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 OCTOBER 1983  p
international  RICHARD  STEVENSON
Editor-in-Chief
NONA KENT
Managing Editor
RICHARD  STEVENSON
Poetry Editor
ANNE HENDERSON
Drama Editor
BILL HURST
Fiction Editor
LIDIA A.   WOLANSKYJ
Copy Editor
JACQUELINE d'aMBOISE
Translations Advisor
GEORGE  MCWHIRTER
Advisory Editor
Editorial Board
ANNE  HENDERSON
BILL HURST
LIDIA A.   WOLANSKYJ
GEORGE  MCWHIRTER
Im.
international
A QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF
CONTEMPORARY WRITING PRISM international, a journal of contemporary writing, is published four times per year at
the Department of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver,
B.C. v6t 1W5. Microfilm editions are available from Xerox University Microfilms, Ann
Arbor, Michigan, and reprints from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, New York, N.Y.
Contents Copyright © 1983 PRISM international for the authors.
Cover design and artwork: Derrick Clinton Carter.
One year individual subscriptions $10.00, two-year subscriptions $16.00. Libraries and
institution subscriptions $14.00, two-year subscriptions $20.00. Sample copy $4.00.
All manuscripts should be sent to the Editors at the above address. Manuscripts must be
accompanied by a self-addressed envelope with Canadian stamps or international reply
coupons. Manuscripts with insufficient return postage will be held for six months and then
discarded.
Payment to contributors is $15.00 per page and a subscription. PRISM international
purchases First N.A. Serial Rights only.
Our gratitude to the Canada Council, Dean Will and the University of British Columbia.
Also financially assisted by the Government of British Columbia through the British
Columbia Cultural Fund and Lottery Revenues.
Second Class Mail Registration No. 5496 October 1983. CONTENTS
VOLUME TWENTY-TWO        NUMBER ONE      FALL 1983
Lewis Home
The Walk Away
7
Derk Wynand
Two Poems from Fetishistic
'7
Cathy Ford
Two Poems from Saffron, Rose
& Flame— The Joan of Arc Poems
■9
Alison McAlpine
"Babysitting with Grandmother"
2 2
Robyn Sarah
"Refilling The Spirit Lamp"
24
Elizabeth Gourlay
The Glass Bottle
25
Christopher Levenson
"Women's Names"
42
Glen Sorestad
Two Poems
43
Dale Zieroth
Two Poems
45
Dave Margoshes
A False Moustache
47
Monty Reid
"Dressing Mannequins"
59
Lorna Goodison
"On Becoming A Mermaid"
61
LeRoy Gorman
FOUR HAIKU: Billboard Series
62
Eva Tihanyi
Two Poems
63
H. C. Artmann
A Story About Myself
66
Roger Nash
Three Poems
68  Lewis Home
The Walk Away
One afternoon Borden DeWitt walked away from his car. The car was
still running, stopped at a red light on a busy four-lane street. His
daughter, recently graduated from college, sat in the front seat, and in
the back seat his wife, fanning herself. It was a July day in 1968, and
very hot. He opened the door of the car while the car was stopped,
opened the door while he still had control over himself, and walked away
with the pedestrians' green light.
"Borden," called June, his wife, "what are you doing? Borden?
Borden?"
He did not run, but he walked rapidly to get out of range of her voice.
He knew she would continue to call even after he was around the corner
and gone from sight, sit there and cry out the window until her voice
cracked or Madeline told her, "Shut up, Mom, for heaven's sake!" and,
sliding over behind the wheel, drove the car away. If he didn't leave the
car, escape the shrill quarreling voices, he knew he would snatch the
thermos beside him and hammer the windshield while the yell scaled up
inside. Or he would leap to find a brick to hurl at the glass for a more
devastating shriek. For a moment, he wondered if that's what he was
doing now, searching out a brick. But glimpsing in the shop windows his
forward motion and the desperate restraint of his scissoring legs, he
knew he was not looking. He was leaving.
He was soon out of sight of the car, walking down the street of pawnshops, hardware stores, seedy motion picture houses. He did not look as
though he belonged on such a street. He dressed carefully, even when he
was on a trip — a "vacation" — as he was supposed to be now. Owner of a
men's clothing store, he worried about his appearance. Without being
fastidious, he knew how he —Borden DeWitt — should dress: dark modestly checkered summer trousers, a light sport shirt, sandals and socks.
His manner was neither conservative nor radical.
He was a man of average height. His hair was thin on top, thick on
the sides. Sideburns swelled along the edges of his square and solid-
looking cheeks. His body as he walked tilted back slightly, and he tucked
his chin down a bit as though to counterbalance that tilt. Arms swung at
his sides, strong and tan and hairy. "Borden."
He could still hear her. He ducked quickly into a theater, buying a
ticket without checking the billing. Inside, the air was cool. The air-conditioner in the car had broken down before they'd gotten twenty miles
from home. The lobby was quiet and dimly lighted. Thickly carpets took
his footsteps. The air filled with years of odors.
The theater was nearly empty. He felt comfortable at last. Finally on
vacation. He settled to watch the movie. He went to so few movies anymore that he didn't recognize any of the actors. Madeline would tell him,
were she here, what movie he had stumbled into. How had she gotten so
fat? Like her mother. June had complained since Madeline was a child
about her weight. She had dieted her from the time she started school.
Now here was Madeline as fat as her mother. He watched the movie,
trying to get hold of the story, to get away from wife and daughter.
Ever since they'd brought Madeline home from school last month, the
two of them had been at it. Sometimes about weight. Sometimes about
what Madeline was going to do with her "life." This had been the first
year Madeline hadn't come home during the term. When they drove to
Colorado Springs to move her out of the dormitory in the spring,
Borden had been shocked to see her, looking on her almost as a stranger.
He had wished James were along. Sometimes he could talk to his sister.
What would he have thought, though, to see her waddle toward them in
blouse and cut-off Levis —puffy arms, wide hips, huge brown thighs?
June said right away, "You've put on weight." "So?" "Well, I hope you
intend to do something about it." Madeline had said, "Mother, my
intentions are my business, don't you think? Daddy, you can bring my
things down anytime." "Don't talk to your father that way," said June,
"he's not your servant." "I wasn't talking to him like a servant, Mother."
"It certainly sounded — " "Never mind," he had said, "we have a long way
to drive today." Then watching the two of them walk across the parking
lot in front of him, he had seen them from behind and recognized their
resemblance to each other. "It doesn't look good on you," June was
saying. Even the irritation in their voices was similar.
It had been a difficult month with Madeline around. He was glad he
had the store to go to. There he arranged the tables and racks. He had
excellent goods. He didn't have to browbeat his customers. "Can I help
you, sir?" He moved about the store, tracing out the lines of jackets,
suits, trousers, the tables with socks, shirts, underwear, sweaters. He
knew what belonged here. He knew what each piece was worth.
At home, the situation grew worse. Madeline lay about drinking beer.
She had a couple of girl friends over during the day, went out with boys
in the evening. He didn't like either set. The boys all had an ominous
indifference toward anything he could think to ask them about. The girls
lay in the back yard with Madeline, sunning themselves and drinking
beer. Disruptive. On weekends he liked to work in the yard. He kept the lawn trimmed and neat, and he was proud of the flower beds in the
back. With Madeline and her friends stretched out on chaise longues,
flesh exposed as though it were for sale, he was unnerved. He wasn't
squeamish about how little they wore, but faulted his hypersensitivity to
all that flesh. His sensitivity, at last, turned to perversity and —shocked
and shamed —he took to gardening in the back only after work. It happened one Sunday. Sweating, he had removed his glasses to wipe his
face. He left them on the grass beside him. As he edged down the flower
bed toward the patio where Madeline and a large friend lay, he glanced
at them and failed to look away quickly enough. Thought and dream
threw off covers. Dirty jokes from fraternity and army days crawled in.
Then —and not before —it struck him that he was looking at Madeline
and not at her friend. All his lascivious thought had been directed toward his own daughter's body. He felt sick —recalled her as a little child,
a baby, a pink-cheeked thing going off to school for her first class. Then
Madeline guffawed. It was remarkably like June's laugh, and he wondered about himself and June in their college days. June's soft flesh. Talk
in the fraternity house. Was June so? His thoughts? He picked up shears
and trowel and rushed away, head down, not speaking, not looking, and
reeled up the street, block after block until he found himself at the store.
He didn't go in. He looked for a long while in the windows at the mannequins, the jackets and ties and swimming trunks laid out. He noticed the
shears and trowel still in his hand. When he got home, Madeline and
June were surprisingly civil to each other. The girl friend had gone.
Then Madeline said she had to shower because —who was it? Barry or
Pogo or Leif? — because somebody was coming by to go to a movie.
He couldn't get interested in the movie. The story line was not firm
enough to pull him in. It was a western, full of odd camera effects, horses
splashing slow-motion through streams, superimposed on fiercer chases
and captures. Unreal. He should wait a bit longer, he decided. Madeline
and June were likely driving the streets in search of him.
A couple of minutes later, as he waited, he felt the fingers slide on to
his shoulder. He stiffened. He'd been half-conscious of someone sitting
behind him shortly after he sat down. But he'd not thought. The fingers
rested on his shoulder lightly, but he could feel them through the thin
material on his skin. He wore nothing under his shirt. Each finger made
a separate imprint. He hesitated just long enough for them to move.
They stroked from his neck outward across his shoulder. One, two, three
times. Then he stood. As he did, he turned and looked behind him. The
man's dark eyes stared up at his own.
That was a mistake —to look back. The man followed him as though
an understanding had been struck. He went into the lobby. His pulse
ticked unevenly. He felt warm and puffy. June and Madeline might
drive by. The man came now into the lobby.
Borden saw him in the mirror that ran above the long sofa. He was a young-looking man, deeply tanned, and looked so nervous that Borden
suddenly calmed. He walked to the water fountain and took a drink.
When he turned, the man still stood there. Very slightly, he nodded,
grinned. He was bushy-headed, moustached, his lanky and muscular
body funneled into tee shirt and faded jeans, bare feet in sandals. Like
one of Madeline's boyfriends.
Borden spoke across the fifteen feet or so that separated them. "I just
walked out on my wife." Tongue-in-cheek tone. Self-deprecating.
"What?" The young man came forward quickly, eagerly. "What?"
"I just left my wife."
The man's eyes protruded a bit, and he blinked excessively. Borden
saw at close range that lines cobwebbed his cheeks. The body appeared
youthful, the face less so.
"Out there," said Borden. "I got out of the car and left her."
"A marital spat?" Asked without interest.
"I guess you would call it that. Except I walked away. I don't know
whether I'm going back."
Why was he saying this? Maybe to forestall any advance the man
might make. Maybe to announce a decision he was still not sure he had
made. Maybe simply to be friendly in compensation for deceiving the
man here, for letting him think —though he'd not intended to —that he
was open to proposition.
"My wife doesn't drive but it's okay because my daughter is there. She
drives." He realized that if he kept talking he would mention James, his
son in Vietnam, describe the house on Partridge Street —spell out the
whole tableau of his married life. Explain how joy had gone out of June's
life at some point after James was born, vitality of spirit dying, feeding
plumpness that feasted into obesity. Describe how the "fun" girl became
the loud and unhappy woman. So he stopped. In the silence the young
man's eyes slid over him —feet, body, face. He was a nervous man,
hesitation and expectancy drawn to the surface where they skittered like
long-legged walkers on ice.
"Hot outside," the man said. His eyes were wet. He blinked rapidly.
"Yes, that's one reason I came in."
He nodded his head, "Yeah, yeah." He had stuffed his hands in his
back pockets and tilted his pelvis forward. Each time he moved, each
time he smiled or gestured, he watched for Borden's reaction.
"I was walking quickly before my wife and daughter could follow me
and I was getting very warm."
"You want to go downstairs?"
The abruptness of the question startled him, the voice low and tense
like tires in gravel. "What?"
"The restroom's downstairs. Let's go down there."
"No, no."
"You got someplace then?"
10 Borden shook his head. "I just came in to get out of the heat. I didn't
want my wife and daughter to follow me."
"C'mon— !" He rubbed his arm with his hand. The sound was dry, the
pale rasp of one fingernail on sunburned skin.
"No, I have to go now. I'm sorry." He backed away. "I'm sorry if you
thought — " He looked toward the opaque glass doors leading outside.
The light through them showed how bright the sunlight was. Suppose
June and Madeline were still out there? But he could not stand here.
"I'm going now. I really just came in —I didn't mean — "
At the doors, he turned back. The man still watched, thin and
solitary. No contract. Fearful his hesitation would be misinterpreted
again, Borden pushed through. The street flashed. He did not glance
back until he was around the corner. No one followed. Then he looked
for the Chevy. Maybe Madeline and June had already started for home.
Without him, he knew they would not go any further. The Grand Canyon was too far away for the two of them to drive, picking at each other
as though trying to tear off pieces of flesh.
The best thing to do, he decided, was find the bus station. He would
stay mobile that way. He had a twenty dollar bill in his billfold. June
handled the Traveler's Checks when they traveled. He had some loose
coins in his pocket. How far that would get him he did not know.
He found a phone booth on a corner. He was never good about
directions, always depending on someone else to read maps while he
drove. But set here on his own, checking the street he was on and the direction in which it ran, he positioned himself mentally from the map in
the telephone book. He wanted to get out of the neighborhood as quickly
as possible.
