Winter 2002

Issue #54

Lost poem

eamer o'keeffe

We regret this poem doesn't know where it's going
and we seem to have lost it. We planned the route
now it's wandered off. We found the map
and the sandwich crusts, but the poem's walked off
please forgive the delay, and look out for strange poems
masked or disguised. It could have been stolen

imprisoned or shrunk. Too bad! But we'll search
for a better-behaved, less adventurous verse



POB 201731

Austin, Texas 78720-1731

Some deaths are so unbearable
only silence sustains me

eleanor koldofsky

ISSBN 0888-9058

$5.OO/£ 3.50


rochelle hope mehr

I cling to people
because I want to
derive some security
from their presence
the solidity of their bodies
the solicitude of their smiles
but then they open

their mouths
and words
tumble out
black, viscous words
laced with the imperiousness
of ego
and I find myself
agape once more
over the crevice

waiting for the earth
to buckle


karen e. schuff

Something there is that doesn't love a wall
all things counter, original, spare, strange
a red wheel
thou foster child of silence and slow times
a tree whose hungry mouth
petals on a wet, black bough
bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang
a sweet disorder in the dress
the bough of summer and the winter branch
comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers
full of sweet dreams, and health, and a quiet breathing
from fields where glory does not stay
when the October wind
with frosty fingers punishes my hair
the mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day

and then the lighting of the lamps

Sine qua non

janet i. buck

Liquor picks our pockets
I cannot recall an evening's moon
without its Cyclops biting dream.
Check the ground like homeless men
sift through alleys of the grit
for scraps of copper suns intact
some wealth that might be hiding there.
I blame the bottle for our flaws
their bobbins knotted at specious hour
whenever a cork or can is close.
You drift in clouds of sine qua non.
Tables set with solid silver
free of tarnish spoon a lie.
We're trading tears for Chardonnay
that could be crystal waterfalls.
We've stoned our voices crying out.
a beer stands tall, foamed in facile Ivory Soap.
on shopping trips, I wander down

a grocery aisle with rusted wheels
marbles of forgiving weak
on rosaries with brittle strings.
Just once I ask if we could go without a goblet
packed with rivers born of toxins
poisoning a moment's earth.
The question thins like vapor trails
above the runways of our choice.
Linguistics of denial reign.
My books are coasters for a glass.
Their cherub bindings never broken by your eyes.
Their cords detached from renaissance.
We've pickled those affluent dawns
that come with blizzards, thunderheads.
My soberness is just a prude
in prunes of livers locked into their own demise.
This loneliness, a damp receipt I toss aside

Second best

helen lyon

I did my very best
to please
but somehow
only managed to be
the second best
I had no rest
trying my hardest
to please

My own feelings
I always put on hold
and with you
I never could be bold
enough, to get right past
the barrier
the bitter cold
in your own feelings
I tried my hardest
to please
but somehow
as if I had some fatal disease
you, with me
were never at ease
you always held me at a distance
and although I did my best
I never quite broke down
that dour and solid
immovable resistance

But of course
I was only a child
docile, unformed
innocent and mild
and I didn't know

wrinkle in a bitter fist.
And we address our saddle sores
by riding into nothingness

how best to please


najwa brax

For this painting
a brush
poured its soul

For this symphony
a musician
his lyre

For this statue
a sculptor
carved his body

For this book
a writer
forged his fate

For this rainbow
a child
rode her dream

For this orchard
a blue jay
tuned his melody

For this rose
a butterfly
pricked her heart

For this love
a world of poetry
was created

For this apple
the whole world
has competed

For you
these ten candles
are kindled

A tribute to John Milton

najwa brax

Homer, you're back blind with deep vision
to fulfil your new poetic mission
imbibing wisdom from fountains up there
where with angels godlike glory you share.
From blindness sprouts spiritual insight
a higher truth that you sought day and night
are you among the fallen, divine quills
the best which draws cosmic paintings with thrills
that distil in mankind the holy law?
Armed with God's wrath the angel's sword you draw
to drive Adam out of Eden and shake
Satan's throne and chain him with the cursed snake.
Free, men are created free they fall
tears pour from our eyes like a waterfall;
different names Eve bears - Are we all one soul?
To whom the bells of Paradise Lost toll?
Sing me again the song of creation
of Fall - the pathway to tribulation.
Out of love he eats the apple we grieve;
out of paradise we suffer with Eve.
Atop the Big Apple mercy awaits
can we regain Eden? Is it too late?
In the court of justice we are guilty
and, oh, all sentenced to death penalty.

