PRISM international

Prism international Prism international Jul 31, 1975

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DRAWING   BY    ARTHUR     HASTINGS  Acting editor
Associate editors
Managing editor
The Political Heart
Ian Slater
Notes on the Sea's Existence
Agha Shahid Ali
My Mouth is the Banjo
David Bissonette
Before Reflection
Carolyn Borsman
Three poems
George Bowering
Three poems
Robert B. Bowie
Two poems
Robert Bringhurst
Two poems
Kay Burkman
Mr. Naseltoes and Mr. Lapidarius
John Carroll
"... But seek the road . .."
Rienzi Crusz
John Ditsky
Three Poems
Don Domanski
Within a whisper I was
John V. Hicks
Great Blue Heron
Jack Hodgins
Two poems
Joe Hutchinson
Michael Jennings
Wayne McNeil
Robert L. McRoberts
Madness and Creativity:
Review Essay
Andrew Pottinger
Joaquin Murietta
Walter Rimler
61 Two poems    Hector de Saint-Denys-
Garneau 83
(translated by Fred Cogswell)
Two poems    Ken Smith 86
To become a field    Dara Weir 88
Books and periodicals received 91
Notes on contributors 94
Correction : Owing to a misinterpretation of the typescript, two untitled poems
by Beth Jankola appeared as a single poem on pages 130 and 131 of PRISM
14: 1. The lines: "He said / You've been writing a lot lately" should have been
the beginning of a second poem. We regret this error.
PRISM international, a journal of contemporary writing, is published three
times a year by the Department of Creative Writing at the University of British
Columbia, Vancouver 8, B.C. Annual subscriptions are $5.00, single copies
$1.75, obtainable by writing to the Editors at that address. Microfilm editions
are available from University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and reprints
(vols. 1-5) from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, NYC. Agha Shahid Ali
Yellow island, yellow sun:
My struggle began
with a soft wave,
which offered love
on the shore's terms.
Wearing a mask of glares
the white, white sand
touched me with fire.
I held myself together,
a still breath.
It pulls me to itself,
the reflection, no, not mine: I
know the water's fidelity,
its utter transparence. The sea
becomes me like nothing
else: I wear it like skin.
Who pulls me with such
ease? A dead ancestor,
a lost friend, or
the shell's hollow cry?
The weeds wrap me, like arms.
I'm pulled down, down, to the tip of the sky.
I hold the world as I drown. David Bissonette
My mouth
is the banjo
strumming its country teeth
like grass
for the crickets,
in hammocks,
staring up
at the cows' nipples. Carolyn Borsman
"I suppose our accepting what we are must always inhibit
our being what we ought to be; for all that, it felt like a step
forward — and upward."
The Magus by John Fowles
When I was a pool
in the garden,
before I learned shadow;
when I was moon
and white wood,
before I understood reflection;
before questions
solidified my bones
and drove me
like a stiff wolf
howling at speculations,
to memorize
my grin
in every mirror,
I could walk upright
in wet willow,
curious only
to know what part of me
would grow next. George Bowering / Three poems
The poems you make
won't keep you young.
The poems you keep making
won't make you old.
You drop them from your fingers
hoping they will fall
as the leaves fall as
the stars fall.    But
all that fall will not wait,
etc. Your grave will not wait
for your poems, it will not wait
even for your body.
It will just be there
when it is needed. POET LAUREATE
Out of his rotting bones
he builds moonlit stairs to
the sky above us. The government
will not feed him; he must
cut off pieces from time to time,
hope to win cigarette contests,
cutting off piece by piece, selling
them one at a time, for bread
to make bones. His country
will not pay to bury his
boneless flesh. THE MASK OF
In Tenochtitlan, Itzcoatl the puppet of Tlacaelel
is burning books.
He & Tlacaelel.    They say
"it's not advisable to let the public be
familiar with paintings.
They will be spoiled
(those that are under our control)
& the earth will become twisted."
Jades?    I, Nezahualcoyotl, I'm an expert on fine jades,
fluted jades, quetzal jades, etc.
& I tell you:    the finest jade is friendship.
I remember everything
& I am sorrowful.
If only our songs could endure, our metaphors
like the skull of rock crystal,
like the mask of
. .. that you can make
a human being
explains itself. Robert B. Bowie / Three poems
by day they forage
the stones
singing in small
at night
they remember
sit crouched
shuddering like the
filing their beaks
on a cloth
they believe might be
their own
tongue one
bone two
the bones get up
from supper
clicking their
tongue bones
your feet of stars
your feet with the stars
your feet like stars
and the last small lights
running down the street
with the wounds
like wounds
wounds also
bone for bone
blood to blood
and the moon
singing again
this is the door
this is the door
wingless frustrated eagles
trying their creaky
glinted as nothing
had ever shone
whale tooth to one's
close eye
the bone sweepers
the death sweepers
sweeping all of the life
particles into little
neat piles
you had heard them say
I could not see
nowhere was my bone
this talking about nerve
about lion's paw
stand alones
a handful of stones
wouldn't coax them
12 and lies that everything
would be alright
crowds of death screamed for
a matinee
that which was thread
and that which was stone
grunted and became uncramped
fires we watched go out
like the ones at the
ready to move on
hushing them with soils
13 Robert Bringhurst / Two poems
Pherekydes, in summary, thus: In the beginning
were time, earth, and the god.
And the tissue of being
was woven by the god and given as a marriage gift
on the marriage of the underground and the god:
the embroidered surface of the world
laid over the treeroots' wingspread, over the nakedness
of gods; and the thread-ends
swept out and forgotten.
All things thereafter have been born
in the belly of the earth, in the seven
valleys, out of the seven inland streams.
Or a god put a veil on the ugly mud
and married it, and Pherekydes'
dust, when he was buried, sifted home.
There remains of the mind of Pherekydes:
the esker and the glacial milk,
the high spring runoff in the gorge,
and the waterfalls hammered out of cloud
against the mid cliff,
vanishing in the hungry Himalayan air.
The raven preceded the dove
out of the ark and for seven days circled
water, waiting for a perch, and for seven more
circled, waiting for the dove.
15 Kay Burkman / Two poems
I am that other you have seen
Walking in abandoned places;
While dusk drew shadows over a town
I moved beside you like a nun.
You spoke of journeys but could not map
The memory circling round the lane
That led you in; you spoke of wisdom
But could not find the name to call us lovers.
When I left, the moon was a silver cross,
And you read to me as if it were a prayer;
But that is past now, and (except that I record it),
Celebrated, endured and forgotten.
Our ears have taught the city how to frighten us;
Here is our birth squandered, bawling in a decibel,
Our ear, our sin, the cold numb deafness of it;
Somewhere a machine complains
And something snickers that is not our bellies.
Now we seek the celebrity among us, the transfiguring
Obscenity of the tarted-up nightclub singer dragging
Furs and warbling and the bump and grind of those
Slippery satiny thighs we invented out of innocence.
Some utter eloquence listening in the city celebrates
Its painful beauty.
17 John Carroll
Mr. Naseltoes and Mr. Lapidarius issued from a dank, smelly hallway. The sky was already in a deep and darkening state of crepuscular blue. The neighborhood of declining wooden dwellings, rotted
gutters full of last year's leaves, treacherous steps with planks missing,
was dimly illuminated by the occasional streetlamp that had escaped
the stones thrown by angry children. The broken glass in the park
glittered. It was autumn and the leaves rustled underfoot. Those
hardy ones that still clung to their branches rattled in the wind like
dry bones. The air was crisp. Soon after these two venerable gentlemen had stepped out onto the pavement, the fat round moon sailed
up over the rooftops, looking very complacent and orange. When
Mr. Naseltoes gazed up at it, a tear trickled down a cheek on his
round, cheery face. Mr. Lapidarius grunted sarcastically.
Mr. Naseltoes had been born with a lovely pair of rosy cheeks.
Once Mrs. Tail wind was crying (this was years ago), because her
tea leaves had forecast danger and doom. At that moment, Mr.
