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His sleep at Elsinore McGinniss, James Barry 1973-03-30

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HIS SLEEP AT ELSINORE by JAMES BARRY MCGINNISS B.A., University o£ Vermont, 1971 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in the Department of CREATIVE WRITING We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA April, 1973 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by his representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of Creative Writing The University of British Columbia Vancouver 8, Canada Date April 14, 1973 The poems included in this thesis pay homage to John Dowland (1562-1626), the Elizabethan lutenist and composer, to whose music the King of Denmark's court once danced. The poems in general address themselves to those moments when people decide to dance and sing and attempt a reconciliation between activity and sleep, allowing the past and the present to swim in one voice. Both the poems and the fiction give expression to that special force which is exerted on the moment by the past. TABLE OP CONTENTS page HIS SLEEP AT ELSINORE The Melancholy Galiarde 1 The Hun 2 "just a bitch in the rain" 5 6's and 7's 13 The List 4 Pour Days in April 16 2 Bits 20 The Tabard Bestiary 21 Watling Street 9 "Groping for trouts, in a peculiar river" 31 The Visions of St. Francis 33 Bait 34 Avoirdupois/lbs. 35 "Carmina Archilochos" 36 The Motel and Mr. Hawkes (Jack) 37 untitled 8 Break-down 39 untitled 1 40 Water Boy 41 The Ist 2 untitled 3 P^er Gynt 4 Mao Tse Tung and That Woman: a Dream 45 untitled 46 Artaud mumbles 47 a blimp 48-"a small town in Vermont in which" 49 a song, a note 50 Morning Song 1 (from Lyra) 2 A River Song 56 The Stargazer 57 PARABLES POR SPRING Mr. Oates' Moon 60 The Gazebo 6 Helen 77 The Music Box : Elsa 9HIS SLEEP AT ELSINORE 1 The Melancholy Galiarde his sleep at Elsinore drifts with the noise of slippers on a marble floor, the sting of blades as they sever ribbons in the hall (it's quiet just now, the candle shivers by his open door and the memento mori on the table lacks a jaw, an inch of flame inspects the socket: empty. it can read the tablature of darkness and embrace each stone and turret in a wink, so the mortar of this winter palace crumbles and the chatter of a lady leaks from a fissure in the wall with silk and the elegance of foils and daggers breeds compassion in the footman: a sigh which holds a touch of rust. So the court swarms to him and the ladies all give suck (even in a sleep as mild as this) to his mood, his pain, his power to astonish 2 The Hun 1 learn how April limns itself against a backdrop of pure snow: to distinguish a spring sky-Can aerial thing) from an autumn sky (more scent than blue) through which the spirits of dead leaves rise or tumble if their spirits still cling to that perfect skeleton as so many sparrows cling to the stripped tree in a sudden gust of wind II learn how autumn ripens apples and shocks them with an unexpected fall into stubble and reduces them to cider and then a stench at the bottom of a 3 barrel (a war poster in that barn where muskets lay with rakes and hoes, the locks frozen solid by the same rust which works on the sky not a sky but a tin roof above the poster of the Hun, noisy with the rain of many seasons, deafening when a storm rumbles overhead: so the lesson tells how autumn soaks into unprotected wood and if, before they fall, the red and yellow leaves and apples of an autumn could be squeezed, a thing called age could be extracted: a brilliant paste with which you paint your face into a mask, terrible to all but those who wear it III the poster Hun squats behind the lip of his trench 4 with his spiked helmet and his bayonet: he never ages, yet he does grow thirsty: the gas he imagines on his battlefield isn't gas but only fog: a lethal fog because it moves in his imagination slowly through a barricade of fainting soldiers: and so he climbs from his poster as through a window and out on to the metal roof where he can see far below him people wearing bright masks moving through the fog: he smiles and reaching up, sticks his bayonet through an ulcer in the moon: this is autumn says he, recalling years of propaganda 5 "just a bitch in the rain" the bamboo stalks lie broken now the sun has risen on a dreadful night of cops and whistles and of a wind that drove them wild, so wild that now (as broken as they are) i remember' wreckage and not an open car with flowers on the hood I and the underwing of a sparrow is his grief, his song, so unlike the slower human songs i've grown accustomed to: and with his song comes winter and i (who can not sleep) am sick with foolish notions, telling myself that i should go away and eat nothing but acorns and bark and nibble sweetness from the birches or drink sharp 6 water from a frozen brook and think of nothing, but of the whiteness of the snows and how the water from the brook is gin and how an angel's wings were severed by a sudden drop in temperature and how they fell into the snow and smothered other angels who had fallen faint with hunger from the trees and how the muffled hills would hide my voice and how at night i'd sleep within the snow and dream of drinking gin upon a mountain top and how i would awaken and never see another drop of blood again II all night long the sea complained and in its sway held crabs and fishes, a sorry moon revived a dying shark while others floating belly up knew its pull was useless: waves fell, a dog drank water 7 from a hollow rock: i listened for a horn and heard what i could never see, sunken islands where the drowned were mothing words in unison, i listened for a bell and found a shattered bottle and a pair of shoes III "in a town i know the streets were made of tar and stone, they softened as the sun grew hot behind a barn where horses slept there was a waterfall and on the roof a rooster stood whose iron wings could gauge the force of any wind. in this village no one dreamed, unless it be of getting laid, beside the waterfall, within earshot of the horses and a farmer pitching hay, and as the hay descended from the loft the lovers fell asleep, to whispering and straw, in this village no one dreamed, unless it be of snow." 8 IV "with the rigor of an old quote, his words fell short of meaning." Todays quiz. and so i cling to an arbitrary sentence as would a person to his sermon or the cobwebs on his face. It doesn't matter. What does is that a stutter grow into a song and that the song repeat itself until it seems important. Still, the rooms groan for occupants, the beds become cold and i wander halls (a bureaucratic moon) looking to ensnare some lovers in a lie and loiter 9 at a bus stop (a Hannibal) having little pity for my elephants having sold them to a circus for a song hav ing watched them do tricks and drag their trunks through miles of sawdust having pinned popcorn to the tent and called it stars... i am relieved and "at my last remove". The Alps are no more mine than my ladies knees. V after the show i stood ankle deep in trash and lit a cigarette. The movie had been about an island and how a liner had been sunk by German subs leaving six (marooned) to sort it out. It was miraculous: they built huts and domesticated monkeys and they were happy. Then love began to interrupt their lives, a cliche, the same old story and they wiped themselves out. Even the monkeys were sad. The moral was something like: they licked hunger, madness and the ocean, but they couldn't lick themselves. Years later someone found their bones and that's how the story started, a thoughtful man upon a desert island thinking: to whom do these bones belong? and while he thought monkeys leaned from trees holding oranges. The monkeys smiled. VI the more my body moves away from you, the more these wires tremble with the words on which these fleas gain succor and grow fat, for fleas eat electricity and inhabit telephones and your voice (filtered through fleas and wires) must contain what neighter you nor i expected: anxiety and joy, the absurdity of discarded tires stacked behind a filling station, flues on which children slide instead of water, toward a dump where the plates and bedsprings of a generation lie beneath an inch of snow, and if the moon became entangled (slim and frozen as it is) in the strings of your piano, and if the notes of Mozart's thing in P became the ants and fleas of my confusion, what music would remain? My body grows aware of music in the dark, my body grows aware of yours expressing it, a brief recital in,an empty hall, the sound of people clapping VII (The Hay-Wain) the old white horse is blind. We, too, have our choices: to lie by the roadside chewing daisies or eat ragweed and become smothered under a ton of hay, wheezing praises to an April sun and the asthmatic brilliancies of noon. The horse plods through his blindness and stops to nibble on some flowers 12 that have gotten in the way. We would give him something for his hunger hut the pitch and roll of the wagon makes us doze and never notice when he nods or stumbles. We are going far and as we go we tell each other stories to wile away the time. Sometimes a hero gets it in the end. VIII The spoils amounted to a handful of ashes: "if you travel far enough you'll meet a horse." Peel the blinders from this animal. Think of lampblack and a trap taking Pieda to the park, not on any damn afternoon but from a rosewater novel in which fictitious moons and parasols are seen through parlor windows. Slice my uncut pages: "Loin to loin they were for moments as the bed grew faint, fainter..." and the blood became the color of roses in the wash and finally, having left the road, i entered fields where a horse was grazing and you came, the Cassandra of my spoken blunders... 