256 Shades of Grey's December 1996 Edition

A Collection of Poetry

My Favorite Prostitute

by Tom Burbank

should've closed my eyes
should've opened my hands
felt the consciousness of the rain
fluttering down with no demands

here she comes on gargoyle lips
here she comes on poisoned hopes
on marooned hopes she dances by
and there she goes on fantasy hopes

down the street I wander
under fluttering kisses of mother sky
under my stoic eyes, a furrowed brow
she dances under the crying, crying sky

lightening cracks litter the sky
I don't miss the cracks in my head
I won't say a word for poor mother
she cries down on our bleeding heads

every scratch on the overground
I twist to glance the stealing silhouettes
she dances further into gargoyle black
disappearing into an exhausted night
"She's dead, it's her dying breathe, that's my last bet...".

stealing the gift of night again
dancing naked under my bleeding head
dancing naked for mother once again
dancing sky clad until I'm bloody red

another night on broken knees
another dream from this in-between
bloody murder trickled down the night-time trees
she's a bloody mess, I wonder where's she been...

We Will

by Scott Ross

We will go nude into the street, protesting our innocence
To the insistent crowds that gather to mock and stare.
After we are sufficiently shamed, please slip away with me
Until we’re inside the little, barren speck of a room
Where the walls are cracked and the floor slips away
And the mind wanders like a lonesome child’s.
We will be almost alone then, free in our tired fashion
To make love beneath the naked eye of a fading bulb.
We will experience all--we will regret nothing.

After the silken wedge of love is driven between us
We will proceed to the local park--lay on a blanket
Count passing cars in the volcanic sunshine and read
Important books about the nature of life and death
And celebrate our dolphin-like existences while
We slip between the worlds of water and air.
In the blue-green haze of your eyes I see no fear
Just an insistence that strives to draw me near
Far reaching goals ending in mile-deep puzzles

Please go a little further down the day with me
Into a waiting area filled with silent sorrow
Need is there as we relax in our vulnerability
And make a truce as fragile as bone china.
The air contains a rare and magic odor today
Not perfume--more powerful by far because
It’s the scent of fear--the fear of being hungry
The scent of confusion blessed within every cell
It urges me onward to a half-hidden conclusion.

Please cease your crying--we’ll return together
To the little room we occupied before--alone.
Put aside the laughter of the weary world
Wait for morning wrapped in chafed caresses
Remember the cars and sunshine on green grass
Listen for the sounds of scraping from my heart
Take my head in your tiny hands and comfort me
Cover my eyes with your hair while I weep to you
Looking for barren fragments of a forgotten time.

On A Bus

by David Simons

I wrote a poem on a bus
but to hear it you must
climb to the top
of the bouncing metal stairs.

Slither snake-like
past the rail
and sit
on the rainbow nylon bench

I¹ll be there
at the top of the bus
reciting my rhyme
written as we ride along
past shops and houses
with musty nets
and peeling paint
on dingy doors

There¹s the old woman who
lives in house no bigger than a shoe box
who had so many children she didn¹t know what to do
but theyv¹e all grown and flown now and
she¹s all alone with no-one to talk to but herself

Look at that kid: grimy smile and mischievous eyes
skateboard-scuffed knees
darting out from the roadside
as we stop and angry words
The kid glances back and tosses a vee
leaving just his smile behind

The bus lurches on
at a snail¹s pace and stops at a stop
for a giggle girl gang
to chatter up the stairs
with a clatter of feet and voices

Weekends and boyfriends
music and laughter
as the bus trundles and sways
past shops all shuttered
old folks gathered by doorways
talking about people
dead and forgotten
except by them

Into the town now
a river of road-rage
as our bus rambles onward
toward car parks and markets
and rat-racing shoppers

And stops by a brown pigeon-stained temple
of public philanthropy
a gift from a long dead civic leader and now proud home
to dog-eared tomes of PC persuasion

Our bus like some Trojan
horse disgorges its riders
who spatter and scatter
like rays of dawn light
to shop till they drop

So just me and you seated
atop the steel stairway
and you say to me sharply
So where's your poem then?
I look at you strangely:
It's happened around you¹ I tell you quite curtly.

Sounds Of Morning

by Marc Awodey

Leaves remember
in small and gentile voices
pregnant milkweed,

cottonwood fibers
symmetrically loitering
in sunlight. Exposed seeds,

that lingered before exhales
were thrust to regenerate dying
forests. My son once heard me

muttering to myself,
about a place of warm wind.
Again ascending frequencies

of morning unfold as twilight¹s
gathered train atrophies
above hard faced Adirondacks.

Swarming raindrops
rattle on my storm windows.
Beyond dripping clapboards

I hear October's last finch.

