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Leftover turkey Finlay, Michael 1972-04-07

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\ LEFTOVER TURKEY _ Michael Finlay B.A., University of B.C., 1970 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, 1972 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by his representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of CREATIVE WRITING The University of British Columbia Vancouver 8, Canada - ii -ABSTRACT If the turkey in the title of this thesis is the author, then what is left of him - for the time being, at least - is this work* the meat closest to the bone, bits of literary flesh which this somewhat carnivorous society failed to strip away. I offer it now for consumption and become a new animal. This thesis is divided into three units: poetry, translation and short story. The first section comprises a selection of earlier poems and the beginnings of a book tentatively titled Somewhere  East. From random impressions in the early work, a more solid poetic analysis develops around the nation of Quebec. The central theme here is one of struggle. Unit two is a selection from four books by the French poet Guillevic, rendered here in English translation. From early work in Terraque (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 19^2) and Executoire (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 19^8) to more recent poems in Carnac (Paris, Editions Gallimard, 1961) and Avec (Paris, Editions Gallimard, 1966), Guillevic's view - iii -remains simple and sympathetic, his poems the voice of one allied with the natural but oppressed by the reality of his social condition. The third unit contains three short fictions in prose which experiment with the fantasy which may be our own particular reality. These are lies about other "turkeys", about the tensions, silences and violence which drive them towards rebellion before they have nothing left at all. iv -TABLE OF CONTENTS Poetry i SOMEWHERE EAST 2 RIEL 5 LAKESHORE 6 OLD MONTREAL 10 CITADELLE 12 ABOVE QUEBEC 14 HARBOR 15 BATTLEFIELD 16 1837 17 ILLNESSES 20 DISAPPEARENCE 21 RAIN 22 ASPIRATIONS 23 SHELTER 24 NEWSCAST 25 WINTERS 26 LESSON 27 GUN METAL 28 REVOLUTIONARY FRIENDS 29 STRANGULATION 31 WOMAN IN BED 32 CREDENCE 33 GRANDFATHER 4 PICNIC 5 WE ARE ALL VICTIMS 36 STANDARDS 37 DIARY 8 NIGHT 9 WHAT YOU MAKE IT 40 HACKLES 42 THE STUDIO 3 STATUE 5 A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION 46 ADVERSARIES 47 OX-CARTS IN THE MORNING 48 AFTER EFFECTS 49 IN CAPTIVITY 50 Translation From TERRAQUE by Guillevic WINTER « . MONSTERS If some day . . . But to die . . . CARNAC 51 52 53 54 55 56 - vi -FLAYED OX 57 THINGS 8 Walls without trumpets ... 59 He often walked ... 60 The bird he beseeched ... 61 To live is to learn ... 2 They have no need ... 63 From EXECUTOIRE by Guillevic 64 Noon is the stranger ... 5 When he had looked closely ... 66 Yet when it was clear ... 67 Speaking to the doll .-..<?.•' 68 SONG .69 SONG 70 We go, as best we can .... 71 If it were not impossible ... 72 Yet if they immediately ... 73 Where is the wound ... 74 Which of us . . . ' 75 From CARNAC by Guillevic 76 At least you know ... 7 Since your overture 78 What do you say of this blue ... 79 - vii, -Will we never play ... 80 Sometimes it seems to me . . . 81 When you appear to sleep ... 82 Your father ... 83 All the landscapes ... 8k Without body ... 85 An entire arithmetic .... 86 If it is true ... 87 From AVEC by Guillevic 88' LEAD 89 AT LAST 90 RECIPE 1 A BOX 2 SEPULCHRES 93 ENQUIRY NO. 9 9k If I had to speak of you ... 95 Learn the wall ... 96 DEAD TITMOUSE 97 CHERRY TREE 8 COPPER 99 It is almost calm ... 100 Short Stories.,, 101 - viii -THE CAFE 102 THE EIGHTH LEVEL 109 THE GLASS CONFESSIONS 11POETRY - 2 -SOMEWHERE EAST Somewhere east of Ste. Therese, The bus warms like an animal Chased across plains Where only ice grows. Eyes surround, glare Like the memory Of a muzzle flash And the breath Of every passenger Heaves slowly, Waves trying to scale Something When there is no beach. One by one, Pages of politics Turn in my hands. (Limousines roll Through the streets Of Sarajevo). Closing on the border, None can say who will cross - 3 -And when there is no crossing, There is the best frontier Or none at all. (A new-chancellor Is proclaimed). Three soldiers From the Van Doos, Two nuns, Acadians still moving, They have reasons: The nuns to shop In Montreal; The gunmen to work In the back yards Of ministers; The Acadians To push on. (Something moves Across the Yalu). The language makes me fear I will be discovered. Behind their eyes Is the knowledge. Of this road, That town (Not Cairo, not Saigon, Not yet) And behind the smile Of that young boy Is the voice, The word fired From the tip Of one fingerJ "Anglais." Somewhere off this road, The Laurentians grow stronger. Somewhere beyond the rain, Railways and junctions That history books shall learn. Somewhere west of Ste. Therese, Another Reichstagtburns iri my hands. - 5 -RIEL When ice melted, And leaves scattered And earth "broke open, Sun and wind and sapling Stood trial for high treason. They whispereds Every coffin can be a scabbard. - 6 -LAKESHORE On a day like this, The lake is a restless. Spoonful of ocean. Waiting for the sky, It rolls over itself To test this shoreline As it must be testing others; And when it decides to move, Waves of foam and wet .noise Will evidence a madness, The shorelines themselves Reasons. Stones will roll Dead to the sand and the wind Will wrestle with beach grass. The sky will clear its throat. Another time, you might know That shivering here is better Than your animal pacing. See, the trees of the forest Also tremble, say: This is a day