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  • Urthkin 2 – Part 1


    URTHKIN 2 – PART 1

    Edited/Published by Larry Ziman
    Copyright 1979 by Larry Ziman
    Library of Congress Catalog Number: 78:68653
    ISBN: 0-9333456-01-8
    ISSN: 0163-3295
    Printed in the United States of America
    First Printing: June, 1979

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

    The cover picture ‘The Feast’ is copyrighted 1978
    by Larry Weiss, San Clemente, California

    ‘vanilla custard’ by Morgan Alexander first appeared
    in Floating Island, Spring 1976

    & BEFORE THAT’ by Michael Andrews first appeared in
    Stonecloud, #7, 1978, copyright 1978 by Pacific Perceptions, Inc.

    ‘jane mccrowley, my’ by Cynde Gregory is reprinted
    by permission of Washout Review, copyright 1978 by Washout Review

    ‘THE BULLET HOLES IN MY LEFT LEG’ by John Harris appears
    in his book Against The Day Of The Dead , published by Momentum Press,
    copyright 1977 by John Harris

    ‘City Skip’ by Michael Leigh is reprinted
    by permission of Seven Stars Poetry

    ‘PRINCESS HOLLYWOOD AND THE VAGABOND’ and ‘YOU FLOAT DOWN MY EYES’
    by Doren Robbins first appeared in One Mind #2, copyright 1977 by John Solt

    THE WHOREHOUSE by F.N. Wright is published by the Young-Davis Press,
    copyright 1977 by F.N. Wright

    vanilla custard

    once when i was very small i tasted vanilla custard it was
    the best custard i had ever eaten and enid and her father
    Myron and i went to willow grove park and he took us on
    the roller coaster and i wore a yellow sunsuit with blue
    ducks on it and i dribbled the custard all over myself that
    was half the fun and i loved enids father and one spring
    during the war he built a fence around their house all by
    himself and he bought me a big vanilla custard and he killed
    himself the summer i was ten i was away at camp and my parents
    didn’t tell me until i got home late in august he died at the
    age of thirty three and i cried for a long time and i was
    angry at my parents for hiding the truth from me. i did
    understsand. death is for children too.

    and i still think of enid shes the first person i can
    remember knowing and now i cant find her and i still look
    for the vanilla custard it would really be a lie to say id
    given up the notion of ever finding it in fact i look all
    the time whenever i go to an amusement park or smell a certain
    smell or recognize a face reminiscent of that place way back
    there once upon a time in my footed pajamas where every smell
    was soap and every taste was vanilla custard and i don’t tell
    anyone that that’s what im looking for only i know and now
    you know that i look in chocolate éclairs and rice pudding and
    cup custrard and frozen custard and bavarian crème filled donuts
    and boston cream pie and french vanilla ice cream and
    tapioca pudding and i cant let go of it.

    and i know im lying to myself i wouldn’t recognize it if i
    did find it it was so long ago i cant even be sure now it
    ever really happened and still i keep looking its
    not even the custard anymore its just something something else
    i lost when i was four.

    Morgan Alexander
    Venice, California

    & BEFORE THAT

    yesterday
    old david
    ran his fingers
    thru his long gray beard
    & died
    he said
    –all i ever did was survive
    the day before that
    he was feeding
    french fries to the gulls
    & said
    he was feeling fine
    ten years before that
    he went on a 3 month
    camping trip
    & when he came back
    he talked less
    the day before he left
    he buried Helen
    four days before that
    she said
    she regretted nothing
    8 years before that
    he closed down
    the office supplies store
    & retired
    40 years before that
    he opened up an art gallery
    they planned to make enough
    to retire to someplace exotic
    with beaches & palms
    & eternal sun
    2 months before that
    he married Helen
    the year before that
    he was on his way
    to bum around the world
    he could not sleep nights
    listening to the calliope
    of restless stars
    the day before that
    he graduated
    with a degree in law
    he told his father
    he would never practice
    15 years earlier
    he told his grandfather
    he was going to be
    a mountain climber
    when he grew up
    3 years before that
    he said he would never
    grow up
    the day before that
    his mother told him
    the truth
    about santa claus
    & the easter bunny
    4 years before that
    his aunt Bessie
    cast his horoscope
    & said
    he would be a success
    In life
    marry 3 times
    become a famous painter
    & die rich
    in a foreign land
    the day before that dr. Anderson
    pulled him from the wsomb
    slapped him on the ass
    & he screamed

    Michael Andrews
    Hermosa Beach, California

    Stumbling Franz

    Sunday was a broken day

    without rest

    caged in your bed long-widowed
    you called Franz for aid

    without rest

    as a young bride you’d giggled
    remembering before marriage
    you’d had a surrey horse
    the family dubbed Stumbling Franz

    without memory

    the grooves in your mind
    brought carpet paths that now
    you could not find

    without paths

    we took you from your home
    to a Rest Home a home

    without rest

    Beatrice Bechtol
    Los Angeles, California

    the headdress of our romance

    the prints are barely open
    to the door of your bed
    geese flew from the last storm,
    feathered icicles threading
    old uncomfortable sounds
    over slaughtered heads and tender wings;
    the phone rings in hysterical laughter
    stomach to mouth but no one moves
    as night gapes as far as a prisoners nostrils
    trying to untwine sound with smell;
    freight cars pull in to freeze
    in the bloody piss of hobo;
    the neighborhood is on the hinges
    of a bald white pawnshop
    fingering its last key.
    all hands are down to zero;
    the razor is king
    the razor is a a fit president
    the razor is slave to no one but the user
    it is a kit that frees the insane.
    the night is into another circle
    as an old lady leaves thru the pockets of rain
    and braids the moon to kitchen sink
    fortune has a wet excuse for falling;
    the razor blues in on
    the edge of mirrors & smiles
    making warm death marks.
    no piece of flesh is alone
    since it has another bastard piece;
    quick puzzles are made in seconds
    from the whole slab that once walked
    on the trail of rich stories;
    now all beginnings are dim
    all endings are tubular and in the frames of boxes,
    yellow degrees on yellow designs.
    this girl of twenty-nine
    in the silver of too many bouquets
    flirts with a dozen blue sisters of gas
    counting on her fingers barely warm—
    the numb foil of solvent years to come.
    at forty she’ll court twelve sisters of red
    opening coaches to Canterbury & reason by then
    that it is not worth wondering.
    her table is a knight
    her dresser, loud voices on palace floors
    that make drifts on her bed.
    later there is the atom in pill box
    closer to my form as nightwatchman
    opening clams of universal spit;
    the gems of many gardens touch my head
    into an atlas, a journeybook,
    but the crows rob me;
    the flies eat from my secret passages;
    the bees spy on me thru magic glasses;
    the ants trip me up and send me to court
    for mistreating animals;
    i drop my teachers tongue
    as several worms fight a new liquid;
    an angel breaks up the kitchen;
    the devil snores in the dictionary
    & sleeps until noon
    as this woman fucks a lily
    & excites a herd of goats in wooly sweaters.
    it is time to thatch the roof
    and let the dimestore sun dial out
    the terrible dreams.
    there is energy in the rocfking chair;
    we watch the old lady paint glasses
    a raw red, developing the odor of hell;
    in the thickets grasshoppers digest
    the gardeners lies.
    i part your teeth into cues
    and cubes of bad water
    and feature your latest prison
    as a forty-ightr hour cartoon
    on not living. you begin to grow in bed;
    your blanket has become your digestive system;
    your veins puff up the pillow;
    there is screaming in your attic brain
    that is twelve feet of blackness,
    hooves ride across the red eye of cartoon;
    all winking is hidden by bushes
    planted over the old lady’s patchwork
    of nettled webs.
    a river begins at her feet
    & opens your toes;
    all of lifes traitors appear;
    the cast is in intricate masks of japanese prints,
    each word in a bamboo shoot.
    i lower the curtain below your eyes;
    pot holes sink in the enamel of our bones
    as you dress up in your second head
    for the animated finale;
    i toss my coat into the fur of your lips
    and you blend a new thread of fire.

