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Leftover turkey 1972

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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 i n the Department •of CREATIVE WRITING We accept t h i s thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA A p r i l , 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 - i i - ABSTRACT I f the turkey i n the t i t l e of th i s thesis i s the author, then what i s l e f t of him - for the time being, at l e a s t - i s th i s work* the meat closest to the bone, b i t s of l i t e r a r y f l e s h which t h i s somewhat carnivorous society f a i l e d to s t r i p away. I o f f e r i t now f o r consumption and become a new animal. This thesis i s divided into three units: poetry, t r a n s l a t i o n and short story. The f i r s t section comprises a se l e c t i o n of e a r l i e r poems and the beginnings of a book tentat i v e l y t i t l e d Somewhere East. From random impressions i n the early work, a more s o l i d poetic analysis develops around the nation of Quebec. The central theme here i s one of struggle. Unit two i s a se l e c t i o n from four books by the French poet G u i l l e v i c , rendered here i n English t r a n s l a t i o n . From early work i n Terraque (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 19^2) and Executoire (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 19^8) to more recent poems i n Carnac (Paris, Editions Gallimard, 1961) and Avec (Paris, Editions Gallimard, 1966), G u i l l e v i c ' s view - i i i - remains simple and sympathetic, his poems the voice of one a l l i e d with the natural but oppressed by the r e a l i t y of his s o c i a l condition. The t h i r d unit contains three short f i c t i o n s i n prose which experiment with the fantasy which may be our own p a r t i c u l a r r e a l i t y . These are l i e s about other "turkeys", about the tensions, silences and violence which drive them towards r e b e l l i o n before they have nothing l e f t at a l l . i v - 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 2 3 SHELTER 24 NEWSCAST 25 WINTERS 26 LESSON 27 GUN METAL 28 REVOLUTIONARY FRIENDS 29 STRANGULATION 31 WOMAN IN BED 32 CREDENCE 33 GRANDFATHER 34 PICNIC 35 WE ARE ALL VICTIMS 36 STANDARDS 37 DIARY 38 NIGHT 39 WHAT YOU MAKE IT 40 HACKLES 42 THE STUDIO 43 STATUE 45 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 - v i - FLAYED OX 57 THINGS 5 8 Walls without trumpets . . . 5 9 He often walked . . . 6 0 The b i r d he beseeched . . . 6 1 To l i v e i s to learn . . . 62 They have no need . . . 6 3 From EXECUTOIRE by G u i l l e v i c 64 Noon i s the stranger . . . 65 When he had looked closely . . . 66 Yet when i t was clear . . . 6 7 Speaking to the d o l l .-..<?.•' 6 8 SONG . 6 9 SONG 70 We go, as best we can . . . . 71 I f i t were not impossible . . . 72 Yet i f they immediately . . . 7 3 Where i s the wound . . . 7 4 Which of us . . . ' 75 From CARNAC by G u i l l e v i c 76 At l e a s t you know . . . 77 Since your overture 78 What do you say of thi s blue . . . 79 - v i i , - Will we never play . . . 80 Sometimes i t seems to me . . . 81 When you appear to sleep . . . 82 Your father . . . 8 3 A l l the landscapes . . . 8k Without body . . . 85 An entire arithmetic . . . . 86 If i t is true . . . 8 7 From AVEC by Guillevic 8 8 ' LEAD 8 9 AT LAST 9 0 RECIPE 9 1 A BOX 9 2 SEPULCHRES 9 3 ENQUIRY NO. 9 9k If I had to speak of you . . . 9 5 Learn the wall . . . 9 6 DEAD TITMOUSE 9 7 CHERRY TREE 9 8 COPPER 9 9 It is almost calm . . . 1 0 0 Short Stories.,, 1 0 1 - v i i i - THE CAFE 102 THE EIGHTH LEVEL 109 THE GLASS CONFESSIONS 119 POETRY - 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 pol i t i c s Turn in my hands. (Limousines r o l l Through the streets Of Sarajevo). Closing on the border, None can say who w i l l cross - 3 - And when there i s no crossing, There i s the best f r o n t i e r Or none at a l l . (A new-chancellor Is proclaimed). Three soldiers From the Van Doos, Two nuns, Acadians s t i l l 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 w i l l be discovered. Behind t h e i r eyes Is the knowledge. Of th i s road, That town (Not Cairo, not Saigon, Not yet) And behind the smile Of that young boy Is the voice, The word f i r e d From the t i p Of one fing e r J "Anglais." Somewhere o f f th i s road, The Laurentians grow stronger. Somewhere beyond the r a i n , Railways and junctions That history books s h a l l 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 t r i a l f o r high treason. They whispereds Every c o f f i n can be a scabbard. - 6 - LAKESHORE On a day l i k e t h i s , The lake i s a restless. Spoonful of ocean. Waiting for the sky, It r o l l s over i t s e l f To test this shoreline As i t must be test i n g others; And when i t decides to move, Waves of foam and wet .noise W i l l evidence a madness, The shorelines themselves Reasons. Stones w i l l r o l l Dead to the sand and the wind W i l l wrestle with beach grass. The sky w i l l clear i t s throat. Another time, you might know That shivering here i s better Than your animal pacing. See, the trees of the forest Also tremble, say: This i s a day f o r the worms and us. - 7 - The lake,, you could learn from i t , How i t approaches