Back to top

Sparks Vol. 5 No. 3

Page
Sparks 15 - January/February 1997 - volume 6 issue 1- published by The Orange Street Press

Contents

From The Editor's Desk...

Richard Fein

Robert Klein Engler

Mark Johnson

Ben Ohmart

Neca Stoller

Contributors

From the editors desk...

Greetings and Happy New Year. I wanted to update you on the latest changes to Sparks. First off, we're attempting to go bi-monthly this year; our submissions have been increasing in quantity and quality, and our readership is growing too. Thanks for sticking with us, and I hope you enjoy Sparks six times a year. Who knows, if we really get cooking we'll ramp up to monthly distribution.

I'm also going to start providing Sparks in Envoy format. What's Envoy? It's similar to Adobe Acrobat in that it allows you to download a viewable version of Sparks that you can also print to paper. The whole intent of the Envoy version will be to give you a relatively easy way to dump Sparks to paper in a readable, well-designed manner. This way, you can read it offline in the comfort of your living room, armchair, or toilet! To download the free Envoy viewer, click here.

Lastly, we have in the works plans to make an annual year-end hard-copy issue containing the best of Sparks for the preceding year. Our first such issue would come out in December of 1997. This would be available for a reasonable price. Profits from sales will be passed along to the included authors as payment and a token of thanks for their submissions. Let us know what you think about these ideas. If you'd like to comment, send mail to sparks@las.alfred.edu.


Richard Fein

COME THE CERTAIN DARK TIMES,

I'll need this rainy morning remembrance
of my taking him to school:
he jumping in and out of puddles
ignoring my halfhearted scolding,
a warm, gentle rain falling on all the muted street hues,
his yellow raincoat a bright beacon on this gray day,
his last furtive kiss out of sight from his classmates,
the long line of drizzled-on munchkins,
his last look at me, his final wave.
His final wave.
Iron doors slam shut.

Now pointless, even suspicious, to remain.
But come the certain dark times,
I'll draw on this memory.

MORNING STROLL

Each morning, except for Sunday mass
Miss O'Reilly takes tea, clam chowder, and biscuits at Nathans.
(open all year except for Yom-Kippur)

Then she goes:

to the boardwalk by the beach
and watches joggers kick sand up while avoiding
children's sand castles, and she listens to
always the sea, even at ebbtide roaring;

to the pier where men all around her pull up crab traps,
full, inside joint legged claws, faceless eyes peering
out of the wire mesh, their shells soon to be
broken, meat within plucked, eaten,
and other men reel in
fish, gills drying up, smothering in the air, so near the sea;

to the boardwalk's end
where she can say to anyone she can trap into listening,
thirty years ago her man proposed, right there by this now broken park bench
but then married an uglier girl,
didn't even tell her face to face,
did tell her mom,
and mom said that she was still a little pixy,
and as virginal as Mary.
Now in the summer, when a half-naked bikini clad girl passes her by
she snarls, "Harlot, bitch, Satan's your john, Satan's your trick";

home
to watch daily soap operas on TV.

NORMALITIES

Lightning bugs use a rhythm of flashes
connecting being to being across the tropic night;
cold lights flashing among palm leaves,
filling hot, humid evening with a luminous and silent dust.
On these normalities hinge their existence,
for male and female can find each other through
the flashing in their faceted eyes.
The harmony of blue flashes, and the tandem of sparkles--
a love song of cool lights.
But there are other normalities,
normalities among normalities,
for eons hungry wasps have mastered the visual melody,
counterfeit love songs of blue flashes,
to lure not to nuptials but to mandibles,
so the wasps also survive.
For eons a duet of normalities,
fulfilling a destiny, betraying a destiny,
a check and balance,
the hammer and anvil of creation.


Robert Klein Engler

The Granville Suite

BALLAD ON THE SOLSTICE

The sun this brief December day
Is half a light above the trees.
The wind chimes sound just like the way
An old man fumbles with his ring of keys.

