Please understand that the original printed text contains Chinese ideograms that will not appear on your machine unless you have installed the necessary software. Paper version line and spacing may be lost in the cyber version. Artwork in the printed issue is not availbable as email text.--ed.


Autumn 2003

BONGOS OF THE LORD is published by Bookgirl Press

3-13-16 Tsurugaya-higashi
Miyagino-ku, Sendai
983-0826 Japan

in this issue:

poetry by

Gael Turnbull
Ed Baker
M.J. Bender
Giovanni Malito
David Giannini
Scott Watson


Carl Rakosi / Ed Baker

prose by

Scott Watson

in translation

YAMAO Sansei

cover & artwork
[not available in the email version]

Ed Baker

For BOTL there is neither subscription fee nor pay per
page fee extracted from contributors, but
overseas paper-version readers are invited to
send IRCs to cover overseas postage, which averages
300 yen (3 U.S. dollars) per issue. Readers
who are satisfied receiving the cyber-version
can disregard this notice.
Unfortunately we cannot pay contributors.

All rights return to authors.

BOTL is a non-profit, no-grant, totally fund-lacking
publication. Donations are welcome.

prose poems by Gael Turnbull

   [These are from a longer as yet unpublished work        called TRANSMUTATIONS.--ed.]

IT CAN HAPPEN at any time, always when he doesn't

expect it, as if a chink has opened, a cloud or curtain

parted, and he glimpses something through the gap,

something belonging to him that was once part of him

but which has detached itself, the loss of which he has

only just recognized.

Then, over-anxious to reclaim, he fumbles and the

opportunity is gone. Yet he remembers the experience,

even the familiarity, and resolves that the next time it

happens he'll be prepared, he won't panic, that it won't

escape him forever.

ONCE AGAIN he desired her and once again knew that

it was impossible and once again resolved to blank her out

of his life and was confident he had done so

and then, finding himself in the same room, could not

resist catching her eye and was back where he had been

before in the shared awareness of how much was absurd

and shared awareness of how much was real.

A BIRD trapped against the inside of one of the windows

refused to give up the struggle until frightened by my

efforts to help was distracted from the obvious and so

found another window which was open

and thus each of us achieved what we had desired but

neither of us how we had intended.

HE EXPLAINED "With age, there's a lot of wear and tear

on the self-winding mechanism and that's why it needs to

be agitated more often to keep it going"

and as I walk home from the jewellers, I give myself a

shake and look at my old watch and wonder how much

more effort it will take to keep us going and for how


YOU CAN STILL SEE IT there--where there's no smoke any

more, not even ashes, the oven swept clean, only a discrete

slit in the wall between the slides of the measuring bar against

which the prisoner stood willingly, even eagerly, for record

of his height, even his existence--

an opening, unremarkable and convenient, behind which, in

the next room, was the revolver with the silencer, held at

the level of the base of his head, to avoid disturbance, waste

of effort, any fuss.

poem by Ed Baker


for Pauline

? 1974 Ed Baker

turned to me

in her eyes

in her naked


into her
i came
without waiting

without hesitation

thunder settled over new york

winter moon
the clouds

sometimes perplexion :

in a foreign city
the proper place
is not
easily found

         she wore her hair loosely
         for the occasion





.yellow flowers
a window

a rule arises

the rise of sun
                           of mist

the wind moved me
to the trees
whose hearts are

;in this park of
the cedar          of
the thuja

it was quiet.

i heard many things

thought of nothing

                               of no land

.i came to the true

           /    true
blank walls of the

a calm came through me
Fay Ling

I faced the buildings
that stand close

& thought of her mouth

(a little open


a little open                            that walk
through the quiet of her mind


the quickness          in the
going of her childhood

the still slow war
has gotten beyond me

i imagine yellow flowers
on the wall

         a girl in a dress
     I have not seen her wear


her loose movement
in a wet dress
as she went up
houston street

it must have been
             for something

                         (a return to this place

                         (in search of
Fay Ling

tonight the moon is nearly full

to the west
dense clouds

will be a good
for going

i call you woman
who demands this
great distance

lays down laws
your own hell is

love is


more than yourself

the order
to command

                   "your honoured"  (as it trans
ling    ?
has it
i am partial to
that these long nights

   demands a professionalism
   is more than is possible

   (the lines obey their proper

               i can not sleep tonight

these four walls move me from within
& the four winds
blow in
a land that is

with non-recognition the rule
.indifference the virtue the
city is

(new york city

right directly in front of me

the open spaces

(in front of me

demands this going from the

is also rule

is song

(no word necessary
it is the quietness
that makes the move
of animals

             .an old man
             was with me

             he came upon

             his voice was
             & rough & in

             his talk
             said nothing

             as the moon
             animals came

             we slept with
             no fire

             in the morning
             when i awoke
             he had already


             .i do not know
             his name
the train goes
from the city

turns from the
in an easterly
ends at the river


where the tracks go

i came out of the tube

into streets that
had new names

(or no names

(no trace of move
ment            (no verbs


     I walked to the water
     went over the edge



Carl Rakosi
/ Ed Baker

mark ---- 1/25/2000
[in pencil. By EB?--ed.]

