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~ A TERW" A YS: Poetry in the Mainstream DeceIllber, I996

"'\XT A TER ~ A YS: Poetry in the Mainstream

Volume 17 Number II December, 1996

Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher

Thomas Perry, Assistant

CC>X1"t::eX1TS
Susan Snowden 4 Steven Shovers 13 David Michael Nixon 22
Billie Lou Cantwell ,-6 Sheryl L. Nelms 14 JamesPenha 23
John Sokol 7 Arthur \VinfieJd Knight 15 Will Inman 24-31
Robert Cooperman 8 H. EdgarHix 16 Sylvia Manning 32-33
Kit Knight 9 Peggy Raduziner 17 Albert Huffstickler 34-36
Jane Califf 10-11 Phyllis Braun 18-19
J. Md·ledow 12 Ida Fasel 20-21 Waterways is published II 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,NewYork 10304-2127

© 1996, Ten Penny Players Inc.

1996 themes are pictographs from the WALAM OLUM (An Epic of the Lenni Lenape),

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Taking the Ferry - Susan Snowden

"Climb on,"

invited Wise Turtle.

"I will carry you over River."

Two-legged declined,

too proud to accept help. He struggled to stay afloat in the furious current,

to fend off debris

and avoid jagged rocks. Spent, he turned back.

For years Two-legged tried to cross, even strapped others on his back. Each time he failed.

One day Wise Turtle drifted by, offered his services again.

Old, exhausted Two-legged complied and hobbled aboard.

Soon he began barking commands:

"Go this way, go that way." He clutched branches,

ran back and forth,

nearly slipped off.

Enraged at Wise Turtle, who ignored his directions, Two-legged fell ill.

Some say he died, consumed by fever, but awoke one day as if with new eyes.

Lying on Wise Turtle's broad back,

he noticed fish darting

and gold sun glinting on the water, spilling warmth on his body.

At peace, enjoying the smooth ride,

Two-legged knew he would reach the other side safely.

4

Eating Mangoes in Private Billie Lou Cantwell

She likes mangoes on her cereal, likes the fierce sweet tart against her tongue the firm fleshy fruit amid the crunch of oat, bran, wheat, corn.

She tries to prepare her dish in private-aware of guilt in having such

a large luxurious food

just for herself. Even when alone in the house,

she thinks this. Perhaps

it is ritual, like putting the

lid on toothpaste, this thought process in preparing

mango and cereal.

Fastidious with food, usually, a mango reverts her to a child, even a primate.

She peels the green, sometimes reddish cover to expose voluptuous orange, swelling

like a nursing breast, leaking sweet mysterious juice.

Slices, crude uneven spears,

fall into a bowl, then she cuts

again around the flat invisible seed, gouging small bits of fleshy morsels

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from the slab, from the sweet mother lode

of seed stone.

Hands dripping sugary juice, she holds the palm sized seed still fleshy in spite of her cuts. And, if no one is looking,

she brings it to her lips,

sucks, and shivers from the sweetness of the nectar and envies bees their occupation.

And, being sure

no one observes, she slides the seed inside her mouth and rakes her teeth through the tangy

leavings of her knife.

She rakes and sucks leaving threads of fruit against

the bone of seed. Juice drips down her chin

and she lets it go, holding

her head over the kitchen sink heedless of the amateurish demolition of the mango, unmindful of her silken robe her juice-polluted

diamond rings,

she wants only to taste all that can be gained from her luxurious fruit.

Finally, she licks a finger, drops the mutilated seed

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onto a napkin with the peel, carefully wraps the evidence

of her sin into the waste basket then dots her lips and chin with a cloth, washes her hands and turns to pour her cereal and milk over the mango.

She picks daintily at the

meal with a silver spoon, dabbing her lips with a

linen napkin between bites while she gazes at her garden through the window.

Tomorrow

she must have strawberries.

Sisyphus - John Sokol

5111y deadbeat son of Aeolus, didn't you know better

than to snitch on Zeus?

