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ISSN 0 1 9 7 - 4 7 7 7

Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream, November 1997


~ ATER .. VVAVS: Poetry in the Mainstream

November, 1997

Volume 18 Number 10

Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher Thomas Perry, Assistant

R. Yunnan

Joan Payne Kincaid

4 5 6

7-11 12-15

Lyn Ufshin

Arthur Winfield Knight ChadM. Hom


M. M. Nichols Ida Fasel

David Michael Nixon James Penha

Terry Thomas

1~17 18-19 20-21

22 23-25

Zach Warren

Sean Brendan-Brown Billie Lou Cantwell Albert Huffstickler

2~27 28 29 30-32

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 © 1997. Ten Penny Players Inc.



The Mad Girl Is Totally UnSuperstitious Bot . Lyn Lifshin

w hen rushing and late for ballet, when she sees a tiny tear she

knows will get bigger, she threads blue to stitch what could

spread into a sink hole all of Wednesday could disappear in but

keeps a piece of black thread in her mouth as she remembers her

mother doing, (thinks too how that dripping out of her mouth is like

grass from a goose's

beak, wonders if her

goose from the fly Away

Home film will come back this week as she did 2 Januarys ago, knows it's

not likely but still

keeps watching, camera and binoculars within


reach,) She's heard without this thread dangling she could be

grabbed by death who might drop in and think she was sewing her own

shroud, was like a bride, waiting, ready for him

James McKinney: Smoking Hop ~ Arthur Winfield Knight

I know they're out there with their tin badges, searching,

because I killed two lawmen, but I have to relax sometimes. Jennie helps. After we're finished upstairs, we go into the basement

of the Joss House.

An ancient Chinaman

hands us the hop, then Jennie and I light up,

letting the smoke out

slowly. It's April in Bakersfield

and everything's blooming but me. I tell Jennie,

"I'm zettins too old

I;> I;>

for this game,"

and she says, "Me too." We're both on the down side of 40. It's a new century, and we're that much older. Holding each other

in the red light,

we blow smoke.


Soulmates - Chad M. Hom

The soul makes NOT A SOUND as it separates from his body and drifts past her beet-red hair

on its way to Whereversoulslikehisgo.

As she stands with blood boiling

a flush comes to her freckled cheeks (and pales them significantly.

The crumpled mass which now sprawls before her

once embraced her

and shared a warmth,

(you know THAT warmth)

the warmth known only to lovers

As the red lights of the Coroner's car dance through the half-closed mini-blinds only one question remains concerning the amount of chalk the Coroner will need.


The Last Time I Saw Paula • R. Yurman

Two soprano voices disturb our careful male calm. "Rich," one calls.

My fellow engineers pretend to study

as they stare. I rise

from my seat. She touches

my ann, "I'm Paula."

Three years and she's turned

an almost beauty. "I'm at B.U. now." That party at Neal's, my first real date, fixed-up

with his next-door neighbor,

a stringy fifteen year old, mouth full of braces. We sat

on the Ii ving room sofa. chatted with Neal's mother, a few times

ventured into the cellar, where under dim lights my buddies groped their girls in a parody

of dancing, music soft and dreamy. We

might have tried but my head

kept beating: What a mistake

What a mistake and we climbed

back to the living room and


small talk with the mother.

Paula is smiling, "I need a favor. They won't let us check out

this book." She turns to her friend,

"What luck finding someone from home." I stand straight, take it

from her, fix her with my most adult look. "I can do it

for you," I say. The friend

is pretty too. Maybe 1 should make some move, but inside Paula's shining smile I still see metal and hear

our mothers' voices.

1 hand the book over, exact" her oath to return it, pick up my books

and carry a wild grown-up

hunger with me to my room.


Ms. Hattie Mayes Donates Her Poetry Books to the Church Rummage Sale R.Yorman

"An aged man is but a paltry thing," Yeats

said, and, "Love has pitched his mansion

in the place of excrement." 01' Willie B.

had me pegged for certain-aged, paltry, excremental, my belly not turning flip-flops any more at the sight of a man's nakedness.

Used to be

I'd grab that quick peek under my eyelids at any tight pair a jeans crossing

the floor boards of my Jung Shop & General Store and shiver myself with picturing

what was making that denim bulge, paltry and excremental as I knew any workings out of those fantasies might be.


Took all their pitched loving I could stand, and then some, of bung holes-mine or anyone else's,

female or male. human or animal-and it just about drove me mad. That's how I latched onto

books in the first place, specially

ones I couldn't understand. And then I come up on this 'poetry' and knew for sure what

I might've suspected if I'd had the time and sense to sort it out sooner: Willie B. and all them other classy types-Shakespeare, Blake, Wordsworth. every man-willie of em-got but one thing

they want to see. That's me and you

buck naked, making our sel yes

like them, fools for scrambling

after pleasures.



It's a mercy, I tell you truly, to get as old

and paltry as I feel right now-past

all that sweating and groaning and longing for something right there between our legs that ain't there at all

and never has been.

Never you mind, Willie B. keep your belt tight

and your britches in place-aged man, aged woman. makes not a hair 's breadth a difference.

