Monday, October 24, 2016

Marianne Szlyk and the Battle Ground From the Basement to the Womb and the Twins Haunting Cities of Possible Parallel Lives

For My Ex-Husband’s Twin Sons (2)

Winter 1996/1997

That winter I stopped in Boston
on my way back to Indiana.
A friend told me my ex-husband,
your father,
had been all but evicted,
not packing until the last day
of his last month in our apartment
of several years.  But he wasn’t
homeless, she reassured me.

In retrospect, I am surprised that
he wasn’t living in her basement,
the place I had planned to be,
if I were still living in that city.

My friend was too old to be your mother.
Some other woman bore you.
She raised you both,
her last chance to have a child.
Fierce in red, her strong core
hiding her bump, she traveled down
the winter sidewalks alone.

Come summer,
she would push a borrowed stroller
past empty storefronts and dying trees.
She would push past my ex-husband
who, talking to himself, wouldn’t know
his own children or even her.

For My Ex-Husband’s Twin Sons (3)

Summer 1997

The next summer I believed in nothing.
Windows open, drinking icy Pepsi, with the fan off,
I lay awake upstairs, not reading Clarissa
while my friend the atheist slept
in the basement to escape the heat
while the man I liked slept
back in the city I’d left.

As I listened to the oldies from Battle Ground,
I thought nothing would change.   I had
been listening to these songs for years.
Levi Stubbs would always plead to Bernadette.
Dusty would always offer advice I’d never take.
Alone in bed, I would be reading
these thick books forever,
my life captured in small print
and amber-colored soda
drunk in some college town.
Like Clarissa, this life would continue
as long as I chose to turn the page.

This was the summer you two could have
been born, perhaps to a stringy-haired woman
who had traipsed in and out of our apartment,
perhaps to a fierce woman in red.
For her, whether or not she kept you,
whoever she once was,
everything would have changed.

I guess.  I’ll never know.

For My Ex-Husband’s Twin Sons (4)

Summer 2016

Somewhere else you exist with my own son
and the daughter my husband and I
adopted from Ethiopia before I died.
The two of you sit or don’t sit in class.
You roam the hallway, pace the aisles,
perch on bookshelves, listen to heavy metal
or rap or garage rock from the 60s.
You chatter constantly about video games.
You don’t know your father or mother.
To you, they are ghosts.

Like Emily Dickinson, each of you
dwell in possibility.  Unlike her,
you write nothing down.
You do not evolve
the way she did
over two thousand poems
written on the back of envelopes.

I see you in glimpses,
standing around Harvard Square
and the upscale mall it’s become,
as children riding the Orange Line
with your mother,
the fierce, stout woman
in red.  Now she has forgotten
your father’s name
but not his face.
She may even be friends
with the woman
who would have been my landlady
if I’d stayed in this city.
Maybe you have left it as well.

I must imagine what this life is like
for you who do not exist
in the real world
without children.

Marianne Szlyk is the editor of The Song Is... , an associate poetry editor at Potomac Review, and a professor of English at Montgomery College. She and her husband live with two cats, too many books and CDs, and no cars.  Her second chapbook, I Dream of Empathy, was published by Flutter Press.  Her poems have appeared in a variety of online and print venues, including Silver Birch Press, Cactifur, Of/with, bird's thumb, Truck, and Yellow Chair Review.  Her first chapbook is available through Kind of a Hurricane Press.  She hopes that you will consider sending work to her magazine. For more information about it, see this link: http://thesongis.blogspot.com/

Sunday, October 9, 2016

David P. Kozinski Amidst the Overwhelming Crescendo of Glistening Naiad Flesh, Pulsing Angry Lorries, and an Abattoir Sermon

The Giggling of  Naiads at the Check-out Counter on a Hot July Day

They laugh about the party
they’ve been shopping for while
I watch light shimmer from them,
rippling along bare legs and bellies;
sparks from the hair of their arms
in the bluish, cooled Acme air.

On the conveyor my petulant boxes of berries,
jar of olives, jar of capers, wedge of cheese
are plunked down, mute and inert.
I imagine a six pack of Rheingold
flowing along.