Dear Ed Baker:
                                                       It's gratifying, of course, to learn of your
enthusiastic discovery of my work, but you need not have worried about "stirring up something intelligent to say to me", as you put it in your letter, in order to break the ice. Your letter did just fine.
                     You want to know what I think of THE CITY? It reminds me of Cid's work, as you might guess, but it is just as good, it seems to me (don't tell Cid I said this) in its quintessential clarity and in its ability to express both vast and complex meaning in a few words. This is poetry very much to my taste and I thank you for it. And for the postcard drawings, which are aesthetically funny. I might say you're a discovery for me too.
             Write again if you feel the impulse, although writing
letters for me has become very time-consuming and I shy away from answering them.


       Carl Rakosi
       [in his hand--ed.]

April 7, 2000
Dear Ed Baker:
                                                         Your NINE PERFECT ENSOS is perfectly
enchanting. The essence of wit and whim and charm and humor
How do you do it? Of course you couldn't do it without the drawings, which remind me of Basil King's work. He illustrated one of my recent books.
                   But what do you mean, the Ensos brought you fame and fortune? Are you pulling my leg? And what the hell is an enso anyhow? In other words, do tell me something about yourself. In the meantime, thanks a million for the two books.


         Carl Rakosi
[the signature in hand--ed.]

2 poems by M.J. Bender


Oak Street began as a way
into the cemetery, now it runs
past the Mill Pond and past
the school where four lots down
from the corner we built

a house, elms in the yard, front
and back. I sit on a bench
in this city park bound
by black threads, you, now,
mixed with soil--we can never

begin again we can always
begin again, your soul come
to rest at the edge of my xbody.
I have come to cover you
over with black rock I have

come to cover you over
with black cloth I have come
to cover you over with black
slabs--rainfall washes the city
streets washes the parking

lots washes the sidewalks
washes the benches.  
Where struggle ends world
turns away what is left
behind breaks surface


Scrub oaks take the brunt of wind relentless across

the wet plains of the Barrens. I learned to see oaks

in New Hampshire branch and leaf like the one

encircled with acorns at the end of the field behind the house.

I sit in my chair writing to you light of day

through the glass door--finally finding the heart light

of white oaks through the glass door--finally finding the heart  

the light of this stunted forest of scrub oaks

Scott Watson

No Mem-
No Mem-


Out of college on academic probation, my mother got me a job at the dairy retailer she worked for. Mom was office manager, and, as she got closer to retirement, administrative assistant to the president. It was a small, family run outfit that bought milk from a bottling plant, had it cartoned with their own label, and sent their sales force out to establish accounts such as with the city of Philadelphia and what was called a Get-Set Program. This, if I remember correctly, was a preschool or day care thing the city itself sponsored .

At this Franklin Dairies enterprise was an office, in which my mother worked, and there was "the dock," which was where delivery trucks were loaded from a refrigerated warehouse. Milk, juice, and other things were packed in plastic crates that fit into each other and stood as stacks. With a hand-truck we'd cart a day's order for these into our trucks, which were insulated and cool so the milk wouldn't spoil. Anyway it was January and into February I was there.

A fellow named Joe [the personal names of the higher ups and the company names have been changed] taught me his route. He is the one I rode with for a week or so until I got the hang of it. He'd grown up in the city and knew it well. I hadn't. Across the river in Jersey was my home; only a few places in Philly were familiar to me.

He was a quiet Italian-American guy. Dark complexion. Forty-something I'd say. Easy to get along with. Nice enough. He knew my mother. Everyone did. She treated people nicely which is why maybe the people there treated me nicely.

Charles was head of it all. He and his two brothers were owners and Charles was president. He was a retired naval commander. The other brothers were Ted and John. Charles' son Walter ran things out on the docks.

He hollered and swore a lot, walked in a gunslinger stride, talked like he was an officer stationed at a military boot camp. He looked still boyish in his blonde hair and fleshy chalky white face with its glossy blue gray eyes behind tinted gold frame glasses. Walter in fact had been in the military, in the U.S. Marines as an officer, and had served in Viet Nam, and had, he told me, many notches on his weapon, which he said he was ashamed to say, but which he thought he needed to say to me anyway, whether to impress me or to bring fear into me or what, I don't know.

