C. E. Chaffin( California )Susan Elbe, Three PoemsDonít Look BackI see my life as a black road stretching back through infinite potholes of time to a horizon where black-bottomed clouds always threaten to storm, a sinister road flanked by trees blasted the color of ash, trunks hollow-topped and jagged. Those are my trees by the sagging barbwire between the termite-riddled fence posts. Those are my cows behind the wires starving, starving, barely standing. The reason? They have discovered who they are. I want to tell them, ďYou are not just meatĒ but they know it is a lie. I cling to my lies like a fat black spider hanging from a silver filament. The lies matter, donít they? Well, donít they? Things donít become other than they are just because you want them to. I close the eyes in the back of my head and shuffle forward.
( Madison, Wisconsin )Johnson CheuPetition in the MiddleAn edge of storm shunts over the mountain, light and dark slicing the sky, yin and yang. Lord of Changes, let me want (whatever it is) the next thing. Once there was a child who stepped inside me and quickly out again. I don't say I never had that hunger, but how much comes in the nick of time? How much never comes? In this light, the river, blue vein, pulses at the earth's belly. Nowhere is back. Lord of Paradise, I ask for crooked letters. What we have no words for still needs to be said. Sometimes at night I hear the windy vowels blow hard, the consonant doors banging in my head. By morning, they've clicked shut. Lord of Compassion, forgive me. At every turn I chose survival over love, love over discipline, discipline over excess. Lord of Time, let me have more. In this downpour, the hours go to rust.First Love: An Erasurethe hours between were difficult tarnished cups cigarettes of the lion when bones are being mauled whichever way you approached was too farSitting with AutumnSipping the oolong of emptiness laced with a syrup of bees, she's learning to live with less. In all of her cupboards, a fracas of quandaries and mutinies. But sipping the oolong of emptiness, she watches October light jaundice, the trees, a slurry of pennies. Learning to live with less time, work with a sense of purpose, let go of frittering things, she's drinking the oolong of emptiness. Some nights the gods aren't gracious. The glowing clock is a frieze that forces her to live with less intentionóhaunted, she obsesses, searching for the keys to loosen the long emptiness. Slow, blue morning, tortoise. Two stars like rhinestone berries. She's learning to live with less, sipping the oolong of emptiness.
Woman in Sunshine by Ernest Williamson III
( New Jersey )
( East Lansing, Michigan )Helen LosseThe Accident Survivor DreamsI am four, skipping among the marigolds waving at the sun. At six, I burn up the sidewalk, bounce up the stairs to say, Howdy to Howdy Doody. At nine, I race the grocery cart, grabbing the golden Sugar Smacks. I am sixteen, strolling along the sand, holding hands. Everything I know of love ó the lassitude of her breathing, the moistness of her lips ó all I know the stars, sky, and she holds. My mind plays everything in slow motion. I remember my body skiing, the boots hugging toes, the tenseness of hip bracing, the slope of back. Leaning in, my body marries wind, flying for seconds before ó I am making love to the wind, ground, stars. My body holds her body. My body loves my other body, longing.( Winston-Salem, North Carolina )Christine Hamm, Two PoemsTo BeA house is visible behind the right of way. I hate that house, and sometimes, when it disappears in the fog, pretend it isnít there. I sit in my chair and look into the yard. I imagine I belong. But this morning the yard was white with snow, and when the brown grass emerged from its hiding like a flag newly un-furled, the house snickered. ďOver here,Ē it called, waving and fluttering its shutters, hoping for eye contact like our patulous neighbor with her other seasonal and too-tight pants.
( Astoria, New York )Peter KrokThe 7th Yearmy husband doesnít want me to leave this morning he clings to my elbow, kisses my cheek he didnít let me sleep all last night talking to me in my dreams twitching and kicking the mattress I dreamt I went vampire killing again in the stacks of the school library my husband always over my shoulder muttering directions sometimes we roll together in the grass sometimes my hands at his throat sometimes my lips at his ear is this the dance our parents whispered of? confetti in our hair the band tired and playing low, my red dress creased? and still in this side to side back&forth I smell his breath and itís sweet always sweet like marigolds still bloom inside himMarch 25, 1911One girl held back after all the rest and clung
to the window casing until the flames from the
window below crept up to her and set her clothing
on fire. Then she jumped far over the net...