    guy r. beining
    Brooklyn, New York

    NON-MARRIAGE RITES IN THE GHETTOED SUBURB

    Those starlings copulating in an elm
    do not stay in the tree. They fall outside
    before orgasm starts. The hapless sperm—
    presumably—is dribbled far and wide.

    The grasses down below care nothing much.
    A squirrel digs among them, placidly
    ignoring starlings. But the suburbs round
    spawn analogues of dull lubricity

    whereby a sexual beauty is reduced
    to surreas of avian obscene
    all acted out in cars and backyard lots
    or fatly hinted on the TV screen.

    For this the prophets and the soldiers died:
    A snigger/snigger, an orgasm snatched
    betimes—like instant coffee—on the run.
    The humans and the starlings are well-matched.

    John Bennet
    Green Bay, Wisconsin

    TV SPORT SPECTACULAR AT THE NEW OMNI-COLISEUM

    The loveless boys of winter at their games
    toy with hickory death while loud voyeurs
    bounce bounce in spitling lust.
    All rage for blood
    hot on the shardy ice.
    The crippled air,
    squeezed tight by rubber/brick/and iron, fills
    with stench that would have frightened Pavlov’s dogs
    had Pavlov dreamed test-patterns so obscene.

    Meanwhile, of course, the lobby cubicles
    Bulge with sweaty coins and currency.

    John Bennet
    Green Bay, Wisconsin

    black hair beaten
    a face they called at
    when she was young
    her eyes were
    always beyond the buildings and crowds

    somewhere in her stride
    there was a child
    in 51
    when she was young, 26
    she had been a beat or whatever
    they
    were called, back then
    for 10 years in New York
    she rode buses

    here, on a bus now
    she begins to rummage her macramé carry all ‘
    spotted with different yarns and strings
    that hold
    the original Victorian house design , its ropes
    and blue stones
    still seen
    for what it was.

    Dan Brady
    San Francisco, California

    the movie on 29/a farewell to arms

    they were advertising war cards
    on tv last night

    the bigger one
    double u double two

    all the ordnance and enemies
    hitler goering

    bangalore torpedoes
    b-29’s

    iwo jima
    “look at that flag!”

    maps, charts, full color pictures
    “ingenious filing system”

    and I was reminded of this one card
    in nam

    who was always getting the clap
    he was up tp fifteen penicillin shots

    a real collector’s item

    Jeff Branin
    Woodbury, New Jersey

    Vogelweh BOQ

    After each game
    he’d come home dead
    tired and crawl into the stall
    margrit would turn on the water
    and take off their clothes
    somehow he found the strength
    to reach through the curtain
    and across the toilet seat
    to the knee high fridge and lift
    two cold local brews. after a few
    swallows he’d look in her warm
    blue eyes and ask her to marry him.
    she never did.

    Jeff Branin
    Woodbury, New Jersey

    Lopez the proprietor

    having blown the year’s savings
    on one night of great fun
    staring down the great road
    from Tia Juanita to home

    into the entrails of Baja,
    empty unskinned abandoned
    carcass

    like himself leading
    through windows of day dreams
    the whistle of coyote laughter
    even at noon leads through the
    rosary at the neck

    to death

    & back out, he says, mumbling,
    chewing his cheek, talking to
    himself, someone perfectly sober

    iIn the window of dreams thinking
    the patient wife awake all night
    will be silent

    and thinking:
    the cries in the straw beds might
    be hens, might be the sobbing
    of daughters as he arrives,

    the dog with arthritic pain,
    the 7-inch corn being gnawed
    b y the burro, the screech of
    corrugated roof expanding
    in heat—

    metal on metal.

    Peter Brett
    Ross, California

    YULETIDE ON 9th ST.

    manhattan is a surface
    of intimate faces
    at Christmas time
    much too busy to notice the man
    wrapped in burlap
    on the corner
    outside trude heller’s

    if asked
    he will tell how mild
    the winter was in ‘65
    or how bright it was
    before the lights
    went out that year

    but mostly these days
    he speaks of how warm
    burtlap is
    & the bouncing lights
    of the liquor shop
    acknowledge his presence

    one of the few who knows
    why rudolph’s nose is red
    who santa claus really is
    & why he stands
    on the corner of 9th street
    for hours & hours

    but those who pass
    an occasional quarter
    never stop to hear
    his ruptured wisdom
    & the christmas lights
    In rockefeller plaza
    are much too far to warm
    his freezing hands

    so when his childhood
    stalks him like some
    long dead housecat
    he dodges taxies
    in the wet blue night
    looking for christmas presents
    that should have been there
    a long long time ago

    Stewart Brisby
    Syracuse, New York

    YEAR OF THE SNOWED-IN MOON

    wolves pass silently
    through dark trees
    caribou move downwind
    nothing is real the glass
    bones of trees snap with
    snow weight

    the moon snowed in
    has not once climbed
    into the sky this year
    the bewildered indians name
    their children after the
    moon paint their tepes &
    war ponies with moon signs
    the night one simple expanse
    of black they cannot get used to

    from this a legend grows
    that a the moon has locked
    herself into her black house
    & becomea prisoner of grief
    deer & caribou continue to
    migrate to the sea where they
    rush into the surf their eyes
    bright with fear

    the Indians fear
    the loss of the moon
    everything in their lives
    has become off center
    even the bloody sun that
    climbs into the sky seems
    off center & its light
    has changed babies born under
    a black night without a moon
    in the light of stammering stars
    are born idiots the last caribou
    & deer drown in the sea the legend
    grows

    Steven Ford Brown
    Birmingham, Alabama

    SUNNY DAY SPECIAL
    (serves one)

    Ingredients:
    1 human body
    (your own body serves best)
    1 mountain stream
    with waterfall and pool
    1 loud shout
    1 burst of laughter
    1 sunny day

    Directions:
    Plunge one human body
    into icy cold pool.
    Body must remain immersed
    until lungs are ready to split.
    Allow body to spring
    Breaking the water’s surface
    and emit one loud shout.
    Collect concentric circles
    as they can be used for
    other dishes.
    The body should then float
    for a minimum of five minutes
    or until saturated with the sensation
    of nothing touching the skin
    but water.
    Before serving allow the body to emit
    at least one burst of laughter
    to drift within the air
    through the sunlight and froth
    of the waterfall.

