Poetry (I)

The L.A. Day Grinds On Me
or I Wish I Had a River . . .
RD Armstrong

The Men Loved Storms
Michael Carman

The Real Story
Miles Coon

Paul Espel
Giving It Time
third world customs

When Fed Silence
Allen C. Fischer

Dana Gioia

Daniela Gioseffi
In Confinement of Spirit I Wake in the Dark
The Unborn Calf
After Confinement, Sudden Blood

The Contortionist's Dilemma
James Hale

Maureen Holm
Ant Haiku
Ex Natura I and II

Nicholas Johnson
Alone (For Admiral Byrd)
One of the Monkeys

Valerie Lawson

These Are the Pains of Roses
Robin Lim

Poetry II

Curriculum Vitae Samuel Menashe ~ A Prison Bus, Beige Greggory Moore ~ Cicada (excerpt) Mark Nickels ~ Alice Notley ~ D. Nurkse ~ Bearings Charles Pierre ~ The Piano String Terence Purtell ~ Elaine Schwager ~ The Revolutionary Gets Lost in the Supermarket Jessica Stein

~ . ~ . ~

The L.A. Day Grinds On Me
or I Wish I Had a River  .  .  .
RD Armstrong

It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the
mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and
your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight.
— Raymond Chandler (Red Wind)

This day is no different from
Any other
It swirls around me
Yesterday's news

The bric-a-brac of Fourth Street
Trash and
I'm not really here yet
I am as here as I'll ever be

As far as I know
As far as I can tell
I could be sitting here
Beside myself instead

Observing: the way the
Music surges the way the
Crowd seems to
Pulse in time to it

Like an undersea ballet

The way these sad little stories
Vivisect my morning
Like forceps pulling the shiny
Tumor apart

          People will always try to burn you down
          With their dirt-clod minds their sad
          Attempts at irony and deceit their
          Barely disguised anger

I am gritting my teeth
Leaning into the wind
Call me con man
Call me rip-off artist

Call me a taxi

(R.D. Armstrong is the editor and publisher of Lummox Press
of San Pedro, California. home.earthlink.net/~lumoxraindog.
This is his first contribution to the magazine.)

~ . ~

The Men Loved Storms
Michael Carman

The men loved storms and prayed for them.
— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich)

Though ice two fingers thick lined windows stark
on barracks walls, and breath of ice whispered
in their ears, the men lay listening, bony shoulders
under blankets thin as napkins in the dark,

For the ringing of the mallet on the rail
the warder's mallet ringing reveille
and they listened for the boots of orderlies
come to take away the steaming shit-filled pail

And call out Foot cloths! Jackets! Count off! One two, one
two one Prisoner number! Gang number!
Work detail number!
prisoners' watches in guards' pockets, long time gone.

They heard guards shout above the wind at ten below
picks and shovels rang on frozen ground
the sun a chancre on this lip of world,
and all around, the landscape vast with snow.

And yet behind their eyes, the men still dreamed
not of what was lost or taken or forgot
women's breasts, meat pies, hearths
as far away as heaven but what seemed

A glory earth's own holocaust.
Though storms would stop the trucks that brought
them lumps of coal and flour for bread though storms
would mean more work for labor lost

All the same, the men loved storms, and prayed for them to come.
For storms in chaos warmed the blood as if the men were home,
and storms would rage inscrutable sublime
and set the men's hearts beating in the men's own time.

(Michael Carman was formerly a newspaper journalist in the Midwest,
founding editor of Richmond Magazine in Richmond, Virginia,
and, most recently, group publisher with Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
in Manhattan. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Columbia University
and is a first-year graduate student in poetry at Sarah Lawrence. This is her
first contribution to the magazine.)

~ . ~

The Real Story
Miles Coon

It's the way the story's told
that matters: don't focus
on the tattered shawl, worn
around her shoulders, but on
her shoulders, still soft,
warm, though winter's come,
her family gone.
           It's not
about the storm, the corn
chowder warming on
the stove, a crust of bread
as stale as the day was
long. It's about the book
and the lamp light, music
from a distant time
on her radio. It's about
the life of her mind,
           her heart
tied up in its own freedom,
seeking neither praise
nor tribute, but rather, its
own fulfillment, the quiet
calm of its own making.

