Dec '03 [Home]

Degrees of Apprenticeship:  Hunter

Program Profile by Donna Masini
. . .
B Three Card Monte ~ Slowly ~ Donna Masini | The Myth of The Grim Reaper ~ What I Know of the Story ~ Amy Meckler | 52 Pints of Blood ~ Meditation on the Study of Semiotics ~ Shelagh Patterson | Song of the Firemoon ~ The Day the Sun Rises Twice ~ William Pitt Root | Drive ~ Margaret R. Smith | On the Trip You Took to Find Out Whether ~ Nicole Tavares | Sci-Fi Valentine ~ Ultraviolet ~ Kimberly Jaye Thatcher | On Your Parents' Stoop ~ We Went to the Moon ~ Wendy Wisner Image:  Dennison Tsosie

A The Damned ~ Magdalena Alagna | Fingernails:  A History ~ Tomara Aldrich | Listening to Lorca ~ Meena Alexander | Waiting to Get to Old Age ~ Sarah Antine | The first time I sat at the piano in Carmen's house ~ Marisabel Bonet | The Heart of Silence ~ Waltrudis Buck | The Sudden Mud-Dogging Death of the Palmetto Homecoming Queen ~ Ashley Crout | A Woman Is a Gallery She Can't Stop to View ~ JoAnne Growney | Syllabica ~ Dress Rehearsal ~ Gabrielle LeMay | Theory of Flight ~ See Above ~ Jan Heller Levi | I Never Want To Go When It's Time ~ "The Part of Myself That…" ~ Kate Light
  Image:  Steve Hopps

Contributor Notes

~ . ~

Three Card Monte
Donna Masini

They're at it again. On Broadway, the crowd
closes around the dealer, his cards face down in the uncertain
sun. They never win, but they keep

coming back. Last night I slept with him again.
Again the long sexless night. Desire. What sends them
back, what makes them

inch up, into his chants, throwing their burning hard-
earned cash, what propels them
to that table? Is it his beautiful hands, the voice that makes him

luster? It looks easy. They're sure to win.
They must. They can see the trick, the sly
card they have outwitted. Behind them the Tower

Record sign, the cheap eager dresses on racks, the Broadway traffic.
Again and again I go back to him, banging against him,
certain this time he'll, this time…

Who would have thought love would come so slowly?
December it seemed a sure thing. I raced into it,
announced myself, the way I've read salmon

leap against a stream,
that awful arc, the way music will build, ache, but release
doesn't come. I love you,

he says. Month after
month I fall for it, fill up with it,
ticking down Broadway, the way those salmon—how do they?—

stupid, lusting, plunging. The crowd scatters
its disappointment, each trying to figure
how he'd lost, it had really looked like,

she'd been certain, it had seemed so certain,
those beautiful hands, that voice, and now
a new crowd begins to form. Face after stupid face.

~ .

Donna Masini

I watched a snake once, swallow a rabbit.
Fourth grade, the reptile zoo
the rabbit stiff, nose in, bits of litter stuck to its fur,

its head clenched in the wide
jaws of the snake, the snake
sucking it down its long throat.

All throat that snake, I couldn't tell
where the throat ended, the body
began. I remember the glass

case, the way that snake
took its time (all the girls, groaning, shrieking
but weren't we amazed, fascinated,

saying we couldn't look, but looking, weren't we
held there, weren't we
imagining—what were we imagining?)

Mrs. Peterson urged us to Move on, girls but we couldn't
move. It was like watching a fern unfurl, a minute
hand move across a clock. I didn't know why

the snake didn't choke, the rabbit never
moved, how the jaws kept opening
wider, sucking it down, just so

I am taking this in, slowly,
taking it into my body:  this grief. How slow
the body is to realize.

You are never coming back.

~ . ~

The Myth of The Grim Reaper
Amy Meckler

Have you seen it? The black hood and the scythe
creeping, hunched, spreading his smoky breath
through the cold room where the family waits?
You'll never see it, though the living create
the fables and lore that Death will come
or the angels will call
so we think some
outsider cloaked in dark upon a horse
or ray of God through clouds appears to force
us out. But have you sat with the hoarse bleats
and coughs as a body staining the sheets,
straining to do some hard last work, admits
he must do it himself? Have you seen it?
Once the lid is off, the body's a cup
holding the steam of ourselves leaking up.

~ .

What I Know of the Story
Amy Meckler

After loading the bundles and securing the stalls
they pushed off
into the fresh-water ocean forming
around them. The crows
flapped a panic inside their wooden cages
spreading feathers to the muddy sties.
The place became a shaken mess.
Only the women cleaned. And the eternal
thumping on the hickory roof. Did Noah sleep through it
or hold his wife through the clapping rain
that sounded like lion claws
loose from their ropes? Did they have even
a little love between them? Those days,
what of love between husband and wife? Could it spring
from nowhere in the thirtieth year of marriage?
Did any kindness board the ark from the life before?
Or beauty? In the delicate necks of the gazelles?
Mercy, then, in the galley cupboards?
The record doesn't show. We only know
a little jealousy, pettiness, hate crept
on board. Hidden in the sheep's thick wool
or the heavy robes of the captain.
It is not inconceivable
no goodness was preserved
from the old world God was destroying.
Goodness can grow from nothing, spring
itself up from the damp earth.
Only evil needs a little ill will
to rub against
to make a spark.

