YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts

May 2010

VOL XVIII, Issue 05, Number 205

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



   Ernest Slyman
      Law School


   Joseph Farley
      FLAG DAY
      First Snow
      The Flute
      London Fog
      Not From The Neighborhood

   Tyson Bley
      Not Trending
      My Town 

   John McKernan

   Emmanuel Jakpa
      What I wrote when you were away

   Gail Taylor

   Jason A Wilkinson
      Soapstone Paramours
      Take Life By The Nut-Sack
      Dutch Schultz Bobblehead
      Call My Name Through The Fallen Square


   Ernest Slyman
      The Palms


Ernest Slyman

Law School

The first year of beastly law school.
Stalked, its hideous, shrill cry.
Claws, fierce eyes. 
We tied a rope around
The beast and hoisted it high.
Its enormous, mile-long shiny bones,
jagged, crooked, razor-sharp, 
its skull full of smoke.

How it devoured us.
Tore our flesh that year. 
The beast snarled. Turned us inside out.
A pain we welcomed
by drinking rounds of stout.

Kindness was against the law.
A century of Justice snored
like a drunkard in a horse stall.
A starry Saturday night
leaped over the garden wall.

Centuries of criminals felt no remorse.
Two o'clock rode a spotted horse.

When will Baby learn to crawl?
Love was a juicy bone to gnaw.
Four o'clock in black shawl
read a Victorian novel
from Boston to Covington Hall.

Was our best necktie appealing?
Were there eternal truths
on the Sistine Chapel ceiling?

All divine, all and all,
Kindness was against the law.

We lived in an overly litigious nation.
Law was at war with civilization.
The court more uncivil, highly intimidating, 
the bourgeoisie parasites' infestation.
What was it the French Revolution kept insinuating?

The lesson plan. Go to class. Find your seat.
Leap like a frog from tort to tort.
Learn. Burn bright. Fade.
Acquire enough wealth to hire a chamber maid.
Be hideous when the sun goes down.
Understand the meaning of intoxication
has no bearing on your grade.

Keep secrets hush-hush,
avoid the beastly crush. 
Do not for any reason sneeze.
Know the meaning of absurd.
Entertain the eternal question 
“Who am I?” Be unperturbed
by its constant insatiable
manifestation. Hands that clutch 
about your throat and squeeze.

Conceal your true feelings. 
Let your mind be grimy and seedy.
Join the student bar association.
Wear blue trousers. Be greedy.

Drink and drink and drink, 
until your liver starts to bleed --
and when good and drunk, 
return to your dorm room and read.

Get sick. Get sick again. Cram for exams. 
Lose your voice to laryngitis. 
Soak your feet. Be prepared for a crushing defeat.

Turn in a trial brief. Read, read, read, read. 
Turn in an appellate brief. Bleed.

Oral arguments. Hang yourself by a rope.
Lose your winter coat. Register to vote.
Think of the day Lincoln was shot.
Dream of a courtroom full of cotton-candy,
a fifty-foot yacht, a motorcycle ridden 
by Mahatma Gandhi.  

Drink and drink and drink some more, 
until your liver starts to bleed --
and when good and drunk, 
return to your dorm room and read.

A starry Saturday night
leaped over the garden wall.
Kindness was against the law.

Joseph Farley


I never could stand
for hours
watching a toy train
run in circles
the way my father could.
I always needed
a destination,
couldn't sit
a lifetime
in one place
calmly laying track.

