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POEMS

Covenant of the Ark

Two by two they crawled and walked and flew,

the chain unbroken as the deluge grew.

Oh slimy slug, tell us the catechism

that guarded your coming and going.

Swift runner, hair flung back,

did you pray as you stormed the plank?

Were you, flyers to the hatch together,

really, as is said, one of a feather?

Did those precious few, even though two by two,

contain the whole of allotted soul;

do the unchosen of the past and future

claim as well a share of the privileged lot;

or was their orphaned blight

merely emptied into waters of night?

Was it better, after all,

that the chosen had been wiped so clean

that the final log remain daintily pristine?

But if those others, most maimed but guileless, are to be lost,

then the final reckoning -- at what terrible cost!

Raymond Welch lives in Buffalo.

A Brilliance All Things See

BY MARY LAMB FREEMAN

The Glow

that lights

these cockscombs

every fall

and all these marigolds,

petunias done in coral,

plum crysanthemums,

nyst be the light

E. Kuebler-Ross

forever writes about,

a brilliance

all things see

just as they die.

MARY LAMB FREEMAN lives in Amherst.

I Say My Flowers

By Barbara D. Holender

Desolate as Ophelia

I say my flowers

named like diseases:

Here's peperomia -- that's eyesores,

Bromeliads -- stuffed sinuses,

Pothos -- that's depression

and Coleus is cramps.

There's Tradescantia -- embarrassing itches

and Begonia -- all woe,

thriving, all of them,

aggressively fertile

while atrophy like Ivy

sticks its little sucker feet

into my barren brain.

Barbara D. Holender lives in Snyder.

Whichever Comes First

By Ansie Baird

Ithaca is a great place to live or die, whichever comes first. -- A.R. Ammons

Well, you could say the same

about Buffalo, and the list keeps

getting longer. Cemeteries are filling

fast, Lake Erie is nearly clogged

solid with cremated remains reduced

to ash and scattered willy-nilly

in the wide Niagara River basin.

Something comforting about water

versus earth, some of us think,

although others prefer the return

to soil that takes them in and takes its

time and seems to be more leisurely.

I'm biding mine right now but counting,

meanwhile becoming a drug addict or

a whiskey souse or clinically dependent

upon lunch, my second favorite meal

of the day, the one I never skip.

Once when I checked into a clinic

for some tests, the receptionist asked:

Date of death? That threw me for a minute.

I'm all set for either death or

lunch, whichever comes first.

Ansie Baird is poet-in-residence at Buffalo Seminary.

Live at the Philharmonic

By Michael Tritto

The baton rises for all of us, orchestra and audience.

Breaths are slow in the hold of caverns within us,

then the fall to a valley, updrifts of shadows and light,

syncopations of village lights along the far roads

open into the composer's room of first marks,

each one timed for all time, the beats of hearts on wing

weaving around the conductor's arms, the woods and winds,

the composer's feed into rooms where players first found

their mastery seeds, the sounding limbs of their new flesh,

repetitions stitch their hours into freedom of melodic sweeps

out to the faces, row after row, their companions within

childhoods and today, touch sorrow, touch a new chance,

the bent figure over paper and pen across cliffs of time,

faces known in the far gray, questions with windows and doors,

all members of tonight, each in singular flight

sit alone within each other on great blankets of sounds

that lift from rocks to rivers, hot breaths on an ear,

the harmonies, the simple tunes, raptures ablaze,

baton down, the great ball, and then the roar...

* * *

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, JoAnn Falletta, music director, "The Overture to the Three-Cornered Hat" by Manual de Falla, June 13 in Kleinhans Music Hall.

Michael Tritto will read from his work at 2 p.m. Nov. 21 in the Burchfield-Penney Art Center.