20th Anniversary

Poetry in the Mainstream


Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream May 1999

“The child will have a hard time to be an American,” he says slowly, “fathered by a man whose country is air, who believes there are no heroes to withstand wind, or a loose bolt, or a tank empty of gas.”
The Tunnel THEORY OF FLIGHT (1935) Muriel Rukeyser

WATERWAYS: Poetry in the Mainstream
Volume 20 Number 5
Robert Cooperman Ida Fasel Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher Thomas Perry, Assistant

May, 1999

8-9 4-7

Joan Payne Kincaid Terry Thomas Kit Knight

Joy Hewitt Mann Will Inman Kristin Berkey-Abbott Albert Huffstickler

12-13 14-15






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.

Michael Enright, Class President of Central High School, Goes on a Crime Spree Robert Cooperman School was too easy, teachers dumb as mail boxes, the principal so blind he couldn’t see I was shagging his daughter behind his back. Nothing to look forward to but more of the same in college with a full scholarship; and then what, work? No thanks. I bought a gun and a ski mask, and knocked over Mom and Pop markets so often

I should’ve given discounts; the last time, I had to stick the shooter behind Pop’s ear when he turned stubborn.

So I decided to cool it in Mexico, partying on the beach until the locals locked me up on a bogus charge in a jail any TV hero could’ve busted out of with a strong rope and a jeep.

After Dad finally sprung me, he insisted I had to enroll in that East Coast college to get me out of his hair, and conscience. I’ll case every bodega in the city. Classes? Something to fall back on.


Ellen Smith Remembers Her Terrible Journey to the Oregon Territory, 1843 Robert Cooperman William’s heart crashed like a tree splintered by lightening while he cheered the rest of us on not to give up, nothing left to eat but the cattle we’d brought west. I was too froze and hungry to cry.

But worse was in store: my oldest, Eliza, pretty as a high-stepper, took ill with the typhoid. After she passed like a small wind, someone said four feet was deep enough. I swore I’d dig the last two myself.

Shamed, they put backs to ground winter-hard as convict stones, and my young-uns trapped wood mice, almost the meat of a chicken wing. But we trudged on through snow falling sharp as Indian arrows.

After we celebrated Christmas, I applied for my 640 acres, like William would’ve wanted. But it’s hard work without him and Eliza, hard work and scalding tears.

Finally, the oxen wouldn’t pull, the men wore churchyard stares; they stopped, sat, and waited for the end while I harangued like a peddler. Then, praise God, the miracle! a pack train from Fort Salem with provisions for stragglers.

How Children Learn - Joan Payne Kincaid

This child says I want to be President but you will have to give it a sex manual; teachers teach the value of freedom but the head shakes sadly at a burgeoning prison industry which cages us according to financial status and color; we are taught to value life and see the death penalty with its various methods of murder pitting us against each other; this child sees a world of no rule other than criminal or corporate with nuclear secrets sold to the highest bidder; we are told to value nature

and habitats of all creatures while children must witness countries like Japan continue to kill whales, buy old growth forest wood, kill for tusks from those who grow them; this child sees forests cut down with all their wealth of plants and even yet undiscovered beings for cattle to graze...the cost...extinction, the eyes of children are not blind to an infant death row in Iraq imposed by American bombs; to the aged abandoned in warehouse nursing homes or homeless children, often prostitutes in every city in a country that throws away all but the upper class; this child is watching the lovely blue planet that once was paradise being flushed down the toilet.

Something Is Being Overlooked Ida Fasel

They wrote the script and staged it. They supplied the props, themselves the principals in the drama. We admire creators, don’t we? We admire Renaissance types.

They were achievers, clearly, famous before they reached twenty. They made the cover of Time and are talked about worldwide. For they are celebrities, aren’t they? We admire celebrities.

They planned, bought, assembled, savored the makings of their major military operation. They were younger than Alexander when they had their first success. We admire action, don't we? We admire heroes.

They took their lives grandly as befitted great powers. They will live on, cultified, glorified. For they are young gods, aren’t they? Fresh, new gods known by their first names. Yes, April is the cruelest month for the handwork of these artisans.

Our times are divided between those who can breathe bad air of high places and those who can’t. I long to cast my vote for one who won’t rouse hate to win, one unaware he is wholesome

Hopefully, Next Time Round - Ida Fasel


A Lesson in Anatomical - Terry Thomas

The Devil never kisses on the lips. He just nuzzles -- puzzles out distance ‘tween throat and portal to the heart of despair. It isn’t fair of him, but he licks at the pulse, stubble sticking like pitchforks, working skin like a jaded gigolo. I know he avoids the breath, like death. Besides, why would he want to kiss a man on his sinful lips anyway -he saves that for the hot embrace later.

