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ISSN 0 1 97 - 4 7 7 7

w- A TER"W" A YS: Poetry in the Mainstream January, 1997

"""\XT ATER ~AYS: Poetry in the Mainstream Volume 18 Number I January, 1997 Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher

Thomas Perry, Assistant

Ida Fase"I 4-6

Bruce Hesselbach 7-8

David Michael Nixon 9

Arthur Winfield Knight 10

Lyn Lifshin II-IS

Joan Payne Kincaid 19

cC>r:Lte:n..ts Phyllis Braun Mary Winters James Penha R. Yurman

Albert Huffstickler

20 21-22 23 24-27 28-31

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Jane Austen's Anne Elliot spoke warmly of Byron, her emotions in elegant control. Not so the poet, driven by-an irresistible life force to unbridle his all over Europe and search history for subjects his match.

Mazeppa was twenty at the time. In love

at first sight: "As the electric wire

We know not how, the absorbing fire." Naked as when discovered in the lady's bed, he was lashed by the irate husband

to a wild horse whipped into a frenzy. Bare to bare, on and on they went, through plain and forest and river,

the rider -- if you can call him that,


slipping from his bruising ropes but still securely bound. On and on

in hunger and thirst and pain and cold.

The horse, on home Ukraine ground, fell dead. Mazeppa, nearly dead himself, was rescued.

A story told fifty years later during cease-fire, when he relived the flesh-to-flesh ecstasies of risk and beauty and terror.

"I loved her then, 1 love her still

And such as I am, love indeed in fierce extremes."

A warrior after Byron's own heart. A phallus after his own phallus.

Note: Mazeppa (1644-17°9) was a Cossack leader involved with Charles XII of Sweden in Baltic wars.



What does the critic say?

A masterpiece.

What does the artist say?

I am no camera.

I shape the form to my feelings.

W'hat does the painting say?

A dismembered body whose parts have been fitted together pell mell, with virtuosity and passion

for a legacy of time past.

What do I say?

This is what it's like to be

in the mind of a murderer. An affair over and done with, vital connections never again to be the way they were.

A love painting. .


What does the critic say?

A masterpiece.

What does the artist say?

I shape the form to my feelings not to a camera.

What does the painting say?

A woman's body

sliced up and put together again skillfully, cruelly askew

affair over and done with

vital connections never again

to be the way they were.

What do I say?

\Vhat it must be like to be in the mind of a murderer.

A love painting.



According to Geoffiey of MOl1lllO/lth, Merlin bewitcbed Utber Pendrago1/ to resemble Ygraiue's husband so that she would be deceived into allowing him to spend the nigbt with ber. The fruit of tbis union 'was all illfallt later known as King A rtbur.


M}' dance has filled his heart with desire. ~ swirling hair and my glance of fire. What in the wheel of heavenly fate makes him to think his forrune so great

that I would forsake my husband and throne, live like a traitor and call him my own? Come slit my neck or cut off my head. Never would I find joy in his bed.


There is a force to history, a plan

that logic cannot vanquish, nor can man. Whatever good intentions we embrace, our destiny may thwart and us disgrace. Compare it to a nightmare, if you must, but one who now betrays you out of lust will in the end create a wondrous thing, an age to live forever, and a king.



Bruce Hesselbach

verses here carved in stone tell of undying love and lore pictographs of childhood

entwining vines trees and mountains

memorials to a pilgrimage

kind deeds given and received

the ever present sun moon and stars

splashing waterfall

gentle wind in the trees

passage to my heart

speak friend and enter


NOVOY David Michael Nixon

A~Ior the meaning of NO VOT, it comes from two lallguages.

In Spanish it means "I am not going" and in Russian, it means "new".

Jack Farling, editor

No matter what you say, I am not going.

This is the time for words both old and new.

The horse in the brown field surrounded by electric fence is not going

I will sit in this old pasture all my days

(bioregional poet of places I am not going)

and all my songs of far-off cities and woods just over the hummock

will be filIed with accurate sounds and colors, bursting with people, plants and cats, mint new.

and knows it,

even though the fence is new.


WILLIAM S. HART- WHISPERS Arthur Winfield Knight

I hear the things

they whisper about me and my sister. They say we do unnatural things. We've lived together

all our lives, true,

but there's nothing dirty about it.

They whispered

about Jesse James

and his sister, too.

I think they're jealous. I make my movies


the best way I can, true to what I know about the Old West, and the truth hurts.

I'm not a drugstore cowboy. I was IS when they murdered Jesse. Sometimes

my sister will cry

because she's heard

the rumors, too.

