Friday, October 31, 2003

Niagara at my house

The drip in the bathroom
echoes. The splash each droplet
makes as it hits the tub
is joined by the sound of a slow leak,
water escaping the toilet tank,
the makings of a percussion
orchestral movement.
There’s a conspiracy for everything
to fall apart at once.
In the morning, I’ll wake to the sounds
of the sink faucet adding to the cacophony,
a crescendo building until finally
like Niagara, a rush of waters,
an overtaking.

Perhaps that’s why I don’t drag out
the tools, the wrench and other unnamed
instruments of the Mr. Fix-it set; I’m waiting
for the flood of water
to overcome and pour down my stairs.

Copyright 2003 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Poem for my sister

Flatness gives way to a deep horizon.
It is dusk and the red light
is fading fast into the fire
of autumn. The sky and the earth
are both in flames with the red
of battle between the sun and moon.

Mayolie lives under
the canopy of Arizona skies –
big and blue
and broken with billowing white clouds
all the way
to where heaven greets the earth. The horizon. Where
life would be different, she

It is this evening in the realm
of fire that Mayolie reaches
for the bottle. Cheap whiskey
once named firewater
and brought west. It is like
every other night, while
in the sky there is a new
star, bright and not flickering in the purple
between day and night. This night
will be different.

Once the cool has crept down
from the mountains, and the mounds
of earth and wood become quiet,
Mayolie struggles to sleep beneath
a wool blanket weaved in someone’s
front room. In her sleep she sees past
the new star…

With her dreams, Mayolie becomes
a she-wolf in the hills and lives in the safety
of a space between three rocks. But she is hunted
by large men with gleaming eyes
and red hot rifles. And the men
are the leaders of the village
and she sees the hatred in their faces
and she sees they laugh
when she is cornered. And they shoot
her and leave her cubs
to die.

In the morning, Mayolie remembers,
and she knows the place for her child
is not in the flatlands, but in the world
of the horizon.

Copyright 2003 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Invisible Forms

Why do you hide your soul from me, am I not part of you
You look at me, speak at me, but I am not in your view
I've known not a day that you seemed glad I was born
Ever a stranger there are times I think you still mourn
The very day I came into your world
And into fatherhood you were hurled
Your heart's been closed like a cold steel door
Of yourself you cannot give more
Into your heart I cannot pass
Sadness is all I amass
You don't know me I don't know you
How very cheated are we two
To never know our hearts to share
Our common heritage, it's some where's there
Why can't you free feeling if you feel
I'm part of my mother that's very real
Twilight is coming one day
Words will die with us, never to say
Kindness, encouragement, hope or love
How wonderful to embrace all the above
How sad to leave so much unsaid
For silence rules the world of the dead

Copyright 2003 by Linda Arena.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003


“And so from day to day we ripe and ripe,
And then from day to day we rot and rot.”

From Shakespeare -- A Winter's Tale

This is how it happens, here:

small things lead to great things,
things inside tell of things outside;
the quick speak of the dead
inside us, stalked and silent.

Cells decay and grow
in their own cycle, but decay
and growth have the frail sound
of voices that fail at sunset,
softly carrying over lakes
until only ripples remain.

Beyond our knowing; roseate,
scoured, our bodies are traitors,
filled with the substance of
corruption. Bravely we stand it,
we stand it bravely, until the day
of reckoning, when all things
shall be brought to light..

Tears are not enough,
prayers are silent as water at evening.
pleading is as dark as the sun
in storm, whose spots mar its energy,

What have I done, what have I
said, where have I been silent that
I should be so? God’s bowels move
on the firmament while lakes ripple
quietly as wings of bats, but say nothing,
do nothing.

Space is space, time is always time,
matter is singly and simply matter,
but I, who are not of them,
corrupt from day to day
and hour to hour.

Copyright 2003 by David King.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Monday, October 27, 2003


a poem for a.m.a.

In the autumn when the light
walks through the window of the late afternoon,
the shadows are unlike any other
this late afternoon, we two sat
together talking about meaning.
We sat, our hushed voices slipping into
the sounds of the wind blowing leaves
past cars. But for the falling sun
whispering pleasant good-byes through
the old imperfect glass, the room was dark,
shadows building on shadows
in the wood-paneled luster. We,
talking truth, were like a flash
of white light filling a darkening day.

Copyright 1983-2003 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Two hours after midnight

Your lips,
    pursed and puckered;
a blush on your cheeks
    soft with youth.
The light
    tender and gentle.

Copyright 2003 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Mass at Saint Stephen’s

Glorious color splashes
downward, sun struck glass
vibrant notes of organ pipe
competing with the light,
filling the nave,
the sweetness of a baby held.

Anthems echo
a resounding, firm foundation,
faith fulfilling.

Light and color,
sound and texture,
a cleansing baptism,
a wish for water.

Copyright 2003 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Thursday, October 23, 2003


Uncertainty swirls about me
like the a cappella sounds
of a cathedral choir, clear notes
wrapping around me, a blanket

of safety, a warmth. The unknowing
is a coldness, a draft,
the antithesis of the choir’s beauty
drifting upward in the colored sunlight

speckled with the dust of ages.

Copyright 2003 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Long you’ve waited for me

Long you’ve waited for me
to put words on paper.
For months,
white, crisp bond has stared my way,
unblinking as the sun has run its course.
The paper is stacked, neatly, on the oak,
waiting for me to spill
my very essence
onto slips of the pale sheath.

Last night, the city sounds subdued by
maddening rain on the metal roof above us,
you said my passion was dead.
Passion, perhaps. But a friendship
has taken root,
like the old oak tree which spread its branches out
and protected my childhood;
has taken flight,
like geese striving for south
in the autumn air, each contributing to the pull of the flock;
has taken hold,
like my son’s grip on my fingers
as he made his first steps.

