Telephone Book

Maureen Owen edited and published Telephone Book from 1969 to 1984. An acute observer of, and participant in, an active and dynamic scene, Owen had the ability to attract good work and to give it room to function on its own terms. Hence it seemed both unfair to the contributors and a slight to Owen's editorial abilities to take a "best of" approach in these samplers. So we decided to make the selection by chance. This was done by throwing dice, and to add a satirical element, throwing the dice on November 5, 1996, election day. We're only presenting work from the three issues that are still available. If you would like copies of these issues, you can order them from Light and Dust, at P.O. Box 4190 Kenosha, WI 53143, for $5.00 a copy.

- Karl Young


A Sampler from

Telephone Book

Number 16


For Neil Welliver

             "the root of what dazzles us is in our hearts"

In the grey light before dawn
the birch trees are slender and white
I lie in the dark
   the bark of the birch trees
printed with symbols of migration

  silver foil leaves   folded out 
unlike   the aspen   so sudden & startling in the wind 
unexpected, the light on the lake, the loon, the solitary 
rowboat & sudden chill

birch logs burn best their white curls
like old secrets locked in the desk

the silver light slicing the trees 
in half as if a sash from the window 
thrown open

  the language of birch trees is silence 
the trail leads into the woods the birches bend 
by the pond
cluster near the open space 
there is no light in the center of the clearing 
yet the birches glisten white 
the radiance of snow held next to the wood

the birch trees stand up wrists held to the light 
trees balanced in a dream, their green weight 
weightless against each other sticks used by children 
in their games

in a forest of trees, birch bark glistens like the inner skin
of an egg      each birch tree a column
of rain hit by the wind	the birches are a sheet
held over the horizon	the air is cold
you can almost hear it	  the silence glistens
like an old shoe left out in the rain

	(when the evening light
	hits the buildings    their gold
	tips against the city sky
	they might be birches       they might be
	those white trees
	bark curling within my fingers
          fraying like old cloth)

someone has forgotten their umbrella 
there is a coat left on the fence
the stones are silent if there was any sound 
from the leaves, it would be white 
it would fall like snow and turn each branch 
into a birch tree


O-she-li-ni (Extraordinary)

In the old times a Buddhist king left on a pilgrimage 
to visit the sacred places in the outside world.
He gave command of his kingdom to his younger maternal brother.  
This man cut off his own penis to prevent evil passions from 
     rising within him.
He placed it in a golden casket and gave it to the king, saying, 
"When you return, open this."
The king gave it to his bodyguards to keep and left.
When he returned, certain members of the court said to him,
"Your brother has been helping himself to the women in your palace."
The king called out his brother and was about to have him punished 
     severely when the brother said,
"I won't run from your punishment, but first open the casket."
It was opened and the king saw it contained a severed penis.
"What is this and what does it mean?" he demanded.
"When you said you were leaving and giving the kingdom to me
I expected that people would slander me when you returned.
So I cut off my penis.
You see, I thought ahead.  Have mercy on me."
The king was deeply impressed and moved with a strange affection for 
     his brother.  
He allowed him free passage anywhere in his inner palace from that day on. 
One day while wandering the countryside 
the young brother met a herdsman on his way to geld 500 oxen.  
He thought of the pain he'd felt in relation to the pain of 500 oxen 
     and said, 
"Isn't it true that the pain I feel now is the result of what I did in 
     some former life?"
He offered this herdsman a great deal of money and jewels to spare 
     the oxen from being castrated.
Because of this act of love his mutilated penis slowly grew back, 
and he no longer went to visit the women in his brother's palace.
The king was amazed by this when he heard about it.
He asked his young brother what had happened
and when he heard the story he declared his brother an extraordinary being.
The king built this convent to honor his brother and carry on his name.

[from the Si-Yu-Ki of Hsuan-tsang,  trans. by Samuel Beal as  Buddhist Records
of the Western World]



			"There is little use to talk about your
		child to anyone; other people either have one or haven't."
			-Don Herold
			"Feel the dignity of a child.  Do not feel 
		superior to him, for you are not."
			-Robert Henri
			"In sanity is hereditary.  You can get it 
		from your children."
			-Sam Levenson

			     Dribble Diseases 

			teething is certainly the pits 
			sort of like having horny gums 
			& a hole in the chin 
			for saliva waterfalls 
			pouring everywhere . . .

	 Who Needs Exercise? ? ? 

	Who needs exercise
	Have a baby instead

	Who needs jogging-
	when there's a "bouncing bundle
	of joy" present in your life

	It's all part of the new
               	Have a baby-exhaust yourself
	Keep that flabbiness down to a minimum
		& weariness up to the maximum

	Who needs yoga
                              or speed?

