Locust Fourteen - February 2002

Locust Fourteen
ISSN 1529-0832  Vol 1 No 14 - February 2002


January, February... Another new year. Welcome! of course. But there is nothing more sadly naive than New Year's hopes and resolutions! Since the editor likes to pose as a sage who looks down on all those minute frailties of mankind, this is the right moment to quote a short passage from A Dialogue between a Calendar-Seller and a Passer-By (*) by the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837). "That life, which everybody believes to be a beautiful thing," says the wise passer-by, "is not the life we know, but the life we don't know; not the past life, but the life yet to come." Wouldn't it be wiser to step into the new year wearing a reasonably sceptical attitude than foolishly go on trusting in the future? Or are we all soft-hearted creatures like the calendar-seller, who in spite of all still hopes for happier days?

(*) The unabridged version of the dialogue can be read in Locust Papers.

February 2002

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~ A Poem by Errol J. Kidd ~

Look in that lambent light.
Don't you discern motes of dust
climbing into the sun?

Don't you see that the dust of the past
and the particles of the shining tomorrow
are not inexplicably mingled,
they are the same?

Here in this old house
a hundred and thirty years ago
my great-grandmother is a girl in a sailor's dress
her hair is loose and long
she is dusting the mantelpiece
and the dust rises

and the dust settles
as I watch my small daughter
in a red-smocked dress
as she writes in the dust
on the walnut chiffonier
with her index finger
she has such lovely long fingers and such laughing eyes.

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~ A Poem by John Sweet ~

4 a.m.
breathing neon
down these deep blue streets

silence is its own prayer
or should be
and then the drunken scream of brakes
as the object is seen too late
to avoid

the man moving
thirty feet beyond
the last seconds of his life
the dreamer reaching out blindly for
what was never there

and the driver knows dead
when he sees it

leaves the truck with its
shattered headlight behind

leaves the body
leaves the slowly spinning bike tire
and walks away from whatever
small future he may have imagined
for himself

wishes for another beer
and waits for daybreak

waits for the sirens

waits to see
which will find him first

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THREE POEMS by MercyRain



in a ridiculous pass at ego
I watched the impending
dawn and cried out:
     Let there be light!
in a reflection of the
lack of divinity
the sun turned off



on Mellow Yellow cocktails
the storm clouds fly
& the moon's games
of peek-a-boo



Tell me again
I forget why I go through this.

He pauses with the needle--
the burning swelling the shoulder
the rush of adrenaline kicking in
Ah, yes, that's right--Escape.

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FOUR POEMS by Devin Davis



frost as
prophet is



romantic hour in a park;
we can't see the familial trees
for wars monument phylum. &
rats nibble at pumpkin seeds; but
leave antecedent limbs to hide;
a shade unlike that shape,
which finds its niche
in an asian eye.



beelzebub is
a thumb; his

deus, an index
crossed; past a
man, he peeks;

stands erect, but
can't bow, without
humbling woman;

and she curls,
after her pinky.

this pulls
priests &
nuns apart.



just crushed,

        love's mailbox


               desperately, it's east
            & west

       whose homes
                                  were those? the

                         barns aren't




                                                   on lawns

cows eat;       are
                                       blown down. so how

                                  can corn stand (tall

                             an agrarian road);

Or crops grow, low
To the ground, in rows
Off a left-hand lane?

Chick angel,
Sick as hell;
& wavering,
Without air;

This very

Rare, penned
Prayer rushed;

Struck dumb
From above thinking;
Neck electric vinculum...

                                         bee sweet

                                         again surrendering
                                    her tender storm;

                         a perfect, warm dharma farm.

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~ A Poem by Ward Kelley ~

Silence is not a gift,
not welcomed or needed,
not an aid to living in this
exercise of passions.

I would much rather be
struck down or derided,
pummeled or afflicted
with words that can be

retorted. Silence is not a balm
or sedative, and indeed if
faith is ever amputated from
silence, we are all then left with

nothing. And this becomes the
silence of my logic whenever I think
my way beyond faith...a painful
silence of my own thoughts.

