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  • Urthkin 1 – Part 2

                             BLOODY BABS
                   (The Ballad of Barbara Graham)

    cracking her hard cool surface
    in the halls of the blind
    she was just a tough frightened kid
    with the devil in her

               trailing in the auras, mandalas
               imprinted on the ancient stone
               where she sips the blood of her children

    illegitimate daughter of a juvenile offender,
    mama stuck her in reform school at thirteen;
    according to San Francisco officers
    she had been very promiscuous sexually

               at the age of five, Walter was
               paralyzed on the right side, wracked
               by frequent seizures

    practicing prostitution for several years –
    pretty girl alone in a bar means just one thing
    she confessed, ‘if i’d been an ugly duckling,
    it wouldn’t have had to happen this way’

               he showed severely disturbed speech
               & was found on testing to have a mental
               age of four

    married a mechanic, then a sailor in ’43
    he shipped out while she made a perjury rap
    covering for two buddies ina burglary case
    she got paroled, worked as a dice girl in Reno

               after medication failed to stop the seizures,
               Walter’s doctors reluctantly carried out
               a drastic operation

    married a salesman, then a bartender (junkie)
    who gave her his name – meanwhile got fed up on him
    & went with a little sporty guy, face like a weasel;
    steered clients by the rod to his gambling palace

               the removal of the whole left hemisphere
               of Walter’s brain – today, 21 days alter
               he is an industrial executive & part-time student

    she resembled Lana Turner, ran with John Santo
    Californiqa hold-up man long enough to shakedown
    the crippled ex-mother-in-law of a Vegas Gambler
    suspected of holding his cash

               the doctor could show that the adult right
               hemisphere reads & follows directions which
               the subject cannot then repeat

    who on the night of March 3, 1953 being fascinated
    by the Purple Pony Murders, answered the door
    to a man who shoved her back while he shoveled
    awful shapes into her hat & coat closet

               the apartheid of St. Paul, the separation
               of left & right hemispheres – innocence
               as the avoiding of experience

    detectives picked up safecracker, he chattered:
    it was Shorter did the job with Santo,
    John True, Emmet "Weasel" Perkins, and his girl
    Barbara Graham

               in a corridor of doors, nightmare of
               gesturing disembodied leapers buried beneath
               a thousand poisoned Colorado Rocky Mountain sheep

    Shorter got called – first down to headquarters
    & then for a short ride with Perkins; he allowed
    as how he heard Barbara had pistol-whipped Mrs. Monahan
    who was bound & helpless – he was only lookout

               Freud pointed out that the dream still retained
               the fantastic freedom of association known to us
               before only from ancient art (1)

    cuddly & cute, she ws bagged in suburban Linwood
    a month later – she refused to answer any questions
    or to take a lie detector test & while in the can
    she became friendly with a young married woman

               the eyes are the windows of the soul
               & thru them the spirits may enter into & animate
               the lifeless limbs of modern man

    who was doing time for auto manslaughter,
    she was only twenty – Barbara wanted her to get
    a man who could fix an alibi but Donna tipped
    the screws & avoided getting extra time for sodomy

               ordinarily when questioned the eyes are turned
               briefly to the side opposite their most activated
               cerebral hemisphere

    meanwhile True wanted to turn State’s evidence
    & Santo hired an ex-con to enter the crowded courtroom
    to spalsh him with napalm, roasting him alive
    but Judge Fricke fixed him with troopers & detectives

               the reptile brain is still intact in the head;
               the limbic node, it is a horseshoe-shaped organ
               located in the base of the skull

    then Sirianni got on the stand & told that he
    had been offered twenty-five grand to make
    the alibi & introduced a note which showed
    the defendant entertaining an abnormal affection
          for her cell-mate

               the cortex was simply wrapped around it
               & functioned in two modes: sexual & ferocity –
               the switch could be detected in the mobility
                    of the face

    & even as it was going on the record,
    Barbara’s voice, sharp with anger & hurt
    lashed across the courtroom:
    did they even have to read that?