Walter seemed to have a lot of noise going on inside him. Which you could tell by his sound on the job. He came from a family that was not hurting for money. The military takes care of its officers. While at the same time it seemed that his upbringing may have been very strict, like home schooled military; in all aspects groomed for the military.

His wife, he for some reason told me, thought he was cold. His telling me these things surprised me. Was he in one of those groups sessions I'd heard about or was he seeing a counselor who told him he had to get these issues out in the open or was this his idea of what we civilians talk about or was he trying to make ours a one big happy family workplace with himself and his troubles at its center, or was he falling apart and needed someone to speak to and I seemed little brotherish enough or sensitive enough to reach out to. I dunno. Someone told me once I have sensitive eyes. A cold man.  

From the higher ups he no doubt felt a lot of pressure, from his father and uncles. From the father especially. What a warm feeling it must be to have someone who is boss and who is father come chew you out in front of those who are working under you!

Often he spoke of his men, those who had served under him. Had he lost many? Were their lost lives still clinging to him, cooling him, stiffening him little by little? And then how the wife was wanting to leave him. Take their two kids. Life wasn't any easier for Walter, not even with all of his marine tough-guy training. A strange brew he was, taken as an  expression of living.

Somewhere inside him was heart. Shoulda been a visible invisible, seen all over body, as a body, no more than the life he is but no, it wouldn't be something in this lifetime he himself or anyone would get it.

Supposedly cold and unlovable Walter'd come up with odd, twisted turns of phrase like when he'd become angry at one of the office women about something. He'd just been on the phone with one and I was in his prefab office on the dock waiting to receive instructions. Betty had made some error--the drivers were continually bitching about mistakes made by women in the office and women in the office always blamed things on the drivers--and when Walter slammed down the receiver he shouted, perhaps because I was there to hear, so someone maybe might care to understand him in all his frustration: "THAT GOD-DAMNED PLASTIC-TITTED BROAD!" Wow. I'd never heard such an expression as "plastic-titted broad." This was a different world for sure. Work world. Walter world. An unfamiliar scene there on the murky morning docks.

Another driver was Malcomb, a young dark-skinned African-American, small framed, a bit older than me. Friendly. Wore a woolen Africa-colored skull cap, kept his beard trimmed short. Malcomb knew the ropes, worked hard, had kids to support, talked the talk and walked the walk. Uncomfortable in these surroundings maybe. Horace was a veteran. He drove the big tractor trailers. He was usually high on something. A tall slender African-American of light skin. Sensitive look about him, and still youthful, playful in a way. Even in the early hours we began work he was up--UP!--wide eyed, talkative. Up on something is sure but it may have been just coffee or something legal like No-Doze. I don't know. Maybe just a morning man. Very very morning. Swigging coffee every free moment. His enormous Seven-Eleven Styrofoam cup of it with a bun was a daily presence on a shelf off to the side of the loading platform; any break in the action he'd be hurriedly there. He too was a hard worker. It was a job that required mucho hustle loading our trucks until we got out on the road.  

My mentor Joe was a laid back guy. Good sort to guide me. No pressure. Quiet. Obviously flustered by the morning pace, more at home with the driving and delivery aspect of the work. He still lived with his mother. Was he unmarried, or maybe divorced? I forget. Plump, built like a butterball turkey. Balding. Smoked. Stopped along the route at a bar for a beer, at another for a sandwich at break. He was from South Philly, home of the Stallone character Rocky Balboa. It seemed to me Joe was into something, that there was a secret he had. Was he running numbers I wonder? Or had some operation going on. Or was barely holding himself together. Or didn't want to say much to me because my mother worked in the office and probably had something to do with his paycheck. Or was hesitant to say anything because he knew I'd been in college. Maybe he was ashamed at his lack of education. Or he was just quiet to the point of making me suspicious. Funny. It was like he'd clam up, like I was some foreign entity he was unaccustomed to, afraid of.
It was a relaxed route pretty much. The milk and juice had to be there for the kids' lunch or morning snack. There was no frantic rush in the sense of there being no insane taskmaster in an office chiding us for having the truck out longer than necessary, warning us not to burn excess gasoline. There was no crazed mechanic inspecting our truck after each run reporting to an office that we were too hard on the vehicle. Our route was not the whole city but one section of Philly called the Northeast.

