Richard Fein( Brooklyn, New York )Rochelle Ratner, Three PoemsSkeleton KeyTake off Clark Kent's glasses and assume Superman's X-ray eyes. Kryptonite is an optical illusion, so feel free to find a deeper vision. Beneath black, white, red, yellow, brown, and perhaps even a tinge of blue, the articulations of bones speak of grace in the harmonized movements of humerus with femur, of radius and ulna with tibia and fibula. See how the slender phalanges uncurl from the metacarpals when the hand reaches out to touch. Be awed at the towering strength of the spine which holds the skull far from the ground and closer to the cosmos. Scan the arcade of the ribs, those bellows of breath. Below is the pelvis which holds up the framework, like a wide supporting hand. And like the comic book hero see beyond the clashing colors of skin all the way to the ore of silvery bones running within, which as much as ligaments and tendons binds us all to the common vein of the body politic.
( New York City )Kristy BowenCostumesTo be sure this will be slow, they undress each other. His tie, her necklace, his belt, the top button of her grey silk blouse. Imagine these hands calloused, he thinks but does not say. And she imagines one breast plumper, thinner, then gone. And do you like what you see, are you certain you want me? What is anyone sure of? Sure, it works the other way, also. She spends over an hour in front of the mirror, tying her scarf one way, then another, dressing to meet his friends, who won’t even look at her.Pixie1. You know, as in fairy, or fairy tale. Peter Pan, the drama production put on by the second grade when she was in first grade. The cousin she looked up to tiptoed about the stage with a flashlight. Pixie. Too old for fairy tales, pixie cuts were all the rage that summer she went to camp. Over her mother's dead body. But she hated camp. The kids hated her. Each hair that grew back curled and hated her cousin. 2. Over her mother's dead body. Not to mention the beautician. Hired to make her beautiful, they said. To at least hide the mole. No matter that she didn't want to be beautiful. Don't be ridiculous, her mother said. And not play with her cousin? Don't be ridiculous, her mother said. And would keep saying, long after she went only to barber shops. Don't be ridiculous. Until Mother was cold in her box and no one from her cousin's family paid their respects. Ridiculous.April 12, 2003His gourmet lunch already spoiled because she has to stop at every mailbox, they pass a woman hurrying down the street, a see-thru shopping bag from The Game Stop (a.k.a. Software Etc), swinging madly from her arm, holding a new copy of Turbo Tax Deluxe, and he’s suddenly hungry. As they nibble at their salads, they see three pregnant women enter the trendy Upper West Side restaurant, separately, none of them knowing each other yet. He orders coffee. She butters half a roll, then eats the other half. On the way home they see a woman on the ledge of a brownstone calling to her cat, on a ledge four buildings down. The cat finally starts walking, gets to within five feet of the window, decides to turn around.( Chicago, Illinois )Kirby Wright, Two PoemsRedThere are stories for what we dare not say. Even now, the women in ravines call to us— float blind in rainwater, placid as roses. In that life, she brushes her hair at midnight, spins in circles, cuts bread with a knife dull as summer. It tells her nothing. She learns to play in darkness, the overgrown place in the heart. The length of the path, the depth of the forest is not important. Her breath trembles in the trees. The mother pauses by the window, her eyes following the receding slash of red against the sky, her finger moving beneath words memorized long ago. There against the door, where the cloak once dangled, there is only the shadow of something settling in the filtered sun. But in the woods, under his fingers, she is slipping, her tongue creating new words, harboring language where it builds in her bones. In another story there would be an apple, a choice. This is what we must learn. The before and the after. What is important.
First Night in Rome; Rome, Italy by Toni La Ree Bennett
( Seattle, Washington )
( Vista, California )Seth McMillanJust Before the WarThe terror thermometer Has risen To orange. Neighbors head inside When the streetlights come on. Batteries, duct tape, and bottled water Are in short supply. Gas prices continue to climb. The President fidgets on his podium Like a petulant child. North of Oceanside, Practice bombs detonate After midnight. Reverberations shake homes, Shatter bedroom windows. The war is coming.Fall on the CoastThe sea is rising. It resists El Niño To remain choppy and cold. Palm trees drink in the breeze— Their trunks sway like drunks In beachfront parking lots. The blue tower Is missing its lifeguard. These waves leave no room for surfers; They fold in on themselves Before drowning stones and shells. A blonde wearing a green thong Runs in and out of the shallows. Race walkers race up from Carlsbad. They pass a sleeping bag And a man performing yoga For a roosting seagull. A crowd huddles on the coast. Helicopters appear from the south. Someone has disappeared In the hypothermal water. The anxious tide narrows the shore.( Oakland, Maine )Frog KickingWhen the telegraph key is depressed, the receiver begins to wonder if the message is coming, yet its tidings travel at excellent speed, and it is up to the recipient to wait patiently. It is similar to the prisoner who sits in a cell, standing by for release day. And in these intervals, millions of insects die. A multitude of couples have sex. And it is raining, somewhere, and a man is shoveling for worms. Up near the rafters I'm reading a book, and there's a hole in the roof. I can smell smoke, as if a farmer is burning some old wood. And my dog is whining for me below, because she can't get up the ladder, as she paws the rungs. I am getting sleepy anyway, and tomorrow I have to get up early for the church ladies, who have their weekly meeting in our living room. And my Mom made some maple butter, which she left for me on the counter. She'll be back late, having to work at the Legion on weekends. As I touch my widow's peak I realize that I don't have my hat on, and it's resting on a nail by the door. Dad asked me to do a magic trick and I failed him, and he'll be inside watching the idiot box. There's no escape, only wood ticks. I don't have any keys for the car, and I'm only twelve.
I - Trinkets in a Closed Drawer
II - A Wrinkle in the Trees
III - Becoming a Fish
Featured Poet - Eleni Sikelianos
Sikelianos Feature, Page 2
Afterword - A Poem by Nell Maiden
Current Issue - Summer 2003