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ISSN 0 1 9 7 - 4 7 7 7

vVATERWAYS: Poetry in the Mainstream July, 1996


"'V\TATER"VVAYS: Poetry in the Mainstream

Volume 17 Number 7 July, 1996

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

Ida Fasel

John Grey

Cathleen Cohen Alexandra Worcester Terry Thomas

Joan Payne Kincaid

4-5 6 7 8 9



Joy Hewitt Mann 12-15

Geoff Stevens 16

David Michael Nixon 17

Wi11 Inman 18-20

Stephen Sleboda 21

James Penha 22

Liz Walsh-Boyd Sheryl L. Nelms Sylvia Manning Kit Knight

H. Edgar Hix Albert Huffstickler

23-24 25 26 27-28 29 30-32

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 WAL.AM OLUM (An Epic of the Lenni Lenape).



Simple Arithmetic Ida Fasel

Not till the sixth day --

life already rhythmic in space, swimming, flying, creeping -in the diffused brightness

of daylight and late creation a man and a woman

For other story tellers latecomers, too,

within the soundings of the first few seconds of Big Bang.

My ears are not for reading dead bones.

If Adam was an afterthought,

then Eve was an after-afterthought.

It made no difference. One flesh,

centuries of children

all going in different directions, afterthoughts of afterthought

and after-afterthought

in transi bon,

incidents of cast light on leaves,

light passing itself along in its own shade.

A man and a woman.

On the sixth day they appeared like Magritte's rose

too big for the room they were in, with only a finch's eye

for the 180 degree panorama of heaven an occluded view of distance ' the farther out the flattening out


in mauve-blue nondimension. Closeness gives perspecti ve -size, shape, tone, texture,

all the raw material of depth.

Did they see themselves in the sequence of divine planned parenthood

or as an unexpected idea

interrupting the flow,

a by-product of all that had gone before, reimagined from the rest?

A major event in any case --

the beautifulleadings of a mind conversing with itself, stretching the field of attention by patterned marks,

first day to next

and so on adding up to six

in a considered composition: a man and a woman

perhaps an accidental touch,

perhaps a delayed awareness of a need, perhaps even the signature of the maker himself

in raised letters --

at any rate here I am,

muzzy compounded me in the corner gJ ad to be toted up

in the simple arithmetic of celebration.


Fish-Wife John Grey

Down by the dock,

sal ty incense pickles noses

and that brash wind almost separates the fish-wives from their hair.

At dusk, the boats return,

two hundred yards out,

it seems the waves are toting lanterns, or ghosts,

but eventually, their eyes are filled by flesh,

gruff men, soured on love. descending roughly onto shore.

Fish in baskets, fish in drums,

fish dumped on the jetty, loud and gray.

The women dream of wedding veils and oceans, of candles,

and hooks, and a splattering of blood.

From clean kitchens,

they bend out of the window, tourist eyes riding with the boats or, at last, the movement of them, this three-masted suggestion

rocking endurance in and out of place. But the boats return,

slow, surly, solemn,

as if they haven't been anywhere, as if there is no pl ace.


Marriage Cathleen Cohen

Last night my husband balanced the books. After two hours

He lumbered through the door With a sweet grin

And droopy shoulders,

As though he had swiveled a unicycle Across a thin line

With the full weight

or the chil dren and I

Resting on his cervical column. He said he was at peace.

I am a disinterested cook.

I do not hunger for special foods In my spare hours

Or plan mouth-watering treats for the family Sometimes my neck bristles

And I spin around

Certain that generations of matriarchs Point at me

Whispering warnings in the half-dark That I don't honor bargains

They made with their husbands.

But mine doesn't seem to care. We lie together in twilizht:

He reads, 0 ,

I watch shadows lengthen on the wall. We listen as our sons

Sing themselves to sleep.


I'll Set Your Love Upon My Mantel Alexandra Worcester

I honor you with secret names and silent prayers, wrapped in the leaves of flowers you never give me.

I don't need flowers, you know that, instead you bring me fields of stone. I come upon you now and then

just to watch.

