YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts

December 2009

VOL XVII, Issue 12, Number 200

Editor: Klaus J. Gerken

Production Editor: Heather Ferguson

European Editor: Mois Benarroch

Contributing Editors: Michael Collings; Jack R. Wesdorp; Oswald Le Winter

Previous Associate Editors: Igal Koshevoy; Evan Light; Pedro Sena

ISSN 1480-6401



W. Jude Aher  
   dare to dance


W. Jude Aher 
   water jazz 
   calls of the shadow
   autumn light lost

Richard Fein 

William Doreski
   The News Today
   That Primal Sensation 
   This Way to History


William Doreski
   The Fire You Started in the Closet


W. Jude Aher  
dare to dance

do i remember
so young
i danced
lamp lit streets
and their dark retreats
upon long earth carved highways
where the wind screamed
so silent
so free
before tomorrow
do i remember
when suddenly
who broke upon the mirror
so silent
so alone
and now
before yesterday
do i
as i dare to dance
in the silence
of my dreams

W. Jude Aher  

water jazz

salt green ocean sky
ice mirror lies
on a sudden bleed
before you die
whisper and sigh
a soft dusk
blood upon my lips

calls of the shadow deep within a dream deeper within a lost dance a woman falls a shadow as water beyond inside silence calls to the willow reasons upon an autumn light morning cold evening whispers they come alive deep within the night dancing in her dreams a woman and silver light daring to believe daring to concede calls of the shadow dancing between morning and night
autumn light lost if in the dark you still believe as you bleed in truth and time autumn light lost where shadows call will you walk your name dance in a dream-time refrain where before tomorrow does hide sweet mountain snow sorrow held deep wind on hard worn skin always just before in the dark if you still believe - jude sings the silence silent, silent deep in a dark behind the night lost my soul lost my light no breath no tears no walking no fears just for a moment for i dared to ignore my death and sip from the blood of truth and just for a moment i heard from where whales sing *i heard his refrain when the signal changed he was playing real good, for free. joni mitchell
Richard Fein FLICKERING JOYS Not Alzheimer’s but ministrokes each rupturing yet more capillaries, like a skyscraper after hours when one by one the lights go out, till finally late, late in a calendar day stands a dim silhouette of a building against waning moonlight. Or maybe a flickering fireplace smothering within its own paling ash. But sparks do fly from dying fires, and occasionally a midnight office neon turns on again. Her grandchildren assembled. And in her ancient eyes one of us would randomly come out of the shadow. A face bright in her sight as the glow returned to her eyes, proud to know she was blessed with yet another as if the grandchild were just born. She discovered and rediscovered us. We lost count But there were many flickering joys, her eyes bright like a comet at each brand new introduction.
LEG CRAMP GENEALOGY From atop my dresser over my bed, the whole colorful crew stares down at me in black and white, all gathered in front of a well-worn 1926 Model T. And in the next photo smiles a young grandma Katherine, in a neck-to-ankle, make-a-Puritan-proud dress. But she was never a Puritan. Before she died decades ago, Katherine told me legends about my ancestors. Her horse-and-buggy father knew how to finger the reins of fillies. But he was also well suited for Model Ts, for she claimed he was the first to discover the now infamous use of an automobile backseat. And this knowledge must have been in the genes, an instinct passed from father to daughter, for she was born knowing the secrets of backseat contortion without getting cramps in her legs or sticking them out the window. And once my dowager grandma whispered to me that her daughter carried on the tradition. Mommy, my own mommy. I was part of a venerable line of auto-erotic acrobats and so was biblically begat in a Buick. I should get wallet-size miniatures of these photos and dangle them from the front mirror of my new Toyota instead of the rubber dice and St. Christopher. We all must be proud of having driven this far forward through the generations. But frankly with the new ecofriendly politically correct compact cars a bed is more comfy than a backseat.
BROKEN IDOLS, FALLEN GODS In the resoundingly large museum hall he told us to bow our heads and chant along with him. But he prayed to his ancient Mayan deities in a language none of us understood, yet we babbled along with him as best we could. He sat cross-legged like a Yoga master as he summoned phantom Mesoamerica in the once mysterious Maya, a language perhaps as ancient as Hindi. Shamans and priests seem to always beckon their gods in little-known tongues. And in Mayan the shaman invoked a fairytale of she wolves nursing orphaned lambs. For then In English, he lectured that Mayan cities had no walls and so no wars. Peace was granted by beneficent gods. But a decade after, deeper archeological digs uncovered the ash of ancient wooden barricades and butchered human bones. And finally the inscrutable hieroglyphs surrendered their dark secrets of Smoking Frog and his bloody conquest of rival kings. But on that guileless day before the bad tidings of truth were resurrected from jungle humus, the shaman spoke with childlike wonder and sung his nursery rhymes to a faith-hungry congregation. Ignorant shaman and naive audience chanting in harmonized innocence, while in that echoing hall our prayers for peace recoiled from bloodthirsty gods.
OPEN POETRY READING If it were held in Hollywood a Julia Roberts lookalike would be at the next table. After my reading, thoroughly seduced, she’d come over to me. Later she’d come during our hot sex. But then I’d leave her for the sake of my art. If it were held in Bollywood ten maidens in saris would dance on the tables and a high-pitched female Hindi vocalist would sing my praises. I’d even get to kiss one of the maidens though it would scandalize half of India. If it were held in Moscow–If it were held in Moscow. Forget Moscow! There they scrounge for kopecks. They’d shoot my performance with used film, which would be an improvement for in the old days they’d have just shot me. If it were held—If it were held . . .. But this is Brooklyn, flat beer, dim lighting, and an almost empty room. And my only feedback is the screeching mike, except for a Julia Child lookalike. And she’ll come, surely she’ll come, oh god she’ll surely come, over to-ask me if I read already, she being too busy with her own scribbling to notice.
