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His sleep at Elsinore 1973

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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 p r e s e n t i n g t h i s t h e s i s i n p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t of the requirements f o r an advanced degree at the U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree t h a t the L i b r a r y s h a l l make i t f r e e l y a v a i l a b l e f o r r e f e r e n c e and study. I f u r t h e r agree t h a t p e r m i s s i o n f o r e x t e n s i v e copying of t h i s t h e s i s f o r s c h o l a r l y purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by h i s r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s . I t i s understood t h a t copying or p u b l i c a t i o n of t h i s t h e s i s f o r f i n a n c i a l g a i n s h a l l not be allowed without my w r i t t e n p e r m i s s i o n . Department of C r e a t i v e W r i t i n g The U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia Vancouver 8, Canada Date A p r i l 14, 1973 The poems i n c l u d e d i n t h i s t h e s i s pay homage to John Dowland (1562-1626), the E l i z a b e t h a n l u t e n i s t and composer, to whose music the K i n g of Denmark's court once danced. The poems i n general address themselves to those moments when people decide to dance and s i n g and attempt a r e c o n c i l i a t i o n between a c t i v i t y and s l e e p , a l l o w i n g the past and the present t o swim i n one v o i c e . Both the poems and the f i c t i o n give e x p r e s s i o n to t h a t s p e c i a l f o r c e which i s exerted on the moment by the past. TABLE OP CONTENTS page HIS SLEEP AT ELSINORE The Melancholy G a l i a r d e 1 The Hun 2 " j u s t a b i t c h i n the r a i n " 5 6's and 7's 13 The L i s t 14 Pour Days i n A p r i l 16 2 B i t s 20 The Tabard B e s t i a r y 21 W a t l i n g S t r e e t 29 "Groping f o r t r o u t s , i n a p e c u l i a r r i v e r " 31 The V i s i o n s of S t . F r a n c i s 33 B a i t 34 A v o i r d u p o i s / l b s . 35 "Carmina A r c h i l o c h o s " 36 The M o t e l and Mr. Hawkes (Jack) 37 u n t i t l e d 38 Break-down 39 u n t i t l e d 1 40 Water Boy 41 The I s t 42 u n t i t l e d 43 P^er Gynt 44 Mao Tse Tung and That Woman: a Dream 45 u n t i t l e d 46 Artaud mumbles 47 a blimp 48- "a s m a l l town i n Vermont i n which" 49 a song, a note 50 Morning Song 51 (from Lyra) 52 A R i v e r Song 56 The St a r g a z e r 57 PARABLES POR SPRING Mr. Oates' Moon 60 The Gazebo 66 Helen 77 The Music Box : E l s a 96 HIS SLEEP AT ELSINORE 1 The Melancholy G a l i a r d e h i s s l e e p at E l s i n o r e d r i f t s w i t h the noise of s l i p p e r s on a marble f l o o r , the s t i n g of blades as they sever rib b o n s i n the h a l l ( i t ' s q u i e t j u s t now, the candle s h i v e r s by h i s open door and the memento mori on the t a b l e l a c k s a jaw, an i n c h of flame i n s p e c t s the socket: empty. i t can read the t a b l a t u r e of darkness and embrace each stone and t u r r e t i n a wink, so the mortar of t h i s w i n t e r palace crumbles and the c h a t t e r of a l a d y l e a k s from a f i s s u r e i n the w a l l w i t h s i l k and the elegance of f o i l s and daggers breeds compassion i n the footman: a s i g h which holds a touch of r u s t . So the court swarms to him and the l a d i e s a l l give suck (even i n a sleep as m i l d as t h i s ) to h i s mood, h i s p a i n , h i s power to a s t o n i s h 2 The Hun 1 l e a r n how A p r i l l i m n s i t s e l f a g a i n s t a backdrop of pure snow: to d i s t i n g u i s h a s p r i n g sky- Can a e r i a l t h i n g ) from an autumn sky (more sc e n t t h a n b l u e ) through which the s p i r i t s o f dead l e a v e s r i s e o r tumble i f t h e i r s p i r i t s s t i l l c l i n g to t h a t p e r f e c t s k e l e t o n as so many sparrows c l i n g to the s t r i p p e d t r e e i n a sudden gust o f wind I I l e a r n how autumn r i p e n s a p p l e s and shocks them w i t h an unexpected f a l l i n t o s t u b b l e and reduces them to c i d e r and t h e n a s t e n c h a t the bottom o f a 3 b a r r e l ( a war p o s t e r i n t h a t b a r n where muskets l a y w i t h r a k e s and hoes, the l o c k s f r o z e n s o l i d by the same r u s t which works on the sky not a sky but a t i n r o o f above the p o s t e r o f the Hun, n o i s y w i t h the r a i n o f many seasons, d e a f e n i n g when a storm rumbles overhead: so the l e s s o n t e l l s how autumn soaks i n t o u n p r o t e c t e d wood and i f , b e f o r e they f a l l , the r e d and y e l l o w l e a v e s and a p p l e s of an autumn c o u l d be squeezed, a t h i n g c a l l e d age c o u l d be e x t r a c t e d : a b r i l l i a n t p a s t e w i t h which you p a i n t your f a c e i n t o a mask, t e r r i b l e to a l l but those who wear i t I I I the p o s t e r Hun squats b e h i n d the l i p of h i s t r e n c h 4 w i t h h i s s p i k e d helmet and h i s bayonet: he never ages, yet he does grow t h i r s t y : the gas he imagines on h i s b a t t l e f i e l d i s n ' t gas but on l y f o g : a l e t h a l f o g because i t moves i n h i s i m a g i n a t i o n s l o w l y through a b a r r i c a d e of f a i n t i n g s o l d i e r s : and so he climbs from h i s p o s t e r as through a window and out on to the metal r o o f where he can see f a r below him people wearing b r i g h t masks moving through the f o g : he smiles and r e a c h i n g up, s t i c k s h i s bayonet through an u l c e r i n the moon: t h i s i s autumn says he, r e c a l l i n g years of propaganda 5 " j u s t a b i t c h i n the r a i n " the bamboo s t a l k s l i e broken now the sun has r i s e n on a d r e a d f u l n i g h t of cops and w h i s t l e s and of a wind t h a t drove them w i l d , so w i l d t h a t now (as broken as they are) i remember' wreckage and not an open car w i t h f l o w e r s on the hood I and the underwing of a sparrow i s h i s g r i e f , h i s song, so u n l i k e the slower human songs i' v e grown accustomed t o : and w i t h h i s song comes w i n t e r and i (who can not sleep) am s i c k w i t h f o o l i s h n o t i o n s , t e l l i n g myself t h a t i should go away and eat n o t h i n g but acorns and bark and n i b b l e sweetness from the b i r c h e s or d r i n k sharp 6 water from a f r o z e n brook and t h i n k of n o t h i n g , but of the whiteness of the snows and how the water from the brook i s g i n and how an angel's wings were severed by a sudden drop i n temperature and how they f e l l i n t o the snow and smothered other angels who had f a l l e n f a i n t w i t h hunger from the t r e e s and how the m u f f l e d h i l l s would hide my v o i c e and how at n i g h t i ' d s l e e p w i t h i n the snow and dream of d r i n k i n g g i n upon a mountain top and how i would awaken and never see another drop of blood a g a i n I I a l l n i g h t l o n g the sea complained and i n i t s sway h e l d crabs and f i s h e s , a s o r r y moon r e v i v e d a d y i n g shark w h i l e others f l o a t i n g b e l l y up knew i t s p u l l was u s e l e s s : waves f e l l , a dog drank water 7 from a hollow rock: i l i s t e n e d f o r a horn and heard what i c o u l d never see, sunken i s l a n d s where the drowned were mothing words i n u n i s o n , i l i s t e n e d f o r a b e l l and found a s h a t t e r e d b o t t l e and a p a i r of shoes I I I " i n a town i know the s t r e e t s were made of t a r and stone, they softened as the sun grew hot behind a barn where horses s l e p t there was a w a t e r f a l l and on the r o o f a r o o s t e r stood whose i r o n wings could gauge the f o r c e of any wind. i n t h i s v i l l a g e no one dreamed, un l e s s i t be of g e t t i n g l a i d , beside the w a t e r f a l l , w i t h i n earshot of the horses and a farmer p i t c h i n g hay, and as the hay descended from the l o f t the l o v e r s f e l l a s l e e p , to w h i s p e r i n g and straw, i n t h i s v i l l a g e no one dreamed, un l e s s i t be of snow." 8 IV " w i t h the r i g o r of an o l d quote, h i s words f e l l s h ort of meaning." Todays q u i z . and so i c l i n g t o an a r b i t r a r y sentence as would a person to h i s sermon or the cobwebs on h i s f a c e . I t doesn't matter. What does i s t h a t a s t u t t e r grow i n t o a song and t h a t the song repeat i t s e l f u n t i l i t seems important. S t i l l , the rooms groan f o r occupants, the beds become c o l d and i wander h a l l s (a b u r e a u c r a t i c moon) l o o k i n g to ensnare some l o v e r s i n a l i e and l o i t e r 9 at a bus stop (a Hannibal) having l i t t l e p i t y f o r my elephants having s o l d them to a c i r c u s f o r a song hav ing watched them do t r i c k s and drag t h e i r t r u n k s through m i l e s of sawdust having pinned popcorn to the t e n t and c a l l e d i t s t a r s . . . i am r e l i e v e d and "at my l a s t remove". The Alp s are no more mine than my l a d i e s knees. V a f t e r the show i stood ankle deep i n t r a s h and l i t a c i g a r e t t e . The movie had been about an i s l a n d and how a l i n e r had been sunk by German subs l e a v i n g s i x (marooned) to s o r t i t out. I t was mi r a c u l o u s : they b u i l t huts and domesticated monkeys and they were happy. Then l o v e began to i n t e r r u p t t h e i r l i v e s , a c l i c h e , the same o l d s t o r y and they wiped themselves out. Even the monkeys were sad. The moral was something l i k e : they l i c k e d hunger, madness and the ocean, but they couldn't l i c k themselves. Years l a t e r someone found t h e i r bones and t h a t ' s how the s t o r y s t a r t e d , a t h o u g h t f u l man upon a desert i s l a n d t h i n k i n g : to whom do these bones belong? and w h i l e he thought monkeys leaned from t r e e s h o l d i n g oranges. The monkeys smiled. VI the more my body moves away from you, the more these w i r e s tremble w i t h the words on which these f l e a s g a i n succor and grow f a t , f o r f l e a s eat e l e c t r i c i t y and i n h a b i t telephones and your v o i c e ( f i l t e r e d through f l e a s and w i r e s ) must c o n t a i n what n e i g h t e r you nor i expected: a n x i e t y and joy, the a b s u r d i t y of d i s c a r d e d t i r e s stacked behind a f i l l i n g s t a t i o n , f l u e s on which c h i l d r e n s l i d e i n s t e a d of water, toward a dump where the p l a t e s and bedsprings of a g e n e r a t i o n l i e beneath an i n c h of snow, and i f the moon became entangled ( s l i m and f r o z e n as i t i s ) i n the s t r i n g s of your piano, and i f the notes of Mozart's t h i n g i n P became the ants and f l e a s of my c o n f u s i o n , what music would remain? My body grows aware of music i n the dark, my body grows aware of yours e x p r e s s i n g i t , a b r i e f r e c i t a l i n , a n empty h a l l , the sound of people c l a p p i n g V I I (The Hay-Wain) the o l d white horse i s b l i n d . We, t o o, have our c h o i c e s : to l i e by the roadside chewing d a i s i e s or eat ragweed and become smothered under a t o n of hay, wheezing p r a i s e s to an A p r i l sun and the asthmatic b r i l l i a n c i e s of noon. The horse plods through h i s b l i n d n e s s and stops to n i b b l e on some f l o w e r s 12 t h a t have got t e n i n the way. We would give him something f o r h i s hunger hut the p i t c h and r o l l of the wagon makes us doze and never n o t i c e when he nods or stumbles. We are going f a r and as we go we t e l l each other s t o r i e s to w i l e away the time. Sometimes a hero gets i t i n the end. V I I I The s p o i l s amounted to a h a n d f u l of ashes: " i f you t r a v e l f a r enough y o u ' l l meet a horse." P e e l the b l i n d e r s from t h i s animal. Think of lampblack and a t r a p t a k i n g Pieda to the park, not on any damn a f t e r n o o n but from a rosewater n o v e l i n which f i c t i t i o u s moons and p a r a s o l s are seen through p a r l o r windows. S l i c e my uncut pages: " L o i n to l o i n they were f o r moments as the bed grew f a i n t , f a i n t e r . . . " and the blood became the c o l o r of roses i n the wash and f i n a l l y , h aving l e f t the road, i entered f i e l d s where a horse was g r a z i n g and you came, the Cassandra of my spoken b l u n d e r s . . . 