    Douglas Campbell
    Tallahassee, Florida

    GRANDFATHER

    Story running through my childhood,
    trapped by a cattle-guard,
    gun in hand aimed
    at the man who will kill you,
    you are transformed
    from ordinary forebear
    whose name and face lingers
    in unopened albums
    into a legend of summer evenings
    told by father to daugheter
    in a flat land
    bearing no resemblance
    to your cottonwood mountains.

    This single violent act
    has made you memorable.
    Nothing else is verified—
    though it is said
    you were always a wanderer,
    children buried
    in the places you left,
    Texas, Oklahoma, New
    Mexico Territory.

    Your wife would only tell
    her children
    you were innocent when you died.
    And they hung the man who shot you
    so we may infer
    your respectability, a victim of
    terrible circumstance, but why
    running like that, gun in hand,
    grandfather, when they got you?

    It doesn’t matter.
    We don’t judge you
    or know you or
    really care.
    But we remember you
    and tell you
    on childhood’s porches
    until you have become
    our Western Epic.

    Joan Colby
    Streamwood, Illinois

    The Whisker Of Hercules

    No woman’s hand ever pried
    at that belt buckle
    with its ambered scorpion; it was always
    overshadowed by his belly;
    and further above,
    by a chin of whiskers. You might ask
    where all cowboys go
    when they run out of time or luck,
    the trails that end
    at the crimson lips of plateaus,
    and you would know just to look at him
    that he is one place neither
    heaven nor hell
    could anticipate this far west.

    But the ancient moons of sweat tucked
    in his armpits tell us
    it is early June.
    And it could be hell or Kingman, Az.
    snce in a month the rodeo
    will appear like the retread
    of an old flatbed diesel parked
    beneath the silanthus tree,
    flaked rubber given way
    to broken soil, but always turning
    with memory of the earth. And in his pale

    starry eyes you and I are always young
    or seem to be. But those cowhide hands,
    that bellowed cheek
    with a drop of chew on the verge
    of flight , and his breath
    of Redman and rust-iron were always old.
    His boots set down small crescents
    to eventually fill
    with water or dust or time,
    and you bet your life he thinks of us.
    But not nearly the way we want, or imagine.

    The world is one big corral
    through which a dusty-devil drags
    its restless pillar of debris.
    and against it he leans in his labors
    like a displace myth
    out of proportioin to the turmoil
    around him. Truth is
    none of us were ever young,
    and this is the weight
    he shoulders as a roan horse might,
    suddenly frozen at the vista’s edge
    with nowhere but down to go,
    and the cowpoke in the saddle
    just crazy enough to ride on.

    Paul H. Cook
    Salt Lake City, Utah

    Late To Work

    Uncle Bugs and Daffy
    have hidden away my shoes.

    They’ve been at it
    daily for years,
    though I’ve just begun.
    The grown-up in the mirror
    is fogged in, out of contact,

    urgent messages fading
    like geese drifting off
    in a sky
    blown full of polka dots.

    So, whose hand is it that
    pours the third cup of tea?
    Whose feet hesitate
    at the threshold?

    Whose tie dangles
    in its approximate noose?

    Let the rest of the world
    throw itself into gear—
    I have this childhood
    confessional to make
    concerning wabbits.
    So never mind the Boss
    who sits behind his desk

    smiling like it was duck-
    hunting season.
    Who cares if his name
    is Elmer.
    So what if he waits like death
    in the reeds at dawn.

    Paul H. Cook
    Salt Lake City, Utah

    FULL SPEED AHEAD

    I saw myself (and you too, buddy)
    in a dream of the future
    with fewer teeth, shorter hair,
    smaller muscles ,like lighter
    weight hot rods of humans.
    And we were not older men.
    Looking around— nobody was.
    It was better than Star Trek,
    better than Star Wars because
    we were there, whipping out
    poems for trillions of readers.
    You see, poetry will be
    In vogue again— your book on
    school desks, my chapbook on
    the charts. We’ll be more famous
    than KISS is to the cavemen;
    of the Seventies. There’ll be
    groupies packed around all
    pneumatic tubes in case we should
    pop oiut, kisd growing weightless,
    orbiting our heads to catch
    our attention— “Me!” “Me!”
    “Over here, poets!” And like
    Spaceships we’ll reach for
    them endlessly, grin broadly
    at each other across the
    mania, perky as Malcom McDowells
    facing al little of the old
    in-out. We were, umm… we’ll be
    Great when we grow up, pal.

    Dennis Cooper
    Los Angeles, California

    MY GRANDMOTHER GROWS

    I remember my grandmother
    in her elegant fifties,
    leaning above my toy bed, bent only
    at the waist like Snow White.

    Her best stories slipped a carousel
    into my room. I rode all day
    then fell asleep, to the rain
    of her small feet in the hall.

    For years I dressed her,
    wrote letters increasingly
    short and typed, and grew up.
    Now she’s alone, so I’ve opened my doors.

    Mornings she flails from sleep
    like a drowning girl:
    some prince should lean there
    complying like a daydream.

    Days she sits over cold coffee
    or lies in the dark
    or climbs the floors
    stooped as if in a cave.

    At nigbt I lead her into my room.
    She tows the merry-go-round,
    but now it is Xerox gray
    and I drop right through it.

    Dennis Cooper
    Los Angeles, California

    IT’S GETTING LATE EARLIER

    where is this again
    party for a poet who makes how much
    and translates a little Chinese on the side

    in one hour she reads two good poems
    the rest should have been sent back
    to the chef until they were cooked

    now she’s sitting with her legs crossed
    manuscripts on her lap
    her right foot twists like a cobra

    she smiles at everyone but me
    i guess she reads her mail

    when she leaves she shakes my hand
    she digs her fingernails into my palm
    she knows I’m tired of dynamite poets
    hurricane poets bad poets and beautiful poets
    who show a lot of leg and a lot of promise
    with only tiny misprints of success to keep them honest

    Franz Douskey
    New Haven, Connecticut

    AFTER BLAKE, AN ALL-NIGHT STAND

    Tremendous eqauations disrupt the dreams
    of famous mathematicians
    and distract then among the grackles.
    Likewise the sun condemns astronomers to stare
    into craters that blaze in vacant lots.

    Pity the scientists who learn too fast and fizz out
    like shook bottles of soda pop.
    Pity more the poet who feels
    the faithful gather in bookstores,
    then invisibly lift him high and laughing , then dissolve.

    There’s no law against this witchcraft,
    no one to stopper its drain on faith.
    The physicists believe each other, so would I.
    But look at this face that’s pasted on my window.
    No matter who reads this, it’s him, or her, it hasn’t any sex,
    though it bleeds where it should cry.

    I’d say it was left by a god, but I’m no Blake,
    No one knocks such metaphysical sense
    into my skull these rainy nights….
    Harvard’s “dark Satanic” science labs are busier than I’d like,
    their trust is in low-discount textbooks.
    I’d like to read them but

    my eyes dangle on springs to my cheeks,
    exploded like eggs
    from a stubborn chicken.
    Topologists, chemists, radiologists, botanists—-
    the single cell defines the species.

