by Richard Spiegel and Barbara Fisher
Thomas Perry, Assistant
©1997 Ten Penny Players, Inc.
Yes, I goofed on the Princess.
The nose was wrong for the face.
I looked and saw it was good.
Cleopatra was another.
They both did all right, didn't they?
And you of your own free will
keeping your high bone from the trendy
surgery for your own style,
were you thinking
how many times I am taken
by the eyes, the expression of total
pleasantness, the light through the skin?
Tired after giving voice to tragic characters,
he began to ask to his own
"Is there anyone that can tell me who I am?"
Began to ask how life could be answered for
and lived beyond the burden of its errors,
its haunting sense of loss and regret.
Tired in city rooms, he looked back
to Stratford, came back, bought New Place,
the finest house in town. Came back
at first periodically, then permanently
to more land purchases, a coat of arms,
a day in court, a loving look at flowers,
a wife saved over the years
who approached him without reproach
wrinkled, speaking stone.
Therein a mythical Bohemia, a mythical
Queen, daughter of the Emperor of Russia,
wrongly accused of adultery, imprisoned,
her infant child exposed to death,
after many years, both restored
to the husband and father King, by then
all aborn again out of the dark occasions
that cruelly informed against them,
the lost daughter, brought up
by common folk, having lost nothing
of the manner to which she was born,
the all-forgiving wife
bearing the pain that happiness
keeps in its "totting up,"
the wife saved over the years
who approached him without reproach,
wrinkled, speaking stone.
In The Winter's Tale the voice
is the poet's, speaking lyrically,
but the man is there, matured,
his serenity hard-earned,
the comic and the realistic
balanced against the possibilities
of separation and reunion,
patience and ongoing acceptance practiced
beyond the discontents of the day.
So in his own life, the final word
was the voice in the will that left Anne
the bed they had slept in.
The best bed was for company,
perhaps a pair more suited to it.
Where love was lacking, love as he could
a wife saved over the years
who approached him without reproach,
wrinkled, speaking stone.
She did not recognize the sound of traffic
or my voice,
so intent on chasing
her perfect hair flying to a concrete summer we
were pushed into--
"Three months in the city is
all I ask," he had said.
No matter what they try to tell me,
I know she doesn't breathe
because I hold her so tight.
In a burning field
only the voices of the insects
hit a high key--
grasshoppers fiddle while their Rome burns
and bushes speak no covenants
as they burst into flame.
I watch two small trees
fall toward each other
then rest like two sleeping heads
while around their roots the ants vacate
almost invisible as the blackened grass
writhes like waves in the sea.
I am lucky.
Just seconds before the fence might catch
the seared ocean throws its voice upward
and rain begins to fall.
I go home early,
walking among the burrs that reach out
clinging to my clothes.
I will burn them tomorrow.
The voices that lulled me to sleep when I was young
came from the sub-world of the TV:
muffled musicals; the steady rhythm of laugh-tracks.
The motion of sleep was even, like Tonto's rising smoke words.
the knowledge in my mind screams at me
with the unsteady voices of the media
and falling asleep is really like falling:
into the lion's mouth and vomited next morning.
There was a kind of song
we used to sing in school
we called it, meaning
one person threw it out
others caught the line
circling back to where it all
It has dwindled down to
two now, you
taking up my lines before
trying to catch the tail
of my own thought.
When the old woman sang
eyes turned as she drew notes
husky-voiced in the air.
Men's veins strummed toward her
hearts pumping childhood into their throats
fathers retied shoes
kites flew for miles
every hit a run.
Like drops of blood
memories transfused the room and men
in their too salty
I pass the skin of motherhood to her,
stroking the familiar weave,
pulling it to fit around two heartbeats--
jealous that it fits so well
this maternal cloth.
too young / too young
and yet . . .
I was as young when her father's skin
and stretched the surface of my youth
I past the skin beyond her teenage years
Steve had me fooled. Harry would
come on day after day like gang-
busters. They made me laugh out loud.
For a month I didn't suspect it wasn't a pair
of live guys there. I must have been out
the times they discussed their relationship.
