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   TI
JvAJ international Prism international
is pleased to congratulate
DOROTHY SPEAK
author of
"Relatives in Florida"
which was chosen for the 1994 edition of
THE JOURNEY PRIZE ANTHOLOGY
Short Fiction from the Best of Canada's New Writers
Available
in fine
bookstores
everywhere!
$16.99 paper
Published by
McClelland
& Stewart
The Canadian
Publishers AVU international
Editor
Shelley Darjes
Executive Editor
Gregory Nyte
Advisory Editors
Keith Maillard
George McWhirter
Editorial Consultant
Patricia McLean Gabin
Editorial Board
Alison Acheson
Sylvia Arnold
Janet Beeler
Juliane Okot Bitek
Matthew Cox
Robert Davis
Kelli Deeth
Alan Levin
Lome Madgett
Sophia Malczewska
Tana Runyan PRISM international, a magazine of contemporary writing, is published four times per year
by the Department of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver,
B.C. V6T IZl. Microfilm editions are available from University Microfilms Inc., Ann Arbor,
Michigan, and reprints from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, New York, N.Y.
Contents Copyright © 1994 PRISM international for the authors.
Cover art by Heather Keenan
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add7%G.S.T.
All manuscripts should be sent to the Editors at the above address. Manuscripts must be
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Payment to contributors is $20.00 per page plus a one-year subscription. PRISM international purchases First North American Serial Rights only.
Our gratitude to the Canada Council, Dean Patricia Marchak, and the Dean of Arts' Office at
the University of British Columbia.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Government of British Columbia,
through the Ministry of Small Business, Tourism and Culture.
Publications Mail Registration No. 5496. October 1994 Contents
Vol. 33, No. 1 Fall 1994
Atar Hadari
Kenneth Adamson
Anna Heinamaa
translated by Agatha Haun
Ron MacLean
Steven Naylor
Gabriela Pechlaner
Uma Rao
translated by the author
Ken Rivard
Louis Daniel Brodsky
Allan Brown
Louise Fabiani
Forugh Farokhzad
translated by Leora Baude
with Ali Shashaani
Maureen Hynes
William Logan
Mark Morton
Jane Southwell Munro
Drama
The Woman in the Woods    51
Fiction
A Conversation with Dave
The Mistress    17
Zavidovo   27
What We're Looking For
Tapestry   69
Fishing at Sandrich Bay   8
Ri Prasanna   44
Shalima and her Children
Snow Cigarette   81
96
49
Poetry
La Primavera   87
Translating Rilke   78
Waiting   80
Ft in hora mortis nostrae   79
ExNihilo, Nihilo   34
Australia   35
Friday   15
Red rose    16
Question    14
Vandalism    7
Eden   74
Adam and Eve   76
The Woods at M_   77
Sonnet #3: Syntax   99
In the Time of the Dying of Mothers
The Fine Minutiae of Moments   38
Remembrance Day   40
Grandmother Spider Said to Set Aside
the Ego Roles   42
36 D. Nurkse
Daniel Tobin
Derk Wynand
Heather Keenan
The Final Chance   68
The Road to Ko   67
Dream   64
According to Legend   65
Walnuts   66
Angel in the House, Outside
Tentative   83
Green Zone   85
Keeping Up Appearances   86
Cover Art
The Necklace
(oil paintstick on paper)
82
Contributors    101 Maureen Hynes
Vandalism
this car isn't going
anywhere. I said the morning after
we slow-danced
to that boisterous party music
right back into your bed
where the lights-out splashed a quick
darkness around our heads on our separate
pillows, a moment that slowed just
enough for our lips to hesitate,
lose their way, graze against fear
on their way to meeting
till with spilling relief we kissed
and from my glance at the clock
as I lowered myself between your legs
I later measured two brimming hours of slow love
and even later realized
the precise time of the distant crash, crash
that we disregarded
through our kisses, the crash, crash
of the hockey sticks through
your car window on the street Fishing at
Sandrich Bay
Gabriela Pechlaner
She was fishing peacefully off the long, creosote-soaked, sun-
bleached, dust-ground wharf. Had been at least until that boy had
come, telling her about hooking worms, puncturing their bodies
with the sharp silver barbs so that the brown skin popped and the hook
stuck through to the wood beneath.
She listened to him talk, felt the heat and the salty powder of the
wharf's splintery boards on her skin, while she used her tongue to search
the inside of her mouth for signs of thirst, and her hand the wrinkled
pocket of her shorts—taking comfort in the hard quarters that pressed
circles into her leg. She was saving them for the pop machine.
But she had, unfortunately, heard him.
"Girls shouldn't be on the wharf," he'd said, fishing as she was now,
then, had been, while he'd babbled on through sleepy lids that blanketed
his face with their lifelessness.
"Get lost," she'd said and felt good about it because it was a cool thing
to say, and she was not afraid of his opinion because he was stupid and
fat. He was also newer to the wharf that she, so couldn't be linked to
others. Not that he could be a real concern to her. She just didn't need to
say the wrong thing to a stupid fat kid who, through wealth, or access to a
speed-boat, had risen beyond his legitimate position.
Sandy smiled and then concentrated on the red and white ball of her
fishing float, feeling like Tom Sawyer in her brother's cut-off shorts and
her other brother's Molson shirt. The dock was even quieter now than
when the stupid fat kid had been bothering her. She rubbed into the wharf
with the bum of her shorts just to feel the cloth scrape against the rough
boards. She could even swim in the shorts and then dry on the flat rocks
beside the shore without ever having to change. It had already been hot
enough for hours, but she thought she would wait until her brothers
awoke to go swimming; it still felt too early. The stupid fat kid had been wearing cords, and he hadn't looked like he
ever went out in the sun. She couldn't imagine him in a boat, much less
killing a fish. She pulled at the bottom of her shorts, making the white
fringe longer. It made the jeans seem more worn, and she liked the look
of the pale strings against the tanned brown of her skin.
Sandy lay back and stretched out against the slivered warmth of the
pier. She could feel the cool on her arms where the gaps between the
boards let up the dark air form the shadowed water beneath. It lay like
strips of winter, splitting the summer heat of the wood. Her legs were
propped up on the thick beam bordering the edge where her fishing-rod
leaned its end firmly wedged in one of the cracks between the boards.
She wiggled her leg, pushing her foot against the pole until she forced it
between her toes. There wasn't anything but the hot sun to force her
eyes open, and she covered them with her hand, peeking out at the red
outlines of her fingers.
She wished that she had said something even more cool. Something
that she could tell her brothers about. Then they would laugh and maybe
even let her sip their beer or stay around when they had their parties late
at night, though their mother had made them promise not to. From the
cabin door she sometimes watched them, their dark backs outlined by the
flickering orange flames, and later she would listen to the roaring spurts
and starts of the fire and the thin laughter that snuck through the cracks
to her bed by the cabin wall. Sometimes when she was just about to drift
off, loud voices would leap out and catch her, and then another log would
crash onto the fire.
"Blow," that was what she should have said to him. She should have
leaned back on her reddened elbows and looked serenely up at his scoffing face made blander by the white shirt he wore—church clothes. Then
she should have puffed slowly over her top lip. Her breath splaying out
her bangs in a fan and dropping them back down over her face, displaying,
for a moment only, the indifference in her gaze.
Then she would have said it, quietly, so that id did not deny or question
or even acknowledge his words but just wiped them away. "Blow," she
would say, then turn her head with the barest of movements and look
back out to her float. She wouldn't even care enough to watch the shock
that would spread across his boring face.
He might pull himself together enough then to make the long walk back
to the end of the wharf with some grace—silently but she doubted it.
More likely he would stumble his way back to his stupid family. She had
seen them earlier, dipping their toes in the water and squealing.
Her brothers would have liked that, she thought. "Blow," she said quietly up to the sky and rubbed her foot on the cork handle of her fishing
pole. A cool breeze took the heat from her stomach where it lay exposed
to the sun.
A few hours later she heard them, stumbling and laughing till they fell
out of the bushes and onto the beach. She opened her eyes to watch
them debating at the edge of the sandy strip. She was just about to call
out when Matthew started to hop, swearing and cursing, over the hot
sand to the water. He looked back at Bart and his girlfriend, Melissa,
balancing on stones twenty feet from the shore.
"Get the beer," Matthew yelled.
"Fuck you," Bart said and ran the rest of the way. He pushed Matthew
back in the water, and they started to wrestle as more of their friends
slowly staggered down. Soon there was a whole crowd, perched on logs
and stones, cheering her brothers on.
Most of the families nearby moved further up the beach with their children. Her own mother would have done the same, except she wasn't
here, and the rowdies were her sons. Sandy scanned the beach for the
stupid fat kid, but she couldn't see him. He was probably hiding in his
cabin somewhere. Maybe that was why he was so white and pasty looking, or maybe his mother never let him out.
Sandy switched feet and wiggled her toes. They were all red and itchy
in between. She would have forgotten she was fishing if it weren't for the
scratchy cork. Now that her brothers and their friends were there, she
didn't feel like going swirnming anymore. She was satisfied just lieing
where she was, listening to them shout and make noise. In the fall they
would be going away to school. Before, once Bart had left, there had always been Matthew. But this time they would both be going.
Sandy shut her eyes. The bait would be gone, she guessed. She should
have checked it long ago, but she hadn't been too serious about catching a
fish, not with all her brothers' friends there. They'd probably have another fire that night, and Matthew would make hamburgers. Then she
would hop over legs and coolers, handling the hamburgers out with
bottles of ketchup and mustard and knives that normally got dropped in
the sand but which she wiped off on her shorts and returned, laughingly,
to whoever had dropped them.
"Hey, Sandy!"
Sandy yawned and sat up, dangling her arms over the edge of the
wharf. She squinted to where Bart was standing in the water, bare
chested and holding his wet t-shirt on his head.
"What?"
"Why don't you go up to the cabin and bring us a case of beer?"
Sandy contemplated the point where her line disappeared into the
10 water. The glints on the surface made black spots in front of her eyes
when she looked up.
"Why should I" she called, but not loud enough, and she didn't want to
ruin the peace she felt by yelling back and forth, so she waved her hand
OK. She stood up to reel in the line, and for a moment she was dizzy, the
zzz zzz zzz of the fishing rod echoing in her ears.
When the hook finally came up, it was empty. Sandy stuck it into the
cork of the rod and started to walk back, toes up and feet placed flat,
on the calloused parts, so she wouldn't get any splinters. When she was
even with the shore, she stopped to watch Bart in another wrestling
match. The water sprayed out in a fan from the dark bodies, but then he
was down, and the fan fell back in ripples around where he sat. He looked
up at her, and she laughed at him and waved, then began to run up the
dirt hill form the wharf.
Sandy held the fishing rod close to her side with her arm so that she
could use both hands to steady the small can of worms in front of her. But
the fishing rod kept slipping, and finally she had to shift the can to one
hand in order to keep the tip of the rod up as she ran. The clump of
worms bounced gently in the can.
When she got to the cabin, she drank some water from the tap, and the
coolness worked its way out from the inside of her stomach as the cold of
the linoleum moved up slowly through her feet. She felt better then and
went to look in the fridge for the beer. She saw the bread and considered
making herself a bologna sandwich but decided to bring down the beer
first. There were three twelve-packs. She figured they would want as
much as she could carry, so she took two—taking them out of the fridge
one at a time and maneuvering them out the screen door and onto the
porch.
The heavy cases banged against her legs as she slowly went down the
stairs. It was harder walking over the stones in her bare feet with the extra weight of the beer, and she realized that she should have put shoes on
before she started. Sandy set the cases down and rested for a moment,
flexing her fingers where the handles had been cutting off her circulation.
Through the bushes bordering the beach, she could see patches of water.
Sandy lifted the cases again, balancing them carefully as she picked her
way down the shady path. The salmonberry bushes left white scratches
on her arms, and, out of the sun, she shivered, though her head was still
too hot. She was glad to be finally out of the bushes and on the beach.
Sandy lifted the cases of beer onto the nearest log and pulled herself up
beside them. She wasn't going to walk through the hot sand with them.
"Hey!" Sandy said. Matthew grinned at her from where he was lieing
and got up, covered in wet sand. He dragged his feet towards her.
11 "Yeeees?" he said. Just in front of the beer he stopped, hands to chest,
and took a step back. "For me?" he said, fluttering his eyelashes at her.
She laughed. "I don't suppose you brought a bottle opener, did you?" He
tilted his head to peer inquisitively up into her right eye. She pushed him
back.
"Bug off," she said. "You didn't tell me to." Normally she would have
run back to get one, but she was tired and her head hurt.
"Hey," Matthew said, poking her arm. "I was kidding. Dave's probably
got one." She looked over to where he had flickered his finger, but she
didn't know which one was Dave. Sandy rested her chin on her knees and
scraped at the sand under her toenails with a piece from the log.
"OK,"she said.
"You been out in the sun all day?" he asked. Sandy looked up at him,
surprised that he was still standing there. She felt dizzy. "Hey, Bart!" he
yelled, and then they were all standing around her, their shadows falling
on her skin.
"Hey," Sandy said. "You're making me cold."
Bart picked her up and she banged her chin on his shoulder as he
jogged down to the water with her. The cold shocked her skin when he
sat her down, but then he poured some water on her head and it was such
a relief that she didn't mind anymore. She had forgotten how hot her head
was, like it was on fire.
"Hold your nose," Bart said, but before she could reach it, he pushed
her head down. Then he did it again and again. Water went up her nose.
"Now drink some water," Bart said. Her eyes were blurry, and he
looked like a huge stranger standing over her. He was much bigger than
she remembered him.
"It's salty," she said.
"That's why. Drink it." She drank, but she wanted to gag.
Matthew gently scooped water over the top of her head, then sat down
in front of her. "Hey, stupid," he said. "Didn't you at least get a coke or
something?"
Sandy shook her head. Bart sat down in the water beside Matthew,
and she was surprised by how similar they were. She'd always thought
they were so different, but they both had the same brown hair and strong
bodies. Matthew was a bit skinnier than Bart, but that was it. Matthew
leaned forward and scooped more water on her head.
Behind her, there was the clink of beer bottles being taken out of the
case and put in the water, then splashing, as whoever it was waded out to
them. Sandy felt a tap on the top of her head, and Melissa came around
and sat down beside Bart.
"Is this a private meditation, or can anybody join it?" she asked.
12 Sandy didn't know who was supposed to answer. No one did. Melissa
smiled at her. She had on a t-shirt just like Sandy's, and suddenly Sandy
felt very foolish sitting in the water with her two brothers hanging over
like protective mothers.
"I'm all right now," Sandy said, but nobody moved. "Really." She
swirled the water in front of her with her finger. Still nobody moved.
"What did you do something like that for?" Matthew asked.
Sandy dropped her hand in the water. "It's not like I did it on purpose,"
she said.
Matthew shrugged. "It's not like you've done it before, either."
Sandy stared at him. She didn't know why he had to be such an asshole
about it. She felt stupid enough as it was.
"Go to hell," she said. She stood up, but the black spots returned in
front of her eyes, and instead of running away like she'd planned, she just
stood there. An image of the kid from the wharf made her look around at
the shore behind her, but there was no on except her brothers' friends,
drinking beer and suntanning. Sandy looked back at Matthew, Bart, and
Melissa.
"I'm sorry," she said. Then she bent down and splashed more water
on the top of her head. "I'm going up to the cabin now."
Sandy turned and waded back to the beach, then crossed the sand and
started up the path through the salmonberry bushes. She didn't stop until
the cabin.
inside, she washed her mouth out with fresh water and sat down at the
kitchen table with a wet towel on her head. The can of worms was on the
middle of the table; she'd forgotten about them when she was getting
the beer. They were probably all dead now.
Sandy got a glass of cold water and poured some over the worms, but
none of them moved. Taking the towel off her head, she brought the can
outside and started to dig a hole in the shade by the wall.
"What're you doing?"
Sandy looked up to see the stupid fat kid leaning over her. "I thought I
told you to get lost," she said.
The kid shrugged. "Wasn't anybody else around. What're you digging
the hole for?"
"Worms," she said. "I'm burying worms."
13 Forugh Farokhzad
three poems translated from the Iranian by Leora Baude with Ali
Shashaani
Question
Hello, fish...hello
red fish, green
and gold ones
in your cutglass room
that is as cold as a corpse's eye
and shuttered up, abandoned
like the city before dawn
have you heard the keening of the pipes?
