Janine H. Oshiro
FEAST OF SPIRITS
WHAT ART IS
THE CRAZY ANIMALS
SITTING IN THE BROWN
CHAIR WITH LET'S PRETEND
WINDOWS IN MY MOTHER'S
THE GOLD DRESSES
The Rancid Sky
ANOTHER DAY ON THE
I WOULD GIVE YOU
AM THE WATCHING
THE IMPORTANCE OF
RIVER IN THE QUIET
From the front window desk of the Herald on Main Street
The cipher in the eyes of the dead,
2 Poems By Simon Perchik 101 New Jersey's oldest abandoned iron mine --even this sprout sacrificed, its only leaf as if inside some small cage the last summer left turning yellow, fell --I listen for feathers for this paper unfolding almost a flower --the Times reports canaries gagging by the millions :trees disappearing in black love notes in myself, in some forest where tiny wings are rocking the Earth are pages struggling as wood has always risen singing to each sailor --for just so long sides against the sea --over this worn-down mine I cover my lips till even the sun cries out for air --miners too can tell by their tongues blacker and blacker, can hear it is evening and a lone sea bird --they even made a song for it.
224 As if the rain this minute stopped and behind the invisible strings a windowsill --its hard finish stroked, not sure the sound is dark enough, high enough --head first each raindrop ending its life next to wood to this bewildered sun this shadow in every direction tumbling outloud --again more varnish --the sill motionless from its dark stream --you can't see the oars but the brushing calms :the rocking that surrounds all water --what you hear never dries is the sun clinging --this one plank soaked in lullabies. What you hear is the darkness closing its eyes.
3 poems by Janine H. Oshiro FEAST OF SPIRITS i. Bones Words begin in the body, at the table I set for six. We never throw the bones to the dogs until the soup has simmered three times. My grandma opens her freezer full of bones stored in ziploc bags. We eat. ii Origins My father likes bones, pigs feet soup. He chews on gristle saved in pools of oil around the edge for the end. But this soup stews like the beginning. Steam lifts from bowls full of broth above the murky swamp. Memory boils down into spoonfuls I swallow like medicine. This is our meal together. It begins with hunger and ends when the body breaks. My belly still aches for you. mother. iii Wood The table is the flat map of the world between us, like the belief in heaven and hell. We are all in the kitchen conjuring up concoctions of flesh and bone. I navigate my way back to you here. I set six places at the table and discover none of them are empty. After we consume the last lick of soup I hold the lips of two bowls together to shape the world. iiii Fire I have feasted on your death picked clean the bones of your body. I chew these words like gristle and spit the fat back out to spark the flame.
WHAT ART IS We play a game of hide and seek. I draw shapes and you find hidden pictures: a little mouse muscle man seahorse bumblebee and flower. You can find whole worlds in unnamed shapes, newly born, deformed jigsaw pieces that fit no where. Your father has told me secretly, smugly that he has taught you symmetry. So now your drawings are a perfect mirror image folded: balanced fields of daisies proportioned people harmonious sunbursts, rays equally distributed. He tells me you grasp this concept completely though I know breasts jiggle in dissimilar weight from left to right and each step is taken with a slightly smaller or larger foot. Even the earth is in between egg-shaped and oval, wider around the equator than the span from pole to pole. Its still a game of hide and seek, trying to find meaning in line and shadow, composition of events, chiaroscuro of emotion, the impact of negative space. Maybe your father is trying to hide the whole truth. Life isnt fair, even or symmetrical on any level we can understand. Its more likely that it looks and feels like hell. No erasers. Just this rough and final sketch that you will somehow learn to call beautiful.
hands ready to explode;
Hands lined with work
Hands I fit
Hands capable of holding intention.
2 poems by Peter Sears WHUSSY Now, years later, telling it excites him, even though he can't, he claims, get it right. Get what right? I ask. And on he goes, complaining, repeating himself, becoming agitated. Look, he is scratching his beard again, twiddling twirls of beard hair. I'd like to twiddle him. I apologize. Why apologize? he asks, you are such a whussy. Right in my face, WHUSSY! Slams his fist down on the table. Now the table is good, but not that good. A couple more slams and it's a goner. He slams it again. I wasn't watching. In a soft, totally phony voice he says, keep in mind how gutsy I have to be when I can't even say what it is. I laugh, I can't help it, What twaddle! He brings his fist down on the table and that's it for the table. I take a piece of the table, whack him on top of the head. He grabs the wood, I tear it from his hand and whack him. Up and down he jumps, waving his torn hand and howling. At this point I either leave, which, he says, he can understand, or go with him, a choice, he insists, only a friend would make, adding that he might, finally, get it right were we to do this over again.