He looked once more over his shoulder, not expecting to see the
homosexual and relieved that he did not. As he walked, the heat was like
something to push through. A metallic taste to the air soiled his tongue.
He reached one street and turned. Stepped steadily on. He passed taverns, barber shops. One block frightened him. He counted two pornographic book shops, three taverns on one side of the street. Outside one
of the taverns stood a noisy group of soldiers from a local base. One sat
on the fender of a car nuzzling a heavily made-up girl in a short skirt.
The soldiers were profane. Did Madeline's young man talk so? Once
he'd heard Madeline come close. But he'd grown so enraged, exploded in
a way that startled and frightened Madeline and her mother. Even in the
fraternity house —
But the soldiers scarcely noticed him. He wondered about James. He
had wanted his son to go to Canada or to fight for a conscientious objector status. But James, lacking the will, had gone into the army, saying
it was easier, saying that perhaps he was a coward but he'd rather not
bother. Maybe he had been right. He was in a Headquarters Detachment doing clerical work, as safe as any GI over there could be. All the same, intimidated by the casual glances cast on him, he wished his son
were beside him.
"Hey, man-"
He was frightened. Once in the bus station he should be safe. From
the whites. From the blacks. The malingerers and molesters. He thought
of his store again, the carpets, the pleasant lights, the soft music. "Can I
help you, sir?" He found himself looking back too hard at some of those
faces he passed. Once his shoulder was bumped, deliberately, but he
would not let himself turn. He might have been better off in the theater.
He had closer connections with that man than he had realized: both he
and the homosexual had shied from women, though Borden had walked
away not for sexual reasons. If the man had been willing only to talk —
He was approaching an alley when he made his error. James would
have warned him. He knew the three youths —the two boys and the
girl —had been watching him all the way down the block. But a blue
Chevy turned the corner. Thinking it was June and Madeline, he
ducked past the three standing there, eyes dull and heavy on hirn, and
slipped up the alley. He planned to cut through to the parallel street a
block over to where the bus station should be. He stopped before he was
twenty feet inside, though, swerved to a halt by the clanging of his pulse,
the sudden vulnerability he felt in his back. Heard the footsteps and
turned. The three of them —the boys and the girl —stood at the entrance
of the alley. Up half its length the alley was bare building wall, beyond
that were fences, high board fences, but he didn't know what they hid.
He intended to stand his ground as the three approached him. It would
be useless to run, knowing the effect of his own floppy sandals, his lack of
coordination. But as they came near, he suddenly found the wall at his
back, shuffled against unwittingly, warm against the fingers that he
pressed against it. He pressed them firmly, waiting like a traffic violator
the patrolman.
A dark-haired girl and two boys of equal size, just a bit shorter than
he. One was lean in build, his face so drawn that cheekbones and teeth
showed beneath the tanned and harsh skin. The other was heavier, with
pale reddish hair and eyelashes. Light freckles covered his face. His teeth
were cream-colored.
"You in a awful hurry, man.
"I'm going to the bus station.
"In a hurry, man. Like we said."
The girl said, "He's kind of cute. Kind of." Voice flattened with monotony, what she said, though an obvious taunt and jest, came out with
leaden seriousness.
"He's too old for you, Julie. Couldn't get it up, could you, man?"
"What do you want?" he asked.
The light-haired youth shrugged, pursed his mouth, glanced at the
others. "A bargain, whatcha say? Your billfold first."
12 They made a partial ring about him. Hard muscles ridged the boys'
arms, small knots stretched along the bone, shiny. He was ashamed at
the way his hand trembled. The shame of his fear, as the boy took his
billfold, made him tremble harder than the fear itself. When he realized,
though, that they'd seen fear in a man before, that they'd be surprised,
even angered not to see it —a reflection of their power and menace—then, strangely, a calm came over him. Knowing that others had
trembled before the three made him part of a brotherhood. A brotherhood of the beaten, the hampered and hindered, of the dream-lost
vagrants of every street he'd walked or not walked on. Like the man in
the theater. Where could you draw the lines of membership? Could you
stop even with these three? Somewhere —out there, out on the streets
where everything was going on normally in some separate
rhythm—somewhere out there was the knife-wielder they each feared.
"It isn't much," he said. The apology in his voice surprised him, the same
tone and manner he used with a customer he was not able to assist.
The boy first took the loose papers — driver's license, membership
cards, old draft card, student ID card from his college days —and
dropped them on the ground. He did it deliberately, glancing at Borden
to see what he would do. Borden hid his feelings under rigid but tiring
face muscles. Then the youth took out the twenty dollar bill.
"What else you got?"
"Very little."
"Suppose you think. You're buying something from us, see?"
He nodded. He could yell. But nothing could happen in time. He
looked at the thin boy with the knife. The girl, when he looked at her, let
her tongue slip out and over her lips. A lascivious gesture. A wide and
thin mouth.
"You thinking?"
"I don't know what you want."
"How's about the watch?"
Borden shrugged, and handed it over. The other side of the alley was
shaded. He was spotlighted in the glare of the sun.
He lifted his hands. "No tie clasps. No cuff links."
The girl smiled. "I see a wedding ring."
He had to struggle.
The light-haired youth said, "This guy ain't got no sentiment. You got
any sentiment at all, man?"
The thin boy with the knife said, "I'd like them buttons on his shirt."
The boy's own shirt was unbuttoned, the collar turned up about his
neck. He stepped forward and with his knife hand flipped the buttons
off, one by one. "You pick them up now."
Borden sank down on hands and knees. The buttons had flown some
distance. He found one and started to stand and go for the other, but
they stopped him.
l3 "We like you that way."
"Like a puppy dog," the girl called Julie said. "Maybe that's why he
seems kind of cute. Kind of."
The pavement was rough under his hands but more so under his
knees. He had to put too much weight on them because he didn't let his
toes drag. He found one, two, three, four buttons.
"I think there's more," the boy with the knife said.
Dizzy under the sun, Borden wanted to flatten out, head on his arms
as though in bed, and sleep. Maybe someone would enter the alley, he
thought.
He squatted on his heels. Julie stood with her weight on one leg, a
bony hip thrust out against her jeans. She was bony thin. Madeline
bulged. Julie was all skin and bone. Still her jeans were tight, tight and
creased at her crotch. She saw him looking, and her smile faded.
"What you looking at?" she said. Her voice hardened. "Anything disgusts me it's a dirty old man."
A foot struck his shoulder, and, caught off balance, he fell. The missing button lay under his cheek.
"All the time under his stupid damn nose," said Julie. "If he was looking in the right place — "
He picked the button up. He stood, hoping he had earned the right to
do so, and handed it to the boy.
"Dirty old man," muttered Julie.
He drew his arm across his chest, slipped his hand inside his open
shirt, half-protectively. The skin had been scraped when he fell but not
torn. His hair had come down over his forehead. He wanted to brush it
back, made uncomfortable by its dishevelment, but he refrained.
"Anything else?" he said. He still spoke as though customers stood before him.
"I bet he sweats all the time," said Julie. "Greasy thing." She spit at his
feet.
"Let's keep our bargain, watcha say?" The smile in the voice. Power.
"You paid up now, man. Look that way." He pointed to the opposite end
of the alley. "Turn around, man, and look."
Shoulder blades sensitive as though he'd had wings plucked from
them, he saw figures cross against the bright street. The sunlight beat on
the side of his face. Strings pulled him back against the three standing
behind him, and he leaned forward as though to resist that pull.
"Now," said the light-haired one, "I'm going to say go. And I want you
to run."
"And then?"
"Don't ask no questions, man. You just do. Okay?"
He felt himself swaying toward the street ahead and then giving to
those ties behind, waiting for voice or touch. When he heard, "Run," he
jogged forward, wondering what kind of game? what kind of game? He
14 thought for a moment he heard their footsteps so he slowed.
"Run!"
"Run, you dirty old man!"
He increased his speed. He passed the wall of the buildings, came to
the board fences that had run-down, two-story, turn-of-the-century
houses behind them. Were they freeing him? A bird within began to
beat wings. He ran faster. From far behind he heard again, "Run!" and
he ran then as fast as he could. He ran as though he were in a dream, for
it seemed that the alley's opening ahead never came closer, that no
matter how many boards or telephone poles or garbage cans he passed in
the alley he never came closer to the place he wanted to be. The three
youths were behind him, watching, he was sure, but he wouldn't let himself look back. Weight, as though air piled in front of him, blocked his
breathing. He thought he would collapse, before a burst tilted him past
a chinaberry tree and a collection of three garbage cans, tripping him at
the entrance to the alley. He slid in the rocks and pavement, his cheeks
grinding as though trying to dig down to the earth.
He lay, wondering if his nose were bleeding, wondering where the wet
he felt had come from. Had he vomited? Then he smelled oil and realized he had fallen into a slick dropped by a vehicle. Noises, fumes, heat
struck him. Slowly, he raised his head. Then seeing someone
coming up the street, he stood, steadying himself against dizziness. He
held his shirt closed, not moving until the two men —dressed in shabby
clothes, men rushing impatiently along the sidewalk, one of them saying
angrily, "But you can't do it that way, how many times I got to say you
can't do it that way?" —not moving until the two men had passed. Then
he tested his footsteps and found he could keep his balance. He leaned
momentarily against a building. But he didn't stay long. He didn't know
whether or not the three youths might follow him.
No need going to the bus station now. He should get out of the city. If
he could find the highway, he could hitchhike. As he walked on, he regained his equilibrium, his strength, his mental balance. His senses
tuned themselves, his sense of direction revving up to the point that he
walked straight to the highway. He got a ride out of the city quickly where he
was let off by a farmer turning down a country road, apologizing for not
going any farther. The sun was sliding from its noontime peak down
toward the west, beating in on a slant. He walked along the edge of the
highway. Rocks slipped in under his socks so he walked on the pavement. Soon he would lift his thumb for a ride. He rubbed his hand over
his cheek. He would have scabs there. On his chest, too. The knees of his
trousers were scraped. God, what kind of mess had he gotten into?
Something had hollowed out of his life. He couldn't say what it was or
when, as he walked there on the highway, sandals flapping.
He had walked away from the car. . .
What about the man in the theater? June? The complaints about
l5 Madeline —they came forth with a kind of relish, a grotesque spicing of
faded and fading days. Of days like fence posts, dark and light, dark and
light. They were only different sides of the same coin, the days —flight
and pursuit, leading and following, blessing and damning. Who was victim? Predator?
"Can I help you, sir?"
He ran to the car that stopped up the road. A soft-voiced man in an
air-conditioned car drove him all the way to where he had begun that
morning. He walked from the freeway exit the six blocks to his home.
The Chevy was parked in front. The lights were on. He heard
Madeline's voice, crying out at her mother —a preparation for alarm.
Can I help you, sir? And he went in, question forming.
16 Derk Wynand / Two Poems from "Fetishistic"
PEG
A clothesline in Bermuda
or elsewhere, in the same
kind of story.
A naked woman come evening,
her hands pegged to the line,
pinned to the low sun.
Or is it morning?
Every blouse on the line without
buttons. The crotches torn
from her underwear, maybe
bitten.
The helpless sleeves, now,
and then stiffening.
The woman's hands pinned.
Her ambiguous cries
into the afternoon.
Your timid smile. What's to be
said? Your cheeks puffed out
with mother-of-pearl
buttons.
17 LINE
In a breadline, in a classless
society, waiting for bread.
A woman at the head
of the line, just to one
side, not really in it,
attractive enough, but low
on coupons.
At the very back: you,
looking forward, the line
all too slowly advancing,
one loaf at a time.
Your coupons sewn into
the lining of your jacket
with the crumbs. Your hunger,
not only for bread.
The woman, licking her lip,
as in some other movie,
one arm on her hip, the other
extended, without coupons,
hinting at her great ability,
recognizing your equal needs.
18 Cathy Ford/7tt>0 Poems from "Saffron, Rose & Flame—
The Joan of Arc Poems"
POSEUR
the painter, by favor
tries to get a par mon martin painting of me
in the rain
to shove across the centuries
despite the men.
He has their faces here in the grey light,
they've left behind clean shadow, spirit,
but i waver on canvas
shrug the responsibility of drying. Dying.
They stand sweating & patient behind me
while he fights to mask his impatience
attempts to get me acid onto the sketch
a tinted outline to be handcoloured later, when he is past
being bored. Surely nothing will come of this
but his acquiescence. The rain drips down his neck
the mud, grey
their faces, grey,
his eyes the one flash of fire in this whole pageant.
19 He would feel better
shuddering like lightning through the trees
toward something, to court, to flatter,
even if he was death afraid, is,
i hate to stand still as a rabbit
facing what i can't see.
Consider that an arrow is on the wind.
Consider that i do not ride well.
Idolatry, you are a false god.
We kneel for this poor apprentice, & pose not for anyone
— i understand a little, while trying to place him,
in front of the steaming horses,
this grey, this army,
he has no interest in something he has not done
& cannot read
himself
20 DOPPELGANGER
devils cannot deal with virgins
the head reels, shakes dizzy, throbs,
the fool, tested again.
Wearing the dress of a young, noble, man
who would not call me to question
brocade & silk with fur
puce velvet patterned over shining ground
still, i do not bleed.
They find me pregnant with death
never that hermaphrodite double, my twin
whose separate eyes qualify doubling
the wager of incest or sin against chastity
bluff, guarded preference to a denial of faith.
