coiled sun.

28 March, 1996

14

strangers in the blood Will Inman

never ask me if i know the individual i

write about. multitudes rise clamoring in me

to whom i've never been properly introduced:

they do not stand on ceremony. they won't keep

in line, refusing to await turns. they crowd in behind my eyes where real seeing takes place. they throng my inner ears where hearing does not await sound waves. they crouch under my tongue ready to ride that meaty wave if i forget to put

my own opinions sharp and clean. i do not despise these inner strangers -- they've got in there

on blown leaves, in mandibles of ants, on half-heard whispers, in somebody's lies that're clearly truer than most folks' facts. they

get into me via that involuntary nervous system

15

which reaches center earth and outer space and to all between. i'm no different from you, except sometimes i forget and listen. we're toilet-trained early on to suppress what's known in us that is not accepted by society.

i've been fortunate (or unfortunate') to unlearn much of my toilet training. you'll be quick to say you've long suspected i'm full of shit that's your right i'm not one to remind you you're sniffing your own upper lip. we're most gifted when we can tell the differences between maggots, feces, and fresh tissue.

we're not an age friendly to angels, but j urge you to allow

those twitchy nubs in your shoulders to sprout real feathers. all that is known in you wants

to fly free with bats and stars and woodthrushes. let their nests weave love in your waking

10 September 1995 Tucson

16

dumb animals Will Inman

The horse refuses to be adjusted for the change from gasoline to gasohol. He's afraid he'll become

a drunk. I insist that, ifautomobiles

can do it, a smart horse surely can. He complains there are already too many gasoholics in the world. But this is for non-intoxicating use! I argue. My wife will still smell alcohol on my breath, observes horse.

From this, I deduce that progress is not a steady forward process. I mean, if a horse can wilfully hinder advancement, well, you figure it for yourself. (How much horsepower

has your brain")

Humans would never voice such an objection. We're far too sophisticated. We've known for a long time this universe was created for us, weather and natural disasters notwithstanding. We prefer to make great changes by the noble and ennobling method of war. To die

in a sacred cause, after all, is to

guarantee everlasting bliss. Why can't

a simple horse understand this? Just

face it: the human mind is too complex

for dumb animals. Naturally, I

find it all quite easy to comprehend.

But then, I'm not a horse, am I? Betters must always be prepared to make allowances for those less well equipped.

7 -8 May 1994 Tucson

17

Ordinary Happiness Ida Fasel

Triangle squared to comers,

circle that doesn't know

where it starts or finishes -geometry, aesthetics or metaphysics:

I cannot go along.

The answer to the question the Keeper of the Grail asks is not the shape of vision

or a labor of likeness in a figure or a symbol that stands apart from what it stands for--

cup or dish, silver or gold.

He comes straight to the point, assuming you have first cracked open the geode that is yourself,

and when the dust and spatter of stones cleared from your unprotected eyes,

you saw the gems within,

cutting edges smoothed to clear sides leading into the deepest dimension of blue-violet dark.

There the luminous answer. Whom does the Grail serve? In other words, show me.

The interim keeper of such riches as I have

given me for full measure to give.

18

Breath Ida Fasel

Breath you see on cold winter days Breath you don't see in summer but is there all the same

Breath fast or slow, short or long, any shape, breath

goes --

where does it go?

Stafford continues the story People of the South Wind tell:

Why, it goes into the woods of course. There, it waits for your last breath,

with it, to rejoin .t4.eothers, your friends,

in open places of the woods, all rejoicing.

To the Hebrew mystic God creates an angel

with every breath he takes. Schiller says Time is man's angel. That makes God's breath us.

I like such stories, sayings.

On earth as it is in heaven,

the immortal always as it was.

19

Uncle Joe and the Pipe John Grey

The old man removed the pipe from his mouth,

reverently placed it on the table.

It sat between us, a roan tabernacle smelling of his jaw.

He tapped his fingers slowly, his ancient knuckles,

like many wrinkles,

a yellowish relief map

of mountains and rivers.

20

Eighty years flocked to the sound, stuffed with characters,

street corner women and do-nothing blatherskites and gossipy harridans and ordinary soldiers who followed him onto the godless battlefield,

all of them pumped up proud and present

and accounted for

by his wordless prologue.

Immersed in breath heavy and hungry for tobacco,

he called on his thoughts, savored them like nicotine on his tongue

before spitting them out,

one by one.