6 *s and 71s autumn touches Willard Street, a song touches her who walks past the only penny dropt "by a man with friends to meet a penny in the grass is an autumn thing: green and brown and lost is the autumn song which sings itself and lives in the trees of Willard Street and at the concert where they let Death play his clarinet to keep the dancers on their feet. evening clings to twig and leaf: autumn touches Willard Street. The List I a fly scribbles hasty notes on the windowpane: not, not, not much left: all the blossoms vanish into odors: only late hours now blossom: a wind in which the trees grow shrill in preparation: through which people amble making lists of things to get: prints, lamps and tapestries to compliment the sky: a list of need to end all lists: a list of lonliness and anger II no zodiac: the fly spells not and summer goes (a puff of smoke) as autumn cackles in the shack where Quincy puts a little sugar in a bottle for the last elusive fly: it stops: the moon makes patterns on the lattice-work and Quincy whispers as the winds grow shrill and the people walking face another death counting (as the leaves fall) minutes when some god will rouse himself beneath a black sun and then decide, decide to sleep some more Pour Days in April for Tim and Marilyn I where the road splits in two going south to the right Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire to the left, the sea after 60 miles on gales of fog and sun here we threw our hands and let them hover in the wind like white gloves or hungry gulls and begged the moon to draw the tide closer to our blood II i slept on an oak floor and fainted in a sleeping bag around one, a number of devils ran about taking pictures of my soul: i froze someone threw bleach the room went white i slept lightly through morning then we snuck out for a walk in the cold (i tasted salt in my sleep and heard a phantom whisper in a conch III portus enclosus tight walls too early for flowers or a may fly ephemeron walls, walls: i could scale them with a hook and see a garden flush with green or steal a look at &he stars, Sirius a dog crouched in the dusty clouds of a city, tumbling as only a dog can into perfect darkness (Canis Major, the big moon dog, barks before spring) IV orange trolleys crawl through snow lightning thunder rain and snow at once such foul weather, still they crawl not a soul on the street only trolleys throwing sparks and Esso men pouring gas and a few Angels wearing the skins and heads of animals, Dog Angels fleshed in darkness 19 devils taking pictures of my soul (i froze) four days in April in a garden full of snow four days in April in a kennel by the sea 20 2 bits death is a careful barber, with his strop and his hall of mirrors i am one who writhes buckled in the chair with hopes (only hopes) of wringing song from appointed bones: the solid plans of flesh or wind are similar: they outlast the question will they last but as some have found, they don't: the dead leave us speechless so we sing instead and measure notes coming from that flute, quantify that wind: this is science and the question pops: will the sun outlast this dawn and will the sky offer something more than flight (impossible) or emptiness? say yes or no says the barber with his razor at your throat 21 The Tabard Bestiary This April in New England behind a thin sheen of middle day Pilgrims thread their way between the hills and lakes to touch the hem or broken tooth of St. Thomas while the sun stuck in a web of stars at the foot of the wind whispers: "et cum spirito tuo" and the hooded falcon winks and the heraldic buzzard sits and the hounds nip at the heels of nuns trailing ebony rosary beads. 1 the buzzard sniffing carrion above Gibraltar circling above Antalya on the wails of dying Moors spirals down to eat profane flesh in Alexandria 2 another bird sang and danced in April as if it were May and fragile ladies lay shattered at his feet 22 3 greensward peacock a tail quiver of green and yellow feathers: hush, arrows slice the Crecy dawn where the sword and baldric hang from a gray birch tree. 4 gray hound, bits of broken cheese and bread scattered on the Tabard bench. "Avez-vous le surire sur le cadavre?" Stratford at Bowe where the hounds run nipping at the heels of nuns 5 and the hare leaping through the bramble chasing elves who eat the brains of nightingales for lunch and sit on mushroom stools. 6 Black Priars, hooded robes beneath a hidden bell a bronze echo in the throats of hooded Priars who touch the face of God with song. 23 one of them, his cape lined with pins and knives, embraced a young wyf for she was a passing fair creature what lived in Isomongerlane not far from that secret place where Symon de Wynton's head was buried... 7 a forked beard and beaver hat from Flanders, he dealt in gold and silver coins in the Underworld. "the actual teeth of Jesus Christ will be sent postage paid in a handy isinglass packet" 8 in black and red the books are bound, marginal scribbles like the legs of ticks and. beetles crawl across an eye infecting spring clouds while far below an astrolabe is laid on the satin cloth and plans are made to seize the stars. 9 Thomas Pynchbek appointed chief baron of the Exchequer on April 24, 1388 lived near Katherine Swynford and wore parti-colored robes to court and served a writ of arrest to a clever man in debt that same year the aforementioned year of Our Lord 1388 10 a white freeman, Pynchbek's neighbor, trailed, a speckled partridge and felt slippery fish (luce) from his pool slide down his muscled gullet: Sir John Bussy of Lincolnshire, the eye of day blinking at the sun. II five men, five brown loaves of bread came down from Cockayne dressed in livery, each had a silver handled knife and all were so pleased and so satisfied when the Burgher Chef sang: The BLACKMANGER SONG: "have you heard wild fish scream or naked chickens swimming in a thick sweet cream?" 12 a Shipman, George Cowntree, paid customs for the "Magdaleyne" in 1379. these men, who went down to the sea in ships were a hardy breed but, in the riggings of his skull sat a black crow that listened to the thud of wine casks bumping on the wooden hull. thud. 25 wine, thirsting for the sea. at night, George would stand upon the deck and take careful heed of Alioth, Alcor, Polaris and especially, Vega because Lyra made the crow in his skull go mad and prance and caw and leave tracks all over his rigging. in the morning he awoke and felt the black wings beating the air behind his eyes and he knew that he was sick... so the Doctor prescribed Dogbane and Nightshade and bid him look upon his Caduceus but not upon Lyra or the Swan and get plenty of rest but little did this Doctor know of the menacing crow that sat in Cowntree's head so he advised a pilgrimage and identified the crow tracks as: 13 14 and and and and 26 15 near London he saw a smiling widow whose cloth of Ghent hid her secret wrinkles, between her wide thighs strode a huge saddled horse. a good man dressed in black led a string of dancers over hills and into valleys. the parson then let his fingers rest on the lights of a distant city. He turned back to the murmuring congregation and began his prayer: each felt his soul sparkle like the city lights. They gathered branches and from the parson's faggot, they lit their little fires, (crackle) ...when Cowntree saw the man with a wagonload of dung he knew he was right well out of his skull, the crow began A.T> to scribble obscurities... the Doctor * gave him Tiger Powder and told him to close his eyes "do not stare at Lyra", said the Doctor. 16 17 18 an ox drew a tumbril and scuffled in the dust erasing all the bird tracks then bellowed loudly remembering his lost balls. the lean driver/overseer chuckled at the gutta percha sac and drew his fingers tight about his whip. 19 a sparrow perched upon a mare trilled to an evening star. ceruce, quicksilver and PbOjt were advised by the Doctor... but the tiny bird had been to Hell and back bringing altar relics and absolution to his friend the goat or mare or gelding... Cowntree slept as a crow sleeps hidden from the wind entangled in a web of stars. 20 in Southwark, a man in a shortsleeve coat saw armorial signs curl about his breast seasoned boards smolder beneath the feet of a dead saint. 28 the pilgrims, full of guilt and thrill trickle toward New England where the animals have come to drink the spirits of the dead: i.e., the saints and tales and ancient words stiff like the feathers of a crow or, in April when the wind is free, like the jingle of the falcon's hell as it tears a bleeding sparrow from the sky and returns to light upon a wrist. 29 Watling Street 1 Up. each day wades through waist deep snow. Up. the street widens vaguely into sleep, vision blurs. only a few wild, cats nestle in the forest where the wind howls wider than the street that leads to them, a lone swan dares to draw near, so near, the wild cat dreams dare to touch his feathers. 2 swans fare well in the snow, more will come and their black eyes will blink above the slim jets of swan mist streaming out from carven nostrils, their wings will fold on their p^ump breasts: black eyes in the snow filled with black wine the swans will sit with their smooth necks bent in the ornamental night. 3 a fireman comes to put out the lights. the swans hold their breath and the wild cats sleep, the fireman has forgotten the key to the nozzle of his woven hose so he tosses a curse into the snow that melts like the ice-cube in his hand. the fireman fades back down the narrow street. one swan is filled with soundless glee and the lights: keep burning, about to freeze. 30 stick figures dance among the barren trees leaping from limb to limb on a stick trapeeze. the moaning carries with it the crack and sway of winter sticks and the gray moon scud floats above the snow; 5 a lantern on the farthest hill screams across the snow then two then three and four and soon the night is filled with lantern screams but the swans are undistrubed and the wild cat dreams still linger in the dark resting fur , like the dangerous scent of unseen enemies. 6 one swan opens its wings and climbs into the sky leaving one white egg in the snow with one black eye staring at a cloud of distant stars, a lidless cone, that opens into space. 