Intro. Every now and again, even the crotchety ol' umphatic editor feels a bit spring-feverish. Let's use that as an excuse to say "Kudos! Hurrah!" and raise a toast "Prosit!" to the patient writers who gave me a break while personal crapola prevented my getting this issue up on time...or three months late...or, well, you get the idea. Not one pushy e-mail. Nary a rude note. Zero nudging comments. I'm practically vaklempt with gratitude (even if I can't spell it). Happy spring!
Mignon Ariel King Umphatic Editor Boston, MA April 19, 2011
@@@@@@ Guardian Angel The route to school in seventh grade, to Saturday morning church league games and the bowling alley, whose dark arcade was the pre-teen hangout, though I was lame and never did. I haven’t seen Bill in twenty years, but he once beat the bus running the two miles from our block to the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, where he’d sit and watch us play basketball. Mumbling, Arthur still rides it every day, guitar he can’t play slung across his back. Dizzy bagged groceries, Pat passed the basket at mass, Paul stole used checks off uncleared tables in Friendly’s across the street from Billings Field, where, as teens, we’d go at night to drink. Up the street was the bakery whose half-moons I liked, frosting just right, none too sweet, though being a brat I refused to eat chocolate, would cut them in half and take only the vanilla parts, and Steve Slyne’s, whose crusty, eponymous owner would, when my friends and I were old enough to ride the bus the mile to the center, yell at us if we took too long deciding what we wanted from the candy rack. I was scared of him, scared when we paid with a check Paul swiped from another table, scared shitless when the cops chased us from Billings Field, though no one was ever arrested and no one ever got hurt until, that is, the night Brian drove home drunk and Dave, in the passenger seat when he blew through a stop sign into oncoming traffic, wore for a year a metal halo.
--Liam Day @@@@@@@ NINE LIVES(for Bob Rudnick, 7/31/42 - 7/23/95)
They cut him open and I loved him even more, dumb kid that I was dressed in bright yellow, hair down my back like an Easter chick ready to be swallowed whole. Bravely, I walked in to the hospital wing to see my hero, ignoring the sutures. When I held his hand, he rasped that I reminded him of his mother in Florida or was it Tammy Wynette. . . I could not hear what the others murmured about the nearly frozen lungs, his old tracks fading, the screech of horns at a jazz funeral only they foresaw. Dumb and in the thrall of worship, all I saw was my hero under the sheets, cool to the touch with a puckish smile, the corona of his damp curly hair, cascading the brows. It was nearly forty years ago when I started playing with death, dancing near convicts in the bar, missing the rock one tossed at my head as I spent the night sleeping it off.
@@@@@@ Kitchen In The Morning
And in the morning I stir powdered hot chocolate palatably into grey
Coffee. Plates break sometimes. We mend them with love like crazy glue. We speak of poems but don’t get into their juice—the surface of paper hovers, grey,
As I write. You need an “in” to appreciate the succulent secret—no? I have studied my lessons on peeling oranges. I also know how to deal with shades of grey.
Versatility. Yeah. I am not from here, but know your ways. Your white toothed smiles, your poetry made of dust thrown up from pickup trucks revving the grey
Dust beneath their wheels. This poem also has a horse-power engine. Like this morning. This morning is waking up and swirling in a Minnesota kitchen, so greasy-grey
With lace addendums to everything. This coffee-cup heaven was once so near, --it is my natural State of mind to zing a bit like caffeine highs in a world otherwise so…… grey--
Now so far, dawn, is, again, after, rising after nights of yesterday. As I tried ordering a pizza with a maxed out bank card, at 8 PM, light paled to grey.
That was then. Roadside diners and stray cats, stop signs ragged like fraying metal harps For the wind to catch on. The edge of the saw’s teeth is like the sharp edge of a stop sign, grey
With evening’s light, and it can sing a little hymn For a jigsaw made by God, just like ma saw can when you make it quiver. Grey
Puts pieces of grayness together, grey in grey—the grain takes them apart in the gusting sky. I came here to seek some jewel I lost. Within me. Sometimes rubies are just grey.