Ė eyewitness report, Triangle Shirtwaist Fireshe had worn swallow wings pinned to her hair, a whole dark sparrow poised and fixed on the crown of her hat she had paid a monthís wages for the silk blouse the exact color of bluebirds hanging above her broken mattress when she slept through the chattering of her three roommates, she ran and ran and ran in the fields of her fatherís farm, waving her arms, but she never got more then ten feet off the ground, sometimes her bare feet brushing the tops of the apple trees now is her chance poised at the open window her long skirt smoking at the hem the fire moaning and tearing behind her the screams have almost stopped the firemen with their too short hoses 15 feet below on useless ladders some girls hold hands as they step out into the air but this one, as in a dream, closes her eyes and takes to the sky alone( Havertown, Pennsylvania )Andrea PotosDoorsEverywhere doors turn into roms left open, good-byes left said and unsaid, things done and undone, so many faces left behind. I wake and close a door from the bedroom to the hallway. I hear a creaking in the living room. A sound of a hand knocking. Who's that walking in the night again? Everywhere doors lead into rooms, passageways, corridors of echoes, the smell of sweat left sticking on the skin when I stare at a crease of light against the door or find myself turning the knob, walking into the silence of eyes waiting. Have you been here before? The house whispers. Another door and I'm by the Schuylkill. In the hot afternoon I cast out a line. The reel spins. Someone is calling my name. I run to the river and shout, "I got it" as I hold it up and faces stare. Then another door. On the corners of the red brick parish the statue of the Blessed Mother lay on the pavement with arms pleading among the charred remains of the broken time. Innocence was not enough. They laid Constance out in holy white. I served her black high mass. The incense still won't go away. Another door. I am staring at a black robed woman. She is asking questions. "Do you practice enough?" How much time is enough? My fingers forgot the keys. The piano won't play the music. I open the door. There by the seashore cottage she waits and there I keep returning to her arms. We snuggle in the web of dark. I surround the darkness and carry her back. Her palms hold the sun then she moves on I am in another room. Another door. I do not know what I am looking for or why the whisper of the voice lingers on the scale of air.( Madison, Wisconsin )James LinebergerFirst KissWith Cindyís divorced Mom mysteriously absent, we spun the bottle in her basement to the voices of Blood, Sweat and Tears, Neil Young aching from the HiFi. When the bare snout of the seagreen bottle pointed at Jim Burbach, he didnĻt pause, he pulled me up off the shag carpet and led me into the playroom whose paneless doors and windows kept us within reach of all my friends, though I had no fear, figuring a kiss was a simple matching of sorts, like one sock laid atop another in a scented drawer, lips pressed to lips creating a unified whole, a sealed body of trust, not this tongueóslick and more certain than I'd ever been of anything, darting its way through my mouth like a serpent coiling through a gash in my life as if this were its true beginning.( Somewhere in the Milky Way )M. FrostAn Aberration of My Later YearsWordsworth said ďour birth is but a sleeping and a forgetting.Ē So much agreement then. So much nodding in agreement then. So much disillusionment now. So few answers. We distrust answers. I really donít know why this is so. We feel the same way about love. If love is not impossible it canít be real. But love persists. Love goes its way dumb as a spatter of pigeon shit. What shit, we say. What an intolerable load of shit. Who gives a shit? Who needs this shit? So love has no defense, we tell ourselves, even as it threatens to overwhelm us with its sudden outrageous appearance entering stage left, like the Player King in Hamlet, dumb as a spatter of rosyfingered dawn, dumber even than being alone, as dumb as it gets, dumber than dumb, as dumb as God.( Philadelphia, Pennsylvania )From Advice to Young Veterinarians:
Removing the HeadThis part is easy, he explains, beating the knife against the whetstone. Iíve even removed the cerebrum of cows like this, slipping the knife beneath the jaw, angling up, each muscle like curdled milk, divided from its leaner half with steel spatulas. He scrapes a hole between the skullís occipital condyle and the atlas, winks at me. Itís the strangest joint of the body, donít you think? Looks sometimes like a bat stretched out to fly, but thatís the place the spinal cord transects easier than air, ligaments that join the body to the brain loosed in two flicks, one on each side, like this. He demonstrates. Just make sure you sever the remainder of the skin from the inside, or else youíll dull your blade. This one is small. He reverses the knife, hands it to me. I look down at the cat I have killed in the most official manner possible; orange, ubiquitous tabby, the cat reminds me of one I used to know. I suspect his only sin was to be unvaccinated for that most deadly disease, rabies, his wound a fate impossible to ignore. I stab, I slice, I fit the head on its silver tray. Nice work, he says.
I - Kneaded
II - The Dust of Worry
IV - To Carry Emptiness
Featured Artist - Leslie Marcus
Featured Poet - Robert Lietz
Current Issue - Fall 2006