Last night,
in the pull between life and sleep,
nestled like a baby against
mother’s warm breast,
it came to me:
while passion slumbers bear-like in the dark recesses,
our friendship floats like a hot air balloon,
quiet, drifting with the currents of wind,
full and ripe,
a journey to places unknown.

Copyright 2002 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Monday, October 20, 2003

How do I tell you?

The letter tucked neatly
inside the crease of the desk
hides away from the present
life. Crisp,
it is the past,
harsh, it is the evidence
of youthful play and adult hurt.

Anna, oh Anna
sometimes we don’t talk;
I know,
sometimes we don’t talk.
But I am trapped within my flesh,
I am trapped within my flesh;
I am forever trying to break
out of my skin tight prison.
Anna, oh Anna
sometimes we don’t talk;
I know,
sometimes we don’t talk.

The letter slips
so easily into Anna’s hand.
The wood has parted,
the place of concealment
and the past slides
into view.

Anna, oh Anna
I wish for us
to lie together.
I wish for us
to lie together at night.
Anna, oh Anna
I wish for us
to lie together this night.

The words are bitter
and Anna swallows hard;
the taste is not fresh,
but it is tinged with sweet
from the hiding place in the oak.
It is strokes
from the unspoken past
and it burns her fingers.

Anna, oh Anna
how do I tell you?
How do I tell you that it was different
in that life?
How do I tell you that I
have learned?
Anna, oh Anna
how do I say
“I will not hurt you”?

Palms still hurt
from the heat,
she slides the letter,
flickering still,
back into the secret crease.
The pain of each ink drop remains.

Anna, oh Anna
I plead.
Anna, oh Anna
you have withdrawn and
my bone tight cell
keeps me
from following.
Anna, oh Anna.

Copyright 1982-2003 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Lipstick Personality

One look at her lipstick tube can tell you volumes,. How
can this be? I ask myself. Eight distinct types
Of women, each one clearly
Different from the rest. A sort of lipstick test........

Tube types, flat top, sharp angles both sides
Sharp angles, but curved tip, rounded, smooth tip
where it touches the lip....

This certainly indicated a need for closer inspection
And served much fodder for conversation.
Women with flat top tubes
(not to be confused with tube tops)
are to the point, very moral, conservative, and
very dependable
Those with rounded smooth tips
Are generous, easy going peacemakers
And even tempered. I study my lipstick tube
And read the chart.
Sharp angled, curved tip, I smile and bite my lip.
It reads: creative, enthusiastic, talkative, helpful
And energetic. I read further and think,
This is fun.
It also says I love attention
Fall in love easily and need a schedule
But really dislike one. Those with a rounded tip to a point
Are exaggerators a bit stubborn
Give orders easily and are domestic.
Sharp angled tips reveal opinionated
High spirited, outgoing argumentative
There was also flat top concave
Such women are complex,
Exciting, inquisitive adventurous and
make great detectives.
I think to myself.... So much revelation
From a little lump of color.

Copyright 2003 by Phyllis Johnson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Day Twelve of the War

The bright arched caverns
of the Metro fill
with a hushed conversation.
We stand in ones and twos
and a cluster of tourists
all seeking shelter under lit arches
waiting for the rush of the train.
The sounds of a European tongue
echo off the concrete
walls. The city may not be alive
but it is filled,
a peoples intent on the everyday
while the newspapers declare
victory assured.

I am convinced, only of this:
we in ones and twos,
a cluster of humanity there and here,
are the saving force,
a touchstone to a peace
in this temple to technology.

Copyright 2003 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Friday, October 17, 2003

From three thousand miles

Words strike hard
as I rip envelopes open
glancing only briefly at contents before
tearing wide the next.
No happy news – just cries
that life
bites hard into ankles.

Jimbo is experiencing what he calls
culture shock:
like malaria, not painful but all consuming.
He window shops in Norfolk
at the Dillard's of Life.
‘Lizbeth doesn’t even window shop;
she is stagnate, her writing flat.
From three thousand miles
she has lost her shine. And Anne
sends a sensuous card titled
Sax Fantasy. She wonders
why people change.

Snow falls through the
orange of street lights.
I kill flakes by
breathing skyward.
I yell
and feel a nibbling at my ankles.

Teddy is a living poet.
He doesn’t write letters.

I am huddled in a corner.
Relax! Teddy cries.
He wears red sneakers:

No nibbling there.

Copyright 1983-2003 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Thursday, October 16, 2003


Like lips from long ago.

I want to claim it was a different life.
But I cannot.
Granted, that was then
And this is now,

Yet it is the same life;
I am the same person, older,
Still young with
Life. Lips from so long ago.

I can remember one
August afternoon:
My lips
Wanted to touch yours for eternity.

I threw myself onto the roof of your car
And wouldn’t let you go, kissing you
As you drove, foot on the brake,
Down the drive.

I think about your lips
And for some reason my eyes moisten.
It is because I think about what I
Lost, like a September cloud over the Sound:

Beautiful and full and not really mine
But belonging only to the sky.
Not waiting for anyone.
It is there, hanging as a bubble

In the bright sky, tugging toward
The far beaches of speckled islands,
Dreaming of forgotten Atlantis,
That I feel the loss and grasp

Only the memory as it escapes to catch
The cloud. There’s no holding on.
There is only the memory
And the forgotten touch.

Like your lips from so long ago.

Copyright 2002 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Like canolli

Like a crunchy pastry shell, ricotta oozing,
a dusting of sugar and a sweetness untouched,
I tried to contain you, to keep your smile
from touching every corner of Hanover Street.
I wanted it all to myself:
to keep your soft cheeks as they touched mine in greeting,
to wish upon your hands as they brushed sweet cheese from my lips,
to honor your insight as you peered into me,
a view uncluttered by years of familiarity.
With a smile, you carved out my soul,
delivered with biting commentary and pointed questions;
at the same time, ricotta sweetness spilled over my plate.
I used a fork,
but wanted to swipe with my fingers,
to capture every bit of texture and have it melt in the moistness of my mouth;
and, I sat wanting to know,
while the whirl of a foreign tongue wrapped around us.

