Closer to the Cosmos


Richard Fein
( Brooklyn, New York )
Skeleton Key

Take 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. 

Rochelle Ratner, Three Poems
( New York City )
To 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.



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. 


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, 2003

His 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.

Kristy Bowen
( Chicago, Illinois )

There 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 )

Kirby Wright, Two Poems
( Vista, California )
Just Before the War
The 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 Coast

The 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.

Seth McMillan
( Oakland, Maine )
Frog Kicking

When 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 
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