A Journal of Contemporary Arts 






Maggie and Faith, single and middle-aged,
were best of friends. Each summer without fail
they headed north to rooms they had engaged
in a large private home. (Though, truth to tell,
one room, since cash was scarce, but with twin beds.)
“Such lovely maiden ladies,” people said.

It was Grandmother’s house they hosteled in;
she rented rooms and had some time to spare
to wash the sheets and towels, dust and clean.
She charged them, but the price was more than fair.
Unlike the other guests blown by the winds,
she thought of Faith and Maggie as old friends.

Maggie was large and jolly, plump and round,
with stories and a cheerful sort of wit.
Faith was reserved and prim, and when she found
a chair outside the bustle, she would knit
and watch the fun, and smile a thin-lipped smile,
as Maggie kept us chuckling all the while.

And they adopted all our family
as if they had no people of their own.
“Aunt Maggie” and “Aunt Faith” they were to me.
We hardly ever saw the two alone.
They came to family picnics in the park
and brought hot dogs and talked long after dark.

They played canasta and they watched the soaps.
They walked along the harbor where the yachts
bobbed in the breezes, straining at the ropes.
They went to plays and criticized the plots.
And if they ever longed for life to bloom,
they kept that longing in their single room.

One summer – maybe it was late July –
we went to watch the sunset on the bay,
and Faith had something odd about her eye
that puzzled me, though why I couldn’t say.
When Maggie made a joke, I saw her lift
an eyebrow, but I didn’t catch the drift.

Next winter came a letter and a shock.
“I’m getting married,” Maggie wrote. The man,
whose name was Jimmy, made his wealth in stock
and would be good to her. It was their plan
to visit at the usual time, she said,
if they could get a room with double bed.

Come summer, heartening as sunny days,
Maggie was there, with Jimmy by her side
to join the family outings and to raise
a glass to toast the sweetness of the bride.
But Faith was ill that year and never came,
and after that ...nothing was quite the same.

We heard she moved down south and tended gardens
and was content, from all that we could learn.
Some people say a heartwound dries and hardens,
yet years went by and Faith did not return.
Perhaps she thought that none of us would care,
but something faded when she was not there.

She was the dimmer light. We looked her way
only when nothing bolder caught the eye.
But still she had a minor part to play
until the headlong action passed her by.
She’d known a world in which she might discover
a vision of herself. Now that was over.




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Wherever my Letitia goes
she is preceded by her toes.
And as the wise observer knows,
on every toe a toenail grows.

It grows without impedance till
it overfills the shoe, and still
torments her like a hedgehog’s quill.
Then will she have it trimmed? She will.

And so Letitia, lover, friend,
finding it difficult to bend,
requests I intervene to end
a soreness that a blade can mend.

With fetching faith does she surrender
toes exquisite, soft and tender
to offices she prays I’ll render
although she knows my skills are slender.

Then I, with eyes precise and keen,
address the toe with my machine,
intending to produce a clean
division at the golden mean.

O brave campaigns that go awry!
O roads too often traveled by!
O blades that close when flesh is nigh!
Letitia shrieks! (A crystal cry.)

Now gentler than the poppy’s dust
and softer than a zephyr’s gust
yet urgent as a satyr’s lust,
I pant to save her fainting trust.

With mien morose and melancholic
and stratagems near-diabolic,
I ward off curses vitriolic
while feigning virtues apostolic.

Again I face the trembling digit
and force my fingers not to fidget,
maneuv’ring all the while the widget
to make that giant nail a midget.

While she endeavors not to flinch,
I promise her it will not pinch,
and with a superhuman clinch
curtail the nail by half an inch.

One down. Now only nine toes left
to be of excess claws bereft
by moves so intricate and deft
her feet will celebrate the theft.

Ascending the chromatic scale,
I conquer each successive nail.
Resistance is of no avail.
At last Letitia can exhale.

So lovers, let us celebrate
collusion to abbreviate
mad outgrowths, and our not-too-late
avoidance of a tragic fate.

Set free at last, Letitia springs
through woods, past streams and fairy rings,
and overleaps all earthly things
as if her toes had sprouted wings.





from the Book of Hours




As the watchman in the vineyards
from his cottage waits for light,
in your hands, Lord, I’m the cottage,
and the night, Lord, of your night.

Vineyard, meadow, apple orchard
never skipping spring’s new twigs,
figtree that in marble-hardened
earth still bears a hundred figs:

Fragrance is flowing from your branches.
You do not ask who wakes or dreams.
Your depths, dissolved in sap, are rising
past me in quiet, fearless streams.


Wie der Wächter in den Weingeländen
seine Hütte hat und wacht,
bin ich Hütte, Herr, in deinen Händen
und bin Nacht, o Herr, von deiner Nacht.

Weinberg, Weide, alter Apfelgarten,
Acker, der kein Frühjahr überschlägt;
Feigenbaum, der auch in marmorharten
Grunde hundert Früchte trägt:

Duft geht aus aus deinen runden Zweigen.
Und du fragst nicht, ob ich wachsam sei;
furchtlos, aufgelöst in Säften steigen
deine Tiefe still an mir vorbei.


These must be mountains I pass through alone,
embedded in hard veins like so much ore,
and I’m so deep I see no end in store,
no distance either; everything is near
and all the nearness solid stone.

I am not yet a master of my pain,
so this great darkness only makes me small;
but if you are, grow heavy and break in:
that your whole hand upon me may befall
and I on you with cries I can’t restrain.


Vielleicht, daß ich durch schwere Berge gehe 
in harten Adern, wie ein Erz allein; 
und bin so tief, daß ich kein Ende sehe 
und keine Ferne: alles wurde Nähe 
und alle Nähe wurde Stein.

Ich bin ja noch kein Wissender im Wehe, – 
so macht mich dieses große Dunkel klein; 
Du es aber: mach dich schwer, brich ein: 
daß deine ganze Hand an mir geschehe 
und ich an dir mit meinem ganzen Schrein.






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