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POEMS

Passover 2004

BY IRENE SIMON SIPOS

Every year we imagine ourselves trudging across burning

sand, anticipating the next insurmountable task

we will be forced to do. How thirsty we are, how hungry,

how weary. This year, beautiful pink hydrangeas

grace the Passover table. Deep pink table cloths and napkins

make us feel we could be at a. sweet sixteen,

or on an Audrey Hepburn movie set.

If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us?

If we are not for others, who will we be for?

These are the central questions as we labor

under relentless sun, as we submit to the cruel

commands of a fierce despot who doesn't care

how young we are, or how old, or how weak,

or how sick. These are the central questions

as we bow our heads against cold spring sleet,

struggling to acknowledge that we do not save

ourselves because of corrosive fear and we do not

stand for others because of willful ignorance.

Let the crocuses bloom, and the daffodils

unfold, and the rain fall, let the moon rise

in the blazing desert, let us lay under

the covering of the cool cotton tent,

let us recognize around this table that

we are now in the desert 2000 years ago, that

in the desert we were in a northern city in

a house with pink tablecloths and pink napkins

and dear friends. The questions circle us now

as then, exodus everlasting.

Irene Simon Sipos is academic coordinator of Student Support Services and teaches part time at Buffalo State College.

Barcelona

BY JASON IRWIN

They were among the first settlers here,

long before the colonies declared

independence, my fathers people:

square jawed, Scotch-Irish Presbyterian stock,

fishermen, farmers and factory workers, all.

Pale as salt and stem as the God

that sent down fire

on Sodom and Gomorrah.

These are the people I never knew,

but know through photos, yellowed

by so many seasons, my grandmother left

when God, in His mercy, blessed her

one October day with a stroke

and she was free of widowhood,

colon cancer and cataracts.

It was here, in Barcelona, New York,

on the southern shores of Lake Erie,

where the first gas powered light house

was built in 1849, that my father was born.

Here, where Dr. Thomas Branwell Welch

invented a way to preserve unfermented grapes,

where Grace Bedell: age eleven,

suggested to Abe Lincoln

that he would look a lot better if he grew

whiskers, here where the winters last

until mid summer, and here, where my life

will surely end, just as it began: a speck of dust,

lost in a universe that rarely acknowledges

the dreams of an ordinary man.

Jason Irwin is a native of Dunkirk who now lives in Queens.

Open House

BY PETER JOHNSON

It's not easy to love oneself. I know. Just yesterday, no

one would speak to me at the open house. So many

parents. I wanted to write them letters, or share my

pineapple squares. But they were camped out by the

salad bar, so far away it was like a dream, except for

the heartburn. Even the hot dogs looked sad, tugged

this way and that between two stainless steel rollers.

I ate one. My son had pizza. Then I sat in his class-

room, scanning a history book, hoping a different

time period might present itself. I raised my hand to

pee, but the teacher punished me with dirty looks. "I

was president of the fourth grade," I protested, "cho-

sen to crown the Virgin on May Day." The children

scowled, threatened me with their No. 2 pencils.

Even the portrait of Cortez seemed angry as I traced

his bloody march across Mexico.

Post-Mortem Jacket Cover

BY PETER JOHNSON

At his funeral, as he hovers above the congregation,

above disgruntled poets, above ex-girlfriends meeting

each other for the first time and consoling his mother

who they always liked better than him, he wants

some brave soul to stand up and say, "No one else

lived as deeply as this man, or sang as terrifying a

song. No one was as tender and achingly sensual at

the same time. No one was a greater poet or friend of

the soul."

But more likely, there will be an embarrassing silence,

as when someone passes wind in a movie theater and

no one accepts responsibility. But he can live with a

moment like that, appreciate its indecisiveness and

self-loathing. Traits they say he championed when

alive and barely kicking.

Buffalo native and University at Buffalo graduate Peter Johnson, author of three collections of poems and a book of short stories, returns to Buffalo May 9 to 13 for a World of Voices community residency, sponsored by White Pine Press and Just Buffalo Literary Center.

The Others

BY SALLY FIEDLER

They come in all sizes, of course,

and are necessary, bless their hearts.

It's a shame, the drain from the brain

that goes into growing the curly

chest hairs and the slightly

denser muscle mass.

And the wasted years spent

establishing the obvious fact that

they wear the pants in the family.

And the challenging prance

they produce when another

appears on the horizon.

And yet, when they clump

together of a Sunday afternoon,

game on,

they do make a joyful noise.

Sally A. Fiedler lives in Buffalo.

Fires

BY SCOTT PATTERSON

We want what we want.

Desire makes no apology

for what comes after.

The steady drone of traffic

sounds like yesterday and tomorrow,

full of people leaving home

going home

going crazy.

They'll sleep for maybe an hour

and wake up to strangers,

dressing in a roaring silence

eyes darting here and there,

this is the last time

until the next time

a breeze blows over the embers.

Scott Patterson lives in North Tonawanda.