Was this night of lights and feast
merely a cameo in some greater play?
Or was it one of a series,
whereby we tease and dance, connecting in the web we’ve chosen,
similar paths converging,
ricotta sweetness holding us both to one thought?

Copyright 2003 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Your lips brush mine

Your lips brush mine
a kaleidoscope of colors pass in front
of my closed eyes
like Orion bursting forth from the primordial
forces of nature
with colors and clouds
where creation starts and eternity rests.

Your lips brush mine
and my heart flutters
like a thousand geese filling the late autumn sky,
flocking south to warmer climes,
wings beating with grace the crisp
while golden light sets ablaze their bodies.

Your lips brush mine
my body tingles as a waterfall
Victoria at the head of the Nile
an awesome drop to the turbulent pool below
shuttering, twisting, curling, dancing
in a free fall
to the earth

Your lips brush mine.

Copyright 2003 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Perseus and Andromeda

Are we to understand they believed
A fish monster the size of Zeno's Delicatessen
With arms half a block long
Rose out of the sea foam once a decade
And was satisfied with the flesh of a virgin?

Was their faith in the gods so
That they didn't founder on such a rumor?
Or had they seen the deep grotto
Beneath the jutting, flat rock
And wanted some way to comprehend
The flighty workings of fate
As the blue water churned and roiled
In that looming space?
Maybe a fisherman,
Not too bright you have to conclude,
Tried to launch his boat there on a rising tide
And was caught before he knew it
In a sudden wave and sucked over,
All the while cursing the whore he'd met
Last night in the grimy village delicatessen
and regretting
The too strong wine that left him unbalanced
And vulnerable, not on his watch or prayers.
He was just there one minute and the next gone
Without a chance to clear his wits or call on
The distant gods.

The boat was the only clue, left floating and alone,
Lightened of its passenger and thereby unsinkable,
Circling between the blue-black shade and the
Sudden shafts of sunlight that almost blinded
The lookers.
A woman and a barely walking child
Out for a seaside walk found the skiff and ran
Up to the village, she carrying the babbling child, and told
The other men who brought a rope and a hooked pole.
The boat was pulled to shore and everyone talked
For the morning about the tragedy, and no one
Knew that Demetrius had just had a few too many
And toppled in. One said that he had seen the man
The night before, sodden with half-made wine and
About to spend his last few pieces of silver on a
Used woman. But she wouldn't say anything.
She answered
That she had talked but not slept with him,
Thinking of the business she would lose,
And trade wasn't good that year.
Then the boys who were sitting on the uneven bank
Saw something, there, in the water. It was Demetrius
Dead and whitened by the brutal immersion,
His eyes open and his mouth seeming to say something
As he moved back and forth in the salt-clouded water,
Suddenly cleared by the risen sun so every detail
Was visible, though blurred by depth and distance.

They fished him out with the hook, and he lay
On the yellow rock in the clear sunlight
Like a spoiled gefilte fish pulled out of its jar.
The people talked some more. Then they
Noticed the marks on his back, brought about
No doubt by his thrashings in the grotto, but in the
Light of their faith, they saw it differently. Someone
Was responsible and there was a reason. He didn't
Seem like a bad man. A woman and a good drink weren't
A sin, what was sin anyway? He had worked hard,
Not taken the spoil of another man's net,
And never gotten in an ill-mannered brawl .
But, he was awfully chewed up round the back,
Like something had been at him.
No one had seen a fish of any size in that pool for
Years. So. The gods were angry or maybe just bored
Enough to send a message,

Believe in us. We'll
Send you a reminder like random death every
Few years. If you heed it, your life will be controllable
But if you fuck with us, we'll smash at you in ways you
Will never be able to guess at.
You could be walking
Along a sunlit road with your girl on your arm and
Your gleaming sword in your trained right hand
Ready for anything, and a lightening bolt will flash
Out of the blue and kill you both. You'll be found
With your arm still around her and nothing changed
In the rosy looks of love on your faces. But you'll both
Be dead. The sword will be blackened and half melted,
And your ignorant families will assume that you insulted
Us in some strange way. They'll carry the bloating remains
Back to the burial ground and look over their shoulders
As they say the obsequies, nervous from a brief exposure
To the two who did something to arouse our wrath. Then
They'll scurry home. The priests will keep the sword
And hang it in the temple of Zeus for all to see.
We're just bored. It's easy to scare you with some
Simple trick, and better that rotting away for all eternity
In the echoing halls of empty Olympus.

Or maybe you'll be out fishing, trying to pull a meager
Living out of a played-out sea, and we'll let you fall off
Without even the chance to cry out. You'll not know what
Happened, and you'll try to figure it out from pieces of
Yesterday or last night. But there won't be enough time
And there is really no reason at all. None at all.

Then one of the old men sees a darker patch of water
In the streaming sunlight and cries out. Now everyone
Sees it. Down there the kelp fans back, and what seems
Like a huge fish with four arms and an unbelievable tail
Moves in from the sea through the only opening. Clouds
Cluster over the small town pelting sudden rain. The old
One says to throw Demetrius back in. Whatever it is down
There wants him back. So they roll the still dripping man
To the pool and pitch him down. He makes an unheard splash
And disappears. They never see him again. Some people
Do some thinking. The village priest, who was too busy
To go down to the scene himself, notes it in the tablets
And guts some birds. The gods are happy, maybe just
Well fed for a space.
That year the crops are good.
The rains come early and hard. There is enough grain
To last for seasons and the cattle are fat and sleek.
The wine vats are full of whitened froth and life continues.
Everyone has forgotten the fisherman. What was his name?

