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Winter 2019/20

Walter Holland


The lake at 103rd is surrounded by willows,
every spring I watch its jejune branches
unravel like Ella singing
 "April in Paris" to the glint

of jazz instruments, brass horns and reedy clarinets
thinly sustained spill of notes, airy catches fingered up and down
releasing each puff of breath as some sonorous
sigh—you loved it

the magic of forties and fifties jazz—the quick spontaneity of riffs and the cascading
syncopations of what you found so blues-like—
wit and cleverness marred by confession—separating from a wife,
a hasty move to low-rent digs, a dark apartment crammed

with stuff—boxes of wine, furniture—the stereo
(the Super came and stole it).
I'd kill time before each session---the lessons in drafting
poems—my quiet narratives—poetic pocket change—walking the lake

to see the muck of green algae encroaching the edge, a stagnant
backlog of unchecked growth and teeming confusion (so much like my
verse). You lived just like you talked, wrote it just as it played—
Nabokov was your hero, his fine mastery of American weirdness—

Auden's anxiety with a jigger of sin—our tawdry media
our quirky news, its urbane, lacerating language,
like Horace to satire, you scat your views, those odes
to metropolitan worry, daily embarrassments, pithy platitudes—

trumpeting through in solitude a flippant tongue-and-cheek,
contretemps in fateful downbeats, tympanic tango
of domestic drudgery—you, gigolo of the everyday—you tossed it back
more than once to say

"a writer's job is solely to survive,
outlive the competition"—Tenacity wins fame's horse race—
And so, I'd bide my time,
if I were you.

Walter Holland is author of a novel “The March.” Publication credits include three books of poetry: “A Journal of the Plague Years: Poems 1979 – 1992,” “Transatlantic,” and “Circuit”; his work has appeared  "The Antioch Review," "Apalachee Review," "Barrow Street," "Bloom," "Chiron Review," “Cimarron Review,” "Pegasus," "Poets for Life: Seventy-Six Poets Respond to AIDS," “Rhino,” and “The William and Mary Review”. More information may be found at


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