From the lonely home
of the fairies of terror
towards the brick built security of bedrooms
and the wind-up lullaby of clocks
and the glass pips
of the lamps-
it's coming
and as it comes
the gilt stars tumble and fall to earth
a small, playful heart
from the weight of a sob
explodes
14 Friday
still
abandoned Friday
overgrown Friday
sad as a crooked old alley
idle Friday
given over to the bedridden thoughts
swallowed in a nauseous yawn
hopeless Friday
of surrender
a sad
and ghostly house
a house that is barred to the onslaught
of youth
a house of darkness
of illusory suns
a lonely house of augury
and ignorance
a house with a curtain
a book, a closet
and some pictures
my life went calm and proud
like the Nile
through these still
abandoned Fridays
through these sad
and ghostly houses
my life went...
15 Red Rose
red
red
rose
he led me to the rose garden
he tucked a rose in my wild hair
and finally
couched on the petal of a rose
he slept with me
0 still and crippled doves
0 trees untutored in sterile despair 0 sightless windows
below my heart and close to my spine
now a red rose
is growing
unfolding
red rose
red
like a flag
at full mast
1 am pregnant, pregnant, pregnant
16 The Mistress
translated from the Finnish by Agatha Haun
Anna Heinamaa
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those
who have trespassed against us.
PROLOGUE
There are curtains at the window. They have large circles on them,
like so many white suns. You can't see them properly now. I don't
dare to turn on the lamp, it makes a clicking sound. Click. A half-
finished bottle of soda is standing on the night table. You can't see it very
well, either.
I'm tired, but I can't lie down. It's a little better when I'm sitting up.
Now it's coming again. I can always feel it ahead of time. Tension in the
diaphragm and an itching in my throat. I have to press a cushion against
my mouth and face. It comes anyway, smothered by the cushion. But you
can hear it, certainly you can hear it. The same as if I turned on the lamp.
I mustn't turn on the lamp. I'm afraid. I'm afraid the cushion won't cover
it. I have to hold the cushion closer, so as to be sure to catch it in time.
I'm tired. I'm so tired I could cry.
Morning doesn't come and all the time I feel that I have to cough. Just
now I didn't put the cushion in front of my mouth in time. I shouldn't have
gone to lie down.
"Who's that still coughing there?"
It was an accident. It wasn't me. It was someone else. Dear god, don't
let the coughing start. Now the spasm and itching are coming back again.
I have to hold it in. I have to swallow many times.
"Isn't that coughing over yet!"
It's dark and quiet. I can't hear anything. Then the blood presses in my
head again. The coughing grows behind my compressed lips. It makes
me cry. It can't be kept in any longer. I mustn't cough. I mustn't cough. I
mustn't cough.
17 1.
"What do you want from me?" I ask.
The man turns toward me for a moment. Then he turns away again,
and once more I see his face only in profile. Its' dark add noisy in the bar.
I know that it's nearly three o'clock, but for some reason I can't force myself to leave.
"Can I offer you something?" the man asks.
He smiles and takes out his billfold. I'm embarrassed and angry, and I
feel frightened. The fear is squeezed out as a smile. The anger remains.
"Cognac," I answer.
"A cognac," the man says to the bartender. It sounds like "kounyak". I
pick up my handbag from the floor and pretend to be looking for something in it. Then I wonder once more what he wants from me, knowing
what he wants, and I don't say anything.
The man has turned all the way toward me. I put my elbow down on
the counter and lean on it. The bar stool is uncomfortable. It has no back
rest. My shoulder touches someone's warm side.
"I'm Kalervo," the man says.
I don't say anything, knowing that in principle I should. I n the middle of
the noise a silence begins between two people, which is even worse than
the staring. Kalervo has even less tolerance for it than I do.
"Do you come here oftea?"
"No," I lie. Then a new silence follows. I think again about leaving, but
there's still some cognac in my glass and I'm not really tired.
"I don't like married men," I say, without knowing what I want more—
to be alone or to quarrel.
"You don't like married men," Kalervo repeats—perhaps to play for
time.
"Nah," I answer and shake my head. The cognac is finished. Kalervo
digs out his billfold again and orders without being asked. I thank him and
drink. Behind my back, people are streaming toward the cloakroom. The
orchestra is playing something slow, and I calculate in my mind how much
longer I can go on sitting here. It's hot and uncomfortable. Outside it's a
summer evening, probably quite warm. You don't need a coat anymore.
"Why don't you?"
The heat has raised small drops of sweat on Kalervo's forehead and
nose. He puts his hand on the hollow of my elbow. It's sweaty too. Or
else both of them are.
"So what?" I say. "Forget it. What difference does it make?"
18 Kalervo offers me a drink from the bar cupboard. Cognac. I tell him
why I don't like married men. He listens. The hotel room is small, either
turquoise or pale blue. It seems to me that all hotel rooms are turquoise
or pale blue and in all of them there is Kalervo in a half-reclining position
on the bed. I sit on a chair between the television and the window and
talk. Kalervo stares. There is a slight chill in the room from the air conditioning and I shiver. The metal-framed hotel window looks out over
T6616 Lake.
I wake up in Kalervo's hotel room. My head feels strangely heavy.
There are two glasses and a full ashtray on the night table. My handbag is
leaning against the bar cupboard. The tan leather is ripped, there's a
large tear on one side. I have to take it to be repaired, I think. At the
same time my head starts to ache. I'm not surprised and in fact not even
annoyed. I decide to lie there for a while and wait for the pain to go away.
My body feels foreign, somehow too thin. The stomach is sunk down into
the hollow between my hipbones. The breathing is unsteady and my eyes
are burning, as though I'd been crying.
2.
The driver glances at me again by way of the mirror. We're driving
along Arcadia Street toward T6616. There's still a bit of traffic, mostly
taxis. For some reason it seems important to talk.
"I suppose there isn't much business," I say.
"No, there isn't," the driver answers. He has grey hair and is slightly
bald. I can't see his facial features properly. They flash past the mirror so
quickly that they could belong to anyone's face.
"It's better than nothing at all," the driver says.
"Yes," I answer.
The talking stops for a while. We halt at a traffic light at the point
where you go onto Turku Avenue by way of Munkkivuori. It's two
o'clock at night.
"Waste of electricity," the driver says.
"What is?"
"Keeping the lights on in the middle of the night."
"Yes, there's so little traffic," I agree. The driver doesn't talk anymore. I look out the window at the asphalt and the median line. It's August and it's raining lightly. You can't see very far.
Kalervo comes out only when I.have climbed out and am standing next
to the taxi. The driver waits, as I asked him to. I see Kalervo's silhouette
against the window. Merely black. He walks slowly. When he comes up
19 to me, he is wearing a silk robe with dark patterns on it. First Kalervo
pays for the taxi and only then does he greet me. I follow him through the
stone gateway to the yard, where apple trees are growing. He has left
the outer door open.
"Nobody's around here at this time of night," he answers when I make
a remark about the door.
"I see," I say.
He lets me in first and closes the door.
"Can I offer you something?" Kalervo asks. He is standing against the
light again, so that I can't see him properly.
"What do you have?" I ask.
Kalervo turns to the side and opens the cupboard door. I can't help but
notice that his stomach bulges unattractively under his robe. I assure myself that it doesn't mean anything.
"Is Grand Marnier all right?" Kalervo asks.
"Yes," I answer. "Just anything."
Kalervo pours some Grand Marnier into a small glass and sits down beside me on the sofa. I don't dare to look him in the eye. I try to talk away
my confusion. I fail, but in spite of that, I continue speaking. Kalervo
listens and it seems to me that he's staring.
In bed Kalervo comes on top of me and inside me. I notice that his
thing is exceptionally small. It surprises me somewhat, but not much.
Kalervo gasps. I stare at my eyelids and wait.
"You're wonderful," Kalervo whispers.
I don't know how I should answer and remain silent.
"Did you hear me?"
"Yes," I answer.
Then it's dark again and I can't see anything. Kalervo reaches out to
take a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from the night table. The skin of his
arm brushes my cheek. It feels dry and flabby. I don't care. It isn't important.
"I love you," Kalervo says and strokes my hair. He hands me a
cigarette that's already lit. It glows red, as though in a movie.
In the morning I can't believe it. Not even when Kalervo brings me coffee and kisses me. In the light he looks even older. I hold the hot cup of
coffee in both hands and sip it. Then I set the cup on the night table next
to the alarm clock and the lamp.
"Are there any cigarettes left?" I ask.
Kalervo disappears into the living room to look for some cigarettes. I
look around me in the light. The room seems different, much more familiar and ordinary. On the night table there's a picture of Kalervo's children
and wife. I stare Kalervo's wife in the eye. She looks young and happy. I
20 consider whether the picture was perhaps touched up. Kalervo comes
back and I put the picture back in its place. He doesn't say anything.
3.
Four-six-five. Four hundred sixty-five. The corridor continues in both
directions with the same kind of doors on both sides. The numbers are
gilded. 1 can hear voices from behind the door but I can't make them out.
I'm not here, I think. I'm not standing behind this door. The corridor
doesn't exist, nor the door, and the elevator switch didn't click a moment
ago. The man in the brown coat didn't glance at me when he went past
four-six-five. I'm some other person and this is quite certainly just a
mistake.
Kalervo opens the door. He has a towel wrapped around his hip.
"Interconti", I read. "Nental" no doubt continues on the back.
"Hi," Kalervo says. He reaches to close the door. It takes a disproportionately long time. The hotel room is turquoise, like all the hotel
rooms in the world.
Kalervo goes into the bathroom. He doesn't say anything. The bedclothes are in a bundle at the foot of the bed, as well as the bedspread.
There are several beer bottles and an ashtray on the table. I don't take
my coat off. I can hear someone going by in the corridor.
"What do you intend to do?" I ask when Kalervo comes out of the
bathroom. Kalervo doesn't answer. He sits down on the sofa behind the
beer bottles. There are starched napkins and a glass next to the bottle.
Kalervo drinks from one of the bottle.
"What a mess," Kalervo says. He slurs his words and I don't understand him at first.
"What?"
"What a mess I'm in," Kalervo says again. Then he suddenly stands up
and goes to lie down on the bed. I sit down on a chair next to the window
as far as possible from the bed. A street car goes past and again I think
I'm not here. In fact Kalervo isn't here either. There is only the smell of
liquor, the untidy hotel room and two immaterial people.
I sit until Kalervo wakes up again. In Kalervo's opinion I'm not here either. He goes to the bathroom again, leaves the door open and spends a
long time urinating. It doesn't bother me because I'm somewhere else.
Then he comes back and sits down on the sofa. I move my chair further
away from the sofa.
I help Kalervo to get dressed. Shirt, socks, jacket, necktie. I want to
pee but I can't leave because Kalervo might pass out again. I hold it in.
21 Kalervo puts on his coat inside out. I take it off and turn the lining to the
inside. Kalervo sits down on the bed and says that he isn't leaving.
Til sleep for a bit."
"Get up now," I say and pull Kalervo by the hand. "Sleep later in the
hospital."
In the hospital Kalervo is dressed in hospital pajamas. They're pale
blue and too tight over the stomach. The nurse brings a bottle of soda and
asks whether I know if he's allergic to any medicines.
"If you'd come in here to the office," she says.
Kalervo is asleep. He's turned over on one side in the fetal position, so
that I can't see his face. The open bottle of soda is on the night table. I
notice that he still has his socks on. They stick out comically from under
the blanket. I take them off. Kalervo has ugly feet.
"Nearest relative?" the nurse asks.
I wonder whether I should mention Kalervo's wife's name.
"His wife," I answer. "But they're separated."
The nurse writes. Then she asks for the telephone number. I don't
know. The form is stiff paper, half the size of a sheet of typing paper. You
can't write very much on it. The nurse writes the wife's name in the upper corner. Then she asks for the name of the one who brought him in.
At first I don't understand she is referring to me.
"And you said you didn't know about his allergies?"
"No," I answer.
The nurse is still writing. She doesn't ask anything more about
Kalervo.
"Can I use the restroom?"
"At the end of the corridor on the right," the nurse answers without
looking up.
In the restroom I count Kalervo's money. Six thousand four hundred
marks. I take one thousand-mark bill and five hundreds. "For revenge," I
tell myself. Then finally I pee and don't wash my hands, even though
I should. That's also for revenge. I'm not quite sure against who.
After the detox, when Kalervo has rolled over in bed, I wonder
whether I should feel any desire for him. Then I think about Kalervo's
hands. They don't go straight from his wrists to his palms, but turn aside
in the cuffs of his sleeves like absurd ailerons.
"Darling," Kalervo says.
22 I decide not to think about the ailerons. They fall away and cease to
exist.
"Darling," Kalervo says again.
"What?"
My body still hurts after Kalervo has been pawing me. It seems as
though I should be able to mention that, but I don't know exactly how. It's
dark. It's always dark in bed.
Kalervo tells me that his wife is coming for a visit. I wonder what difference it makes.
"What difference does it make?" I ask.
"I just don't want to hurt her feelings," Kalervo says. "She won't stay
long." Kalervo strokes me like a pup.
"I see, "I say.
In the morning Kalervo is acting strangely. He's trying to avoid me, I
say to myself, and retract the thought immediately. He arranges the knot
of his necktie in front of the mirror. There are two dirty plates and an
open package of butter on the table. Kalervo's plate still has the remains
of some scrambled eggs.
"Are you going to finish eating that?" I ask.
Kalervo doesn't answer. He turns his back and walks through the
kitchen to the bathroom. His hands are sticking out oddly again. I look
away and begin to collect the plates from the table.
"I really think it's better that way," Kalervo says when he comes back.
It doesn't surprise me anymore.
"You have your own place, anyway," he continues when I don't say
anything.
I empty the scrambled eggs into the trash can and begin to get
dressed.
On the way to the centre of town, Kalervo seems too cheerful. I still
have on my clothes from last night—somewhat too elegant for morning.
The sun is warm through the side window.
"What'll I do with the hotel reservatioa?" I ask when we're almost
there.
"What, darling?" Kalervo asks. He stops the car in front of the
gateway and turns on the blinker.
"The hotel reservation," I say again.
Kalervo stares as though he doesn't understand. Then suddenly he remembers.
"Reserve the room now, just to make sure," he says. "You can cancel
it later." I see him glancing into the rear-view mirror. The stream of cars
has paused for a minute. I should get out of the car.
23 "I'll call in the evening," Kalervo says. I open the car door and step out
onto the sidewalk. Kalervo reaches across the seat and pulls the door
shut.
Kalervo doesn't call in the evening. I wait by the telephone until midnight. Then I wash off my make-up and go to bed. It's dark and I'm tired
but sleep doesn't come. I have to be reasonable, I decide. I have to arrange things in order of importance. Outside, a dog barks for a long time.
Then it stops barking and it's quiet again. I think about the turquoise hotel
room. Then I remember that the rip in my handbag hasn't been repaired
yet. Only then do I begin to cry. I keep my eyelids locked so that the
tears can't come out.
Kalervo sits down facing me. He's wearing his dark blue suit, which I
don't like—or I don't like it as much as the other suits that he has, but
never wears.
"Do you want some coffee?" Kalervo asks.
"Whatever," I answer and wonder why he doesn't wear those other
suits.
"Two coffees," Kalervo says to the waiter and waits until he goes
away.
"Darling," Kalervo starts, but he doesn't finish what he has to say. I
know what he'll say. I know, even if he doesn't say it.
The waiter brings the coffee and the cream pitcher. He pours the coffee into the cups and leaves the bill under the ashtray.
"Darling," Kalervo begins again, but again he stops in the middle. Darling falls onto the tablecloth between Kalervo and me.
"What?" I ask.
Kalervo doesn't answer. He moves the things around on the table, the
ashtray, the cream pitcher, the pack of cigarettes and the lighter—as
though he was arranging them according to some sort of diagram that
changes constantly. I watch Kalervo's hands. My own body has started
to feel alien again. I try to remember at what point.
Then Kalervo starts talking. I think about interrupting him and telling
him about the ailerons and the detox and the turquoise hotel room and the
fact that it hurts, but the suitable time doesn't come.
"Haven't you known this all along?" Kalervo says.
I know the rest and I don't listen any longer but wait again for a suitable
interval. When it doesn't come I tell him anyway.
24 "You're mistaken," Kalervo answers. "We never talked about anything
of the kind."
The waiter passes close by and Kalervo signals that he wants to pay.
He can't see the total sum without his eyeglasses. I look at it. Eighteen
marks. The waiter comes. He says thank you and leaves the coins on the
table.
"It's not the end of the world," Kalervo says and picks up the coins.
"Yes, it is," I say and I'm surprised at my own voice. Was it me who
said that? I didn't say that. It must have been someone else.
I intend to say that it wasn't me but the sentence changes on the way.
"You lied to me."
Kalervo stares. I try to guess whether he sees that it isn't me talking.
He doesn't see.
"This is really ridiculous," Kalervo says. "We're adults, after all."
"Not me, anyway," the other someone says.