    Feel where we used to comb our hair, feel how empty
    these drizzling nights seem,
    our bookshelves tottering in the draft….
    These damp meditations form male wombs—-
    both men and women have them—-
    from which lies like these are torn.

    William Doreski
    Cambridge, Massassachusetts

    WASHING ROCKS
    MADISON COUNTY, N.C.

    Gabrielle Johanson
    five & a half &
    running with thistle
    & sunflowers
    down
    to the spring
    where I sat
    told me all her secrets
    breathless in a
    boston accent
    slipping
    to a country whisper
    said they
    were for me&
    yesterdau she kicked her cat.
    Hard she said
    & waited,
    her soft arms around my neck
    warm cheeks
    lips
    swallowtail eyes
    reaching deeper
    than these mountains
    into me
    her small hands cupped
    with more water
    than you could drink.
    Ever.

    Nadine Estroff
    Atlanta, Georgia

    Appointment in Samarra: J.F.K.-Kolombangara
    Island, New Georgia Archipelago ( August, 1943)-
    Dallas, Texas ( November, 1963 )

    The dream was always the same.

    In that
    awful moment—
    just before impact—
    as the Japanese
    destroyer “Amagiri” ( Heavenly Mist )
    bore down
    out of the
    darkness
    to slice in half
    the fragile motor
    torpedo craft ( PT 109 )
    Death smiled,
    and turned away
    into the
    night.

    Later—
    as the presidential motorcade
    sped thru
    downtown Dallas—
    Death waited,
    ( on a grassy knoll )
    come to keep
    his
    appointment in Samarra.

    L.S. Fallis
    Las Cruces, New Mexico

    Intense Dude, Heavy Brother

    Your mother worked the night-shift
    at the phone company. Midnights
    under the ice-melting lights
    I heard her singing be-bop arias,
    saw her winging our doors
    like Loretta Young or an ageing figure skater
    in her red angora hat
    with pom-poms, sleigh bells.
    She answered her calls "Darla Swank, here."
    and told us about her son
    the musician, who sounded about 32
    with six wives & a kid to support
    playing stranger in the night
    weddings with Tony and The Spotlights.
    She couldn’t have prepared me
    for you, praying for groupies
    to sprout in your path like shadows,
    greeting women with tender kisses
    saying great ass as they turned their backs.
    Pausing like a setter at point
    when a pretty woman passed       whispering stereo
    "hey man, look                           pretending your bone knees
    at that beauty                                churned to butter
    hey, come here                         the dead worm in your pants
    & lie down"                                      in rigor mortis.
    Your guileless eyebrows ready,
    aimed, fired with charm, so vain
    you probably thin this poem’s about you,
    shorthand vocabulary, proving what
    as intense dude, heavy brother you were
    able to lay the most cosmic & bizarre chicks
    made me want to peel off your sequined
    shirt & go to work on bare skin
    scraping to see if there was anything
    warm, anything red, anything
    with a strong taste underneath.
    Last week I saw you walking
    your kleptomaniac eyes
    on their long leash.
    You told me your new band’s name
    & that it had evgerything
    to do with the charisma of Christ,
    pineal gland, third eye, and American Indians.
    As your hand sincerely devoured mine, I remembered
    the way you’d eat everyone’s food
    then say "You weren’t saving that
    or anything, were you?", remembered
    the "artistic" poster in your room:
    a single breast, fingers pulling the nipple
    like someone trying to pluck a crouton
    froma saucer of warm milk,
    and laughter lashed from my throat
    more my own
    than any hate
    I’d improvised with you.

    Alice Fulton
    New York, New York

    Sestina For Janis Joplin

    You called the blue’s loose black belly lover
    and in Port Arthur they called you pig-face.
    The way you chugged booze straight without a glass,
    your brass-assed language, slingbacks with jeweled heel,
    proclaimed you no kin to their muzzled blood.
    no chiclet-toothed Baptist boyfriend for you.

    Strung-out, street-hustling showed men wouldn’t buy you.
    Once you clung to the legs of a lover,
    let him drag you till your knees turned to blood,
    mouth hardened to a thin scar on your face,
    cracked under songs, screams, never left to heal.
    Little Girl Blue, soul pressed against the glass.

    That voice rasping like you guzzled fibber-glass,
    stronger than the four armed men behind you.
    But a pale horse lured you, docile, to heel:
    warm snow flakes pillowed you like a lover.
    Men feared the black holes in your body and face,
    knew what they put in would return as blood.

    Craving fast food ,cars, garish as fresh blood,
    diners with flys and doughnuts under glass,
    formica bars and a surfer’s gold face,
    in nameless motels, after sign-off, you
    let T.V.’s blank bright stare play lover,
    lay still, convinced its cobalt rays could heal.

    Your songs that sound ground under some stud’s heel,
    swallowed and coughed up in a voice like blood:
    translation unavailable, lover!
    No prince could shoe you in unyielding glass,
    stories of exploding pumpkin bored you
    who flaunted tattooed breast and hungry face.

    That night needing a sweet-legged sugar’s face,
    a hot, sky-eyed Southern comfort to heal
    the hurt of senior proms for all but you,
    plain Janis Lyn, self-hatred laced your blood.
    You knew they worshipped drained works, emptied glass,
    legend’s last gangbang, the wildest lover.

    Like clerks we face your image in the glass,
    suggest lovers, as accessories, heels.
    “It’s your shade, this blood dress,” we say. “It’s you.”

    Alice Fulton
    New York, New York

    Sex With Someone Who Resembles Hemingway, Disguised

    As Freud, of course
    plowing through
    a tunel barely
    wide enough
    slippery as wet
    rock but soft
    from all the kittens
    stuffed inside
    with a heart cross-tied
    at the far end
    like a chestnut pony.
    I am so full of animals!
    Tonight when he enters
    I pretend I’m not at home
    so he puts them on
    my scent.
    They have just trailed
    the tunnel and emerged
    onto a promontory where
    they can go no further
    without collapsing
    the bridge. At this point
    the animals rear and wail
    to me, doing their best
    elephant imitations.
    He cries toro! and rallies
    them with a red flag.
    They feel me coming
    long before and start to
    leap like puppies:
    25 housecats
    a sorrel pony
    and he.

    Alice Fulton
    New York, New York

    Sheets

    Hell, she spilled her fifth highball on the sheets.
    Old muslin sheets worn thin as raw egg white.
    Well, she’d make ghost costumes fro trick or treat;
    Bandages, dustrags, from them before night.
    When her husband in clay-stained clothes came home,
    Smelled gin, saw stained laundry obscene in the hall,
    Called her bitch, whore, hating her liquored drone,
    Smashed her hidden bottle against the wall.
    Then punch-drunk but avenged, swallowed his yells
    Like baby crocodiles siphoned down drains.
    Contritely cracked new sheets like crisp egg shells,
    Broke, baptised on the bed, sheets like champagne,
           Distilled rare chablis from tears that she’d cried
           While she hung his damp screams outside to dry.

