beloved 7

by Donald Kuspit

agree to disagree
                     that mind unfold
its wings,
              carrying us beyond the eye
to the sun
          inside the shadow,
the halo of your hair
                         radiating
through the darkest
                       of our thoughts,
you and i       
         at odds in mind
yet merged in ancient
                             light,
mythically illimitable
                          and loving,
our minds finally meeting
                             in wonder
at its wisdom.
                  suffering banished
by a smile,
               its luminosity
restoring innocence,
                        memories at last
at peace,
             cinders of consciousness
in the hadean
              unconscious. 

beloved 8

by Donald Kuspit

discreet as dew
                   on newborn feelings,
you soothe me
                 into silence,
refreshing meaning.
                           your calm
is my clarity,
                  the rambling words
cleared away,
                 the underbrush
of nuance
             unnecessary,
the boldness
                of meaning
uncompromised
                 by the unconscious.
steadfast in mind,
                          dispassionate
with certainty,
                   you abide,
glistening with light,
                          preserved
in crystal conviction.
                              wordless
at last,
            i can wonder again,
see the morning star,
                             you outlasting
the end.

The Sign of Steel

by Salgado Maranhão. Translated by Alexis Levitin.

                                for Jean Claude Elias

the scar suggests
the struggle and the slash

in the drama of the gods,
the darting of a fine-honed blade.

(one almost disbelieves,
denying what is written,

the promissory note
underscoring pain)

the scar speaks
fingerprints of steel

the blade, the ball of lead,
and what remains unsaid.

Zip Street Blues

by Salgado Maranhão. Translated by Alexis Levitin.

the rage of diesel horses
rolls
to the trotting of
the tendoned days.

strays smashed to tin
beneath  the press of tires
                                       –and beastly human beings.

(all in transit
some not yet intransigent
others already late
accompanying their bodies to the wake.)

and the afternoon roars: rust
and the breeze burns: soot.

Moviement

by Salgado Maranhão. Translated by Alexis Levitin.

now it’s another landscape
written
         on the plasma
and in the mist
                      flowing
between one’s fingers
like eager birds
                      slipping through
the wind.
now it is another scaffold
of pieces playing chess
with chance:
the city and its clouded corneas.

mornings AR-15
afternoons AK-47
delinquents among rats
and big-shots’ shit.

the city in all its to-do
gulping down hot-dogmas,
sucking mint drops of death.

Letter to Daniel G. Hoffman

by John Ridland

Dear Dan,

There are dead poets I would never dare
               to write a letter to:
“Dear Mr. Frost?” “Dear Mr. Eliot?”
               But your last book,
optimistically titled: next to last 
               words, seems to invite reply.
I’ll try no critical reading, even appreciation,
               poem by poem. That would be
fun if you were still around––not that you’re not
               around still, with this book
atop the pile of thirteen others, plus
               eight prose, and plus
some edited others: you were one hell of a
               productive poet!
Now writing you a letter seems familiar,
               since we conversed
only in letters, after one brief hello,
               introduced by Natalie Anderson
of Swarthmore College, where you
               had taught, and I a student
you could have taught if decades had not
               held us apart. So what
can I now have to say? I hope you’re happy
               in the good name
Fame’s giving you. And your next to last words
               are messages to us
from where you are––the Future Present Tense
                  where we will all
be sentenced in the same last paragraph.
               [This may continue.]
                                                Briefly your friend,
                                                                                   John Ridland

Mushrooms

by David R. Slavitt

The poison in a mushroom does it no good. 
It doesn’t know, nor does the fellow who eats it,
but he will find out.  And maybe he will tell
others about the mushroom and even describe it,
a Death Cap, say.  Others of that species
are beneficiaries, and others also,
because people will hesitate unless

they know exactly what they are doing.  The death
of the one (mushroom, I mean, not the man)
may save the others.  And what greater love
than to lay down one’s life to save another?
Or, no, that’s not necessary; take into account
the sweet revenge the mushroom anticipates
jouncing along in the basket.  Destroying Angels

could take the same satisfaction—but that is assuming
mushrooms can think and are self-aware.  Unlikely,
so we are forced to look up to a practical-joker
God who, having thought of this intricate business,
couldn’t resist.  Mushrooms seldom laugh
but He does, often, at his own cruel jokes.