Will and Ariel Durant (1885-1981 and 1898-1981) wrote in The Story of Civilization, that "In 1923, earthquake, tidal wave and fire took 100,000 lives in Tokyo, and 37,000 in Yokohama and nearby; Kamakura, so kind to Buddha, was almost totally destroyed, while the benign colossus of the Hindu saint survived shaken but unperturbed amid the ruins, as if to illustrate the chief lesson of history--that the gods can be silent in many languages."   [Abridged note by Ward Kelly]

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~ A Poem by Duane Locke ~

A night with fourth grade fractions
And wine.
Should I call this night a wine night,
Or should I call a night of recall,
The recall of a past daytime
When I stood before a blackboard,
Solved what was soon to be erased.
It is now sad to see myself
Standing before a blackboard.
Holding a piece of chalk
Writing down numbers.
This wine is more real than fractions,
More real
Than a sad child.
This wine has hooves
That speak as it races
On the roads of my brain...
I will call this night, a wine night
Although there was a stranger and intruder.

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~ A Prose Piece by Jerry Vilhotti ~

"Eneey, meneey, mineey, moe..." Roy heard the lilting Burywater refrain again. Roy covered his ears and then decided to climb the very same tree where he had once spoken to Johnny: the boy who had moved up from The Bronx about year before..."Johnny come live with me and Mama and let your people go on there way by themselves to that peel-less side of town." Johnny laughed. His laugh had only meant he would be afraid to let his parents go but Roy thought it was at him and his grandmother saying: "Then, don't bother me anymore. You can go to hell! You ain't my friend anymore--Johnny Sanque--and you have a funny last name. It sounds all fouled up but my name Brown has a nice American sound to it but Sanque sounds like dirty mud. You hear me, Johnny-boy? Do you? It's the way your father talks--all broken up" Johnny began to climb down from the tree dejectedly. He would never understand this Burywater that his parents had taken him to; where people smiled at you and then stuck you in the back with bad words or worse like the smiling priest, who hated foreigners, had done on him after doing his big Bing Crosby smile and then began to strap Johnny's hands with his big strap. All he had done was tell the boy who asked him the catechism page, though he would not tell the priest this for that boy would also have been punished for his parents spoke American with a Polish accent or like his first day going to school and the fourth grader Pug Ambrose, leader of the Dewey gang who tried to kill off the Roosevelt kids, made up of first and second graders, during recess. Johnny was on the Roosevelt side and with mighty charges led by big Pug--yelling they were all communist crippled bastards, wops, niggers, polocks and kikes. Johnny had never heard these names before but would more and more as he stayed in this place called Burywater. Roy began to cry; no matter how hard he fought to keep them inside, the tears came flowing out of his eyes. Johnny stopped and climbed back up to the thick branch where Roy was gathered up in a heap. He put his arm around him. It wasn't pity. It was compassion for he and Roy were alike and felt the same way about many things and had been friends from the first day they met and yet somehow Johnny knew they would never see each other again...

"Mama," Roy called his grandmother that, "Mama, why can't we go live where Johnny is?"

She looked at him in total disbelief before saying: "You got a shadow on your soul boy and you best try and get comfortable inside and outside of your skin, boy and know that ain't your land over there, boy!"

Roy couldn't understand what she was saying for he was only ten years old.

"What I'm saying boy is that Johnny was a good boy and he really liked you but where he went to live, they don't cotton our kind. Those folks go to church twice on Christmas Day and have alters in their places but no matter how much religion they get they'll always have dark shadows of hate covering their hearts and they'll hate Johnny almost as much as they do themselves so boy don't die in your soul like they do. Hear me boy?"

Roy walked away and began to sing that refrain he had heard often before and somehow he knew he would for the rest of his life but when Johnny was with him the words never hurt as much as they were hurting him now.

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~ A Short Story by Christopher Mulrooney ~

The poetry critic of the Boston Globe could not have arrived at a more opportune moment. For his plane had landed at LAX, after a smooth flight in first class with a Dan Aykroyd (very funny, very funny) movie, bourbon over some chips of ice, unexampled views of the night sky and a vivacious blonde sitting next to him, smelling wondrously and exhibiting a good deal of powdered flesh and muscular tensions in elastic multiplicities of form (he had read that somewhere, in a colleague's discussion of Howard Nemerov's formalism, that was the title of it, Formalism, or something like that), but, alas, completely absorbed each minute of the flight in Michael Jackson's arrival at the Canary Islands, where his PR men had arranged to have the former child soul singer greeted by two offspring of the local inhabitants, dressed in traditional costume and bearing flowers, right there on the tarmac. The stewardesses whisked along the aisles and the movie ran its length and he stared out the window at the strange clouds and vapor trails and cities and constellations, smelling the powder and chewing gum and quiet inoffensive perspiration of the eager fan beside him, and drank.