now a l i t t l e closer But never scratches The smooth face of the sand And how i t w i l l draw back . To allow the beach i t s whiteness too, The whiteness of broken s h e l l s And bones, not yours. Perhaps, i f you could meet i t half-way, Where l a n d . l i e s nowhere but below, You would understand. But now, the sky makes up i n black. The wind digs i n beyond the trees And t h i s becomes a b a t t l e f i e l d , Where g u l l s are as s i l e n t as sandflies And the l a s t day-stain i s sponged From the a i r too soon. One by one The swells; rumble, cobra-curled, From the centre and crash. The sky, Shotgunned, opens i t s e l f at l a s t . Yes, there i s violence here, But t h i s r a i n , at l e a s t , i s f a m i l i a r - 8 - With clouds, t h i s storm w i l l only Rearrange. When i t i s done, The wakes of the birds w i l l pass Over the same sandbars And water-bugs w i l l b uild targets Once again for the f i s h . I t should be the same with us. The r a i n , now, has t r a v e l l e d to the f o r e s t . In the distance, crickets no longer scream And s o i l runs over rocks and weeds. The branches of the elms applaud. I can return now and l i s t e n Once more to your fears t That now those rocks w i l l r i a s e Their heads above the calm; That now the l i n e where the sky Is sewn to the sea w i l l unravel; That now your heat w i l l be seized. I t i s warm here, yes, and the lake Is cold. But i f i t did not move, I t would burn l i k e the dead When they decompose. Listens - 9 - For i f you forget you eyes, Wind and water and stone May sound l i k e f i r e . The roof, Like the panic of a thousand feet. - 10- OLD MONTREAL Old men with dogs inhabit t h i s park, Walking, one leashed to the other, U n t i l i t i s time to stop. They have not grown old, these men, But shrunk into age. They w i l l remember f o r you (If they can, i f you ask) Fight wars,.drink wine, Go hungry f o r you. They w i l l exhume t h e i r wives, Recall toothless children Whom they led, l i k e dogs Through t h i s park. They w i l l walk backwards Into the dead end. North of here, Wolves are shot from aeroplanes Because they are wolves. Between snow and sun There i s only cold And sounds that move too slowly - 11 - For animals to hear. In the c i t y , here, i n streets, In c e l l a r s , the children of old men Are growing. They remember. They have stopped suckling And t h e i r mouths are f u l l of blood. They know: The wolves run south; The c i t y f i l l s with wounded animals. - 12 - CITADELLE Quebec Above the instep Of the c l i f f Black swabs Absorb another century And the grocer Legrand Watches one-eyed A wind from the west Push clouds east. A d u l l sunrise. The sky descends Like a dying hand Toward the cobblestones. Legrand, the grocer, Watches. Clouds r e f l e c t 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 f a l l s slowly. Legrand imagines' Beyond the walls That clouds are s t i l l 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 s l i p s past the gunwatch. Steam whistles groan. The Earth sinks Below a plimsol l i n e of sun. For the s t e e l crocodile, The p i e r i s a b i r d Daydreaming at night. The handhold of the sky Stretches And looks l i k e 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 i s soft as carrion. Through eyes and ribs Tentacles twist Into colder ground. From branches, A slow confetti f a l l s . 1837 Up here, the- wind has learned To turn on i t s toes, For we are heading west now And freezing, slowly, Like b i t s of p o l i t i c a l thought. Decembers the season hangs In c r y s t a l s from our beards, Winter forests from which we breathe Explosions without heat. The things we sto l e , boots And muskets and food, Are as heavy now as the memory Of St. Denis. L i s t e n to our marchings We move i n time with animals, Not armies. We are a company Of wolves, waiting f o r the deer To attack. A few more miles And the barricades w i l l r i s e 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 s e l l o u t p r i e s t , i s under arrest And v i l l a g e r s are packing up. Around the f i r e , Viger remembers St. Charles f o r us, How we fought i n the forest Like the weasel and the bear. But today we are not animals And s h a l l stand. The sun descends Like music s e t t l i n g On orchestra chairs. We are three hundred men. Morning, and something crackles Like bacon f r y i n g . I t has begun. Across the r i v e r , across the hard snow, We attack Globenski's volunteers, Running l i k e stampeded horses - 19 - Into the c r o s s f i r e , scattering Like ants when the f i r s t man falls.