Poetry in the Mainstream


Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream April 2001
Piping in silvery thin Sweet staccato Of children's laughter
Lola Ridge "The Ghetto"

WATERWAYS: Poetry in the Mainstream
Volume 22 Number 4 Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher Thomas Perry, Admirable Factotum April, 2001

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 ©2001, Ten Penny Players Inc. http://www.tenpennyplayers.org

James Penha Will Inman Joy Hewitt Mann Geoff Stevens Sylvia Manning Paula Alida Roy Terry Thomas

c o n t e n t s
4-6 7-9 10-11 12 13-16 17-20 21

Bill Roberts 22-25 Lyn Lifshin 26 Kit Knight 27-30 Albert Huffstickler 31-32

cover photograph by B. Fisher frontispiece Settei Hasegawa (1819-1882)

A red light stops me stranger here: I recognize scents of seeping seams of hundreds of tiny cartons of milk and cookies, sawdust absorbing them once eaten. Elementary, my dear, as mine the yellow school bus accepting at three a skinny towhead with pink-framed glasses fighting myopia from filtrum to astonished eyebrows. I see them slide,

School Crossing - James Penha

fall to the ground as he spins to berate the little freckled girl whose nerves charge her brass-armored briefcase pendulously fore and after enemies. Someone has stepped on his glasses! She laughs at blond tears, but comes to cry contrapuntally when told by a toothless mouth from somewhere inside the bus that the cross-eyed fellow, one with a splotch on his shirt, has drawn a beagle brightly in yellow highlighter on her briefcase. Screams and weeps! scabbed knees

and dry elbows, runny noses, no reposes! when all day foreheads knot with sums that will face times and divisions, x and y (or perhaps 2x), imaginary numbers and geometries, plane and solid! In the rear-view mirror I part my hair now, know limits and probabilities, but would not fly back with Peter Pan had I to learn all those vectors and angles again. I drive on


heavy swelter. sun screams wet air a strong lad hoists a wrench, opens a fire plug, lets heaven rush pell-mell down a brick street. water costs but what price that ferocious bursts of bliss on near-naked bodies . . . hollering, laughing, jumping like young goats. God for a little while looks the other way

heavy swelter - will inman


call not untouchable what god has made clean; these rags wrap sacred incarnations this child's nakedness is sky come plain in human flesh. Sing precious life's elation.

hymn of untouchables - will inman

lotus blooms open eyes, green stem long down mud, out of dark rise floating rounded leaves out of dark these children blossom new faces of god; these flowers fall, now sun-dance tree retrieves.

reach out to stroke these cursed creatures' skin, how fingers scorch against the rotten feel of precious lives, of nobles' karmic sin. cobra turned round inward, fathoms wrong with real.

lift up these eyes, raise high these broken hands, not begging, no! affirming sacred presence here every child begot unique, god willing minds walking waters of impossibles steep fear sound the trumpets of jeweled rajah, chief: welcome the denied ones inside the palace gate: lift every voice to heal the ages' brief and sing how raptures end this longest wait!


Father I can still see your army boots, "spitpolished" you liked to say, and my own patent-leathers black and shiny as a cat's eye, balanced zig-zag to your dancing feet one-two one-two around the kitchen table dodging mother as she cleared the dishes. Your hands held my wrists gently, lifting me tip-toes as A String of Pearls caught us both.

Dancing to the Radio - Joy Hewitt Mann


I saw you turn and wink, and when you reached one hand to pat her in retreat I almost fell. I can still see your smile and hers. I have never quite regained my balance.


Laughter is a silvery sunshine mosaic oscillating on a stream of elation, flowing from a tilted throat flung backwards to the sky, a tinkling of flowing waters, a gurgle, a gravel dragging surge, a racing emotion towards the roar of rapids, the crescendo, the echo, and the reverberation

Laughter - Geoff Stevens


East Texas Back-door Fugue - Sylvia Manning Woodpecker in mid-winter oak one of first or last in Appalachian hardwood chain for here begins the hickory-oak that go through Kentucky and beyond to shade the Long Trail to the northern border

hits it fast, relentless staccato, rat-a-tat-tat Then moves over only yards of freezetanned golden grass to trees

just barely north of first percussion taps

Then drifts still farther north

to rap again with eight or ten hard "Nothing here matters but me" repeats, amazingly mechanically like his first rift

Letting your near silence, near the lake, reign.
Malakoff, 2/96

letting wind chimes hear their sweetness swiftly dominant in time and unleafed space again


He Played for Jack - Sylvia Manning He played for Jack He played for me He played in the festival night for nobody — saxophone in dark parc des enfants

long after crowds for that spectácle had gone sitting but unseen beneath black trees beside St. Lawrence

flowing diamond black itself below deepest indigo, July sky

alone, and the sax-man alone, the good healing Dr. Sax, as Jack would have it

midnight, Kerouac long back to sleep of course

playing only by gift from the night for anyone who wandered off brightlit beatific streets to hear, in the hear and now made whole by perfect tone, the lonely saxophone.
July, 1998 Québec


Last winter he waddled across solid ice; his diaper wadded into red snowpants. Back and forth behind his brother he flapped unfeathered wings until his legs slid under the dock's edge where punky ice sucked his feet or maybe his bright boots tapdancing awakened a lake god who lured the sturdy boy to trade easy air for mysterious water, ride turtles to the beaver lodge, dive with loons, float beneath the water lilies far beyond our watchful eyes.

A Fall Through Ice - Paula Alida Roy

However it was, the boots slipped in, but the wings angled to catch the dock and his soggy bottom came to rest on slushy ice at the edge of sullen water. so he was plucked up cold and shaken, his bright blood slow while ours beat fast.