Good fortune continues a score of years
And the village grows and prospers. People pass
And the crops grow. Nothing really.

But one day
Or one season the rains stop. Like that. One day there
Is a rain and the next day there isn't. The land dries
And the wheat fields look like someone has scattered
Broken potato chips on a plate and gone home, without
Leaving a proper tip. The boys who
Saw the fisherman and the shadow beast flicker
Are now men and have lost their fear of the gods.
They have cultivated vices and struggle from day to day,
Thinking their fates are their own. Most are married,
However unfaithfully, and have children. The olive groves
Bear silent fruit, and the sea is a little better
Than they remember those days.
After a few seasons
When the grain is dwindling and the tuna have disappeared,
They begin to worry. A wife or two starts to complain,
Nights, that the children are getting thin, that the
Olive oil is cloudy and rancid, that the supply of
Trade goods has gone.
There will be no more money for bronze mirrors
Or red arsenic and perfume.
There will be less comfort and little joy.
The wails of the young and old ones will fill the night
From slack bellies and flagging faith.
A group of women
Visit the temple, burn some wheat and a sickly
Goat. The god answers, well, the priest says that's
What happens.
You have angered us, and we've been
Waiting in sterile Olympus for your supplication. We sent
You good fortune and you have forgotten us. The oil jars
Of your village are full, and the corn fields flower
Year after year in waving brown arms, soon reduced to stubble.
The people find creatures in the sea and linger in markets and
Delicatessens day after day. Why are the temples empty?
Do you not remember Demetrius the fisherman, the one
Who forgot the gods so many years ago?. We sent you
The beast as a message, "Heed our words and fill our temples!"
But now it's too late for all that. We want blood and flesh.
Go to the grotto once a decade and give us a virgin.
We will see to the details.
The village women whiten with fear
And fly to their homes, quite glad that they have children
And are not virgins. Those with girls of marriageable age
Stay indoors. There is talk and argument on the docks and
In Zeno's Delicatessen about who must go. The old one,
Ancient by now, recounts the story of Demetrius and advises
That the girl must be found soon. After all the fisherman
So many years ago was taken suddenly. They must have a
Sacrifice before the next tide.

Then, unlike us, they saw something in its depths,
Not the shallow kelp beds fanning out again
Or the blue of colder water surging in through the
Hidden openings far below sight. A fish with the head
Of a man and limbs stout enough for any oak rises
And falls a hundred feet down. It gestures to the people
Gathered at the sandy opening and breathes in the jet blue
Water through gills suspended on its head like
Kosher pickles steeped in brine, with wrinkles that
Swell out and out until the flesh seems impossibly
Ancient and withered.
The people rush back
To the village and take the first girl, Apollonia,
Who lives in the yellow house by the square and
Drag her screaming to the grotto. The beast,
Who certainly now is not just a shadow, rises and takes
Her in his briny arms with a single movement. He
Devours her in an instant, first biting off her head,
Catching the spurting blood in his pursed lips, and then
Devouring the flesh in strips that he unwinds like
An onion, eating layer by layer. He swallows the
Bones last and sinks to the bottom with a contented burp
That winnows to the surface in a myriad of bubbles.

After this the village is changed. Every ten years the
Young girls disappear and a search has to be made.
Finally the priests scour the countryside for eligible children
And they are kept in the temple, under guard, of course
For their own protection. Each decade a girl is chosen and
Taken to the grotto. The village prospers and grows.
Wheat rises in the fields until the gentle winds
Ripple the heads of grain in the yellow light of August.
Fish limber in the sea and fill the nets each season.
The fishermen, in fact, find the catch too easy. They
Grow accustomed to slow mackerel and fat tuna
Sagging in the nets and lose their skill at reading the ocean
And finding the secret ways of the deep.

Then there are no young girls for five years and the
Village elders worry that they will not be able to feed
The monster inside them. Left with nothing else
They choose the tyrant's daughter, the wizened spinster
Andromeda and keep her pure. She doesn't blanch at the
Sacrifice, thinking it noble and her duty.
But things get
Complicated. A man meets her at the temple one day
And falls uncritically in love. He swears to fend the monster
Off and save her, that they'll marry and run away.
It doesn't occur to either of them to run just now
To some foreign city where they don't speak good Greek
And open a small deli anonymously. No, they think
That he must kill the monster and do everything in the open.
No one explains why a good-looking young man falls
So hopelessly in love with a barren king's daughter,
So lacking in charm that nobody has had her yet.
So the young man visits the temple and begs for a sign.
The gods answer,
To save the girl you must kill the
Creature with you r own hand only. The beast is,
By plan, invincible, so it will be a fruitless effort
And you will die after, held in the left hand of the creature
As he devours her layer by quivering layer, lingering on
Her as a hungry man cracks and peels a soft-boiled egg
Cupping the dripping remains of the white cracked
Shell half and sucking the still living liquid in tightened lips
With a small trickle of the thick yellow yolk staining his
Slime encrusted chin.
But we'll give you a way out, a
Slim way, but one that will amuse us. Go to the temple
At the edge of the sea's curtain. Find one of the creatures
Who so long ago was turned from fragile beauty to
Perfect ugliness. They had too proud a look and disdained
To bow low enough in the temple. For this, we
Changed them to some snakelike thing from tail to
Top. Oh, the head is a graft of writhing snakes with
A fiery gaze that turns a man to stone in an instant.
Their blood is a mix of ichor and acrid wine
That eats through any substance except a diamond.
She alone can kill the sea thing with her gaze. Bring
Her head and turn in on the monster and you can defeat it.
Remember you can't look at her. Have a good journey!