One day an inflection of Steve's caught
my ear: so like Harry they could have been twins.
One of those fast-draws, hot stichomythies--
wild schemes, objections; whining, scolding;
Steve trying not to let Harry drown
the transmitter or blow up the studio
with his harebrained inventions. Termite-brain?
Hairs stiffened on my head. A paradigm
shift was breathing down my neck. Is Harry
a dummy? Did Steve call him a dummy not
just to honor his idiotic ideas?
Is Steve really alone? in charge of everything?
I didn't want to know! Such a good
time I was having with the two of them. Outrageous
Harry, stick-in-the-mud Steve. The kid I wanted
to be, the parent I wanted. Silliest self,
sensible squelcher and occasional dysfunctional
ogre. Loud loud Mouth. Fond Teacher.
I understand now. The two are one.
For Steve, it's usual business. For me, nondual
dueling's a grave new world, though I still
tune in and laugh out loud. Medicine, siesta.
And in the name of the show! What a dummy I was,
not to catch on right away: "Knock on Wood". *
*broadcast weekdays 1:30 p.m. on WNYE radio 91.5 fm
The toy chest
is full of doll heads,
spilling out of
in the attic.
Old musty clothes,
unworn and moldering,
like the women
of the century,
In the attic,
there are these
insistent and clamoring,
all of them speaking out
not even I--
can read their lips.
first in dissembling, camouflaging your heart,
not speaking your own truth,
but telling your dummy's story
until you become the dummy.
I want to know,
What is the disposition of your heart?
Please, come alive, can you?
Plumb your own depths, go to
your own wild and desolate places where the coyote roams,
the trickster hero who skulks through your wilderness,
sniffing both dark and light as he goes.
Touch my heart and I'll respond,
Talk to me through your friend, and
you become wooden like him, and
I am petrified as well.
Unfold your own myth, ventriloquist,
Let your own coyote bring fire, scatter stars.
Come alive yourself, wrap me
in the blanket of your own story,
and save us both.
(a conversation with myself)
The voice must come from
something to be practiced;
the manipulation of another
not necessarily wooden;
stand-up and throw it
out a window
or off a stage
monologued epicurean epigrams
wise crack schizophrenic projections
or some insipid something
on a hand or lap
of body placement
speaking from the brain
or the belly
tossing lines of illusion
for an audience to catch
similar to certain sports
operas and marriage.
(for Michael Curry)
he stood in shadow. then he stepped
out from behind the beech tree and handed
me the dream-catcher. he told me to hang
it over the chair I sit in when i'm
writing. it's hung there now for several
years since his visit, along with the other
shaman. Mike died last year of AIDS. he
lay in his lover's arms and slept for
many hours before he stoppedbreathing.
of the dreams i'm given are cruel.
somesing, rhapsodic. some dreamsare
streaked with blood. others soundof
creekwaters and wood thrushes and
small boys wading.
haven't yet dreamt of Mike. but he
visits me waking. his laugh is agreat
hug from hisbrown bear body. hestill
counts eagles overhead. and red-tail
hawks. coyotes chant his medicine.
often now, he stands
watching from behind my eyes,
crowding the day with his steady
witness. he beckons dreams fromin
me, where they abound, longknowing
how to hide.
everything in the universe, they
belong to me, and i own none ofthem.
and blue sky, like rivers and winds
and coils of stars, they flow in their
own time. they flow through me,
for I, like them, am a wave.
we cross each other, and our
wisdoms flow with us and cannot
be held onto.
now I catch my dreams only
to let them go.
from Feelings, Summer 1996
it is not enough to measure the littleness of words
against the ranges and reaches of galaxies.
the distances are as far inside us.
but what other
creatures do we have to ride on so far and so long.
telescopes are mechanisms and do not
grow from our marrow.
used words, words that give us back to ourselves--
words have no limits but seize on images and visions
and faster, than the speed of sound, fast as light,
create all that-out-there in a size
true enough to spread out in our skulls
and still leave room enough
for questions to ride in on elephants
, words are not the thing, words
can never be the thing, but words can serve as waves
on which processes of becoming
can wake and work and move. on words we can remember
meanings of images and high litanies
down which to dive for what cannot otherwise
be held long enough to burn our fingers on.
can be rainbows in mud,
shades of meanings and
possibilities can arch
between minds and gut-listenings.