I feel the frost within my bones,
And stir exhausted coals of fire.
The world is white and made of stones.
Whatever happened to my blond desire?

It skates the night with steel support,
And tempts me in my halting prayers.
Let's hope the days of storms are short.
Already snow obscures the walk and stairs.

The lamp is on, the light is thin.
A simple room becomes an ark.
I pour my tea and read again:
"It's not the cold that kills, it is the dark."

TO DIE IN WINTER (SET IN THE PAST)

A breath of smoke on the horizon violins into fog.
The world is stitched with bare trees and hemmed by snow.
Inside, outside, the window films as moist as eyes.
When the weather changes, the wounded fall behind.
All this happens the way language happens to a mind.

Apres moi le deluge, has already been said,
And it had no power. So much of what we wish
Is simply passed through the tunnel of time.
Now is the hour to pull up the white blanket of sleep.
What wisdom you read, you alone will keep.

He made his discovery when asking about love.
No matter, the body may stay in the icehouse till spring.
The chatter of monkeys and jasmine on the breeze
Mocks his foolishness. In great art all must be cold,
Or is that frozen word the longer form for old?

They say a grace has set us down and a grace
Will lift us up. As the silence of the suburbs thicken,
The proof unfolds in our bones with the seasons.
Let the hum of the city absorb a parade of sanguine
Youths, let the metaphors come like dogs of morphine.

An endless song of snow falls past the lamps.
So many prayers burn their lips like candles.
It's just a little pain, a whisper, a crack.
A century hence, the rusted gate hangs bent,
And still the lovers sleep in blank astonishment.


THE ENIGMA VARIATIONS

His memory comes back-a frozen dot-
Just like dry ice that burns both cold and hot.

Some live on islands where the days are mild,
And from their infant sleep they make a child.

Look, the young inhabit another world.
It's so close to this one, his hair is curled.

I thought the poems I sent would make him melt.
Instead he only reads below the belt.

He wants a home, a love, another start,
Yet comes a colder place disclosed by art.

The more I live, the more inexorable are fools.
The world's work requires the proper tools.

They talk and laugh and smoke and talk and smoke,
Then off to bed-let's see, who gets the joke?

Adonis at the table over there-
He reads alone-I wish I were his chair.

It's odd how eyes that roam like litttle spies
Are nailed in their place by other eyes.

It rises again, the blood tide, the balloon.
I thought I was cured, but it's too soon.

The body is the soul's demanding wife
That harps, A life in death, a death in life.

The brokenhearted sleep on straw and stone,
And dream the books they need to live alone.

There, on the beach laughing, a boy.
It's true, the body is a fount of joy.

What youth will have a poet of ash and dust?
The one who bleeds and finds his blood is rust.


NOT OFTEN, JUST ENOUGH

There is a love that pleads with love, "Don't go,"
Then further makes the case, "What will I do?"
To only hear, "Your life, why don't you know?"
The target moves just when my aim is true.

There is a love that pays for love with gold.
Not often, just enough to call back memory,
That comes when flesh but not desire grows old-
The way electric sparks by battery.

There is a love that asks of love, "Please go."
The very sweet becomes the bittersweet,
Then turns to salt, as years and absence grow.
What could I say if ever we should meet?

The twilight fades and phantom eyes reply,
There is a love that says to love, "Goodbye."


S. Mark Johnson

Dreaming the Millennium (ESSAY)

Last night I dreamed about the president again. I always dream about the president sooner or later. This one had been in office about six months and I had written him a letter about a month earlier saying I was ashamed and embarrassed for having sent him a campaign contribution. He was having his problems but then so was I. I guess I was having second thoughts about the letter or maybe he was having second thoughts about his presidency. Maybe because of my letter. One can always dream.

