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Poets in the pond:
Philip Ellis
Alba Cruz-Hacker
Fred Longworth
Daniel Pendergrass
Simon Perchik

Daniel Pendergrass
 

Istanbul Street Scene, VI

That year, cenim, we were allowed
To take the public bus home after school.
It was our first, delicious taste of freedom,
Much better than TV, and such a cheap ticket
To mix with a cast as various as any cheapened drama.
The quiet, assured businessmen in red ties and white shirts,
In-transit domestics resting swollen ankles and wearing crisp, starched uniforms,
The anonymous, indiscreet, official, ordinary,
And then the street people, with wild eyes and terrific body odor.
We, too, knew our wide-eyed parts
In that brake and accelerate world,-
You in your plaid skirt and bobby socks,
Me and my white turtle neck and jacket,
Thrilled with our escape from the private school herd.

Escape! And with it, the question of ventilation,
A slight problem on a crowded bus,
This issue of oxygen, the shortness of breath
When a sudden stop threw us together
And your face pressed to mine said this too will come to an end.

That’s what I remember now:
The lurch to a stop, a glare from the homeless,
Red and black rippled skirt, a voice that was toneless,
Your role as talker, my role as breather,
A bus filled with your ego, the gas fumes rising like aether.

 
Poem

Sugar, Whiskey, Christianity:
The ruin of many a simple culture.
On the beach it’s postcard day,
Locals poking about for a wish in a bottle.
Something Western, a bit flush,
Caught up in a bottle of vintage Bordeaux.

And above, on the veranda, legs crossed,
Tea cups cradled, Summer dress lines smoothed,
Sit the Asian tourists, plotting to be
Virgins until age 28.

Come and we shall stoke the fires of these and other tragedies.
 

Daniel Pendergrass teaches English to speakers of other languages. He began his teaching career as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Micronesia. Prior to that, he worked as a journalist in Scottsboro, Alabama.

He can be reached at: chongju2000@yahoo.com

 

Alba Cruz-Hacker

Engraving Soap

Forty-two months inside Mordovia
with a grilled square of gray to guide
her days from nights, swatting at angels
to kill them, following dissident verses.

She hunger strikes for her camp sisters: a witness
to remedies. Her tools, allowed but once
a month to reach Igor, her other half of physics,
but no clear thoughts or letters can escape,
no more than greetings transcend.
The firing squad awaits the indiscretions

from her pen. And with the burnt end
of a wooden match, she engraves strophes
on every face of soap, sketches rhymes
against each bar, embeds each word
as memory. She whispers,
rolls lines between her tongue and teeth

a hundred times until they're etched
on the paper of her mind: notes in low
sounds. And then, with one cleansing
of her hands, words circle the drain.

Russian poet and physicist, Irina Ratushinskaya, became a political
prisoner in 1982. She spent 3½ years in a labor camp for women where she wrote 250 poems on bars of soap.

**”Engraving Soap” appears in Volume 8 of Epicenter with its original title, “Dissident Verses.
 

Dominican Born Woman

Bound in slip, bra and girdle under a cotton dress,
she hails the pinking horizon in front of the stove,
readying the greka for demi-cups of thick coffee.
Her fingers know the best way to strip
the waxy skin from yucca, scoop oil over brown
eggs, keep the edges crisp, a soft core.
They come. She serves and stands,
plate in hand, anticipating needs.

Armed with brillo and lye soap, she scrubs
until calderos gleam; then partnered with a cornhusk
broom, she sways to Merengue over cement,
switches leads to shine by towel and stick.
Sweat chases trails across her covered chest
when arroz con pollo's smells escape the kitchen
through the wood-slab window. There's a place,
flatware for everyone, every dish: rice with meat
does not touch black beans or the vinegary cabbage.
And they come. She serves and stands,
her plate in hand, anticipating needs.

She's intimate with the cold dish-bucket and the one
for cloth mounds: those her hands pound and hang
on ropes where warm beams and breezes do their share.
She folds, irons the spectrum of color, of texture,
mops her fine tanned face, bathes
another time in steam from pots and pans, spaces
the mountain of dishes, glasses, silverware,
white rice and beans, adobo-spiced meat.
They come again. She serves and stands,
her own plate between her hands.