It wasn't just the story

but how he could repeat entire sentences,

expressions down to the fleeting love in fluttering eyes, the guilty twitching of a lip.

I don't remember what he said but I remember his memory,

a tale in itself,

its characters lively as incessant tapping on a table, its grand details

reeking of tobacco.

21

Family Circle

Florence Elon

Every second Sunday

by subway, trolley, bus

along the city's arteries, they come back to the heart=that house

now dwindled to

Grandma's single living & dying room.

Moving chairs from corners

to a closed circle

around her Amsterdam coffee table they take their fixed places established over forty years

of living in the new coun try.

22

Great Uncle Abie claps, "Attention please:

Once again, we are gathered here to knit The Family:

an institution we keep up

by monthly meetings, annual dues, officers elected every four years

as in our larger sphere-America."

At intermission, Sadie calls the roll in order of arrival: immigrant father, the original, first to cross;

wife, brothers & sisters he brought over; sons & daughters all begotten here;

we kids who can't be left alone at home -small feet that kick you as you pass.

These are the important people we can't escape, but never chose: faces, antics etched on our brains in that magic circle

tightening like a noose;

a knot for all the twisting strands. Loose ends scatter once again,

thread through Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx back to the outposts they call home.

23

Clyfford Still On Cliff Walk

Newport, RI

James Penha

Walk the cliff walk

still cliff

still walk.

Adab

of red

certifies dimensions no camera obtains against blue rectangles of sea carved into cliffs orange

bold orange cliffs still orange

despite the blue centuries

above the drip, drop, the distant dollop of red.

24

D.N.A. (Dominus Noster Accessit) Geoff Stevens

the boulder on my shoulder slings tones raining down on me the pebble in my shoe.

I thought I was a target

for the casting of the stone. But, no waiting now, the pearl

is ready grown, you glister there alone, on the black velvet

of my agnostic soul,

a rosetta stone, the key that I hope will enable me

to accept the possibility, of DNA.

You are foreign places I hardly dare to land you are the last grain

of silver sand, the wonder I have waited for since

first taking up the hourglass and stroking with my hands its smooth erotic female shape. I had wondered what my time was for ...

25

Living with Trees David Michael Nixon

The trees that happen cluster together tightly, weight of the forest

in those slim trunks.

They stand outside the window, breathing the scent of sap

into the wooden house.

26

Rethinking Beauty Karen Kirby

I admit to a secret satisfaction

at the limp snake in the eat's mouth. Acciden tally bu t unflinchingly

I have decapitated numerous

ugly brown garters beneath my blade in the too tall grass

and will even profess to

actual pursuit of a particularly nasty spotted king snake

who encroached too close to human habitat.

But last week's sudden encounter lingers -strangely disquieti ng.

This snake bothers me.

This graceful green slithering image so close to mower's blade--

not arousing the usual instant repulsion. Not drab or menacing, but long, thin nearly the color of fresh spri ng grass,

its red tongue flicking in brilliant contrast.

I back off, allow it to slip

safely away as I watch fascinated by its delicate beauty.

A designer snake one could wear--

A snake Eve would have listened to. All week long I envision this snake -eagerly search for it in the grass.

So now I am rethinking snakes, questioning my relationship to beauty. How often do I judge solely on looks? An ugly snake is perhaps quite docile.

A beautiful snake can strike and wound. Beauty won't save it

from the deadly jaws of marauding cats with no sense of aesthetics.

Animals set different standards.

28

The Leak Mary Winters

A spindly spider plant

on my rusty filing cabinet:

I watered it once in awhile.

In a fit of sadism

(I try to confine it to flora) I stopped.

"Pray for a miracle," I sneered.

The secretary would've saved it.

The kind who seeks out "acts of mercy." I'd sigh, "Aren't you the loveliest person? Releasing a soul from Purgatory ... "

(Which I learned from her. I adore any kind of -speak.

Catholic-speak, shrink-speak, lawyer-speak.) 29

j

I am not making this up:

the very next week the ceiling springs a leak directly over the plant.

Our secretary would quote the Bible: "everything works together for the good."

The drip is annoying as hell.

I remember a Donald Duck cartoon, him driven mad by a leaky faucet.

At the end, he's carted off

in a duck-shaped straitjacket.

The plant is bushy and green.

Its faith in a good God affirmed.

I'm waiting for the ceiling to fall.