               the reptile brain has no ferocity:
               it simiply fights coldly for survival
               while the mammal brain engenders a sense
                    of community

    "hi baby -your note was so sweet
    i want you honey but we shouldn’t
    start anything we couldn’t stop
    or let ourselves fall in too deep"

               an outer eight inches of new braind
               covers the mammal bulk – the neo-cortex
               is incredibly complicated

    then she recalled that she had been home
    with hubby Graham who said before
    that he was with his mother
    but subsequently found his memory refreshed

               curiously the new brain seems to have been
               created for problems more complicated than
               those it is now being used for

    she walked the last walk with
    her shapely body stuffed in a skintight
    beige dress, long earnings dangled,
    her lips werer painted crimson

               phote: 1955 – Barbara sobs
               as she kisses hand of her third child
               Tommy, in Los Angeles County jail

    1. The use of this quotation as well as many of the ideas in this poem is by courtesy of Robert Bly.

    Erin St. Mawr
    Middlebury, Vermont

    american dream

    twist off
    my rubber neck love
    resealable, but not rehealable.
    teflon tradegy
    a new innovation in cleansing emotions
    mine, yours.
    scrape me into the trash masher
    crying saran wrap tears
    on a garbage can curb.
    hurting, like a brillo pad dance
    across a crusty vegetable
    dinner dream.
    by now
    your ivory white dishes
    have dripped dry
    and the meal is forgotten.
    what’s for dinner
    tomorrow night?

    Randy Schultz
    Santa Monica, California


    I was in my treehouse
    patching this or fixing that
    or hammering down another board
    using twenty-four nails
    before I got one to go
    all the way in without bending
    Sometimes we would leaf through
    the shagy remains of a Playboy
    staring at the thighs and
    stiff nipoples
    And when the bigger kids came by
    the place would smell like
    stale tobacco
    I could hear my mother singing
    from inside the house
    One time I heard her yell
    my name. I rushed in to
    the smoky kitchen after
    a quick oil fire in a frying pan
    was already out
    But my mother
    held me tight in her arms
    I wanted to go back outside
    but she held me tight in her arms
    and repeated my name, softly
    Her apron smelled like
    fried chicken

    Randy Schultz
    Santa Monica, California


    She sits among the magazine covers
    trying to look like the April issue
    hoping he’ll mistake her for the Noxzema girl
    He leans on the thin-worn soles of
    Salvation Army tennis shoes wishing
    he had a skinny mustache like Clark Gable
    She tries hard not to look too interested
    too ready, too lonely
    He reaches for the latest Time
    and wishes his life were more fiction than fact
    She notices the way the corners of his eyes
    watch her, stroke her
    He sees her HOT STUFF t-shirt
    and the way her bare nipples push
    against the white cotton, gasping for air
    She notices the lumps in his pants
    are in the right places
    He picks up Sports Illustrated, brushing
    against her, softly
    Theri eyes meet, lock in silence
    She looks away quickly, then back
    An embarrassed smile
    rolls over both faces like a salty wave
    They both stand, drenched
    He asks her name

    Randy Schultz
    Santa Monica, California


    with a cast-iron rage
    from fouler foundries

    I could chew him up
    and spit him out

    but when we were kids
    I’d walk around him
    or he’d beat me
    black and blue

    that scarred battler
    of rumbles
    laughing at things
    that made me want
    to cry.

    Nicky Selditz
    Los Angeles, California


    Ceasing for the moment,
    his urgent business of grooming,
    the monkey squints out through
    the bars, finds his world
    encircled by two-legged giants,
    stuffing themselves with candies,
    hot dogs, ice cream, tonics,
    leering, pointing, jeering.
    Angered, mortified, he swings
    by his tail, clutches the bars,
    steadies himself, spits out.
    Spectators scatter, retreat,
    abandoning hot dogs, ice creams,
    candies, cold drinks.
    The monkey, appeased, resumes his
    urgent business, having equated
    his own disdain
    to his ego’s satisfaction.

    Harry B. Sheftel
    Washington, D.C.