Pythagoras in Crisis

by Lee Slonimsky

It’s just a mood, perhaps, but he stands stunned,
the densest woods so asymmetrical:
gnarled trunks and twisting branches, splashing sun
that here collects in pools, and there slants straight.

He likes the orderly but in a lull
the random overwhelms him.  One tree white,
the others mossy brown; a stream misshaped
by boulders, broken logs. 

                                                Woods demonstrate
confusion’s reign, if one’s astute: the loops
a swallow swoops seem odd, math-free.  He’s fooled
himself these many years with phantom rules:

to prize his abacus, to calculate,
have been his life, but now he sees it all:

stormstrewn chaos.  A maple’s sudden fall. 

Pythagoras’s Broken Abacus

by Lee Slonimsky

To disentangle chaos is his task
this morning in deep woods.  Secluded glade,
where birdsong is intense.

                                                 But overlapping calls
can’t be identified,
nor numbered, nor remembered,
and he can’t
find logic in unhinged asymmetry–

a swirl of chirps, high flutes,
doves’ coos, caws’ taunts–

the congregation’s maniacal.  Sounds
that can’t be measured: no place for his math.

He shrugs, continues on his wandering path.

Sheb Wooley

by R. T. Smith

         Don’t try to understand them, just throw and rope and brand them.

The teenaged groom leading my long-toothed
rental mare has the lope of Pete Nolan,
a savvy scout with Gil Favor’s Rawhide herd
for several seasons and portrayed with witty grit
by Sheb Wooley, who blends easily
with the decency of Eastwood’s callow Rowdy,
wry drover Jim Quince and the ornery
cook Wishbone, as they drive the beeves over
desert, through Comanche and rustlers,
tick fever, stampede, the staggers,
to far-away Sidalia to feed the eastern swells
and spend their wages on rigged roulette wheels
and women called Dallas or Dolly.

I also recall Sheb as a country guitar
picker with  a novelty gift who hit it
almost rich in ’58 with “Purple People Eater,”
which as a boy I loved to caterwaul and yodel.
He also gave us Hee-Haw’s theme,
“White Lightning” and “Hoot Owl Boogie,”
but I liked him more as a wrangler, puncher,
scrappy cowpoke with tooled boots and kerchief,
the battered hat and a knack with a rifle,
just like the riders of the Purple Sage.  I admired
the way he sat the saddle and dismounted
at a gallop, a stunt he’d picked up riding rodeo
and managed without breaking a sweat.

Pete was lean and sideburned, quick with a quip
or pistol, the one I wanted to mimic
on Uncle Ike’s pasture nag Cinder, who walked
in her sleep and woke to buck me every time
I sneaked a halter on and scrambled aboard,
headed, I guess, to Dry Gulch or
some flooded gorge with swollen steers floating.

And while I’m drifting into rider’s reverie,
full of prime time fantasies – beans
and coffee, mouth harp whine, sidewinder or stars
wheeling to the growl of a famished panther –
the groom tilts back his Hokies cap, hands me
the reins and asks, “Need a leg up, mister?”
his superior grin fenced with braces
brighter than Mexican spurs.

In honor of Sheb and his cadre of savvy buckaroos,
the whole history I missed and yearned for,
not to mention sweaty Stetsons and home-plaited lariats,
I grab the horn, throw a leg over the cantle,
then point my Colt index finger to squeeze
the trigger, like any badlands jasper inclined
to keep his thoughts from strangers
but still mulish to have the last word.

Slapping the animal’s croup with braid-leather,
I hit the trail, growling, Head em up, move em out,
with two hours of freedom and a fistful
of Aleve ahead.  I can nearly hear Frankie Laine’s
raucous theme, its whip cracking percussion.

Now I don’t care who hears me laughing,
content for the moment to be a yodeling fool
on scout for water with old Pete Nolan, Sheb Wooley,
whatever alias will suffer my company,
the pair of us easy on spirited ponies
traipsing across the dusty prairie, happy, so happy,
to be galloping saddle trash again.