March 29-April 11, 1999: Sarah Maclay, Gabriel Macpherson, Tim Cumming, and Dancing Bear

Week of March 29-April 11, 1999

Sarah MaclayGabriel Macpherson,
Tim Cummingand Dancing Bear

Sarah Maclay


Sarah Maclay recently co-edited the Beyond Baroque anthology Echo 6 8 1 Her work is forthcoming in poetry international and has appeared in The Squaw Review, 51%, Spillway, Blue Satellite, Deadstart,  Beyond the Valley of the Contemporary Poets 1998 Anthology and other journals Her chapbook Weeding the Duchess was published by Black Stone Press She holds a B.A in English from Oberlin College A native of Montana, she currently lives in Venice, California She facilitates a weekly poetry workshop in nearby Santa Monica.

The following work is Copyright © 1999, and owned by Sarah Maclay and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsover without written permission from the author.

Becoming Animal

The bird wore no halo His beak was large, though The woman watched until it moved
What you are making, he said, is a wave
in a field of barley, almost golden
When will it rain, she said, I want it to
Feathers are growing around your face All the keys, surrounded by black,
all the holes, whispers,
all of these wings
will fly
when your hands
release them
In the wood on the wall
a girl is falling upside down
with the face of an owl The grain moves like water A man is sideways
burning in the sun He hoots.

(originally appeared in Deadstart)

In Blue

The mountains lift their knees
as if revealing secrets,
leave their elbows open
to the sun,
and even the ridges hold on
to the swollen shape of their pleasure
as it sprawls through crags that slip
from a pubic fur
which spreads in distance
like a reminder of time,
the time it takes you to wander in
this section of earth’s body–
and peaks and peaks
are stitched with snow
as if the large hand
of a child
is hemming them together,
so it seems only natural
that water should gather in the creases,
interlocking as a set of lakes,
that you should want to dip your finger
through this line of blue,
that you would want to drink.

(originally appeared in The Squaw Review)

In the Desert

Imagine a woodsman in the Sahara desert What good are his bulging muscles and his sharp axe?
–Ortega y Gasset

I come with my axe
for cutting sand,
a light bulb in one hand,
a pear in the other
At night, the glass and the skin
cool my cheeks, but already
it’s cold, I have no blanket The blade shines in the moonlight
like a flag
My territory!
Welcome to the land of three
colors: darkness, moon and blade Yell, and no one
will listen! You can
spread your arms as far as you
can see
In this desert there are ripples but no
there are waves and curves,
no water But this pear,
if I ate it, would give the sand
one stem of humus

I would have to lick the light bulb from
then on.

(originally appeared in Deadstart)

The Asparagus

In her beige coat, with the asparagus,
the woman is walking over the squares
of the grocery store floor, toward the scales
I suppose, so slowly
that the old man crossing the bridge
may succeed in dumping his camera
over the railing, into the river
before she weighs the asparagus.

(originally appeared in Deadstart)


I have been lying a long time
on the bed, watching light flicker through a
of broken beeswax, jagged
as a wrecked iceberg, set on staying awake–
as if this will be the thing to heal me–
until it burns out And I want it to burn,
tonight, all the way to the base
This morning I began to bleed at 7:30 Now I rise, the blood suddenly falls,
a stain on the sheepskin, precise
expression of all we haven’t said
or done I scrub
and scrub with cold water
until it’s pink,
until it’s salmon,
until it’s beige,
until it’s a circle
of matted, sudsy white,
until it’s a nest.

(originally appeared in 51%)

Gabriel Macpherson


Born and raised as a stark New Englander, Gabriel was educated at the University of New Hampshire under Mekeel McBride and Charles Simic Gabe has published in a few Northeast based print publications,  but since his relocation to the midwest, has spent most of his time on-line Gabe also writes short stories, and is a photographer and print designer by trade.

The following work is Copyright © 1999, and owned by Gabriel Macpherson and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsover without written permission from the author.