Perseus takes his sword and thinks a bit,
Kisses Andromeda's dry lips and sets off
Toward the edge of the world, trusting in the future.
The sun sets beyond the first hill, and he has to stop
Within sight of the village where he makes a fitful fire
And has a dream. A statuesque goddess appears in a white
Cloud and speaks. He stirs in sleep and mutters,
"Find the shield of Argos in a far village and a sword
Of charcoaled iron beside it. With these you can kill the
Monster if you keep from looking. Have faith,
I am the goddess of reason, sprung from Zeus' forehead,
And care for your spirit above that of all men."
A few followers join
Him from day to day until he has a handful of helpers
Like a jumble of sausages in a jar of vinegar.
Perseus and his crew wake and
Walk nights. One dawn he finds the shop of Argos
And takes the arms. Argos does not like it, but perhaps
The goddess spoke to him, too, the other night. He follows
Perseus to check on the precious gear and at last
Falls in with him. They sleep that night at an inn
Where all there is to eat is day old sandwiches, and find a boat in
The morning that takes them beyond the sunset
To the island of blue stones. Argos stays on the dock
And leaves Perseus and a few others to fight the brutes.

Three men enter the dank hall, the temple of Medusa,
Finding statues of stone that once were men.
Perseus uses the shield and the
Sword. Looking never, he mirrors the head and slices
Cleanly, slaying the thing he dare not see. Even
In reflection, it sears his eyes so that he can not see
But has to be led from the island when Argos grudgingly comes.
He grumbles at the corrosion on the blade and tries
To clean the mirror, but can't get the pocks of
Blood off it. After a few days' rest Perseus’ sight returns
And he has another dream. He sees a grove far by the river
Shining like the glass on a cold-cut counter and beyond it
A white horse that rises in the air. Following it,
Perseus wanders until he finds the place and, waiting
The night, leaps on its back, taming it with soothing words.
It takes the day to master the beast, but he finally
Gets it so tame that it eats from his hand. Walking
With Argos and his men, he leads it to the city
And hides it in the suburbs.
Except for that,
The walk back is uneventful. They become tired of
Hard beds and cold food long before they return
To the village. They have been out so long no one quite
Recognizes them. Perseus pays off the few men left, but
Argos stays behind to see if he can get his weapons
And armor back or at least get decently paid for them.
Back at Zeno’s delicatessen there is talk. Gawkers
Have begun to arrive, and there are no rooms, so Perseus
And Argos have to sleep out in the courtyard on old
Sheepskins. When he tries to see Andromeda,
He is turned away without even the courtesy of an audience.
The guards are not accustomed to let anyone with
Sun burnt skin and such ragged clothes in the tyrant’s
Presence. And the stranger seems too rough and direct,
An out-dweller. Besides his eye is too clear and his manner
Too abrupt. Perseus does manage to sneak to the balcony
Late one evening and, sitting like a bag of pretzels
Just on the edge of a linoleum counter, he promises his love
And more importantly his sword arm. When she is chained
To the pillar in the grotto, he’ll come to fight the beast.
The dream has told him what to do.

The couple mope separately for the few remaining days,
Each dreaming of the other and not a little nervous
About the plan, for the gods like to tell half-truths
And watch a man deal with the whole of them.
All in all, they are not to be trusted any more than
The braying of a bull or the jangle of bird song.

The day of the sacrifice arrives clean and sudden.
Andromeda is dressed in a bright shift, and the whole
Town gathers to watch her march off. She appears
Quiet and dignified and needs no soldiers to hold her
As they did the last virgin, who screamed and clawed
The way to the grotto. No, she just walks, rather straight,
But in complete control, and nods to the passersby who
Admire her as they hear her footsteps echo
Down the chilled, white streets. She even stops
At the delicatessen and asks for a cream soda
Which she carries and swigs as she strolls down
The empty wharf while the crowd grows larger
And larger till it fills half the way. Finally, they
Reach the grotto, and everyone watches the water
Surge and shimmer in the blue cavern. Two old
Soldiers carry her down the edge where the
Townspeople have erected a pillar, looking for all the world
Like an upright ketchup bottle, and chain her
To it. Then all but the girl in her gold-trimmed dress
Scramble to the other side of the pool and
Wait. The sun reaches its height, and the grotto
Becomes clearer blue. All wind stops, the air
Slowly stagnates, and everyone can smell the
Salt and stale seaweed. The water rushes up
And down in languid circles.

Now there is a stir on the surface. White-tipped waves mount
And fall in the heat, and a dim shape appears far down,
So far that it seems no more than a speck of dill. But it
Grows larger and larger until it takes the full shape
Of the monster. The people drool in fear and anticipation.
Andromeda smiles a bit and pretends to struggle against
The bonds. She does seem a bit worried when Perseus
Doesn’t appear as the creature looms closer and closer.
But finally, those on the other side of the grotto see it,
A small, black spot against the sun that hovers and
Then swoops downward, no bigger than a mustard seed.
Light flashes from something,
And then it becomes vividly clear. A man on a winged
Horse carrying a dripping sack and a brilliant shield
Thrills down and circles until he finds the grotto.
He floats between the monster and the pale girl,
Suddenly closing his eyes while pulling out a
Hissing head of snakes and blood-stained teeth.
The monster wrenches its head and reaches upward
As if to grab a tongue sandwich proffered to him,
But when his eyes meet the head, he stiffens and shudders,
Freezes suddenly to stone, his arms outstretched
In an arc like ribs on a side of barbecued pork.
Slowly, from the middle outward, he changes color
From deep green-blue to yellow and becomes part
Of the rock.
As for the lovers, Perseus slants down
To Andromeda and catches her in his arms with a
Crushing embrace. He takes her, pushes her on
The horse, and streams for the delicatessen. There the two
Alight and stand in a deep, lingering kiss. The townspeople
Swarm to the street front, cheering, and sing praises to
The spectacle they have witnessed. Who would have
Believed it unless he saw it, a brilliant figure out of the sun
On a winged horse so incredibly swift?. They want to
Dedicate a temple to him, Perseus, but he refuses.
He rants and accuses them of cowardice, asking why
They put up with the creature for so many years,
Doing nothing, fearful of their own shadows.
They are big at talk in the delicatessen but don’t ask them
To stand up for anything. The tyrant arrives and
Grudgingly stands for the marriage of the two.
He orders cold cuts and soft drinks for all, fearful
Of the mood of the crowd if they get sotted on cheap wine
Or a few cold beers.
By this time the couple are so disgusted that they
Start out, this time on land, and say to hell
With them all. They set off down the path
Hand in hand and disappear over the hill, the horse
Following tamely.
At the end,
Perseus is heard to say the gods be damned,
He’ll do what he pleases. It is, after all, to Athena,
Not the other band of bloodthirsty fools that he owes his victory.