I know they are material objects, and can shatter, thusly. So I know that only priceless things are above the greyness of grey.
Dross. Don’t wander into me like that, dear friends-- Keep sparkling—I am going to write the autobiography of water as the grey
Rain comes down—torrents clichéd—through my waking halogen Mind as the streetlights flicker grey--does its work this way, so grey?
And am I in and also against the grain of grey? You know me. I am hallowed, I am dada, sapphire long island iced tea, grey
Matter. I am lobster bisque with a touch of indie film’s grey haze. You know I am trying to do this, and this trying out of things makes rainbows out of what is grey,
If and when things work out best. Ah, So now you want me to apologize, and be grey?
The landscape breathes into me, I say. Continually, like silence, The music plays on its grey
Scale. Let me fall through it, clouds, Distance, gold Through—red barns like Jacob’s ladders. This land won’t shatter. It’s waterproof and grey
As a Plexiglas rosary made of worn beads that were once hearts. Clarified by catharsis. Teardrop rain. So overcast and grey.
In the sky the clouds keep falling all over themselves Like dancers across ballets of stages of grey.
I walk over the Smith Avenue Bridge, and let the Mississippi cast gold Patches of dreams on the ground along its grey
Banks. Far beneath me, water slips like a tired psalm of black honey. Cargo ships mean nothing to me—they don’t carry dreams, just oil in their hulls’ grey
Battlements. This is the heartland. The way I came here was a pulse. Jessica, I tell myself—keep the dream. Don’t get joyless, bitter here. Don’t go deep as rain’s falling grey.
Poem For A Greyhound Bus Trip Across The Midwest, From Baltimore To Minneapolis
The mile home stretch being Roads change colors in any weather—Grey
In the crowns of wildflowers. The day heating up and letting the cows graze through the grain’s grey
Wind. America, Midwest, a land made of earth that says nothing, So softly. This is beauty, you wildflowers, scraggly purple-grey?
Is it? I have come a long way to see clouds, To be away from the sea. There’s a wonderment of gold-grey,
Here, and red-grey, yellow-grey Wheat and corn and streets weaving grids grey
In webs across the faces of towns. You have found me in the way we are both lost—we just think each other, and grey
Appears. I have a harpoon through me. I think they thought I was the White Whale. Grey
Flows. I can tell you these things, Almost, and just let them be grey
As they are. Toss, turn, in land with straight roads and mud-flecked clapboard crosses. Smiles haunt me like friendly nightmares in the universal grey.
I am not burnt out and high on poetry about Cleveland. Did you think I was going to burn my halo down to its sparkler of ashes’ grey
Powder-blue powder? Do you know who I am or am I risking it? I am just a girl with no luggage disembarking from the grey
Hound bus. From the half-light of the mind in Illinois’ rainy sky, so grey.
There is spirituality here among the strip malls. Their wizened wildflower wallflower songs in grey
Keys major going to minor, Here—where nothing curves, in essence. Grey
Matter, grey suits, grey Greyhound Bus seats plush with tears and tiredness. But it is more like loving yourself, because no one else will, grey
And full of sleep the sun goes down,-- Bald head of the stars in the bear-claw constellations, grey
As little sparkles of glitter glue in dreamtime kindergarten crafts projects. Blank mind like a bus window staring out onto blankness so grey.
It’s just speed. It leaves its blur in you. I’m off the bus, now, Trying to find my way in all this grey.
--Jessica Harman @@@@@@ Pigeons, North Station, 2004
A widow, I fancy myself like the pigeons outside my office building. A few months ago, the City of Boston dismantled the longstanding elevated train track. Having lost their roosts, the birds have nowhere to go. They huddle and worry during the day. They cry at night.
@@@@@@ Twisted Yarn For God’s sake. What were we thinking as we unfurled shag carpet onto our floors, inviting hippie influence into our lives by bringing the outdoors in, mindlessly throwing our insides out. Intense colors, particularly lime green, clashed with paint and herculon fabrics, competed for eye-time with harvest gold and autumn brown. Armies of fuzzy little fingers tickled and caressed our feet, a sort of insidious plea to build a relationship based on something other than the power of color. But they were never ass-friendly during those newly-wed moments. Ultimately shag had no substance, no reason to keep us from moving on to something with the fiber and strength to stand on its own. What will beings think in the future, when they find it at the bottom of a tar pit?
