You are on page 1of 34


ISSN 0197 - 4 777

Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream, September 1997


"'" A._ TEa."V\T .A. 'YS: Poetry in the Mainstream

Volume 18 Number 8 September, 1997

Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher

Thomas Perry, Assistant

Joy Hewitt Mann 4·10 Terry Thomas 19 Susan Snowden 26-27
Fredrick Zydek 11 Karen Kirby 20 Richard Kostelanetz 28
Gertrude Morris 12-13 Billie Lou Cantwell 21 Arthur Winfield Knight 29
Geoff Stevens 14 Herman Slotkin 22-23 Kit Knight 30
Anne Wilson 15 Lyn Lifshin 24 Albert Huffstickler 31-32
Joan Payne Kincaid 16-18 Mary Winters 25 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 e 1997, Ten Penny Players Inc.



Back Again Joy Hewitt Mann

between the wet mud

and the canopy of weeds, behind the waiting screen, memones

are slung on hangers limp

like bats that died; beyond the cracking stairs, across the dusty floors, names like chips of wood an empty suitcase

a house

that was a home.


On Rideau Street Joy Hewitt Mann

The muttering streets

the yellow rain that runs down sudden walls

and slips in cracks perfumes

the surplus of his middle age

the hand that questions in his upturned palm.

In posh store windows where the backs of faces come and go

he counts the hours by ticks of change knowing

reading eyes like salesmen selling shoes spitting all the nothingness of waste-wine days on sidewalks

made of strangers' feet.

He says

he once lived narrow fixtured lives

and slept on peaceful streets like beds of nails his now-life a candle in

one hundred watt rooms

with coffee

scraps of toast with someone else's jam reading discard news

when all the blood has dried


he says he once heard Mozart at the NAC sucked it through the Parkade vent.


Needlepoint Joy Hewitt Mann

Somehow you were entangled in the strings of my imagination

so I macrarned a holder for your name, crocheted a cloth to lay you on ... wove love.

But now you say I made a neta snare,

"Just let me be!"

You made your point.


By Degrees Joy Hewitt Mann

He's an architect,

designed my life to be a box five-sided

although it's six if you count the top-

four flaps there that fold in to leave a tiny hole.

He lets me fill it up with female things: cooking classes

a good wardrobe with sixteen pairs of shoes my make-up case

a box of pads

and a subscription to Harlequin romances - just like his "mother" used to read.

He himself is conical.

A strong base, he says is the foundation of good engineering,

but he's completely out of touch

with today's literature.

I have just finished reading a lever

and the fulcrum will be sent next month.


Life with Father Joy Hewitt Mann

Good riddance, was what she meant to say but strong words always gagged her

like a large hand held across her throat.

The death procession wound along the cemetery road a striped snake

black and grey

digesting small rodents ... or children.

She had given her regrets, so

they would not look for her among the decaying flowers. Breath clenched

she slipped behind the trees and listened to the (ears of strangers- soundless.


She had shared her childhood nights with

sounds creaking stairs

heavy steps muffling heavy breaths

a click as the handle turned, and then serpent-crossing sand

as he slipped across the Disney rug.

The bedsprings screamed as she never could and sheets lifted like the crack ofa whip although he'd always tell her it was


These tears ... they puzzled her

for she remembered one night - the nadir of a hundred nights he'd honed her love thin as a blade

and she'd turned

cut out her hean


and left it beating there beside him in the bed-

and then she ran

and ran

her severed arteries spraying words I will not come back I I will not cry

Yet, here she stood behind the trees

and grieved

her own small death.


I will forget.

There was a time when all trees decided for themselves where they would grow, bovine things

wandered the continent at will, rivers spread our like ideas

from free and inquisitive minds,

deer and elk migrated without fear of Fruehauf or Mac trucks,

and the only lights raccoons

had to dread were in the eyes of wolves and great cats,

Odd we have interrupted everything

The Magic of Green Fredrick Zydek

except our ability to wage war, tolerate poverty, or sell justice and health to the highest bidders.