for the worms and us. - 7 -The lake,, you could learn from it, How it approaches now a little closer But never scratches The smooth face of the sand And how it will draw back . To allow the beach its whiteness too, The whiteness of broken shells And bones, not yours. Perhaps, if you could meet it half-way, Where land.lies nowhere but below, You would understand. But now, the sky makes up in black. The wind digs in beyond the trees And this becomes a battlefield, Where gulls are as silent as sandflies And the last day-stain is sponged From the air too soon. One by one The swells; rumble, cobra-curled, From the centre and crash. The sky, Shotgunned, opens itself at last. Yes, there is violence here, But this rain, at least, is familiar - 8 -With clouds, this storm will only Rearrange. When it is done, The wakes of the birds will pass Over the same sandbars And water-bugs will build targets Once again for the fish. It should be the same with us. The rain, now, has travelled to the forest. In the distance, crickets no longer scream And soil runs over rocks and weeds. The branches of the elms applaud. I can return now and listen Once more to your fearst That now those rocks will riase Their heads above the calm; That now the line where the sky Is sewn to the sea will unravel; That now your heat will be seized. It is warm here, yes, and the lake Is cold. But if it did not move, It would burn like the dead When they decompose. Listens - 9 -For if you forget you eyes, Wind and water and stone May sound like fire. The roof, Like the panic of a thousand feet. - 10-OLD MONTREAL Old men with dogs inhabit this park, Walking, one leashed to the other, Until it is time to stop. They have not grown old, these men, But shrunk into age. They will remember for you (If they can, if you ask) Fight wars,.drink wine, Go hungry for you. They will exhume their wives, Recall toothless children Whom they led, like dogs Through this park. They will walk backwards Into the dead end. North of here, Wolves are shot from aeroplanes Because they are wolves. Between snow and sun There is only cold And sounds that move too slowly - 11 -For animals to hear. In the city, here, in streets, In cellars, the children of old men Are growing. They remember. They have stopped suckling And their mouths are full of blood. They know: The wolves run south; The city fills with wounded animals. - 12 -CITADELLE Quebec Above the instep Of the cliff Black swabs Absorb another century And the grocer Legrand Watches one-eyed A wind from the west Push clouds east. A dull sunrise. The sky descends Like a dying hand Toward the cobblestones. Legrand, the grocer, Watches. Clouds reflect Across his half-eye. - 13 -Buildings and memories here Are stone And the difference Between heaven and cement Is the difference Between greys. An eyelid falls slowly. Legrand imagines' Beyond the walls That clouds are still Nuages, That the sky does not Wear boots. - 14-ABOVE QUEBEC Two centuries of stone walls Have kept the edges of the wound Cauterized. Inside, Someone rebuilds a church And a woman down the road Has been dying since December. - 15 -HARBOR A ship slips past the gunwatch. Steam whistles groan. The Earth sinks Below a plimsol line of sun. For the steel crocodile, The pier is a bird Daydreaming at night. The handhold of the sky Stretches And looks like smoke. Caught between the moving edge And land, Water panics And washes up debriss Us. - 16 -BATTLEFIELD Quebec Beneath you, The roots of the tree are searching For buried dead. The earth is soft as carrion. Through eyes and ribs Tentacles twist Into colder ground. From branches, A slow confetti falls. 1837 Up here, the- wind has learned To turn on its toes, For we are heading west now And freezing, slowly, Like bits of political thought. Decembers the season hangs In crystals from our beards, Winter forests from which we breathe Explosions without heat. The things we stole, boots And muskets and food, Are as heavy now as the memory Of St. Denis. Listen to our marchings We move in time with animals, Not armies. We are a company Of wolves, waiting for the deer To attack. A few more miles And the barricades will rise again, This time a few miles north And west of Montreal, At St. Eustasche. - 18 -Wetherall, Colborne or Gore, Which one approaches beyond the wood, Which butcher leads his army of dogs? Through an open church window, A spotlight sun pretends to warm While arguments splash from bottles In the street. Paquin, The sellout priest, is under arrest And villagers are packing up. Around the fire, Viger remembers St. Charles for us, How we fought in the forest Like the weasel and the bear. But today we are not animals And shall stand. The sun descends Like music settling On orchestra chairs. We are three hundred men. Morning, and something crackles Like bacon frying. It has begun. Across the river, across the hard snow, We attack Globenski's volunteers, Running like stampeded horses - 19 -Into the crossfire, scattering Like ants when the first man falls.