Errata Literary Magazine

Bucks County Writers Workshop

No. 4

edited by Kurt Krumpholz

Is there a pragmatic litmus test for what constitutes good poetry? Perhaps, as is the case with all forms of art, a poem survives simply because it gives pleasure. More than a mere outlet for self-expression -- there's plenty of room for that in the bloodless verbiage of chat rooms and web page diatribes on the Internet -- I believe good poetry seeks to elicit some form of gut reaction from the reader. The poet's task, it seems, is one of perspicacity; to provide a keen insight into, or clear overview of, a very particular moment in time, and to render it tangible to the reader in language that is charged with heat, intensity, and layers of meaning. Viewed in this light, it is the poet's employment not merely to tell a story or provide a capsulizing of some twinkling in time, but to keep language alive; to add flavor to the otherwise bland diet of endless gossip, heresy, and information strung across television and computer screens, newspapers, and pulp magazine pages. Here, then, is the latest installment of heated words.

This poem of romantic longing is a tender lament for what is unattainable yet nonetheless exists.

Only Virgin Spirits

John Scioli

Only virgin spirits
can know romantic love.
The rest of us
are drenched
with sexual desires,
strangers to sublimation
and open to all manner
of self-deception and
unintended flattery.
When we settle
for what we choose
to call love,
and we always
use the words
"I love you,"
God gives us
odd shaped
pieces of slate,
easily fragmented,
difficult to work with,
and we are commanded
to make
something beautiful of it,
jagged edges and all.
The pure of heart,
who even see God,
given a slab of granite,
thick and promising endurance,
each nick
the promise of a masterpiece
and the same commandment. None of us
dare return to the Master

This poem is a wonderful evocation of what Czeslaw Milosz refers to as "the secret of a thing." Indeed, deep contemplation of, and reverence for, the seemingly mundane and ordinary lies at the core of true art.

Cheater's Measure

Don Swaim

A cheater's measuring bucket
Sometimes called a cheater's measure
Circa 1890
Made in Pennsylvania
Hefted by farmers at the open-air markets
The farmers once used the buckets to display their wares
Because the bucket had a false bottom the buyer often took home less than he thought he was getting
Acquired by a shrewd 20th century antique dealer at a farm sale near Harrisburg, a confident young woman with even features and dirty blond hair
And of substantial parenthood
He buys the bucket from her in 1963 at her shop in York

To restore
Bucket must be cleaned with paint remover or alcohol
Use rust remover on the iron
The wires are all original, should not be replaced
Boards are joined by a tongue-in-groove
Wires can be taken off temporarily to refinish
If wires are removed and it is found they do not fit as firmly as before the bucket
can be wetted or the wires tacked in
He ships it to his mother and father as a holiday gift
Twenty-five years pass
The cheater's measure, wondrously complete, is now in a corner of his aged parents' humid home in Texas
An insect's inside the bucket
Long dead
It's been there months
Or years
The young woman whose father had set her up in business had tasted the young man who bought her antiques
Among her wares the cheater's bucket
A dried cockroach is inside

This meditation is also about adventures in ordinary phenomena.


Kurt Krumpholz

In the yellowed photograph
you are five,
with hair slicked back
sitting on Santa's lap
in a white shirt and thin tie
under an olive, plaid jacket,
looking so much like my son...
who is as old now
as you were then...
and smiling for the camera
with a certain pluck
I no longer recognize.

Who are you, I wonder,
staring at me, while off camera
your parentsí nervous fidgeting
causes an eyebrow to raise and just
the slightest indication of tension
to disfigure the corners
of your close-lipped smile?
Is it possible
the shame of your otherness
was known to you even then?

Though you are lost to me now,
I know your story
and what is to come:
the isolation and obsession
to consume all you were never
given the chance to be.
I want so much to reach out
and hold you; to let you know
I am here, that I am
what you have become.

But I have lost all connection
to that boy;
as if an auger
screwed into the trunk of my being
has extracted the core
around which the outer rings
were to have formed.

Alone at my desk
I look out over the photo.
A cool October breeze
rattles the burnt-gold sycamore.
The table before me
is clotted with sheaves
of paper that whisper
of their urgency.
Instead of working
I am numbed by this frost
of recognition;
that on mornings such as this
I automatically seek shelter
in the abandoned frame
I have already spent
a lifetime
trying to board over.

This powerful poem about the unveiling of reality stops us in our tracks and asks us to see.

The Minimalist

Jules Winistorfer

Behold Canis familiaris -- Random patches of ebony on purest of white, unaware of her
own mortality, oblivious to the pastoral beauty of a spring meadow and its myriad
rich, yellow blooms with deep brown centers, colorful cousins of the pallid,
delicate, lowly daisy. She senses only prickly whisking of hairy
stems against her sensitive belly and the tickle of pollen
in her nostrils. She sneezes, clearing her head
to savor the scent and give chase to a
field mouse skittering from
its home in the thatch
crushed by her

View the regal canine, clad in white with splashes of black, oblivious
to the beauty of the meadow, she runs through Black Eyed
Susans. Their prickly leaves scratch her belly.
She picks up the scent and chases a
field mouse, displaced as her
paws crush thatch
close to the

Look at the white dog, marked in black. She lopes
through a flowery meadow, chasing a
mouse flushed from the matted
dead grass under
her feet.

Watch the white and black dog
as she hurries through
the meadow.
See Spot

This poem points to the folly of seeking release from an inescapable burden.


Shelly Quigley

Time like a tidal wave hurling the swimmer
Gasping for breath, hanging onto the rocks
Time like the winter cold drenching and freezing
Running through snowdrifts without any socks

The maddening passing of each tiny instant
Moving as sure as a typewriter clicking
Over and over we act out the drama
The song plays again because the needle is sticking

Time like the thorns on the pinkest of roses
The smell will not last and the beauty will go
Now here comes an infant, he knows where he's headed
He's crawling backwards and screaming "No"

Time comes along and it blows through the city
Lollipops turn into broken glass
Hide in the closet and don't let it find you
And maybe this time it simply will pass

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Bucks County Writers Workshop