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miller's pond

Volume 14, Issue 3

Fall 2011

Rena Lee Roger Singer Charles F. Thielman Lyn Lifshin Erica Goss
Roger Desy Richard Dinges Lark Beltran Karen Douglass William Alton
John Grey Terri Brown-Davidson Daniel Snethen

Roger Singer

LATE CALL

Names lay scrawled on paper diner napkins.
Crawling letters spun like spider webs
penned roughly, folded over and
mouth stained on inferior parchment.
 
Hastily written phone numbers of hope
wait to be called, breaking lonely
nights, washing out shadows, holding
strangers hands, for touch, for
passionate moments.
 
Nervous, weary, excited, jealous hands
dream of shadows hiding in places
where they live, waiting, surviving
for the phone to ring a voice
to their ears.

PASSING THROUGH

The secrets of pillows hold fast
under lock and key
minced oaths, lies and tears
and the tongues of lovers
between curtains of night
washed in blackness
on wrinkled sheets
the color of sleep
finds spirits in corners
while angels find shelter
above motel rooms
with used plastic cups
as lips speak whisper
the address of home
and a number of someone
written on a hand
by a man and a monkey
at the corner of a street
in a city
where machines
become the heartbeat of man
and the water turns to wine
in the veins of
talking shadows
in the dreams we dread
as we all pass through
alone on the road night.
http://www.millerspondpoetry.com/admin/editcontent.php?content_id=92&page=

from the poet:  I began writing poetry when I was in the military many years ago, for relaxation and to express my thoughts in an abstract form.  I enjoy the challenge poetry offers, unlike the articles I have written for my profession, which are straight forward.  Poetry allows the writer to step to the side from general thoughts, thus creating a miniature story which in and of itself can bifurcate into other levels of literary form.
 

Charles F. Thielman

Initials carved in driftwood

Her son’s tight-roped breath fogs
zig-zag down to the shore
 
as he igloos into the ice heart
of a storm’s approach,
 
the lake’s thick ice groaning.
 
Butterfly tattoo near her jugular,
she paces the ridge, watching.
 
So much like his distant father.
She fears he’ll absorb their angers.
 
Shouldering her bag of assorted echoes,
 
she recalls a rain of touches building
into layers of liquid heat, recalls
 
how a waxing moon snipered
a magnetic line between drapes.
 
His laugh arcs up from shoreline birch.
 
She inhales an eclipse nightly, their initials
carved in the driftwood of time lost.
 
Her son’s hazel eyes still follow
the veined wave-crests of dreams,
 
his face luminous.

                                                                                                 

Walls Begging for Color

Eye-to-eye with a red-veined shadow
you mine the pockets
 
of your father’s wool shirts,
slipping a one-eyed king up your sleeve.
 
Memories birth spirals of soul vertigo,
a story becoming old, the Army engineer
 
re-building bridges near mounds
of Nagasaki ash then growing silent.
 
His sons learning how one lip-syncs
anthems to the uniform as he climbed
 
his corporate ladder, Elvis unleashing
pelvic change sea to sea. Dream becoming
 
a fading echo, you drag your scroll of needs
between the circus mirrors of life. Office walls
 
begging for color as you craft advertising
aimed at spines sloped and remote.
 
Birdsongs losing their sisters to distraction,
applied logic snapping branches to build nests.


from the poet:  Raised in Charleston, S.C., and Chicago, educated at red-bricked colleges and on various city streets, I’ve worked as a youth counselor, truck driver, city bus driver and enthused bookstore clerk.! I’m active on the Boards of the county and state writers’ organizations. We’re currently promoting the Poetry Box Project-- the boxes are like curbside realtor’s boxes, but with copies of poems inside for passersby.I also organize readings at the store and at downtown galleries. And not a few of my poems have been accepted by literary journals such
as The Pedestal, The Oyez Review, Poetry Kanto and Uphook Press.