-Colborne, the governor himself, Has moved in behind, his army More then two miles long. Thousands of sun-tipped bayonets Laugh as we fall back to the church. We are three hundred no more. I remember the crash of canons That shattered our fortress, Splintered our hopes, And how the village shrank in flames And the smoke, like a fog from hell, That made our eyes bleed. I remember Chenier*s window-leap, His final dance on a red bayonet. I remember smelling the farms burn All the way back to Montreal. And I smell it even now, as I wait For you, for others, in this Another century. - 20 -ILLNESSES When plague "broke out "before, We ignored it And it passed Like a gull over water. But the sun climbed Over the mountains And kept on moving. When the blitzkrieg heat Rumbled across our sand, We swam for days In a school of sweat-water fish. Then, on the first breeze, You hitched a ride And I was a dolphin Heading inland. - 21 -DISAPEARENCE Beyond the window, A bulldozer sat like a toad On rubble from which no dust rose. It left its tongue outstretched And waited. It answers no questions. - 22 -RAIN The elm passes the wind To the maple. Leaves drop Like colored sweat. The sky chokes. Rain. ASPIRATIONS Her mouth has become The line of a draughtsman And bends only When her prayers get out of hand. The ears of the crucifix listen. At confession, Her head droops like melting candy Toward the absence of her sins. There are no shadows in that corner. And when she runs, She hoists her skirts abovefher knees And leaps puddles wider than those That force you and me To stop and build bridges. - 24 -SHELTER A cold wind Turns the sky blue. Waves get no chance To leave the sea But freeze trying. Now the wind will learn To turn corners And I am already colder Than a wrong number at ni - 25 -NEWSCAST Between bodies and headlines, Between stupor and death, Is the space that allows me To pilot my toilet Just over the trees Or flip my deodorant On automatic-fire Or alert the squadrons With a doorbell. Because I read the papers While puffing villages In my pipe, It doesn't mean I am immune To execution. - 26 -.WINTERS All the water-birds Ply from the lake. One more, snowfall And it will be my time. You forgets Your edges also freeze. - 27 -LESSON It's colder now Than when I started writing. If my feet rest On the frost-carpet I cannot feel it And if my face Is any more now Than two eyes, Black coals, I cannot tell. The walls alone Give me time And they are The last things left to burn. Against it all I am able to list All the ways of saying I am dying. - 28 -GUN METAL This steel is blue, Cold and waiting For the heat of one finger. My notebooks are nerves. I wish wounds. The thought is cocked And resting on my knee. - 29 -REVOLUTIONARY FRIENDS Yess You are correct. Cobra, with your eyes in front Reflecting nuclear light, Blinding, Blinded, And your spectacles in back, Your hindsight Greater than Your fore. Magician, with your words Tied together Like the handkerchiefs of a clown And your right-hand photograph Distracting From your left-hand dagger. Priest, with your poster-saints And music of chants-- 30 -And the crackling of wind On banners sounding So much like So much gunfire. And I would borrow your buttons And paint your signs And feed your magazines, Magic, holy snake -But you are correct And isn't that enough? - 31 -STRANGULATION In the smoke-space between two sleeps When night and day square off Like ends of an argument: In a station full of hats And news And the smell of steel on steel» In a neck-deep ocean Of churning salt And eyes: You see it And sleep again, almost. You touch it . And unavoidably escape. You speak it And duck under. While beneath the floorboards It is growing.hands And searching for the, stairs. - 32 -WOMAN IN BED In retreat, the mattress is clever. I lie awake to prove I am more so. The springs are constant echo Of the constant sound I don't want to make. The sheets reveal where I am leaking. The pillow is a contrivance Designed to raise my lowest part. The blankets are hills Containing hills Where wars occur -Apparently with impunity. - 33 -CREDENCE She has trained her memory To fetch imaginary absolutes And drop them at my feet. She believes she is a sermon On the madness that she gave. Soon, She will carve my skull And I will pose, Smiling. - 34 -GRANDFATHER My grandfather was The Depression: Streaked from neck to base With memory loss Of wife-beatings And carpet stains, He reeled against years Until they hooked him Like a fish And poured his drink on swabs And rolled him into One final stupor That forced my grandmother, For reasons of health, To have one beer With every meal. - 35 -PICNIC The present now Is past Or tries to be. We crowd into minutes That should be centuries. Dead tables point At the muzzle overhead. We listen to a drumroll Of heartbeats And I am frightened By the violence Of my yawns. - 36 -WE ARE ALL VICTIMS Alone in this field, My language is suddenly stolen By thieves who live on bookshelves And behind imposing rostrums. My breathing confesses To the cylinders and pistons That operate within And I call it to a halt. Even in my final thrashing My leather becomes those damp ropes That moan on the galleons That television created. The solution lies a moment from now When my body will disguise itself As a lump of animal excrement And decompose. - 37 -STANDARDS If I say I am looking For a fish to make love to It is because you are scaly But not sufficiently. - 38 -DIARY Sky dry as sunburn Threatens to peel. The grass perspires And the dew is salt-White. Tides ebb constantly. Grey, fish strangle far inland. These notes, I file them While time remains. Mark for reference During the passage Of another future. - 39 -NIGHT ' The space between my fingers and darkness Cannot shrink: I have that much control, That little choice. I breathe black, Swallow sounds Concealed by walls, Metallic vomiting And voices of shrapnel. I move only according to myself. Now, through air that cannot be shovelled, To a blacklit place Where dogs and hunters Are treed together. - 40 -WHAT YOU MAKE IT A very educated man Wore his glasses in the night And saw the city naked. He bought the morning paper And read of who had died. He saw eyes bounce off a darkened screen And watched the evening news. Beyond the walls, Mandrakes grow between mossy stones And the grass that bowed Beneath the rabbit's foot Springs up again. A