Delta ~~~~~ They say America was one great forest and a squirrel could travel from New York to the Mississippi without touching the ground then stare out over the water from the safety of tree branches at the forest receding into plains. I wonder if the whole forest shook with the first axe blow in Virginia. Did the falling log shout a warning to its brothers, or was it too shocked to speak? A red squirrel stares out at the Mississippi, sluggish brown water carrying mud to the delta. The wind is full of splinters, a thousand Jonahs spit up on the shore have come to carve roads and cities from your sanctuary. The brown river slides south taking your gaze with it. It will bury these moments in the marshes of the delta, pile up the many presents into the past. There is a carcass in the river. It will not reach the sea. The catfish will steal its message and keep it to themselves.
BIRDS ~~~~~ crows circle the graveyard build nests on the mausoleums my father says birds try to catch souls of men rising from the grave if caught they cannot reach heaven, become ghosts he was taught to throw stones for his father resting there a crow perches on a gravemarker it is not family I have no stones
EVOLUTION ~~~~~~~~~ I wish my parents had never crawled out of the ocean. How much easier to be a fish, to gobble, be gobbled by figures of silver in a blue sea.
Jar ~~~ a brown hollow jar not one crumb occupies this space
FLAG DAY ~~~~~~~~ Flags sprout up this time of year to glower at the flowers, entangle the passing bird in stripes. Who can forget the red white and blue stacked like crosses at the hardware store? Boys, shirts abandoned, parade the streets with toy guns, salute the waving form. Summer's breath is on their backs, July beckons with the heat of wars.
ATOMIC SITE ~~~~~~~~~~~ the scorpions were still alive hidden under day©rocks they came out to sting air hunt the remaining deathless roaches never paused to wonder where the flowering cactus the stickly pear the voiceless birds had gone the desert is not the same its clay hardened to rock remembers water remembers the cloud that broke the sky
WHY DOES IT SUDDENLY DECIDE ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Why does a book suddenly open in the wind, scatter the papers hidden there? Why didn't I see it coming, feel the pressure building, the binding ready to explode? I gather pages from bushes, find them dodging tires in the parking lot, clouding the sky with their freedom.
THE MAKING ~~~~~~~~~~ Heat the ingots in the fire, See them blaze red white. Seize them with the tongs, on the anvil, Force the metal into shapes. Or split the wood with an axe, Carve the fragments into birds so lifelike, They take flight.
DREAM ~~~~~ There are some dreams that should end like an old t.v. show, interrupted by applause and a word from the sponsor, to give us a chance to stand back and breathe, see what we've done, and understand why it must end.
ADVENTURE ~~~~~~~~~ When I was twenty I hitchhiked the length of the eastern seaboard dove from airplanes, chased whores through the side streets of Baltimore. For a six week summer I was bold; and saved up a life time of tales told to children, and lies told to lovers.
First Snow ~~~~~~~~~~ it caught the weather man by surprise left the plows idle over night and the world on its way to work mired in slush I risk hernia and heart attack to shovel out the driveway curse all snowmen with California
The Flute ~~~~~~~~~ in company of orchestra breeds a sound rival to the barrage of seabirds assembling on the beach the ocean's chorus
HOCKER ~~~~~~ now that I can finally spit halfway across thestreet in one solid glob not spraying or stringing off into beads, it is no longer glorious, a sign of manhood like it was when I was thirteen. Now, if I flaunt my skill, I'm labeled vulgar, obscene. What pleased the world when I couldn't pleases no one when I can.
London Fog ~~~~~~~~~~ you parade cross campus in your new raincoat briefcase in hand suddenly sophisticated you say mature the spark the spontaneity is gone from your walk your legs already pistons in the machine
Not From The Neighborhood ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ you were from that distant planet on the other side of the city and I could not understand your culture and language thirty miles more or less it might have been light years for all I know north is north and south is south they can never meet at least not here where every corner knows its name and every mother with a broom sweeps the streets with an eye for strangers
Tyson Bley Not Trending ~~~~~~~~~~~~ It might be a polished, beautiful, arranged marriage or it might be a cuckoo clock. But you may rest assured – everybody loves Xeroxing their body parts. Once when I became aroused by staring for over an hour at a supposed Xerox of the (fucking amazing) gazebo we built in the Catskills that past misty rainy May on Praxil, and realized it was indeed a limited edition Liza Minnelli foot, the practice began to rapidly flag around the office – like a real snip I’d collaged the thing madly over my cubicle walls for everyone to see, and since then the Xerox machine rested idle. Of course it wasn’t the gazebo! That gazebo had been so beautiful! This thing looked like cast-iron cookware! Commitments to trends do last. They do work, even if the trend is arranged marriage – Walmart will continue to set trends; WC condoms will continue to save lives. There are a couple of pigeon fanciers in my neighborhood, as there had been on that great, great trip we’d built that wonderful, wonderful gazebo on: the point is even they wouldn’t freak if a bird jumped out of Liza Minnelli’s big toe.
Boredom ~~~~~~~ So in picking a samoosa out of a Casio wristwatch I rely heavily on boredom. Another thing not for thaasophobics is studying trees on television – boredom is what you require, and then some. But the predator-prey relation between similes and metaphors creeps out like pus from a looming conical boil and before long it’s edifying and in boredom we shall experience this brand of edification. Yes, we will: it’s a unique 21st century malaise, to be sure – the brainchild of the Industrial Revolution. But I bet you dinosaurs had it too. So but before robots evolve better homemaking techniques you shall with your bored walleyed eyes see through opaque objects and understand Algal Rule, its peculiar dynamics and influence on X-ray-powered racing cars, gas pedal flapping uselessly as various time- walls are recklessly and whoopingly breached. We then, thanks to our boredom, will cruise by herds of smaller foraging dinosaurs of a time before such groovy terms as ‘thaasophobia’ or ‘samoosa’ even existed. I’m speaking from experience, goddamnit: that time I ate a toxic tart and, supine in bed, glotzed at large breasted how-to television presenters, I massaged my healthy iron rod – indeed, with BOREDOM I witnessed a dinner party disaster being all but the direct result of riding out this crushing, crushing wave of BOREDOM I was riding, at the dinner party. I peed from an exotic treehouse – again I do not remember how I ended up in said treehouse – into a bush of marijuana down below and normally, friends, I would not do such a thing. On which (i.e. the bush of marijuana I was uncharacteristically peeing on) the aforementioned small, and rather endearing dinosaur was doing its prehistoric rendition of ‘foraging’ – to the accompaniment of clicking mandibular sounds of a sort of disturbing nature…