    Alice Fulton
    New York, New York

    Gifts

    After years like these, you might have expected
    the sharp crack of pine snapping under my feet, not
    a room such as this
    where the days glance in off the gritted brick and
    the words again fall from each new page, as though
    they had gone unwillingly
    by this dim light at which I an stationed. Yet
    all is not lost. The keys
    do sometimes drop into place, and tonight,
    with tight hands gone quite vacant, I gaze out
    across the courtyard and see her
    in her well-lit room, the sheet soft about
    her waist and thevbasin balanced on her thighs,
    As she bends slightly forward
    to slowly wash her breasts
    with the sweet oil that I gave her.

    Roger Gaess
    Washington, Connecticut

    A LESSON OF NIGHT

    Deep in the shadows of your room
    where even the moon is a stranger,
    you play your flute again
    in front of the little cage.

    You have heard of Haydn’s parrot,
    of how in the night
    when all senses were void of their office
    except for the sense of sound,
    a captured bird was taught a human tune.

    But the tiny finch behind your bars
    only listens to the breath inside your flute,
    only hears your fingers fly again tonight.

    Your sound is clear and full
    of everytinig you want from him.
    But this room, this little cage
    does not give back your tune
    no matter how dark it may be.

    Charles Ghigna
    Homewood, Alabama

    YOU AND THE LADY WITH THE HAT

    We try to overlook the distance
    that sits between us
    like a lady with a hat,
    but every time we stand, she stands.

    Charles Ghigna
    Homewood, Alabama

    UNCLE JOHN

    You were the gent in the
    the three piece suit and straw hat
    who came unannounced from Rochester
    and wouldn’t knock on our back door
    or ring the bell
    you sat in your car
    sometimes past sunset
    until we walked out and
    discovered you with our amazed faces
    or until a neighbor phoned us
    about a strange man
    wandering about our yard

    you ate dinner with us those nights
    and sucked your teeth through tea
    as you told stories about your fajnily
    and the job you almost had

    later I crept into my mother’s bed
    because you were arguing
    with ghosts
    in the room across the hall
    and I couldn’t sleep

    mother said you were an old man
    those were your prayers
    but I knew different

    I knew how angry
    you must have been
    the first time and every time
    you walked into a room
    and found them staring at you:
    your dead mother, dead sisters
    uninvited, stupidly waiting
    to be found

    Margaret Griffith
    Chadron, Nebraska

    jane mccrowley, my

    mother’s cousin’s mother’s aunt
    you were a hard one to figure

    they say you drifted
    from room to room
    your hands
    two breathing angels
    blessing the wash
    of mud curled
    like a hesitant kitten
    in the corners of stained
    glass windows

    blessing the fierce
    jaws and carved brown teeth
    of the pride of lions
    which crouched beneath the couch
    and
    the furry eyebrowed ancestors
    necks craned like bald birds
    your hands blessed and blessed
    two breathing angels
    wings demurely folded
    waiting
    mad

    as a spring day in December
    you never opened your mouth
    to talk except
    once right in the middle of
    great grandfather’s funeral you
    started to chatter like a monkey
    saying
    first there’s nothing, then
    the vines slither and the leaves
    pop out pop in and out
    in the middle there’s a pumpkin
    big orange thing
    and then you shuddered
    into silence

    and one other time, my
    mother’s cousin told me
    she came upon you
    stone asleep in
    your moon-soaked room
    an old woman
    lost in a white shapeless gown
    singing
    in your sleep
    like a bird

    Cynde Gregory
    Albany, New York

    down & out in apartment 5-d

    the apartment looks
    like a junk yard,
    crumpled rejection slips & beer cans
    scattered over the floor like wrecked cars.
    my poems grow anemic & pale.
    sometimes late at night
    they cry.
    i’ve lost thirty pounds
    just on submissions.
    i’m so small
    i can slip through a keyhole
    & pick up the mail.
    each day the mailman
    gets thinner
    & thinner
    as he walks down the street
    & disappears
    into a crack in the sidewalk.
    i pick him up
    like a toothpick,
    stick him between my teeth
    & bite so hard
    he can’t deliver
    anymore rejection slips.

    Jan E.M. Haas
    New York, New York

    RED CURRENTS

    i feel numb
    only the sound
    of jet engines
    high over Pittsburgh
    i’m afraid
    talking to myself
    about us
    into the void
    at the trieste café in frisco
    you & i talked about our future
    the quilt we slept under
    at our first apartment on strathmore road
    the drive north through big sur
    the fluorescent waves
    san simeon
    early mornings
    much coffee
    i walk ainlessly
    and watch the sun break
    between boston skyscrapers
    i feel red currents swelling inside
    the day ending
    i remember the july morning
    you wanted out
    now I want only to watch you
    blow-drying your shortened hair
    brushing your teeth
    putting make-up on
    as you keep pace with your early morning ritual
    i remember you
    framed by an easterly faced window
    adorned with plants at a place once our own
    considering my irishness
    i apologize
    i can still hear you saying
    no one ever hit my heart so hard

    Philip Hackett
    Boston, Massachusetts

    RELINQUISHING

    She let him go
    like a lost wallet
    containing many things –
    nothing irreplaceable.

    She let him go
    on his fact-finding mission
    for God —
    askew
    in his particular way,

    stuck for hours at a time
    staring not over or through
    his glasses’ frames
    nor quite at the floor,

    wandering off to scrutinize
    the God-discovering potential
    in a dime store:

    the odor he fancied
    obliquely sacramental,
    the toys, balloons and balls,
    the plastic smell
    and whiff of cosmetics
    grainy in the air.

    Through inhaling this
    subtle tragedy spirirualized
    in mercanile vapors,
    he said he was drawn upward.

    She let him go
    like a burial at sea —
    how very sad. What relief.
    She’d miss him so.
    She hoped he’d sink.

    At first he said
    his research would take shape
    in a diagram.
    “A Deity blueprint?” she said.
    He smiled but looked concerned.

    Later she found him
    tinkering with math.

    She let him go like fireworks,
    a roman candle or shooting star,
    lit him off and hoped
    he’d explode.

    He undertook to do sketches
    in the dark.
    Sometimes he would
    stand on his head
    or hold his breath.

    He brought home holy men
    arrived from overseas,
    their gesticulating translators,
    professors of philosophy
    and priests.

    The pantry and the coat closet
    filled chest-high with books.

    She sighed with happiness
    when he drove away
    to the mountain to fast.
    For a while her life was
    delightfully plain.

    She daydreamed over coffee
    and sometimes watched t.v..

    When he came back
    he built large cardboard structures
    and odd humming machines
    designed he said
    to resonate to, and detect,
    unseen force.

    He began experiments
    in talking to the dead.

    Then one day he got well.
    He gave away all
    but a shelf full of books.
    They once again made love.
    His business voted him
    man of the year.

    With gentle humor, she’d say,
    “You must have found
    what you were looking for.”
    And with an odd resilient look
    he never lost

    he never said.

