POEMS (Vol. 10 nos. 1-2, 1995-96):

© copyright 1996-96 by Clockwatch Review, Inc., all rights reserved

Clockwatch Review publishes fiction, essays, interviews, reviews, art, and poetry. Eventually we hope to put all of Clockwatch Review online, as well as letters to the editor, interviews and features that don't appear in the hard-copy version. In other words, these excerpts are not intended as a "teaser" of any sort, but rather an "appeaser" until we get the e-magazine up and running. Poetry is the easiest to upload, so we're starting with those. Plus, we wanted to announce that we recently learned Beth Lisick's poem, "Empress of Sighs," was selected for inclusion in the 1997 Best American Poetry anthology, and we congratulate Beth. That poem and others below are from our latest issue, Vol. 10 nos. 1-2. Check back frequently, for we'll add more a little at a time, in the same order as they appeared in the hard copy, pages in ().

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In 1937, Robert Johnson

still sang the Walking Blues,

the insistent churchbell of his guitar,

the moaning congregation of his voice,

a year before the strychnine flavored

his whiskey.

In the time of Robert Johnson,

you called yourself Battling Geech,

135 pounds, the ball of your bicep rolling

when you sickled the left hook

from a crouch, elbows blocking

hammers to the ribcage.

Florida for a black man

was Robert Johnson, moaning:

the signs that would not feed you

hand-lettered in diner windows,

the motels that kept all beds white.

Here, in a ring rigged behind the mansion,

next to the first swimming pool

in Key West, you sparred with Hemingway.

He was 260 pounds in 1937, heavy arms

lunging for you, so you slid crablike

beneath him, your shaven head

spotlit with sweat against his chest.

Only once did his leather fist tumble you,

sprawling across canvas

white as sun.

Now, nearing eighty, one eye stolen

from the socket, one gold tooth

anchored to your jaw,

you awoke this morning

and weighed the hurricane-heavy air

of Key West in your fighter's hands,

three decades after Papa Hemingway

choked his mouth with a shotgun.

You stand before the mansion

on Whitehead Street, telling the amazed tourists

that you are the man who beat Hemingway,

and it happened here,

even if the plaque

leaves out your name.

Martin Espada is the author of five books: The Immigrant Iceboy's Bolero (1982), Trumpets from the Islands of Their Eviction (1987), Rebellion is the Circle of a Lover's Hands (1990), City of Coughing and Dead Radiators (1993), and Imagine the Angels of Bread (1996). Espada, who lives in the Boston area, also edited Poetry Like Bread: Poets of the Political Imagination (1994).

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At dusk, next door to Mallory Square,

where the sword swallower, the thin contortionist,

and the cats that leap through flaming hoops

exchange the burden of anomaly for coins,

James Dickey reads to us from the Mallory Square

of his own experience: "The Sheep Child"

and the boys who dragged the hammerhead shark home

to dismantle the house. All these

compulsions, and ours to sit in circular darkness

while his southern syllables bathe us,

the moths pursue the flames,

and the mosquitos drink our blood,

buzz away and come back humming our names.

Away, off to our left somewhere,

other planets bowl around their suns.

The drunken crew of the Moon Dawg

returns to moon us and tit us again.

Only the lights above the hotel's swimming pool

trail off behind James Dickey, like ellipses

in the last line of a poem . . . . .

Ron Houchin has published in more than 200 journals, including the 10th anniversary issue of Clockwatch Review. Houchin, who lives in Ohio, is a frequent workshop leader for the Hemingway Days Festival "Café Critiques."

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Bluish and thirsty, packed tight as oranges,

they come from the coast in the iced trunk

of the blue Buick our aunt drives. She's sunk

in thoughts of dinner and not the tinges

of dread that will stain her African violets

as she tends a back pain. She does not think

of her mother, who'll die this fall under pink

bedclothes without a goodnight, the eyelets

of her gown will spell the Chinese words

for loneliness, lovelessness, white birds.