:is not a word but can ride words backward down
prayers or perch on your hoping bruised lips
a hummingbird full of sky and the rustle of syllables
before they are more than wind
25 December 1996 Tucson
Mothers and Daughters
(a ride on the 71 bus)
The second lady
hair in huge pink plastic curlers
small white arrows shot through them
cheap scarf pulling it all down
hangs her arm over the seatback
The first lady
overflowing her half of the seat
shuffles her running shoes across the floor
"Used to be a nice city to live in" she announces
"Used to be you could take the street car
it'd be a pleasant ride."
The second lady turns away from the jammed aisle
almost lowers her voice
"It's all them Chinese
they fill up the place
Talk all the time, God knows what
Shrill and they're so loud
it's a wonder
they can even understand each other."
Twins almost--the one a larger older
version of the other--mother and daughter
kerchiefs leaning together, moving apart
"And rude, that's what
Rude. Never a smile
never a sensible word."
On the next seat
parallel to the aisle
an Asian schoolgirl
uniform bright with checks above her knees
The woman beside her neat
thin, expressionless--mother and daughter
"Don't speak no English."
"Don't understand none either."
Kerchiefs nod, "Chinese
that's all they know. Talking
it loud like they own the place."
The schoolgirl doesn't shift her eyes
Her mother watches the aisle
"Used to be a lovely city"
the older lady
stares out the window
"but these come and take it over
Makes it so's we can't
even go down town anymore.
Not like we used to."
"Powell Street, cable cars, Emporium"
sings the driver
mother and daughter
rise, start to the exist
The lumbering pair
reaching the bottom step
as the Chinese woman
lets the bus door slap
back into place
curlers wag indignantly
"Rude, just like I said, just
plain rude." She pushes the doors
wide as they'll go
and ushers her mother
onto Market Street.
San Francisco, 1988
The Truth Where It Lies
"He was carrying all the trees in the world,
which was one tree." from her poem, Jesus Walking, Anne Sexton
Today I cannot tell a story. As a child I would
have meant by this, "I cannot lie." (We were not
to utter even the word itself).
Here where I've lived more than a decade
with language not euphemistic but simplistic
(for needs of borderland patois)
schoolchildren say fiction has synonym, "lie."
Ask any average student in the jr. high.
And so the folk are folk. We cannot tell a story.
Twice within two days I've surprised good men
by confessing that I'm Christian. After all this
time and truth as passed us by? What kept me
from escaping folkish creed?
They need not worry for my intelligence.
It's their own new mythology, the same, that
But as she said before passing over into her
black forest without Time, our poet sister, we
are all the one tree. We are all carried forth.
It is just one story. All truth, that is to say
fiction, that is to say lies, exists in it.
from Dirigible (New Haven, Connecticut)
No. 5, February, 1996.
Friends from the Past
i feel like the head of john the baptist
brought in upon the platter of the sixties.
"but i'm not that way now," I tell them.
"of course you are," they say.
they kiss my lips and wait for prophecies.
i was a prophet then.
now i don't know anything.
"i can't even predict the present."
"who needs it?"
"i do," i tell them and turn and flee,
the beatles baying at my heels,
bob dylan running ahead of the pack
brandishing a broken tambourine like excalibar.
they swarm over me.
bob dylan beheads me with the broken tambourine
which they then set my head on.
they kiss my dead lips and wait expectantly.
resigned, I open my mouth and prophecies emerge,
urgent messages bearing yesterday's headlines.
from Crimson Leer, 3rd issue, 1996, Fabius NV
I think I first
learned it from
the voice can
come off the page.
May 20, 1996
from Working Papers, November 1996, Number 19
PO Box 940, Scotsdale, Arizona
Ten Penny Players