Didn't you know he'd fix your ass to some horrible task?

Everyone knew you weren't the most scrupulous kid in Corinth,

but who among us thinks you deserved such a heavy sentence?

I mean hell's bells,

no chance of parole, even.

Your cousins in crime (what a pair), dizzy Ixion and dry-mouth Tantalus were probably shaking their heads when you first arrived,

mumbling to themselves, "Cruel, but fair.

Cruel, but fair."

Yessir, every time I hear your name, I think of Bob Seger

singing "Roll Away the Stone" and " ... rock-n-roll never forgets."

The only thing that makes that more sad than funny

is that you're just like all of us

who just crawled out from under some rock, who, despite our repeated efforts,

don't have a snowball's chance in hell.

from The Berkeley Poetry Review #Z7, 1993-1994 Berkeley California

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Citizen's Rights Robert Cooperman

At our block's annual party,

Dan, eighty-four, a member of the NRA jabs the air in front of my nose ' about the murderous A TF,

"And those FBI sons of bitches

breaking down a woman's door

for an ounce of marijuana!"

his spittle like an angry yard dog.

And just as I'm about

to start shouting myself,

about nee-Nazi thugs with guns, Dan grabs my arm

in his ex-fireman's grip,

glances right, left, and whispers,

"You wouldn't have any marijuana, would you, Bob?"

He could knock me over with a puff of smoke. I stare as if he's trying to entrap me, but he goes on, urgent

as a grizzly with an itch. "I've asked my son,

but he swears ignorance,

when I used to smell it on him. It's just that Wilsa won't let me at the bourbon bottle anymore."

Dan grins with an old man's greed, time running out,

and still so much to do.

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Emerald Brown: I963 Kit Knight

WhenJFK died, Jackie asked the staff to research Lincoln's funeral. Both Presidents were assassinated while in office. My great grandfather was a reverend and a personal friend

of the Lincolns', He led Abe's favorite horse -and it happened that

Old Bob was a black horsebehind the casket

and 40,000 mourners followed great granddaddy up Pennsylvania Avenue.

Almost a century later, I bow my head

on Pennsylvania Avenue

and watch Kennedy's casket followed by

a riderless black horse. All of America-indeed,

all the world-commented on the grace and nobility

of that animal, that symbol. But nobody knows

it was a black man who created that symbol; I have pictures

of great granddaddy

Henry Brown

with Old Bob. The reverend wore a top hat. The cook

in the Lincoln White House

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was a black woman,

Mariah Vance.' Everybody

in the white family called her Aunt Mariah. Robert Lincoln continued sending her checks till the day she died.

White folks don't think

we have any history, but

it's just that

our little bits of history never get in the books.

Worker/Poet/Student - Jane Califf

He is a welder. But also a poet.

Just as he brings together and fuses metal pieces into one,

He brings together words to form an idea, a concept, a phrase,

To help make sense of the world.

He is a poet even though he does not have a high school diploma or aGED,

He is a student too, striving to reach his goal -

The mastery of reading and writing, and on to college. Hands that skillfully hold a blow torch

Also hold a pen - to help make life more whole. Manual labor can deaden one's higher

aspirations and intellect,

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But not his!

In the evening he puts down ills welding tools and attends class.

He completes homework and writes a poem.

Today his poem is about the homeless. "How do you like it?" he asks. "Terrific" I reply, "Great imagery and deep feeling."

We discuss the poem, analyze it and make a few changes. His poem touches me

as does the poetry of my other worker/poets. They do not know how they inspire their teacher:

Ordinary people writing about ordinary and unordinary things, Finding truths, baring their souls,

Opening the door to new thoughts and new worlds.

from Literacy Update, Winter, 1966, NY

II

Genuflect - J. McMedow

Lady Bug Punk Rocker adores the crowd like plankton in a putter dish

on the hunt for the King of Solitaire. She paints a fruit basket

for his phosphorescent image and rocks babes who cuddle

the sleep of death and emancipation: this appears a happy Beetle King.