I felt very good about him in the dream. There was a large dinner function going on and Nancy Reagan was sitting across from me. She was making a short speech asking if things were really any better now that her husband was no longer president. I had probably dreamed about her husband too, though I cannot remember that dream. Probably something about nuclear war, a recurrent dream I had for years until very recently. Now I will probably dream about nuclear accidents or nuclear terrorism, but not about nuclear war. That's no longer possible, is it? There's a new world order now thanks to Nancy Reagan's husband and his successor, about whom I have also dreamed. Instead of one big enemy we now have lots of little ones. Little brown ones. Little invisible brown people all over the world who hate us and want to blow us up one building at a time because we are satanic mechanics. Or is that messianic? In any event, it's an inane mess. Let's just hope they don't get hold of a nuclear bomb.

In addition to presidents, I dream about all sorts of other famous people. Most of them are actors or musicians with a sprinkling of writers and poets. I dreamed about Lightnin' Hopkins riding a bicycle. I dreamed about Allen Ginsberg, Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, and Paula Abdul, not necessarily in that order. Recently I had a pretty bizarre wet dream involving Feruzza Balk whom I have only seen once on TV. The others I have met or seen in person. I guess the medium IS the massage, though I still much prefer reading to TV. I get hot AND cool hard-ons. What could be more linear than a hard-on, right? What would the McLuhan analogy be? The penis is hot and the vagina is cool? Yang and Yin? The Sky Above, the Mud Below (a movie from my distant past)? Words evoke pictures and vice-versa. Today on TV they were talking to the new supreme court nominee about violence on TV being a form of speech protected (or not) by the First Amendment. We're starting to talk with pictures again. The circle is come around full and we're back to cave paintings and pictographs. Ross Perot for tribal chieftain! Talk softly (or not at all) and join a big club, right? "Right"--one of the newest and most-used rejoinders of the late twentieth century. The other? "Asshole." Maybe by the millennium we'll start some new ones, right? Yeah right, asshole. Keep dreaming.

Another thing I dream about is money. A few days before the big stock market crash of 1987, I dreamed that the market crashed. If only Oprah or Donohue had called we all could have saved billions, right? I have recurring dreams about winning Lotto or picking winners at the track. I always try to remember the numbers or the horses but can never quite do it. Somewhere back in the sixties I asked a close friend of mine if he still thought about sex all the time as I did. To my complete surprise and disappointment he said he thought only about money. In hindsight, it looks as if he was about two decades ahead of the times. It is only relatively recently that I have replaced sex with money as my main ruminative preoccupation, probably because I have more of the latter and less of the former now that I have a good job and am married. Another more recent friend of mine was wont to proclaim to any and all that money is shit. He was a failed writer who had shot his parents (not fatally) and spent a lot of time in a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. He wrote a book about these events which he tried, without success, to have published and finally, after a few frustrated and depressing years, committed suicide. It looks, also in hindsight, as if he was about two decades behind the times. As for me, I've always been boringly in synch with the prevailing popular zeitgeist. In the sixties I hated money and loved sex; in the eighties, quite the opposite. But now, in the nineties, neither of these conveniently universal obsessions seem to be appropriate as we approach the looming millennium. Maybe the dream IS over. Maybe the flying saucers will land. Maybe the comet will come. More probably the whining and whimpering and weirdness will get a little louder and scarier before the next thing comes along. There will always be sex, of course, and there will always be money. We'll just call them something else, right? Like virtual reality. We can all be enormously wealthy virgins in the minds of the machines, that is, if we can afford it.