	The training schedules
	of Diana Nyad, Billy Jean King and Nadia Komenici
	can't compare to the BABY ROUTINE

	You can see the moneys saved 
	Who needs racquets, balls, 
	or fifty dollar pro keds 
	skis & roller skates are a rip-off

	Who needs Designer Uniforms
	or special areas in which to sport?

	Have a baby-
	The world is your very own
	playing court

	Who needs the Boston, New York or Oshkosh Marathon
	Who needs the Olympics
               		      (winter &/or summer)
                    (any year)                    (being held anywhere)

	Who needs exercise?
	All I need is a helluva long vacation. .


A Triptych


	I said, later;
	I said we'd do it
	later; I said it'd keep till
	later, until you crashed
	into my room at 1 a.m. 
	(you never did have any sense of time,
	making that godawful noise at 1 a.m.)
	you, scattered to the winds 
	and plains of Nebraska. 
	Nebraska?  What in god's name
	were you doing in Nebraska? 
	You never knew what time it was, 
	or where you were,
	or who cared --
	you and your sweet, tough wisecracks
	all blown away on the wind....
	(if it had been a New York wind,
	but Nebraska?) 
	Dropped right into that slit
	of Mother Earth. 
	Even tho' it does, it doesn't matter; 
	it all blows away on the wind anyhow,
	all away...


		I'm watching the sky thru the glass 
		pane as it ends in gray turning deep 
		and deeper rose over the 
		river, and I think of you 
		driving that car straight thru from 
		Oklahoma to LA on the burning highway, 
		straight thru the flames 
		on an arrow road to nowhere.

		Baptism by fire;
		a ride beyond redemption, 
		gray, and far away -- like last night, 
		like your Oklahoma eyes, your cheap tricks, 
		your charm ...


				"Mr. Natural, what does it all mean?"
				"Don't mean shit."


	I'm upstairs, wandering around the apartment, 
	trying to see what's to salvage 
	in the wreckage on the living-room floor.  
	The propeller tilts over the lampshade; 
	pieces of wing are on the dresser; 
	the TV's running, images, no sound ...

	In the mess, I pick up a half-used Scotch tape; 
	pots, sheets, a bed-stained mirror; 
	bent nails, a canceled stamp;
	Don, the bridge between the dead and living, 
	both and neither, friend/betrayer, comforter and comfortless


	grey Oklahoma eyes, focused on 10,000 miles of nothing, 
	swallow the night 
	where somewhere something lost is crying 
	to be taken, warmed and comforted


	A great desire to love and be loved.


	There I go, proclaiming it to those winds again.
	my life is an open book, 
	and the pages are blowing away in the wind 
	that blew you to the corners of Nebraska, 
	that fanned the flames burning that highway
	you saw without seeing

	Don, driving through death,
	and the front of the car melting,
	blowing away

	Can I hitch a ride with you over those plains of nowhere?

	Death rides at our shoulders; 
	your pygmy charm has only a lifetime guarantee.


cobweb strophes

the hieroglyph for an alligator avalanche 
fused lightning above the atoms 
into soft globes

glowing globes, whose simmering earlobes
made a halo
of bruised thorns about the body of a madhouse

the wind snared its breezes 
from the most static emotion that was airborne 
along the twilight's frozen edges

clara got airborne
a trace of ash on her receding bits 
already the zeroes were collecting on her eyes 
passed on like the dharma with rabies

fire held like a cobweb
dark light from the half-sun
until the air could weave the moon into a wolf s howl

the moon met its mate when she saw it 
washed down the canyon like watercolors 
nightbird with paws on the bed paused 
my car's headlamp about to be spotted

i was gone when i got there
i'm gone now
a protean nebula sleepwalker from the construction paper snow
spilling like paste on the jungle big as a grape

when all went out like a listless morning 
on the cat who dipped the city into a paint brush 
the nomad who motored the aimless homeland 
stretched a little more to where the ancient shape it was in 
let out sightings of a new land.


A Sampler From


Number 17


from Lessons to a Fourth Grade Class
and other poems

	Lesson II 

	The sun spins
	the earth circles the sun 
	turning on an axis 
	with a moon revolving around it
	held in place by a force we cannot see unless we

	whirl a bucket full of water
	There it is!
	See it?

	Perhaps birds flock together
	directed by a force we cannot see
	except in the shreds of iron here before us.

	Rub the needle on a magnet.  
	Watch it spin and point 
	to where it always will.

