A Most Inconvenient Appetite


Marge Piercy
( Wellfleet, Massachusetts )
“How raw I am”

How raw I am
You find my words
give you heartburn.
They are not easily
digestible although
they compost well.

I have sharp edges
some rusty
some glinting bright.
You can’t pick me
up safely to discard
or file securely.

I sprout porcupine
quills, cactus spines
cholla that can’t be
brushed off but
irritate as they enter
your skin, your blood.

Women are not,
you say, supposed
to be wrought of flint
and recycled glass
of rich bottom mud
and fangs and bricks.

Oh, but we are.
We walk through the
valley of death
teeth chattering
and bared, ready
for fight or flight

or the strange
dangerous dance
of mating. I go
speaking myself again
and again like the cry
of a ravenous hawk.

© 2002 Marge Piercy

Claudia Grinnell
( Monroe, Louisiana )
The Man Next Door

I was not interested
in your pretty pictures,
your well-groomed lawns,
your honor-roll children.
It was a different house
that seduced me, before
I entered, I questioned: House,
will you tell me a story
of a man of water, a man
of clay? Indeed, there was
no laughter, no words,
only the sound of paws
coming down stairs, coming
to hang from my ears,
whispering, witness darkness
and something without
eyes. I am used
to this house now. I sleep
in this house now.
At night, my eye dreams
a body and two knees
pulled all the way
up to my mouth.

Paulo da Costa
( Calgary, Canada )
inevitable step

young tiko's dreams
scatter to pieces,
hang from the baobab tree,

a boom of a thousand drums
in the imagined luanda's
stadium where tiko's feet,
swift as birds, chased
a soccer ball of rags

gravel, grass and cloth
burrow in tiko's stump

in the boot of europe,
a church-going father
designs devices in explosive
greens and sands, calls
them butterflies, toys gliding
to the ground in the thousands.
his sister quit valsella last
month and greets him with a banner
at the end of the day

home at night,
in the undermining silence,
missing another goodnight kiss,
the father clings to his child's hand

tiko's femur
will continue the earthbound growth
piercing through flesh and skin,
seeking its sole

The Bassist by Greg Muller

( Philadelphia, Pennsylvania )

Mwatabu S. Okantah
( Kent, Ohio )

I remember we called
him, “Big
Daddy Elmer Cook”— 
Ma Beulah’s
we were in junior high school. 
he was into A Love Supreme in 1966. 
he was into wing’d tipped shoes, 
but, he never conk’d
his head. 

Elmer was into Coltrane, 
into Monk. 
he was into the “new music” 
years before I would
learn it was
I had been summer camp’d
into Top 40 “Cousin’ Brucie,” 
integrated into
pale “rock and roll.” 

I remember Big Daddy’s
box front room on Oregon Street. 
he didn’t read comic books. 
Trane music blasted
myopic Marvel Super Heroes—
like Miles, 
he knew the real thing.
even then, he refused to allow
the other stuff
entry into his world.
he slept in Blues

the sounds in Elmer’s room
saved my memory: 
at Kent State I remembered Coltrane.
white blood ran in the streets
there one 70s May. 
it left white
folks with a nagging after-
Nixon need
for the Average White Band—
white boys turned to black blues
in search of the soul
their own history stole
from them.


I had gone off to college. 
Big Daddy went off
to Viet Nam—
neither of us came home the same. 
war, and whitefolks
seared scars across the bare
flesh of our souls.
we heard it in Dolphy’s
Far Cry,
saw it in Monk’s Ugly Beauty;
felt it in Bud Powell’s
frantic piano sadness;
horn solos
gave voice to feelings found in places
words dare not tread.

I remember,
we called him, “Big Daddy …”
the last time I saw
was standing on the corner,
he had that far
away look;
his eyes set deep
in his head.

Julie Bonaduce
( Portland, Oregon )
Primavera/Febbre Della Molla
[Spring Fever or Fever Of The Motivating Force]

Every Spring, I fall: over a
curb, out of my car, onto a
secret. Like clickwork – April
clocks by, or May I stumble
into an awkward position or

It appears to be lunar. I lose the
largest bits of skin to hungry asphalt
when the moon is round and
seemingly full. Apparently not
too full for dessert on my
knee flesh or toe leather. Spring
has a most inconvenient appetite.

