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Poetry in the Mainstream


Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream,

A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect, Terrible in beauty, age, and power, The genius of poets of old lands, As to me directing like flame its eyes, With finger pointing to many immortal songs, And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said, Know'st thou not there is but one theme for everenduring bards? And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles, the making of perfect soldiers.
— Walt Whitman "Song of Myself"

June 2001

WATERWAYS: Poetry in the Mainstream
Volume 22 Number 6 Designed, Edited and Published by Richard Spiegel & Barbara Fisher Thomas Perry, Admirable Factotum June, 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. cover photo by Barbara Fisher

Will Inman 4-5 Geoff Stevens 6 Joan Payne Kincaid 7 R. Yurman 8-9 David Michael Nixon 10-13 Kit Knight 14-17 James Penha 18

c o n t e n t s

Herman Slotkin 19 Ida Fasel 20-21 Bill Roberts 22 Albert Huffstickler 23-24

Death of Col Edward D. Baker At the Battle of Balls Bluff near Leesburg Va. Oct. 21st 1861 (Currier & Ives, 1861?) Frontispiece

tradition sucks at our ribs urging us to take sides. we hasten to become our own enemy. i was told once that Krishna came to a young warrior who questioned war — and told him he must choose sides and kill. i knew then that God, too, can turn us against ourselves and each other and that we must conquer God's hateful wisdom not by war but by healing resonance.

tradition sucks at our ribs - will inman

it is God, after all, who plants chaos in cosmos to keep generative process alive and that cosmos, sown, turns fury to a lotus bloom. yet, lotus roots in darkest mud, so it may be we must temper love with wonder.


24 November 2000

If love is a battle then Walt was right, poets that write of romance and its gossip, all the tittle-tattle of she-said, he-said, have an enduring theme. Love is the scheme of poetry, of immortality, is the living memorial of the dead

If Love - Geoff Stevens


Another Tribe Goes Poof! - Joan Payne Kincaid They put their children in clay pots and throw them over the cliff mass suicide to save homes and ancient lands (how hard people try to convince corporate manipulators it is evil to drill away history and lives) walking backward through art and dream to reality — the adults follow piling up bodies that stop a river.

The children's eyes don't follow me the way they do the boots and capes and hard triangular hats of the three Guardia. I may be Americano, turista, I may have cash in my pocket — they'd rather dance in the street and sing to the music of La Fiesta de San Jaime. Only the sudden footfalls, sharp around the corner, Guardia Civil, quiet them. Their eyes get round. They stare. The adults they turn to have already looked aside — frozen in mid-gesture. I reach into my inner pocket, lay two fingers on my passport. The three uniforms pass without a glance at me or a nod to their countrymen. They turn the far corner, their boot echoes fading. The music resumes. The children dance. It is 3 a.m.

Street in Zaragoza - R. Yurman

Spain, 1961

(Variation on a theme from Horst Fenske's Song of the Skinny Indian.)

Victors Are Liars - R. Yurman

Behind gunmetal gray faces they carry home their orders. They swear on their hearthstones they don't enjoy the killing.

"They spend small change like talking." "They can whistle through their fingers." But beggars know they're misers. They'll never drop a coin into a cup.


The Famine - David Michael Nixon In the famine that followed, all turned fallow. The bones protruded as they walked. The military stood on the beaches to keep the food from rolling in.

They could not keep the fruit from rotting, but chased the starving from the beach.

The sand was silent, but was shifting, tolling the number of the dead:

each grain that moved, a name.


First published in 'Voices for Peace', April 1988 also in 'Voices for Peace A Poetry Anthology' 1990

May We Live This Moment - David Michael Nixon In the hills, the deer are uneasy and hunters tramp the fields and woods with guns that some know how to use. Possums lie flattened on the roads and cries of crows decry the invasion that provides and interrupts dinner. Tales float in from several counties of hunters shot by hunters, even one who tripped and shot himself.

Meanwhile in the cities, the murder count rises, children shooting children — disgruntled workers, friends, spouses settling their quarrels with guns and knives.

Wars, feuds and dissings blossom, spreading red and blackening petals, and even nature turns on us, twisters scattering beams and bones. The quiet of ordinary life is eating our flesh, a slow dying, certain as the implacable sun.

This moment, we are here together, alive with multitudes still dying; next moment, any may be gone. May we live this moment while we have it, loving, helping, at least doing no harm.

The General Has Hemorrhoids, 1863 - Kit Knight A single blade of grass dangled from Grandpa's mouth as he watched General Stoneman ride gawky. As he leaned on the fence, Grandpa's grass jiggled in laughter. "Look," he said, "Stoneman flaps his elbows like wings; he's in charge of 10,000 Federal cavalrymen and the man can't even ride." Grandpa shook his head and winked at me. My dad, grandpa's oldest son,

had gone South to fight with the rebels. Our farm, seven miles above the Mason-Dixon line, became part of a spy network. Food, medicines and notes on troop strengths got through the lines in our wagons. Once, I carried a coded message rolled up in my hair. My brother also served in Lee's army and he said the men were marching north and planning to invade Pennsylvania. Brother Billy


hoped for a chance to visit our Gettysburg farm; he hoped the peaches would be ripe then, and would I please make him a pie. Grandpa picked up a bucket saying he'd get some water, then casually added he'd heard Stoneman led an additional 2,000 men since the Federal defeat at Chancellorsville. Grandpa observed, "The general, he don't rest easy in the saddle." I said, "I'm glad the Yankee has piles."