31 "Groping for trouts, in a peculiar river..." a dirt road runs beside a river, turns to a covered bridge, inside, the echoes of the river and the white sky leak through between worn boards loose, as if the iron feet of horses had pryed them up or the constant thunder of this April morning had worked like slow wagon loads of hay upon them straining wooden joints and braces, even the weeds feel the storm approach as it rolls along the river bed blinding wide swaths of field with the sound of thunder. a man in a straw hat stands by the river's edge whispering to the fish, come, he says, my tongue has fins and rainbow colored scales, the fish see this 32 and leap up from the water like slim tongues, touch him with quick, muscled fins, lick his pale skin with their white spotted bellies, smother him until his lungs ache and he sinks into the ground with eyes as dim as April fog, he is weak, the wild trout return into the water and leave him on the bank to sleep, now the rain begins, slowly at first as a rising sound drowning out the river, and the man begins to stir, his limbs feel light as if tied to. the clouds with strands of fishing line, he is a puppet of the clouds tethered to the storm itself, the wind sweeps his hat away as he begins his broken dance holding hands with the rain, leaping at the sound of thunder. The Visions of St. Francis • at dawn a girl walked by the church despair has wings the passage read pigeons yodeled as she passed almost dead for lack of sleep she had been fucked by locals now she only looked upon the dawn, its tenants and embarking clouds where flowers grew (she would go there) far from the city with its veils and sullen halls (she would go there) beyond the cranks and pulleys of the Mental Illness Institute (she would go there) where flowers grew and seeped such juices as would burn her skin Bait my heart (at 22) is taxed, i hear it gush at night rivers in my ear. a man is attacked on the road for nothing: never travel in a coach without a shot  gun, muttered Rumplestiltskin. /. fish nibble at my heart and i wish to god that one would be caught on the hook embedded there, luck. the line's held by a fisherman with an awful face of bone and weed. he tugs the line, the hook is stuck, my heart is sunk off Newfoundland trying to discipline the sea 35 Avoirdupois/lbs. i like my music better than my words. Or today.it seems so... i drag out the dull performance endlessly beneath a fallow sky: no sprout, no root will take up there, so-thick clouds are stitched into the Sleeping Bag from which i gulp my,gallon echo: full. Daily news accumulates by the fireplace, (i will burn it when, i find a match) but the atmosphere is lace-d with gasoline and some dime-a-dozen tune penetrates my head like a ten-penny spike driven through a loaf of bread 36 "Carmina Archiloehos" the purposeless dead and dullest of books moan where it is sunny. We sing (though our cause is hopeless) a summer testimony. Andromeda recedes behind her rock, the sky cushions thunder and the moon draws placid tides over bronze gods reclining under sunken galleys. Oars and dolphins mimic empty jars. A joplite only dreams of war and virgins tasting olives in the halflight where the shy dead are hurling long spears far into the ashen dawn 37 The Motel and Mr. Hawkes (Jack) avenues of rain: the windswept avenues of rain show bronze now the sun has come to peel the wet ness up. Sparrows (his among clouds) dissemble. An arcadian pasture fills with goats and horny-shepherds. They dance around a lady in a flimsy gown whose been throwing roses at them all their lives. Their mouths fill with slobber (ring  around the rosy) it's a loss they feel because her tempting thrives amid their dream: "if the birds sing," (they will) "the nudes are not far off." 38 untitled Apu, apu. Utter nonsense laid aside in sleep, i mean: COLD day cold, night cold; cold of skin, cold of heart. Cold so cold defenses alip the way naked "bodies slip into the icy river. No. Colder. The icy jackets fit. We journey over unsunned snow with our mouths full of invented roses, roses that would shatter if we spoke. We grin and gather icicles instead...the scented shadow of a Pine freezes, a thing so finely tuned we grin, it rings and then our grins freeze 39 Break-down a small dog is on the lawn, "forever" haunts a cauldron full of turning fruit. So today i see the June sun (a fellow with my fingertips on his lapels repeats a distant marriage in my ear: she keeps a spot in her bed for you. Piano masters toss dice in A: Taylor, Satie... this longing rots: i gather wood for fire. a "tasseled garden" (tourist attraction) draws a stranger to my bed: an old love, a fictive wife who knows the stakes are higher now the June sun has found a dove to pester. Love involves a slight infraction of the rules: a cage, a pistol and a lyre 40 untitled a favorite angel jack-knifed in his sleep last night (a pond as usual) and, Donne-like, he swived her underwater, she, blonde as wheat or straw, surfaced dripping wet and spread her wings, to dry them out, like a.cormorant, he forgets what message brought her here and doubts she will return again (the dream was nice, now he drinks his coffee in the sun and. blinks at the gleam of a starlings back, precisely nine months have passed since he heard her whisper: it was a loveless murder 41 Water Boy Punch let him have it in the gut. Others sensed a flood when the moon rose (a flqod moon), and before Tut could whisper "lust and moss" a broom swept his ashes up. The Sweeper wanders down a corridor of sleep. A Sandman with deeper motives, better sand, prepares more young for slumber. "Your eyes are tombs, Love, when i look in them." i won't, i'll eat flowers and listen for brooms in deserted streets and i won't even mind if Aquarius spills buckets full of moonlight in the dust the Ist Heartbeat, god and mountain (roses fleshed with sun) such antipathy-swells r/ithin a poem: pithy words and nothing else: take Moses (for e.g.) with his tablet and put him in the movies with lots of extras. • What happens? This does: he stays there) a rabbit jumps: god hollers in his walnut shell: my voice is the flesh of space (a long yell). Ordinarilyj god doesn't yell, he whimpers; but today he's pissed: Moses blew a take) my words wander/aimless ivy untitled Scales tip. The difference between musk and blubber is not the weight or size, though the smell of one seems to outweigh the other. A plate of food, dead, shrimp...Mr. Johnson sang: "When i woke up this morning, all my shrimp were dead and gone." Perhaps sex (or none) made him sing the blues. Bastard moons and Hotel lobbies fortified the subject until a song emerged; still, a Hell hound sniffed, his trail through suspect dreams of recognition and the binge ended with a little poison in a syringe. 44 Peer G-ynt for Mark Young "to destroy something lovely and holy and fair...." it ran and i shuddered/struck with the old demand for mercy because i have to lie a bit to oil the movement: this (i'm glad to say) is not. Police bother me, as well as dogs (if they're mad) and so it happens fleece is gilded, not gold. Something still remains, some lesser stuff the dregs of which i savor just as well. Anthills develop into hills. and i use spit and pins and thread... "You can patch up a fiddle, but never a bell." 45 Mao Tse Tung and That Woman: a Dream a 19th century geologist compared the earth to a wrinkled apple: mountains pinched and thumbsize oceans with ample room for any normal dragon and a list of unearthed bones. My uncle's kitchen full of Chinese coins and beer was better. Here, the wrinkles crawl and tides collide with years the sun has coaxed from stone (i stop to pull a rabbit from my thigh and put a leech on my eyelid. Paces merge and babble songs together, i pick one to grapple with forever: i'm sick of private speech. She (who offered me this apple) fades. Another woman's come to paint my days. untitled my lungs hurt. Self-pity again... and nothing but a glass of milk. Oops. Ethel Waters and Rilke at odds: the battle's won by ten P.M., or bed. my gramaphone is broken and the rhetoric of lonliness prevails: my own voice (no cymbal, drum or hot lick supports it) now pretends to speak and in doing so, finds it doesn't want to lie. what irony.' Wasn't Solomon a man of song? sleep tight, i'll opt for Ethel Waters and my bed: to hell with authors 47 Artaud mumbles a plague in Marseilles, a ship passes by, swine sniff the winding-sheets of dead men and drop in their tracks (i've read about this, and Dresden too: why insist on action?) The sun should be enough, or a saw about to saw the log in half and clout the peaceful sleeper: we have wood, what we need is nails, and prayer to strike a better deal with Love: afraid, we run with what we get and starve: the odds are hardly fair: the subterranean flash of an autumn sun about to set 48 a blimp (a paragraph of fear) "The Graph Zeppelin loomed outside Harold Arlen's window, then Ira told him how the Germans were..." and the laughs were rife. Period piece: German doctors, Grosz, jews, Brecht and bleachers full of<Hitler youth. The feature followed newsreels of them marching in the streets in black and white: flicks. Later, in the alley where men piss on bricks, drink bathtub gin and dream up impressionistic peep shows: knees and venom, smart whips held by senators in bras and slips. "a small town in Vermont in which" remorseless evenings and guitars go with sadness and oblivion: not romantic, like a million spiders connecting all the stars or boots left on a forest path with the laces out or tin snips or dogwood blossoms shedding chips of ivory or sculling past Liberian freighters: not romantic, more another mode: myxolodian, odd: a road on which you'd find a perfect spot to sit and watch the sun come down upon the only steeple in the town 50 a song, a note the hitter end: excrescence (i am drunk with sun and being indoors away from it.) Even shadows drilled through noon convince me that the summer was the worst possible...but its all we have right? the shore rehearses gravel, we thirst and ache: our aches and thirst are nothing: we cry ourselves to sleep but remember nothing in the morning: we wish we could sin but lack conviction and the few talents we possess are wasted wasting time writing words which rhyme 51 Morning Song i smoke too many cigarettes, i think too much of fucking you (days go on, today nothing seems solid.) Lean and out of debt the taker smiles: "i am my own man." 10th Street merchants crank their awnings down. The fat sun shines fair enough: no rain or snow has blown across the bay. Cherry blossoms fall, desultory. Scrap flowers hunt for sun among the sour piles of battered cans. Here, awesome Deaths occur (where i linger most) begging minutes from the passing ghosts (from Lyra) I a wet dawn opens scant ghost moving through the birches and the ferns touching finger shoots and humid soil where the damp stones where the damp stones sink deeper into folds of earth as bare feet move among the ferns and birches the damp stones the damp stones listen to the palest root seeking water when the moon is up where ashen faces peer among the ferns (ashen faces of the moonspent souls) drained faces paling in the dawn where the stones listen and the dead whisper "go" I (sotto) This morning of the sparrow blinking in the sun, singing, as the white light leans 53 across the "bed and as -ftie water drops into the sink a broken song: she wakens (to see a woman rise her yawning and her lazy eyes, the sunlight on her breast...) he slips down stairs and hulks above the stove sets a water pot to boil then goes outside she nods, drifts into a picture of a house in Hyde Park, a room filled with dolls and hoarfrost on the lawn, it's so cold for October (cats lick their morning milk) sleep clutches at her hands and feet and makes them cold, he climbs back up the stairs and sees her in her summer gown asleep with winter falling down around her, no protection from the season's wind which blows inside she confounds a star with the closing of an eye (now burns a summer morning