Rena Lee

Old Adam and Old Eve (From the series “On Eden”)


Old Adam and old Eve are sitting in their old kitchen of their old home.
They’ve just had breakfast and now are half snoozing half schmoozing :
- “Remember the taste of that apple you’ve given me?”
- “How can I ever forget…It wasn’t really an apple, but rather
some other weird fruit resembling apple, the like of which I can find
nowhere in the supermarket.”
- “If only He had let me have another bite I might perhaps
have gotten me a college degree…”
- “Well, no use crying over spoiled snack…”

Old Adam and old Eve are still sort of homeless in their old home.

This is yet another apartment after being expelled from Eden, for
like their eldest son they too keep wandering from place to place,
since nothing can, even remotely, compare to their first abode.

Now with generations of offspring spread all over the world,

strange people they don’t even know their names, old Adam and
old Eve are ailing and alone. They reminisce a lot about the early
golden - ah, so very short - times long gone.
Oh, how happy they were then even though with no parents,
sort of the world’s first orphans…
Oh, how happy they were when they didn’t know they were happy -
They never mention their neighbor Mr. Serpent for whom Adam
still harbors some grudge, nor their beloved son Abel whose death
continues growing, like a malignancy, in Eve’s womb.

They’ve always been so busy fulfilling God’s command to work

and multiply that years passed them by in a twinkling. ”Too fast…
If only we had a moment…” they used to complain. Now retired,
they’ve lots of free time and don’t know what to do with it.
Awareness of the difference between good and evil hasn’t bettered
their existence, neither has it taught them how to overcome this
absolutely awful boredom.
Insecure, in spite of the social-security checks, they go on
munching pieces of their life day by day,
without gaining any new knowledge.
They’ve taken policies of life-insurance on each other, so at least
the dying spouse may die in peace.

Old Adam and old Eve are sitting in their old kitchen of their old home.

They’ve just had breakfast and now are half snoozing half schmoozing -
- “Aren’t you glad we didn’t taste from that other tree?”
- “You bet! Imagine this going on forever?”


An Old Story


And the snake was
talking to Eve
in his forked tongue,
hissing into her ears
sweet words like
how sweet she was-s
and how he wished
to s-swallow her all up.

"Come-on" he said,

"I'll give you a taste
of real Eden."
His body shot as an arrow
in the direction
of the darkest tree,
and she darted -

Long hours they spent there

the two, on their plot,
perspiring, conspiring,
as if rehearsing
overplaying
some future scene.

And all that time

Adam was
busy busy busy
dressing and keeping the garden
for God.


"An Old Story" is published in VOICES WITHIN THE ARC (An anthology of modern Jewish poetry,compilers H. Schwartz & A. Rudolf), AVON BOOKS, 1980.

Ashes


I too had once an albatross dream flying me
higher and higher. I don't know how or why
it vanished in an evening smoke
leaving me prey to a world of grey.

Twilight is but a short suspense followed

by unmitigated blackness.
No more can I tell the shadows
cast in night's mold.

My sleep country is bleak and barren.

Should a dream stray there on the way,
it could only be one as heavy and sad
as this ashen elephant,
who crazy with loneliness,
never stops fanning its ears
as if in a dim recollection of some distant flight.

I too had once an albatross dream flying me

higher and higher.



Published in VOICES ISRAEL 2001, Vol. 28

Rena Lee, penname of Rena Kofman, is poet and writer, a retired Professor of Hebrew from the City University of NewYork, and the author of twelve books in Hebrew, seven of which are poetry. Her work appeared (in both Hebrew and English) in many magazines, anthologies, scholarly journals, etc. The chapbook Captive of Jerusalem: Song of Shulamite published by Finishing Line Press is to be released July 2011.