    As a mountain lion
    crouches on a crag, intense,
    silent, still, only a minute swish
    of his tail stirs a bit of dust,
    betrays his concentration.
    I focus carefully, break no
    stillness, for I would have
    my film portray the primiitiveness
    of his stance, the grief in his
    unblinking eyes, etch in each
    taut muscle, each unsheated claw.
    I have a powerful regret
    as I take my pictures,
    for I must excise bars, and
    superimpose a forested mountain
    to give some verisimiltude.

    Harry B. Sheftel
    Washington, D.C.

    Alice’s Cafe

    this cafe
    is run by a new breed of cat in the street

    they serve hair
    with the wheaties

    you select in the corner:
    drop a dime in,
    get a wrold’s record–

    the old man was telling me
    just yesterday
    you get serviced at this cafe

    by a nice girl from town
    with nothing more thriling
    than to service

    she slices her fingers for you
    with the pie

    wear Levi’s! come on out!

    this cafe
    has a fly-stunning fan
    somebody lost the paint
    somebody ran out on her husband

    come on out!
    we got rowboats in back!

    the flooor of this cafe
    was once used as a checker board
    now there’s a farmer’s nose in the handkerchief

    the menus ar published with stains
    porterhouse steak: three ninety stain

    outside this cafe
    the highway runs into a city
    killing the cook

    we got picnic tbles!
    swings for the kids!
    make your own paper airplanes!

    Joseph Somoza
    Las Cruces, New Mexico

    Where They Don’t Belong

    Sudden gut hump
    Ride road machine
    Over bone.
    Bump you squirm
    Marrow thud.

    I didn’t even
    What was a
    Goddam dog
    Doing in the
    Middle of.

    Crippling yelp
    Flailling limb
    They don’t

    David Sterry
    Portland, Orgeon

    NEW YORK SUBWAY HAIKU (or Close to One)

    to nowhere
    Land of Nod Mongolia,
    newsprint-glued bodies
    steel eyelids
    stock market’d

    till suddenly
    doors opening
    & walking

    a Chinese mother
    holding the hand
    of her 5 yr. old

       his fullround
    ivory moon face,
    black jade eyes

    * * * A sea horse
    over the edge
    of a
    white cloud

    Irving Stettner
    New York, New York


    Winter fell around us in wide white flakes,
    and we woke early,
    alerted by the quiet
    of the gray morning,
    awoke before our fathers and grandfathers
    took to the walks armed with shovels
    and brooms and small thick sacks of salt,
    before our mothers and grandmothers
    took to the kitchen to cook snow breakfasts
    of pancakes and eggs and sausage,
    coffee and hot chocolate.
    We sat watching the radio for signs,
    listeningt to the smooth voices
    reporting the closing of schools,
    first in the rural areas, small towns,
    circling us, words coiming closer,
    until, all our senses tipped,
    the day was announced ours,
    and we dressed quickly.

    Stiff at elbows and knees and neck from knitted things
    we set out against a cold
    only parents and other relatives were aware of.
    The sink of the boot step,
    the jump from the front steps,
    and we followed the first packed tracks up 50th Street
    to the corner,
    circled back to the edge of the white lawn
    where we paused in awe,
    mounted our paints and piintos
    and galloped ourselves
    a corral.
    And then we made small angels,
    arms flapping at our sides,
    and, rolling,
    traced strange paths across the snow,
    happy as it clung to our clothes.
    Delighting in the secrets of camouflage,
    we lay watching slow-moving cars.

    Then up and mittens off,
    we began foming the soul,
    round and hard,
    carefully packed,
    and when we held it ready in our hands
    we paused again
    as God might have paused at the beginning,
    wondering at the possibilities of creation.
    And then we fell to our knees
    to rall and pack,
    roll and pack again
    as the body grew under our stiff hands
    until it was ready
    to stand by the bare branches of the lilac bush,
    and we stood it there
    because we remembered the lavender,
    remembered the lavender against the snow.
    And then we began again,
    a second ball to rest upon the first,
    then, quickly, the third,
    our eyes rushing ahead to coal
    and carrot and Grandma’s apron
    which, when we tied it into place,
    pleased us,
    and we stood back admiring
    ourselves and her,
    skirt flapping against imagined legs.
    And sometimes passersby,
    noses red and great gusts of breath on their lips,
    stopped and admired, too,
    before continuing their journey up Capitol Avenue.
    And then our hands,
    suddenly numb,
    signaled lunch,
    and there was a great stomping and shaking
    as we entered, unwrapped ourselves,
    pressed our hands against warm sides.
    Steaming bowls stood waiting
    beside hot toast and melted peanut butter,
    and we ate with a passion
    for taaste, for odor,
    chunks of peanut butter as welcome
    as the snow had been.