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A Smile Steven E. Shovers

A smile costs nothing but gives much

I t enriches those who receive it without making poorer those who give.

It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.

N_o one ~s so rich or mighty that he can get along without It, and none is so poor, but that

he can be made rich by it.

A smile creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in business

and is the countersign

of friendship.

It brings rest to the weary, cheer to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad,

and it is nature's antidote for trouble.

Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed or stolen,

for it is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away.

Some people are too tired to give you a smile. Give them one of yours as no one needs a smile So much as he who has no more to give.

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A Good Head of Hair Sheryl L. Nelms

just home from the hospital

"Come here. Look at this,"

in her arms

as she massaged the tail of a plucked

chicken

my mother commanded

And I went

to watch her holding my bathed and powdered blanket -wrapped first born

daughter

into her scalp

"To make her hair grow, good!"

she said,

And it did.

The Rose

Arthur Winfield Knight

It's no bigger

than my thumbnail, pale pink, dewy,

the outer petals wilted. I scratch

the back of my hand plucking it--

a gift for you--

in the January night. I give it to you

when I corne

into the warm house

from the darkness. "It's beautiful,"

you say. I watch you position the rose, carefully,

into a delicate bottle from Italy

that used to contain balsamic vinegar. There. It's perfect.

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Holy, Unholy, Holy - H. Edgar Uix

i want the light to shine in the darkness and the darkness to shine in the light

i want to be the monk who carried the woman

across the mud

and the woman who was carried and let go i want to be the salt water and sweet

the estuary slimy and delicate full of life

King's Valve - Peggy Raduziner

I've seen you before in the golden age

as King on the throne. On the prairie

as Chief of the tribes From the Swampland

the majestic form of the turtle old, wise and silent.

I've seen you before

as the high man in the deck I've seen you before

as the head of the household sitting at the table

head of the world.

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Morality Tale - Phyllis Braun

"Our little princess!" they crowed when Athena was born.

Then came Gregory the King, King from the first loud waiL He plucked stars from the sky for a crown. He kicked and bit and roared his royal way.

He punched Athena, pulled her hair. He bariged on the piano banging discords with flattened hands.

He threw his cereal, trampled her dolls interrupted adults speaking.

He was a royal pain.

One thing His Highness could not do: he couldn't bother Athena

when she'd play the piano.

(How she could playl)

They'd lock her in, away from him to practice hours each day.

Her escape made her a star, put Gregory in a rage.

Nevertheless, when Athena was six she played at Carnegie Hall-though not in her red velvet dress King Gregory had slashed it;

he'd wanted to slash Athena. "Gregory, you are a stinker!"

IS

t

) -

his father said. Gregory shrugged. "I won't go to hear her play."

"Please, Gregory," his mother pleaded "You'll sit in the front row;

you can give her abouquet on stage." No! No! No! No! No!

(Alone at home he'd

wreck the practice roorn.)

But the door was locked.

King Gregory slashed the sofa turned the telly up to blast,

then fell asleep.

The family entering later woke him up. He felt strange His neck was stiff.

His body was stiff.

The pillows looked huge; he could not see the floor.

The family came to him, screamed. They saw on the slashed sofa,

an iridescent three-inch beetle, wearing a crown of feelers.

They had never read Kafka,

so King Gregory was thrown by handkerchief, out the door.

I

Thoughts on Ahnost There - Ida Fasel Almost There

is a climber, nail hammered over nail patiently, precariously up

Almost There

is a mermaid

caught on earth

who will find her way to the sea against all odds

stabilized where she is

Almost There

in a sense

is arrival=

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our center always in transition

towards perfection

moving, not by trends

but time as it truly is, substance

The Keeper of the Grail asked Whom does the Grail serve? the correct answer is

The Grail serves Almost There.

Who would want to go

the rest of a lifetime

without a dream?

Z(

Rain Barrel Blues David Michael Nixon

Stagnant as the rain barrel

left to almost overflowing, until the dry season gripped it

and its water sunk slowly into moss, he stands unmoving in his dry yard, where no new woman ever comes.

