Locust Three - July 1999

Locust Three
ISSN 1529-0832  Vol 1 No 3 - July 1999


The editor is not going to let his voice ring too loud in this issue. Better a crow's song than his words. Issue #3 is mostly devoted to all those poets & writers who so kindly confided in Locust's mechanical heart. As usual, poetry above all, but also more prose than in the past. Unfortunately, finding exciting art for our small gallery has proved to be a really upsetting task. So, this is just the right spot to remind our readers that small mags, as well as small e-zines, feverishly depend on their readers' artistic generosity. And, finally, a sad note. Locust mourns the loss of RUSTIC RUB Magazine, edited by Jay Woodman, Hampshire, UK (available to USA readers from R. Lusk, Austin, TX). Its final issue, #10, appeared last May. We all hope Jay'll be back to work again. You'll find a poem by Jay Woodman in this issue of Locust Magazine, and some more of hers in the next issue.

July 1999

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~ A Poem by Jay Woodman ~

Harmonica lights, I twist my legs around
your back and bend my body sideways.

You are a rough skinned tough tongued
delight when you let me be who I am.

I will paint my joy on the inside of your
skull and trickle it down your cheeks.

I will hum tunes of struggles and satisfaction
while we dance our way through hot nights.

Liberation is a dark sky full of stars
and a blue song breaking your voice & heart.

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~ A Poem by Ward Kelley ~

My soul took the shape
of a candlestick, in order
for it to more conveniently
crack my skull who had
been disquieting all of us.

One thump, two, then one more
for extra certainty.

Yet still my jaw thought to move,
I rail against Nature, and am
angered at my body for ensnaring
me in this threatening dance.

My soul took the shape
of a woolen muffler, in order
for it to more expediently
quiet my jaw, for we had heard
it all incessantly before.

My untiring jaw counterattacked,
one thump, two, then one more
for extra certainty...

yet how can you possibly impress
these woolen souls, these mercurial--
always being polished--souls
who have seen their lives
ten times or more?

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~ A Poem by J. Kevin Wolfe ~

when life

suspects the fabric
is mass produced

and not
made of fibers
that worms died for

and old
little ladies
got arthritis over

[Silk Yarn Sweater first appeared online in PIF Magazine #24, in May 1999.]

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TWO POEMS by Janet Buck



A starfish
with uneven toes.
Elegance from
circumcising art,
modest miracles.
Swatches of
mute discontent.
of sticky ghosts
that paper walls.
Snow peas
of the richest green
with strings
to pull
in forty years
of sleeping rice
begging quietly
for steam.



April's thunder bleeding
bullets of mistakes.
The church was a perch
for ego peacocks
strutting plastic fingernails.
Acrylic feasts of wafer pages;
poor was not invited in.
It wasn't delicate enough.
It wasn't clean enough to touch.
The parking lot was full enough;
lacy altars wore the gold of chalices.
Confession's kite. Communion's kit.
We use them to excuse ourselves.

Morals--painted Easter eggs
that roll behind a velvet couch.
Calisthenics of a prayer have
made our tendons grow too tight.
A manger and a basket empty
but for cheap collection plates.
Poverty's twitch--a subtle pinch
like earwigs in a rotted stump.
A woman stood in tattered clothes
against the courtly screaming wall.
Church chatter danced around her toes
like walnuts someone else had cracked.
Loafers had their copper circles
spinning in a selfish dryer.
Her boysenberry smile stained.
Wealth was wearing rubber gloves--
not the robes of Christendom
with stilts of holy sacrifice.

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~ From The Black Rose, A Story by Mikael Bernard ~

His apartment was a loft in the dark and dirty part of the city, and it was very late by the time they arrived there.

He couldn't get over her, her divinity. She was perfect, her eyes, and her body, the way she carried it. He was reminded of a child by her innocent nature. She was, after all, quite young--maybe twenty-five at the very most.

He unlocked the door to his apartment and led her inside. The light was turned on and it revealed a large studio, which had the kitchen to the far right separated from the room by a counter and two doors to the far left. The studio was cluttered with jars of paint and the walls covered by paintings. She looked in amazement at all the paintings. They all had the same colours, blue and purple, green and red. The feelings generated by the pictures, from the shapes and the images, even from the first glance, was of immense sadness. She couldn't shake the feeling. Sadness.

One particular painting was of a moose standing in the shallow part of a lake while rain coming out of the purple and dark blue sky pelted him. The moose's head was dropped, not like he was drinking water, but to protect his eyes from the oppressive rain. The trees next the lake were bent, obviously by heavy winds, and some red birds flew in the turbulent weather.

All the pictures had scenes such as that, or, had no scenes at all. Many of the artworks were indistinct, but no less powerful. The skies that were in the paintings were the most predominant purple-blue mixture, and it resembled water more than it did the actual sky. In some of the paintings the purple could have been identified as the clouds, but most of the time the blue and purple swirled together to make a morose, unsettling sky.

"These are the saddest things I've ever seen," she said.

"Sadness stems from sadness," he said, "and mine is the saddest."