They bag their goodies
as a team, hands picking
and arms rotating above orbiting hips,
little pearls flicking from curves of shoulders
as they joke about showers,
about wedding nights; intimacies flipped
back and forth like hot
Red Bliss potatoes

and I’m remembering walks along the Brandywine;
honeybees abundant and deliberate,
a snake slipping into the water and whipping upstream;
the fever of early autumn leaves
that crept under my skin and overheated my brain;
stepping across hard, metallic white ice,
the trickle of water underneath a crescendo
that overwhelmed birdsongs
and the whistling, wayward breeze.

I’m still lining up tins and bottles
from my cart in regiments
as they pay, scoot for the door and the parking lot,
decades rolling out
ahead of them in waves.

As Promised, the Fire

In the heat I saw colors
no one else could or cared about.

In the fire we lost most
of the things I cared about.
The wills, birth certificates, passports
were lodged at the bank. The art
became smoke,
then a charcoal smudge.

In the fire I smelled apple and azalea,
cedar and hemlock,
mother and father;
what they worked for.

Far from any city
stars burned holes in the skin
of my dream time. Laughter, sirens
spun rings around the world.

I was offered in the fire
the hope of revolution and stasis.

I lost people I loved during the years
of occupation. Not dead, they were misplaced,
stuck away in cupboards, hidden
in lockers, in paperwork. I sought
and could not find them again.

I heard much in the darkness
you brought with you. Most
of the captured images came clear.

You lost people too.
You prayed for them.
They died, their lights went out
and others could be seen.
Everything burned, even things
you wouldn’t expect; rivers and harbors,
identities, principles many
boasted they’d die for.

I saw the colors of ideas, some
for just a moment, while others burned
into my palette. The more profound,
the duller the hues – matte-finished gun metal,
hospital green – while funny little concepts
rose like globes from a soap bubble pipe
and popped right out of existence.

From where we huddled
dying stars sounded
like the shrieks of toads when they jump
from embankment to water, gone in the ripples.

Even the thick doors of perception
shut bank-vault tight, tall
as cathedral spires, went up.
At the end, geysers erected
steam towers to sustain the sky,
to hold it back.
Some authorities told me about cold fire
that cuts through the hardest hearts,
arteries pulsing with angry lorries
and crazy cabs. I reminded them
the avenues and boulevards are also strolled
by hand-in-hand youth,
by skeptics as well as cynics.

There’s no shame in sweat, I told them,
even the kind that poisons
the very ground when flicked
over a garden wall.

I asked these magi for references
that might unlock my box of promises
where the bedeviling of man
is kept down, churning in mushroom dark.

I read to them as they lay in blindness,
fallen into adult beds with linen
as dirty as any hospital could make it,
infirmity our timekeeper.

Tripping Over Memorial Day, 1974

I never die in this dream.
I’ll be there in the morning
to greet the ass.

There is yet another story of a soldier’s
sacrifice and a botched
cover up by the brass.

Someone plucks at guitar strings
that elongate to the bathroom sink
while an oboe outlines the curves

of nostrils in the mirror, man.
The exposé is sometimes titled
“Ten Little Indians In Eighty Days”

and isn’t over when I return
to my seat in the bunker.
Resurrected by paperwork

the boy with a hook
in his sleeve spouts gratitude
misplaced as his shroud,

Old Glory pulled from the box
and refolded until the day
nightmares close his book.

It was swampy as Delaware
gets – dark, rubbery snakes
along the embankment, the river

backing up like a clogged drain,
birds restless in the dead air
under clouds that wouldn’t rain –
a sermon proper for an abattoir.

David P. Kozinski won the Delaware Literary Connection’s 2015 spring poetry contest, judged by B.J. Ward. He received the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize, which included publication of his chapbook, Loopholes. Publications include Apiary, Cheat River Review, Confrontation, Fox Chase Review, glimmertrain.com, Philadelphia Stories, Poetry Repairs, Margie, The Rathalla Review and Schuylkill Valley Journal. Kozinski was one of ten poets selected by Robert Bly for a workshop sponsored by the American Poetry Review. He is a board member of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference and of the Manayunk-Roxborough Art Center, where he has conducted a poetry workshop and read from his work on numerous occasions. Kozinski is Arts Editor of Schuylkill Valley Journal Online (www.svjlit.com). He has conducted poetry workshops for teens at the Montgomery County (PA) Youth Center, for Expressive Path, a non-profit organization that encourages youth participation in the arts. He has been a member of the Mad Poets Society for about twenty years. Still mad.