    Tom Hawkins
    Raleigh, North Carolina

    THE GREAT GANG BANG, 1939

    Rubber was the first prerequisite
    and usually the hardest item to find;
    we needed plenty.
    Then nails and pieces of good wood
    that had to be just the right size,
    about a foot long was best,
    and an inch thick.
    Clothespins, the old round two-pronged type,
    were the easiest thing to get.
    Then all we needed were girls.

    We made our guns: the rubber
    we got frm old tire innertubes;
    cut into half inch strips
    like huge rubber bands
    stretched around the block of wood
    they held the clothespin which was handle
    and loading chamber.
    The trigger was the nail,
    our bullets
    were an innertube’s yield of bands.

    Put together in propoer fashion
    you got
    a GumBandGun.

    You were Tom Mix or Buck Jones
    riding your great white stallion
    paddling your ass over a summer hill
    and the girls
                                 were the bad guys.

    Haywood Jackson
    Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania

    TIT FOR TAT

    Helen did it. I made her
    teach me to dance in the
    high school hallway one day.

    When I was the monitor,
    guarding the lavatory,
    she came along, without a pass.

    Well. With that position
    of supreme authority,
    how could I fail to

    make it pay off big?
    We danced a stately,
    storklike dance,

    and that very night
    she called me to her
    house on Rose Mont Hill

    to help, she said,
    her make white lace
    doilies for her folks.

    See, she never had,
    and I knew how,
    and her folks were

    out.

    Haywood, Jackson
    Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania

    FOOTNOTE

    When I first saw her in the Heights, she tripped my
    attention at once; a very footsome girl if ever I’d seen one. She
    was carrying some heavy bundles and I politely asked her if
    she needed a foot. As our feet brushed over the bundles I
    knew we had gotten off on the right foot.

    As we walked through the crowd I told her that she had
    beautiful feet, and that I could tell by her long, elegant toes
    that she must be a musician.l She confessed that she did play
    the foot-organ. We fell into step naturally as we reached her
    apartment and she asked me to come upstairs and rest my
    feet.

    I sat down in a leather chair that squeaked like a new
    shoe. She removed her sandles and told me I could take off my
    shoes if I felt like it. I did and our imtimacy grew rapidly. We
    exchanged shoe sizes and she told me a bit about her life. She
    had led a rather foot to mouth existence and I told her that
    that was the kind of life I had always dreamed of living, but
    that I had always felt like I had two left feet.

    I sensed she was toeing with me but I wasn’t sure I
    wanted to be footcuffed to someone I hardly knew. On the
    one foot, Iwanted her, but, on the other foot, I was afraid of
    the commitment that might imply.

    She made the first move. I never would have forced her
    foot the way she did mine for fear of rejection. But believe
    me, I am a pretty footy fellow, and as our feet entangled I
    felt as though I had stepped on a footgrenade. It was that
    explosive a sensation. She was also ambipedrous which added
    to the excitement.

    Afterwards, she confessed that she had changed feet a
    lot, but I said I wouldn’t hold this against her. It was then that
    we both saw the footwriting on the wall and knew this was for
    keeps. Perhaps it was the way she held up the footglass to
    admire our feet, or the way she rested her chin on one foot as
    she looked up at me, but I knew I was deeply in love.

    I gave her my ankle bracelet and she gave me a toering as
    beautiful as any that had ever adorned a toe, and for the first
    time in our lives we both felt we finally had a toehold on
    existence. We pledged to put our best foot forward and to
    always footle each other with care.

    Nick Johnson
    Brooklyn, New York

    BLACKOUT

    A storm trooper blacksabbath day
    turned to nightmind
    crackling with laughter
    ghost-shriek and eerie, death-boned
    icedrums of thunder deafening the lights
    a fuse-blowing wail of a rock group
    computer-storm blind blackout seconds
    wondering
    if this cruel age oF skycscrapers
    has passed away at last
    into the future
    of canoes.

    Tom Jones
    Washington, D.C

    CYCLE POEM

    A YOUNG MAN roars up to 115 Live Oak Lane.

    A YOUNG WOMAN has been waiting a long time for this moment.
    Nick is the least popoular boy in school and so cute that
    most of the girls say they would do anything to ride
    behind him.

    AN OLDER MAN looks at Nick in his leather pants. He sees
    that Suzanne adores him and follows in the Buick. Sure
    enough, after some junk food Nick takes Suzanne to his
    place, a garage with spare parts gleaming everywhere,
    even over the bed. The man peeks through the window.
    Nick makes Suzanne dance to the radio and take off
    her clothes. The man is repelled for hours and barely
    beats them home.

    AN OLDER WOMAN listens to her husband’s report. She
    is disgusted yet later in bed finds herself enormously
    capable. She thinks this is just the ticket. It turns
    out to be a fine night for everyone.

                  BUT WAIT

    The young woman and the two older people live on the memory
    of the evening they refer to as Nick’s NIght. When Nick does
    not ask Suzanne ourt after a week or two, father buys daughter
    her first revealing blouse and skintight pants. Nothing
    doing. So mother also gets dolled up and hangs around with
    the tough crowd after school. Still no. Finally they
    mortgage the house and buy three Vincent Black Shadows.
    The whole family roars over to Nick’s place who — when
    he hears the punctual revving — wonders what he is in for.

    Ronald Koertge
    South Pasadena, California

    Morning Raga

    The little blond schoolgirl voluptuary in green
    shades, cutoffs, halter top, filigree gold pen-
    dants & jade bracelets by whose waters I sat down
    awaiting the S bus, had perched her petulant
    little ass on the backrest of the busbench; her
    huge green platform shoes commandeered the seat
    beside mine; her midriff-omphalos being no more
    than a twist fom my yawning lips I could as
    easily have reached over & bit into a soft chunk
    of her belly as not. The assault on the sun by
    the whiteness of women’s bodies. NO, in this
    case the darkness. She was bronzed to a turn.
    But the restraint of jacket & tie, the propspect
    of oboviously ghastly consequences & the spec-
    kled green vulgarity of her painted big toe
    disssuaded me. Besides, it was a work-day &
    far too early in the morning for festivities.
    The sun was just beginning to bubble up
    over Collins Avenue.

    Steve Kowit
    San Diego, California

    Small Business Boom

    A spaghetti-headed hippie in a black fedora
    & his droopy-eyed Chicano sidekick
    are dealing dope
    across the street from Horton Plaza.
    Spaghetti keeps bumping into pedestrians,
    an unorthodox approach
    but it gets results:
    he offs three lids in ten minutes
    & the brunette
    in the hot-pink hot pants
    & maroon sweater strutting
    it down the street likewise
    looks to be doing a brisk business.