- Colborne, the governor himself, Has moved i n behind, his army More then two miles long. Thousands of sun-tipped bayonets Laugh as we f a l l back to the church. We are three hundred no more. I remember the crash of canons That shattered our f o r t r e s s , Splintered our hopes, And how the v i l l a g e shrank i n flames And the smoke, l i k e a fog from h e l l , That made our eyes bleed. I remember Chenier*s window-leap, His f i n a l dance on a red bayonet. I remember smelling the farms burn A l l the way back to Montreal. And I smell i t even now, as I wait For you, f o r others, i n t h i s Another century. - 20 - ILLNESSES When plague "broke out "before, We ignored i t And i t passed Like a g u l l over water. But the sun climbed Over the mountains And kept on moving. When the b l i t z k r i e g heat Rumbled across our sand, We swam for days In a school of sweat-water f i s h . Then, on the f i r s t breeze, You hitched a ride And I was a dolphin Heading inland. - 21 - DISAPEARENCE Beyond the window, A bulldozer sat l i k e a toad On rubble from which no dust rose. I t l e f t i t s tongue outstretched And waited. I t 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 l i n e of a draughtsman And bends only When her prayers get out of hand. The ears of the c r u c i f i x l i s t e n . At confession, Her head droops l i k e melting candy Toward the absence of her sins. There are no shadows i n that corner. And when she runs, She hoists her s k i r t s abovefher knees And leaps puddles wider than those That force you and me To stop and b u i l d bridges. - 24 - SHELTER A cold wind Turns the sky blue. Waves get no chance To leave the sea But freeze t r y i n g . Now the wind w i l l learn To turn corners And I am already colder Than a wrong number at n i - 25 - NEWSCAST Between bodies and headlines, Between stupor and death, Is the space that allows me To p i l o t my t o i l e t Just over the trees Or f l i p my deodorant On automatic-fire Or a l e r t the squadrons With a doorbell. Because I read the papers While puffing v i l l a g e s In my pipe, I t doesn't mean I am immune To execution. - 26 - .WINTERS A l l the water-birds Ply from the lake. One more, snowfall And i t w i l l 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 i t And i f my face Is any more now Than two eyes, Black coals, I cannot t e l l . The walls alone Give me time And they are The last things l e f t to burn. Against i t a l l I am able to l i s t A l l the ways of saying I am dying. - 28 - GUN METAL This s t e e l i s blue, Cold and waiting For the heat of one finger. My notebooks are nerves. I wish wounds. The thought i s cocked And r e s t i n g on my knee. - 29 - REVOLUTIONARY FRIENDS Yess You are correct. Cobra, with your eyes i n front Reflecting nuclear l i g h t , Blinding, Blinded, And your spectacles i n back, Your hindsight Greater than Your fore. Magician, with your words Tied together Like the handkerchiefs of a clown And your right-hand photograph Di s t r a c t i n g From your left-hand dagger. P r i e s t , with your poster-saints And music of chants- - 30 - And the crackling of wind On banners sounding So much l i k e 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 i s n ' 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 f u l l of hats And news And the smell of steel on steel» In a neck-deep ocean Of churning salt And eyes: You see i t And sleep again, almost. You touch i t . And unavoidably escape. You speak i t And duck under. While beneath the floorboards It i s growing.hands And searching for the, stairs. - 32 - WOMAN IN BED In retreat, the mattress i s clever. I l i e 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 pil l o w i s a contrivance Designed to ra i s e my lowest part. The blankets are h i l l s Containing h i l l s 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 i s a sermon On the madness that she gave. Soon, She w i l l carve my s k u l l And I w i l l 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 U n t i l they hooked him Like a f i s h And poured his drink on swabs And r o l l e d him into One f i n a l stupor That forced my grandmother, For reasons of health, To have one beer With every meal. - 35 - PICNIC The present now Is past Or t r i e s to be. We crowd into minutes That should be centuries. Dead tables point At the muzzle overhead. We l i s t e n to a drumroll Of heartbeats And I am frightened By the violence Of my yawns. - 36 - WE ARE ALL VICTIMS Alone i n thi s f i e l d , My language i s suddenly stolen By thieves who l i v e on bookshelves And behind imposing rostrums. My breathing confesses To the cylinders and pistons That operate within And I c a l l i t to a ha l t . Even i n my f i n a l thrashing My leather becomes those damp ropes That moan on the galleons That t e l e v i s i o n created. The solution l i e s a moment from now When my body w i l l disguise i t s e l f As a lump of animal excrement And decompose. - 37 - STANDARDS I f I say I am looking For a f i s h to make love to I t i s because you are scaly But not s u f f i c i e n t l y . - 38 - DIARY Sky dry as sunburn Threatens to peel. The grass perspires And the dew i s salt-White. Tides ebb constantly. Grey, f i s h strangle f a r inland. These notes, I f i l e them While time remains. Mark f o r reference During the passage Of another future. - 39 - NIGHT ' The space between my fingers and darkness Cannot shrink: I have that much control, That l i t t l e choice. I breathe black, Swallow sounds Concealed by walls, M e t a l l i c vomiting And voices of shrapnel. I move only according to myself. Now, through a i r that cannot be shovelled, To a b l a c k l i t 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 i s 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. S t i l l , He hears the t a l l grass gossip And tastes the r a i n that f a l l s 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 st i r s Where the moon "bends And silence is only A heavier drones Foghorn over foghorn. In time, My eyes transform the sky _ 44 - Into accoustical t i l e . Before the jail-break, I w i l l 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 s i t i n a corner Like congealed d i r t That clings to the crook Between toes. I form l e t t e r s From detached f i n g e r n a i l s And destroy them with my breathing. I dislodge floorboards And dig up white bones With b i t s of broken trees. The anthem plays over and over. I can only rai s e my eyes And struggle to stand up. - 46 - A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION (for a man chopped in half when he f e l l into "the hog" at a plywood m i l l ) . After twenty-four years in the m i l l He decides to improvise. After twenty-four years in the mil l This is understandable. Even symphonies need some interpretation. - 47 - ADVERSARIES The instant before you speak I picture herds of white-eyed oxen Thrashing i n r i v e r s of t h e i r own blood And choking as they try To mouth your name. - 48 - OX-CARTS IN THE MORNING The wanderer kneels i n the holy sand, Prays, Pays his premium And walks away. He does not know The sand i s i n 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. - 5 0 - IN CAPTIVITY The symmetry of my room Is contrived disorder. I employ effeminate couturiers To sculpt the folds In my unmade bed. r Surveyors v i s i t me twice a week To measure the distance Between socks on the f l o o r . I know a man who s e l l s me Used pencils With machine-pressed tooth marks. At night I occupy myself By bending i c y book jackets And muttering accusations. From TERRAQUE by G u i l l e v i c - 52 - WINTER I w i l l a r r i v e i n the evening In a warm room And you You w i l l be there Burning and s o f t . - 5 3 - MONSTERS There are some very kind monsters Who s i t "by you, eyes closed with tenderness And upon your wrist Place t h e i r shaggy paws. Some evening - When a l l i s purple i n the universe And the rocks resume t h e i r mad t r a j e c t o r i e s , They w i l l awaken. - 54 - I f some day you see a rock smile at you, W i l l 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 f o s s i l s of the ocean f l o o r Gets up and looks. The stars i n the hollow of the sky become cold And go warm themselves side by side. The dead eyes of a hundred thousand dead F a l l into the r i v e r s And f l o a t . - 57 - FLAYED OX This i s meat where blood flowed, Meat where the miraculous Incomprehensible heat of the body- Trembled. There i s s t i l l something of a gleam In the depths of the eye. You could s t i l l caress t h i s flank, You could s t i l l place your head there And hum to ward o f f fear. - 58 - THINGS The cupboard was made of oak And was not open. Maybe corpses would have f a l l e n from i t . Maybe bread would have f a l l e n from i t . 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 r a i n and wind And when he returned He looked at me In order to f i n d my throat. - 61 - The b i r d he beseeched Never consented To come to his hand To be his witness. - 62 - To l i v e i s to learn To place your hand On a woman's b e l l y . And to know how to hold In your half-open palm A pebble that lay On s o i l paths. - 6 3 - from The Rocks They have no need of laughter Or drunkeness. They do not burn Sulfur i n the dark. For they have never Been a f r a i d of death., Of fear They have made a guest. And t h e i r madness Is clairvoyant. From EXECUTOIRE by G u i l l e v i c - 65 - Noon i s the stranger That feeds i n vain On the expanse of f i e l d s And the rage of insects. When the homeland i s i n c e l l a r s With the slime of slugs. - 66 - When he had looked closely at a l l the monsters And seen that they were a l l made of the same sto He was able to s i t down i n a bright room And see space. / - 67 - Yet when i t was clear That the c i t y was i n flames In the crash of bombs, He dared speak f a m i l i a r l y For the f i r s t time To the things that he touched On the table and the walls. - 68 - Speaking to the d o l l Whose eyes r e c a l l e d Those he could not f i n d And whose taut arms Had been broken By him, another evening. - 69 - S O N G At my father's butcher shop There are t u r t l e doves. There i s no other meat. There are t u r t l e doves. There are t u r t l e 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 t i e d 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. - 7 2 - from The Charnel Houses I f i t were not impossible, Absolutely, You would say i t was a woman G r a t i f i e d by love And who i s going to sleep. - 73 - from The Charnel Houses Yet i f they immediately became Skeletons, As neat and hard As r e a l skeletons And not t h i s mass One with the mud. - 74 - from The Charnel Houses Where i s the wound That answers. Where i s the wound In l i v i n g bodies. Where i s the wound - So we can see i t . So we can heal i t . - 75 - from The Charnel Houses Which of us would l i e down Among them. One hour, one hour or two, Just to pay homage. From CARNAC by G u i l l e v i c - 77 - At l e a s t you know, you, ocean, That i t i s 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 sal t y marshes Where I don't know i f I should cry At having no more of you Than these p i l e s of white s a l t . - 