I'll hold her, hard,

and say, "Don't cry, Sis," but she sobs harder,

her breasts heaving,

our bodies pressed together in the sweaty dark.



a decade is like a mouthful of plums dissolving. It was that sweet, left that rose a stain. I wore a rouge -red

dress with mirrors he loved to mew and caw in the glitter of. Dylan loved animals. More I think than people, furry small things he could croon and crow to, who wouldn't scold or warn. On the stage, he could rage against any dying, any bit of light and dark leaving hut really. he wasn't a fighter. I think that's why he smiled the ale

and rum-- so he could have a reason to stagger and collapse. Any nice soft tit was best for a pillow, better than to suck for sex anyway. I was young, I hadn't written anything but


his verbs gave me chills in an English class of engineers.

I imagined I was his long legged bait, could hear the

wind washed stones. It was different when we were lovers

even tho it didn't last long. I learned that words could

lure and snare. He wasn't quite what I expected in bed

but hardly any of the ones I adored actually were. He was

much more sensitive than most saw when he swilled whatever booze they had and rang up huge phone bills, vomited on a new shag rug. He was a lot more vulnerable. Since I wasn't a

wife, I never nagged about getting a real job. I never

saw him after that first tour and my long dark curls, ironed for years, now are flat as those New York city summers were without him. Now it's longer ago than I was then but I can still feel his lips when he sang an old Welsh coal miner's song into my hair


DECEMBER 10 Lyn Lifshin

I always think of Emily today, her birthday. She was always more fun and wilder than most people suppose. It's that photo graph with her hair pulled tight, (She thought it made her cheek bones look more poetic)-- it was a mask, a myth. Like stories

about her never leaving the house her last 20 years. Sure,

she did all the house stuff and she didn't mind cooking but she was wild as her verbs. Look at the poems, pared down and ready to take off. She gulped life. Think of all the times she used

"devour" in poems. We'd tuck her mother in in the early days and then, as if we were going into the garden, take off those high button boots that are back in style you know and hot tail it

thru the trees. If they saw us under a full moon - our hair


loose and flung like fans in an Arabian dance, slithering and twisting until we collapsed in a heap of wet leaves, they could

have whispered "witch," or worse. Emily worked hard - we both didher father thought we were nuts with our scraps of paper on the

window seat, ink staining our fingers, our clothes. We were both obsessive. Few know Emily wore velvet underwear. It was a comfort she whispered. When she died, it was really as if

the wind took her up. I've never liked the wind since it seems

she disappeared like the birds. Now when I fed the geese and swans, when no one's around, I whisper her name as if she could be one of them


I'm trying to catch my breath the way she and I used to running thru trees. On the page, our words leap and spring. "Double lives, double agents" we used to laugh -- how few knew either of us. "A recluse," I just heard someone say this morning. If they only knew about our masks, saw Emily hitching with her hair loose in those high leather boots and a little gloss - she looked more like Emmy Lou Harris than

that pinched fragile doll on almost all her books. We both had our masks. "Bitch" and "hard" were flung at me. In the beginning actually most people thought I was a man. Emily and I plotted how to mislead, cooked up our stories over


". ~

a little glass of sherry. I admit it. We loved making the rest of the world think we were strange. It was too late

to be thought witches. Few know Emily came to Madonna in

dreams and whispered "never let them put you in a box -- be a box they can't get into, a Pandora's box where one thing

turns into something else. "We both coached Madonna. Where do you think she got her name? From my poems. But it was

Emily who showed her about becoming a chameleon, twisting and startling--never following a pattern, setting the audience up

for one thing and changing before their eyes. And not just on

the page. Everybody knows about that. But she could, with as exquisite a move as on paper, become a flirt, a nun. We loved to take on other's lives, become them. Tho I often wore onyx


· velvet and Emily, with her fondness for white, pulled on some thing of snow (made her brown eyes more like a doe's) we often switched and she became a cat, a panther, sophisticated as some one coming out of the highest fashion store in N ew York -- while

in her pale loose clothes, I did the knock on the door, collecting for a made up religious charity, so disguised my former (ok, he

was a little drunk) boyfriend never suspected it was me gathering hair snarls, finger nail clips and lipstick tubes in the bathroom from the new woman. Like the rest, he was never suspicious. Later Emily and I would go out in the hills of drooping boughs and tiger lilies disguised as sprites and after a little dandelion wine and a

bon fire of the few poems we could bear to part with, cast our spell




A wind of gulls hardly matters.

. The room begins to blur. Ice wind, a voice in the

and peaches. She needs something exotic as a veranda licorice horses pass under, an exact five

to wake her from the sink hole she's sucked toward, dark eyes, a tongue of pomegranates

distance. She thinks maybe Lorca could soothe, needs his green, the scent

of blood and bulls

o clock, a blood rose dripping, bracelet of water to knife the haze, lips tart as lemons


Out of Place and Time Joan Payne Kincaid

A repetitive nightmare powerless banging

on a pawing gigantic steed silently screaming

against white sky

grinds to a halt at a solutionless abyss

she is powerless to negotiate to navigate

or map vulnerable in a floating attitude

pressed against black muscled force in low-cut tog a

a high-laced female stereotype.


trying to escape

escape cannot be seems eternally impossible


falls away

One Winter Night Phyllis Braun

On winter night

Firebringer came to her door, brought her five glowing coals brought straw and peat.

