Hamilton Stone Review #28
Roger Mitchell, Poetry Editor
William L. Alton
She is pale and chalky as bone.
Blood runs in blue lines
through her neck.
She moves like a crane
hunting frogs, all stillness
and brutal thrusts.
She loves the sky
when the heat bleeds
it dry and white.
scare her, even now,
right before her wedding. She cries
on the pillows her mother made.
They are hard and flat
and hold a life of secrets and dreams.
They sit in the dim light and drink scotch. They smoke cigarettes and talk about love.
They’ve been waiting for months to say the words, but the words are too heavy to
casually toss them around. You have to be careful who you say them to. They can leave bruises and cuts in the flesh if you say them and they come flying back sharpened and weighted with silence.
They walk from the coffee shop down the street. They pass a man walking his dog and
smile at the dog pulling the man along until it finds something to catch its attention. They walk on the grass and the mud sticks to their feet. Home again, the go their separate ways. One to the kitchen. The other to the bedroom. They do not talk, but then everything’s already been said and they have no need to go over it again.
The Dry Stone Waller Revisits Spring's Surfacing Fieldstones
Before stones of eggs hatch feathered heads
or tadpoles eel from gel-a-ti-nous embryos,
fieldstones crown the brown, thawing ground
and, after decades of mid-wifing stones,
I'm so smitten with my youthful marvel exhumed
in desiring, like a child around puppies,
to lift each newborn up, turn them over,
and run hands over wet heads and torsos,
that, over supper, my wife spies the young buck
who, long ago, abruptly frostheaved her life
and, that evening, she loves me so much
that, as I thust up and up and up in lust,
I'm like a rising stone given a second life,
and I welcome hands gripping my schist hips
before feet scamper the granite shoulders
and, when it's over, one warm fingertip
alights the forehead's cliff, slides down the
face-wall of the jowels, and, like the lost hiker
in the White Mountains, seems to know home
is somewhere close, now that she stares into
that familiar old-man-on-the-mountain nose.
*inspired by John Clough of Brooklyn, Maine
No one asking 'why stones over the Astros
or if gloving grounders returned his love
of fielding rocks frost-heaved from cornfields'
for, as he waxed poetic about the talent
in laying the first straight row of stones
equaling that of making a bunt hug
a third base line, each of us realized
we'd not led such dire, Minor League lives
in some dumb, Toledo-Mud-Hen of a city
until Bruce--by the All-Star break--spoke
of a perfectly layed capstone echoing
like the crack of a home-run bat
and Phil-- by the dog days of August--
mused about our wall's pitch more exact,
than an All-Star's change-up over the plate--
so, by the World Series, we were so
pleased by our like double-play ballet
in setting hips, shoulders, and torso just so
to turn and toss those twenty pound rocks,
that, laying our season's last stones,
we playfully tipped our John Deer caps
to the screaming orioles and blue jays
and felt such gratitude over the fact
that Thomas, in spring, would call us back
that the last stone our fingers slipped over
turned each of us into that clutch, Mr. October
sliding face-first safe over a felt for home plate.
I Will Not Praise That Purpose Not to Sell
Shakespeare, sonnet 21
Someone says she’s AC/DC and it means she goes both ways
But does each direction take her where she wants to go
Where someone will say hey baby or damn girl
Or yes I will make you breakfast
And what’s it like going in both directions at once
Is it like being in a cartoon
Where your legs wind up like propellers
Before you take off and whoosh down the road
So to praise the dark lady she conjures
All she learned going both directions at once
Where someone will say hey baby or damn girl
To praise the mysterious youth she conjures the place
Where your legs wind up like propellers
Before you take off and whoosh down the road
Shakespeare, sonnet 23
To taste with nose to hear with eyes to touch with ears
To see where we are going with extended hand
To let the fingers shout hell no that never happened
And that fine wit with one foot in the gutter
Whose leg does it belong to what pair of pants
And worn out shoes are waiting for the feet to talk
To stand still with moving arms to walk on knees
To move to the front while flat on your back
To flap elbows and never lift off the ground
And that fine wit standing on its head
Whose crown should it wear what shirt
And tired socks are waiting for this to end
To touch with eyes to taste with ears to hear with nose
To let the fingers shout hell no this did not happen
Shakespeare, sonnet 127
One word after another panic followed by attack
Smack followed by down high followed by five
Slang followed by profane followed by smug
One injury after another one voice over
Followed by a tracking shot of a girl riding a bike
Followed by a close up of someone’s arm in a cast
One worn out moment followed by a lightning strike
Followed by the man learning how to skate
And the woman about to wreck her car
One river flowing into another one campsite
Abandoned after another one sweet breath
Followed by a something hiding under the bed
One word after another bad followed by luck
No followed by doubt help followed by me
What would it be worth to see an old street car
sliding back and forth down Wilshire?