THE CRAZY ANIMALS SAY THEY LOVE ME Last Friday evening I got pretty spread out on the spiked sherbet punch at the Jello social and wanted to become an accordian. Back home, I tapped out tunes on the wall with my head, missed, and landed out by the barn. We like you this way, said the animals. Those sticks in your hair are yummy. Makes you look like you slept in a tree. Dumb says the dog, fun says the pig. Let's dance the Nantucket jig! And if you really don't want to, sit in the hay and bang on a bucket. Dumb says the dog, fun says the pig. Back home, I lean over to clean my shoes and fall out of the chair. I get into bed and my head spins like a whirlie bird. Oh, the animals sing all night, off key, starting over and over again.
2 poems by David Laing EARLY FALL near the dry slough from a black cottonwood a shower of yellow leaves a dozen at a time drop stems first down the cool air are they letting go or being released who knows flat or folded or curled the heart-shaped leaves try different paths they float or spin or rock from side to side some tumble some dive ahead of me now the trail blanketed a springy mat the woods hushed except for the tap leaves make landing on leaves adding themselves to the earth
PRAISE a summer morning hot and still sweet-scented sap flows in the trees cottonwood buds sticky the bees hard at work I enter the sanctuary of a single tree lean my head in towards its silvery trunk and look up into the green vault of the leaves-- the faint hum bees' wings-- a hymn of praise gathers slowly in my ear it takes its time getting here
3 poems by Lyn Lifshin SITTING IN THE BROWN CHAIR WITH Let's Pretend ON THE RADIO I don't think how the m and m's that soothe only made my fat legs worse. I'm not thinking how my mother will die, of fires that could gulp a mother up. leave me like Bambi. I'm not going over the baby sitter's stories of what they did to young girls in tunnels, of the ovens and gas or have nightmares I'll wake up screaming for one whole year wanting someone to lie near me, hold me as if from then on no one can get close enough. I don't hear my father and mother yelling, my mother howling that if he loved us he'd want to buy a house, not stay in the apart- ment he doesn't even pay her father rent for but get a place we wouldn't be ashamed to bring friends. What I can drift and dream in is more real. I don't want to leave the world of golden apples and silver geese. To make sure, I close my eyes, make a wish on the first hay load of summer then wait until it disappears
WINDOWS IN MY MOTHER'S HOUSE
Barred, as if her babies might
THE GOLD DRESSES
The threads glisten, almost
Leo Yankevich PRISONER The rancid sky The frail cobweb The peeling paint The patient spider The good book The hard cock The naked bulb -- All I know of God As I enter and re-enter This prayer.
3 poems by Melanie Green ANOTHER DAY ON THE COUCH Fatigue burns me with a power that leaves me hollow; fires me empty as a shotgun shell, spent thunder, dark lightning. Fatigue carves me empty as a wooden bowl without fruit on a forsaken table. Fatigue corrodes me, exposes, crushes me, leaves me nothing but a thin love for my own breath.
I WOULD GIVE YOU EVENING LIGHT for Sabine "Just to be is a blessing..." Abraham J. Heschel You spent the afterrnoon through your magnifying glass -- watching aphids give birth. I recorded your message. Awe, and the ragged need for sleep in your voice. Telephone to my ear, you announce "I'm going to cry now." The sound of tears cracks like thunder across my dark skies of holding. If I could I would twist the pain into a thousand doves and send them to the sun to burn and burn. Remember resting together under the lilac tree before it was cut down? You said to me, "I wouldn't have met you..." Meaning the because of our sorrow, this thread of light. Unexpected sheltering, unfinished delirium. Each of us, somewhere, is a splinter of heaven a width of music for someone else. You're mine.