Kalervo stares, as though at a stranger, and doesn't say anything.
The tears are about to come only when Kalervo gets up to go. I
pretend to look for my keys in my handbag. My eyes burn and something
is swelling up in my throat that I can't get rid of. Swallow, swallow, swallow, I keep on saying, but it just swells. I know that it will burst out soon.
Kalervo is still standing by the table. The handbag won't help me very
much longer. Soon I'll have to look up. Oh God, take this away. I'll, do
anything...
Luckily I remember that Kalervo's hands stick out to the side grotesquely.
6.
It seems strange to think how easy things ultimately are that seemed difficult once. Ridiculously easy. And how simple it is to get rid of feelings,
which just recently seemed to be breaking your heart. For example, my
feelings toward Kalervo. Thinking about it that way afterward, I really
can't grasp that I've actually been so attached to him for almost—how
long has it been now—four months. An entire four months of my life. But
on the other hand, I still have time, and I believe that I won't make such
mistakes again. Or if I do, I'll be able to get rid of the wrong kinds of feelings much faster than now. After all, it's so easy. The best part of the
whole business isn't the actual process of getting rid of them, but knowing that your strength for a fresh start and changes comes from inside of
you, yourself. If you can just turn your weaknesses to your own ad-
25 vantage, make them into power resources for yourself. A surprising
number of those power resources can be found inside all of us. Most of us
just keep them confined year after year. It's a pity. In any case I freed my
own and I have Kalervo to thank for that.
"Thank you, Kalervo."
He doesn't answer. He's always been reticent, but now for some reason he's stopped answering altogether. On the other hand, I like him better when he's quiet. After all, he told me so many lies that it's better if he
keeps his mouth shut completely. I really feel somewhat sorry for
Kalervo's wife. She doesn't know that Kalervo lives here in this hotel
with me. I've thought about telephoning her and telling her, but Kalervo
never revealed anything about her—not her name, her telephone number
or her address. On the other hand, though, I don't intend to stay here for
the rest of my life, especially since Kalervo has become so quiet. Besides
that, he's started to deteriorate right before my eyes. Therefore I'll give
Kalervo up without any kind of resentment or bitterness. It seems to me
that he's starting to stink...
26 Zavidovo
translated from the Finnish by Agatha Haun
Anna Heinamaa
1.
Zavidovo is located a little over one hundred kilometers northwest of Moscow. At first you drive straight, on and on and on,
then at the one hundred and sixteen kilometer mark, there's a
turn to the right—you might not even notice it—then you continue
straight on again until the road begins to wind and you see fields, a
derelict cemetery and finally a chickenwire fence, where you have to stop
and show your passports and letter of reservation.
"How many?" the militiaman asks.
"There're four of us," Paula says and extends her hand out the
window.
"Do you want to see the passports?"
"It isn't necessary," the militiaman answers and smiles. He finds
something amusing—it's hard to say what. Perhaps the fact that the air is
so clear, like summer, or Paula's outstretched hand or us, with our
bundles and food baskets.
"You want some?" Olya asks and holds out a bottle of soda to me over
the back of the seat. Paula smiles at the militiaman once more and
restarts the car. She looks small and comical at the wheel of the van. Her
hair is tied back with a ribbon, so that the roundness and redness of her
face, aroused by her excitement, are emphasized even more.
Shirin is asleep in the back of the car. She has wrapped a scarf around
her head—perhaps so that she won't be disturbed by me and Olya chatting.
"Bunny," I say. "Zaichik—we're there." Shirin sits up. The scarf has
left its outline impressed on her left cheek.
"Was I asleep?" she asks.
"Only since Klin," Olya answers and offers Shirin a bottle of soda.
"No, Olya," Shirin says and shakes her head. She looks offended, like a
child who has slept through a party. Shirin presses her face against the
window. The scarf falls to her shoulders and exposes her dark, short
hair. It is tangled after her nap and Shirin tries to straighten it with her
hands.
27 Paula drives into the yard of the pensione. Olya, Shirin, and I walk
along the riverbank while Paula goes to get the key of the cabin. There is
still a bit of ice left on the shore. Last summer's yellow reeds stick up out
of the shoreline sand.
"I'm glad we came," Olya says and breaks off one of the reeds. Its dry
seeds scatter on the ground.
"It's beautiful here," Shirin says. She has wrapped the scarf around her
head again. In her pale grey synthetic fur coat she looks just like an Eskimo.
"Eskimochik," I say to Shirin and laugh. She sticks out her tongue and
pretends to take offense. "Really pretty like that," I say more precisely
and Shirin laughs back.
"These will be nice in a vase on the refrigerator," Olya says and begins
to pick more reeds.
"They get cockroaches on them," I point out, but Olya doesn't hear.
Shirin has walked over to the edge of the water. She draws pictures in
the sand with her shoe. The river sparkles in the sunshine. It's a crisp,
bright Saturday morning.
The cabin is damp and smells of emptiness. They have told Paula at the
reception desk that there still haven't been many visitors. More people
would come, only later, closer to summer.
"So much the better," Paula says, and lifts a food basket onto the
kitchen table and begins to empty it—into the refrigerator, the shelves,
the freezer, the cupboard.
"I found the china teacups, too," she says, and takes one gold-rimmed
cup from the cupboard and holds it in her hand for a moment, admiring it.
Then she puts it back in its place. Olya comes into the kitchen, carrying
two plastic sacks.
"I think everything's here," she says. "Except Paulochka's handbag.
It's still in the car."
"I don't think anybody will take it from there," I say.
"It's still better to take it out of there," Shirin answers.
We make tea and drink it on the porch, even though it's colder and
damper there than inside the house. Paula sets out the gold-rimmed
teacups, plates and red napkins. Shirin drinks the way all Oriental women
do, with small sips, holding the teacup between her hands.
"Delicious apple pie," Olya says. "Where is it from?"
"Paulochka baked it," I answer.
"Zaichikl" Olya asks.
"With you, everyone's a zaichik," Shirin says and laughs.
"Yes," I answer. "All women are bunnies and all men are..."
"That's not the way it goes," Shirin corrects me. "All men are filthy
28 swine and all women are silly geese—happiness is in working."
Paula lifts her feet up onto the arm of Shirin's chair.
"It's good that we came," Olya says again and squeezes Paula's hand
on the table. Soft music echoes from somewhere far away. Then the music stops and we hear only the dripping of the eaves. We sit on the porch
for a long time, even though the tea has been drunk long ago.
2.
The sauna building is located by the river, next to the pensione. It's
about two hundred meters form the cabin. The gravel road crunches under our feet as we walk. It's twilight and the stars are beginning to come
out in the sky. The afternoon crispness has turned frosty. It pinches the
tips of our ears so that the blood freezes in them. Spring still isn't very far
advanced.
"In Alma Ata spring comes much earlier," Shirin says and covers her
ears with the palms of her hands. "The sun shines and the snow melts on
the mountains. You can see little streams everywhere. There's still ice in
them just at the edge where the water still hasn't managed to pull it
away."
"It must be beautiful," I say.
"Yes, it is," Shirin answers. Then she doesn't say anything for a while.
Her narrow dark eyes are looking inward, somewhere where others
don't see. "But even so, it isn't like when I was a child," Shirin says at
last.
"What isn't?" Paula asks.
"Those streams. They aren't as beautiful as when I was a child."
The sauna attendant follows us to the dressing room. She's an old
woman, wrinkled and as short as a child—a little girl who's grown old before her time.
"Devochki," she says and smiles so that her small eyes completely disappear into the wrinkles. "Here are the towels for you. I'm in that next
cabin. If you want tea and cookies, then knock on the wall."
She folds up the towels on the bench and checks again to see that the
sauna is warm enough. I take one of the towels. It's stiff and starchy and
smells of the iron. The old woman comes back and asks again whether
everything is all right.
"Just take your time. I'm over there, next door. If you need anything,
then just knock on the wall."
"Spasibo, babushka," Olya says and starts to undress. The old woman
hobbles outside again and shuts the door behind her.
29 The sauna is hot, almost a hundred degrees. Olya wraps a wet towel
around her hair. Small streams of water flow from the towel along her
face and neck.
"Shall we put on more eucalyptus?" Shirin asks and opens a brown
glass bottle. The whole sauna is fragrant with the scent of eucalyptus. I
feel like saying "no more," but then I remember the sun and the mountain
streams and don't say anything.
"Go ahead, zaichik," Olya says.
"Zaichiki, zaichiki," Paula repeats and wipes the sweat off her
forehead. She looks just like a brownie or a gnome. Her short blond hair
clings to her cheeks and the back of her neck.
In the dressing room, Olya suddenly feels sad.
"I just feel so awful," Olya says. She stares ahead of her at the pale log
wall. Olya seems to have shrunk suddenly, a little like the sauna woman.
"Olya, Olechka, zaichik," Paula says and strokes Olya's arm. It's
checkered with the marks of the sauna and the cold water. Olya presses
the linen towel against her face and sobs softly.
"I don't want to go on living."
"Olechka, my darling," Paula says, "everything will get better. You
have to be strong enough to go on living."
"I don't want to," Olya says and cries.
"Let Olya cry," Shirin says and goes over to Olya and Paula. She opens
the bottle of eucalyptus oil again and pours a small amount of oil onto her
hand. "Just go ahead and cry, Olechka," she says and takes Olya's hand
from in front of her face and puts it in her own had. Then she begins to
rub oil on Olya's palm, her wrist, her finger. She rubs slowly and looks
away somewhere, past Olya. Olya is no longer sobbing, but breathes irregularly, and now and then slightly more deeply than usual.
"Everything will change, and go in a different direction," Shirin repeats
in a low voice. "Everything will change for the better."
Then Olya stops crying. She looks at us, strangely pale and as though
waiting for something. From Paula to Shirin and from Shirin to me.
"But I don't understand," she says. "I tried so terribly hard." She
turns to Paula again. "Do you remember? Didn't I try?"
"Yes, I remember, zaichik," Paula answer. "Of course I remember."
"But then how..." Olya begins, but can't finish what she's saying.
"Everyting's all right, Olechka," Shirin says and presses a towel on the
arm that she's been massaging. "Everything will change for the better.
I'm quite sure it will."
Olya looks at Shirin as though she doesn't recognize her.
"Sometimes it just feels so awfully bad," she says.
30 Olya's eyes are red and swollen and she shivers. The small room is hot
and full of steam. The sauna woman brings us tea and cookies even
though we haven't knocked on the wall.
"Good, hot sauna," Paula says when the old woman sets the tea and
cookies on the table.
"We try to do our best," the woman answers, "you have to try to do
your best."
Then she notices Olya. She looks at her for a long time and doesn't say
anything. Finally she sighs and turns away. "I don't have the strength
anymore," she says. "I'm too old... " The old woman hobbles out of the
dressing room again. At the door, she turns to look at us again.
3.
A dim lantern is burning above the entrance to the pensione, it's dark.
The lantern keeps flickering as though it might go out at any minute. The
heat of the sauna still warms our skin; the frost feels like a cool breeze.
"Look how many stars there are," Shirin says and stops. Olya and I
stand beside Shirin. There are so many stars that in places the sky is pale
with them. It's quiet and I hear Olya's and Shirin's breathing.
"Sometimes it's so beautiful that you can't believe it's real," Olya says.
"Yes," Shirin answers, gazing at the sky.
"What do you see there?" Paula asks and puts her arms around Shirin's
waist from behind.
"Stars," Shirin answers. "An amazing lot of stars." Paula lets go of
Shirin and goes over to Olya.
"How do you feel, zaichik?"
"Better," Olya answers and smiles. In the darkness she looks just like
a little girl again.
In the dining room there are people at only a few tables: an elderly
couple, who are eating silently and without looking around, as though
there isn't a dining room at all, but just the table and their meal; further
off, by the window, there's a larger group, three men and a woman. In a
corner of the room in front of the broad window that takes up the whole
wall, a stuffed falcon is standing on a pedestal.
At our table it reads "Cabin Five". The waiter comes and Paula orders
appetizers. There's no black caviar, only red. "Bring whatever you
have," Paula answers and hands the menu back to the waiter. "There are
Minis, if you'd like," the waiter answers.
31 "Order blinchikis," Olya says to Paula. "You can get them so seldom."
We decide to celebrate and drink champagne for the first time in
months. Paula orders two bottles.
"We don't get out here every weekend," she says. "If we don't get to
the second one, then we'll take it along and drink it later with the apple
pie."
"Champagne and apple pie—sounds a little weird," I say.
"I think it sounds good," Shirin answers and laughs, even though there
isn't much reason to.
"What are you laughing about, Shinarik?" Olya asks.
"I don't know," Shirin answers. "It's just been a long time since I've
felt so good."
One bottle of champagne has been drunk and the appetizers all eaten.
Shirin rests her head on Paula's shoulder. She looks and me and Olya
with her eyes half closed.
"I could go to sleep right here," she says and yawns. I'm starting to
feel drowsy too. Not in the way I usually do, but softly—as though sitting
in warm cotton. Olya hums some familiar song. It sounds drowsy too.
"Do you girls have a match?" someone asks behind my back. A man is
holding out an unlit cigarette toward us and smiling. I hand the box of
matches to the man. Shirin is sitting up again. She sits stiffly on the chair
and looks out the window. It's light inside the dining room and outside
there's nothing to see but blackness.
"Okay to sit down?" the man asks and pulls a chair from the next table
over to the corner of our table. He stubs out his cigarette on the bread
plate. It keeps on smoking. I stub it out again. "Why're you girls so quiet
now? Got some sort of secret?"
"We're just having a little talk together," Shirin answers. She's still
staring at the black window. Olya has stopped humming.
"Let's talk together," the man says. He lights a fresh cigarette and
pours himself some mineral water from a half-empty bottle.
"Where'd you get those slit eyes? You see anything with them?"
"Couldn't you go to your own table?" I ask.
"Nothing wrong with them. They're really nice."
There is silence again. Paula looks for something in her handbag. Olya
draws pictures on the white tablecloth with her knife.
The man stands up but doesn't go away, instead he continues to stand
by the corner of the table. "No need to be so stuck-up," he says finally,
"at least with that sort of mug."
No one knows what to reply to that. The man continues to stand by the
table for some time. Then he goes away and doesn't remember to return
the box of matches.
32 The waiter comes back and starts to collect the appetizer dishes from
the table.
"What sort of hot course would you like? We have some very good
poached pike."
We decide not to order any dinner and ask for the bill.
"Too bad," Shirin says.
"Maybe we couldn't have eaten a whole dinner anyway," Paula answers.
"I didn't mean that," Shirin says and gets up from the table. We have to
walk past the men's table to the door. We look in another direction,
pretending that they aren't there. Paula and Olya go in front, Shirin and I
come behind them. We're already outside when Shirin remembers that
we've left the bottle of champagne on the table.
33 Louise Fabiani
two poems
Ex Nihilo, Nihilo
There are juniper berries singing
in my glass of gin, and persistent squabbles
emanating from the bartender's phalanx
of coloured medicine—its herb and fruit and
seed sources. Even the ice squeaks
in memory of Lake Ontario.
I grip the elbow-polished hardwood bar
and hear it grumble
about a Malaysian rain forest long transformed
into a rubber plantation.
Then the peanuts sigh, dreaming
of salt-free soil.
All around me, in this Toronto watering hole,
food and drink, clothing and furniture
are exercising a collective power of recall;
there is nothing here that was not something else
once, that is not in debt
to a former life.
Including me, propped up
on a jar of juice in an urban wasteland, feeling
the tug of nature as lonely voices call
"Author! Author!"
We may have the makings of major new religion here;
I'm afraid I must resist its birth.
Yet after two hours as the megaphone
for neglected matter
how I dream of Mother Earth!
34 Australia
We are all born too young:
blind, hairless, struggling
to find the teat hidden
across the vast, furry plain
of Mother's belly.
We suckle for milk
and for guidance, growing rapidly until
the spout is removed
and our eyes open. Unfocused
vision begins.
*
Hungry for open spaces,
we will trade iron bars for those
of unmitigated ignorance
of place.
First, we are trapped
where the mother
ship deposits us with the familiar
—crated and baled—
like an oasis of knowledge
in a desert of green and violet
and gold clammer.
Then we make the foolhardy forays into wilderness
that favours the astute
over the merely lucky.
To keep us company, we bring
a cargo of life from home,
and it flees—its own prisons
of ready predators or crowded burrows
long cast off on the other shore.
and so we go, into the new land,
clutching the past, memories
hanging off us
like a clanging bunch
of skeleton keys.