Driving Around on the Night You Got Married

Spindular rims of the treetops circle above my head,
slight full moon angelica scrubs the edge lines of the road Pickup truck turbulence encircles us lying around on the plastic,  ribbed,
bed liner
You’re like my old mother Rocket ship technology but no one to fly it Easily understood nonsense is how I could describe our childhood
I tap Doug, sitting next to me in the midst of the juttering road,
and the humming blur of the classic rock radio,
muffled inside the secluded cab I tap Doug for a lighter, and pop a beer bottle cap off
At least you are on your honeymoon,
I’m still clattering around on Upper Jaffery Road, Snow Hill Road and
Lake Road, and a futile baptism in the lake
Doug is stoned, staring at the stars and the full moon-
unmoving objects in the entire commotion of the drive
Peter is driving with a cigarette clasped in his constructed hands The floor keeps vibrating No one has anything to say We were once here when we were younger,
we used to talk
I am still very drunk,
it eased up the singing, and I think it kept me quiet through the ceremony Nothing hurts more than losing your understanding of action,
to a stonewalled, red lined, wooden seated, long-winded phrase of a soon
discarded oath,
of eternity

Phone conversation, Memphis

Wallet sized candlestick coins Sifting to side to side on the glazed walkways Eager moments of unforeseen recognition Wistful thoughts of nothing but unlit words
Continuing to holler at me Streetlight lurching into morning poolside salvation Wandering through dead cornstalks, crispy and cloned.


Listening to the traffic alone in the night,
wandering voices flaking across the street,
held up by restless gulp of liquor and style
I wander in the sheets,
and miss nothing except the emptiness I have not found Cloth lifting the categories of chance
Motorbikes swell at the stoplight on fleet street The angry engines growl at each other,
and fade into the night
Someone said they saw her last night,
floating around the docks looking for her reflection in the turbulent black
tide I let the past go when I see you,
because it means nothing to me any longer When you have yourself,
when you’ve found the last buoy drifting in the churning ebb,
the last piece of furniture bobbing under the steel rust grates,
when you’ve looked long enough,
waste no more time.

Don’t Admit the Difference

A minefield of tick-tock trees
fight their moonlight shadows,
as they groan on the sidewalk in front of her house
Silence allows cars to pass
She stands in the driveway mourning I can’t get out of the car She walks toward the window and looks inside
I fiddle with the keychain The car slides into gear.

Tim Cumming


I’ve had many poems published in the UK and US in the last ten years, in magazines such as Gargoyle, London Magazine, Pearl,  and The Echo Room I’ve had several chapbooks published, which were widely reviewed I’ve read at various literary festivals in the UK, at the South Bank Centre’s New Voices season in London,  and on BBC radio and TV I am also a regular reviewer of new poetry for various publications The following poems are taken from my first full-length collection, Apocalypso, to be published in October by Stride Publications in the UK.

The following work is Copyright © 1999, and owned by Tim Cumming and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsover without written permission from the author.

Strange Days

Other people meant nothing to some people They didn’t even get angry or sad They just moved into view
like professional mourners,
the kind of figures who come alive
in a padded cell or historical fiction
One of them had the haunted look
of a man who was once mugged
outside a police station
by a policeman Another dreamt about food on the table
and times when there were
more important things than food
You see them everywhere, 
the young, the sick, the old,
dreaming about the same thing Say they’ve got a bone to pick,
an axe to grind,
a roast on Sundays
Behind them, the sun went down
faster than a hard drive
Husbands split like plastic bags
filled with too much rubbish It was the little things,
the broken glass, 
the paper cuts on the hands,
it was knowing what you didn’t believe in
If you had a good time, 
your face glowed
like the tail of a comet
Life was 20% living and 90% information
and people were sick of the information It didn’t add up but that was the whole point,
it was life at least,
it came with bills
and a shoulder to cry on
The next line reads:
it was like trying
to fold a blanket
into a matchbox
Bobby looked up from his place
and shrugged nervously Where to begin?
Not at the beginning, that was for sure His heart beat like a village disco His girlfriend sat on the edge of their bed
with a well-thumbed copy of
the Nostradamus cookbook
It was the year of the comet,
the summer of the slasher movie Something amazing would happen soon, 
everyone was certain of it
Men who should’ve had labels attached
explaining their circumstances
stood in the dark by the banks of rivers
imitating the calls of the night owl
Some saw furniture being loaded onto a truck Others saw men with pig’s hearts
and crow’s feet fishing the reservoir Foolishly, they believed they could
hold their heads underwater
much longer than ordinary mortals They believed they could see the future They hardly ever believed
in the promises of politicians
At the front of the train station
a blue insect killer flashed through the night
over a plaque to aggressive begging
On the train the next morning,
ticket inspectors swept through the carriage
like characters from an improving novel
Some passengers watched with apprehension Others felt a need to confess Everybody had something to fear
For some it was a helping hand,
a room for improvement,
a mood that was harder to shift
than bedroom furniture
At times like this
it was best to keep your counsel,
to walk in a perfectly straight line
Grown men opened a hundred windows to weep,
a kettle boiled over on a thousand stoves

