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Stephen Cramer



The doors labor open to the heaped
                              clamor of commute-conductor's
                 drawl & static, the PA leaking

crackled locales &, below that, more urgently,

                 a metallic rasp & chafe-kneeling there,
                              a man on a make-shift contraption
                 (ply-wood base, shopping cart wheels) pulls off
the painstaking work of carting himself

across the gapped threshold. Swaddled
                              in a blanket-someone's beat-up
                  woolen blue-he wheels his bulk

on fisted knuckles to the pole's brief

                  mooring. That's when the blanket
                              falls & what's left of his legs
                  pokes through like stout elbows.
By then there's no need

for pageantry, but when he reaches
                              the car's middle (there's no one,
                   now, who isn't watching) he begins,
gently as his weather-worn voice will allow,

                   to sing. Nothing intricate or too
                              creative, this unadorned loop
                   of a song's just enough to contain
the four recurring lyrics-I got

no legs. He lifts his eyebrows
                              like a choirboy, distinctly
                   proud, before repeating

the simple fact of it-I got no

                   legs. & as he sings, he rows himself
                               forward like the song's scant exhalation,
                   & not his blackened fingers,
propelled him. Imagine the intricate

travelogue of those wheels-
                               stippled asphalt, cobble, curb
                   & impossible staircase-the endless

caterwaul of friction a sort of kindred

                   music to him. Slick linoleum rumble
                               as he threads through the aisle,
                   clutches the handle, hazards
the gap to the car in front.

We don't even need to watch
                               to see how the blanket drops,
                   the exertion of retrieval, the routine

culminating in four unreeled syllables

                   that let you forget any touch
                               of affectation. Because, showbiz
                   aside, he's answered fate not
with complaint or lamentation,

but with song (& let's not pretend-oh yes,
                               it's coming: there's something out there
                   with our names on it): & we all

need a song that says mercy. Song

                   that says O veiled & fathomless
                                city, strangely bejeweled by such
                   sundered & dazzling creatures,
hear our simple pleas

there's a legless man in the next
                                car & I can't stop feeling
                    how our bodies speed

through the space his just held,

                    how he's the part of us
                                 that's gotten there first.


Gleaned from gutter-mouths, we knew their muscle
before meanings, the monosyllables raised to hallowed
refrains on our tongues. We glorified it, the older world
of vice & impiety. So just as we both wanted to be
the fugitive in cops & robbers, my best friend & I
hid downstairs & scrawled out a barrage of vulgarities-
the heavy-hitters, of course, but then the half-dozen
declensions of ass,
the lumped phrases
of defecation, the whole
shameful lexicon of
anatomy. Then, those white
sheets defiled (microcosm
of our own soiled tabula rasa), we crumpled them
&-like shoving a bottled note to the sea's blind tug-
threw them to the ditch at wood's edge. It was the same
fertile gully where I'd picked, years before, palmfuls
of fruit &-the words monk's hood, nightshade
still a decade off-swallowed them. I hardly even
remember being sped to the ER to have my stomach
pumped. Of course
our ink-spangled pages
never went anywhere,
though I wish I could
hold one now, dim
record of childhood's
vast testing ground-
the necessary absurdity
& litter of it all.
Instead, those lost notes
were draped with stray
leaves, coiled with briars
which could never quite
keep from reach
those sweet-looking
berries we were told
not to touch,
but had to. & did.

                 -from Tongue & Groove




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Nicky Beer 09-06-2010

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Nathaniel Bellows 04-27-09

Ciaran Berry 01-25-09

Linda Bierds 08-31-07

Kristin Bock 08-17-09

Brian Brodeur 03-29-09

Michelle Boisseau 09-20-2010

Anne Caston 09-24-09

Nicole Cooley 04-05-09

Nicole Cuddeback 03-07-08

Elizabeth Biller Chapman 01-25-08

Stephen Cramer 02-14-2011

Steve Davenport 03-29-2010

Cortney Davis 05-03-09

Todd Davis 11-01-2010

Elizabeth Dodd 09-05-08

Karen Donovan 04-15-07

Mark Doty 04-11-08

Stephen Dunn 11-09-02010

Lynn Emanuel 08-30-2010

Lynnell Edwards 11-22-2010

B. H. Fairchild  09-04-09

Nick Flynn 10-04-2010

Carolyn Forche 09-21-07

James Galvin 02-23-07

Margaret Gibson 01-24-10

Mary Jo Firth Gillett 02-22-08

Dana Gioia 08-23-2010

Eugene Gloria 09-20-08

Louise Gluck 03-17-2010

Kevin Goodan 08-29-08

Matthew Graham 11-28-2010

Robert Grunst 11-16-07

Elizabeth Hadaway 06-15-07

Donald Hall 02-10-07

Jeff Hardin 08-10-07

Brooks Haxton 03-08-10

Seamus Heaney 09-11-09

Jamey Hecht 12-05-2010

Dennis Hinrichsen 11-02-07

Andrew Hudgins 11-21-09

Lynda Hull 05-20-07

Henry Israeli 01-23-2011

Major Jackson 05-02-2010

Mark Jarman 10-19-08

Rodney Jones 10-26-09

Barbara Jordan 02-02-09

Brigit Pegeen Kelly 10-12-08

Jane Kenyon 04-01-07

James Kimbrell 04-07-2010

James Kimbrell 01-19-07

Galway Kinnell 11-09-07

Yusef Komunyakaa 07-15-07
Phil Levine 06-03-07

Eleanor Lerman 11-02-08

Larry Levis 04-04-08

Larry Levis 02-08-2010

Sandy Longhorn 04-26-08

Corey Marks 10-03-07

Adrian Matejka 04-18-08

Davis McCombs 01-18-08

Michael McGriff 02-22-09

Jay Meek 01-16-2010

Anne Michaels 01-18-09
Nils Michals 02-29-08

Keith Montesano 12-12-2010

Malena Morling 05-12-08

Simone Muench 02-08-08

Sharon Olds 02-22-07

Sharon Olds 10-19-07

Michael Ondaatje 02-01-2010

Eric Pankey 09-07-07

Gregory Pardlo 06-22-07

Ed Pavlic 09-28-07

Oliver de la Paz 02-15-2010

Lucia Perillo 12-04-09

Donald Platt 02-15-08

Joshua Poteat 11-3-09

Amy Randolph 03-01-09

Robert Randolph 12-12-09

Adrienne Rich 04-20-2010

Joshua Robbins 11-16-2010

David Roderick 12-07-07

Pattiann Rogers 3-21-08

Steve Scafidi 10-09-09

Jim Schley 10-19-09

Tim Seibles 10-08-07

David Shumate 10-26-08

Dave Smith 04-10-09

Katherine Soniat 11-30-07

Gary Soto 03-23-07

Mark Sullivan 08-28-09

Frank Stanford 10-25-2010

Mark Strand 02-22-2010

Mark Svenvold 03-23-09
Brian Turner 05-13-07

Joshua Vinzant 01-30-2011

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Charles Harper Webb 10-12-07

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Susan B.A. Somers-Willett 06-29-07

Charles Wright 01-27-07

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