Catcrow Grotto

Catcrow Grotto

illustration by Dale Houstman


Their overheated interior hangars are fixed about
a decorative wire ring. I believe Victorian. Or there are hooks

on functional salt-toughened seahoods. Fixed about
the collapsible rungs of the hospice cot or shafts cheaply fitted

with human heads. Places have grown larger since then.
Remember one ember in her prison water. The iron apron. The lily

housed in its wire shaft, that finicky shaft, cheaply fitted
with human heads. Places have grown richer since then.

Revolution can be boiled away. Frozen cheapness
for night grazing. The shafts cheaply fitted

with human heads fixed on gold panels but
windows are just windows in Coventry. Not here.

the government bawdyhouse can no longer afford curtains.
Or do I see heavenly blue curtains. Do I see shafts cheaply fitted

with human heads fixed on gold panels and panels fixed
to the collapsible rungs of the hospice cot.

-Dale Houstman

Flesh Fall

to Laura

A wind blasted her body. Her eyes rolled upwards and blue blossoms
erupted upon her breasts. The laughter from the woods decreased as she
shivered, broke apart, and blew away. There would be rumors of her,
already downwind - of her skin granulated or slit into overlapping
foliates, her hair red and viscous with pollen, her pupils obscure,
moist like cherries. Left behind is a fusty panther-scent mixed with
corrupted leaves - an odor I roll in as a dog and carry home to the
family. Always she is darkening the way, always the path free of the
woods is blocked by the remnants of her.

-Dale Houstman

Anniversary Sonnet

The days, hours, months, years pass
They ripen the illusions of a life
Which is an endless pursuit of the difference
Between compensation and loss.

In the presence of the most vilified flesh
That fritters away riches, that increases the debts
The idealism of walking the even streets triumphs
Over leaving everything to the losers.

I may want adventure more than good fortune
As a measure of what bleaches the temples
And keeps the once-hard fiber tender.

And I will tell you this, my dear, forget....
That great is my love for the creature
Who is circumspect and who doesn't smother me.

-Vinicius de Moraes

tr. by Tim Kahl

Involuntary Study

In the beginning the untrustworthiness of my mirror amused me, now it troubles me.
At the end of winter, I realized that my mirror (the only one I own, it hangs in the hallway) reflected objects only partially, both stationary and portable objects, which bid the mirror to reflect their image. The bedroom faces the mirror and in the bedroom has a window with a view of the Warsaw Dam. The drama began when the window did not appear in the mirror. It did not appear piece by piece nor later on, the window remained invisible. The place where the window should have been was empty. I believed it was an optical illusion (therefore I looked within myself for the error ), and I let the matter be. Then Sylvia advised me that the mirror's glass was dull. She said she couldn't see herself in it. We stood almost invisibly before its sound clear glass (it wasn't dull) and expected a reaction from the mirror. It adjusted after a minute, Sylvia's left hand (with the silvery ring) appeared as a normal reflection and faded after about two minutes. Besides the hand, nothing else was seen, nothing but the reflection of the left hand. Sylvia laughed (I appeared: without reason) and spoke of the mirror's mood. My mirror is an ordinary one, a meter tall, framed by black wood, its steady glass has no damages, tricks or secretive regions. I bought it for next to nothing in a furniture warehouse, it had a previous owner, but it isn't old (I don't know anything about how old the mirror is). I love worn-out plate glass with specks and fragile areas, a mirror lives and dies like every other thing, it is destroyed by choice or chance, and it gets lost.

Sylvia expects me to remove the mirror, that is to say to place it somewhere new, but I have gotten used to it, its condition engages me (it stipulates nothing of me). The mirror as a thing or an absurdity is like me, this one piece of furniture. There are no words for what goes on inside it -- why not. Perhaps it riots against its own function (it exhausts itself in permanent passivity), it protests against matter and against me? Sylvia amuses herself, she laughs at me. She reproaches me about taking the drama personally. I do not take the drama personally (what does that mean personally!). It doesn't concern me -- but it is the mirror in my apartment, my mirror, my property, without the right to have moods. Day and night it is the same, at any time of day in any season it is the same, it distinguishes light without judging, and it shows no prejudice against snow or sun, bulbs, or candles. I shine the flashlight at it at night, and it either reflects the light or it doesn't. It reflects me as a splendor and in detail, or it remains blank. Sylvia patiently indulges it. She sits down in front of it in a chair and waits--one should give it time, give it a chance, it is distracted or simply spoiled, it is absorbed in itself and about the destroyed world, and a complicated physical nature. And if she undresses in front of it, will it seduce her so to speak? She has done this and found out nothing (o mirrors and women!). It leads me to think it is immune to Sylvia. Has it been programmed to be unprincipled or vicious by an evil creator, a technical demon, or does it find reality reproachful, it prefers to be like it is -- transient, mysterious and very mixed up -- it loathes, what appears in front of it, it can not endure people, who come and then go again, it denies their bodies, scorns their movement and lives. Is this humorlessness or irony? I have inquired with caution (it does not want to be suspected of madness, what next!) about the characteristics of other mirrors, in the houses and the vehicles of my friends, in the beauty salons and the theaters, but I never hear about similar dramas. A mirror is a mirror, it is always the same, it is the same wherever one places it and whatever one shows to it, indoors or out in the open, it assumes without exception each object, it reflects everything available and its colors, and it leads to where there is nothing, where there is nothing false in front of it. The mirror does not lie, it does not invent. I have seen birds, that flew into mirrors--they bounced against the glass and fell dead to the floor.

I say: the mirror is an invention of the person, a commodity and no magic stuff, it is a piece of furniture without magic, through which a familiar illusion comes about, it is timely, reliable and without expense. Those are the facts, over which no one loses sleep, but what am I doing with my mirror. What has happened to the mirror, what is important to it, that it confuses the facts, perhaps as an instrument it does not recognize the powers which it should serve, that's funny isn't it, although Sylvia is still always amusing herself with it. A new mirror is bought quickly. I don't take the drama personally (it is too far removed to take it personally), but it is the mirror in my apartment, it is my opponent, it drives me crazy, perhaps it is my enemy? I do not know whether the mirror is contagious. It does not fall from the wall and it does not break into pieces. I stoned it, for no reason, it didn't crack--the idea is not to laugh. I can leave it unseen in the cellar or put it out on the street--it can't do anything to me. Svlvia doesn't feel like asking it a question. Laughing Sylvia. Everything is welcome that amuses. If the mirror is not a mirror, what is it then. One could give it a name, which one.

--Christoph Meckel
tr. by Tim Kahl

March Defector

Handcuffs, flail the crook. You have no Gypsy rights
to steal. A non conferred elevation so the stigma merges
with the heroine finding respite below the skin. Aegis, desire
to be found in the nude obituary. The obscure pistil, pink,
stamped as host to the Inn Keeper's paranoid hospice

recalling the Magna Carta had been overturned by lumbago.

The daily envoys arrive by incubator passing under egg and
dart frieze, the legislative feather dance providing the final
intermezzo. The dandy's panoply, orchid and a greasy cravat
for silence. Later the parish priest brings the heroine water
to moisten the lips.

All sailors are dead!

The panacea for evasion is a mature stain. Her thought then
turning particular...

mango, mantis and mandrill.

--David Tomasovitch

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©Copyright 1996 by Tim Kahl