(Miles Coon is a graduate writing student at Sarah Lawrence College.)

~ . ~

Paul Espel

Giving It Time

A wind comes up and leaves us
more alone. The same unciphered reasons
in the air. Old bones and ashes cultivate
the lawn. Hollow music fills the afternoon.
And holy children whirling in the sun.

Like gods we are removed and stoic,
even in surprise, (that subtle sonic
boom). We stare at things.
At nothing.

Shadows crawl. The wind continues.
Spiders stagger in their grip‹
concede this breach of June.

~ .


Sure clocks of their bodies
know this rendezvous—
dapper black metallic creepers,
decked out in rented crystal wings,
scouting the new world with
bulging crimson eyes: a ripeness
aged in umpteen seasons tippling
roots and tubers beneath
our cautious feet.

Now courting with huge voices.
Or thrashing madly, even on mailbox
posts, on spurned tires. Mocking
our diplomacy with flailing
consummation in these urgent hours—
screaming their small names
in white oaks, in silver maples.

~ .

third world customs

stuck between destinations—
you've lost your passport
that's what you keep
telling them at the terminal
but they're pointing at you
and yelling things in quick bursts
like machine-gun fire
now escorting you to somewhere
you don't really wish to go

that prayer you know by heart
keeps playing in hour head
and faith can move mountains
if you believe in mountains

in a trash bin you can just make out today's
financial headlines in your native tongue:
Consolidate Your Holdings

at last they let you through
annoyed but satisfied that you are
who you say you are—
still "security" is staring
you can feel them from behind
(thinking the worst)

on your way to claim some excess baggage
you glance at the temporary passport
it could be anybody's
the picture doesn't look like you
or have you changed so much so soon

the stamp is there, the date
and some official foreign phrases—
when all is lost things like this become
the only proof of who you are

and something illegible that wants translation
some unknown footnote you may never decipher
is scribbled in the margin

(Paul Espel is a regular contributor to the magazine. Masthead.)

~ . ~

When Fed Silence
Allen C. Fischer

Just as wind pervades the narrows
and corners of back alleys,
dreams breathe hope.

Oh, they may howl and skew
as when a stuttering beggar spits
and a stricken dog yelps.

Yet silence them
so they cannot vent,
and all will be lost.

will deafen and
out of the closet

of each body,
its skeleton will

(Allen C. Fischer, a former director of marketing for a large corporation,
splits his time between Saugerties (Ulster County) and Brooklyn, New York.
He has had poems published in Atlanta Review, Indiana Review, Poetry,
Prairie Schooner, Rattapallax, River Styx,
and 1997 Anthology of Magazine
Verse & Yearbook of American Poetry.

~ . ~

Dana Gioia

So much of what we live goes on inside—
The diaries of grief, the tongue-tied aches
Of unacknowledged love are no less real
For having passed unsaid. What we conceal
Is always more than what we dare confide.
Think of the letters that we write our dead.

(From Interrogations at Noon (Graywolf 2001).)

~ . ~

Daniela Gioseffi

In Confinement of Spirit I Wake in the Dark

When terror festers in me
and my eyes open at a strange noise
in the midst of night
frightened of my coming death
or what my child's life will become,
I go into the woods to listen for the loon's laugh on the lake
and sit by the lull of the lapping waters, glistening
where the great blue heron fed in the day,
and I come alone among the peace of the wild world,
and realize that birds and fish do not upset their lives with politics
or imagined grief.
I sit lulled by the lapping water of the deep lake and listen
to the tiny songs of insects,
until I feel the stars reaching down to me as I reach up to them
amidst the great mystery of endless space
full of the smell of burning stars
and I know that many stars I see—millions of light years away—
have died long ago
but were seen by lovers much longer than I can ever live.
I come into the presence of creation
and feel the confinement of my spirit left behind in my bed
and I wait for the great sun to rise.
I rest awake in the vast grace of the world and I am free to be
in the moment of my being
without pain or grief,
breathing deep of the dark pines
as my spirit freed with wild things
sings with the gurgling leap of a fish.
Even the owl's feathery swoop
and the vole's scream as it's gulped
seems in its place
and at peace.

