Poetry in the Mainstream
Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream April 1999
Let me approach infinity in love and sorrow, waiting with the doubled strength of my own will and love, burning with copper-spun electric fire, unconsumed, a bush upon a barren darkening plain.
The Tunnel THEORY OF FLIGHT (1935) Muriel Rukeyser
WATERWAYS: Poetry in the Mainstream
Volume 20 Number 4
Will Inman Ida Fasel Joy Hewitt Mann Geoff Stevens Kenneth Pobo Lyn Lifshin
Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher Thomas Perry, Assistant
11-14 15-16 18-20 17 21
Pearl Mary Wilshaw Joanne Seltzer Kristin Berkey-Abbott Herman Slotkin Albert Huffstickler
23 24 27 28
Waterways is published 11 times a year. Subscriptions -- $25 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 © 1999, Ten Penny Players Inc.
never melt the ice of fury - will inman
out of that scrubby tree, fire out of that unconsuming fire, a Voice bids me summon my interior forces bids me go down to a world enslaved tells me to aim my love of me outward to let slaves know they’re worthy that they can march out from under power that togetherness can transform them that they owe allegiance to no master and even what they owe each other cannot take from them the right to refuse, to say No to call STOP! to sisters and brothers with all the answers. No!
at the right time can help a turning toward a larger Yes! that we must outreach desperation, no matter how deep despair is earned. we must take more than feeling good. despair must turn eyes to the hot ingot at the core of the glacier that is god: look! and reach through! and never melt the ice of fury, fury burns in the Voice in the tree: go down to the edge of the sea, call back the waves, call sea turtles and bent dunes, and let what winds speak in the branches of great waves
8 October 1998, Tucson
of wounded furies and fierce healers - will inman
Winds long ago were spirits of fallen heroes. Winds were joined later by restless spirits unable to transcend. The two forces are not always allies. Often, they joust, wrestle, contend. Rages of so many dead create substance of atmospheric furies. They meet, they circle, they engender vast spiral dances. Hoofs of their spirit horses drum up dust, whip up giant waves conspiring with skull moon. At storm center, a deep calm moves between. Here mull elder sisters and brothers, here shamans and saints confer, here murmur young who wear white feathers in their ribs, trying to appease fallen heroes,
trying to ease damnation from the restless: the center keepers call on hero spirits to help heal the restless, they call on the restless to join heroes in a new way. I have short patience with longago heroes and restless dead. Their winds break down arbors and rip the faces of irises. They torment the living, threaten us with the roil of beyond. But under their roar, I hark steep chanting of shamans and saints, I hear quieting prayers of elder sisters and brothers, I feel heartbeats of the young who plant their white feathers in my ribs and kindle my blackest rainbows to joy. Winds enter me through my hair and pores, they work in the cycles of my heartmuscles, they
teach me time-leagues of galaxies. They’re no strangers to my compulsions. I join their fury. I sound prayers with the healers. The winds of my ill patience, the healers of my broken song -are not just out there. Down this wide plain of waking, I embrace whirlwinds, I enter their calm canters and am still. I set the calm singing with sweet silence. Torn irises heal my restless spirit.
21 April 1996, Tucson
what do you suppose you’re doing here? you believe you stand or squat outside universal purposes? you assume the universe is a great cosmic accident chock with randoms and other macrocosmic deviations? yes. well: if it’s all accidental, nothing’s a deviation. so. look at your hands. study your fingers. mull your feet and toes. consider your knees and whom you kneel before and for what. lips and tongue recognize their rhythms even if you don’t. no. even if you mistake them for somebody’s ever so brief bliss. what? I won’t be caught saying you’re
consider your knees - will inman
part of the larger picture. but do you imagine you’re just another aberration in a skyful of breaks and blunders? even your stumbles partake of wingbeats and gravity pulls that help suck saviors out of their mothers’ broken waterbags.
god’s as jealous a jackass as any down-to-earth plowhand or operator of a chicken farm. jealousy’s silly. anyone who can teach himself or herself to wait, can enter the rhythms of waves beating with pulses of mother turtles’ tears. people created in universal images can’t help directions dancing with stars and sweat
12 October 1996, Tucson
The damasks, silks and fine wool of Edith Wharton’s world have changed to poly knits and scratchy denims. The Augusta, Maine I grew up in drifts by the Kennebec, drowsy.
