Fathom Vol 1(2)



Inside Cover



Richard Lemm (2)
Brent Bambury (3)
Vernon Provencal (2)
Larry Gaudet
Paul Smith (2)
Wolf Hochbruck (2)
Margot Griffiths
Paul Tyndall
Greg McSweeney (2)
Greig Dymond
Paul Deagle




Richard Lemm



Your Side of the Bed

On your side of the bed
is a garden where it doesn’t rain
for weeks, then pours,
where the strawberries are huge
and sweet, but the sunflowers
bend and snap from their own weight.
On my side of the bed
alarm clocks ring, history
books half-read gather dust,
heavy construction machines
move tons of earth in a quick search
for buried treasure, cities, fertile gods.
On your side of the bed
a hundred different creatures
eat each other in a wondrous feast,
the soil sweats out of eggshells, worms,
cowdung, while your roses
joke about their beauty in the night.


Southern Crossings

The border guard eyes our car,
puts the stickers on our windows.
Tourista. Now we’re official.
He points us to a run-down shack
at this back road customs.

We wait two hours. Sergeant Garcia
naps, then eats, then
pisses on a garden of weeds;
rummages through his rickety desk
for rubber stamps, government forms. Purpose of
our trip? --- Our honeymoon, Sergeant.
No firearms, Senor.

Driving south, we watch the billboards
move from the highway
to the walls and roofs of Mexico.
In our thoughts we rehearse
the litany of warnings: count your change,
don’t drink the water,
steel yourselves against the children
and look out for peasants and cows on the road.

We stop and make love
in the desert heat,
free with our moisture, while other animals
wait for the night, underground.
Platoons of Federales march in the desert:
combat gear, fixed bayonets,
sweating, searching: Marijuana fields?
left-wing students? unarmed
peasants claiming the land?
For practice, they shoot at roadrunners and miss.
Twice we are waved to a halt, inspected
where black vultures perch on the cactus
and soldiers aim
their blank, timeless stares.
No explosives, Senor Capitain,
no revolutionaries riding in the trunk
on our honeymoon. It is the Feast
of the Little Christmas.

and tonight in Guaymas,
little children dress in
white cotton
embroidered in flowers, tiny
Joseph and Mary knocking on doors,
bearing candles, gathering children:
parade of whit angels,
flames and bright voices
flowing by us and all th plain-
clothed grownups on the bank of
the river to paradise.

The children see us and
perhap because we lean, lovingly
against each other
they take us by the hands
surprised into their simple church
of spitfire rosaries
and two dozen shrieking toreadors
piercing the pinyatta.
Women with rich brown skin
give us crêpe paper baskets full of sweets,
corn tortillas in the rectory.
Padre, we are newlyweds,

pagans from the north
sleeping on your beaches, marvelling at
the man o’ war birds circling high above
and garbage rotting in the gutters.
It is Christmas, and we buy
each other puppets from a vendor:
Zapata and Villa, their strings in our hands
hopelessly tangled.

The bugs in our cheap hotel
and the voices next door
keep us awake and apart all night.
Still, I could stay here, near the peasant church,
the marshes full of great white birds
and the evenings soft as a lone guitar.
You want to go south

to Mazatlan, nightclubs
and tequila in frosted glass.
The moonlit tenements are shut outside.
Soft, colored lights
play on velvet draperies,
gardenias float in cut-glass bowls.
You rise to the castanets, guitars,
the Latin men dancing with you, and the swirling
full-skirt d women eyeing the tightness of your jeans.
It’s late.
I order coffee and kahlua,
talking baseball with yet another
man who has brothers up north and swears
he will study law at UCLA.
Somewhere, among the dancers, your
loud laughter.
I practise patience and
resentment, thinking of the tropical
birds I long to see at dawn.
Aren’t there enough nightclubs in California?

You didn’t come down here to birdwatch.
The morning seabreeze, thin blue sky and sand chill
make you burrow into the brand-new
sleeping bags that zip together.
Sex, however, on a public beach,
with a bad hangover: No, Senor.

A boy, fine shadow of an Aztec god,
dives from a steep rock
all day long for polaroids and pesos.
He dives for you for free.

Ages ago, old Zeo,
your grandfather, sailed solo down here,
fished with the natives.
Many had not seen a Yanqui before.
He sang beautifully, beneath the stars,
and played a concertina for a lovely girl
if his diaries are true...
among these strangers you have distant cousins.

In a beachside tavern
open-aired to the sea, you are
serenaded by a mariachi band,
a folk song which translates: “Yes, My Baby
Loves the Hanky-Panky.”
The Mexican men, sipping beer, have seen
the slim curvaceous California bodies of
a thousand women like you, and they want
to pay for your beer, distact me with:
“You like the Dodgers or the Yankees best”
and feel your legs under the table.

I’m not jealous.
Just morally offended.
Double standards, loving
the virgin and their fat wives’
inferiority. Why should I feel
jealous of these sleazy Latin males?
A large bright beetle
crawls around their patent leather shoes
and I grind it beneath the heel
of my hiking boots, a crunch I cannot hear
but feel in my bones.
Words inside my head seem thick and rough
as spruce bark in northern woods.
Spanish voices flower
in the sunlight, sprays of bougainvillea.
I bite a hot pepper,
my mouth catches fire: the laughter
circles this table crowded with conquistadors.
I grin through my armor,
mouth full of ashes.
You raise a glass to me,
foam spilling from the rim
ice-cold on your hand: “Salute!”
glasses clink. A toast
to old Zeo, six years in a Spanish-flavored
jail cell for running medical supplies
to Zapata’s troops.
You go to the bath house, change
and run down the beach, into the surf.
More beer, more forgotten causes,
gringo and natives knowing what we want from
you, the sailor’s grandaughter,
bronzed bikini lady, wading
like a travel poster in the unbelievable
gulf, blue gulf of Cortez.


last updated August 17, 2007 | © 2007 Fathom Publishing
poetry, prose, and artwork © individual authours | website created by Alana Paul