Messy choices

janet i. buck

A cratered moon and rising sun
sit side-by-side.
One veranda made of lace menagerie
communions I have never known
between a rolling pin and crust.
Honeysuckle blooming
in its full esprit without
the pollen, pained retreat

of liquor's penitentiary.
I am gum in taffy pulls of messy choice.
picking at our mute decay
narrow planets of cork.

Grabbing at a passing star

Across the miles, tempests there
don't slay the dawn.
Moisture seems the adage
of a river bed undeterred
by rapids, rocks and slipping health.
Words which I align in fear
aren't treated as a hobby horse
a dalliance to dismiss and burn

sand in flippant platitudes
paint with strokes of earned escape.

Volcanoes build and then explode.
Our narrow planet grates across

the snowy board like fingernails.
I soap my tongue
set the table for a brunch
as if untarnished silverware
can feed me what your hands refuse.
This lava will go quietly.
This something new and dubious
my heart surrounds
as if it were my last embrace.
Tampering with destiny

The death certificate

margaret boles

I heard my voice asking them
where I might get
your death certificate
in a seemingly calm and controlled manner.
"You died last month," I said
in a matter-of-fact way
(these things happen every day)
inside I'm thinking
"Not to me, they don't -
I don't lose my mother every day, or do I?"
a memory of you comes back
a wisp ephemeral
I can't hold on to
with passing days
your face slips behind the curtain
and I remember
I'll never now get to ask you that question

a clock my mind must set or die.

Hero and Leander

najwa brax

What torch of light and delight
of rescue, of guide at night
of waves, of struggles and love
inspired by heaven above
Hero lifts her torch, her heart
bleeds supple gems - Cupid's dart!
Love-light floods heaven and earth
Hero merges in new birth
with Leander whose love fire
makes the sea nymphs tune their lyre
prance in trance in their abode
where the gods ride magic boat
Hero lifts her torch, the flame
flickers on alters: her fame
flies high in Istanbul's sky
echoing the sad goodbye
they embrace two continents
glowing tongues of commitments
love beacon does not know death
for it's eternity breath
blown out by the wind of hate
the flame sleeps, Hero, the brave
helps him swim from shore to hill
yet fate drives him statue-still
seagulls search the shores of bliss
for a sparking, bubbling kiss
left by Hero of the lamp
whose light bears Leander's stamp
bridal garments of god's foam
are knit by mermaids who roam
stars-filled Neptune's royal dwell
to help lovers shun love's hell
the Dardanelles still ripples
the scene of distant riddles
Venus whispers in her shrine
Adonis is always mine
Neptune's chariot hold them tight


the exquisite corps collective

you can turn your back on both of those impostors
those who would repeat for him, over and over again, the poses he saw
poses of slithering sexy seduction

poses of body parts unknown because untouched
unseen in the drama of the holy baptismal bath
but not unheeded
not unneeded
not preceded
by anything profane, inane or unwavering
a ball of light so luminescent that all turned to see the brightness
all faces were lit with the knowledge that nothing would be the same
and everything was the same as it had been would continue to be
circles of life

Freedom in structure

rochelle hope mehr

In moments of perplexity, O give
me the crossword, stalwart and true in its
basic black and white, building block to a
system which will not topple. A single
solution to each given clue! Begone
the ambiguity of the mundane!
Locked into your prison, navigating
the vertical and horizontal cross-
currents, I am strangely at ease, each box
each cubicle, a bastion against the
inroads of doubt

guide the lovers to the bright
future among the mermaids
whose kaleidoscopic shades
procreate foaming paintings
Neptune adorably sings
sea around, sea above grow
shoreless and oh, sea below
calling them to wed across
the glory of Abydos
whose coral reefs swing and heave
reminding earthlings of Eve
of the blessed Sea of Eden
the weird watery garden
before she bites all humans
and Adam shortens life-span