When our aunt and her passengers get to town,

my brother and I crouch by the crate,

poke slow ones with sticks. Two escape;

our parents chase them with tongs around

the garden, then dump all seventy-four

in the laundry-room sink. They scuttle and flip

like flat gymnasts; they amaze us kids.

We salt them, singing When it rains it pours.

They spit back curses: You'll ache, you'll smother;

you'll never be able to talk to each other.

My aunt has brought me a spiny, off-yellow

shell, big as my hand. It sits

on the dryer, where I forget about it

to watch the steamer, where waving hello

and goodbye, the first mute batch reddens

and stills. I think of my shell and go back.

Out of it, welt-ridden legs grasp

no sand. He's ugly, a hermit, threaten-

ing. I peer in his house and read the prophecy:

You'll find joy, but you must leave the family.


Yes, Mother, it is unfair

that at 21 you were already given over

to Father, to currying chicken,

to dining cheerfully among synthetic wives,

that seven years later you were still

ironing, an English major studying

baby books, when I wailed

into your little white house & promised

to be quiet if you would just stay there,

that now I am 24 and you never see me

because I'm off writing more English

and loving a man--yes, it is unfair.

But would you have wanted these three years,

night to night not sleeping

in a floral bed in an exhausted city

that's eaten your soul and all your poems;

would you have held the wrong arms

to stop the future stretching catlike

toward more rooms with window grates,

with friends moved to California

and boyfriends marrying other girls and poems

deflating on the desk, struck birds found too late--

would you have met the mirror before work

and seen your face taper and disappear?

Every day I am more untraceable,

so far from the center of the world

that I might fall off, while in your suburb you dream

of a room of one's own, what might have happened there.

Less happened there than you think. More happened there

than you want. Mother, we have both been cheated.

We were put on our feet. The road opened and we traveled it.

Adrienne Su, who studied at Harvard and the University of Virginia, competed on the New York City national poetry slam team and was a writing fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass. Poems of hers have appeared in such journals as Chelsea, Kalliope and Prairie Schooner, and in the anthology Aloud! Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café (1994).

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They have migrated into the maples

Lining the boulevards, abandoning

The Meadowlands upon which stadiums

Have been built, complexes.

My sister complains

She cannot hear their singing,

Their ticks, buzzes, and groans

So familiar in the neighborhood

They drown out the fog horns of

Barge on the Passiac, rumble of

Rigs on the Turnpike, yammer of

Tires on the Parkway, clicks of

Trains on the tressels--

Not singing at all, she asserts,

A cacaphony outside her window.

She cannot sleep with it open,

An inalienable right,

Her life ruled by racket.

In China cicadas sang princesses

To sleep in sanded cages of bamboo

Hung by moonlight in the summer.

But in Lyndhurst, my sister grows

Insomniac. She wants them dead,

Mort. This is so unlike her,

Gentle creature. I have seen her

Sweep spiders and beetles

On front pages of The Star-Ledger,

Apt obit, rather than exterminate.

I have witnessed her scrubbing

Chicken in baptismals of Tupperware

Rather than risk salmonella

But now she wants to climb

A maple and aerosol the ozone\

Out of cicadas. She has called me,

A killer like Sun Tzu, to learn

The art of war, and I tell her:

Know the enemy, the ocelli eyes,

The timbals at the base of

The abdomen that make the music.

Know the terrain, the disappearing

Wetlands, the endangered trees,

The mounds of refuse on the horizon.

Know the weather, how the cicada

Predicts patterns, quakes, warmings,

Why, the ones outside her window

Probably burrowing there

When we were children,

Rising in seventeen-year

Cycles to celebrate the brood,

Orgies of insects. So beware,

I say, she may well come back

As cicada in the next life

When the spider and beetle,

The ubiquitous roach, rule,

When cities will be silent,

Even in New Jersey.

She thanks me, so long

Since I have told her a story,

How time flies, things change,

But thinks she can sleep

Now listening to the serenade.


I threw the monkey wrench at Darwin

But he ducked

Under the bill of a platypus.