When June arrives (not a moment
too soon), I’m bejeweled in Band Aids; my
practical nephews advise against
bathing, saying it hurts. I tell them
I’ll muddle through. Still, I wish

that Spring could really hang me up
the most, like the song says. Hang me
up on a spindle with the coats or
even throw me into a cubby with
rubber boots and stray mittens. I
can do without the constant challenge
to my containment.

Karen Kowalski Singer, Two Poems
( Urbana, Illinois )

Whispering among the aisles of books
her dark head bent into
impassioned téte á téte
with no one I can see
shapeless canvas coat tented
over her back
she shuffles in flat shoes pushed
out of shape by swollen feet
searches the aisles: Plato, Kant, Jung
and reaches for something else.

At the crosswalk
outside the campus bookstore
she keeps her own pace
turtle on a busy street
as the crowd, untethered
by the past, flows around her
into the current of appointments
meetings and assignations.
Her smooth fat fingers
twitch unreadable
sign language; she's muttering
to invisible taunters.
I imagine her in other settings:
in the coffee shop, scribbling
in sympathetic ink, or posting
letters to herself.

I prowl the bookstores
on my day off, digging between
hard covers for something
I must have missed.
The thought of her is
on my heels like old bubblegum.
Who would I talk to
without ordered days
to stamp me "useful"
and keep memory flowing outward?
With nothing to curb it
the past won't leave us alone.
It bleeds through
blots the pages until
the extraneous marks
make their own sense
and we can't stop

Traveling Incognito

I get lost following you, a whim
in purple clover mounds at roadside

swarms of yellow leaves blow up
butterflies flock into my windshield

under a twisted tree whose girth
couldn't be ringed by a woman and a man

near the abandoned grain silo
on a one-lane road overgrown with ragweed

do you inhabit a house behind a fence
the upstairs window boarded

the kitchen hung with dingy curtains
I have sought you at crossroads

among cornfields I can't see around
are you there

oh love who are you today
a spy a crook an angel?

Johnson Cheu
( Columbus, Ohio )
The Wounded

Roses, chocolates,
a card, a kiss.
Apologetic offerings
for trespasses.

In the news, a standoff:
fighter planes downed;
men, dead or captured.
One side waits

for word, demands
safety, release; the other
an apology, an admission
of error, of malicious intent.

Mothers and lovers
are trotted out, their tears
televised reminders
of human casualties,

not territorial assaults.
But others clutching
not roses, but flags portray
one nation's prideful heart,

no different from
any wounded lover: demanding
an admission, the obligatory word,
before the body is surrendered.

Tim Scannell, Two Poems
( Port Angeles, Washington )

Sent a bushel basket of
Autumn leaves to her
(UPS: $10.50);
A box of wooden matches
(SAFEWAY: $1.19),
And enclosed the best love
Note ever penned:

Ignore the city ordinance.

All Present and Accounted For (Regardless)

Even if it isn’t a poem:
Sparrow on the sill pecking
The window, cocking its
Head and pecking the
Windowpane again.

Janet I. Buck
( Medford, Oregon )
Curbs to Climb

Your face is white soap pale.
A thousand mirrors record the sag.
Who painted your flesh this oatmeal fix?
Ghost in a drape.
Even a straw is testing
the wheeze of your lungs.
The bed owns the room
like a tumor that swells.
Nurses come and doctors go—
quietly as passing fish.

This pocket change of suffering—
church bells calling for a god
who seems absorbed
with bigger things than human ears.
When blankets of drugs peel back,
you'll need the cane of a friend
who isn't afraid of curbs to climb—
who won’t avert her open eyes
from show and tell of spreading scars,
potage of time rubbing the heel.

I've scooted down
the basement stairs of losing it.
I've seen the termites
under floorboards
chewing at the planks of arks.
I knew when we met,
some painful hour would snap
our frames like dry saltines.
Agape is never a monk—
it's a choir that garners its voice
from the rush of a brutal wind.
Stand up and spend the last pink rose.
I do not want you resting here.

I - Old Dance, New Paint
III - Ground Heavy With Thought
IV - At the World's Well

Featured Poet - E. Ethelbert Miller

Credo - Tim Scannell

A Review - Nell Maiden

Summer 2002 Issue
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