The misspelled word

rochelle hope mehr

Another perfect metaphor
I can't spell "maneuver"
my mother caught the error in the poem
my hands are numb and I can't
manipulate the corkscrew
I can't tap sap
from the mother lode
now I mix metaphors
to defect the criticism
to bend the assay
my way
to remind myself
that the inner sense
can make sense
of a misspelled word
that perfection
often flirts with the absurd
that I can maneuver my way
out of these manacles
which bind, most restrictively
the mind

Soliloquy for the snowbirds

karen e. schuff

Cascading snow from the roof
obliterates the house across the way
forecloses plans to meet for lunch

and solitary as I am
I choose a book to read
and chop some onions for a soup
to seal in all the warmth I can
against the rising wind and blowing snow

If temperatures should rise
throughout the night
we'll meet for tea and sandwiches
in the food court at the mall
where tall green palms and skylights
can take us far away
from icy cities

St. Patrick's day in a London canteen

eamer o'keeffe

There's Finnigan's stew in the dining room
with Killarney cabbage, Blarney colcannon
Tipperary potatoes, and strung on my right
a chain of green leprechauns smoking their pipes


eamer o'keeffe

I pass by your window - dark, no glow -
hungry and cold. You've switched off the light
pulled the curtains tight, drawn down the rain
hidden your face, written me out

The tree by your window is winter-bare
you came in spring. Perhaps you're asleep
my fire is dying for lack of your tinder
I wish I hadn't said what I did

This wind is bitter; I need your heat
I hate grubby pavements, the searching glare
of the yellow lamps. I've got a fever
I never meant to call you a drunk

I'll take you some wine, peace, a gift
the hallway's black. I stumble upstairs
tap on your door. The keyhole's plugged
grey walls of silence mock my tears

Your schemes and my dreams

margaret boles

with schemes and dreams
if I question
I am unsupportive
I view
possible problems
if I am
less than
then I am
lazy and
I do not share
your dream!

eleanor koldofsky

Feeling the sudden surge of truth
the male hatred of the female

I had been intertwined
woven neither body nor mind
like strings of rusting wires
in rotting plaster
returned now to the garden of life
leaving behind the waste
of murdered time
I will have a mind and soul
and you
who make me complete

We live in each other's mind
we give everything
this is our strength and our bond

Terrible question

rochelle hope mehr

War - not just any war but a terrorist war
flipflops your neuroses
the inner demons are externalized
the disease ravaging your mind and body
becomes the vermin poisoning the mail
ah, would that it were really so
for then you could arise and fell the foe
in truth, the threat is convoluted
maybe there is no way to unravel the twisted skeins
which do you fear more
the numbness of the limb you can see
or the phantom limb pain of the maimed?

The universe collapsed

the exquisite corps collective

The universe collapsed towards the center
her world opened to a new vision
splendidly arrayed like a cashmere sale at Barney's
you can't imagine the carnage and emotional turmoil
economically priced good can produce in a seemingly civilized soul
it created the impression that the scene was seized and fixed
aware of his physical handicap, he tried to overcompensate with
viagra, a pump, an implant, even a rubber hose
but nothing could overcome the psychological handicap of
not knowing the truth
the life he once imagined might never come back to be
the wife he scoured the earth for
fell dead at his feat from exhausting extrapolations
mourning her loss, a sad pitiful diminutive little man
he could not be consoled
he threw himself into the ocean and swam into nothingness


eleanor koldofsky

Crushed by the weight of his body
choked by the reek of sweat and cigars
no protest - I was married

It never occurred to me that motherhood
was optional
I thought it inevitable -
if I thought of it at all

I filled a bath
slid my body down to the taps
my legs extended straight up the tiles
the taps poured as forcefully and hot
as I could bear - into my vagina
hoping to force the semen out of me

