February 10-16, 2003: Todd Heldt and Rich Quatrone

week of February 10-16, 2003

Todd Heldt and Rich Quatrone

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Todd Heldt

Bio (auto)

My poetry has appeared recently or is forthcoming in Laurel Review, Borderlands, Sycamore Review, Chattahoochee Review, Rag Mag and others I was honored to win 1st place in the 2001 Abbie M Copps poetry contest Additionally, I have validated my existence with some near misses, including 2nd place in the Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers’ poetry contest, being a finalist in the 2000 Dana Award for poetry, and a semi-finalist in the 2002 Cleveland State University first book competition
Currently I live and work in Chicago and hope some day to eke above the national poverty line and land a job that gives me health benefits I maintain a website at http://heldt.tripod.com/ at which you can listen to MP3’s of my readings, read samples, and luxuriate in the prospect of having sex on Mr T’s old couch You can also order my first book, my first CD, and my first bumper sticker there.

The following work is Copyright © 2003, and owned by Todd Heldt and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsover without written permission from the author.

Lubbock, Texas

Where God sat when He created
the rest of the world, I’ve heard–
say what you will It wasn’t enough
to make the wasteland holy Today the wind blew so hard
it took both poets to write about it I hid inside, listening for their gesture
at a holy word, a tornado siren,
or the sound of God
sitting down, folding His arms,
saying, I give up I will drown them,
this time with dust
Sure enough, outside my window
a brown cloud chased the devil
down my street, kicking up
more stuff to choke on We’ve stopped washing
our cars, our clothes,
our clotted tangles of hair,
realized the futility of the rinse
cycle: dirt, wash, dirt, wash,
dirt, wash, dirt, dirt,
dirt But we have to keep hoping
we’ll be forgiven for living
here, that someone will deliver us from dirt What else is there?

Buddy Holly  Almost holy A golden child, someone to exit us
from misery But Buddy couldn’t save us–
couldn’t see three feet in front of his face,
much less the future Else he would have
taken the bus I am not poking fun
of his blindness, his glasses, the nerd look,
his death You miss my meaning
Who can see anything around here?
Took me two years to realize
I live four blocks from the shrine
where he was born, which is now a vacant lot,
with a wind-bent sign and slurpee cups dancing
to the chirping of crickets Buried
in the wind, Golden Oldie radio offers
a faint prophecy, promises a time
when we shall be remembered,
called in from the desert to hear his voice
again We stare at the sky, wonder when
the plane will finally touch down
that made us a people under God
We wait for the second coming,
watch the wind stir up dust,
pray the sky will deliver us
more than mud when it rains

In the Presence of Things Large and Small

I was watching my nephew nap
the day that Doodah died When I checked the cage,
found him stiff, and cold,
and not breathing, I hid him
under soft cedar chips, in the corner,
under the water bottle, behind the food bowl. 
I was the only one home,
so I’d have to explain how things die
and why I prayed something would happen
to keep him from knowing,
or my sister would show and know what to say
about God and dying, how the two of them
are hearts partners shooting the moon But when William woke and wanted to play,
he spotted the fluff of fur immediately and asked,  
Why is Doodah just lying there?
When things are born, they begin to die And Doodah has stopped living Just like everything,
and someday you and me.                    
But Doodah’s not dead, he’s sleeping Doodah is dead I know it looks like sleep,
but death is a sleep that doesn’t end   
But he’s just asleep I like Doodah as much as you, but–                 
Look, he’s breathing –And he was–
William cried until my sister got home She pulled me aside:  Why did you traumatize my child?
I didn’t! It was stiff! It wasn’t breathing! It was dead!
A few days later, home from church, my sister called,
mad You know what William said in Sunday school today?
Said you were like Jesus raising Lazarus,
but better because you bring pets back to life We didn’t talk for six months. 
Mom got involved, told me I should
leave my desk and get outside,
start going to church again,
and stop playing morbid jokes I tried to explain the joke was on me,
that God and I had a long history of irony. 
But she didn’t believe me: The first time
I prayed in five years was answered
with a miracle. 