Naseltoes appeared at her door singing a charming Irish ballad that
he had composed. Mrs. Tailwind could do nothing but weep, she
was so happy to see him.
'Cheer up, Mary,' he chirped. 'Could I have a cup of your
remarkable tea?'
She said his cheeks were more beautiful than tulips. He read her
fortune. It spoke of a dark mysterious stranger. Mr. Naseltoes winked
at Mrs. Tailwind and made her giggle delightfully.
The two men continued at a brisk pace, as they had done together
for years when taking their evening constitutional.
The wind moved about in quick, nervous spurts. First it could be
heard near some garbage cans bothering a congregation of leaves.
Then it was across the park tapping the shutter on a house. Then it
was right at the gentlemen's feet, whirling candy wrappers and
rushing up Mr. Naseltoes' baggy trousers.
'It wants to chase away the last vestige of an August heatwave,'
Mr. Naseltoes said, refering to the wind. 'Maybe it hopes to find a
sliver from a shattered Indian Summer buried close to my heart.'
18 'You could grow sentimental about anything,' Mr. Lapidarius
snapped. He squeezed his hands into little white balls that looked
like blanched crabs.
Mr. Lapidarius was a compulsive, jerking, twitching, nervous
individual. He had an unpleasant pallid complexion. His steely blue
eyes were shielded by thick glasses.
They turned down an alleyway that went between two rows of
somber hulking houses. At their level, Mr. Naseltoes and Mr.
Lapidarius were immersed in darkness. The moon was hidden, but
it had climbed enough to cast a milky light on the peaks and roofs to
their right. It illuminated badly peeling clapboards and searched
dimly into attic windows.
'What are you talking about now?' Mr. Lapidarius complained.
T didn't say anything,' answered Mr. Naseltoes.
'Senores,' said a voice in the darkness.
The hair on both gentlemen's venerable heads stood on end. Mr.
Lapidarius felt someone grip him tightly around the waist and
wrestle him to the ground. Mr. Naseltoes had his plump legs yanked
out from under him. Both men thrashed about in the darkness with
their unknown assailants.
'Maybe we could discuss our differences,' Mr. Naseltoes shouted
out in the midst of the struggle. He was awarded for his diplomacy
with a smart blow to the skull that sent him into unconsciousness.
'Give me my wallet. Give me my wallet,' Mr. Lapidarius pleaded.
He heard a loud crack, felt extremely dizzy, saw a chimney that
looked like a steamship sailing in the night and then he saw nothing.
The next time he opened his eyes, he saw the cold white disc of
the moon peering over a rooftop and the fat round face of Mr.
Naseltoes who was leaning over him, slapping him lightly on the
cheek. 'Charles, Charles,' he was saying with great concern in his
'Stop hitting me!' Mr. Lapidarius barked irritably.
'They took our wallets.'
Mr. Lapidarius groaned.
'You mean your welfare check was in your wallet?'
'There's other things in a wallet besides money, Teddy.' Mr.
Lapidarius shoved away Mr. Naseltoes and sat up. 'There's all my
'I'm out six dollars and seven cents. And I think my back's been
J9 permanently damaged.' There was a loud crack as Mr. Naseltoes
straightened up.
'Are you sure there wasn't anything else in that wallet that you
were sorry to lose?' Mr. Lapidarius insinuated. 'Like the memory of
an August heatwave?'
Mr. Naseltoes face was expressionless, as if he hadn't understood.
Then he replied, 'O no! Absolutely not!' in an overpoweringly
cheerful voice.
Mr. Lapidarius smirked and strained to get up. Mr. Naseltoes
came to his aid, but was repulsed. The thin pale man made it to his
feet where he wavered for a few seconds. Then the two men continued down the alley with slow short steps.
Mr. Naseltoes gave a doleful sigh. 'Why are you always reminding
me of her?'
'Me?' Mr. Lapidarius answered incredulously.
'Everything I do, you think it's because of her. When I hum, when
I look at the moon, when I sigh.'
'I've known you long enough to understand you. You have an
obsessive, clutching memory of her and that gives you an excuse to
indulge in nostalgia and sentimentality.'
'It's been years,' Mr. Naseltoes scoffed. T should think she would
have faded from my memory by now.'
Mr. Lapidarius looked down at his scuffed shoes. 'I saw you
mooning at the moon.'
'It was beautiful.'
'Maybe so, but why cry about it?' There was an interval of silence
as they turned from the alley onto a street lined by gloomy houses.
'Last night you sat by the window and stared for hours.'
'A lot happens in the park on a Friday night. One-Eyed Jimmy
tried to stagger home, but he collapsed on the first bench he came
'Why can't you admit it to yourself?' Mr. Lapidarius' voice was
thick with disgust.
'Admit what?'
'That you still think you're in love with her.' His white hands
curled and fled up his sleeves.
'In love? In love with who?'
Mr. Lapidarius waited. Mr. Naseltoes finally let out a sigh. 'I
remember her now and then.'
Mr. Lapidarius pursed his face into an ugly smile.
'There's one memory in particular that often comes back to me.
20 It was a hot summer day, during an August heatwave. The sky was
a rich, rich blue. Mary and I were walking along the lake. She was
wearing a white cotton dress with a blue flower design. My eyes kept
falling on her tanned neck and her slender bare arms. There was a
light breeze coming in off the water and it brought to me the scent
of her hair. While we were walking, her hand brushed against mine.
Around about that time you came running down the beach, all out
of breath. Do you remember that? You looked so funny, we laughed
at you. You said you were getting your exercise and you didn't stop.
You just kept on running right past us. Ah, that was a beautiful day.
You know, that was the first time she ever held my hand.'
'How touching,' Mr. Lapidarius said.
The elderly men had travelled a familiar route and arrived at a
tiny park. It bordered the Niagara River that slid by, grey and swift.
Not many knew of this retreat, since progress had built around it a
camouflage of spewing factories. It was an island of peacefulness
entered by way of a grassy avenue between rows of squat maples.
Mr. Naseltoes and Mr. Lapidarius trod along a carpet of their fat
leaves. They came to a stone wall, a division between park and river.
They sat on it. Like schoolboys, they dangled their feet above the
The moon that had first made its appearance in such a charming
style, robed in saffron like a foreign prince, had contracted and now
wore a tolerant grin above the quiet bungalows of the city. Upstream
the outline of a sailboat was faintly distinguishable.
Mr. Naseltoes was whistling a melancholy tune. 'If I recall correctly,' he said, 'there was a time when Mary meant something to
you too.'
'Hogwash!' cried Mr. Lapidarius. T was just having a good time.'
He watched the sailboat. 'There was a time when I thought she was
pretty. But she didn't mean that much to me.'
'When she left, you walked twenty miles in the middle of the night
to see me. You got so drunk I had to drag you into bed.'
Mr. Lapidarius eyes focused coldly on his friend. 'You're still
jealous, aren't you?'
'Of what?'
T remember when I was at her house, late at night. I heard you
crashing around in the bushes outside her window.'
'Neither of you paid any attention to me.'
'Wherever we went, you'd have to come along.'
'I was lonely.'
21 'You've always held it against me that Mary loved me.'
'She loved me too.' The cheerfulness and serenity had deserted
Mr. Naseltoes' rosy-cheeked face. His mouth strained to hold a
metallic grin.
'She never loved you. She loved me.' Mr. Lapidarius turned away
and looked up the river.
In the moonlight, the sailboat had an ethereal appearance. It was
close enough now that a dark figure at the tiller could be seen. Above
him swung a red lantern. From below deck came sounds of celebration, cheering and clapping. Whistling merrily, the figure on deck
lowered the sail and, riding the current, he veered the craft towards
Mr. Naseltoes and Mr. Lapidarius. When he was no more than five
yards off, he took the lantern and held it next to his face and
grinned, revealing the absence of several front teeth.
'Well, well, well,' he called out in a gruff voice. 'Taking a Utile
night air, are we, gentlemen? Here, tie us up.' He tossed a thick rope
in their direction and then gracefully maneuvered the vessel so that
she barely brushed the stone and came to rest in front of Mr. Naseltoes and Mr. Lapidarius.