	Get your coats calmly.
	Do not shove your neighbor.
	Leave the guineapigs on the windowsill.
	Line up, single file, march out into the hall.  
	Cover your heads, be quiet, and concentrate 
	on the space between your knees.

	Those horrible things you see 
	coming at you from the depths 
	of the lining of your new ski jacket, 
	they are only your imagination.

		Lesson III 

		Vikings wearing heavy jewelry rowing 
		dragon boats with striped sails picking at 
		big hunks of meat stuck between their teeth 
		worshipping strange gods and thinking about 
		big-breasted bare-breasted blonde women 
		may have been here first.

		They made nothing of it.
		They were just out for a ride with Leif.

		Columbus discovered America.  He wore a 
		puffy-shouldered velvet blazer with tights 
		and slippers all the time.
		He wore a hat with a long feather in it.  
		He had a compass dangling from a sash 
		around his waist and he even slept with 
		it on.

		The world was not flat after that.

		But the world is not exactly round.  
		It is sort of pear-shaped, 
		kind of bumpy,
		blemished by meteors 
		and cracked by earthquakes.  
		Only a fraction of the surface 
		of the earth has been smoothed out, 
		touched up, and filled in, by men 
		and volcanoes.

		Poor Pompeii.
		Poor remains of the baker in his bakery.  
		The bread is still there like it was 
		only yesterday.
		Was he happy?
		Was he enjoying himself?
		Did he have time to act?
		Perhaps he felt the bread was more crucial.
		Was he baking for survivors?
		Or was he just baking and taken by 

		Columbus knew where he was going.
		To India.

			Lesson VIII 

			They rebuilt Hiroshima.
			if only out of pity,
			rarely strikes
			the same spot twice.)
			when they rebuilt Hiroshima
			they built it where it had been

			They rebuilt London. 
			(The mosquito bites twice 
			and again.
			It buzzes above us 
			and ruins our sleep 
			while filling its body to bursting 
			with blood.)
			They rebuilt London after 
			the swelling went down.

			The tissue of the scar grows 
			thicker than the skin.  
			The earth has learned 
			to tolerate the sky.
			And man persists--

			by not adapting, 
			rejecting acceptance, 
			testing all patience ...

			And sticks out his tongue 
			in the face of oblivion 
			and screams,

			Catch me you old gorilla fart--


		Lesson X  

		why bother digging
		down to China?

		China is expected to fall 
		in the rain that clings 
		to particles of dust 
		down upon your sweet head 
		by mid-morning.

		Look up to China,
		sifting down slowly 
		through the atmosphere, 
		clinging to your nose-hairs,
		making boogers with fortunes inside.

		Dig if you want,
		but you will not find
		China there.


In Les Yeux Verts

			of Marguerite Duras
			The wind plays

			Drowsing in a basket

			A tape of Bruce
			Odland at the piano

			Filters through
			A row of windows

			Performed with care
			And composed

			Of sounds like cubes
			Melting in a glass

			We see the fish
			Float by in the air

			And think of
			Chimes in a cave
			Living beneath our footsteps
			Shrinking as they swirl



Everything that takes
great skill          
and feats of concentration
is magic
And the amazing thing is
that the Media will Not be there 
when the Master Bard delivers the goods 
unveiling the new Lady Of The Lake .
will take you home
for a very brief stay, and everything
will suddenly be
dancingly clear
The Night of the Great Century!


Bride in the Bath

		I am his    Bride in the   Bath: one among
		many. in the lead-lined
		     tub of his   unconscious 
		trying to   reduce me  to my biological 
		constituents, he
		   fails. Pouring the
		corrosive of his    prejudice, he
		gapes into the   bottom, and
		    recoils to find me
		there.  I will hold
		   fast, my grin  suspended catlike:
		scorn's   emulsion. he
		   draws the   curtains
		tight, there are some
		outside who would     object to this
		procedure. nothing to be
		done. the fragrance of   cognition,
		lingering like     tuberose, will
		betray him. as they drag him
		off, he is still   searching the perfect


White Sister

the stillness of my white birch reflections 
holds her walking; poised now in the water of pond she was young 
she would never be imagined again 
without the brown pool of a pond 
impossible to gather 
her up in our arms 
she is dissolved into liquid 
wipe your eyes the grandfather smiles 
winds, day, night, light, suddenly dip of a baby swallow, 
hits her memory in a white gown

into the gooseflesh waters she is gone 
silent as the indians; 
the blond child in the mirror, retained 
the sweet grandfather fishing, retained

into the swallow of the lake with the moon, 
I could not keep awake to watch 
her cross the sky from my lakeside cabin 
so I created the swan--

she walks in her white gown around the lake mornings

left here, visiting from the Land of the Dead

her speech is the waters
my longing for her in the waters 
dark nights she is not in the ponds, you're gone away, 
I'm here by the lake
there is no motion she can make apart from the water






Romora Cove


Don't ask the dunes any questions.
They keep sliding away.
Shaped by the wind into queer peaks,
by morning they won't recognize each other.  
They need their disguises, 
the sunset to change their colors.