It shook me up pretty good, thinking
there might be a God out there
answering occasional prayers How can I explain the grief
we cynics pile on like armor?
The way we hold the dead to keep us company,
and can’t one of us get a good fix on God. 
I started going to church again,
and eventually they forgave me,
except William won’t let me near Doodah’s cage. 
My sister calls from time to time,
and I ask about the rat. 
She says Doodah is fine, and changes the subject,
but every once in a while, as my eyes droop
in a sermon, or when I’m arguing with my sister
about the existence of God,
I feel a sort of peace in my gut
like the unclenching of a fist,
and I know that there must be miracles,
even for people like me–
twisted saints and agnostics
for whom Doodah rises
again from the dead.

What If The World Ends Tomorrow?

Nothing you say can stop the stray meteor
from pinballing the planet at the sun,
or the swarming garbage that threatens
to suck you under the slush. 

It’s all your fault because last night your sex
was bad, and you couldn’t get someone off
your mind This morning your cigarette
charcoals the world, a box of global warming. 

Why stop there? Every second you don’t do
something, you let someone starve in Somalia,
Pakistan, Gondwanaland, some place you’ve never
heard of, some person you’ve never met
Why should you owe them anything?  You aren’t
so bad No one knows all the love you deserve
or how painful that rock lodged in your sock,
it’s reminder at every step: not quite right

You might as well club a harp seal on the way
to the Quick Mart to buy more cigarettes           
You would burn down the rain forest,
blow up the Buddha, rape the ozone’s raw hole
At work your papers slip from your notebook,
an essay on frustration You freeze up
your computer, misuse a semi colon There is no end
to the things you will screw up today. 

You wish your fingers just once could make sense
of the stupid world they clutch at No one will care
what you did today–how you couldn’t square anything
with the useless tools you’ve been given. 

You just want someone to tell you there’s nothing
you could have done It doesn’t matter You’re normal. 
There’s a happy ending for you The lady at the Quick Mart
tells you have a nice day.

Rich Quatrone

Bio (auto)

Rich Quatrone is editor of Passaic Review, founder of the guerrilla theater Children of September 11, and reads wednesday nights at Coffee Blue in Belmar, NJ.  Specious Skies: Poems Written in Harm’s Way As America Wages War on the Wretched of the Earth is seeking a publisher Copies may be purchased from the author by contacting him at Uly46@aol.com Anyone wishing to be added to Passaic Review Ezine’s mailing list, should write the same email address.

The following work is Copyright © 2003, and owned by Rich Quatrone and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsover without written permission from the author.


“All living creatures born of flesh shall sit at last
in the boat of the West, and when it sinks, when
the boat of Magilum sinks, they are gone: but we
shall go forward and fix our eyes on this monster “

—The Epic of Gilgamesh

hell, not in my name will we attack the Sumerians!
not in my name will we attack the Babylonians!
i’m not issuing permission to attack King Gilgamesh!
hell no, I am not giving my okay to that!
it’s much too scary for me!
too arrogant!
too foolhardy!

no, there is no way that I lend my name through
my taxation or my imagination to an invasion of Mesopotamia!
hell no!
it won’t be my missiles landing between the Tigris and
I ain’t messin’ with Nineveh!
I ain’t messin’ with Karbala where a shrine built for
the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad is!
you know I ain’t messin with Ur!!
no way on this planet earth am I doing that!!
hell, Abraham was born in Ur!
and I’m not talking about Abe Lincoln either!
and I’ll tell you what!
there is no way in my life that my government
is going to bomb the land where sits
the Garden of Eden!!
that’s right I’m not talking about some Disney theme park!
I’m talking about Basra Al-Qurna
where according to the January 5 New York Times
is a gnarled old tree
and you got it!
it is The Tree!
Where the Apple was!
and the Snake Itself!
where all this life began!
where love itself began!
where we knew Paradise
and gave it up, all for Human Love!
we took the dive!
we took the fall!
and began it all!
no damn way am I giving my Okay
to bomb the Garden of Eden!
that’s just too crazy for me!

there’s just some things a child
no matter how angry
no matter how frightened
no matter how strong or how righteous
there’s just some things a child
to a parent!

Message to Amiri

private messages
like the old days
no fanfare
just paid carfare
away from the news hounds
and publicity seekers
away from the movers and shakers
and social climbers
just a great poet
in an old car
chuggin along
some irish soda break from my wife
a group of passaic kids
in a basement classroom
no permission slips
no principal breathing down our backs
no reporters for interviews
no applause
no asskissing
no bullshit
just the great baraka
with a sheaf of poems
like trane with his horn
under his arm
and blow blow blow
while kids sit back
and see what poetry can be
should be
and the world is good
so very very good

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