My Town ~~~~~~~ In almost every popular movie there’s a subliminal frame in which municipal waste froths and bubbles up. It would cause audience-wide nausea and projectile vomiting and moral outrage if not for the fact that you can hardly see it because it’s so incredibly subliminal. Behind every celebrity lawsuit there’s the shady tale of a bizarre drug resistance formed in the wake of an overdose entailing anti- depressant deodorant and photovoltaics and Wii games in which the celebrity in question acts as a spiritually repugnant, horned, habit-dependant gorilla killer in a parodical Chuck Norris disguise. The drug in question is fly ointment – in which the litigating celebrity itself is the fly. Every pissing match is addictive. Ectoplasms are to infantilism what anti- depressants are to righteously indignant actors what municipal waste is to a crusading director. This is how important people and other movers and shakers fight their own demons: by enlisting in creepy contests and drinking weak tea. The goal behind every human endeavor is counterbalanced by a quirky desire to be entombed in a zoo – to defuse its own humorlessness. The nice things we do to others are invariably paired with urine trouble. The morning after an ejaculation of cynicism the puddle if you swipe a finger through it tastes like artificial sweetener. A sticky crystallization and an odor of diabetes and of sex springing from friction technology that, diluted with early morning dew, glaze free parking areas in which pigs sink and wooden spirits are the very defunct parking meters that serve as both inspiration behind and embodiment of this act of parking philanthropy. The city council likes to see itself as the Larva Mommy. At banquets it uses a carrion napkin to catch the dribblings of the populace’s nihilism – which it dines on with a ferocity that borders on musical. Its moniker is not incidental because everything about the city council oozes liquefaction; the mayor is a blob and his office chair is ergonomically designed to ensconce his buttocks with the artistry of a juggler, due to their many facets spilling over like the Tricky Sausage™ every defamer of Exit signs liked to play with as a kid. But even the liquefactionist mayor’s chair knows there is no real all-encompassing catcher of buttocks in the universe. And no exit.
John McKernan THIS NUMBNESS ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Weighs about Two Years Leap Its dimensions are Four scars per square midnight By eight pounds of cubed whimper Constructed Of at least sixteen echoes Broiled slow over a glowing past Rescued from a quilt of imitation dream I bored myself mindless as a child Spending entire days Doubling The number two To reach Trillions I'd have to slap those python figures Hard To keep them from falling off the page
THAT LITTLE TUTOR FEAR ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Is Hall Monitor today Scooting around With his bean-size portable paralysis machine Does an intersection Ever remember where it was Only a block ago? These paintings are ugly On purpose Why is the sun Wearing its cobra earrings? Where are the Kelvin Thermometers That can raid the past Bring it back Like a Floury mother in a blue apron Gently whipping her lost child home?
A BIRD-LIKE BARBECUE ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This Rotisserie This grilling of Hope The cries arise Give us more Night! Pack it more tightly about our ribs! The water on the river Has caught the candles of night Especially the tall elms and willows Waiting to be called for Coffin Duty Goodbye I will miss you Said the feckless Dawn To the imitation pennies Lying soft on the flat dry eyes
THE ENIGMA STEEPED IN SUNSET ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Induces a numbed euphoria Resembling the Number 3 The Enigma Of your body Induces me To become a Body Own a body How to go on When the riddle Becomes a riddle With no question No answer May Be Brother Jack You might Want lug in some Canned Death Into the silent consonants? No? I would have delivered you fresh slices Of Sunlight on a tray carved of cave shadow
SHUDDER ~~~~~~~ Shiver Slivers of Dissolved Memory After Amnesia Was given IV's She pointed at a Cocoa Tin Where they discovered All those fake ID's For someone Named John McKernan You think there's a jail Where you can turn in the past And receive A stack of coupons For a free six-pack of lies?
Emmanuel Jakpa What I wrote when you were away ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ for Alison Whelan I walk on those Cockle’s shells lined on the strand of Woods Town, taking breath, feeling the breeze under the skin. The breeze flowing like the Danube River, like the rainbow River of Han, like Barrow of the Slieve Blooms mountains in County Laois. As I am walking, I vividly imagine the feel of your laughter, soothing to the mind and heart, every tone rubbing the walls of my ears, sweet like a bell, how your absence alone turns the water of your loveliness into wine.
Seashells ~~~~~~~~~ for Alison Whelan The sun pours long light down the beach in torrent and the strand is wet. A man gestures and approaches me. He is on bare foot and holding pair of shoes in his right hand, neatly dressed as if he stops here after a banquet or something else. He dips his hands into his pockets and brings out beautiful seashells he picks there, to ask me what I think. And as I tell him they’re very fine, a smile polished in the bright sunshine rolls over his face. He turns and leaves. Later that evening in the room, I picture the two of us, in this shore of unbridled marvels and slow time, our words like those finer things people come here and look for, but never find.
Gail Taylor CARAVAN ~~~~~~~ They advanced slowly, a little caravan of six, the whole of Marion Stafford’s world. Her husband’s feet led the way, pointing like lances above the stirrups while she pushed the chair along. Sunlight played with the jaunty orange pennant flapping at the end of a stick fastened to the chair. Their children straggled alongside: two boys about ten years old, copies of each others, down to their frayed shirts and patched pants, a younger boy of about five or six with round eyes, and behind them all, a thin girl with spindle legs, apparently the eldest, scudding along like a bag of stones. The twin boys prodded each other and traded insults and loud laughs. "Look, there's a bench and some shade," Marion said. "Wouldn't it do us good to rest a moment before lunch?" Ignoring the bickering of the twins and the scowling of the girl, she steered the wheelchair toward a tree and aimed her ample shape at a wooden bench. Her husband twisted around to look at her, a puzzled frown taking hold. "I need to sit, Nelson," she said. "My legs are killing me." She looked down at