30

Negative Space Albert Huffstickler

Your problem, I told her,

is that you're in negative space. What does that mean? she asked. It means there's a line all

the way around you, I said,

so you can't do anything. That line is between you and everything, everybody. You need

to be re-dra wn, the lines

kind of fuzzed so that

things can get in and out.

Why don't you do it? she asked.

I can't, I told her. I can't reach you. I'm in negative space too. Well, it looks like that would make us close, she said. It does, I told her, very close but never quite touching.

July 4, 1955

from Window Panes Park Hills MO Issue 9, 1996

31

Family Values Albert H uffstickler

is. Have you seen him lately?" "No," says Dad, laughing heartily. "Haven't seen him for days." They watch the commercial in reverent silence. They

can hardy wait for the next episode in the

lives of this lovable, laughable family whose problems are all sol ved

in a half hour. That's

TV time=not real time.

from Silent Treatment #9 Gahanno OR 1996

Mom and Dad sit watching the latest family sitcom enjoying the lovable antics of the perfect plastic family. "Aren't they wonderful?" Mom exclaims. "Why they're just like us only Jeannie's peddling

her tail in Chicago and Rod's doing hard time for dealing dope and Jimmy--

I don't know where Jimmy

32

Point of No Return Albert Huffstickler

You see it more clearly among the dispossessed-someone reaches that point where he can go no further (often it's on a street corner)

stops, sits down and moves no more. Hours later, you pass again

and he's still there.

He will stay there till something happens that is not of his devising.

In the office, it's different.

One day, a guy develops a twitch or his hands start shaking

or he loses control of his voice: it starts pitching up on him or drops to a whisper.

Then he loses ita t a meeting and starts yelling.

Or maybe he comes in one day

and makes a really ugly proposition to an office mate of years' standing then forever after slinks past without meeting her eyes.

One day finally, he walks in,

sits down at his desk

and does not move.

The hours pass.

He sits on.

It's very still around him.

33

Finally someone comes over and suggests that he go home .. He starts, nods, gets up,

walks out the door and does not corne back. What happens after that?

Well,most likely the guy on the street is picked up by the cops

then taken to a hospital for observation. After spending some time

in a state facility,

he's recycled back onto the streets.

Now, the guy in the office has insurance, He can afford help,

either private counselling or hospitalization. With help and rest, he may get better and be recycled back into the office.

Or his wife may get a job while he stays home. Or his wife may leave him,

in which case, he too

may wind up on the streets.

You see, what we're really talking about is human endurance.

Everybody has his limit

and it's different for everyone. Unfortunately, the system

was not designed with a mercy clause. So let your prayer be

that you do not reach your limit before you're recycled into eternity.

from New Mexico Humanities Review Socorro N:.11993

34

Gift Horse Albert H uffstickler

I went into this pawn shop on Red River

to hock a camera but he only wanted to give me five doll ars for it and it was perfect

and cost me over a hundred so I said

no I had to have more than that and he said he couldn't give me any more than five dollars so I said to hell with it and started out

the door. I was broke and needed the money but it offended me just to be ofTered five bucks when I knew he could get a lot more. He said, "Wait a minute. Tell you what

I l&..n do. I've been painting my house

and it's all done except for the eaves.

If you want to paint around the eaves, it won't take but a couple of hours and I'll

give you fifteen dollars." I said O.K.

I figured there was a catch but when you're broke, you don't look a gift horse in the mouth. I went on out there and found the house and the ladder and the paint. It

was two storeys and the ladder made me dizzy but that was O.K. only when I got

up there, I had to reach up over me and

the paint ran offmy brush and down my arm and dropped ofT my elbow and ran

all over me. The longer I painted the

more paint I got on me. It took about

three hours. It was late summer and hot

as Hell. He showed up just about the

time 1 finished. "1 hope you got as much

on the house as you did on yourself,"

he said and paid me. I went home

and took my clothes off and threw them away

35

and had a long shower. I still had

paint all over me. I was gl ad it was white and not something like fire engine red. Wall, at least I could eat. I

went down to Dan's and ordered a hamburger steak plate and then drank coffee and

mulled over my situation and drank some more coffee and smoked a while and

finally felt better. It was just one

of those things that happens when you're broke, I decided, and since this is America, the Land of Opportuni ty, then it must be my own fault if I had to

take a job like that. And anyway, I

could eat for three more. days and, in these uncertain times, that was about

as much as a man could hope for.

from Renovated Lighthouse, 1993, Lynbrook NY

36

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful