ISSN 0 1 97 • 4 777
w- A TER"W" A YS: Poetry in the Mainstreatn Septe:tn.ber, 1996
~ ATER ~ AYS: Poetry in the Mainstream
Volume 17 Number 8 September, 1996
Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher
Thomas Perry, Assistant
Ida Fasel 4-5 Joy Hewitt Mann 18-19 Mary \Vinters 36-37
John Grey 6-7 Chanpreet J ulka 20 Sheryl L. Nelms 38
Lyn Lifshin 8-10 Kit Knight 21-24 Billie Lou Cantwell 39-40
David Michael Nixon II-I3 WiUInman 25-31 Terry Thomas 41
Joan Payne Kincaid 14 Robert Cooperman 32-33 Albert Huffstickler 42-44
Alexandra Worcester 15-17 Karen Kirby 34-35 Waterways is published II rimes 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. Waterv,rays, 393 St. Pauls Avenue, Staten Island, New York I0304-2127
© 1996, Ten Penny Players Inc.
1996 themes are pictograpbsfrom the WALAM OLUM (An Epic of the Lenni Lenape),
Origins - Ida Fasel
Some hear the echo of Big Bang's
first few seconds, hot chunks exploding. I hear motion pliant in another motion. Music for the great dance begins, Thought turned into things --
flowers, mosses, eohippuses,
A bird named itself by one call,
A few smaIl stones held up the firmament. On the sixth day, from river banks
close enough to hills to smell like cedars, he made a man.
From the finest rose quartz,
a woman to be lady, mother, wife.
For both, the other's interesting mind was bounty.
Each day the Maker held his face to what he had done --
his face half in light, half in dark.
On the seventh day he sat immersed in foresight, looking at the tree shaped from the dark side of his face. Could anyone come right up to that buster of a no-no
and make it past only short of breath?
On the day of rest, from the side of light, he created grace.
By Reason of Cousteau - Ida Fasel
TV penguins watch Calypso's busy boarding, stand to deck, flap their fins.
They seem to know that the aliens who dressed sa peculiarly to swim are about to depart.
What is knowing? Godelsays uncertainty is the only thing we can be sure of. Heisenberg established uncertainty
as an authority principle.
In my present doubt of doubt I lean to possibilities.
My furred ears catch the nimble ends of French. Outward bound in breaking ice, I hold to natural reason
which reduces all I do not know
to all I must let go to know.
In a world where most things
are in partial eclipse anyway,
half in light, half in dark,
what saner thing to do
at last sight of those uplifted unlikely arms
than wave back?
The One Living in This House -JolIn Grey
Although she died at five of peritonitis, the child is still a presence in this house, the corridors creaking with her footsteps, her phantom shining out of every mirror, even the polished enamel of the vanity, the handle of the refrigerator door.
My mother speaks of her bright green eyes, soft rose skin, feathery red hair,
the way she spoke her first words like picking jewels from out of the air.
My father never lets an hour pass in
the house without slipping into that bedroom with the bright pink elephant wall-paper to shake the rattles,
cuddle the bears, run his fingers over
the photograph, the little girl staring
up at the camera as if it were another admirer, her fingers tapping out a melody on a blue balloon.
I t's not as if they ignore me,
especially as I'm growing into the
image of my father and my mother can already see in me the strapping soldier she fell in love with years before,
but their attitude towards the living is less wistful, more mundane.
The dead can fog up out of the curtains in a lonely room, smile through the window at a moment of chilly despair, gurgle a memory into a weary ear but with
the surviving child, they must wait for the reluctant kiss on a wrinkled
. cheek, a half-hearted admission of filial love or, in later years,
a begrudging letter every two months from a place more distant than death.
My Uncle, in the Bed He was Born in 70 Years Ago Lyn Lifshin
can still watch the yellow roses thru glass that's as
much a moat as the years. Two hours away, I find the postcard he sent me from Schroon Manor, Screw Manor my sister and I giggled before we really knew what that meant, wondering if
any of the many Rhodas and Helens who came to my grandmother's house, dressed and lipsticked for break
fast, as if trying out for some
part in a play they would
change their lines, would come
back to stay. Except for the
oxygen pump and the nurse aid
padding up the long mahogany stairs
where I sat on the landing, listen
ing to the grown-ups thru glass
French doors or letting the chunks
of cherry and lime and pineapple
glass in the brass leaded dome dazzle
and hypnotize, little seems changed.
Like my mother, my uncle is shriveling. His "can't complain" becomes a raspy "been better days." The army fatigues he's wearing near the peony bush in a
I940'S photo would hang over bones
that jut up like knobs and chairs in
the living room covered with a sheet. He stays upstairs in the bed where my grandmother slept next to the room I shook in, four, terrified of wasps buzzing in the corner when my mother was rushed to the hospital for my sister to be born. Without any children, he waits for my call, the night full of
dark wings, ghosts of the women he let
go. He wants to remember sweet ones from St Louise and Wilkes barre, wants to tell
me the story of the dance in the mansion
in Missouri near the place where the prettiest one left her Harvard beau and whispered, "Stanton, you're the one I
always wanted," and how after that when
her parents didn't think he was good enough and so young, he vowed never to let anyone
so deep under his skin. "Do you remember," I ask wild for something safer and my uncle
comes back with a story of a "size 6 Ked, sneaker dark blue." Now his old department store's moved around the alley and the antique cash register melted in flame, the dark cellar where a traveling salesman asked my mother if she'd like a merry widow and began putting his fingers inside her dress now is filled with books and the other half of the divided store sells hardware. My uncle's room goes dusky plum, orchid dust, lavender. There's no shoe department with boxes piled taU as trees my sister and I hid in, like tunnel people, making
a house out of card board and orange crate wood. The clerks don't limp in in any kind of weather like Mr. Goss and Jesse Jarvis. In summers, before air conditioning, when fans blew the tabs over Ship 'N Shore blouses, my uncle put the awnings down and
the aisles were a stage. I grabbed a pink pique halter dress I never thought I'd be skinny enough to get away with. The pale mannequins rapt as my uncle grabbed a straw hat and we doosie do'd in the three way mirror, six of the two of us honoring our corners and allemanding thru checked house dresses that ladies caught their flesh in, collapsing, laughing in warm rose and tar wind.
The Struggle - David Michael Nixon
All the lost days,
all open to
longing, light and blackness, calm and rage in a wild
in a death grip.
-.--, . ._..~---
the flood David Michael Nixon
the flood comes down and gets us sleeping lifts us up and floats us
my father sank three times
he did not have to sink again
fish are in their element they float
they swim they swim
over we rise
above the hills on flood tide we hold
our heads up try to float not sink
4 5 6
chairs the sun we ding to
and chair legs is shining the larger hunks
bats on the water of flotsam
and bottles golden water and search the
an empty rolls old horizon
milk carton cord wood for a boat
float by past us 13
-- - -
Perception - J oan Payne Kincaid She resembled
a chalk drawing
from too many seasons smiling slightly
Hunched over she might have been a figment of sorneone's vague dream carrying a basket of nothing
with a few possessions scent of herbs
they didn't know
the sum of her experience
come to rest
her good deeds & mistakes maybe alone in a grass hut treated to cool green peace.
now to remain with some descendent of earlier loins
or in a mountain cave, her light shines white, white white as a white
Lullaby - Alexandra Worcester
Shadows cast penumbraed possibility cosmic fantasie dreams splashing translucent displays of water drops
onto darkened patches of hope hollowed yesterdays where sunlight scatters glancing blood-drop trailing tears
thrumming death songs to mammahands weaving tales of wandering ghosts of chance in search of final bliss
four winds four corners four chambers of heart pulse silent bloodrhythms of light like birth along electric
labyrinth waterfalls coursing vein bone tongue and time to revel in over-eager pockets a f li fe vibrating multi-hued
come-hithers to sunrise transient memories questionable clouds their burlesque bodies round and voluptuous
can-can calcimine skies swaying breeze and whimsy to teasing mists of sensual delight hips swivel left
right prance with vagrant abandon down succulent valleys where leaves trip along sunslanted fingers of light
tickle day into lazy lidded flight blues turn to pinks turn to purples turn to greys turn to night shadows waltz
a somnolent refrain as silent symphonies of the afterdead play on.
Song for Verlaine Alexandra Worcester
A shovel and rake lay atop the hedge shears: precarious still life
in the garden.
Silently the sun
bows her head, an artist testing her paints. which tints this evening? Marigold? Sage? Poppy, or pansy---
Empty seed packets (promissory notes) dance across the grass as the wind winds
its way nowhere and everywhere all at once.
a shy bonnet of blue, her yellow dimple
as yet unhurried
by ill winds blowing summer into memory; not unlike a dead leaf.
- - ----
Making Angels - Joy Hewitt 1\Jann
Time huddles in the dust of summer leaving no imprint,
cotton dresses stick and
thoughts dog like wool
in this heat.
Lemonade is cool salve
for an old heart ripped with remembering ...
branches etched against the sky are sharp to memory
when snow held the earth near my father's house
moved across the fields.
all of them.
I've stood beside their images quickening
under pale sheets and prayed for snow, imagining
the surface of heaven all white stretching for miles
and through the flood of light, my friends lain down
flailing their arms
The Fugitive - Joy Hewitt Mann
I stayed up past three the other night
strung out on TV, chasing the one-armed man into a bad dream,
and I remembered hating you and woke up really pissed off.
You couldn't figure what you'd done _ thought I had PMS or sornerhlng equally female.
My mother used to tell me "kids are starving in China"so I ate
all my peas, but they're still starving
and I'm growing fat. And the War to End All Wars that Grandpa fought
never really ended, did it? And
we're all chasing our one-armed men,
the ones we blame
for the murder of our lives.
- ----- - - -_ -- _---- --~-~----
Leaving the World Chanpreet J u1ka
The day is becoming gloomy
A prick of death disseminating through the sky The dying grass and plants.
The trees are dead The stream is dry
The mountains, a weary gray, Will soon disappear.
The angel covered with a brown gown, Is grasping her scythe.
Her wings are flapping
With great sorrow.
She is initiating
The poor peasant into a new world. The peasant pleading to the angel, Do not take me so soon.
The peasant with her red gown and green cape, Is approaching death.
Her skin is dull white
Like the color of the classroom wall.
Becoming sleeping beauty, And will never see the bright Light of the world again.
Judith's Daughter, 1862 - Kit Knight
I was standing
next to my mother's bed during the first battle
of The War Between the States. I begged her to join me
in hiding. The Shenandoah Valley is cavern country; dozens
of water-carved limestone caves surround us. The one nearest our house has formations
that look like big strips
of bacon. People write
their names in the huge rooms.
- -- -- -- -- ---_ --_-- -----~
I was holding
my mother's hand as I stood =abour to kneel--
when a federal shell exploded thru the wall and
tore off-her foot. She bled and bled and died. The first civilian casualty. That day, all the screams were mingled. Rage, terror, grief,
and fear. The rebs won, . of course. This is Virginia. The following year, Lee
was in command and opposing armies fought over that same ground. Again, I stayed
below and again
Southern cavaliers won. By the end of that day
my mother's house was only a brick heap, but the men still called it
the Henry House. If I only count the battles at First
and Second Manassas--what Yankees call First and Second Bull Run-more than II,OOO 'of our boys
died. I touched the signatures
three of them left. Plus
my mother. Enough blood
to make next year's wheat
MaBarker,1934: My Baby- Kit Knight
The newspapers never call me by my name, Arizona Donnie. I was born the same year
the] ames/Y ounger Gang
held up Missouri's state fair
at noon, in front of
10,000 people. An editorial said we may not condone what they did, but we have to admire the way
they did it. My people knew who the good guys were. When I married George,
he called me Kate and Mrs. Kate Barker is never
in the papers, either. Always headlines scream
l\1A'S NEST OF VIPERS, as if my four sons were raised underground. Papers insist
I taught my boys to steal
and my only rule was
don't get caught. No!
May the devil burn Mister
J. Edgar Hoover for swearing falsely. He feeds stories
to the press about me
being the mastermind
of the Barker Gang. I don't
make any plans--only breakfast-and I don't "case the joints." My youngest, Freddy,
would never leave me behind, all alone; I'm 62. When
the FBI realized an old mother waited in an apartment
with supper and clean clothes, the agency knew they'd have to kill me too when they ran my baby down. So Hoover puts out the stories and
no one learns the truth
about an old woman
who stays in the kitchen
and listens to Amos & Andy.
beckoning - Willltunan
he couldn't see well. or he could see too much. a cluster-glow like the scatter-petals of crepe
myrtle -- shone between him and what was out there. light bloomed from the innards of things,
but he couldn't tell if it really came from them or if his own sight entered leaves and stems,
porch rails, wooden steps, armchairs and flower pots and brought out the light that lives in them.
he realized then that it doesn't matter, that
light lives in the darkness of all things and that seeing the glow, even if it dissolves firm outlines and gives things back into the flow of time,
is true seeing.
he felt himself let go, felt
limbs and muscles, hair and skin
enter his bloodbeat and, deeper than pulse, the underbeat of that same time-flow
in which all things become kin again, become the tongue of god that never speaks, not needing words, never sings, always being choric, never judges, not being separate from evil or good,
all evil and all good working side by side
creating a living world, hurting and healing, healing and hurting, ecstatic as dust and stars,
as intimate and as haze-joyous as crepe myrtle,
as a female katydid, harkening deep
to the sensual rubbed back-wings beckoning of her male who has at last learned to sound the terri tory of silence
husks around knowing - Will Inman
she sowed kernels of corn where scarce rain and jealous sun would do their work. she had to fetch water from the stream when water still ran.