It struck Sir Issac

Between the eyes at the cider tree,

And the whole world

Dimmed. When he came to,

He marveled at the alloy

And gave up alchemy,

Advancing the clock,

Discovering mechanics, laws of motion,

How bodies travel millennia in a line.

Unless compelled

To act otherwise.

He cast the coordinates in the clay

At the base of the tree,

The wind kicking up,

Worms awriggle in the fallen cores,

The wrench on the horizontal plain

And his head on the vertical

Intersecting in a cross.

Thus, he was born again,

And I've been on the path ever since,

Posse of one

Atop an astral mule.

Assassin of science, I lost

My innocence at Assissi

Under the basilica. I know

Whose side, whose century

The cogniscenti honor in the annals,

But imagine the world

As it might have been

As the mule descended

Mount Subasio with its own laws

Of motion: simplicity, creation,

Love of all living things.

Michael J. Bugeja's most recent books are Little Dragons and Flight from Valhalla (1994). As a contributing editor for Writer's Digest he writes a monthly column and poetry marketplace report, and edited the 1993 and 1994 Poet's Markets. His writing awards include an NEA fellowship, an NEH grant, an Academy of American Poets award, and the Writer's Digest Grand Prize, fiction. Bugeja teaches at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.

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I made her tell me of the affair,

and I became him, the man who pulled

opening the many rooms of her mouth,

and then I was her, pulling him

through the river of rooms in the mansion

his eyes pressing into me, his eye

and then I was the closet, the space

on their way to the mansion, and then the real

the wind of doors slamming, bodies

my eye lost in the mouth of my pocket,

my dirty, awful hand.


Loneliness is a privilege, and I'm grateful

for the afternoons I had as a child

to feed the crocodile I invented in my closet.

How the knob's wood expanded in my hand

when I threatened my friend with death.

Twenty years later he still has nightmares

where I get mad and fling open the door.

Upstairs our mothers were one mother

measuring emptiness by the milligram.

Their laughter clung to the ceiling

like helium balloons after a party.

Only they never came down, stayed there

without color or reason. Bruises are genetic.

By age ten we opened a window and snapped

our jaws at the world. A flashlight's subtle patch

on pavement rendered bewilderment

in nearly all who passed. A bucket of water

dumped from three stories up

onto the reliable shock of a stranger

made out hair electric, teeth sharp: milk bottles,

barbells came next. By twelve we slithered

from the house's skin, graffitied crack,

rom, rascal in the narrow throats of Philadelphia

and knocked over trashcans with our tails.

Under the dank wings of older kids on corners

we learned how to steal a chump's heart

without saying a word. By sixteen the boomerang

of anger curved back at us. My fingers trace the hemline

of a frenzy, passed down through the family

like an heirloom we can all squeeze into.

Each day I carry a colorless balloon and walk

my crocodile through the same streets.

Kids look at me funny, but I've got thick skin

and a firm belief in multiplication.

Jeffrey McDaniel, a Washington, D.C. resident, teaches reading and writing workshops as part of WritersCorps, a national literacy program sponsored by the NEA and Associated Writing Programs. He has competed in national poetry slams and has read his work as part of the 1994 Lollapalooza Festival. His first book, alibi school, was recently published by Manic D Press, San Francisco.

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He needs

a color that is all color.

That is not black.

The color of the fortress in Provence,

Les Baux, its shadows like the red

roots of his beard,

blue of his midnight mind.


as olive groves,

yellow as the walls of his house

and the scar.

I don't need him to tell me

the world's a crazy

self-portrait painted every day.

I need him

to tell me what new color grows

into his eyes

when the gun goes off.


Somewhere beyond zero,

a morning is blue

air, blue ice, and bluebirds

leaping through

the branches of round-leaved holly,

passionate for its night

blue fruit.

In the flock

some dare sky to be

such color,

others, like the weather,

wear clouds on their shoulders.


who later this year will

crowd nests with skies

full of eggs.

Wherever they are, they are

hunters who stay alive like this,

even as the red-tailed hawk with its high

sweet voice,

with its claws, and its vestal mice.