MY BLACKMAIL NOTE TO ALL OF YOU I bought one for 45 bucks, a plain, planar lens, but with a tattletale opening on the side of the lens tube, and inside a privacy-piercing mirror placed at the proper right angle to reflect all you oblivious peripheral subjects straight into my sharp focus. Sometimes my camera points at garbage cans for it isn’t beauty I seek, but your faux pas beauts committed when you think no one is looking. With my make-believe-forward-facing lens all your venial embarrassments center in my vision. I’m the candid camera of public parks unabashedly pointing my peeping Tom lens at all of you— nose pickers, crotch scratchers, earwax scoopers, bellybutton lint pickers, navel ponderers, bra adjusters, food dribblers, sweaty underarm raisers, and egregious expectorating phlegm throwers. I also frame what holy zealots regard as mortal sins, lovers unzipping flies—girl and boy of course, but also male and male for a double uncoupling of zippered teeth. And even clearer naked truths are uncovered by my tabloid lens, bearded Moslems eyeing Orthodox Jewish girls draped in long denim skirts, and Chassids eyeing every blond shiksa passing by. (Mortal sin or not, maybe, just maybe hush-hush hankering might someday bring Holy Land peace.) A menagerie of piggish improprieties of the purportedly priggish played out at the perimeter of my perception all fall perpendicular to my presumed but pseudoline of sight and are then pivoted precisely to my picture-taking peepers. Listen, I’ve got all your gotcha moments ensconced on my memory card, perturbing pixels primed for planetary propagation via a grand upload to the worldwide web. Of course extortion is prohibited, but it’s permissible, constitutionally protected to photograph people’s private peccadillos performed in public places, and I’m not asking for even a penny from anyone. No, I’m asking for so much more from everyone.
THE BODY HUMAN, mostly seawater, as salty as the ancient oceans. Sometimes seawater is also called a body, a body of water. It has many phases, at times steamy chaos, at times frozen stillness, but usually liquid flowing in between. Water feigns freedom of movement, seemingly active but actually reactive, an otherwise stagnant broth, a soup stirred by distant gravities— the sun, the moon, the mere presence of all other bodies. The lower depths are turbid, an opaqueness roused by deep currents and unseen leviathans stirring the sediments. Mostly seawater, the body human.
William Doreski The News Today In my closet lies a suicide, a man who sneaked into my room to shoot himself while I was out. Police examined the scene but refused to remove the body until the coroner returns from his third Bermuda honeymoon. The hotel’s too full to shift me to another room, so I lie as flat as possible, light on, and try to sleep despite the stink of gunpowder, blood, and despair. I doze and dream that the corpse has opened its eyes to assess me. The air hums as the steam heat trills the pipes. I awaken flat on the closet floor. A man with my features rises from bed and smiles that awkward smile I’ve caught in public restroom mirrors after evenings of pointless desire. I knew this would happen. I knew I’d exchange personalities with the corpse. He who was me staggers to the bathroom and coughs the ordinary morning cough. Be patient. This sensation will pass. I can feel the bullet snugged in my brain. It hurts like an ideology. The blood that no longer flows has clotted so densely it has fossilized every dream I’ve ever dreamed. He who was me has showered and dressed and now has gone to meet her for breakfast. They aren’t lovers except at their fingertips so she won’t recognize the death in his expression. But maybe this chiasmus will pass before breakfast concludes, and maybe I’ll replace myself with myself before I get used to the hole in my head, though which who knows what identities might escape.
That Primal Sensation When I toted your groceries home to your apartment off Mount Auburn and you slathered me with beer and scattered our clothes on the floor you meant nothing as personal as the atomic bomb, nothing as subjective as the rumble of red line trains in the tunnel. These stock metaphors opened like your grandfather’s war wounds and exposed a mass of dead tissue, a failure to heal. Did you lust so criminally because you slit your wrists on every birthday? Did you pummel me with breasts as cruel as cantaloupe because your father had insisted no one would marry so wicked a witch? My head hurt for days. My friends insisted that I report you to the Freudians of the world but I wanted to honor the dust adrift in the sunlight sloping over your flat little body, the beer-smell gone stale in your hair. Besides, you repented. The next time, you waited for dusk to temper your two large rooms, then tied me to the bed with flimsy twine a child could have snapped. We savored the illusion. Later we lay as still as trout in a stream and let orange streetlight wheezing through uncurtained windows expose our bodies to themselves. You cried because we couldn’t remember each other’s name, but agreed that primal sensation rendered the personal touch redundant. By now you’re someone’s grandma but that creepy old apartment still whispers stale beer whispers to lovers as casual as we were and the sizzle of traffic outside still censures the pubic dark.
Thermopylae A highway scythes the battlefields. A frozen bronze Leonidas maintains his theatrical spear-thrust above our picnic of crackers, retsina, and rubbery cheese. Stratis looks up at the Spartan, a hulking metal thug, and agrees his ancestors weren’t as firmly planted on both feet. Better to farm the islands, savor grapes, encourage the sexual prowess of one’s favorite goats and sheep. We doze in lackluster winter glare, the roar of trucks headed north easeful as sermons. I’d dream of those who died so famously but a clutch of images occurs— concrete pipes, a rush of river stumbling down sandstone ledges, children splashing in the shallows. We wake with a jolt of chill. The day’s collapsing around us. The scabby hills look uneasy, and far to our right the bay slops like an overfilled tub. While we pack the picnic things, Stratis describes a dream of pure Attic marble, an erasure as perfect as the blizzard of ’78. Leonidas points his spear at our hearts to encourage us to leave. His stance refuses us the very ground we stand upon. The highway grumbles like digestion. So much traffic between Istanbul and Athens. Learning of this link between Asia and Europe Xerxes would smile that absolute smile otherwise saved for his brother’s wife. We hustle to the car and agree to drive into Macedonia before stopping for the night in some village obscure enough to allow historical dreaming without mistaking the landscape for the insistence of the id.
This Way to History After Christmas break my office has turned its back on yours, the door opening into a corridor sloping up to the roof. No wonder you shied away with eyes opaque as ore and mouth a vampire’s slobber. Everything inside has deranged itself as well, the computer scrolling obscenities in green and purple italics, a cat snoozing in my favorite plant, boxes of ancient National Geographics cluttering the rug, crack vials smashed in the ashtray, cookbooks crowding the shelves once occupied by Eliot, Whitman, Emerson, Thoreau, and Henry James. You meet me on neutral ground and try to slip your arm around my waist but find me too fat so shy away again, this time with a sneer edged like swordgrass. I slam myself in my office and toss the cookbooks out the window and discover behind the shelves a trapdoor labeled “This Way to History.” I pry it open and crawl down a dusty angle and cough myself up a ladder to emerge in my old office where you’re lifting a silver cup of vodka and smiling the old smile, the one that hurts a little less. Now you can reach around my waist and my computer screen is blank and expectant, and my volumes of Eliot and Whitman grimace that familiar dusty grimace— but even as we sip our vodka the walls collapse and the air sickens that ugly gray sick and the corridors writhe and choke and you laugh that snake-headed laugh I love to suffer and love.


