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20th Anniversary

Poetry in the Mainstream


Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream, October 1999
The river is keen under blackness, weapon-malevolent, crossed jagged marks mirrored against its steel.
from Night Flight : New York Theory of Flight (1935) Muriel Rukeyser

WATERWAYS: Poetry in the Mainstream
Volume 20 Number 9
Will Inman Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher Thomas Perry, Assistant Joy Hewitt Mann Phyllis Braun Lyn Lifshin James Penha 6-7 8 4-5

October, 1999

c o n t e n t s
Geoff Stevens John Grey David Michael Nixon Joan Payne Kincaid Gerald Zipper Albert Huffstickler

15-16 17 20

Herman Slotkin

11-12 13


18-19 21-24

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.

nightriver - will inman
to fly in above Manhattan...East River estuary and Hudson flowing down upstate...The Lady in the Harbor renewing our birth-promises...her rivers run black with earth-blood. lights mark the island between rivers. i feel my own chest in the breast of the plane leaning down like a returning lover naked with space and speed ready to warm and be warmed in welcome woke deep out of that darknight twinkling flow, that ongoing birth-blood. too high yet and yet too swift to sense a million footsteps on

how sudden that river leaps up whole into my body that flow foetid and fat with death and dung but still rhythmed with tidepull and still living truer than sewers and brackish with darker ocean. one last turn around the tall Lady, o her shadow is a thirst, a longing! while the plane sheers in, her wide wings open with welcome, i’m back on ground, now i feel the dark beat of river down earth under me

pavement, to hear those strokes of footsoles on sidewalks or underground pacing for the trains.

13 October, 1998, Tucson

The Stone Boat - Joy Hewitt Mann If I could lie in bed like a stone boat on the bottom of the river all concave and filled with running water, so there were no lines, no demarcations between what was in and what was surrounding me . . .

if my hands could fly up and fingers ripple in the water like reeds and tiny silver fish bloom from their tips . . .

I would feel the current move me, but I could not be moved. I would rest there and you could never touch me. You could only float or drown.


Dirge - Phyllis Braun Autumn is in November’s no-man’s land: a season of gray skies, dry fields, and wind that sends leaves scudding like frightened mice, shakes the bony limbs of naked trees, rattles the door, shrieking and moaning at night. This is devastation time, when age has trashed our thoughts, our dreams of summer days. An alien force behind the antic wind we did not recognize in other years is driving us into silent futile rage. We cannot think or run, but only stare, seeing at last the end that was always there.

Mt McKinley and Wonder Lakes Mt. McKinley National Park Alaska 1947 Lyn Lifshin light on the dark snow. Nights learning where the stars were when the caribou migrated

connected to the breaking and icing of water. Their houses changed with the stars food they couldn’t carry, seal meat and blubber, buried in the cold

mirror lakes, the water freezing for the long winter. All life

forgotten for years until spirits in the stars revealed the meat to wandering heros

Reading about the Floods in North Dakota Lyn Lifshin I think how I felt swamped, as if I’d lost everything. What mattered seemed buried under water. I was as wild as someone looking out at the water,

the buildings on fire no one could get to, eerie as Dresden in WW2. Like those buildings, something inside smoldered, felt as gutted and I think now I was lucky to get out

Gravity of Things - James Penha The moon inhales tonight -- inspiration in reverse: it sucks the soul from the shore and the field, from the grass, the cypress. This phase, no low high tide, aged Vincent in his own time, yielded Renfield undead forever.

Hold that villa steady; triangulate all hands!

Tonight the rivers flow upstream, tonight the buds reope, tonight the seeds yield fruit.

It doesn’t touch me, this swirling eddy, millennial adjustment.

Hold the villa steady. You are the keystone, and I need to think:

Somehow you keep me on the road to the villa still after the storm I remain alone.

Terezin - 1994 - Herman Slotkin
Arbeit Macht Frei - mordant greeting to tourists sweating summer heat radiant from fortress walls. Cells - nauseous with cellar damp, houses - blocks of vacant slum,

highlighting a stainless gurney, at its head a wood-block head-rest creating the perfect angle for extraction of cadaver teeth.

the crematorium - a grand vault. Summer sunlight through open windows makes the oven a black barrel shadow against hospital-white tile walls,

The air freezes ice- solid a freeze-frame that plagues my time.