In addition to famous people, sex and money, the fourth thing I dream about most is natural disasters. Tidal waves, tornadoes, hurricanes, and nuclear bombs top the list. I include the last category because the atom is, of course, a natural phenomenon as is the species which has learned how to split it. It seems to me that the natural disaster may prove to be just the media event or universal popular obsession that we are so desperately searching for in these last days of the current millennium. Earthquake, fire and flood! Didn't the Bible say these would become rampant during the final days before judgment? Don't we all feel just a little cozier in our Manhattan high-rises when we watch the record flooding in the midwest or the earthquake reports from Tokyo and California? Another friend of mine and I were watching the "Rainbow Warrior", a Greenpeace vessel that was docked at the South Street Seaport in New York back in 1990. My friend asserted that the environment would be THE issue of the nineties and for the first two or three years he may have been right. I am reminded of an old TV commercial--"It's not nice to fool Mother Nature..." I would argue that environmentalism, though a noble and far-reaching cause, demands too much effort and, well, action for a culture as passive and voyeuristic as ours. Natural disaster as spectacle or demographic gamble makes much more sense. Where will nature strike next? Betting pools on when the San Andreas fault will blow or where the next hurricane will strike do not seem at all far-fetched. Maybe even a futures market sanctioned by the SEC. And let's not forget the hydra-headed monster of nuclear arms proliferation. Who has the bomb now? Who will get it next and how soon? How long before the next mushroom cloud sprouts? Inquiring minds want to know. The end is always near somewhere. That's what makes things interesting these days, thanks to satellite feeds and CNN. And the beauty of it is that everyone remains blameless! Equal opportunity death and disaster. You gotta be in it to win it. Any city or hamlet or tiny island paradise on the globe can be obliterated as the world watches. And there's very little anyone can do or not do to stop it. Add chaos and complexity theory and we might just have not only a new fad but a new religion. Along with cave painting and pictographs we can bring back pantheism or even, what the hell, animism. Forget the end of history. This is the reversal of history, a new stoned age where God again moves in terrible and mysterious ways. Stay tuned--film at eleven.

Once in a great while I dream the perfect novel or screenplay. "Book of the century! At last a film that both challenges and defines the art of filmaking! This is beyond great writing. Mr. Johnson transports the reader from the absolute alpha to the infinite omega of wordcraft. We are sharing the rarefied air of genius!" Of course these perfect plots and elaborate fictions evanesce as soon as I awake, and I always think if I could just get back to sleep I could remember and get it all down. Or perhaps I could access these masterpieces through hypnosis, though the only time I was hypnotized (as a college freshman) all I could manage was a feeble hallucination of an Isodets tin (a throat lozenge.) I have always written since the age of five or so, but dreaming a novel is so much faster and easier than actually writing one. Once I began a piece about a town where each day's reality was shaped by the commingling of all the previous night's inhabitant's dreams. I didn't get very far with this idea, though even now I feel it could work. Do dreams mold reality or vice-versa? Is everything just a dream and where or how do we draw the line? We know they are important and necessary, but in what sense? I read a science fiction story long ago about some giant mollusks that slept at the edge of a huge cliff and dreamed the world. One day they fell off and the world ended. Are we all just a dream of some super being who will eventually wake up, have coffee and go off to work, leaving us behind like so much hair in the drain? I studied philosophy because thinking about stuff like this is fun. But as whacked out as I was, I still realized that eventually I'd have to wake up, have coffee and go off to work. So I majored in English. We used to ask the chairman of the department what we could do with an English degree. "What can you do?" he would bellow. "You can READ! Which means you can do anything!" And that is exactly what I have done for the past thirty-odd years: anything. Wal-Mart to Wall Street and everything in between. But I digress. Sometimes that's all I think writing is: a structured digression from thinking...or dreaming...or whatever you want to call this stuff that goes on in our heads.