The approach to Los Angeles is always exceptionally beautiful, if you have lived there for any length of time and return by air. The white desert gives way to the orange heat of the avocado half L.A. sits in like a crab meat mixture, and its warmth and radiance, like no other city, spread out before you as you settle into it and the plane angles in for a landing.

He was being paged in the terminal. His name sang invisibly in the loudspeaker system with a woman's voice. He was exceptionally sensitive of hearing, and liked to quote the famous choreographer's remark (having studied his sister art and mastered the piano) that, being a musician, he gets killed through the ears, which always reminded him of the Murder of Gonzago, somehow. The gleam of linoleum and tile and the curves of Formica and stainless steel escaped his attention, his complete attention, as he crossed the terminal outside of which stood or lumbered a fleet of large and small airliners like the one inside of which he had dined on lobster and enjoyed a comedy. The smog was repulsive today, but not excessive. Mr. Harold Dickerson, the woman's voice was saying, Mr. Harold Dickerson, please go to some counter or other.

A car was waiting for him, a variety he had seen real people in close-ups advertising as a blissful dream of reality unbroken, an ecstasy unbounded, a joy unparalleled, and good for the country. Poetry, he considered, ignoring the chromium paint on the door's plastic knobs, is not a métier, nor a craft. Nor an assembly line. What is it?

She had won the literary prize that merited an interview in person, and he was going to interview her. West Coast poetry was a dismal affair, after the great loss of nerve in the Seventies (he felt, this Boston æsthete), but he was fortunate to find in his generation a poetic movement in its spring, though perhaps each generation experiences that reawakening. Perhaps not, he couldn't be sure, look at Pound. From nothing and Idaho to pommes de terre at the Savoy and ignominy while he yet lived, and after he died as forgotten as J.S. Bach. The streets of Los Angeles whirled past, a city undergoing a major renovation, a city abrogating art as a useless and untimely interference in business and governmental affairs. The sterile sculptures grew like mushrooms, the studios were bought by shadowy companies and began to produce parodies of parodies with a nasty turn of mind, something hard, bitter and senile that made you afraid, leaving the theater, of the city you lived in. Los Angeles, where the poetesses practiced horrible, insane tortures on the word in their hands, and poets dreamed of raping it with power tools and foreign objects. But Susan Rhodes was an exception, though her work lacked the audacity of some of the rimesters springing punning rhythms with perfect ease and tension, hers was an imagism so lascivious it did not raise an eyebrow but calmly effected its glorious surprise, as it were by accident.

The air had changed in Los Angeles. Where San Francisco crackled and fizzed and hissed like an electric power plant driven by steam, he had found Los Angeles a flat city, a city sobered perhaps by the very grandeur of its artifice, that hid in studio warehouses the icons and images of several generations. Indeed, the activity was so overwhelming that it was hard to practice any other form of art, for any activity that attracted attention was quickly subsumed into the studios, either directly or by imitation. But it was different now, that studio commissary oeuf sur le plat du jour sans le plat sans le jour had been smashed in a real dædalian furor, whose mystery was that it had none. The city sprawled helplessly tormented in nightmares, while amateurs in doctors' masks practiced frightful and obscene operations day and night.

Yet Susan Rhodes had flourished in all this carnage of the mind, and he was going to meet her and interview her in her home in Topanga, that home which would never appear in Architectural Digest or be featured on Robin Leach's Lifestyles of The Rich and Famous. She was not rich, nor especially famous, she had not yet, in spite of Philip Levine's epigram, been made the bard of Los Angeles (on analogy of his position in Fresno, no doubt, snickered Mr. Dickerson) by mistake, as Robert Frost was made the bard of New England and Carl Sandburg of Chicago. Hadn't Frost written a great California poem? Didn't Sandburg know the farm as well? But they had you in their sights and you were pigeonholed, unless, as Robert Altman said, you were no pigeon.