Carrying these examinations for virginity
on & on, red velvet chignon, tours cloth of gold,
rouen leather, sheaths for the first sword at my side,
noble crest stitched eyeballs tucked in bird's bellies,
the embroidered male, pheasant's tail. Eating birds
crushed nervous delicate birds
still the fight
is
on
still the fight goes
on
21 Alison McAlpine
BABYSITTING WITH GRANDMOTHER:
Watching Hitchcock's THE BIRDS
And sometimes
my grandmother'd say
Let me tell you about
Hugh de Veer Coningsveedralingcourt
And we'd turn on the TV
my brother and I
we'd watch the late shows
And grandmother, she'd draw out
long words on her glass
counting her drinks with the rings
on the table, grandmother
she'd be listening for Filipinos
They were raiding her liquor chest
Didn't need her aid, she'd say
She could hear the lid drop shut
like a thick brown stone
My brother and I
we moved up to the screen
up to the people
they are boarding up
their shades
calling the birds
calling them more beautiful, more beautiful
than their mothers
They are boiling up roots
They don't want to see out:
The moon spreading her oil in the night
There was thick evening, dust
in the town
22 Cold weather, grandmother says
She is weary of the rain
The water setting in her bones
desire in her lap
like a weak drink
And the dirt, she'd say
The Filipinos won't clean
You can see it on the dresser tops
You can see it in the drapes
She is pulling them apart, sweeping open
the glass doors
And the moon is kicking out light
There are wings in her belly
Birds flying out like bees
stinging from the sun
There are birds on the house
grinding out caws
And the children
they are sneaking out the back
running for the well
We are under the piano stool
My brother and I
We are patching our eyes
with our hands
There are wings in the sun
And we remember crowbars
Remember grandmother
She is lighting up the ceiling
She is walking the streets with a cage
Grandmother
She is calling the birds
23 Robyn Sarah
REFILLING THE SPIRIT LAMP
For awhile desire is fuel.
And the distance gained
always is illusory.
There's a luminescence young
leaves can't hold very long
in their greening, or the air
in early spring, when it is cool
and frangible, that is
something like what we thought
had been promised:
how a cup, a lamp, a chair
are so much more than that,
or the scarf you left behind, a
handful of loose change on the bureau.
Someone saw a common thread there
and named it, but he didn't know
how close a brush it had been.
What burns now
is something else, something we hope
could be more dependable, riding out
a run of bad weather, how these
evenings find us back in our rooms
over paper, our lamps tuned low,
and an ear for the finest of nuances
bent to that tuning.
24 Elizabeth Gourlay
The Glass Bottle
a play in one act
SCENE:     Sitting room of an apartment.
The sitting room is cluttered with books, paintings, scatter
rugs. An old-fashioned paned glass door opens to a balcony.
Sofa, chairs, drop-leaf table.
TIME:       March 15, 1980
CHARACTERS:
EDITH   is   small,   of   fragile   build;   she   totters   around   on   high
heels.
MILLIE,    of   a   stouter   build,    walks   with   the   aid   of   a   four-
pronged cane.
(EDITH and MILLIE sit at either end of the table.  They are
finishing a noonday meal. )
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
Aren't you going to eat your dinner?
You know I'm not partial to fish. The potatoes are lumpy. I
did eat the peas.
(EDITH picks up a bowl covered with silver foil.)
I wonder what's for dessert. I hope it's something delicious. I
think I'll wish. Yes, I'll wish.
What good will that do? Whatever is there, is there.
(Eyes closed) I wish for a lemon tart.
(She takes foil off bowl.)
Pineapple snow ... oh hell.
Too bad. Puddings for ye old toothless gums.
It's stupid, having to have dinner in the middle of the day.
Don't complain. Juice, main course, dessert for only $1.75.
Delivered. Courtesy of Meals-on-Wheels.
25 EDITH:
I like Mrs. Carter. But that Mrs. Anderson . . .
MILLIE:
I know. She thought you were ready for the loony bin. I ex
plained, of course.
EDITH:
She still never stops to chat. Always the same set smile.
MILLIE:
But, Edith, Mrs. Anderson does so much for the 'golden
agers.'
EDITH:
You don't like her either? But I thought. . .
MILLIE:
Like Lady Bountiful? I should think not.
EDITH:
Pineapple snow. And on my birthday. On my birthday.
MILLIE:
You'd forgotten until I reminded you.
EDITH:
Eighty-five. Who wants to remember? My God, Millie, how
did we get this old?
MILLIE:
Speak for yourself. I'm only eighty-four.
EDITH:
A mere kid . . . (They giggle)... I suppose,  in a way, we're
lucky.
(MILLIE snorts in derision.)
I mean, we've had all these years ... a lot more than most.
Some good, some bad . . .   you had three husbands.
MILLIE:
Some good . . . some bad . . .
(They giggle.)
EDITH:
Yet, as a girl, you weren't particularily good-looking . . .
MILLIE:
(Eating her dessert) Thanks.
EDITH:
I guess you had sex appeal. IT. Like Clara Bow.
MILLIE:
You mean to say I've lost IT. You can sit there and say I'm
not glamorous? . . (They cackle.)
EDITH:
How I would love a lemon tart. I wish I hadn't thought of it.
My mouth keeps watering.
MILLIE:
Well, you can hold on to yourself. Teatime we're going to
have a birthday cake.
EDITH:
What kind?
MILLIE:
It's a surprise. Mrs. Carter got it for me.
EDITH:
I hope it's chocolate. Or lemon. Is it lemon?
MILLIE:
I ain't sayin' so keep your shirt on. You know, Edith, I've
been   thinking,   I've  had  quite  a  life,   two  husbands  and
Harvey. That's enough for anyone. And you.
EDITH:
Harvey. Husband in name only. I often wondered how come
you didn't know ahead of time.
MILLIE:
Well, I didn't, snoopy.  Poor Harvey.  People were so in
tolerant then. I was a. . . camouflage, I guess.
EDITH:
I always liked Harvey. He had a good sense of humour.
MILLIE:
I liked him best, but. . .
EDITH:
But! (They giggle.)
MILLIE:
We used to think sex made the world go round.
EDITH:
It populates it.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^H
26 MILLIE:   I guess these days people should desist.
EDITH:     People never will.
MILLIE:   No. You better clear away the dishes.
EDITH: I will in a minute . . . the people are peasants . . . the country
is mountainous . . . the people are peasants . . and . . . and . . .
MILLIE:   (Warning voice) Edith! Are you all right?
EDITH:    Yes. I'm all right. I'm not running off at the mouth.
MILLIE: Well, it sounded like it. Anyway, I wish you wouldn't call it
that. It's a recognised medical condition. Sam calls it hyper-
motility of the speech centre.
EDITH:     It's a damn nuisance. It just takes over. . .
MILLIE:   I know. You've been good today.
EDITH: Perhaps because I was a writer... always searching for
words . . . now they are having their revenge. Do you suppose?
MILLIE:   Old age, Ede. Like everything else.
EDITH: Maybe. But then sometimes in the night when I can't sleep,
words help me. Like last night. But only the first two sentences, but not the end. I know the whole rhythm but I can't
get the last part. It goes like this —"the landscape is mountainous, the people are peasants and dee dee dum dum, dee
dum dum, dee dum dee dum . . . that's the rhythm . . .
MILLIE:   Sounds dumb to me.
EDITH: Oh. Sometimes, Millie, you give me the pip. You may know
the ending if you'd only listen. The landscape is mountainous, the people are peasants and. . .
MILLIE:   The son of man has nowhere to lay his head.
EDITH:     That's a biblical phrase.
MILLIE:   Oh, is it?
EDITH:     I never thought of you as religious.
MILLIE: Depends on what you mean by religious. I am. Quite religious. Matter of fact, I pray sometimes.
(She slaps at her legs. EDITH gives her an irritated look.)
EDITH:     I wish you wouldn't do that.
MILLIE:   Sure. Everyone prays. In the pinch. "O God, help me!"
EDITH:     What do you pray for?
MILLIE:   Money.
EDITH: Money? Oh Millie, you're not keeping something from me?
Have they raised the rent again?
MILLIE:   Have I ever lied to you Edith?
EDITH: That's the one thing about you, Millie. I've never known you
to lie . . . Mother always said she preferred a thief to a liar.
MILLIE:   Good old Millie. True blue Millie.
EDITH: Yes. You have been the blue corded ribbon running through
my life. A sturdy ribbon.
27 MILLIE:   You might even say, fat. (They laugh)
EDITH:     I count myself lucky.  Living here with you. . . in a room
with   a   view. . . having   the   occasional  joke.   I   couldn't
bear... I simply could not bear... to be where everyone is
confined and regimented.
(MILLIE makes no answer.)
I would curl up and die. Yes, I would. Curl up and die. So
would you, Millie.
MILLIE:   O,  I don't know.   It might not be so hard.  Your room
cleaned. Meals prepared . . . (pause). . . No responsibilities.
EDITH:    They would serve pineapple snow every day. Every day of
the week, pineapple snow.
(Starts to jig up and down.)
Snow on the roads, falling past the windows . . .
MILLIE:   (Warning voice) Edith!
EDITH:     Sifting. . . sifting   into   all   the   crevices . . . piling   on   the
rocks. . . underneath the wheels ... on the windshield . . .
(MILLIE reaches over and grabs EDITH'j- wrist.)
MILLIE:   Stop it! Stop it!
EDITH:    The north wind doth blow and we shall have snow and what
will poor baby do then, poor thing. . . poor thing.
MILLIE:   O God. Edith . . . Edith ...
EDITH:     Drifting . . . drifting regardless . . .
MILLIE:   It's all right. All right, Edith.
(EDITH looks down, becomes aware q/MILLIE'j hand on her
wrist.)
EDITH:     I've been . . . running . . .
MILLIE:   You're all right now.
EDITH:     I wish Sam could give me something.
MILLIE:   Those pills made you worse.
(Pause.)
You'll be all right the rest of the day.
EDITH:     On my birthday . . . (Pause)... I wish I'd taken the baby to
another doctor.
MILLIE:   Let's not start that. Anyway, they didn't have pediatricians
in those days.
EDITH:     It was partly my fault. I blame myself, Millie. If only I had
insisted. . .
MILLIE:   Over and done with years ago. You can't turn back the clock.
It's your birthday, Edith. Don't harrow yourself. . . (Pause)
. . . Come on, let's play our game. We'll reminisce about
something . . . something happy.
EDITH:     I don't know whether I can.
MILLIE:   Of course you can. If you try hard enough. Remember that
party of June's . . . dinner in the garden . . . and you met that
novelist. . . what was his name?
28 EDITH:     Harvey.
MILLIE: No, no, Edith. Not Harvey! We were just talking about
Harvey.
EDITH: (Suddenly) Hewitt! Hewitt Eastman. He had a face like
Nijinsky's.
MILLIE:   The dancer? O come on, we can't go that far back.
EDITH: (Nods) I had Nijinsky's photograph pinned on my wall at college. As the Spectre of the Rose. I graduated in 1917 when I
was twenty-one. The next year I married Henry. Let's see. I
must have been already forty when I met Hewitt. I remember feeling so heavy ... so heavy with desire. Funny the way
it affected me. All the time I felt there was this mountainous
rock in my pelvis.
MILLIE:   Yeah!
EDITH: YEAH! (They giggle.) But I stayed faithful. All my life faithful
to Harvey.
MILLIE:   Henry.
EDITH:     Henry. Too bad . . .
MILLIE:   Too bad, what?
EDITH:     Too bad I can't say the same for him.
MILLIE: I knew you were going to say that. Poor Henry! I don't think
you ever quite forgave him.
EDITH:     No. Not deep down.
MILLIE: A one night stand, Ede. You were back east and he was
lonely.
EDITH:     The bastard.
MILLIE: You never forgave him. And yet you forgave me. Didn't
you?
EDITH:    Yes.
MILLIE:   I think that's strange. Are you sure . . . ?
EDITH: People are strange. (Smiles) That's what makes life interesting. Come one, Millie, help me remember that last line. The
landscape is mountainous, the people are peasants . . . and
. . . and . . . dum dee dee dee dum dee dee dum dee dum dee
dee . . . dum . . .
MILLIE:   Tweedledum and Tweedledee agreed to have a battle.
EDITH: I wish you wouldn't try to be funny. Now you've broken my
train of thought. The landscape is . . . the people are . . .
MILLIE: (Slapping at her thighs.) And I wish you wouldn't keep on about
people and mountains. It's making me goddam nervous. . .
EDITH: Nervous! Well, I'll tell you what makes me nervous. You
always banging away at your legs. I don't see how it makes
them feel any better. . .
MILLIE:   Better? (She snorts) They'll never get any better. Never.
EDITH:     You musn't give up hope, Millie. There's always hope.
29 MILLIE: Dreamer! You weren't always such a dreamer, you know
that, Edith? Once you could face the facts. You didn't try to
run away. You didn't try to hide behind words. Once you
were able to write this.
(MILLIE takes a piece of paper from her pocket.)
EDITH:     What are you talking about? write what?
MILLIE: It's dated March 15, 1955. It's your handwriting, and it says, I
quote . . . "Who wants to live forever?"
EDITH:     March 15. On my birthday.
MILLIE:   To be exact. On your sixtieth birthday.
EDITH:     Imagine being sixty!