~ .

The Unborn Calf

The calf could not be born in the icy rain
Pouring through the grey sunrise. The mother lay in mud
grunting, scrambling to rise,
and the white and black lump bobbed, dangled,
hung wet and dripping blood from her hind. She tried
to gallop away, but the lump flapped from side to side,
a sack of swollen muck with mouth yawning agape.
The old farmer roped her, pulled her down on her side
in a skid of flying mud, and tied her.

He put his hand up inside, beside the slithering calf
which still hung a bag of half-life from her,
born to where the hooves were caught
and would not come. He wrestled
until sweat poured from his forehead in the cold,
and the cow groaned until all thrashing

as he took a rifle from his wagon and aimed for the soft temples
one, two, of both heads of flesh
from which we come
half born into cold light
for the pain, the shooting of the young
Mother and child tethered into death.

~ .

After Confinement, Sudden Blood

I walk on sand,
sink deep into fire.
Sharp knives cut
the walls of my stomach crack
open as glass. My moans
are red jelly, a mass of shining
splinters pokes out through my
belly, you are born!
You are not twins!
You cry and are lifted high
dangling red string.
Numb lungs, living nerves,
this amazing absence of air!
I vomit ginger ale
into my just washed hair.
Silver elves in chromium light
poke needles,
bunch intestines back,
sew flesh seams. Your screams
are stitches taken in me.
They shatter my glass belly again;
more glass splinters fly up.
No warning, no Ladies Home Journal story,
just sudden blood
and you are there
and you are screaming
into my matted hair.

(Daniela Gioseffi is a regular contributor to the magazine. Masthead.
Her interview with Galway Kinnell appears in this issue. )

~ . ~

The Contortionist's Dilemma
James Hale

Because he can, he twists himself
Into a breadbox no bigger
Than his dislocated torso, its height,

Width, and length defined
By ribcage, arm, and femur. Because
He can, the exchange he makes

Of hands for feet seems almost
Natural to us, as if anyone could walk
Palms down, soles up, face back.

Because he can, he follows his
Escape from the straitjacket
By fighting his way back into it,

Teething shut the final buckle‹
Houdini, eat your heart out.
But then again, because he can,

He suffers as a dog the joke
That asks the question, Why?

~ . ~

Maureen Holm

Ant Haiku

Ants administer the crucial drool
to fists of pent-up peonies.

~ .

Ex Natura I

Because it is deep in the nature of things
that snow dissolve and flame consume the pine,
that the ache be keenest at the oiled joinder
of divinely fitted counterparts,
and leave a stain upon the skin;
diminished or increased, strengthened or retired,
each according to the burden of its weariness in the world,
surrendered sinew by sinew, torn piece by piece,
as hyena devours wildebeest
—on the hoof.

'You should live on the tundra.'
Friend, I will love her best for the saying of it
when I am feeble and the page gives nothing back.
Until then, not death, but the nuisance of desire,
jackal nipping at my heels.

                      * * *

To what loss impute a Natural intendment
as the mockingbird looks on aghast,
tone-deaf from the moment when the cello face
is dashed against the unsuspecting flagstone,
disconcerted as the Aing twitches uncontrollably
along the path of broken frets?

Musician squeezes out his hot remorse
as he gathers up the resonating splinters,
yet marvels that the footsore timber wolf
digs herself no burrow in the snow.

(Prior publ.: Southern California Anthology)

Ex Natura II

No enemy bold enough
to seize him by the throat,
he is enfeebled by the odor of the pine
and climbs the rankest for the panorama
of killing meadows after dark,
when prey is hid and crickets bow
a mortal day's relief.

On the cliff of his first disenchantment
with instinct and hungers at dawn,
invisible to condor and hawk,
he gnawed on the knuckle of self-pity
and vomited up the lice.

What becomes of the lunivore
who starves at howling heights,
rubbing at the blade of gold
wedged in his brown tiger eye?
If he runs far away over flatland or tundra,
shying jag of hill and branch of tree,
must he return, reoccupy the rock,
and succumb to its misery twice?

Trust the wolf.
Trust the wolf.

Bend, lick the paw within,
cracked and scaly from exposure.
Enfold in January, flank to shoulder,
and breathe warmth long a bushy tail.
Heed the needle, but reclimb the pine.

