Issue 5: Phoenix
Bob Sward's Writer's Friendship Series
Need to Know
quick list to poets featured in this issue:
Frank X. Gaspar
James Lee Jobe
Daniel A. Olivas
Thirteen anal fin rays,
black gumline, lust.
What forces the salmon
forces them to run
from the sea's broken ease
up the rapids, to brawl, thrash,
endure: lithe bodies
against spears of rock
that rip fins, gash gills--
up memorized sluices
sights and smells--
for the force of white
water, a lust
only white water
will bring to climax--
as used-up flesh goes
watery pink, bonds into
into a freakish hump,
jaw that hooks forward
toward blue distances--
the gorge's cleft,
trenching a gravel nest
for their simultaneous
then a spent
turning on backs into
the bottom grit, the brusque
We are saying goodbye, one of us
in a railway car, the other on
the platform. This must be a small
town, the platform nothing but a slab under
a twilit sky. Repeatedly our faces fade
into and out of each other;
the face mirrored in the train window
superimposed on the one seen through it.
Golden brown streaks of my long hair merge
with your plaid shoulders.
The late day's air has the dark brightness
of a lake seen under sunlight,
the bottom mud stirred up
so that a thousand minnows are your eyes
darting, jealous, into the corners
of the compartment. Or they're
my eyes, it's not clear which of us
is staying, which going away. What's certain
is that the one leaving has made the choice.
The old-fashioned station lamps come on.
Reflections lie in zigzags over us. They or
the camera or something that's happening to our
vision turn the plate glass shimmery as
the windows of an old house. We mouth
words at each other, gesticulate wildly, pay
no attention to the script.
These characters are taking on
a life of their own; they were not meant
to cling like this at the moment of parting. Now I
will take a turn directing this film. I will lift
the overlay, separate the two faces
that waver as if under water. I'll slide
one face right, the other
to the left, leaving at the center of the frame
an empty space where something can begin.
She has to get at something behind
a locked door: a child's homemade doll.
She has no key. She jabs
with scissors, the door rolls open.
One light glares in the bare room.
On the sofa lies the doll,
exactly as she knew it would.
Black clothes, white stuffing.
She hates what she is about to do.
It can't be helped. She snatches
the doll, locks the door behind her.
Stumbles downstairs to the street.
She stabs the soft voile, slits the body
open. She shakes with sobs.
Just as she has seen it in her
mind, the stuffing comes apart
in white plumes. Soon she will have it
cut away. At the moment
of her transformation
she will have the thing she needs
for survival--at the very moment
when she becomes somebody else.