There were lessons to learn

from the trees before we abandoned and then enslaved them.

Dare we return and remember?

Who can believe the magic of green once it's been reduced to legal tender?



Gertrude Morris

Master Sargent, America's favorite illusionist, could make anything disappear.

Even white doves from a silk top hat.

But where did they go when they disappeared? Into some dim, gray illusion?

Or fly blind and fall.

uttering their mournful tremolo? Master Sargent, once America's favorite. you never knew how illusory you were.

Even this grand publicity:

a dove in hat, a dove in hand, pouting nether lip, the gallant swatch

of black mustachio. Even the fine morning coat. antique-man you're so passe, it seems you're flown the coop!

In the act of what prestidigitation did the High Illusionist pluck you from the silk top hat of time?

When the doves whose wings you clipped. flew out of your hand, and

left you grounded in illusion.


Guggle Muggle

Gertrude Morris

I am lying on feather pillows in mother's bed, attended by "walk-ens," shadowy now,

a quarantine notice on the door.

Mother is wearing her tragedy mask;

brother is jealous of me: The Star;

father wishes me back to my own bed

that he might resume the lifelong,

doomed courtship of his bride.

Dr. Goodside looks grave.

But strengthened by quarts of KUf!X1e mllJ!gle,· I will soon be well enough to sit

on the fire escape in the warm sun

bundled to the chin

like an old woman in a sanitarium. To the east a freight train crawls by.

The tulip tree is in bloom again. Below my cast-iron aerie

Tony the iceman's grandfather is weeding his squatter's garden.

Goats from West Farms Road have broken in. One bearded lady rears up

on delicate legs to nibble succulent, red buds of flowering peas.

Her heavy udders rampant, the kids

jostle to get at those fast food spigots. As many times as he chases them they always come back.

I see my friends in the street below. Tomorrow, if all goes well,

['II be paroled to join the tribe again.


How Many Leaders Geoff Stevens

How many leaders have plucked war out of the hat insisting it was

the dove of peace?


The Magician Anne Wilson

Dark emptiness.

He drew from the exquisite darkness magical encounters, turning bright silk ribbons into doves before my very eyes.

"Trust me," he said, making pennies become little birds

that danced on his sleeve, and pouring water

into tumblers

that became gold vapors when he turned them over.

But once, he convinced me to lie in a box,

and he sawed me in two. I am still waiting

for him

to put me

back together again.


Trouble Joan Payne Kincaid

During that life they could not not only could they not

they would not consider

what had to be to make it making it impossibly impossible

to manage managing even the possible; the dream was always in the way ...

the dream of a way out

he said "whose idea was it to have children?" He said this publicly

and what he meant was that he would rather be doing something more

trouble was he never could figure out what.


Memoir Based on Fireflies

Joan Payne Kincaid

Summer is half over

the cats are covered with sun

why do you bother to plant things you think you can see a quirk of imagination ... escape cloying rituals

Chopin is annoyingly trite this bright lovely day fingering days for connection to something versatile.

Do you really need to nurture or is it a trap

the fireworks return and the dog dragged like meat; fools sit in rooms of depression venting on everyone tourniquets of bleeding shredded ideas six flight-up a trap to put yourself in yet I refused to go;

summer blue sky laughs at futility

worn-out caring ... turn on an ulcer over the mess make a cup of tea to absolve Nannie's universe ... summer is half over and her gowns are gone.


Perhaps the rhythm of flowers hypnotizes you the kittens roll and the flowers are laughter unfolding Chopin with deranged moods that suck you in to lie ripe in a coffin of forgetful stress

of seasons; see him walk away from dog, children,

life's sagas.

Let's make suffocated sounds like gloved lips trite bright dark anonymous screaming daze

o play crescendos of angst bless my fingers;

I remember you ran the barbecue, bought

the groceries for I have sung ... sung to deaf eyes for money.