~ . ~

52 Pints of Blood
Shelagh Patterson

I once had an ex-girlfriend who rested her hand
in the air between us, It's paralyzed. The doctor
can't figure out what's wrong.
She didn't understand her body
was breaking without my touch, that that was the hand
I had held during the movie in which nothing almost disappears
all of Fantasia because a little boy reading in his school's
attic won't believe he is part of the story.

She told me she didn't return my phone calls
because I was always believing
we were beginning to get back together.
She didn't understand all we had to do
was name the last crumb of a world
where one woman wakes on a couch
with her head in the lap of a girlfriend who curls her
fingers in the tangle before it all disappeared.

~ .

Meditation on the Study of Semiotics
Shelagh Patterson

To the real question,
How does it feel to be a problem?
I answer seldom a word.

—W.E.B. Du Bois


I am trying to understand semiotics, the study of signs.
On the internet, i found a good advertisement
written by Professor David Chandler of the University of Whales:

Deconstructing and contesting
the realities of signs can reveal
whose realities are privileged and
whose are suppressed.
To decline such a study
is to leave to others the control
of the world of meanings which we inhabit.

But, what does it mean to accept such a study?
Isn't semiotics just another theory developed by a western white man
to keep us thinking in the culture of the western white man?
If I do not learn your culture,
if no-one learns your culture,
then won't it disappear?
We've always known whose realities are privileged.


To solve the problem of the western white man,
colleges have developed the male studies program.
MALST 348.00— Margaret Thatcher and Benazir Bhutto.
Through comparing these two former Prime Ministers,
this course aims to analyze how these women
were able to rise to power in what are considered
male-dominated societies and discuss the impact
of their subsequent impeachments
on the global dialogue of gender and power.


Excerpts from the Merriam's Webster Collegiate Dictionary;
study- Latin. from studere to devote oneself, study,
probably akin to tundere to beat. see contusion.
meditate- past participle for Latin's meditari
meaning mederi to remedy, to heal.


MALST 201.33 Kissinger and Carter.
Through comparing the ideologies of these two politicians,
this course aims to elucidate the diversity found
within the culture of the western white male
and discuss the difficulties of defining any culture.


Sadly, I report that another western white man
flaunts his ignorance, this time by questioning the merits
of celebrating Hip-Hop, a "culture"
known for violence, drug abuse, and
demeaning women,
while a city crumbles
from the wrath of the flag he pins to his lapel.

~ . ~

Song of the Firemoon
William Pitt Root  [Interview]

Tonight I am floating with the moon far above me
swinging like the blind skull of a flower
high-flung braincase of a windbleached rose
the ghostly murmur of a coasting stone

and like the ancient sailors sung to
by mermaids a world below
I know the subtle scales on which
desire balances breath

I know and knowing dive
into the dark that sings and calls
into the dark unbreathable
into the falling arms of the singer

whose hold is a chilled flashing
whose heart silver and empty
like the conch is skilled at calling
Falling I cry out and those cries become my song

~ .

The Day the Sun Rises Twice
William Pitt Root  [Interview]

The day the sun rises twice
the primitive dream of fire comes true
             fire that burns forever
        fire no water on Earth can quench
    fire whose light pins shadows to the stones
fire whose killing edge turns flying birds to ash

Aeons after the last of the one-eyed prophets
has chanted
            into that permanent darkness
      no archeologist shall ever unearth
countless minute embers will linger among the omens

And so I make this black mark on the silence now
knowing none shall remain to speak
            and none shall hear
        when the clouds rise in our eyes
    against those suns rising around us
like the thousand trees of life all clad in flames

~ . ~

Margaret R. Smith

    for Robin

take 28th Street     behind
a dirty fish truck

a man rolls a rack of silk
shirts     jostling

over winter potholes     transience
guitar and luggage

rattle in back     says my name
like he's holding it

in his hand     dry warmth     car
heater     late day sun

shimmers melted snow     brightens
all shades     brown brick     ask me

what music I like     say my name again
(I had forgotten

what it felt like to be explored)     parked police cars
fire trucks     on Houston     tension

tinge     a need     to move
the bridge     rises     home

his body     slow over
my urgency     lean back

in the seat     metallic hum of climb tell
how to get home     don't say don't stop

the exit he leaves

in the morning     I bury
my face in the sheets     his smell

pine and leather     park the truck     open
my door     lie down

under light     touch
like strangers     touch

like lifetime lovers

~ . ~

On the Trip You Took to Find Out Whether Your Birth Mother Was Alive, You Bought a Souvenir from a Mayan Market Woman Instead
Nicole Tavares