'A beautiful night,' the congenial Naseltoes offered.
'A lovely night,' said the stranger, punctuating his remarks with
laughter that was more like grumbling, as if he meant for only
himself to know that he was amused. 'In fact, it's a poetic night.
Look at that moon and tell me if it doesn't remind you of love.'
'It doesn't,' Mr. Lapidarius muttered.
'Care for a little sail, gents?'
'Where are you heading?' Mr. Naseltoes inquired.
'Niagara Falls,' the stranger answered. He laughed and shamelessly displayed his gap-toothed smile.
There was a surge of male laughter from below, accompanied by
what sounded like a spoon clanging against a frying pan.
'Out on the river for a party?' Mr. Naseltoes asked.
'O, we're having a hell of a time. And you know why?' He leaned
forward and spoke in a theatrical whisper, while he bobbed with the
unsteady boat. 'We figure the world's gonna end tomorrow. The
man in the moon told us so. So we have to drink all our whiskey
tonight.' He reeled backwards in an explosion of laughter that
nearly sent him overboard on the far side. He regained his balance
by clinging to a stay and finally was able to speak again. 'What do
you say, gents? Want to spend the last night of your lives with us?'
He fished out a pint bottle of alcohol that had been tucked into his
22 waist and waved it in the air. 'There's plenty of this, but you'll have
to come on board before I give any away.' His laughter was brutal
in its intensity.
Mr. Lapidarius was the first on deck. The chilling air had made
him eager for the warming liquid. Mr. Naseltoes stepped spryly onto
the boat. His back cracked.
'My, my, been eating too many fishbones,' the stranger joked.
When he had negotiated the boat out into the middle of the river,
he said — 'My name's Jacky.' He gave an exaggerated bow. 'I'm
the carefree type. No past, no future, not even much of a present.
I'm unpredictable. Sometimes I'm very practical. Sometimes I'm very
poetic' He tipped the whiskey bottle up until it pointed at the moon
and held it in that position for a good length of time. Then he tossed
it into the river. 'Yessir, tonight I was very practical. Me and my
buddies made a couple of good catches.'
'You've been fishing?' Mr. Naseltoes said. T thought this river was
too polluted for fish.'
'Can't you tell by the sounds of our celebration that we made a
big haul?' The shouts and hoarse laughter from below had not let
up. Someone was still banging on a frying pan. 'Listen, chubby,' he
said to Mr. Naseltoes, T gotta go below and replenish my supply of
whiskey.' He grabbed Mr. Naseltoes by the wrist and guided him to
the tiller. 'Just keep her straight out in the middle.' He staggered to
the hatch and then turned. 'Remember, even if the world weren't
gonna end tomorrow, the future would still be a fish that you'll never
catch.' He saluted and disappeared down the hatch.
Mr. Naseltoes sat at the stern, captaining the ship. He whistled a
melancholy tune. Mr. Lapidarius shivered nearby. Now and then
the serenity of the night was disturbed by a crescendo of hooting,
clapping and shouting from below.
'Will you stop with that damned morbid tune.' Mr. Lapidarius
spoke through clenched teeth.
Mr. Naseltoes complied.
'A wonderful reflection of the moon in the water, isn't it?' said
Mr. Lapidarius, smiling bitterly.
'Yes,' Mr. Naseltoes answered sadly.
'What's it this time? Her deep dark eyes? Her chocolate hair? Her
'No.' His fat-cheeked face glowed pallidly in the moonlight. T was
thinking about a picture. There was a picture of her in my wallet. I
was fond of that picture.'
23 'A picture of her in your wallet?' Mr. Lapidarius shrieked. 'I
knew it. I knew it.' He paced the deck, frowning. 'I knew you had
some sickening little memento of your dead past. You want to drown
in it, don't you? What was the picture?'
'The one of the three of us on the steps of the church in Mexico
T remember that. She was holding you by the arm, hanging on
like a bloodsucker.'
'You have a good memory.'
There was sudden laughter from below. Someone banged on a
frying pan again. Mr. Naseltoes picked up a rusty tin can and threw
it overboard into the ship's wake. 'I want to be done with my deadweight past. I can feel it dragging me to the bottom. But I don't
know what to do. If I had my wallet now, that's what I'd do with it.
Throw it away, like a tin can.'
T suppose you'd take the picture out first.'
The boat creaked. Water rippled and lapped about the hull.
'Do you really think she loved you?' Mr. Lapidarius asked, peering intently at his friend.
Mr. Lapidarius sighed and turned to watch the silent procession
of smokestacks, fenced-in factories, lonely trains on spur tracks. Mr.
Naseltoes gazed off in the direction of the tin can, but it had
After a while the two gentlemen became aware of the silence. The
confused sounds of celebration had completely ceased. Mr. Lapidarius went to the hatch. He strained forward and peeked through a
crack. He could see down into the lighted quarters below. There
were four pairs of arms and elbows propped on a table that had as
its centerpiece a tall bottle of whiskey. Every so often a hand would
grab the bottle with a stranglehold around the neck and it would
disappear. Voices could be heard, but they were being held just
above a whisper.
'Did you hear that?' Mr. Lapidarius whispered to his companion.
'There's something peculiar about this.'
Mr. Naseltoes wedged the tiller into a steady position and went to
the hatch where he cocked his head to one side and listened.
'A couple of old men,' someone was saying.
'Be quiet,' Jacky cautioned in his harsh voice.
'What's to say they have anything on them?' someone with a
24 Spanish accent asked. 'The way you talk of them, they must be like
two turkey legs picked clean.'
T know their type,' Jacky responded vehemently. 'These old
dottering idiots usually carry their life's savings with them, stuffed
in a sock, or wrapped around their weiners.'
'Yea, well maybe that's where we should've looked on the other
two,' said a disconsolate voice.
'I'd like to know where you get your information.'
'They looked like the type,' Jacky apologized.
'Maybe the world really is coming to an end.'
'Well, it wasn't a complete loss,' said the one with the Spanish
accent. 'We got very pretty snapshots and such a beautiful poem.'
Everyone laughed.
'Recite it again,' Jacky said.
'Alright. You, Gaspacho, you hit the pan with the spoon. We
need atmosphere.' The group was growing boisterous again. ' "The
bells are ringing." ' The pan was struck vigorously and repeatedly.
' "A pain in my heart." ' Several groans and moans were contributed. ' "A pain in my heart says that it is too late. The moon is
rising as I wait outside your gate. But you are leaving now with the
one I called my friend. The bells are ringing, Mary. They are signalling an end." ' There were cheers and applause.
'What's the great poet's name?'
'Charles Lapidarius.'
'That sounds like some kind of camel.'
'No, it's some kind of jackass.'
The banging went on incessantly. The laughter swelled while the
bottle made numerous disappearances.
'Now that's poetry,' someone shouted.
'True love. See what it can do for you, Gaspacho?' There was
louder laughter.
'How wonderful it must be to be so unhappy,' the one with the
Spanish accent said.
T was in love once.'
'With what? One of your father's cows?'
'Sometimes I think of her when I look at the stars.'
'I was in love too. I think of her whenever I see a dollar bill.'
Wild, ribald expressions of utter amusement followed.
Mr. Naseltoes turned to his friend. 'Why couldn't you tell me?'
'I was afraid.'
'Of what?'
25 Mr. Lapidarius bowed his head. Then he raised it and looked into
Mr. Naseltoes eyes. 'On that day when I saw you holding her hand,
I hated you. I wanted her to love only me. That was years ago, but
I never forgot how I felt, how insignificant I suddenly became,
because of you. How could I have told you that?'
Mr. Naseltoes' face was wrinkled by an unpleasant smile. 'There's
been times when I haven't exactly been fond of you. You haven't
always made a habit of treating me like a valued friend. But there
was a time when we were the best of friends and I guess that was
another memory I was trying to hold onto.' There was another surge
of laughter from below. 'Look,' said Mr. Naseltoes, pointing down
the river. Far ahead, the sky was illuminated with pale pastels.