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Stalk J3llles Penha

Sumatra yields darkly as a tiger

in heat

and hunger

dares me

with eye that stares as twilight skies their brows in blue,

scares me

wi th a ravenous air: ravishment hot upon my face;

the magic

tiger, invisible but for a stripe midst the rattan,

takes the measure of a bird

whose coda I heard with pleasure.

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undiscovered self - Will Inman i had thought to cut around behind you

i thought i could peel you from my image

i could bite through you with hawk's eyes

all i had to do was aim my will at you

i did not penetrate the substance of shadows i didn't believe in the body of nothing

i saw you as something at one remove

i dismissed you with easy tolerance

i knew you were cast by solid shape in light

i didn't know you were the self i refused to see i cast you, sure, but casting roots me in you

you mutter inaudible commentary on everything i say

i carry you around like a bird in an invisible cage but you're invisible, and i am the cage

what's seen of me is not the part that sings

my hands are feathered with denying you

i go naked so others stop at my skin

i show my rage - they credit me with honesty

i unsheathe my knife: they assume i won't cut terrified of my love, they're relieved by my rancor

you're not deceived. like a great cat, you watch. you wait for me to grow eyes for the dark

you grin, anticipating my surprise when i see when i recognize you, i'll have barely started

7July '990, Tucson

a different garden - Will Irunan

i do not write more about irises

now that irises are in full bloom in my garden, a different garden flourishes in its

own season in that country in me where metaphors wrapped in flowers or in turtle shells or in human flesh or in ecstasies of paradox-break through

the hard crusts of my narrow mind.

i fertilize that place on these living blooms. i get angry when April winds bruise their petals and shrink them soon. i need the nurture of the woke purples

with their orange scars summoning bees and

bu t terfl ies.

when metaphors seize on irises, when they crawl up out of the dark psychic dunes

as young turtles from where their ancient mother

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laid her eggs deep down my swift-surfed beach, when they wreak consenrual fantasies i could be jailed for, when they cross tongues with gods

and daemons in visions that cannot be yet inexorably are, then my caliche crusts for an instant

come soft as lips of angels, and i know what is to be known deeper than my crass opinions.

so, I write for my own illumination, i open my flesh

to thrusts of prana. so, the tongue of what's beyond comes perilous present, and j live, waking

at i:he Edge, i tear away from my merciless Reflection and make love with my ruthless Shadow, in this ceaseless instant of aroused blooms

JO April 1996, Tucson

from Feelings, Easton, Pennsylvania, Fall [996

listening to Bach's passion according to St. :John transcendent no - Will Inman

now mountains grind their teeth, lakes

foam the lips of their shores, clouds

snort fury in the nostrils of sky, mercy sheathes lightning under ribs of saints, for who carries the burden of his own heart

in this time of lies and uncaring

he leans

into wind, his hair grapples with invisible sinews, every step he takes is on the back of a turtle of dread, earth

shakes under him, his lips crack

in the hot sulfur breath from vents

deep in rock dreams. what comes to him should come to no human, to no creature, what comes for him lay never not in wait,

meanness of other humans, distance of gods his own distance from himself, he

wakes

to what makes death merciful

but now, now he comforts the mountains in his arms,

he kisses away lakes' madness, he soothes sky nostrils

with his own deep breaths, he sucks lightning from saints' ribs, he nurses all those rages under his tongue, his own heart

makes room in its pain for all others' suffering. he will scorch away the lies, he

will roll away uncaring in thorns. a scorpion will teach him in time. hornets will sow endurance in his flesh. stones will waken under him, brothering his feet, hail

will sister his head with rainbows,

he will feast on ecstatic darkness, niagaras of joy shall wake from his throat sunrise shall plant an emerald on the tip

of his tongue his eyes shall swim in the caresses

of young children

birds shall alight on his shoulders with blessings and curses, anyone who follows another shall lose the path, he finds his way that you

shall make your own, every direction

carries source

and destination. every pace is kin. even most alone,

you will not be lost.

