Guesting in the House


Alan Catlin
( Schenectady, New York )
The Origins of Memory

At the ocean's core, water is
the devil's playground: talking
fish walk on land or swim as
they see fit, animals speak a
common language with man
and ice to burn as fuel for lamps,
light and heat evolving as clouds,
their undercarriages the bones
of storms that drop to the earth
as electrical charges, drums of fire
sudden rains snuff; a slow drift of
sodden smoke, the last remnants
of something irretrievable, the black
box containing all the secrets of
civilizations lost, doors rusted shut,
all contents let go.

Evie Shockley, Two Poems
( Winston-Salem, North Carolina )
the changing of the guards
— alexandra township, south africa, 2001

if it is like the sun, rising, shining,
setting, reliable
as a heartbeat, we can live
with it. bread tastes
the way our mothers’ mealie

tastes — better or worse begins
there.  poor, ugly, and unjust
are often words for some existence
beside which ours seems bright,
the familiar darkness of a familial horror.

  *   *   *

the president declared
the state of emergency in ‘85,
set up points of entry
all around the township, monitored
by guards who scrutinized

our living and photographed
faces for deviation, an army of men
paid not to see what they looked
at, as they counted and accounted for
our endless, restless numbers.

now, to go to jo’burg, we left
a quarter-hour earlier than before,
passing the time in queues
with jokes, gossip, news
of how change follows change.

 *   *   *

in soweto, children were growing
into their parents’ faded clothes,
grumbling dissent, but numb.
then a new rule required
students and teachers to stutter

lessons in a foreign language,
the governmental tongue. the rule,
meant to mute them, raised their voices
to a roar. their blood spoke
through any gun-imposed silences.

 *   *   *

that was ‘76. we saw soldiers
and police through red eyes a decade
later. the township guards were
uniformed, armed, but familiar, resembling
brothers, sons, dear enemies.

like lethal machines, in their first days,
they began to take root
in their posts, and finally took on flesh,
as week upon week we met
their glances with grudging stares,

greeted them, gave them names,
received ours back on passes
undercut by growing recognition. one day
those guards did not return,
but new ones took their places,

stiff with fresh distance. soon, the heat
of our november, december hellos
lifting above the dust, dark arms
hanging out of car windows
raised in casual waves, melted

the replacements, who disappeared
in turn. and so on. reliable.
until apartheid rose
and shone and set in the grave
we dug for it, and did not rise again.

 *   *   *

now, the booms are never lowered,
and we pass in and out of the township
where more elusive obstacles
still contain us. this is better
bread, we all agree, approaching

the old checkpoints without slowing much,
catching ourselves a heartbeat
before our habitual hands wave at spaces
left by men where no men should be.
impossible that we could miss them.
— for bongi dhlomo-mautloa

in this house

spring light, less than eight
hours old, slides down the angled,
shingled roof of the bungalow next

door. i am guesting in the house i
own with you. you,
you are minutes away in another

world, and all this march
wind waltzing the bare branches
of the maples cannot blow me back

into the kansas
you carry around between
your ears. i sit, head on knees, gripping

my ankles fitfully, as
if that pressure could distract me from
my aching delivery

of the monthly toll,
red and jellied, paid consistently
since my thirteenth spring

for failing to live up to
my potential. in the red blackness
of eyelids shut tight

appears the imagined face
of a child with your mouth and my eyes,
no better than we

are at using them. he or she is
not the answer. i
am just an infant myself,

your voice the giant thumb my soul fists
around. nights, you are
the babe, seeking in the surfaces

and recesses of my body
the home i never made you
in this house.

Anne Fraser
( Seattle, Washington )

Learn to be dark
as you once were,
nothing –
and everything,

without knowledge
but for the
deep cold
of the night sky,

the moon,
its one
bright eye.

untitled by Claudio Parentela

( Catanzaro, Italy )

Corey Mesler, Three Poems
( Memphis, Tennessee )
Where Ma Rainey and Beethoven once unwrapped their bedrolls
Tuba players now rehearse around the flagpole.
–Bob Dylan

Music dies in me
like the last
plucked harp string.
A coagulant
replaces it, a deceptive
honey.  I strain
to notice the
backbeat; I long for
the plaintive
chorus, but they are
no longer there.
Where can I go now
when the night
becomes too much,
when the light
wavers like a balloon?
I turn as if on
a table.  The maestro
picks up a bazooka.
Remember that I love
you.  Remember
that I used to be called


My Conversation with the TV

At 3 a.m. it says
something about the saints, how in the
streets they danced
with peasant women, lifting their skirts
with lewd tools.
I know better than to trust the stories one
is told at 3 a.m.
I know better than to think about peasant
women and what they 
might do, given the opportunity to be
alone with a saint.

A Friday Poem

A Friday poem is
full of itself,
full of the humors that
plague the male,
the impregnating humors.
A Friday poem
wants to undress you,
touch you where you hum.
Forgive it, the
Friday poem. Its words
strain the leash,
its intentions are less than
honorable. Unless
you believe it’s all about
love. This is what the
Friday poem believes, too.

Jordan Stempleman
( San Francisco, California )
The Vine Will Take This Year
To bet on returns, before
the force comes along
and helps one to forget.
     The mind works,
     it works, but for others it longs to remain.

Resolved, it commonly sings
soon off in the interest 
of prolonging the beloved
stretch of mystery
mostly I will believe
and now and then decide
it’s crazy or just too much
a dancer’s made difference
in a tented field come to rest
the natural softens in time
a foundation sinks
lower into the wood’s chill
these trifles with their strength
enter to find the method
turning reddish brown 
to off chest and back
once there was a phone call
that lasted twenty minutes
with an ending 
where a beginning was needed
it took days then
to sum up the practice unresolved
days do burden the questions
ready who are not ready
to do it again

Joan Payne Kincaid, Two Poems
( New York )
The Poet Sits Alone At A Picnic Table

Observing The Scene

Coffee on the beach
dense fog obliterates little children
and titles; ginger tea and toast;
each boat out there high on horizon;
she ties blonde hair behind dark glasses
legs elongated and feet, ogled
big hat north side bright red
eternity salon: da da ma ma
the children handle shells and sand
and breast feed soft un-zipped sucks;
a lonely gin on ice
onions to contend with the sea's
blind essential being;
literature and fondling fingers
of comforting green roars.


That it was green was certain
that you were similar too
with children in the scene
and Egrets flew along the strand
time washed away with tides.


1. being outside alone with the crowd is major
2. deaths of day alleluia cooks life's monotonies
3. on side porch of cast away love affairs
4. minor key Plaisir d'amour on cello lip-sync
5. highschool reunion nightmare perp
6. pranced on stage staggering something unintelligible
7. la porte la fenetre gender androgynous martini
8. derivative of classic Greek tragedy
8. derivative of classic Greek tragedy
7. la porte la fenetre gender androgynous martini
6. pranced on stage staggering something unintelligible
5. highschool reunion nightmare perp
4. minor key Plaisir d'amour on cello lip-sync
3. on side porch of cast away love affairs
2. deaths of day alleluia cooks life's monotonies
1. being outside alone with the crowd is major

I - Clenched Fists and Clouded Metaphors
II - Soleil
IV - In the Dusky Hours
V - Finding Favor with the Muse

Featured Artist - Leslie Marcus

Featured Poet - Lynne Knight

Current Issue - Summer 2005