MILLIE: That was the day we made each other a solemn promise, we
entered into a kind of pact. . .
EDITH: A pact? As kids, we pricked our fingers and swore a blood
oath to be friends for always. My finger got badly infected . . . remember?
MILLIE:   You can stop playing games, Edith. You remember perfectly
well when you signed that paper, when we stashed away
those sleeping pills. It was the year after your mother died.
EDITH:     My poor darling little mother, I loved her so! O God, Millie!
MILLIE: (Inexorable) We promised that if we lived to be really old
... in any way incapacitated ... or a burden to our families,
we would swallow these . . .
(MILLIE reaches in her pocket and brings out a phial of pills.)
See, Edith, these!
EDITH: But we're not a burden to our families, we're not incapacitated!
MILLIE: You can hardly see. I can hardly walk. Come on, Edith, face
the facts. When we put these pills away, we knew what we
were doing.
EDITH: What are you saying? To-day, on my birthday, you want us
to swallow a bunch of pills, and wake up dead to-morrow
morning?
MILLIE:   Edith, let's face it, we've nowhere to go but down.
EDITH:     Many happy returns of the day!
MILLIE:   Don't you see? This way we can quit while we're ahead.
EDITH: You talk as though we were stocks in the market, horses in a
race.
MILLIE:   I am just being practical.
EDITH: When we signed that. . . that ridiculous paper, eighty-five
seemed like the end of the world. Besides, I was mentally
upset. I'd been through so much with Mother. I didn't realize
I'd feel this way inside. Just the same as always. My glass
bottle is still bright, still intact. So's yours.
3° MILLIE:   Glass bottle? Glass bottle! What, in God's name, do you
mean by that?
EDITH:     Louisa always called it that. You remember Louisa, my best
friend?  This feeling of self we were born with.   Essence.
Identity. Glass bottle. We still know who we are, Millie. We
still have a lot of laughs. Don't we?
MILLIE:   That's what I mean, we should quit while we're ahead.
EDITH:     It's because of my . . . affliction, isn't it? . . (Slightly tearful.)
That's it, isn't it? You can't live with it any more, so you're
using this piece of paper. . . this paper . . .
MILLIE:   Your. . . affliction has nothing to do with it. Nothing. You
hear me? I swear it! Now, stop your sniffling. We'll forget
about the whole thing.
EDITH:    O, Millie, let's. Let's forget about the whole thing.
(The doorbell rings.)
There's the doorbell. It's the doorbell, Millie. I wonder who
it is.
MILLIE:   Answer it and you're likely to find out. (EDITH goes out.)
And don't trip. Always wearing those goddam high heels. At
her age.
(MILLIE sits, still holds pill bottle. Sighs. Returns bottle to her
pocket. Rubs her thighs.)
EDITH:     (Coming on stage) Millie! O, Millie. Guess what!
(She comes down stage, carrying florist's box. Bumps into sofa,
chair. Gives box to MILLIE.)
MILLIE:   You should know where the furniture is by now.
EDITH:    Open the box, will you, Millie? It's flowers. Flowers for me.
MILLIE:   I guess Helen remembered this year.
EDITH:     Of course.
MILLIE:   Sometimes she forgets.
EDITH:     Poor child. Divorced. Having to fend for herself.
MILLIE:   Child! She's sixty if she's a day.
EDITH:     She's very busy. . . working. . . and with so many friends.
Still I do wish, . . . you know how much I wish . . . she would
write more often.
MILLIE:   Or telephone.
EDITH:     O, hurry ... I am dying to know what kind of flowers . . .
MILLIE:   Roses.
EDITH:     How do you know? You haven't even lifted the lid.
MILLIE:   (Lifting flowers from box.) I guessed. Yes. Roses. Tall red ones.
(She hands the roses to EDITH. She buries her face in them. Separates each rose carefully. Six.)
EDITH:     Roses.   My favourites.  The  most beautiful flower in the
whole world. And they smell as lovely... as they look. (She
peers at them.)
31 MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
(She puts out her hand for more.)
That's all of them. Half a dozen.
Only six. But she always sends the full dozen. Surely her
own mother is worth a full dozen ... I mean . . .
Don't be childish. Roses have simply skyrocketed in price.
Long stems like this cost... at least I think they cost... up
to $2.00 a piece.
But her own mother.
Don't be greedy. Be thankful she remembered.
I am. Of course I am. She knows how much I have always
adored  roses.   Smell  Millie!   Remember my  rose  garden?
Gloire  de   Dijon,  Josephine   Beauharnais,   Ena  Harkness
... I grew them all.
(Ironic) A rose is a rose is a rose . . .
(Smiling) Is a rose. Funny the more you say it, the more those
words seem to . . . to . . .
What?
Spiral up into the sky.
(Stands centre stage with roses in her arms.)
"Gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing to put... to put. . .
"To put thy pale lost lilies out of mind."
(Still declaiming) "To put thy pale lost lilies out of mind."
Good for you, Millie. You always come through in a pinch.
You know what I think about you. You are the bright blue
ribbon threading through my life. I think that often.
I know. You've told me.
(MILLIE gets up with difficulty.)
Where are you going?
To get a vase.  Customary, you know, to put flowers in
water.
No, let me. I'll get it, Millie.
It's your birthday . . .
You sit still. (EDITH starts to go offstage.) If you want me to
be surprised, you'll have to set out the cake . . . and make the
tea too. Besides, I want to pick the right container. . .
Which?
The tall white one. The Wedge wood. You know.
Should. I gave it to you as a wedding gift.
(Before EDITH goes out, she has handed the roses to MILLIE.
MILLIE pricks her finger on a thorn, sucks it. EDITH returns
with a vase. She takes the roses from MILLIE, puts vase and roses
on table, begins to arrange them.)
32 EDITH:    You know, Millie, this is the best vase, (She picks up a flower
and peers at  it.)  What  a  lovely  colour!   Such  a  clear  red
. . . simply . . . simply delicious!
MILLIE:   (Slyly) Almost good enough to eat?
EDITH:     (Instant recognition) Georgie! O Millie remember. . . on our
way to the church hall, Georgie stole the rose, and then he
had to show off some more and so he ate it.
MILLIE:   Ate it. The whole rose. Lock, stock, and barrel.
EDITH:     Stem, stamen, petals. And you know, Millie, it didn't even
make him sick. Georgie Buchanan!
MILLIE:   It was our first party with boys. Pretty damn exciting.
EDITH:     Georgie was my date and you went with Flaxon Penel-
legan . . .
MILLIE:   And I let Flaxon kiss me goodnight.  He had protruding
teeth. Went right through my lower lip . . . (They laugh) What
was the minister's name?
EDITH:    Young. Awfully nice.  He confirmed us.  Remember? He
preached a sermon about Judas Iscariot because I asked him
how come Judas had to burn in hell forever. Didn't seem
very Christian, not to forgive Judas.
MILLIE:   O, what was his name? We both had a crush on him.
EDITH:     And now neither one of us can remember even what he
looked like. I hate not remembering. I hate looking at my
freckled hands. I never look at my body any more. And I
used to. It was a good body.
MILLIE:   I loved to dance. Hell, but I loved to dance. And I was a
darned good dancer.
EDITH:     (Nods) At dancing school, you led and I followed. You were
easy to follow.
MILLIE:   Big people are often light on their feet.
(MILLIE looks down. Pause.)
EDITH:    When I die, I want red roses heaped on my coffin. Like
Edith Piaf.
MILLIE:   Balls!
EDITH:    Millie!
MILLIE:   I can't stand that side of you. All that romantic . . . nonsense.
(Pause)
EDITH:     Sometimes I wish I'd died long ago, when Henry did, when
Helen was still with me.
MILLIE:   Oh,  you do, do you? Well,  that's nice,  that's very nice.
(Pause.) Anyone would think Helen was an... an angel.
EDITH:     (Picks up vase, starts to depart.) I'm not going to sit here and
listen to you insult my daughter.
MILLIE:   I'm not.
33 EDITH:
Yes, you are. Dear Helen, not here to protect herself. I wish
she was.
MILLIE:
So do I.
EDITH:
Is that a snide remark? (MILLIE shrugs.) I presume that
means yes.
MILLIE:
If you want to take it that way, you go right ahead.
EDITH:
I can put up with your gruffness, your untidiness, the way
you never have a handkerchief, but when you start to insult
my daughter, I have to draw the line.
MILLIE:
Old aged E., can't see the line, let alone draw it!
EDITH:
Old aged M., can see the line but she can't walk it. (Pause.)
You are mean, you know, Millie.
MILLIE:
And I suppose you're not. Bicker, bicker, bicker, that's all we
seem to do lately.
EDITH:
And on my birthday!
MILLIE:
Golden agers! What a hell of a misnomer that is. It's youth
that's golden.
EDITH:
"Golden boys and girls all must
Like chimney sweepers come to dust..."
MILLIE:
"Golden, lads and girls all must."
EDITH:
What? No Millie,  you're wrong.  It's boys. . . golden boys.
You're thinking of. . . of another poem . . .
"With rue my heart is laden, for golden friends I had,
For many a roselipt maiden, for many a lightfoot lad."
MILLIE:
Allow me to know something. Shakespeare said 'lads'.
EDITH:
Boys. After all I should know. Considering I took honours in
English Lit.
MILLIE:
Honours! Some honours! Second class.
EDITH:
That's despicable. . . a despicable thing to say,. Millie. You
know perfectly well I got First Class Honours all through
college. And if I hadn't gone out with Henry the night of my
General English Examination . . .
MILLIE:
(Nods) And you had to stay out all night. . . until five in the
morning.
EDITH:
We stayed to watch the sun rise over Mount Royal. . . the
whole sky was pink. . . flushed pink as a rose . . .
MILLIE:
(Grinning) Yeah.
EDITH:
(Grinning back) Yeah. (Pause.) Is it time for the cake, Millie?
MILLIE:
Not teatime yet.
EDITH:
I'm hungry.
MILLIE:
You didn't eat your dinner.
EDITH:
I'm quite hungry.
MILLIE:
I suppose we could take tea early. If you want.
EDITH:
I'm the birthday girl, remember? (EDITH gets up.)
i	
34 MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
All right. You can put the kettle on.
(Going off. Goes to kitchen.) Where did you hide the cake?
Never mind. Leave the rest to me. I want to, Edith. I can
manage. (Calls after EDITH.) And put the brandy bottle out.
There's some left.
(MILLIE sits. She massages her legs. EDITH comes back part
way into the room.)
Know what I was thinking, here in the kitchen?
I've never professed to be a mind reader.
All right, snarky. If you don't want to hear, okay.
I didn't say that.
I don't think I'll tell you anyway. You'll laugh. Or get aggravated.
No, I won't
Once, long ago, I had this most wonderful dream . . . about a
rose and a huge white bird. I was up in the sky, miles high I
was, and I was riding on this monstrous . . . well, a sort of
swan. I was riding on it, and yet I was part of it. As I looked
down over the universe, I saw everything unfolding in the
form of a rose ... all the solar system in the pattern of a
rose . . . opening and opening and opening. . .
Edith!
It's  o.k.   Millie.   Yes,   Millie,   I'm  o.k.   Hard  to  explain.
Squares evolving out of circles everywhere making a multitude of stars. . . shifting. . . and sifting. . . and circling. . . .
Sounds like forever and ever.
Yes, it was like that. Lovely.
(MILLIE shudders.)
Scared me to death as a child. Forever and ever and ever.
The thought of it was beyond me. Beyond imagining. Made
me want to cry.
You wanted an end?
I guess. (Pause.)
Eighty-five.  Imagine.  Do you know what we are, Millie?
Octogenarians, that's what we are.
Yep. Fifteen years past our allotted threescore and ten.
Mother lived to be ninety-one . . . There's the kettle, Millie.
Yes, I hear it.
Well, she was in her ninety-first year. (Pause.) Time for my
party, Millie!
(Not moving.) Yes. I guess it's time.
O, don't just sit there then!
You should know I have to muster my strength.
Oh . . . I'm sorry. Shall I do it?
35 MILLIE:
No! (Gets up with difficulty.) No, I want to put out your cake. I
can manage. (MILLIE leaves.)
EDITH:
(Calling after her.) I'm voting for lemon, Millie. But it doesn't
matter. I like either. (Aloud to herself.) Henry loved chocolate,
always asked to scrape the frosting bowl, just like a kid!
Helen was the strawberry girl. . . little Billy only had one
cake . . . one centre candle . . . (Pause.). ... I wish. . .
(She wanders restlessly, goes over, touches the roses. )
I wish Millie'd hurry.
(MILLIE enters. She has a hard time wheeling the tea trolley,
managing her cane. There is a small round cake on tea tray. It has
one centre candle.)
MILLIE:
Well,  here we are.  See I did manage!  Happy birthday,
Edith. Sorry there is only one candle.
(EDITH sees the cake and immediately begins jigging up and
down.)
EDITH:
(Chants.) Here comes a candle to light you to bed
to light you to bed
to light you to bed. . .
MILLIE:
Edith!
EDITH:
(Stilljigging.) To chop off your head, to chop off your head, to
light you to bed . . .
(MILLIE grabs hold of EDITHS wrist.)
MILLIE:
Stop it, Edith. Now, Stop!
(EDITH desists. She looks up enquiringly at MILLIE.)
EDITH:
Oh, Millie . . . (MILLIE nods.)
MILLIE:
It's all right, Edith. All the excitement, Edith. Too much
excitement.