This time in the year

they're a wind.

Blue breathing warm,

and tangible.

Where they are

the world doesn't end.

Judith Neeld has edited Stone Country since 1978. Her own poetry has appeared most recently in Texas Review, Yarrow, Oxford Magazine, and Mississippi Valley Review.

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The barn, full of rats, scares me

for even the less than a minute they take

to clear out when the lights snap on, vanishing

into the walls, into the hay crushed sweet

against the rafters, startling the horses who kick

at the scratching behind the walls. Shadows

drop like nets from bare bulbs overhead

but the rats escape, slide through the sharp prongs

of the pitchfork, the potent glitter of steel. Nights,

they crouch beneath buckets, fatten on grain

spilled from eager mouths. Sleep echoes with the good life of rats. I

tell my father who cranks up the old tractor and bangs

for the woodpile where he guides along hose

down a hole: Exhaust erupts

from the frozen ground, on all sides pillars of steam

as if from the earth's lead core had suddenly sprung

the gas of a long fermenting. Exhaust

circles the heaped manure simmering

in the January sun, jets at tight angles

from the foundation, over fence posts that lean

as though drunk on the nauseating reek.

Spraying into the barn, it spurs the horses who bolt

from the open doors, shaking their ragged manes and snorting.

The rats scatter. My father marks where the fumes

pour out, returns late in the day to press rocks in the holes

and restart the tractor. Afterward,

I see only one rat, curled on a bale of hay. Chin

tucked to chest, its four feet

touch, though barely, as if, at the moment of dying,

the body turned to itself

for comfort. I study

the sleek body and sharp claws, the cracked-leather tail,

dangling. Behind me, the horses thrust their noses into the air,

tap the ground with delicate hooves, expecting

to be fed. My breath and the breath of horses

pulse in the cold: o betrayer

o minion of death


Only you, and only by some sorcerer's rite,

could coax the stubborn silence of rust

into the snort and wheeze of its ponderous motion,

every March dragging spring inch by inch

out of the tired ground, the huge claw of the tiller

shredding the last stiff resistance of winter.

I always watched, eager to inhale

that first faint promise of growth enriched

by months of waiting, that musky secret

the earth releases from the unreachable

center. Barren two seasons, your garden

this summer yielded one vine: zucchini,

the hybrid relic of another planting, battered its way

through untilled ground. Tending gladly

what we had been inexplicably given, we ate

for weeks from the insistent vine though the tractor

harbors where it always outwaits winter, sheltered

by trees as though it were alive and fragile.

My mother refuses to sell, though she admits

you won't be back to need it, your still heart,

long the instrument of firm endurance, caught

beneath the layering of three Octobers. Yet

she's turned away a dozen men who've stopped

to stroke its crusty flank and wonder

why she keeps it.

Trevor West Knapp writes from Toms River, New Jersey. Poems of hers have recently appeared in The Kenyon Review, Alabama Literary Review, Confrontation, Poet Lore, and The Chattahoochee Review. Her manuscript, Thirst, was a finalist for the 1993 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition.

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Mom says getting to the new home is a snap. "As easy as a cake falling off a log on a bicycle." Just take a left on Palm Canyon until you reach Desert Falls, bear left at the fork of Indian Canyon and Canyon Plaza taking Desert Canyon to Canyon Sands. This is where you will find Rancho La Paz. Click on 2 for the gate, the guards waves you past and you're on Avenida del Sol where you continue on crossing Vista del Sol, Plaza del Sol, Vista del Monte, Sunny Dunes, Camino ParocelaÑmake sure you heed the golf cart crossingÑand then Thousand Palms, Emerald Desert, Desert Isle and Palm Desert Greens. Left on Sagewood, right on Sungate, left on Palo Verde, and ending in the cul-de-sac of Casa La Paz.

"I just love it," Mom says.

"You love it?" I say

"Yes. I love it!" Then she calls to dad who's enjoying himself on the 18-hole putting green located just 3 feet outside the kitchen sliding glass door, "Don't we love it, hon?"

