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ISSN 0 1 9 7 - 4777

WATERWAYS: Poetry in the MainstrealTI March, 1997

~ A TER ~ A YS: Poetry in the Mainstream

Volume 18 Number 3 March, 1997

Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher

Thomas Perry, Assistant

Lyn Lifshin 4 Geoff Stevens 15
Ida Fasel 5- 6 Joan Payne Kincaid 16-17
Kit Knight 7-10 Billie Lou Cantwell IB
Arthur Winfield Knight II-I2 Karen Kirby 19-20
David Michael Nixon 13 James Penha 21-22
Joy Hewitt Mann 14 Albert Huffstickler 23-2B Waterways is published II times a year. Subscriptions - $20 a year. Sample issues -$]..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

© 1997. Ten Penny Players Inc.


RAGE - LynLifshin

is that

stuffed tiger on the wall that explodes.

The fur and glass eye a disguise from

what was wounded,

to ribbons

as it slams fire thru the house, leaves you lips

and hair ashes


bleeding -- wilder now, intent on clawing what came after it


How neatly a triangle, pure form, fits the tabloid poster --

in one base corner the fallen woman, in another the priestly con soler falling, and commanding the heights,

the wronged husband with a blow making his point at the topmost point, exalted in rage,

himself about to fall,

on the very cutting edge that also must be answerable

to the laws of gravity, heaven and heart.



But look, she is rising

in the full fierce force of her face and the long straight line

of her outstretched arms -

not to uphold him, you may be sure, but to keep love on its course

the way up the side the way down, defining itself by its inner turndesire fulfilled or not,

everlasting desire.



She was standing in line

for Bruce Springsteen tickets. Girls around her were already fainting ahead of schedule.

A TV news reporter

put a mike to her mouth. Last time she went,

the Boss had kissed her. What was he like? Hewas!ike

a spirit in the night.

Martin, I plagiarized.



Kit Knight

Two mounted men rode up to my ranch; one led a horse carrying a man doubled over. I held

my late husband's shotgun steady--rny kids behind me-ready for whatever grief these strangers brought. They took off their hats

and said, "Ma'am,

we're part of a posse

after John Wesley Hardin, and Ben here," they pointed to the slumped man,

"found him." Yankee laws ran Texas after the War

and many rebels felt it was only proper

to be an outlaw. These deputies wanted to continue the search and leave Ben with me. I lowered my gun and reached

to help lower Ben. He took three pain filled hours

to die. Mostly, he raved

and muttered about his home


in Maine. He begged for water and I knew

a gut shot man would scream like a devil in grief

if he drank. I moistened his lips and kept his head in my lap. Finally,

he pleaded for somebody named Laura. Swearing

he loved her. In a poem about a Confederate soldier dying far far from home, the poet urges the reader

to kiss the dying rebel because "he's somebody's darling."

I t was northern men who killed my husband. Feeling oddly heroic and breakable, I wet

Ben's lips with my own,

saying, 111 love you, too."



It's been 31 years

and over a thousand nights since President Lincoln was shot. My daughter --who always held me gently

in the palm of her handand her beau were sharing the Presidential box

that night as theater guests

of the President. When Booth


shot Lincoln in the head Clara's beau lunged

forward and Booth slashed Henry's left arm to the bone. And forever after

he was filled with remorse over his failure

to protect

the President. Always sad, Henry would say, "I should have been more alert,"

and then add =sadly-r'been faster,

been better." Henry never wanted children

-it didn't matter

that my Clara did--

because he felt he wasn't good enough. Clara said, "His shame was greater

than my forgiveness. II As years passed, Henry became a haunted soul

waiting. His anguish

drove him mad and he murdered my Clara. People tell me

I don't need to explain

why he did what he did,

and I say, "I'm not explaining, I'm grieving."



I was nursing a beer, standing at the bar in Rowdy Joe Lowe's when this fellow pulled his pistol

and started firing. He hit

a woman who worked there in the stomach. She said,

"I never did anything to you, Red. \Xlhy?" I remember the blood on her dress:

red on red. Remember


her surprised look; Red's too,

when someone shot at him. None of us had time to duck. Later, the barkeep told me

it took him hours

to wash the glasses,

and the cherry wood glistened by the time he was through wiping down the bar.

I want to know why; too.

I t was my blood he washed away. People who saw it happen

all call it an accident

and say I'm lucky to be alive

--yeah, lucky--

but they don't have to

tap their way along the street with a cane, stumbling on curbs, falling down--tapping-

living in darkness.

Nothing is accidental.


ADEEPGULLY David Michael Nixon

There was a deep gully

and it was filled with hope,

so there was no room for

air, and at the bottom, searchers found calm corpses.



The wind breathes chill tonight and leaden clouds

suck in the belly of the sky --

but Rose dreams of summer dresses pink

and pin-prick points of diamond sky orchids

and sunsets

all coloured like the bruises on her arms.

