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Editor's Note



Three Poems
Robert Joe Stout 

Seaman Richard Saupold, Midnight Watch, 1897
So calm you can hear the moon
slithering through the clouds
                                        hear whispering
waves caress the hull
                   nothing out there
(an eternity of ocean)
         the deck heavy underfoot
                   fo’c’s’le voices
--grumblings, coughs—
            eerie the filtered light
trembling the water’s surface
   --millions of units of energy
                   going no place, doing nothing
but repeating themselves
         over and over again—
  while we do nothing
         wait for the wind                                                          
Sometimes at night
on watch
you hear singing
    but it’s not
                     not voices, that is
nor the wind
                    nor the waves
          Once a sailor told me
    It’s the music of the Spheres
                            and cited some Biblical thing
              He was an odd duck
                      prayed all the time
a Swede
              not really a sailor
                   a farmer
    from Min-knee-sot-tah
he heard the singing
         it was from God
who made the universe
and around the earth
              were circling orbs
   that gave off sounds
                   and if you listened
(and if you believed)
they’d send you into a rapture
                   so sweet
   you never could sin again.
                          I guess
         I don’t believe
but sometimes here on watch
you sense
there’s something Big
       out there somewhere
and all you are is a sparkle
             on one
      of the waves. 

My Daughter with Her Mother in the Kitchen
Songs knife
the distance
separating child
and mother. Water
the movements of their hands.
I stand apart,
groping for the years
that thread
this counterpoint,
dance they’ve rehearsed
since birth.
I cannot touch again
the wagon
that she rode
up curbs
and over driveways
through New Orleans rain.
Nor pet the kittens
that she had to give away
the day
we moved. Nor hear
the older children screech
that she’d fallen
off the porch
Nor listen to the songs
she sang to dolls
 that enter into every
phrase she sings today
and in days future
past my grasp.
Her hopes invoke my own.
Oh, there are angry
cadences and silences
that break
but do not change
this harmony
I push
through tightened lips: a heritage
she wears. And hers
my own. 

John Ross Comes to Oaxaca
the tiny room so crowded
only the first arrivals
have places to sit,
everyone else
crammed against walls,
peering over shoulders,
as John Ross
through a magnifying glass
(he’s almost blind)
to read
written in big letters
on sheets
of white paper,
his voice squeaky
but his smile
as he advocates
the government
the way
Marcos has done
in Chiapas,
poems almost limericks,                             
toss the bastards
from Big Business
rise up people from Below
tugging strands
of his white hair,
shrugging, smiling,
mentioning his books for sale,
John Ross
--gringo Zapatista—
stepping back to let musicians
arrange mikes
and fill the room
with Veracruz
that throbs against the walls,           
again applause
a feeling good,
together one and all.

Robert Joe Stout freelances from Oaxaca, Mexico. His books include Why Immigrants Come to America: Braceros, Indocumentados and the Migra and Blood of the Serpent: Mexican Lives, two novels and articles, poetry, stories and essays in various publications, including The Monthly Review, The American Scholar, Smoke and The Southern Pacific Review.

Copyright 2013, © Robert Joe Stout. This work is protected under the U.S. copyright laws. It may not be reproduced, reprinted, reused, or altered without the expressed written permission of the author.