6 *s and 7 1 s autumn touches W i l l a r d S t r e e t , a song touches her who walks past the only penny dropt "by a man w i t h f r i e n d s to meet a penny i n the grass i s an autumn t h i n g : green and brown and l o s t i s the autumn song which s i n g s i t s e l f and l i v e s i n the t r e e s of W i l l a r d S t r e e t and at the concert where they l e t Death p l a y h i s c l a r i n e t to keep the dancers on t h e i r f e e t . evening c l i n g s to t w i g and l e a f : autumn touches W i l l a r d S t r e e t . The L i s t I a f l y s c r i b b l e s hasty notes on the windowpane: not, not, not much l e f t : a l l the blossoms v a n i s h i n t o odors: only l a t e hours now blossom: a wind i n which the t r e e s grow s h r i l l i n p r e p a r a t i o n : through which people amble making l i s t s of t h i n g s to get: p r i n t s , lamps and t a p e s t r i e s to compliment the sky: a l i s t of need to end a l l l i s t s : a l i s t of l o n l i n e s s and anger I I no z o d i a c : the f l y s p e l l s not and summer goes (a p u f f of smoke) as autumn c a c k l e s i n the shack where Quincy puts a l i t t l e sugar i n a b o t t l e f o r the l a s t e l u s i v e f l y : i t s t o p s : the moon makes pa t t e r n s on the l a t t i c e - w o r k and Quincy whispers as the winds grow s h r i l l and the people w a l k i n g face another death c o u n t i n g (as the leav e s f a l l ) minutes when some god w i l l rouse h i m s e l f beneath a b l a c k sun and then decide, decide to sleep some more Pour Days i n A p r i l f o r Tim and M a r i l y n I where the road s p l i t s i n two going south to the r i g h t Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire to the l e f t , the sea a f t e r 60 m i l e s on gales of f o g and sun here we threw our hands and l e t them hover i n the wind l i k e white gloves or hungry g u l l s and begged the moon to draw the t i d e c l o s e r to our blood I I i s l e p t on an oak f l o o r and f a i n t e d i n a s l e e p i n g bag around one, a number of d e v i l s ran about t a k i n g p i c t u r e s of my s o u l : i f r o z e someone threw b l e a c h the room went white i s l e p t l i g h t l y through morning then we snuck out f o r a walk i n the c o l d ( i t a s t e d s a l t i n my sleep and heard a phantom whisper i n a conch I I I portus enclosus t i g h t w a l l s too e a r l y f o r f l o w e r s or a may f l y ephemeron w a l l s , w a l l s : i c o u l d s c a l e them w i t h a hook and see a garden f l u s h w i t h green or s t e a l a look at &he s t a r s , S i r i u s a dog crouched i n the dusty clouds of a c i t y , tumbling as only a dog can i n t o p e r f e c t darkness (Canis Major, the b i g moon dog, barks before s p r i n g ) IV orange t r o l l e y s c r a wl through snow l i g h t n i n g thunder r a i n and snow at once such f o u l weather, s t i l l they crawl not a s o u l on the s t r e e t o n l y t r o l l e y s throwing sparks and Esso men po u r i n g gas and a few Angels wearing the s k i n s and heads of animals, Dog Angels f l e s h e d i n darkness 19 d e v i l s t a k i n g p i c t u r e s of my s o u l ( i f r o z e ) f o u r days i n A p r i l i n a garden f u l l of snow f o u r days i n A p r i l i n a kennel by the sea 20 2 b i t s death i s a c a r e f u l barber, w i t h h i s s t r o p and h i s h a l l of m i r r o r s i am one who w r i t h e s buckled i n the c h a i r w i t h hopes ( o n l y hopes) of w r i n g i n g song from appointed bones: the s o l i d plans of f l e s h or wind are s i m i l a r : they o u t l a s t the q u e s t i o n w i l l they l a s t but as some have found, they don't: the dead leave us speechless so we s i n g i n s t e a d and measure notes coming from t h a t f l u t e , q u a n t i f y t h a t wind: t h i s i s s c i e n c e and the q u e s t i o n pops: w i l l the sun o u t l a s t t h i s dawn and w i l l the sky o f f e r something more than f l i g h t ( i m p o s s i b l e ) or emptiness? say yes or no says the barber w i t h h i s r a z o r at your t h r o a t 21 The Tabard B e s t i a r y This A p r i l i n New England behind a t h i n sheen of middle day P i l g r i m s thread t h e i r way between the h i l l s and l a k e s to touch the hem or broken t o o t h of St. Thomas wh i l e the sun stuck i n a web of s t a r s at the f o o t of the wind whispers: "et cum s p i r i t o tuo" and the hooded f a l c o n winks and the h e r a l d i c buzzard s i t s and the hounds n i p a t the h e e l s of nuns t r a i l i n g ebony r o s a r y beads. 1 the buzzard s n i f f i n g c a r r i o n above G i b r a l t a r c i r c l i n g above A n t a l y a on the w a i l s of dyi n g Moors s p i r a l s down to eat profane f l e s h i n A l e x a n d r i a 2 another b i r d sang and danced i n A p r i l as i f i t were May and f r a g i l e l a d i e s l a y s h a t t e r e d at h i s f e e t 22 3 greensward peacock a t a i l q u i v e r of green and y e l l o w f e a t h e r s : hush, arrows s l i c e the Crecy dawn where the sword and b a l d r i c hang from a gray b i r c h t r e e . 4 gray hound, b i t s of broken cheese and bread s c a t t e r e d on the Tabard bench. "Avez-vous l e s u r i r e sur l e cadavre?" S t r a t f o r d at Bowe where the hounds run n i p p i n g at the h e e l s of nuns 5 and the hare l e a p i n g through the bramble cha s i n g e l v e s who eat the b r a i n s of n i g h t i n g a l e s f o r lunch and s i t on mushroom s t o o l s . 6 Bla c k P r i a r s , hooded robes beneath a hidden b e l l a bronze echo i n the t h r o a t s of hooded P r i a r s who touch the face of God w i t h song. 23 one of them, h i s cape l i n e d w i t h p i n s and k n i v e s , embraced a young wyf f o r she was a p a s s i n g f a i r c r e a t u r e what l i v e d i n Isomongerlane not f a r from t h a t s e c r e t place where Symon de Wynton's head was b u r i e d . . . 7 a f o r k e d beard and beaver hat from F l a n d e r s , he d e a l t i n g o l d and s i l v e r c o i n s i n the Underworld. "the a c t u a l t e e t h of Jesus C h r i s t w i l l be sent postage p a i d i n a handy i s i n g l a s s packet" 8 i n b l a c k and red the books are bound, marginal s c r i b b l e s l i k e the l e g s of t i c k s and. b e e t l e s crawl across an eye i n f e c t i n g s p r i n g clouds w h i l e f a r below an a s t r o l a b e i s l a i d on the s a t i n c l o t h and plans are made to s e i z e the s t a r s . 9 Thomas Pynchbek appointed c h i e f baron of the Exchequer on A p r i l 24, 1388 l i v e d near K a t h e r i n e Swynford and wore p a r t i - c o l o r e d robes to court and served a w r i t of a r r e s t to a c l e v e r man i n debt t h a t same year the aforementioned year of Our Lord 1388 10 a white freeman, Pynchbek's neighbor, t r a i l e d , a speckled p a r t r i d g e and f e l t s l i p p e r y f i s h ( l u c e ) from h i s p o o l s l i d e down h i s muscled g u l l e t : S i r John Bussy of L i n c o l n s h i r e , the eye of day b l i n k i n g at the sun. I I f i v e men, f i v e brown loaves of bread came down from Cockayne dressed i n l i v e r y , each had a s i l v e r handled k n i f e and a l l were so pleased and so s a t i s f i e d when the Burgher Chef sang: The BLACKMANGER SONG: "have you heard w i l d f i s h scream or naked chickens swimming i n a t h i c k sweet cream?" 12 a Shipman, George Cowntree, p a i d customs f o r the "Magdaleyne" i n 1379. these men, who went down to the sea i n sh i p s were a hardy breed but, i n the r i g g i n g s of h i s s k u l l sat a b l a c k crow t h a t l i s t e n e d to the thud of wine casks bumping on the wooden h u l l . thud. 25 wine, t h i r s t i n g f o r the sea. at n i g h t , George would stand upon the deck and take c a r e f u l heed of A l i o t h , A l c o r , P o l a r i s and e s p e c i a l l y , Vega because Lyr a made the crow i n h i s s k u l l go mad and prance and caw and leave t r a c k s a l l over h i s r i g g i n g . i n the morning he awoke and f e l t the b l a c k wings b e a t i n g the a i r behind h i s eyes and he knew t h a t he was s i c k . . . so the Doctor p r e s c r i b e d Dogbane and Nightshade and b i d him look upon h i s Caduceus but not upon Lyr a or the Swan and get p l e n t y of r e s t but l i t t l e d i d t h i s Doctor know of the menacing crow t h a t sat i n Cowntree's head so he advised a p i l g r i m a g e and i d e n t i f i e d the crow t r a c k s as: 13 14 and and and and 26 15 near London he saw a s m i l i n g widow whose c l o t h of Ghent h i d her s e c r e t w r i n k l e s , between her wide t h i g h s strode a huge saddled horse. a good man dressed i n b l a c k l e d a s t r i n g of dancers over h i l l s and i n t o v a l l e y s . the parson then l e t h i s f i n g e r s r e s t on the l i g h t s of a d i s t a n t c i t y . He turned back to the murmuring congregation and began h i s pr a y e r : each f e l t h i s s o u l s p a r k l e l i k e the c i t y l i g h t s . They gathered branches and from the parson's faggot, they l i t t h e i r l i t t l e f i r e s , ( c r a c k l e ) ...when Cowntree saw the man w i t h a wagonload of dung he knew he was r i g h t w e l l out of h i s s k u l l , the crow began A . T > t o s c r i b b l e o b s c u r i t i e s . . . the Doctor * gave him T i g e r Powder and t o l d him to c l o s e h i s eyes "do not s t a r e at L y r a " , s a i d the Doctor. 16 17 18 an ox drew a t u m b r i l and s c u f f l e d i n the dust e r a s i n g a l l the b i r d t r a c k s then bellowed l o u d l y remembering h i s l o s t b a l l s . the l e a n d r i v e r / o v e r s e e r chuckled at the g u t t a percha sac and drew h i s f i n g e r s t i g h t about h i s whip. 19 a sparrow perched upon a mare t r i l l e d to an evening s t a r . ceruce, q u i c k s i l v e r and PbOjt were ad v i s e d by the Doctor... but the t i n y b i r d had been to H e l l and back b r i n g i n g a l t a r r e l i c s and a b s o l u t i o n to h i s f r i e n d the goat or mare or g e l d i n g . . . Cowntree s l e p t as a crow sleeps hidden from the wind entangled i n a web of s t a r s . 20 i n Southwark, a man i n a s h o r t s l e e v e coat saw a r m o r i a l s i g n s c u r l about h i s b r e a s t seasoned boards smolder beneath the f e e t of a dead s a i n t . 28 the p i l g r i m s , f u l l of g u i l t and t h r i l l t r i c k l e toward New England where the animals have come to d r i n k the s p i r i t s of the dead: i . e . , the s a i n t s and t a l e s and a n c i e n t words s t i f f l i k e the f e a t h e r s of a crow or, i n A p r i l when the wind i s f r e e , l i k e the j i n g l e of the f a l c o n ' s h e l l as i t t e a r s a b l e e d i n g sparrow from the sky and r e t u r n s to l i g h t upon a w r i s t . 29 W a t l i n g S t r e e t 1 Up. each day wades through waist deep snow. Up. the s t r e e t widens vaguely i n t o s l e e p , v i s i o n b l u r s . only a few w i l d , c a t s n e s t l e i n the f o r e s t where the wind howls wider than the s t r e e t t h a t leads to them, a lone swan dares to draw near, so near, the w i l d cat dreams dare to touch h i s f e a t h e r s . 2 swans f a r e w e l l i n the snow, more w i l l come and t h e i r b l a c k eyes w i l l b l i n k above the s l i m j e t s of swan mist streaming out from carven n o s t r i l s , t h e i r wings w i l l f o l d on t h e i r p^ump b r e a s t s : b l a c k eyes i n the snow f i l l e d w i t h b l a c k wine the swans w i l l s i t w i t h t h e i r smooth necks bent i n the ornamental n i g h t . 3 a fireman comes to put out the l i g h t s . the swans h o l d t h e i r b r e ath and the w i l d c a t s s l e e p , the fireman has f o r g o t t e n the key to the n o z z l e of h i s woven hose so he tosses a curse i n t o the snow th a t melts l i k e the ice-cube i n h i s hand. the fireman fades back down the narrow s t r e e t . one swan i s f i l l e d w i t h soundless glee and the l i g h t s : keep burning, about to f r e e z e . 30 s t i c k f i g u r e s dance among the barre n t r e e s l e a p i n g from limb to limb on a s t i c k trapeeze. the moaning c a r r i e s w i t h i t the crack and sway of w i n t e r s t i c k s and the gray moon scud f l o a t s above the snow; 5 a l a n t e r n on the f a r t h e s t h i l l screams across the snow then two then three and f o u r and soon the n i g h t i s f i l l e d w i t h l a n t e r n screams but the swans are undi s t r u b e d and the w i l d cat dreams s t i l l l i n g e r i n the dark r e s t i n g f u r , l i k e the dangerous scent of unseen enemies. 6 one swan opens i t s wings and climbs i n t o the sky l e a v i n g one white egg i n the snow w i t h one b l a c k eye s t a r i n g at a c l o u d of d i s t a n t s t a r s , a l i d l e s s cone, t h a t opens i n t o space. 