He tips the brim of his white cap, a cap he would have seen on someone a year ago and called them a fag and says, "Love it! Another crappy day in paradise! Ha! Ha! Ha!"

Mom clears her throat a little and sighs. She is the Empress of Sighs. "Well, yes, it's still a little funny."

Same funny tax bracket, same funny year round tans, same funny cathedral ceilings. Same politics, same stocks, same paranoia and medication.The same leather interior, glossy exterior and liposuctioned posterior.

Here comes your neighbor driving up in a luxury sedan just like your luxury sedan except he paid extra for the little headlight wipers and the gold linked license plate frameÑand you didn't. You thought they were useless, extraneous, a little much . . . and now your neighbor comes rubbering by, waving real slow, doing the grown-up equivalent of "ha-ha!" which is basically "ha-ha! I am worth more than you."

And Mom sighs and admits it doesn't feel like home yet. This mom, Empress of Sighs, Empress of afterschool treats and frumpy sweaters and marathon tickling and the 52 Casseroles cookbook, doesn't feel at home.

So I map out a plan. I make a list on how one feels at home here. I say, you need to play bridge, throw a party, plan on some tennis and it'll feel like home. Polish the silver, throw out old photos, balance your checkbook, it'll feel like home. Start eating more fresh fruit. Get your armpits waxed. Drink 6 8oz. glasses of water each day. It'll feel like home.

Squeeze all your blackheads, clip toenails in bed, watch 13 straight hours of television. Complain about what trash they show on television and begin writing a letter. Stop writing the letter cause it makes you think about yourself, yell at your mother instead, quit drinking.Threaten to deport the gardener.

Go on a crying jag. Consider rhinoplasty, blepharoplasty and a tummy tuck. Forget to water the plants. Buy plastic plants and forget to dust them. Buy books and pretend you read them. Start a collection. Start a collection of something that might be worth something someday.

Now turn off the lights, sprawl out on one of the matching earthtoned leather sofas and pick a very high number. Start counting backwards. You're in the middle of the desert, the wind picks up and when you run out of numbers, you will find that it feels a lot like home.

And Mom sighs and admits it doesn't feel like home yet.


He told me I was a serial seducer, but he understood because he was too. He told me there were only ten people worth knowing in this world. He called them "The Sacred Ten." They were about to take off to the desert and form their own biosphere, this one guy flaked, so would I like to come along?

He said they'd been planning this for months, hashing it out in motor lodge swimming pools, eating tater tots, drinking whiskey out of dixie cups. They had discovered Boston's first album.

As if praising the white trash for just breathing would lead to salvation now that everyday type slacking and brushes with people who have had brushes with fame have become a little too heavily documented to co-opt into the post-collegiate lifestyle.

"Back to you," he says. "I know a lot about you."

The girl on the next barstool issues a warning. "Dude, being a stalker is so mid-eighties."

"Back to you," he continues.

"No, back to you!" I want to yell as if I were Miss Liz Taylor in a muumuu and feathered and mules at home on a bender.

He starts in.

"Serial seducer. Me and you. You and me. Ripped from a lactating tit we drool our celestial milk on cheekbones and used cocktails napkins whenever we go. Swerving into oncoming lies in feet greasy with Mazola. The crown of our glory made by Mattel, reduced to half price and buried in dirt with pet hamsters and rotting stone fruit. Always making an entrance as if lush piano chords sang with inexorable timbre. Do you know? I know that you know, serial seducer."

It is last call. I check my pocket, swear I lost a twenty somewhere and start counting my drinks backwards, but it all checks out.

The lights come up slowly. His lips twist grotesquely. He calls out like a Spanish textbook rooster, "quiriquiruquiri!" He gives me the thumbs up as I recline without hesitation onto anything with legs.

Beth Lisick is a performance poet and urban storyteller who has performed extensively throughout northern California and major American cities. A member of the San Francisco poetry slam team, she was featured at the 1994 Lollapalooza Festival and the 1995 South by Southwest Music Festival. A Collection of her stories and poems, Bride of Inertia, is forthcoming from Manic D Press. "Empress of Sighs" is her first publication.