But my child was there
though not always
so many miscarriages
they became natural
pain is natural
rape is not

The death of spontaneity

rochelle hope mehr

The internet has become my world

a click of a mouse has replaced the flicker of an eyelash
I've become an overly-conscious, overly-programmed lab rat
diligently but agonizingly responding to each email
more aware of each word's impress there
than I ever would have been in a real conversation

where the flicker of an eyelash
could transmute all the verbal hogwash I uttered
into the purest gold

The other

rochelle hope mehr

Always this tug
between the outer and the inner
centrifugal lusting
after the other
the other sex
the other religion
the complement to
make you whole
the other course of study
the other ethnicity
look outside
and fill your need
divert yourself
the other fashion statement
the other literary style
the other political persuasion
play devil's advocate
succor everything
as long as it is alien
familiarity breeds contempt
love thy neighbor more than thyself
despise thyself
place a mirror in front of thine eye
and see thyself only
as their tattoo

Scents of slaughter

janet i. buck

The lovesick, the betrayed, and the jealous all smell alike
Colette (1873-1954)
The rules are these:
no perfume; no fresh flowers
and I ask why
expecting tales of allergies
rashes crawling in a race
up elbows made of Ivory Soap
my husband says:
"It's nothing anatomical
scents like these conjure
every grieving well
she's ever dipped her fingers in"

Your brother's death
his casket decked with spider webs
of feckless honeysuckle vines
pollen tears igniting
in depression's pool of acetone
fragrances of sugar
learning earth in bitters
brandishing of dream and gale
no caveats of summer's kiss
remain in scrapbooks of your mind

What sticks is this:
edgy hoot of forest owls
decrying what a prayer won't change
night is cloaked obsidian
daylight seems an atheist
too bright for noses to inhale
erasure of connecting points
is safer than aerobic jaunts
through thickets of old memories
smells like these are winds of Hell
amid the petals damp receipts
the nectar of a god who lied

eleanor koldofsky

I weep as women weep
as if the whole world were bleeding
floods of noisy sobs
violent shocked tears

the face working
the eyes blank, wet, staring
not the pain of a woman crying
it is the finality
of the acceptance of wrong

Leaving's global artistry

janet i. buck

Passmenterie in centerpiece
linen napkins in their rings
we use some kind of bottled exit
hats and purses, leotards
matching all we are and own
wine glass for a babysitter
charging more than you can see
it builds a church that keeps you safe
between the blending battlefields
walking all our dogs, we are
chain and leash and collar clipped
around emotion's fragile neck
sunscreen in a wasteful pack
of leaving's global artistry
Let's talk about this writing thing
a messy puzzle in a box
one piece meets another edge
wholeness that emerges now
is quite the troubles albatross
let's discuss the demolition
even if a bomb goes off
why it eats at innards laying on a lying road
wicked oars of pencils chewed
I'm sculling on a pond alone
Mourning clouds pinch burning candles
of pretending suns. I salt denial's saccharine
serve you coffee black and straight
grate Swiss cheese and climb the Alps
in nothing but my underwear
candor's fiction isn't welcome any more
than gray hair sprouting follicles
grieving's lint upon your clothes
alcohol is rolling brushes
running over skirts in black
your latency is brewing there
you just won't watch it percolate
I'm water fights against the ice
refuse to wear asbestos gloves
I am the cat that tears your Sunday pantyhose

The flight of Pegasus

najwa brax

In my visions Pegasus appears
inspiring me to follow Euterpe's
limpid streams whose ripples strum
the inspiration-fluted shore, she takes
the language flesh for her artistic birth
helps prophecy-filled poems to recreate
the world with beauties and mysteries
revealing the handiwork of God
and the dignified strife of man's spirit
when sundown calls the song birds home
I roam the Muses mystic-eyed kingdom
and hear their multi-miracle-words
"Seekers of beauty and fantasy
your poems, permeated with lofty visions
are masterpieces looking for tomorrow
long-lived tableaux in my cosmic museum
you paint with syllables and cadences
you dream of freedom beyond
blue-shadowed life, see beyond
question-filled sheets, you are
the torch of Prometheus in your world
and the wings of Pegasus in the prosaic life
you fly and alight where you wish
in the universal skies and what you compose
is created in other worlds; I abide
in your images and dictate the strange scenes
permeated with the rainbow life
I am part of your other lofty selves
and you create realms peopled with
beautiful sparks of your souls
you are on earth to fulfil a mission
with the birth of each poem
there is a resurrection"