31 "Groping f o r t r o u t s , i n a p e c u l i a r r i v e r . . . " a d i r t road runs beside a r i v e r , t u r n s to a covered b r i d g e , i n s i d e , the echoes of the r i v e r and the white sky l e a k through between worn boards l o o s e , as i f the i r o n f e e t of horses had pryed them up or the constant thunder of t h i s A p r i l morning had worked l i k e slow wagon loads of hay upon them s t r a i n i n g wooden j o i n t s and braces, even the weeds f e e l the storm approach as i t r o l l s a l o n g the r i v e r bed b l i n d i n g wide swaths of f i e l d w i t h the sound of thunder. a man i n a straw hat stands by the r i v e r ' s edge wh i s p e r i n g to the f i s h , come, he says, my tongue has f i n s and rainbow c o l o r e d s c a l e s , the f i s h see t h i s 32 and leap up from the water l i k e s l i m tongues, touch him w i t h q u i c k , muscled f i n s , l i c k h i s pale s k i n w i t h t h e i r white sp o t t e d b e l l i e s , smother him u n t i l h i s lungs ache and he s i n k s i n t o the ground w i t h eyes as dim as A p r i l f o g , he i s weak, the w i l d t r o u t r e t u r n i n t o the water and leave him on the bank to s l e e p , now the r a i n b egins, s l o w l y at f i r s t as a r i s i n g sound drowning out the r i v e r , and the man begins to s t i r , h i s limbs f e e l l i g h t as i f t i e d to. the clouds w i t h strands of f i s h i n g l i n e , he i s a puppet of the clouds t e t h e r e d to the storm i t s e l f , the wind sweeps h i s hat away as he begins h i s broken dance h o l d i n g hands w i t h the r a i n , l e a p i n g at the sound of thunder. The V i s i o n s of S t . F r a n c i s • at dawn a g i r l walked by the church d e s p a i r has wings the passage read pigeons yodeled as she passed almost dead f o r l a c k of sleep she had been fucked by l o c a l s now she only looked upon the dawn, i t s tenants and embarking clouds where f l o w e r s grew (she would go there) f a r from the c i t y w i t h i t s v e i l s and s u l l e n h a l l s (she would go there) beyond the cranks and p u l l e y s of the Mental I l l n e s s I n s t i t u t e (she would go t h e r e ) where f l o w e r s grew and seeped such j u i c e s as would burn her s k i n B a i t my heart ( a t 22) i s taxed, i hear i t gush a t n i g h t r i v e r s i n my ear. a man i s a t t a c k e d on the road f o r n o t h i n g : never t r a v e l i n a coach without a shot- gun, muttered R u m p l e s t i l t s k i n . /. f i s h n i b b l e at my heart and i wish to god t h a t one would be caught on the hook embedded t h e r e , l u c k . the l i n e ' s h e l d by a fisherman w i t h an awful face of bone and weed. he tugs the l i n e , the hook i s stuck, my heart i s sunk o f f Newfoundland t r y i n g to d i s c i p l i n e the sea 35 A v o i r d u p o i s / l b s . i l i k e my music b e t t e r than my words. Or t o d a y . i t seems so... i drag out the d u l l performance e n d l e s s l y beneath a f a l l o w sky: no sprout, no root w i l l take up t h e r e , s o - t h i c k clouds are s t i t c h e d i n t o the S l e e p i n g Bag from which i gulp my,gallon echo: f u l l . D a i l y news accumulates by the f i r e p l a c e , ( i w i l l burn i t when, i f i n d a match) but the atmosphere i s l a c e - d w i t h g a s o l i n e and some dime-a- dozen tune penetrates my head l i k e a ten-penny s p i k e d r i v e n through a l o a f of bread 36 "Carmina A r c h i l o e h o s " the purposeless dead and d u l l e s t of books moan where i t i s sunny. We s i n g (though our cause i s hopeless) a summer testimony. Andromeda recedes behind her rock, the sky cushions thunder and the moon draws p l a c i d t i d e s over bronze gods r e c l i n i n g under sunken g a l l e y s . Oars and d o l p h i n s mimic empty j a r s . A j o p l i t e o n l y dreams of war and v i r g i n s t a s t i n g o l i v e s i n the h a l f l i g h t where the shy dead are h u r l i n g l o n g spears f a r i n t o the ashen dawn 37 The Motel and Mr. Hawkes (Jack) avenues of r a i n : the windswept avenues of r a i n show bronze now the sun has come to p e e l the wet- ness up. Sparrows ( h i s among clouds) dissemble. An a r c a d i a n pasture f i l l s w i t h goats and horny- shepherds. They dance around a l a d y i n a f l i m s y gown whose been throwing roses at them a l l t h e i r l i v e s . T h e i r mouths f i l l w i t h s l o b b e r ( r i n g around the rosy) i t ' s a l o s s they f e e l because her tempting t h r i v e s amid t h e i r dream: " i f the b i r d s s i n g , " (they w i l l ) "the nudes are not f a r o f f . " 38 u n t i t l e d Apu, apu. U t t e r nonsense l a i d a s i d e i n s l e e p , i mean: COLD day c o l d , n i g h t c o l d ; c o l d of s k i n , c o l d of h e a r t . Cold so c o l d defenses a l i p the way naked "bodies s l i p i n t o the i c y r i v e r . No. Colder. The i c y j a c k e t s f i t . We journey over unsunned snow w i t h our mouths f u l l of invented r o s e s , roses t h a t would s h a t t e r i f we spoke. We g r i n and gather i c i c l e s i n s t e a d . . . t h e scented shadow of a Pine f r e e z e s , a t h i n g so f i n e l y tuned we g r i n , i t r i n g s and then our g r i n s f r e e z e 39 Break-down a s m a l l dog i s on the lawn, " f o r e v e r " haunts a caul d r o n f u l l of t u r n i n g f r u i t . So today i see the June sun (a f e l l o w w i t h my f i n g e r t i p s on h i s l a p e l s repeats a d i s t a n t marriage i n my ear: she keeps a spot i n her bed f o r you. Piano masters t o s s d i c e i n A: T a y l o r , S a t i e . . . t h i s l o n g i n g r o t s : i gather wood f o r f i r e . a " t a s s e l e d garden" ( t o u r i s t a t t r a c t i o n ) draws a s t r a n g e r to my bed: an o l d l o v e , a f i c t i v e w i fe who knows the stakes are h i g h e r now the June sun has found a dove to p e s t e r . Love i n v o l v e s a s l i g h t i n f r a c t i o n of the r u l e s : a cage, a p i s t o l and a l y r e 40 u n t i t l e d a f a v o r i t e angel j a c k - k n i f e d i n h i s sleep l a s t n i g h t (a pond as usu a l ) and, Donne-like, he swived her underwater, she, blonde as wheat or straw, s u r f a c e d d r i p p i n g wet and spread her wings, to dry them out, l i k e a.cormorant, he f o r g e t s what message brought her here and doubts she w i l l r e t u r n a g a i n (the dream was n i c e , now he d r i n k s h i s c o f f e e i n the sun and. b l i n k s at the gleam of a s t a r l i n g s back, p r e c i s e l y nine months have passed s i n c e he heard her whisper: i t was a l o v e l e s s murder 41 Water Boy Punch l e t him have i t i n the gut. Others sensed a f l o o d when the moon rose (a f l q o d moon), and before Tut could whisper " l u s t and moss" a broom swept h i s ashes up. The Sweeper wanders down a c o r r i d o r of s l e e p . A Sandman w i t h deeper motives, b e t t e r sand, prepares more young f o r slumber. "Your eyes are tombs, Love, when i look i n them." i won't, i ' l l eat f l o w e r s and l i s t e n f o r brooms i n deserted s t r e e t s and i won't even mind i f Aquarius s p i l l s buckets f u l l of moonlight i n the dust the I s t Heartbeat, god and mountain (roses f l e s h e d w i t h sun) such antipathy- s w e l l s r / i t h i n a poem: p i t h y words and n o t h i n g e l s e : take Moses ( f o r e.g.) w i t h h i s t a b l e t and put him i n the movies w i t h l o t s of e x t r a s . • What happens? This does: he st a y s there) a r a b b i t jumps: god h o l l e r s i n h i s walnut s h e l l : my v o i c e i s the f l e s h of space (a l o n g y e l l ) . O r d i n a r i l y j god doesn't y e l l , he whimpers; but today he's p i s s e d : Moses blew a take) my words wander/aimless i v y u n t i t l e d S c a les t i p . The d i f f e r e n c e between musk and blubber i s not the weight or s i z e , though the s m e l l of one seems to outweigh the other. A p l a t e of food, dead, shrimp...Mr. Johnson sang: "When i woke up t h i s morning, a l l my shrimp were dead and gone." Perhaps sex ( o r none) made him s i n g the b l u e s . B a s t a r d moons and H o t e l l o b b i e s f o r t i f i e d the su b j e c t u n t i l a song emerged; s t i l l , a H e l l - hound s n i f f e d , h i s t r a i l through suspect dreams of r e c o g n i t i o n and the binge ended w i t h a l i t t l e p o i son i n a s y r i n g e . 44 Peer G-ynt f o r Mark Young "to d e s t r o y something l o v e l y and h o l y and f a i r . . . . " i t r a n and i shuddered/struck w i t h the o l d demand f o r mercy because i have t o l i e a b i t to o i l the movement: t h i s (i'm g l a d to say) i s not. P o l i c e bother me, as w e l l as dogs ( i f they're mad) and so i t happens f l e e c e i s g i l d e d , not g o l d . Something s t i l l remains, some l e s s e r s t u f f the dregs of which i savor j u s t as w e l l . A n t h i l l s develop i n t o h i l l s . and i use s p i t and p i n s and t h r e a d . . . "You can patch up a f i d d l e , but never a b e l l . " 45 Mao Tse Tung and That Woman: a Dream a 19th century g e o l o g i s t compared the e a r t h to a w r i n k l e d a pple: mountains pinched and thumbsize oceans w i t h ample room f o r any normal dragon and a l i s t of unearthed bones. My uncle's k i t c h e n f u l l of Chinese c o i n s and beer was b e t t e r . Here, the w r i n k l e s crawl and t i d e s c o l l i d e w i t h years the sun has coaxed from stone ( i stop t o p u l l a r a b b i t from my t h i g h and put a l e e c h on my e y e l i d . Paces merge and babble songs t o g e t h e r , i p i c k one to grapple w i t h f o r e v e r : i'm s i c k of p r i v a t e speech. She (who o f f e r e d me t h i s apple) fades. Another woman's come to p a i n t my days. u n t i t l e d my lungs h u r t . S e l f - p i t y a g a i n . . . and n o t h i n g but a g l a s s of m i l k . Oops. E t h e l Waters and R i l k e at odds: the b a t t l e ' s won by t e n P.M., or bed. my gramaphone i s broken and the r h e t o r i c of l o n l i n e s s p r e v a i l s : my own v o i c e (no cymbal, drum or hot l i c k supports i t ) now pretends to speak and i n doing so, f i n d s i t doesn't want t o l i e . what irony.' Wasn't Solomon a man of song? sleep t i g h t , i ' l l opt f o r E t h e l Waters and my bed: to h e l l w i t h authors 47 Artaud mumbles a plague i n M a r s e i l l e s , a s h i p passes by, swine s n i f f the winding-sheets of dead men and drop i n t h e i r t r a c k s ( i ' v e read about t h i s , and Dresden too: why i n s i s t on a c t i o n ? ) The sun should be enough, or a saw about to saw the l o g i n h a l f and c l o u t the p e a c e f u l s l e e p e r : we have wood, what we need i s n a i l s , and p r a y e r to s t r i k e a b e t t e r d e a l w i t h Love: a f r a i d , we run w i t h what we get and s t a r v e : the odds are h a r d l y f a i r : the subterranean f l a s h of an autumn sun about to set 48 a blimp (a paragraph of f e a r ) "The Graph Z e p p e l i n loomed o u t s i d e Harold A r l e n ' s window, then I r a t o l d him how the Germans were..." and the laughs were r i f e . P e r i o d p i e c e : German d o c t o r s , Grosz, jews, Brecht and b l e a c h e r s f u l l o f < H i t l e r youth. The f e a t u r e f o l l o w e d newsreels of them marching i n the s t r e e t s i n b l a c k and w h i t e : f l i c k s . L a t e r , i n the a l l e y where men p i s s on b r i c k s , d r i n k bathtub g i n and dream up i m p r e s s i o n i s t i c peep shows: knees and venom, smart whips h e l d by senators i n bras and s l i p s . "a s m a l l town i n Vermont i n which" remorseless evenings and g u i t a r s go w i t h sadness and o b l i v i o n : not romantic, l i k e a m i l l i o n s p i d e r s connecting a l l the s t a r s or boots l e f t on a f o r e s t path w i t h the l a c e s out o r t i n s n i p s or dogwood blossoms shedding c h i p s of i v o r y or s c u l l i n g past L i b e r i a n f r e i g h t e r s : not romantic, more another mode: myxolodian, odd: a road on which you'd f i n d a p e r f e c t spot to s i t and watch the sun come down upon the only s t e e p l e i n the town 50 a song, a note the h i t t e r end: excrescence ( i am drunk w i t h sun and b e i n g indoors away from i t . ) Even shadows d r i l l e d through noon convince me t h a t the summer was the worst p o s s i b l e . . . b u t i t s a l l we have r i g h t ? the shore rehearses g r a v e l , we t h i r s t and ache: our aches and t h i r s t are n o t h i n g : we c r y o u r s e l v e s t o sleep but remember n o t h i n g i n the morning: we wish we could s i n but l a c k c o n v i c t i o n and the few t a l e n t s we possess are wasted wasting time w r i t i n g words which rhyme 51 Morning Song i smoke too many c i g a r e t t e s , i t h i n k too much of f u c k i n g you (days go on, today n o t h i n g seems s o l i d . ) Lean and out of debt the t a k e r s m i l e s : " i am my own man." 10th S t r e e t merchants crank t h e i r awnings down. The f a t sun shines f a i r enough: no r a i n or snow has blown across the bay. Cherry blossoms f a l l , d e s u l t o r y . Scrap f l o w e r s hunt f o r sun among the sour p i l e s of b a t t e r e d cans. Here, awesome Deaths occur (where i l i n g e r most) begging minutes from the p a s s i n g ghosts (from Lyra) I a wet dawn opens scant ghost moving through the b i r c h e s and the f e r n s t o u c h i n g f i n g e r shoots and humid s o i l where the damp stones where the damp stones s i n k deeper i n t o f o l d s of e a r t h as bare f e e t move among the f e r n s and b i r c h e s the damp stones the damp stones l i s t e n to the p a l e s t r o o t seeking water when the moon i s up where ashen fac e s peer among the f e r n s (ashen faces of the moonspent s o u l s ) d r a i n e d faces p a l i n g i n the dawn where the stones l i s t e n and the dead whisper "go" I ( s o t t o ) T h i s morning of the sparrow b l i n k i n g i n the sun, s i n g i n g , as the white l i g h t leans 53 across the "bed and as -ftie water drops i n t o the s i n k a broken song: she wakens (t o see a woman r i s e her yawning and her l a z y eyes, the s u n l i g h t on her b r e a s t . . . ) he s l i p s down s t a i r s and h u l k s above the stove s e t s a water pot t o b o i l then goes o u t s i d e she nods, d r i f t s i n t o a p i c t u r e of a house i n Hyde Park, a room f i l l e d w i t h d o l l s and h o a r f r o s t on the lawn, i t ' s so c o l d f o r October ( c a t s l i c k t h e i r morning m i l k ) sleep c l u t c h e s at her hands and f e e t