Jun '03 [Home]
Between Strands of the Hammock — Editors' Preface
B Memorial Day, Hull Village ~ Brant Lyon | Neither Sad Nor Joyous ~ Paul McGlynn | Her Young Death, Loose in You ~ Amy Meckler | Nuzzling Wind ~ Baruch November | A Radio Caller Praising the Revival of Drive-In Theaters ~ Ron Price | Waking to a Dream of Thunderstorm I Write to a Poet a Long Time Dead ~ Sam Rasnake | Souvenir of a Closed Rite ~ Houses Without Gardens Without Stone Walls ~ Laura Sherwood Rudish | This Season of Moths ~ Denise Rue | To a Canvas Painter: If It Fits ~ Henry Louis Shifrin | The Poet Whom Language Abandoned ~ Zach Sussman | never read alone by the sea ~ George Wallace | Post-Nuptial Syndrome ~ Confirmed Bachelor ~ Jim Whelden
A Apostle ~ Madeline Artenberg| Empty Music ~ Marisabel Bonet | The Magic of Cinema ~ surely this must be ~ Denver Butson | Corner the Dakota ~ Tobias Deehan | 'The Moon Lies Fair Upon the Straits' ~ Robert Klein Engler | Plot ~ Reprieve ~ Behind the Window ~ Joan Fiset | Foul Thunder of Moments ~ David Geer | My Longshore Captain ~ Patrick Henry | Blacksmith ~ This Close to Earth ~ Maureen Holm | Back Home ~ Nicholas Johnson| My Heart Disappears Among the Trees ~ Dave King | Tally My Life Against the Backdrop; Make Its Speaker Unknown for the Assembly ~ Bobbi Lurie
Photo: Jacob Holdt
~ . ~ . ~
Memorial Day, Hull Village
Not envy, exactly—too many miles and years
between you and not familiar enough to chafe
your soul in rivalry, I think—more a shadowy pang
of if only swept across your face like a cloud
passing over the sun on an otherwise cloudless day
looking down on the deck of the tug where
Tom McDevitt and his boy fastened ropes to the dock,
squinting up at you, not really bragging, just saying,
Sure she's mine; the smaller boat's my brother's,
and we've got four others, too. You dropped names
to discover who had stayed behind, and Tom pretended
he knew who you were, though it was only
the names of your big Irish family that he recognized
(each infamous in your own way, you explained).
By then, the late afternoon sun
was casting long shadows on the cool Kelly green
grass of the field that dipped like a cupped palm or a cradle,
nestled between the woods and the houses where
you used to play ball and the kids were playing ball
now, as you watched, briefly. Let's stop by
your old friend, Liz Lyons, I suggested;
but she died years ago in Mass Gen. Some tropical disease
I presumed, recalling her Peace Corps mission
in Burkina Faso back when it was called Upper Volta,
and the time we moved boxes of books from
her third floor walk-up in Charlestown, wondering,
What does a freckle-faced redhead do in Ougadougou?
Not malaria or blood flukes or yellow fever—something
stateside and mysterious. Her mention reminded you
of Colin—your teenage crush on drop-dead beautiful
killer charm Colin—who crashed through the wooden railing
of the Allerton causeway driving home drunk
just a few years after you saw him with some older man
at Provincetown, at the time thinking, Aha!
I should have known all along.
He wouldn't like it now, anyway, you suppose—
the town taken over by dykes with buzz cuts and body piercing
everywhere. It was always windy like today growing up here,
you said, looking off toward Boston Harbor.
I thought, It's still chilly in the shade—isn't reminiscence
better left to summer's end?
~ . ~
Neither Sad Nor Joyous
Two men arrived to take me to die,
Men polite enough and quite correct,
In suits of Sabbath black.
I had to drown in such and such a sea,
And that was that.
As we went, I reviewed chapters
From my life, a scattering of sights.
Kisses in some cheap hotel; the smiles;
View from the window of a park. Children.
A woman in red, gold at her throat,
On a white palfrey, prancing in April rain.
Why those sights from smoky cities
And dripping valleys? I've never learned.
