TENTH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE: A Tribute
to Guest Editors
“Death doesn’t care about us and has no obligation to notice
our lives. Yet, we spend our days juggling how much thought and how
much feeling we can afford to give death. Beltway Poetry offered
me a literary mission to write about poets who have left us, especially
my dear friends, Roland
Flint and Ann
Darr. The essays for Beltway Poetry were a deeper
way into my friends’ work. Silence is a way we hide our memories.
Having an invitation to write about these and other poets was a gift
to meditate into the fine points of those we loved so well. I had known
every word written by these poets, and yet when asked to replenish my
remembrances, I discovered even more eloquence and precision in their
lives and works. Writing about other poets is a way to turn our praise
upward, and if we didn’t do this what would we do with what we
felt? And then what should we do with our prayer? A magazine whose proposition
honors our literary antecedents makes all those past lives new again,
and a new life is worth making—even our own.”
From the Editor:
Grace Cavalieri is the writer who has contributed to more issues of
Beltway Poetry Quarterly than any other; she wins the prize
for appearing in ten separate issues! She was a featured writer early
on, in Winter 2001. She contributed poems to four theme issues: the
(guest edited by Saundra
Rose Maley), the Wartime
Issue (guest edited by Sarah
Browning), the Evolving
City Issue (guest edited by Teri
Ellen Cross), and the Split
This Rock Issue (guest edited by Regie
Cabico). In addition, Grace contributed to two of the
biannual literary history issues, with an essay on Roland
Flint, and one on Ann
Darr, and to the US
Poets Laureate Issue, with an interview with Joseph
Brodsky. Grace was guest editor of the Spring 2004 issue,
with a special look at authors published by The
Bunny and the Crocodile Press, which Grace has run since 1979.
In addition, Grace has been a terrific advocate for the journal, recommending
authors, and providing continuous and effusive encouragement. Grace
has always been a model for me of how writers can serve one another
and help build the literary community together.
(for poet Robert Sargent at 94)
Today I tripped and dropped the cake
...........outside your window
spreading the grass with whipped cream for sparrows to eat.
My hands were emptied of pleasure, but
...........I went inside. You were
dressed for company, a bright blue shirt to match your eyes.
“She’s here” the helper shouts and your blind eyes
...........just as, almost deaf,
you can always hear me.
Today I tell you to go on with your writing.
...........Although 94 and knocked back
I ask your “process." Poetry, you say. “But
how can you write?”
You say you hold a pencil, do a line, then have it read back to you.
...........You think you can manage.
“Family secrets” I whisper. A good idea for a poem.
I lean in as we did every week over lunch.
...........I repeat the story you told
me 30 years ago.
You lowered your voice then to tell me how your mother was found
sleeping with your uncle. Today I make you enter
...........the house of memory,
“And who found her?” I ask. Winifred, my little sister.
I wanted to know who else was told, what your mother said,
...........why your mother’s other
sister helped her out,
loaned a room in the house. Adultery. We talk about adultery,
how you put false information in your journal for your wife to find.
...........Your eyes are cloudy
yet you look straight in my face. It says we’ve been through a
stories told each other over the years, our friendship a fragile line,
...........we walked and never fell off.
Once I said you did not express enough appreciation.
Today I say ”I Love You” and you say Thank you Thank
...........You say it 5 times in one hour.
The line sweeps back, holds us in, correcting its curve.
There is nothing we do not know. I avoid painful subjects.
...........I close the door,
stepping over the sweet confection melting in the sun.
TOMATO PIES, 25 CENTS
Tomato pies are what we called them, those days,
before Pizza came in,
at my Grandmother's restaurant,
in Trenton New Jersey.
My grandfather is rolling meatballs
in the back. He studied to be a priest in Sicily but
saved his sister Maggie from marrying a bad guy
by coming to America.
Uncle Joey is rolling dough and spooning sauce.
Uncle Joey, is always scrubbed clean,
sobered up, in a white starched shirt, after
cops delivered him home just hours before.
The waitresses are helping
themselves to handfuls of cash out of the drawer,
playing the numbers with Moon Mullin
and Shad, sent in from Broad Street. 1942,
Tomato pies with cheese, 25 cents.
With anchovies, large, 50 cents.
A whole dinner is 60 cents (before 6pm.)
How the soldiers, bussed in from Fort Dix,
would stand outside all the way down Warren Street,
waiting for this new taste treat,
young guys in uniform,
lined up and laughing, learning Italian,
before being shipped out to fight the last great war.
Jan and Mary left me last night in Bulgaria
because the dead do not care
how the living will get home.
The street will take me there if I can follow its winding.
I walked two blocks to the past with its straight narrow doors
and asked the man what people lived there.
All he could tell me was the name of the street.
That it is gone - and still there - confuses me, and
I need someone who can remember with me.
If I'm the only one left who holds the memory,
It is the emptiest street
in the world.
They say “the Lord alone looks on the heart.”
He must be lonely too.
It is dark, yet something will lead to my house.
Once again, my family has left. The house is sold.
My sister is elsewhere and does not know me.
I stay in a Bulgarian rooming house
where they change your sheets while you are sleeping,
rough linen with lace—
I don't know if I have
enough money to stay. How many days?
Downstairs I buy a long hard loaf of bread, a mug of coffee, and set
I realize I must look for a cab, it is so far.
There are some boys from my school but they live across town,
I can't ask that they go out of their way.
Then my father comes out of the foyer carrying his felt hat in his
hands. He looks so old and tired, and sorry for all we've been through.
He's here now, after all these years.
Jan and Mary are with me now too.
He can take them back with me to childhood
so we can start again. He is here to drive me home.
A MATTER OF RECORD
I have never seen anyone die.
I have never seen the spirit leave the burnt body -
I do not know what sound is caught
from the throat, and I’m sure it’s not
one I would want
to hear twice—
then the stony heart,
a lack of beauty that comes to stay,
More sadness fills the room—
enough to die of right there—
unless you believe that
after Sundown, comes Sunrise.
After the Sunset,
as a matter of record, I am told,
it comes up gold.
has written several books of poetry and 21 produced plays. Among production
awards, "Quilting the Sun" received a key to the city of Greenville
S.C. at its 2007 premiere. Her book of poems Water on the Sun
was listed on Pen American Center's "best books list," and
won the Bordighera Poetry Award. Her latest collection is Anna Nicole:Poems
which received the 2009 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence. Her
play “Anna Nicole” is in process. Cavalieri founded ‘The
Poet and the Poem” on public radio, now celebrating its 33rd year
on air. She now produces the series from the Library of Congress.
in Volume 11, Number 1, Winter 2010.
more by this author:
Intro to Vol. 5, No. 2 (Spring 2004)
Cavalieri on Roland
Flint: Memorial Issue
Cavalieri on Louise Gluck: Profiles
Evolving City Issue
Grace Cavalieri: Split This Rock Issue
Cavalieri on Ann
Darr: Forebears Issue
Brodsky: US Poets Laureate Issue
Cavalieri on "The Poet & The Poem": Literary Organizations
Grace Cavalieri: Poets in Federal Government Issue
Grace Cavalieri on Ahmos Zu-Bolton II: Poetic Ancestors Issue