one kernel had news for her. it grew into a taller stalk than more and shaped several ears wrapped in tight green sheaths. in one ear, the stalk passed on its first kernel's message.
it knew no words,
took her special seeing to interpret from how
the grains grew on the cob, their purple
shades, their whites and yellows, their browns and reds, how they fitted together, by which were larger, which smaller. could she read them?
when shucking time came, she knew the first time she saw that ear something was being told her, brought her for her seeing, her kind
she didn't shell this cob. she kept it. mulled its patterns. went into dream waking over it.
purple grains showed cloud. red warned fire. a streak of white and yellow promised lightning or a meteor. brown and purple grew a spiral hint of storm. a patch of white grains threatened a spring going dry.
ifcloud came right, rains would quench the fire, renew springwaters.
if cloud came too late, fire would burn the wide grass stretches and could torch the village. the spring would stay dry. she
mulled more. had to see beyond looking. needed to know.
at last she shelled the ear, ground
the kernels, baked bread. she ate and slept. dreamt. now she knew, she could tell her people. cloud in her made rainbows of her ribs.
her spring beat a quiet drum.
16 October 1994
----- -- --
owl woman - Will Inman
her sept was owl. but Edna
could see day as well as night. day for her went steep with shadows. night held invisible lights she could see by. when she
looked at you, something down your spine ran cold, ants walking on ice.
no, she couldn't turn her head
all the way around, but when she looked at you even if you turned away,
the force of her eyes worked in you a resonance you had no way to resist, your neck
would feel twisted, then you'd go
stiff; hurt even to move till she'd
but days would come, days
winged blue with swoops of sky, such days she'd appear at the open door of an adobe house where you or a loved one lay ill, and she'd just look. her eyes would seem to fix
inside the hurting place, or down pores with fever, she'd heat you or the other right in the hurting, you'd feel the pain dissolve in the heat from her eyes, yes, she could carry the healing curve of rainbows: that bridge behind her eyes was strong.
her feathers, yes, i swear she grew
feathers high in her shoulders and along her neck, her feathers shone when her eyes went still,
and you knew force down her dark quiet.
some swore she was a witch, but witches,
poor things, are only human. Edna
r6 December 1994 Tucson
PFC Samuel Childers -- of Conyers , Georgia Among the GIs W'ho Liberated Dachau Robert Cooperman
The first prisoners we came upon were British, captured in North Africa. One officer with a thousand yard stare took me aside, his fingers scratchy
as a rooster too old and scrawny
for anything but a slow simmer.
"This is just purgatory," he shuddered, "compared to what they've done to the Jews."
When we saw them,
I swore I wouldn't cry. Those with layers of fat--
skin glowing like healthy babies-were German guards trying to hide. We gave the prisoners guns and dubs, but they just stared: too weak,
too close to their own deaths
for the vengeance that was boiling out of me, who'd called them kikes and Jewboys without ever having met one,
until I joined up.
Anyone doubt what the Nazis did there, I'll set them straight as Old Stonewall when he caught a trooper deserting
to get his planting in.
Nightmares still rise up-
like a bobcat flying right at my face-to make me believe in heaven,
. 'cause I've already wandered into hell.
" . .-..
Out of the Woods - Karen Kirby They came as wolves
out of the woods
in the dark my fears--
that recurring childhood dream. My only shelter a pile of lumber in the clearing.
I squeezed tight between the boards waiting ...
As a child I learned
to make myself smallerto be quiet, hide away
and ignore the hungry howling by pretending not to hear, hoping it would disappear
like the dream on awakening.
N ow I fight back
by making myself biggercalling those wolves back to me. Confronting them to understand why they came.
I name the terrors-challenge the helplessness.
No longer needing
to hide in silence
I light a ritual fire, offer up my fears,
reduce the woodpile to ashes-reclaiming my power
to run freely, safely
with the wolves, not from them.
Eye for an Eye - Karen Kirby
Black crow grounded
outcast outlaw punished for marauding ways Right eye long since crusted over
left eye too
now pecked and bloody hangs from socket ...
Crow could SUIVlve
with one good eye but slow to learn kept robbing nests ...
Flight too precarious for sightless crow left to wander aimless
in his dark woods of death ...
Chipmunk - Mary Winters
A cold clear autumn day.