her feet. Rising from sensible shoes were swollen legs, bulging with purple knobs under the paper white skin. She hoisted her feet and released all her breath with the shuddering rattle of a punctured balloon. Three heads turned in admiration. Then the moment vanished. "Mom, Billy burped in the ticket bin when we left," one of the twins said. "It was a baloney bull burp." "Did not," protested his twin brother. "Johnnie did it." The two older boys turned to six-year-old Johnnie, accusers in duplicate, and the littlest boy's eyes widened. "How does a baloney bull burp?" The older two belched, retched, and lost themselves in giggles. "Billy, Mike, stop it," their mother tsked. "Don't be irritating." “Babies," said their sister, stretching the 's'. "Did you not learn anything this morning?" It was 1967 and the third day of their week at the World's Fair in Montreal. On the first day, Marion had gathered them all, checking for sunhats, and made her announcements. "We should see our own country," she said, "before we go gallivanting around the world to the other countries." So they had perused the maps, taken the metro from the hotel with the big green sign, and boarded the mini-train to take them across the bridge and over the river to the Canadian pavilions on the island. At each transfer, Nelson hobbled with his cane up steps and down stairwells, and then staggered forward by stretching his hands along the walls. His wife had had the inspiration to rent the wheelchair. "Nelson, you'll be more comfortable. We'll see so much in a day. The buildings all have ramps." But her husband lurched defiantly down the walkway from the train. He'd fought a world war on these two legs he told her, gawd dammit all, and he was not getting in a bloody chair for a kids' amusement park. But the World's Fair covered several acres with dozens of buildings. As the morning wore on, it became clear even to him that if they were going to see more than one exhibit, there had to be a faster method. He finally agreed to the wheelchair, shaking his cane at them. Outside the Canada buildings was a replica of the northlands: the Rocky Mountains, a miniature waterfall and a heap of shining stones that the boys immediately clambered upon. "Boys, Billy, Michael, Johnnie, all of you. Come down this instant," their mother said, avoiding the stares of people flooding by. "We're here to learn, not dally like sheep." Inside they saw displays about aboriginal peoples and about the prairies. They learned about metals and minerals. "'Treasures of the northlands'," Marion said, reading the caption above a display of mining ore. Stirring music spilled from a dark blue-carpeted film room beside the display as people streamed out. The next show was beginning. "Can we see the movie?" asked Sarah. "The aisles are wide enough for daddy's chair and you can sit, mom." Just before the film started, Marion noticed that her youngest child was still outside the door. "Sarah, go get Johnnie. He's daydreaming again," she said and Sarah went to peel her little brother away from the mining display where he was staring at the sparkles in the rocks. “Jewels,” he said. His eyes were bright as buttons. The theatre went dark and the family grew quiet during the film, staring at the screen. The music swelled and scenes of lush forests and rich mines and tunnels through mountains captured them all, even Nelson. Just as the movie rolled to a close, Marion spied Johnnie blowing with all his might into an empty candy box he'd found, trying to make an explosion. She seized it in time and gave him one of her looks. The movie ended and they joined the line of people shuffling to the outside. "Okay. What's the difference between fission and fusion?" Sarah asked her brothers with a superior air. "I like fishin'," said Billy. "You don't have the energy," said Mike, poking his twin with an elbow. "Don't push," Marion said absently without looking around, absorbed as she was in piloting the wheelchair between the ropes guiding them out. Along the corridor there were posters showcasing the regions of Canada. "See, kids," said their mother, "even our little place counts. We're not big like the farms out west, but it says here that southern Ontario is important to the country." Sarah started singing the Ontario song, A place to stand, a place to grow, raising her voice and flinging out thin arms the way she imagined a real artist would for the last part: Ontari-ari-ari-O. "You look stupid," said Michael. He made a face at her. "Dopey," Billy agreed. “Ontario turkey.” They reached the exit doors where a large mural covered the walls with trees and sky and Marion stopped the chair. "If the glory of Europe is art and architecture," said Marion in the dignified voice she normally used for praying, "then truly, the beauty of Canada has to be our geography. Look at that picture of those mountains, the jagged rock, and the climbing pine trees. Look at the elk. Nelson, remember the summer we went to Banff before Johnnie was born?" Her husband managed a crooked smile but she saw that his blood sugar level was dipping. She realized that soon he would be weak and cranky. The family left early that day for the hotel. On the second day, Marion said they could sample the rest of the world so they began with Europe. They admired the delicate Hungarian lace floating like lustrous phantoms in the velvet theatre ("eee-yew, spider webs," Billy had said); they marvelled at masterworks of Austrian crystal displayed in shimmering cases ("glass with zits," Sarah had said); they gazed in awe at towering stacks of national cheeses in the France pavilion ("Cow fat," pronounced Mike, "comes from cow tits," sending his brothers into convulsive laughter and Sarah into deeper disdain.) The third day had arrived, and they were 'doing' Asia. They had finished two pavilions and needed lunch. Now they were out in the sun at noon, leaving the building where Billy had burped, and proceeding down the walk to find food. First, they had to rest. Marion fanned herself with a brochure while the boys flopped down beside a tree and ripped up blades of grass to fashion trapsfor grasshoppers. Sarah turned her back and faced away, as if she were totally unrelated to the five people behind her. She was different bigger, stronger, brighter than her brothers. She was enraged that she presented to the world the same sunken eyes, the same high forehead, and the same pinched concern as her father. Facing away from the crowds, she couldsee the monorail train on suspended tracks slipping around the edges of the park and saw herself inside, riding away to her real home, somewhere in the city, a house with a normal family and a sidewalk and a careful carpet of grass, without a speck of the scrabble brush and dirt of a mixed-crop farm. Johnnie stopped his job as a trap maker and came around to his mother. He had to go to the bathroom, he said, wriggling in his worn shoes. "Again, Johnnie?" she said, running her hand in his curly hair. "Billy and Mike, go with him. Look, there's a sign over there." "Nah, Mom, we don't have to go." "Run then, Johnnie. And hurry. Remember, we're at