Now that I've got your attention, let's talk about something that really matters. Take life and death, for instance. Being about halfway through my life, I'm caught on the horns of a dilemma. Which one do I talk about first? Is life punctuated or truncated by death or is it the other way around? Are highly organized and, in some cases, self- aware matter and energy the exception or the rule in this vast , mostly empty universe? Does it matter what we do or don't do while we are not- dead? If so, to whom or what does it matter and if not, why not? I realize these sound like essay questions on a boringly specious undergrad exam, but that's how liberal arts education teaches you to think. People in my office often get all worked up over some gain or loss, some botched deal or ridiculous rules change. I always lean back in my chair and utter what has become a litany in our department. "None of this really matters. You know why?" Then comes the reply in unison. "Because we're all going to die." Then the smattering of frustrated laughter and we go back to our phones. It's easy to say and it provides an easy excuse. Of course everyone privately knows that it does matter a great deal and, if you think about it, death can not only remove meaning, but, with a slight change of mental and emotional perspective, can also add and even enhance meaning. Life's very brevity can, at once, be the ultimate reason both for doing ones best and simply giving up. Life is short, so don't waste it, or life is short so what the hell. Similar dilemma. When I was younger, I was continually told how gifted and talented I was. I could do, it seemed, anything I wanted to do and be anything I wanted to be. ANYTHING? Talk about a dilemma. "Anything" covers a lot of ground. I remember a conversation with my mother when I was twelve or thirteen in which I claimed to have developed a philosophy of waste. Demonstrating a nasty streak of perversity which has been with me almost from the beginning, I vowed that since I was so talented and gifted and the choices so infinite ("anything"), my only truly unique course of action would be to do nothing, to finally and completely waste the gifts and talents I had been born with. Now it seems that not only was I showing an early and healthy adolescent rebellion against parental authority, but that, right on schedule, I was echoing the emerging countercultural themes of the sixties decade. I can imagine millions of similar psycho-philosophical dramas played out by brave little boomers all over America at roughly the same time, and each of these young radicals certain that he or she was alone and uniquely revolutionary in this posture of proto-denial. Soon , however, having discovered sex, drugs and rock & roll, I began to work my way through the daunting but by no means infinite number of choices of people to be and things to do. By my own estimation, I've made a pretty fair start at trying them all. I have heard my father refer to people at all stages of life as "just getting off the starting blocks," and if this is true, then I have me entire life in front of me. But this can be said of anyone at any time, can't it? I also have my entire death ahead of me, don't I? Or ahead of and behind me, but this brings us closer to religion than philosophy or science. And them's fightin' words, right? Right! Because everybody's got a religion just like everybody's got an ass, even though some folks think their waste products are odorless and wouldn't be caught dead in church. Even so, the first thing human beings learn and maybe the most basic human instinct is to protect their own asses. Sticks and stones help, but they're getting pretty expensive lately. Yessiree, religion is still the cheapest and broadest life insurance you can buy--it even covers your soul! That's why the endangered human species will fight like soldier ants if you raise the premiums or try to take it away. Amen.

But enough about what moves men's souls. Let's get back to their hearts and minds, i. e. love and money. These two are really what makes the world go around, right? If that's true, why is love universally proclaimed and directly invoked while money is more likely hinted at, hidden or strangely euphemized. Freud spoke of love and work, but we all know that work unrewarded is, at best, tiresome and degrading. In the song from the movie "Casablanca" the refrain about "a fight for love and glory" sounds uplifting, but I think "glory" has assumed more gilded connotations in our post-80's century. In my family money was almost never discussed openly. We were taught never to ask what someone earned, just as we never peeked at our classmate's grades in school. Nowadays salaries and income information are traded like baseball cards among my contemporaries. "You are what you eat" has become "you are what you make" since the eighties. There may be talk about kinder, gentler nations and selves, but we all know what the score is and we update it daily. In the past we were "making the world safe for (free- market) democracy or fighting "the war to end all (price) wars." Lately we are busy creating a "new world order" which has become the most useful euphemism for global capitalism. Underdeveloped nations want the things we have and we want their resources and cheap labor, right? Well, not entirely. We also want their money and their consumers. What do you give to someone or some nation who has everything? How about a worldwide flea market where they can unload some of those things (technology, weapons, food) they have too many of for cold, hard cash which they like better anyway. But don't we give these small countries foreign aid in the form of currency? Sure we do. Doesn't the bank lend you money when you want to start a business or buy a home or car? Why? Because the bank wants you to make more money so you can pay it back at a high rate of interest and then loan the extra money you make back to the same bank for a low rate of interest. That way the bank (or the developed nations) really owns everything. The house always wins because the house makes the rules and sets the odds and owns the tables (means of production.) Capitalism could be described as an enormous chain letter or pyramid scheme which simply hasn't run out of subscribers (consumers and labor pools) yet. The people who started the chain letter got fantastically wealthy while the rest of us can only pray more suckers are being born every minute while we place our bets and keep running our little hamster wheels round and round. And meanwhile the finite resources of a planet under siege dwindle daily.