Roger Desy

— salmon


— a few of them — maturing after several years at risk — surviving
again the odds at the mouths of shoals — return from the open sea


to home in on the freshness of a solitary northern autumn river


to the lure of a scent imprinted in their pores threading the scintillation

of their nerve ends through the viscera of their memory — as if


they never in fact left the lining of their shallow narrow womb




a fierceness ripening to an absolute simple singular devotion


racing against the currents — leaping falls and dams — slipping

the funneled nets and paws and sudden talons breaking the surface

of their concentration — through eddying rapids thinning over

eroded stones scraped by the thrash of underbellies bloated with fertility


— abraded scales shining faceted in streams — near brooks and ponds




among the springs at the beds of their source — they spawn their roe

and die — in a shock of iridescence — in a consummate exhaustion —



published in Oyez Review, Vol. 35, Spring 2008


trees



— a fluid thing — perhaps half a tree’s living weight is water —


baking in direct sun each leaf exchanging wastes of burnt air

and spent ash leached to an ooze of sweetness and the clarity

to breathe — its naked buds defying gravity



draw water from the ends of its roots through the sieves

of its cells to the vascular limits at the tips of its canopy



— how though does it — weighing above ground what it does


fibrous and pliant — still a brittle flimsy mass of bark

and wood and leaf — stand in the balance and withstand

the temperate extremes of drought — blight — infestation — floods



while winds of squalls snap and flatten it under snow and ice




— or spreading out and down probing through frost and sand

and clay through hardpan cracks in inert matter and in stone itself


— find room a roothold fixed to the pure dark pools of wells



From the poet: Teaching literature and creative writing, I turned to technical writing/editing. My plan when teaching was to write. The last few years I’ve returned to short lyrics, where I began. They’re where I find myself. Poems have been printed in Blue Unicorn, Kenyon Review, Mid-American Review, The Pinch, Poet Lore, and Spoon River Poetry Review. It’s all about the poem, and the poem finds itself again and again looking through atonement into nature.

Daniel Snethen

Alcohol

Baptized cadavers
in cooper constructed kegs
brewed rotgut-whiskey.

Imbibing absinthe

beckons the gay green fairy
to the Moulin Rouge.

Kiedrich Grafenberg,

vintage 1893,
Rhine-reared white Reislings.

Yellow corn squeezings

dripping from a copper coil
hit like white lightning.

Prohibition and

dried blue juniper berries
made for bathtub gin.

Mexican mescals,

not agave Tequilas,
served con gusano.

Heineken green glass

on a red lit card table
shimmers like Christmas.

Plum wine and Saki

enhances Asian repast
of Mandarin duck.

Martell fine Cognac

resides on Westminster grave:
a toast for Edgar.

White Clay littered with

beer cans and drunk Indians
where White meets with Red.



Daniel Snethen teaches at Little Wound HS on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Shannon County, SD. He coaches oral interpretation of literature and is a board member of the SD State Poetry Society. Snethen enjoys collecting vintage paperbacks and is also an avid naturalist.

Karen Douglass

What Good Are These Mountains?

In Colorado they’re always in the way.
They do make the horizon dramatic—
one day a cardboard cut out,
the next layers of blue gray
topped and backed by mottled snow.

They keep big horn sheep and bears
out of my yard and make a sturdy fence
against Utah and Nevada. Tourists
like them, clambering up, falling down.
Mountains comb rain from clouds,
hold the snow pack to fill the reservoir
for summer lawns. They make clear
which way is west. But other than being big,
what does a mountain do all day
with its nose stuck in the sky? Who needs
a mountain?

Not Nebraska or Kansas or Illinois.
Maybe the people who built our cabin—
they needed one—scraped out a road,
cut some trees, hauled up beds
and a stove. The porch is good
for looking at other mountains. Instead
of TV we watch hummingbirds dive and buzz
the feeder or a red hat or a book with a red cover.
There’s no King Sooper on Black Mountain,
no parking lot or pizza joint. Just a whole lot
of air. That’s what a mountain is good for,
breathing.