the . . ." she squinted at the sign on the nearest building, striking in its brilliant blue-tiled cladding, just a few yards away, ". . . at the Iranian Pavilion." The little boy ran off and Marion resumed fanning her face, her breath stuttering in a shallow staccato. Her husband shifted impatiently, wanting his lunch. The twins caught a grasshopper and crowed victory. Sarah closed her eyes so she would not have to see or touch or hear the challenge of these people, the weird parents, and the obnoxious brothers. Cicadas buzzed their industrious crescendos. Heat clung like a thick web. Time gelled. Johnnie had been bored all morning. Everyone took so long to get past the slow stuff. The spider webs yesterday were all right, but the Canadian pavilion on the first day was the best part. One day he would drive a big truck like the ones in the movie about mining. There was a big yellow machine they called an insect. Yes, what was it? A caterpillar. He liked that one. There was energy in the mine, the movie said. The machines dug out stones and then other machines made energy from them. He had a lot of energy. His mother was always saying, “I don't know where you get your energy, Johnnie." He was pleased that his mother had allowed him to go to the washroom by himself. He and his twin brothers had been corralled like a pen of steers for the last two days. They shared a bed at the hotel at night and then all day the others tormented him with their games and tricks. It was good to be free of them for a moment. He was quick in the bathroom. He didn't understand the different languages around him and there were many men, few kids. He peered out the door as he dried his hands and twisted his neck like an inquisitive bird, pretending that he had a dad waiting for him just outside. He did that a lot, pretending that his dad was standing outside, just around the corner, waiting to pick him up and take him into town where they would bat a ball around the park together and run the bases, and when he scored a run, his dad would notice and clap and jump. His elder brothers could remember when their father could jump. "He used to swim, too," Billy had said. "Beat the other dads." Johnny could see his father cutting out from shore with a vee of dads beating after him, fanned wide like geese in autumn. As Johnnie left the damp coolness of the toilets and came out to the blaze of the sun, he thought about what his mother had said. After pausing for a moment and crooking his head to one side, he knew what he had to do. He set off at a brisk walk, motoring his six-year-old legs as fast as they would go. While the family waited for the youngest to return, the two older boys graduated from grasshoppers to whistles. Billy showed Mike how to pluck a fat blade, thumb-pinch and blow. Rude wet sounds dissipated into helpless chortles and they rolled on the grass like puppies. "Boys, stop that," said their mother and they dissolved again. Marion put down her paper fan. "Do you want people to think you're hillbillies?" she said, glancing in embarrassment at the people passing by with their shiny baby carriages and bright new clothes. Billy imitated her voice. "Boyees, stop that." He had the intonation spot-on, the nasal diphthong, and the raised chin. His mother gave him one long look and he retreated to building traps again. "Infants," hissed Sarah. Nelson began pulling impatiently at the arms of his chair and Marion turned to stroke his shoulder. "Where is that child?" With her other hand she sheltered her eyes from the sun as she looked for her youngest. "Billy and Mike, go around back and get him. He's such a dawdler." The twins arose in articulated sections from the grass, first a knee, an arm, and then a reluctant hip, unrolling at a torturous pace until they stood at an angle, their heads drooping in feigned frailty. Billy moved first. "You're it," he said, poking Mike in the ribs and racing to the back of the building. His brother followed, yelling. Within less than a minute, they were back, punching each other and watching their mother. "Not there, Mom." Billy grinned at the heck that their little brother was going to get. "Of course he is. Go back in there and find him. Go on, now." They went back and this time they were gone several minutes. Nelson jerked his head at his wife and barked something. She realized his blood sugar was dropping and he needed to eat. She instructed Sarah to go to the nearest building and use her schoolgirl French to talk to the attendants. Perhaps Johnnie had gone inside. The twins finally returned. "Nope," said Billy. "Probably ran away," Mike added hopefully. When Sarah also returned with no news, her mother was very quiet. "But they told me where we can get drinks," Sarah said. Her mother scrabbled in her purse and retrieved a bill. "Here, Sarah, be a love and get some juice for everyone." The girl left, her slouch all but gone, and she strode off like someone with an important mission. It took Johnnie quite a while to reach the place. He figured that his mom and dad were somewhere near and he sat at the bottom of a rock pile to wait. He looked at the people going by. There was a man with a broom and a funny hat clearing up paper cups along the sidewalk. There were teenagers holding hands and laughing loudly. There were lots of families. Some had babies in strollers. The dads all walked normally, wearing sandals and shorts. Some of them carried their little kids. When Johnnie looked beyond the sidewalk, he could see the pavilions around the fair grounds and the trains that ran on skinny stilts above people's heads. In the city across the river, the buildings were great mirrors. He could even see a part of the green sign on their hotel but the letters were tiny because it was so far away. The sky was the colour of a boy bluebird's wings. It was taking a while for his mom and everyone to show up so Johnnie amused himself by scampering up and down the pile of rocks like a hired hand on a wagon of alfalfa at harvest time. The sun was hot, though, so he crouched on the shady side and watched the splotch of light creep along the glistening ridges of the rock to his shelter, pulling his sneakers back into the cool once the hot edge teased his feet. Soon murmurs of the park wrapped around him and he lowered his head. Cradling his knees with his arms, he pitched slowly back and forth to keep from falling off. "Hello, little man. Are you lost?" A man smiled up at him. "Nope," said Johnnie. "My mom and dad are coming. They told me to wait." He looked at the man's shoes, white as whitewash, not a speck of dirt or grass stain. "That's good, then," said the man. "I'm not supposed to talk to strangers," Johnnie added. The man nodded solemnly. "Then we'll stop talking, shall we? Have a good afternoon." With that, he continued down the walk. Johnnie watched the white shoes pad away softly. A lot of time went by. When the sun took over his shady spot, he climbed to another. He found that, if he went high enough on the hot stones, he could see different views of the city. The tops of the buildings showed up more and more and when he stretched, he