He built a fire in the

cold stone place, nursed it to flames

till the dark peat glowed. "I'm still cold," she said. He hugged her then - and then - and then -She was never cold again.


I Know, I Know Mary Winters

The explosion of TWA flight 800

raises the usual troubling questions

about fate, the nature of the deity,

etc. (Maybe it's important just to keep wondering.) The mangled, flaming bodies of passengers and crew were plummeting into Long Island Sound at the exact moment I was leaving an especially nice party in Manhattan. That cruel juxtaposition occurred a little too

dose to home, literally and

figuratively. I am a former stewardess; you expect a little grief on the job,



not to die for it. I couldn't brush it

off as there but for the grace of God go I: I felt - I wanted - a closer connection to the tragedy. Sure enough, my secretary's son's third grade teacher's daughter (I am not making this up) was an attendant on the flight. Her home town of Rutherford, New Jersey grieved loud and log for this twenty year-old so excited about her first trip to Paris. I struggled to find positive meaning in the link: if we're not

related by blood, we're tied by

incident, shared history. If you look hard enough. Which is stretching it,

I know.




The camera does not lie

but I must

if I need to mock you up in ink,

handle you positively formulated

staring at me enlarged

to subsist


shadowed by your beast frozen

in my attention. I disbelieve don't I

your presence. 23

The Kennel R.Yurman

He's eleven, clever and lives across the street; bigger, stronger and smarter than any of us

seven year olds, he gets a large, tough dog, a boxer, for his birthday.

It comes

in a kennel longer than I'm tall, two feet high, with square wiremesh covered holes cut into

its sides. "You want to see it?" Barry asks. Whatever he had-soldiers, darts, a handful of old bolts-

seemed special, really worth looking at or holding. It smells of dog. I won't touch it.

"Look," he says, "it's really great inside." And he crawls in, rattles it, laughs', crawls

back out. "It's fun. You try. Go on, crawl in." I know him. I say, "If I do,

you'll lock me in." "Don't be silly. Look. I promise." All I can do is stand stupid, just shaking my head,

not even a grin. "Trust me. Boy Scout honor. I'll even swear on my mother.

Aren't we

friends?" How long can I stare at the box, dumb? No we're not friends, I'm too young,

except when you have nothing else to do or think of some trap for me to fall into.

I push myself head first inside. The odor of dog, the surprising dark, then the dick behind. Locked. Just

as I'd known all along. I want to gag. He's never had trouble making me cry. I don't


want to, but it rises in my chest, a sob that can't be held, then the flood drowning control.

This time I've made up my mind. I choke it back. "I knew you would," I say, "and it is funny,

but pretty soon my mother will be calling me and she'll worry." I sit hunched over, wedged in, dry-eyed. He has to

let me out. I won't scream. "I think I'll go to a movie Saturday," he says, "after I walk

my dog. Too bad you're not old enough to come along. See you tomorrow, we can try

my new radio." He turns to go. And his mother is there, standing in the doorway. Once

I leave, he won't get to see or touch me again. She glimpses my soft face behind the wiremesh and laughs=

a woman's, not a mother's, laugh, deep and full. It must have been funny, that small face

peering out, the voice fighting to keep control. She turns to rum, asks, "How was

school?" They both laugh then, slicing my resolve. Outside the wash of tears, she says,

"All right, Barry, let him out." Which he does, in his own sweet time.

"Just a joke," Mrs. Hogan

says. "No harm done. Tell your mother I'll phone her tomorrow." And I go home

knowing at once and for certain it's best to stand alone, trust no one, adult or small,

stay within yourself, rest quiet, dry-eyed, and never crawl=especially into narrow boxes.


Sometimes Things Get Better Before They Get Worse And Somerlmes They Get Worse Before They Get Better Albert Huffstickler

Call me the night you feel so alone

your skin won't stay on and your feet

walk up the wall and disappear while you lie there

with a halo of dust

around your head

waiting for the clock to tick but it's gone silent on you too. Call me the night


you can't feel your hands on your body

because one of you has vanished. Call me when the night

is longer than

your previous lifetime

and you can count the stars in your heavens

on one finger,

when you close your eyes and the face you

see before you is your own staring back at you

in horror

Call me when

you can't look in a mirror but the mirror follows you from room to room

chanting your name and hissing. Call me when

your chickens have all come home to roost and the roost is full

and they're stili coming. Call me when

your sins sit at the foot of the bed

counting you on their rosaries. Call me when

you can't wait any longer


and know it's too late anyway and the phone curls on your bedstand like a cobra

daring you to touch it. Call me in that voice I know so well

while the operator chants, "Long distance please from Hell."


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