@@@@@@ "I Wrote This On My Lunch Break"
there they are in the schools, fighting and arguing and refusing, to be a part of the machine or tolerate someone who is narrow-minded, almost listening but waiting, for their turn to talk and their turn to work in the factories and the offices, where they will fight and argue and show that they are smarter than the others, including the ex-wife, they swear drunk at bars, who didn’t know what she had and it was for the best and the kids will pan out, they will pan out fine.
but there are issues, they say, there are issues that need to be dealt with, like recycling and sexual liberation and how can it wait, they ask. and it’s the traffic jams and the birds, the zoos and brand name underwear and I want to go home and hear the sound of the skin on my forehead sliding down the smooth white surface of the refrigerator and shatter like dropped Christmas ornaments but I’m too strong I’m too strong to be ruined like crumpled paper and the birds and the zoos and the underwear models and the offices, the bosses and their secretaries tell me it will pan out, it will pan out fine.
@@@@@@ It Is All Soon Forgotten Could be anywhere USA Happens to be Boston MA
Seven people shot in one day A mother and two year old gunned down No one cares The television news reports it and politicians Come to the scene of the crime to mouth anguish No one cares The dead are black, the dead are immigrants Everyone assumes drugs are to blame, so No one cares Others say: It’s not my home It’s not my school It doesn’t happen here In our fine suburban town And when it does happen here people yell They were fine boys, how could this happen It is all soon forgotten because two of the boys were rotten The other kids put up a cross and flowers Grief counselors come to help those grieving But it doesn’t matter because it is all soon forgotten Back in the ghetto there are no counselors, just the grieving And life on the street makes people look over their shoulders The mayor is busy running his city, getting re-elected City councilors are taking bribes and ignoring the streets Tonight there is death stalking every corner, every home Tomorrow it is all soon forgotten, life goes on
--Zvi A. Sesling
Two Voices and Time
It is Labor Day and at my most prosaic I have been to Lowe's. The window and door specialist was the mother of a man whose little girl was not in the car when he wrecked it. A male customer puffed up and rattled his saber, ready to begin his order, but she put him off and walked me over to the printer. I do not want to buy on credit, I said, one window every couple of months is good enough. "I never drive drunk with Megan in the car," the man had told his mother. It used to be, "I never drive drunk," she told me, flat, sundered. "Two pieces. Like cans. About a foot tall". Even if the dye lot is a little bit different, I said. If it were 12 or 1300, the trio would have been St. Anne, Mary, and Jesus. Or earlier, where Venus put Ascanius in Dido's lap.
@@@@@@ The girl with the red umbrella
The smoke from my fading cigarette rises and parts , and like Garbo in kodachrome, she appears in a darkened doorway. I call her Gilda. It probably isn’t her name, I know, but I once watched an old film. It was in black and white and I was a kid. Gilda haunts me still. My Gilda holds a red umbrella. It’s not raining. I look up at the evening moon in a clear blue sky. She holds it over her head while smoking a Camel on the corner Of Washington and Vine and watches cars go by. Her hair is bleached, strands of straw, the color of dying snow, her eyes tar pools in a translucent face. My Gilda waits for the workmen, driving home after a dirty day. She can make them forget. She’s Amnesia girl. If I was a man; if I was half a man I’d take her away and show her the movie, and say to her. “This is who you are.” But I just sit by the cafe window, sipping lukewarm latte, a virgin voyeur. When it starts to rain, she folds the umbrella, stops a motor and makes someone’s day.
@@@@@@ U.M.Ph.! Prose Issue #7 is copyrighted from the second you lay your peepers on it. For six months after posting, the editor gets to look talented as hell for having compiled all these words. After that, each individual work belongs once again exclusively to its creator. Darn!