could see the whole of the green sign on the hotel. The drinks Sarah had bought kept everyone happy for five minutes. Her father was the first to protest, punching the arms of the wheelchair and banging his heels on the footrest. The children fell silent. Everyone was used to his canes; it was his fits that made them jumpy. "We'll go to the food court," Marion said, her face tight. "You can eat and I'll look for the officials." She rose and eased the chair forward from the grass to the sidewalk and the caravan proceeded again into the thick heat of midday, now a more solemn group, Nelson's legs spearing the way, the boys kicking at bits of trash, Sarah a bit straighter, no longer challenging her brothers. The breeze slackened and the orange triangle hung like a flap of useless skin. I took several minutes to find the food court. Marion installed them at a table and went to find someone, anyone who might help. The kitchen staff understood English. "Lost Children, Madame", the cook told her. "You go to Lost Children." He showed her a map and drew a line from the food court to a central space called Les Enfants Perdus. Marion looked back at her family. Sarah was feeding her father, the twins gobbling hamburgers. She calculated that they would keep for half an hour. Johnnie wondered where his family was. Maybe his father had had one of his problems and they had to go to a doctor. Maybe they had forgotten him. Yes, that's what happened. Sometimes at home, his mother would take off in the car to go to town with his brothers and would have to stop partway up the lane to wait for him. Sure, they had gone without him. The sun was coming at a slant and the rough rasp of the rocks was cooler on his hands. Somewhere on the island, a revolving beacon cut a slow circle in the sky, a giant's lawn sprinkler dialling a circle in the gloom. The people Johnnie had seen entering the exhibition buildings were now coming out, pushing babies in strollers, carrying plastic bags. Some of the babies were hollering and whining. Kids were holding streamers and paper toys from the displays they had seen. New types of people were going in the other direction. He could see teenaged boys in tight pants and white socks and girls wearing short skirts. They were holding hands and walking in groups. They were not going into buildings; they were moving toward an open field where he could hear music. He wished that his brothers were here bossing him around. Or his sister could be bawling out Mike and Billy and then he could be learning, for he was the youngest and he learned by avoiding the trouble the rest of them caught. But he was alone. The beacon waggled its thin finger of light. He looked across the river. The city was a stack of blazing colour, the tall buildings like giant candles burning from the inside. The green sign on the hotel was as bright as a movie against a cartoon sky the colour of lilacs. As he stood at the top, rising high to see, the man in white shoes from earlier in the afternoon came back down the walk. He had something in tin foil and he smiled up to Johnnie. "You can't talk to strangers, okay, but you could eat a hot dog, couldn't you?" The fat bundle in the man's hand stretched to Johnnie like a gift. He could taste the sweet and salty fat of the wiener, the sugar of the ketchup, the juice of the relish. Even onions he wouldn't mind. He climbed down and took the foil package from the man, taking care to thank him. His mother had always said you should show city people that you know your manners; they always think country people are ignorant. "You're welcome, sailor." The man sat down and watched him eat. When the hot dog was gone, Johnnie picked the relish bits from the foil. "I like a hungry boy," said the man. "Would you like more? Come, little man, I'll show you more." He smiled at the boy and his teeth glistened like hard candies. He put one soft shoe on a low rock and jangled coins in his pocket. At Les Enfants Perdus, Marion's eyes darted around like a trapped bird's. She saw children eating ice cream and children playing with toys and parents with pinched faces. But she did not see her youngest son. She went to the counter and stood waiting, the welts in her legs twisting under her skin. The park officials took down the 'particulars'; they had special forms to fill out. Age? How much did the boy weigh? Maybe eighty pounds, certainly no more. All his young life she'd nagged him to eat. Height? Not much. He'd be smaller yet if she hadn't discovered the wasting when he was three years old. She first had noticed a slight limp and called to him. He came with a smile, a stain on his ragged cotton T-shirt. When she examined the little legs sticking out of his shorts, she saw that the right one was thinner than the left. It was the summer of polio. She hurried the whole family into the car and they drove to the medical clinic. Johnnie had to do special exercises and wear a metal brace. It took a whole year to grow a bit and to regain the use of the leg. The memory for her was like a knife cut, the summer she forgot her youngest child. He must have contracted the polio early in the season and no one had noticed until August. What was he wearing? Short pants or long? Johnnie didn't have specific clothes of his own. He wore whatever fit, hand-me-downs, once-bright tees gone grey, and jeans rubbed thin. What was he wearing that day? Billy's shirt, she thought. Mike's old socks. Colour of eyes? Hair? What did he like to do? An image of Johnnie at two reeled into her mind. In the middle of the night, there came a strange clicking, a plastic sound, not the usual skittering of field mice in the attic or the sawing of crickets in the wallboards. She and Nelson arose, for her husband could walk then, and they checked through all the bedrooms. When they came to the nursery, they found their little son sitting in the dark, eyes closed, playing with his toy bricks. He was sleep-building. They gently pried the pieces away and put him back to bed. "He likes building things in his sleep," she said. The officials at Les Enfants Perdus looked at each other. Wait another hour, they told her: it takes time for people to bring a lost child to the centre. Anyway, she had other sons, they joked. Marion glared at them, fighting to keep from crying in front of these strangers. As Johnnie finished the hot dog, the man reached a hand toward him. "Come with me, little man," he whispered. Johnnie looked past him. The sky was deep purple now and the city's lights were showing double in the river, broken into twinkles by lazy waves. The beacon sliced its circle in the dark with a crisp clean knife. Something cold clawed inside him and there was a damp and mysterious smell in the evening air. Johnny looked past the man with white shoes and saw a woman pushing a pink baby buggy far down the walkway. His chest tightened. He half-turned, coiled like a barn cat, and sprang. In the split second of the flying arc on the way down, he arranged his sneakers and his mind for ground touch and landed, the right leg wobbly at first, then both legs solid and true. "Oh, there they are," he said