A car driving at fast speed
was the repeating after-image of the century

like powdered milk mountains
and wire-rimmed spectacles
and metal guitar strings
and factory chickens
Especially the chickens
You had the freedom not to clap You had the choice to keep your distance You could turn your back on everything You could go to a bar and drink steadily,
or practice yoga, or turn an allotment
There were those that built up tool collections
during closed marriages
that ended where they’d begun, 
behind closed doors, 
without anyone quite knowing
how they’d got there
but it was best for the time being
to remain completely and utterly still and wait
for the emergency services

They came, but no one moved very quickly They seemed to come from very far away
and they cleared slowly like sediment
There was no getting away from other people They’d be there always
like official portraits or classroom furniture Other people simply had to be together They moved into view
with _the careless abandon
of a man waving a piece of paper
in the trajectory of a rocket
at one of those point-and-click
moments in history
that didn’t make sense
until you took sides
or made a stand or stood aside You just had to be there You just had to be around
Strange days, indeed Days that fell into place
like perfect bone structure
or jigsaw puzzles
cut from the hard, dark wood
of the confession box
Some said they’d
never seen anything like it Others framed their own fingerprints
and some talk about the end of history They speak from the horse’s mouth
and sit quietly in neat rooms,
calling up the emergency services Instead they get Nostradamus

He sits on his messenger’s bike
and wheelies into the wind, going nowhere Nobody’s talking No one understands Some people can’t sleep Some people call an election Everybody does drugs
People think that God is a biscuit
There are roadworks every ten minutes,
just to put things in their proper perspective,
and quiet laughter at the sound
of hammering on doors and tables
but you don’t know who’s responsible It is either arrest without charge
or a riotous seance
in a language you don’t understand
Many people are silent for some time afterwards Some people never quite feel the same way again No one knows when to expect the next big thing

but this satellite picture
shows exactly what will happen
after the event: two frightened people in a room, 
a swinging light overhead
This is what the world can do;
it can put you in a taxi
and wash its hands of the whole business A few people nervously back off Reconstructions show repeatedly
that nothing could be done
but it could have been done thoroughly, 
do you read me?


Couples sit on love seats in the shade Everywhere people are falling for each other,
in their faces the subdued energy
of the powder keg that becomes a tidal wave There are times when they can’t see more than a half dozen words ahead
or much more than the movement of their fingers,
and times they sit in front of upturned tables
at the window of a bar in the city square
from the turn of the century
when the talk was of revolution,
and there’s a fishing net caught
in the heel of one of their shoes
or a harpoon sticks out of the sides of their heads
and this is called historical process,
it comes with a kidnapper’s letroset
and lucid dreaming and maybe there’s guns involved
but it’s no laughing matter In fact they don’t laugh much about anything
and it’s not funny what they do laugh about They’ve got the burden of history
rising in the half moons of their nails They’re people who come together
at the backs and sides of political meetings
like small volumes of water pushing the tables
against the doors or overturning them
on behalf of the masses, who are frightened of politics,
of the tide rising, of breaking banks One of them has the face of experience,
another has the local dialect Silent newsreel footage shows them waving big sticks
in the middle of an equation for real money and
total power that spells it out in capital letters,
like a ransome note, in the kind of writing
that peole get death threats in The pushing at the back was positively Biblical Emergency stairs and fireman’s lifts took on an almost religious
the kind imbued in freshly-laid eggs and the cameraderie of the cab No one feels like that anymore Everything feels
like it happened a long, long time ago.

No Smoking, No Dancing

Feeling for your matches you follow the coffin in sensible shoes
as professional mourners gather at the grave and one of them
coughs a smoker’s cough You breath in heavily and think about death
coughing at your shoulder and what it comes down to
is no one knows anything and you’re sitting up in bed
when odd thoughts enter your head that last the length
of a last cigarette They move like alien spacecraft move,
without any logic or earthly origin You throw in
a handful of earth and follow the mourners
back to the carpark, brushing off the earth from your fingers
and stopping the man who coughed for his matches.

Malaga Station, 4am

On the day of the funeral of Diana, Princess
of Wales, he smoked an English Marlboro to its root
and watched a middle-aged woman in a short dress
crying unconsolably at a nearby table
while trying to light a cigarette Around her, men slept in their seats,
their legs pushed forward,
heads to one side, mouths wide open,
looking as if they’d been shot One of the men rose up and touched her gently,
then the lights in the station went on Tony got up and walked
towards the station doors He still hadn’t changed any money Did you see that woman? his girlfriend asked Yes I wonder what had happened They both cleared their throats at the same time
and put their watches back by an hour Why do I always cry, she asked him,
and why do you never cry?

