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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
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
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
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
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
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
the flesh fell from my bones which crumbled one by one and yet
Joy Hewitt Mann
when a fleshy girl rubs against your leg
a gap-toothed smile and the music's
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
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
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 --
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
"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
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.
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
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