AM THE WATCHING Our fire. Our hotdogs our ketchup, marshmallows, chocolate bars. Tablecloth, wind, the plastic knives. I was thirty-eight my mother was sixty-eight. Watching the sun lose itself in its turn to the sea. The salt, the sinking. When is it time to go in? Scooping sand putting out the fire my mother, uneven stones, lost her footing her hand out to catch hand to stop hand to coals. When did you know? Must have been what it was to have a daughter and watch her fall. Childless I will have no children. Am the watching now my mother the body I entered the world from. Her cleaning-the-wound body, singing-hymns, taking-spiders-outside body. What must leave. Watching, should the years coming. The take, the granted. appeared in Portland Alliance
2 poems by Verlena Orr THE IMPORTANCE OF LAUNDRY You thought you were high on his short list of possibilities, happily babbled to him about plans, discovered you were an errand on his list -- below laundry. Well, of course, you started to sob, sank to a new low, suggested a laundromat date where you could swill coffee, chain smoke, listen to the rhythmic rub, whir and spin of machines. "I'm keeping a low profile," he harrumphed, turning you down. So there you were, left with your own laundry and no setting for normal. You are either permanently pressed, or delicate. Your load imbalanced. No gentle handwashing for you carefully smoothed flat to dry. Look Honey, you've had all the starch scrubbed out of you. Scorched, shrunk you are left limp, lobbed like a Cruise Missile landing in his Goodwill clothespile. Pitiful, poor dear! You only needed to be fluffed with no heat.
RIVER IN THE QUIET ROOM
With a hard lead pencil I write
No bed here, only soft walls, a
This year's spring runoff shoulders
Bill Siverly UMATILLA BEAT From the front window desk of the Herald on Main Street, I watch shoppers and shopkeepers heading for morning break: Coffee and bear claws over gossip in Pheasant Cafe. It's nineteen sixty-seven in July, and I am typing a headline: Umatilla Man Clears Tunnels in Viet Nam. The siren howls, and by reflex I grab the Rolleflex, Rev up Rambler, race after fire trucks out on Punkin Road. Flames and smoke billow skyward from mobile home. Firemen with airpacks beckon coughing news kid To shoot heroic action for front page next edition. Kids with nothing to do but wait for the county fair Ride bicycles in endless circles on residential streets. Older ones like Johnny get drunk and pretend to be saved, Raising arms and hallelujahs at tent revivals in Pasco, Race cars by night, fall in love, and register for war. Umatilla, once a boomtown for McNary Dam, Once a northwest railhead with stores and bars galore, Once imatilam, rocky bottom village with a vintage salmon run, Now Umatilla watershed, a sink for runoff pesticide, The town a shuttered ruin when the army has moved on. Senator Hatfield, lobbied on legislation by local cattlemen, Holds for my photography a slice of Hermiston watermelon. Out of cattlemen earshot, I thank him for his stand against the war. He thanks me, says "Our view remains unpopular" (As long as young men rush to die, and old men urge them on). Slow news day in town, I grab my Rolleflex, Ramble out past Echo to check the facts of eternal return: Dry wind blowing sand across old Paiute sagebrush earth; Talkative August harvesters of mint and circles of corn; Army Depot nerve gas bunkers, basking in the sun. Main Street drugstore window features images of Beatles Tricked out in Sergeant Pepper's splendid rainbow uniforms. The war against the future never ends. After my last assignment drinking beer with loud Jay-cees, I pass the dark fairgrounds, quiet cemetery of dreams.
Michael Ferrell SUNITA The cipher in the eyes of the dead, the sets of empty we collect, the zero of my wasted heart when the buyers don't buy and the sellers won't stop selling. Sunita, the young T amang, deals me reclamation in a small blue pouch. "A passport purse," she tells me, sensing perhaps my desperation for flight, borders beyond my skin. "Be my lucky day," she pleads, "One hundred rupees?" In the claustrophobia of Kathmandu, a flower of the Lalitpur poor, the girl Sunita made me such a bargain with one wide Nepali smile. In time's delicate strangle is not the best I could ever hope from the shortness of my breath her brief incarnation, her small hand reaching for mine? For a dollar and a hallf I buy the blue bag, her lucky day within. I take her hand and don't let go.