They’d split up once before
and they could both see the long distance
coming to a close This is it, she said,
as they watched their ship
pulling out of Spain for Tangier He’d finished his book
and didn’t have another Up all night, they’d thinned
to a vinegarish temper She’d been reading Tony’s Anna Kerenina,
his college copy, scored with notes like
“Death,” “Argument,” and “Levin proposes marriage “
When she looked at Tony
coming down the gangplank with the ferry tickets
she saw Vronsky’s horse galloping in the far distance,
no bigger than a full stop She could see through everything now He smiled at her as if he loved her,
and it was like she’d found herself in a too-small space,
in front of them the rock of Gibraltar,
its peak in a spume of black cloud as thick as Homer,
looking like the aftermath
of a massive explosion
They slept a half sleep
on the ferry into Spanish Morocco,
breaking themselves into halves, quarters, eighths,
on a bench the width of a narrow step He could’ve slept a million years,
for the half life of platinum, 
dreaming of platinum blondes, 
his pillow a copy of the souvenir Observer
on the day of the funeral of Diana,
Princess of Wales He wondered if she was a natural blonde They day they flew out
they ate lunch silently in front of the telly
watching Diana’s hearse pass through the suburbs of London
like the moon’s shadow during a solar eclipse Look, she said, and pointed with her free hand There was an aerial shot of their street, their home,
the sun on their windows,
the flowers in the garden It looked like there were flowers everywhere We should’ve watched it pass, he said,
looking at his watch,
and they both began to laugh.

Dancing Bear


Dancing Bear is of Chippewa and Swedish ancestry He lives in the San Francisco bay area His poems and art have been published in many journals, including New York Quarterly, Zuzu’s Petals Quarterly, Slipstream, Pearl and the Rio Grande Review He is the Editor-in-Chief of Disquieting Muses and the owner of Dream Horse Press He has two chapbooks available: From A Reconstructed Dream and Disjointed Constellations He is also the editor and publisher of Michael McNeilley’s book: Situational Reality

The following work is Copyright © 1999, and owned by Dancing Bear and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsover without written permission from the author.

Dogs’ Star

dogs follow a star
that only they are aware of
like certain noises
it draws them out
into the tall grass of night
calling them to remember hunting
commands they roll in smells of fresh earth
and when they are far from their domestic lives
pulls a howl from them

All night their eyes glow in the grass
until dawn
the hunter pads over the kitchen floor
on his way to rest

Earthquake Weather

A chess piece slides
Across a scratchy board
I stare at the sky
Thinking of earthquakes
It is like that sometimes
-Looking for that nameless
Cloud–that shape
The one seen last time the
Ground pushed us around
It’s belly rumbling
Out the deeper reasons

Maybe the weight of a chess piece
Shifting across a board
Is all it takes
To change the weather

Death is a Roommate

Death hangs around my place too much
makes my friends go away
He drinks my booze
and smokes my cigarettes
when I’m not looking
Death leaves his scythe leaning
against the door
in an odd way
that makes people trip over it
on the way in
He laughs and laughs about this
Death is not funny
He laughs at his own jokes
He makes faces behind my back while
I’m talking
like I’m talking now
He blows his horn loud
at early hours of the morning
neighbors pounding on the ceiling
and the floors and the walls
Death cleans out my ‘frigerator
eats all the fruit and the leftovers
leaves the milk carton open to spoil
He sneaks long distance calls on my phone
borrows my stuff without returning it
Death passes out drunk
on my couch
Death snores
He sneaks into my room to
stare at me
while I’m sleeping
Death doesn’t clean up the bathroom
and his aim ain’t what it should be
he leaves the empty roll
on the toilet paper holder
He brushes his teeth funny
leaves little toothpaste dots
all over the mirror
He litters the counter top with
used floss and nail clippings
Death leaves my stereo on
to idle for hours
burning out the components sooner
He forgets to water the plants
and is always late with the rent
Death is a roommate
whose name is also on the lease


these hands that know more
than hurried buttons and eyes
wish more of you
warm skin close comfort

another kiss before my descent
each dark hour of departure
fills me with an equally black fantasy
by my hasty foot slipping as I climb
caught in a trellis hanging upside down
left to dry in the coming sun

this kiss over–I check the state of my shoes before
backing out of your window again

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