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You speak of tough eternity.

I learn through shop windows,

in the new craze for strawberries

printed on sheer silk. Forever

and ever. I think about that,

watching a green wisp in the park.

Everywhere, grasshoppers, like

small children on swings. I repeat

what nobody says. I hope you cry,

take forms. That's what I wander

through the churches for, to look

at the pretty pictures

on the side door, to say

what I please. That you are

my house, this poem, the shell

I rise from. You twist hair

round my body, bind me

to myself. Your angels breathe

into me. I do not

look or listen. When I curl up

behind you and bite your shoulder

I forget who you are, what

your name is. I won't

say it, only give it

color, shape, a shield

of daylight.


Because of a name I promise

to read the whole book, to swallow

the red flame, the red ribbon,

a woman's name. That's what it is

to see a field of purple irises,

to cry out--let that one white

one be me. it's just arrogance

to let the heart

break, to need innocence

that much. I take up

a handful of red clay, squeeze it

between my fingers until

rust colored drops of water

run down my arm. I don't

always feel human. There

are books I'd like

to burn from cover to cover, groves

of trees I'd like

to set fire to.

Katherine Smith lives and writes in Paris.

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"Look at the light," Mamma whispered

as Nora moved near, onto the windowseat,

against Mamma's heart, the curtain

held back to reveal the brilliant

burning sun spreading into fire

behind the houses and trees

of their neighborhood where

they walked everyday except

today because Mamma had been so tired

they hadn't gone to the park or to shop,

or even out into the backyard

where the light falls first in the morning

and Mamma talks about that too,

telling Nora, "Imagine touching that,

feeling that really surround you,"

as she strokes Nora's hair,

putting an arm around her waist,

holding Nora the way she likes--

with her voice too: "See how beautiful it is,

take it inside, save it somewhere,"

Mamma murmurs, something more

than light exploding this moment

which was so much everything Nora had ever wanted

that even as a child with no words

to hold the knowing in anything

but colors and light and sky,

she knows: hold on even before Mamma

warns, "I guess we always want to hold onto

things that are good, Norie,

hold them and keep them,

but the tighter you hold,

the faster you lose everything."


Nora wanted Mamma to switch on the lamp

beside them so they could stop the waiting

and the dark--"Could we sew, Mamma?"

she asked, knowing her mother didn't want

to begin now, and yet she would, sighing as she came

back to the sofa and handed Nora the linen,

parts of the picture folding near other parts

not meant to touch but there they were

caught in the circle of cloth, tight in the hoop,

as Nora watched the needle go in and out quickly,

one stitch perfectly near the other becoming

the next before you could see how

Mamma knew what to do,

the color becoming deep rich real

as Mamma showed her how to work

one section at a time, see only that,

as much of that as you could till it brought

you back to the whole thing again,

and after a time Mamma would spread out

the cloth and look it over and begin another part, whispering,

If you don't try to hold it all at once, you see, you can.

Maureen McCafferty writes fiction and poetry, and has been published in American Writing, Rhino, Array, Encoding, and The Poet's Sacctuary, among others. The poems in this issue are from thread of light and mind, her collection of 66 poems "which seeks to move the reader through the experience of one family's conflict and truimph in holding itself together."

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Thanks to better transport and more sure

climate control, a promising worldwide

new spirit of good will (reads the brochure),

today these portraits hang here side by side.

The docent cooed, "They were meant to be a pair.

The lady and gentleman were betrothed, and when

they were safe on canvas, it's said she sold her hair

to pay the painter. As to what happened thenÑ

"The record's silent. She, or the young man, died.

(His military calling's obvious.)

Perhaps he did not care for a barbered bride."

There was a pause. We chuckled, some of us.

"His portrait reached Berlin. Hers, we know,

like a proper miss, stayed home. He looks a prince,

but she was his match, three centuries ago.