'Niagara Falls,' said Mr. Lapidarius, sadly.
'Yes, and it looks like we're going over the brink.'
Mr. Naseltoes rushed to the stern. Mr. Lapidarius stood rigidly
facing him. 'I've been painfully jealous of you,' he said. 'I've been
jealous of your glowing cheeks and your easy manner and your
Mr. Naseltoes was stooped over, fumbling with the outboard
motor. 'I'm going to obliterate all these memories, all the sentimentality, the lies and fear.'
T knew that she loved you. How could any woman love a man
with a skinny, nervous body and thin white hands?'
'I don't want to hear anymore. Drown it all,' Mr. Naseltoes
shouted. 'Drown everything. Dash it on the rocks.'
The boat was beginning to lose its leisurely movement as it was
drawn irresistably towards the agitated waters of the rapids.
Mr. Naseltoes shoved aside Mr. Lapidarius and kicked the hatch-
door solidly. 'Help! Help!' he screamed, jumping up and down.
'We're going over, men. Abandon ship. It's the end of the world.'
In a matter of seconds, four men came stumbling over each other
up onto the deck. They were all drunk and lost their balance at the
slightest sway of the boat. They became entangled in rope, tripped
over buckets and ran into each other.
'What's going on?' the gap-toothed thief named Jacky shouted,
blinking rapidly and battling to stay on his feet.
'We're heading for the rapids,' cried out Mr. Naseltoes. His
cheeks glowed and there was an insane excitement in his eyes. 'We're
doomed. The world has come to an end.'
'The old bastard's right,' a sulking character with swarthy skin
said. T can see the white water up ahead.'
26 'Well, lower the sail and get the outboard started,' Jacky ordered,
then fell forward onto the deck.
A squat husky man with an ugly bulldog face went to work on the
sail, while the swarthy one staggered to the stern. A scrawny young
man who had been lying face-down on the deck raised himself to a
kneeling position, crossed himself and said — 'O Mother of God,
save me. I knew it was unlucky to steal on the night of a full moon,
but they forced me against my will. Forgive me. I'll never take
another nickel and I won't get drunk on Sundays anymore.'
The clamor of the rapids could be heard clearly. Mr. Lapidarius
gripped the guard rail and stared forlornly in the direction of the
falls, while the plump body of Mr. Naseltoes maneuvered among
the thieves. 'It's our doom,' he screamed, waving his arms in the air.
'A divine punishment. Abandon ship.'
'Start the motor!' Jacky pleaded. 'Start the motor!'
'It won't start,' said the swarthy one, in between curses.
'What do you mean it won't start?' Jacky screamed. With fear in
his eyes, he weaved his way to the stern and leaned over to inspect
the outboard. But just as he did, the dark-skinned thief gave the
starting cord a yank and drove his fist into Jacky's face. Jacky went
rolling and mumbling across the deck.
'Let me look at this thing,' the man with the bulldog face said,
shoving the other away. 'Of course it won't work,' he exclaimed
after examining the engine. 'It ain't got no sparkplug!'
'Jacky, why the hell didn't you check to see if there was a spark-
plug?'_ '
T did,' Jacky said, holding his jaw. 'I did.'
'The world's ending! The world's ending! Abandon ship!' The
indefatigable Mr. Naseltoes raved on. 'Repent! Repent!'
The ship plunged onward in the accelerating current. The wind
picked up. They were now into the rapids.
Gap-toothed Jacky leaned against the mast and gazed up the
river. He could see the bright-colored lights that were used to
enhance the panorama of the falls. 'Well, my friends,' he declared,
'there's a time for standing still and a time for running. A time for
receiving and a time for stealing. A time to be dry and a time to get
wet.' With these words he plunged overboard and could be seen
swimming vigorously towards the Canadian shore.
The swarthy one was transported into a state of stupefaction by
this act of self-preservation. 'Jesus,' he grumbled. Then, with a
running leap, he vanished over the side.
27 The man with the bulldog face ran to the bow and screwed up
his pug-ugly features as he peered at the luminous sky ahead. 'It's
the end of the earth,' he said. Mr. Naseltoes crept up behind him.
The ship lept through the rough waters and spray came crashing
over the bow. 'We're gonna fall off the edge,' the thief said. Then
he emitted a tiny sound of surprise, like a mousesqueak, as he
tumbled into the river.
The scrawny one remained, as if fastened to the deck, his hands
clasped in the intensity of religious delerium. 'Mother of God,' he
prayed, 'I have always been a good bambino. I have always put
away my toys. I have always shared them with Bobby and Miguel
and Christina.'
'Come on, there's no time to lose,' Mr. Naseltoes shouted as he
tried to lift him off the deck. "Charles, give me a hand.'
The ship turned and rushed sideways for a time, then whirled so
that it was racing backwards downstream. The lights on the hotels
could be seen up ahead. And the famous tower restaurant stood out
conspicuously in the night.
Mr. Naseltoes and Mr. Lapidarius strained and grunted as they
lifted the rigid praying figure. They managed to drag him to the
side where they propped him against the low railing.
'Never mind, boy,' Mr. Naseltoes assured the shivering creature.
'You can leave your fear with us. We'll send that over the brink.
Just remember, when you hit the water, make believe you're a turtle
and swim like hell for that island over there.'
'How will I know when I hit the water?' he shuddered.
Mr. Naseltoes shoved him gently and he plummeted into the
flashing current.
T hit it!' He shouted. 'I hit it! It's easier than hell.' And he swam
like a dolphin for a nearby island.
Not far ahead was the bridge that crossed over to Goat Island.
After the boat had passed under that, it would only be a few
minutes before the two men reached the end of their journey. Underscoring the rush of the rapids was the faintly audible rumbling of the
'What'll we do now?' Mr. Naseltoes asked. 'We have a choice.'
'You know I can't swim, Teddy.'
'You're drying up like an old leaf, Charles. I am too. It's the past
that does it. It's those bad memories we drag along with us from day
to day. They make you gnaw your lips and they turn everything
28 sour.' Mr. Naseltoes placed his hands on his companion's meager
shoulders. 'Do you want to save yourself? Are you worth saving?'
Mr. Lapidarius clutched the mast. Spray washed over him. His
glasses were fogged. 'I'm not afraid, Teddy. I'm just so tired.'
'But if we could decide somehow to do away with all those
memories, then what would you say?'
'I'd be happy if I could take just one more evening walk through
the old neighborhood.'
'Then look at the moon,' Mr. Naseltoes urged his friend.
While Mr. Lapidarius strained his neck to look up, Mr. Naseltoes
proceeded aft.
'A clean, white, beautiful moon,' Mr. Lapidarius said. 'I've never
seen the moon this beautiful.' A few seconds later, he heard the
outboard motor sputter.
Mr. Naseltoes' round face was fitted out in a Cheshire Cat grin.
'Just happened to have a sparkplug with me,' he said. Then he
commandeered the ship, cutting across the grain of the determined
river, swerving past rocks that reared above the surface. The ship
bore down on a small scrubby island at full throttle and Mr. Naseltoes was not so much in control that he knew how to shut down the
engine. Fortunately, some stout bushes at the island's perimeter
cushioned the impact and the two men were unhurt. They dragged
themselves out of the boat; cold and exhausted.
'And now,' said Mr. Naseltoes, his cheeks as ruddy as ever, 'this is
what I've been waiting for.' He gave the boat a heave-ho and it was
quickly caught up in the current once again.
'Our wallets!' Mr. Lapidarius shouted in anguish.
'Let them go.'
'My identification.'
'Just a moment ago you were talking about becoming a new man.'
Mr. Lapidarius frowned. Then his thin lips spread into a smile.
T did say something like that, didn't I?' He laughed so hard that he
must have surprised himself. He drew in his breath suddenly, as if
his laughter had caught on a snag, and then he stared straight ahead
at nothing in particular with a look of astonishment. And then, to
confuse the issue even more, water collected behind his thick glasses
and streamed down his leathery cheeks.