35 Jane Southwell Munro
four poems
In The Time Of The Dying
Of Mothers
The black cat has crept up to lie between our waists. I am not
sleeping and feel her warm against my hip. She is licking her paws,
between the claws. I can tell by the way her back shifts and the
snuffling noises she makes. She has lived with you longer than I
have. Billie, because she is black and she is beautiful.
Mink, mother's Burmese, and earlier, Tillie, Mink's tabby mother—
and before Tillie, Apricat, the apricot-point Siamese, and Kimchi,
the loutish Siamese, and Tiny, the huge Persian—generations of
cats—mother's shadows as she moved through the house. Standing
at the mahogany counter, cutting raw liver on an arborite square,
talking baby-talk to Mink who is stretching her neck to rub it
against mother's shins. If Mink had not died earlier that year she
would have caught the packrat who chewed the insulation and
shorted the wires. The fire would not have started. My mother
might still be alive.
A duster in hand. Pensively, shaking it out, out a casement
window. So many gestures. Memories. Sifting flour onto a sheet of
wax paper. Refolding the paper in quarters. Leaving it in the sifter.
A smooth rock that fits into my palm. Walking on the beach at
Boundary Bay, mother hands me flat stones—smooth stones. I keep
the softest oval. My soft stone. Smooth as skin, but cool.
Thick skins, broken, piled on the kitchen table. Oil of oranges in the
air after breakfast.
I do not have another mother. My aunts have died. Even my
mother-in-law.
Lilacs by the driveway. African violet on the table. Home-made oat
cakes cut in triangles. Silver knives rolled in red flannel. White
36 porcelain sink on its pedestal. Head over the sink as she poured
vinegar through my hair. Scent and smart of vinegar. Rinsing dark
hair till it squeaked.
Windbreak of poplars around a farm yard. Walking to visit a
woman who had wicker furniture in her front room. Sitting on the
floor in a sunny corner while mother talked. Playing with buttons.
Buttons from a round tin with a painted plaid ribbon. The delta cut
up now, trees felled, stumps bulldozed, its deep ditches filled in.
Ditches where people drowned each year, gone. Potato fields gone
to houses. Blueberries torn up. Malls. Garden condominiums. Three
college campuses. Highways. The buttons seemed to be mine-
mother's friend lifted the tin down for me each time.
Pins in her mouth when she sewed. Pinned up a hem. Pursing her
lips, repinning, as I turned slowly. A friend showed me a dress her
mother made for her, just a few years ago. Spreading it out on the
bed, smoothing an arm under it to show me the print. The drift of
cotton over skin. Our mothers made us many dresses. Outfitted us.
It is as if here, in the middle of life, I have wandered into a deep
forest. Musty, fungus-laden spars criss-cross a bog where my feet
sink unevenly and no log is solid for its full length. I dream of
refugees.
When I stop sleeping there is our body warmth, the breathing, a
nest on the surface of the dark. This can't be the desert of the
mystics because love keeps me company and the black cat has come
in the window.
Through my enchantment of grief, mother's sharp whistle: two
fingers under her tongue—come home now, come home.
There is no place like home. Come home, spirit, knocking on doors,
out on the streets in your slip.
37 The Fine Minutiae Of
Moments
for my mother
The apple tree held back its bloom this year.
Recalling the way you'd say, Janie—come and see,
I find you outside in the rain: apron,
flip-flops, grey hair in a bun, face aglow,
pointing up at the yellow transparent
in its delicate array behind our log house.
Today, it's as if this city tree
planned to flower on your birthday, the way
Easter arrived when you turned five,
the cat had kittens, the sow piglets,
the orchard blossomed, and you, lit up with measles
had to miss it all.
Remembering your birthday, I remember your death.
Snip a twig: two crimson buds, a handful of petals.
You welcomed posies: nosegays of clover,
fireweed in a tumbler on the windowsill.
Whenever I put a bouquet in the kitchen
you cross my mind. Our recent pink tulips
lasted a week. This morning their flaps hang down,
one already on the counter.
Pink. Pink. Pink.
Your charred skin. The black month
you wrestled death.
Janie—come and see, you beckon
in your green dress with the white belt,
38 you hold up soup bones from the butcher,
roll the ball of a thigh in its hip socket
to illustrate articulation.
Even in the hospital
with half your skin burned away
you observed yourself learning, told me
Simplicity is more and more difficult.
The brass Buddha
the size of a large cat,
the weight of a big dictionary,
melted in the fire. I found his right foot
and folded hands, attached to the wrinkles
of his torso, dropped like a shirt
on the ash and cinders. All grey now.
Sometimes I rub the palm of his foot.
I in you and you in I
go back through the placenta.
Before lungs, before the crunchy lightness
of bones, through the memory of a cell.
Your mother is also in my mind.
And still there are the fine minutiae
of moments. Our own. The particulars.
An apple orchard in bloom when you turned five.
Your yellow transparent beside the huckleberry bush.
The amber bellies of logs
reflecting light in a log house.
You I grew inside of.
39 Rememberance Day
Pulling the cuff of one sock back
across my hand, tucking the toes
of a pair inside one neat sausage.
Pull it open. Presto
Peripheral, the foil of lightning.
in a drift/dream/mind turns on
itselfIpas-de-deux across a dark stage
choreography for the shadow of a mother
apartlfoldedlFlooredllegs
and torsos/flex/contract/open/lift
in and out of another body
two-and-oneltwol one/two/one-and
The shining of leaves turned underside up.
Puppets on sticks from Rajasthan,
the Maharaja under the woman's skirt.
Her spine and axis between ruler and subject,
male and female, child and crone.
My dream flip-flopping, its costume
covering the head not speaking.
How close to death is the unconscious?
below throat/below chest/out oj'belly
bass chords/lowing of livestock/snoring/a growl
song like the voice heard through wombwall
Gyuto Tantric Choir/in a drift/dream/mind turns on
Tibetan monks chanting twenty hours a day
one-and-two-and-one/two/one/two/one-and-two-and-one
their vibrations unrattle me
More leaves shaken purple across the wet lawn.
40 Waking on Rememberance Day to thunder
and blood on the sheets. Than God it's a holiday.
An old hand at tidying myself.
Pulled together. Pad-lined panty under jeans. Socks.
I saw the lightning while brushing my teeth.
The life and death of the mind.
At times I pick up the phone and expect her voice.
Open and close. Our laundry dances
in drawers, under covers, in washers and dryers
they tumble and turn. How many
thoughts have you folded, shaken out, worn?
mind settles
to tone of stone, the slow pace of bone
in a drift/dream/mind turns on
one-and-two-and-oneltwolone-and-two-and-one
Another mind closed in a cuff of thought?
Vibration. Chants to soothe memory
loose in the skeleton.
Turn the flying apart in.
41 Grandmother Spider Said
To Set Aside the Ego Roles
Meaning, I guess, the eighty-two students whose names I knew that
semester, and the kitchen crew who were coming for dinner, but
especially meaning my dissertation with its false labour pains,
occasional spotting, threat of miscarriage. Do something different,
she said. Nothing that's a duty. Set an unfamiliar part of your
psyche on an unfamiliar path.
I went alone to a warehouse where wool fashions are sewn and I
bought, at less than cost: grey trousers, a grey skirt, a matching
short grey coat, a green blouse, a patterned pink and grey blouse. I
undressed before other women because there were no changing
rooms, untying and tying my shoe laces because I kept finding
more clothes to try on.
Most naked women I see are in locker rooms at swimming pools or
fitness classes, tugging on tights or standing under showers. Their
bodies are knock-kneed or long-waisted, narrow-shouldered or
broad-hipped. Striking, the differences in length and breadth of
our bones. But most of the naked women I see are toned, aloof, and
tend to be touchy about the shape they're in.
In the factory I saw women show skin flowed over their abdomens
like pancake batter, puddled over their underpants like icing
sagging down a warm cake onto the plate. Their faces didn't warn
me. They stood and walked normally, spoke with humour,
unzipped each other. I'll buy it, but I want to lose seven pounds.
One woman's legs had no muscle; the bones of her thighs wore a
summer jacket of flesh, but her stomach had slipped from under
her bra and belled out in an exaggerated lip that rolled over her
hips. She was cheerful and chatty, energetic. She asked me if the
pants I was trying on were too baggy in the bum. Could you take
them in a bit? I suggest.
42 It's dim in the warehouse and there are only a few mirrors leaning
against the walls. I feel guilty about going shopping. It takes too
much time. I have enough clothes. The grey suit's classy, but
boring. Why am I spending money? I should be at the computer.
My ego roles had a tantrum when I left them at home. I can hear
them hiccup and whimper. It's like needing to nurse a baby and
your breasts starting to leak, just from remembering her. I sat in a
bar years ago streaming milk, determined to have one beer with my
husband, covering my front with my coat, feeling the wet dress
cling all the way to my waist. The milk spilling, soaking into my
panties—I held my coat out from my body so it wouldn't get
stained. That's how it is—there's scant gain, it seems, in not doing
what people need me to do, when they need it.
I'm not sure what I'm supposed to learn from one unusual
afternoon. Especially since, as usual, I've been trying to do the right
thing. Grandmother Spider, the book said, gives unimpressive but
essential wisdom. The clothes were a bargain. Good for teaching.
But the naked women are the real prize. Seeing run-of-the-mill
bodies undressed. Why was I surprised? At my age? How closeted
we are. After all our reading and meetings and tirades. Remember
Rembrandt? He knew.
A wardrobe of grey wool—trousseau of invisibility. Grandmother
Spider's uniform. I expect more.
43 ... ri Prasanna
translated by the author from Kannada
Uma Rao
If Shiva hadn't compelled me, I wouldn't have gone in there even if I
had lost my way. I felt sure of that as I stood in front of the house. I
tried to push the iron gate that had rusted, partially detached from its
hinges, and gotten stuck in the dry cracked soil. Finally it gave way,
creaking loudly and making just enough space for me to pass through. I
sneaked in and looked up, running my eyes over the name engraved at
the top. The letters must have been a dark green once upon a time. Yes,
Shiva had told me: "the name of the house is Srihari Prasanna." "Sri"
and "ha" had come down with the mortar, turned to fine dust and escaped
into the air. Now all that remained was "... ri Prasanna." Even those
words were threatening to come down at any moment, rendering the
house nameless. A narrow concrete path full of pock marks led to the
steps. There were parapets on both sides—the edges were discoloured
and broken, and a moss-covered flower pot stood on each one. An unfamiliar fern posed amidst bushy wild grass, as though throwing up the
challenge: "Try to kill me."
The verandah had been laid with cuddapah stones, which appeared not
to have seen a broom in years. There were tiny crevices where the stone
slabs had been joined together. Rows of ants emerged from them. I tried
to find the doorbell as I held the packet Shiva had given me tightly in my
hands. That was what had brought me here. What did the packet contain?
When Shiva had given it to me, I had expressed my displeasure.
"You'll be going home next month during the vacation. What's the
hurry?" I had grumbled.
"No. Yes... it's something very important. Moreover, I don't know
whether I'll be able to make it next month. " He faltered and I was surprised at his indecision. All of us used to be waiting eagerly for the college
to close so that we could go home.
The door of the house was wider and larger than those of modern construction. The brown paint on it had cracked. And it stood as though waiting for a naughty child to come home and scrape it off with little fingers.
The name plate which must have been there once upon a time had been
44 taken off. The mark was clear. The sturdy brass knocker had turned
black. The windows with metallic bars on both sides of the door were
tightly shut. Where was the proof that somebody lived there? Was it only
that it hadn't been locked? Having failed to locate the doorbell, I tapped
the knocker and waited. After a couple of minutes I turned around. I saw
so many details I had missed when I walked in.
Grass had grown wild where lawns had once been. There were little
thorny bushes with tiny yellow flowers here and there. A papaya tree.
Touch-me-not spread out sparsely on the grass. Making the whole place
a wild mess and impossible for people to move about in. There was also a
kennel a little distance away. I was surprised I hadn't noticed it. What if
there was a dog inside? An enamel dish that had gotten stuck in the soil
was full of dust, dried leaves and bird droppings. There was and unfamiliar creeper that climbed over the house.
Once again I glanced at the door. The toran tied to the top of the frame
had shed its dried up mango leaves and was now just a bare thread. Was
there anyone inside? I thought of knocking just once more before going
back. But I didn't want to take the packet back. It was so heavy—it must
have weighed nearly two kilos. I knocked loudly with my fist, waited for
awhile and knocked once again, banging the knocker against the wood at
the same time. "Coming... "A woman's voice called. Distant. So distant that it made me wonder whether what I'd heard was true or just a
dream. A loud rattling of somebody struggling with the inside bolt. Finally
a snapping sound of the bolt giving in. Then an effort to open the door. In
order to help, I gave a gentle push. Finally the door creaked open. I was
startled. There stood a woman who was about sixty-five. Even the most
cruel attack of old age couldn't have wounded anyone so much. Wide dull
eyes full of fear. Dark wrinkled skin under the eyes. A black thread round
the neck. A couple of black glass bangles. A gray cotton saree that had
surrendered its lustre to kitchen fumes. A white blouse that had turned
yellow.
"Who is it?" she said, without asking me to come in.
"I... it's me... Shivashankar's friend," I stammered, feeling relieved
that the atmosphere had become a little alive. I smiled, but this didn't
change her expression. She stood there, with her hands placed firmly on
the door frame, as though to stop me from entering.
"Shiva has sent something for you—this packet."
"Shiva..."
Her eyebrows knotted for a moment in surprise. Slowly she turned her
gaze to the packet in my hands.
"This one..."
I held it out in front of her. She turned back and walked in slowly with-
45 out asking me to come in. Considering this as an invitation, I followed
her. It was fairly dark inside. I waited for my eyes to get used to the lack
of light. Slowly things started appearing from what had been a blur. A
huge rosewood easy chair and a mat in shreds were kept in a corner. The
tiled roof and walls had intricate designs of cobwebs, and the walls were
full of yellow-brown patches. The plaster was peeling off. A single bulb
hung straight from the ceiling. The picture of a young couple smiled
amidst satin roses on the wall. The wife was wearing a silk saree with
heavy jewelry and a puff sleeved blouse that was fashionable years ago.
She sat on a carved rosewood chair—shyly and awkwardly. The husband
stood self-importantly in a suit and turban behind her, with his hand
placed on the back of the chair. Was it this same woman?
The grandfather clock next to the picture was clicking away noisily.
There was a rosewood swing on the other side of the room. I hadn't
noticed it before. It was so still—as though it had forgotten how to swing.
The woman came out again, pointed at the easy chair and went into another room. Though the dust on the chair put me off, I didn't try to brush
it away for fear of hurting her feelings. I sat down ignoring that my
trousers were freshly ironed.
Which room could be Shiva's? I saw a row of steps going up just a few
feet away from me—as though they had appeared from nowhere at just
that moment. My gaze followed them. But the door at the end of the
stairway was shut. Where did it lead to? The terrace? Was there another
room there? Shiva's room? Then I glanced at the door that opened into
the courtyard. Slowly I stood up, feeling curious. I moved a few steps and
peered out.
The courtyard was open to the sun and had coarse stone slabs for
flooring. There was a lovely fountain in the middle held up by two statues
of naked children. It was full of wild grass and ferns. A sparrow was
perched on top of it, pecking at something. Beyond that I could see the
kitchen and the bathroom—their walls blackened with soot. I was startled
when I sensed a shadow passing and withdrew quickly. I sat back on the
chair with the packet in my lap. What was I supposed to do? How long
could I go on waiting like this? How to go away without insulting the old
woman' She must have been making coffee—I went on waiting. Then I
saw the Veena Box placed under the window sill. It was locked with a tiny
tiger lock. On it were a broom, a pair of hawaii chaplets, some empty
Horlicks bottles without caps, an Amrutanjan jar. Was there a veena inside the box? Who could it belong to?
All of a sudden the old woman was there in front of me, as though she
was waiting for my orders. "Keep this," I said. "Shiva has sent this for
46 you." She looked with indifference at the packet I held out for her.
"Look... Shiva and I share the same room. He remembers you
often..." I felt as though I was talking to myself in the centre of a spacious hall. She stood there without batting an eye.
"I am going back next week... if you want to send something for
Shiva." No reply.
"Eats. Crispies. Chakli, Kodbale..."
I tried to speak in a lighter vein. Words got stuck in my throat.
"There may be a letter inside. Why don't you open it and see?"
Again she looked at the packet with disinterest. Suddenly I was angry.
"Look, I came here because Shiva asked me to. Don't think this visit is
of any use to me. I wouldn't have come here if I had known you would behave this way... I'll never come back..."
"Keekee kee... kee kee kee."
I was shaken by the shrill noise that emerged from nowhere. I let out
an inaudible scream. I sat down and tried to collect myself as though
nothing had happened. I felt as though my heart would come out of my
mouth. I could hear my heart beating. Somebody was playing on a violin
totally off-key.