When the editor requested a bio, I replied

rochelle hope mehr

I'd like to fashion a life
with string and twig and bits of straw
I'd like to nestle in the bosom
of a bourgeois sensibility
and tote my achievements
in a ledger
what legerdemain
to conceal
the inanity
of an unredeemed life!
I can only slink
to the grounding
of a poem

The reasons why/what reasons have I?

helen lyon

Compelled I seem to be
to try and find
the reasons why
corkscrews of swirling
unreasonable emotion
goad and drive me
my very existence
to try and justify
a slide into worn-out
total exhaustion
in my quest to know the reasons why
my attempts to lull
my soul
into a deadened security
immerse my soul
into the luxury
the soothing balm of poetry
are all in vain
despite the temporary respite
for soul and mind and body
the doubts still remain
still I have to try

my very existence
my mind, my soul, to justify

A paradox

margaret boles

The lower wire
sags and sways
with a heavy
magpie weight
the upper wire
is taught and firm
carrying the lighter mate
and my superstitious soul
sends a grateful, thankful prayer
that two, not one, of
those peculiar birds
are there

eleanor koldofsky

He went through life entertaining
his penis


temi rose

Separate tables
separate lives
fantastic clouds
in manifold skies
parading panties
on porn tv
what's this world
becoming to me

come into me
feeling you into me believing
you will come to me forever

antennae extended
crawling belly full of waste
hate boils trembling tumbled
earth and sky heave as bombs
exchange places with ancient acres of trees

if he slips on his dick doesn't that mean he's held it
out too long

peruse peculiar moments
cuz w/o them it's all a blur of predetermined

I walk by people whose faces wait for the next moment
to be the one that makes sense of it all

why don't we do it in the road


temi rose

an illusion
a rage of ghosts
inhabits him and pushes me away
makes my skin peel back

betrayal is worse than death

my biggest fear
besides running out of pen
ink and paper
is to confuse illusion for substance
but the relationship poses just this conundrum
that your substance
is my illusion
and my substance
your illusion
and thus we arrive at our pernicious
loneliness - a juxtaposition of worlds

All is not gold

margaret boles

am not my house
nor is my worth
all my possessions
nor is the presence
of a friendly
spider or three
lurking in the comfortable
corners of my room
to be subtracted
from the sum of
all that I am worth

No, rather, my friend
my worth is
all that I think
of you, and
all that you think
of me!

Innocence betrayed

eleanor koldofsky

My mind is scarred
with thousands of whips
each time this thought eclipsed
my youth
the sight by accident
for I was afraid to be in the house alone
and lifting the trap in the attic door
observed unnoticed
the act of a thousand years
and more
a helpless head held down
and innocence
a flower 'neath a scythe

as he did rise - and she
did moan - to be free
as he in rhythm in her
did come
after which, her life -
was none

I closed the trap
backed down the stairs
wondering why I didn't speak

How do children sense wrong
knowledge by instinct
when havoc wreaks?


eamer o'keeffe

"And who are you?" she asks. I've dared
to address a remark directly to her
like an intimate friend. Her glare, like ice
should be striking me dead. Because she's the star
and the featured poet. Everyone here
must listen to her and nobody else
'Who are you?" she repeats. The frosty edge
at the tip of her voice, hints at bottomless depths
of meaning and menace in each stressed word
WHO -ARE-YOU? that I barely sensed
many years ago, when we first met
but I am standing my ground and I'm smiling at her
"Who are you?" she frowns, with more emphasis
Names are just masks to hide behind
so I make one up. She won't remember
I won't forget. I know who I am.