79 - What do you say of t h i s blue That you become i n the atlas? Have you sometimes dreamt Of looking l i k e that? - 80 - W i l l we never play I f only f o r an hour, I f only f o r a few minutes, Solemn ocean, Without your appearing To be busy elsewhere? - 81 - Sometimes i t seems to me That between us there i s 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 f o r you. - 83 - Your father Silence. Your dutyj Movement. Your denial Fog. Your dreams - 84 - A l l 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 b e l l y , But s o f t . Without ears, But speaking loudly. Without skin, But trembling. - 86 - An entire arithmetic Is dead i n your waves. - 87 - I f i t i s true That l i f e began i n you Is that a reason to treat us Like accomplices? From AVEC by G u i l l e v i c - 89 - LEAD Someone who returned From sculpting silence On the outskirts of the night Told me: "I know you, You look l i k e what I have made. - 90 - AT LAST Day gives i t s e l f to day, Space to distance. An astonished sun Contemplates i t s power. - 91 - RECIPE Take a roof of old t i l e s Shortly a f t e r noon. Place quite near A lime tree already t a l l , S t i r r e d 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 i n hand, Looked at f o r a long time. There's a bottom to block-your view. Under your gaze i t remains the same. And that disturbs you. I f there wasn't a bottom, It ' s fear then, That r i s e s i n t h i s other space Where the hollow leads, Where time f a l l s . - 93 - SEPULCHRES We are gone looking f o r stones To cover the corpses Isolated i n the earth. As i f i t were nothing For those who are f u l l y a l i v e - And as i f being present When the bodies decay In t h i s earth Were reparation. - 9k - ENQUIRY NO. 9 When you see the sky Watching our days Haven't you thought I t would have better things to do? - 95 - I f I had to speak of you I would imagine cemeteries. - 9 6 - Learn the wall, Caress the wall, Look f o r i t . - 97 - DEAD TITMOUSE Does someone s t i l l speak of you Somewhere among your family? Does someone speak your name? - 98 - CHERRY TREE Here you have become As i t was dreamed, Only t h i s whiteness Frightening the horizon, Only the fiancee Prepared f o r the marriage. Who w i l l take you? Who must come? - 99 - C O P P E R The longings of the earth Are there i n my r e f l e c t i o n s . My very silence Is only a form of h e r ^ v i g i l . - 100 - I t i s almost calm: The weather must l i v e Beyond the clouds. SHORT STORIES T H E C A F E ( A Short Story) - 103 - There's a h a l f - f i n g e r s t i l l pink when he sees the cafe. Everything else i s frozen white. The scarf that had covered his mouth i s now s t i f f and twisted around his neck l i k e a squashed e e l . The snow hasn't stopped and i t ' s windy. He s t i l l t r i e s to keep the snow from squeezing inside his over- flowing boots. He can't hear his boots crunch f o r the wind. But he sees the cafe. I t ' s a small building with a v e r t i c a l wooden sign that says* Cafe. There are no gas pumps out front. There i s n ' t even a road. But there are l i g h t s inside and smoke cu r l i n g from the chimney. He keeps walking, l i f t i n g his legs high. He's gone f a r enough that he can turn and not see the trees. He flexes his hands and the glove leather i s l i k e an animal hide l e f t i n the sun. But cold. He twists his face and f e e l s nothing. He smells the smoke and stamps his feet and opens the door. A b e l l rings and the warmth i s an animal, breathing. He pounds his feet against the wood f l o o r , shakes his head. There are f i v e people inside* a man behind the counter, two truckdrivers - 104 - at a table to the l e f t , a g i r l s i t t i n g at the corner and a man i n the corner to the r i g h t . He p u l l s o f f the gloves and unzips his coat. He walks to the counter and s i t s two seats from the g i r l . She's reading a L i f e magazine that i s missing i t s cover. The truckdrivers are t a l k i n g about hockey, New York and Boston. The man i n the corner i s drinking coffee. The man behind the counter walks toward the new customer. "What*11 i t be?" He's a big man, balding, with a d i r t y apron. "What do you serve?" "Coffee." "I mean to eat." "That's i t . 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 c a l l t h i s a cafe?" "We got coffee. That's what cafe means. Coffee i n French." "I know, but i n English, cafe means restaurant, where they serve food." "In English, the word fo r restaurant i s 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 g i r l reads the L i f e magazine. The truckdrivers t a l k . The man i n the corner drinks coffee. The scarf i s s t a r t i n g to melt. He puts i t on the counter where a puddle forms. The coffee arrives and he takes a s i p . "How f a r i s the road from here?" he asks the man behind the counter. "Not f a r . " "How f a r ? " "Down a ways. Keep walking and y o u ' l l h i t i t . " He takes another drink from the coffee. I t ' s not very good. He blows his hot breath on his hands. "Cold out, i s n ' t i t . " The g i r l doesn't look up from the L i f e magazine when she speaks. "Yes," he says. "Yes, i t i s . " "Yeah, i t usually i s . " "Do you know how f a r i t i s to the road?" he asks. - 1 0 6 - "Not very f