I saw my father bend at his workbench
As though in prayer, grieving a loss;
My mother at her stove, the angry sizzle.
As I drowned, I drifted. Waters murmured.
I saw the shape of my life, like an argument.
Sandgrasses waved idly on the shore,
Neither sad nor joyous,
While I sank toward greater plausibility.
~ . ~
Her Young Death, Loose in You
Easy, she fell out undone,
a good idea not written down.
Two months later, when the due date came,
you couldn't believe the grief.
A simple idea, a bloat with a date, a weight
breathing in bas relief
riding you like a new part.
To lose her you have to trace back to the start
of a thought you thought you had
sliding between your legs, a sense of wet then red then white
table scratchy paper and a doctor's shaking head.
Now your family begs come back
like a false start kicking the chalky
line on some round track
but you think rip and wreck,
no box, no ground, just water—
not clean, not cool,
just the sound.
(From What All the Sleeping Is For,
Defined Providence Press, 2002)
~ . ~
Only in sparse memories am I
needless to replace you.
While shingles pale below
the moon's lamp, a dog
laps the lake.
She howls in lonesomeness.
I wait for your umbrella to spring
closed. Listen to the knock
of rain on ochre leaves
that lunge to the sill, only
to sling back into the sway
of their sisters.
The walls hold, the stairs give
under no footfall.
The still-life returns,
except to the wind-nuzzled
eaves of which I am
(From Dry Nectars of Plenty,
Headwaters Press, 2002)
~ . ~
A Radio Caller Praising the Revival
of Drive-In Theaters
for John Waters
I don't break-dance,
don't mosh. I'm country,
and I ain't been to one for years.
What with a wife and kids
I had to change my life,
but I do indeed remember them.
I got my first lay there—
it wasn't my wife,
but it was pretty good.
A cold beer in the heat, a little peace—
well, sometimes I'm an animal—
and now it's back in style.
They still pass out vomit bags?
~ . ~
Waking to a Dream of Thunderstorm I Write
to a Poet a Long Time Dead
(thinking of Borges, Buenos Aires, 1960)
One crow balances, high in the cedar,
turns his head as if he believed
the metaphor: slowed undulations
of summer in purple and thistle
beside the highway above the airport.
Nothing separates want from need
His is the silence of last words—
"that patient labyrinth of line"—just before
a favored book is closed and the universe
moves in a swill of light from your chair,
across all dark geographies, until
you know, if only in that smallest moment,
exactly who you are.
~ . ~
Souvenir of a Closed Rite
Laura Sherwood Rudish
When it rains at Stonehenge, the crows unfold.
Their shadows tend the abandonment.
They roost among plinth holes
Pick at dropped crisps and soggy bits of ice cream cones.
Lambs graze by a broken gate.
There's something waiting beyond the corner
Of my eye. If I could only catch a glimpse of.
So clothed in hazes.
White sheets snap on the clothesline by the kitchen door.
Houses Without Gardens Without Stone Walls
Laura Sherwood Rudish
Stones and crystals mostly silent
Our human show
All our bodies so entwined
By our never-ceasing minds
We're infinitely needy here You
For example Were you
Ever happy? Even
In your stillness some small ear
Then you ask
Why can't I be a woman in a garden?
~ . ~
This Season of Moths
A rush of wings, thrash and flicker—
for weeks they have wanted in.
Wings of rust with eyespots of ink
strike the screen in delirious frenzy.
Stiff legs tap a tarantella on my sill.
Plush thorax, furred and fat,
wings dusty and thin as sighs.
Their quiver and flutter exhaust me.
Persistent pulse at my window—
I want, I want, I want. All summer
I have saved them—
unraveled from spider's webs,
plucked from wet drainboards,
lifted the screen, as now. A fury
of wings, they seethe in, dip
and gust—not in breathless frenzy
to the light, but to turn and fret
again at the screen's metal weave,
their wings unsinged.
I cup one in my hands, pitch
it towards the moon.