    Steve Kowit
    San Diego, California

    City Skip

    Skip roll-rocks his burgeoning way
           to the burly night-speaks of east L.A.
    A rabid reflection in a Figueroa windowpane,
           he pulls a purple bottle
                  from a brown paper bag.
    Producing prodigious wind-sacks
                  of badly weakened syntax,
           he does a quick jig and a taxi flag.
    The he flames down to Hollywood in a yellow cab,
           where he postleans, corner-smokes,
                  coinjingles and dirty-jokes his way
           into the celluloid heart of old L.A.
    His shirt is open, sunning pimples on his chest
           beneath the brash blue aura
                  of steeltree blue lamps.
    He runs, alley-wise, with nostrils flaring,
           with wind-fly ears, roaring, swearing,
                  seeking solace in the slap-rip noises
                         of the city play-seeks.
    Eyes filled with Babylonian image bombs,
                         he’s digging all the freaks.
    Flash, splash, wheeze, he jerks,
                  stoned again, his legs berserk,
           as the neon color wizardry works
                  on the bewildering screen
                         of a Tequila sky . . .
           and if you get in his way, he’ll black your eye.
    Whiskey stars, like double-shot choirs,
                  sing to Skipper’s deeper desires,
                         goading him to seek and acquire
                                a suitable receptacle
                  amid the parking lot tires
                  for the guiltless power of his ringing chimes.
    So, he buys a blue lady for a real good time.
    Trollop, trollop, the seed bag sways
           rocking Skipper’s turnstyle away,
                  in the deep dim of the hob-knob bob,
                         long and squeeking,
                  delightedly creaking
           the dawn from its sleep.
    It’s all observed by a peeping tom creep,
           who tramples the bushes outside by the street.
    The lady then leaves while Skip’s asleep.
    His wallet, watch and jewelry she keeps.
    He wakes up, his mind in limbo,
           ripped off by the L.A. bimbo.

    Michael G. Leigh
    Long Beach, California

    THE OLD LOT

    They cleared the old lot
    and found bones    a cat,
    a rat skeleton
    and weeds with strong deep roots,
    weeds with white flowers in the spring.
    They found holes empty    and cans,
    bottles and a letter to John Germaine.

    One of the workers opened it,
    an unlined sheet of paper,
    the words     I loved you once,
    and nothing more.

    It was a hazard     the old lot
    dry     a match would hit like lightning,
    burn and crackle.

    Now the dust shimmies in the wind.
    Like on the flat plain of the desert
    far off,
    you see things coming
    and they come.

    Martin Levy
    Los Angeles, California

    JENNIFER

    A hole where the heart should be
    I’ve no life left for you   litte fish   you leap between my hips
    Double every day your impossible demands
    Pregnant at forty   I’m grotesque   frightened   I’ll lose my job
    The frame house in Venice   the weedy yard
    Where my son practices jump shots after school
    Nights, I dig heels against the mattress
    Pull blankets over my head
    Crazy   I slide a knintting needle from the ball of wool
    Sharpen it with a file   sterilize it over a stove burner
    Until heat sears thru the asbestos glove
    One strong push upward into tissue —
    My hands are water   the needle rolls unused on the bathroom rug
    Scared of myself I throw up again and again
    Blunder off curbs into traffic

    Late July   I swim to the surface in shop windows
    My glass self in a sleeveless maternity dress
    Arms smooth and brown
    Bean vine
    You climb my backbone
    Fill me out in front      I roof you over
    Wall you in   you are mine
    You push tendrils up thru my eyes   my mouth
    I sing of you and weep
    The monstrous pains begin   something’s gone wrong
    The young doctor can’t hear your heart beat
    He shifts his stethoscope over the nave of my belly
    We both sweat   I bear down
    You slide out on the bloody cloths
    Blue-white and cold
    Your breath does not come

    The hospital packs my overnight bag
    Sends me home   after the burial   I totter
    Around the living room on two dry twigs
    Dust table tops   therapy   my son
    Twists sideways over the weed stubble
    LIfts the ball above his head   stubborn
    Trying to get it right
    His shot strikes the metal rim   thump
    Thump the side of the house
    I stand in the center of the room
    Eyes closed   dust cloth pressed against my mouth
    Boards shudder   indent   recoil
    Bone jar   fists thud into flesh   my bruises leap and connect

    Carol Lewis
    Santa Monica, California

    WAR GAMES
                       to my son

    You draw colored lines on maps
    Blue for us   red for them
    Books stacked in your room
    Details of machine guns   artillery
    We watch old war movies on TV   black and white
    That’s an AK-50   you explain
    A Sherman and Tiger duel
    Walls in the village collapse
    The hero wears the broad freckled face of Nebraska
    Just doing hi job
    Wipes out a tank with his last grenade
    Black wounds open
    The enemy crawls forward   hair and clothes on fire
    His agony existed before you were born
    And will exist

    Feetup on the coffee table
    You handle the remote control switch
    Armies fan out across valleys
    Generals pose over maps   parcel out countries
    Waterloo   Iwo Jima
    You refight them all and win big
    Nights   the enemy advances   his cannon pound your suburbs
    His sappers blow your barbed wire
    The cry from your room wakes me
    Your strongholds crumbling
    I am in another country
    Too far away to help

    Carol Lewis
    Santa Monica, California

    THE CANDIDATE

    is running so fast
    you can’t tell
    what he’s doing
    He tap dances

    into your bed
    jogs around
    your nipoples   verbs
    blur   he wraps

    his smile around
    you tight   it’s
    so fast you
    don’t know how

    your panties
    got on the floor
    or where he’s been
    You can’t tell

    where you stand
    in the wind
    that sucks you
    breathless when

    he rushes out
    leaving holes   walls
    that don’t connect
    to any ceiling

    from this twister
    that slams you into
    stone   like his twisted words

    lyn lifshin
    Niskayuna, New York

    WINE   APPLE SMOKE AND WINDCHIMES

    apple smoke
    must have been
    pulling on the
    vines i could feel my hands
    stretching toeward
    you like the ivy
    knotted   i wanted to un
    button   black
    velvet i could hlf feel your
    fingers thru already
    you carried me up 3 flights
    canteloup light   slow
    and moving a
    piece of night like maple
    syrup thrown on snow
    colored of stained glass
    you could eat

    lyn lifshin
    Niskayuna, New York

    the bride of the hound of the baskervilles

    the honeymoon was over
    when she caught him
    absentmindedly drying
    his penis on her face towel

    Gerald Locklin
    Long Beach. California

    jam fa jamaica

    munch lime   sip sky juice   slurp ksikimp pine
    honey bee bus   from mo bay   tree behine   chat/flat?/scratch?
    climb eel el spine bluesy mt. revery
    twelth tribe gullies airwaves upon babylon
    quick step   wait-a-bit   smell english mon
    me no sen   you no come   cockpit country   is a halt
    whence lamb’s blood benevolence   visions from judah
    hazard apocalyptic name   mane rye-chee-ous-ness
    driven off plains   sieve plots   hand idle land idle
    abeng call pall: garoo garoooo garoooooo

    shrink credit   crime caution   daily   gleaning
    surfeit shoal    dovecote whistling   toady motto
    cricket creak out of anyone people won people

    runaway bay bay   stout dragon’s creeping fish redeemer
    tout lout flagon   fume barreling rheum

    grueled effigy keen exorbitant gas
    impossible to purchase face cream masque
    clean house!   after maid!   all   the life

    me whan go home   heart down   head turn   a round
    bout trench town six bends yard boil

    hewer of wood   drawer of water   caster of stone
    smile gem acre   hope’s gardener   marooned coral aisle
    in heart land garvey nanny nyam bammy   rule mon-a-cool

    star ward   herons dip   poise   sleek viney web
    ibo eye   feeshire   cool tumbling spring
    wheel on   clipped prpophecy   cane hack   tough black scar line
    tug push pull bump sway drift raft
    capatain mento lean streaks mauve sunset:
    "ahm troo mahn   budt ama pooer mahn yusee
    ah hav likkle skoolin   ah hav to wok verry verry odddd
    budt pooer mahn dai soon come   so-shall-eesm bettah fa awl"

    back pasture   salt gut   spur tree
    rat trap   lambs river   ginger hill
    oracabesso   rio bueno

    salvation army blares liberty
    in twilight square of port antonio

    Charles Lynch
    Brooklyn, New York

    NOVEMBER NIGHT

    The fishscale snow
    stacks on the shed’s
    only window, the rope
    whispers to the beam,
    the black loft beyond
    the lantern’s law;
    playing on the planks,
    the pup rewinds his
    shadow,cocks his
    heaed at the stiff
    legs of the deer,
    the knife standing
    on the oiled stone.