But let's not forget about love. Love also makes the world go around, right? Or so they used to say and it used to be easy to believe them. Money can't buy it, knows no bounds, is all we need, etc. ad infinitum ad nauseum. Did I mention that I'm married? All I can say is, thank god! I can't imagine swimming in the sexual swamp that surrounds us now. A series of penicillin shots is one thing but a pine box is quite another. But sex isn't love, you may argue. Well neither is a teenage crush or the worship of a media star. In fact the kind of love that ensures any kind of lasting bond may have very little to do with sex. Sex is very important, but longer term I suspect it's something else that keeps us together and attracts us initially. I once heard marriage described as a fifty year conversation. I have also heard the brain described as the largest erogenous zone. No wonder we are much more excited and intrigued by how someone thinks than by what they look like in a garter belt or bikini briefs. At least I am. Of course I am pushing fifty and will admit that this prefrontal posture was decidedly more difficult to maintain in my teens and twenties. As I consider the wide array of physical and emotional types I have become involved with, the only common thread seems to be and intellectual and emotional affinity quite apart from any primary sexual characteristics. Sex may sell, but love lasts. Sex is the sizzle, love is the steak. So bon appetit!

Looking at the world today, there seems to be a surfeit of sex and a lack of love, a situation that argues against my sense of their relative importance. Are we, and have we always been, that mad for each other and, at the same time, that mad AT each other? Judging from the high incidences of rape and murder in so-called civilized societies, the answer to both questions appears to be yes. Rape has been described as a crime of violence, so perhaps love is a misdirected or passive form of aggression. Popular songs such as "It Hurts to be in Love" or "Hurts So Good" may reflect some deeper truth. Whatever the true instinct or phenomenon is, human beings basically don't seem to like each other much at all, and those occasions when they do join together for any length of time seem to be exceptions to the general rule. Love may be an anomaly or even a viral disease or widely shared and accepted psychosis. There may even be a "love gene" just as there are genes for other inherited characteristics. Your latest heart-throb may just be DNA's way of replicating itself, right? Right, asshole. Try telling that to Romeo and Juliet. Meanwhile I'm still trying to perfect the Vulcan mind-meld. Let's see...candles, soft music...now say something fantastically intelligent, baby. Oooohhh YEAH!

And then there's technology--high, low and in between: computers biotech, smart bombs, fuzzy logic, fiber optics, pharmaceuticals, robotics--the entire audio-video rodeo in which we're all riding toward the millennium. Good or bad? Well, good-bad, but not evil, right? There is an old joke which goes like this: man falls out of airplane. That's bad. Not too bad, there was a haystack below. That's good. Not too good, there was a pitchfork in the haystack. That's bad. Not too bad he missed the pitchfork. That's good. Not too good, he missed the haystack! This crudely illustrates how I feel about technology. Please understand, I'm not some latter-day Luddite growing sprouts in his compost heap and muttering that the end is near. I enjoy my cable TV, VCR, stereo, telephone and computer just like the next person. These and all our other sensory extensions solve lots of problems and provide lots of entertainment. They also create lots of problems and add to the baffling background radiation and raw psychic noise in which we all must try to move and think. Teilhard De Chardin spoke of the "noosphere" and McLuhan the "global village", both suggesting that this technological shrinking and linking of the human world was something to be welcomed and hastened toward. But is it true that these modern technological miracles bring us closer together or do they, in reality, further isolate and estrange us? In the past, people had to get together occasionally--to work, to shop, to be entertained, to play and to worship. Soon we'll be able to do all of these and more without rising from our couches. Acquiring everything we need through our phones, TVs and computers, we could soon live in millions of high-security monads with only heavily armed, kevlar-clad delivery persons or even robots scurrying about dangerous and polluted streets delivering the goods. Sounds a lot like the Middle Ages to me. Perhaps some descendant of Descartes, if he can still think at all, will update the old axiom of his forebearer to more accurately reflect the times: I watch, therefore I am.

But what about progress? Technology will eventually solve all its own problems. Maybe so, but who or what is going to solve OUR problems. We live in the information age, right? Information is the new currency, is good, is power. Sure, but if we only use about ten per cent of our brains, what makes us think we'll ever use even twenty percent of all these bits and bytes we're loading up on? I'm reminded of the story of the fisherman and the magic flounder. Every time he catches the flounder, his wife makes him wish for something more and more grandiose until finally he wishes to be God and, of course, is transmuted back to the poor hovel where he began. Maybe there is a good reason the Bible lists playing God as the greatest of all sins. Or, then again, maybe we are beginning to evolve away from carbon-based life forms and toward a somewhat hardier silicon-based organism. Will our self-replicating DNA simply become digitalized? Did intelligence evolve as an attempt by the universe (or God) to know itself and are Homo Sapiens Sapiens only a cosmologically brief way station in this unknowably complex process? Maybe we just can't get there from here, so why not enjoy where we are as much as we can. If you don't like the techno environment, just wait five minutes. It will change, and so will you.

Millennia don't come along that often, so it is understandable that the fever grows as this one approaches. Events during the late 900's were evidently pretty whacked out too. People tend to experience time as a series of demarcations, and 1000 years is a fairly long one as far as recorded history goes. We tend to feel as early seafaring explorers must have felt as they sailed toward what they were told was the edge of the world. Anxiety about the future is already widespread in our century and the further we move into the nineties, the more this anxiety changes to apprehension. Judgement Day looms larger as huge numbers of cultists arm themselves and head for the backwoods. The best-seller lists tout books about the coming financial collapse, environmental catastrophe, world wars, terrorism, crime and famine. In our calmer, more contemplative moments, those of us who still read and think and have been around for at least two generations will realize that nothing is really significantly different from last year or last decade or last millennium. There are more of us and we move faster and farther. Our tools are a little more complex and our average lifespans a little longer, but we are still the same flawed and fascinating creatures. Deep within, each of us knows what comes after the year 2000. Right, asshole...2001. With Yeats we "cast a cold eye on life, on death," and hope the next horseman will pass by. If our luck holds, there may be a few more millennia to look forward to. Have a nice century.


Ben Ohmart

Old Table

I believed the man in the shoes in the dirt
talking about his dream to the birds and feeling trees
with the back of his hand. When the dew came with God,
there was instance in every hill roll, traveled lovers
jogging like it was any day, but growing into part of a memory.

Lifting the old table like it was nothing, giving me a watermelon piece,
and we searched for ant beds and sat in satin grass weaving
an up and coming sun into what we thought.
All rights and colors, blessing syncopation with what would come.
My moving canvas gave a hand, and we settled our feet.
The car wasn't parked, but captured, and saw that the fields of rice
become wheat and would often give milk, just over there, and
a dog would be happy here.

Bright Magic

Guitar was in the room, she didn't have the strength for the runs
that came in on the record, but giving her the milk, with the strawberry flavor,
it made night come, and I would put a book into hiding, noding at the moon
that expected me to come, but I stayed. I blinked, and stayed, a warmness
at my feet, in the room, without even turning.