He walked to the kitchen and poured some wine while she continued looking at all the paintings individually. He walked and handed her her glass.

"What is it that can make you so sad?" She asked.

"The most anyone can ever possess, really, is their humanity, right?"

"Not material possessions?"

"Right. Everything you own doesn't really matter. You can live without a car or a house or lots of money. But can you live knowing that, deep down, you are really a horrible person?"

"No, probably not."

She looked into his eyes to see his reaction, and he nodded in agreement.

"I can't see that you could be a bad person," she said, 'I can't image you as an evil one."

If only she knew.

He realized just how young and naive she could actually be. Anyone could be a terrible person and nobody ever know, much less someone you've known for less than an hour. He reasoned that she could be a normally good judge of character, and was just off this time...

"Why is the sky so sad?" She asked after a moment of silence.

"It has seen lots of sad things."

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~ A Poem by Leann Arndt ~

I hurt so much
that I take shelter
in manufactured joy.

Full of false cheer,
I start to believe
in a life full of lies

The meek shall
inherit the earth.


So I take comfort
mass delusion
of a loving god.

Believing, yet knowing.


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by Michael Segal

Life is like a game of chess.
Mate and checkmate.

Life is a problem
Which only death can solve.

Life is only a joke
Which we are forced to take

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~ A Story by Vasilis Afxentiou ~

Alicia Novapovic, neophyte stuffer of fish, once assistant to her marine taxidermist father on a costal city of old Yugoslavia-- that in better days had seen booming trade with the entire globe--lowered her thorough-blue eyes and tossed her worldly possessions aboard.

When Alexi Novapovic was killed--a stray bullet tinkling through the iced window pane one flurrying morning in February--and left her no more than the proprietorship of a well-kept shop that had no business in a war-ravaged country, Alicia was forced to take her courage into her own thirteen-year-old hands and forge it into fate.

A Zephyr tousled her solemn young thoughts and tufted straw hair as she lifted the oars into their tholes.

Swallows once flew instead of incendiary shells. Back then her father and she would turn dead, empty-eyed fish into handsome, live-looking, trophies that customers hung on their walls, for friends to admire, and eventually neglected.

Alicia now mulled over the many things grown-ups neglected, had not learned from the aberrant stares of their angled prizes, and refused to relinquish her life into their wardship.

She gave a hefty shove to the deserted, wooden quay and rowed till she was well away. Alicia then turned and looked back. She savoured the crisp, stretching splendour around her aunt's sea side home with the slumped, patched red roof. She would never see it again--like a mother that vanished a year ago on her way to the municipal orphans' school to teach.

The pristine break of day was balmy and bright and promised good voyaging. So Alicia put all behind, but the job at hand.

She undid the gaskets and unfurled the mainsail, drew it up the wooden mast, pulled the halyard tough and lashed it to a cleat.

"Now, the proof of the pudding," she said, teetering. She took a hefty whiff of iodine, and her boyish bust bulged.

The canvas fluttered a bit and she pushed the tiller out to trim it. The bag swelled with salty breeze. The skiff leaped forward hissing as it skimmed the gentle brew like a gull's wing through air. She secured the tiller, walked the starboard side to the foredeck, and rigged the jib.

The boat cleaved the sleek bay in two, tacking into the draught. Bit-by-bit the cove receded and soon melded into the checkerboard of gold-brown fields in the backdrop.

Ahead spanned forty kilometers of sparkling Adriatic. Its end lapped the sandy shores of northern Italy.

The small boat pranced onward banging on the ripening crests, lifting a coruscating spray and dozens of little morning rainbows.

Alicia's lack of seasoning soon became apparent. One minute she was lowering the sail--the next beating the waves.

She craned her neck and blinked the streamers off her eyes, only to catch glimpses of her boat fleeting away. A sail partly ballooned out with the force of the gale behind it.

She drew her lanky legs in hoping to escape a subterfuge of currents underneath. Alicia struggled to keep on top. She pivoted to face north, opposite from the lash of the wind. Before her churned sky and sea, fusing into a cobalt oneness.

"What happened to--"

The world flashed and crackled a mere few meters away. In due time she grasped that she was underwater, tumbling, with a mouthful of brine, unable to tell which way was up. She flayed, semaphoring haphazardly.

Squeeze your nose, Alicia, and blow some...Alexi had been so vexed with himself that day for not having told her sooner.

Ears popped and spacial orientation returned. The depths receded and turbulent, platinum twilight took their place. Surfacing, she retched and drew in endless oxygen through clenched, smarting jaws. She wanted to cry, but her batter by tall walls of waves would not allow it. She needed her father to counsel her...her mother to impart to her the strength of a woman...and her life to live it, seize it and jolt it and tap it dry, exhaust it.

Drops fell.

Few, fat, ripe ones at first. Then in torrents.

She slurped and lapped the rain from her lips and nose, sipping it down.

Around her fish, countless fish, surfaced to drink from the shower. They brushed and tickled the soles of her feet as they flurried by.

I must get far away, she thought with urgency. At that same moment something bulky and soapy bumped her, and she squeezed her eyes shut.