Later, in darkness, we lie,
splayed and seared. I want
my arms like plush wings to wrap you, leave
a dusting that will not dissolve
in the sun's light. But desire
is its own echo and longing
but a habit. What is this love
but a beating back of death,
the tireless trill of our hearts?
I want, I want, I want.
~ . ~
To a Canvas Painter: If It Fits
Henry Louis Shifrin
You see before you
a soap dish
that doesn't know war.
Admittedly it doesn't know
It's a miniature stadium
of concentric ovals,
each smaller and a step below
the one before. But don't ride this metaphor
too long; the dish
has no mite gladiators or microscopic lions.
It's just very plastic.
In fact it smells like something plastic
just torn out
of plastic packaging—a petroleum
the smell of the casing
of a bomb.
A bombshell? Yes, it could have been,
but between bombshell and soap dish
the manufacturer somehow
chose the latter.
This choice aside, you have what you have,
so don't wax philosophical
about a still life
life has offered you.
Instead offer the subject something;
perhaps some backgrounding?
The dish is on the edge of the counter top,
so place behind it—a hand length (the length of your
hand) behind it—a sink and on the sink rim, beside
a bar of soap laughing a hint of lavender.
But don't you laugh (you must respect
Concentrate on your subject:
only when you perfectly form a question,
do you draw the soap dish.
Now look there at all those ovals:
what bar of soap in this world
actually fits inside that dish?
If you can't answer,
you've painted the scene correctly.
~ . ~
The Poet Whom Language Abandoned
Strolls Along the Beach at Dusk
The sea a ribcage cracking, he gazes
shirtless to where the water welds to sky:
in the stuttered light, the boats anchored
in the harbor are smears from a used eraser,
the surf white gibberish lisped at the shore.
He eyes the yellow gash of the horizon,
widens his jaw: his tongue's heavy
as an ax blade dropped, the trill of a stone bell.
The tide, the sails, the gulls curdling
in the scrapyard of clouds yield nothing.
His back turned from the sawing wings,
he envies their weightlessness; how in the chill dusk
their silhouettes open like mouths.
~ . ~
never read alone by the sea
sensing vulnerability the bride of the ocean will run her white eyed
bridle-high flag of betrayal and rush to your place on the immense shore
of the world and no matter how she may have disguised with salt and
the slight scent of lavender pumice the transparent scales of her intent
or concocted like the singsong of sea creatures like the notion of sub-
oceanic respite spilling from breath to green breath like a child's dream
tossed like powder into the waves like a dog in his sad brown friendly
way swimming out after his lost master one moist dead tired morning
never read alone by the sea i say because then and without warning
she will guile you with unimaginable soft waving motion of tentacles
disguising all intent in the small folds of her crustacean wings and like
vengeance poured fast from the rich diatomic tapestry of deep under-
water veins of blood or seadrills with her tiny eyes built like murder
she will take you eager for the soft dinner of flesh you always were
the unanticipated puddle of appetite the lie of safety you always wore
this cannot be averted not even given that hard shell or the sure claw
you kept hidden behind an elemental veil of algae she will snap your neck
in her jaws or like that smiling thing glimpsed beneath the impenetrable
rockface lure you with her deceptive glances and her long hair she will
take you up like bones in her hand she will crush you like words into sand
~ . ~
The young king with his young queen
in his immense bed
with its heavy bedposts
and dense curtains in three courses
lies naked as a slave boy
pleased with himself and looking
to please his only master, God.
The young queen is gasping
like a landed fish
several flops away.
Perhaps he has misused her.
Daylight tints things.
he will chafe at royal toilet.
She will have slipped
from his fired empery
to her own cinder estate.
Out of the refrigerator's mood swing
a faint sound, like someone sawing wood
I conjure a problematic child.
He is making book ends for me for Christmas,
going at it in mittens in the garage.
It is warm here in the living room,
cold, very cold, even for a dream child
out there in the car's ice palace.
He bends over his work bench, a tight fit.
Why not imagine him a cellar work-space?
Because I could not hear him there,
as I cannot see him here.
Because I want to hear him, figment
from the refrigerator's grousing.
There's his mother, damn her,
telling him to stop, now.
~ . ~ . ~ A