Still Around Ida Fasel
(The firehouse on the hill was my castle, every room illuminated with tall fires. From the slitted walls, the landscape spread wide and golden yellow, tangy as a lemon drop, smooth and mellow as butterscotch.)
Galileo telescope has gone the way of Hubble to count 40 billion galaxies. But I am more impressed with the patina of stars tightening reality to its moorings. The Steinway voiced to grand and parlor specifications yields its mystique to tons of vertiginous lights and transports of funky punk rock. The blue of a summer sky is stubbed out like a cigarette, the scrap that clings to the shoe hardly making a shift in height. The teetering world has one foot in freely stinging tongues, the other in millennial fear. But the calendar has tampered to make one day like the next, to come out
even. Numbers say nothing of quality. Time itself is indifferent to what matters, remembers only errors. I take consolation in the perfection of the impossible, haunted by patterns of old geometries
and roses that return spring after spring. I live the common life of the world, but I am better suited to Right on! out of its range, at my home industry, in my mill of thread, secure. My modern machine takes off from earlier looms, turns out a running pattern of upreaching warp crossed with all-inclusive horizontal woof, selvage to selvage. What if the fragile fabric falls short of full vision? It is tough,
constant to dye, true to integrity of design. Sinister to ask, What salvage? in time to come. It’s getting too dark to weave. I hold steady, in time out of time, time now.
If infinity lies beyond the term of night like a drop of ink balanced on a knife edge, sorrow serrates the blade and only love’s whetting stone can help us. Lying here with your clothes beside the bed, your scent clinging precarious like the sudden spark I felt when tenderness struggled from your eyes, I am thinking
In the Dark - Joy Hewitt Mann tonight earth has torn from orbit we spin both of us
arcing out into the dark.
Hobson’s Choice - Joy Hewitt Mann You must stand among the stars, your mind must be white, wiped of all logic; you must battle the talons of brick and chrome, the itchings of the earth with your credo. You must draw the line with a scalpel; sew the words until the scar is puckered and swollen with truth.
You must gather the forest to you; store up the dry tinder of acedia. The world is waiting for a match to be born. Your every whisper must breed its flames.
Holding a mirror at infinity has far-reaching implications. Would you want to see everything without making your choice?
Holding a mirror at infinity - Geoff Stevens
Wanting to Hold on to the Details - Lyn Lifshin
like Balzac keeping spiced apples in his drawer to ward off anxiety. I think of my uncle, the man who wrote thinking he had 6 months to live, it was the most ordinary he longed for: to help weed his parents lawn, move furniture, do the deck and I think of lunches at Fire and Ice, my uncle joking with the waitress, wondering about the lemon cake. When I open the drawer where I keep odd stamps and labels, I see the stick on Valentine hearts I pasted on his card, how this year I could not find an uncle driving the old Chrysler down when I ended up
in Emergency, or had my car sliced in two, drank too much Southern Comfort in the 70’s. He only forgot Hannuka when he was in the hospital himself. When I see his name on the will I want it to be at the end of a birth day card, a Valentine note folded in two, the letters strong and slanting forward as if everything was still ahead
Photographs of My Mother’s Pocketbook Lyn Lifshin Just my sister and me, but not together, as now, after the will, it’s not likely we’ll be. The edges are frayed, Polaroids losing their color. One, in my wedding gown, is folded across the forehead as if predicting the scar where the car’s glass and metal will gnaw. My sister’s blonde, mostly skinny
tho one with a braid looks ahead to when she’s chunky. I’m 16, I’m 23, I’m 30, look more interesting as I plunge ahead. French twists, braids, bee hives, Curl Free straight. Hair with rhinestones, pearls, lace, shifts, gowns, stripes, cashmere and velvet. My sister and I clutching flowers, pocket books, perfect skin as if we knew none if it could stay
At the Coffee House I hear someone say, “How could Emily Dickinson help anyone if she wouldn’t leave her house?” I remember
for many days “After great pain, a formal feeling comes”-her words a railing that kept me from swerving off a cliff--
Railing - Kenneth Pobo
how when my grandparents died six weeks apart on separate floors of the same nursing home I memorized and repeated
and she didn’t have to leave home to build that railing.