What would it be worth to sit on wooden seats
while the motorman runs the change machine
and punches transfers like in the war,
this one for Tarawa, that one for Normandy?
Then you didn’t need to have your change exact.
Some rode because of instant friends.
When G M bought the line, who knew
what the city was in for except more cars
and freeways wider than the Autobahn?
Stable hand, saddle me a dead horse.
The average speed from L.A. to Santa Monica
is less than thirty, five during rush hours.
The beach of pretend is where it was left
sick in the runoff from Beverly Hills.
Those who don’t know better can still use it
for the crème de la crème of tans
which leads to this epidermal macabre,
islands of white skin that just go black.
If this were a painting, no one would believe it--
I don’t now, even with the view spread before me:
full rainbow scraping low bruisy clouds
over the still length of Plymouth Pond,
fainter reflection beyond, the arcs
framing the reds and yellows of autumn hills
above clapboard houses on the lower Detroit Road.
Before the village store,
a lone man leans against his car,
hand on the gasoline pump,
watching his spiraling cost,
back turned to this wonder.
Most likely he’ll never know,
thinking of his wallet, of the smell of gas
on his hands for the rest of the day,
just what it is he’s missed.
I prefer to call character witnesses
than submit to one objective test—
for example—Dante’s wall of fire.
Guilty—or not—remains for me to know and you to find out.
I’ve been told: no staircase—ablaze—
or stone cold—for the pot-bellied Mafioso.
He won’t scuff his Italian leather slippers
climbing altars, grows winded on his death bed
talking of old times, holds the local priest in his pocket,
a limo waiting, one last getaway.
Who among us is perfectly clean?
I’ve got spots on my clothes that won’t come out.
But like the Mafioso—strangely—I don’t flinch.
Should I fear this inner contentment?
Though the house holds all the cards, I hope to get in.
If this is hubris, to improve my chances,
let the Mafioso through the gate, too.
But I would prefer his guns confiscated,
just past, to be on the safe side,
playing the odds as I’ve always done, of course.
Nights they served tongue were different, not in a secular holiday
way, rather as grown-ups who interrupted one another more than
listening to what was said. Who had the last word, who had the most
persuasive argument over money, which maid stole what from whom,
best maps for routes the AAA recommended on honeymoon trips to Niagara Falls.
The tongue was repugnant in and of itself, not on account of not praying
before dinner, or not knowing who Jesus was in fourth grade, nor
because electricity was dangerous to the physicist. Cords arrayed this way
and that, venom of snakes. This tongue, as if borrowed from Gulliver, had veins
sticking out on the bottom, a swayback, an arching forward, the pink moss
turning gray toward the tip. The cow no one could not see stood placidly
at the table, black and white ovals milking the joke of a dining room. Rather than passing out
to avoid the inevitable, picking around the peas and carrots and mashed potatoes,
Fork-painting the pat of butter, rather than asking to be excused aka humiliated, the tines
picked up a small piece, the mouth opened, soldier teeth chewed muscle
and swallowed mechanically. Please remain the same as if this never happened,
those of you who never had the chance to eat with a family so inbred, so solicitous,
so guilty of what Lengua with sauteed mushrooms does to a tremulous ego.
Like Little Mouths Drinking From
Like little mouths opening
the lips they’ve been given, an aural
music. The cherub astride the fountain,
naked on his horse, his sandals
made as easily from stone as leather.
An urgency inside the bulbs, the roots—
the Big Leaf Maple whose network
goes deep, limbs branching off
into all the choices made for the girl
by her mother, who gave birth.
And the mole, heaping dirt
from the labyrinth, hands too big
for his body. Grief too huge for a widow,
the trouble of keeping a girl who disappears
again each autumn as if into the same myth.
Finally all the players, who prayed
for this—the ticking metronome
of the waters, rivers filling once again
so colorless stones might show
a bit of brightness—gather to worship
worms drawn up from sewers
to lie in the streets of the blessed town.
Nothing Harriet ever planted lived.
We profess it’s hard not to rejoice in the seed
refused by the earth or, more to the point, her,
bent over the soil she puzzles in all afternoon.
Because that's how she feels about it.
We’re charmed by John's metallic gray '67 Shelby
coupe—jilted aviary, blocked, and brooding.
The twin Le Mans stripes speeding over the hood
that now shelter its blown motor and families
of sparky sparrows and pinky mice.
Mary has tried a million times to win
the lottery, leave her husband, and orgasm
by herself on nights when she is left
to revel in all things that don't work.