It wasn’t much, (as round things go) — didn’t glow, glimmer or shimmer with a Tinker Bell brilliance. Swell. Wasn’t gold — certainly wasn’t old enough to qualify as an heirloom; didn’t even particularly cut the gloom of adolescence. Was more brass, brassy, than anything else.

Seems like it was shelved most of the time — unused, almost amused in neglect. Pain-in-the-neck passion! Wasn’t really fashionable or watch fobby. But I know it’s gone — like the sad neglect of a pull tab for the soul.

The Night Thomas Lost His Halo Terry Thomas

Phoebe - Kit Knight

It’s embarrassing to need a doctor to lance a mere abscess on my arm when there are over 600 ruinously injured men who really need that doctor. The wounded don’t complain and I’m ashamed when I do. Southern men never allowed their ladies to be nurses, but The War Between the States has forced us to use all our resources. The first thing

I made was a pot of soup, and I assured everyone I’d used a chicken and not a rat. Although two brothers swore rats basted with bacon fat were excellent. I gave one soldier a haircut, wrote a letter for another and washed maggots and teeth fragments from the mouth of a third. He’d been shot twice, weeks ago. Some patients hadn’t seen a female face for six months; one rough Texan

stared hard enough to make my nose bleed, then said I was as pretty as a pair of red shoes with green strings. Indeed, hospitals are both lovely and unlovely places. Another of my duties was assisting the surgeons. I wrote to my sister, “How courageous the constant sight of amputations makes one-anything less seems trifling.”


Prosthesis - Joy Hewitt Mann

Mother’s ambition for me at ten, ran across her post-war smile, her too-white, too-perfect English teeth. I would marry a rich Canadian; she would eat bananas everyday. And if I ever needed placements, they would fit perfectly. My mother’s ashes gift Ontario soil and I, unmarried, pack her hand-made clothes, her Woolworth’s jewels, her man-made British teeth, to help the underprivileged. I see a mother smile, dentures milk against her butter skin, brown eyes reflect her infant married to a rich American. She would eat everyday and smiling would be natural.

Scant milk in a flaccid breast and a fistful of rice held up against the day a mother drowns her child continues to bend, bend, bend calf-deep in the paddies; city children embrace the grave like a parent, kiss the fumes of slow poisons or slower still, die and die under the bodies of a hundred foreign men.

Olive skin and eyes black as Hell won’t believe in America it may be harder: not speaking the language; living with sirens, screams and silences; avoiding bullets every day. Hard to be a child in America?

Hard Bodies - Joy Hewitt Mann


do not make rules for incarnations will inman

to be an American can be as diverse as sand, as leaves, as wisps of smoke, as brookwater, as rain as alike as stones in the shoulders of a road, or as shells along a shore or as trees on the mountain. never make rules for incarnations, they will all cry god! from different faces, they will curse you, bless you, make love with you, hug you with distance in their arms and lips, they can be so perverse there is hope for them. when they whirl

like a flight of leaf-cutter ants, they’re lost. freedom must be watered with disagreements. freedom’s harmony must keep fresh with sweat and questions. dolphins know how to work without voting booths, but we who mark a page with our opinions are sometimes too lazy to work for consensus. if we could learn to mark our boundaries wolf-style with golden piss, then cross and re-cross with laughter, maybe we could learn to fly, being still, and love this land by asking why before we die for her.

8 October 1998 Tucson

what are those invisible vines crawling through black space? they’ll come right down into your bed at night. they’ll stroke your face with darkness. you’ll pull a leaf and chew it, and then you’ll see the vines. their blooms will be heads of creatures and humans, coyotes and chimpanzees, and even dolphins. they can all talk. you’ll understand every word but not what they mean. they’ll get under your fingernails. they’ll crouch in your navel and under your secret folds. some critters and some humans will be

feeding on shadows - will inman

talking to you out of openings in yourself. they’ll be you being not-you. being more than you. being who you are you didn’t know was part of you. about then, you’ll eat another leaf. you’ll feel a brick wall rising in your chestbone, separating you from who you thought you were with who you never were not. hanh! now that’s a trip you didn’t have to take a single step to travel on. and a further distance than maps can carry or telescopes can scan. the vines will creep down your blood vessels, coil around your rib bones, lie listening

along the curves of your ears. you’ll hear everything and things that are not even there. it’ll be too late then: you can't back out. can’t run away. can’t lie your way out of it. you will sing the vines and the vines will sound you. and shadows of those dark leaves will curl around you and swallow you whole. if you wake up real, will you know who you are?