and makes them c o l d , he climbs back up the s t a i r s and sees her i n her summer gown asleep w i t h w i n t e r f a l l i n g down around her, no p r o t e c t i o n from the season's wind which blows i n s i d e she confounds a s t a r w i t h the c l o s i n g of an eye (now burns a summer morning through a window pane, a l o r n moon s t i l l p u l l i n g at her l o v e (from Lyra) 2 so hot so hot he s m e l l s her i n h i s sweat, i t ' s September and they pray f o r r a i n the k i n d of r a i n t h a t f a l l s i n Normandy when n i g h t i s spent behind a t a p e s t r y of d i s t a n t thunder and a hound barks (up) a crescent moon (she ducking i n an a l l e y f u l l of bats the humid sky a b l a n k e t f u l l of h o l e s 5 a bag of corn husks hanging from a beam, a f l o c k of mad crows s i t t i n g i n a t r e e , t h i s i s the h a r v e s t , hogs wallow, moles wait f o r w i n t e r to b e g i n i t i s too l a t e the sun leans down more, o l d men t r y to l i f t t h e i r heads and f a i l ( c h i n s q u i v e r ) they must go to bed 55 and sleep f o r y e a r s , the l e a v e s l o o s e n , f a l l , a nuthatch p i c k s a stump where b l a c k ants crawl amid moss and wood (he rocks and her he misses most of a l l 6 (the Clock and the Cat) a c l o c k s i t s on the mantle piece 1839 i t no t i c k below i t red c o a l s glow and spew ashes up the chimney, a d r a f t c o o l s h i s back and H i c k s (a c a t ) s i t s by the f i r e p u r r i n g to the b r i c k s the hands say 3 o'clock, a d r a f t wheezes through the screen (the moon a p a l e smudge behind the r a i n ) i t hasn't t i c t i n a century ( s t i r the ashes) but i t may be t h a t l a t e f o r once i t may be r i g h t 56 A R i v e r Song when sheets of moss t h i c k e n on the r o o f when the r a i n becomes a j u i c e t h a t b i t e s the tongue and chokes the g u t t e r stones i remember t h a t the r i v e r ' s stones are l i k e your body's organs when you sleep some blood i n s p i r e d l u l l a b y e 57 The S t a r g a z e r The Babylonian sky t o n i g h t i s f a u l t l e s s ( w i t h a moon as f i n e as any i r o n s t o n e bowl stuck beneath a f o o t of s o i l , a map of c a r e f u l f r a c t u r e s i n the glaze of age, of c o l d , a c e r t a i n calendar of change they p u l l i t up each month and rub i t c l e a n w i t h denim so i t shines I tongues d i f f e r but the s t a r s won't change. another aspect of the sun w i l l o n l y b r i n g a body c l o s e r i n t o summer, f a l l another s i d e of warmth I I they scan the s t a r s f o r omens, gods and animals and miss the l i g h t i t s e l f which p l a y s upon the bowl: a cup of s p e c i a l water 58 I I I to t a s t e the l a t h e r of an sc t i v e wave i s to have a p o r t i o n of the world upon the tongue a c l o d of e a r t h and f i r e make the r e s t , one i n e i t h e r hand w i l l do IV l e t the i r i s swallow s t a r s (as t h a t c r e d i b l e f l o w e r c l o s e s on a do z i n g bee i n the endless dusk of summer) and so remember sl e e p V the P l e i a d e s are a bee's wings on the surfa c e of a pond VI the white bowl packed i n s o i l i s as f i n e as any moon r i s i n g i n the east through a i r as t h i n as t r a c i n g paper 59 age showing i n i t s face as p l a i n s and c r a t e r s - f r a c t u r e s i n the blue glaze (the n i g h t wind a denim c l o t h p o l i s h i n g the umber moon to a d u l l f i n i s h the Babylonians had i t : the proper s t a r , a plumb bob i n the desert wind. a s l i t across the heavens i s a r u l e of thumb PARABLES POR SPRING 60 MR. OATES• MOON I t i s 3:15 a.m., F r i d a y , June 26th, 1929 and I am i n my room l i s t e n i n g to music. I r e c o r d the p r e c i s e date because I have been s l e e p l e s s f o r the l a s t f i v e days; t h a t i s , s i n c e Monday, June the 21st at 7:15 ( o r so) when I awoke from a deep, r e s t f u l sleep l o o k i n g forward t o the Wainwright Summer S o l s t i c e F e s t i v a l which was h e l d t h a t evening, b e g i n n i n g w i t h a b u f f e t supper served beneath a spacious r e d - s t r i p e d canopy, on the e s t a t e of M a r s h a l l Oates, a l o c a l w e l l - t o - d o corporate lawyer and pa t r o n of whatever ••arts" managed to f i n d t h e i r way i n t o the l i t t l e town of Wainwright, P e n n s y l v a n i a ; " a r t s " which might f i n d t h e i r way i n t o town much as any vagrant would, wandering down some avenue l i n e d w i t h elms, shocked t h a t anyone cou l d p o s s i b l y read hunger i n h i s blank e x p r e s s i o n , much l e s s i n v i t e him i n f o r warm b i s c u i t s and t e a . The ch i c k e n was p e r f e c t . I served myself three h e l p i n g s of strawberry-rhubarb p i e w h i l e Mrs. Oates stood on a grassy k n o l l s i n g i n g Schubert to Mr. Oates 1 competent accompaniment on a white baby-grand which had been moved, f o r the oc c a s i o n , out onto the lawn. A f t e r my prolonged d e s s e r t , I sat on a marble bench d r i n k i n g h i g h l y i l l e g a l c h i l l e d g i n and watched some of the more prominent 61 members of the Wainwright Rotary d r i v e g o l f b a l l s a cross the f l a w l e s s lawn i n t o Mr. Oates 1 m a g n i f i c e n t stand of white b i r c h e s which were l o c a t e d 150 yards south of the Main House. Such was the g e n e r o s i t y of our host - t h a t he would l e t h i s guests d r i v e g o l f b a l l a f t e r imm- a c u l a t e g o l f b a l l i n t o the deepening summer t w i l i g h t , w i t h no thought of r e t r i e v a l ; whack, whack they went and s a i l e d ( o f t e n three or more at a time) i n t o Mr. Oates' b i r c h e s where they c o u l d be heard knocking a g a i n s t trun k s and limbs and r i p p i n g through the p l u s h carpet of f e r n s . Toward the end of the evening, as the earnest businessmen, teachers and p o l i t i c i a n s b i d t h e i r host "Goodnight."' (on the s h o r t e s t n i g h t of the year no l e s s ) , I found myself a c c e p t i n g a l i f t i n t o town w i t h Mrs. E l e a n o r ( " E l l y " ) P e r k i n s , a widow and the proud owner of a beige 1927 Stearns-Knight r o a d s t e r . We d i s c r e e t l y sipped two f i n g e r s of g i n as the other automobiles moved i n solemn f i l e down the g r a v e l d r i v e toward the highway. Affcer the t a i l l i g h t s of the l a s t guest had winked behind a d i s t a n t hedge and as the murmuring of i t s exhaust faded from our e a r s , we s t a r t e d . Moving o f f i n t o the summer n i g h t , across the f l a w l e s s lawns, I was s u r p r i s e d by a coolness i n the a i r and, 62 removing my h a t , I l a y my arms acr o s s my c h e s t , eased myself down i n t o the red l e a t h e r s e a t , t i p p e d my head back ( t h a t I might view the sky) and set about to enjoy the r i d e - thoroughly. Upon r e a c h i n g the highway, I began to r e a l i z e t h a t I was f e e l i n g . . . o d d ? . . . o u t of s o r t s ? No - not out of s o r t s , f o r I could not r e c a l l h a v i n g f e l t b e t t e r s i n c e Brant Pearson's wedding i n March. C e r t a i n l y odd. The moment of my awareness began to expand and I f e l t myself becoming keenly conscious of each, extreme d i r e c t i o n of the road on which we sped, as w e l l as the c o n t i n u a l rush of the o u t l i n e d overhanging t r e e s ; the wind r o a r i n g i n my e a r s , e n t e r i n g my nose and my s l i g h t l y p a r t e d l i p s ; I became aware of the moonlight behind the b l a c k , overhanging t r e e s ; r e f l e c t e d s t r i p s of moonlight on the chrome appointments of the automobile: the bulbous s i l v e r lamps, the edge of the windscreen, the neat t r i m ; the moonlight g l i t t e r - i n g i n the r i n g s on E l l y P e r k i n s • f i n g e r s , the f i n g e r s which were wrapped l i g h t l y around the rosewood s t e e r i n g wheel...does the moon belong to Mr. Oates? I asked myself, and t h i s road, these t r e e s , these l i q u i d t i r e s f l o a t i n g over t a r and stone s t i l l warm from todays sun and the sun, i s the sun e q u a l l y h i s ? and the l i g h t summer c l o t h i n g I am c l o t h e d i n ? and I remembered the g o l f b a l l s 6 3 s o a r i n g through the dusk, through a net o f sound the c r i c k e t s had thrown up around us; the g i n , the c h i c k e n . . . the s t r a w b e r r y - r h u b a r b p i e ? Am I i n s a n e ? Mrs. P e r k i n s l e t me out beneath a s t r e e t l a m p and asked me i f I were i n t e r e s t e d i n b r i d g e . I t o l d h e r t h a t I was and t h a t we s h o u l d c e r t a i n l y f o l l o w i t up. I thanked h e r and ascended the s p i r a l s t a i r c a s e t o my room. Upon e n t e r i n g , I immediately opened a window: a breeze met my f a c e , a c o o l b r e e z e ; i t was as i f two women, w i t h t h e i r f a c e s i n c h e s away from my own, were b l o w i n g s o f t l y i n t o each one o f my eyes. I c l o s e d them and l e a n e d a g a i n s t the window jamb. What can I do? Not a moment's s l e e p i n f i v e days.' Throughout the mornings and the a f t e r - noons I wander a i m l e s s l y about the town, l o o k i n g i n windows, i n q u i r i n g a f t e r i n v a l i d s , e a t i n g bowl a f t e r bowl o f v a n i l l a i c e cream; towards evening, I s t r o l l down to the l a k e and skim stones a c r o s s the water u n t i l i t g e t s dark. Only t h e n do I walk to my Neo-Gothic r e s i d e n c e s i t u a t e d between two b r o o d i n g elms, stop half-way down the walk, gaze up a t my tower room w i t h i t s t e n casement windows and s i g h : another n i g h t o f i t , 64 the ceaseless winding of my grey V i c t r o l a , hearing the same Sonata over and over again u n t i l I sweat with the e f f o r t of winding and the music r a t t l e s i n my s k u l l l i k e 12 beans i n a glass j a r piano piano piano... Sometime a f t e r midnight, I stop. I hear the sound of the wind coursing through the elms and I f e e l w i t h i n me a nascent suspicion and I get up slowly, d e l i b e r a t e l y and stand before my closet door i n my sweat-damp and sleepless white s u i t coat. Soon I know i t i s there and I am f i l l e d with hope. I f e e l the promise of sleep around me as i f I were being lowered, b l i n d f o l d e d , into a warm bath. I turn the brass doorknob and f e e l i t s o i l e d mechanism give. The scent of cedar envelopes me as I push the door open: i t is_ there...a great horned owl perched peacefully, s e n t i e n t l y , on the i r o n clothes rack. Sobs and laughter clo g my throat at once. I move toward the owl. I reach out and run my hand down i t s feathered back. I t b l i n k s . I l i f t i t gently from i t s perch and carry i t slowly to the open window. I pause. With the owl on my forearm, l i g h t e r than a cat, I lean b o d i l y into midsummer. It b l i n k s . I smell newly mown lawns, sweet and damp, below me i n the darkness. And then, with Mr. Oates' moon large before me and a memory 65* of warm t a r roads s t r e t c h e d l i k e snakes between the h i l l s s t i l l f r e s h i n my mind, I l i f t my extended arm and l e t the cr e a t u r e f a l l ; i t does not f l a p i t s wings, i t o n l y opens them, wide, and upon the wind which courses through the elms, the owl g l i d e s , away, i n t o mid-summer, i n t o the f a r t h e s t reaches of the n i g h t . I f e e l my bones are l e a d . I f e e l myself s l i d i n g down my s p i r a l b a n n i s t e r over and over i s p i r a l down the v a r n i s h e d b a n n i s t e r : I s l e e p . 66 THE GAZEBO Sxwuner seems to have departed, though i t i s August and warm, f o r the odors of the premises, once so r i c h , now seem t h i n and b a r e l y •'summersome*', trapped i n shade, f l o a t i n g upwards from a l e v e l bed of blowers at dusk, f a m i l i a r i n the p e c u l i a r way summer smells can be f a m i l i a r , t r i g g e r i n g words, names and un- r e l a t e d scenes suddenly, as i f by some s e c r e t mechanism only scents posess and not (as many suppose) because the human body i s the i n t e r s e c t i o n of d i v e r s e a s s o c i a t i o n s o r , worse, a w e l l of p r i m a l memories any s t a r t l e d sense may tap or tha t the s u b t l e pageant of the conscious mind i s merely leakage from a darker, more u n s e t t l e d p l a c e ; some human " c e l l a r " wherein a n y t h i n g may l u r k . Not so. Smells act i n s i d i o u s l y and undermine the other senses, spur them on toward more d i s t i n c t awarenesses: a s l i g h t l y o l d corpse beneath the l i l a c bush, t h e r e , not twenty f e e t from where I s i t i n t h i s gazebo smoking o v a l T u r k i s h c i g a r e t t e s , watching the storm clouds gather, ready, a t any moment, f o r the downpour to be g i n , f o r thunder and f o r the l i g h t n i n g to e l e c t r i f y the sm e l l s I am now b r e a t h i n g . My smoke hangs around me f o r a moment and then moves over the r a i l i n g and out 67 on to the lawn where i t reaches the i n e v i t a b l e rose t r e l l i s , or the blue hydrangea and l o s e s whatever s o l i d - a r i t y my lungs have l e n t i t among p e t a l s and stems. I enjoy t h i s . I r e l i s h my c i g a r e t t e and i n h a l e , w i t h the f o r e i g n tobacco, every odor the garden has to o f f e r . Sometimes an u n u s u a l l y sparse odor wafts i n my d i r e c t i o n . Only then, when i t i s f a i n t and i n d e f i n a b l e , am I sad th a t the smoke hassprobably d u l l e d my p a l a t e and my nose: to t h i n k t h a t my odor t h r e s h o l d could be lower. 