through a window pane, a lorn moon still pulling at her love (from Lyra) 2 so hot so hot he smells her in his sweat, it's September and they pray for rain the kind of rain that falls in Normandy when night is spent behind a tapestry of distant thunder and a hound barks (up) a crescent moon (she ducking in an alley full of bats the humid sky a blanket full of holes 5 a bag of corn husks hanging from a beam, a flock of mad crows sitting in a tree, this is the harvest, hogs wallow, moles wait for winter to begin it is too late the sun leans down more, old men try to lift their heads and fail (chins quiver) they must go to bed 55 and sleep for years, the leaves loosen, fall, a nuthatch picks a stump where black ants crawl amid moss and wood (he rocks and her he misses most of all 6 (the Clock and the Cat) a clock sits on the mantle piece 1839 it no tick below it red coals glow and spew ashes up the chimney, a draft cools his back and Hicks (a cat) sits by the fire purring to the bricks the hands say 3 o'clock, a draft wheezes through the screen (the moon a pale smudge behind the rain) it hasn't tict in a century (stir the ashes) but it may be that late for once it may be right 56 A River Song when sheets of moss thicken on the roof when the rain becomes a juice that bites the tongue and chokes the gutter stones i remember that the river's stones are like your body's organs when you sleep some blood inspired lullabye 57 The Stargazer The Babylonian sky tonight is faultless (with a moon as fine as any ironstone bowl stuck beneath a foot of soil, a map of careful fractures in the glaze of age, of cold, a certain calendar of change they pull it up each month and rub it clean with denim so it shines I tongues differ but the stars won't change. another aspect of the sun will only bring a body closer into summer, fall another side of warmth II they scan the stars for omens, gods and animals and miss the light itself which plays upon the bowl: a cup of special water 58 III to taste the lather of an sctive wave is to have a portion of the world upon the tongue a clod of earth and fire make the rest, one in either hand will do IV let the iris swallow stars (as that credible flower closes on a dozing bee in the endless dusk of summer) and so remember sleep V the Pleiades are a bee's wings on the surface of a pond VI the white bowl packed in soil is as fine as any moon rising in the east through air as thin as tracing paper 59 age showing in its face as plains and craters - fractures in the blue glaze (the night wind a denim cloth polishing the umber moon to a dull finish the Babylonians had it: the proper star, a plumb bob in the desert wind. a slit across the heavens is a rule of thumb PARABLES POR SPRING 60 MR. OATES• MOON It is 3:15 a.m., Friday, June 26th, 1929 and I am in my room listening to music. I record the precise date because I have been sleepless for the last five days; that is, since Monday, June the 21st at 7:15 (or so) when I awoke from a deep, restful sleep looking forward to the Wainwright Summer Solstice Festival which was held that evening, beginning with a buffet supper served beneath a spacious red-striped canopy, on the estate of Marshall Oates, a local well-to-do corporate lawyer and patron of whatever ••arts" managed to find their way into the little town of Wainwright, Pennsylvania; "arts" which might find their way into town much as any vagrant would, wandering down some avenue lined with elms, shocked that anyone could possibly read hunger in his blank expression, much less invite him in for warm biscuits and tea. The chicken was perfect. I served myself three helpings of strawberry-rhubarb pie while Mrs. Oates stood on a grassy knoll singing Schubert to Mr. Oates1 competent accompaniment on a white baby-grand which had been moved, for the occasion, out onto the lawn. After my prolonged dessert, I sat on a marble bench drinking highly illegal chilled gin and watched some of the more prominent 61 members of the Wainwright Rotary drive golfballs across the flawless lawn into Mr. Oates1 magnificent stand of white birches which were located 150 yards south of the Main House. Such was the generosity of our host -that he would let his guests drive golfball after imm aculate golfball into the deepening summer twilight, with no thought of retrieval; whack, whack they went and sailed (often three or more at a time) into Mr. Oates' birches where they could be heard knocking against trunks and limbs and ripping through the plush carpet of ferns. Toward the end of the evening, as the earnest businessmen, teachers and politicians bid their host "Goodnight."' (on the shortest night of the year no less), I found myself accepting a lift into town with Mrs. Eleanor ("Elly") Perkins, a widow and the proud owner of a beige 1927 Stearns-Knight roadster. We discreetly sipped two fingers of gin as the other automobiles moved in solemn file down the gravel drive toward the highway. Affcer the tail lights of the last guest had winked behind a distant hedge and as the murmuring of its exhaust faded from our ears, we started. Moving off into the summer night, across the flawless lawns, I was surprised by a coolness in the air and, 62 removing my hat, I lay my arms across my chest, eased myself down into the red leather seat, tipped my head back (that I might view the sky) and set about to enjoy the ride - thoroughly. Upon reaching the highway, I began to realize that I was feeling...odd?...out of sorts? No - not out of sorts, for I could not recall having felt better since Brant Pearson's wedding in March. Certainly odd. The moment of my awareness began to expand and I felt myself becoming keenly conscious of each, extreme direction of the road on which we sped, as well as the continual rush of the outlined overhanging trees; the wind roaring in my ears, entering my nose and my slightly parted lips; I became aware of the moonlight behind the black, overhanging trees; reflected strips of moonlight on the chrome appointments of the automobile: the bulbous silver lamps, the edge of the windscreen, the neat trim; the moonlight glitter ing in the rings on Elly Perkins• fingers, the fingers which were wrapped lightly around the rosewood steering wheel...does the moon belong to Mr. Oates? I asked myself, and this road, these trees, these liquid tires  floating over tar and stone still warm from todays sun  and the sun, is the sun equally his? and the light summer  clothing I am clothed in? and I remembered the golfballs 63 soaring through the dusk, through a net of sound the crickets had thrown up around us; the gin, the chicken... the strawberry-rhubarb pie? Am I insane? Mrs. Perkins let me out beneath a streetlamp and asked me if I were interested in bridge. I told her that I was and that we should certainly follow it up. I thanked her and ascended the spiral staircase to my room. Upon entering, I immediately opened a window: a breeze met my face, a cool breeze; it was as if two women, with their faces inches away from my own, were blowing softly into each one of my eyes. I closed them and leaned against the window jamb. What can I do? Not a moment's sleep in five days.' Throughout the mornings and the after noons I wander aimlessly about the town, looking in windows, inquiring after invalids, eating bowl after bowl of vanilla ice cream; towards evening, I stroll down to the lake and skim stones across the water until it gets dark. Only then do I walk to my Neo-Gothic residence situated between two brooding elms, stop half-way down the walk, gaze up at my tower room with its ten casement windows and sigh: another night of it, 64 the ceaseless winding of my grey Victrola, hearing the  same Sonata over and over again until I sweat with the  effort of winding and the music rattles in my skull  like 12 beans in a glass jar piano piano piano... Sometime after midnight, I stop. I hear the sound of the wind coursing through the elms and I feel within me a nascent suspicion and I get up slowly, deliberately and stand before my closet door in my sweat-damp and sleepless white suit coat. Soon I know it is there and I am filled with hope. I feel the promise of sleep around me as if I were being lowered, blindfolded, into a warm bath. I turn the brass doorknob and feel its oiled mechanism give. The scent of cedar envelopes me as I push the door open: it is_ there...a great horned owl perched peacefully, sentiently, on the iron clothes rack. Sobs and laughter clog my throat at once. I move toward the owl. I reach out and run my hand down its feathered back. It blinks. I lift it gently from its perch and carry it slowly to the open window. I pause. With the owl on my forearm, lighter than a cat, I lean bodily into midsummer. It blinks. I smell newly mown lawns, sweet and damp, below me in the darkness. And then, with Mr. Oates' moon large before me and a memory 65* of warm tar roads stretched like snakes between the hills still fresh in my mind, I lift my extended arm and let the creature fall; it does not flap its wings, it only opens them, wide, and upon the wind which courses through the elms, the owl glides, away, into mid-summer, into the farthest reaches of the night. I feel my bones are lead. I feel myself sliding down my spiral bannister over and over i spiral down the varnished bannister: I sleep. 66 THE GAZEBO Sxwuner seems to have departed, though it is August and warm, for the odors of the premises, once so rich, now seem thin and barely •'summersome*', trapped in shade, floating upwards from a level bed of blowers at dusk, familiar in the peculiar way summer smells can be familiar, triggering words, names and un related scenes suddenly, as if by some secret mechanism only scents posess and not (as many suppose) because the human body is the intersection of diverse associations or, worse, a well of primal memories any startled sense may tap or that the subtle pageant of the conscious mind is merely leakage from a darker, more unsettled place; some human "cellar" wherein anything may lurk. Not so. Smells act insidiously and undermine the other senses, spur them on toward more distinct awarenesses: a slightly old corpse beneath the lilac bush, there, not twenty feet from where I sit in this gazebo smoking oval Turkish cigarettes, watching the storm clouds gather, ready, at any moment, for the downpour to begin, for thunder and for the lightning to electrify the smells I am now breathing. My smoke hangs around me for a moment and then moves over the railing and out 67 on to the lawn where it reaches the inevitable rose trellis, or the blue hydrangea and loses whatever solid arity my lungs have lent it among petals and stems. I enjoy this. I relish my cigarette and inhale, with the foreign tobacco, every odor the garden has to offer. Sometimes an unusually sparse odor wafts in my direction. Only then, when it is faint and indefinable, am I sad that the smoke hassprobably dulled my palate and my nose: to think that my odor threshold could be lower.1 Another passes by, a smell so light I can only think: a smell, there is a smell in my vicinity which I can't quite grasp because my equipment is too cumbersome; I am shotgunning hummingbirds instead of plucking them in mid^light with my thumb and forefinger from the cloying August air... But these gossamer scents are pleasing, if only in their vagueness and I am reconciled to my having had to leave at least one half (the lighter half) of these sensations pass unrealized, unsmelled. What about the body lying underneath the lilac bush? If I were a journalist, a detective or of even a mildly curious disposition, I would care. As it is, I don't. It was here when I arrived and no doubt shall remain here when I have gone. His face (for it is a "him") lies hidden in the uncut grass. 