I come upon you now to take your hand; wild weeds entangle our tongues,

and dust shaken from coyote's coat hovers like comfort...hovers like comfort. I come upon you nested in a bed of pine, a crOSS hatched pattern etched so deeply

on your cheek small birds, mice

and cottontails have left their footprints along its

softflesned paths.

I come upon you singing out of tune,

and your song is a hazard, and your voice is the voice of God; your tune carries

the sun upon its shoulders, the moon asleep inside its belly. So come upon me now

with your mouth of honey and dust. Instead of flowers, I'll set your love upon my mantel,

arrange its petals in the shape of forever,

and admire it from afar.


Rumors Terry Thomas

Heard a rumor you were getting married

(just passing words)

barely heard, like bu tterfly wings brushing over

dry lips.

Rumors are like

fragile lupines--can be nipped, never bud.

Eu t rumors can also be like dandelions-- wild

and airy, flowing with golden blood, snug

in the rich earth.

A rumor birthed yesterday-butterflies and flowers started to die.


The Couple Joan Payne Kincaid

They were like a cheap roman tic potboiler

or a sentimental film procrastination love

that would last a life time to do all their dreams ... but she married a man they had not expected and now twenty years later the phonecall

. "How is she? I had this sense she is in trouble"

we speak of his marriage the year before and you explain that she is confined to bed to try to sa ve the child she carries for 3

more months and he asks if it's ok to call her; some caring intention and links

of feeling never come to an end, continuing themselves through distance, deepening with time and absence.



Malcolm and Elizabeth Joy Hewitt Mann

Through the spring streets of forsythia yellow

a man and woman walk hand in hand,

his eyes a reflection of her face. He tells her what he sees and she replies with otology --

the sighing of branches

as shadows lift from trees,

the footsteps of the wind,

the murmuring of daffodils nuzzled by heat.

This they share; he the eyes

she has never had, and she the decoder of his six month death song.


" ... will be attending ... "

Joy Hewitt Mann

My face in the yearbook is speaking; its haircut two days old, lashes Vase lined, lips and cheeks reddened slightly, although the picture is in

black and white. It says this face will soon be seen

at Carleton University, studying Chemistry for a degree. The class editor had added, "Sweet & Petite."

In some restaurants in Taiwan male patrons receive a sheet of numbered photos with their menus. They pick a number and a girl comes to sit with them. The pictures are accompanied by descriptions: each girl's charms, her name, and her price.


Breaking Up Joy Hewitt Mann

In the great freeze of '36,

. they say,

the elk died frozen in their tracks looking every bit like grazers

to passersby,

except there was no one to watch them slowly die, the already dead,

limbs melting with the snow, when spring came

bones bursting out like crocuses.

\Vhen you told me

I was frozen like that,

welded to the sidewalk by my pain, and all the passers by

marveled how

the flesh fell from my bones which crumbled one by one and yet

I stood.



Joy Hewitt Mann

when a fleshy girl rubs against your leg

and smiles

a gap-toothed smile and the music's

too loud

and the place is too hot

so you get too drunk to care

and take her home anyway.

Just like in high school. Fat girls




Some nights

the sky has claws and rain nps across

your windows making those sounds that grate

on your nerves

and you hide out in bars that reek of stale beer and expensive perfume pocketed at Macy's

and everyone's

pushing the wrong buttons


Memories of Walking Birds Joy Hewitt Mann

It amazes me how seriously birds mate --

no lack of commi tment there. Every grosbeak's ready as a song to rouse above the turning ground,

slide with solemn eyes into some female's unborn progeny

and settle in the woody fibers of domesticity.

Through my window

I see her digging seed from last year's grass,

flying up to where


warms the eggs,

waiting for regurgitation.

And you --

You're discharging

in some dumb blond's nest

unaware my digging fingers '

have rubbed raw

and three month's vomit wasted.


Hit for Six Geoff Stevens

Boundaries are different things to different people,

can be limited by cranium or skin, can be auric, oral, visual, bounded by fences,

men tally or physically.

Some are clear cut

and others hazy;

two boundaries can stand together yet give greater access

than the absence of both.