1 Another passes by, a s m e l l so l i g h t I can o n l y t h i n k : a s m e l l , there i s a s m e l l i n my v i c i n i t y which I can't q u i t e grasp because my equipment i s too cumbersome; I am shotgunning hummingbirds i n s t e a d of p l u c k i n g them i n m i d ^ l i g h t w i t h my thumb and f o r e f i n g e r from the c l o y i n g August a i r . . . But these gossamer scents are p l e a s i n g , i f o n l y i n t h e i r vagueness and I am r e c o n c i l e d to my having had to leave at l e a s t one h a l f (the l i g h t e r h a l f ) of these sensations pass u n r e a l i z e d , unsmelled. What about the body l y i n g underneath the l i l a c bush? I f I were a j o u r n a l i s t , a d e t e c t i v e or of even a m i l d l y c u r i o u s d i s p o s i t i o n , I would care. As i t i s , I don't. I t was here when I a r r i v e d and no doubt s h a l l remain here when I have gone. H i s face ( f o r i t i s a "him") l i e s hidden i n the uncut gr a s s . 68 H i s c l o t h e s are drab ( b l a c k , i f you w i l l ) and remark- a b l y c l e a n . I've been tempted to get up and look through h i s pockets f o r a w a l l e t , a card or f o r some h a s t i l y composed s u i c i d e note f u l l of m i s - s p e l l i n g s and desperate statements concerning God-knows-what s i t u a t i o n f o r which there seemed to be no s o l u t i o n . Or j u s t boredom. He seems to have been a p o l i t e person. Perhaps there i s a b u l l e t hole i n h i s forehead? Who knows? The house, or p r o p e r l y speaking, the mansion to which t h i s gazebo belongs has f a l l e n , i n r e c e n t y e a r s , i n t o a ramshackle a f f a i r unsafe to en t e r , save f o r the h a l l and the f r o n t room, but which i s s t i l l p l easant to l o o k a t . Prom my bench, I can see the k i t c h e n door and the corner of an o u t b u i l d i n g reputed to have once been "servants q u a r t e r s " but which had been used, a f t e r the war, as a "guest house". Long ago, I spent my summers t h e r e . I was one among V i v i e n ' s many guests. We drank, and when we weren't d r i n k i n g , swam and when we were unable to swim, we ate or s l e p t . I spent the e n t i r e summer dazed by a l c o h o l , sun and1, perhaps most of a l l , by V i v i e n h e r s e l f . Since then, I have made a l i t t l e money (enough to a f f o r d T u r k i s h smokes now and then) and have f o r g o t t e n most of the b r i l l i a n t schemes which, d u r i n g those few b l i n d i n g summers, 69 my f r i e n d s and I hatched on n o t h i n g more than a few d r i n k s , s m i l e s and otherwise not knowing what to do w i t h o u r s e l v e s . Now I t a l k to myself more than to others and bathe r e g u l a r l y i n a tub which r e s t s on l i o n ' s f e e t . Since V i v i e n ' s uncle d i e d , the house has remained unoccupied and, by v i r t u e of h i s not having p a i d taxes on the p r o p e r t y f o r 26 yea r s , u n s o l d . No one c o u l d a f f o r d the t a x e s , even i f the house, the lan d and the pool could be had f o r a song. Por a w h i l e , i t seemed as i f i t were d e s t i n e d to become a r e s t home, but another b u i l d i n g was ere c t e d (there b e i n g grants and donations a v a i l a b l e ) i n i t s stead. So i t had f a l l e n apart and had become the l o c a l haunted house. Only a f t e r a l l the windows had been broken and the molded p l a s t e r c e i l i n g s had f a l l e n down d i d any of the townspeople t h i n k to q u e s t i o n V i v i e n ' s u n c l e ' s s a n i t y and, by e x t e n s i o n , V i v i e n h e r s e l f . I t was now a house i n which only those w i t h t o r t u r e d minds could have l i v e d ; by the l o o k s of i t , i t was the only c o n c l u s i o n which c o u l d be drawn. V i v i e n had l i v e d t h e r e , but o n l y i n the summer. No one had taken t h a t i n t o ' c o n s i d e r a t i o n ; i n f a c t , i t made i t worse. People would spend a great d e a l of time wondering where she spent her w i n t e r s . Who would have guessed t h a t she 70 spent them i n a s m a l l c i t y not more than a hundred m i l e s away.. .working.' They would see her on o c c a s i o n w a l k i n g about the vacant grounds. "Poor V i v i e n , " they s a i d . The body does s m e l l some. Not u n l i k e l i l a c , rosewater and a dash of the compost heap I'm c e r t a i n i s n ' t f a r o f f . The sky i s darkening and p a i n t p e e l s from the r a i l i n g and the f l o o r of the gazebo. I hear thunder d i s t a n t and ominous. Any time now V i v i e n should a r r i v e and some of the m y s t e r i e s ( a t l e a s t one) s h a l l be s o l v e d . I must admit t h a t I'm j u s t a b i t c u r i o u s . Do the l a s t odors of h i s conscious l i f e s t i l l l i n g e r i n h i s n o s t r i l s and do the f l i e s , t h a t even now i n v e s t i g a t e h i s e a r s , f i n d him at a l l a t t r a c t i v e , as r i c h as a s l a b of steak l e f t i n the garbage f o r the dogs? a j a r of s p i l l e d honey? Is he an important man? The f i r s t l a r g e r a i n d r o p s i n t e r r u p t my s p e c u l a t i o n : I l i g h t another c i g a r e t t e and t u g at the c u f f s of my s h i r t and, i n the midst of a b u i l d i n g summer storm, i n the wooden gazebo, e i g h t - s i d e d and w h i t e , I wait f o r V i v i e n . The a i r around me i s e x c i t e d by the l i g h t n i n g f l a s h i n g almost overhead, the breezes s t i n k of ozone and the l e a v e s , once s t i l l , b e g i n to s t i r on 71 the l i l a c bush and on the t r e e s ; the green-ness of the lawn grows deeper as the sky darkens; there i s a p a t t e r of drops on the r o o f , on the weed choked f l o w e r s , on the hands of the deadman l y i n g p e a c e f u l l y i n the g r a s s , on the water of the b i r d b a t h , on paper - yes.1 paper.' on the newspaper V i v i e n i s h o l d i n g over her head as she runs across the green l e n g t h of the lawn, her h i g h h e e l s p u n c t u r i n g the s o f t loam as she goes, to where I am s i t t i n g , c e r t a i n , perhaps s m i l i n g , i n the gazebo: V i v i e n has come.' And there i s a pause i n the a f t e r - noon, a s i l e n c e between the c l a p s of thunder. V i v i e n takes a seat d i r e c t l y across from me. We are s m i l i n g at one another, unable to say h e l l o , a f r a i d perhaps and shy; but, above a l l , we know, d e s p i t e the changes and the years which s t r e t c h between us. I t o s s my spent b u t t i n t o the g r a s s . The smoke i s gone and I b e g i n to wonder what e f f e c t has her s e e i n g the d e c r e p i t mansion had upon her, the former s i t e of what co u l d o n l y be c a l l e d r e v e l s , the rooms of her youth? Is she sad? I doubt i t . Once these lawns and these t r e e s framed moments only she could have n u r t u r e d ; o n l y she could be h e l d r e s p o n s i b l e , not the moon, not summer; not even the f l o w e r s themselves whose odors astound and t i t i l a t e 72 our inmost imaginings. Nor do I suppose V i v i e n c ould f a l l prey to the s e n t i m e n t a l n o t i o n t h a t these odors, the r o s e , the l i l y , the macabre l i l a c c o u ld have been more powerful or more s u b t l e than they are r i g h t now, at t h i s v e r y moment. I must bri d g e the y e a r s . We are amused, pleased and a s t o n i s h e d . At what? That we are s t i l l able to suspend o u r s e l v e s i n a d e l i c i o u s p h y s i c a l s i l e n c e which n e i t h e r of us can break but which we both r e l i s h and prolong? Sharpened senses? I imagine the years p a s s i n g i n an i n s t a n t , the grass becomes b r i t t l e and brown, f l o w e r s w i l t and r e l e a s e the dry scents of decay, a l l of the leaves descend at once i n a sudden r u s h , the sky r o i l s w i t h b r i e f p r e p a r a t o r y storms, thunder and l i g h t n i n g ; the a i r becomes c o l d , as i n a vacuum; snow descends and covers us w i t h r a k i s h d r i f t s , the elms groan, crack and c o n t r a c t w i t h the f r e e z i n g temperatures, sheets of l i g h t n i n g f l a s h a g a i n s t a sky f u l l of magnified w i n t e r s t a r s ; we hear the sound of the p o o l f r e e z i n g , a sound l i k e squeezed cork; snow- f l a k e s c l i n g to our eyelashes, our breaths are v i s i b l e and then the sun comes out ;;and pours f i r e on the scene, the snow recedes, we s i t i n puddles of melted snow, the t r e e s grow l i m b e r , buds appear; l a r k s , bats and r o b i n s f i l l the a i r ; green seeps back i n t o each blade 7 3 of g r a s s , each stem; f l o w e r s explode before our eyes as summer r e t u r n s and as we s i t , the c y c l e repeats i t s e l f f o r as many seasons as we have been a p a r t . Throughout i t a l l , we are not faze d . S l i m shoots of i v y d a r t out from under my f i n g e r n a i l s and climb up my arms. V i v i e n i s coy. She w a i t s . Seven w i n t e r s come and go i n as many minutes, seven s p r i n g s . . . " s o what i f we are o l d , " V i v i e n seems to be s a y i n g , "so what i f we are o l d : can i t r e a l l y make a d i f f e r e n c e ? has a n y t h i n g r e a l l y changed? I suppose much has changed, but has an y t h i n g been l o s t ? " and I r e l e n t , g r a t e f u l f o r the ye a r s , the impenetrable moments which have been f l e e i n g before our very eyes and though time i t s e l f , i n i t s s o r d i d " d a i l y n e s s " , seems profane, the product of time i s sacred; the crows f e e t around our dimming eyes, the muscles t h a t no lon g e r t w i t c h w i t h the d e s i r e to move. I t occurs to me t h a t t h i s gazebo set i n t h i s overgrown garden i s a s h r i n e and we have come here to pay homage to the days and n i g h t s t h a t have s l i p p e d by l i k e a dotted l i n e whose o r i g i n s and end are im p o s s i b l e to reckon; i t occurs t o me f u r t h e r t h a t t h i s meeting has l e n t a f u l l n e s s to the past, a completion we had been, each of us, seeking. Dusk i s f a l l i n g . V i v i e n winds her 7 4 s a b l e , w i t h i t s b l a c k w e a s e l - l i k e eyes, c l o s e r t o her neck, as i f to say, "You are r i g h t . But I can't a p p r e c i a t e only the s w i f t n e s s of the years and ignore the events, the monuments which f i l l them; I have been w a l k i n g u p h i l l these seven y e a r s , f e i g n i n g i n d i f f - erence and s m i l i n g b e n i g n l y on love and my h e i r l o o m s i l v e r a l i k e . And a l l t h i s w h i l e the h y s t e r i a was mounting. I am not the cause of i t , though I can not be too sad, the years pass and w i t h $he y e a r s , those who people them. I am not the cause of t h a t . " V i v i e n ' s eyes and the g l a s s eyes of her sable meet mine as I watch her. Her e x p r e s s i o n i s one of acceptance. I f e e l my consciousness reach out and h o l d her face i n gloved hands. She t u r n s her head and glances over her s h o u l d e r s , t u r n i n g so t h a t the skinny animal wound around her neck s h i f t s j u s t so, t u r n i n g to l o o k f o r a few seconds at the corpse beneath the l i l a c bush - j u s t so, not c o l d l y and not without f o n d n e s s . . . j u s t so and then she t u r n s a g a i n t o l o o k at me, her e x p r e s s i o n remains unchanged. I am not ready to accept what V i v i e n has, f o r I am a l i t t l e c u r i o u s and my c u r i o s i t y i s g a i n i n g before her f e i g n e d i n d i f f e r e n c e . I s t h i s the man? I t h i n k : i s t h i s the man who, i n the l a s t 7 5 summer of my youth, c a r r i e d V i v i e n across the lawn w i t h one high-heeled shoe balanced on her toe w h i l e I stood i n the door of the guest house w i t h the other shoe i n my hand? I s t h i s the man who went away t h a t n i g h t w i t h V i v i e n s l e e p i n g on the backseat of h i s c a r w h i l e he, happy at l a s t , w h i s t l e d "Black Magic" and drove up the mountain road which l e a d t o h i s home? I suspect i t i s . I f e e l V i v i e n wanting to e x p l a i n and I b e g i n to s p e c u l a t e on the chrome p l a t e d .25 c a l . Browning automatic i n her purse and her phone c a l l l a s t n i g h t w i s h i n g to meet me here, at the gazebo, a f t e r a l l these y e a r s . I remember her dashing through the r a i n to meet me o n l y moments ago w i t h a newspaper h e l d over her head. Perhaps she came to me f o r h e l p , I thought. Could V i v i e n have i t i n her to do t h i s ? Could she have aimed the p i s t o l at the man's head and p u l l e d the t r i g g e r and watched the t i n y r e d spot appear on h i s forehead l i k e a c a s t mark on an I n d i a n and see h i s widened eyes f i l l w i t h d i s b e l i e f ? Could she have done i t ? And as I looked across t o where she sat I thought: i s t h i s the V i v i e n I once knew, the g i r l who sat naked on the d i v i n g board w i t h her l e g s beneath her and her head forward w i t h a c o c k t a i l c herry balanced on her extended tongue? Yes, yes i t i s . V i v i e n c o u l d not have done i t . 