Red Butterflies

by Michael Rothenberg

Black boxes on folding chairs
Unfolded around a folding table

A bowl of pretzels
Four glasses of beer
Gambling chips
Playing cards face down
I pick up one of the hands
Five crisp cards
All of them picture cards
Red Butterflies light on their wings

In the room of butterflies
Four men play cards
Drink, smoke, cough, grunt
I put twenty dollars on the table
A squinting man looks at the money
He looks like the bank

A jovial man deals me a hand
Five of a kind
Picture cards
Red Butterflies
I bet heavily on this hand

The bank sits back in his chair
Clicks his tongue
He's sure I'm bluffing
Maybe I am
I never had a flush of butterflies
He sees me, raises me

The fourth hand
A drunken man
Flutters his cards
As if he's got butterflies too
He sees the bank
I see the bank
I raise the bank
The bank folds

The drunk sees me, calls me
I show my hand of Red Butterflies
He has a pair of aces and a pair of threes
I reach for the pot, he stops me
The money slides into his lap
He beams around the table, says
"No cigar, two pair beats five butterflies"

Black boxes on folding chairs
Around a folding table
A game of Red Butterflies
Folded and unfolded

Crazy Randall

by Michael Rothenberg

Harmonica frog, banjo frog, pond, crickety-racket sundown
Parked on a red dirt road in Crenshaw County
Under a quarter moon and fireflies
"Got somethin' to show you" Randall's prize
Three strange chickens in a wire cage
"Buy me a beer, Chuck!"
Randall limping drunk at LeGrande store Saturday night
When they were children he'd come knocking
At two in the morning
"Ho, ho, ho," dressed up like Santa
"Grandma, I think that's Randall. We knew it was him"
That was the last time Santa came
We live our own lives
Fly-casting, frog gigging, coon dicks and turkey beards
Looking for excuses to kill somebody, to question our own blood-lust
Delayed stress syndrome, Boyhood to Manhood
"My soul has been psychedelicized"
One time he out ran the police, he was jailed the second time
Hereditary genetic disorders
Acquired cultural deficiencies
Desperate spiritual peculiarities
He suffered gunshot wounds
Flipped the pickup truck over on Hwy 331
Fell from a tree drunk, got his arm caught in a motor
Then died of a stroke in the stale dark night
Descendant of The Mayflower, Veteran of Foreign Wars
Member of Alabama Wildlife Federation
He sold watermelons from a trailer
At the used car lot out by Ramer
At a hazy lavender home spot, we talked
Rusted nails, soft-rotted steps, 1887 slant floorboards
Grass growing up all around us
Vines crawled over broken window frames
Lizards skirted the porch rail
So, what do you know about love?
"No one's ever knocked me over", Southern Girls win
More beauty contests, preening, "Yes I do, Bob"
Chins tucked, pampered gentility
Teeth vaselined, eyes green in jelly
Miss Peach, Miss Pork, Miss Pecan, "Beauty Is Truth"
And the some who are born not so beautiful
He plays the guitar, hands wavering to stay a chord
Cawtawba trees, bass, dragonflies, oak, pine and hickories
Spanish Moss, Great-horned owls
Blue Herons, 9 point buck, hunting dogs
There's always a place for one of god's creatures
"Thou shalt not turn thy back on the tabernacle"


by Michael Rothenberg

In the living room
after dinner
after the bones
are removed
from the table
and dumped
into the body bag
beneath the sink
cushions hiss
as we sink
into easy chairs
prepared to kill
whatever crawls
whatever twitches
of affection

The Calm

by Jay Liveson

It's quiet now, between the aftershocks.
I roam with care between the bricks and shards.
With my toe I push the chips, the fractured
Mirror that glistens in the fissured yard.
There lies the chimney base, the patio door,
Your oils and easels splayed across the grass
Bright pigments blending with floral shades. And look,
My ties tangle with his collar and leash.
It's dusk. A faint breeze skims the smoke and dust
>From jigsaw masonry. I've called his name
Again and set his usual dish among
The smoldering debris. It's growing late.


by Jay Liveson

I must admit my preference
for "pen and ink." I like a line
carved on unskid canvas.
Especially if it traps
the gesture of a limb,
like gentle fingers
caressing a cheek
or arm's ripple
after the spear is released.
And massive areas are toned--
not by broad brush strokes,
that grey the whiteness
with a few sweeps,
but rather by patterns
of wispy scratches
ex-ing out the glare,
in mixtures
of herring-bone, checker, pin-stripes
each millimeter filled with care.

Don has enough movement
in the stubs of his phocomelic arms
to cradle a sharpened pencil.
He just manages
to shift wheelchair controls
with his hints of finger buds
rolls back a bit to scan his canvas.
Then he readjusts the pencil
in clenched teeth,
his massive jaw muscles now rested,
and returns to the paper's slopes.
The pitcher's knuckles
need more texture,
and the hatching that he has in mind
is quite complex.


by Jay Liveson

Mike never changes. I see his bike rearing up
front wheel spinning air,
I see him stand, bat on his shoulder
returning the pitcher's stare.
I see him hop from the yellow bus
books dangling, dashing across to "us guys"
to gab about "those girls" over there.
But I never saw them pierce his veins
or dress him in an open robe.
I never saw when his sheets were changed
or when the IV fluids flowed.
Children were spared the wards
of hospitals, the smell of death.
And there was fear--the polio virus
could float on particles of bellowed breath.