The Bugs Love Him: 1864 - Kit Knight My grief is like an inward bleeding. I've received one letter from my son since the Rebels captured him. I hadn't wanted Robby to fight in America's Civil War; my son was born in Nova Scotia and didn't come to New York until he was 18. But Robert loved this country and wanted to atone for my grandfather who'd remained loyal to the British and fled the American Revolution.

"Please don't worry," my Robby wrote in 1863. I've read and reread that letter for over a year. Other men who've been prisoners of the Confederacy all speak of harsh treatment and worse food. Sometimes, only a teacup of cornmeal a day. And the thousands of mosquitoes that never light on dying men. They talk of scurvy, rheumatism, constant diarrhea and typhoid. My son writes, "Don't worry, Ma." My Robby went to college;


he surveyed and drew maps for the Union Army. A former prisoner tells me that ought to be a comfort because the educated class stands the severe privations of prison life better than the rougher sort. Sometimes, comfort comes from strange sources. In the final line of Robby's letter, he wrote, "The bugs love me." Those four words are practically rubbed off because I've touched them again and again and again.

The Dying Slave to Michelangelo - James Penha I hear your whistle keening in the air. Or is the whistle mine? It mustered me once, manacled in my own potential, to feel your finely-tooled explosions tear my skin from Earth's own womb of earth that He with only Word created. Essential loss! but Self I found in your placental hands shaping, smoothing, causing mine to be. So why sing you the dies irae now? as your conception finally is free to stand? I am no half-imagined heir of Onan, seed whom you may disavow. I live. From you. Pallas of Zeus's brow. New fingers loving me will feel your care.

I hide in Post Theater's anonymous blind and watch with eyes withdrawn to blend.

D-Day Newsreel - Herman Slotkin

The screen assaults: Four rifled G.I.'s, burdened, lumber out of the sea. The last drops at water's edge. The heedless picture swings to wicked, lethal blasts— clods, clumps, shards, shreds. In the sheltering dark I run to him. "Medic! Is he dead?" "He is dead."

His burdens, which I can never name or escape, are now mine.

Who lost/ What you lost goes nowhere — Nietzsche, Vereinsamt

He - Ida Fasel
1. Election Day

Sieg Heil! Voices stretch hands to victory: Sieg Heil! New beginnings, halcyon days horror. When he stretched out his arms he blessed roaring thousands. His hate made havoc of live and let live.
2. Outcome

Round the clock, round the world people still pick up his arrows, old when he passed on the poison. Even Satan himself at the judgment wicket will find him over-qualified for hell.

Note: The day was January 30, 1933

Vincent Van Gogh: Any Self-Portrait Ida Fasel
'A terrible beauty is born' W.B. Yeats

Face like a kicked-in door, eyes tense and watchful as if a gun were pointed at them, demon

within always present, his expectable dread darkening the thousand skies of turquoise.

His brush swirls under force of anxiety and will, the clear great want of his life holding.

My palms were sweating again when I met Pete some forty years later. I used to sweat all over back then when we were in school and he, an ugly bully, was my one and only reason for being late so often mornings: I didn't want to confront him and go through the humiliating ritual of being grabbed by my shirt front and shaken down, having to expose the contents of my pockets and lunchbag. The years hadn't been overly kind to Pete, though his flower business, I'd heard, had made him wealthy: he was entirely bald —

Terrorist - Bill Roberts

not a pleasant prospect in combination with his menacing, pockmarked face — and the scars from various invasions of his brain coursed wildly over his yellowish skull. He slammed down the receiver, after eyeing me through the several minutes of his vituperative conversation, stood, lurched toward me, grabbed my hand and shook it nearly off. We spoke of old times, even joked about the money I had contributed to the purchase of his business. We spoke as friends — he not apologizing for his teenaged terrorism, me not mentioning I knew he was dying.

Published in The Raintown Review, Vol. 1, No. 2, June 1998 (as Bartlett Boswell)

The Old Indian Said - Albert Huffstickler How could there be any understanding? They called it a wilderness. We called it home . . .

From: Poetry Depth Quarterly, North Highlands CA 2001 23

It's not charted down there. You can go down to the same place a dozen times and nothing will be the same. It's not a place you learn but a place you endure. It's not a place you conquer but a place you enter to be changed and leave not knowing if you've changed or not. It's a place

Down There Albert Huffstickler

where death and birth have the same meaning and magic is the rule of the day. It's not a place you come to understand but a place where you go to have our understanding destroyed. It's a place where a hero is someone who emerges sane and goes on with what he is doing — though there are dark spots in his eyes that were not there before.

It's not a place that you go to for love but a place, to find love. You must have been to and returned. It's not a place where you go to find the goddess but if you do find her there, she'll devour you. It's the place where a hunchbacked dragon mated with a dying star which eons later gave birth to you.

From Crimson Leer 2nd issue 1996, Fabius NY

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

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