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Issue 5: Phoenix

Bob Sward's Writer's Friendship Series

Book Reviews

Need to Know



A quick list to poets featured in this issue:

Bei Dao

Frank X. Gaspar

Carol Frith

Muriel Zeller

Dee Cohen

George Wallace

Tom Daley

James Lee Jobe

Mary Zeppa

Daniel A. Olivas

Hannah Stein

Lynne Knight

Walter Pavlich

Derick Burleson


Muriel Zeller

Muriel Zeller

Self, Time and External Circumstances


    The disconnected self cut
    the filaments
    that held up my life.

           You are sick--very, very sick

    The hospital psychiatrist asked
    a question.  I answered correctly,
    "Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey
    Oswald on TV."

           You use your intelligence in negative ways

    I have lied in each
    different life, covering
    tracks of the last.

           I saw you when you were someone else

    I laughed
    when I told the story:
    my father held a gun
    on my brother.

           Your laughter is inappropriate

    I took the opiates
    as prescribed and wanted
    less and less 
    to be flesh.

           You may refuse your medication at any time

    I made lists
    of what I wanted 
    to recall.

           You could benefit from electroconvulsive shock therapy

    My body refused to release
    urine.  I became sick:
    searing ache and longing
    to take away the pain.

           Your past is the reason you can't urinate

    She arrived in a black dress,
    one of a long line
    of therapists.  She began

           You don't like black, do you?

    as I watched light stipple
    her dress through the iron
    mesh on the windows.

           Tell me about the abuse

    In a corner of night,
    I hunched and hunched
    to make myself small,

           Where are you?


    I passed each day,
    clutching a pillow
    rocking back and forth
    as gently as I would
    on Charon's river.

           Tell me, then, what do your tears think?

    I paced the halls, hid
    in my closet, made a collage.
    The attendants cooed.
    I smiled at them with rage.

           This is very complex

    I threw a strike.
    "The bowling pins are my family,"
    I said.  The other patients 
    cheered.  I did it again,
    and the chaperones grew uneasy.

           I think its time to leave

    I was released from the hospital
    after a month--just
    when my insurance ran out.

           Reconnect with your therapist on the outside

    I am scary.  I scare myself.
    I scare my outside therapist.
    She doesn't want me anymore.

           Once, I thought you were going to attack me

    At home, I have my own riot.
    I scream in the shower.
    The walls bruise my body.
    My head pounds back.

           I will make arrangements for you to see someone else

    The telephone can change
    shape.  It will lie to you.
    My memory reeked
    of the black dress.

           She won't talk to you unless you make the call

    I moved on to the next
    recommended therapist
    with my own psychotic symmetry.

           I'm counseling a group of sex offenders next


    I got pregnant.
    My husband's form
    fathered fetal tissue--
    I was too old.

           You cannot abort the baby

    After-birth I mothered my daughter:
    bathed, dressed, nursed and loved,
    all the while knowing nothingness
    waited for me in a clutch of medication.

           We have a pact.  You won't kill yourself.

    Cross my heart
    and hope to die.

           What kind of pills, how many?

    The doctor didn't hide
    his contempt as he guided 
    a tube down my throat.

           Where is her underwear?

    After a day,
    angry and sullen, my husband
    took me back home.
    I had to nurse the baby.

           What do you think you were doing?

    The baby bit down hard
    on my nipple with her tiny teeth,
    punishing me
    for risking her life.



    I close my eyes to find the world
    that is not this world outlined
    so distinctly nothing bleeds its borders.
    There are no marred images
    to suggest something recondite
    that persuades me to make a poem--
    I want the sheared light of the shut lid:

    where impossible cities live and hive,
    where impossible forests grow
    and we are lost in them as in the cities,
    their pleading green hunched over the ground,
    where impossible people imbibe
    and speak as if their lives depended on it,
    where all the impossible is as it claims
    and we love this about it.


Crisis Line

    Telephone rings.
    I center myself, pray
    it will hold. 

    A 41-year-old woman
    from Wilseyville.
    Her husband is in jail.
    He beat her.
    She has black eyes.
    "He'll kill me
    when he comes home.
    I'm afraid."
    There it is.
    "Afraid," the refrain.

    Refrain from beating her.
    That's a change.
    I'm falling apart. 

    I think of Adrienne Rich:
    poets are not marginal
    members of the community.
    Poetry is in everyday life.
    Poems are the making
    and breaking of order. 

    I look for a poetic energy field.
    That's what a poem is
    she said,
    an energy field,
    not elitist either
    but made to share.

    How can I tell the woman 
    from Wilseyville
    about poetry?  Maybe
    she would understand
    the making 
    and breaking 
    of order.