October 14-27, 2002: RJ McCaffery and anonymous

week of October 14-27, 2002

RJ McCaffery and anonymous

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RJ McCaffery

Bio (auto)

RJ McCaffery is a poet of temporary residence, currently living in Athens, GA A graduate of Providence College, he holds a M.F.A in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College He has published two books, Chaos Theory and the Knuckleballer and The Hymnal Week; his third, Anchor Ice, is due out in the spring of 2003 His poetry and essays have appeared in such publications as The Norton Anthology of Literature’s web site, New BooksPloughsharesThe Cortland ReviewCraniaThe Alsop ReviewThe Free CuisenartTerrainConspireMastheadMoondanceThe Melic ReviewOctavoThe Blue Collar Review, and The Alembic When not restoring vintage 3-speed bicycles, he putters with several web-related poetry projects; many under the aegis of Eye Dialect, a literary publication which he edits with Kristina Van Sant and William Norris Anyone who wishes to discuss the Red Sox or poetry (and the fine line between them) is welcome to mail him.

The following work is Copyright © 2002, and owned by RJ McCaffery and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsover without written permission from the author.

Newport: The Lepers Play Volleyball

and, mostly, they’re good;
bump and set to spike –
a blur of bronze arm
and the ball zings down They’re contemporary lepers,
cured; the mycobacterium leprae
scourged out by a new drug cocktail Baby-kissing safe
but lepers still –
irreversible nerve damage,
some with splinted hands
or special shoes
After each play, like reflex
they pause to scan limbs,
make sure they (and friends)
have no unnoticed cuts or scrapes;
a well worn first-aid kit
waits with their duffel bags
Soon, there will be no lepers at all,
no nerveless fingers –
stumps or locked claws,
nasal cavities – bloated lumps,
patchy scabrous skin, ulcered
joints and bones and eyes
gone blind, milky Soon
perhaps, no colonies, forced camps,
shunning of the sick, the ugly
When they leave (not even half-way
to their Pawtuxet Valley Tour bus)
the groundskeeper
her fingers in thick shrubbing gloves
daintily picks the forgotten volleyball
from sand and deposits it
in the nearest plastic trashcan.

The Magician’s Assistant

Across the stage, a pair of legs
exactly like your own
down to the greasepaint smear on one knee
thrash from a box The magician
counts off seconds with a flourish
of dripping saw blade;
above this all, phosphorus flashes
as the gorilla disappears
from its welded-shut cage
The magician, she’s irritable,
wants to run more than one trick
at a time Lately the stage’s been a litter
of false bottomed trunks,
flying knives and iron masks
Of course she forgets
magic is not saying it is so,
but that a grown bird beats from a cracked egg The saw toothing through –
nothing without the miracle whole
But who are you to argue your small theory?
For all your lace and sparkles,
your thumby hands can’t manage
to flick a coin up your sleeve
or even hold a sedated rabbit still
Even now, as the box’s halves join,
as you unfold your bent body out,
begin your stiff sidestage bow,
the children screech loudest at the blood
on the blade the magician flags over her head
as if it were special – as if we all
had something else in our veins.

Painting Speech

Art of the letter comes slower than speech – tongue between teeth,
you grip the bulky pencil, learn to close your Os, leave enough space in the e,
brake the lower halves of k and h before the dotted line
Serif buttressed or stripped bare – you suggest the shape of sound
with ink, which is pigment swirling in water, dyes bonded to oil You’ll sketch with pencil, brush, stylus or pen (reed, quill, plastic)
or press it in wax, or carve in something harder, to last
Silent eye – as you learn the shapes of these fluid tools, do not forget –
the soft puff of articulate lips, tongue dancing thrrrum
the tooth shivering ooooh.

Postcard from Upstairs

Reads “The weather’s fine here” – Upstairs
Now that it’s spring, I haven’t heard the pipes clang
as you whap your sole against your radiator’s regulator,
nor have I heard your evening curses, percussion
of implements in mixing bowls and the crescendo
of pans clattering into your sink
as yet another omelet goes awry In fact, it’s been rather quiet lately, and I wonder
if your excitable dog is dead, kenneled
or has been educated
Its been weeks since I’ve abandoned playing The Clash
at full volume over his yapping, since five minutes later
I’d just hear The Dead Milkmen echoing back
How is it we’ve never met?

I’ve often thought you might be the blonde
with the terrier, whom I saw one day reading Keats
in the laundry room, and for that alone, never
called management, even during your midnight
Valentine’s Day bash – all those hard paired high heels clacking though I suppose, in an odd twist,
you could be the matron with the poodle
Why are you home alone recently,
always by six, in for the night?

I flip the postcard; a picture of Roman storied-apartments
recently excavated from under a volcano’s flow Bright frescoes, some ledges, little clutter,
plaster cast from an ash hollow, a gecko drapes
his underbelly over a pear in a wicker basket In the corner, a ladder leads up, out of the photo
It’s so quiet What message are you sending?

Danse of the Bag Boy

With a foot-shift and sway from the conveyor
to the gaping bag (raised eyebrow asking,
“paper or plastic”) his hands pluck and twist,
flip the canned palm hearts clear of the grapes,
layer in, sedimentary, the boxes of frozen
produce, the pot pies, the insulating
dry goods The uninitiated might say
it’s like algebra, or dance, or that he
is ordering force: Noah allotting the saved,
Moses parting your groceries –
what could such a man want,
beyond something more than six an hour,
and a ticket out of your shitty little town.


Bio (auto)

Information about the author has been removed per the author’s request

The following work is Copyright © 2002, and owned by the author and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsover without written permission from the author.

The City is Beautiful

This unbeliveable September sun falls over the faces of apartments
And skyscrapers And I am sitting there with Emily
down in the West Village
looking at these buildings turn orange
in the evening light
and I think that war is certain
and the world has never been more mortal than it is now
and there is nowhere to run There is just this this city
just this September day.


Last night, last night in the wetness
of a summer storm

Last night when finally the sky cleared
and the clouds rose

Last night the New York skyline
lit up & shone for the last time

as best it ever would
Tonight it is diminished A city lacking endquotes
those southern bookends
the great parantheticals that made you think:
Here we are, invincible.

In truth, I was far from lonely

In truth, I was far from lonely I was with Em
and with Em I am never lonely Em is not definable
in the Girls of New York Manual:
There is no place she would fit in She is broader than here, a morning star Sapphire eyes I see her face
Sapphire eyes and scar.

That’s the way I want to die

That’s the way I want to die
Up late drinking wine
and going wild on some keys
writing like black steam
Then, in an exalted state
Of je ne sais hey
I’ll make a run for the steps
A quick trip
A little bit of pain
Then blackness, sucked back into the circle
The last lingering emotion
not pain, nor fear Elation From your own words
suddenly born
immediately generating heat.

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