very educated man Lives in an iron lung. He thinks Stravinsky is an Egyptian And says The Rite of Spring Sounds like a song The slaves would sing. - 41 -Behind the walls, He gasps and drools. He takes a breath And whispers Warnings to the world. - 42 -HACKLES The watchman gropes the tower's height And rubs the pantleg of the wind. He closes his eyes Half-way. Still, He hears the tall grass gossip And tastes the rain that falls A continent upwind. - 43 -THE STUDIO ' In here, sounds are cold reptiles Slipping through my hair, A whisper of flames Burning without fuel. Beneath the static Of the tree Leaves I record perfectly Gars in other streets. The wind is monotone. Water stirs Where the moon "bends And silence is only A heavier drones Foghorn over foghorn. In time, My eyes transform the sky _ 44 -Into accoustical tile. Before the jail-break, I will become The hiss of planets passing. - 45 -STATUE I am at that point Where I hear our national anthem Locked inside the amplifiers Of a psychedelic band. I sit in a corner Like congealed dirt That clings to the crook Between toes. I form letters From detached fingernails And destroy them with my breathing. I dislodge floorboards And dig up white bones With bits of broken trees. The anthem plays over and over. I can only raise my eyes And struggle to stand up. - 46 -A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION (for a man chopped in half when he fell into "the hog" at a plywood mill). After twenty-four years in the mill He decides to improvise. After twenty-four years in the mill This is understandable. Even symphonies need some interpretation. - 47 -ADVERSARIES The instant before you speak I picture herds of white-eyed oxen Thrashing in rivers of their own blood And choking as they try To mouth your name. - 48 -OX-CARTS IN THE MORNING The wanderer kneels in the holy sand, Prays, Pays his premium And walks away. He does not know The sand is in his shoe forever. - 49 -AFTER EFFECTS The moment we are finished I would cleanse myself. But the bath is a room Too provocative for morning And the hair from your cold legs Clings to the porcelain walls And makes me retch. - 50 -IN CAPTIVITY The symmetry of my room Is contrived disorder. I employ effeminate couturiers To sculpt the folds In my unmade bed. r Surveyors visit me twice a week To measure the distance Between socks on the floor. I know a man who sells me Used pencils With machine-pressed tooth marks. At night I occupy myself By bending icy book jackets And muttering accusations. From TERRAQUE by Guillevic - 52 -WINTER I will arrive in the evening In a warm room And you You will be there Burning and soft. - 53 -MONSTERS There are some very kind monsters Who sit "by you, eyes closed with tenderness And upon your wrist Place their shaggy paws. Some evening -When all is purple in the universe And the rocks resume their mad trajectories, They will awaken. - 54 -If some day you see a rock smile at you, Will you say so? - 55 -But to die Some evening Could be a great weariness And a confession. - 56 -CARNAC When the black giant Who sleeps among the fossils of the ocean floor Gets up and looks. The stars in the hollow of the sky become cold And go warm themselves side by side. The dead eyes of a hundred thousand dead Fall into the rivers And float. - 57 -FLAYED OX This is meat where blood flowed, Meat where the miraculous Incomprehensible heat of the body-Trembled. There is still something of a gleam In the depths of the eye. You could still caress this flank, You could still place your head there And hum to ward off fear. - 58 -THINGS The cupboard was made of oak And was not open. Maybe corpses would have fallen from it. Maybe bread would have fallen from it. Many corpses. Much bread. - 59 -Walls without trumpets -What shouts You hurl into the room. - What silence And what horror. - 60 -He often walked In rain and wind And when he returned He looked at me In order to find my throat. - 61 -The bird he beseeched Never consented To come to his hand To be his witness. - 62 -To live is to learn To place your hand On a woman's belly. And to know how to hold In your half-open palm A pebble that lay On soil paths. - 63 -from The Rocks They have no need of laughter Or drunkeness. They do not burn Sulfur in the dark. For they have never Been afraid of death., Of fear They have made a guest. And their madness Is clairvoyant. From EXECUTOIRE by Guillevic - 65 -Noon is the stranger That feeds in vain On the expanse of fields And the rage of insects. When the homeland is in cellars With the slime of slugs. - 66 -When he had looked closely at all the monsters And seen that they were all made of the same sto He was able to sit down in a bright room And see space. / - 67 -Yet when it was clear That the city was in flames In the crash of bombs, He dared speak familiarly For the first time To the things that he touched On the table and the walls. - 68 -Speaking to the doll Whose eyes recalled Those he could not find And whose taut arms Had been broken By him, another evening. - 69 -SONG At my father's butcher shop There are turtle doves. There is no other meat. There are turtle doves. There are turtle doves Who have no more to bleed. - 70 -SONG With hemp one makes Cloths and ropes. With hemp one makes The lash of whips. With hands tied One endures the whip. - 71 -from The Charnel Houses We go, as best we can, To separate them. To put each of them In his own hole. Because together, They make too much' silence Against the noise. - 72 -from The Charnel Houses If it were not impossible, Absolutely, You would say it was a woman Gratified by love And who is going to sleep. - 73 -from The Charnel Houses Yet if they immediately became Skeletons, As neat and