Relaxed and humming,
you're a chipmunk gathering bird seed.
A hawk dive-bombs into your sunny little patch of yard, its talons around your spine.
Up like a F-I4 from a carrier deck.
Your breath rushes out,
the seeds in your cheek pouches splatter.
The swingset, the barbecue smaller and smaller.
The girl running, crying, pointing.
Before; never higher than the woodpile. (Not like those nutty acrobats, the squirrels.) Never been surprised before.
Never had anything different happen - nothing you couldn't cope with,
at least run away from.
(The too-friendly cat.)
Never been helpless before.
Never seen the world grow dark
except when the sun goes down.
September in South Dakota Sheryl L. N elms
slivers stab through the evening air threaten my garden
1 whirry to gather the green tomatoes in bushel baskets wrap each in newspaper
to stow in burlap
in the basement
pick the zucchini
to grate and
for the freezer
pull the last of the beets to pickle
there is ice
on the west wind
mulch the strawberries
retreat to the porch
to watch the geese
Silence - Billie Lou Cantwell
If silence is golden why do we destroy it with torpedoes of
purple prose, black humor) silver-tongued lies,
red bursts of anger,
blue streaks of doggerel, yellow journalism, gray sorties
into obscurity and colorless rhetoric?
If silence is golden
why are we embarrassed by a twenty-second lull in an
- ---~- -
exchange between two strangers? Why do radio and television stations warn us of a moment of silence
for emergency checks as though our heart might fibrillate to attack because no sound comes forth
for thirty seconds?
\Vhy are we afraid of silence? Do we fear our own ineptness at serious thought?
Are we such strangers to ourselves that unvoiced thoughts would strangle off our breath?
Clamorous cries ranker and infect the soul
with restless mutters.
Endless speech wearies the speaker exhausts the listener.
So many words pollute the air.
We will use up our world
and still be left with
the noise of our tongues.
At least, long enough
to shout blame, long enough to delay the stifling quiet
of silence, golden.
Suzie Shurtz - Terry Thomas
Born Independence Day
in the faraway Forties, surrounded by corn and sunlight. Took delight in living --
now she lives for dying,
crying quietly in the kitchen. Popping soapbubbles,
trouble in salty wash,
fragile as an old china plate. The hour is late; she
wai ts for six, the snick
of his heels on the worn stone, still alone in the dim room.
And she hears doom in
a faltering tread, dreading sour breath, death in angry blue eyes. Sighs, wipes red hands on a faded apron-checks: dinner's done and ready for tasting. 'Xl asting no more tears on choices, she voices again her song, longs to slip away,
heart going like a pinwheel, to die-Tndependence Day.
- - ~ - - - ~~ ~-- - --_ --
Woman Albert Huffstickler
truth be my time your sorrow will not wait
for rain. its leaves blossom and enfold me quietly as
brea thing. you will not be consoled, you will stand by the windows till
the lights go out, you will
wait in the darkness with your shoes untied.
you will shuffle and reshuffle your
tattered deck and
will not he
consoled. you will
wait in the winter like a snow-rimmed scarecrow, stricken with
by stars. you
and grieve past time and light and bones till your curses are silver and
your breasts are wind and you will not be consoled.
fro m Poesia y Calle
An Anthology of Poetry Austin TX 1995-96
It Only Hurts When I Laugh Albert Huffstickler
Rafferty's favorite thing was to crouch inside a dryer
at the laundromat and when an unwary patron opened the door to put his clothes in, thrust his head out and
roar. Rafferty's head; under the best of conditions, was hard to take. His thick
beard was matted with the effluvium of countless forgotten meals and his eyes
were pure psycho. He looked like Manson with a hangover. Rafferty, having created his effect, was not content to leave it there. Climbing
out of the dryer, he would collapse on the floor laughing till the by-now completely freaked out patron fled. All of which was fine until
one day a rather large and sullen redneck appeared in the door of Rafferty's
dryer and after a few minutes observing his convulsed
form, decided that he didn't see the humor in the situation and, drawing a rather large
.45 from his jacket pocket, took careful aim and shot Rafferty in the foot. Then, observing Rafferty clutching his foot as he writhed on
the floor screaming his lungs out, the redneck suddenly started to laugh and kept laughing right up to the time EMS arrived. All of which goes to show that everyone's sense of humor isn't the
same-vas Rafferty will testify should you be inclined to hunt rum down and ask himwhich I don't advise-but
if you do decide to then
at least you won't have to
look in any dryers.
Silent Treatment #9, Gahenna OH I996