    And then the afternoon was imminent.
    Dry socks pulled out of drawers,
    mittens from radiatiors,
    boots pulled on and buckled,
    and we seet out again,
    this time with warnings of overdue.
    Snow tracked by boots, lined with work paths,
    pavement stung by salt,
    we turned away to build forts
    we never quite completed,
    turned away from each other,
    forning troops against cousins and friends,
    and under the watchful eye of our snow Grandma,
    and the eye of the too-soon sun,
    we stockpiled snowballs,
    unitl the first flew free from our fingers
    signalling the start of battle,
    our sure aim decreasing
    as arms tired
    and eyes tired
    and we fell silent behind our forts
    and lay against the warm snow
    thinking of oranges and blackboards,
    hopscotch and sawhorses,
    moving from one to the other
    like an old jeweler
    touching daimond and sapphire,
    only the touch important.
    Then we wanted no more of snow
    and cold things,
    and we rose together.

    Boots heavy,
    we went inside
    frogetting the day
    as though we had been hurt by it.
    And we were sent outside again
    for Grandma’s apron
    and we kicked our forts to rubble
    and sometimes we kicked each other
    or hit wildly until
    crimson startled us from noses
    as it hit like a warm heavy flake on the snow.
    And sometimes there was wailing,
    not because we were hurt
    but because we were not hurt enough,
    causing us to walk quite separately home
    where it was safe,
    nd we could sit by ourselves
    and have no thoughts at all
    until supper was ready.
    We ate without tasting,
    looking forward to evening sounds
    of television, the rattling of the evening paper,
    of dishes being stacked and put away.

    Mary Kathryn Stillwell
    New York, New York


    I always walk at her pace, slow,
    mouse-footed, my mother
    dressed in the same black wool coat
    summer and winter since the war:
    mother who tends the goldfish,
    turns oiut the last light at night
    saying "son, son" like a father,
    "your condition. . . condition."
    and walks the mile to the grocery
    like today– so hot that lizards heave
    in the shade under stones, heat
    tremblihng from the concrete in blue waves,
    and all for a watermelon, one watermelon!

    Always I walk at her pace, slow,
    bending now almost to her shoulders,
    carrying the watermelon like a dumb,
    stuffed doll nestled awkwardly
    between my arms, past the filling station
    whjere the attendant gawks at us
    behind sunglasses and baseball cap,
    mother holding onto my arm– old midget
    and ugly oaf pair shuffling past
    the miniature golf course, Dairy Queen;
    weird troupe of shadows smothering back there
    inside that display window– and I smell
    something burning as we walk
    through the noon heat, cow bones
    bleaching out on the prairie,
    a loud buzzing through the highwires,
    every throat tasting dust
    when the melon explodes a million
    rivers of pink flesh and birdseed,
    and I fall headfirst, skull
    smackiong concrete in a fit of dog-yelp
    and scream, spinning round, kicking
    like a frog staked to an ant bed,
    each second a spasm of ice
    and blast furnace until all the crows
    in the world blackout the sky,

    and I’m numb and needle-stuck,
    crawling over cold stone, a voice
    drifts through the forest in monotones
    "home. . . home. . ." a heaven of worm-nerve
    and wasp-jerk. . . blue. . . clouds–
    her voice leaps in shock waves,
    where the sky splits open she’s standing
    in the middle of the sun, a cross,
    a black-feathered body blowing in wind
    and silence.