a r . " She's a pretty g i r l , but a l i t t l e unkempt. There's a piece of tree l e a f i n her ha i r . "Could I walk i t ? " "Oh, sure. I f you wanted." He takes another drink from the coffee. He f e e l s warmer now. The truckdrivers have switched to f o o t b a l l , Los Angeles and Minnesota. The g i r l turns a page. The man behind the counter stands behind the counter. The one i n the corner drinks coffee.. "Do you l i v e around here?" "Yes," says the g i r l . "Like i t ? " "No." "This i s a strange cafe." "Uh-huh." She's reading the L i f e magazine e d i t o r i a l . "They don't serve food." "No. " "That's strange, i n my opinion." "Uh-huh." "Do you agree with that e d i t o r i a l ? " "Probably " L i f e i s pretty r i g h t wing." - 10? - "You mean the magazine?" "That's r i g h t . " He drinks from his coffee. The man behind the counter washes dishes. The truckdrivers argue about baseball. The man i n the corner drinks. "I didn't mean that l i f e , day to day l i v i n g , i s r i g h t wing." "No, I didn't think you did." " L i f e i s n ' t p o l i t i c a l . " "You mean day to day l i v i n g ? " "That's r i g h t . " "I thought that's what you meant." "It's just l i v i n g . I t ' s not a subjective kind of thing." "Uh-huh." "Do you agree?" "Probably." "It's s t i l l snowing out." "Yeah." "Have you read that magazine before?" "Yeah." "Like i t ? " "No." "This i s lousy coffee." "Yeah." - 1 0 8 - "Db you want to screw?" "Uh-uh." "Have you noticed something?" "Probably." "It's s t i l l snowing out." "Uh-huh." "And everyone i n the cafe i s i n t h e i r s h i r t - 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 f i l l s two of the cleans cups with coffee. The truckdrivers argue about lacrosse. The man i n the corner drinks coffee. The g i r l 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 h a l l , l i g h t i n g his pipe and looking nonchalantly disgusted. "And furthermore . . . " s a i d the speaker before being slammed against the wall and crumpled to the f l o o r . Arthur dropped his pipe i n the scream that followed. Bernard was i n the l i b r a r y , on the eighth l e v e l , wearing a toga and reading his t o r y . "You look t e r r i b l e , Arthur. S i t down and t e l l me what has happened." Two plainclothes policemen i n the audience rushed immediately to the front, leaned over the body f o r 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 - I l l - retrieved his pipe from the f l o o r and turned to the e x i t . A policeman stood, gun drawn. Arthur stayed where he was. Bernard had s p e c i a l p r i v i l e g e s : he could send out f o r meals and was allowed to stay i n the l i b r a r y overnight. The keeper gave him these p r i v i l e g e s when i t became clear to both of them that frequent breaks f o r such things would i n e v i t a b l y cost Bernard years, possibly centuries, i n terms of his reading. Bernard on t h i s day ate pizza because i t was a Tuesday or a Friday. Otherwise he would have eaten Chinese food or f r i e d chicken. "A l i t t l e more slowly, Arthur. I am not used to l i s t e n i n g to people t a l k . " More p o l i c e and several ambulance attendants arrived. Photographers and detectives converged around the body. Arthur l i n e d up at the door to be searched before leaving. "Raise your arms," said a p o l i c e o f f i c e r . Arthur was f r i s k e d and his two pipes examined. Outside, his picture was taken by p o l i c e and press photographers. "Did you see i t ? " - 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 i t , 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, a l l were hired and set to work on the f i r s t volume. When, after considerable time, i t 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 i t . The name of the town found i t s 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 l o t where he had e a r l i e r l e f t his car. He set out on foot f o r the c i t y , following the sideroads and secluded paths. In the beginning, Bernard could cover a century i n a matter of hours, read an entire age i n a few months. But as, i n his books, the universe slowly moved into history, as knowledge was recorded and sources became more r e l i a b l e , he was fortunate to read i n a day the events of a single week. He learned to read faste r . He learned to l i v e without extended re s t periods. He concentrated a l l of his energy into his eyes f o r reading and one finger fo r turning pages. Completion of each volume was marked with a scratch on the edge of his reading table, there on the eighth l e v e l of the l i b r a r y . "But of course you could not have been responsible, Arthur. Shooting a man down i n cold blood i s not your s t y l e . That i s one decision you would not have made. There, you see. Decisions again. You remember that i s why I came to the l i b r a r y i n the f i r s t place. I was - 114 - very l o g i c a l then. I t was reasonable f o r me to set out, with the weight of a l l my l i f e ' s decisions bearing down on me, to educate myself. That way-,, at l e a s t , 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 i n the path of a runaway truck. Such decisions are important." Arthur did not go home that night. He began to l i v e f a r from street lamps