Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream, January 1998

A memory cannot be forgotten. It is part of you. You must learn how to deal with two things: yourself and your memory. — Memories Sabrina, Streams I, 1987

WATERWAYS: Poetry in the Mainstream
Volume 19 Number 1
Geoff Stevens J Liveson Jonathan Lowe Bruce Hesselbach Joy Hewitt Mann Herman Slotkin Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher Thomas Perry, Assistant 4-5 6-7 8 9 10-16 17-19 Arthur Winfield Knight 20 Joan Payne Kincaid 21-27 John Sokol 28 Nancy Rosing • Saint Paul 29 Ida Fasel 30 Terry Thomas 31-33

January, 1998
34 35-36 37 38-39 40-41 42-48

contents

Phyllis Braun R. Yurman David Michael Nixon Kit Knight James Penha Albert Huffstickler

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 © 1998 Ten Penny Players Inc.

Grasping at memories, you pull them together and tie the drawstrings, binding your immediate present with your selected past. You are a complex bundle, passed around in dreams, using the quiet time to remove a wrapper and delve into experience, whilst preparing yourself to face the music
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Parcel — Geoff Stevens

Dealing with Myself Is Okay — Geoff Stevens Dealing with myself is okay, but there is the memory of that which has been done to me, the adding to and the taking away: bruises, tongue-lashings & poisonous baits, landscapes & vistas & the faces I liked.

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With closed eyes he runs a hand across strings, bridge, fretted neck, lays palms gently on the arching spruce belly. “Like Jimmy’s still alive.” Craig dreamt of this since he stumbled on the plywood mold. A genuine James D’Aquisto Solo— Stradivarius of the archtop guitar, except Jimmy had the nerve to die before he finished. They borrowed a Solo, dipped a dental mirror into each bend, matched every rib, joint, curve.

Jimmy’s Last Guitar — J Liveson

And now, Craig eases it from velvet, wraps his hand around ebony, presses body to body, fingers caressing high-strung steel. He strokes a major, aching it blue, plucks a minor, hesitates before inserting a seventh, before sliding into a lyric cadence. No rush. They don’t know they’re a guitar, yet. They were trees most of their lives.

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A study concluded that so-called monetary gold — gold stolen from central banks — had been intermingled with non-monetary gold, or gold taken from individuals, in some cases with tooth filings of Holocaust victims. N.Y. Times. October 7, 1997

Non-Monetary Gold — J Liveson

Every banking rule was observed I assure you, gentlemen, as far as humanly possible. We’ve taken pain to label each ingot and isolate each source. And it was a challenge, I assure you. Look at these two bars, gentlemen. Can you tell which is monetary and which non-monetary? But it’s crucial to distinguish. After all, one can never be sure of purity. Assays are essential to protect the prudent investor.

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And we’ve stored these bars for 60 years under optimal conditions. I assure you. After all— Gold may withstand corrosive gases but (it’s unfortunate) lesser metals were introduced into dental amalgams. Come, gentlemen, let me show you our records each documented with precision.

A slate world is easily erased. Nothing remains long. Measuring time by the curvature of a cheek, we reach for faces shadowed by memory. But the old is gone. New tales replace old constantly, as if truth could be told — an essence from fragments.

Braille — Jonathan Lowe

Now, gently, you must guide my hand to that hidden space between the scars to touch your heart.
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Ice Storm — Bruce Hesselbach The ice storm crashed on us, breaking the limbs of trees, jagged edges in every yard. We can’t remove the largest branches until Spring shall free them from the grip of snow and ice.

What do I care about destruction? My friend, too, is destroyed. We are weak survivors, who tug and pull at the downed branches oozing death on our jackets and arms and hands, like tar.

When will the time come to free my memories of ice storms, and the jagged edges left behind?

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I am now my mother’s dreams: I am the voice she hoped for when she was swapped for the neighbour’s wife; when her son died at nine days a hole in his back the size of her heart; when she miscarried with syphilis contracted from her husband’s whore; I am the dream she had lying on her back, strangers bringing her no comfort; I am the comfort she gave herself — surprised discovery at fifty-two;

After the Stroke — Joy Hewitt Mann

I am the relatives she never knew, all ash and dried-out bone — the Dutch and German relatives who disappeared in 1943. I am the Jewish hair without the faith; the Jewish voice without the history. I am the voice she never learned to use.