Were we trying to compile our lives in

burnt diaries money money money makes a nice voice

let me make your face a screaming opera olive blubber-lipped fat throated bird of melody turn Tchaikovsky into pop passion tunes.

Here in dark summer grass flicker fireflies green flashing fetishes painted on night Chopin fades on a next-door radio deranged


the fevered lights will watch them watch themselves end in September.


Cholesterol Terry Thomas

Grandpa Colwell used to eat the fat on meat - not

neat - juice running down his chin, grin wide as

a cow's rump.

He'd work that lump around, down it, and go for another slice. Used to think it

was nice - him appreciating Mom's cooking, looking

for another biscuit to dab

up more slippery gravy.

But that was fifry years

ago - lots of meals

under the bridge.

N ow I know the fridge is

the enemy, Big Mac an abomination from bovine Hell. Well, grandpa didn't know any better

(ignorance is blissful eating).

I'm not repeating - no sins

of the past. Pass me

more green - salad days are here. Have a graham cracker

for dessert.


Seeing Red

Karen Kirby

In those days red hair wasn't the trend. Back then red hair was Lucy Ricardo

the foolish, bumbling, scatterbrained housewife. Mom was not a natural redhead

but for years she covered over her brown.

Big Red, Dad called her, in derogatory tones=subtle put-downs she allowed

without protest, those cues

we picked up on, knowing it was safe and acceptable too, to join forces, continue the mockery.

She became an easy target - silenced into submission she smiled through the insult, the ache.

I knew then I couldn't have red hair till my years earned me

strength to carry it.

Now I blatantly cover my brown with red knowing I possess the passion to pursue the fire to fight back.


Pedestrian Billie Lou Cantwell

A foul stench commands that I look

at the old derelict prostrate

on the street.

Someone should do something about debris.


Sprawled rags

cluttering gray sidewalk, beard and hair matted with last week's garbage, a piece of flotsam

of sinking humanity.

Else, I might be forced to see a man like me.


Music Mysteries Herman Simkin

A finger dans,

a string quivers,

a sound shivers in air. A note begins

from a long ago far away man with a head full of nimble numbers, through a here and now girl with darting fingers on taut strings,

to the drums, circuits, feet, and fingers of all who listen.

It says, "Be sadl"

I have good reason to be so It says, "Be glad!"

Let me {ell you why I am so It says, "Be strong!"

I know I should be so. It says, "Be meek!"

I am and it makes me sad so.


Who is the maker of notes and responses?

A long ago far away man? A here and now girl?

All the listeners?

A creature unknown?

From what secret, simmering source spring sadness and gladness,

meekness and strength?


The Negatives at the Farm Lyn Lifshin

whoever was close, in black and white that Sunday it was warm enough for a jacket I remember as itchy wool, but light now is out of the frame mostly. My

sister and I in a huddle, now don't

talk. In a second shot, we look in different directions, as if getting ready to walk.

I've dark glasses blurring what must have

blinded, even then. The negatives connect as none of our lives still do: Murray,

maybe dead, at least in his own world.

The last time we talked he said, "I haven't seen

your poor dead mother in 8 years," tho he'd come up smoking his cigar the December before that, drove us in snow as if the glitzy metal of the Cady would always hold us.