and the moon. He ate i n dimly l i t restaurants and found no opportunity to bathe or shave. He stole through dark parks to snatch old newspapers from l i t t e r p a i l s . In time, and with practice, "Bernard achieved a point i n reading speed and'efficiency such that a very minor e f f o r t was required to digest vast amounts of material. He took to commenting to the keepenon s p e c i f i c points concerning Java Man or the H i t t i t e s . He would make occasional a p h o r i s t i c remarks, supporting them with the findings of various cultures. As his need to exert himself and concentrate became l e s s , - 115 - Bernard began to amuse h i m s e l f w i t h h i s hands as he read. He would send out f o r m a t e r i a l s so t h a t he c o u l d carve s h i p s w h i l e r e a d i n g of the Phoenecians or c o n s t r u c t a p e r f e c t s c a l e model of the G i z a pyramid complex while s t u d y i n g the development of E g y p t i a n c i v i l i z a t i o n . Notches soon s t r e t c h e d s e v e r a l times around the huge r e a d i n g t a b l e and Bernard began to mark h i s c h a i r . A r t h u r saw h i s n o t o r i e t y grow wit h every e d i t i o n of the newspaper. One: he had been a t the meeting. Two: he had been s t a n d i n g a t the back of the h a l l . Three: he had disappeared. There was a l s o s p e c u l a t i o n about photographs being matched, known s u b v e r s i v e s b e i n g questioned, the t h r e a t of m a r t i a l law. A r t h u r ate from garbage cans, emerged on l y i n b l a c k e s t n i g h t , i n d a r k e s t a l l e y s . He became wary o f parked cars and dogs. "No, I'm s o r r y , A r t h u r , I don't. I gave up smoking years ago. I t i s n ' t allowed i n the l i b r a r y . A strange p l a c e . When I decided to educate myself, I n a t u r a l l y came here, to t h i s h i s t o r y , the most - 116 - detailed chronicle of mankind. And there i s never anywhere to s t a r t but at the beginning, i s there? A l l things considered, I think I have made remarkable progress. I have reached the Roman period. Do you l i k e my toga? I made i t 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 i n one hand, he carved frescoes on the table with the other. He developed his own s t y l e . Lampblack on his face, Arthur s l i d along the sidewalk, stomach to the cement. He gripped the lowest part of the f i r e escape and pulled himself up. He began to climb. Bernard made himself a mirror by po l i s h i n g 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 l i n e s of his frescoe with the fingers of one hand. I t was a s u r r e a l i s t i c portrayal of The F a l l . "This i s indeed a t e r r i b l e predicament you have found yourself i n , Arthur. But such predicaments are not unusual. Take my own, f o r 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 r e a l i s e that every f o o l i s the same. One's decisions are always as b r i l l i a n t and as insane as the next fellowf.s. You notice, i n t h i s reading, the emergence of cycles, f a i n t i d e n t i c a l waves, the gentle r o l l i n g of a ship:'s deck under your feet. Like the Roman period. I have read i t a l l before, f e l t those same r i p p l e s . I t ' s just another wave, coming from nowhere, causing nothing. There comes a time when you must stand and be counted with the r e s t of the fools or die of ennui. Nothing can be changed. Besides, those p a r t i c u l a r fools upstairs are producing three volumes a day and I can only read two. I am a f r a i d I w i l l never f i n i s h the c o l l e c t i o n , Arthur. There i s not enough time. The barbarians are - 118 - a t the gates." Bernard l e f t the l i b r a r y t h a t n i g h t . I n the f o l l o w i n g weeks, there were many a s s a s s i n a t i o n s throughout the country. A c e r t a i n t u r m o i l reigned f o r months. I t was only g r a d u a l l y , a f t e r the death of the a s s a s s i n , t h a t order was r e s t o r e d . A r t h u r , i n the meantime, was unaware of t h i s . Bernard had t o l d him he would be safe on the eighth l e v e l and he stayed, alone there, h i s only d i s t r a c t i o n i n o c c a s i o n a l readings from the n a t i o n a l c o l l e c t i o n . \ 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 ten t a t i v e l y . "Oh, shut up. This i s n ' t what was supposed to happen." "So I gathered." I t was a bad gun, old and rusty. A souvenir my uncle had l i f t e d from an I t a l i a n o f f i c e r i n North A f r i c a . Such weaponry. No wonder the I t l a i a n s had made such a poor showing. Yes, yes, the p i s t o l was also too small to do the job properly, I know that now. Once more I searched the s l i d e and grip f o r some in d i c a t i o n of make, model and c a l i b r e . Nothing. I f I had known, I could have bought fresh ammunition. But now. . . "Why?" Pablo i n s i s t e d . "Is i t too much to ask?" "I don't know why. Because I had never done i t before. Because i t would be an experience. Because I would learn something. Now be quiet and l e t me think." - 121 - The question, a c t u a l l y , was a good one and bothers me even now. But there was no time to think on i t then. "Aren't you going to f i n i s h 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 i t . " His voice had frozen. The words,, cold and hard, dropped l i k e ice-cubes from his mouth. "No. That's no good. And i t ' s too l a t e now. I've blown i t . " I looked up to his face. "How's your head?" "Feels kind of strange. Stings a b i t r i g h t here." He pointed to the tiny hole i n the centre of his forehead, just above the eyes.