Swirling with hidden grimaces - Geoff Stevens Swirling with hidden grimaces, face blackened, knife in hand, this is one angry commando. Nothing will stop it tonight. There will be no warning as it creeps up in the darkness and suddenly overpowers. In the morning, all will be calm and the land under ten feet of water.


Mime’s Song - David Michael Nixon In the halls, the ferns sway slowly. The parquet stone floors make no clatter. Nothing can fathom what’s the matter. The old acquaintances grow bloody. Donald tolls the fire gong, tolling, tolling all night long the gong, the gong of fire.

Southern plants are tall and spiky. The earth turns over a lukewarm shoulder. Armadillos roll themselves up tightly and the sands shake till the whole beach shudders.

Instantly, the melting swallows bell, book and gallows, till all are one melt river, roiling forever. The only song is mime’s song.

first published in Hunting the World, Foothills Publishing, 1989 16

If the Creek Don’t Over-Flow - Joan Payne Kincaid The journey winds down from mouth to finish tributaries jutting thru cities and countries traveling toward climax; usual bright dreams of birth slowly maturing in planetary turns swelling blue liquid imaginary contexts; coursing thru valleys of leaping fulfillment giving of itself to those in need only to be dammed, captured, losing perspective, polluted or eliminated... fate of wild things... observing their own demise.

From the Fork in the Roads John Grey
This is where the roads fork. One road continues along the low plains, the other diverges up into the highlands. The low plain road seems to cut the grass-lands like a scythe. The other though disappears almost immediately in a forest of sun-glazed pines.

Most follow that lower road, predictable as its track may be. It is not unromantic, the scenery still stacks up on either side vivid and spring-leaved, passionately lit like Monet paintings. But even as the eyes wander, the body of the direction rattles on ahead. Even as it draws near the ocean, it’s the cliff that seems to diverge just a little to allow that path to keep its straight and narrow.

On the low road, people get to where they’re going. On the high road, just being on the road itself is the end point. I could easily turn these roads into something about us. More than that, I could make one me and one you.

A few take to the upper trail however, noting how the first thing it does is change its shape to adjust to the contours, the vegetation, and, when that becomes so complex, so convoluted that it is no longer possible, the second thing it does is cease to be.

And yet, here we are together, although there’s a brusque, relentless aloneness tugging at us even as we love. It is always inciting us to deal with the roads. It doesn’t understand how warm the kisses are, how comfortable the fork feels.


Night string of diamonds stretching across the hole in the air Jersey Palisade to New York caisson above the cabalistic river of inky blackness “Today I’m going to die” he said drove his car to the middle of it parked on it walked to the side of it climbed the rail to the edge of it supplicant of the sky he plummeted rag doll tumbling the bitter end of choice leaving behind ones who must bear the pain of loss and we can’t fly.

G. Washington’s Bridge - Gerald Zipper

A Day at the Airport Albert Huffstickler This woman comes up and says, “I want to go to Atlanta,” and I say, “That will be seventy-eight dollars one way, and she says, “I don’t have it but I can take you to the moon,” and I say, “If you can go to the moon, why would


you want to go to Atlanta?” and she says, “I got to. My dog’s sick. I’ll do anything, anything!” And she starts tearing off her clothes and I’m just sitting there watching her get naked and then she climbs over the counter, the guy behind her gets a real view, I mean a

real view, and she’s sitting there on my lap when the security finally gets there and hauls her off, one of them has her and the other guy’s got her clothes and she’s still yelling, “I got to get to Atlanta!” and the crowd’s gathering and all of them are muttering, like, “Why don’t they

just let her go to Atlanta” and calling them fascists and all and she’s still yelling when they hauled her out the door. I never saw her again. Well, that was just Monday. Would you like to hear about Friday?


from Short Fuse, 1996

The Cure - Albert Huffstickler We think we get over things. We don’t get over things. Or say, we get over the measles but not a broken heart. We need to make that distinction. The things that become part of our experience never become less a part of our experience. How can I say it? The way to “get over” a life is to die. Short of that, you move with it, let the pain be pain,

not in the hope that it will vanish but in the faith that it will fit in, find its place in the shape of things and be then not any less pain but true to form. Because anything natural has an inherent shape and will flow towards it. And a life is as natural as a leaf. That’s what we’re looking for: not the end of a thing but the shape of it. Wisdom is seeing the shape of your life without obliterating (getting over) a single instant of it.

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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