My sister's

dog, at her feet where my ex husband has his arm around both of us, dead too, after weeks of her nursing him as she wanted to do

our mother and then kicked us both out. It's before

I become

thin enough to wear minis the second or

3rd time around and she ballooned. Here we are smiling, mostly

close enough to touch, at least pretend to be holding on


Young and Fearless .Like a Lot of Us Were Mary Winters

The plucky little new car

who thinks it's a canoe, a catamaran a bott!eslzip

who thinks it can do anything - hadn't it always before?

clung onto a rack on the back of a truck jouncing from factory to showroom

The cheery little car's first flood

"I'll get through no matter how deep!" soon it's coughing and choking

drowned and stopped dead

its owner glub, glubbing out the door griping "this piece of junk,

this worthless pile of crap"

- planning to come back for it, maybe


Commuting or How to Destroy Your Soul Susan Snowden

Get up

gobble granola from a box

dash from your ranch-style box hop in your imported compact box

Drive drive drive Stop at the light drive drive stop at the light

Park in the underground box go directly to your 9 x 9 box switch on your IBM box

shuffle pages from "in" box to "out" box send OUE for a box lunch

answer the ringing box

ride down to your motorized box


Drive drive drive stop drive stop drive drive stop at the light drive and drive

Stumble into your ranch-style box microwave a box of frozen food

eat while staring at the flickering box channel surf on the box

collapse on your innerspring box

Dream of a pine box ... or a mahogany one lined with silk.




Russell Arthur Winfield Knight

Our neighbor with the fat wife mows his lawn all the time

and when he goes to the zoo

with Joanne

and the kids

he stands

in front of

the hippopotamus and stares at her.


Asia Booth Clarke, 1865: Pet's Sister Kit Knight

I refused to accept Mr. Clarke's proposal

until he committed himself to a life in the theatre.

All four of my brothers =-father was first-

earn their living

on the stage. My father

so named me because Asia was "that country where God

first walked

with man." But Maryland was the ground I first walked with my brother. John was the youngest; our mother

called him Pet, and I only wanted to be close.


we explored our 150 acre farm; casually, John said if

the Colossus of Rhodes

-one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World-

were still standing and if

he could manage to overturn the huge bronze statue,

why then, he marveled, people would be reading

the name John Wilkes Booth for a thousand years.


John was always competing with the rest of [he boys, and especially with our father. The night John shot Lincoln, he told someone in a bar, "When I leave the stage, I

will be the most famous man in America." Pet finally topped his colossus.

The son of God said, "This is my flesh and this my blood.

How do you want it cooked?" "Medium rare," I told him, "and go easy on the blood." "French fries?"

"A few."

"How about a small salad?" "That would be nice." "You see what I'm trying to do?"

"No, I don't," I told him. "Well, I'm trying to

bring the sacraments into


Albert Huffstickler every day life. And

at the same time,

make them more graphic. So nobody wants to eat flesh if it's uncooked. And then the wafer _:_

I just expand two of them and I have a

bun." "Unleavened?" "Well, we won't want to run it into the ground." "Can I have some onions on your flesh?"

"Of course."

But you do understand now?" I want to bring the sacraments


into everyday life,

make them as common as a hamburger."

"Kind of a McJesus," I said. "You got it."

Jake Albert Huffstickler

(with apologies to WCW)

That one-eyed pigeon named Jake was served to us anonymously as a fryer on Sunday morning when he'd flown down into my mother's hair once too often from the chinaberry tree in the back yard where she was trying to feed the chickens. I think it was jake's way of trying to display affection, him an orphan that I'd raised by hand after his parents, homers whom I let out too soon, had gone home. Yes they'd left Jake there in the nest to do the best he could and I'd brought him through. I don't remember how he lost his eye. I don't remember who had named him Jake, me probably; I don't even remember how he tasted since it was a few years later that my mother, in a fit of guilt or defiance, explained what happened to him -- in an effort perhaps to demonstrate to us in our early teens that even a mother's patience can wear thin finally and break. hence Jake anonymous before our eyes on a kitchen breakfast table. I don't think the lesson took and life went on, as it tends to do, in that little North Carolina mill town without Jake and not much really changed. Not much depended upon a one-eyed pigeon named Jake, brown and still beneath the chinaberry tree where my mother's patience ended.



c _.

... (;I 0'" _.., ("")


"" _

o ....

o '" :::;I '" '" c 5·0

"l"l o C .l"'