We hear all and see all. The least
We expect is a burned goat and a few humble words.
Heroic as the couple is, and we do admire their
Victory, there are limits.
Besides, they have publicly flouted us. What will
People say at the delicatessen?

“The gods? Oh, that lot is an outdated child’s tale.
Just like the Hebrew writing on that carton of
Matzo balls. Children believe such rumors. As for us,
Any man is enough to do anything. Just look at
Perseus. He found what he needed by himself. Didn’t
Need those fools on Olympus for that, did he?
Everything he did, fantastic as it was,
We could have done ourselves with a little pluck.
How much do the priests of Zeus want this year
As tribute? Too much for me!”

This won’t go! Olympus is too tepid without
Some manipulated excitement. We need fear to feed us like
A chili-dog needs extra onions.
An example must be made.

Now the couple is beyond the hill, but still
Within the town limits on a dusty patch of road
Where there is a slight depression where the sun
Beats hotter without the sea-wind to mellow it.
Perseus, happy at his new bride, turns and holds his
Sword up to the sky, not sure whether he wants to
Strike at heaven or salute his good fortune.
Suddenly, the sky clouds, and there
Are some who swear they saw the outline of a face
In the pressing vapor, like the figure set in relief
On a bottle of Ajax root beer. The skin tingles as the
Force builds and, there, over the hill from where
The crowd is still milling, there is a yellow flash
And a clap of thunder.
They find the couple still rosy cheeked
And smiling, hand in hand. The temple was full for
That nightly sacrifice and the collection plates full.

It’s said if you visit the village, an old man
Will take you to the grotto just out of town
And tell you a story. There he points out
A part of the wall that looks like a sea monster,
Huge with outstretched arms threatening
To engulf you and a surprised look on its face,
Though you have to stretch to see it, and the
Yellow-brown rock that makes up its trunk and ribs
Is crumbling and falling slowly away like
A loaf of rye bread cut with a dull knife
Will shed bits of dough and caraway seeds
From the middle, though the crust is whole.

Copyright 2003 by David King.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

At the Scottish Rite Temple

The hall of the Scottish Rite Temple bops
with swing, one hip cat
singing beneath a fedora
backed by five guys named Joe.
The dancers, fluid,
float like a wisp of fog beneath crystal sparkles.
My feet are too carefree, never having learned
the confines of set dance beyond mandatory waltz.
No swing. No west coast. No jitterbug.

I am sent back;
she (strawberry
blonde hair, apple
pale skin, peach
glistening smile); we dance
as one,
movement to movement, hips to hips, connected
at the eyes. We were so young.
A playing off each other, a teasing
and a joy. The bump of rock and pop, the bass beat
providing cues in the upstairs dance
hall. When the music ended
we stood flushed together, a leaning in as one.

Under the Mason’s torch,
I’m off to the side, watching, a distance drawn
between me and them. My observer self has taken hold, rooting
me against the wall as couples twirl
and the band plays on, horns blowing, a wind
stirred up around me.

Copyright 2003 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Lunchbox Memories

I wipe the dust, with a hesitant brush of my fingers, from the green lunchbox. It has sat for over a year atop my bookcase where it was gently and reverently placed on my return from college. It still looks new. Emblazoned across the front is GI Joe: A Real American Hero, and although I am not fond of war, death, and much of what GI Joe stands for, I am fond of this Thermos-made lunch box. It was a gift from Suzanne. And, although she, too, was not keen on war, she felt I needed a lunchbox. This was the best she could find. And here it is, many months – almost a lifetime – later. I hear she is in love and happy and on the verge of the ultimate act, in my eyes: marriage. I once claimed marriage was very much like death – except worse, because you’re still alive.

I may have been very wrong.

When I open the box, I am taken back to the third grade. I can small the banana that has been roasting all morning. I can see the peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich on white Pepperidge Farm bread. The bread is hard with form, unlike Wonder Bread which always looks and tastes like sugary air bread. Who could ever see making a PB&J on a slice of air? But this box before me is clean and smells exactly like it did the day it was bought, exactly like the day Suzanne gave it to me. I do not remember the day she gave it to me. Was it my birthday? Or was it just a regular day that Suzanne made special with a gift, a smile, or a hug? All three were always treasured.

There was the time, after one of our luncheon rendezvous, when we were wandering through a drug store and bought magic pens with invisible ink. We were two college kids – and I place the emphasis on “kids” – who sent messages to each other in unseen writing. Ours was a relationship built on friendship and fun: of pinkie balls, collapsible dog puppets, invisible ink, and long talks. We were children in our innocence.

And children we remain. When we left college, we not only packed our bags and moved away, but we packed up and out of each other’s life. Now I can only sit, here in this place I call home, and think of the way it was. And I am reminded of the maxim a good friend once decreed on me: Things never were the way they were supposed to be. I can sit here now and conjure the vision of us together, basking in a self-indulgent glow at a restaurant, focused on each other as the bustle of the city passed around us. But can I – at this late hour, at this late time, with this silly lunch box – feel her, laugh with her, be with her? Almost, but not quite. It is a memory lacking form. It is like soft bread, full of air, lacking true substance.