7 6 Then I moved. I got up and walked over to her and o f f e r e d her one of my T u r k i s h c i g a r - e t t e s . She accepted i t and I produced my Zippo and saw, f o r an i n s t a n t , i t s flame i n her eyes, i n the eyes of her sable f u r p i e c e . I n the darkness, I r e t u r n e d to my bench, sat down, and, s t r e t c h i n g my l e g s i n f r o n t of me, I made up my mind to ignore the corpse beneath the l i l a c bush and concentrate only on the glowing ash of the c i g a r e t t e which b r i g h t e n e d making a holo around her face when she i n h a l e d . We s a t , f a c i n g each other i n the gazebo, i n u t t e r darkness, amid the odors of a m i l d evening, f o r some minutes, u n t i l the c i g a r e t t e s were out and t h a t ' s the l a s t 1hing I remember. 77 HELEN We were l i v i n g near the r i v e r then. I t was a hot n i g h t and we had, i f not through sheer l a z i n e s s , then i n hopes of f i n d i n g some s m a l l r e l i e f , been s i t t i n g around our shabby k i t c h e n t a b l e d r i n k i n g beer and, between s p u r t s of what seemed then to be f a i r l y d u l l scraps of needless c o n v e r s a t i o n , had been l i s t e n i n g to the i n s e c t s on the porch, the summer i n s e c t s whose bodies made n o i s e s a k i n to the sound of someone e a t i n g bread and beans i n a nearby room; o r , i f not the sound, a k i n to the f e e l of beans and bread as they slammed t h e i r s o f t b l i n d b o d i e s , winged b o d i e s , a g a i n s t the screen door and, o c c a s i o n a l l y , a g a i n s t the y e l l o w i n s e c t - p r o o f l i g h t bulb which I had so c a r e f u l l y screwed i n t o the r u s t y , crumbling socket not more than three weeks ago, l o n g before I'd even begun to r e a l i z e the extent to which they would be a t t r a c t e d to our l i g h t s , from as f a r as the r i v e r w i t h i t s mosquito spawning pools and i n l e t s , and i t s hot, f l a s h i n g marshes. "Troy was s t u p i d . " That's about the time i t s t a r t e d ; our s o - c a l l e d f r u i t f u l d i s c u s s i o n i n which she, the woman I was l i v i n g w i t h , p a t i e n t l y r e a red some t r u t h s and 78 falsehoods concerning, I c o u l d o n l y suppose, our r e l a t i o n s h i p : l i e s we c o u l d , through some process, m u t u a l l y expose and, h o p e f u l l y , p a i n l e s s l y enjoy: i t was too hot to argue. B e s i d e s , we avoided arguments, i n the u s u a l sense of the word, and i n t h e i r p lace r o l l e d ponderous s i l e n c e s , l i k e s t i n k i n g beached whales, between us or i n a l i g h t e r v e i n complained, w i t h reason, of each other's food or of each other's sexual or even m u s i c a l p r e f e r e n c e s . The heat became f a r too i n t e n s e to w i t h s t a n d much l o n g e r . I t would be b e t t e r t o employ i t , to work at i t u n t i l i t became e i t h e r a p o i n t of c o n t e n t i o n between us or an atmosphere from which we might e x t r a c t some p l e a s u r e . Both of us r e c o g n i z e d t h a t t h i s need l u r k e d behind the d i s r e g a r d we had been showing to each other ever s i n c e the sun had gone down, ever s i n c e our l i g h t d i n n e r and even as we s a t , me p e e l i n g the wet l a b e l from my beer b o t t l e , t h i n k i n g of my i d l e n e s s ; and she, s i t t i n g an arms l e n g t h away from me drawing neat diagrams on a ketchup s t a i n e d paper napkin w i t h a b l a c k Magic-Marker. She watched the b l a c k i n k spread i n a f u z z y c i r c l e when the f e l t t i p was l e f t on the napkin too l o n g . She looked up. "The Trojans were dumb." 79 F i n a l l y (having t r i e d d e s p e r a t e l y to c l i n g to my f a v o r i t e image, an image of my own i d l e n e s s : l y i n g on my s o f a i n the f r o n t room, w i t h the white s t u f f i n g p r o t r u d i n g i n p l a c e s a l o n g the s i d e s and arms; having vacant thought, w i s h i n g i t would r a i n ) I gave i n . "How come?" "You know, Helen. Not to mention the horse." She was c a r e f u l : the wooden horse b e i n g an enigma which has always staggered me, as an image, perhaps as a "symbol" and, l a s t l y , as a mere t a c t i c . In a word, c l e v e r . She knew what she was doing. But i t was more than t h a t . I t had something to do w i t h her p e c u l i a r r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h the moon which I , at t u r n s , despised and envied; something to do w i t h her sense of p h y s i c a l i t y which could not be d i s l o c a t e d or p r o j e c t e d , which could not be shaken. Her i n t i m i d a t i n g but welcome presence awakened me on more than one o c c a s i o n . Often, s t r e t c h e d on my t a t t e r e d s o f a of an a f t e r n o o n , I would go through i t a g a i n and a g a i n : the i m a g i n a t i v e t e c h n i c i a n , an I o n i a n w i t h the beginnings of a v a s t , S o c r a t i c beard and a speech defect;? the t e n t i n which the heroes s a t , A c h i l l e s among them, and h e l d c o u n c i l , 80 solemnly at f i r s t and then, as the wine gained i t s i n e v i t a b l e v i c t o r y over s o l e m n i t y , g i d d i l y . A f t e r an hours time, the heroes, h a v i n g become n e a r l y h y s t e r i c a l w i t h the a b s u r d i t y of the p l a n , s l a p p i n g t h e i r knees and l i f t i n g t h e i r l e a t h e r n s k i r t s obscenely, decided t h a t , a f t e r a l l , why not? At which p o i n t one of the younger of them stood up and came dangerously near to s p i l l i n g h i s cup of wine on A c h i l l e s ' t u n i c before he managed t o b l u r t out, "Of courseJ Why d i d n ' t I t h i n k of that.' and the o t h e r s , though i n h i g h s p i r i t s , took h i s joke r a t h e r c o l d l y and set about q u e s t i o n i n g the I o n i a n on some of the p r a c t i c a l d e t a i l s of the scheme; he had i t a l l f i g u r e d out. Almost immediately such lumber and hardware as were needed were found and brought to the Ionian's t e n t , a place which soon became the s i t e of much a c t i v i t y . One whole s h i p was dismantled f o r i t s oak stays and, f o r expedients sake, a l l those who had f o s t e r e d hopes of r e t u r n i n g to t h e i r homeland i n i t were e i t h e r put to the sword or drowned by t h e i r r e l u c t a n t f o l l o w s . Too bad, I say, but the wood was needed. Those i n v o l v e d i n the a c t u a l c o n s t r u c t i o n worked i n the orange g l a r e of a few t o r c h e s and I c o u l d see them from where I l a y i n my t e n t w i t h a t h i c k sheep- s k i n c l u t c h e d around my shoulders running t h e i r eyes 81 along p a l e boards, f i t t i n g j o i n t s , c o n s u l t i n g w i t h the I o n i a n and h o i s t i n g great cross-members w i t h b r u t e f o r c e ; I could see c h i p s f l y out of the t o r c h l i t c i r c l e and l a n d at the f e e t of f a s c i n a t e d s o l d i e r s ; I c o u l d see the gleam of an adze. That very n i g h t the Greek camp, l i v e s t o c k i n c l u d e d , removed i t s e l f from the T r o j a n p l a i n s and boarded the s h i p s which had been anchored i n the bay, t e t h e r e d to r o t t i n g ropes, f o r y e a r s . The a c t u a l b u i l d i n g of the horse went q u i c k l y enough and i n s i d e s i x hours, j u s t as the f i r s t l i g h t of dawn graced the E a s t e r n sky, o u t l i n i n g the blood b e s p a t t e r e d w a l l s of Troy i t s e l f , i t was f i n i s h e d . And i t was b e a u t i f u l ; not b e a u t i f u l i n the way t h a t s l i m A r a b i a n mares a r e , but a powerful horse w i t h great wooden s l a b s f o r f l a n k s and a proud m a j e s t i c head. I t stood, i n horse jargon, 6 0 hands h i g h , a l l o w i n g f o r a f o o t and a h a l f or so where the horse's massive hooves j o i n e d the s t o u t a x l e s on which the beast would r o l l . F i v e l u c k y h o p l i t e s , myself among them, had been chosen to hide w i t h i n the animals cramped but adequate i n t e r i o r . I n the dust c o l o r e d dawn I embraced my s u p e r i o r s , s l i p p e d out of my s a n d a l s , removed my sword n i c k e d greaves, my l e a t h e r s k i r t and, s t a n d i n g q u i t e naked, (save f o r my t u n i c and my sword) on the f a m i l i a r ground of past b a t t l e s whose 82 f r e n z y I could almost s m e l l , I whispered what could w e l l have been my l a s t prayers to the numerous and much maligned gods; one f o r s i l e n c e , one f o r s t e a l t h and one p a r t i c u l a r l y weak prayer f o r my own s u r v i v a l . I was a f r a i d and y e t , as I remember i t , e l a t e d a t the p r o s - pect of my b e i n g able to count myself among the few who would f i r s t e nter Troy, deceive the stubborn Trojans and perhaps, j u s t perhaps... I was the f i r s t one i n . We entered by means of a door (which, when shut, was a l l but i n - v i s i b l e ; even the I o n i a n could not at f i r s t f i n d i t ) l o c a t e d j u s t behind the a n i m a l l s r i b c a g e . With as much ceremony as I c o u l d muster, I s l i t h e r e d i n t o the horse's b e l l y and made my way back, through v i r t u a l darkness, to my appointed p l a c e j u s t i n s i d e the l e f t r e a r f l a n k . As the others squeezed i n behind me, I sensed a moments p a n i c , f e e l i n g naked l e g s and arms c l o s e to my own naked l e g s and arms; s e n s i n g the attenuated b r e a t h i n g , the ge n e r a l a i r of expectancy and joy mingled w i t h t h a t unmistakable scent of doom; the odor of w a r r i o r s . One of my comrades laughed ( f o r we h o p l i t e s are l i g h t - h e a r t e d f e l l o w s who a p p r e c i a t e n o t h i n g more than a good sense of humor, next to war, wine and women). Our s p i r i t s were eased s l i g h t l y and a few more took the l i b e r t y of making bad jokes which we laughed at anyway, g r a t e f u l f o r the r e l e a s e . The o n l y sound l e f t was the sound of 83 those Greeks who had watched us enter the horse q u i t t i n g the scene;?the t e l l i n g sound of ashen spears being t r a i l e d behind t h e i r contemplative bearers i n the sand, a h i s s i n g noise....and then i t d i e d and we waited, sweat- i n g , i n the darkness. * * # Whispering. I t h i n k I must have dozed, f o r the w h i s p e r i n g of what seemed to be T r o j a n shepherds s t a r t l e d me. They were c i r c l i n g us, whisper- i n g . Soon the i n e v i t a b l e knocks came; one, then another. I f e l t us a l l s t i f f e n a t once. Wait. Wait. Whispering a g a i n . Then s i l e n c e . Thin s t r i p s of s u n l i g h t were now v i s i b l e on the i n s i d e of the horse. I occupied myself w i t h these d i s c r e p a n c i e s f o r q u i t e some time, f o r g i v i n g ( f o r example) the s h i p ' s carpenters because they had to work by t o r c h - l i g h t and subdued t o r c h - l i g h t at t h a t and t a k i n g stock of the f a c t t h a t tae day o u t s i d e seemed to be p l e a s a n t enough. I shuddered at the p o s s i b i l i t y of my meeting my death having not seen the sun r i s e or f e e l i t s warmth on my cheeks or see i t dance on the m i r r o r e d surface of my bronze helmet, my bronze helmet w i t h i t s b r i l l i a n t blue plume. In s h o r t , I was g r a t e f u l f o r what l i t t l e s u n l i g h t t h a t d i d f i n d i t s way i n t o the bowels of my horse, my h i d i n g p l a c e . When i t d i d happen, I wasn't q u i t e prepared. The slow r o c k i n g motion 84 accompanied "by the creak and rumble of the l a r g e wooden wheels s u r p r i s e d me. Was i t p o s s i b l e ? I had heard no human v o i c e s , had smelt no rank team of oxen: we were moving. But to what p l a c e ? Por a l l I knew, we c o u l d have been b e i n g dragged t o the bottom of the sea. Soon i t became apparent t h a t , f o r good or i l l , we were moving s l o w l y toward the gates of Troy. V o i c e s , o u t s i d e , came to us l i k e o i l over water as we drew near. An o f f i c i a l and a s o l d i e r were t a l k i n g . "What the h e l l i s t h i s ? " "A wooden horse. The Greeks l e f t i t . " "When d i d they leave?" "Last n i g h t . " " I don't l i k e i t . I n f a c t , i t s t i n k s . " "Burn i t , s i r ? " I shuddered. I t h i n k we a l l shuddered. I t h i n k we a l l s t r a i n e d the very l i m i t s of p a t r i o t i s m , v a l o r , r e l i g i o s i t y and r a t i o n a l c a p a b i l i t y at the mention of such a h o r r i f y i n g p o s s i b i l i t y . As we sat there n u r s i n g our f e a r (me w i t h a cramp i n my hamstring) a new t e x t u