Clouded Symmetry


Dennis Mahagin
( Washington )
Dante At The Foot Locker

my time going off 
as the corkscrew tail of a tibia 
splinter, or limp, half 
cocked as Ben Hur 
sandal straps 
driving me 

to steal shoes 
off the Goodwill rack, though I do 
give my current pair back, always, soft 
moccasins with chewed buckskin laces 
in place of new, but then 
again ... not
so new Hush Puppies, or
stylish jet-black Skechers 
Leather Uppers.

And even though they hurt me 
a bit, beginning a block past 
the store, a part of me says, "they'll feel more 
or less like mine, with time..." and in the same 
breath: "why not make this caper 
the last time?"

Outside, it's always
autumn, and then again
not, serpentine columns of steam pour off
the Couch street junipers. I shiver, I sweat,
I shuck my leather jacket that still reeks
of cigarettes, years after 
I've quit. My time
you see, blows 

this way, exactly hot
and cold enough to press the luck
at an upcoming intersection, 
in full view of a cop cruiser, 
I bang the big silver 
crosswalk button 
with my good foot, vicious 
Ninja front kick, quashing 
the flashing halt palm, 
the Do Not Walk 
with my heel-to-toe, where all 
nerve ganglia go; halfway between 
what must be paid for, and getting off
scot-free as Lazarus at Lent, 
at bus stops, incipient critical juncture 
spiked with paving tar stench
and cement mixer racket, 
where every hobbler 
must become an instant 
cobbler lending 
jackets. It's how 
we put one in front 
of the other, steps we take
as so many liberties, Mind 
calls out Body, says

"Try to keep in time?
Since you’re not a half 
bad good fellow, in lieu
of distance, and wince:
these walking blues..."

Oh, I might 
kneel down
yet, loosening 
the laces so as not 
to trip; muttering 
phrases ... novenas 
that make leather tongues 
slip;-- these shoes do 

get me 'round, they will grow 
on you, too. 

untitled by Mary Hillier

Pris Campbell (poem) / Mary Hillier (art)
( West Palm Beach, Florida / Lafayette, Louisiana )
Ghost Walk

Sometimes, when the sun
hurls itself over the horizon
and rain paints my yard green,
you walk through my den wall.
Your touch is a flutter of silk.
Shadows fill the holes in your head
stolen by cancer.
Sadness creeps, becomes
armor cloaking me.
It blocks out the dancing barbies.

In the kitchen my husband
steams turkey with rice.
Soon I will lift fork to mouth,
armor clink chasing your ghost away.

Bob Bradshaw
( California )
Maintaining Control

I watched as my hands fumbled for her buttons 
when they should have sat politely in my lap. 
They blundered into private areas
obviously off limits. 
I enjoyed watching my pubescent pranks.
Still, I wanted to walk away, 
but I tolerated my other self
because he was family. 
I scolded him. I goaded him. He was stubborn,
determined to undermine my authority.
He has embarrassed me for the last time.
From now on I am looking the other way 
when he intrudes between me and a woman.
I will pretend that he doesn't exist
as he heaves into her like a walrus
in mating season. 

Ann Walters
( Oregon )
Studying a Male Nude in the Anatomy Text

What she notices are not the legs

coiled tight as anacondas,

not the abdomen

where it ripples like sand,

not even the penis

starting like goldenrod

in a thicket of black curls. 

It is the skin,

soft, smooth, unbroken.

The inflexible triangle

of muscle at the elbow 

that means a fist has been formed. 

Amy Riddell
( Florida )
A New Being

When they opened me 
to bring her out,  
they opened me, 
the cut made 
deep, every lamp 
was lit to let 
the doctor see
inside of me 
where she grew 
all those months, 
kindled embryo, 
wholesome marvel, 
love buoyed
by simple truth.

Every lamp was lit
when they opened 
and closed me, 
cut so deep they 
recovered me, left 
a grin sewn in when 
they stitched 
my belly up. 

A new being
with gentle hands,
I find her, take care
to tend her, keep busy 
with tiny fingernails
to trim, clippers
to steady while I 
snip translucent 
slivers, hold 
my mouth just so, 
so as not to nick 
tender fingertips.

When she sleeps, I listen 
for her cry. No longer
do I sort laundry or roll 
my husband’s socks 
without my ear cocked 
for the sound
of her stopped heart
or strangled breath. 
All my lamps 
are lit.

What I know of love,
my body taught me
through muscled certainty
and the contraction’s 
relentless grip. The lesson
owns me, her life 
a promise kept. 
She flourishes 
even now 
in my cradled arms. 
She suckles and grows
at my breast.

Bruce Lader
( North Carolina )
Hide & Seek

Intuition whispers 
someone’s in back of you,
find the redolent warmth

the cloud of mist	     
somewhere     in your study      
behind the desk chair.     You swivel 

this way     no lover     that way 
no wife.     One thing you’re 
certain of     this abracadabra 
moment     ludicrous with
      giddy freedom      

after her shower     in the mazy 

a pulse     phosphorescent 
     		   as foxfire    
plus the whim 
        of exuberance in her eyes

equal a heaven you can touch.

( Minnesota )
Thinking about O’Hara on the Way to Sunday

Spring thaw brings a few surprises, least of all, the snow
how one day it’s near fifty and above, and the next morning
two inches of white buries the first green shoots of a peony 
and cloaks the trees with regalia.

Mindlessly walking, the hand swinging a book,
A City Winter borrowed for a time 
this season of indoor madness, around and around.
The breadth of him now lies between the words
in a sonnet to the vagaries of desire.

Did you so love this world?

In a window box next to the doorway of a hillside condo, 
a flash of yellow pierces the muted brick and gray siding,
wrought iron, deco handrail leading up the steps.

Withered against a compost of brown leaves and lichen
and no more than a small fist of feathers, sunken breast,
bones sharp against the outside that swallowed him,
another lifeless elegy for a finch.

Did you so love this world?

Comes a time every forward motion gets lost
confused in a snow of forgetfulness,
its eventual demise racked by hunger.

Most likely, the window above that box 
promised him freedom, wide open sky 
reflected in front, its clouded symmetry coaxed him on 
against the stiffening cold toward some impending plan.

Do you so love this world?

Joe Mills
( North Carolina )
The Fist as a Unit of Measurement

As we read a book about the body,
one chapter explains, “The heart
is the size of a fist,” and another says, 
“The brain is the size of two fists.”
So, as my daughter looks closely 
at drawings of organs and bones, 
I think about the fist as a unit
of measurement and wonder 
if we should use it more often.
Recipes could call for a fist or two 
of flour.  I might shop for shoes
in my size of three and half fists.
Since we determine length by feet,
it makes sense to measure volume
this way, but however, gratifying
it might be to have such a symbol
of force and grasping, I know
what would be lost, a sense of this
intimate distance, a parent and child, 
lying on a crumb covered carpet,
her ten clenched fingers, her brain,
my five clenched fingers, my heart.

I - The Stone Listens
III - Like Falling Hats

Featured Poet - Marcus Speh

Current Issue - Fall 2010