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The Kidnapping — Joy Hewitt Mann You were fair as a Gentile angel, and your mother, black hair/black coat flapping from her stout body, was a fat, black Lucifer as she charged the two nuns taking you away. Mein Kinder, mein kinder, she screamed as one nun spoke softly to the crowd — Stop that fat German bitch. It took three policemen and two witnesses to make them let her go and your scream to melt the penguin witches away.

You never questioned what your future might have been, though I have. There are no Jews in your family now, Mother. Or Catholics.

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Memories — Joy Hewitt Mann It’s a picture of a young girl, in the shade, sort of, behind a big tree — nose and one eye peeking out. Eye looks coy, or maybe feared — always had trouble tellin’ them apart. Can’t quite make out who she is. Photo’s old, stained, with fingerprints whorling round the edge. Thirty, forty, years ago — she’d be a grandma now — this was took. She’s got a good throat, long and creamy. They gave me back this box of things I can’t remember, along with a new suit and a little cash. I don’t look like much, but I feel new to myself.
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The Bread They Wanted — Joy Hewitt Mann I shared my lunch with Aaron while he spoke to a tree; bread suspended between his lips, fingers fell into the channeled bark. He told me of spirits and the cacophony of the fields, rocks walked by the fingers of the earth, the roots of the trees pulled down. He was always hungry, Aaron was. His sisters and brothers too
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On Saturday their farm burned down and I stood knee deep in the voices of the grass watching Aaron from across the road watching him unravel.

ate dirt and charity in a three-room farm house. My mother whupped me for crossing over. There’s a red thread in those kids, she said.

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East of Eden — Joy Hewitt Mann Remember Halloween — we tipped the cinerator in someone’s yard and shotgun voices hit the ground as we ran “Hey, boys! . . . dammit” and you laughed while I fingered my barbershop hair and thought of tipping it again; the summer we lit the world on fire Sonny and Cher at the talent show and you grabbed my wig swinging it behind your back . . . back and forth . . . back and forth . . . until I screamed and you said “You’re no fun anymore”;
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and that last night when you ran away we hid beneath the open porch squeezed friendship in the fusty sand and we promised to love forever and never forget our favorite star but when you tried to kiss me goodbye I pushed you away. I’m sorry ‘bout that now. They said it was a painful death in a painful part of town. James Dean.

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When you left your pregnant Reizel in Khastchevate and bummed your way across Europe to America, what were you hoping, papa? I never asked. You never told. I’ll never know. When you sat at the kitchen table reading the Forwards and The Day from beginning to end, what were you thinking, papa? I never asked. You never told. I’ll never know.
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Papa — Herman Slotkin

When, at evening, you sat at the kitchen window, cigarette smoke trembling on your lips, what were you dreaming, papa? I never asked. You never told. I’ll never know. When you saw me on that floodlit platform, capped, gowned, diploma in hand, what were you feeling, papa? I never asked. You never told. I’ll never know.

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To the last of your eight babies, you gave driblets, mama. The sips were precious and I wanted more and more as though you were a magic spring with all the world of water to draw. But you died and left me too young to grasp what I had lost.

Mama — Herman Slotkin

Now I rehearse your face and figure, your pride in what I have become, your rue at what was gone and lost. But rehearsal is not enough! Ay, Mamenyu, come haunt me!
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I remember: There’s ice on the windowpanes of our motel room when we get out of bed in the morning. Because you’ve had a bad cold for more than a week I go outside, warming up the car, scraping ice from the windshield, my feet sliding on ice. It is only mid-October in Meyersdale, but already the red and yellow

Bicentennial Fall — Arthur Winfield Knight

maple leaves glitter with frost. You look worried, squinting, watching me from the window. I know your contact lenses are still in the ashtray where you keep them at night. Your breath condenses on the glass until you seem to vanish, but I know you’re there, watching. Each piece of ice I scrape is for you.