hard As real skeletons And not this mass One with the mud. - 74 -from The Charnel Houses Where is the wound That answers. Where is the wound In living bodies. Where is the wound -So we can see it. So we can heal it. - 75 -from The Charnel Houses Which of us would lie down Among them. One hour, one hour or two, Just to pay homage. From CARNAC by Guillevic - 77 -At least you know, you, ocean, That it is useless To dream your end. - 78 -Since your overture On the rocks of Por en Dro Toward the open sea and the horizon, I have taken you backwards To the salty marshes Where I don't know if I should cry At having no more of you Than these piles of white salt. - 79 -What do you say of this blue That you become in the atlas? Have you sometimes dreamt Of looking like that? - 80 -Will we never play If only for an hour, If only for a few minutes, Solemn ocean, Without your appearing To be busy elsewhere? - 81 -Sometimes it seems to me That between us there is the confused memory Of shared crimes. Here we are thrown face to face In order to understand. - 82 -When you appear to sleep, Conquered by the sun, Your fatigue pr your thoughts, Then the seagull Shouts harshly for you. - 83 -Your father Silence. Your dutyj Movement. Your denial Fog. Your dreams - 84 -All the landscapes That needed to be seen. And the landscapes Where you never were. And that accused you Of not being there. - 85 -Without body, But dense. Without belly, But soft. Without ears, But speaking loudly. Without skin, But trembling. - 86 -An entire arithmetic Is dead in your waves. - 87 -If it is true That life began in you Is that a reason to treat us Like accomplices? From AVEC by Guillevic - 89 -LEAD Someone who returned From sculpting silence On the outskirts of the night Told me: "I know you, You look like what I have made. - 90 -AT LAST Day gives itself to day, Space to distance. An astonished sun Contemplates its power. - 91 -RECIPE Take a roof of old tiles Shortly after noon. Place quite near A lime tree already tall, Stirred by the wind. Put above them A blue sky washed by white clouds. Leave them. Watch them. - 92 -A BOX It's a copper box, Open, deep and round. Taken in hand, Looked at for a long time. There's a bottom to block-your view. Under your gaze it remains the same. And that disturbs you. If there wasn't a bottom, It's fear then, That rises in this other space Where the hollow leads, Where time falls. - 93 -SEPULCHRES We are gone looking for stones To cover the corpses Isolated in the earth. As if it were nothing For those who are fully alive-And as if being present When the bodies decay In this earth Were reparation. - 9k -ENQUIRY NO. 9 When you see the sky Watching our days Haven't you thought It would have better things to do? - 95 -If I had to speak of you I would imagine cemeteries. - 96 -Learn the wall, Caress the wall, Look for it. - 97 -DEAD TITMOUSE Does someone still speak of you Somewhere among your family? Does someone speak your name? - 98 -CHERRY TREE Here you have become As it was dreamed, Only this whiteness Frightening the horizon, Only the fiancee Prepared for the marriage. Who will take you? Who must come? - 99 -COPPER The longings of the earth Are there in my reflections. My very silence Is only a form of her^vigil. - 100 -It is almost calm: The weather must live Beyond the clouds. SHORT STORIES THE CAFE (A Short Story) - 103 -There's a half-finger still pink when he sees the cafe. Everything else is frozen white. The scarf that had covered his mouth is now stiff and twisted around his neck like a squashed eel. The snow hasn't stopped and it's windy. He still tries to keep the snow from squeezing inside his over flowing boots. He can't hear his boots crunch for the wind. But he sees the cafe. It's a small building with a vertical wooden sign that says* Cafe. There are no gas pumps out front. There isn't even a road. But there are lights inside and smoke curling from the chimney. He keeps walking, lifting his legs high. He's gone far enough that he can turn and not see the trees. He flexes his hands and the glove leather is like an animal hide left in the sun. But cold. He twists his face and feels nothing. He smells the smoke and stamps his feet and opens the door. A bell rings and the warmth is an animal, breathing. He pounds his feet against the wood floor, shakes his head. There are five people inside* a man behind the counter, two truckdrivers - 104 -at a table to the left, a girl sitting at the corner and a man in the corner to the right. He pulls off the gloves and unzips his coat. He walks to the counter and sits two seats from the girl. She's reading a Life magazine that is missing its cover. The truckdrivers are talking about hockey, New York and Boston. The man in the corner is drinking coffee. The man behind the counter walks toward the new customer. "What*11 it be?" He's a big man, balding, with a dirty apron. "What do you serve?" "Coffee." "I mean to eat." "That's it. Coffee. We haven't got anything to eat*" "What do you mean? You must have something." "Nope. We do sometimes. But not now." "Nothing to eat? How can you call this a cafe?" "We got coffee. That's what cafe means. Coffee in French." "I know, but in English, cafe means restaurant, where they serve food." "In English, the word for restaurant is restaurant. - 105 -That's French, too." "Yeah, I know." "So do you want coffee or not?" "Yeah, give me some coffee." The man behind the counter wipes his hands on his apron and walks to the coffee urn. The girl reads the Life magazine. The truckdrivers talk. The man in the corner drinks coffee. The scarf is starting to melt. He puts it on the counter where a puddle forms. The coffee arrives and he takes a sip. "How far is