Poor things! they've never been together since."

I search their faces, through a milling crowd

of shoulders and headphoned ears. Is there never a sign

of acknowledgement? no sideways glance, no blush,

no hand to heaving heart? The jewel-pocked shine

of his sword never flickers; no tremor stirs her lace.

Expressionless, they stare steadfastly out

at the tenth generation of an alien race.

He tolerates us with hauteur, she with a pout

as if to say, What greater bore than these

other people's children?

turn out the lights and clear the galleries,

clang shut the doors and leave these two alone.


It was late afternoon when we climbed Czestochowa hill.

Not worshipers but tourists, in a shrine that both had built,

we strolled by plaster and stonework, some freshly gilt,

and some left shabby. A choking effluent fell

over the crowd from the burning of bad coal.

Each hour the Black Madonna's blackness gains.

We peered at her holy of holies, lined with the canes

and crutches of people who limped here and strode off whole.

I thought of those who failed what they came to do

and saw one, crippled yet, in slow retreat

from the cave of relics, cursing his curling feet,

his too scanty faithÑand, it may be, heaven, too.

Did others, after hobbling a few miles on,

lungs swelled with the fetid air of pledged rebirth

in a place where belief was easy, sink to earth

on some steep roadsideÑbreath, hope, and crutches gone?

Ready to leave, and too cheap to buy a book

with a proper map, we made for the nearest gate,

uncertain where we were, until the late

horizontal sun struck our path. I could not look

straight on to westward, but my narrowed eyes discerned

ahead, a highway of figures, outward bound,

like flies in amber transfixed in their gold surround

mixed from coal dust and saintly bones. No one returned.

We had stumbled on an alternate path to town.

Yet I lingered, mad to pitch an easel there

and daub at those spectral forms till the brush fell down

from my palsied hand, to capture the gloom and glare

before the evening exodus was done.

Eternal tourist, I clutched my camera;

and someone hissed, or a chorus clamored, Ah!

you fool! there's no way you can shoot into that sun.

D.J. Smith has published many scholarly articles but "very little poetry," though she has been writing poems since childhood. Her working years were spent as an academic librarian, but she now is enjoying her hobbies-one of which is travel.

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Filings bent to magnets,

a band of Starlings steel the August skies.

They funnel over fields,

then bank and plummet

through a sycamore, hammering the heavy leaves,

Silver, green, and lilac,

they foil the sun,

ducking under fence rails

to careen through polebeans.

Their hoots are chain-links

jangling behind a pick-up.

Rank on rank, they clutch

power lines. Two scuffle

for a perch, screech,

and hurl through the air.

They evade by feather widths,

attract and repel, warring until one falls clear.

Down the line the column settles.


After the hardest snow of the year

the birches huddle in rows.

Ice breaks their wooden bones,

and hangs them by the thumbs

in a March sun too weak to heal them.

Birds call to each other

from the tangle of bare arms.

A red-dark Cardinal feasts in my backyard,

singing to warm his lungs. He enters

just as I am ready to leave.

I had stopped the clock,

put away my mother's china,

and wanted to sink to timeless black.

But the bird came for me,

signaling me to rise, recall his password.

The window is framed by trees, no longer trees,

sky, no longer sky, but now a watch

by which I measure my days.

Shouting the weight of his pleasure

from fevered beak, he rolls a black eye

and we click off the minute.

Then he swoops over my white garden,

drunk as Li Po, his floating path

a dance on an empty swingset of wind.

A graduate of New College in Sarasota, Fla., Angelyn Hays wrote a book-length collection of poems on West Texas birds which received an Emerging Artrists Grant from the Hillsborough Arts Council. Her poems have recently appeared in Sun Dog: The Southest Review, Negative Capability, and The Florida Review.