    Rawson Tomlinson
    Pine, Colorado


    The tornado killed 27 people at the supermarket
    When the walls blew out and part of the roof
    Settled on top of them

    I was in a cellar
    With my grandmother who was praying
    Though I was thinking mainly
    Of caressing the girl who lived across the street

    (only she was in that supermarket)

    Robert Vander Molen
    Grand Rapids, Michigan

    I’M FIVE

    I’m five. All day
    I’ve wanted to be
    with grandpa. He’s been
    sleeping in the parlor.
    His bed is big,
    and he’s got powder
    on his cheeks. Someone’s
    dumped a lot of flowers
    at his feet. Everyone
    speaks in a whisper.
    But not the aunt who wears
    the floppy hat – she sighs
    and eats. Her hankie is a wad
    of toilet paper. The neighbors
    bring more pies and cakes.
    An uncle tells paps
    that grandpa’s rich. I hope
    everybody goes home
    when grandpa wakes. I don’t
    like my stiff shirt collar
    and shoes that squeak.
    I can’t go out today.
    I’ve got to stand by the window
    and wait. The aunt who smokes
    a million cigarettes begins
    to cry when a long black car
    comes up the drive. Grandpa’s
    not going away. Someone
    wants his big bed
    and the flowers. I’m five.

    John Stevens Wade
    Mt. Vernon, Maine


    They skid into the mail slot with a dull thud.
    I get enough of them every year to shingle a roof.
    They are shaped like razor blades in Halloween apples,
    and my name is accusingly fixed on everyone that comes.

    I am always the demolition expert at my address —
    each postmark is checked for traces of a terrorist.
    I look for mucilage poisoning behind the stamps of presidents,
    and all commemoratives are searched for signs of dynamite.

    To think that I once foolishly expected them to announce
    the lucky number in the sweepstakes of love,
    the questionnaire that guaranteed the instant millionaire,
    and that insurance payment for my busted imagination!

    But the letters I hate most are those from old friends.
    The long fuse of language is a booby trap of demands.
    I could have a gaveyard if I stuck my letters int he ground.
    I could plant them and watch my diaappointments grow thick as postage.

    John Stevens Wade
    Mt. Vernon, Maine


    This morning when I tried to remember
    how my puppy-loving heart stumbled
    crazily, and how the noon tilted
    my racing pulses, I was interrupted

    by the telephone. My next-door neighbor
    wanted to know if hen manure would burn
    his tomatoes. I told him that green hen manure kills.
    He seeemed to understand the laws of potency,

    and I wished him well. So I got back
    to that dumpling girl and my hugged pillow
    of yesteryear — her breasts rising like yeast
    as I twisted and turned in the burning sheets.

    But, once more the telephone shrieked. It was tomatoes
    again. Should he sprinkle them with ashes
    or chance the dangers of pesticides? I told him
    to poison them. He was grateful, and so was I:

    I got back to my skidding blood and caught breath.
    My darling’s tongue ripened upon the cradled vine
    of my arm, and I weeded buttons from her blouse.
    She uprooted her skirt, and I shook down

    my pants. But first there was that ringing telephone
    to answer — another call from my apologetic neighbor.
    This time it was sunshine and water. I told him
    both were potent and beneficial to growing plants.

    John Stevesn Wade
    Mt. Vernon, Maine


    In d end
    this man Jefferson
    wrapped in the black aesthetic
    arms of Sally
    disremembered the Indian
    beyond the range of his high mounted cello
    and in d end
    babbled in his burning blanket,
    babbled in his gemlike flames.

    In d end
    undermined by a French disease
    disremembered the Indian
    and his Martha,
    in d end, his Martha
    who couldn’t come
    on this wonderful morning
    for all his kissing her.

    Indian, in d ending
    I arrange a rage
    against the founding
    godfathers and all their tribe
    who will buy
    dynamite and barter bullets
    to genocide Indians in d end,
    to genocide Indians in d end
    and indeed to steal deeds
    signatured in blood older than creation.