r e wove i t s e l f i n t o the hum of the crowd. Was i t ? I f o r g o t the spasms i n my l e g and l i s t e n e d : i t was the sound of a l i q u i d , female v o i c e . " I t ' s n i c e . " Such a l o v e l y voice.' My heart 85 quickened: c o u l d i t be? " I t h i n k i t ' s n i c e . " There was a pause i n which I imagined a l l eyes t o be t r a i n e d on the source of those few d e l i c i o u s words, those simple testaments of s u p e r n a t u r a l beauty: I was unstrung. " I t ' s p r e t t y . Can I have i t ? " The crowd cheered. They too had been moved by her s t r a i g h t f o r w a r d a p p r a i s a l of the wooden horse. Yes, they seemed to be s h o u t i n g , g i v e her the horse, go ahead, l e t her keep i t , she l o v e s i t , she l o v e s the horse. Something -in her eyes as w e l l as i n her words must have swayed the o f f i c i a l (whoever he was; 7 I thought the worst) and brought him home to the f a c t t h a t t h e r e was no other a l t e r n a t i v e but than t o g i v e her what she had so e l o q u e n t l y expressed a need of having. He spoke. "Of course you may have i t ! " And a great thundering round of c h e e r i n g and applause broke f o r t h and, seemingly, shook the horse i t s e l f , a lthough, I r e a l i z e d , i t was o n l y t h a t we were b e i n g dragged through the gates of the c i t y by the f o r c e of the crowd i n t o a wide s u n l i t c o u r t y a r d which had been, i n b e t t e r days, the market p l a c e of Troy. We were s e t , I suppose, on d i s p l a y . Now everyone j o i n e d 86 i n on the l e i s u r e l y p e r u s a l of the " g i f t " . Our p l a n was working p e r f e c t l y . A l l morning and throughout the a f t e r n o o n we were the s u b j e c t of every c o n v e r s a t i o n , every c h i l d ' s toes and f i n g e r s ; the center of even an i n f o r m a l c e l e b r a t i o n which i n c l u d e d much o r a t o r y and dancing, as w e l l as the sober r e f l e c t i o n upon those Trojans who had o f f e r e d t h e i r l i v e s i n defence of t h e i r c i t y . I heard Hector's name more than once t h a t a f t e r - noon w h i l e sweat streamed down my forehead and stung my eyes and t r i c k l e d down my s i d e s : the Greeks had s t o l e n away i n the n i g h t , there i s n o t h i n g to do but dance and s i n g and reap the joys of freedom; we have a horse, l e f t to us by them and we may even s p i t on i t but we won't because we are so glad.' And they d i d n ' t s p i t , but i t was i n t o l e r a b l y hot; s u r e l y they c o u l d s m e l l us? # * * I couldn't r e s i s t . By a process of c o n t o r t i o n which seemed, f o r the l o n g e s t time, to produce l i t t l e more than cramps and s p l i n t e r s , i managed to t u r n my body, t w i s t my neck i n such a way as to a l l o w my l e f t eye (the good one) t o s q u i n t between the t h i c k boards of the horse's f l a n k . Outside, i n the sun 87 drenched c o u r t y a r d , I found t h a t though everyone s t i l l m aintained an e s p e c i a l l y f e s t i v e mood, they had ceased g a t h e r i n g about us, t o u c h i n g the l e g s , the t a i l (a blonde swath of unwound hemp) and making inane comments about how our d e v i l i s h l y conceived "monument" d i d , indeed, resemble a horse. One o l d T r o j a n d e c l a r e d h a u g h t i l y t h a t " i t was not f o r want of a r t t h a t the Greeks camped i n the shadows of our w a l l s . " H i s companion agreed, though I suspect he missed the p o i n t e n t i r e l y and considered h i s f r i e n d ' s remark t o be merely w i t t y , a remark which at base was unkind, not to say depraved, and made me f l u s h w i t h anger and, I must admit, some embarrassment. But would I see her? As I gazed i n t o the s u n l i g h t , t h r e e thoughts s t r u c k me almost s i m u l t a n e o u s l y : (1) t h a t there c o u l d not be more than 600 persons l e f t a l i v e i n Troy, (2) t h a t they must have drawn t h e i r water from some rank underground stream (the access t o which q u i t e p o s s i b l y b e i n g the c i s t e r n from which c e r t a i n women were withdrawing l a r g e pear- shaped jugs) and (3) t h a t i t would be r i d i c u l o u s to hope t h a t she would appear before me, here, i n the hot c o u r t y a r d , where the women were withdrawing smelly water from a hidden w e l l . S t i l l , I looked w i t h i n t e r e s t at the smooth, white i n t e r i o r w a l l s u r f a c e s , the c h i c k e n s , the rude l i v e s t o c k pens and the o b l i q u e shadows which f e l l 88 across the e n t i r e scene. I thought: she must be i n some h i g h , f r e s c o e d chamber surrounded by a f r i e z e d e p i c t i n g d o l p h i n s l e a p i n g g r a c e f u l l y out of the blue waters of the Mediterranean; having her arms annointed w i t h these E a s t e r n o i l s whose scents r e v e a l unfathomed s k i e s ; h a v i n g water run down her spine t o where i t must form a s h i v e r i n g pool i n the s m a l l of her back; she must be s l e e p i n g i n some breezy recess of t h i s stubborn desert m e t r o p o l i s . The a f t e r n o o n drew on. * * * Two s o l d i e r s approached the horse. Both, by t h e i r t a l k , seemed convinced something was amiss. They spoke i n muted, earnest tones and c i r c l e d us as the shepherds had. I remembered myself as a c h i l d r u nning between s t a t e l y marble columns, i n the l i g h t e s t of togas, l o o k i n g f o r the p e r f e c t h i d i n g p l a c e . . . a bush, near the steps of the Temple of A p o l l o , where I squatted, h a r d l y d a r i n g to breathe, knowing t h a t they must come. I hear them, I hear t h e i r bare f e e t on the wide marble f l o o r s of A p o l l o ' s Temple; they come nearer and nearer u n t i l I must h o l d my breath i n order to hear t h e i r s and a l l I can t h i n k i s : I have to p i s s , I have to p i s s . . . 89 I have to p i s s . They might f i n d me. * * * I t was dark. The s t i p s of s u n l i g h t i n the horse's f l a n k had w i t h e r e d l o n g ago. One of my companions l e t h i m s e l f down through the s e c r e t door and hung, upside down, between the horse's l e g s to get a look around. He found h i m s e l f s t a r i n g (upside cbwn as he was) face to face w i t h a drunken T r o j a n . He laughed weakly and stumbled o f f i n t o the darkness. Once the coast was c l e a r , my companion l e t h i m s e l f down and dashed, as o n l y a H o p l i t e can, toward the gates where, we hoped, the e n t i r e Greek army was w a i t i n g . They were. They s l i p p e d i n , i n s i d i o u s l y , and took p o s i t i o n . I climbed out of the horse and, i n h a l i n g a gulp of f r e s h a i r , I gazed i n t o one of the c l e a r e s t n i g h t s I had ever beheld; i t was the s o r t of n i g h t one welcomed i n A s i a Minor, l i m p i d and s t i l l ; a p e r f e c t n i g h t on which to launch a deadly s u r p r i s e a t t a c k . The drunken man l u r c h e d i n t o the c o u r t y a r d f o l l o w e d by a s o l d i e r . "See? They're a l l around us.'" We k i l l e d them both. Then, at f i r s t s t e a l t h i l y , we moved, at l a s t , on Troy: we r a n through rooms i m p a l i n g unlucky somnambulists on our 90 spears, hacked at s l e e p i n g f l e s h , threw v i r g i n s out of h i g h windows, k i c k e d i n the chests of a n c i e n t whimp- e r i n g men as i f they were w i c k e r baskets; we s t a r t e d f i r e s , overturned c a r t s of melons, t o r e apart d o c i l e pets w i t h our bare hands, r u i n e d every work of a r t i n s i g h t , s l i t the t h r o a t s of goats and cowering o f f i c i a l s , we murdered, maimed, raped and l o o t e d ; a l l t h i s to the screams and w a i l s of roused s t r i c k e n Trojans whose p l i g h t appeared no l e s s p i t i f u l than, t h a t of the t e r r o r - i z e d chickens which r a n , everywhere, f l a p p i n g u s e l e s s wings, t r y i n g d e s p e r a t e l y to f l y , to r i s e up above the h e l l i s h scene, above the c i t y t h a t was once s a f e t y i t s e l f to hero, k i n g and beggar a l i k e ; white c h i c k e n s , the b l o o d s t a i n e d gowns of s l e e p e r s running i n c i r c l e s , b e l l o w i n g oxen, h y s t e r i c a l sheep; soon the bodies were heaped everywhere among the shadows, beneath the s t a r l i t heavens, amid p a i n f u l graans and s u p p l i c a t i o n s . . . I was r u n n i n g down a l o n g h a l l w i l l f u l l y d e c a p i t a t i n g both the l i v i n g aad the dead, s t r i k i n g out at e v e r y t h i n g , s t i l l or i n motion; a n y t h i n g i n my way as I moved through carnage and waste, s l i p p i n g i n the pools of blood on the p o l i s h e d f l o o r s , w i t h one d e s i r e foremost i n my mind: to c a t c h even the most f l e e t i n g glance of one person, j u s t one glance... * * * 91 She stood before me, naked. I c l o s e d my eyes, opened them and gazed. She had (demurely i t seems) removed a l l of her c l o t h i n g and stood before me: p a s s i v e , yet c o n f i d e n t t h a t I would f e e l the f u l l f o r c e of her exposure; I c o u l d see i t i n her eyes. Her c l o t h e s l a y i n a heap on the k i t c h e n f l o o r and above the p e r s i s t e n t hum of the r e f r i g e r a t o r I c o u l d hear moths f l o p p i n g w e a r i l y a g a i n s t the screen, a g a i n s t the y e l l o w i n s e c t - p r o o f l i g h t b u l b . The l a b e l was o n l y p a r t i a l l y peeled; the r e s t of i t l a y i n a neat p i l e (much as her c l o t h e s d i d - o n l y i n m i n i a t u r e ) on my shabby k i t c h e n t a b l e . Then she spoke. I knew she was going to b r i n g i t up. She had t o . We both had t o . " I f i t wasn't f o r Dr. H e i n r i c h Schliemann..." "Yes?" " I f i t hadn't been f o r Dr. H e i n r i c h Schliemann, I wouldn't be s t a n d i n g here before you l i k e t h i s . " "No?" "No." "What about Homer?" "You've never read Homer." She was r i g h t , I hadn't. And even i f I had, r i g h t now, at t h i s moment, i t would have made 9 2 but l i t t l e d i f f e r e n c e . I had been caught and I would have to admit t h a t her move had been executed w i t h . . . p e r f e c t i o n . Years l a t e r , I would remember i t , c a l m l y i n s e r t my i v o r y bookmark i n t o a page (any page) of my t a t t e r e d paperback Homer and dream a w h i l e : i t had been done w i t h p e r f e c t i o n and I had acted c h i l d i s h l y , but i t worked out; i n the end, we repayed the moths, the l i g h t b u l b and the r i v e r . She was going to speak a g a i n ; the i n s e c t s and the a p p l i a n c e s wove t h e i r d e l i c a t e back- ground n o i s e s . "Are you aroused?" "Yes." But I waited. I s a t . I took a l o n g p u l l from my s t i l l c h i l l y beer. Over h a l f of the b u b b l i n g , e f f e r v e s c e n t beer remained. I was aroused. " I am..." "The Woman-With-Whom-I-Am-Living." "Yes." And she s m i l e d and I smiled and I i n s e r t e d my thumb i n t o the neck of the beer b o t t l e and shook i t v i g o r o u s l y u n t i l the b o t t l e n e a r l y b u r s t , aimed i t at her and by l i f t i n g my thumb ever so s l i g h t l y sent a l t h i c k stream of beer foam i n a g r a c e f u l a r c from where I was s i t t i n g to t h a t area of her chest j u s t above her 93 b r e a s t s and had the supreme pleasure of watching i t cascade, f o r the b r i e f e s t of moments, down over her b r e a s t s and her stomach before I got up and r a n , w i l d w i t h j o y , through the screendoor, through clouds o f d i z z y i n g p h o t o t a c t i c i n s e c t s , onto the lawn, i n t o the heat of summer and down, down a g e n t l e slope to where the r i v e r flowed, complacently, through the h o t t e s t August n i g h t I have ever had the pleasure of remembering. I had intended to l e a p , f u l l y c l o t h e d , i n t o the r i v e r , but the approach was d i f f i c u l t . Rather than leap from the height of s i x f e e t i n t o murky sha l l o w water, I chose to run down an o l d cowpath f o r what seemed to be the r i g h t amount of time before e n t e r i n g the r i v e r i t s e l f . I must have misjudged i t , f o r when I d i d t u r n toward the r i v e r , my steps became s l u g g i s h and n o i s y . Then i t was too l a t e . Even w h i l e I was t r y i n g to r e c a l l e x a c t l y where I had made my mistake, I was up t o my knees i n t h i c k r i v e r ooze. I saw her, a pale s p r i n t i n g form, on the cowpath I had f o l l o w e d . "Hey."' She stopped. Not more than t h i r t y f e e t away. "Watch out. There's muck. Quicksand." " B u l l s h i t . " 94 "Honest. I'm up to my t h i g h s i n i t . " "You s t u c k ? " "Yup." "Well get out then." "Can't." "Try." "Can't." "I'm not going out t h e r e . " "Please?" But I wasn't w o r r i e d . I had ceased s i n k i n g and now probably r e s t e d on a l o g or , b e t t e r , the sunken s p i n a l column of a l o n g s i n c e drowned cow. I couldn't move much. " Y o u ' l l have to s t a y t h e r e . " "No." "Have t o . " "Get a board or something." toward me. i t y o u r s e l f . " "Help." I watched her wade through the ooze "This i s as f a r as I am going. Do 95 I t o l d her how my ending up i n the muck had been by ac c i d e n t and c e r t a i n l y not be design and I t o l d her t h a t I had only wanted to e n t i c e her i n t o the r i v e r . That's a l l . Only the r i v e r , not the muck. Ea s i n g myself o f f my f o o t h o l d , I paddled through the ooze. V i r u l e n t r i v e r mosquitos swarmed around my head, got i n my nose, ears and my eyes. When I reached her I was able to stand and we pushed on to the cowpath c u r s i n g and s l a p p i n g o u r s e l v e s s e n s e l e s s . She was b i t t e n . I was covered w i t h l e e c h e s . We walked up the cowpath and up the grassy slope toward the y e l l o w p o r c h l i g h t of our house. Once back i n the k i t c h e n , I stood by the door covered w i t h b l a c k r i v e r s l i m e . I switched o f f the l i g h t . The i n s e c t s d i s p e r s e d . * * * We burned the leeches o f f w i t h smouldering match heads. We l a y on the bed and wished f o r breezes. They came and our s k i n grew c o o l . The r i v e r flowed, I suppose, complacently throughout our s l e e p . L a t e r on, much l a t e r on, i t r a i n e d . We may have heard thunder. 