Recently a mutual friend told me about their mutual stay in Rome. They were in Rome under the guise of studying and were to return home after six months. In those six months, they did their laundry as seldom as possible. And when they did the laundry, they would sort their clothes into piles – one pile, one washer. Our mutual friend had whites, colors, and darks. Three piles. Suzanne had just two: whites and blues. The whites were absolute highs – of which there were many. And then there were the blues – a melancholic intensity wrapped around her and anyone nearby.

Being quite enamored of both white and blue, I had a fine time.

And a fine time we both had, deep in the white folds of innocence. Of kisses, we never shared more than hellos and goodbyes. We never spent time enthralled in late night bodily passions. Oh, we shared passions, and we shared ourselves, but it was innocent, like children. We had not need for our bodies to find each other – although I thought of it more than once. And I can hope, at least, Suzanne did too. But in truth, I didn’t want to darken the white, destroy the innocence, and give up the child in us both.

I feared it could never be as good.

So now, many months and many miles later, I am left with a lunchbox full of images. I can hear her laugh rolling down the hall. I can see her eyes, brown and uncluttered like a newborn’s. And I can feel her touch, hesitant, soft with form and substance. It is the touch of a five-year-old on discovering the heart.

We were merely children, loving in a world not meant for children, loving in a world I did not understand. It was a love I did not understand.

Copyright 1985-2002 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Filming the Boys of Company H

The dress was 36-27-36
mint green with a fringe
came with a purse and gloves
custom ordered for me
part time actress, writer, poet.

The movie, set in the 40's
the scene, an old train station
in a small town,
my old stomping ground
Show up by ten p.m. they said.

Be prepared, they warned me
May film well into the night
I took a deep breath
and a heavy sigh,
wondering what lay ahead.

The night of the shoot arrived
I hooked up with Terry,
a neighbor I've just met
I rode, she drove
twenty-five minutes to the set.

I see it, well lit at night
the old train station
a sight I've known so long
I recall a train ride
The memory is strong.

Now it's a museum
filled with antique trains
old timey candy,
Nostalgic thoughts are with me
If just a little while

We wait an hour,
maybe more
Finally the costumes arrive
we anxiously peruse boxes
checking for our size.

Slipping into our garb
time for makeup and hair
time to leave the present behind
and step into the past
into that 1940's looking glass

I adopt the persona
leave my playful self behind
as lock after lock
is pinned to my head
in a look that is not me.

But a woman from the 40's
meeting soldiers from a train
that's come home from the war
bearing scars and wounds
and things that break my heart.

A window on a rail
with a camera moves
as billows of smoke curl
the view, a welcoming crew
made up of women and a girl.

Hearts fluttering,
flags waving,
we'd smile and cheer
just as the train drew near...
excitement in the air.

The train stopped
the smoke cleared
and everyone there switched gears
soldiers, wounded,
are missing limbs.

How did we act?
Our flags drooped,
the band stopped playing
even a nearby dog paused
and turned to look.

In hushed breath,
I gazed at the faces
of two soldiers,
one missing an arm
the other missing a leg.

Wondered to myself how
they are feeling now
in the scene we've shot.
And five days past
The feeling that lasts...

Is this desire to hug
both young men
who found it within
to act in this film
in a part that's so real.

How did our backwards glance
and look of sorrow
really touch their souls
even though just a role
how did it feel.........

Copyright 2003 by Phyllis Johnson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Thursday, October 09, 2003


Looking at my father’s face, I must confront
my own mortality. I marvel at his silver hair,
the wrinkled skin, his blue Paul Newman
eyes that sparkle still. Antiquity has stolen Dad.
Although insurance tables tell me he’s
in overtime, and my clock’s running down,
I don’t feel so old. It’s like a jug of water
leaking. I’ll bet a bigger jug would make
no difference. Suppose instead
of eighty, the tables topped a hundred
sixty years. My wife’s dad died
at eighty-five, but he had failed to live
a day past twenty-five. But then,
I’ve read about a Russian guy who lived
a hundred thirty-three, still active
to the end. Dad’s raised three
of us pretty well successfully,
outlived two wives, and married
a third; he’s traveled some and saved
enough to live a comfortable retirement.
That must say insurance tables don’t
mean much — just tell how fast the average
jug will leak, but not how well a life’s been lived.
I look again into my father’s face, smile,
and wonder at his silver hair, his aging skin,
and blue, defiant eyes still full of expectation.
I splash hot water and smear the lather,
then lift the razor to my cheek and chin.

Copyright 2003 by Pete Freas.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Just A Thought

Against the gray backdrop
Like epitaphs we write,
Of life's moments past.

With splendid diction
We eulogize the living
So that History will know,

What judgment will they cast?

And from the bully pulpit
With forked tongues they preach.
Of equality and unity they speak,
The rhetoric of old
On Technicolor stages
In hi-fi stereo.

We listen to the words
And awestruck
The message is distorted.
We see the conspicuously rehearsed,
Cheer the victory, undaunted.

Copyright 1998 by Anna J. Madison.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Hoe Handles

I worked out on the knob
Till I was near eighteen,
Toiling among the rock
That were sprinkled on our farm

Or driving in the cows
That we kept enclosed
By some boards we stretched across
Where the hillside jutted close.

For Daddy Jim was up at light
And kept the place so clean,
It was a truly sparkling sight
White against the valley's green.

We were took most every day,
I mean the boys that is,
When the sun was slanting far away
To hoe the field of corn that was

Just beside the rocky spring
Whose sweet water nourished it.
We'd weed and scrape the ground away
So suckers wouldn't discourage it.