Geoff Stevens

Brain damage can be permanent, but love's punch drunk jealousies are often a miss match,

a bout of infatuation.

A detached retina would see that, but at the time it seems to be

a fight for the World Champion.


Joan Payne Kincaid

You sometimes get the impression that a wolf is hiding somewhere on the left

taking a careful measure of your world

gritting its teeth of tough promises

as things are swept on unprotected wind yet it all is so poorly drawn

you can't be deleted or enlarged to escape its tears and rips

victims and potential vulnerable beings reach pathetically as Dante's characters when anyone passes through hell.


OVER THE EDGE Joan Payne Kincaid

You wanted to punch hit stir-up trouble even scream

just in time

someone pinned your arms

not before pinging some empty beer bottles at two figures when the day seemed forever preparing, serving, then told "Hurry up"

things flew that day

of the party in the wind,



Billie Lou Cantwell

. .

carnes you, carnes you


the sorrow is only echo and a ringing

in your head


the lap of water on sandy beach mocks your calm

until loneliness surges

once more, once more, endlessly

Thunder with all the power within your wounded soul. Scream and roar like

the locomotive


only the c1ackety clack of wheels against rails

BOOKED Karen Kirby

The affair I compared to a book put down unwillingly

halfw-ay through

with ache and frustration

for the undisclosed final chapter. So only I saw the irony

in the shirt you wore

bearing the question

Are you booked for the evening?

Strange you should ask. Yes I am booked


for life it seems

death forever whichever comes first But then again one

can never have too many

books one for each

mood sad silly mad morose like men perhaps ...

He wouldn't agree see the humor in my unspeakable thoughts

You threaten him

appear in dreams he awakes accusing wanting

assurance ...

I t's the unfinished that nags the lack of closure

He knows my weakness yet made me stop just as the plot thickened

the characters developed. He wonders why I'm still stewing over the ending ...



When the right eyelid swells so with blood run amok,

cells sprung suddenly

from the routine action of capillaries

the pounding of rounds

has dissolved

like the embolism of ants upon a dead



and the left eye bears a nut hard and shiny ready

for a crack

so that he sees

only a narrow letterbox of wet and brown

with no perspective how handily a fist

will wallop him again.

Long since

the fractured nose has ceased

its roar.

Hold. Hold.

So he commands

no shallow even reservoir of energy

to amass a last mean flurry

to thrill the crowd, but moves the other to end this


for him.


OCCASION Albert Huffstickler

That's enough, she said and she meant it. She turned halfway away from him and her hand dipped into her purse and came up with a little blade,

it looked like a paring knife, just the weapon

for a midget, she couldn't have been more than four feet eight. He was

big, six feet or more


but he backed off. He backed off because that thing in her eyes said she'd gut him like

a fish, yes even if he was holding her by the throat. She was wearing this peasant blouse and cut-off jeans and

black pantyhose and red stiletto heels.

Her eyes were small and she had this thick mascara on and you could barely see the

pupils. She looked

like she's just come

up from a coal mine.

All this in an alley

back of the bar, dark except for the light above the back door.

He backed off and stared at her, hands

at his side. He was scared. There was something crazy in

her eyes. I thought

we had a deal, he said. You thought, she snarled

waving the blade. It was a paring knife but the look in her eyes gave it weight, made

it a weapon. I could kill you, she said and meant it. He backed on out of the alley to the street, looking big and very humble. She waved the blade and he

- fled. Then she stood there crying, using the hand that held the knife to wipe her nose,

then dropped the knife in the bag and dug out

a much-abused kleenex and holding it to her nose walked up the alley still crying and vanished into

the street.

October II, 1991


THE BOY WHO DIED Albert Huffstickler

He was the one who risked all, loved and believed,

then fell, wings burning, out of the sky,

fell from the love

that would not let him be, fell to the ground, died, then, reviving, sought water

and burnt his mouth on the molten chalice but stumbled up,

first dead, then wounded where it would not heal,


and went on without himself

as we all go on without ourselves, wounded in a place

that will not heal-

having died of love,

died out of love into this world.

I buried him back there-that boy-in the earth of his father's mortality, buried him next to his father's bones and walked on.


Brazos Restaurant Downtown A ustin

from T a/us and Scree Waldport, OR #! 1996

-- ----------

SURVIVING TWIN - Albert Huffstickler

How can you grieve something that never was?

Where do you begin to mend a heart born unwhole, the loss implicit in its structure? There must be a word for grief never born, for a loss not real

but only a flickering of loss = Iike light on the surface of water.

And stilL.all those million shifting specks of light moving inside me, an explosion that continues through my whole life and none of it real,

This happening that never happened in this world yet dominates it. And where was the body laid? Or was it laid?

Did they bury it like something real?

There's no one to say now.

And even as I write, I begin to doubt. It was never real.

There was nothing lost.

There is just me here this way -- from

as though something of total value was lost totally before I ever was. The Milknium Children

1997. Clearwater, FL