68 His clothes are drab (black, if you will) and remark ably clean. I've been tempted to get up and look through his pockets for a wallet, a card or for some hastily composed suicide note full of mis-spellings and desperate statements concerning God-knows-what situation for which there seemed to be no solution. Or just boredom. He seems to have been a polite person. Perhaps there is a bullet hole in his forehead? Who knows? The house, or properly speaking, the mansion to which this gazebo belongs has fallen, in recent years, into a ramshackle affair unsafe to enter, save for the hall and the front room, but which is still pleasant to look at. Prom my bench, I can see the kitchen door and the corner of an outbuilding reputed to have once been "servants quarters" but which had been used, after the war, as a "guest house". Long ago, I spent my summers there. I was one among Vivien's many guests. We drank, and when we weren't drinking, swam and when we were unable to swim, we ate or slept. I spent the entire summer dazed by alcohol, sun and1, perhaps most of all, by Vivien herself. Since then, I have made a little money (enough to afford Turkish smokes now and then) and have forgotten most of the brilliant schemes which, during those few blinding summers, 69 my friends and I hatched on nothing more than a few drinks, smiles and otherwise not knowing what to do with ourselves. Now I talk to myself more than to others and bathe regularly in a tub which rests on lion's feet. Since Vivien's uncle died, the house has remained unoccupied and, by virtue of his not having paid taxes on the property for 26 years, unsold. No one could afford the taxes, even if the house, the land and the pool could be had for a song. Por a while, it seemed as if it were destined to become a rest home, but another building was erected (there being grants and donations available) in its stead. So it had fallen apart and had become the local haunted house. Only after all the windows had been broken and the molded plaster ceilings had fallen down did any of the townspeople think to question Vivien's uncle's sanity and, by extension, Vivien herself. It was now a house in which only those with tortured minds could have lived; by the looks of it, it was the only conclusion which could be drawn. Vivien had lived there, but only in the summer. No one had taken that into' consideration; in fact, it made it worse. People would spend a great deal of time wondering where she spent her winters. Who would have guessed that she 70 spent them in a small city not more than a hundred miles away.. .working.' They would see her on occasion walking about the vacant grounds. "Poor Vivien," they said. The body does smell some. Not unlike lilac, rosewater and a dash of the compost heap I'm certain isn't far off. The sky is darkening and paint peels from the railing and the floor of the gazebo. I hear thunder distant and ominous. Any time now Vivien should arrive and some of the mysteries (at least one) shall be solved. I must admit that I'm just a bit curious. Do the last odors of his conscious life still linger in his nostrils and do the flies, that even now investigate his ears, find him at all attractive, as rich as a slab of steak left in the garbage for the dogs? a jar of spilled honey? Is he an important man? The first large raindrops interrupt my speculation: I light another cigarette and tug at the cuffs of my shirt and, in the midst of a building summer storm, in the wooden gazebo, eight-sided and white, I wait for Vivien. The air around me is excited by the lightning flashing almost overhead, the breezes stink of ozone and the leaves, once still, begin to stir on 71 the lilac bush and on the trees; the green-ness of the lawn grows deeper as the sky darkens; there is a patter of drops on the roof, on the weed choked flowers, on the hands of the deadman lying peacefully in the grass, on the water of the birdbath, on paper - yes.1 paper.' on the newspaper Vivien is holding over her head as she runs across the green length of the lawn, her high heels puncturing the soft loam as she goes, to where I am sitting, certain, perhaps smiling, in the gazebo: Vivien has come.' And there is a pause in the after noon, a silence between the claps of thunder. Vivien takes a seat directly across from me. We are smiling at one another, unable to say hello, afraid perhaps and shy; but, above all, we know, despite the changes and the years which stretch between us. I toss my spent butt into the grass. The smoke is gone and I begin to wonder what effect has her seeing the decrepit mansion had upon her, the former site of what could only be called revels, the rooms of her youth? Is she sad? I doubt it. Once these lawns and these trees framed moments only she could have nurtured; only she could be held responsible, not the moon, not summer; not even the flowers themselves whose odors astound and titilate 72 our inmost imaginings. Nor do I suppose Vivien could fall prey to the sentimental notion that these odors, the rose, the lily, the macabre lilac could have been more powerful or more subtle than they are right now, at this very moment. I must bridge the years. We are amused, pleased and astonished. At what? That we are still able to suspend ourselves in a delicious physical silence which neither of us can break but which we both relish and prolong? Sharpened senses? I imagine the years passing in an instant, the grass becomes brittle and brown, flowers wilt and release the dry scents of decay, all of the leaves descend at once in a sudden rush, the sky roils with brief preparatory storms, thunder and lightning; the air becomes cold, as in a vacuum; snow descends and covers us with rakish drifts, the elms groan, crack and contract with the freezing temperatures, sheets of lightning flash against a sky full of magnified winter stars; we hear the sound of the pool freezing, a sound like squeezed cork; snow-flakes cling to our eyelashes, our breaths are visible and then the sun comes out ;;and pours fire on the scene, the snow recedes, we sit in puddles of melted snow, the trees grow limber, buds appear; larks, bats and robins fill the air; green seeps back into each blade 73 of grass, each stem; flowers explode before our eyes as summer returns and as we sit, the cycle repeats itself for as many seasons as we have been apart. Throughout it all, we are not fazed. Slim shoots of ivy dart out from under my fingernails and climb up my arms. Vivien is coy. She waits. Seven winters come and go in as many minutes, seven springs..."so what if we are old," Vivien seems to be saying, "so what if we are old: can it really make a difference? has anything really changed? I suppose much has changed, but has anything been lost?" and I relent, grateful for the years, the impenetrable moments which have been fleeing before our very eyes and though time itself, in its sordid "dailyness", seems profane, the product of time is sacred; the crows feet around our dimming eyes, the muscles that no longer twitch with the desire to move. It occurs to me that this gazebo set in this overgrown garden is a shrine and we have come here to pay homage to the days and nights that have slipped by like a dotted line whose origins and end are impossible to reckon; it occurs to me further that this meeting has lent a fullness to the past, a completion we had been, each of us, seeking. Dusk is falling. Vivien winds her 74 sable, with its black weasel-like eyes, closer to her neck, as if to say, "You are right. But I can't appreciate only the swiftness of the years and ignore the events, the monuments which fill them; I have been walking uphill these seven years, feigning indiff erence and smiling benignly on love and my heirloom silver alike. And all this while the hysteria was mounting. I am not the cause of it, though I can not be too sad, the years pass and with $he years, those who people them. I am not the cause of that." Vivien's eyes and the glass eyes of her sable meet mine as I watch her. Her expression is one of acceptance. I feel my consciousness reach out and hold her face in gloved hands. She turns her head and glances over her shoulders, turning so that the skinny animal wound around her neck shifts just so, turning to look for a few seconds at the corpse beneath the lilac bush - just so, not coldly and not without fondness...just so and then she turns again to look at me, her expression remains unchanged. I am not ready to accept what Vivien has, for I am a little curious and my curiosity is gaining before her feigned indifference. Is this the man? I think: is this the man who, in the last 75 summer of my youth, carried Vivien across the lawn with one high-heeled shoe balanced on her toe while I stood in the door of the guest house with the other shoe in my hand? Is this the man who went away that night with Vivien sleeping on the backseat of his car while he, happy at last, whistled "Black Magic" and drove up the mountain road which lead to his home? I suspect it is. I feel Vivien wanting to explain and I begin to speculate on the chrome plated .25 cal. Browning automatic in her purse and her phone call last night wishing to meet me here, at the gazebo, after all these years. I remember her dashing through the rain to meet me only moments ago with a newspaper held over her head. Perhaps she came to me for help, I thought. Could Vivien have it in her to do this? Could she have aimed the pistol at the man's head and pulled the trigger and watched the tiny red spot appear on his forehead like a cast mark on an Indian and see his widened eyes fill with disbelief? Could she have done it? And as I looked across to where she sat I thought: is this the Vivien I once knew, the girl who sat naked on the diving board with her legs beneath her and her head forward with a cocktail cherry balanced on her extended tongue? Yes, yes it is. Vivien could not have done it. 76 Then I moved. I got up and walked over to her and offered her one of my Turkish cigar ettes. She accepted it and I produced my Zippo and saw, for an instant, its flame in her eyes, in the eyes of her sable fur piece. In the darkness, I returned to my bench, sat down, and, stretching my legs in front of me, I made up my mind to ignore the corpse beneath the lilac bush and concentrate only on the glowing ash of the cigarette which brightened making a holo around her face when she inhaled. We sat, facing each other in the gazebo, in utter darkness, amid the odors of a mild evening, for some minutes, until the cigarettes were out and that's the last 1hing I remember. 