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III

Elegy for the Hidden

_________________________


Cathryn Shea
( Mill Valley, California )
Some Ectomy

A turkey hadn’t burst into flames, 
I hadn’t served my children raw giblets. 

“Give her oxygen,” I heard. 
“OK, you can hold the mask. It’s over.” 
I was startled. Books I’d seen waving as if flags 
weren’t real. Joy of Cooking, 
Irish Food and Folklore 
and my sepia Escoffier.

Propped up on a gurney, my left breast feeling 
on fire, I journeyed down a hall, 
slid into a space without shadows. Nurses 
slathered in white light 
pushed stainless steel carts, monitors chorused 
tweet, tweet. An attendant asked, 
“How’s your comfort zone?” I signaled: 
Almost not unbearable. 

And like a bad inflight meal, a green tray slithered 
under my chin. Crumbled saltines, 
thimble of Gatorade, two insipid pills. 

Arms like my mother’s coaxed me to reenter 
snap-front shirt and sweat pants. 
“Doin’ great,” I heard…. 

Electrodes attached to my skin 
peeled off. (Except one. A fleshy vinyl disk 
with a metal areola clung to my thigh.) 

Hours later, a wheelchair pushed me to the curb 
of Howe Street, 
my husband’s blue van waiting there. 
The freeway home shimmered 
not far away. 
The onramp escaped us.




C. E. Chaffin
( California )
Currents

The wind scours the sky and scrubs 
the stars so clear it hurts my eyes. 

It comes from everywhere at once 
making the Bishop pines lean,

the eucalypti sift and zither
as the wind caroms 

north and south and east 
in a forested cup on the headlands.

To listen to the wind is dangerous
for it tells us nothing in a way 

that seems a something,
insinuations distant and sibilant.

If you do listen to the wind
try to shape a shape within it,

something to talk to, something 
familiar with the currents

that keep us talking to each other.






scratches on the princess mirror by Cheryl McPeek Dodds

( Lebanon, Oregon )




Jessie Carty
( Charlotte, North Carolina )
Woman of Willendorf
Nothing that is not there, and the nothing that is
               – Wallace Stevens, “The Snow Man”

The Venus of Willendorf, tinted in red was misnamed. 
She predated Venus mythology by millennia.  

Her pronounced belly, breasts and vulva suggest 
something fertile yet how 

could she hold up an infant?  Her tiny arms – crossed 
over her chest – have no palms. She 

has no apparent face with which to watch a child.  Without 
feet she wouldn’t run.  She would 

instead be present, provocative, always available 
for procreation.  Perhaps that’s why 

she had time to have plaits put in her hair. Braids 
that remind me of the weaving of baskets 

and I wonder what if I put you in basket, could I then
crack you, egg like for Easter to see

what is inside; what 
you are and aren’t.




Marilyn Kallet
( Tennessee )
Elegy for the Hidden
Norwood, Virginia

The slave graveyard didn’t want to be found.
   (Means I couldn’t find.) 

The poet at Squaw said, “That’s not your poem
   to write."

Climb again toward stones,
   penciled map in hand,

to the promontory.  Graves won’t
   begrudge me a lullaby.

Nothing about you
   was mine, song won’t hurt now.

Distant lament.  Shoes off
   at your threshhold.
  
My mother and “the girl”—her cleaning ladies,
   the trips back to Alabama, through shanty towns.

Some of those shacks were slave shacks.
   From the train, poverty looked exotic.

Montgomery, Alabama, new Civil Rights Museum.
   Waterfall of names, Mighty Waters.

You and I weren’t friends enough.
   The blood has dried and I don’t care about

the writers who owned the dining room.  Big
   fucking deal.   They can pen

the haunted carpet poem.  Did they sell the house?
   I will find the hidden graveyard.

Sing a few lines
   for you and your son.  “Mine” doesn’t figure in.

I too have a child.  You were my friend. 
   Deeper in the woods.   Or more obvious.

If this is someone’s else’s poem,
  I am someone else.

  Voice strike.
            –In Memory, Reetika and Jehan



Sergio A. Ortiz
( San Juan, Puerto Rico )
Hard Shove into the Void

The cheapest quest is a boy
walking behind another boy,
holding his father and mother’s

perfect hands, with round
spangled eyes, like those he dreamed
in his recurring dream.

A boy watching another boy swing
in air gets an ache
that is a hard shove into the void.

There is such an animal
in me, I remember him in places
like Paris, with such a hunger.




Robert Klein Engler
( Oak Park, Illinois )
Transfer Point

Once upon a time we knew little of wounds.
We loved flat stomachs and firm breasts.
We ran fingers through our lover's hair like 
fingers through the long grass of the field.

The young man next to me on the L train plans 
a seduction. Years from now he will remember 
his wound as a cut so sharp at first it did not
bleed. Wait. The beautiful get hurt that way.

A Mexican girl who works at the Korean dry
cleaners goes home with a bag of bruised apples 
for her mother. Her wound begs like pigeons 
on the platform. Only the heart relives its pain.

The newspaper claims someone stole Michael 
Jackson’s prosthetic nose. The guy with skull 
tattoos says it’s not true. The train lurches. Go.
Stop. Go. Crews are working on the track ahead.




Danna Jae Nordin
( Las Vegas, Nevada )
Click. Release.

Cryptic verse:
My voice,
my message in a bottle.
Cryptogrammic clicks
and smoke signals.
The massage pushes inward
while I try to push worries outward
through my lungs.
I reassure myself that smoke
does not always indicate fire…

....---...

He pushes the oil
down my forearm
into the pale underside of wrist.
My palm, upturned, curls
around his approaching fingers.
The oil is almost too hot,
the pressure almost too deep.
Curl, release
Curl, release

....---...

This is my message,
my Morse Code.
Ballads and spice fill the room
as I write poems in my head,
lips silent.
He pulls my toes,
rubs my scalp,
brushes the scratch on my thigh
and comments.
Curl, release
Curl, release

....---...

Poems in my head:
No voice. Only code.
I click, “What do you want from me?”
to no one in particular.
I click, “People don’t change,”
while my husband waits at home
for the best of me.
Curl.
Release.



Jeff Mann
( Pulaski, Virginia )
The Angel of Royal Street

I doubt a Whitman allusion’s witty use is sufficient
to woo him – Passing stranger! You do not know
how longingly I look upon you – this eminently fuckable
boy in his mid-twenties I pass near Brennan’s.
He’s sporting big shoulders and thick round mounds
of pecs a tight t-shirt shows off, cargo shorts and furry calves,
the black curly hair and beard that always hone
my hunger, with the obligatory blonde tramp in tow.
As usual, good manners veil my fascination, leave me
conjecturing what cosmic rules or karma obviate
a sweaty, lengthy Daddy/boy scene. What have I been
or done to determine that all I most want is denied?
In what I mutter, stopping, turning to watch him
stroll off – Holy Gawd! – is wonder at least, wonder
and passion I can remember if not fully savor.
What’s left of him is to imagine what sort of
sweet slavery I might arrange for a submissive angel,
meanwhile gobbling crawfish and gratined oysters,
swilling sublimations of Abita Amber, toasting to the few
creations left that stun, as I lunch overmuch
with my heat-weary husband at Acme Oyster House.


I - Out-of-body
II - Eyes That Cover Us

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