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A seal shrugs her soft shoulders in the wind

a few fathoms from my boat

as if to say she understands:

her eyes are the color of hot chocolate

thick with milk; starlight flecks them

like an exotic spice

stirred in by the tides of Asia;

her whiskers are wet with moonlight

like a cat's in a cream-bowl,

her skin is a brindled shammy

in the hands of a lonely child

kept after school for daydreaming;

she is still in the dark river

as a tombstone no one visits,

she is a hitchhiker's thumb

held out in the air

of a deserted highway,

she is the shadow

of a small planet we've overlooked

just beyond the sun

And when she cries at last,

full-throated, head raised,

the blood of her pup

flows warm again through my hands

as though I'd been sifting the salt

froma lifetime of human tears

and did not know that I had cried them

Snowy Owl After Midnight

I like to believe he waits for me

in the dark pines along the river,

eyes trained on the porchlight

of my house;

I like to believe his blood stirs

at my presence, in a way unknown

to him, but that he also understands

the heightened smell of joy

and fear my bones give off

as I shut the door behind me

and plunge into the stars.

It is so quiet at this hour,

just the two of us awake,

each hunting in his way

the small gifts of the night,

what he seeks in the long grass

and marshes, what I seek

in the soft, unpeopled silence:

at first I thought I followed him

along the dyke and throught the fields,

privy to a ritual strange and

wild in its solitude;

now I'm not so sure.

For miles

he wings above my shoulder

quick and small as those moons

we watched in childhood

from the backseats of our parents' cars,

those moons that always raced us home,

that we could never lose

and when I stop, he's there,

settling on a fence-post or piling,

diving behind a clump of trees;

never a shriek from the grass

never a word from my throat;

we have circled each other's silence

this way for months.

Again, tonight, I wonder

what he would tell me if he could;

would he say the blood that calls him

to the earth is a blood

he does not understand?

Under these drumming wings I wonder

what death does he expect

my clipped, pale hands to make?

I would say to him now,

this blank page riffling in the night,

this beating heart of a snowman

extant from some boyish dream,

brother, I have stopped my ears against

the blood that calls me to the earth

but I will move here with you

in its dark and silent flowing

as long as breath is given

and your vigil burns white fire in the trees.

Tim Bowling is a 32-year-old commercial salmon fisherman and former professional hockey player (in Switzerland) who has published poems in many of Canada's finer literary journals, includingFiddlehead, Queen's Quarterly, Capilano Review, and Poetry Canada Review. This is his first publication in an American journal.

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My brother and I constantly competed.

We'd bet on who would cast their plastic bobber farthest

from shore. Sometimes, I'd win and get to eat

his cookies from a packed lunch. Other times,

his would land just a few yards

farther out. Either way, we'd both flop

on the bank and watch the fluid s's of snakes

swimming, the dumb cows shaping ripples

as they waded and drank, both of us eager,

waiting for slick black catfish to seize hunks

of liver in the slits of their mouths and tug.

Right there in the clay, we'd gut the ugly things

for more bait, the cut along the belly, the intense

wrenching of treble hooks, our hands messy

with intestines. Such was childhood, such

were the demands of the rest of our lives.


(upstate N.Y., 1971)

Some days he'd work the field. Knock

on forty doors without a single sale. So

no one blamed him when he came home

from fourteen hours of rap and ask, ring

and plead, and slumped on the couch, drunk.

He seldom yelled, rarely smacked my brother

and me. Simply too tired to budge. And there

were those days he'd come home before noon

and the four of us would load the station wagon

and go to the store, the lake, a rented rowboat,

hoping for bass or a stringer-full of plump perch.

Submarine sandwiches, bags of potato chips,

empty beer and soda bottles clinking in the boat's

bilge. Mom appearing for once in love as he helped

us bait our hooks, fingers merciless with worms

or jittery minnows, sticking the barbed steel straight

through their thin bodies. And then, at the end

of the day, he'd fall asleep before we pulled out

onto the highway for home, his mouth open

and snoring, my brother and me telling stories

to mom, all of us hypnotized by possibility, headlights

slicing the night, our path hopelessly well lit.

Tod Marshall was a Ph.D candidate at the University of Kansas when his poems were accepted for this issue-though, by now, he's probably gotten tenure somewhere.

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