    James Magorian
    Helena, Montana

    My father is a hubcap.
    My mother is a sheel.
    But they don’t get around much anymore.

    I remember the paisley seatcovers
              in our 1960 Ford.
    I used to stroke them for hours.
    My father caught me one day.
    I still had dust on my fingers.
    I couldn’t explain.
    But I knew that beneath his gabardine slacks,
            he had paisley legs just like mother’s back.
    I tried to explain.
    He shifted his cotton-briefed hips,
            and mother smiled.
    That’s when I noticed her teeth fit
            together like a zipper in gabardine lips.
    I continued to explain.
    Mother turned away and rolled into the kitchen,
            and father collapsed with a clatter.

    The Ford was sold to a neighbor with hives,
             but I still carry the dust of those seatcovers
             with me in an aspirin bottle in my purse,
             and the paisley heart of my fingers
             yet beats for the upholstery of my youth.

    man
    Santa Monica, California

    TRAIN

    You buy a paperback to read on the train.
    A novel about broken promises and their
    consequences. The hero is looking for
    someone who understands the demands made
    by loneliness.

    A secondary characater seems strangely
    familiar. You soon realize that this
    character has many of your own faults and
    virtues. Even more startling, this
    fictitioius creation comes from your home
    town.

    Your uneasiness lessens as the novel’s
    hero once more becomes the story’s main
    focus. While having supper in the dining
    car, you mull over the novel’s implications
    and speculate on the outcome of the hero’s
    romances.

    Back in your seat, you resume reading.
    Again, the character who resembles you
    surfaces. The character, like yourself, is
    married. Your spouses hve the same name.
    The revelation is unnerving.

    The character must make a business trip and
    boardes a train. He buys a novel to passs the
    time. The coincidence has become frightening.

    After an evening meal the character returns
    to his seat and resumes rfeading. You glance
    at your watch. The character looks at his
    watch and shortly thereafter the train has a
    terrible collision. Dropping the book, you
    grab for the emergency cord but already the
    brakes are screeching with the crunch of metal
    not far behind.

    Robert Matte Jr.
    Tucson, Arizona

    One in a Million

    I hug my step-baby, I heat his bottle.
    Finland is the thin frown my mother gives me.
    My father stacks vegetables on the seacoast;
    he phones he’ll kill my boyfriend if I have one.

    The doctors peel my girlfriends’ jeans off
    like adhesive and stick hooks up inside them.
    If Friday night doesn’t find them on the floor,
    the mortuary arrives for them on Monday.

    I can’t control myself around Tattoos, though;
    they beat me into the kitchen, I pull a knife.
    Once the librarian pulled my blouse off;
    I wouldn’t sit for his kids now if he begged me.

    This is what I do to keep my distance:
    I laugh like an old detective, I collect fractures;
    I also collect black lace, hair driers and hats.
    If it ever rains, I set out buckets for it.

    Will I chase the wind with a birdcage when I’m thirty,
    or bring posies to the animal graveyard,
    homesick for despair? I’ve slept so long
    the prince will have to wake me with a hammer.

    Mark McCloskey
    Los Angeles, California

    The Last Delaware is a Bellydancer

    The day my aunt goes down the hole in her,
    I’ll be the last Delaware on the West Coast.
    I already know the ears of the dead are cave-ins.
    There were no reservations where I grew up.

    The grown-ups who went crazy had the truck route;
    the rest of us were parked with the lights off,
    bending the rules of hearsay into letdown.
    Sixteen was tired when she got to me.

    Still I put myself in the hands of blondes . . .
    and no boy came for me to say no to.
    The weak are the oldest hunters and don’t miss:
    I threw myself on sex while it was grazing.

    My car let no one drive it but me.
    I rode it like an Indian pony at the speedway,
    and though it always fell short of the best time,
    hundreds of men paid to see my weekends.

    My teachers’ dirty looks are asleep now.
    Soon they’ll talk of Chief Belly Dance
    and her massacre of the marriages at Moon Creek.
    I won’t be the last anything if I can help it.

    Mark McCloskey
    Los Angeles, California

                Dancer

                She didn’t know why she recalled her mother
    that day. Her mother’s four-fingered hand on the
    wheel of the old Ford, steering through country
    roads, complaining about the heat and talking,
    non-stop. Just like she didn’t know exactly why
    she asked her mother to stop and pull to the side
    of the road where she got out.
    "I have to dance," she said. And did in a frenzy.
    "I just have to dance."

                Maybe it was the boy
                strumming his bike
                along the sun

                building up on the sand bar
                that made her think
                of that day

                while she waded
                in white cotton pants
                rolled up to the knee

                and listened to the sky
                blueing and clams whanging
                in a rusty pail

                The wind whipped loose hair
                and plugged her ears
                with sea chants

                And then she got that feeling
                again. After all thsoe years
                That feeling

                She swiveled out of her clothes
                and faded woolen bathingsuit
                & danced

                deeper and deeper into the water
                while the blue china sky churned
                up whitecaps & everything

                gathered into a bloody sunset
                & clams swelled in a pail
                abandoned at the shore

    roberta metz
    New York, New York

    KADDISH

    On a crowded bus an old man stares,
    gives up his seat and comes over to her.
    "You look just like him," he says
    and she wonders,
    transforming this whisper of a man
    into grandpa’s heroic physique,
    dressing him in pin-stripes
    and a woolen cap that always cast a shadow
    over his one good eye.
    Could it be?
    No, grandpa was bigger. Much taller.
    "Your grandfather was a prince, my best friend
    in the world. I sometimes say a prayer for him,"
    She offered him her seat, a lifesaver.
    He followed her off the bus.
    She ordered him a coffee, something to eat.
    "Thanbks for the tonic, but favors I don’t need."
    and pressed some coins in her hand.
    He confessed he received messages
    from his dead aunt on his mother’s side.
    And kept pointing two fingers
    as if to shoot her.
    She walked him to the bus stop.
    And helped him up.
    He said, "It’s important for a man to have children."
    The bus started to move.
    He called out the window. "Who will pray for me?"
    She didn’t know.

    robert metz
    New York, New York

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