7 November 1996 Tucson

As I sink my roots into the soil of this job and this house, I ponder this century of human migration. Spring, the season of movement. Shad and salmon swim to new water, swallows and butterflies flood the air. Even the trees in my backyard try to move elsewhere; with each shiver of wind, seeds sift through the air. I buy more plants than I have earth to offer. I haul them around the yard in my wheelbarrow, looking for any blank spots in the yard where I can stuff

Season of Migration - Kristen Berkey-Abbott

them. Transplanted, they flourish in this alien soil. I’m afraid we won’t be able to say the same thing about this current crop of refugees. Marched through the mountains, herded from their homes, the very old and very young and the most sickly carted along in wheelbarrows. A human line stretches back from the border for six miles, yet still they arrive, fleeing the ferocity of soldiers, fierce as a spring storm, cold fronts meeting warm air.

Thousands of miles away, I participate in the spring rituals. I buy matching Easter outfits for my daughter and me; I shuttle my son

to baseball practice and think of refugee children playing soccer with a coke bottle, playing in the muck that comes from too many humans with too little sanitation. Earthly atrocities make me hover, but I try to swallow my instinct to smother my own children with my motherly wing, to hide them from angels of death who might forget to pass over our house.


Celestial Beings - Albert Huffstickler

Jimmy Durante and the Dalai Lama swapped jokes and did a softshoe accompanied by Ray Charles singing and Louis Armstrong’s trumpet and I’d never seen so much joy in one place. And I thought about this many times later, laughing every time, and decided that even if I never reached enlightenment, at least now, I knew what I was looking for.

July 7, 1993 from zzz zine XXII, Arcadia FL, 1999

I can remember when I lost it. I was eight. That was the summer I have my appendicitis operation and died -or so I thought since they put this thing over my face and I couldn’t breathe and they held me down till I lost consciousness. That was also the year I skipped a grade in the school and my peers were no longer my peers but giants that I peered at from below and, at recess, tossed me around like a handball. My teacher hated me because I couldn’t do Palmer Method. I started staying home after school and reading Wild West Weekly. I knew when I wasn’t wanted. My favorite hero was Solo Strant, the Silver Kid.

On the Trail of the Silver Kid - Albert Huffstickler

He was small too but he dressed all in black with silver conchos on his chaps. And he had a silver skull on his black stetson and nobody--I mean nobody-- messed with him. He was Death in a silver wrapping with two six-guns and he went where he wanted to, all over the West, and nobody messed with him. It’s a funny feeling, losing it like that— not something you bring up at the dinner table since it’s obviously your fault. There was something you didn’t do or didn’t do right only you haven’t figured out what yet so you keep quiet; you lay low and wait, hoping it will come to you and you can set it straight. Meanwhile, you’re a target for every sadistic hunter in the schoolyard and you don’t know why. So you stay home and lie on the bed and read the Silver Kid,

recalling your mother’s favorite remedy, heard since infancy, “If you be nice to them, they’ll be nice to you,” wondering where she grew up. Or your father’s, which was to take on every comer, but to do that, you have to have a win once in a while. So you know you’re wrong and you don’t know why and it’s not a thing you talk about so you read the Silver Kid and wait and dream a lot and just keep to yourself. If that’s good enough for Solo Strant, it’s good enough for you. He didn’t need anybody. So I didn’t need anybody either but I did. Only there wasn’t anybody. Time was a burden and death imminent and I was eight years old. Things have been different ever since. The fragility never completely vanished because once you’ve lost it, you know it can be lost again.

The good things become more precious though less safe: they can be gone in a minute. But most of all: you’re alone and know deep in your heart that you’ll never quite be un-alone again. And you’re not the Silver Kid but just a kid— a kid who’s not a kid anymore though not adult as now, adult, I remain that kid who’s not a kid anymore and will never be again.

March 3, 1984, from Heeltap, No.5, 1999, St. Paul MN 28

ISSN 0197-4777

published 11 times a year since 1979 very limited printing by Ten Penny Players, Inc.
(a 501c3 not for profit corporation)

$2.50 an issue

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful