He wandered in off the boardwalk,
stood in the doorway as if in a trance
and then shuffled in.

His face seemed puffy, hands too,
covered with brown spots
like clusters of ripe bananas.

Clothed in the remnants
of a rag bag from the Sixties;
a weather-beaten jacket

crackled like his skin.
I wondered what he could
have been thinking

as he stood there mesmerized
staring straight ahead,
as though lost on a desert.

Had he stumbled into a mirage,
a lighthouse to lead him home?
Or perhaps, a shack in Georgia,

where his mother leaned
dipping peaches into cream;
and his father split firewood,

brothers and sisters ran barefoot.
I wanted then, to say something, anything,
meaningful before he left.

Give a few dollars,
a bowl full of warmth,
a thick crust of bread

to this man who'd most likely
seen too much of life;
this person who was now ready

for something else:
to be a winner just once
would be enough.

The world's heavyweight champion,
a great boxer perhaps. I wanted to bring
artists in to paint and sculpt him

as I watched him rocking back
and forth, teetering, almost catatonic
blinking fast at something

known only to him.
Perhaps momentarily he was Mohammed Ali
in center ring, and just this once

he wasn't himself crouched in a doorway,
or cowering over a heating grate.
I joined him in his grandeur

as he stepped into the ring,
raised a big leather fist
and landed his foe.

He was there all right.
For a brief moment.
He stood among the champs.

The crowd was on their feet too
cheering him on as security
led him towards the street

with the triumphant look
of Joe Louis
upon his face.

                      Wilhelmina Young


this void i'm in runs counterclockwise to reality
and i want sex under my skin
killing all the brain cells that the herb hasn't gotten
fighting the clatter clatter of gag shop wind up teeth
marking the point where what you see and what i see merge
imagine sleeping under the train tracks
ka-thunk ka-thunk ka-thunk
all day long and all night long and all through your dreams
it seeps into this landmine sponge
and travels right out onto a floor my mother waxed
on her hands and knees
a puddle forms on the lower part of my brain
hanging bulbous and dripping into the hollow of my spine
so i tap my forehead and people glance in my direction
not because i'm spectacular but because of the tapping
and the spinal tap drip starts to burn my eyes
black hands black room black spirit black
ka-thunk ka-thunk ka-thunk
tapping on my forehead

                     Penelope Talbert


if i must sit in one more
dimly lit coffee house
listening to one more
hourglass shaped nineteen year old
poet chick
recite to me what love is
i will die
do they not see that this
elusive love they seek
exists only in their brains?
what we need is
a voluptuous lover like me
composing verse about
all the fucking laundry

                     Penelope Talbert


We lounge on lint-covered basement stairs
thinking about Craig and how his penny loafers
must have floated above the shag carpet
of his apartment floor. I wonder, outloud,
if he had second thoughts and if he had
an erection. You tell me to pass the bowl.

                     Penelope Talbert


There was enough to yell at without Vietnam and segregation...the displaced, alcoholic men who had lost their jobs in the mines and mills had been teaching me.

There were enough reasons to run away from home without the hippy movement...my mother's constant ridicule and sister's first suicide attempt had been teaching me.

Growing up in the NE Pa. coal region my first language wasn't English, it was broken English. All those smooth flowing British poets in school were as blank to me as enunciation and ownership.

Conversation with Heather while breaking down my mom's apartment after she died: "Your mom didn't have any books in her apartment." "What! Do you think my mom sat around reading books?" "Well, no, but it's odd she had no books and you became a writer." "Do you think I learned to write poetry by reading books?" The most quizical look on Heather's face.

It was my mother sitting down each afternoon between ironing and Loretta Young Theater to write letters to her faraway friends to bring them closer that taught me to write to the one faraway to bring closer.

It was my old man's backhand at the dinner table because of my mouth that sent me to my room with all those playful and ridiculous ideas he was embarrassed to hear. All that boyhood he gave me but continually punished me for because he didn't have one. That quick gigantic finger in the face of "the big idea."

My first poems were love letters I wrote in my room to Jersey girls I met down the shore on vacation.

Later in the 60's my poems became protest song lyrics I'd sing with a banjo my old man gave me, thinking it would shut me up.

There was a lot to be angry about, and I'm really now grateful for the Vietnam War and segregation on tv giving me a target to flip out on, and showing me I wasn't alone. Grateful that my old man picked up hitchhikers so I could hit the road at the drop of a shoe. I'd never heard of Pete Seeger but I was wandering around Kirby Park with my banjo singing all those fuckdishit lyrics I wrote for my old man when I should have been in school.

All those years after leaving home, living in rooming houses and old hotels, "If you're going to talk like that, go to your room" ...going to my room to write.

Shamokin was my perfect mirror...abandoned and gutted. My poems wrote themselves broken and wheezing...black, hard and dark in their attitudes, their intolerable judgment.


January 22, 1959 the Susquehanna River burst through the roof of the Knox Mine, up from Wilkes-Barre, flooding the entire honey-comb of mines throughout the lower northern anthracite coalfield: 12 miners dead, thousands of miners out of work forever. I was 7 years old. Within 5 years our textile industry had moved south for cheaper labor...thousands of mill workers out of work or moved out of the region forever.

         i inherited the black-star hole
        through each one of these window panes

I inherited the voices and attitudes of the men and women who were shut down and abandoned. A tremendous anger...a tremendous silence.

One high school student, after listening to me read my poems about the gouged earth, gouged people, sulfur creeks and mountain of slag, asked me if i was an environmentalist. I flipped off the lights, opened the window, rearranged my chair ...hacking and smoking.

                     Craig Czury

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