The Way Finder


Blanks within the borders of maps,
intentional omission, our mission is
privileged information--
sea serpents, dragons, griffins--

renouncing decorations, false notions,
the end of fripperies. (The first lie
is that our map is true.)
The presence of absences,

unavoidable selectivity,
all the unspeakable data
to chart the invisible unattainable.
At the border of the verifiable

everyone leaps, delighted to be lost,
willing to be outwitted,
betrayed, jumped from behind,

to dive in murky water.
A sketch map simplifies the world,
but things neatly packed
are not what we came for.

Is there something new to map?
How do we know where to start?
You are here*
and this is where we begin.


(This found poem was largely extricated from Peter Turhi’s essay, “The Writer as Cartographer” in Bringing the Devil to His Knees.)

Karen Douglass writes poems, novels, a blog, and grocery lists. She lives in Colorado with three dogs, one cat, and her family. You can visit her at www.kvdbooks.com or you can come to Colorado. Her books include Red Goddess Poems; Bones in the Chimney (fiction); Green Rider, Thinking Horse (non-fiction); Sostenuto, (prose poems) and The Great Hunger (poems), which is available from Plain View Press (2009).


Terri Brown-Davidson

Empathic Drowning

I want to sink in it. To swim in it. That grayness
glowing silverish, bone-bright, cold
as a smothered girlbaby


those nights I lounge in my crusty tub,

each eye going blank, every thought behind it
sizzling. Eloctrocuted? Maybe.

In the tepid dirty bathwater, sad as Ophelia

in a green tub rimmed with votives,
pillar candles staining each stubbled wall aubergine,

Lizzie Siddall rises shivering

again, again, again,
her white arms rimming

her nipples.

“It’s too cold to pose,” she cries,
though Rossetti, an aesthete, pushes her

head under laughing, white, lupian teeth

heralding dry coughs and pneumonia,
sudden, violent lung-drownings

I anticipate every second,

observing my starved body
and its white, shining ribs

float on a wave I stir up with my torso.

Fluttering moth-pale then still,
I stretch out, sink limp

and slack-limbed,

Lizzie Siddall drained
to a light-siphoned state,

her once-rosy skin gone gray

though Dante reformulates her in oils.
Drifting and drowned on a river awash

with soft, melting leaves,

all a delicate Christmas crimson,
Lizzie is--in death, in painting--

a presence not echoed in nature,

a brightness attached
to the haloed gold glide

of her hair and her corpsequiet body.


Van Gogh’s Self Portraits

Chiaroscuro of chin. Eye sockets. Mandible.
I crave every inch of his paint-flecked countenance,
the eyes shining blue-fevered in paintings
whose fireball colors keep whirling

in dreams. Asleep, I can savor

his paint-blistered skin—a too thick impasto—
the impossible blood vessels limning his cheeks

so, in portraits, he glows hectic

as a nightmare,
manic and dry-mouthed,
his eyes rolling around

in their lavender-shadowed sockets

to consider me slowly
till, startled by his presence,
I gaze insistently back,

determined he breathe again

though his life’s two-dimensional
and I encounter him only unconscious
where sometimes I pretend,

in my sere backyard garden,

sifting dirt and snail shells
and earwigs through my fingers,
that he’s inside the earth where they laid him,

his stomach wound patched but oozing,

still there, somehow, in that grit,
in that bone-filth of submersion
God-breathed, lonely.

What do we relinquish

when we grant our artists
our own primal right
to an ash-dissolving death?

Some exquisite rapture, distilled onto canvas,

allows them to ghost forward
still confined in their frames,
to slip up, to glide into a frontal cortex craving
their company, a swift-silver spirit
trapped inside
my mind’s steepening bottleneck,

inhabiting me until,

some bold, briny brew of the afterlife
saturating my gray matter,
I’m steeped in him.


Detoxing from Manic Thoughts

A besotment with Vincent comes with the package.
I, he, we are painters

enraptured with the extraordinary,

discontented life-mongers, calamitous

and hungry,

self-expression our rite of passage

into the Pantheon of Holiness

ruled by Olympian artists.