the road from here?" he asks the man behind the counter. "Not far." "How far?" "Down a ways. Keep walking and you'll hit it." He takes another drink from the coffee. It's not very good. He blows his hot breath on his hands. "Cold out, isn't it." The girl doesn't look up from the Life magazine when she speaks. "Yes," he says. "Yes, it is." "Yeah, it usually is." "Do you know how far it is to the road?" he asks. - 106 -"Not very far." She's a pretty girl, but a little unkempt. There's a piece of tree leaf in her hair. "Could I walk it?" "Oh, sure. If you wanted." He takes another drink from the coffee. He feels warmer now. The truckdrivers have switched to football, Los Angeles and Minnesota. The girl turns a page. The man behind the counter stands behind the counter. The one in the corner drinks coffee.. "Do you live around here?" "Yes," says the girl. "Like it?" "No." "This is a strange cafe." "Uh-huh." She's reading the Life magazine editorial. "They don't serve food." "No. " "That's strange, in my opinion." "Uh-huh." "Do you agree with that editorial?" "Probably "Life is pretty right wing." - 10? -"You mean the magazine?" "That's right." He drinks from his coffee. The man behind the counter washes dishes. The truckdrivers argue about baseball. The man in the corner drinks. "I didn't mean that life, day to day living, is right wing." "No, I didn't think you did." "Life isn't political." "You mean day to day living?" "That's right." "I thought that's what you meant." "It's just living. It's not a subjective kind of thing." "Uh-huh." "Do you agree?" "Probably." "It's still snowing out." "Yeah." "Have you read that magazine before?" "Yeah." "Like it?" "No." "This is lousy coffee." "Yeah." - 108 -"Db you want to screw?" "Uh-uh." "Have you noticed something?" "Probably." "It's still snowing out." "Uh-huh." "And everyone in the cafe is in their shirt sleeves." "Yeah." "And there are no coats on the coat rack." "Uh-huh." "Yeah. Could I buy you a coffee." "I guess." "Two more coffees, please." The man behind the counter fills two of the cleans cups with coffee. The truckdrivers argue about lacrosse. The man in the corner drinks coffee. The girl turns a page. THE EIGHTH LEVEL (A Short Story) - 110 -"Hello, Arthur, what a pleasant surprise." At the time of the assassination, Arthur was standing at the hack of the lecture hall, lighting his pipe and looking nonchalantly disgusted. "And furthermore . . ."said the speaker before being slammed against the wall and crumpled to the floor. Arthur dropped his pipe in the scream that followed. Bernard was in the library, on the eighth level, wearing a toga and reading history. "You look terrible, Arthur. Sit down and tell me what has happened." Two plainclothes policemen in the audience rushed immediately to the front, leaned over the body for a moment, then rushed back behind the crowd. One ran to the front again, spoke to a man from the audience and watched the man run to the back. Arthur - Ill -retrieved his pipe from the floor and turned to the exit. A policeman stood, gun drawn. Arthur stayed where he was. Bernard had special privileges: he could send out for meals and was allowed to stay in the library overnight. The keeper gave him these privileges when it became clear to both of them that frequent breaks for such things would inevitably cost Bernard years, possibly centuries, in terms of his reading. Bernard on this day ate pizza because it was a Tuesday or a Friday. Otherwise he would have eaten Chinese food or fried chicken. "A little more slowly, Arthur. I am not used to listening to people talk." More police and several ambulance attendants arrived. Photographers and detectives converged around the body. Arthur lined up at the door to be searched before leaving. "Raise your arms," said a police officer. Arthur was frisked and his two pipes examined. Outside, his picture was taken by police and press photographers. "Did you see it?" - 112 -asked a reporter. "No, I was lighting my pipe," Arthur replied and walked on. "Shocking, Arthur, simply shocking. But I am pleased, just the same, that you turned to me in this time of need. It used to he like that, didn't it, when we were good friends and companions? Before we decided to go our own ways." The national collection, The History of the World, is the pride of the 'town. Conceived by a library director some time ago, the idea met with tumultuous public enthusiasm and popular financial support. Historians, scholars, librarians, researchers, stenographers, recorders, binders, all were hired and set to work on the first volume. When, after considerable time, it was completed, intellectuals and simple tourists came from around the globe to stand in awe of the book.and the massive organization that had produced it. The name of the town found its way immediately onto the pages of academic journals and international encyclopedias. But that was some time ago. Bernard, he enjoyed his privacy. - 113 -Once outside the building, Arthur walked away from the parking lot where he had earlier left his car. He set out on foot for the city, following the sideroads and secluded paths. In the beginning, Bernard could cover a century in a matter of hours, read an entire age in a few months. But as, in his books, the universe slowly moved into history, as knowledge was recorded and sources became more reliable, he was fortunate to read in a day the events of a single week. He learned to read faster. He learned to live without extended rest periods. He concentrated all of his energy into his eyes for reading and one finger for turning pages. Completion of each volume was marked with a scratch on the edge of his reading table, there on the eighth level of the