"No coin
for the ferryman, it's a pauper's gate
to hell... "

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Issue 14: The Double Issue

Issue 13: Free Form

Issue 12: The Necessary Ear

Issue 11: The Necessary Eye

Issue 10: Out on a Limb

Issue 9: The Missing Body

Issue 8: The Lily

Issue 7: Passages

Issue 6: No More Tears

Steven Cramer

Wise Passivity

            after the Buddha

If his wife applies a cool palm
to his forehead glazed with illness,
he knows he's just a mess of fever
and fuss, not the child he wishes,
with the wise passivity of the lily.

And when not even up to this,
or up to what this is, he wishes
to be taught Wordsworth again.
But he's not the void of wind
that blows in the child's mind
raiding a raven's nest. He's less
the child himself, who steals
an elfin pinnace, who sculls
like hell as a huge peak rises
from behind the cliff-face.
"How does he watch the cliff
and row away from it?" he asked
in Lit-21. On the blackboard,
the professor drew a stick boy
in a rowboat oaring backwards,
the chalky emblem of Mind
rising out of the mind, those
who did the reading going ohhh
in unison, or was it in vision?—

clarity's shadow filling them in
like the shade a rose-apple tree
filtered down, it's said, on the not-
yet-enlightened boy looking out
at the annual plowing. It's said
his father left him with a nurse,
and she ditched him to hang out
with shirtless men. One story
has him watching the roots
of grass the plows upturned—
insects, and their million eggs
(each his relative) killed. So much
sorrow flows into his happiness.
Joy flows also into his sorrow.
Banyans stretch their shadows
toward the east, as afternoon
turns to dusk, the rose-apple's
shade cool at eternal noon.

A miracle now, the boy grows up
to leave his wife, his son, and seek
completion pure as a polished shell.


After Pessoa

            and in memory of Donald Justice

Sometimes I feel so much, I must
be sentimental. Come to think of it,
maybe it's just thought, and I feel

nothing much at all. We live
one life living, another thinking.
Which one's true, which false?

The worst fate: to spend a life
thinking, until that life is not
the life you felt you lived.



Timed for odd noons, eight stations mist
ten minutes each; a ninth soaks the hedge
row of yews: each May, a new price hike
just to siphon up my underworld river.

No coin for the ferryman, it's a pauper's
gate to hell. . . In the den, three tweens,
one mine, pass from hand to hand their lip-
gloss foraged from the mall. Graces now,

but in a wink, gray ones trading a single eye . . .
They're pre-hormonal, prideful, venereal
nouns, fountainheads of argot pumped
to flow disdain. About their future boys

in the vestibule, shuffling their hooves,
all trident-quick moves once in the car—
think too much, thought's a venomed pelt.
It's exquisite, yes, to touch a spider web

to gold, but bread and water's better.
Whoever thought it wise storing hope
at the bottom of a jug, thought best.
Let it steep, sweet as the devil's-food

and Capri Sun these girls bid me bring.
Inside them, thirst and hunger pulse
like p.s.i.'s channeling through pipes.
Autumn and Winter: frozen Mars Bars

and Log Cabin syrup dripped on snow.
Spring: stained eggs on a fake green bed.
Summer: the earth and earth's daughter,
by August the girl's step heavy, tugged at.

She's moistening her lips for Hades' kiss.


Of Fame

Like a rush-hour bus
on route to Big, it's driven
our duels with pens (as it did

our games with sticks
for guns) from Anon
to the latest bard

hounding Lord Posterity
with a fast, a feast,
or a review. Meanwhile,

increasingly old and good
is what our best dead strove for.
Don't get me wrong:

I'd do you a quid pro quo
at the drop of your designer
stomacher, and my lust

for a high profile can swell
like blood-bloated wood ticks
Mom singed with a snuffed

match tip, loosening
their bite on Shep.
O Shep: whose life-

long overbite left
this scar on my auricle.
He breathed Grendel's fen.

By life's end, he drooled
a pint a day, and yet
one tossed stick could tease

panting bursts of grace. . .
I celebrate Shep,
good dog, died old.