In the Kafka Labyrinths


Jacqueline Marcus
( California )
Worpswede in the Autumn

It used to be a home for artists. Painters from all over Europe
would prop their easels in the backyard near the old trees.
The dry fountain, with its long vines, still gives pleasure to the eye,
as do the leaves this cold November morning.

Think about light speckled and flittering through the grove of birch,
how the geese seem to be governed by an invisible law.
It must have been pleasant
to sit back here and watch the leaves

blow the sun around like rose petals lost in the wind.
It must have been nice to have a cup of tea,
to listen to the soloist play Chopin—
and watch the translation of light

walk across the distant lake like a diplomat.
I am assured of the world’s existence far from pain,
seated on this stone bench
where time refuses to cross the path

and everything belongs to the moment.
Later, the artists gather together and discuss their work.
Someone pours the wine; someone else is laughing.
The day folds its wings, and a cold sun retires.

Alan Catlin, Three Poems
( Schenectady, New York )

On the wall behind the metal frame bed
is a large print of Guernica—Picasso at
the high point of his outrage against
the indecencies of fascist terrorism,
freedom’s suppression, the heedless
tyrannies of war—while on the bed
an overweight whore is entertaining
two customers simultaneously—one she
services, sitting astride him as he lies
on his back, the woman taking the other
in her mouth as he stands next to the bed,
head back, hands on hips not focusing
on anything—de Falla or is it Albeniz?
Iberian music is being broadcast through
the static on a cheap, bedside radio—
which, then, the greater obscenity?
the out of place mural hung in the back
street bordello? or the being filmed scene
of this woman at work, plying her trade?
the still, dead screaming just beyond her
arched back, her head.

Linda, 20, in Front of Straight Theatre Marquee, 1968
—after Elaine Mayes

The poster behind her says:
John Lennon in How I Won the War—
Coming Soon—Black Orpheus—
a good war for J Lennon to win,
unlike the one overseas in South East Asia,
young men Linda’s age were fighting,
increasingly reluctant, part of a New Age
of Dissent and of Fear. A conflict
that would spawn a literature for doomed
youth approaching middle age and death,
fucked up beyond all recognition, as current
military slang would have it, these warriors,
conscripted and enlisted, far from what was
happening, all the new desperate Art, avant
gardists Goddard, Resnais, even Truffaut,
these Bergman gothics, playing chess with Death
or lost in Kafka labyrinths compelled by
tortured Magus, no clear lines between
life and death, real and imagined, becoming
Italian Modernist DeSica’s Bicycle Thief,
Fellini’s La Strada no longer completely
human, a personal cultural subconscious
revealed: 8 ½, Juliet of the Spirits, The Good
Life, La Dolce Vita, Antonioni’s L’Avventura,
Blow-Up, Bunuel’s The Forgotten, Los Olvidados,
a whole new film festival, a lost generation in progress.

He Wore a Brand New

Death from Above
t-shirt with soiled
in the car repair
trenches fatigues
trying to prove he
was way beyond
Natural Laws—none
of which applied
to him except maybe
an obvious section 8—
the only laws—articles
that applied to him
were in the police
blotter published in
the Times Union—
each arrest record
running roughly two
weeks behind the crime—
the next offense waiting
to catch up with
the last just like
those double cuervos
skimmed with lighter
fluid he was trying
to ignite with a Bic
lighter—an effort doomed
to failure it seemed but
that didn’t stop him
from trying or the barman
from feeding him shooters—
his money down on
the bar sd Death from
Above would burn his
beard before his tongue—
delivering a new kind
of sermon on the mount
from behind a burning bush—
the Apocalypse According
to the Special Forces

Robert Klein Engler
( Chicago, Illinois / New Orleans, Louisiana )
Carnival, or Farewell to Flesh

Up north, snow warms the stones.
Then the scalpel of sunlight bears a tissues of clouds.

The Spanish word for "chandelier" means "spider of lights."

The fortune tellers fold their tables and leave.

He stopped going to the synagogue
because the beauty of the words made him weep.

The courtyard fountain makes the water
giggle as it trickles from basin to basin.

Snails crisscross their slow, silver trails
over the Great Wall of mossy garden bricks.

One hand begging, she hobbles on a crutch,
while he holds her around the waste.
His camouflage jacket is dirty and torn.
Yet there is enough to paint her fingernails red.

Sparrows fight over a meal of warm mule droppings.
Know a good thing when you see it.

A fat man sits in front of the cathedral
by his little table on a little chair,
barely strong enough to hold his bulk.
He spends the afternoon giving bone readings.
The story of my life in another voice.