The Houses that Have Always Been There John Grey
I immerse myself in permanence, an old house built to last forever, a grand Victorian of gingerbread wood, fancy filigree and crowning cornice. It stands firm as the beams of life sag and foundations surrender to the ravages of dry rot. Here, within the walls of this grand dame, are two world wars and numberless presidents. My memories echo hollow as the rain on high gambrel roofs.
This frame could hold the planet together, its wood tough as a nun’s faith, structure firm and inimitable as the surrounding trees. I step through the front portal thankful to be out of my moments and into its centuries.
Now and again I pause, muse and ponder over what could have possibly happened to those initials carved with your penknife ironically concealed beneath a redwood table top in the park -deserted on summer evening before darksealing mutual, deep feelings revealed.
Secret Love - Pearl Mary Wilshaw Did those hidden letters battered by elements weary, worry bare, succumb over time, or have they survived weathered decades to remain discernible as devotion, sublime?
1 Fly with me on a computer to any airport in the world as we glide home to infinity no matter which way the wind blows knowing we may arrive on time in spite of the carpal tunnel our generation hauls through space.
Air Games - Joanne Seltzer
2 Soar, Mouse, become a rabid bat, swoop down on virtual virgins, sodomize, kill by sucking blood, bite and bite again each white throat
3 Beside us in the cockpit sit extinct and modern insects, birds, Olympian gods, Icarus, angels with immaterial wings, Leonardo, the Wright brothers, Lindbergh, Earhart, le petit prince and every manual that states, “Hacker, don’t be afraid to crash.”
that gurgled, gagged, then vomited the stuff you substituted for a meaningful relationship.
I am half sick from eating strawberries. My whole family has assembled for my Confirmation: my aunt and uncle bring strawberries as a gift, strawberries as red as the new dress that Mom and I had to drive to Richmond to find. Pentecostal red.
Pentecostal Red - Kristin Berkey-Abbott
I meet with our pastor for my final conference. My mother drives me over; she is grateful for the chance to work on the cross stitch Rotunda that she wants to finish for my father’s graduation. Her face turns red as she counts stitches and tries not to stain the cloth with her pricked fingers and sweaty palms.
Pastor and I talk alone in his office; my mother waits just outside the door. He asks if I have any doubts, if there’s any reason why I couldn’t be confirmed. Of course I have doubts; but I swallow and blush and think of my family. What would they say if I told them they’d come for nothing? I come from a long line of farmers and Lutheran ministers. Pastor peers at me. I think of strawberries and shake my head.
Looking for god? Be wary!
Shreds and Threads - Herman Slotkin
From solemn structures, slick salesmen are peddling GOD -surrounded by enemies and litmussed loyalties, with sin and wrath in mind.
Search enduring connections for shreds of sheerest love without condition. Scour recesses of all kindness done for threads of purest empathy then understanding. Find god in shreds and threads.
Blood and Roses - Albert Huffstickler She told me that roses drank blood -- at least the red ones and the pink ones did, that’s where the color came from but the pink ones didn’t get enough. She said that it was the roots that crept into your house at night, wriggling along like snakes or worms till they came to your bed and then they fastened their little feelers to you and drained your blood only sometimes if you started to wake up, they’d let go and
leave before you saw them. That’s why some were pink. They hadn’t gotten through eating. She said she woke up one night and didn’t move a muscle, didn’t even open her eyes and she felt them there, that’s how she knew, one of them was wrapped around her ankle and she could feel it sucking. The next morning she looked out in her yard and there was a big new bloom on her rose bush just like that. How much proof do you need? she asked.
from Driver’s Side Airbag #34, Los Angeles CA 1999
published 11 times a year since 1979 very limited printing by Ten Penny Players, Inc.
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