**This poem appears in Volume 18 of The Caribbean Writer.
 

Burka

I wish to see more clearly
the ripe skins of fruit at market,
the blemishes in their underbellies.
My world: fractured shadows, a peering
mesh void of peripherals, a loose shape
no one sees inside.

My father, wealthier by three
camels,"a decent price," he said as I rode
a hump in sand-dusted flowing whites
while sisters' drums, their chants
at my back, carried me to Kandahar
past the rifles' checkpoint.

When the fever peaked, I exposed my tongue
and teeth through cloth in the doctor's room.
He saw my pupil inside the cut circle
and a child spoke for me. And now I kneel

on dirt, fist a sun-baked clump,
squeeze tight between dry fingers,
watch it drift before this cotton hole.
 
 

Alba Cruz-Hacker is originally from the Dominican Republic. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her poems appear or are forthcoming in The Caribbean Writer, Canadian Woman Studies, DMQ Review, The Pacific Review, Epicenter, Speechless, Can We Have Our Ball Back,  and Poetry Repair Shop.  She is  poetry editor for The Pacific Review  and lives in Southern California with her husband and three children.

Contact her at: ahacker13@hotmail.com


 

Simon Perchik

This feeble kitchen match

This feeble kitchen match
leans the way a magician's cane
strikes the stage in flames
doves and all, shaking more dust
from that same darkness
each match shares with stars
left behind, in there somewhere

and your chest snap open
for those jack-in-the-box flowers
stretching out, confident
the dirt is warm, has no other use

--you will explode, give up everything
become an offering and the ice under you
weaker and weaker set out
for any minute now and your arm.
 
 

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poetry has appeared in Partisan Review, The New Yorker, miller's pond and elsewhere. Readers interested in more about him are invited to read Magic, Illusion and Other Realities at www.geocities.com/simonthepoet which site has a complete bibliography.

e-mail Simon at: simon@hamptoms.com

Phillip Ellis
 

Opus 1068

In winter's folds,
  the cold wind stirs
with indolent fingers
  the leaves
of a bush outside
  my windows.

  It seems, at night,
as though the yard
  becomes alive
with restless
  people who shuffle
their stealthy feet.
 
 

Phillip A. Ellis has lived all his life on the eastern seaboard of Australia.  he has had schizophrenia for over twenty years, although he was diagnosed almost ten years ago, and is currently on a disability pension.  This leaves him time to write both poetry, and critical works about poetry.

Reach Phillip at ubervole@yahoo.com.au


 

Fred Longworth

The Uninvited

You come to appreciate the discarded
Christmas tree lying at your neighbor’s curb --

how it doesn’t crawl up the driveway,
jimmy a side window and lurch
its withered limbs into his living room;
doesn’t tear open the boxes of ornaments
waiting to be carried to the garage;
doesn’t slip them onto drooping branches
with a vast cascade of desiccated needles;
doesn’t plop its interloping self
in the corner and wait for his return --

for in your driveway, as shadows close,
an intruder rakes its nails across the sash.
 

--ward Bound

No more do we take long walks
together. Or perhaps we take the same
walks, and the trails themselves have grown
longer. Or perhaps our legs move the way
they have always moved, and the landscape
stretches its fingers into the same blue sky,
lets down its hair over the same loamy hillocks,
and mutes the same crickets as we pass by.
Perhaps if there were an eclipse of the sun,
we would fold away our shades, and keep on
thinking.
 

Sunday, Cuyamaca State Park

You hike into the pine forest,
fragments of San Diego shed behind,
dry mud sloughed from your boots.

South of Green Valley Falls,
a flat rock resting by a stream
offers you a crown.

You peel off socks and shoes,
plunge your feet into a swirl
of water. Dragonflies twist among

the cattails. Tree tops whirl
with ravens. The moment curls
around your ankles in a double helix.
 
 

Fred Longworth's poems have recently appeared, or are pending, in Poetic Voices, Pudding Magazine, Pearl, California Quarterly, Rattapallax, many incarnations of the Worm, Folly, kaleidowhirl, Melic Review, MiPo and Spillway. A San Diego resident, he makes his living restoring vintage audio components.

Contact Fred at: stereo1@cox.net