airily. "There's my mom and little sister," and he bounded with the gaiety that accompanies reunions with loved ones. When Marion returned to Les Enfants Perdus for the fourth time that afternoon, the police had arrived. They took her into a room and asked her questions. Had there been an argument with the boy? Did he have reason to be upset? They would put out a bulletin across the fairgrounds, by phone and poster and walkie-talkie. They told her the same thing the park security had earlier: kids do this at fairs, they wander away, and then they show up. They told her to stay nearby so they could reach her. The calmer the police were, the more Marion's mind spiralled. He's a blond curly-haired boy, she told them, small for his age, bright and creative. A country boy, she said; he doesn't know cities or crowds. Then she had to turn away from the officers, because this time, she could not stop the hot welling that stung her eyes. After his jump from the top of the rocks to the sidewalk, Johnnie rocketed with a raw new power. Without looking back, he sped toward the woman with the baby buggy who was now disappearing around a bend in the walk. He didn't stop when he reached the lady but he did slow down and skipped in front, bouncing like a playful lamb on springs, as if he had no cares at all. As soon as the lady reached the gate to the train platform, he veered away and took the exit to the bridge instead. It was only when he got beyond the gate that he looked back. He saw no man in white shoes. Cars whizzed past as he walked across the bridge toward the city, watching the green sign move. It wafted slowly along with him the way the moon did when his mother drove them in the car into town at night. He walked past office towers where people were leaving to go home, rushing out in dark clothes and hard shoes and black umbrellas. Many carried little narrow suitcases. On one corner, he saw a blue tower with a big golden clock. Now that he was old and smart he was supposed to be able to tell time and he stopped to puzzle it out: nine minutes and seven hours. Or was that nine hours and seven minutes? There was a large open area in front of a building made of glass and lights. People in fancy dresses and funny suits were getting out of long white cars and walking up wide steps. Music floated out and pulled the people inside. He kept going. Now he was on a narrow street clogged with garbage and cardboard boxes that spilled out to the pavement. Cars edged around the boxes and honked at each other. A heavy door in a dark building opened and a bunch of men poured out, slapping each other’s backs and talking fast in French. Johnnie knew it was French because his sister was trying to learn French. She complained all the time. "Comment ça va, mon p'tit?" a slurred voice said to him. "Une p'tite bière?" "Tiens!" said another, patting his head and draping a cord with a tiny plastic bottle around his neck. Johnnie reminded himself he should not talk to strangers. He walked away so fast that he lost sight of the sign. His stomach began to curl in hard knots but when he went around another corner, he found the bright green letters again. As he trudged along he came to a store where there was a family speaking French with their two little kids looking in the window. He stood beside them and looked inside too. They could see puppets and model planes and toy cars. When the family went into the toy store, he followed them. The store was fun and they all spent a lot of time there. No one wondered about him because he stayed with the other children, imitating them, exclaiming, "voilà!" and "tiens!” But he was careful to behave. He wanted so much to stick out his elbows and pump his arms like wings when the little kids said, "quoi? quoi?"—but he didn't. His mom would have been proud. As the family left the store, the clerk at the door held out a basket of key chains attached to toys for each kid to choose. Johnnie followed the family as they left and put his hand in the basket too. There were little plastic gloves and cash registers and even a ball like the shining building back at the fair. He picked out a key chain with a tiny, white running shoe. The green sign kept growing bigger and bigger, but he found that the closer he got, the harder it was to keep it in view. Sometimes the sign played with him, flitting out of view then drifting into a narrow slice of sky between the trunks of buildings. Other times he had to retrace his steps and go back a few streets to find it. Even if he could only see a few letters at least, he had a piece. His feet were aching and he was now very thirsty. He kept walking. The park had closed to day visitors. Sarah brought her mother some tea but her mom gagged and could not drink. The daytime crowd was leaving, families with strollers and children straggling alongside. The nighttimes crowd was arriving, teenagers dressed in miniskirts and jeans and leather jackets, lots of big jewellery. Sarah watched them in envy. They were coming for the dancing and the bands, laughing, flirting, moving in packs to La Ronde where the Youth Pavilion was. Her mother touched her arm. "Sarah," she said, "you and daddy and the twins should go back to the hotel. You can take a taxi. No need for you all to stay here. I'll come later with Johnnie." Sarah steered the wheelchair and her brothers down the walk to the exit and her mother went the other way towards the police depot. Johnnie felt a cold squeeze in his chest. He was on a wide street that looked like the one where the hotel was. And a minute ago, the sign had been very large and the letters seemed to be above his head. Now he couldn't see the sign at all, not even one letter. He seemed to be in a parking lot where a man in a uniform was using a flashlight to direct cars in and out. It was all right to talk to a police officer and a man in a uniform is almost a police officer, not a stranger. "Excuse me, sir." His father had taught him to call people "sir." "I'm looking for the hotel with the green sign on top." "Voilà, mon petit monsieur." He flashed his light toward the corner of the building. "Go around to the front where the main doors are. Beautiful evening, non?" Only the Youth Pavilion with the dance band was open. Marion had no choice but to go home now. Without Johnnie. In later years, she would not be able to remember the trip from the island to the hotel. She would not recall if she had taken the train, or a cab or a bus. She only remembered labouring into the hotel lobby, still holding her face in a rigid mask to contain her terror. Vaguely, she saw her husband sound asleep on a sofa in the waiting area, his cane angled by his side. Her burning eyes took in the rest of the lobby and then she snapped alive. There, on the opposite side in a huge leather armchair, she saw him, her youngest. He was sleeping too, his face a pale moon, his thin form swallowed in the chair. Relief washed from the top of her skull and down her spine. She ran over and shook him awake with her hugging. "Where were you? Who brought you back?" She suffocated a rising sob. "I waited for you, Mom, and you didn't come." "But