The beachgrass strains to hold the dunes.  
Needle-sharp, slender, sheathed, 
it does the best it can.


There are no messages in the sand.
Full of holes at tideline,
farther up the beach it forms long lazy ripples; 
a lake stirred by a breeze, 
brainwaves during sleep.

And today might be your last warm day.
You walk a line of foam between sand and surf,
August and September.
Embedded in each cell, your memory of cold.

And if you could shape clouds with your breath, 
grab fistfuls of pastel air, 
if stars could spell out your name, 
you'd still need your disguises.


So stay just for now.
Lie on your back.
Let your fingers uncurl.

Sleep here is like no other.
An hour is a night.
You sink into the sand.
Your breath goes in, out with the surf,

escapes as you try to hang on, 
give in finally 
at the point where your drunkenness 
and waves collide.

Then stand naked in sea caves.
Whisper in the reeds.
Twice, the tide will splash your ankles.  
It says everything over and over again.  
It gives you what it can.


The Bullet Enters Lincoln's Skull

He dreamed
and saw her under the tree
in the pink dress her mother hated.

He felt a small hand in his
in the darkness
and wanted to escort the boy.

He saw the sun of that afternoon 
on the circuit 
when the horse was lame 
and he had a headache.

He heard the voices of the hecklers
for the first time clearly.

He saw the burned city
and the white city
and the prairie town Capitol.

He smelled the market stores 
along the river 
and the fish there 
for purchase.

He saw his father by the woodblock 
with an axe in his hands 
and the body of an animal at his feet.

He tasted blood.


George Segal at the Whitney

For Paul

It's wrong to stand
in this air-conditioned museum 
spying on lovers, listening 
to men talking over coffee

Their essence is individual 
the silence of the soul 
and the cold cold touch of plaster 
static quality of motion immovable

I'm not sure these people please me 
I can see them crossing the street 
into nowhere grouped separately, 
or the exhausted penis fucked out on the bed

Do I need a taxi into this moon 
light, red and blue stars washing 
tired bodies, crusted minds 
with souls that have only 
the spirit of my spirit

Nostalgic fascination of a time
old movie marquees and rattan subway seats 
into which a people are caught into art 
by mistake: the art of God and Segal

I can look into my street anytime at sophtic 
buttocks and smell armpits, touch frost 
on coke bottles and hear gibberish: 
"God! it's hot." "Take a walk, brother."

The rarefied is sometimes banal, too



Life is so interesting! When it's bouncing along, it carries you with it in its effervescence--bubbles and foam, and sunlight glinting. When it isn't, it's gray and drear, rain-slicked streets glow dim under streetlights that need washing; it's battered, hair hanging tangled and sodden in your face so that you have to keep shaking it out of your eyes in a gesture like a tic enveloping the entire body; a stocking, ripped, twists, around one ankle and feels like its continuing a slide down around your shoe, where it'll trip you up, as if enough hadn't happened today. But Monday you'll go around the corner and something else will be there. It may be better, it may not be better, it may be worse, but it'll be new. New's always exciting, always new. Even though it will be old before you're done. Even midway through, sometimes.

It's the unexpectedness of it. Like the circus. You can always look forward to the next corner, wherever you are. You turn it, and there's love, balloons, the river, a cloud turning a somersault, two scotties frantically chasing each other in circles, a forest fire, a volcano erupting, the wind blowing to hurricane velocity, the sea crashing in over the city, the street caving in under your feet, the gun, the knife, the car out of control, the body hurtling from the 20th floor landing on you ...


The New Book

You took your book and tore 
	out the pages, 
you took the pages and tore 
	out the words, 
you took the words and rearranged 
	the letters
upside down and backwards 
	and every way
as your fancy would have it.

I said, Son, let me know 
if there's something I can do: 
I'll buy you a book and tear 
	out the pages,
I'll take the pages and tear 
	out the words,
I'll take the words and rearrange 
	the letters
upside down and backwards 
let me know how you want me 
	to do it:
I am your obedient father.

This is a cooperative publication of
Telephone Book and
Light and Dust @ Grist Mobile Anthology of Poetry.

Copyright © 1980, 1981, and 1983 by Telephone Book for the Authors.

Return to Light and Dust Poets.