Later he steamed in the tub as we laughed at his narrative of the fall: "I went to say hi to the fishes," he explained, but we were not consoled and now we plot how to freeze solid all the dark waters of his world.


We watch from behind old masks as you totter from table to bookcase, careen off corners and stagger into the dollhouse where you wobble, a towering baby giant.

One Year - Paula Alida Ray

Your sister watches wary as a gazelle at the watering hole: she knows what she has to lose as you toddle around like a medicine man peddling your blue eyes like snake oil.


You wear neither mask nor halo, just the badges of one year's survival: tiny scars, an appetite for more, a tentative string of vowels and consonants, and now and then other faces. They inhabit yours, familiar and unknown, claimed and disowned — we're not sure we want to see them and even if we do, how do they see us through your eyes?


Heard more snow dropping from junipers. Scared me the first time, like white spadefulls in a shallow hole. I could imagine a melt, then freeze, everything locked in glassy ice, eyes and smile fixed, snow person staring toward April . . . but now I don't care.

A Fear of White Falling - Terry Thomas


Maybe, after all, this is the perfect tribute To the sudden death storm that happened here: The shrill sound of children laughing, Though it seems out of place. I am moved to cover my eyes, Suppress tears, reach for my wife's hand, Finally seek out the laughing faces. There may be a hundred, Enjoying this perfect morning, The sun having risen quickly Over this solemn place and now blessing Youthful visitors to a shrine

Memorial - Bill Roberts


Of man's hatred for fellow man. The children's laughter and innocent play On the barge ride over to the sunken warship Make me reflect: we've come

Such a long way since I learned the words To "Remember Pearl Harbor," The very same site being invaded this day by gleeful Boys and girls waving miniature rising-sun flags.

published in the March 2001 online issue of Little Brown Poetry 23

Your pouty lips don't fool me, painted So recklessly with sticky chocolate From a candy bar or an ice cream stick. You want me and everyone passing by To notice you. I do and marvel at The sensation you've made of your sweet face. Soon enough you'll grow up and put on real Lipstick, shocking pink or mouth-watering Red, maybe ripened brown, applied with Great precision, provoking passersby To notice you and your moist, puckered lips, Pursed coquettishly, full of youthful disdain.

Little Chocolate Lips - Bill Roberts


Then, soon enough, you'll advance to an age When your lips will tell quite another tale, Your mouth crinkled and again smeared with the Sweet chocolate of youth, quivering, perhaps Questioning a forgotten endearment, Eating a bonbon or an ice cream cone, Again making a display of yourself. Don't grow up too fast, Little Chocolate Lips.


Leaving Blues - Lyn Lifshin moths twist in the lilies. a cherry branch left on the blue slate like an SOS in code twitches against stucco. Turquoise pulls from the silver, like a lover in a 1940's movie, the frames speeding up as what's coming unglued swirls in its staccato and what isn't bleats like a blues sax, shimmers, iridescent as abalone.

Sister Regis: The First Statue, 1884 - Kit Knight It's my job to supervise the chapel. Margaret's statue isn't the first ever erected on an American street, but hers is the first ever cast to honor a woman. Margaret touched thousands, and when she died two years ago, thousands marched in her funeral procession. Both her parents died when Margaret was nine, barely a year after they'd arrived in

this country; Margaret knew the angels couldn't help her because they'd all gone away. Ten years later, a yellow fever epidemic killed 10,000 people including Margaret's husband and baby. There were hundreds of widows and orphans. Using savings from her job as a washer woman, Margaret built the first orphanage in New Orleans. Ten years later, fever — again — devastated the city and over 11,000 people died. Everywhere,

children and babies were scared, hungry and homeless. Margaret baked bread and bought a dairy. She gave free milk and loaves to the destitute and the sick. Margaret also built three more orphanages and a chapel. She spoke with fighting courage, passionate conviction and from a heart that was breaking. In stone, she's seated, smiling, embracing a child and the raised letters read — simply — MARGARET.

The German Orphan, 1869 - Kit Knight Every night Poppa held me On his lap and whispered, "She was beautiful and your momma died giving you life, so you must be worthy." Poppa passed on when I was six and my heart made silent promises. Father had given me to another German couple who owned a saloon and their house was attached. That saloon was the only reason

Quantrill didn't burn the house. I was 12 when Quantrill's Raiders invaded Lawrence. I watched — my heart in my eyes — as dozens of men were shot, gutted and scalped. The hot Kansas sun shone over the riddled body of a kind saloon keeper. The Raiders had attacked other towns during The Civil War; we expected no mercy. Quantrill snarled, "This town is full of living dead men." Eighty wives


became widows that day. I was forced to pour drinks; homes and businesses were in flames. Two Raiders on horses chased a stranger on foot; the man was about to die. Running, I screamed, "Please don't kill him; he is mine! I'm an orphan and he is my only brother!" Throbbing, the town rebuilt. It's been six years since that remarkable introduction, and tomorrow we're getting married.

The Passion - Albert Huffstickler Before you were born Before you were ever born Before your first memory

Debra, at work, showing me red maple leaves: they vibrated in the palm of her hand

Entering this world is like being electrocuted. Later, you forget but somewhere beneath the surface the shock lingers

which is why certain peak experiences are shot with unbearable pain. We learn to live sparingly, always alert for the sudden jolt, the crucifixion of the red maple leaf. It's not death we fear: it's the shock of transition. Love is a red maple leaf. Love is remembering where you came from. Love is the shock of transition. Love is continuing to care when the current jolts through you

Red maple leaves in a small brown hand

before you were born before you were ever born before your first (and only) memory.


from Rattle, Summer 2000, Los Angeles CA

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