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She was gracious and innocent, our minds were one from politics to cats; she had been the village librarian after her father refused to let her work in a defense plant during the war because she had to ride with a man (never having learned to drive herself, or be encouraged to); instead of leaving the house to her, he left half to her prosperous married brother!
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She was born in the house next door living there seventy five years last week calling her niece in Brewster; She’d always been willing to sit our cats as we talked over the back fence; I’d give her tomatoes every summer she’d say I love fresh tomatoes from the garden.

Full House, Empty House — Joan Payne Kincaid

She never married and wanted to move to a college community for seminars and intellectual stimulation, but feeling ill, she made a fatal call to her niece who now had inherited half of the house She says the house is too large and more than our neighbor can deal with and that she’s never coming back. The house will be sold as quickly as possible. An ambulance took her away. She is in Brewster now where the niece says by phone: She will be challenged at Senior Citizen affairs; but she is going to fade lost up there with 100 cats and a cow; there is a great gothic emptiness in the old house standing alone by the back fence on the other side of our yard.
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Short Story in a Glass Restaurant — Joan Payne Kincaid It was worth the trip to get out to Port particularly considering the alternatives of trying to work too many cubbyholes of determination . . . here we are drinking cold brew bright and golden as sun and sucking tortillas, sliding down cold iced oysters isn’t perfection, things are always going to be missing . . . people forever dying either because it’s time or doing it deliberately . . . heading off into the tale of a comet . . . at a place like this you tend to dream which results in return of ghosts and spirits alone in a moment of picture-card picturesqueness; lobsters in a glass restaurant across from the open-maw ferry
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possessing cars running like ants into clenched jaws; image enters your mind on clouds that alternate spray and light; you cannot wall yourself off from white-capped tossing stretched as canvas across a perfect view. Formerly we were dis-empowered, evidence of self in an era where power is no longer a matter of personal persuasion . . . but we evolved . . . if sitting almost silently regarding everything . . . having the leisure to do that is not being stuck in endless routines going- down- that- way . . . we enter each other’s menu, crack shells and dip butter savoring sweet meat and cold drink safe in peaceful transparency, moving too fast

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Sweet Violences on the 4th — Joan Payne Kincaid Last night was the 4th which means preparation and attempts at creating something people want to share and sales to chase for something affordable for so and so’s wedding and the clothes so hideous the fabrics gross acetates, polys and you look a wreck anyway then the grocery ritual . . . grasping tangible fulfillments hotdogs, potato salad, eggs to devil, hamburgers, apple pie and of course ice-cream so you fall in bed leaving the flowers
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to dry almost to death until tomorrow and always the pain from the dog-knock-down and funny odd memories bloom like flowers in the summer heat like perennials coming back surprises sparklers when you were a child names of violent things like cherry bombs watching the rise and explosion of colors always at some park’s watery reflection fracturing the vividness of life feeling the pain of a father departing the eternal void of his falling away forever down the years the sound of a piano on the radio downstairs echoing thru the empty house suddenly becomes a practice room
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from the past, and music of lovers that remain like ancient divorces that never really end entering the sweetness of early possession the yearning and fulfillment of coming together and expectations of future delights of romantic dreams literally realized and all the more precious for ephemeral shimmering you never thought would fade watching around our table with lamps hanging from the birch in the distance fireworks rise and fall like lovers climaxing and falling from the cliff.
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Can You Ever Remember — John Sokol When you check on this ever not having been? with Heidegger and Hegel, Can you remember a time Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard when you didn’t exist? and Kant, they don’t help much. When you try, does it make Not really. So why is it you feel like you’ve always been, that we can’t remember or, conversely, like you’ll always be? ever not having been ? Trying to remember not being or for that matter, imagine will make your head hurt; a time when we won’t be ? it’s like looking into a mirror for a long time and trying to figure out who blinked first; it’s an ontological Möbius Strip, the three-card monte of rumination.
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from: America, Vol. 174, #5, February 17, 1996

“Take your Uncle Wally’s Rhubarb and Plum wine it’s the last bottle” said Aunt Anne. Friends and family sat sipping

“Eat the Rhubarb Pie in the Freezer” said my sister Saved like an old wedding cake for an anniversary a pie made by my mother two seasons ago before her death. We ate the Rhubarb pie without ice cream without her lips pursed by satisfaction missing the pride in her eyes for a job well done.