Breathing noiselessly, Alicia began a prayer.

She knew what sharks do.

Dead behind her, splattering fins moiled and lathered the waters.

She wished that all had ended with the storm. Once on her scent..."it takes minutes to die and it is a lingering death," Alexi had once said, "it is manifold deaths that of being eaten alive." A quick bullet, amply more merciful, she thought.

Alicia released the air from her lungs then, and allowed herself to sink.

God, the next breath...let it be the last, she appealed.

Her understudy floated erect and mimicked her paddling. Two jasper eyes perused her vast-blue while she automatically scanned the rest of the sea.

"No sharks!" Not with him--her around. For the mammary glands quavered in full bloom.

"Jjaaarh! Jjaaarh!"

"I love you, too."

The other sniffed her and nibbled, fascinated, at the soaked strands of her hair.

"Lost the permanent."

Timidly she scratched the velvety epidermis behind the nape and around the breathing orifice. Her company cuddled closer.

"Just like Alicia," she sniffled, "the back always itches."

It watched her, intently listening to the sounds she made. But only mournful calls emerged when it seemed to try to imitate her. She laid her lightning-singed cheek against its smooth side, and heard its heart beat.

But when Alicia dipped her head in the cool water, jarring outbursts rose from her patron.

Alicia's eyebrows made lofty arches. "Aren't we the den mother!

"Do you know that you're a cetacean?" She needed to talk, and the dolphin was keen on listening. "You are intelligent and kind..."

While she prattled she reached her hand over the powerful back and grasped the dorsal fin.

"...When you were born, the other adults helped to lift you upward and upward to break surface, and whiff your first scent of life. It was gracious of you to do the same." She considered. "Thank you, Grace."

She scooped from the passing stream a palateful of salty water and spilled it out again.

Thirst began to haunt Alicia.

She was grateful for the evening.

The August blare and hours of drag through the sea were decimating her. Her dry throat gagged. And water was everywhere.

She dipped her tongue into the flowing stream and swallowed. The taste was liquid and refreshing.

Sluggishly, she managed to tow herself to a half-lying, half-straddling station over the mammal. The dolphin, to her wonderment, shimmied and rippled its muscles distributing her weight evenly.

She nestled closer to the warmth of the body, but her exposed backside still took the brunt of the frosty jabs.

Hours passed like winters.

Grace jolted her to wakefulness several times, twisting to keep her from sliding off.

The stars were all out now. The North Star flickered high ahead. Alicia blinked at it, fighting drowsiness.

"You're travelling into the current, heading for--"


"Nobody'll believe--" Alicia rasped.

She swallowed, and grimaced with pain.

"Why aren't you minding your young ones?" she finally cried out, but it came out like a neigh. "You left them behind, chased away sharks, to save--who? A runaway."

Alicia felt great bitterness then, and greater love than her years could have permitted.

"Oh, sea mother, why?" she asked.

Something familiar at that moment burst in her awareness. "Mother's not running away!"

It cast over Alicia like a warm blanket on a brassy night.

"She's hiding the orphans, and no one must know. To protect them from the sharks of the land."

Her light-headedness expelled in a croaking, raw titter. "And fish now will stuff themselves with Alicia--?"

"Jjaaarh, jjeeer."

Delirious levity given vent, "Dear heart, I won't make it, too weak...thirsty, dehydrating. I'm dead weight, Grace. I can't see from thirst, I can't hold on without--"

She relaxed her arms. Grace stopped as Alicia slipped off. The dolphin did not protest this time, but remained solemnly still.

Alicia could barely paddle, and sank.

And drank.

She drank...and drank...until she ran out of breath she drank.

By that time, the dolphin had rolled over. She broke surface too, and she could breathe and drink and breathe and make out a spray of twinkles in the near distance, and languidly bobbing in the foreground a half-draped vessel she thought she'd never see again. Her nose ran, then her eyes, but the dolphin remained serenely supine as she hauled hungrily to the other tit.

"Jjiiih, jjiiih."

She suckled, sobbed, suckled, cried, and to her surprise her crying sounds resembled infinitely more the calls of Grace.

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A Review of Janet Buck's Collection

Janet Buck has recently had a collection of 25 poems, Strawberry Nipples, published by Funky Dog Publishing. What seems to be really irrepressible here is the poet's urge to give vent to human suffering. Sincerity without any trace of romancing, and the lack of trite natural imagery: these the collection's best qualities. The language is tough, often cruel, in spite of the sensual fruitfulness of the title. When I read those poems, I could almost bitterly taste the very materialization of life's cruelty. At times Janet's images are very effective and musical (I am thinking of those "skirts the size of circus tents" or "born with bones like broken carrots"); at times her metaphors are not so smooth, sometimes a bit too violently unpredictable. But poetry often spurts from raw urge and, yes! certainly not from cold restraint. What I liked most was the power of the opening lines in Cactus Concentration Thorns, while sometimes I found the insistence on iambic rhythm a little irritating. But see for yourself: Janet Buck's Strawberry Nipples, Funky Dog Publishing.


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