20th Anniversary

Poetry in the Mainstream


Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream June 1999

“To work intelligently” (Orville and Wilbur Wright) “one needs to know the effects of variations incorporated in the surfaces. . . . The pressures on squares are different from those on rectangles, circles, triangles, or ellipses... The shape of the edge also makes a difference.”
The Structure of the Plane THEORY OF FLIGHT (1935) Muriel Rukeyser

WATERWAYS: Poetry in the Mainstream
Volume 20 Number 6
Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher Thomas Perry, Assistant Joy Hewitt Mann John Grey Robert Cooperman Lyn Lifshin David Michael Nixon

June, 1999

4-6 8-9 13 7

Ida Fasel

Charles Pierre Barbara Sax Will Inman Albert Huffstickler

15-16 23-24 19-22 17-18


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.

Black on White - Joy Hewitt Mann Notice how newspapers these days are rectangles, writers squares circling the issues, making triangles of incongruities?

Do you remember when they were points? assegai? shards of black glass cutting out hypocrisy back when it wasn’t so easy, when some men sat on the edge looking over, and the edge made all the difference?

Men like Allen, Douglas, Delany, the Crisis of Du Bois, Garvey’s World, Cornish and Ray, Fortune’s Freeman, Perry, Lovejoy, Russworm, Bell, back when Garrison delivered his straight line, back when seven flashbulbs, one ribbon had to last a week getting it right the first time every time two and two was four and a spade always a spade.

There is a deeper umbrage in numbers something quivering beyond the outlines of space. By ten the buildings are a constellation planets spin from mirrored sides the Milky Way whirls in vortexes of red and gold and all minds are sequestered by the night, controlled by natural laws of nebulae, seeking light in darkness beyond black holes of one night stands and implosions of the heart

City Lights - Joy Hewitt Mann

For Karen - Joy Hewitt Mann

She is undoing the city, dancing to the song beneath the streets. She is drawing the music of the ground to dance beside her, cement and asphalt thrusting angles into her brain.

Everywhere she goes the city is undone, its geodesy broken and lifted, stones cracked, bricks shattered.

The city follows singing quietly, streets and buildings fading away like mists at dawn.

Life is not like life. It’s like a play. Or it’s like a play would be if a play were really life-like. Anyway, most of the world’s a stage and the rest is background scenery. And you don’t choose your characters, they choose you. They can be familiar as the ones you hug and kiss or as much strangers as the strangers on the street. There can be three acts. There can be a hundred and three.

And Another Thing, the Play’s the Thing John Grey You can sit and watch. You can be in it. You’ll be amazed how much it can roll along under its own steam. It has a plot but never the one you chose for it. You can be a writer just so you can discover how much that doesn’t help.

On the Separation of Church and State - Robert Cooperman In Hebrew school they drummed it into us we were to spell it G-d. The reasoning went His name must be the best kept secret in the universe, or a power would be unleashed infinitely more terrible than Hannibal’s elephants crushing his own troops. No telling what that divine orthography could wreak on children allowed to gaze

like one of Zeus’s foolish mortal mistresses driven mad to behold him in all his glory.

One boy, on our first spelling test in public school, was marked wrong for preserving that purity of omission. He argued like a little lawyer for the point, stubborn as a rabbi before the Grand Inquisitor, proud as an outnumbered musketeer.

“None of the other Jewish children,” we all heard the teacher’s smirk, “spelled it that way.” When I whispered, “You’re right,” he shot me a look true believers reserve for the timid, their most contemptible enemies.


Students - Lyn Lifshin

Some want to kill you. It’s the old “the king is dead” routine except for real in their dreams. I wanted to write about the students whose poems are fresh lemons on Kate’s tree, clumps of sun wild with light but the others break down doors on E Mail, write pretending to be students working on a special poem, they’re dying to ask me questions. One came to my house 17 years for workshops, took notes on the brand of tea in tins on the shelf which window had a glass crystal and twisted whatever she could into knives but she still comes to readings, gushes over my poems. Then she writes more fake letters: from editors, always with photographs of herself as a man, hot for my body. Some

students are sure we had an affair, yodel under the window, leave a copy of Macbeth with the wrong quote, sure it came from there: “The Lady doth protest too much” in mirror writing as the tea kettle boils and windows are frosted. One student accused of trying to win the Lyn Lifshin look alike contest, fiercely and wonderfully proved she was herself. Students mail me flowers from 7 countries and then sometimes use up my phone tape, fill it with threats after some treats. One bleated “take me to Emergency”

and “read what I just wrote, its only 72 pages because you talk strangely, only you can understand me.” I’ve considered dog walking in a Ronald Reagan mask or dressed as a vampire. One teen was sure I stole his dreams and slandered his father. A little Teflon would help. It is better to do critiques thru the mail so no one comes 3 hours early and because of snow, stays a week tho once when that happened, that student made the most delicious squash soup and never threatened to kidnap me,

take me to Canada or Alaska. “This is not acceptable” my lover is quick to say, but I’ve never been good at such directness, leave things vague: dates, feelings--often by mistake. I love a sign I saw yesterday that said if you can’t say something nice, be vague. Like kittens, at first students

seem cuddly, irresistible when they first come: blind, starved for anything you can give them. You hold them in your palm and they curl around you I like them best, then because suddenly they start, suddenly, to smell, mark their territory. Like cats, they howl, wild to scratch or claw you, piss on what matters most


Rain at the Dance Studio David Michael Nixon No pattern emerges from random roofdrops. No, there is the bass beat: No No No No No and over and under it higher voices make frequent scats of loose tune as the rainy roof joins floor to ceiling in a never ending liquid burst of beats.

the only way to make things solid/thing on thing until a wall builds is to compress them with such pressure that nothing can live between the cracks

tight poems David Michael Nixon

Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas Ida Fasel

Who knows what cunning management of pressure and torsion what problems of loadbearing what calculated minims of auxiliaries, what windows, slots, piercings, controls were engineered to create this unmatchable atmosphere, this eloquent presence of natural light?