Rhubarb Moments — Nancy Rosing • Saint Paul

the second to the last bottle remembering an uncle who wished to please the crowd clumsily guffawing at another’s expense.

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Between the death of my mother and my uncle Myrtle, their oldest sister died in the Hollywood earthquake of 1994 one of the 500 aftershocks stopping her heart while taking a cake from the oven. I never met her, nor was I asked to share the last crumbs of cake made by that family stranger yet part of the family that sought to please by feeding others.

The wished forgotten can never be forgotten. Memory will not void its place for the wished remembered. Look at Peter’s tears. “He wept bitterly,” the Bible says. By the time the cock crowed he had disclaimed a friend. Not once, not twice, but three times. And now the condemning bird would never leave his view. He would be inconsolable to the depth of his worshipful heart the rest of his life.

Peter’s Tears — Ida Fasel

He was forgiven but who can forgive himself ? However many amends are made, however many blows are taken later in the name of spirit, what was said cannot be unsaid. I have spoken out, I have hurt as much. His tears tell my story. Tears are perpetual. Tears redeem. Tears are the mandate of life. The place where true entwining begins.
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Had to get back — before recollections started to defect and memories cracked, eggshell mortality. Took my oldest — taught her the reality of reasons and seasons of sun, snow and sins. We were in the cradle. I ladled it on like thick gravy on sticky potatoes. (No one knows the starch of days marked with doubt and fear). When we neared the sacred grounds, stones tipped or pounded, gritty grins in green expanse, I glanced back to see

Going to Heart Land — Terry Thomas

if she understood (tragic past and the tragedy of passing monuments in the present). She was picking her way through ancestors, pleasant cautious, peering at names and dates. And it was late — time jerking backwards, ticker sticking on cogs clogged with regret. At the gate I asked her if she perceived and looked deeply into grieving eyes, my eyes.

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Got to get back — point my feet, solemnize an afternoon, complete the circle and bury Danny Barrows. We went on a dare, fifty odd ago, slow to sap, like summer, but simmering with the glimmer that hardens into manhood. We were afraid — of dark waters, deep, of snappers, willow traps along the bank,

Going to Dal Royal Pond — Terry Thomas

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dank smells of deep snares, and sleepless nights of cowards. We stripped to skivvies, shivering delivered a few rocks for courage, and slipped in. Funny how high laughter can banish fears . . . sometimes. This time was different. Danny coughed in the middle of a chortle, sort of a gurgle and a burp, like bubbles rising from a far place. I looked. His face was white as a fish belly. He reached — fingers miles away,

and something dark rose to cover the sun. My stomach went to old jelly, I backpedaled, panicked, broke and ran home. They never found the body. Sometimes, when my sleep is deep and dank I see his face, funny look, and the way his eyes rolled in reproach. Then I wake, shiver and stare into the past. So. Here I am. It looks about the same, smells worse. Would you like to take the curse off me, sink into some happy oblivion, envision him again, laughing.

But it’s too quiet: listening, watching, waiting to see what I’ll do. Do? Throw a piece of chewed clover on dark waters — no ripple, just a sad offering in the closed circle of watery space, but his face is in willows, wet earth, laugh is in the sad breeze. Please, release me from this ... I’m drowning at Dal Royal Pond.

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Weightless — Phyllis Braun I tug her gently — she does not rise; she watches me with waiting eyes. I tug again I pull her to the stars terrestrial to celestial. We float over Mars breathing the strange red breath of aliens with voice of sliding glass on glass in limbo akimbo, drifting like floaters in the eye of God.
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what if she had really been a part of him locked inside his body then they would have been one he everything to her she a fragment of him

Rib — R Yurman

than the chill that slips-in between two sleeping forms

maybe such unity of form such perfection made someone jealous or maybe someone wise saw such intimacy would become too familiar too complacent or such unbalanced balance be worse than separation worse

or perhaps some sculptors simply can never keep their fingers from re-pinching the clay moving chunks here and there tossing bits aside to use later or maybe someone powerful set them apart just for a moment’s fancy once they both had eyes his brown hers gray to gaze back and forth across the space between and both had hands