The marauder heart takes fanged delight
in new stages of alarm,
drives geese from the frozen pond,
flees the blaze but not the grizzly,
and howls a perfect G sharp.

Little wonder she wanted
him as companion
in this brutish timber season,
he who let her weariness recline
on a bed of scented leaves.

(Maureen Holm is one of the magazine's senior editors.)

~ . ~

Nicholas Johnson


For Admiral Byrd

I think they'll find me buried here.
I cannot feel the cold; I've gone snowblind.
I live between these walls of snow and air.

I lie in bed. I know these walls. I stare
at strange shapes twisted like a vine.
I think they'll find me buried here.

I listen hard. Around me voices flare
like colors in the sun. Only time
lives on inside these walls of snow and air.

My life shrinks with the cold. I do not dare
go back outside. My death is by design.
I think they'll find me buried here.

This arctic night must end somewhere.
In three more months the sun will shine
inside these walls of snow and air.

All this ice is just a grey nightmare.
If something else is living, give a sign.
I think they'll find me buried here
between these walls of snow and air.

(Prior publ.: Pivot)

[American Naval officer Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd (1888-1955)
led five expeditions to Antarctica, the first in 1928, the last in1955.]

~ .

One of the Monkeys

I'm one of the monkeys they've got typing
in a room full of monkeys. It's a play
Shakespeare wrote back in the old days
they want us to write again. So we're writing
a play we never read. They keep inviting
strangers to watch us and the strangers say
"They wrote, 'to bee or nutti to bee.'!" They stay
too long if we write something exciting—
but the bananas flow like wine. We know
it's a crazy, morbid, ranting play, a stew
full of murder, love, but with a noble feel.
Shocked, I see hack monkeys come and monkeys go.
One keeper killed my father. What should I do?
I'm watching him. My teeth are sharp as steel.

(Prior publ.: Pivot)
(Nicholas Johnson is one of the magazine's senior editors.)

~ . ~

Valerie Lawson

We talk the things we know
the tapestry chair, the leather
futon, the fold-out couch;
serve coffee, tea, clear
spring water, fill ashtrays
with Abyssinian phrases.
The elephant foot umbrella
stand cues the potted palm,
antimacassars absorb their own secrets.
These are foreign words we sit among,
you and I, birchwood rocking chair,
the cadence of a planked floor.

You speak to me of the willow
trailing grace, sweeping paradox,
phototropism gone awry, the explosion
of tap root grown upward into a hair-thin mat;
the ability to tread water, breathe, carve stone;
of river beds and dry gorges, hand-knotted silk rugs,
a braided one made from the old woolen coats
of ancestors.

The ambiguity of these lines is purposeful.
I weep as I write them, not knowing why.

The rocking chair makes the same sound,
the runners of a sled on snow, on sand.

Tomorrow I will speak with Lawrence
and it will be the same, the echo
of rooms treading on pools
of color shot through leaded glass:
ruby, cobalt, gold.

(Poet/photographer Valerie Lawson was named 'Up and Coming Poet'
at the Cambridge Poetry Festival 2001. Lawson's print appearances include
Aeolus, Earth's Daughters, Sensations Magazine, and The South Boston
Literary Gazette.
Online her work appears in Lid, Lightning Bell Journal,
and the Dialogue Among Civilizations Through Poetry anthology (pdf) published
by Rattapallax and Fictionopolis. This is her first contribution to the magazine.)

~ . ~

These Are the Pains of Roses
Robin Lim

Waiting woman
face hovering like an overripe moon.
Sky narrowing to
a star-gate tonight.
The midwife's hands are paired
owl's wings protecting your harvest
of hormones, and foolish love.

Shed pride.
Be taken apart utterly.
Be afraid as each new mother has been,
since love invented sex.
For this travail even courage must be cast off,
as you will throw away clothing, shame.

These are the pains of roses.
You will be ashes
before your work is done.
Your heart will break forever
on the shore of a life
you evict tonight.

(Prior pub. in Midwifery Today and in the magazine's Jan'01 feature,
"Because They Did," released just this month in Print Series version.)

~ . ~ .[Poetry II]