Exalted by my thoughts,

I walk into a cafe—“Flying Star” the appelate--

craving glimpses of creative brethren

though only the double-chinned waitress

who takes my order for ice water,

a slab of chocolate cake

talks to me

in whispers

that can penetrate the wreckage

of shouted thoughts inside my mind. I live inside

these thoughts, of sacredness, painterly rapture,

gaze at a blunt-nosed vase shimmering orange,

sending off sparks that swirl

brighter and brighter behind my eyes

until I’m suffused with a vision so grandiose

I savor the drug of my mind, the madness

that whispers “Goddamn it, Terri--you’re special”

until the ice water and chocolate cake laid before me, plated,

pulse like chiaroscuro:

light-suffused then shadowed.


Song for the Jazz Girl in Albuquerque

Jumping and juiced with the bright
blue jazz of afterdawn, I saunter across
a sidewalk limned with white light
slithering up my ankles

and the Sandia Mountains everywhere,

a sweet-peaked, purple shimmering
I breathe into my lungs until I’m full
of its grit, its rubble


though I dwell--in “reality”--

on a cul de sac lined with thick-mouthed
garbage cans so resplendently black,
so shining in this mindset


that I experience all radiance bodily,

I a poet-who-knows-it breathing the world in,
breathing the world out into the brilliant
swirling air that subsumes it
then shakes it out tapestryrich: holy.


from the poet: Previous work has appeared in LA REVIEW, TRIQUARTERLY, THE VIRGINIA QUARTERLY REVIEW, HAYDEN’S FERRY REVIEW, PUERTO DEL SOL, DENVER QUARTERLY, THE LITERARY REVIEW, and other journals. Recently I was the guest editor in poetry for THE PEDESTAL MAGAZINE. I’m the recipient of the New Mexico Writer’s Scholarship, the AWP Intro Award for poetry, a Yaddo residency fellowship , and have received thirteen Pushcart nominations as well as a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for my first book, THE CARRINGTON MONOLOGUES.

Lark Beltran

Chaff


Mothers of seal-pups, in a slithering
crowd of beachflesh and raucous yelps,
home in on offspring faithfully as electricity
follows a circuit. Our fond gaze lingers
on the loved one in a travel snapshot,
vivid as red in the spectrum of esteem
because he´s ours, alchemized from blankness
to lifeline significance. Others in the photo,
randomly graved upon the scene forever
and unknowing, bit-players around
our star, ignite no ember of emotion
except the briefest curiosity. That girl
at the opposite table, frizzed head
bent over magazine, would be object
of someone´s affectionate purview but not mine.
One cannot turn the pages of an album
without the separation of wheat from chaff.
All of us are both - a factor common
as light and darkness sharing the same day.

Let it Not Be


If the earth should perish -
if tidal waves
curled around giant buildings,
and mountain ranges
buckled like snapped vertebrae
under heavenshudder of sulfurous rains,
and living consciousness
gave its final collective gasp
before twanging onto another vibrational chord ...
and if I,
cowering in a wet and jagged place
in the wake of pandemonium,
were somehow spared immediate extinction,
I can imagine
releasing a lifetime´s worth of accumulated objects
like a broken string of beads gone down the drain,
but feeling the greater nostalgia
for that early morning coffee
relished amid the normalcy of dove-sounds
coming in through the open kitchen door.



from the poet: Greetings from Peru, where I´ve lived for over 30 years as an ESL teacher (I´m originally from California.) Over the past several years, my poems have appeared in Sage of Consciousness, Able Muse, Concise Delight, Strange Horizons, Penwood Review, and other places.

William Alton

Bread


She makes bread in the kitchen
every Sunday. We don’t do church.
We don’t do God. We do bread.
We do the smell of dough and yeast,
the slick feel of butter melting
into the pores of the loaf.
We bow our heads to the table
and eat the warmth. We know
how to tear the bread into pieces,
how to turn it from wheat to flesh.