77 HELEN We were living near the river then. It was a hot night and we had, if not through sheer laziness, then in hopes of finding some small relief, been sitting around our shabby kitchen table drinking beer and, between spurts of what seemed then to be fairly dull scraps of needless conversation, had been listening to the insects on the porch, the summer insects whose bodies made noises akin to the sound of someone eating bread and beans in a nearby room; or, if not the sound, akin to the feel of beans and bread as they slammed their soft blind bodies, winged bodies, against the screen door and, occasionally, against the yellow insect-proof light bulb which I had so carefully screwed into the rusty, crumbling socket not more than three weeks ago, long before I'd even begun to realize the extent to which they would be attracted to our lights, from as far as the river with its mosquito spawning pools and inlets, and its hot, flashing marshes. "Troy was stupid." That's about the time it started; our so-called fruitful discussion in which she, the woman I was living with, patiently reared some truths and 78 falsehoods concerning, I could only suppose, our relationship: lies we could, through some process, mutually expose and, hopefully, painlessly enjoy: it was too hot to argue. Besides, we avoided arguments, in the usual sense of the word, and in their place rolled ponderous silences, like stinking beached whales, between us or in a lighter vein complained, with reason, of each other's food or of each other's sexual or even musical preferences. The heat became far too intense to withstand much longer. It would be better to employ it, to work at it until it became either a point of contention between us or an atmosphere from which we might extract some pleasure. Both of us recognized that this need lurked behind the disregard we had been showing to each other ever since the sun had gone down, ever since our light dinner and even as we sat, me peeling the wet label from my beer bottle, thinking of my idleness; and she, sitting an arms length away from me drawing neat diagrams on a ketchup stained paper napkin with a black Magic-Marker. She watched the black ink spread in a fuzzy circle when the felt tip was left on the napkin too long. She looked up. "The Trojans were dumb." 79 Finally (having tried desperately to cling to my favorite image, an image of my own idleness: lying on my sofa in the front room, with the white stuffing protruding in places along the sides and arms; having vacant thought, wishing it would rain) I gave in. "How come?" "You know, Helen. Not to mention the horse." She was careful: the wooden horse being an enigma which has always staggered me, as an image, perhaps as a "symbol" and, lastly, as a mere tactic. In a word, clever. She knew what she was doing. But it was more than that. It had something to do with her peculiar relationship with the moon which I, at turns, despised and envied; something to do with her sense of physicality which could not be dislocated or projected, which could not be shaken. Her intimidating but welcome presence awakened me on more than one occasion. Often, stretched on my tattered sofa of an afternoon, I would go through it again and again: the imaginative technician, an Ionian with the beginnings of a vast, Socratic beard and a speech defect;? the tent in which the heroes sat, Achilles among them, and held council, 80 solemnly at first and then, as the wine gained its inevitable victory over solemnity, giddily. After an hours time, the heroes, having become nearly hysterical with the absurdity of the plan, slapping their knees and lifting their leathern skirts obscenely, decided that, after all, why not? At which point one of the younger of them stood up and came dangerously near to spilling his cup of wine on Achilles' tunic before he managed to blurt out, "Of courseJ Why didn't I think of that.' and the others, though in high spirits, took his joke rather coldly and set about questioning the Ionian on some of the practical details of the scheme; he had it all figured out. Almost immediately such lumber and hardware as were needed were found and brought to the Ionian's tent, a place which soon became the site of much activity. One whole ship was dismantled for its oak stays and, for expedients sake, all those who had fostered hopes of returning to their homeland in it were either put to the sword or drowned by their reluctant follows. Too bad, I say, but the wood was needed. Those involved in the actual construction worked in the orange glare of a few torches and I could see them from where I lay in my tent with a thick sheep skin clutched around my shoulders running their eyes 81 along pale boards, fitting joints, consulting with the Ionian and hoisting great cross-members with brute force; I could see chips fly out of the torchlit circle and land at the feet of fascinated soldiers; I could see the gleam of an adze. That very night the Greek camp, livestock included, removed itself from the Trojan plains and boarded the ships which had been anchored in the bay, tethered to rotting ropes, for years. The actual building of the horse went quickly enough and inside six hours, just as the first light of dawn graced the Eastern sky, outlining the blood bespattered walls of Troy itself, it was finished. And it was beautiful; not beautiful in the way that slim Arabian mares are, but a powerful horse with great wooden slabs for flanks and a proud majestic head. It stood, in horse jargon, 60 hands high, allowing for a foot and a half or so where the horse's massive hooves joined the stout axles on which the beast would roll. Five lucky hoplites, myself among them, had been chosen to hide within the animals cramped but adequate interior. In the dust colored dawn I embraced my superiors, slipped out of my sandals, removed my sword nicked greaves, my leather skirt and, standing quite naked, (save for my tunic and my sword) on the familiar ground of past battles whose 82 frenzy I could almost smell, I whispered what could well have been my last prayers to the numerous and much maligned gods; one for silence, one for stealth and one particularly weak prayer for my own survival. I was afraid and yet, as I remember it, elated at the pros pect of my being able to count myself among the few who would first enter Troy, deceive the stubborn Trojans and perhaps, just perhaps... I was the first one in. We entered by means of a door (which, when shut, was all but in visible; even the Ionian could not at first find it) located just behind the animalls ribcage. With as much ceremony as I could muster, I slithered into the horse's belly and made my way back, through virtual darkness, to my appointed place just inside the left rear flank. As the others squeezed in behind me, I sensed a moments panic, feeling naked legs and arms close to my own naked legs and arms; sensing the attenuated breathing, the general air of expectancy and joy mingled with that unmistakable scent of doom; the odor of warriors. One of my comrades laughed (for we hoplites are light-hearted fellows who appreciate nothing more than a good sense of humor, next to war, wine and women). Our spirits were eased slightly and a few more took the liberty of making bad jokes which we laughed at anyway, grateful for the release. The only sound left was the sound of 83 those Greeks who had watched us enter the horse quitting the scene;?the telling sound of ashen spears being trailed behind their contemplative bearers in the sand, a hissing noise....and then it died and we waited, sweat ing, in the darkness. * * # Whispering. I think I must have dozed, for the whispering of what seemed to be Trojan shepherds startled me. They were circling us, whisper ing. Soon the inevitable knocks came; one, then another. I felt us all stiffen at once. Wait. Wait. Whispering again. Then silence. Thin strips of sunlight were now visible on the inside of the horse. I occupied myself with these discrepancies for quite some time, forgiving (for example) the ship's carpenters because they had to work by torch-light and subdued torch-light at that and taking stock of the fact that tae day outside seemed to be pleasant enough. I shuddered at the possibility of my meeting my death having not seen the sun rise or feel its warmth on my cheeks or see it dance on the mirrored surface of my bronze helmet, my bronze helmet with its brilliant blue plume. In short, I was grateful for what little sunlight that did find its way into the bowels of my horse, my hiding place. When it did happen, I wasn't quite prepared. The slow rocking motion 84 accompanied "by the creak and rumble of the large wooden wheels surprised me. Was it possible? I had heard no human voices, had smelt no rank team of oxen: we were moving. But to what place? Por all I knew, we could have been being dragged to the bottom of the sea. Soon it became apparent that, for good or ill, we were moving slowly toward the gates of Troy. Voices, outside, came to us like oil over water as we drew near. An official and a soldier were talking. "What the hell is this?" "A wooden horse. The Greeks left it." "When did they leave?" "Last night." "I don't like it. In fact, it stinks." "Burn it, sir?" I shuddered. I think we all shuddered. I think we all strained the very limits of patriotism, valor, religiosity and rational capability at the mention of such a horrifying possibility. As we sat there nursing our fear (me with a cramp in my hamstring) a new texture wove itself into the hum of the crowd. Was it? I forgot the spasms in my leg and listened: it was the sound of a liquid, female voice. "It's nice." Such a lovely voice.' My heart 85 quickened: could it be? "I think it's nice." There was a pause in which I imagined all eyes to be trained on the source of those few delicious words, those