'Look,' Mr. Naseltoes said.
Several hundred yards downstream was the boat. It tossed and
careened. It fluttered like a paper ship. The ship rose up from the
29 stern to become almost perpendicular and then it slipped down out
of sight. Mr. Naseltoes and Mr. Lapidarius were silent.
After a while, Mr. Naseltoes began to hum a happy tune. Soon
after that, Mr. Lapidarius gave the tune words. The words fit the
tune perfectly and the tune fit the words. All night long, they sang
in the moonlight and kept each other company, until early morning
when they were rescued by helicopter.
3° Rienzi Crusz
But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment
I will not talk seriously of grief,
or the stabbing moment, or pain
that trickles like blood from under my door.
These I have known, but unprofitably diagnosed
as ugly transients: crows
that permute common dark moods,
angular flights unworthy of netting,
toads croaking for the havoc of monsoon rain
that never happened.
But take this mango leaf,
once a soft green vein of sap
for the honey fruit, a camouflage
styled for safe summer ripening.
Now, cleanly autumned, scarlet,
at the feet of its mother tree,
with the sun veiling its small architecture
like a tabernacle,
and the tree smiling at its roots
for a death
so exotically done.
3i John Ditsky
Past success and present
failure dance, are dancing
in a ring. From where I sit
I watch them enviously,
as any wallflower would.
At last, I rise to join
them: we become Three
Graces of absurdity. Future's
augured like a Holy Ghost.
32 Don Domanski / Three poems
past dignity
this street will swallow anything
discarded pieces of blue history
from a tuberous head
moil of cat
the body clubbed asleep
with ale and dream.
here a wraith of faces
beneath the moon's heat
mouthing clear desire
each a mascot for tick
or landlord
each an exit
a debutant's surprise.
the complacency of old complaints
old fears
all things broken and mended
the bread-knife holding the door
the pail collecting rain
the heart in hopeless blood.
33 4
here Lucifer
wears the beaten child in his hair
watches this stratus of buildings
drift gently out each night
past earthlight
toward the black art of stars
only to be hauled back each morning
by City Council
the Major tugging the huge tow rope.
in the dog's mouth
the reclining cat is shaken
to a dead stereotype
above them along Tupper street
the moon and tenements soft-shoe
for comedy relief.
the debonair gleam
of blood
on the torn finger
the sacrificial ash
in pores of cheek
and hand
this earth's centre
beneath a work-shirt
sweats and breathes in
the smell of burning rubbish
breathes in the ether
of rotting fruit and decaying flesh
supports his family
with a quick hand in the fire
to bring out a piece of clothing
a box of pies
a half gone world still eatable
still useable
still better than any other.
the rat's stomach is opened to the stars
a nebula placed in its bowel
rat face
and rat hide wait
in the city that grows like a rat's dream might
if rat knew algebra and alphabet
and had control of ballpoint
and pad
waits on a doorstep
for a rat's burial
in trash can or fire
no one in that dark house
is now thinking about four rat paws
hardening on painted wood
no one expects to step on a necropolis
in the morning.
36 John V. Hicks
Within a whisper I was of knowing
who I was.    You liken me to someone
other.    What wonder I retire to
reconsider my confessions?    Graphic
as the light of noon, I am a clear
day; you cloud me.    A dark rain
rests at ready in those vapours
swirling between.    I tell you now
I was taken in the act, surprised
at just the wrong moment, arrested
midway between was and will-be.
Read the charge; I shall plead
yes or no by reason of sanity,
retrace steps, try myself again.
Truth, like a name on tongue-tip,
stands poised, fervent to be spoken.
37 Jack Hodgins
The killer whales are passing. At first, before you see them, you think
perhaps a horse has snorted just behind your ear; a whole herd of
horses somewhere, everywhere, snorting. But then you see them out
in the strait, the black killer whales, curving up out of the water and
then down out of sight and then up again like a dozen needles
stitching their way up the strait, rolling past to their own rhythm
with tall dark dorsal fins arcing out and up and down like arms on
a great turning wheel. They gleam; you can see their eyes, sometimes
you can see the white along their throats. They go snorting by as if
they are putting on this parade just for you.
Old Man Harker stands on the verandah of his cabin and looks,
just looks, nothing else. He stares at those whales passing by like a
parade arranged just for him but only as long as they stay directly
within his straight-ahead range of vision. He doesn't turn his head
to follow them. This is a rigid old man you're looking at, and he
doesn't turn his head for anyone. Standing there on his one leg he
looks like nothing so much as an old blue heron: shoulders hunched
up, long neck curved, beak stuck rigidly ahead, dark brows drawn
down in a scowl. That's Old Man Harker, and if you went right up
to him now and said "Hi there, Mr. Harker, ain't it a lovely night,"
he wouldn't do a thing, wouldn't turn that head, until perhaps later
when he might look at you and ruffle up his shoulders a little and
say "Hello there, son, did you see them whales go by?" Even then,
he would go back inside his cabin without waiting for your answer.
Old Man Harker has lived to an age where it is constantly
surprising people to discover he is still alive. Once, a distant relative
who didn't know any better shook the old man's hand (gently, as if
afraid it might come off in his own) and said, "My God, I thought
you'd died years ago." That is the kind of thing that causes Old
Man Harker to stay down here in his beach cabin all year round,
where it is almost possible to pretend no one else exists, where it is
entirely possible to ignore anyone he doesn't feel like acknowledging,
leaving it safe for people elsewhere to consider him dead all they
want without having to run up against his stern and breathing
38 contradiction. You can see by the way he watches those killer whales
stitching their way up the strait that he uses them to measure something in his soul, that he sees in them the only other thing he will
permit to live, to really live in his world.
And here is one surprise about Old Man Harker: he has a wife,
he is married. See her back in the shadows of the cabin, huddled by
the fire, an old woman, older even than he is if that is possible. She
sits by that stove all day long, wrapped up in sweaters, one leg
twisted around the other for warmth, her white hair thinning a little
more each day. There are two jobs she will do, two things that drag
her up out of that rocking chair at regular intervals: one is stuffing
that stove full of wood to keep it blazing hot, the other is skittering
out to the privy and back as fast as she can move, trying to make it
back before the cabin heat has died in the layers of clothes she has
hanging on her skinny frame. It has been said that she doesn't speak
to the old man, hasn't said a word in years, that all she does besides
her two regular jobs is sit and watch him out of those two round
sunken eyes, half-blind with mucous and with rage. Pulling handfuls
of thin white hair out of her own pink head.
Old Man Harker has hair. Oh, he has plenty of it, thick as
feathers. It floats up all around his head and hangs down the back
past his shoulders. You have the feeling that if he ever moved his
head, if he ever disturbed that hair, it would set something in motion
that might throw him completely off balance, might bring him
crashing down. Remember, he has only one leg; the other was
pinched off by a rolling log when he was a young man in his
twenties. He was a logger then, a chokerman; one log rolled down
off another and pinned his leg to the ground. The pain was so
terrible, he said, that loss of the leg was small enough price to pay to
be rid of it. He refused a wooden leg. He learned to stand as steady
on one foot as anyone else on two, and for getting around he rigged
up a motorized wheelchair that moved faster than anyone's walk.
He never went back to the woods, to logging. For years he fished in
the summers and drew unemployment insurance in the winters.
Sometimes he sold real estate for a brother-in-law.
Now, there are reasons Old Man Harker looks so stern, looks like
a furious blue heron. And one of those reasons is that he hates our
being here, hates you, hates us. Because here it is July again, the rain
clouds have gone somewhere else and the sky is a blue we'd forgotten
was possible, and all these cabins are filling up with families moving
down to be as close as they can get to sea. Kids screaming and
39 yelling up and down the beach, playing hide and seek behind cabins
at dusk, shaking fir cones down out of trees onto his roof before he
has even got out of bed in the morning. And worst of all, we are able
to see that he is still alive.