EDITH:
I'm  sorry.   I'm  sorry,  Millie.  Always happens  if I  think
of. . . when I think of. . . O, Millie.
MILLIE:
I said, all over in a second. Now we won't talk about it. Or
think about it. All right?
EDITH:
All right.
MILLIE:
You haven't said a thing about the cake. It's lemon, Edith.
(Pause.) I thought you liked lemon.
EDITH:
I do. Yes, I do. O, thank you, Millie.
(MILLIE cuts EDITH a piece of cake, hands it to her.)
MILLIE:
Mrs. Carter brought some new tea bags. The tea may have a
different flavour.
(EDITH has begun to eat the cake immediately.)
EDITH:
This cake is delicious, Millie. Absolutely delicious. Nice and
lemony.
(MILLIE hands EDITH her cup of tea.)
i	
36 MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
Good. Here's your tea. (Watches EDITH enjoying the cake.) I
had a hell of a time deciding what flavour,  chocolate or
lemon, so, in the end I said to Mrs. Carter, "Use your own
discretion."
Something's the matter with this tea. It's bitter. Bitter as gall.
I told you. It's the new tea bags. (Tastes hers.) I don't think it's
so bad.
There must be something the matter with your taste buds.
(Sipping) Different.  I say it's different.   Here . . . try some
brandy.
(Pours some in EDITH's cup, her own.)
Ugh, that's worse. The bitter tea of General Yan.
What?
Sometimes a phrase flies into my head out of nowhere. That
was the title of a book I read years ago. (EDITH pushes away
her cup.)
You're not going to drink your tea? You're not going to drink
your tea after all my trouble? I should think you would try
not to be so childish. (Pause.) Take it, Edith, with a bite of
your cake.
Uhuh, can't. It tastes like medicine. Bitter like medicine.
The Bitter Tea of General Yan. Don't remember what the
book was about.
Perhaps General Yan was poisoned. Perhaps his tea was
poisoned.
(MILLIE takes a big gulp of tea.)
How could you, Millie? How could you?
What are you talking about?
You know what I'm talking about. You put something in the
tea.
Don't be silly, Edith. It's new tea bags.
You put something in the tea. Oh, Millie, you put those pills
in the tea! Why, Millie, why?
I . . . didn't want to worry you.
You didn't want to worry me, instead you try to kill me!
Jesus . . . if you could only see beyond the length of your own
nose!
That's right. Blaspheme!
Edith! I can't cope with the pain in my legs, I can't cope with
trying to get food in the house, with trying to keep us clean,
nor with the fact of our poverty, yes, I did lie to you, the rent
is going up. . . and I can't cope. (Pause.)
I wish you wouldn't always try to keep things from me. I'm
not a child. If we need money, we'll sell my diamond ring.
Those three large stones are quite valuable.
37 MILLIE:   Your mother's diamond ring.
EDITH:    Yes.
MILLIE: You gave it to Helen two summers ago when she was out
visiting.
EDITH:     Oh. I had forgotten.
MILLIE:   But that is an answer. There's Helen.
EDITH:     Of course there's Helen. What do you mean?
MILLIE: I mean she's your daughter. With a daughter's responsibilities.
EDITH: Oh, Millie. Helen's a very busy . . . woman. She has a host of
friends ... a very . . . exacting job. Her apartment is not big.
MILLIE:   It has an extra bedroom. (Pause.)
EDITH: The truth is, Millie, she wouldn't have me. (Flash of spirit.)
And anyway, I wouldn't fit in. How could I be myself there?
I'd . . . I'd wither. My glass bottle would cloud over, corrode
and crumble away. (Pause.) No, I couldn't go to Helen's,
Millie. Neither could you if you were in my place. (Pause.) I
suppose ... I suppose I'll have to swallow crow and agree to
go to . . . one of those "Homes". As a matter of fact, Mrs.
Carter says some are . . . quite nice. They have lounges with
a fireplace . . . television in the sitting rooms . . . and afternoon tea . . .
One thing,  Millie,  we'd be together . . . and we'd be ourselves . . .
(Pause.) Well,  don't just sit there. . . blinking like a blind
cow ... or a great grey owl. . .
MILLIE: (Fighting tears.) I didn't want to tell you, Edith. These homes,
they have certain . . . certain rules. I would have to go where
they take wheelchair cases . . . and you to a different kind of
institution.
EDITH: Me to the loony bin? Is that it? Is that what you've been
keeping from me?
MILLIE: No, Edith. A . . . separate insititution. But we . . . couldn't be
together.
EDITH: I won't. I can't. I won't go to the loony bin. I won't, do you
hear? I'm all right. I'm intact. I'm . . . Oh, Millie, Millie,
please don't let them put me . . .
MILLIE: (Breaking down.) God, don't you see? I may not be able to
help it! (MILLIE sits weeping.)
EDITH: Don't Millie. Oh, please . . . don't (Pause.) Don't Millie. Oh,
please . . . don't (Pause.) I've never seen you cry before . . . it's
liable to. . . liable to send me. . . send me spinning off. . .
(Pause.) O Millie . . . please . . . Don't Millie . . .
38 MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
(EDITH reaches out, takes hold of MILLIES wrist.  Takes her
own hankie, tries to dry MILLIES tears. MILLIE takes handkerchief, dries her own eyes.)
Better?
(Nods, blows her nose vigorously.) Better.
(Picks up teapot, feels it.) Millie, it's still hot . . . we should drink
this tea while it's still hot. . . Shouldn't we, Millie?
(MILLIE reaches for her cup. EDITH picks up hers also. They
raise them to each other.)
Here's to . . . General Yan.
And us, Millie! Here's to us!
(MILLIE drinks deeply.)
Oh, not so fast. I don't want you to go to sleep before me.
(They sip their tea.)
Mrs. Anderson comes tomorrow.
She'll knock, and no-one will answer, and then she'll barge
in, calling in "Yoohooo, yoohoo, anybody home?"
She'll be carrying the tray with our dinners . . .
The gravy congealed ... as usual. . .
And then she'll arrive here ... in the living room . . . and
there we'll be stiff. . . still as boards . . .
(They giggle.)
O, poor Lady Bountiful!
(They sip their tea.)
I lied to you too, Millie. I still see red when I think of Henry
taking you to bed. You, my best friend! Might as well be
frank now. I still consider you were ... a proper bitch.
You're not telling me a thing I didn't know. But for your information Henry didn't take me ... I took him. It was partly
your fault.
(Setting down her cup.) My fault?
(Nods) You're such an egoist. So wrapped up in your desperate grief you couldn't see Henry's problem.
I still think it was a hell of a time for you ... to ... to .. .
And it wasn't my sex appeal either. Matter of fact I never
thought sex was so damn important.
(Nods) Important. Look how much we talk about it.
Men liked me because I was comfortable . . . and accommodating . . .
I see. You were just doing your Christian duty. . . like Mrs.
Anderson . . . (They snicker.)
Sometimes I still have dreams about Henry. He was a handsome man, wasn't he, Millie?
39 MILLIE:
EDITH:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
(Nods) Well built. (They sip their tea.)
(Softly) "Golden lads and girls all must
Like chimney sweepers come to dust..."
(MILLIE rubs her legs, gives a slight exclamation of pain.)
Your legs that bad?
Yep.
You'll be glad . . .
Yep.
Well,   I   won't.   Even   now . . . with   the  world . . . shrunk,
there's still. . . roses. . . our jokes.  Sometimes, in the bedroom, I still take deep breaths just for the sheer pleasure of it.
Remember what you wrote on that paper.
Death was far away then. (She bends over, peers at the flowers.) I
can't help wondering what it will be like. You know, Millie,
it might be. . . better than we think. It might even be, well,
nice. I mean, we can't remember being conceived or born. I
can't remember a thing until Grade 1. (Pause.) What do you
think it will be like, Mil?
Comfortable . . . and dark . . .
And accommodating. . . (They smile.)
Pass the brandy bottle, will you, Edith?
Here. It will ease your legs.
(Pours some into both cups.) Might as well finish it up. We don't
want to leave it for Mrs. Anderson. (They giggle.)
One thing about you, Millie. You always listen. Henry used
to shut his ears to me. As though anything I had to say was
unimportant. I had my revenge once though. I must have
told you. Did I ever tell you about the time we lived in Hamilton?
I don't think so. I don't remember.
It was soon after we were married. You know how much sex
you have when you're first married? Well, we'd gone to bed
early, right after dinner, and I kept hearing all this commotion in the hall outside, shouting and banging, and I
wanted Henry to go and investigate but he said I was hearing
things, that it was nothing. "Pay attention," he kept saying
"Pay attention. Will you pay attention?" The noise kept
going on, but you know me, Millie, fluid as water, always
thinking the other person knows best. . . suddenly this guy
wearing a red hat and carrying an axe comes bursting into
the bedroom. . . there was a fire in the apartment building ... he came bursting in just at. . . just at. . . .
At the moment of truth!
(They laugh.)
40 EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
EDITH:
MILLIE:
Lord, I haven't thought about that in years! Funny, I don't
feel the least bit sleepy. You feel sleepy, Millie?
Not yet. Expect we will soon.
Perhaps the pills are slow working. Nembutol takes quite a
while. Seconal works fast.
But I wish I could remember that phrase. It keeps nagging at
me . . . right there at the back of my mind. The landscape is
mountainous, the people are peasants and . . .
And I'll bet my money on de bob-tail nag. . .
Mil-lie!
Somebody bet on de bay.
0 God, I almost remembered; it was right on the tip of my
tongue. The landscape is mountain . . .
1 wonder how long these pills take. Where's that bottle?
(MILLIE feels in her pocket.  Brings out the phial.  Picks up
glasses from table. Settles them on nose.)
Oh, Millie, Millie! I've thought of it! I remembered! Listen!
The landscape is mountainous, the people are peasants, and
the problem is, as always, to stay alive!
(MILLIE looks up, laughs.)
What's so funny? I don't know what can be so... so .. .
The problem is, as always, to stay alive! Edith, these pills
have an expiry date. They expired twenty years ago!
You mean . . . we're not. . . going to die?
(Laconic) Seems General Yan is impotent.
Alive . . . I'm alive . . . you . . . we're alive! Oh ... I think I'm
glad. Yes, I am, I'm glad. Why am I glad, Millie?
(Massaging her legs.) Damned if I know.
41 Christopher Levenson
WOMEN'S NAMES
As often as they like they are allowed
this vanishing trick, to disappear behind
the Spanish screen of a husband, taking on
new contexts, expectations.
Then suddenly
in a dedication or an obituary
the first name reappears like a trinket hidden
all winter under the snow, or a skeleton
leaves had too long obscured, — the father's name
and with it hints of a provenance, Italy,
Hungary, Poland or Armenia,
and all they had once lived down or passed beyond,
taunts on the schoolyard, alien credos, games,
a conspiracy of pride and separateness:
stones flash new facets in a different setting.
42 Glen Sorestad/7wo Poems
LATE SUMMER CROWS
Field upon field of wheat turns
in its cycle of green to gold
as I drive through summer's dying
Above grain that sends waves
in slow measure shore to shore
a still sky is glazed with sun
Against this duo-toned day
there is erratic unexpected movement:
black rags pinned on the line of sky
Here, enclosed only in mechanical sound
I can not hear hoarse shouts of crows:
they flap and dip in black silence
Harbingers of summer's decay, crows
read the cryptic messages of impending cold
muster their numbers in the gathering gold
Black flakes drift against late August sun
Sombre and certain as obituaries they sound
their grave announcement across the sky
43 THE HISTORY OF CHINA
(for Andy and Pat)
Three poets are walking backwards 7000 years
in Chinese history, caught in a frenzy of images
for the poems they are writing about China.
One has already visited that country and roots
poems in the fertile soil of both touch and dream
in a landscape he may never see again
except as ragged moths or reverie drawn
against the lighted windowpanes of night.
The other moves through myriad pages read
about Chinese sailors and immigrants who left
the precarious certainties of home to seek
unknown familiarities of distant shores.
The eyes of my friends are pools of vigilance
where strange fish swim delicate as silk
stitched into the fragile embroidery of remembrance.
And I am the curious third of this tentative bond
one who shambles through the silences of the others
who are so intent to draw to them the fragments
of voices that may speak to them today, somewhere
down this promenade of Oriental time. Perhaps
these antique voices that sing in their ears
may have some least words to whisper to me.
Ontario Museum of Science, May 31, 1982
44 Dale Zieroth/ Two Poems
AT THE ST. MUNGO ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE,
DELTA B.C.
We crowd between the highway
and the Fraser, itself a highway:
a log barge ploughs the water.
On tour here, above the holes, we all listen
as the young woman explains
here they dug the hearth; this
grey line lasted iooo years . . .
Among us today a retarded girl looks away
from the pit
and watches the big jets overhead
follow a path, one by one, down
to the edge of the sea. A boy
fondles an arrowhead he has found
(and wishes to keep) & we can almost see
the fish months between May & the cold,
before the first month on the Egyptian calendar
or the leap of the wheel in Iraq —
proto-Salish man looked at his river,
the glacial mud pouring past, & saw trees
stunted on the other shore,
no tourists
Later we sift some dirt,
our hands hungry for
what the hands of the past have touched —
grey lumps that could have caught a toe
in any age, and gratefully
the children are allowed to carry these
home, back to the buildings,
placed within the collection:
little faces stacked in a corner
waiting their turns to be taken up &
held, and dropped, and held again.