simple testaments of supernatural beauty: I was unstrung. "It's pretty. Can I have it?" The crowd cheered. They too had been moved by her straightforward appraisal of the wooden horse. Yes, they seemed to be shouting, give her the  horse, go ahead, let her keep it, she loves it, she  loves the horse. Something -in her eyes as well as in her words must have swayed the official (whoever he was; 7 I thought the worst) and brought him home to the fact that there was no other alternative but than to give her what she had so eloquently expressed a need of having. He spoke. "Of course you may have it!" And a great thundering round of cheering and applause broke forth and, seemingly, shook the horse itself, although, I realized, it was only that we were being dragged through the gates of the city by the force of the crowd into a wide sunlit courtyard which had been, in better days, the market place of Troy. We were set, I suppose, on display. Now everyone joined 86 in on the leisurely perusal of the "gift". Our plan was working perfectly. All morning and throughout the afternoon we were the subject of every conversation, every child's toes and fingers; the center of even an informal celebration which included much oratory and dancing, as well as the sober reflection upon those Trojans who had offered their lives in defence of their city. I heard Hector's name more than once that after noon while sweat streamed down my forehead and stung my eyes and trickled down my sides: the Greeks had  stolen away in the night, there is nothing to do but  dance and sing and reap the joys of freedom; we have a  horse, left to us by them and we may even spit on it  but we won't because we are so glad.' And they didn't spit, but it was intolerably hot; surely they could smell us? # * * I couldn't resist. By a process of contortion which seemed, for the longest time, to produce little more than cramps and splinters, i managed to turn my body, twist my neck in such a way as to allow my left eye (the good one) to squint between the thick boards of the horse's flank. Outside, in the sun 87 drenched courtyard, I found that though everyone still maintained an especially festive mood, they had ceased gathering about us, touching the legs, the tail (a blonde swath of unwound hemp) and making inane comments about how our devilishly conceived "monument" did, indeed, resemble a horse. One old Trojan declared haughtily that "it was not for want of art that the Greeks camped in the shadows of our walls." His companion agreed, though I suspect he missed the point entirely and considered his friend's remark to be merely witty, a remark which at base was unkind, not to say depraved, and made me flush with anger and, I must admit, some embarrassment. But would I see her? As I gazed into the sunlight, three thoughts struck me almost simultaneously: (1) that there could not be more than 600 persons left alive in Troy, (2) that they must have drawn their water from some rank underground stream (the access to which quite possibly being the cistern from which certain women were withdrawing large pear-shaped jugs) and (3) that it would be ridiculous to hope that she would appear before me, here, in the hot courtyard, where the women were withdrawing smelly water from a hidden well. Still, I looked with interest at the smooth, white interior wall surfaces, the chickens, the rude livestock pens and the oblique shadows which fell 88 across the entire scene. I thought: she must be in  some high, frescoed chamber surrounded by a frieze  depicting dolphins leaping gracefully out of the blue  waters of the Mediterranean; having her arms annointed  with these Eastern oils whose scents reveal unfathomed  skies; having water run down her spine to where it must  form a shivering pool in the small of her back; she  must be sleeping in some breezy recess of this stubborn  desert metropolis. The afternoon drew on. * * * Two soldiers approached the horse. Both, by their talk, seemed convinced something was amiss. They spoke in muted, earnest tones and circled us as the shepherds had. I remembered myself as a child running between stately marble columns, in the lightest of togas, looking for the perfect hiding place... a bush, near the steps of the Temple of Apollo, where I squatted, hardly daring to breathe, knowing that they must come. I hear them, I hear their bare feet on the wide marble floors of Apollo's Temple; they come nearer and nearer until I must hold my breath in order to hear theirs and all I can think is: I have to piss, I have  to piss... 89 I have to piss. They might find me. * * * It was dark. The stips of sunlight in the horse's flank had withered long ago. One of my companions let himself down through the secret door and hung, upside down, between the horse's legs to get a look around. He found himself staring (upside cbwn as he was) face to face with a drunken Trojan. He laughed weakly and stumbled off into the darkness. Once the coast was clear, my companion let himself down and dashed, as only a Hoplite can, toward the gates where, we hoped, the entire Greek army was waiting. They were. They slipped in, insidiously, and took position. I climbed out of the horse and, inhaling a gulp of fresh air, I gazed into one of the clearest nights I had ever beheld; it was the sort of night one welcomed in Asia Minor, limpid and still; a perfect night on which to launch a deadly surprise attack. The drunken man lurched into the courtyard followed by a soldier. "See? They're all around us.'" We killed them both. Then, at first stealthily, we moved, at last, on Troy: we ran through rooms impaling unlucky somnambulists on our 90 spears, hacked at sleeping flesh, threw virgins out of high windows, kicked in the chests of ancient whimp ering men as if they were wicker baskets; we started fires, overturned carts of melons, tore apart docile pets with our bare hands, ruined every work of art in sight, slit the throats of goats and cowering officials, we murdered, maimed, raped and looted; all this to the screams and wails of roused stricken Trojans whose plight appeared no less pitiful than, that of the terror ized chickens which ran, everywhere, flapping useless wings, trying desperately to fly, to rise up above the hellish scene, above the city that was once safety itself to hero, king and beggar alike; white chickens, the bloodstained gowns of sleepers running in circles, bellowing oxen, hysterical sheep; soon the bodies were heaped everywhere among the shadows, beneath the starlit heavens, amid painful graans and supplications... I was running down a long hall willfully decapitating both the living aad the dead, striking out at everything, still or in motion; anything in my way as I moved through carnage and waste, slipping in the pools of blood on the polished floors, with one desire foremost in my mind: to catch even the most fleeting glance of one person, just one glance... * * * 91 She stood before me, naked. I closed my eyes, opened them and gazed. She had (demurely it seems) removed all of her clothing and stood before me: passive, yet confident that I would feel the full force of her exposure; I could see it in her eyes. Her clothes lay in a heap on the kitchen floor and above the persistent hum of the refrigerator I could hear moths flopping wearily against the screen, against the yellow insect-proof lightbulb. The label was only partially peeled; the rest of it lay in a neat pile (much as her clothes did - only in miniature) on my shabby kitchen table. Then she spoke. I knew she was going to bring it up. She had to. We both had to. "If it wasn't for Dr. Heinrich Schliemann..." "Yes?" "If it hadn't been for Dr. Heinrich Schliemann, I wouldn't be standing here before you like this." "No?" "No." "What about Homer?" "You've never read Homer." She was right, I hadn't. And even if I had, right now, at this moment, it would have made 92 but little difference. I had been caught and I would have to admit that her move had been executed with... perfection. Years later, I would remember it, calmly insert my ivory bookmark into a page (any page) of my tattered paperback Homer and dream awhile: it had  been done with perfection and I had acted childishly, but it worked out; in the end, we repayed the moths, the lightbulb and the river. She was going to speak again; the insects and the appliances wove their delicate back ground noises. "Are you aroused?" "Yes." But I waited. I sat. I took a long pull from my still chilly beer. Over half of the bubbling, effervescent beer remained. I was aroused. "I am..." "The Woman-With-Whom-I-Am-Living." "Yes." And she smiled and I smiled and I inserted my thumb into the neck of the beer bottle and shook it vigorously until the bottle nearly burst, aimed it at her and by lifting my thumb ever so slightly sent althick stream of beer foam in a graceful arc from where I was sitting to that area of her chest just above her 93 breasts and had the supreme pleasure of watching it cascade, for the briefest of moments, down over her breasts and her stomach before I got up and ran, wild with joy, through the screendoor, through clouds of dizzying phototactic insects, onto the lawn, into the heat of summer and down, down a gentle slope to where the river flowed, complacently, through the hottest August night I have ever had the pleasure of remembering. I had intended to leap, fully clothed, into the river, but the approach was difficult. Rather than leap from the height of six feet into murky shallow water, I chose to run down an old cowpath for what seemed to be the right amount of time before entering the river itself. I must have misjudged it, for when I did turn toward the river, my steps became sluggish and noisy. Then it was too late. Even while I was trying to recall exactly where I had made my mistake, I was up to my knees in thick river ooze. I saw her, a pale sprinting form, on the cowpath I had followed. "Hey."' She stopped. Not more than thirty feet away. "Watch out. There's muck. Quicksand." "Bullshit." 