And there was something inexplicable in her poetry, some odd enchantment that did not proceed from the words, but was there. He could not explain it, he worked for the Boston Globe, it was not his department. But he longed to meet her, to see if there was some reflection of her personality in the work he might discern and understand in spite of the weakness of his analysis.

Sun and earth in the lapse of time since its days of fashion met you in Topanga, but its overbearing solicitude had softened with age and, he noticed, cautiously opened its eyes as if for the first time, and he thought of Ozu who had found it so difficult to make his way as a man and an artist with so heavy a burden of genius that when he finally did so it was as if a pair of claws scuttling etc. had opened its shell to peek out and lifted the ocean with it. Not that Topanga looked very different, but the individual leaves were no longer blurred and fearful (nor frozen in memory) but focused and distinct in manifold combinations that only an artist's muse, not even he himself, could number, though the sun had not harmonized with the earth and an odd detachment, a sort of stoic movie Indian pride covered the hills, and the quotient of water vapor had not been adjusted that makes a Leonardo da Vinci horizon occur reliably.

But these are professional matters, admitted into the house by a butler in a white coat, black pants and also white gloves, he was alone in a quiet room clean and comfortable with sofas and tables and chairs all soft upon a yellow carpet that ran over wood floors to the glass doors facing the patio and woods, eucalyptus, beyond the wooden railing of the sun porch. There were pictures, Van Velde, Lichtenstein, small prints here and there, and it was very quiet. He crossed the room and saw out of the corner of his eye a boy playing in the hallway with a white ball like a soccer ball, and a small black and white dog bounding after it. As he continued he had the curious feeling of shadowy interferences in the room, as though a dark surface were passing on the other side of a pane of glass you are looking through, suddenly creating reflections. He opened the glass door, slid it back and went out onto the sniper. Eucalyptus roared into his nose as he stared at the sun-bleached grass and a sunbather under a wide hat oiling her buttocks with the ends of her fingers on a large towel, her back to him, preparing to read a book, perhaps, next door.

Susan Rhodes appeared through a doorway and offered him a drink. She was blonde, not tall, her eyes were a green that verged on blue, her hands formed interesting shapes as she talked, but it was her voice that struck him, as it were violently. It was like the sound of the voice of his mother when she was reading to him, it was like seeing a person with whom you happen to be in love no matter how many other persons are present, and it was like something else he could not define clearly, a curve of light against a dark background.

The tensions roused in him became almost too great to bear, and when she inadvertently touched him for one moment with those generative hands, he could no longer control himself but turned away to relieve his anguished spirit all at once, leaning upon her piano with a copy of Goethe beside his hand, ironically enough.

He excused himself and left hurriedly, in quite a fluster, driving straight for the airport, where he cashed his return ticket in and bought another one for Las Vegas, checking into a super bright hotel, and ordered lunch and drinks. He borrowed a typewriter and a fax machine, and in forty-five minutes and forty-five seconds his interview with the poet Susan Rhodes was in Boston. He sent his suit downstairs to be cleaned and pressed. Showered, calm, the poetry critic of the Boston Globe, Mr. Harold Dickerson, sat nude in the hotel's chair and stared out through the glass patio doors at the desert and at the city. He sipped his drink and meditated the velocity of travel and the instantaneity of communications, until a knock on the door announced his coat and trousers.

[Susan Rhodes already appeared in Fire #10 - January 2000, UK.]

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A Review of

I am always naturally sceptical about people who blow their own trumpets. Only a handful of them should actually have Nietzsche's pluck and wonder why they are so clever and able to produce such good work. But Richard Charles Williams is right! His online magazine must be recommended. Elegant layout, and well crafted literature and art. The journal really "impacts on all levels", as the editor states in his Editorial. Innovative spirits shouldn't keep away from Pierian Springs just because of its classical sign! I am usually greedy for poetical innovation, and I must admit that R L Swihart, Scott Villarosa (in Issue 1), Marion Cohen and C E Chaffin (in Issue 2) can easily satisfy an alternative soul. Whenever more traditional voices are heard (Teresa White, for example), they are always of good quality.


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