These boundaries are distinct in that they separate two lights, lights that glow individually and yet have come to exist

only to illuminate each other's source; it is a mutual exchange across

boundaries, a crossing of a line that no longer exists.


Lost in Blue Babbling Air David Michael Nixon

The blue counter is calling in Arabic. Still, Hindi and Hebrew answer, Every counter has a language; clients respond in many tongues.

If you can't hear each as your own,

a miracle has gone missing,

but language courses and a crack team of beautiful translators are sure to buoy your spirits, even if you're a sober merchant, lost in blue babbling air.


Learning to Read Will Inman

waves bells surges sounding

once i learned to listen, i learned to read my first song was a rainbow

my first story was a storm

my first epic was a mountain

my first lyric was a creek cold over stones hollyhocks and irises opened chapters

i sang choruses with bees

then i met a woman whose tongue was a dry river i met a boy whose eyelids were wilted petals

i met a man whose ears herded silences

i met a dog whose nose could not track boundaries i met a child whose fingers were ghosts


i wept i didn't want there to be other ways than words, touches without hands, sounds that crouched forgotten under tongues.

but the dumb one wrote down the blind one's insights, the deaf one led the dog who couldn't smell

on a walk through stars, and the child without hands learned touch by being stroked by winds.

in all of these an empty place grew full,

a barrenness broke into bloom, and i

who had been reading so long i'd gone blind, so busy sounding i'd stopped listening,

so obsessed with making irises i'd lost my sense of smell, and so eager grabbing i'd forgot how

to stroke, now i walked through a new garden in those others' lives, and there is nothing

we cannot share

18 July 1995 Tucson


thorn dark Will Inman

i lean in under the bay bush, under yaupon,

i stare into fern brake into shade of grapevine i bend into haw thicket i scratch my eyes

on thorns of dark i see rabbit poised to run

i see quail crouched in brown leaves i see bats hanging on tree bark behind bushes i see you your limbs naked with waiting, open to my blind staring, open to my hungry reach for you,

how dark swells and shrinks, stretches and shimmers, i

find you where i grope this steep unseeing, you lift one leaf finger to touch my face i sob

with the deep heady real of your being

somewhere else i cannot know you more

than i know you here down dark i cannot

know your more then dark reveals all you could be if my hands could turn in you flesh writing my name's sweat fury in the waiting of your not being here so fierce you're more here than ifmy hands could hold i fill

this dark's bleeding eyes with

thorns of your absent

flesh i suck your whispered breath when i find you will your flesh be more than these burning shadows

23 May 1995 Tucson


While You \Vere Out Stephen Sleboda

While you were out

I cut the fingers off the children Honey.

\Vhile you were out

I switched heads on the dog and cat Darling.

\Vhile you were out

I tore out your sisters tongue Sweetheart.

While you were out

All the animals from the ark

used our facili tie s


"Oh dear."

''Yes honey."

"I don't think I'll be going out tonight."


Perfect Pitch James Penha

The two horns played the party from memory, transposed,

blew cool for the crowd,

and listened for each other's eyes sliding glances

for a beat and the lead.

They had heard how harmony feels in the skin,

and were afraid to fill

the silent seconds staring between the irnprov of a pickup band

with small talk,

They kept time.

But when they had to hold each other for the finale,

their fingers found

all the forgotten places.


Waiting for the Moon Liz \Valsh-Boyd

My family comes to Seattle

for the wedding. Even my brother Kevin, who finds it difficult to leave the town where he was born except for maybe

one day at a time. vVe have a picnic in the backyard. Everyone sits in a circle and eats chicken

as I hover over them with talk of more food.

Later, I notice that Kevin has been missing for hours.

My mother comments about darkness coming on. We move inside, form


another circle, talk about the longness of daylight this time of year,

and sit forward in our chairs squirming.

At dusk, my fiance, calm,

unlike the rest of us, lumbers his Volvo onto the street to have a look.

We stay seated at the window

hoping the circle we have formed

can surround this brother, this son, even in the absence he needs

from a yard overfl owing wi th family.

In the shadows

he is fi1tered

back to us.