Our trucks were not new trucks. In fact the inspection stickers on their windshields were fake, purchased through the black market. Those trucks had never been inspected and were kept in such a condition that they would run, period. The way this knowledge came to me almost took my life and could have taken someone else's. Philadelphia is not what can be called a hilly town but there are a few and my route took me down one of these. It was a long gentle slope I'd turned down onto, a street lined with parked cars both sides, a residential avenue lined with tan brick homes. And trees. My stop was a few blocks down after crossing a major intersection but what came to me as I began braking on my approach to that intersection was that there were no longer any brakes. They had just given out. They'd been fine until then. The truck was rolling along pretty good so when I tried to shift into a lower gear the transmission would just grind and not allow it.

No cars were ahead of me. Trying to think of what to do quickly coming to an intersection at which a traffic signal has just turned red; what quick thinking would allow me to avoid a crash and injury to myself or others. And not screw up the truck. Nothing came to me. No wonderful Hollywood action movie stunt entered my mind. Sorry to say. No sudden flash of common sense. There was just nothing in me to mediate the situation. Time up, horn blaring, truck and a terrified me rolled into crossing traffic honking horns screeching brakes. Right through! Whew wee! Only to come to a stop through the intersection on its opposite side crashing into a car double parked along the street. The slope had leveled off and the truck's speed had decreased so there was no injury to me. The car double parked was empty. It would need body work. I was a quite shaken. No one was hurt.

It was Kenny who told me after this accident that the trucks had never really been inspected. Kenny was a good looking tall well-built middle-aged hair greying middle-eastern looking dark-skinned Jew who did quite a few things at the company. He was in sales. He was back and forth with the customers, he helped loading things, supervised that aspect of the work. Kenny had a lot on the ball and I think he liked this work where he did a variety of things as opposed to the same routine day after day. He could drive the tractor trailer if necessary, though I'm not sure he had a license to do so. I drove it once myself, down to a point south of Philadelphia. Paoli maybe. I forget. With just one lesson from Horace and now here's this many-tonned rig I'm driving. Hey!

There was the time I'd done something illegal like turning without a signal--It was early on when first out on the route on my own and I was looking at map while driving and it suddenly occurred to me that here was the street I needed to turn onto; without signalling I made the turn and there happened to be an officer around. He pulled me over and got out of his blue and white Philly squad car. Pinky white skin. Red hair springing out from around the rim of his cap. A officer of Irish decent he was. Saw his name. Talked the Philly talk. He leveled at me some sort of angry-sounding authoritative gobbledygook which I could only make out in bits in pieces, something about "on MY beat!" and then the ending  "AND I DON'T CARE IF YOU DO DRIVE TRUCKS FOR A LIVING!!!" He let me off with a warning.

I "thanked" him, but once off and rolling again said to myself "Yeah fuck you cop! Go stuff a doughnut up your ass!" Ha! I was getting into the job. Learning the streets. Getting the hang of the lingo. It was fun.

Walter had told me once that I could try sales too. Try to drum up business here and there. So I'd try snack shops over in Jersey in my home town or places I could deliver small goods to on my way back from the city. I could take ice cream. Put a little dry ice in a bag. Cottage cheese. Things like that. Once while waiting for a sub at a delicatessen in a nearby town I asked the manager if he'd like to try any of our products.

A few days later Walter called me into his dingy little office and asked me what I'm doing. It was about that deli I'd pitched. They buy from Maccio. That meant nothing to me. Who is Maccio? Maccio has Mafia connections. We don't try to introduce our products into a store that sells Maccio's stuff. That's not good business practice.

I coulda been rubbed out for trying to sell them cottage cheese?!  Wholly ravioli Batman! Wow! This job was exciting in its strange and indelicate way. The deli owner must have informed someone at Maccio that Franklin was trying to "muscle in" or "move in" on their territory. Maccio had called Franklin. Would Mr. Big put out a contract on me? Would someone come "take me for a ride"? Would I get to meet Jimmy Hoffa?

And I was getting nimble with the early morning loading dock palaver. The action jolted, everyone in a frenzy getting milk on trucks. Often what was said was said in hurried passing, moving quickly in and out of trucks and freezers and coolers. There would be some fairly innocent job-connected communication about how such and such a center is off today so no delivery there, but around that, through that, all sorts of expletives were threaded. To distance it, see. Because just naked information didn't seem to work for them. Brought too close the drudgery. We moved like bats outta hell, all this fuss over cartons of milk. So kiddies would have their milk because the city couldn't be sure they'd had any milk in their own homes. The city saw to it they'd get a cup of milk, a cup of orange juice from concentrate.

What the men on the docks did was a sort of whistle while you work routine. Only, instead of whistling, the word "fuck" in various ways was worked into every mouthful uttered. Say "fuck" while you work.

Yet as soon as one of the women from the office would come out on the docks for some errand the language was purified, a throwback to chivalry maybe. Or if someone didn't see her he'd be reprimanded. "Hey watch your mouth!" But when she left they'd say something crudely suggestive about her: "Yeah I'd like to give her my order form!" "Yeah right! Like she's got a thing for your poor little pecker when she's chompin' on the boss's dong!"