96 THE MUSIC BOX : ELSA E l s a sat i n s i d e the camp i n v e s t i g a t i n g (as would any nosey s t r a n g e r ) the contents of a cabin e t she had r i f l e d every summer f o r the l a s t s i x y e a r s , w i t h the same r e l i s h and w i t h the same genuine s u r p r i s e : hooks, s i n k e r s , tubes of g l u e , twine, s t e e l punches i n a cedar box and, i n e v i t a b l y , a calendar which c o n s i s t e d of one month, J u l y . I n the square w i t h a 10 and a b l a c k crecent moon, between the s l i m horns, someone had s c r i b b l e d ENO'S 213 EGGS. That, of course, was years ago when ENO'S was a mere c l e a r i n g on the s i d e of the road where a lame attendant s h u f f l e d back and f o r t h between the pump, a produce stand and the ramshackle b u i l d i n g w i t h Post O f f i c e s t e n c i l l e d on the window. ENO'S vegetables were h i s own and p a r t i a l l y because of t h a t f a c t and the thousands of people from the c i t y who t r i c k l e d down the road i n every s o r t of v e h i c l e , they were dear. E l s a knew t h i s . She a l s o knew t h a t ENO h i m s e l f was dead and had been so f o r the l a s t s i x y e a r s , s i n c e the f i r s t summer she had come to swim i n the l a k e . ENO d i e d and the dust no l o n g e r r o s e , f o r they had paved the road. Why, E l s a thought as she sat ga z i n g out the window toward the beach, do they s i t i n the sun f o r e i g h t hours, g l a z e d w i t h sweat, when they could as 97 e a s i l y s i t , more comfortably, i n a c o o l p l a c e s u f f u s e d w i t h the s m e l l of hot cedar and mint which aproned the steep slope l e a d i n g to the road? Once the a f t e r n o o n began to deepen and the water, the rocks and the b i r c h e s began to grow more d i s t i n c t , w i t h shadows p a r t i c u l a r and a c c u r a t e , you could swim out to the r a f t , stand up, and see your shadow s t r e t c h a hundred f e e t across the water; t h a t i s the time to swim, when the f i s h jumped, when! a l l the odors which had l i n g e r e d a few inches • above the ground, under mint and i v y , began to r i s e and i n f o r m the evening shade; t h a t i s the time to swim thought E l s a as she l a y i n the wicker c h a i r t u r n i n g over plums and a r r a n g i n g l o n g s p i k e s on the t a b l e beside her: t h a t i s the time to swim, not now. Now the sun was too hot and the white caps, r e a c h i n g up from the g l a s s y troughs, are not o n l y white but touched by the perpen- d i c u l a r sun; bronzed. Now i s when the g r a v e l at the water's edge i s o n l y g r a v e l and the c o l o r e d stones beneath a f o o t of water are only c o l o r e d stones. Nothing very i n t e r e s t i n g , o n l y e a r l y a f t e r n o o n and what the others c a l l a " p e r f e c t " day. Plums are good, w i t h i n s i d e s t h a t look and f e e l l i k e the i n s i d e of your cheek, o n l y darker. How o l d were these f l i e s ? Had even one l a s t e d f o r a month or more? Weightless carcasses 98 l i t t e r e d the w i n d o w s i l l on which E l s a leaned when she l e f t the w i c k e r c h a i r . They, l i k e so many other t h i n g s , simply appeared or disappeared. She had never seen one d i e . Joseph d i d n ' t l i k e them. Probably they were too dry and would s t i c k i n h i s t e e t h the way popcorn stuck to E l s a ' s t e e t h , those brown t r a n s l u c e n t cups which j u s t cover the molars and get stuck beneath the gums. Perhaps f l i e s ' wings are the same, f o r Joseph. E l s a leaned c l o s e r to the windowpane, so her b r e a t h marked i t , and saw, bepond the steps of the s l i g h t 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 c l o s e and as the people from the c i t y disappeared, E l s a l a y awake watching, through her screen, the l i g h t s from across the l a k e w h i l e her Uncle p u t t e r e d i n the k i t c h e n , no doubt l o o k i n g f o r a can of beer. E l s a wondered then. Even t h e i r s l e e p i n g seemed l a b o r i o u s , w i t h c o n t i n u a l s n o r i n g and the wretched creak of the bedsprings and the unending t r i p s to the bathroom which, she thought, they somehow couldn't manage without f i r s t g e t t i n g i n t o a complete n o c t u r n a l wardrobe: s l i p p e r s , bathrobe, and a f l a s h l i g h t to f r i g h t e n o f f racoons. Once t h e r e , f o r one had to go o u t s i d e to reach the t o i l e t , they coughed and drank water f o r f i v e minutes; then the screendoor slammed and the abrupt shadows of the f l a s h - l i g h t d a r ted on the c e i l i n g as they made t h e i r way through 99 the camp and i n t o the bedroom. Then they would t a l k . "Were they out t h e r e ? " "Got the s p a r e r i b s . " "Already?" "Only saw t h e i r eyes under the t r u c k . " "Good n i g h t . " "A skunk, I t h i n k . " "Hmmm." "Poor Joseph." "Joseph!" "Too bad." "Oh yes. Joseph. Good n i g h t . " Joseph had been t o r n apart by racoons. The garbage hadn't been touched, so i t was decided t h a t Joseph d i e d b r a v e l y , e x e r c i s i n g at l o n g l a s t h i s t e r r i t o r i a l i m p e r a t i v e . Poor Joseph met h i s end, i n other words, p r o t e c t i n g l e f t over s p a r e r i b s . " L l o y d ? " "Hmmm." "Poor Joseph." "Hmmm. I t ' s a damn shame." "He was a good c a t . " " I t ' s a damn shame." But on th a t n i g h t , as the Tournament was drawing to a c l o s e , there was no c o n v e r s a t i o n , o n l y 100 movement, s e l f - c o n s c i o u s movement "because the r a c k e t of the "bed was n e i t h e r l o u d , nor r e g u l a r . At f i r s t i t seemed t h a t L l o y d was g e t t i n g i n t o bed, and i f i t was, he couldn't f i n d a comfortable p o s i t i o n f o r some twenty minutes and then there was the b r e a t h i n g when the bed stopped. E l s a l i s t e n e d and watched the l i g h t s on the f a r o f f shore t w i n k l e much i n the same way as the l a r g e r s t a r s abovelthem. E l s a experienced a strange s e n s a t i o n , l y i n g there w i t h the screen, the s l i g h t wind, the s t a r s and l i g h t s ; i t was t h e i r secrecy which was e x c i t i n g , not so much t h a t they, perhaps, were e x c i t e d . Even now, drenched i n the a f t e r n o o n , opening cans of beer; t h a t seemed to be l o s t . They took l o n g p u l l s at the moist cans. L l o y d p o i n t e d to a s m a l l s a i l b o a t halfway out i n the bay, and her Aunt sat down h e a v i l y i n the c o l l - a p s i b l e beach c h a i r t h i n k i n g about the day when both of them had gone f i s h i n g out beyond the rocks of Sunset i I s l a n d . L l o y d had caught three bass which E l s a wouldn't eat. She l i k e d pumpkin seed, o r blue g i l l s or s u n f i s h . . . whatever they were c a l l e d , f o r everyone c a l l e d them something d i f f e r e n t . E l s a l i k e d any y e l l o w f i s h t h a t l i v e d among the c l e a n rocks i n the shallow waters of the bay. Or summer squash or pears o r . . . The w i n d o w s i l l was hard on E l s a ' s elbows. She crushed one of the f l y c a r c a s s e s , they were b r i t t l e 101 and made the same sound as her h a i r d i d t h a t n i g h t when Mr. Eno's son ( h i m s e l f a man, who could t h i n k about such t h i n g s as s e l l i n g an e n t i r e s t o r e ) a c c i d e n t a l l y - burned her h a i r w i t h h i s c i g a r e t t e . The crushed f l i e s sounded j u s t the same. He was t h a t c l o s e and E l s a panicked, though she couldn't make a sound, and f e l t r e l i e v e d when a b i t of her h a i r was singed by h i s c i g - a r e t t e , as he backed o f f a l i t t l e and began a p o l o g i z i n g , even more so when i t looked as i f she were going to c r y . That changed e v e r y t h i n g . She f e l t a t l e a s t as awkward as he d i d and was r e l i e v e d (though, a g a i n , she couldn't show i t , any more through her e x p r e s s i o n than by words she couldn't speak) t o f i n d another person who could b l u s h as deeply as she. At another time, when he had d e l i v e r e d g r o c e r i e s , he asked her why she wasn't out e n j o y i n g the sun and she s a i d something smart l i k e , 'I'm a f r a i d I ' l l melt," he o n l y laughed and t o l d her she was a tease and she couldn't understand i t . I t wasn't l o n g a f t e r t h a t when Mr. Eno's son again came by w i t h g r o c e r i e s and, before he even put them down s a i d something l i k e 'Melt i n the mouth, but not i n the hand' and tossed her a package of M & M candies. E l s a caught them and threw them back as hard as she co u l d f o r she r e a l l y was mad but she d i d n ' t connect. The bag s p l i t open on the corner of the t a b l e and the candies s c a t t e r e d a l l over. Mr. Eno's son only laughed and 102 walked out and E l s a spent about h a l f an hour on her knees p i c k i n g up M & M's; they were everywhere. As she crushed some more f l i e s E l s a wondered i f she r e a l l y was a tease or whether, as L l o y d put i t , men l i k e Mr. Eno's son couldn't r e a l l y understand her and m i s i n t e r - p r e t e d e v e r y t h i n g . He was h e l p f u l l i k e t h a t and d i d knderstand t h i n g s even though her aunt was a f t e r him f o r days to carve a marker f o r poor Joseph's grave and when he f i n a l l y s a i d ( a f t e r s a y i n g , "We'll see, w e ' l l see" u n t i l i t n e a r l y drove her mad), "Joseph's l u c k y he got a grave, never mind a f u c k i n g marker." she almost h i t him. They both r a n down t o the beach and argued f o r about an hour. That was the week the Tournament was drawing to a c l o s e . L l o y d d i d under- stand t h i n g s and a f t e r E l s a t o l d him about Mr. Eno's son, he t o l d her not to worry. He s o l d the s t o r e anyway and moved i n t o town. Now there i s a b i g g e r ENO'S r i g h t o f f the new t r a f f i c c i r c l e . Even when they pavedthe o l d road, i t d i d n ' t h e l p ; no one used i t any more. Cars from the c i t y wheeled i n on the new highway, c i r c l e d down the e x i t ramp and stopped r i g h t across from a s i g n t h a t read, ENO'S Gas and Vegetables Turn L e f t . So he wouldn't be around any more and E l s a wouldn't miss him, though;! i t was n i c e to have someone come around now and then w h i l e her aunt and L l o y d were on the beach d r i n k i n g beer. Which, E l s a wondered, i s 103 more c l e a n : a f l y or a dog's mouth; i f f l i e s are as f i l t h y as they say, then a dog's must be c l e a n e r . Her mouth, she concluded, must l i e somewhere i n between; s c i s s o r s cut paper, rock breaks the s c i s s o r s . Now I l a y me down to sleep and hope i t ' s time f o r dinner soon. E l s a f l o p p e d down i n t o the wi c k e r c h a i r and l o o k - ed at the t a b l e beside her. Outside on the beach her Uncle was wading s l o w l y out i n t o the water f o r h i s f i n a l a f t e r n o o n swim. The r e s i s t a n c e of the water made h i s passage l a b o r e d , h i s t h i c k l e g s pushing, h i s wide stomach plowing through the water l i k e an over- loaded f e r r y . He turned and waved to h i s w i f e before d i v i n g i n t o the warm, green water. E l s a would swim a f t e r d i n n e r ; t h a t was the time to swim she thought, a f t e r e a t i n g any y e l l o w f i s h t h a t l i v e d among the c l e a n rocks i n the shallow waters of the Bay or pumpkin seed, or b l u e g i l l s or s u n f i s h or summer squash or pears or...plums are good, w i t h t h e i r i n s i d e s l i k e the i n s i d e s of your cheek. E l s a p i c k e d up one of the l o n g s p i k e s from the t a b l e beside her and pushed i t s l o w l y i n t o the plum, u n t i l a few beads of j u i c e squeezed through and s t a i n e d her white s h o r t s .

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