Architect: Louis I. Kahn

Who knows what long hours were spent at a desk, and after hours, musing ways of turning space into spirit? I am no expert on architectural design. I only know intentions were achieved: A building livable, lovable, luminous to service those who make these walls their silent home and those who only come to view and feel themselves growing inward contemplating them.

The children of Kismet have no fear of the Atlantic’s rush to the land and sudden withdrawal. They have learned to squat with their backs to the waves,

Fortress - Charles Pierre

building their fortress of sand, with tunnels to let the water in and out, and turrets flying exotic feathers, and studded with colored stones and shells. The surf explodes continuously and washes them with its silver, their small bodies glistening, with eyes squinting through the salt

and feet lightly fixed above the tide, a sure-footed stance on the restless beach by the sunlit ocean that is always flowing into, through, and out of their lives.


I know what worry looks like an overcast sky dropping dead shadows on the grey ocean yellow plastic caution tapes, flapping and mocking, from eucalyptus to pine outside the closed library worry has the shape of an empty driveway at midnight and the hall light still on it sounds like the foghorn from pt vicente like sirens racing toward the cliffs it smells like week old sweat in the library washroom feels like a lump in my breast like the cold vinyl chair in the surgeon’s waiting room

Worry - Barbara Sax

once i watched helpless as a nurse dropped a glass bottle of blood blood comes in plastic bags now still spills


Maria Theresa dances Beethoven in Ligoa Duncan’s Gallery: New York: 1960s will inman to have witnessed the youngest of Isadora’s dancers interpret the slow movement of Beethoven’s Seventh is to have been present among the tribal council that creates the universe. every step Maria Theresa took -- named another creature, caressed a selfdiscovering plant. wings in her shoulders shone with galactic whorls. her dark, by now ancient, eyes burned black holes in the river of god’s tongue, she swam that umbric flow. her loose gown wove fresh geometries in space. invisible tribespeople stood amongst the watchers not so much marvelling at our stiff costumes as enthralled by the woman’s bringing fresh streams and a virgin forest into that

twentieth century studio. deer leapt through her round-stretched arms, fishes swam silent fugues in golden waters around her feet. even as Beethoven delves origins every time his music sounds, so Maria Theresa summoned living presence in her dancing. Isadora stood smiling among the tribal elders, and Raymond watched with her, not in Greek toga, but in breechclout and moccasins. God appeared naked, her breast-tips ripe with milk, his feet wrought beyond floor in dark summoned earth. i was there, that hour orbits in me with more than memory. now, decades after, i hear the Seventh those bare feet tread burning fresh into this instant
24 May 1996, Tucson


for interior space, flight is not mechanical. self delving down stretches of self -- requires the whole organism’s intraworkings. now, outer space leaps into the process: that which is god occurs indivisibly out there and in here. center rests summit and at the same time dives deepest valley: this stream flows in all directions. no. this is not a matter of surfaces nor edges, of honed blades nor machined gears. these energies are ingrown, and these flights involve organic balancings of interior forces.

space flight: in - will inman

perception, wanting really to know, self-belief, receptiveness with clarity, questioning with risking reach, willingness to be centered everywhere at one, naked immanence, keeping distinct from and indissoluble with the Most High down. outermost-in-here is just plan what’s going on where you’re at. find it by following the spiral sprout of your navel. the edge of god’s hand may be a rainbow or a wing or a chorus and/or a flower: recognition stems a deep root in through your ribs and around

9 October, 1998 Tucson

Wig a hairy helmet jammed on her head, she meets the day like a warrior, back straight behind the counter, smile in place -the fixed grimace designed to accompany a bayonet thrust. Minute by minute, hour by hour, she defends her ground, parrying, thrusting, holding on. Noon finds the enemy drawn back and she retreats to the lunch counter to regroup. Afterwards in the ladies’ room, she straightens her wig, applies new eyes to terrorize the foe, and marches back to her post. The afternoon is long. Continual sallies wear her down. Wig askew, she rallies and battles on, a great sorrow in her now. Her eyes are distant watching the clock, awaiting the bugle’s clear summons. Five o’clock. She stores her gear in a basement locker and walks out. Evening falls like a spent shell. The fury ended, a great silence descends over the earth

Battle Maiden - Albert Huffstickler

as she marches home to the final battle in her small apartment. Carefully storing her wig in a box in the closet, she undresses and lies down as demons of loneliness charge her wavering lines. Rising wearily, she takes the wig from the closet and puts it on then, leaving the light on, reads long into the night. Now, with the first light of day, she dozes, helmet askew. The dawn light touches the coarse mat, blessing it, the sleeping eyes with lines etched around them like old wounds. Peace, proud warrior. Rest. Soon the battle again. But for now, sleep your just sleep, lines held, your faith unbroken.
August 5, 1978 fro Cerberus XXXIII, Florida, 1999


ISSN 0197-4777

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

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