Dock talk--however humorously irreverent it may have seemed to me at the time--did not express us as we were. It was work talk, claustrophobic man talk, coping with the fact that we are hopeless talk, the only talk allowed us maybe but for perhaps some pillow tenderness with a loved one. Could they open up and be human even there?

The registration sticker on the truck I drove was fake, purchased on the black market because evidently the truck was too old or run down to pass an official inspection. Buying fake documents was cheaper than purchasing all new vehicles, cheaper than keeping trucks in good running condition, cheaper than inspection. This was basic business as I later learned. Bottom line.

I knew from working part-time or summers where my father was vice president, which was a chocolate factory, a candy company, also in Philly, that they gave all the inspectors that came around gratuitous cases of candy. Just greasing the wheel. Regular business sense. It made me wonder if any business actually operated fully in accordance with the law. Bottom line. Dollars and cents. Sanitation? Sweat dripped into the peanut brittle! I wondered if  even the law operates according to itself.

That incident was my first brush with sort of official, adult, work-world unlawfulness; driving an unlawfully unsafe vehicle--though inspected "safe" vehicles are involved in more deaths than the latest hot item war--that could have gotten me fined or whatever. Not to mention someone injured or killed. Besides getting the whole operation shut down at least temporarily and having all of us without work and unable to support ourselves or our families. It was a practice that was fairly accepted. People looked the other way. Philadelphia as a city--in its officialdom--as was told to me years later--was known for corruption. I had no idea the docs were fake.

Up until then my rule-breaking or law-breaking had all been schooly kid stuff, teenage things such as underage drinking. Pot smoking in college dorms. There was one time in high school when an upperclassman named Jack quit school in his senior year in order to join the U.S. Marines. He wanted go off to Vietnam, wanted to fight. Jack was not a friend of mine but he was Joe's friend, and Joe was a teammate of mine, also an upperclassman. I got involved with these older guys because I was a starter on the varsity football team as a sophomore. The seniors claimed me as one of their own; this was during the season mostly but at other times as well. I was welcome at their parties, allowed to "hang" with them at the railroad tracks which ran through the small commercial section of our small town. There was a place they parked their cars along the tracks after store hours.

Jack was planning a farewell party for himself at his home. There was a section of track up the way a piece where the railroad would set off certain cars for later pick up. He noticed a refrigerated car was just sitting there and outside the car was painted clear as day SCHULTZ BEER [a fictitious brand]. Jack put two and two together and decided there was beer inside. And the car was sitting there just in time for his party.

It was a Friday night. I was hanging at the tracks, waiting to see how the night would develop. Joe rode up in his father's station wagon. Jack was with him. They asked me if I wanted to cruise with them, which is what we called driving around aimlessly: cruising. I got in the car with them and we drove several times up and down Broad Street which ran right alongside the railroad tracks. Joe and Jack were discussing something. I had no clue what it was. They asked me was I up for some mischief. I wanted to know what it was and found they planned to break into the train car and steal a few kegs of beer for Jack's farewell party.

I didn't think it was such a hot idea but they told me all I had to do was sit in the car with a flashlight and flash it if I saw anyone coming. Or start the engine.

Jack had brought along bolt cutters. Getting rid of that he turned a huge wheel that kept the door snug so the beer stayed cool.

Through darkness towards the wagon Joe and Jack came quickly as they could carrying each a beer keg. I got out an opened the back of the wagon. Joe went back for one more. Jack closed up after him. Off we drove.

That was a Friday night. The farewell bash was Saturday night.

His house the night of his party. High school kids in his back yard. High school kids in the back porch, in the living room and kitchen. Different ages; upperclassmen mostly. His parents were there. apparently not in the least uneasy about our drinking underage. In fact they were beaming, proud, drunk, sunk into a sofa in their living room, cigarette air surrounded, whisky and sweet vermouth urinal eyes. They were proud of their boy. Going off to serve his country. Don't drive is all they told us, and that was about it. Smiled. Asked me where I lived. Did they know my parents.

Many a young male macho measure how much beer they drink. How many mugs it was for me is long forgotten. I drank dry a brewery. That's the way it seemed. My claim to fame. Inebriation masculinity banner. Low on the ladder rung. Sports were higher. What it amounted to left me flat, out, dark bundle on Jack's front lawn; its turf cold. For it was February still.  

How long was that? Recollection is gone; the party was still going. Someone woke me. It was an older kid with longish dirty blond hair who didn't go to our school who I'd never seen around town. Wearing an army green jacket, black combat boots. I had combat boots myself, bought from a teammate with a connection on a base.

This fellow stooping over me wanted to know if I was all right. Then asked me is there someone I want killed, because that, he told me, is what he does. Assassin. Never before had I met one. Still groggy, things a blur, a need to throw up. Dizziness. Spinning  unthawed ground.

Trying to focus and keep down puke muttered no: there was no one I knew who I wanted dead. If ever there was just let him know. The fact that I was passed out drunk on a front lawn told him I was his kind of guy. His price was fifty bucks. My sickly response was "Okay. Thanks a lot."

Behind some conveniently placed out of the way bushes I heaved. Endlessly.

No longer was I a fine upstanding law-abiding American citizen. (And what would happen if mom or dad were still up when I returned that evening--or did I sleep over at a friend's house--and get a whiff of the beer or vomit?) I'd broken law, even as  accomplice. Even as a witness. Even hanging out where we did at the railroad tracks was  technically vagrancy, loitering, whatever. Jack was going off to fight for his country. Maybe die. Maybe kill. That justified our thievery; that's what he said. To get out of town, away from his home, out of school: Jack was out of his mind at 18.

Robbing a train--though not a moving one--was a bit of mischief night fun; for me. Only it wasn't mischief night and this law breaking was more than soaping windows and throwing eggs. This act involved a railway and big beer. Corporate America. Sacred. Messin' with the big boys we was.... There were all sorts of laws to level at us. We'd have felt the strong muscle in the long arm of the law that can crush individuals and make homeless beggars of us, put us under economic sanctions right here in "our own" country, give us a criminal record to plague us the rest of our lives. Only we weren't caught. Luckily. Eventually I outgrew my civil mischief. Playing Jesse James that once was a novelty to be sure. The thrill was not enough for me to pursue it further. Stealing beer: my heart was just not in it.

Meanwhile my milk truck was repaired and back on the road.

I worked: was at work on time and was there each day I was supposed to be there. Polite with customers. Tried to bring in new business. I enjoyed doing that. Driving around the city wasn't all that demanding. It was fun in fact. Cruising around. Early morning it's like a Wordsworth sonnet:  . . .

This city now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theaters, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky . . .
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

And I was driving around in all that heart--congested and coldly feverish though it was when awake. Solitary now. Dust settled. Along with a sun's rising driving song. Sounding like a bell's toll  this realm: things becoming not things, a wrought calm. Or coming back evenings at times, days when Horace and I had the big rig out, motoring homeward over a bridge a day's work done, sweat dried on hands, brow, cheeks, weary in eye arisen so early, a day so long        thinkin' this bridge we're on even over urban ugly, if it's at rest, is something. Warehouses run down, smokestacks puffed out exhausted, factories still, crashed burnt out abandoned cars, stripped, weather worn steel gray raised tanks of this or that, Acme supermarket out of business boarded up, motionless streets plastic bags blown you wouldn't want to touch what infection floats with them, an empty refrigerator rusting in a vacant lot, an industrial yard its chemical vermin running here and there in pipes run silence now along this interstate running right along these trashed local streets a world abandoned to sleep the red brick city housing, working family houses or out of work houses worked out row after row, smack against one another block after block geometrically exploding dimensions a brain wave of ugly regularity stretching off towards a horizon.

Things so quelled, so dead so quietly coming to light it was good feeling so a good job I gave myself to.

Sun up over this junk yard is such a desolate soul. Peaceful music. Things give off warmth as rust, exude a hole-yness [sic] decomposing to elementary nothingness: song of our own disappearance, which opens us up more painfully releasing our lives. Through holes comes sky, sky-lanced, skylence[sic].  

No earth was to be seen, which had long since been ruled out. But for a park permitted here and there earth was under concrete, paved over, earthly things going on unseen in the under city. Weeds pop through pavement cracks, holes through which miraculously things spring up.

It feels, the moment, spent, even remotely poetic, being with sun rays on rust, dust, corrosion, crumbling and decay. It can sicken you at first, the putrefied matter health of things mirror: imagine walking around a battlefield after the event when earth is sucking up the gore's full brunt, the day's unnatural consecration, when all that's left is the dead and dying life of things. Drinking in a sacrificial wine, fertility god. Commercial deity. Once acclimated it can put you in a loafing, meditative mood, when nothing human is about and all that moves decomposes into one, when all is broken as it is form/not form. Nothing to change. Slowly moving through it all, mutely sensing things. A dead man.    

Skyscraper graveyard industrial cemetery. For which reason it was easy to be not moved to sonneteering. I didn't weep for all the waste. No pity.