45 PORNOGRAPHY
Three years ago
he crossed the border into Blaine.
Three years —and the images
that splashed across his eyes
inside the dark dark
theatre (they were blinded
when they came out, into the afternoon,
the light as grey as the sea)
still splash up, flesh on flesh
and now he looks
back hard at the eyes of his friends
and sometimes they both catch
where the feasting aches to end.
Three years later
he might be anywhere in this city;
a bus will throw its hot message
across his legs and he might recall
the drive back across the line
along the salted shore
the waves toss up their spume;
at the edge they empty themselves and
fall back, fall back
46 Dave Margoshes
A False Moustache
In 1925, when my father came back to New York from Cleveland, he
moved uptown to Harlem, where he hoped to find independence.
He was seven years older than the century, still a young man, and had
spent three years on a small Yiddish newspaper learning the craft he
would earn his living by for the next forty. His father and brother were
both well-known journalists and it had been important for him to make
his own name, on his own, and he'd gone so far, in Cleveland, as to actually change his name, to Morgenstern, which means morning star. He
liked to tell me, years later, that he would often dream, in the cold
rooming house attic he'd shared with a mouse he called Maleka, of
returning to the city he'd once thought didn't have room for him, the city
of his father's and brother's friends and influence, their reputation, like a
bright morning star, burning on the horizon, forcing men to lift their
heads and see.
In those days, with the war still seeming to reverberate in the air
above the city like a subway train that has rumbled out of sight but not
hearing, Harlem was already beginning to make the change which was
to plunge it into the new world. The handsome brownstones which lined
125th Street and its dissecting avenues were starting the painful process of
transforming themselves into neat, genteel boarding houses, like capped
teeth in a once proud mouth —the smile is still warm, but it no longer
glitters. My father took a room on the second floor of a Lexington
Avenue house that had once belonged to a lawyer with Tammany connections. The lawyer had died in debt and now his solemn parlour was
the domain of an aunt who had only her wits and boarders to keep her
together. The room was clean, with a scrubbed window behind starched
white curtains looking out on the avenue and one slim slice of Gramer-
cy Park, one block south, that wasn't cut off by the buildings across the
way. North of 125th, where the roots were deeper or the money of better
quality, my father didn't know which, there were still families with servants living in the pillared, imposing brownstones, and from his window, on warm afternoons, he could watch the black nursemaids, who
lived far south of the pleasant street, strolling with their charges to the
47 park, where they would sit on benches and watch the children play in the
sun. He paid $12 a week, and that included coffee and rolls in the morning, dinner sharply at 6. When he worked the night shift, which was
often, his landlady packed him a wholesome lunch.
There was no mouse in the room on Lexington Avenue and, even
though the subway ride downtown to Lower Broadway took almost an
hour, my father enjoyed living there, far from the sights and smells of his
boyhood and his working world. And his enjoyment was enhanced
somewhat when, after several weeks, he ran into Shmelke in the hall
outside his room.
"Shmelke," my father said, surprised and pleased, still new enough in
his surroundings to be lonely, "what brings you here?"
"I have to go," Shmelke shrugged, gesturing toward the toilet at the
end of the hall. At the other end, my father could see, a door hung open,
the door to the room where, he believed, a traveling salesman with a lingerie firm resided. Or had.
"So go," my father said, moving out of the lean man's way, "but step in
on your way back and begin the process again."
A minute later, they were lifting their water glasses to the memory of
Cleveland. "May that infermal lake from which blows that infermal cold
wind overspill its shores and swallow the infermal city up," Shmelke
said, licking his lips with a peculiar sound, like small waves on stones.
He swallowed the whisky with a single gulp.
He was a tall, fleshless man with ears like mushrooms springing out of
moist earth, fond of suits a size too large, as if he expected to suddenly
put on weight. His lips were the size and color of the patches of a worn
inner tube. He was altogether the most homely man my father had ever
known, quite an accomplishment in a world populated by men who
worked too hard or kept their heads on too lofty planes to be physically
vain.
"It was my partner, that infermal rascal Goldblatt, who forced me to
descend," Shmelke said in explanation for his presence, both in the city
and these modest surroundings. He was a humorless, literal man whose
command of his second language was not up to his reach.
"The ticket selling?" my father inquired after a moment's thought.
They had not been friends, by any means, but they had frequented the
same cafe in Cleveland, a sort of expatriate Cafe Royale filled with
poets, newspapermen, actors, artists, musicians and hangers-on, and
during the three years he had known of half a dozen different ventures in
which Shmelke had been involved. Artists' representative was what he
liked to call himself; press agent was closer to the truth; ticket agent was,
in fact, what he was the last time my father had heard.
"Let me tell you, that was no sofa on roses, that expedition. It was a
service, a struggle of love, something to do for the people, you know
48 what I mean, Morgenstern? You think I could make a dollar on a thing
like that?"
"Would I argue with you?" my father asked. He poured another two
fingers of whisky into the dusty glasses.
"My partner, what a shlimazal, a head for business he had on his shoulders as big as this." Shmelke held up his thumb, examined it critically,
then replaced it with his pinky. "As big as this, no bigger." He gulped
down the whisky with a rubbery slap. "We had these tickets, this big order, something really expressive, for opera, Caraso, no, not him, but
someone just as infamous, and it brought in a lot of money. A lot? It
made me ennervated having that much money so close. And was I
right?" He slapped his narrow forehead with the palm of his hand. "That
infermal shmegega had a chance —a chance, he called it, a hole in the
ground would be more like it — to buy up a whole theatre for Gilbert and
Sullivan, so he used all the money from the opera tickets. The whole cat
and caboodle."
"Sounds like a smart move," my father said naively.
"A smart move? Sure, like suicide is smart for the widow and the
dolphins." Shmelke glared at my father as if he were in the company of a
fool. My father tipped the bottle over the glasses.
"So there comes the man from the opera saying where's the money
from the tickets? So what do we say?"
"Tomorrow?" my father offered.
Shmelke peered at him with skeptical admiration. "Sure, tomorrow,
that's context. But what happens after tomorrow?"
"Gilbert and Sullivan is sold?"
"Morgenstern, no offensive, but you and my infermal partner Goldblatt would be sweethearts, regular darlings, newlyweds you could be."
"You couldn't sell Gilbert and Sullivan?"
Shmelke's watery eyes rolled up and almost disappeared into his eyelids. "Morgenstern, you can always sell Gilbert and Sullivan. In Cleveland, Gilbert could be elected mayor, Sullivan the mayor, maybe."
"So what's the problem?"
"Problem? Who said anything about a problem? Morgenstern, you
surprise me. Problem? What a cryptic. No problem, believe me. The Gilbert and Sullivan money goes to the opera and that accounting is closed,
the book is finished, kaput. A little inconsideration, maybe, when the
Gilbert and Sullivan cancels and there's the refunds to make, but a. problem? Noooo."
Shmelke glared at my father, challenging him, and, though he was
tempted to say he didn't understand, my father held his tongue. After
that, the two men saw each other often, in the hallway outside the toilet,
rather than at the dinner table, as my father was working nights, and
often they would share a glass of whisky in my father's room, occasion-
49 ally in Shmelke's. The man did not bathe often and there was an odor in
his room which my father found worth the price of his whisky to avoid.
It was spring when my father moved into the room in Harlem and the
city was opening itself up for him the way leaves and blossoms open
themselves up to the insects that float on the warm breezes of April and
May. The Jewish life of New York was rich and exciting in those days,
its theatre vigorous, its literature strong and searching, its artists bold
and sensitive with a freedom growing out of a new sense of purpose after
a hundred years or more of lying low. There were a half a dozen Yiddish dailies in the city then and the competition between them was fierce,
their pages filled with essays on the arts and philosophy, criticism, Tal-
mudic debate, humor, advice on everything from self-improvement to
affairs of the heart and body, along with news of the far-flung community and the world at large that owed as much, in its style and presentation, to Hearst and Pulitzer as it did to Spinoza and the learned
rabbis of Poland and Russia. My father was a news writer, not an essayist, toiling for the paper called Der Tag, or The Day, but he loved the
company of the great men he drank coffee with in the cafeteria at the corner of East Broadway and Delancy Street and at the Cafe Royale, where
the lights burned all through the night like beacons.
Sometimes, he would encounter Shmelke there. The tall, skinny man
with the pennant ears had secured a position as press agent to a rabbinical council and was also doing publicity work for a hospital in the
Bronx. But his heart and soul belonged to the arts and he often could be
found in the evenings at the Cafe Royale and other warm, bright rooms
that sparkled through the gray streets of the lower east side like fireflies.
"Morgenstern, Morgenstern, join us. Sit down, my friend. Combine
with me a drink. You know Rubenstein and Pashka?"
"Of course." My father sat, smiling. Despite the invitation, he knew
he would pay for the whisky he ordered.
"Rubenstein, the steamed violinist, and Pashka, the clammed dramatist. Morgenstern, the novelist and poet."
My father knew both men —one a teacher of music at a Hebrew
school, the other a stage hand at the theatre across the street —and the
conversation was good, the evening warm. He lingered, although it was
late. Shmelke and he rode home together on the subway.
"Come in, have a drink," Shmelke begged. "I've got something to
show you."
My father's curiosity was stronger than his tiredness and he followed
the bobbing head with its ballast ears into the cluttered room, rich with
the smell of socks. On the rumpled bed, there was a peaked white cap
like those he had seen the black nursemaids in the park wearing.
Shmelke snatched it up and twirled it on a finger, grinning darkly.
There was a bottle of cheap rye on the dresser and my father poured
two glasses.
50 "You should see her, Morgenstern," Shmelke said. "An angel, a dark
angel, like devilsfood cake, like an animal of the night."
My father was moved by the intensity and clarity of Shmelke's description. He swallowed his drink and took out a cigarette. "You've had
this woman here? In your room?"
"Right here," Shmelke grinned, patting the twisted bedclothes. "Why
not?" He tossed the cap carelessly onto the bed, shrugging his shoulders.
"What do I care what people think?"
"Very commendable, my friend, but does that include our landlady?"
The rubbery lips smacked at the rim of his glass. "Depression, depression, Morgenstern, is the soul of valor." He winked.
"And the girl? She's nice?"
Shmelke laughed, a cackling that reminded my father of the chickens
that used to share the kitchen of his mother's farmhouse in the winter,
years before, when he'd been a boy. "Nice, what's nice? To the Cafe
Royale, I don't intend to bring her. Here," he pointed to the bed, "she's
nice."
"Is it wise, though, one of those girls?"   my father asked cautiously.
"Morgenstern, of you I'm shameless." Shmelke fixed him with a stern
gaze, the rims of his elephant ears reddening slightly. "A man like you, a
spigot."
During that first year of his return to the city, when my father was
firmly establishing himself as a newspaperman, and some time before he
would meet my mother, he had love affairs of his own, great friendships,
nights of talk and whisky and coffee that lasted till dawn. He was active
in Jewish Writers Guild, which got its start at the same time as the
Newspaper Guild but soon outstripped its English language rival. He
got a raise. And one night, in late summer, he was witness to a murder
and wrote a story that made an impression on his editors.
My father had an interest in labor, but there already was a labor
editor on the paper, a stern old man who had been a scholar and teacher
in the old country and who wrote with the grace of an albatross. When
this man, Jaffe, was busy, my father was often pressed into service to
help him if there was a conflict, and on an evening in September he went
to cover a meeting of a group of garment cutters who were organizing
themselves.
The meeting was in a small kosher restaurant on 17th Street, between
3rd and 4th avenues. It had been warm when my father left Harlem that
afternoon and he had not worn a coat, but as darkness fell it turned cold
and a stiff wind was sending newspapers skittering along the empty
street as he walked toward the restaurant, the collar of his suit jacket
turned up against his neck. A man in a lumberjack's plaid shirt stood
51 lounging against the plate glass of the restaurant, a toothpick in his
mouth.
"Morgenstern," the man said.
"Steinfeld, hello, you look like you're ready for heavy labor."
"I'm glad you could come," Steinfeld said. "Those shits at The
Forward, they don't pay any attention." He was a big man with a sensitive face who drank coffee occasionally in the Cafe Royale with a thin
actress he was in love with. In Galicia, my father knew, he had studied
to be a doctor, but now he worked in the garment district, his quick
fingers racing over patterns with a scissors. He shrugged his massive
shoulders. "Heavy labor, sure. This is no kids' stuff, you know."
There had been a strike in one of the sweatshops that abounded like
blossoms off the stem of lower 7th Avenue, and then, mysteriously, there
was a fire in the building and two of the organizers of the strike were
arrested, charged with arson. Steinfeld himself had avoided the police
only by accident. The fire was the work of gangsters, everyone knew,
but fighting back was no easy matter.
My father lit a cigarette and glanced up the street. On the corner, a
light burned in a news stand but the other shops were dark. He would
have liked to stand outside and chat with Steinfeld but it was cold and he
opened the door of the restaurant. "See you inside." As he moved into
the warmth and the clatter of voices from the already crowded tables, he
heard the sound of a car on the street but thought nothing of it. The shot
rang out just as the door was clicking shut behind him and it didn't
register immediately; even when the glass shattered and Steinfeld's
shoulders crashed through toward him, he didn't fully understand what
had happened. Then there was confusion, shouting, a man rushing past
him, jostling him, knocking him sideways, and he cut his hand on a
piece of glass and found himself on his knees, staring into Steinfeld's
wide open eyes. What he remembered most of that moment, even many
years later, was the lack of surprise in them.
His hand was still bleeding when he got home, hours later, although
he had tied a handkerchief around it. Taking notes, telephoning, typing
his story, there had been no chance for the wound to even begin to glaze
over. The handkerchief was stiff with congealing blood and my father
was attempting to take it off, his head lowered, as he climbed the stairs,
and he bumped into Shmelke, who was standing at the top of the steps.
"That woman, she's here, what should I do?" Shmelke said breathlessly. His massive ears were tinged with red along the rims like warning signs, and his lips seemed bluer than usual.
"So?" my father said, elbowing past him. "Excuse me. What woman is
that?"
He went to the bathroom and snapped on the light, discarding the
bloody handkerchief in the toilet.
"You don't understand," Shmelke whined. He was standing right be-
52 hind him, his face pressed close to my father's shoulder. "She's right
here, in my infermal room."
"What's to understand?" my father said. He turned on the cold water
tap and plunged his hand into the luke warm stream. "You should be
congratulated, Shmelke. A charming young lady, visiting you here in
your own room, and at this hour, no less. Wonderful. You are to be congratulated and I do congratulate you. And wish you good luck." He was
filled with the events of the evening and would have liked nothing better
than to share them, again, with anyone interested, even Shmelke, and
the man's single-mindedness irritated him.
"Morgenstern, sometimes I wonder how such a dope can manage to
climb the stairs, let alone turn the knob on the door." He pulled his head
back when he saw the expression that flashed across my father's face.
"You'll excuse me, I didn't mean to defend. But this woman, she's got me
in such a tizzle. This svartze."
"Oh, that woman," my father said, his eyes widening. "She's here?"
"Here? That's nothing. Here I could live with. It's who she's got with
her that sends shavings up my spine."
"Her boyfriend?" My father turned off the water and held his hand up
to the light to examine the cut. It wasn't very deep but the glass had
severed a big vein, an artery, perhaps, and the blood wouldn't stop seeping out. "Her husband? Her mother?"
"Worse," Shmelke said gloomily. His belligerence had suddenly faded
and he stared at the raw wound on my father's hand as if he were considering how a similar gash would look on his throat. "What happened to
your hand?"
"It's nothing," my father said. All of a sudden, he wanted to speak no
more of it. All he wanted was to go to his room, drink a whisky, and lie
on his bed in the dark, where he knew the sound of shattering glass
would echo in his ears all morning long. "What is it, Shmelke?"
"She's pregnant."
"Oh, so that's it." My father turned back to his hand, wrapping toilet
paper around it till it was bulky as a crumpled package.
Shmelke observed this in silence, pursing his lips like water wings
bobbing in a rough sea. "You know, maybe, a doctor?" he blurted out
finally.
My father looked up from his hand into Shmelke's face and was
washed with a wave of disgust. He remembered the blank, stoical eyes of
Steinfeld staring up at him and he felt, suddenly, very tired. "Sure,
sure," he said. He brushed past Shmelke. "I'll see in the morning." He
walked down the hall.
"And Morgenstern?" There was a plaintiveness in Shmelke's voice my
father had never heard before and it made him stop, his hand on the
knob of his own door.
"Yes?"
53 "You could talk to her, maybe?"
My father turned around. "Now?"
"Sure, now. She's in my room, waiting. She won't go. All night, practically, she's here. She won't give me any peace. And Mrs. Lowe. ..."
He nodded toward the stairs.
"Waiting for what?" my father asked. "Talk to her about what?"
"Tell her about the doctor you know. Tell her about how safe and sure
this doctor is, how they take preclusions and it's no more than getting
your tinsels out, just a little cut and. ..."
My father didn't wait for him to finish. He went down the hall and
into Shmelke's room without knocking. The woman was sitting on the
bed, her knees together and her hands clasped on them like a schoolchild
waiting to receive her lesson. "Hello," my father said. "My name is
Harry Morgenstern, I live here, down the hall."
The woman looked up at him and blinked. She was a small, very dark
girl, hardly out of her teens, with a pointy chin and shoulders that didn't
seem to matter. Her face was so dark, my father couldn't clearly make
out her features, but she seemed pleasant enough, though hardly pretty.
There was a blue kerchief with little white flowers on her head. "Where's
Louis?" she demanded. Her voice was small but strong, like a rain that
seems innocent enough but wets you through.
"I'm right here, my little flower," Shmelke said from the doorway.
"My friend Morgenstern, the novelist, he's a man of the world, believe
me, to him this is nothing. He's seen this sort of thing dozens of times."
He made a snapping motion with his fingers but they wouldn't connect
and there was only a rasping sound. "It's only a triffle."
My father sat on the bed beside the woman. She glared at him, but
after a moment, her gaze softened.
"Why don't you leave us for a moment, Shmelke? There's a bottle in
my room, help yourself." He had to fumble in his pocket with his left
hand for the key. They waited until the door had closed, Shmelke's footsteps sounded in the hall, and another door could be heard opening,
then closing. Then my father and the black woman looked at each other
again.
"He's very stupid, our friend," my father said simply.
"Ain't no friend of mine, not any more," the woman said. "But stupid,
that's for sure."
"I'm not the man of the world Shmelke says I am," my father said,
smiling, "but I can see trouble."
"I've got plenty to see." The skin on the woman's cheekbones was so
tight it glistened.
"What's your name?"
"Adrianne."
"That's nice," my father said. "That's a nice name."
The woman began to cry, lifting her hands to cover her face, the sobs
coming soft but steady for over a minute while my father looked away
54 and said nothing. When the sobbing became inaudible, he said: "You
don't want him."
"I know that, mister. I acted the fool, but I ain't no fool."
"What do you want?"
"I don't know. I came here thinking I wanted one thing but now I
don't know."
"A doctor?"
"A butcher, you mean? No, thank you, mister. I don't want no coat
hangers and razor blades in me. Bad enough what I let get into me in the
first place."
"Take it easy," my father said. "I'm not Shmelke. I just asked."
"I'm sorry," Adrianne said.
They were quiet for a moment. My father looked idly at his hand. A
muted red stain was beginning to spread through the toilet paper wrapping like fog spreading through the streets in the Cleveland evening a
lifetime ago. "Does Shmelke have any money?" he asked.
"That man?" She snorted. "He spends every cent on whisky and such
with his fancy friends downtown."
"I can give you some money, if it would help."
"It would," Adrianne said simply. It was clear she wasn't asking, but
she wouldn't refuse.
My father stood up. "What about him?"
The woman shook her head sadly. The whites of her eyes were pink
now, and her face was blurred, as if it had let go of the bones beneath the
skin. "I don't want to see that poor excuse again."
"Wait here," my father said. He went across the hall to his room, hesitating just for a second before opening the door. Shmelke was sitting on
the chair beside the bed, an empty glass in his hand. His reddened ears
seemed to flap, like flags of distress.
My father knelt beside the bed and took some money from its hiding
place in his suitcase. There wasn't much.
"What are you doing?" Shmelke asked. His voice was tiny, like that of
a punished child.
"Saving your life," my father said.
"What do you mean?"
"What in thunder do you think I mean?" my father snapped. I know
his temper, and I can imagine the way his eyes must have darkened, his
moustache bristling. "Her father and brothers would kill you. I'm
buying that off. But there's one condition. You can't let them find you.
You'll have to leave."
Shmelke was speechless, but when my father glared at him, showing
no signs of relenting, he said finally: "I'll go tomorrow."
"Tonight would be better, but it's your neck."
"I'll go early. There are things I have to do, circumcisions I have to
attend to. ... "
"You know I don't mean just from here. I mean from New York."
55 "I know," Shmelke said bitterly. "I'm not stupid."
My father started for the door. Blood was beginning to drip on the
bills he held in his bandaged hand.
"I'll pay you back," Shmelke said.
"If you want."
"I pay my debts, Morgenstern. I don't like to be a belcher."
My father shut the door and stood in the hall for a moment, staring at
the money in his bloody hand. It was all he had, but that didn't mean
anything.
The following year, my father was keeping company with a woman
who might have become my mother, had he been a little less demanding.
Years later, he liked to tell stories about this woman, whose name was
Sarah, and kid my mother that he had settled for the daughter of a
fanatic when he could have had a physician for a father-in-law.
My father was living in Coney Island at that time, in the same tiny
apartment where he and my mother would share their first year together
soon after, but Sarah's family was one of those which still maintained a
handsome brownstone just north of 125th Street, a home with rich carpets on the parquet floors and servants living in the coach house. So, although he no longer lived there, he was a frequent visitor to Harlem,
and he had occasion, once or twice, to pass Adrianne on the street or in
the park. She had gone south, to stay with relatives, and had had her
child. It was still there, with an aunt, and she was back, living with a
man who fixed shoes in a small shop on 125th a few blocks east and
tending the infant of a white family, taking it in its stroller for airings in
the park, where the sun filtering through the newly opened leaves
dappled the grass and benches with blotches of light and dark like
footprints in the snow. My father, running across her with the stroller
parked beside her bench, her uniform crisp and neat on her small,
unremarkable form, paused to admire the infant, inquire about the
other and shake his head sadly.
"It don't bear thinking about much," Adrianne said, and he agreed.
There was no mention of Shmelke.
One Saturday afternoon in June, my father and Sarah took a short cut
through the park on the way to Columbia University, where they
planned to attend a free concert. As they walked, my father was suddenly arrested by a strange sight. A tall man wearing an overcoat was
sitting on a bench under a chestnut tree, his ears big as the leaves hanging above his head. The overcoat was buttoned, although it was a warm
day, and its collar was raised. The man wore dark glasses and there was
a shapeless moustache over his bluish lips.
56 My father put his hand on Sarah's arm and steered her to a bench
some fifty feet beyond the one where the man with the moustache sat,
but facing it."What is it?" Sarah asked. My father shooshed her with a
finger to his nose. He crossed his legs and lit a cigarette.
Several people passed by, including a black nursemaid with a stroller
and two small boys in short pants in tow. She wore her hair in braids and
her silvery voice rose through the air like a bird's song as she chastised
the lagging boys. They passed on, toward the far side of the park.
Before my father's cigarette was half gone, the man with the moustache, who had been nervously turning his head to and fro, became
aware of the couple watching him and he bolted to his feet and began to
hurry away.
"Wait here," my father said. He had to run to catch up with the tall
man's quick strides.
"Shmelke."
"For God's sake, Morgenstern, my life is in jalopy, keep your voice
down."
My father took him by the arm and gestured around. They were alone
on a path that led through a small clump of trees. On the street, a hundred yards beyond, a fire engine raced by, its bell clanging. "Look,
there's not a soul in sight. You're in no danger."
"I can't be too careless," Shmelke said.
They sat down on a bench.
"That false moustache is ridiculous," my father said. "Why didn't you
grow a real one?"
"I was going to, but my wife didn't like it. It scritched," he said with
disgust, as if describing some loathsome insect crawling on his face.
"Your wife?" my father asked.
"In Dayton."
"I heard you went back to Cleveland."
"Are you crazy, Morgenstern? Only to get some clothes."
"And in Dayton?"
Shmelke's lean shoulders had to struggle against the weight of the
overcoat to produce a satisfied shrug. "Not so bad, not so bad as you
might think. I'm in business there, producing plays, bringing artists in,
musicians, traveling shows, let me tell you, Morgenstern, what Dayton
has for culture, you could put in there." He raised a thumb, examined it
critically, then replaced it with a pinky. "No more than that. In Dayton,
they got taste in their elbow."
"And you're married?"
"Well. . . . not exactly married," Shmelke shrugged again, the tips of
his ears flaring. "Bedthroned. The happy day is next week."
"And what brings you here, Shmelke? Taking your life in your
hands."
57 Shmelke sighed deeply, the breath rattling through his chest like a
cold wind through dead branches, and the brown caterpillar beneath his
nose wiggled, one end hanging loose. "There was. . . . there was something I wanted to see. With my own eyes."
"Yes?"
"I wanted to see if. . . . My wife, the woman to whom I'm intended,
that is, Hindel, she would like to have children."
"So?" my father said. He took out a cigarette and lit it, wishing he had
a bottle so he and Shmelke could share their ritual drink.
"So," Shmelke said, spreading his arms, "so I'm not such a thing of
beauty, you know, but. . . . and Hindel, well, she is a wonderful woman,
but. ..." His voice trailed of and he looked over my father's shoulder, as
if for inspiration in the trees.
"But what does all this have to do with your coming here?" my father
asked.
"I wanted to see if. . . . you know, Morgenstern, if the child looks like
me."
"It doesn't have a moustache, if that's what you mean," my father said.
Immediately, he regretted having said that. If there was one thing he
had learned in the long years it had taken him to come this far, it was not
to hurt people, that it always came back to him if he did.
Shmelke took off his dark glasses and my father saw there were tears
in his gray, almost colorless eyes. There was no surprise in them,
though, as if the man who possessed them had become accustomed to
rebuff. He clasped my father's hand and squeezed it, and for the first
time in many months the place where it had been cut began to hurt.
"Is it so wrong, Morgenstern, for a man to want to see his own spring-
off? His own child? His own flesh and bones?"
"No," my father said. He disengaged his hand and got to his feet.