He stood on his verandah last week and watched it happen,
watched car after car drive in past him and pull up beside one cabin
after another — first the red, then the yellow, then the brown, then
orange — watched kids run wild in every direction, watched parents
carry boxes and sleeping bags and fishing rods out of their cars. He
didn't smile, he didn't nod. He watched it all on his one long rigid
leg, head thrown back, hair floating, nose pointed long and stiff as
a heron's beak. Then he turned, hauled himself inside, and slammed
the cabin door. Old Man Harker doesn't know, perhaps, whether he
wishes the rest of us had gone somewhere else for the summer or
wishes he had died sometime during the winter months.
And yet, here he is again, come out tonight to watch those whales
go past. If you can see the smallest hint of a smile on his face, the
smallest hint, it just may be because he knew that when those black
fellows have gone through there won't be a fish caught on anyone's
hook for at least two days. They all flee, fearing, to the floor of the
sea, go down out of some instinct for self preservation, and won't
become reckless enough to risk everything for a flashy tackle or a
worm until all danger has passed and been forgotten. No wonder
Old Man Harker is tempted to smile: fathers all up and down the
beach will be forced to sit in their cabins and wait, or sit on a beach
log and wait, and they will have to listen to their own children
screaming, just as he does. Maybe some of them will go mad.
Don't think he doesn't want you to notice. Don't think he doesn't
want you to turn your face his way at least once going by and say
"Good heavens, that old man still keeps his cabin in better shape
than any of the rest of us." Because he does. Because if he has to put
up with you, with us, he may as well have a little of our admiration
too. Take a good look at that building; it'll last for years. It has only
two rooms to it, like the rest of them, and only the one door in front
and one big picture window facing the strait. But see how thick and
smooth the paint is that covers it all (green and pale as freshly cut
hay) and notice how not even the bottom step has rotted through
from weather. And notice too that his is the only roof that hasn't
been ripped up by wind, hasn't sprung any leaks, hasn't been
covered with fallen limbs and a cushion of dropped needles. Flowers
grow in a window box, the only flowers on the beach besides the
40 yarrow and wild sweet pea that bloom out on the edge of the driftwood. They are geraniums, red as blood. It is important that you
look. It is important you notice that Old Man Harker's cabin is the
only one on the beach that doesn't look as if a good wind could
flatten it, the only one on the beach that looks as if a human being
lives here and cares.
Down at the other end of the beach is the other surprise about
Old Man Harker, the second reason he looks so cranky. Someone is
waiting for him. Someone is sitting in that brick-coloured shack,
playing solitaire at the table just inside the window, waiting for Old
Man Harker to get into his wheelchair and ride down that road in
front of all those other cabins to make his daily call. It is Doctor
Doctor Nilson, too, is an old man, though not as old as Harker.
His practice in town died out about the time he was getting into his
early sixties so he moved down here into retirement and spends his
days doing three things: playing solitaire, drinking hot rums, and
waiting for Old Man Harker. The weather out on the strait, the
condition of the tide, the size of the fish other people catch are of no
concern to him. They are as uninteresting and unimportant as the
symptoms rattled off by the few old women who were still coming to
him for help just before he retired. The cards are important, the
rum is important, Old Man Harker is important. His shack, which
is in worse condition than any other along the beach, could fall down
around his ears and he wouldn't care. As long as there is a table to
sit at, Doctor Nilson is happy.
But Old Man Harker isn't ready yet for his daily visit. Though his
head hasn't moved, is still pointing out to those whales, his eyes slide
more than once to the side for a look in the direction of Nilson's
cabin, and the frown (those heavy black brows) pulls down even
more than usual. You could almost be sure, if you didn't think Old
Man Harker is a man who is always controlled, that here is a person
who is scared. His hands on the verandah railing are white, white as
his wife's thinning hair, white as the throats of those whales. But he
destroys any notions of pity you may have by dredging up phlegm
from deep in his throat and hawking it in a beautiful gleaming arc
up over the grass in front of him and down onto a bare stone in the
middle of the road.
It will be a good half hour yet before he will go down to Nilson's
shack. First he will make a lot of noise slamming things around in
the cabin, no doubt scaring the few remaining wits out of that poor
41 old woman, then he will sit at the window and stare at the mountains on the mainland as if he expects them to shift in front of his
eyes, or start dancing, or re-form into some kind of written message
for him. Then he will go out to the privy and come back, slamming
things around once more, before he will give in (it seems) and point
that motorized wheelchair down the road.
And then this (the same as last night and the night before and
God knows how many nights before that; the walls of Nilson's cabin
are paper thin and full of gaps, it is easy to listen, even to watch):
the doctor will get up from his card game and help Old Man Harker
through the door and wheel him over by the table where they will
both stare at the cards for a while without doing anything. Then Old
Man Harker will pull himself up out of the wheelchair and stand on
his one leg, looking out the window. The view here is no different
from his own but it is something to look at besides the mess in the
cabin: the dirty dishes, the tangled bedclothes, the filthy floor.
Old Man Harker will be the first to speak. He will say: "Tonight
I very nearly didn't come."
Nilson will cough perhaps, or say nothing for a while. Then he
will say, "But you did, though. Didn't you?"
Old Man Harker will say, "One of these nights I won't come.
One of these nights you won't see me here at all."
"Because," the doctor will say.
"Because all you really want is to be dead."
The old man will nod, stiffly, as if with great effort.
"And yet," the doctor will say. "And yet, you've come."
There will be silence for a long while after this. Nilson will give
Old Man Harker something out of his cupboard. The old man will
look at it with hatred and then swallow it. Then the doctor will give
him something for the old woman too. So that she too can lose for
a while whatever pain she may have that keeps her from sleeping
through the night. The two men will speak of other things then, for
a while. They will talk of the old days (when neither knew the other
existed, when things weren't really any better than they are now)
and Old Man Harker may even try to get the doctor interested in
some story about fishing. But the conversation will die; there is
nothing really that one can tell the other; and the old man finally
will sit in his chair again and wheel it towards the door.
But he will say one more thing. He will say, "Maybe tomorrow
night." Then he will add: "All it will take is the refusing to come."
42 And finally, as he wheels away from the shack; "God damn you,
Nilson. God damn you."
"Yes," the doctor will say. He will smile of course, as certain as he
has ever been of anything that he will see the old man again tomorrow and many other days after that. He has been a doctor, after all,
and feels he knows a few things about people. A few things. And
without Old Man Harker his life would be reduced to just the cards
and the hot rums, nothing else.
And now look, here is Old Man Harker starting out early on
today's journey. The beach is strangely quiet. All those people who
came out of their cabins to watch the whales go by have stayed down
on the logs, are sitting with their backs to him, watching the tide lick
at the beach, nudge kelp and floating woodchips up the slope. He is
in his wheelchair with the little motor under the seat, and it is facing
down the road past the cabins. They start to move, that chair and
Old Man Harker together, and it seems that he is no longer a long
blue heron, he is something else, though still frowning and stern.
And here is something that has never happened before. He is
turning his head. Old Man Harker, who always stares straight
ahead, who looks as if he has no interest in anything not directly in
front of his eyes, is turning just slightly as he moves. He is not looking at you. It is necessary to remember that he hates you, hates us.
His eyes are searching the strait for a trace of the killer whales that
have gone past. Looking, perhaps, for the sight of just one black
rigid fin rising from the water and arcing like the arm on a wheel
before going down.
Turn quickly now, quickly, and you may be able to see the old
woman at the window watching him, her white hair afloat like
cotton threads, her small heat-reddened face pressed against glass,
alive with terror and hope. She watches him, watches him, watches
43 Joe Hutchison / Two poems
for Pat and Lois
Between peaks and plains long abandoned by sea,
between two lovers, the ballet of white surf.
The sun remembers its life as a fish:
a pulse in the silence, electric. A word.
Like dreams, our heartland flies from shadow
to shadow, swiftly, on wings of dark water.
The knot of fire defines its round night;
lamp of flesh, phosphorescent desire.