Write, "Jason went away,"
but the wish comes back in dreams.

Life goes on here like anywhere else.
Too many empty liquor bottles in the trash.

Yesterday, a headless, burnt body of a man
was found in a field near Gretna.

I found the knot,
but I can't untie it yet.

This morning I walk a new way to the market.
I could be in Rosario. How beautiful he seemed.
Once the world was bright with two suns.

Sunshine brightens the leaves of the Chinaberry tree.
A robin leaps upon a branch and listens.
Old men need a reason to live.

At the New Orleans School of Glass Works,
you may watch them blow glass.
The molten lump comes out of the glory hole
so hot it will not break.

There is a man who wears a hat made from a small umbrella.
He stands on the corner and sings to the sky—
even when it's not raining.

A child sees a close-up photo of the invasion beach
at the D -Day Museum and asks,
"Why are those men sleeping together in the wet sand?"

At home you know where everything is.

Workmen repair the slate shingles of the Cabildo roof.
My neighbor hoses off the vomit from the sidewalk.

The season of beads and feathered masks approaches.
Bare trees stretch like veins against the prairie sky.
We must be in Illinois.

Freeform by Mark Stirner
( Helsinki, Finland )

Julie Bonaduce

( Portland, Oregon )
Usually Suspect

It calls itself meek but is
flawless and fierce, his
cigarette conscience hanging from

the corner
My eyes and lips are stowed in a
baggie: tagged evidence

waiting for trial. Pleading
with the delicate machine under a
spotlight; disembodied and

cuffed to the idea truth and need
which is bony like a chair
[Answering machine

recording voice says: "ya know, it just
makes you think... how can you say
that to me?"] and the light

gets brighter, waiting for me
to crack, crack, split open. Through
the crack he spoons my heart

out into a tin cup so that I have
something to run along
the bars of my rib cage. [Answering

machine voice says: "it's me you're
accusing! How can that be, you in that
cuffed position? Do you not

see?"] and I ask for coffee. Not
black, but with 3 times
the usual amount of plastic milk. Succor

to the plastic idea of truth and need
so bony like a chair. I see myself sip
in the one-way glass.

Cathy McArthur
( Bayside, Queens, New York )
Recycle Bin

heart with a torn screen

heart with an open shutter

heart with dead batteries

heart in a car crash

heart of plastic rosaries

heart with a missing link

heart of chipped stones

heart from an anniversary card

heart from a cardboard candy box

heart from a machine pressed penny

heart of scattered puzzle pieces

heart of stretched elastic

heart of thin threads

heart with only half of its red sequins

Erin Elizabeth
( Binghamton, New York )
Three Dialogues

I absolve myself. I was waiting, feet crossed
at the ankle, body turned to the wind,
slim hair slammed by winter, slick with ice.
I wore the silver and turquoise earrings,
the blue ponytail holder. The table was outside,
three over from the door. The notebook
was spiral and red. The rings were cleaned
from my fingers, the sleep from my eyes.
How is it that you could not find me?

I absolve myself. I was weak with work,
sick with speech. I could not clean
out my desk drawers, file the receipts,
the carbon reminders. There were too many
books to be read, too many papers to finish,
stanzas to clear away. And I was so stupid
with sleep that I could not rouse my
fingers enough to turn the key.

I absolve myself. He was replacing the pictures
in his frames, filing his nails, practicing your
number on the keypad, so when I cleared
my throat it was a train, roaring from a tunnel.
It wasn't that I didn't know, or that I wanted to
create traffic lights for his attention.
It was just that night I drank of him whole,
and he said my name every time.

Karen Neuberg
( Brooklyn, New York )

There's a whole convertible articulate

continuously conversing

around me. In the hinge mountain

where I sat pouring salt.

In the luncheon

crowd where no knowledge is too small.

Wet my finger to catch breeze

and I'm up, running to keep up.

Location, locution, or the right cute top.

Once the spell is cast

nuance holds me thrall — charmer

barging in, flaring — the way a knot

of pitch explodes the quiet

fire blazing lazy.

William John Watkins
( New Jersey )
Queer as Frost Stopping

Queer as Frost stopping,
in his snowy woods,
this poems seems
without apparent reason.

But because
I think so little now
scurrying my hamster cage around
until its roll rolls me
mindless with frantic routine,
say I woke from a nightmare you were in,
or woke and thought of you
with the frost
still melting off my heart
and wrote this down.

I - Writing Inside the Motherskin
III - Opening the Lid of Night
IV - Archeology

Featured Poet - Daphne Gottlieb

Winter 2002 Issue