( New York, New York )
r l swihartKnowing
To have chosen the stem
And its slow turning
To have known the leaf
And pulled it off
To end the season
Lying on the ground
This carries love over water
Crushed and burdened a thousand times
In the pacing of yellow buses
Along the mouse brown ridge of spring
This is the story we tell
And the story we live and the parts we play
This is how we would change it if we could
And these are the lines of sweaty palms
In the original tongue of falling fruit
And the bite you took because you couldn’t wait
And the stomach ache
And the one you threw because you were late
And the weariness cast around your heart, inside your brain
It could be different but it will stay the same
And what you understand you’d rather not know
And what you know you’ll die trying to forget
Between winter and spring
Cigarettes burn in the dark
They are the sadness and the rage
You thought I gave you
When we were dancing
They are what you wanted
Before winter moved
To let streams run quickly
And take you by surprise
I keep my hands in my pockets
To hide the story carved
In my palms
An indecipherable map
Mutable as seasons:
One day a priest
Is reading to a woman
Against a bed of bamboo
The next day:
A little warrior emerges
To scare me off
And when my heart
Is hard with worry
A big bottomed
Gospel singer appears
With her arms in the air
Into my ear
I never traveled near the sun yet have melted into days
Chilly as the other side of autumn
Amid the density of leaves and blackest coffee
My eyes turn green again
Wander into every pool of light
There couldn’t be oceans
Without a secret knowledge of skies
And dry eyes that follow yellow taxis to stop lights
As if to assume more ideas than the refrigeration of truth
O I would like to breathe beside you
And hold your charms in my palm
I have told myself your story
Accepted that everything you knew rolled downhill away from you
As tempting as the color of conversation
Working bargains at the barricades
Even after so many had fallen in the elastic afternoon
What I cannot accommodate is the excruciating swiftness of light
Or the blazes that burn through shades of sunset
There was no music around a fever lasting days
And I could not kiss you for fear of breaking the enchantment
The stories I told you were completely plausible but untrue
Though my knuckles were red where I pounded the sky
Called it coward while you slept
And ravaged my memory for past adventures
To calm the fire in your eyes
But we would never stand together again
Kissing promises in the darkened plaza
And now my name is gone though I am the same
And my journey lingers on your lips
Which press against my ear from time to time
What more could be brought to fear in a catalog of years
Than an assortment of gossip
About which you never cared
My pockets hold the minutes
Though there is the obvious problem of hours
Which I tried to make more special
Just as I have tried so see you in many places
Tried to hear you speak through other voices
But depth perception is my liability
Pulled from a kaleidoscope of trampled cobalt light
The reds and yellows appeared sincere
Beaming heartfelt thanks
Nonetheless were subject to fading
Without blue to hold the rigors of dialogue
They are mere prismatic ambassadors of momentary gladness
Without blue to substantiate knowing you
As many are willing to do
( Long Beach, California )
She is sprawled out on the thickly
She can't get up
She is silent though her head
He is outside smoking on
He is leaning over the railing
He is roughly midway through a long
list of regrets
( Elizabethtown, Kentucky )
Janet I. Buck, Two PoemsYou Are Dysfunctional
You are dysfunctional, he said,
That's why you don't have
any friends or a job that you like—
But I'm only listening a little,
Mostly I'm thinking about the first
boyfriend I ever loved—really loved—
really loved because when he asked me
where I got my black eye, he seemed angry
when I told him "oh, my father," and I
looked down (after all, I was embarrassed)
and Michael frowned and said,
"Next time, you tell him he'll answer to me"
next time, next time, next time, next time
But Michael, where were you?
I found someone who knew why you left—
The answer was so obvious in his dark eye—
You are dysfunctional, he said, that's why
You don't have any friends (you're unlovable)
Or a job that you like (you are incompetent)
And you're lucky I don't hit you like your father,
like your father, like your father, like your father
who had a drinking problem and was dysfunctional
like you—that's why you are dysfunctional, but lucky
I don't hit you like your father—are you listening?
( Medford, Oregon )
Kristy BowenCalling for Snow
I'm nine years old.
like skeletons in casket bays
at the thought
of your burlap hands.
Slipping under flannel sheep.
Roughing the soft.
Making me dry lye soap
that will crumble
if water addresses the silk.
I rattle again at the thought
of a doorknob turning
its slippery clock,
humping the moon
with ugliness and sour milk.
Yes, a white Christmas
would sugar the presence of black.
Tenderize the chimera,
the toughness now a part of me.
Make me rhyme with purer things
like frescoes on a church's brick
that didn't burn
in the cup of the torch.
Maybe the snow
would cleanse my pores.
Maybe your hands
would plow outside—
leave me to grow
a stomach for love.
Forgiveness is a trite dime
in a homeless world.
I'm nine years old.
The raven was born
in your drunken poem.
He put a gun to her quivering ear
and said in a sniping voice:
"Spread your legs or you die."
Both of which she did in ways.
He disappeared inside her soul—
burned its dream geography
until the wick just wouldn't light.
She left herself—
a shoebox someone stepped upon—
nothing but the tissue stayed.
Touch became shot Novocain,
a populace of emptiness.
Birds did not sing.
Air did not move.
Years of thought turned her
to stone and wetted salt.
When passion brushed
her tattered coat,
she ran a lint brush over wool.
She would be a faceless toy,
tethered lobster hovering
on lips of steam
without the power to excavate
the withered claw,
the squawking meat.
A sonnet and a fairy tale—
two foreigners on cracking soil.
( Chicago, Illinois )
You are inventing invisibility
in your pale dress along
the road, the rope of
its way past your house,
the grey warmth of
windows, dishes, silence.
You are inventing
stillness like the tomb,
there in the dark,
the heft of it terrible,
the unbearable weight
of his body--his voice
climbing the walls
of your room, crashing
the corridors of your mind.
You are re-inventing history,
for anyone who will listen, will
turn their ears to the
slow rumble of bones
turning over in beds,
the creak of springs,
the hush of sheets,
ticking through every
clock in every house,
through vacancy like an echo.
Cheryl Dodds - Eye Music
I - Persephone in the Field
II - Debris of Dreams
IV - Monologues for an Apocalypse
Ace Boggess - Abuse Cycle
Marty McConnell - girl on the tracks
Julie Bonaduce - The Company Of
Gary Whitehead - Tableaux
Alan Catlin - in the pitch of citrus
Spring Supplement 2002 Issue
Winter 2002 Issue