5' April 1996

from Feelings Fall,1996 Easton, Pennsylvania

29

Great Turtle Spirit - Will Lnman

children are dancing on great turtle's back.

turtle knows them and loves them and fears for them. turtle is slow and lives from before-time into beyond-time. children live in now-time, and while all-time is now, now is not all-time for children. children live days and months, children may live years until they verge into beyond-time. but not all children live so long. children

have no shell around their nakedness. turtle has seen whole tribes of children slaughtered

even as they dance upon her back. she can make room for only a few under her shelL her mountains

shudder with unease. her rivers forget to flow between their banks. her forests have lost the will

to dance with the children. turtle

weeps. she must gather herself, she must widen her eyes.

turtle will consult with the old ones. she will call children and birds and coyotes and snakes,

she will summon bear and deer and mountain lions

and salmon, she will speak with them and hark their

seeing. she will send out hummingbirds to collect

visions of pollen. turtle will discover new ways

in bare feet of children. grasses will become

partners with rivers, mountains and trees will make

covenant again, deserts will teach making honey

out of fierce bitters. sky

will lean down to turtle and lick away her tears. all these will dance healing together, and turtle will offer her shell a a drum for rejoicing.

15 February 1996, Tucson, Arizona

from Nerve Cowboy, Fall 1996

31

Question - Sylvia Manning You said before daylight,

"I don't mind doing it,

because it's for us,"

getting up and

leaving to be at work

by six in the morning.

I failed to wake up

but remember now,

you said that.

And what will I say at twilight, when you are barely back,

what will I say that I have done for us?

from Mojo risin' , NO.3, Spring, 1996, Chicago, Illinois

32

To Crop an Angel- Sylvia Manning for Huff, May II, 1996

photograph shot by poet s till in love with Santa Fe

for all his winding reasons for all

times he took wing for yet again

a word sing

there, another word-ship pilgrimage through clarity,

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there, outside

the hotel window, molded to his need as for its fountain, shot through lace of curtain left alone, untouched, simply so: you take craft

knife to straight edge and be brave.

Escape Hatch to Heaven - Albert Huffstickler

I have this friend who just got back from the Yucatan

where she wandered through the jungles and climbed the pyramids and had one exotic mystical experience after another

and now she's back and in withdrawal and doesn't want

to go back to work but knows she has to or she won't come down and I had her over the day after she got back and listened

and then took her to supper and after a while she went home and had some nightmares and some more visions and I

kept telling her that it would be all right Monday when

she got back to work but she didn't really want that.

She wanted to go back.

I had a similar experience driving through New Mexico for a week once and could understand and I really like

34

to limit my trips there because, you see, to the people

that live there it's one thing and to me it's something else-something alien and exotic, something I can get to without doing my tour of duty down there and so I'm suspicious of it. And last night she called again and was still spaced out

and I listened and said some things and woke up this morning kind of depressed and walked down to the Post Office

and met this guy in ragged clothes who bummed a cigarette and then asked me where the nearest mission was and I told him he'd have to go downtown to the Salvation Army

and pointed the way and he thanked me and went on his way and I thought--well, I thought maybe he was God or Jesus

or somebody and that I should have given him the whole pack. And I walked on to the Post Office and back home, thinking about my friend and the bum I'd met and wondering if God

35

was really some jaguar with emerald eyes hiding down in the pyramids in the jungle waiting to be found and if so,

then he wasn't any use to me because I had to go to work tomorrow and then I thought of my friend again and what I really

wanted to say to her--and Shirley McClain too--and that is

tha t I don't have time to go running off to Mexico or

the Himalayas every time I need to talk to God and so

how I really feel about it is: anytime I walk down the street,

. if God isn't standing on the next corner, then

he's no use to me and somebody's not doing his job.

from Sulphur River Literary Review Volume VII, No.2, I996 Austin, Texas