library. "But of course you could not have been responsible, Arthur. Shooting a man down in cold blood is not your style. That is one decision you would not have made. There, you see. Decisions again. You remember that is why I came to the library in the first place. I was - 114 -very logical then. It was reasonable for me to set out, with the weight of all my life's decisions bearing down on me, to educate myself. That way-,, at least, I would become capable of making educated decisions. Whether, to step into the street and be struck down by a car or to stand on the sidewalk in the path of a runaway truck. Such decisions are important." Arthur did not go home that night. He began to live far from street lamps and the moon. He ate in dimly lit restaurants and found no opportunity to bathe or shave. He stole through dark parks to snatch old newspapers from litter pails. In time, and with practice, "Bernard achieved a point in reading speed and'efficiency such that a very minor effort was required to digest vast amounts of material. He took to commenting to the keepenon specific points concerning Java Man or the Hittites. He would make occasional aphoristic remarks, supporting them with the findings of various cultures. As his need to exert himself and concentrate became less, - 115 -Bernard began to amuse himself with his hands as he read. He would send out for materials so that he could carve ships while reading of the Phoenecians or construct a perfect scale model of the Giza pyramid complex while studying the development of Egyptian civilization. Notches soon stretched several times around the huge reading table and Bernard began to mark his chair. Arthur saw his notoriety grow with every edition of the newspaper. One: he had been at the meeting. Two: he had been standing at the back of the hall. Three: he had disappeared. There was also speculation about photographs being matched, known subversives being questioned, the threat of martial law. Arthur ate from garbage cans, emerged only in blackest night, in darkest alleys. He became wary of parked cars and dogs. "No, I'm sorry, Arthur, I don't. I gave up smoking years ago. It isn't allowed in the library. A strange place. When I decided to educate myself, I naturally came here, to this history, the most - 116 -detailed chronicle of mankind. And there is never anywhere to start but at the beginning, is there? All things considered, I think I have made remarkable progress. I have reached the Roman period. Do you like my toga? I made it myself." When the keeper died, Bernard began debating mentally while reading. He composed scholarly papers, complete with footnotes, aloud and without stopping his eyes. With a book in one hand, he carved frescoes on the table with the other. He developed his own style. Lampblack on his face, Arthur slid along the sidewalk, stomach to the cement. He gripped the lowest part of the fire escape and pulled himself up. He began to climb. Bernard made himself a mirror by polishing the door frame. He sat behind the table and read to himself. "Hello, Arthur,.what a pleasant surprise." - 117 -Bernard sat behind the table, tracing the lines of his frescoe with the fingers of one hand. It was a surrealistic portrayal of The Fall. "This is indeed a terrible predicament you have found yourself in, Arthur. But such predicaments are not unusual. Take my own, for instance. I have made such tremendous progress, but, do you know, I have always been dreadfully bored here. You see, there comes a point when you realise that every fool is the same. One's decisions are always as brilliant and as insane as the next fellowf.s. You notice, in this reading, the emergence of cycles, faint identical waves, the gentle rolling of a ship:'s deck under your feet. Like the Roman period. I have read it all before, felt those same ripples. It's just another wave, coming from nowhere, causing nothing. There comes a time when you must stand and be counted with the rest of the fools or die of ennui. Nothing can be changed. Besides, those particular fools upstairs are producing three volumes a day and I can only read two. I am afraid I will never finish the collection, Arthur. There is not enough time. The barbarians are - 118 -at the gates." Bernard left the library that night. In the following weeks, there were many assassinations throughout the country. A certain turmoil reigned for months. It was only gradually, after the death of the assassin, that order was restored. Arthur, in the meantime, was unaware of this. Bernard had told him he would be safe on the eighth level and he stayed, alone there, his only distraction in occasional readings from the national collection. \ THE GLASS .CONFESSIONS (A Short Story) - 120 -I didn't answer, not then. Things had gone badly. The attempt had proved to be nothing more. I was upset. "Why?" Pablo repeated, touching his forehead tentatively. "Oh, shut up. This isn't what was supposed to happen." "So I gathered." It was a bad gun, old and rusty. A souvenir my uncle had lifted from an Italian officer in North Africa. Such weaponry. No wonder the Itlaians had made such a poor showing. Yes, yes, the pistol was also too small to do the job properly, I know that now. Once more I searched the slide and grip for some indication of make, model and calibre. Nothing. If I had known, I could have bought fresh ammunition. But now. . . "Why?" Pablo insisted. "Is it too much to ask?" "I don't know why. Because I had never done it before. Because it would be an experience. Because I would learn something. Now be quiet and let me think." - 121 -The question, actually, was a good one and bothers me even now. But there was no time to think on it then. "Aren't you going to finish the job?" Pablo's voice was a mixture of fear and accusation. "The gun's jammed," I said. Breech too rusty, ammunition too old, I don't know the problem." "You could beat me with it." His voice had frozen. The words,, cold and hard, dropped like ice-cubes from his mouth. "No. That's no good. And it's too late now. I've blown it." I looked up to his face. "How's your head?" "Feels kind of strange. Stings a bit right here." He pointed to the tiny hole in the centre of his forehead, just above the eyes.