We too were sunken and nameless, obscure;
then the moon untangled tides in our chests.
Twilight is deepening; a child must be growing.
The crimson star dances in the blackbird's throat.
Where I go the dark
hands are nailed to the windows
the iron throats gurgle
or cough in walls
of course this is merely subjective
but we die
after all of the mind
or of blood or silence or fear
or of passionate illusions
or do we not die
at all since
yes I have seen the luminous
hair of the moon
in the oak tree's hands I have
smelled night in the grass
and tasted
sweet as snow-cold water
the uncalled song
45 Michael Jennings
"Whoso ascribeth partners to Allah hath wandered far astray.
They invoke in His stead only females; they pray to none else
than Satan, a rebel.. . As for those women who are guilty of
lewdness .. . confine them to their houses until death take
them." — THE KORAN
For six long days they have surrounded my house,
these fat, squat men crouching upon their hams,
having their food brought out to them, eating,
leering, and licking their thick fingers: six
long days. And on the seventh, I shall die.
I can remember how my father knelt
for hours before the stone goddess: a hard man.
And when he took me in his arms and squeezed,
I wished, sometimes, I too were stone. At night
he loved my mother hard. From where I lay,
I'd see her face grow larger and more craven
until, at last, she'd scream. Her face grew calm
then, calm and small, like that of the stone goddess.
That night of the long scream, when the men came
with large, torch-lit faces and killed my father,
I didn't cry. My mother screamed and her face
grew large. And he was small then, small and broken
like the stone goddess. But I didn't cry.
And then the men with torches and large faces
took me with them, and, for a time, were kind.
They told me of a strong god who was kind
to women, merciful they said, because
women were weak. And as I grew older,
they came to me at night and brought me gifts
and told me how my breasts grew large. At dawn
they cursed me, saying it was they who were weak.
46 I grew distrustful then, though never showed it.
I took their gifts: this house, the serving man
they gave me. Agreed, also, to consort
no more with the good women of their tribe,
but only with this single serving man.
And still at night they came to me with gifts,
but spoke no more about their strong, kind god.
Once, in the night, one brought my father's goddess —
charred, broken — saying how I might mend her.
I cried then, cried for having once forgotten
how small she was, and broken, and but half
understood: cried in words I hardly understood.
And the years passed. And still at dawn they cursed me.
At last, this six days past, the elders came
and cursed me then in earnest, said my house
was Satan's house and my gods Satan's gods.
They took my goods, my food, the serving man
they'd given. When they left they locked the door.
I screamed then, tearing at my clothes, my hair,
clawed great furrows into my face and breasts.
And feeling how my own blood ran, I cursed them.
I cursed to see them there: squatting and leering,
having their food brought out to them. At first
I cursed only in their own blunt, thick tongue.
Later: in the smooth language of my father.
At this they laughed and jeered and threw small stones.
I saw their hatred then, their fear. And I screamed
louder and longer, cursed until I fell
exhausted. And they laughed again and asked
what good my father's stone could do me now.
47 Becoming calm, I went deep into my house,
far from their shouting and their stones. They fear
this silence, I said, fear my stillness. From me
they want only some mad, lewd dance, not quiet.
They do not want me dead, only to die.
And I took up my goddess, spoke to her
and made her whole, finding what I had half
known, half forgotten: the stone goddess dances.
Tomorrow, when they enter into my house,
they shall come quietly, afraid, as if
into a shrine. And I shall dance for them:
dance of my father and my father's people:
a strong dance, a good dance, a dance of stone.
48 Wayne McNeil
(— a Japanese poet who lived during the reign of the
Emperor Mommu, 6gj-joj A.D.)
His poem is
a thousand years old;
a courtyard garden
blooms, as if
constantly rained upon.
Under a private
sky, his summer meadow
remains fresh and fragrant
as if enclosed
in his lines, in his embrace,
his girl and he slept
'arm in arm'.
Mornings I
wonder at such a relic;
(this thousand year old tribute
to an evening won),
wonder at the cold,
white bones of Hitomaro,
a relic himself .. .
(Upon the death
of his first young wife
he mourned beautifully
and offered her
49 a casket full of poems.
Upon his own death
his second wife
carried on the time-honoured
tradition, and her poems remain.
I fear the faint sparkle
in the eyes of my girl.
Alone, I imagine private
skies, private sheets,
poems burning
in the night, burning
in solitude.
50 Robert L. McRoberts
Because there's no space
The airplane doesn't move an inch . ..
Flying at 31,000,
below him the clouds boil in a cauldron.
Someone turns up the heat,
the plane jumps, and for a moment
he is suspended six miles in the air.
Next to him someone is reading,
suspended twice then,
and rolling a ball of sweat
up the hill with his nose.
He looks away, back out the window:
fields of cauliflower.    A large sea
animal leaving a white screen to cover
its escape.    Here and there a few dark
spots in the clouds resembling
aerial photographs of exploding bombs;
the flashes do not disappear.
When the plane descends, a red balloon
blows up inside his head.
The plane drops like a shining coin
and a murmur washes slowly around his ears
like an old wish.
5i Andrew Pottinger
An essay on Madness Unmasked: The Mental Patients Association
Creative Writing Book, published by the Vancouver Mental
Patients Publishing Project, 2146 Yew Street, Vancouver, British
Columbia, Canada. 86 pages. $2.00.
What you bring to a collection like this counts. You don't open it
like a literary magazine, hunting an encounter with form. You open
it because you lost friends who went in for "treatment" and came
out belonging to a world you couldn't enter:
/ remember how Mickey one day grinned at me, then lovingly and
slowly stubbed out a half smoked cigarette on the back of his hand.
Jesus! One was enough. But over the weeks, as one burn healed into
a slick, shiny-rimmed crater, new skin stretched taut over the
damage, others appeared. The backs of both hands in the end were
covered with six or seven small pits. In a Welsh rooming house
where he rented an attic he turned on the picturesque old gas lamp
John was blonde and skinny, and played a silver trumpet in his
room. He played it softly so he wouldn't disturb the neighbours.
When he talked, he spoke quickly, enthused by abstractions. His eyes
lit up when you took him seriously. But when he didn't show for a
couple of days, nobody paid much attention. It didn't seem odd for
someone who spent so much time in his room anyway. They found
him wandering in the rain near Wordsworth's house in the Lake
Afterwards, their eyes became opaque barriers — "the glass wall"
—■ and the muscles at the eyes' corners betrayed a witty appreciation
of a situation you couldn't quite make out. And they were so like us
.. . weren't they? "And there but for . .. ?"
They went beyond the day-to-day, to live in a world that looked
like fiction — an unbelievable, unrealistic melodrama of excess. But
what nags is the excess of insight, the excess of contact with a pre-
52 dicament you can't, or won't, recognize in yourself, although you feel
it's there.
The "Introduction" to Madness Unmasked confirms this separation of "them" from "us":
As mental patients, we have been punished for our revolt
against the tyranny of the establishment. As women, we are
punished for refusing to adopt the behaviour defined for us by the
male patriarchy [sic] we live under; and as men we have been
punished for being unable to "stand up and be a man" in the
ways that are also defined by the male patriarchy [sic] we live
We present this book to the reader in the hope that it will greatly
contribute to your understanding of the nightmare of madness that
society has inflicted upon us.
Organized in five sections, the body of this collection sets out to
chart a mental patient's progression from his or her initial alienation
by and from society to a personal calm and a fresh ordering of
perception. "Alienation" is the title of the first section, and on the
first page two old men look past you from their seats in the booths of
a diner. The picture is a woodcut and the men are static, wooden;
what happens behind their eyes is frenzied, or bitter, or nothing at
all. It's impossible to tell.
Granny sang "All Things Bright and Beautiful" in a high, shaky,
reed-like whisper in the middle of Sunday dinner. At her house, in
the kitchen parlour, she sat for hours, her translucent spotted hands
grasping the edges of a rickety card table. It seemed that the wood
became shinier where she held it. In her own world.