Best thing any of us can do

is leave such foolishness. and

the books, to the loose drawers

of younger folks.


Color Blind - Joan Payne Kincaid There are not enough people here

people have to be here to understand

there are not enough people there

for enough to be able to get it

or to stop it if they did

the way we do, at a red light.

We march twenty five blocks in eighty degree heat to see no one knows of it

no one knows why we do it

you ask yourself why are you here? No one ever heard of Cassini

so we chant at the New York Times

New York Times is a meany; they don i tell about Cassini


circling like kindergarteners in a game the game is much too dangerous

the game is toxic going up, toxic coming down the most deadly toxic substance known ...

to fuel a probe that could use sun-energy energy from the sun for safety!

As we march with banners and posters, two men leave their corporate doorway and state dogmatically: NASA Rules! Going up and eventually down

the red light is flashing

the red light is a sign;

the media don't mention danger; the people don't know the facts.


There are not enough people here people have to be here to understand there are not enough people there for enough to be able to get it

or to stop it if they did

the way we do, at a red light.


Red Light ~ Joan Payne Kincaid

The color of power reflected in blood, dresses, cars, houses,

fire engines, fingernails, lips; a place to stop action

or start passion;

you cannot go beyond the line of danger

or you may invite death.

Shades of leaves.

and power within itself; dread in the distance

on some road ...

staring at tragedy-vehicles; a signal flashes fear,

things to be reckoned with ... even a cue for love.


Spectra. M.M. Nichols

Just before dawn we are all virgins. The first show of light is red. .

You can see it break up into pink, orange, then yen ow, & begin to see what it shows us around here: colors describing everything else.

Afternoons in the park, you could imagine

flowers think backward: week by week a procession from yellows to pink to red. Azaleas bud with cherry blossom

peaking as the daffodils say 'bye-forsythia

long gone.


Do they rise, fall & rise to another drum? Stretched over months, mirror back a morning's ordered march of wavelengths?

And ourselves-islands of buzz, the dividing of waves.

Our ins & outs are nonseasonal and consult clocks. Can time know what light is doing?

To rise before dawn isn't second nature in me. For a blue moon's venture, I decide to tty. To be

a moment of newness not myself but part of the great

red light's earliest coming. If it comes, when it does, out from the night it will rename me.


Unarguable Wonder· Ida Fasel

Six chairs in a room circling mine close

freed to the great processes of time. Six voices round me

overlapping, eager

plunging ahead from the ashes of earth farther and farther into space,

deeper and deeper in infinity

to overpopulated stars in their tum one after one

going nova, going dark

I listen as they future-guess Whole galaxies burned out

and life - can life ever begin again? They have the figures.

I have the imagination. bright

as Byzantine enamel in full sunlight. They have the uncertainties of endings. I have the beginnings in local fire,

the perpetual magnitude

our human size makes together:

this ordinary action with a flair, this unarguable wonder

just talking to each other.


Leaving the house at dawn for an early plane,

I pause by the porch.

A morning glory is unfolding blue, moving in time

like a quiet section in music toward fullness,

naming itself in

increasing light

gently, smoothly

before my eyes.

5 A.M. ~ Ida Fasel

I hold my breath

as if I were at the moment of creation ...

creation is any moment

where light separates from dark ... the sun just beginning

to tip the horizon toward me:

my chance to blossom too.


The Red Road ~ David Michael Nixon

Somebody runs the red road; somebody hears us calling

and the dust in our red lungs shivers and leaves our chests burning; nobody stops and the sound of feet fading in red light

falls on our ears and shivers through us.


All the Days Come Out- David Michael Nixon

All the days come out to greet you. They stand at the edge of a spring field and speak as the soft wind speaks. bringing you the transparent news

of pollen, oxygen and light,

edged with a shading into evening

that modulates to palpable darkness. You feel it caress you toward red light.


Night of the Dragon Dance> James Penha in Hongkong

They have asked me to die. and ifI do not obey them,

shall I not rank as an unmanageable child?

Tzu Lai


cradled, candledeclipse the moon. Stealing still the fire, Prometheus?


pedalian, supernal, consumed with children tonight who move, magically Dragon!


incensed, inhaled. Joss sticks smolder-

ashen dawn's dragon dreams haunt.


A Tan and VmyJ Wan - Terry Thomas

There were only three other people in the hospital room: dad, breath catching in sleep, chasing life,

and a husband/wife team behind the curtain. I was certain she

was critical-a haunted catch

was in the man's replies, and her sharp sighs had a touch of fear and pain. They were talking-mostly her;

he would mumble a response now and then, but I could catch pieces

of discussion about duties after

she was gone. I tried to sink

into my chair, but I had to

stare at the curtain, certain

of the look on his face. Her

last sentence I'd like to replace with a walk in the park, children's voices ... anything.

She whispered, but not softly enough. that she was sorry for being

unfaithful to him. I wanted to

leave, let them grieve in private,

but I was as wedded to my chair

as dad to his bed. It was quiet.

