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IV

To Carry Emptiness

_________________________


Blaise Allen
( Boca Raton, Florida )
Rorschach
It’s an old story better told than I tell,
How artists shape what hurts like hell

                                        —Dianne Ackerman

I wonder what my therapist
Would say if I told him
Every month I analyze rectangles
Stained with bloody images
Just like my grandmother taught
Me to read tea leaves
Just like a course in diagnostics
Taught me to decipher ink blotches
 
Each hour provides new data
Morse code oracles
Dot dash dot
A crescent moon
I’ll have many lovers
A butterfly
A meteor shower
A semicolon
I won’t have children
A star
Harbinger of good fortune
A period




Jessicca Vidrine
( Louisiana )
Despedida

The man I love is in the kitchen.
It's dusk outside,
clouds loom like plumes of red smoke
above our house.
He's swishing pots around 
in a sink of soapy water, hands hidden
beneath pale white purls of suds. 
The pots clatter
from the force of being 
put away, as sauce simmers on the stove,
little red eddies pop,
land on the ceramic surface,
the backsplash, the floor. He throws
his hands above his head in defeat – angry, 
he had to walk away 
from the television to scrub
hardened rice from a pot.
 
Just last night he touched
me with those same hands –
brushed my hair
ran a finger down my arm
connecting my freckles, 
there was a tenderness 
I didn't recognize.
 
The last time we made love
was in Tijuana,
during the trip that was supposed to help
us remember that we were in love.
But it was hard to remember what love was 
when we were in that alley,
my back against the brick,
my legs around his waist,
the backdrop of a mother's voice
calling to her son, "Di la verdad."




Patrick Carrington
( Wildwood Crest, New Jersey )
The Taste of Apples Underground

In winter, they fashion paradise 
in fancy wool. Multitudes make vows, 
horse-and-buggied in leather pews 
through the Eden of Central Park.
 
Wait for evening white, innocent ones.
 
Meet it there—where they look to liars, 
their blankets and their love, for warmth,
for something to believe. 
The setting sun will show you 
truths they deny, how oaths 
are really taken in big cold cities.
 
To know the frozen lowdown 
of this church you 
must descend,
 
to prophets propped on corners, numb 
eyes upward with a distant grief, 
to apostles snoring in doorways, 
drooling penance, confessing 
weakness in white bursts,
to women who men worship
beneath the cross of their thighs.
 
Legs are spread,
hands are spread,
knees are bruised,
clouds of prayers
dissipate in subway steam.
 
Wait for night—and follow stained 
steps down to the echoes 
of dead faithful turning 
in their sleep. 
Descend,
 
until you hear the scattered rattles 
of fallen angels, until you see souls 
scurry into tunnels chasing 
the sins of whispering snakes.
 
Have they bled enough
to forget the suffering,
to long for it once more?
Nothing captures religion better 
than temptation—it’s like the garden. 
There is a lure, a red offering, 
reminders you have teeth. 
And then a bite, a promise that 
even hell is temperate and green. 




Sheema Kalbasi
( USA )
Christmas Eve
for my daughter

if Europeans’ torment was not my dark color
if my girl was a year older 
And my husband had lighter skin
if my kindness was not misread 

perhaps wordless in porous lines...



Look! Look! What a lovely world!
We can fly, feather for arms...

Beautiful pearl, take your mamma’s hand
And remember when nothing stops the cold
Shout: Where is my fishing boots? 
I want to find the lighthouse.




Donald Illich, Two Poems
( Rockville, Maryland )
My House

The basement’s dirty laundry misses me.
Crusty dishes stack themselves together,
for comfort, while I read my books

instead of piling them in the washer,
the hot water cleansing their surfaces
of sins, greasy meals only I can forgive.

The TV, too, forgets what my eyes
feel like in the evening, a voyeur
its been accustomed to, showing flesh

and bombs for the creepy man with 
thousand mile electronic binoculars. 
The microwave notices I cook my own

food instead of inserting frozen meals.
It cries to the toaster, which fears
I’ll never eat blueberry waffles again.

All of them want me to return,
as I try to live inconveniently,
not looking at the time it takes

to boil eggs, neglecting networks
for works of literature, writing so much
I don’t have time for housework,

making changes in my life’s compass,
so east becomes west, and exploiters
seeking a Northwest Passage to my soul

find icy indifference, fiery desire.
I know, though, the channel selector’s
whisper, the Hungryman’s jolly call. 

"Let us do the driving, Don, don’t mind
the crash on the other side of your life."
I see my poems burning in the wreckage.

 

 
Clues

Guess what it is? Come on, try.
It’s bigger than a breadbox
but smaller than the universe.
No? Not sure? It rhymes with
“superfragilicious.” O.K.,
it actually rhymes with “tree.”
Or maybe with “big, scary tree
that eats children and lives 
outside their windows.”
Still too hard for you?
It’s an animal, vegetable,
and mineral. And a robot.
It’s been voted to the Senate
since 1796, and it’s allergic
to garlic, crosses, and charity.
Another clue? A baby’s first
word. A teenager’s second
time. A divorcee’s third
marriage. A lawyer’s fourth
and final heart attack.
A zombie’s fifth return from
the grave. Ready to give up?
Down pi letters, Sisyphus’ stone.
Infinity across, the only sure
way to determine if God exists. 
You must use a pen
to finish this crossword. 
Sick of this? Your last 
conversation on earth. 
How you’re going to die. 
What you’ll think of, when.
Giving up? One more try? 
Yes?