- But for a barely v i s i b l e r i n g of already crusted blood, the wound looked l i k e a tattoo or r e l i g i o u s marking. Pablo wrinkled his brow and the hole changed shape f o r a moment. "What now?" he asked. "I guest i t ' s up to^you. Do you plan to turn me in?" Afte r a long9moment's wait, he r e p l i e d : "No, not yet. I think we should thrash the whole thing out. - 122 - I t was a pretty stupid thing to do, you know." I shrugged. "Let's go f o r a beer and talk about i t , " he said. I nodded and we l e f t . I t was night and the neon signs of shops and businesses sign a l l e d angrily at oneanother. I c i c l e s grew down from the eaves though a l l else was paralysed by cold. A c i t y silence, the loudest silen c e , crowded around us. "I wonder about these signs," I said, not r e a l l y wondering. "They're so ugly." Pablo spoke knowingly. "They're not meant to a t t r a c t people. For one thing, they f l a s h at night when the shops are closed. Actually, they're designed to f r i g h t e n us away. We are the people the shop owners don't want to meet." We walked on i n 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 f l o o r and we moved towards t h e i r 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 p r e c i s e l y . "Please s i t down." At one time, Arthur and Bernard had both been communists but Bernard had recently proclaimed his homosexuality. One night, at t h i s same table, he had t o l d me: "You set me on f i r e . " "Hey, Pablo, what's the matter, somebody s p i t on your forehead?" Arthur was smiling, s l i g h t l y drunk. "No, t h i s i d i o t shot me." Our three companions leaned over and looked closely at the wound. "So he d i d , " said Carol. "So he did." "Hmm, yes, yes, hmm," said Bernard. "Why'd you do that," Arthur asked soberly, but s t i l l smiling. I explained b r i e f l y but wondered to myself at the same time. In the f a m i l i a r surroundings of the pub, the episode seemed absurd. Had I l o s t my mind? I f so, was i t a temporary or permanent loss? There were many questions. - 124 - "Oh well, no harm done, apparently." Carol spoke as i f answering some of my doubts. She ordered more beer. "Do you know what I learned the other day," Bernard said, not at a l l i n t e r r o g a t i v e l y . "The Prime Minister and a l l the members of the federal cabinet are gay. I knew most of them were but figured there had to be a token s t r a i g h t i n there somewhere. But there i s n ' t . I found that out from a guy who has actually been screwed by the Prime Minister." "I know l o t s of people who have been screwed by the Prime Minister," Arthur r e p l i e d and we began a long discussion of unemployment. More beer l a t e r , Carol asked again f o r d e t a i l s of the shooting. "I t o l d you before," I said. "Don't you believe me?" "I suppose I do," she said. "But that i s not the way to learn. That i s not the way to f i n d 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 b i t s - 125 - of l i n t soon lay scattered around our shrinking "beers. No money. Arthur suggested that Carol witch some beer f o r us and we a l l laughed, a l l 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 t r i c k l i n g down his face. We leaned over and examined the hole. "I wonder why i t ' s s t a r t i n g just now," said Bernard. "Maybe the beer loosened things up," Arthur suggested. "We must f i n d something to plug the cavity," Carol said and began searching her purse. Penc i l points, wadded napkins, hunks of chicken, t e r r y c l o t h and other a r t i c l e s were considered. F i n a l l y , I arrived at the solution. "Another b u l l e t . I t would f i t p e r f e c t l y . " Everyone agreed and I took the gun from my pocket. A f t e r some d i f f i c u l t y , I released the magazine from the1' butt and squeezed out one round. I c a r e f u l l y inserted i t into Pablo's head, lead point f i r s t . "Perfect," said Bernard. - 126 - Indeed, now Pablo had a rather decorative brass c i r c l e i n the centre of his forehead. Anyone no t i c i n g i t might ea s i l y assume i t to be a new.trinket being offered by a l o c a l hippie curio shop. I was pleased. "Does i t r e a l l y look a l r i g h t ? " Pablo asked. "Magnifique,? Arthur i n s i s t e d . "And no leakage." " I t does look rather quaint," Carol agreed. "I should take a look at i t , " Pablo said. " I ' l l be back i n a minute." As he walked toward the washroom, I had new f a i t h i n my sanity. I f I had done something stupid i n the f i r s t place, t h i s b i t of b r i l l i a n c e had o f f s e t i t . I watched Pablo's hand reach f o r 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 b u l l e t exploded and Pablo crumpled to the f l o o r . 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 w i l l know what the birds think of that."


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