There was on Levick Street in Philly's Tacony section the house I was conceived in; near that the hospital in which I came to be. Memories from Polaroids and home movies. My infancy. Neighbors and relatives, my folks' friends. We moved away in one year. To a suburb in Jersey.

There were those across the river in Jersey who would try to hide a sneer hearing what I was "doing." Kids I'd grown up with, elementary school, high school: saw me as a football star!  Now truck driver milk man. They were in college still; from families with a little money. Truck driving is what you do when you don't go to college, or go and don't finish; that was the gist. It could be that there is more life to delivering milk than there was in any job they'd ever know. They'd rarely look. Or ever see me, sight being  a dimension they only infrequently engaged. I'd been raised hearing--not from my folks really (ditch digger was the occupation designated by my father as the lowliest work a man could do)--things about driving a truck that were mostly negative. Like it wasn't something chic to do. It was something then to feel ashamed of. To feel shame when I told people I drove a milk truck. To feel inferior, low. Because that was the thinking I'd picked up around me. Social junk thoughts I was picking up. Social junk city. Socialization.

One day a big change occurred at Franklin. Walter no longer ran the docks. Now Ted, Walter's uncle, was in charge. Maybe Walter had botched something badly. I don't know. He was in hot water a lot. The father was hard to please. The Marine moved to another job with another company where the following year he asked me to come. Ted was hell bent to make things more profitable. So he cut drivers and combined routes. It was a simple matter of seniority, Ted told me. Last hired, it was me who had to be first fired. Even though Helen in the office is my mother. Even though I was, he said, a good worker.

I went home. I wept. My grandmother was there. She lived with us. She called and told my mother. Mom came home with solace. She'd heard in the office what happened. To me things seemed so unfair. Unreasonable. When my son got the results of his semester exams a few months this all came back to me. He'd been an honor roll student but hadn't been scoring well on these end of semester exams so he really buckled down, he studied, he prepared, and still Tatsuma did poorly.  And his teachers would shrug, say Tatsuma doesn't test well or hasn't prepared enough. Maybe he does sort of freeze. But the boy tried hard and when a kid who is no dummy tries hard and still doesn't pass . . . .

No wonder the boy might freeze.

Tatsuma was down in the dumps about not passing. Into his cluttered room I went and told him this story (not about stealing the beer but about being canned even though I was doing a good job.)

The gist of what I told him was that the world is not necessarily a fair place. A church of god had taught me that lesson. What is meant here is that in grade school, 7th or 8th grade, I played on a church-sponsored basketball team. It was then called the Epworth Methodist Church and it is on Maple Avenue in Palmyra New Jersey. There was a court--not regulation size--in the church basement. The Coach was Mr. Rutton and his son John who is my age was on the team too. Our team wasn't good at all. Not much talent. John was an okay guard. He hustled and all that. Fine attitude. Agile. I was tall for my age and was okay to have around under the boards for rebounding and short shots. Most of the others were not all that helpful on the court.

As our season came towards its close two players were to be selected for a church league all star game. The coach's boy John was one obvious candidate. I was the other. Everyone seemed to think so. One night after practice the coach's selections were announced. One of them was not me but Mark Spitzler. He was a kid whose father was on the church board of governors or whatever it was called. His dad was sort of a big shot in our community. He was in a profession that kept him local; he had an office in town, had a shingle out. An attorney. A judge eventually, small time. A somebody in the Lion's Club and all that. May have eventually run for town council.

The boy wasn't very useful out on the court. He could dribble a little bit is all.  Mark let it be known that his being able to dribble a ball between his legs while bringing it up court--when no opponent was on him--was a feat that made him our star player, even though others stole the ball away from him at will. Mark was stiff, not fluid. Anyway we were just kids.
Coach Rutton took me aside while the others were headed for the locker room and told me I would have been his pick but for the fact that Spitzler's father was on the church board and my own folks no longer attended church. So he had no choice, he told me, but to choose the Spitzler boy, even though, he said, he is not as good a player. Because it's a church team. He hoped I would understand. And I did. I understood a lot about the world from that. I understood about being shit on in the house of god and everywhere else.

I do not like it. My parents being in church was never a condition for my being a member of the team. I was tall, the team was hard up. Now all of a sudden it had everything to do with being an all star. I understood--but didn't really, because how can you--that coach had to do what he thought was the Christian political thing even though in his heart he knew it was not the thing to do. He had to watch out for his own standing within the church, which had little to do with living in his heart. Coach caved; god bless him. He cared more about church membership abstraction than he did about the living being looking up to him in the eye, a being who would find it more difficult as a result to look people in the eye thereafter. Coach made it easy for me to think that because one nail is bent they all are bad. A lesson in carpentry. How things are made the way they are.