we were right there. Where did you wait?" "At the Iranium." But he was tired and she saw that he could not pronounce it correctly. "But we were there, child. Where were you?" "I was sitting on the Iranium the whole time," he said accusingly, "and you didn't come. I sat at the bottom and then at the top." She changed topic. "Who brought you back to the hotel?" A tiny plastic beer bottle at his neck advertised the name of a tavern and she shivered. "I did." He scrubbed at his eyes. "What do you mean, Johnnie?" He held out his hand, unwrapped his fist and showed her the key chain. "I walked. A store gave me this." "What do you mean, you sat on the Iranian?" asked his mother, returning to the original question. "I went there and climbed up. You know, the Iranium, where the energy is." "The energy?" "Yes, Mom, you know—where the mines are." A crooked grin awoke his pinched little face. Taking Victoria Bridge to Peel, a good ten miles or more separated the hotel from the Canadian Pavilion on Ile Ste.Helène. Long after they returned home, Ontario's song ran on all the radio stations, blaring at them: A place to stand, a place to grow. Even Sarah grew tired of it. END
Jason A Wilkinson Soapstone Paramours ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ She bored a thin hole in my sedan chair leaving the silt of forlorn pleasures in want of sweeping; the portraits crooked on their nails A calypso ballad dangles from the stereo wafting its tenuous pulsations where silent dance once pinioned shadows amid tapestry and rug incense and soapstone -paramours fused in maudlin grace The laminated Saracen discloses an unbecoming physiognomy from its paper tumulus beckoning me to Florence and the vigorous dialectic of Savonarola chiding the resolve of my study with taciturn derision Night-birds crowd the lonesome tree outside, plaintively musing the fall of our twilit sentinels Oft have I heard them whisper beyond the sill their gossamer vestments camouflaged succinctly under a jade carapace Though here must I find reverie burthensome and mephitic where fixtures became truncated in the softening lights so that even my lone steps drifted among the jigsaw of flown days.
She ~~~ Found words drew a line through the vacuum retracing that isolated framework with neon gel Though it is said that her voice can sear tracks in the Universe under glass waves broken numerals on a smudged cloth practice my heart to chime like terpsichorean bells Gilt sleeves of tapered jade blind me in an unhewn summer field Verdant stiles between them patching the cloth of our wingless flight Paring the down Where fair skies drove us from shelter cavernous, teakwood eyes piece me together in the attenuated lamplight Transistor flickering like a distant candle through the matrix of wild flora beyond her impossible smile Valhalla glimmered tangentially chained-up counting the footsteps to Eden.
Take Life By The Nut-Sack ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ And run with it until the putrefied bits slip through your fingers causing infections to spread like gossip over them staining your clothes Run with it until it dries in your hands though it were no more than powder and the hair upon that scrotum has desiccated beyond recognition Until you no more notice the stench of it than that of a dead fly entombed beneath the azaleas and pedestrians are obliged to wear protective gear lest you should contaminate them unawares Run with the precious nickel bag twisting every last demand from its host -bury your nails in supple flesh if only to exact more and more Take Life by the nut-sack and wear it on a chain next to the promise rings and that fake shark tooth your uncle Dougie swore came from ’a big one’ he caught off the coast of Jamaica last spring Take Life by the nut-sack and treat it like a prostitute dragging it through the streets at the ends of frayed tethers Use its head for a battering ram against hard-to-open doors Take Life by the nut-sack without compunction or delusion or the occasional hangover Take Life by the nuts and unto those testes do what Conscience dictates must be inflicted upon no other.
Dutch Schultz Bobblehead ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I crane my neck stealing fragments of the rubber song pinioned, obeisant lamps masticate cigar plumes -time immemorial consciousness is revisited on the floor mat in a lukewarm Black Russian glasses pale skin The dance floor is naked planks along a broken hall voices muffled soporifically to refrain This is a tennis ball silencer dropped among excrescent coppice verdure melting there without ceremony lawnmowers graze menacingly between the heavy stones Rosewater Braille taunts the air ;peregrine incense receding unnoticed liquids I limp from the dashboard exhibiting amid other qualities of less obvious repute a propensity to roll under the seats where churchyard plastic bathes my corpulent skull with music.
Call My Name Through The Fallen Square ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Where quietude is manic hail me through iron-clad forests past vagabond mansions Let your voice echo among those solemn relics Kneel down along a fetid brook; there rivulets simper but do not flow -whose black metal skin glimmers indifferently among palsied flowers Look for me neath the upturned flame the misplaced extremity Bent pike heads loiter in dejected clusters as if in speechless commune over the workless days ahead Faded placards lean helplessly above them hiding in a memory Call me through the middling haze its lingering engagement beyond quondam parvenus the ether is hemlock Feel me in the closing requiem of Jupiter and Narcissus guiding like a faraway excrescence Touch me until the pall catches fire.


Ernest Slyman

The Palms

Now in their infinite pleasures,
some deepened sense of grandeur 
comes to rescue everything,
as though it had always known
how much sacrifice it must make --
and mingles with the vagrant evening,
and one by one the old brick cottages, 
worn smooth and hoary-white
by decades of rain, ice and wind, 
at once restored, 
tremble and blossom new--
the front porches at last believing in God,
the fierce, terrible, shiny hallucinations 
of a fumbling, queer dusk
that quarrels in the alleyways
and comes more tenderly 
than the limber starlight
that plays the fields like a lute.
And the crest-fallen streets
hide inside the stems of dandelions,
and drainpipes whisper the names of flowers,
and garden hoses ask impossible questions
not even the moon knows.

Surely the fall of dark
must seem highly contrived
to fireflies in the churchyard, 
which beckon from no where 
the plump streets 
floating above the rooftops.

And while the shameless sidewalks undress, 
dropping their bedclothes along the hour,
streetlamps hold close the huddled streets.
The self-absorbed, dimmed windows
covered in parchment made of oiled sheepskin
leaping toward the seen and unseen
promise dawn will surely break. 


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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 - 2010 by 
Klaus J. Gerken.

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