We love her.
Retired or let go—we think the latter—the Colonel
slogs the post and chats with everyone standing
in slippers and robes by their mailboxes for another notice
of rejected jobs, poems, insurance claims
or, if one of us is lucky, something more forma
llisting the lucky one as the primary beneficiary.
We’all have you know no one has bothered
to fill in the thriving potholes mining
our cobbled road with no outlet.
We’re all just a little joyful and jealous
of them…of their arrogant and easy labor.
Years from now documentarians might descend on our hovels
to survey the heterotopic site of a people who persisted
in the splintered syntax of the Nation’s language,
who transgressed the discursivity of suburbial instantiations,
who lived elapsed and, therefore, preterit lives.
However they say it, they can’t do anything more for us…to us
the bullets, the bank, and the bottle haven’t already done.
Robert J. Tillett
Here we are again. The door opens
in. Drive the shadows back
behind the door for now.
We’ve come here to find ourselves
alone and the furniture bolted
to the floor. No one trusts us.
Everything stops—the edges
of our best selves dissolving
in the black pockets of the room,
the folds of the sheets, the thin
smells leaking from the open drawers.
The breath of balsa and cedar.
No luxury like the slender slip
of moonlight through the sheers.
A little rest is all we ever wanted
from a little room like this. But now
the cars pull right up to the doors.
A little peace would be nice. Said, quiet,
to the people filing by, said, please,
to the children screaming to each
other near the tree with the thick
wrists near the sign. Said, vacancy,
to the road all night long.
Called to fill the empty
bed, the drawers, the bath, we—
the hummocks and hollows of memory
laid bare by casting back the sheets.
The yellow walls are perfect; the color
threads the plastic flowers in the bedside vase.
Some designer here. The sentinel,
a topiary boxwood, guards the door.
Said, silence, to the forest roots
spreading in the Adirondack loam.
The yews below the windows open
into thin-handed barnacles, filter
the tissue from waxy bags
blown in by the lake wind. A slim
gauze pushes at the door. No one’s
here. Nothing to see. No answer
when we call the desk to ask for more
blankets and when we must leave.
It’s old, that’s for sure. Old silver.
I don’t know how old and where it comes from.
Maybe it belonged to your mother or grandmother
who are now no more. And you are no more.
It stands on the kitchen table, in the sea jumble of it
like a lighthouse on its rock in a sea storm.
I unearthed it one day when my small one broke,
I unearthed it from down under in that huge
cabin of a cupboard, the hoard house you left me.
It looks regal to me, a silver acorn on the lid top
in its rind like a pedestal, like those on gravel paths
in the mountains among pine needles and dirt,
like one of the many thoughts scattered in the world
we keep treading on.
My morning tea.
I like brewing in it.
I love starting my day with it,
as if feeling the swaddle of history,
at once bathed in my memory of you.
Oh, the handle. It gets so hot
I always need something to cover it,
a napkin, my own sweater even,
not to get scalded when I pour.
I am gazing at it now and breakfast is over,
it looks alone and great, undefeated I dare say.
I gaze at the darker spots on its metal, a sky
that will outlive me.
Nothing really can be grasped of the soul
but it sings, silently, like on this silver
and sits, while we just pass, on its own sea.
Autumn in the countryside,
half past five, already dark.
I’ve come to my childhood place
by chance, looking for a bunch of keys
I need from my old uncle.
Here by the house of my first summers,
deckchairs under the garden grapes
by the water pump, caressing the grass,
parents, grandparents, in the memory
the peaceful lasting of a luminous dusk.
There a vineyard where later, in the dark,
I smoked my first cigarette, initiated
to the rite by an older cousin and his friends.
In the vineyard, in the warm dark,
brushing the branches, scraping the bark
I can still see the orange dots of the cigarettes,
a new sky watching and unveiling its heart.
It’s a field now, a stretch of clods and furrows
that vineyard and the house is dark and silent,
the garden a square shadow in the glimmer
of the distant road , all the shutters closed
except one with a feebly blue filtering
through the curtains behind the window.
This, now, all there is, time has passed,
it’s not bad, just bare, almost blank,
with up above, anyway, the stars.
Before time passed here in this garden
almost half a century ago I was a boy,
a gaze spacing in sky and grass
hiding a smile of forwardness,
eagerly expecting the unknown.
Now I am in the unknown
that is staring and asking for nothing.
Or maybe, in its silence only
asking for a purity of intent.
The acceptance of a wait,
without hoping and without
fretting, the gesture of standing
steady and straight.
In the damp autumn grass,
in the garden filled with nothing,
in the mute prayer
of the naked present.