She would tell me the dreams in the morning, to catch them before they went around.
Of the old backpack that made her arms free for picking the acorns off the walks
and shooting them into the glen where they would try to be something,
the skeletons which tried to hide at the slip of the road, dogs or deer or
something that just wasn't lucky, and she knew she was halfway.
Every postcard saw her getting closer and tripping back like fear, but she grew on
and the school bell would pitch in grateful timing, and the rest of the day
would be lost in the knowledge that it would all come soon, just wait.

The boys had no faces, the girls were friends who gave her things one day,
every year, and they had a ritual of Valentines in little paper folders
that depended on your friends, then she was down again, a dirt road
that brought tractor cuts into the borders and told her the time.
A smell to the distance which needed a nose and green which was always cut,
but she never guessed, wasn't told, but it took years for the leaves to care for her.
She would visualize what it was the squirrels would do when they finally caught,
and what was it exactly about the sun that drew the green out of the autumn months?
She could stare at the mirror for moments, and there was nothing yellow, it was
all coming down like forest rain where she couldn't hear. Asleep, after learning.

But she tires herself like a storm without a ship, and sleeps into another story.
The tail wagging when she calls, a fire trying hard. Content and fast to get there.
While I sit and think about the radio which will never speak, a snow could come
and we might figure out tomorrow after it has passed.


Neca Stoller

Haiku

enclosed in one link
of a hog wire fence,
a spider web

only a staircase
at the end of the drive-way,
still, azaleas bloom

setting sun
behind striate clouds-
incremental dusk

beneath the low clouds
a jet fighter plane-
I duck my head

joining me
on my walk, first the plane,
later the roar


Contributors

Richard Fein, bardbyte@chelsea.ios.com, has been published in many E-zines and print magazines, incluing Sulphur River Literary Review, Small Pond Kansas Quarterly, Blue Unicorn, Soundings East, the Macguffin, Z Miscellaneous, Orphic Lute Oregon East Mississippi review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Touchstone, Parnassus Literary Review, and others.

Robert Klein Engler, GayPoet312@aol.com, lives in Chicago. His poems and stories have appeared in Borderlands, Evergreen Chronicles, Hyphen, Christopher Street, The James White Review, Fish Stories: Collective II, American Letters and Commentary, Literal Latte, and many other magazines and journals. He has two books of poetry, Shoreline and Stations of the Heart, published by Alphabeta Press. Other works are published on disk by Spectrum Press. He was the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award for his poem "Flower Festival at Genzano," which appeared in Whetstone.

Mark Johnson, ninmar@aol.com, has been writing since the age of five, when his first two books were produced (with his mother's help.) He has appeared in school lit magazines, "Dragonfly" (a haiku quarterly in Portland, Oregon), several recent e-zines including "The Empty Shelf", "gaZet," and "AS-IS Fiction," and will have two haiku in the winter issue of "Cicada", an asian poetry quarterly from Bakersfield, CA.

Ben Ohmart, findline@ix.netcom.com, had 4 plays produced in '96 and can still be seen as a poet and story writer in many zines and journals. Peruse his plays at: http://www.dramex.org/authors.html and http://www.rtpnet.org/~jacobs/ohmart.html.

Neca Stoller, maria@sowega.net,is the owner-manager of a cattle farm in south Georgia. Her web pages can be found at http://www.sowega.net/~maria and http://neca.tripod.com/index.html. She has published poems in As-Is, GaZet, ThinkB, In Vivo and other e-zines. She will be in the winter issue of "Lynx" magazine and the spring issue of "Musing Magazine."


Sparks: A Magazine for Creative People ISSN#: 1077-4149 -
Editors: Jim and Stacy Esch
Sparks Copyright ©1997 by Jim and Stacy Esch.
All rights for each work contained herein revert back to the authors upon publication. Web Published in the USA- Sparks is published four times a year. We welcome your submissions. Send all correspondence to the address below.