William L. Alton was born November 5, 1969 and started writing in the Eighties while incarcerated in a psychiatric prison. Since then his work has appeared in Main Channel Voices, World Audience and Breadcrumb Scabs among others. In 2010, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He has published one book, Heroes of Silence. He earned his both BA and MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon where he continues to live.

Erica Goss

Camellia Garden in October


In waxy shade, a holy
monoculture:

curled into tight green cones,

millions of petals slowly knit.

There are no seasons here,

but precise doses of sun

and water, measured intervals

of sleep and bloom.

California smog and parched earth

halt at the garden gate.

In Eden, days did not lengthen

towards midsummer,

and no one shivered

in a star-cold night;

naked in the damp twilight,

Adam whispered the names of animals

while Eve wiped the dust

from each perfect leaf.


published in The Penwood Review, Spring 2009

Conception


My mother leans back
against the river stones.
Above her the sky is a vast
room she remembers

from childhood. She thinks

of flying, of crossing the ocean.
There is a man whose face
swims in a swirl of words.

My mother looks up,

her body’s plan clear to her now.
There are debts to be paid,
and hard days coming.

Everything has been taken.

My mother closes her hand
around a river stone.
Her eyes are open.


published in Hazmat, Spring 2010

Colorblind


He bends over the paper, concentrating.
He is learning his colors, for the first time today,
putting labels on shades he will forget again and again.

Look here, I want to tell him, this one is the buff of a

furred bee when viewed in sunlight,
this is rose quartz, the pink of sunrise behind fog,

this is the luster of rubbed gold. That dark square

that puzzles you is the brown of my eyes
at noon, the opaque center of a sunflower.

That pale square is the green-going-yellow

of gingko leaves in spring. And now orange, hue
of the sweet potato, and the territory of poppies

glittering on a California hillside. Remove the yellow

I say, and you have red: blood, wine and cherries;
painted lips and so many sports cars.

But he will never see the pink in rose quartz, nor

the green-going-yellow. The brown of the sunflower’s core
isn’t different from the darkness of blood.

Tomorrow it will be the same, memories fixed against

his own peculiar amnesia. He will ask me again:
is that…green, so happy when he guesses right.

Cadmium yellow, lemon yellow, turquoise, emerald:

a language he studies, recapturing what was lost overnight.
Memories, like the tickle of a hair inside his shirt

or something caught between his teeth

move him back to the paper, to the watercolor set
and the notes from yesterday.


Erica Goss is a writer from Los Gatos, CA. Her new chapbook, Wild Place, available from Finishing Line Press. The book can be ordered now and will be printed and shipped in December.http://www.finishinglinepress.com/NewReleasesandForthcomingTitles.htm. She has poems, reviews and essays that appear or are forthcoming in Caveat Lector, Zoland Poetry, Main Street Rag, and Pearl, among others. Erica has won a number of prizes for her writing, including a Pushcart nomination. She teaches poetry and art in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is a contributing editor for Cerise Press.


Richard Dinges

Negative Space

In her paintings she never
mastered negative space,
too concerned with nouns
and objects, covering what
lay around, contours
and space organized by
the shifting edges of things
that vanished the moment
you shifted perspective,
where I watch her now
hunched against a plate
glass window within her
cramped room, the light
around her blurring edges
until I see only that wide
blank staring pair of eyes.


from the poet: I have an MA in literary studies from University of Iowa and I manage business systems at an insurance company. Abbey, Icon, Iodine, Steam Ticket, and Fox Cry Review have most recently accepted my poems for their publications.

Lyn Lifshin

TEMPERATURES FALLING

Moon slivers on the
rolling skin of water.
Geese in half light,
armada of feathers.
Wind blows them closer.
One silver band glows.
Their onyx, black flame
in a night fire


IN THE ONE SPACE THAT WASN’T FROZEN

the heron, deep
in pond water,
still as sticks

and then, a sudden

swoop like the
last fruit falling

off a tree into snow.