Then the curtain opened and I saw his eyes, he saw mine, something passed, he rushed out. I understood, then, that death was for the living, giving something or nothing, and sometimes there are worse

things than dying.


Midnight Daneer'- Terry Thomas


Of the jazz-ruined night, Hips

Beat as plum goo; Boobs

Like the foam of all beat dreams, Who mushed

The plum of joy

And sipped their juice On you?


Joshua in the Great Out Back - Ten-y Thomas r

Sometimes you can find them by watching for vultures-

spiraling down and around,

black finger pointing from heaven. Sometimes you can listen for coyotes yowling a dirge in the crenelated deterge of the desert. And

sometimes you can nose them

out yourself, during some politic walk, worming your way among rocks and the outcroppings dropped like booty in the sandy expanse. Don't look askance! - he's gone, and quickly like some lizard hot-

footing it over silicate Scorches.

Last night, with torches, I turned through a piece of nothing, looking. Took some water, wafer and the book. Looked everywhere, quickly;

got all prickly, cholla fever,

when I followed his footprints into a box canyon ... and they ended - tracks and trail. Couldn't put a nail to coffin, tum a spade, shade

him in a cave. Enough to make

you rave for life under the dead moon. Stuck a stickjust there ... so. Sometimes you can find them ...


Fire ~ Zach Warren

Nauseous fumes impugn their heads

To the ringing of the wrath of the angels, Impetuous flames seep. then roar

Like animals eavesdropping on their prey Hoping to cling to a fleeing cloth Attacking a body of vigorous adrenaline Feasting on the screams of people

Who crumple like newspaper in the red flames


Spicy Foods • Zach Warren

Ajazz band is pluckin' a fast song On my tongue,

And my eyes are starting to bleed But I love it,

A pepper plays the drums When I exhale,

And curry strums up a storm On the bass guitar,

While the water chugs away Wi th a shiny sax,

And oregano screams in the microphone Hanging in the back of my throat, Cheeks exploding with spicy resonance


Woman by the Tavern Door - Sean Brendan-Brown

Blue hills reflect her moon-colored face--bronze, rouge, blue, gold-rime's imprint bandaged around eyes focusing night

with animal alacrity.

She drops something, ducks and retrieves coin, key.

She pauses, a red-irised photo, hands hardened from street-farming concrete, steel, plywood: a double-headed ax blackens her left wrist, she is proud

of the tattoo's graphic ugliness.

Her green jacket is quilted into V s that point black thread lines down her body taller than the exiting men: they notice how her height smites their dates.

She licks her watch, rubs the crystal, walks downtown winking at styrene

women behind plate glass. FIfty is offered

in a diesel-stinking fist. She turns and points, a skid row docent, down the neon strip:

there's your discounts. boney.


Dance of Life. Billie Lou Cantwell

Time tangos our days like high heeled whores on the Boardwalk, clicking off minutes per dollar.


Felicity - Albert Huffstickler

Languid as a pool inside a mill, she drowsed and waited

for that incomparable one to appear who would ring her southern bell. While from miles around

the ardent suitors came

intent on briding and bedding her.

But Felicity would have none of it and, if forced into an explanation,

fell back always on the same excuse: she feared that their snores

might interrupt her dreaming.

"Absent thee from felicity a while ... " -Hamlet

Felicity's pout

was a culinary masterpiece.

It tasted like bread and butternew-baked bread and fresh-churned butter. Kissing her was a full meal-

complete with dessert.

She didn't know it.

She could have been reading a magazine. Felicity would let you love her

if you didn't make too big a thing of it.

from Sbort Fuse. Santa Barbara CA 1997


She said there was a

Tornadoes and Other Hassles> Albert HufTstickler thought I might like to have a poem practically dumped in my lap about

a woman talking on the phone while a tornado was coming and just think if she got killed, why

that would be even more dramatic. "you aren't going to die," I told her.

"And how do you know that?" "You never do. You're

always inventing these scenarios where you die

and I live out my life

tornado coming right down the road. if I listened

I could hear it, it was

about a mile off and headed right down the road like

it thought it was a car

or something. I could hear a kind of humming in the background like a very

old train and so I asked. "So why did you call me?" and she said that me being a writer and all, she


· f-stri k " "I d 't "

gner-s nc en. on .

"Yes, you do." The humming was more of a roar now. "Can you hear it?" "Yes,

I can hear it." "Do you

want me to hang up?" . "Well, you might want to think about getting to

shelter, someplace underground." "No, I think

I'll stay right here." She

was yelling over the roar now. "If you'd written,

I wouldn't have had to

call," she said. "I thought we'd been through that."

"You always think we've been through something and it's over," she yelled.

The roar drowned her out and then suddenly dropped. "Is it gone?" I asked.

"Yes, it's gone." "I told

you you wouldn't die." I said. "One of these days 1 will." "One of these days we

all will," 1 told her. "Weren't you scared at all?" she asked. "Weren't you worried about me?" "Yes, 1 was scared and yes 1 was worried about you." "And are you going to write


a poem about it?" "Yes." "Good," she said

and hung up.

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