She rushed to another room.
"Devil, you've started again... stop your hysterics..."
The playing became louder. And faster.
"You don't remember what you got yesterday... will you stop
it... or..."
The playing went on. I could hear somebody being thumped on the
back.
"Annua. . . don't beat me. . . please. I'll listen to you..."
A young woman sobbed like a child. Loudly. When the old lady came
out she was panting. Her chest was heaving with anger. Her fists were
clenched. As soon as she spotted me, she stopped abruptly. It was as
though she had forgotten all about me. I had had enough. I wanted to
leave. Feeling uneasy, I brushed the dust off my trousers and nodded to
her. I tried to say: "It's alright..." She was staring at me. I left the
packet on the easy chair and got up to leave.
"Keekee... Keekee..."
She started shuddering in exasperation and ran into the other room determined to set things straight.
"Idiot... you'll go on... wait till I teach you a lesson. I'm going to
break this damned violin this moment. He was right after all... it was
foolish of me to have pitied you."
"No Amma. Please don't take away the violin. I'll never play again... I
swear on your life, on mine, on Shiva's. Amma, please, no... "
47 The door banged. I walked out. I was sure there was no point in waiting any longer. I stood on the verandah and looked back. The door was
still open. I shut it firmly. As I stood there on the steps, my legs were
shaky. I sat down, trying to recover, the cuddapah stones which were
exposed to the sun the whole day were warm. I felt a strange sense of
relief. It was almost sunset. I looked up. Clouds were gathering in the
skies that had been blue and clear in the morning. Clouds that were full of
rain. I closed my eyes... the clouds became denser. They were moving
over my head. Along with them came lightning, thunder. A cool whistling
breeze. It started drizzling. Slowly changing into a heavy downpour. In
minutes the rain bathed the house and washed away the remaining letters ...ri Prasanna.
The house seemed to stand in anticipation of a new name. The rainwater soaked my hair, came down my forehead—my eyes, nose and lips.
And made my whole body wet. The dry earth started smelling fragrant.
The blades of grass bowed over in ecstasy. The flowers coloured watching the raindrops bathe their petals. Lovely white flowers bloomed on the
wild plants, in the pots. An excited Alsatian jumped out of the kennel,
came running to me and wagged his tail brushing his body against my
trousers. Water started overflowing form the fountain held by the nude
children in the courtyard. Melodious Todi raga floated out of the house
from a violin...
I looked back from where I had been sitting. A beautiful girl was there
on a colourful mat in the centre of the hall. She was playing on the violin.
Her head was bent slightly over the instrument. The packet sent by
Shiva lay open in front of her. A lovely bright yellow silk saree with a
green border was there and dozens of glass bangles sparkling across
it...
48 Shalima and Her
Children
translated by the author from Kannada
Uma Rao
Shalima was dumbfounded when darkness struck in the middle of
the day. All of a sudden. What was it? A flying saucer eclipsing the
sun for a moment? A huge demon swallowing up the sun—as she
had heard in the stories of her childhood? An atom bomb suddenly going
off? Surely it would be over. This darkness wasn't eternal. She thought it
would make way for light, but as the minutes ticked by, Shalima's anxiety
rose. When birds started flying home chirping merrily, her worst fears
were confirmed. She realized, along with millions of others, that this was
not the darkness that would make way for light.
She saw people running helter-skelter. Lighting lamps. Running into
the streets. Buying dozens of candles. Filling drums with water. Talking
to each other loudly in an attempt to drive away frightening thoughts.
Switching on radios and TVs. Phoning friends and relatives in distant
places to find solace in the fact that this was happening to them too. As
the phones went dead and the cries of excuse me vanished into the receivers, they were gripped by a panic unknown to them.
Then Shalima saw them vomiting. Out of the windows. On the floor. In
beds. On the reclining couches of beauty parlors. In cars, buses, trains
and trucks. Leaning back in dentists' chairs. Standing naked in
bathrooms. Sprawling over rickety park benches. Bending over computer keyboards. Into telephone receivers. Near police stations. Over
masala dosas in Udipi restaurants. Into the vegetable baskets in
wholesale markets. Here. There. Everywhere.
Shalima saw everything from her first floor balcony. She saw people
coming out of offices and crowding the streets. As buses, taxis, and cars
filled up, groups stopping vehicles forcibly—pulling out the occupants and
driving away. Her eighty year old neighbour, Kasim, praying loudly in a
hoarse voice. Tungabai's trusted servant, Chotu, sinking a knife into her
soft belly and making off with her two tola gold chain. The head of Mala's
49 baby sticking out of her as her screams reached a crescendo filling the
filthy gullies of Dharavi. Shyam hastily walking out of the murky lanes of
Kamatipura leaving Rani panting on her bed. Nurses deserting patients
over their bedpans. Chakravarti, Maurya's pilot, landing his plane in a
busy street in Dadar, chopping pedestrians into pieces. The dentist,
Chang, rushing naked into the streets lathered all over with soap. A constable throwing away his rifle and screaming Amma, Ammal
She saw children dancing merrily, clapping and singing Chutti, Chuttil
A technician in the atomic plant sneaking out of the control room quietly.
Lalwani's hand shaking in the middle of the boardroom meeting. Drops of
tea spilling out of the cup and soiling his blue safari suit. The owner of the
country liquor joint, Raju, drinking straight from the bottle and guffawing.
The drunken beggar on the park bench going back to sleep, thanking God
it was a mistake—he thought it was noon. The priest in the Garbha Griha
locking up the door and hiding behind the shivalinga with the family. And
distributing all the offerings to the children hurriedly. Six year old Manu
letting go of his multi-coloured kite into the inky dark skies and running
home. Chinni crashing down with a thud from the top of the coconut tree
he had climbed to pluck coconuts for his landlord. His head cracking and
bleeding. The flow of blood slowly curdling. A two-year-old trying to see
his image in that stream...
Shalima saw her children, Raju and Neena, coming early from school,
standing behind her, facing each other. Raju putting his arms around
Neena's shoulders and cringing in a thin voice Neena, let me sleep with
you. I want to know what it is like to make love before I die. Neena's eyes
filling up with a fear that had crystallized over centuries. As Raju's voice
became huskier, Neena struggling with her clothes...
Shalima saw a stream of darkness slowly flowing in, filling up every
crevice, swallowing up everything. A sperm swimming briskly across to
reach the egg in a dark corner of Neena's womb—sprouting energetically
with life, with a desperate longing to see the light after nine months...
50 The Woman and the
Woods
Atar Hadari
(A woman walks on stage, she is in mourning. Her clothes still fit her. She
is not unsexed. The leaves rustle when she approaches, in time with her
footfalls. On the concrete path you can hear her steps and when she stops,
thinking someone is following her, the rustle of leaves stops too. Pause. She
walks again in a circle, stops. Leaves stop. She looks off-stage.)
SHE
Is anybody there?
(Silence)
(She takes a half-step—leaves—she stops. The leaves go on a half-step without her.)
(Pause)
(She takes two steps then stops, one foot in the air. Leaves take two steps.)
SHE
A-ha!
(She stops and looks, looks and stops.)
(to off-stage)
I want to be left alone!
(Pause. Sound of leaves' steps moving away, twigs cracking as she stands
and looks down at her hands. Her skirt is black. She wears a veil. She
raises it.)
SHE
Only the lovers come to these woods-
lovers of something—men, women, dogs-
lovers of nature. The leaves're gone now.
All under your feet. Henry.
You shouldn't follow me. Unless it wasn't you.
Is it nice in heaven?
51 Pause. She attempts another circle walk—tensed, back half hooked, foot
coiled in the air to make a step sound loud in the forest. Step, nothing.)
SHE
Henry. You've gone, gone.
This is the bench. I bought ice cream.
Why didn't we come here? Why?
You always claimed an allergy
and 1 know for a fact leaves made you smile.
You didn't have to stay in all the time.
(Pause. She hops on one leg. Considers hop-scotch. Picks up a leaf, throws
it. It drifts off. Picks up a stone.)
SHE
Alright.
(She throws it. Start hop-scotch game half-heartedly and stops.)
SHE
It's no good without the box.
How can I play a game without the box?
Henry—you are a stupid man!
Why did you always stay inside your room.
(Pause) I would have made room for you.
(She hops on one foot, stops.)
Of course, you did pay for the gas.
And the electricity. And the water.
But you kept staring out of the top of the house,
"steaming my window." Stupid expression.
You've no business going off alone.
No business at all.
(Sound of leaves running startles her. Fast, excited, agitated stamping
round and round and faster. Her eyes grow wider and wider. She is quite
still. A twig cracks in half.)
SHE
Henry?
Who're you?
(A man in overcoat and fingerless gloves, scraggly beard, stubble, possibly
woolly hat.)
52 HE
Spare any change?
(Pause.)
SHE
No. Sorry.
HE
Evening, Missus. Spare any change?
(She looks at him.)
Lovely evening. Light on the top two leaves.
Lovely evening. Stars dance along the trees'
noses. Don't you think? Enough to bring
tears to your eyes, isn't it?
SHE
(indicating no pockets)
I haven't got any. I'm fresh from the funeral.
HE
(moving away)
Much obliged.
SHE
I'd help if I could—sorry!
HE
Stars haven't stopped moving have they?
Look at that! Look! Top two leaves gone now!
Shocking, innit?
SHE
What?
HE
They just go like that. Steal 'em they do.
Stars. Little buggers. Stick 'em under their coats.
Night. No one notices. Bam. Next morning
gone—not a leaf in sight.
only this mulch on the ground.
Make you wonder dunit?
53 SHE
(With a slight helpless flap)
Sorry.
HE
Not to worry, not to worry. Stuck up bastards.
I had her in forty-seven.
(Moves away)
SHE
Henry.
HE
'Course, if you want to know the truth
it was the Russians. They started wearing black
long before you lot with rocks in your hands
stones on your tits, little diamond rings.
Sorry?
You come here much?
No. Only since... recently.
Used to?
What?
Did you use to? Come here?
SHE
HE
SHE
HE
SHE
HE
SHE
Once upon a time. Yes, I suppose so.
HE
Thought so. You look like you fit in.
Attitude and everything.
54 SHE
Attitude?
HE
You're not treading on the leaves. Are you?
I mean, you're not are you?
Was it you following me?
Wherf
Before.
SHE
HE
SHE
HE
Just now?
(She nods.)
No.
You been followed before that have you?
Have you been followed... a lot?
SHE
I don't think so.
HE
What's your connection to that bench?
SHE
It's a coincidence. I was just passing,
you can sit on it if you want!
HE
Thanks very much, I will. Very kind.
This is public property this is.
(He sits)
SHE
I'm sure I'd better be going.
55 HE
Don't go that way—you'll make your skirt wet.
SHE
What?
HE
It's muddy. There's a puddle this wide.
You could slip in it.
SHE
I don't slip.
HE
Did you go round it? First time?
On your way in here? You go round it?
SHE
I didn't see it.
HE
Ah well, that's the difference innit?
All the difference in the world.
Didn't see it. Well, if you didn't see it-
how could you slip in it?
—what else didn't you see?
SHE
I don't know what you're talking about.
(She goes.)
(sing-song)
There's a tree trunk!
I'm sorry?
HE
SHE
HE
There's a trunk—it's fallen—
across the path. Very nasty.
Earth on the roots. Leaves caught up.
56 Like a Christmas tree decorated with lights
—only just leaves speared on dirty roots-
dripping. Old rain.
SHE
I would have heard.
HE
It fell—just now. No one suspected.
SHE
I would have heard.
HE
Well—if you think you know everything
get your skirts wet. What do I care about dry cleaning?
You want to walk—you walk.
What you don't see—the stars steal it
—what am I, your guide dog?
SHE
I'm sorry.
(He doesn't look at her.)
SHE
Have you lived here long?
HE
Since they stopped selling ice-cream in the pavilion.
It offended me. Perfectly good ice-cream.
I had a raspberry whip. It was the kids.
And the frigidaires. Roaring out the back of the hut all night.
Even at night they have to stay cold. Disgusting.
When they stopped that I slept.
Little patisserie bistro cafe there now. Charming.
SHE
Are you... alright? Here?
HE
See those stars? Those two—
where the leaves where? Twinkling?
57 SHE
(looking hard)
I suppose.
HE
Not those two—those two.
The white ones. Not the pink.
SHE
Yes
HE
They had those two leaves.
Scoffed 'em. Like croissants
out the bin o' that cafe. Gone! I saw 'em
out the corner of my eye.
They'd have crumbs on their teeth now
if you make 'em smile—and leaf stem
—I'd bet my beard on it.
SHE
Ah.
HE
Go home to your mourning cake.
Don't get your skirts wet. Don't slip.
I'll be watching your leaves for you.
But don't blame me if they're all gone next week.
There's only so much I can do alone.
Only so much—a man alone.
SHE
I've got this flower.
HE
I don't need your flower.
What am I—charity? I don't need your flower.
Put your flower in the bottom drawer
with your black undies
that you wear only for funerals
not when you oughter
58 —you do, don't yer?
Put your flower there!
(She's gone) (shouts after her)
Don't slip on the dirty water!
It's treacherous. Watch your feet!
(He abandons sight of her. He looks around the circle. He walks a step or
two. Leaves come. Pause.)
HE
She's quiet, (looks off) You gone, luv?
Russians—no food in their feet.
It's the mocassins.
(Pause. He walks the circle again. Leaves come with each step.)
(shouts off)
Love! Love! Don't step in the puddle! The leaves're here!
They're not gone! They're not stolen!
(He begins walking in a circle, and leaves match him; He goes in a straight
line and then a circle, finally a circle around the bench, leaves screaming
after him. Light begins to diminish from this point through rest of scene.
Night falling.)
HE
(in and under-breath, getting louder)
Ice-cream, ice-cream, ice-cream.
Ice-cream, ice-cream, ice-cream.
You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice-cream.
Ice-cream, I—
SHE
(re-enters)
Excuse me?
HE
What?
SHE
The gate.
59 HE
What gate?
SHE
It's locked. The South entrance.
HE
Oh, that gate.
SHE
Cherry tree gate.
HE
Locked?
SHE
Locked.
HE
Well that's it then,
innit? You'll have to sleep under this lot.
Drippy mind, they are. But I've managed.
And I don't have stones on me chest.
Let's see how many's to come, (looks up)
Crikey, they've had the lot.
SHE
What?
HE
(dropping to crouch)
Lummy—the stars. Too many stars.
SHE
Get up.
HE
I can't. Lummy. Too many of 'em.
I can't fight 'em off. Leave me.
You run before they close in.
SHE
Look. What are you talking about?
60 HE
Their teeth—you not been listening?
... bluey black teeth. All of them...
SHE
(approaching)
Listen—I need your help—
HE
Don't come any nearer! I'll use this!
(holds out gloved hand)
SHE
What?
HE
This mitten. Feverish. In the wrong hands.
SHE
I won't touch it. Are you... alright?
HE
(rises)
Getting past it. It's darkness.
SHE
You were right about the puddle. It's at the gate.
I didn't see it in the light. My shoes are wet.
HE
You want a leg-over? Leg over—the gate?
SHE
Yes. You want this flower?
I got it at a social function
this afternoon.
HE
In this mitten? It'll explode.
SHE
I'll put it on your coat. It'll stop the smell.
(Pause) I can't see you.
61 HE
It's alright. The stars won't bite if there's's two of us.
(They stop and look up at the stars. He hums.)
Keep staring. They sense fear on us.
SHE
Move for the gate. Slowly.
HE
Alright. You watch 'em.
You sure they won't bolt
on you? Are you experienced?
SHE
I'm an old hand. I've got tolerance.
HE
Alright. I'll meet you at the gate.
You come with me. (edges towards off-stage)
Not a wrong step. We'll spit on you soon as swallow snot.
Take this.
What is it?
Take it.
(He takes it. The flower.)
It burns.
Hold it for me.
I'll meet you at the gate.
SHE
HE
SHE
HE
SHE
HE
You're coming? Coming with me?
62 SHE
I'm coming. Coming now. You have to get me out.
(He edges out backwards.)
HE
Alright. Alright. Streakers.
(edges off)
SHE
Henry. I've got your heart.
It's the puddle, Henry—I saw it
spat in a hundred pieces off the reflecting vines
off of the mulchy leaves. I saw it.
Your heart is the stars drowning, Henry, and I'm locked in.
I'm locked in. I'm going to get out now, Henry. You stay here.
(to off)
I'm coming. I'm coming. Don't cry. I'm coming.
(She stands looking at the stars.)
I'm coming.
(Pause. She exits. Pause.)
(off)You've no stockings!