Face pinched, whiter than usual, his eyes round

and watery,

the moon in rain.

We sigh, pry ourselves from the chairs

stand almost still

say: "Chuck took the car, went to the store,

will be back soon."


Grandma's Sunbonnet Quilt Sheryl L. Nelms

Iva and Eva pieced it from flour sacks

back in the winter of 1838

they trimmed those hundreds of material slices

then sewed them

together in the kerosene halo

through the blizzard blanketed Kansas nights

their precise stitches marching in 3/4 inch time

through three generations those threads have

come to spread

into my life

to hold me together even now


Semaphore Sylvia Manning

(for Barbara and Richard)

You listened to the improbable problem: to find the house

where she spent a month

one summer, recuperating from death (or whatever she used

to name it), her husband's.

Asa was his first name. Asa Eddy.

You took me into backyard

only miles from Manhattan

(1 by land and 2 by sea")

that day I found you both

in residence, by persistence, with some faith, and by taking the ferry.

From the young tree planted when you moved to Staten Island

we three shared four cherries,

all it could give us.

So now to tell you this:

I found the house in Vermont where I\1.B. Eddy stayed

that time when she'd nearly lost her nerve. It was not that difficult to do, though nothing points it out.

In the yard there's a cherry tree full of fruit. A robin deftly picks the sweetest red, then flies away.

7 -25-95 Mission


Kate King, 1863: Mistr-ess Kit Knight

I told momma I love William Clarke Quantrill so much I feel we have one skin

wrapped around us. Momma smiled and said I was only being

16. I answered, "I love being 16." William says he can't marry me because he's going to die. Yankees

are hunting the guerrilla chief


who led 300 men into Kansas and torched most

of Lawrence. He left at least 150 bodies behind. He ordered his bushwhackers to "kill every man big enough

to carry a gun." Most

of Quantrill's command spared boys. And all of them spared the women. Which

is more than Yankee bastards can say. The dirty Yanks arrested more than 100 female relatives and sweethearts

of the guerrillas, imprisoning

them in a three story house that was deliberately weakened. The walls collapsed. Mothers, sisters, wives, daughters and aunts leaping from windows, dying

in rotten wood. The Kansas raid was only as deadly as it was because Yankee bastards

struck first. If William

won't marry me--he doesn't want to leave a widow--

I'll take his middle name

and go down in history

as Kate Clarke.



H. Edgar Hix

He picks up half a cigarette;

"God bless you, sir. God bless you.

cold, he

stuffs it in his pocket.

Have you," he digs in.

I stuff a buck in his cup.

"Have you got a light?"


The Nature of the Dilemma Albert H uffstickler

You don't understand, I said, she didn't reject

me because we weren't close. She rejected me because we were) because suddenly she was not alone there in her skin and she couldn't stand

it. It's fine to go

through the motions of being close to someone, saying the words,

especially, saying the words, preferably from a distance. But that's not the same as waking one day to find someone else in your skin with you. That's when you start screaming and start using anything for a barrier. That's when love and hate

lie down side by side and you tell me which is which.

from Poetic Space, Eugene OR, V 5., No.4, 1995


Ordinary Woman Albert Huffstickler

She was an ordinary woman, pleasant looking, not pretty but kind of sexy. I kept thinking there should be more to her, some spiritual dimension or something, but she was just an ordinary woman and we liked each other and I started thinking about going to bed with

her and wondering if it

was all right to go to bed


with an ordinary woman that you liked but didn't love and with whom you had no spiritual connection, thinking all this to myself,

of course, not sharing

any of it with her, just walking along beside her, both of us enjoying it

and thinking how later

we'd go for a swim in the ocean nearby and that would leave us very close to naked and one thing would

lead to another. We'd already decided to go to

bed together, sometimes you can feel that and after a while our steps turned toward the ocean and then

we were there and our clothes sort of came off and then

we were in the water, very warm and kind of thick, and holding each other in the warm thick water with the sun on us, hot and crisp,

and our bodies meeting under the water in a very, very ordinary way.

from Red Owl Magazine, Portsmouth t'11r, No, 2, 1996