    In d end
    Wisconsin will sin
    like Woodrow Wilson
    and for the last Maine fool
    hymning the bloody-brained Nixon blues
    I, black Indian, in d ending
    I arrange a fit revenge,
    for tthe fire thiws time
    will be the final ending
    of disremembering
    and I shall never
    wound my knee
    with kneeling in prayer,
    for the fire this time
    will be the ending of disremembering
    the millions of disremembered Indians
    in d end.

    Jerry Ward
    Tougaloo, Mississippi

    Temporal Gulch

    At Roundup we
    pass the drunken tourists, at eight o’clock
    still asleep on the picnic tables
    beneath the silver live oaks,
    the garbage pit, a storm at rest,
    and disppearing into the trailhead
    step out of our metaphors,
    stretch up toward the horizon, a hand on the ridge,
    past the girls thrown down from cliffs,
    curled up in the mistletoe, abandoned
    weeks ago by their toothy boyfreinds, and keep on going
    right over the top where years ago
    three Boy Scouts died bewildered in a blizzard.
    beyond is the other side of the kiss:
    all morning we keep going down, down,
    legs and fingers growing light and thin
    as violins burning back to their strings,
    meeting only wooden Joshua coming up in his rags,
    his vision the sun and moon standing still,
    until at noon rejoicing we also
    take our useless clothes off,
    layer after layer of wrinkled silver wrap, see
    our tattoos, fish escaping fromour flesh
    as we stoop over the sandy spring, striding
    through the slumping Mormon cabins, rotten corrals,
    the abandoned art of porcelain washbasins,
    the long-leaf pines, Apache maidens in the myth
    singing to the sky, to emerge from the boulders
    at the bottom, the key in our hand
    a clean gun, the golden bone plucked from our legs
    to pry out Chuck, that baby doctor
    who drove for days to pick us up,
    asleep in his smashed car.

    Peter Wild
    Tucson, Arizona


    in the Seaside Cemetery
    at PigeonCove
    a band of boys
    played football
    beyond headstones
    toward Atlantic waves
    the far field they raced
    cleared to take
    new dead expected
    in rows ranged
    back from the road
    old markers at the gate
    growing newer
    each furrow toward
    white water
    breaking on brown rocks
    edging that lawn
    shouts of get him
    hold on
    in some space
    waiting for each one
    not thinking
    it made any difference

    Howard Winn
    Poughkeepsie, New York


    at eighty-three my mother
    she wished to read
    or Ariostotle
    at last
    she had alweays meant to
    she said
    but she had
    ben so very
    but I know St. Paul
    well she
    it would ne instructive
    to know
    something of the classics
    but my eyes tire easily
    and maybe
    it isn’t
    by now
    or isn’t
    I will
    it appears
    at eighty-three
    isn’t quit

    Howard Winn
    Poughkeepsie, New York


    Drape, she said, as she nudged me,
    your arm around my shoulders
    and keep me warm.
    Soon, I’ll get as hot as
    that Lucky Strike draping
    from the side of your mouth,
    the smoke rising rising
    in rings like you see
    in those Bogart flicks.

    We were on her couch
    watching The Grapes of Wrath
    on the Late Show.

                       There was Henry Fonda,
                       draping a tarp
                       over a truckload of furniture,
                       spare tires, chicken wire, and dusty children.
                                 And that tarp
                                 draped and flapped
                                 as they rolled across the plains,
                                         a cloud of dust behind them
                                         that from a distance seemed
                                         to drape along the parched ground.

    Lavender drapes draped over two picture windows
    that faced a red brick wall.
    She lived in Houston and I heard
    liked to poke fun
    at West Texas boys like me.
                                                    If one looked up,
    draping his head outside the window and screwing
    his neck to the limit, he could see
    telephone lines draped against the night sky.

    When the Late Show was over,
    we moved together and finished
    before the Star-Spangled Banner cut off.
    Her eyebrows sort of draped
    in half circles above her
    long false eyelashes.

    I dreaped my red bandanna
    on the radio antenna.
    It flapped all the way back to Abilene.

    David Yates
    New Braunfels, Texas


    Larry Ziman
    Los Angeles, California

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