(off)
Lift! Lift! I'm not flying.
HE
SHE
(The last light fades. Leaves breath a sigh. Silence.)
For performance rights please contact:
Helen Merrill
435 West 23rd. St., Suite 1A
New York, NY 10011
Phone: (212) 691-5326.
63 Daniel Tobin
three poems from the sequence "Tracks"
Dream
In the dream the doctor gave us a pill
for the wounds on our feet
and the cancer in our lungs.
In the dream the bombers flew over:
we watched them from the stadium
with out hands over our mouths.
In the dream we lay out on the flagship
as the angels in the whirlwind
ran their pikes through our hearts.
In the dream we left our bodies completely,
hovering just long enough
not to look back.
64 According to Legend
If you wish on the outstretched hand
of the mummified crusader
buried under St. Michim's Church
your dream, as in tall tales, will come true.
I crowded down that basement years ago
with the curious, the dragged-along,
in my knapsack the notebook packed with lines,
grasped a finger, rehearsed the signs.
There's no end to this looking back, wishing for.
Faithful hand, tanned to a saint's hide,
can you feel the grip of these words
fastened on you still?
65 Walnuts
I could trephine them with pincers,
break their rosetta surface
with a single crack-
black bark, the grain
rough and washed with rain
wraps a million tubes,
sap, and bitter soil:
the still, wet, ancestral tree.
I squeeze one in my palm,
press it to a sharp loosening.
Jove's seed, spilled brain—
I lick my lips with time's taste.
66 D. Nurkse
two poems
The Road To Ko
A funeral passed through the wheat,
a child's coffin surrounded
by guttering candles;
those who followed
sang, moaned and beat a drum.
You asked me
"Is it the hardness of life here
that makes them so sure of paradise?"
I couldn't answer.
No matter how they whirled,
the dancers' eyes remained averted.
67 The Final Chance
Each night in Xaia
I wondered: why don't they kill me?
there had been no wheat in that city
for three days... a week...
The watersellers sat on their casks
drumming their ladles between their legs,
eyes huge with thirst: but each night
they were milder, more polite.
I walked at midnight through the crowds.
Men gambled, scooping up
their dice with great effort,
children stumbled after knotted rags,
arguing over boundaries.
Women sang softly
to babies too tired to sleep.
But no one looked at me.
No one spoke. If a tossed jack
bounced off my shoe
it was recovered gingerly.
I thought bitterly:
can't they tell I'm here
by will, not accident?
Only the lottery-ticket seller
followed me until dawn,
rattling his dented tin cup,
chanting, Stranger, reciting
his inexhaustible list of numbers.
68 Tapestry
Steven Nay lor
Jane had been the first to hear of her mother's departure. She was the
oldest and I was hoping to gather strength from her. I had hurried our
breakfasts and was anxious to get us outside. It was a sunny day with
a sharp cool wind—much like today. We spent the morning on our favourite stretch of beach. Jane was sitting high upon my shoulders. For her
there were only wondrous surroundings and infinite happy days. I
tightened my grip around her ankles, finding reassurance in the warmth
of her heavy wool socks. "Where is mommy?" she said. I began by
speaking make believe, of Disney characters dancing upon the surf. I
even tried to envision them myself—I watched them writhe, inarticulate
and dumb. But for my child they laughed and played. Jane was the oldest,
I reminded myself, and she would remember.
Elizabeth had listened.
She could not believe I was capable of such cruelty. She would have
preferred to wait until things were more finalized and she had wanted to
tell the children herself. I had told her I didn't see the point in waiting;
that it would have required our living together for perhaps another several months. And the pretense was something I just could not endure.
"My childhood is gone." I began. "An age which pre-exists time is no
longer." Elizabeth rolled her eyes and told me to stop. But I was
reminded of age in everything we said. I was forty-two, my wife was
forty, Jane was seven, Sara was five, Billy was two. The wine menu separated and protected us. But it was self-defeating and, propped up like a
sad reminder, a study of the past, it brought back memories like only a favourite cafe could. The conversation only pulled us further apart. It became, for me, a slow and painful admittance of things, where phrasing became everything. I ordered a drink I didn't want. Elizabeth ordered nothing. We talked about my mother's move and my own move. I told her that
it will be difficult telling the children. She thought she was reassuring me
by telling me that they were still to young to really feel for my departure;
that it'll be alright. So we endure the awkwardness for another few
minutes. I forgive myself the occasional lapse into nostalgia, that pitiful
fragrance attaching itself to memory, but for the most part I remain dark
69 and cautious, the space between occupied by bitterness and hate. I could
not help but blame myself for everything. And, of course, she could only
agree.
I have known Elizabeth since I was twelve.
When I first saw her I was playing in the backyard of my grandmother's
place, an enclosed piece of wild grass, shrubbery, and birch. There was a
magnificent edge on the left side of the lawn where the grass met a narrow steep rockery; about a foot deep. Here, on a bed of dense moist
soil, was a splattering of stones, wild flowers and weeds. The possibilities for play and ambush for my Action man as he dove and hid from the
enemy in his camouflaged fatigues were endless. It was here where I
crouched, invisible to the world. Or so I thought. Twenty-five feet away,
watching, stood Elizabeth. She stood behind the sun's glare, pressed
against the glass of her mother's bedroom window, clothed in a black
tight-fitting low cut dress. The dress, more a message to the innocent
beyond the six foot fence separating us, gave her an extra five years at
least. As my scout scanned the area his eyes caught what could only be
described as the sad eroticism of the girl next door. Our eyes remained
locked and my face fell blank, unable to respond to a strange new
stimulus. Elizabeth remained suggestive, wanting. I took my eyes away
from her and back to my toy soldier. Suddenly I felt ashamed of what I
was doing. So I nestled my forefinger into the flexible rubber grasp of my
Action Man's hand and absently played with his arm, while trying to act as
if she wasn't there. But it was ridiculous to ignore her. She smiled, anxious; committed to the scene. I took my eyes away from her again and
back down to my Action man. The battlefiedl had begun to fade, I was incapable of realizing tactics and strategy. I could no longer grit my teeth or
make the obligatory Tommy gun sounds with my mouth. I could no
longer move my man around without feeling self-conscious and stupid. I
endured this new humiliation for less than a minute before collecting my
stuff and running into the house. And the evening ended: my father sat in
our dark musty old study, brooding over some papers, listening to a
Schubert Trio. I stood by the doorway staring at my oblivious father. It
would be four years before I discovered masturbation. Childhood had
vanished and adolescence had yet to descend. There was no warning,
nothing. But I had played for the very last time.
Outside, the girls skip rope over the cracked pavement. I smile, but
mine is the stone eye of adulthood, the still figure of maturity, reshaping
the scene to resemble a childhood past. In this, nature is not alone in its
need to express itself more intensely during autumn, to make itself
heard. We whine like an intrusive presence on their game. We object to
the gingham dress and the polished saddle shoe. We deny innocence its
70 place, its playground. I remember telling Jane that autumn reminds one of
one's age. Well, it is not just autumn. I watch Jane as she sweeps her hair
from her face and watches Sara's exhausted breath as it counts out the
last few numbers, "forty-seven, forty-eight, forty-nine, fifty."
I know in our own way, we have not tried, Elizabeth and I. I am reassured by this—this admittance of my own weakness. Because perhaps
someday I will make a genuine effort. This seems strange, but when I
consider that the relationships of most of the friends I know have ended
because of weaknesses both partners refuse to recognize, I am encouraged. Acceptance, compromise: these are words thrown about often
which suggest that longevity depends, in part, on a couple's ability to
graph its strengths and weaknesses. I make a mental list.
A: I never made an effort to understand her relationship with her
mother; and it was important to her that I did. It was not so important for
me to understand her past, but for her to understand her past.
B: I will never understand a childhood that appeared to exist without
abuse. It is something I cannot comprehend, yet this was her story. Hers
was a childhood in the Rockwell tradition. She observed the sympathetic
rituals of the day and survived. Conversation as maintenance. She had a
sister. She had a mother. A father.
C: Sometimes I think our problems began where they ended—with a
face that reminded me of a rotten apple, with lopsided sunken bruise
marks for eyes. The father was essentially a meek man who cherished a
strange and quiet state of confinement. He wore somnolence with a
perky grace, always seeming to be in a state of waking. His cane by his
side always, a sceptre to his strength and wisdom, he reminded me of the
medieval knight, but wrapped in the armour of his day: a worn dull grey
wool cardigan with leather elbow pads and baggy corduroy trousers. He
concealed a quiet constant cough, one he could hush as he would a favoured child's indiscretion. It was a sinister exterior.
The night she left I was standing in the still autumn night with an imported beer in one hand and a book of Haiku in the other. She had appeared out of nowhere it had seemed to me. She had had enough. She
was jabbing her forefinger into the centre of her ribs. Listen to me, she
had said, these are my words, listen to what I have to say. So I did. But I
was given no time to respond.
The kitchen window frames a dead canvas. It used to be something on
those mornings when I could see us as a magical old couple with our tea
and bran. But the natural distortion of old glass presents another story. I
see things now. I look out at my garden study and I see my old school
desk, and that wooden chair, and that paperweight with those papers
beneath it for what they really are. That I could actually sit for hours, do
71 nothing, and listen to the gentle stir of housework. And pretend.
Everything I saw I could like.
The spare bedroom: this is the place she studied and slept while we
denied things. I want to say she studied history and archaeology. But in
fact it was botany. She was an avid treewatcher: "The Cedar Elm. Ulmus
crassifolia is a strange tree; its leaves are so hard and rigidly stalked that
in the wind they remain quite unflexed and the hard, whip-like shoots
bend with the leaves as one piece. The bark is a dull pink-grey becoming
deeply fissured and dark grey as the tree gets older. The tree is a small
one with a short bole, a dome of arching branches and rather pendulous
outer shoots. The flowers appear in the fall, beginning in August and by
October the oblong-elliptic, deeply notched fruits hang in masses; they
are covered in soft white hairs."
My writing was not nearly as clever. As insightful. As revealing. As
brave as hers. Yet I must have succeeded, for she clung onto every word
I wrote. It had seemed strange to me that my writing was more important to her than it was to me. But now I see her interest for what it really
was. It gave clues as to the true state of our relationship. It gave us the
information we needed. And it gave us the opportunity to loathe one another. The papers will remain there as proof that she too worked on our
relationship from an obscure angle. And failed.
D: Most of the time I wrote about women. If I wrote about men it was
through the eyes of the child. I'm accused of presumption, of denial, of
not being able to relate to the adult male perspective. She pointed this
out over tea with her father. The three of us. I smiled, looked from her to
her father, back to her and then over to the plants by the window.
E: I enjoyed a quiet afternoon watching the ducks; she didn't. I wonder
what it was about breaking off pieces of dried bread and tossing them into
the still waters that infuriated her so. What was in that picture that
caused her so much pain?
—Could it have been the old men on either side of me quietly whistling
the old songs?
"Elizabeth, I understand when you hesitate to say that they are waiting
to die." I said.
—Could it have been the children with their playfulness, their laughter?
"Elizabeth, I understand your inability to watch." I said.
—Was it the brisk winds she endured on those cold Sunday afternoons?
—Was it the family obligations we avoided? Or was it my reluctance to
speak?
For the last time I hope to recall that warm autumn afternoon at her
mother's. She had washed. I had dried. The mother and the father were
72 waiting in their chairs in the family room. Their chairs. The father was
decidedly cool towards us both. The mother behaved meekly, as though
she and her husband had just exchanged words. Perhaps we had spoken
too loud. I began to sweat. The mother was smoothing out two different
placemats—on on each knee. Will it be easy, Elizabeth, the mother had
said to the daughter, for you to choose one pattern over the other. When both
are so beautiful. I had squinted over to the pathetic figure on my right.
His breathing, irregular as it was, contained a strength and vitality. I saw
his eyes dart from me to my wife to her mother. My wife looked to me,
to her father and back to her mother. The mother had kept her gaze
glued to the placemats. My wife had cleared her voice and said no. That
was two years ago.
I have been working on a story about a little boy who spends hours one
day fixing and cleaning his bicycle while his favourite merry-go-round
gets a new coat of paint. He whistles the songs from his father's day and
does his share of the housework without complaining. He gives his
baseball cards away instead of trading them. His friends take advantage
of this. The merry-go-round will always seem wet to this young boy even
after the paint has dried. Because cold metal and wet paint are the same
to him. This wasn't the case before the merry-go-round was painted. But
now it is. His parents will think that he has stopped playing on it because
he is older. It is the story of a young boy and the things that are important
to him. There is no girl in the story.
I take my children out into the back. They run over to the old rusty
swings. I tell Billy not to push Sara so hard. He looks back to me but does
not respond. Jane stays by my side holding tightly onto my hand. She
does not seem to like this place. I listen patiently as she tells me about a
new book she's reading. It is called Huckleberry Finn. I tell her I thought
that was a boy's book. She tugs at my hand until we reach the others. I
miss my wife. And the worst of it comes through when I speak to my children. Because every word counts, every gesture matters.
I keep saying that I must speak with her again. I keep saying I'll tell her
how I really feel. I'll tell her that when a forty-two year old man masturbates, it is out of anger not frustration. Listen to me, I'll say, these are my
words. Listen to what I have to say.
73 William Logan
three poems
Eden
1. The Court
The pock of tennis echoes through the garden,
the cold report of mortar in the hills.
Neither the player nor the terrorist knows
where life misleads him. The lovers oversleep,
coiled in the night's abandoned sweats—
the bees are long in the flowers, burrowing,
lost in their grubbing, sickly humility.
Sin, for the angel, is just professional.
A vine drifts up the wooden fence, careless,
nosing toward some unintended answer.
Its leaves take sweetness in their anonymity,
like unto like, the New World's argument.
Nature might be a swirl in a test tube,
betting against the twitching of the nerve.
2. The Fall of the Grand Hotel
And now in salt-burned woodland, having lost
the long drains and the equivocal shore
(its breakers poised through the sandy frost
to raze the white hotel to the hedged floor),
the old god lingers on, above the dead,
a lime-washed statue striking the old pose.
Nothing more is said,
and in the background the underpainting shows.
The crack of ravens slurs the broken wood,
the broken word,
74 the track that crosses over winter graves,
through weeds humped up, the frozen good.
Now the long peace descending,
and canvas collapses on the tangled waves.
75 Adam and Eve
The angels stood embarrassed
in their nakedness
as if the body were a marriage of evil.
We passed beneath their Mess gaze,
entering the chapel,
into the freezing starlight
of a moon's cracked panes,
salt-edged and merciless.
The fogged linoleum broke
into crude Quattrocento borders,
when city feared the appetite of city.
We sat in an out-of-the-way corner
beneath a musty painting
where something like a deer
breasted a varnished slope.
Through brackish clouds lightning
flames, though one searing bolt
was only a rough tear in the canvas.
0 sacred clumsy animall
Out in the dusty blindness of Rome,
the ocher was peeling
from shuttered buildings in arched squares.
Stale, starved rivulets shook in the gutters,
their oily ribbons
falling—like miniature rainbows—
into the ancient storm sewers,
and the slight, shy angle of a street
turned a distant corner, a mockery of despair.
76 The Woods at M
Deep in the wood each dawn I heard
the shrouded question of the wren.
You wouldn't ask that question now.
I could not answer, then
I stood beneath two cottonwoods
show dry leaves clacked in a pearly lustre.
A throttled cry rolled out of the brush
attached to a feather duster.
It spun and cartwheeled in the dirt,
advanced, retreated whimpering,
cocked its head, then crawled along
dragging a crippled wing.
The woods were half on fire with drought
that late July, when I had strayed.
You loved me then with all the reason
of someone first betrayed.
71 Allan Brown
three poems
Translating Rilke
"What would happen if. . ." says the poet;
the composer also ... "if this note,
then such another only." Soft and soft
the spirit grubs about till into
again the unimaginable place.
Irregular layers of this grey stone
as, lake-washed, cavorting. Sylvia Plath
practices her German by translating
Rilke. In the beginning was the choice.
Limits moves in both directions, making
possible for finding what contained and
knowable the blurred encompassing.
Wer
wenn ich schriee, horte mich: separate
as water in water; they have no story.
78 Et in hora mortis nostrae
A little further till the usual
mix of goop and gizzards in a skin bag
recognizable: for we shall see him
as he is.
Persistently the juggle
of light on water, so close I could touch
but cannot a reach to; yet still the chance
of something other if the distant clash
of gravel, and a chimney-sweeper breaks
in startles of, dithering to the ground.
Today, then? when the swell in whispers of
that red as dust again shape (but none such,
whatever my imaginings)
and a shaded place and even the wind
ruffling a little and there: I see it.