William Doreski

The Fire You Started in the Closet

The fire you started in the closet
has burned for days without spreading.
It has consumed the Christmas gifts
we hid ten Christmases ago,
scorched the stairway to the attic 
where Grandpa’s bones tarnish like brass
and blackened the family name 
kept in a box we thought fireproof. 
For days we taste that carbon slur 
and smell pouty blue curls of smoke
and expect the fire to burst
into the conscious parts of the house
and destroy our book-club library
and Chippendale coffee table
and collection of pornographic
woodcarvings from Guatemala.
Why did you ignite this blaze?
Because I deflated the plastic
Santa you placed on the lawn?
Because I fed cookies and milk
to the friendly Mormons who claimed
their god demands I marry
Janet, Nikki, Gloria, and Nan
as well as you again and again?
Because your favorite TV show
rewrote its scripts and became
a comic cop show burdened
with expensive Polish jokes?
You set that fire because cries
and whispers from that closet
have caused blood clots and hernias
in people who listen too closely
to the voices in their heads. 
I attack with the extinguisher
and stifle the lonely blue flame. 
Not much damage. The Christmas gifts
had gone unloved for a decade,
the family name’s a Polish joke,
Grandpa’s bones hardly rattle,
and the scorched attic stairway,
which we almost never ascend,
needs only a fresh coat of paint.


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these poems, without the express written permission of the authors, is

YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts - Copyright (c) 1993 - 2009 by 
Klaus J. Gerken.

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