Solamente para Úd. Lonely you, a present
for your mother. Un recuerdo to identify her skin.
A memory, for you only. A boy who fell not
from a sky. The place where flesh-n-blood snaps
a beaded necklace. A woman become a market
nurses an orphan you. You want to buy

bibs and placemats. Pint-sized overalls bought,
you think, thirty years ago by your mother present
in your adopted hunger, stealing formula from the Met market
her breasts so parched so (un)like weaned Mayan's skin.
It will cost you more más tarde, apart she snaps
the sling from the baby. She promises los colores will not

run away
like another woman who speaks English. Hair knotted
loosely. Spanish. some Indjun. remembered aunts. Don't buy
why the family 'friend' ran away at the snap
of a finger.
Her belly had become a hollow bead, a present
like his afro at the hospital she threaded tears into, his skin
trading local color for the exotic at the NY stock market.

Is this only for you? Un recuerdo. A father marketing
the luck of a boy who fell from the sky who colors not
outside the lines in the beginner's biology book. All skin
so brown, so shreddable, forgettable. Did you say goodbye
when you stepped on the plane? Promise to pray, a present
like a necklace, white neck of a grave where flesh-n-blood snapped

off like the fallen plastic wrappers, Mayan baby's sugar snaps,
who threads his white beads through your trenzas, your dreads a market
of parched roots. My family tree. Árbol de familia. Your tongue presents
itself from its hospital for the first time. Your mother tongue is not
Spanish, neither is hers. A mother, a woman who needs you to buy
the colors off her body. You flew to Central America to brown your skin

to thread its birth mark, its natural color to its shadow lost and skinny
hovering around the earth. If you don't hurry, someone else will snap
this recuerdo up.
Her English dressing up her hunger. A record by
which to color outside the lines of your mouth, I cannot leave this market.
Hollowed the baby hurls the beads from the sky. He does not
remember his mother who left her home to buy him a present.

You can't remember who skinned whom, whose bodies at the market
sold raw for the highest price. Who undid her snaps? She did or did not
ask to buy or be bought to fill a need, under careful wrappings of a present.

~ . ~

Sci-Fi Valentine
Kimberly Jaye Thatcher

It lives in salt
like the rare blue-red blooded dye of an oyster
like one of those star trek episodes where the hero returns unable to breathe
and pronouns deliberate
what went wrong with said hero
chambered in mother ship
sinking in alien silt
till realizing he's alien—grit of a black pearl
evolving strands of earth strung
air that burn human lungs
with memory—primordial
ooze who after first contact
only wants to keep absorbing
because till then (he/she) didn't know (it) was lonely

~ .

Kimberly Jaye Thatcher

You're an early morning sunburn. A daily wave
of short murmurs visible outside the violet end of wave length spectrum
far from source—you travel as light lighted from a far
universe from an increasingly vanished star.

you're a bog but I won't find butter ripe as salt
—no amount of sacrifices unearthed in poems
fish scales from compost in the garden now razed
not tilled and not barley but something

rises within cracks of railroad
ties down a dirt path to the lake house where I
came to study water as rupture. Some mornings
the inlet perfectly still as blue mirror, sometimes too bright

sometimes glazed in moving fog till speed boats
glance the surface and wakes lap long after I cannot hear
motor of the crew's laughter echo out the hourglass sieve.
I am adrift backside on the dock

feet turned into water returning by noon face burnt.
They have you as auburn or red-headed but I know you as gray
radiation like dye pumped in my veins
as a cyst searching for death—they never found you and I survived

but what happened to the family? I moved to the city of concrete all green eliminated long ago, but gulls cry outside my landlocked
fifth floor window—you never get away
from water—you never get away

from salt. Even here toxins flow in the near-dead river
though in the sound in reverse. I sometimes see tide
press inward against the will of a barge
and sometimes press forward in the harbor to the ocean

never still. We only know you by the damage we suffer.

~ . ~

On Your Parents' Stoop
Wendy Wisner

Next came the part I couldn't explain.
So I said to you, in the white
January morning:  It was never
my father; I was afraid, I don't know,
to be alive. And you said:
I think I know. Then
it was August, your mother's azaleas
brown, heavy to the ground
because she was leaving,
and we were married, and you said:
Let's go home now. And we did
because it was ours.

~ .

We Went to the Moon
Wendy Wisner

My sister and I. But it was only the moon
filling the Parkwood Pool and we weren't
sisters. We bolted up the ramps,
climbed the steep white steps —
mothers' voices claimed us
but we didn't look back. We peeked
under the gate, between the bars —
how strangely it swayed there:
bloated, forgiving
over tense blue ripples.

Then I knew
her cold hand was cold
for a reason and it didn't matter
who she was. I had touched her.
I couldn't let go.

~ . ~

[Poetry A]