Melissa Petrakis
( Melbourne, Australia )
Eye Colour

 If I were to change one thing
it would be your eyes,
he tells her.
 
I’d make them green.
 
No,
he says.
 
I love your
Greek gaze;
the way you look at me,
so dark.
 
And well enough is left
alone.
At this her irises
expand.




Into the Light by Gerhardt Thompson

( Australia )




Karyna McGlynn, Two Poems
( Ann Arbor, Michigan )
July

What July hasn’t fogged
with a modicum of lemon powder
where girls pull the foil from plastic cups
warranting a quick huff, sour asphyxiation—
add ice and stir vigorously?

July with its thirty-one fingers
jumping hiccups in succession,
a gently flawed glissando. The boy who made you
drop your cereal spoon rushing through breakfast that way—
dark-mouthed mud god of the tire swing 
donning tan ankles of colored string,
daring hand on your gravel knee—

late July always ending this way,
lowering itself over you in the rasp of 
lengthening childhood, forever presenting its chest—
little thumbprints, burgeoning manhood
loosened from a yellow t-shirt, 
like a crab to be broken.

 

 
Kiss Goodnight
-from the Sally Mann photo, 1988

Just before you go to sleep
all the silver shavings gather to slide
through the bedroom’s large windy vein.
They gather in dark crescents here,
and broad magnetic icecaps there,
shade everything with a sketcher’s ease, 
the most pronounced palm turning
the page, the subtle black bear eye,
the precious artifacts of a certain hour.
We know this routine, this smell,
jaw unlocking in safety, sheets
pulled up and over the bodies, a long
white summer tongue to fish the memory 
of infancy’s unconditional love
from the mouth bidding brief departure.




Robert Klein Engler
( Chicago and New Orleans )
Crossroads at Grant Park

The trees fan bare branches against the cold
air of this late, March morning. Some say they
are dead, others say they just sleep their old,
arboreal sleep, and wait, the way saints wait,
to later have their gowns of green unfold.

Such mysteries appear to the solitary soul.
Sunlight pulls up the tulips and hyacinths,
or do they push like sores from down below?
The flesh on my bones is as soft as yours,
yet my motives were bent to father zero.
 
I see you ahead, holding hands with the shade
of love, counting coins of grief to measure
what candle to burn. Like you, I held a comrade
who's gone to earth. We worked hard, too,
but nothing much remains of what we made.
 
Some say our rest is just eternal night
where dusty fingers scratch the lids of dust.
Others marvel how the cold air turns bright,
ready to be broken again. It is as easy today
to carry emptiness as it is to carry light.




Steve Timm
( Wisconsin )
The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T

It says December.  Yes the leaves are down where the grass is green where mowed and
the creeping Charley or whatever it is is too.  Illness like lameness is is despotic.
Whether the grammar of that is gotten away with is too soon to tell since no one has seen
it.  Not even a chance.
	.

The bridge young Nabeel told me about the righteous have to walk to get to Allah.  As I
recall it you’re already dead and still you go.  But maybe it was alive.  If you fell it was
hell you did down into.
	Most of us feel that’s most of us.  One thin ascending footpath and all around.  
Nabeel was so earnest I lost my patience even as I kept it sort of just enough saying I 
wouldn’t convert that night which was no problem—roughly—for him but he would just 
finish so I knew and he did. 
	These beings here, the lame, the ones that walk on their own, the one who almost 
never any more.
	It says December.  The greenness of the ground cover.  The leaves dropped or 
gone camouflage to let the stars shine through.
	Illness, lameness; despots.  If it did snow.  If indeed identity were legitimate.  I’m 
telling you, no, I’m saying to myself, humility is within reach.  In letting go.  Letting go
of.  Of of.




Dianna Henning, Two Poems
( California )
Distance

Droplets plummet from the freshly watered planter
hung underneath the roof’s eaves;
oncoming night pregnant with silence,
and only a hushed plop, plop of water
speaks as it drips from the swollen pot,
pearls of moisture eking between flush seams.

Night comes on like a snake, devious in its side-
winding efforts to shadow up trees,
charcoaling what previously glowed distinct.
Our pink geranium hangs mute in the window.

The man who is my husband remains a mystery—
he waters, rewinds the hose, a green
tightening that writhes in his distant hands.




Retrospect

I would have, at one time, traded all my prize potatoes
for some other good fortune –
how quickly the starchy stars fade,
sprout their oblique waste,
one thing turned into another
in a matter of minutes –

–and who dare argue
that an arrangement of potatoes in a bowl
does not equal a vase filled with long stem roses?

Deep inside the earth
even the lowly worms understand their worth,
how silence is the truancy of angels,
luck a dark birthmark.


I - Kneaded
II - The Dust of Worry
III - Windy Vowels, Consonant Doors

Featured Artist - Leslie Marcus

Featured Poet - Robert Lietz

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Current Issue - Fall 2006
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