For daddy said the corn was like
A woman with a secret love,
Needing some gentle talk
Not a clumsy, heated shove.

Daddy took one tool and worked
Busily along the rows
While Fred, and Tommy, and tall Jack
Spread out with their hoes.

It was early summer then,
And the stalks were close about my waist,
And looking out across that corn
My disaffection took a rise.

So I called out to Daddy,
"When will this work be done?
For I'm fed up
Sweating all day in the hot sun!"

He said, "Now Lee, you better
Git it right. I run this place,
And we're gonna hoe this field tonight
If we have to give the moon a race!"

All of a sudden that old hoe
Blistered right up in my fist,
And I couldn't wait to go
From that rocky, hoe-scratched place.

And I did. I left right then
With just these parting words to him,
"This God damn hoe don't fit my hand!"
And I threw it in the corn.

Since then it has been many years
And I have known a lot of strife
From Kasserine Pass to Sicily
And I have two girls and a wife.

But whenever I meet my dad
His mouth is thin and drawn,
As he says that old hoe blade
Is still rusting in the corn,

But he says it with respect,
And he firmly takes my hand
As if I have been lifted
Into the company of men.

Copyright 2003 by David King.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Ode to My Father

My Father, my Dad, I loved you dearly
    More than words can say...
My only wish, just one more chance
    For you to hear these words today...
But now your life has come to pass
    You've left this world behind...
And with all the love in our hearts, we hope
    'Tis a better place you'll find...
Your soul lives on, your memory lingers
    With your loving family...
Maybe, someday, as time goes by
    Together again we'll be...

Copyright 1992 by Shawn P. Madison.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Very Fun.

for Helen

Our plane banked high and drifted under clouds. Room for forty,
we were only four. I had chosen my seat judiciously: same row
but other side of the aisle; she looked cautiously at me. I debated
how to break the ice (I’m never any good at that). Later
I was sitting next her. Introductions included first names
only; at least I got her number as we swept low along the Potomac
almost within grasping distance of the capitol’s dome. Over water we buckled
seat belts, confusing straps in each other’s laps.

That morning, Hartford had snow as Lou and I fought suitcases
to the airport. Earlier on wakening, he had said he would not fly
because of snow; I laughed and told him to shower so we could leave
our room to half full beers and a dried fir tree in the corner
which mimicked Christmas. At the airport we kidded about it’s being international.
He had a hard time believing our plane with two lonely props; I told him props
liked heavy weather. On the runway, I saw it was all ice (didn’t bother
telling Lou). Behind us sat two Smithies, Lou and I could tell from their giggles,
and we told cookie cutter jokes, quietly so that could not hear. In Philly
we hugged as roommates will
and I got back on. He was going to Atlantic City where gambling is quite legal.

I thought to myself. But what will she think of me – hair too
short and face begging for razor? Her blonde hair fell straight
toward breasts hidden beneath layers. Somewhere
over Maryland, I moved closer so we could talk without
raising voices (a sea of seats separated us from the other
passengers). Conversation
came found to common friends – including my high school buddy;
why didn’t he ever introduce me?

That night, one quick phone call arranged date; real, but no ideas on where too go. Even
as I walked to the door to pick her up: no idea. One long stemmed red lay on the front
seat; I too
to bring it to the door. What would parents have thought?
No awkwardness in conversation
and even a quick idea as the what-to-do. Got lost
in southeast Washington; able to weave out through heavy traffic.

Much later, while she slept soundly home, I caroused
with mutual acquaintances. Clarke, ever not the gentleman and quite drunk,
loudly asked
So what’s it like going out with a virgin?
Calm, my eyes met his green gaze:
Very fun.
But will he ever know?

Copyright 1983 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Top Down

My bare head is so cold
that it aches, almost as if the chill
has frozen my skull
leaving brain to rattle around
like two dice in a cup.

“Top down,” I had said
and we sped
through the city, night skies flying above us,
the moon almost new,
your smile filling the car with heat.

I’m still new at this,
even all these years later;
I’m thrown back in time
to youthful indiscretion,
the midnight hour spent along the river bank,
cars passing, their headlights keeping lips
from melting with the heat.

“Top down,” I had said
and wished somehow to return to the river bank
so that our lips would warm my skin
like a hot roll at the table,
dice clicking to wild cheers and laughter.

First published in Skipping Stones, September 2003.

Copyright 2003 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Thursday, October 02, 2003


Sweet maple sugar
      tickles the tongue;
candy to entertain the mouth.

First published in Skipping Stones, September 2003.

Copyright 2003 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

None so quicken

Like flames flowing upward
orange and yellow, tickling
a warmth singed by the intensity.

Even after,
your eyes, your smile, puts me on edge,
a quickening I can’t control.
In the cool of the autumn morn
you greet us at the door,
sleepy-eyed and puffy, wrapped
in a fluffy, over-sized robe,
your feet impatient on the cold stone entranceway.
I hesitate, to soak in the image.

The flames do more than flicker:
the flames consume and dance;
not rage, yet uncontrolled with intensity.

In my mind, I reach out
as our sons wrap around you,
becoming enveloped in the safety of your presence.
My eyes sting from the morning sun as I
turn my back and the door closes.

Drifting upward the flames
reach for clouds, tendrils racing
to the heavens, seeking an absolute intensity.

Like crossing a winter pond,
each tentative step leading to the possibility
of falling
I stand on the bank
not wanting to step out, to test the strength, to be tempted
from this comfortable place,
winter swirling about me,
sounds of play broken in the wind.
In place, I am frozen.

Licked by dry flame, my belly consumed;
fire consumes all, a dance,
a marriage of heat and intensity.

Like ice, I, immobile, grounded.
Other eyes I could fall into,
but none so quicken me.

Copyright 2002 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.