I happened to see it,
standing near the

window, that flash

of tangerine and
gold in its beak like

a barb of sun, a slice

of guava in colorless
air. It’s been so long

I don’t remember

something I looked for
and wanted to come

came so fast


HERON ON ICE


Pale salmon light,
9 degrees. Floor
tiles icy. Past
branches the
beaver’s gnawed

at the small hole

the heron waits,
deep in the water.
Sky goes apricot,
tangerine, rose.

Suddenly, a dive,

then the heron
with sun squirming
in his mouth, a
carp that looks a

third as big as he

is gulped, then
swallowed, orange
glittering wildly
like a flag or the

wave of someone

drowning



Recent books from Lyn Lifshin: THE LICORICE DAUGHTER: MYYEAR WITH RUFFIAN, Texas Review Press, ANOTHER WOMAN WHO LOOKS LIKE ME from Black Sparrow at Godine., following COLD COMFORT and BEFORE IT’S LIGHT, DESIRE and 92 RAPPLE. She has over 120 books & edited 4 anthologies. Also out recently: NUTLEY POND, PERSEPHONE, BARBARO: BEYOND BROKENNESS, LOST IN THE FOG, LIGHT AT THE END, JESUS POEMS and BALLET MADONNAS, KATRINA, LOST HORSES, CHIFFON, and BALLROOM. And just out: ALL THE POETS WHO HAVE TOUCHED ME, LIVING AND DEAD. ALL TRUE: ESPECIALLY THE LIES. Her web site is www.lynlifshin.com

John Grey

THE GREAT BOOK

It’s a handoff of sorts,
like a relay race where
one runner is embarrassed
to pass the baton to the next.
My mother has the book in hand,
the one she’s already shown
flush-faced to daughters.
And now, at the top of the final straight
is a son who already knows
the good parts of what she’s about to tell him.
She regrets my father is not alive to do this one thing.
But eggs, pollen and sperm,
will not be satisfied until I grasp enough
of their concepts to mess it up
for pretty smiles, budding breasts, slim waists,
and mini-skirts.
I retreat with the ponderous book to my bedroom.
It’s page after page of puppies suckling,
bulls lifting their huge bodies onto the backs of cows.
There’s pictures of plumed peacocks,
sparrows feeding nestlings, even snake babies
wriggling in the grass.
Ten chapters of this and I begin to wonder why
I ever bothered to learn to masturbate.
But then the human body intervenes.
Now, the illustrations hit closer
to nights beneath the sheets,
with a soft down pillow for a Lover.
But the scientific terms are numbing,
the diagrams are sickening,
the stuff that goes on behind the scenes of sex
is enough to make an adolescent boy throw up.
A week later, I hand the book back to my mother,
thank her for the information.
I’m not sure whether I should wander off someplace to die
or merely swear off sex for all eternity.
So I know every intimate detail of how babies are born.
But, for what purpose, continues to elude me.


MISS HARGREAVES


She delighted in pointing out the continents,
all seven of them,
including the white wasteland of Antarctica .
To her, the globe was the world.
She loved spinning it,
then suddenly stopping this smooth rotation
with a jolt
to land her finger on the bumps of the Himalayas ,
or the colorless spread of the Sahara .
A planet she would never know
beyond the state she lived in
was a myriad of vein-like rivers,
bilious green jungles,
and oceans dotted with islands
she could smother with a thumb.
She was a spinster to the end.
We kids joked how no man had
ever kissed those reed-thin lips
or held that bony body.
Had she taught anatomy,
she’d have spun the skeleton,
covered up her loneliness
by naming all the parts.



John Grey is an Australian born poet and US resident since late seventies. He works as afinancial systems analyst. Recently his work has been published in Xavier Review, White Wall Review and Writer’s Bloc, and he has work upcoming in Poem, Prism International and the Cider Press Review.