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to stroke and tongues and all that skin it hardly mattered why or who tore this piece free left that gap in his side

what mattered was the empty place left in each that never gets filled except those moments they spend holding what they might have been but even of those small moments maybe that someone is jealous still

Take this woman comes the decree Make her long for a creature of her own fashioned inside her from the very stuff of self

Take this man Make him violent against her against himself against their progeny Then we will see

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David Michael Nixon In the old house where the souvenir scarves, Paris, Florida, and beyond, lie in the drawers until the son comes to spread them open on the bed and frame or sell their tourist colors, the caged-in smell of old smoke waits to seep out the newly opened windows.
for Bob Jones

When the house is stripped for the new owners, the aura of Violet Jones still stays around the ceiling tiles and woodwork, indissoluble in harsh detergent.
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first appeared in Hot Air, 1988

The day I fell in love with John Wilkes Booth my gown had 12 yards of silk. The dashing actor’s dueling scenes were so startlingly realistic, other--lesser--actors sometimes fled the stage convinced Booth really was going to draw blood. My father, a senator, introduced us and

Lucy Hale, April 1865: The Girl in His Pocket — Kit Knight

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I was thrilled when Booth bowed to me and drawled, “You are lovely enough to stop a heartbeat.” All of spring was in that voice. I wore my gown to Lincoln’s second Inauguration. His words were merciful and kind to the all-but-defeated South: “With malice toward none; with charity for all . . .”

Five weeks later, the inevitable happened and Lee surrendered. Lincoln had received hundreds of death threats while the War lasted. But now, on the fifth day after Appomattox—after the truce had been signed— John shot the President whose wallet contained a five dollar Confederate

bill. Poignancy in a pocket. Lincoln died and daddy says the South will pay; it’ll be a hundred years before that region recovers. Spurred by $200,000 in rewards, the army hunted John down. He died with my picture in his pocket. My gown was of varying and deeper
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shades of blue.

Mother at eighty said she’d gone with two guys at once when she worked on roller skates at Macy’s, one for lunch and one for dinner. And then? I wondered [on roller skates?] about her. One took her to Sunday Polo on the Island and one with a beautiful deep baritone, Bob and me went to concerts. She lowered her voice although my father in front of the weather channel couldn’t hear.

Part of Your Life — James Penha

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I was very popular I think because I got no attention at home where her father doted on first-born Josie even more after my uncle Billy’s BB smashed to smithereens her left eye. And from her palace tower Josie kept an eye on my mother’s misdeeds. ‘Do you know when she came home last night?’ she’d ask my father. ‘Three in the morning!’ and he beat the crap out of me, let me tell you, she did. I’d been engaged already (not to your father) so I told Bob, [Remember Bob?] ‘Platonic Bob.’

We dated a year and never kissed. He wanted to, of course, he became so nervous! But here’s the story: Why am I telling you this? Years later I had you and your brother with me during Christmas at Macy’s. I hadn’t worked there for years, but I hear, and this is Macy’s at Christmas. ‘Terry! TERRY!’ Bob. He’s so excited. He wants to take us to lunch, and I say no. What if someone saw? So? No! Your father

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would have killed him! But Bob trails us to Gimbels across the street, oh! So? No, I was so nervous that someone would see us and think, but he says he married a girl named Terry because she reminds him of me! ‘How terrible,’ I said ‘to do to her . . .’ ‘You broke my heart.’ [Bob, remember.] And when he said goodbye to us . . . He kissed you! You remember? No, predict. I’ve had a life, she said and smiled, satisfied.

