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III

Windy Vowels, Consonant Doors

_________________________


C. E. Chaffin
( California )
Donít Look Back

I 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.




Susan Elbe, Three Poems
( Madison, Wisconsin )
Petition in the Middle

An 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 Erasure


                                                                                                      the
                                                                   hours
between                   were     difficult
                                                           tarnished


                          cups                  cigarettes




                                                                                                     of the

                                          lion






                                                                 when            bones
are being mauled


                                        whichever way you approached


                                                                was too far




Sitting with Autumn

Sipping 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 )




Johnson Cheu
( East Lansing, Michigan )
The Accident Survivor Dreams

I 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.



Helen Losse
( Winston-Salem, North Carolina )
To Be

A 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.



Christine Hamm, Two Poems
( Astoria, New York )
The 7th Year

my 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 him




March 25, 1911
One 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 Fire

she 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




Peter Krok
( Havertown, Pennsylvania )
Doors

    Everywhere 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.




Andrea Potos
( Madison, Wisconsin )
First Kiss

With 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.




James Lineberger
( Somewhere in the Milky Way )
An Aberration of My Later Years

Wordsworth 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.


M. Frost
( Philadelphia, Pennsylvania )
    From Advice to Young Veterinarians:

Removing the Head

This 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

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