My Last Hemicraniectomy

by Jay Liveson

That's my last hemicraniectomy
Patient on the x-ray screen. You see
The intricate vascularization
Of her tumor border. Its invasion
Of motor cortex, controlling her right hand--
More nimble than most surgeon's, I understand.
I recall her execution months ago
Of Brahm's Concerto's long arpeggio
With such wondrous passion and depth. Her face
A curtain drawn against distraction. Her pace,
As her fingers spanned the range of ivory keys,
Transcended your own, as her dexterity
Evoked the flow of glittering streams, the lap
Of gentle waves upon the sands, the clap
Of thunderous clouds that gather to dim the daylight.
Left pianissimo tossed to right
Fortissimo, as if baton were passed
>From lesser hand to one more strong and fast.
She brought this same perfection to her life.
She savored language, drank in words. Her eyes
Flashed the electric sparkling of her mind.
Her dexterous wits surpassing even mine.
And when she spoke, her skill of speech was such
It struck one mute. It's poignancy could touch
The soul. But this is what she was before
My cure. Before her silent tumor tore
Through its borders. This is a pre-op view
While she still talked and smiled and played. It grew.
She had a grand mal seizure. I gave commands.
I ordered tests, dissected. Now when she stands
She's half-alive. Her smile half-stopped. Her right
Leg drags. She's mute. Her hand against her side.
No matter. I've freed her of her tumor, though,
As evident in post-op films. We'll go
Together down to brain pathology.
They're photographing lecture slides for me.

Brandwein is Gone

by Jay Liveson

The rumor is he chose to die.
His table bares its plastic back.
His sterilizer's balanced open
awaiting his syringes. Alongside
vials of insulin and morphine line up
near the alcohol, and tourniquet.
His stethoscope hangs
on the blood pressure apparatus,
whose mercury is poised
to ride the patient's tide. But he,
Brandwein, will not return.
Never will his glass cabinets
reflect his stubbled jowls,
the trace of foam at his lip's edge,
his glasses over his brows.
No longer will he lumber through this door,
open collar curled above stained shirt,
buttons strained against his belly's bulge.
to this dark warren of minor complaints.
Brandwein, the youthful pride
of holocaust parents, the honor student,
research dropout, was too long humbled
by recurrent whines of incurable patients.
His empty home no longer charged
his ebbing will. He read,
and pondered questions
and for himself he found an answer.



by Michelle Wentling

When all is dark and quiet,
When not a creature stirs,
Then that's when peace will come to you,
And softly sing in whispers.

It gently urges you,
To sit and listen more.
It lightly moves and nudges you,
To come in through it's door.

Once there it shows you,
Things you've never seen.
And all is so beautiful,
It's like a child's dream.

You again are at it'd door.
Must you go back
To that world so cold and black...
Where peace will always defy it
Unless all is dark and quiet...
And not a creature stirs?

The World at Night

by Michelle Wentling

The night, so quiet and knowing,
The fragrant winds so silently blowing,
The flowers with only their petals showing,
Where are their sleeping spirits going?

The sky, with the stars are joyously sharing,
The moon with it's light, so bold and daring
The trees, their whispers so kind and caring,
The crickets, their chirps loud, but not quite blaring.

The sea, it's waves fall in perfect timing,
The grass full of dew, so brilliantly shining,
The roses, their redness slowly resigning,
The bushes, their branches slightly inclining.

The world at night is full of awe
With wondrous sights for one and for all.
the shadows can tell you all about night,
Of things that happen in the absence of light.

The beauty is seen in both night and day,
It changes only slightly-- yet in a major way.

Righting the Kayak

by Darren Lauzon

simply from walking into the room
their conversation stops
as if I'd done something like
grab mistakenly from a bowl of plastic fruit
the insight sweeps me immediately
down the rapids and eddies of similar times
and maybe my brains
would have been dashed against the rocks
if I'd not sat down among them anyway
in time


by Darren Lauzon

the bowl of knickknacks I empty into
toss the loose coins and buttons of dreams
held fast like teeth
in the gaping mouth of a snoring face
dead looking except for the choking sound
of the soul's dream fingers
that probe for something discarded.


by Darren Lauzon

It used to be
when something this enraging
dropped like a stone in your water,
breaking the still surface,
tsunamis crashed at the edges.
Enduring this was never easy.

but now,
the vacant pier where nothing
is tied any longer, prevails. The ebb
of shouts and clenched fists,
the tantrums, the sadder of my losses,
leaves a muddy wake in drying sun.

It used to be nothing
inflaming you,
and your fire could extinguish
the air in seconds,
leaving vanity smoldering
in the vacuum.
Enduring this was never easy.

but now your wet flint
is struck in vain;
and I,
rooting in the scorched earth
for good mineral
long for the lightning.