79 Waiting
for Theodore Roethke
In the dream you are waiting. Whenever
two or three words are gathered together,
gut-rumble advises, a chance perhaps
of Veni Creator in rise and fall
it tumbling; like that pale erratic wind
till lift me a little higher, the old
fardle mutters, a kiss or so to here
the blessing place; but swerving cannot now,
the ungraspable dirt.
A condition
of intense confusion often precedes
a condition of intense clarity.
Bea decorously shaping where those words
to "one small fire"; but TR knew better
squawks his ending with the Saginaw Song.
80 Snow Cigarette
Ken Rivard
It's time for his evening puff. I watch him shuffle to the hall closet and
take out his new blue winter coat. Then, he zips himself up after only
three tries. Soon, he moves outside near the front door, unfolds the
one lawnchair and falls into it like a boulder in a giant sling. Finally, he
lights up a smoke. It begins to snow. My father sits in the lawnchair just
outside my front door, blowing his smoke at the snowflakes. When I look
out the window, I see how incongruent, how beautifully incongruent my
father is in the lawnchair with his navy blue winter coat and grey tweed
cap. His cigarette is one more star. The snow now falls heavier. I want to
call my father inside. Instead, I watch him brush away the November
snow from his face and cherished cigarette. The snow falls even harder.
His head and body are covered in white. My father's left hand becomes
an umbrella over his half-smoked cigarette. I have to hold my hand back
from tapping on the window. But he's determined to suck every bit of
nicotine from his homemade cigarette. Keep his fingers in shape.
81 Derk Wynand
four poems
Angel in the House,
Outside
Sheets weigh down the clothesline and the holly bushes
in their back yard, rugs lie face-down in snow, ready
for beating. In these conditions, they will never
dry or be free of dust. Snow begins to cover
strung shirts and blouses, more intimate whites that sag
and sag into wintry calm, no protection now
against the elements. If she listens, she can
almost hear the flakes pile up, layer by layer,
absorbing the bad sound of things, and almost feel
the wet cloth stiffen to ice. Less audible now:
his noisy theories about shoes and old women
who live in them, his thin jokes about feet and gloves
and hands too much in them. As he struggles to come
up with more circumlocutions, she finds a way
to ignore them: she applies polish she washes
she cooks she thinks. She turns her eyes to the window.
Snow keeps falling on diapers and socks. It falls wet
and soft as snow, and soon she links it to the way
one of them pretends to listen while the other
pretends to speak. Staring at the clothesline, she sees
the creature on its back beneath, flapping its arms,
in woollen layers laughing or crying, waving,
ambiguous, its calls snow-muted, bearable.
82 Tentative
gulls and crows
fly past bickering
night and day squawking
day and night too simple
truth hard to distinguish
one gull hunkers down
into itself keeping an eye
on the crow that stukas it
smaller and smaller voices
as day turns to night and night
turns to day the light prevailing
or shinking the gulls flying
into it and the crows also
everything simpler this way
just as you've said
the distance a haze white
body into which gulls fade
out of which crows emerge
or vice versa
carcass picked clean again
83 scraps of light in their beak
gristle and sinew not much
to fight over the birds refusing
to let go
taunting or eyeing one another
with uncertain gluttony like us
unwilling to deny whatever appears
held back or offered
84 Green Zone
outdoor benches chewed up
over decades by lovers with a need
to prove something
knives hauled out of pockets
after long tussling long whispering
of proper names or improper
the lovers startled out of dreams
of perfection into mundane excuses
and corrective woodwork
new initials carved into old
leaving less and less wood to support
the idea of benches
on which thoughts rain down
night and day more a brushing
of the skin than a rain
lashes aflutter at the cheek
butterfly kisses but
with real butterflies
not only the wood exposed the blood
pressing against all its vessels
giving rise to still more ideas
pushing them closer and closer
to the nervous skin
the surface again
85 Keeping Up Appearances
Winter apples dotted trees without leaves,
a mist slowly washing the black branches
and fruit away, as in Chinese landscapes,
hints of more solid mountains here and there
in the background poking through, a traveller
or two perhaps in a straw hat, neither
tea- nor wine-house close by, nor bordello,
or was I confusing cultures again,
and it seemed important that the mist was
not so pure as it had appeared at dawn,
that the autumn fires outside had been
giving up their smoke all day, offering
at the same time a simple solution
to the mystery of the missing leaves,
while the neighbours, in front of wood fires,
a little drunk on medicinal wine,
grappled with questions no less difficult
to answer, exhausted too from working
all day long to hold the apples steady
in the wisps of the trees, even as smoke
and mist worked to break our concentration
that kept the fruit solid, its colours true.
86 Louis Daniel Brodsky
La Primavera
In every direction, swarms of green bees
Have attached themselves to trees,
Forming variegated, pointillistic halos.
The hymeneal season's warmth gushes
With menstrual redbud flowering crab,
Lilac, violet, forsythia. Winter's coarse habit
Drops slowly to the ground around spring's feet,
Leaving her naked in pubescent luxuriance.
My transfixed eyes scurry along the nerves;
Blood surges; my oxygenated mind stirs,
Awakens within its hibernal lung-caves.
The perfume of egg and sperm in thick suspension
Converges on my palpitant senses, hangs awash
In the breeze as though the air were placental,
Capable of giving birth by sheer suspiration.
Everything is conjugating, being pollinated,
Regenerating spontaneously, and I, once again
Having impregnated my fertile imagination,
Stand witness to the parturition of this year's issue;
Mild April baptizes her child in my waiting eyes.
87 What We're Looking
For
Ron MacLean
I'm thinking of changing my name to Spartacus."
A postcard from Matt. On the picture side, a window, framed
with a string of coloured bulbs, the room around it glowing reddish,
a glimpse of a house outside the window, and you can tell it's cold even
before you read the caption on the back: Christmas Window, Somerville.
Matt and I communicate by phone. We don't write letters. We're both
writers. Something about this seems to both explain and render ludicrous
our relentless tendency to communicate only across fiber-optic lines.
Frequently. At least once a week. The phone has been our lifeline since I
moved to Albany from Los Angeles two years ago, leaving Matt on Grace
Street in Hollywood, with the police helicopters hovering overhead each
night and the neighbour revving his nearly-dead Volkswagen to a roaring
start each morning, an urban rooster, at 6:00 sharp.
Last year, he'd seriously considered changing his name to Bellini—
"just Bellini, like Bono, or Sting." Now Spartacus. A recurring temptation to escape the middle American blandness of his name, Matt Hall-
symmetrical, monosyllabic, dull—and a simple tribute to the strength, the
utter unflappability of the heroic characters we'd both love to become-
to be certain of ourselves, to know, exactly, who we are. I think Matt
needs to leave Los Angeles.
I keep the postcard on my desk all that day while I'm working on a
promotional brochure for a sports medicine clinic. (And getting
nowhere—all I can think of is the sterile sheen of the equipment in the
rehab room, and the pleasant emptiness of the technician who showed
me around, but I'm determined—no chilli burger for me until I come up
with three viable headline ideas.) I plan to call Matt tonight after the rates
have gone down. Matt is writing a mummy movie.
Four o'clock. Not a viable headline in sight. The phone rings.
"Something strange is going on."
88 The last time I can remember Matt saying this to me, the landlady at
his apartment on Beverly Glen, a barely converted garage, had just come
into his place from the main house to tell him that she was felling dizzy.
Her flowered robe unfastened. Her naked, sagging body peeking out.
This had happened before. He wrapped her up and asked her to leave him
alone. Carol had a mild case of multiple sclerosis. She said that her
medicine sometimes made her too emotional. She'd lose control of herself. Didn't happen very often. Matt had moved to Hollywood a couple of
months later, after a few of these incidents, fleeing the rats which
roamed between the outer and inner walls of his apartment, fleeing the
ghost of his sad landlady.
So I was expecting something a little juicier than what I got.
"For a couple of weeks, I've been getting someone else's mail."
I'm disappointed. "So?"
"Catalogues. Bills. Letters."
"Happens all the time."
"I just called the post office. His name is Matt Hall. He lives on my
street."
I laugh.
"Doesn't that strike you as a little odd?"
"It's pretty funny."
"The street is two blocks long." There's a pause. "Kind of spooky."
"You're spending too much time locked in your room with a mummy.
Get out of the house. Go to a movie. Take the dog for a walk."
"Spooky."
Seven o'clock. I'm no closer to an acceptable headline. I call my friend
and sometimes business partner, Carla, for inspiration. I'd left a message
on her machine at around three. Carla left New York two years ago,
moved to Hudson with her husband, a Slavic cartoonist with a violent
temper. I'd counseled her against marrying him, and he knew it. Every
time I talk to Orrin, this knowledge hovers between us.
"Carla. It's me. Help."
There's a pause at the other end of the phone. "Can't talk right now."
"Come on. I'm stuck."
"I'll call you back."
I guess marital trouble. Orrin thinks I've always had it in for him, that I
never gave him a chance. I hang up the phone and sulk.
On the news, an Elvis impersonator, at a convention of Elvis impersonators: "No makeup. No plastic surgery. I didn't choose this life.
The public thrust it upon me."
89 Two hours later, after Jeopardy, Rescue 911 and America's Most Wanted,
I dial Carta's number again. Orrin answers. I try to sound upbeat.
"Hey, Orrin. Is Carla around?"
"No."
"When do you expect her back? It's kind of important."
"She took some things. Went to her mother's."
Boom. Just like that. Orrin says that kind of thing. Carla says it's a trait
of Europeans. Blunt. Direct. She says America is polite society. This is
not intended as a compliment. She'd rather yell at our clients. I usually do
the talking at meetings. Meanwhile, I can feel resentment oozing across
the silent telephone line.
"Oh." I'm wondering what has caused Carla to move out this time. It's
happened before. A few months ago. Orrin got jealous when an old
boyfriend of Carla's—and we're talking several years before, another
Slav who was looking for someone to marry so that he could get a green
card, but Carla decided she wasn't that desperate—showed up at her
door, for a visit, married now to a Beverly Hills woman twenty years his
senior, wearing Italian suits, driving a Jag. Made Carla laugh. Made Orrin
crazy. He concluded Carla had been having an affair. He bought a gun and
threatened to shoot Jerzy if he ever came back to the apartment. Carla
stayed at her mother's for a few days before they worked that one out.
I'm hanging onto the phone. I should be thinking about what to say to
Orrin. Instead I'm thinking about Carla's mother. Carla's mother is nice.
A blue-haired Yugo—a cauliflower head, Carla calls her, a tribute to her
hairstyle. I know that she makes a mean pineapple upside-down cake. I
don't know where she lives or how to reach her. Carla will call me. She
always does. Even so, I should get her mother's phone number.
Matt is between relationships. He spent a few months dating Roxanne,
a film editor who liked root beer floats. She left because she felt Matt was
"emotionally unavailable." This is the pattern. He recognizes it—that his
inability to give himself keeps costing him—but he can't seem to overcome it. There's nothing there to give because it's been given to someone who can't give it back. Her name is Carol, like his sad landlady, except that he loves her and she's married. And Matt has a sadness in his
voice. A distance. He hasn't chosen it. He's just lived for too long in a
rough neighbourhood.
"I'm learning some things about him."
"Who?"
"The other Matt."
90 We never say hello. We just jump in, as if continuing one long conversation that began when we met, seven years ago, at the wedding of a
mutual college friend.
"What do you mean?"
"Notes. Lists. Studying the mail. Figuring out his interests. What kind
of person he is."
"How's the script coming?" I'm concerned about it. It's due in ten
days. Last time we'd talked, he was on page six and wasn't sure his most
recent outline would pass the three-day test.
"Forget about that. Listen. He's from Washington—gets letters from
there, family, once a week—Fridays, like clockwork. Bothell. Just outside Seattle."
"How do you know that?" I begin to worry that he's reading this alternate Matt's mail.
"The atlas." I can hear his dog barking in the background. He covers
the mouthpiece and yells, "Nero!" The barking stops. "He's gay. Mail
from Gay and Lesbian Alliance. Subscription to The Advocate."
"Okay."
"He's into hiking—mountain climbing, or something. Catalogues from
the North Face, EMS, that kind of thing. Mountaineer magazine."
"You going to return his mail now?"
"I'm still curious."
"What?"
"Can't tell how old he is. What kind of work he does. No clue. Wouldn't
you think a person's mail would tell you that?"
"Matt, what page are you on?"
"Six."
"Get back to work."
Carla does call. On Sunday. She wants to have lunch on Monday. At Victor's, a deli we frequent when we have money. "What's going on?" I ask.
"You okay?"
"Talk to you tomorrow," she says.
So now we're sitting in a booth at Victor's, red leather padded benches, you know the routine, and Carla's having chopped liver and I'm having the hot turkey sandwich and we've both overdosed on the pickles,
which are incredible, and Carla is talking with her mouth full, telling me
about her weekend.
"I thought this was it. I told myself. 'No more.' " Carla went back to
Orrin yesterday, though they're still not speaking. "Why should I put up
with this? He's got no reason to be jealous." Carla takes a bite of chopped
91 liver and pumpernickel. We're eating slowly. Conversing slowly. The
whole thing has the feel of people moving through water. The lunch rush
buzzes around us.
Orrin is jealous of me. He's convinced himself that Carla and I are having an affair. He lit into her about that very thing Friday night, moments
before I called.
"He's like a child. He sits and sulks and doesn't speak to me. Finally I
ask him what's wrong, usually at least three or four times, and he'll just
sit with his arms folded tight across his chest, and then finally, he blows.
Starts ranting. Crazy stuff. How we've been seeing each other since before he and I even met. How you're disdainful of him. How he's not going
to be made a fool of. I tell him I'm sick of these foolish accusations, sick of
his temper."
Carla laughs. Tells me how he says she doesn't know anything about
his temper. How he gets out his gun, starts waving it around, bragging
about how he broke his last girlfriend's nose. Pushed her face into the
wall when he found out she was seeing someone else. So Carla went to
her mother's for two days.
"Why did you go back? You can't do this."
"I'm forty-two years old," she says. "How many chances have I got
left?"
I'm eating turkey at my favorite deli. She tells me I shouldn't call her
for a while. She'll call me. It's best, she says.
Questions: 1. What do you do when you suspect you've been taken in,
that you've given yourself, with no payoff, to something that's not worthy
of you? 2. Why is Matt writing a mummy movie?
He wants to direct his own stories. He's got a contract, a script of his
that's been optioned, an independent production company, but it's been
two years while they've tried to put the financing in place ("We love the
story. We're committed to doing this.") and Matt begins to wonder if it's
ever going to happen, or if this is just the kind of schmoozing producers
have to do in order to get people to write mummy pictures.
"You're not going to believe this."
I look at my alarm clock. It's four forty-five. A.M. It's dark outside. I'd
just gotten to sleep, after working on the sports medicine brochure, now
four days late. The client rejected the first idea. Normally Carla would
bail me out, but I can't go to her. Matt's call is disorienting.
"What?"
"I'm working on the script, it's about midnight, I'm actually making
92 some progress. The outline has passed the three-day test, and I'm up to
page sixteen. So the phone rings. I pick it up, this guy's voice says,
'Matt?' I say, 'yeah?' He says, 'It's John Young.' "
John Young is the name of the mutual friend whose wedding we met at.
"Yeah."
"Only his voice doesn't sound like John Young. So I talk to him for a
minute and I realize, really quickly, that this is not the John Young I
know, and I'm not the Matt Hall he knows."
Matt lets the silence hang there, for effect. I'm feeling something
crawling on my spine. "Okay. I'm awake."
"There's more. It turns out this guy John and Matt are friends from
college. John's straight—he made the point several times. Anyway, John
is calling because he heard that Albert, Matt's lover, had moved out. Getting married. A woman. John had heard the whole story form Roy, a
mutual friend. Matt and Albert had been together for two years, quiet
couple, but a bit of a history. Albert is kind of a pretty boy—blonde hair,
blue eyes, a dancer for years, never really settled down sexually.
Couldn't make up his mind. Meets Matt, they hit it off. Matt convinces
him that he should give a serious relationship a try. Albert is tired of ping-
ponging. Matt is devoted, he figures it's worth a shot. Turns out maybe
Albert is looking for a relationship, but not with a man. He's been seeing
Raquel. Ashamed and all. Really trying to work things out with Matt and
all. But thinks this is really what he's wanted. He's talked it all out with
Roy—Matt doesn't know. Last week he announces to Matt that he's
moving out, marrying Raquel. Albert feels terrible, of course."
"Not as terrible as Matt, I'll bet."
"Exactly. Matt is incredibly depressed. Not getting out of bed
depressed. So John figures to give him a call. They're just Christmas
cards to each other lately, contact through mutual friends. But John gets
me instead."
