J. P. Dancing Bear, Three Poems
( Northern California )
Lacuna    the Heart

        be easy    fall    love
     I   only        face    a picture
    path of collarbone beckoning   new
   crescent moonlight       lower lip
no         for         emerald eyes
warmth        flames         hair
                I pledge
this         give you       warm
or a         never  look      such glass
my heart
                   or shadow         might
overcoming this fear          you
or a lost language           not quite captured
           clear        did you    hear
oh lover                     imagine
this story                    unspoken
but beating real


We speak in dust.

I sweep my fine hair
brush over a stone face:
the god of love or gravity.
Surface of memory
cracked—features missing.
No words. The voice is dead.
What language we discover
is misunderstood.

Working Man

There are rumors. Something brewing in the coffee stations. People begin to whisper. Email is sent. The legend grows in the designated smoking areas. A new myth is carried home and told to loved ones, then spread to other companies, other enterprises. Clients and suppliers begin scheduling appointments more frequently with the hopes of seeing a legend. Management is concerned, but the business grows, the stock market is responding favorably to the gossip. The competitors are nervous. Employees stopped their web surfing and chit-chatty calls, they gather outside his cubicle to watch him work. Some of them try talking to him, but he is too busy. So they talk to each other while standing before the alter of his workspace. The man tries to tune them out. The voices become familiar and he begins to follow their stories. One of his neighbors makes a statement of trivial statistics regarding ants and he corrects her. This leads to a lengthy discussion of hives and behaviors. Now the man cannot work anymore, but the myth lives on -- the rumors spread. Some say the working man was transferred, others believe he was promoted to management. No one remembers his name.

Phyllis Jean Green
( Chapel Hill, North Carolina )
A Metropolis by Yourself

Like Minneapolis, you are sophisticated
and cold. Sole after the opera
and the long drive to your apartment
with its ice accoutrements
cubed over polyurethane.
Ice rink, I think. I make love
in an ice rink.
Everything matches, everything stinks.
Like your favorite stone,
your eyes are diamond flints.
~~What else?

Like San Francisco, you are beautiful,
like climbing into a wind.
All breathless views and costs
and the smell of hyped espresso.
Incense is strawberry, I believe.
You are incensed that I want to leave,
but I leave. Excuse myself with you
being gone so much. Out of your head
or in someone's bed. Does it matter?
Alex, I will take door number one. . .
no, wait. Door num--. . .wait!
Waiting is for others, you say.
As you soar then sink in the bay.

Like Chicago, you are busy
baking until you freeze.
Lots of bars.
Night finds you in sequins and fishnets,
a shimmer over heels.
Shoulders bare and it isn't 20 degrees.
jabbers and slurs you through the Loop.
Bluesing to a blues man,
imagine yourself a chanteuse,
until morning tears it off.

Like Atlanta, much is underground
and contrived. Extravagant
scenery, column props,
exaggerated drawl and a love for old money
and new kinks. Why am I forced

to leave again? Dixie
doesn't deserve you. You, her.
. . .Miami, you are sultry
when it suits. Thin ground
and a tendency to fly.

. . .Vegas, because you gamble. . .
. . .Dallas, because you are high. . .

. . .Danger of a Detroit.
. . .L.A. for fogged and photogenic~?
Fickle, you Do Lunch.
Cell a hundred best friends as you drive.
. . .New York for getting old
thievery, culture, fascination.
St. Louis because you arch
in bed. Languid, yew ah N’awlins.
Decadent as Paris, Moscow, Berlin
with Tokyo prices. I am leaving
for a bump in the road
where no one has been to the city

to mourn.

Duane Locke
( Tampa, Florida )

The leaves rot in a haphazard pile,
Between each dark rotting leaf
Thin white threads that organize
The order of decay to send out
The beauty of an exotic smell
And a brown darkening into our
Otherwise dull and drab world.
The philosopher as he walked
Feeling the tips of moss and
Different textures of the trees' barks,
He supposed it was the same
With the decay of love
As with the decay of leaves.

Tim Suermondt, Two Poems
( Jamaica, New York )
A Tall Tale

He’s the Smallest Vietnamese Boy

It’s a line I’d forgotten
until I resurrected it
the way you find a piece of clothing
or a souvenir in your duffle bag
many years later.

Dumb luck
Picking up where I left off
I carry the boy home, piggyback.
( I’m convinced I know exactly
where he lives. )
The day isn’t quiet, only less rowdy,
the sky canopied in yellow,
tracers too weak to do any damage
rippling purple through the air.

I tell the boy: “Life is sweet”—
a cliché for sure—
but there’s nothing truer I can write
now, just now, the two of us
traveling down this grubby road
one more time.

Perfect Book

for Greg Pape

Quick read,
lacking allegiance
to anything artistic, dark,
state of affairs
reaching such a positive outcome
the preceding misfortunes
are cause for celebration.
Think if the pages were yours:
The failed fathers
who drive blue Fords to Mexico
will return, surely
to a hero’s welcome,
flushed with success,
the ghost woman
who roams the night streets
calling for her son
will find him alive,
amazingly robust, and
the Prince of Tin Cans
will come into enough money
to buy his own Factory.
Too glorious to be true?
Possibly—seems we’re both
often too stubborn
For our own good.
While I have this Book
in my hands though,
I’m optimistic, content
to be nipping, nipping
at the heels
of the World’s unfairness.

James Cummins
( Alberta, Canada )

I hear a not so distant heartbeat
evolving from the calm
in the middle of the night,
Feeling its way into my head,

What it is
is something I take care
to think of,
From whispers that shall never
meet the winds,

Times have turned a kiss
into something without lips,
Into a melt of bodies
working themselves inside each other,

Nothing is wrong with the air we breathe
which steps into our mouths,
Having will to move
where expression has never been,
Nor the world,

For times have turned a breath
into something surrounded,
Somehow warming the ground
we walk upon alone

Kelley Jean White
( Philadelphia, Pennsylvania )
Hiroshima Day

I had forgotten how long a trip it was:
a rush past swamps, then turn at the Bear Camp River:
follow it, look for the cabin that might be Anna's . . .
Things quiet; trees shuffle, form a covered bridge—
we nearly miss its cool darkness—
Then the road is dirt and climbing.
Late, I swerve into the field to park.
I've always meant to make this day special to the children.
We should fold paper boats and float candles on the brook
at sunset, remembering, hallowing, pondering. . .

A snake lies backbroken and belly flat--the frog in its mouth
fights but cannot outlive the dying snakejaw. I step across
to take the children's hands. Life, I say, It is life, it is part of life.
I pull children and push lingering adults up the hill,
8 orthodox Philadelphia Quakers attending
a Hicksite meeting in North Sandwich, NH.
The last to turn, the scientist, takes
a stick and flings the leavings
toward the piled up stones along the road.

Claudia Grinnell
( Monroe, Louisiana )

on his crouching haunches
teeth bitter-bare and mealy
in the head
kneels God
himself with his bread -

fingertips roll
blood steers itself
into the drain
bit by bit-clay/lay
down yourself
I regret, he screams
I regret—

Ginger's Place - Sunrise by Cheryl Dodds
( Mansfield, Ohio )

I - Writing Inside the Motherskin
II - In the Kafka Labyrinths
III - Opening the Lid of Night

Featured Poet - Daphne Gottlieb

Winter 2002 Issue