This is the way we were taught in god's supposed home. Its inhabitants--it seemed to me then--regarded themselves as "good" and everyone else "evil"--as is taught in the Story of Noah-- "sinners" and "no goods". I considered myself lucky to choose not to frequent that particular dangerous place.        

It hurt some, not being one of the chosen, but not many in my scene gave a hoot about church league basketball, no one talked about it at school, few came to watch, a parent or two maybe. It was a disappointment suffered privately. My dad tried to help; he told me I'd made HIS all-star team, which was intended to comfort me. Dad's words, though they made me feel a bit better, didn't change the unfairness I felt.

It occurred to me that although we were being taught at Sunday School that Christianity is about serving divinity it was really about serving the powers that be.
My stint at Franklin Dairies lasted only a month or so. My mother worked for that company until her retirement. Loyal, diligent, all that. On time, steady. Kept the books straight; once she even discovered an embezzler in their office and saved the company a great deal of money not to mention exposing the bad guy. It was a bad guy she'd once thought was a good guy; maybe he was basically okay. He was young and just starting out and got greedy. Though at a place where registration stickers came from the black market and vehicles were operating illegally who could be so bad?

Attacking my body with malnutritions, with oxygen-depleted health hazard surroundings: miscreant city. Working in Scamadoo, Scamadoodoo, a brilliant social dream, Scamelot . . . .

The licensing the stickers the inspections the revenues the avenues. Is all. The automotive industry. Streets paved with gold. My father's and my father's father's bodies were both ruined by automobiles though neither was physically injured in the wars they went to.
The young embezzler was caught stealing from master, dismissed but not prosecuted.

To thank my mother, in the end when she retired the Franklin gang took back their promise of a pension! On the other hand Charles the president had at times done things for mom and others who worked there that were at least helpful if not acts of philanthropic or charitable magnanimity.  After all he gave me her son the job to begin with. He and mom remain friendly. To this day they remain friends, he and his wife and my mom and dad. At one ring within their intimacy circuit.

It wasn't Charles himself who wanted to take from my mother that which she was promised. In fact it may have been Charles who promised it without his brothers' consent. What backstabbing was afoot among those brothers in the city of brotherly love I can't say. I'm not sure anyone else among the staff had a pension there. Which is why I guess she doesn't sue Franklin Dairy as she could have if she ever had any of it in writing.

Things happened which pained me, strained me.  A scene I went as a young man into, inexperienced as I naturally was. A scene which made me worldly, a scene I believed I believed in until I grew beyond belief, grew to give myself a life to live a death to die. Grew to give birth to myself. My sense of it.  

It feels as though I'm just warming to my subject. By the way milk isn't best for you at its refrigerated temperature. Cooling it is just so it keeps longer. It's best for a body when it's at body heat, warmed by flowing blood and other internals. Breast to mouth, so to speak.

poems by Giovanni Malito






it is















poems by David Giannini


Gulls winging xhead-
             long in patterns

                     of desire and

cries -- do you hear

         the first way earth

                   speaks through the sky?


Okay -- be as waves

             having no doubt

of approach

             or recession

but feel what you've touched



           and lost

At times

         to know


                               as sand


                                             the sea . . .


Are you (you are) the same
kid used to lie on sand
to watch sky swim here too

or you are (are you) the
same sky on the sea to
feel a kid here swim through


Pith of the shell's fracture --
we come to something as
nothing again nothing


Here we are -- away

             on sand by sea: sense

             horizons within --

at the end to feel

         we are here -- the Wave.


The dunes

             into each


open water                        

no shore

to our joy!

poems by Scott Watson


words escape me

make no

sense if they didn't


silence does


dying has more
of it than talk

was not
those years
I was four
or five or six
she was
nothing one
rainy day to do
bugged her
diet pills
that looked like
in our frige
she got a bar of
Soap for me
with my penknife
to carve
which so long
after I remember
like an
Easter Island
gazing out

Never Mind

here is


by nature

no mindedly

here we



no word

YAMAO Sansei

Gathering Shellfish

beat by sun's blaze

the blue-purple sea breeze is a cool caress.

one rock at a step

through spray from waves

this shore where no one is

its silence is mesolithic, and its wealth.

civilization stops

without transmission        body is aware

quiet, rich, mesolithic

a breeze

a sun

a sea

Dew Time

time of the year

for dew once again

playing in sea

to heart's content I wanted more

but that's through

bushclover blossoms--as white this

year as long ago--tell

it like it is          autumn

brought on by bushclover

by Thunberg's geranium

by Hairyvein agrimonia's flower

this year once more

I too am

as it is

*these poems appear in SHIN-WA-RYOKU, published by      Kudakake Press. English versions were done by Scott Watson