"And he told you all this?"
"Most of it. He was kind of wound up. Matt is thirty-three, always
been paranoid about dying young, everyone in his family has, different
reasons. His life's been in the dumpster—hard time finding work and all-
prop work on film shoots—two friends had died last year. Slow, painful."
"Ouch. What do you mean, most of it?"
"I read a couple of letters."
"I thought you'd given those back."
"I don't know. It was like something wouldn't let me. Anyway, we
talked for about an hour. I feel horrible for this guy. John's really worried
about how he'll handle it. So now I can't sleep. I'm depressed."
93 "These things happen, Matt. People break up."
"I bet these things wouldn't happen to me if my name were Rufus, or
Rudolf Klaffenboch."
So Matt and I talk through the night. We end up talking about old
girlfriends, running through memories as if looking through a photo album: Rhonda Sklar, high school, the short girl with curly black hair and a
fondness for true crime stories, who I'd finally broken up with because I
couldn't reconcile myself to dating a cheerleader; Beth X, Matt's mathematician girlfriend from college, who'd made Newsweek'?, list of the nation's ten most promising young minds; Jayne Horan, who'd dumped me
to marry a missionary. It's around nine my time when we start to wind
down. Matt's neighbour's Volkswagen roars to life after several failed,
sputtering starts. Sunlight burns through my bedroom window. Matt is
rambling and I'm only half-listening, though I'm trying as hard as I can to
be there. Matt's wondering what would happen if he called this person,
this alternate Matt Hall—how he would react—could he help? Were there
letters that he—my Matt—wasn't receiving? Tins of cookies from
Grandma Jackson. Postcards from Pamela, the ex-girlfriend in Boston.
He wondered if the other Matt Hall had been checking up on him, and if
he had, if there were things that he'd learned that Matt, my Matt, didn't
know. He wondered what the universe would do, would anything change,
if he forced a convergence? What would happen'
This happened. He called me a few nights later, closer to ten or
eleven. I had finished the sports medicine brochure—mediocre, but accepted. He told me that he and Nero, his dog Nero, had spent the last
few evenings parked outside the apartment of the other Matt Hall, keeping watch, some kind of vigil.
"Why? What are you looking for? What will you do?"
"I don't know. I just want to see him. Talk to him."
"This is getting a little sick."
"What?"
"You're parked outside this guy's house, Matt."
"What would you do?"
I couldn't say. It didn't seem like the type of situation that would ever
come up.
Matt spent four nights staking out the apartment of his namesake. And
never saw anyone leave or enter. On the fifth night, sitting in his car, a
'69 Dodge Dart, listening to talk radio, Nero tugging at a rawhide bone, in
the evening, before sunset, the super went to the door of the apartment.
94 Let himself in. Matt hopped out of his car and went to talk. Casual.
Knocked. You know where Matt is? Gone. What do you mean, Gone?
Moved out. Oh. Friend of yours? Yeah. Kind of. Any forwarding address? Not that I know of. Check with the manager.
He did check with the manager. No address. No forwarding message
on the phone. Just the recording of the woman's whiny voLe, "the number you have dialed—467-8355—is not in service."
I want to call Carla.
Matt has a meeting with the Columbia people next week. He's on page
twenty-three. He's supposed to be finished. Nevertheless, he spent the
day at Griffith Park, wandering through Train Town, a sort of outdoor
museum of old rail cars. Can't work, he says. Stuck. Can't keep from
wondering about the other Matt. Where he is. How he's doing. Over the
phone line I can hear the police helicopter hovering over Hollywood. We
have to stop talking for a minute it's so loud. Right over his building. It's a
rough area, one of the old Hollywood neighbourhoods from when the industry was there, from when industry people lived there. You can see
the faded glory as you walk down the streets now given over to a tense
mix between musicians, artists and actors struggling to make it, and the
gangs and crack dealers who own the streets at night, their presence not
always seen, but clearly felt—palpable, like smog. I'm listening to the
whir and hiss of a machine flying outside my friend's window three thousand miles away, thinking about before I moved here, the late night
movies Matt and I would take in, the walks back to Grace Street, the
conversation, the confidence about the future. When the noise stops,
we'll talk through the night, about everything, about nothing. Until the
sun leaks through my bedroom blinds, we'll keep talking—listening to the
sound of each other's voice.
95 A Conversation with
Dave
Kenneth Adamson
I don't see Dave every time I go downtown, although I suspect Dave
goes downtown every day just as I do. Our paths do not always even
cross, I suspect, on those days when we are both downtown during
the same period of time. Now it may be that other friends of mine agree
to meet at a certain place and they may even agree to meet at a certain
time. But that is not a practice that Dave and I employ. We prefer to let
chance govern our encounters exclusively.
But, as luck would have it, Dave strolls up just as though we had
agreed to meet in front of The Bay at three o'clock and we shuffle around
a little because it's a nice day and he shows me what he's got in his shirt
pocket. He's got a TV in there and he says he's going to pawn it. I saw
this same TV about a year ago and I remember thinking: Why would anybody buy a TV that looks like a cellular phone? Mind you, the Starship Enterprise looks really cute on Dave's TV.
I tell him he might get five bucks for it and he says he'll get forty. Then
we sort of shuffle around some more and eventually get headed east and
make a left at the corner and stroll down the granite walk. And although
we are both very enthusiastic, expostulating and gesticulating to beat the
band, we are not really discussing anything worth getting worked up
about. Just stuff about the TV and whether it still works and how many
batteries you need to run it.
We wheel around this guy on the corner with his hat out. We head due
west past two bus stops, cutting through the knots of people there. Due
to the intensity of what Dave and I are telling each other, I don't remember any of their faces. Suddenly I realize that Dave has not been strolling
aimlessly down the street like I have, but is on his way to somewhere in
particular.
I can tell by the determined point of his nose as he pulls himself up the
steps to Scotia Centre that part of his mind is not concerned with the advice I am giving him regarding the proper use of his new Woolco credit
96 card. He is being drawn by a powerful force. And I am being towed in his
wake to the anemic lights of Arby's. I pull up short and tell him we can't
go in there. I tell him it's a bad choice: Look at the colour scheme. A&W is
better. I can't smoke at Arby's. But the force pulls us in. And there, at the
rear of the empty restaurant, is the reason for Dave's distraction. There,
looking a little derelict and surrounded by empty chairs and clean tables,
is Arthur. Arthur says: A Chinese lady asked me if I'm a senior. I'm forty-
seven.
So we hustle Arthur out of Arby's with his small Arby's coffee and we
go ask the Chinese guy, who I know doesn't allow smoking at his tables,
if we can smoke at his tables. He says no, so we go down to the croissant
place. But Arthur says that he can't go in there so we end up at A&W.
Then Arthur says he can't take his coffee into A&W because it says
Arby's on the cup, but I tell him they won't mind and he goes into the restaurant while I buy two coffees for Dave and me. Then Arthur comes
back with his Arby's coffee and says they won't let him drink it because it
says Arby's on the cup. So Dave asks for and A&W cup, pours Arthur's
coffee into it, throws the Arby's cup away, and we all go into the A&W.
We find a pretty good place to sit, except for this guy next to us who
looks like he's going to snap. But we're right by a window and pretty soon
we're watching the girls go by and Arthur says to me: Are you a mental
patient? Now another person might have been insulted by such an offensive question. But because I did at one time considered myself a mental
patient, I answer truthfully and Arthur returns to his newspaper.
It's a beautiful afternoon in the A&W and Dave starts to fill me in on the
latest news regarding his model helicopter. The last time I talked to him
the helicopter wouldn't take to the air because it was being forced into
the floor by the blades going the wrong way. Dave explains that he finally
got the blades to turn the right way. I tell him I'm glad to hear that, but I
want to know why he s flying his helicopter in his apartment. He says it's
been too windy and goes on to explain how hard it was to set the tail rotor
to compensate for the torque of the main rotor—a problem which I had
never considered before. Arthur suddenly gets up like he forgot something. He says: Salvation Army and is gone like a shot.
Then Dave and I have a nice discussion about the soup lines and how
they always make you listen to mind-rotting sermons before they finally
give you the soup. I tell Dave about the different soup lines there used to
be in Vancouver where they just gave you the soup. He is impressed by
these more civilized soup lines and we agree that the Salvation Army
soup line in Calgary is probably the worst soup line in the Dominion of
Canada. Not that I've tasted the soup at all the soup lines across Canada.
No one's done that. Dave hasn't even been out of Calgary, to the best of
97 my knowledge. It's just that when you line up for soup at the Salvation
Army in Calgary and the ordeal of the sermon is done and you sit down
with your bowl of soup and you look at the soup and you put a spoonful in
your mouth, you just know that soup is the worst soup there could ever
be at any soup line anywhere.
After we've finished discussing soup lines, Dave starts to tell me about
this guy he knows who is in jail for bank robbery. Apparently, one day before he goes to jail, this guy is at this party watching an adult video when
he recognizes the girl who has the starring role. It's a pretty interesting
story but the piquant details are kind of lost on me because I'm sort of
prude. Dave wants to tell me some more jail stories but I decide that it's
better to whet your appetite than gorge yourself on jail stories. So we
leave the A&W under the reptilian gazes of a table full of leather-clad
spider children. Then Dave nips into the Dairy Queen looking for women.
After a few false starts, I find myself strolling home on First. I'm behind a kid and his roly-poly girlfriend. He's dressed up like a bum and I'm
thinking about a nice hot bowl of real vegetable soup from a properly
labeled can. I'm thinking about a nice hot bowl of real vegetable soup
lovingly prepared.
98 Mark Morton
Sonnet #3: Syntax
In English, syntax is extremely important when conveying meaning.
Extremely important is syntax when conveying meaning, in English.
Syntax is extremely important when conveying meaning, in English.
Extremely important syntax is when conveying, in English, meaning.
Syntax is extremely important, in English, when conveying meaning.
Extremely important when conveying meaning, in English, is syntax.
Extremely important, in English, when conveying meaning is syntax.
Syntax, in English, is extremely important when conveying meaning.
When conveying meaning, in English, syntax is extremely important.
Syntax, when conveying meaning, is extremely important in English.
When conveying meaning, syntax is extremely important, in English.
In English, when conveying meaning, syntax is extremely important.
When conveying, in English, meaning, important is syntax extremely.
When, in English, conveying meaning, important is syntax extremely.
99  Contributors
Kenneth Adamson has always been torn between science and art. He has worked in
geophysics and in theatre, but presently pursues blindly and at a leisurely pace the two obsessions of mathematics and writing.
Leora Baude is a student at Indiana University.
Louis Daniel Brodsky is the author of twenty volumes of poetry, as well as eight
scholarly volumes on Nobel Laureate William Faulkner. His poetry has appeared in Harper's, American Scholar, and Southern Revies. His newest book of poetry, Disappearing in
the Mississippi Latitudes: Volume Two of a Mississippi Trilogy, will be forthcoming in December 1994 from Time Being Books of St. Louis, Missouri.
Allan Brown has published eight collections of poetry, most recently The Burden of Jonah
ben Amittai (Quarry 1991) and Forgetting (Nebula 1992). He lives in Powell River, B. C.
Louise Fabiani is an Ottawa environmental educator, writer and editor. Her poems have
appeared in Rubicon, Zymurgy, By Words, and The Fiddlehead. She is now seeking a publisher for her first novel.
Forugh Farokhzad is one of Iran's most beloved poets of this century. The poems appearing in this issue are from the last collection of her work, A Rebirth. She died in a car accident in 1967 at the age of 32.
Atar Hadari is a verse playwright, translator and poet whose work has appeared at the
Mark Taper Forum and Cleveland Public Theatre, as well as in the Times Literary Supplement, Poetry East, Poet Lore and other publications. He lives in the United States.
Agatha Haun is a translator of Finnish.
Anna Heinamaa is the winner of the 1994 Finnish Book Club and Finnish Writer's Union
Special 25th Anniversary Award for young writers. Her most recent novel is Murder on
SundaylSunnuntaimurha published in 1993.
Maureen Hynes is a Toronto poet whose book, Rough Skin, is forthcoming from Wolsak
and Wynn in 1995. Her work has appeared in The Malahat Review, Poetry Canada, Quarry,
Prairie Fire, The Fiddlehead, and Contemporary Verse 2 among others. She has also written
Letters from China (Toronto, Women's Press, 1981).
Heather Keenan is a Victoria artist. She had a solo exhibition of her work at the XV Commonwealth Games and she has recently won the honour of being one of the artists featured
in the Windsor and Newton Artists' Materials 1995 Limited Edition Calendar.
William Logan's new book of poems, Vain Empires, will be published next year as well as
a book of essays and reviews, Reputations of the Tongue.
101 Ron MacLean lives with his wife and daughter in Boston. His work has appeared recently
in Reed, New Orleans Review, and Southern Poetry Review. "What We're Looking For" is
from a work of fiction titled "Who We Are."
Mark Morton has taught in the English Dept. at the University of Winnipeg since receiving
his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1992. He is currently writing an etymological
dictionary of cooking words, which he hopes to complete by next fall.
Jane Southwell Munro's poems are from her third book Grief Notes & Animal Dreams
(Brick, forthcoming in 1995). She divides her time between Vancouver, where she teaches
creative writing at Kwantlen College, and her home at Point No Point on Vancouver Island.
Steven Naylor lives in Toronto and is currently working on a collection of short stories
called / Know I Have, I Hope I Haven't. One of his stories will soon be published in Aberrations.
D. Nurkse has poetry forthcoming in The Hudson Review, The Antioch Review, and The
Kenyon Review.
Gabriela Pechlaner lives in Vancouver with her two year old daughter, Selina. She has
previously published a poem in Prism International 32.1.
Uma Rao has been published in several leading journals in India. She writes short fiction,
poetry and plays, as well as acting and directing for the stage. She lives in Bombay and
works as a freelance copywriter.
Ken Rivard lives in Calgary and is the author of Kiss Me Down To Size (Thistledown
Press, 1983), Frankie's Desires (Quarry Press, 1987) and various chapbooks. Beach Holme
Publishing will be bringing out a collection of his postcard fiction, If She Could Take All
These Men, in 1995.
Ali Shashani moved to the United States form Iran in 1985.
Daniel Tobin grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and is an assistant professor of English at
Carthage College in Wisconsin. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The American Scholar,
Prism international, The Southern Humanities Review, Chelsea and many other literary
journals.
Derk Wynand's latest collection of poems is Heat Waves (1988). A long poem, "Airborne,"
is to appear as a chapbook this fall with Outlaw Editions.
102 The 4th Annual
LAST
POEMS
POETRY  CONTEST
Kvv-V
Hm \ % »   v
'  J  J1 wm
^fcw    V^K^I
mrA
JL^IIlli
Bpn
Poetry that encapsulates North American
experience at the close of the 20th Century.
~ Maximum 4 poems per entry.
~ The winning entrant receives a $100 cash prize plus publication in sub-TERRAIN (Spring '95).
~ Runners-up will also receive publication in subsequent issues.
~ Entries must be accompanied by a one-time only $10. entry fee.
~ Entrants receive a 4-issue subscription to sub-TERRAIN.
~ Only those entries accompanied by a S.A.S.E. will be returned.
Deadline For Entries: January 31/95
Winner Announced: February 15/95
sub-TERRAIN Magazine, Suite 204-A, 175 E. Broadway, Vancouver, B.C., V5T1W2 Creative Writing M.F.A.
The University of British Columbia offers a Master
of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. Students
choose three genres to work in from a wide range of
courses, including: Poetry, Novel/Novella, Short
Fiction, Stage Plavs, <v Screen  &  TV Plays,  Radio
dren,   Non- c^^g^^^^g^!^^'   Fiction    and
format or tutorial.  ^^S^^^" The thesis con
sists of imaginative writing. The Department of Creative Writing also offers a Diploma Programme in
Applied Creative Non-Fiction.
Faculty: Sue Ann Alderson
Hart Hanson
George McWhirter
Keith Maillard
Jerry Newman
Linda Svendsen
Brvan Wade
For further information, please write
Department of Creative Writing
University of British Columbia
Buchanan E462 - 1866 Main Mall
Vancouver, B.C.   V6T IZl  Drama
Atar Hadari
Fiction
Kenneth Adamson
Ron MacLean
Steven Naylor
Gabriela Pechlaner
Ken Rivard
Poetry
Louis Daniel Brodsky
Allan Brown
Louise Fabiani
Maureen Hynes
William Logan
Mark Morton
Jane Southwell Munro
D. Nurkse
Daniel Tobin
Derk Wynand
In Translation
Forugh Farokhzad
Anna Heinamaa
Uma Rao
Cover Art
Heather Keenan
ISSN 0032.8790

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