94 "Honest. I'm up to my thighs in it." "You stuck?" "Yup." "Well get out then." "Can't." "Try." "Can't." "I'm not going out there." "Please?" But I wasn't worried. I had ceased sinking and now probably rested on a log or, better, the sunken spinal column of a long since drowned cow. I couldn't move much. "You'll have to stay there." "No." "Have to." "Get a board or something." toward me. it yourself." "Help." I watched her wade through the ooze "This is as far as I am going. Do 95 I told her how my ending up in the muck had been by accident and certainly not be design and I told her that I had only wanted to entice her into the river. That's all. Only the river, not the muck. Easing myself off my foothold, I paddled through the ooze. Virulent river mosquitos swarmed around my head, got in my nose, ears and my eyes. When I reached her I was able to stand and we pushed on to the cowpath cursing and slapping ourselves senseless. She was bitten. I was covered with leeches. We walked up the cowpath and up the grassy slope toward the yellow porchlight of our house. Once back in the kitchen, I stood by the door covered with black river slime. I switched off the light. The insects dispersed. * * * We burned the leeches off with smouldering match heads. We lay on the bed and wished for breezes. They came and our skin grew cool. The river flowed, I suppose, complacently throughout our sleep. Later on, much later on, it rained. We may have heard thunder. 96 THE MUSIC BOX : ELSA Elsa sat inside the camp investigating (as would any nosey stranger) the contents of a cabinet she had rifled every summer for the last six years, with the same relish and with the same genuine surprise: hooks, sinkers, tubes of glue, twine, steel punches in a cedar box and, inevitably, a calendar which consisted of one month, July. In the square with a 10 and a black crecent moon, between the slim horns, someone had scribbled ENO'S 213 EGGS. That, of course, was years ago when ENO'S was a mere clearing on the side of the road where a lame attendant shuffled back and forth between the pump, a produce stand and the ramshackle building with Post Office stencilled on the window. ENO'S vegetables were his own and partially because of that fact and the thousands of people from the city who trickled down the road in every sort of vehicle, they were dear. Elsa knew this. She also knew that ENO himself was dead and had been so for the last six years, since the first summer she had come to swim in the lake. ENO died and the dust no longer rose, for they had paved the road. Why, Elsa thought as she sat gazing out the window toward the beach, do they sit in the sun for eight hours, glazed with sweat, when they could as 97 easily sit, more comfortably, in a cool place suffused with the smell of hot cedar and mint which aproned the steep slope leading to the road? Once the afternoon began to deepen and the water, the rocks and the birches began to grow more distinct, with shadows particular and accurate, you could swim out to the raft, stand up, and see your shadow stretch a hundred feet across the water; that is the time to swim, when the fish jumped, when! all the odors which had lingered a few inches • above the ground, under mint and ivy, began to rise and inform the evening shade; that is the time to swim thought Elsa as she lay in the wicker chair turning over plums and arranging long spikes on the table beside her: that is the time to swim, not now. Now the sun was too hot and the white caps, reaching up from the glassy troughs, are not only white but touched by the perpen dicular sun; bronzed. Now is when the gravel at the water's edge is only gravel and the colored stones beneath a foot of water are only colored stones. Nothing very interesting, only early afternoon and what the others call a "perfect" day. Plums are good, with insides that look and feel like the inside of your cheek, only darker. How old were these flies? Had even one lasted for a month or more? Weightless carcasses 98 littered the windowsill on which Elsa leaned when she left the wicker chair. They, like so many other things, simply appeared or disappeared. She had never seen one die. Joseph didn't like them. Probably they were too dry and would stick in his teeth the way popcorn stuck to Elsa's teeth, those brown translucent cups which just cover the molars and get stuck beneath the gums. Perhaps flies' wings are the same, for Joseph. Elsa leaned closer to the windowpane, so her breath marked it, and saw, bepond the steps of the slight embankment made from weathered boards to the stoney beach where her Aunt and Uncle stood opening cans of beer. Did they fuck? Last week, as Tournament was drawing to a close and as the people from the city disappeared, Elsa lay awake watching, through her screen, the lights from across the lake while her Uncle puttered in the kitchen, no doubt looking for a can of beer. Elsa wondered then. Even their sleeping seemed laborious, with continual snoring and the wretched creak of the bedsprings and the unending trips to the bathroom which, she thought, they somehow couldn't manage without first getting into a complete nocturnal wardrobe: slippers, bathrobe, and a flashlight to frighten off racoons. Once there, for one had to go outside to reach the toilet, they coughed and drank water for five minutes; then the screendoor slammed and the abrupt shadows of the flash light darted on the ceiling as they made their way through 99 the camp and into the bedroom. Then they would talk. "Were they out there?" "Got the spareribs." "Already?" "Only saw their eyes under the truck." "Good night." "A skunk, I think." "Hmmm." "Poor Joseph." "Joseph!" "Too bad." "Oh yes. Joseph. Good night." Joseph had been torn apart by racoons. The garbage hadn't been touched, so it was decided that Joseph died bravely, exercising at long last his territorial imperative. Poor Joseph met his end, in other words, protecting left over spareribs. "Lloyd?" "Hmmm." "Poor Joseph." "Hmmm. It's a damn shame." "He was a good cat." "It's a damn shame." But on that night, as the Tournament was drawing to a close, there was no conversation, only 100 movement, self-conscious movement "because the racket of the "bed was neither loud, nor regular. At first it seemed that Lloyd was getting into bed, and if it was, he couldn't find a comfortable position for some twenty minutes and then there was the breathing when the bed stopped. Elsa listened and watched the lights on the far off shore twinkle much in the same way as the larger stars abovelthem. Elsa experienced a strange sensation, lying there with the screen, the slight wind, the stars and lights; it was their secrecy which was exciting, not so much that they, perhaps, were excited. Even now, drenched in the afternoon, opening cans of beer; that seemed to be lost. They took long pulls at the moist cans. Lloyd pointed to a small sailboat halfway out in the bay, and her Aunt sat down heavily in the coll apsible beach chair thinking about the day when both of them had gone fishing out beyond the rocks of Sunset i Island. Lloyd had caught three bass which Elsa wouldn't eat. She liked pumpkin seed, or blue gills or sunfish... whatever they were called, for everyone called them something different. Elsa liked any yellow fish that lived among the clean rocks in the shallow waters of the bay. Or summer squash or pears or... The windowsill was hard on Elsa's elbows. She crushed one of the fly carcasses, they were brittle 101 and made the same sound as her hair did that night when Mr. Eno's son (himself a man, who could think about such things as selling an entire store) accidentally-burned her hair with his cigarette. The crushed flies sounded just the same. He was that close and Elsa panicked, though she couldn't make a sound, and felt relieved when a bit of her hair was singed by his cig arette, as he backed off a little and began apologizing, even more so when it looked as if she were going to cry. That changed everything. She felt at least as awkward as he did and was relieved (though, again, she couldn't show it, any more through her expression than by words she couldn't speak) to find another person who could blush as deeply as she. At another time, when he had delivered groceries, he asked her why she wasn't out enjoying the sun and she said something smart like, 'I'm afraid I'll melt," he only laughed and told her she was a tease and she couldn't understand it. It wasn't long after that when Mr. Eno's son again came by with groceries and, before he even put them down said something like 'Melt in the mouth, but not in the hand' and tossed her a package of M & M candies. Elsa caught them and threw them back as hard as she could for she really was mad but she didn't connect. The bag split open on the corner of the table and the candies scattered all over. Mr. Eno's son only laughed and 102 walked out and Elsa spent about half an hour on her knees picking up M & M's; they were everywhere. As she crushed some more flies Elsa wondered if she really was a tease or whether, as Lloyd put it, men like Mr. Eno's son couldn't really understand her and misinter preted everything. He was helpful like that and did knderstand things even though her aunt was after him for days to carve a marker for poor Joseph's grave and when he finally said (after saying, "We'll see, we'll see" until it nearly drove her mad), "Joseph's lucky he got a grave, never mind a fucking marker." she almost hit him. They both ran down to the beach and argued for about an hour. That was the week the Tournament was drawing to a close. Lloyd did under-stand things and after Elsa told him about Mr. Eno's son, he told her not to worry. He sold the store anyway and moved into town. Now there is a bigger ENO'S right off the new traffic circle. Even when they pavedthe old road, it didn't help; no one used it any more. Cars from the city wheeled in on the new highway, circled down the exit ramp and stopped right across from a sign that read, ENO'S Gas and Vegetables Turn Left. So he wouldn't be around any more and Elsa wouldn't miss him, though;! it was nice to have someone come around now and then while her aunt and Lloyd were on the beach drinking beer. Which, Elsa wondered, is 103 more clean: a fly or a dog's mouth; if flies are as filthy as they say, then a dog's must be cleaner. Her mouth, she concluded, must lie somewhere in between; scissors cut paper, rock breaks the scissors. Now I lay me down to sleep and hope it's time for dinner soon. Elsa flopped down into the wicker chair and look ed at the table beside her. Outside on the beach her Uncle was wading slowly out into the water for his final afternoon swim. The resistance of the water made his passage labored, his thick legs pushing, his wide stomach plowing through the water like an over loaded ferry. He turned and waved to his wife before diving into the warm, green water. Elsa would swim after dinner; that was the time to swim she thought, after eating any yellow fish that lived among the clean rocks in the shallow waters of the Bay or pumpkin seed, or bluegills or sunfish or summer squash or pears or...plums are good, with their insides like the insides of your cheek. Elsa picked up one of the long spikes from the table beside her and pushed it slowly into the plum, until a few beads of juice squeezed through and stained her white shorts. 


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