- But for a barely visible ring of already crusted blood, the wound looked like a tattoo or religious marking. Pablo wrinkled his brow and the hole changed shape for a moment. "What now?" he asked. "I guest it's up to^you. Do you plan to turn me in?" After a long9moment's wait, he replied: "No, not yet. I think we should thrash the whole thing out. - 122 -It was a pretty stupid thing to do, you know." I shrugged. "Let's go for a beer and talk about it," he said. I nodded and we left. It was night and the neon signs of shops and businesses signalled angrily at oneanother. Icicles grew down from the eaves though all else was paralysed by cold. A city silence, the loudest silence, crowded around us. "I wonder about these signs," I said, not really wondering. "They're so ugly." Pablo spoke knowingly. "They're not meant to attract people. For one thing, they flash at night when the shops are closed. Actually, they're designed to frighten us away. We are the people the shop owners don't want to meet." We walked on in silence and I was soon pushing open the heavy door to the beer parlor. My glasses fogged as we entered and I would have sat anywhere, but Pablo spied Arthur, Bernard and Carol across the floor and we moved towards their table. Carol had an accent as evenly rugged as log cabin - 123 -corners. She knew how to witch water and was very flat-chested. I think she was German, but with Jewish hair. "Hello," she said precisely. "Please sit down." At one time, Arthur and Bernard had both been communists but Bernard had recently proclaimed his homosexuality. One night, at this same table, he had told me: "You set me on fire." "Hey, Pablo, what's the matter, somebody spit on your forehead?" Arthur was smiling, slightly drunk. "No, this idiot shot me." Our three companions leaned over and looked closely at the wound. "So he did," said Carol. "So he did." "Hmm, yes, yes, hmm," said Bernard. "Why'd you do that," Arthur asked soberly, but still smiling. I explained briefly but wondered to myself at the same time. In the familiar surroundings of the pub, the episode seemed absurd. Had I lost my mind? If so, was it a temporary or permanent loss? There were many questions. - 124 -"Oh well, no harm done, apparently." Carol spoke as if answering some of my doubts. She ordered more beer. "Do you know what I learned the other day," Bernard said, not at all interrogatively. "The Prime Minister and all the members of the federal cabinet are gay. I knew most of them were but figured there had to be a token straight in there somewhere. But there isn't. I found that out from a guy who has actually been screwed by the Prime Minister." "I know lots of people who have been screwed by the Prime Minister," Arthur replied and we began a long discussion of unemployment. More beer later, Carol asked again for details of the shooting. "I told you before," I said. "Don't you believe me?" "I suppose I do," she said. "But that is not the way to learn. That is not the way to find knowledge." Money began to run low and we emptied our pockets. A button, several keys, a pen, two knives, a comb, a notebook, some worry beads, a condom and a few bits - 125 -of lint soon lay scattered around our shrinking "beers. No money. Arthur suggested that Carol witch some beer for us and we all laughed, all but Pablo who was cautiously wiping his forehead. "I'm leaking," he said. A steady pink and grey discharge was oozing from thte wound and trickling down his face. We leaned over and examined the hole. "I wonder why it's starting just now," said Bernard. "Maybe the beer loosened things up," Arthur suggested. "We must find something to plug the cavity," Carol said and began searching her purse. Pencil points, wadded napkins, hunks of chicken, terrycloth and other articles were considered. Finally, I arrived at the solution. "Another bullet. It would fit perfectly." Everyone agreed and I took the gun from my pocket. After some difficulty, I released the magazine from the1' butt and squeezed out one round. I carefully inserted it into Pablo's head, lead point first. "Perfect," said Bernard. - 126 -Indeed, now Pablo had a rather decorative brass circle in the centre of his forehead. Anyone noticing it might easily assume it to be a new.trinket being offered by a local hippie curio shop. I was pleased. "Does it really look alright?" Pablo asked. "Magnifique,? Arthur insisted. "And no leakage." "It does look rather quaint," Carol agreed. "I should take a look at it," Pablo said. "I'll be back in a minute." As he walked toward the washroom, I had new faith in my sanity. If I had done something stupid in the first place, this bit of brilliance had offset it. I watched Pablo's hand reach for the washroom door handle. But the door swung suddenly toward him, missed his hand and struck his head. A drunken logger emerged from the doorway just as the bullet exploded and Pablo crumpled to the floor. The logger scratched his head. Later, as we walked home, I remarked to Carol that from where we looked the trees seemed higher than the mountains. "Yes," she said. "And perhaps'one day you will know what the birds think of that." 


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