The truth is I feel like Judas every time I think of him, my son Joe whom I can’t be around because I can’t handle his head so I run him off. Yes, just like that: I run him off out of self-protection, that ragged scarecrow who can’t hold two moments in sequence, who falls through a hole in time every time he places one foot in front of the other. And that

Crux — Albert Huffstickler

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reminds me of — no, drops me into — a time when I was the same way and suddenly I’m down a hole scrabbling at the sides while the earth rains down on me and I keep slipping back down and the hole grows deeper each time I slip back till there’s only the sky far above and then that slowly grows dark and then there’s only me at the bottom of this hole and then very slowly the hole begins to cave in and

I feel the earth around me rising up over me and know I’m going to be buried there in the earth in the darkness and then — it’s every man for himself. And I run him off and then feel like Judas and there’s no way to justify what I’ve done and there’s no way to feel remorse because it was him or me and then once it’s over I forget it for a while because there’s all kinds of things to be done only

every so often he comes into my mind suddenly out of nowhere — that ragged, bereft scarecrow of a son of mine and then I feel like Judas and so now I’ve said it and if the purpose of writing is to get a thing out of your system so that you can forget about it once and for all, then this has really been a waste of time.
from Main Street Rag, Charlotte NC, 1997

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The Year After Tomorrow, We Can Begin: Little Journeys Albert Huffstickler Death hangs over us but it always did — now we remember — like a battlefield in the first light of morning, the corpses glowing with grotesque elegance among the trees and grasses, natural things like the gnarled branches of some incredibly old tree
In Memoriam, Allen Ginsberg

that refuses to die. Yes, that’s how we are: just because we’re dead doesn’t mean that we’ve conceded. It’s all one you see: the battlefield with its eloquent burden of trees, bodies, grasses, morning light. That’s it, you see: death’s just part of it: we’re the light too.

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April 10, 1997, Hyde Park Cafe, Austin Texas from Heeltap II, S. Paul MN, 1997

Respite — Albert Huffstickler Sylvia across the table from me at the Tower Restaurant, pregnant, eating strawberry ice cream (she’d have eaten it all day and night if she could, would have mainlined it if she’d found a way). We’d just put the laundry in at Ching Wong and come here on this summer breezy day in sixties Austin, Sylvia eating ice cream and me drinking coffee,

smoking, nothing to do but let the laundry cook, silent, you don’t start talking till something’s wrong and nothing was wrong for the time being in Sixties Austin with the sun bearing down and the light just so and the laundry in and strawberry ice cream and coffee and cigarettes and silence and if you think this poem is going anywhere, you’re mistaken.

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from Anthology Magazine Phoenix, AZ, No., 10, 1997

When I die, don’t bury me, just lay me down where nobody’s peed and I’ll look up at the pale cold moon and try to remember what the hell I was doin’ to come to a place so far from home and meet a woman whose heart was a bone

Instruction for Last Rites — Albert Huffstickler and I’ll lie a little longer and then I’ll rise and float off into the eastern skies till I get back to the place I’m known where there aren’t any women with hearts of bone.

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from Heeltap Two, St. Paul MN, 1997

There’s a place past loneliness like a night without stars, like the moment when a toothache becomes a bomb exploding in your head (only this is the pit of your stomach) and there is suddenly for a moment nothing at all of you or the world or the universe or anything or anybody and that nothing in you and you can’t even find it. That’s the same moment that you remember where you come from and know what death is and then the pain returns and it’s just pain and building again and you can’t for the life of you decide whether or not you want to explode again and one part of you fights it and one part of you reaches for it and then suddenly both parts of you are gone for another instant and then back and then you try to think of new words for what is happening because nothing matches what it is you feel at that moment, that fraction of time that extends outward infinitely until time is swallowed so that reaching back in time for that instant you’re suddenly no longer in time and you’re only absolute zero and at the same time the whole history
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Turning — Albert Huffstickler

of the universe, beginning to end, alpha and omega and stretched beyond breaking and then only then do you begin to conceive how comforting it can be to be human, just one body, one thing containing the possibility of being held, contained, of hands finding and holding and touching you and you begin slowly as though it were an infinite chore to invent a word for what it is you mean and need and have to have and the word uncoils out of the same void slowly till it finds the infinitely distant flesh that is your lips and they move in vast slow motion shaping that word that means hold, touch, contain, find, believe, flesh here and finite in this here and finite place. Love, you say, your lips barely moving, love, the word uncoiling from your guts and spreading through you surrounding you, holding you, that sound, the way that light enters time and the dark withdraws and everything begins again as warm hands cup you slowly into this one moment where it all begins and you inside it held and homed, past loneliness and not alone.
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from The Red Owl, Portsmouth NH Issue 5, 1997