Sarah would be wondering where he had gotten to.
Shmelke made a little sound in his throat and lowered his head, looking to his oversized feet for an answer that had eluded him so far in
Cleveland and Dayton and would not easily be found here, either downtown on East Broadway or uptown in Harlem, where some people say
the air is thinner.
My father didn't mention the money still owing, and neither did
Shmelke.
58 Monty Reid
DRESSING MANNEQUINS
She has daughters, she tells herself, not
that it matters. Among the limbs, the rows
of heads, she puts a body together. She
has daughters, she tells herself, who could
wear these summer fashions that leave so much skin
exposed, that fit tight around the bodice. They are
so beautiful.
They wait for her, disjointed, staring
in distraction at the glass; they have been through
this before. And she almost feels the bodies
of her daughters in her hands, how she conceives them
in sun-dresses and ribbons, how they could never hold
still. She sticks an arm into its socket and
pins fabric around a motionless waist.
It is never complete.
59 Even when she joins the window-shoppers and stares
in from the far side of the glass at these fashionable
women who are not her daughters, whose contempt
for those nothing will fit is made harsh and
immobile by floodlights, she knows ways
to improve it. She knows they are talking
tho she cannot hear them, about Tokyo, Milan, Rome,
that they invent her every night, maternal and
made of easy syllables. She can see their lips
purse around her name, as if they had more
to say and were only waiting for the pedestrians
to pass. And she buys clothes
for her daughters, who can wear almost anything,
remembering their sizes, but never
at the store she works at.
60 Lorna Goodison
ON BECOMING A MERMAID
Watching the underlife idle by
you think drowning must be easy death
just let go and let the water carry you
away and under
the current pulls your bathing-plaits loose
your hair floats out straightened by the water
your legs close together fuse all the length down
your feet now one broad foot
the toes spread into
a fish-tail, fan-like
your sex locked under
mother-of-pearl scales
you're a nixie now, a mermaid
a green tinged fish/fleshed woman/thing
who swims with thrashing movements
and stands upended on the sea floor
breasts full and floating buoyed by the salt
and the space between your arms now always
filled and your sex sealed forever under
mother-of-pearl scale/locks closes finally
on itself like some close-mouthed oyster.
61 LeRoy Gorman
FOUR HAIKU:Billboard Series
on life insurance
she holds a smirk
her neon flickering
bulb's burned out
all that's left a shady crotch.
& faint hurrah
under the billboard girl's scrutiny
I cast my ballot
for a man who is dying
the little man who changes bulbs
is stopping off to dust
the paper lady's sunglasses
62 Eva Tihanyi / Two Poems
NOT ALL THINGS SLEEP
i
Not all things sleep
Not even the moon
which vanishes for the day,
nor the sun
which vanishes for the night
Stones do not sleep;
they study the earth relentlessly
with their hard round eyes
In me, the dance does not sleep
though awareness does;
the blood continues its circles
from head to foot to head
and a million cells split
fizzing like bubbles
That which does not sleep
does not deceive, does not dream
recriminations
Only in sleep is there hiding
and not everything seeks refuge
63 This is the way of the waking:
open mouths demanding food,
emitting sound, shuffling aimlessly
through any landscape, all landscapes
The waking are perplexed,
wonder what has happened
while they slept,
insist it must be spring
if they awake in April
They analyze and premeditate,
yet long always
for what the stones know
and the blood
64 MUTATION
You feel your sex close,
your legs lose their lust for walking
You are becoming
something earthbound and androgynous
The moon above you, remote
in its borrowed costume,
is halved like a harlequin,
a light and dark jester
You are in awe of its balance,
its cool celestial symmetry
Yet you want to better the moon,
to eel your way through the streets
like a silver worm
burrowing light in all
the night's possible directions
This is the aim:
to shudder with light,
to be within the world
shadowless, moving
65 H. C. Artmann
A STORY ABOUT MYSELF
in a mallorcan folk tale it is said that i once lived in the region of mana-
cor and on my way home one night fell into an open sewer because the
wind had blown out my lantern but i found nothing strange in that and
marched on confidently after long wandering finally to arrive before a
bright window that in my innocence i took for the city gate of a
lilliputian republic and through this i climbed whereupon i came across a
wondrous city in which every proper person was one-legged for which
reason my two-leggedness created an uproar and a hullabaloo so that to
save my life i leaped off like a stag and with difficulty finally found a hiding place and thus escaped the provoked masses there i hid my left leg in
my broad plus-fours whereupon i was a welcome guest everywhere with
no need to fear harm from any human hand.
once i had lived for a certain time in this city it is said i grew tired of
hopping around and longed greatly for my hidden leg again and thus
one night between dew and fog i pulled it out and quickly went on my
way.
whether in the days i spent with those one-legged people i also married
a pretty buxom one-legged woman nothing is mentioned in this story
but only that i fell into an open sewer that same night because the wind
had blown out my lantern but i found nothing strange in that and
marched on confidently after long wandering finally to arrive before a
bright window that in my innocence i took for the city gate of a lilliputian republic and through this i climbed whereupon i came across a wondrous city in which every proper person was one-eyed for which reason
my having two eyes created an uproar and a hullabaloo so that to save
my life i leaped off like a stag and with difficulty finally found a hiding
place and thus escaped the provoked masses there i pasted over my left
eye with cobbler's wax whereupon i was a welcome guest everywhere
with no need to fear harm from any human hand.
once i had lived for a certain time in this city it is said i grew tired of
squinting and longed greatly for my waxed-over eye again and thus one
66 night between dew and fog i freed it from cobbler's wax and quickly went
on my way.
whether in the days i spent with those one-eyed people i also married a
pretty buxom one-eyed woman nothing is mentioned in this story but
only that i fell into an open sewer that same night because the wind had
blown out my lantern but i found nothing strange in that and marched
on confidently after long wandering finally to arrive before a bright window that in my innocence i took for the city gate of a lilliputian republic
and through this i climbed whereupon i came across a wondrous city in
which every proper person was nose-less for which reason my having a
nose created an uproar and a hullabaloo so that to save my life i leaped
off like a stag and with difficulty finally found a hiding place and thus escaped the provoked masses there because i could neither hide it in my
plus-fours nor paste it over with cobbler's wax i cut off my nose whereupon i was a welcome guest everywhere with no need to fear harm from
any human hand.
whether in the days i spent with those nose-less people i also married a
pretty buxom nose-less woman nothing is mentioned in this story but
only that i fell into an open sewer that same night because the wind had
blown out my lantern but i found nothing strange in that and marched
on confidently after long wandering finally to arrive before a bright window that in my innocence i took for the city gate of a lilliputian republic
and through this i climbed whereupon i stood in my own vegetable garden gadabout my pretty buxom wife said for thirty days and thirty
nights you abandon your house and wife the devil knows where you've
been turning the world into a brothel again with strange whores and not
with me!
after these words she stopped short and reached for my nose but it was
no longer there . . .
since then it is said i have wandered through the region shunned by
man and beast alike no hotel no hostel no nightly refuge accepted me
without my nose i slept on the hard floors of empty houses where even
the wood-lice and spiders ran from me yes i even intended to hang myself from a tree but the branch broke for repulsion at my terrible appearance.
that's a pure fiction on the part of these people who claim to have seen
me one mild summer's night leaping like a stag through the city of manacor.
translated from the German by Derk Wynand
67 Roger Nash/ Three  Poems
WOLF CALL NORTH OF TIMMINS
I am a wolf.    I am
this particular wolf.
My stars cast starving
shadows.    Through its creaking jawbone
of ice, the lake calls
back.     The moon will not mate
with me.     Snow bites hard
at my pads.    Even a tail
needs feeding tonight.    But this low
-slung howl hauls
up like a hawser, looping
generously over calloused hills,
fraying snow beneficently
into forests, seeming, as is usual,
endless.    I hang from it, a single
hunger, its only possession.
I am all that keeps it going.
68 GRANDMA'S PRESERVES
These are the well-bottled
pages of her only diary.
Floating onions press
a crowd of faces to the glass.
Her children flatten their noses.
The moon would lose its memory
through so many phases
of pickled eggs.    They shine
in a cloudless lunar vinegar
from the packed skies of her life.
Blueberry jams darken
slowly, sugaring with the stored
storms of her summers.    Juices
squall against the insides of the jars,
rattling shelves like window-panes.
She never could stop beetroots blurting
out their red, though the gunshots
were years ago.     A father in the Somme,
a son at Dieppe.     She bottled
grief with beetroots anyway.
Her fetal beans quicken
in their amniotic fluid, coming
to term through glittering spasms
of glass, destined to inherit for her
the yet unpickled earth.
69 A HISTORY OF LOONS
When the first settlers struggled to the lake,
eyesight fraying at the edges from exhaustion,
the loons efficiently recorded their pasts,
among waves as black yet thumping as whole
generations of lost and tumbling family
Bibles.    They cried "hogmanay-hogmanay"
over the water, tones sluicing round
and round as warm and easy as a good
malt in an earthenware bowl; then skirled
from morning mists as eerily as feathered
bagpipes, or highland ghosts with severe
hysterics.     After three generations, it was hard
to remember another beginning before
the start of their song.    Even when the lake
was calm, wave after wave of settlers
rolled in.    The loons were ready for them.    Calls
went wobbling over the water, as uncertain of their direction
as bent axles, lurching along
through a virgin mid-air to an ever-rimless
horizon.     Bagpipes and highland ghosts
blended with loon's cries that billowed
across the lake as huskily as smoke.     Burning
villages from distant lands poured
out of their blackened beaks, and whole
streets collapsed in a checkerboard of throats.
For several summers, the sunsets conducted
a thorough pogrom in the red of the lake.
Now, in the moving thickets of mist,
their voices recite a babble of histories.
Pasts swirl slowly and blow
through each other.    Bagpipes lament in loud
ashes of synagogues;    hasids step
out through their re-peopled heather.
A death in one past is consoled
by birth in another.     It is hard to imagine
a more accurate chronicle than this song.
70 NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
Lewis Horne teaches English at the University of Saskatchewan. Thistledown Press
published a collection of his poems, The Seventh Day in 1983; other stories of his have
appeared or will appear in Ascent, Chariton Review, Descant, and The Virginia Quarterly
Review.
Df,rk Wynand teaches Creative Writing at the University of Victoria. His latest collection
is Second Person (Sono Nis Press, 1983); Fetishistic is forthcoming.
Cathy Ford's latest collections are Affaires Of The Heart (Harbour Publishing, 1983) and By
Violent Means (forthcoming, blewointment press). She lives on Mayne Island, B.C.
Alison McAlpine lives in Vancouver. This is her first publication.
Robyn Sarah, of Montreal, is the author of Shadowplay (Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1978)
and The Space Between Sleep and Waking (Villeneuve, 1981). She is co-founder of Villeneuve
and co-editor of the serial anthology FOUR BY FOUR.
Elizabeth Gourlay is a poet as well as a playwright. Her latest collection is The M Poems
(Fiddlehead, 1983); her latest play, The Cut Off (produced by Langara College, 1983).
Christopher Levenson has published five books of poetry and two translations from 17th
C Dutch poetry. He teaches at Carleton University and is the Editor-in-Chief of Arc.
Glen Sorestad's poetry has appeared in a wide variety of magazines and journals across
N. America. A longtime resident of Saskatoon, his latest collection is Ancestral Dances
(Thistledown, 1979).
Dale Zieroth is presently teaching at Kwantlen College, Surrey and the Banff School of
Fine Arts. Author of Clearing and Mid-River (both with House of Anansi), he has new work
forthcoming in Saturday Night, Canadian Forum, and Canadian Literature.
Dave Margoshes lives in Bragg Creek, Alberta and teaches journalism at Mount Royal
College in Calgary. Recently his work was featured in the anthology Third Impressions
(Oberon, 1982).
Monty Reid co-edits The Camrose Review. A new book of his, The Dream Of Snowy Owls
is forthcoming from Longspoon Press. He lives in Camrose, Alta.
Lorna Goodison previously appeared in 21:4 and is the author of Tamarind Season
(Kingston, Institute of Jamaica, 1980).
Leroy Gorman's latest collections of haiku are Beautiful Chance and Hearts Garden. He
writes from Napanee, Ontario.
Eva Tihanyi writes from Toronto. Thistledown will bring out her second collection of
poems in November 1984.
H.C. Artmann was born in Austria in 1921. He is a popular and leading poet, known
particularly for his dialect poems.
71 Roger Nash teaches philosophy, art and literature at Laurentian University and has
published widely in journals and magazines on both sides of the Atlantic. A collection,
Settlement In A School Of Whales, is forthcoming from Fiddlehead Poetry Books in the fall or
early winter.
Derrick Clinton Carter recently received the Bomac Batten Award for best magazine
cover design for his cover of volume 21:1. He is a Vancouver-based Art Director/ Graphic
Designer.
72  N THIS ISSUE
ems by: Derk Wynand, Cathy Ford, Christopher Levenson, Dale
roth. ...
by; Lewis Home and Dave Margoshes.
nslation: H.C.Artman.
The Glass Bottle by Elizabeth Gourlay.
NEXT ISSUE
1 Yates, Lawrence Russell, Allan Brown, Byrna
isa Steinman, Brian Henderson. ...
Tcnnes-M! Williams 19:3; George Ryga 20:1; A Selection of
. By B.C. High School Students 21:4 and more. . . .
issn 0032-8790

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