In the "Alienation" section, the world we are at home in is the
Although she couldn't see them, she knew there were observers at
the windows of the tall apartment houses that lined the streets.
the world
is one orgasmic hole
it looks me in the eye
and spits
53 Alternatively, the order of the world we know is shot to hell:
Now she sits in the gutter. She rests her head against the lampost
[sic] and spreads her legs out before her into the streat [sic]. She
notices that not only is the water warm, but the pavement is soft.
It seems to adjust itself to her body contours. She rocks slightly to
see if it will rock with her. Yes.
And some of the writing in this section is good by any standards.
Like Kathy Frank's "The Book of Portfoonerie," a four-page work
for which no other generic term but "tabulation" seems to work. It
almost defies selective quotation because a significant pattern is
deployed throughout the whole piece, and she exploits her language
so that the process of reading involves you in a felt struggle to
comprehend a stark, jagged state of mind:
11. Why have I come here?
12. Because its on the way
To the train station
13. And so I went there
To see
Heavy dusty engines
Lined along the tracks.
14. And so I stayed there watching, standing miles above the
tracks, just inside an official Portfoonerese vantage point, and
guarded by a fortress of magical black criss-cross iron railing.
15. Just outside the ladies washroom.
16. Approxilmede.
After "Alienation" comes "The Hospital" where the frightening
split between the blank, drab monotony of faces in stasis and the
cacophony sensed behind the eyes is ranked around the day-room:
"You look so pathetic, dear, with that blank expression. Can you
hear me?" And here, facing an ink drawing of a mental patient
chanting, body rigid, staring fixedly out past the picture frame at
nothing, Elaine Bougie's "Identity Hunt" enacts the split:
To watch them leaning
over themselves
is to think of
the mad bird
struck by stone
54 pulling its guts
out a hole in its feathers
and swallowing them
the beak keeps shrieking
its own endless probe.
Mickey sat at the other side of the massive institutional table. He
studied his visitor with superior, controlled amusement, his eyes
frequently distracted by the far more entertaining behaviour of a
male nurse ushering a chanting patient by the elbow in the background. Discussing the place, it was as though he was recommending
a holiday resort.
In the hospital reality warps, and autobigraphy becomes fiction
automatically: "Working in a laundry folding clothes still smelling
of urine, with senile, chain-smoking deranged women." Here, you're
at the boundary between society and another way of being, and the
patients' visions are incomprehensibly disturbing because you can't,
or won't, see your own society from the outside as they actually
experience it. Kathy Frank's piece in this section is a short narrative
in which she forces our language, the social possession par excellence,
to extend and encompass experience from this boundary area, the
area where what society teaches a person becomes skewed and where
the skewed behaviour illuminates society's teaching from a special
She stands facing a full-length mirror: the first in a long row of
identical full-length mirrors lining the inside of the wall. Her left
hand is clasping an open black leatherbound book. Sequentially
repeating the handwritten passages from this book, she utters its
whispered litany to her full-length reflection.
The other hand is pointing at what she sees.
While celebrating this same enigmatic ritual at each successive
mirror along the way, the roller-coiffed woman painstakingly
walks herself into the far distant end of the narrow passageway. I
ask myself: Is she verily making the Stations of the Mirrors?
Section 3, "Evolution", is the stage, for the mental patient, of
dimly recognizing the way language dances through the personality,
forming one's self as a public object that he knows only as well as
others do. Unlike those who are socialized, the person who goes mad
seems to feel directly the conflict between the private, personal
experience and the public definition of it that he or she must inter-
55 nalize for successful socialization to take place. Where we must sell
our selves out without knowing it, the struggle for the person who
has been or is mad is waged not in the subconscious but in the realm
of daily perception: "I had no life of my own, I was adopting my
friends' interests, their attitudes, their expressions, and in some
strange way, friends of theirs whom I had never met." "Why yes/I
do feel that nobody cares or understands/how can they/when I don't
even understand myself." "I react to pain on the inside/of my skin/
(a switchboard operator) trying/to unscramble the electric wires/
the colour codes broken."
Each of these expressions, and each of the other pieces in this
section of the collection, gives voice to an awareness of the way an
individual has to become the ground for a battle between his or her
personal rules for organizing experience, and the conventional rules
that society has developed for doing so and embodied in its language:
"So this is love — I've so often read about it, but never experienced
it before — I didn't know it would hurt so much." To be successfully
socialized you have to learn not to experience except through the
mediation of what you've "read". Guilt, fear and pain are the price
of maintaining the personal vision whether, for the mental patient,
in everyday waking life, or for us in our dreams.
In the dark I woke up, horrified at myself for dreaming such
ugliness. Slimy creatures whose shape, continually altering, only
bordered on the human, made ambiguous but unmistakably sexual
forays in my direction. Where they touched me their skin split in
slow motion, like a plastic bag filled with water, spurting a thick and
heavy cold fluid over my naked body.
"Revolution" follows "Evolution" because once you've seen the
socialization process at work instead of repressing its operations in
the subconscious, you're forever outside the society that is. You thus
have to contest its values to preserve your own. Both sides settle into
a mutual ideological seige: "After being alone in a room full of
friends, being alone alone is quite preferable. I even like the silence
and the emptiness."
You flush me again
relatively noiselessly
into the sea.
And deny knowledge
56 washing
spots from your hands.
The sea is turning
red ....
Historical Pollution.
The reddening sea
is burning
If you're a "manic-depressive" who's been brought down from a
high by the "bearded magician's" "peculiar art" you may think
twice about the value of your treatment: "It's all for the best/1
suppose/But on days like this/When I'm dead inside/I remember
the power/and yearn for the crown." The palidness, conventionality,
and indecision of the verse here makes its own political statement,
reinforcing the sense of the speaker's having been unjustly tricked
out of something by the establishment.
A year later John came up to visit us. He stood against the grey
afternoon light from the window, chuckling heartily as it became
clear to us what had happened. No longer slim, his blonde hair
cropped short and neat, he must have weighed nearly twice what
he'd been before, as much overweight now as he'd been underweight
when they'd taken him in:
"Deep insulin treatment."
"They got my father to lock up my books too. It's better for me if
I don't read too much."
"I don't play the trumpet now either. I was never much good at
So that was the end of John. He's disappeared. And it seemed as
final and shocking as if they'd used a gun.
But in the end, for some, there is "Resolution", the stage at which
the revolutionary posture of accepting your own values as valid
brings a form of relief. You can write satire from this vantage point;
your own norms are well established, and against them the behaviour
of "the others" looks ridiculous. In this final section, therefore, we
find a parody of a travel article and two witty fables — "The Last
Pegasus", and "The Optiman Project" — both poking fun at the
psychiatric establishment completely without evident bitterness:
57 An optiman would be human, but with genetic characteristics
carefully selected and modified, so that he would be the best
possible citizen — that is the optimum citizen.
However, if you go to Miami Beach there is a chance that you
may see Optiman. He is light brown, loyal, intelligent, stable and
conservative; drinks lots of Coca-Cola; smokes cigarettes; reads
the stock market reports every day.
The better poetry in this section is like the prose: restrained, jokey,
or epigrammatic, rather than gestural:
Is not for me.
Though not as lovely as a tree,
A tree I think I understand.
Verse, on the other hand,
Is an unknown land.
You will say, "This does not scan."
Too bad, man.
But Kathy Frank is, once more, exceptional. To "Resolution" she
contributes "Serial Metanoia: Fragments from an Astral Travel
Log", a hard-edged, metaphorically rich description of coming to
terms with the voices of guilt. She supports this "writing" with a
series of woodcuts which have a genuinely Blakean feel about them.
Unfortunately, here, because each of its "sections" only achieves
significance in the context of the whole, it would be completely
unjust to quote selectively. The overall effect of Kathy Frank's piece
here, and of the "Resolution" section itself, when read as the culmination of the volume, is to suggest that those who reach this stage
may have something more than those who have never been mad —
a humane dimension of irony: "Rule Number 3: By devious and
underhand methods try to radicalize your psychiatrist."
This last quotation illustrates perfectly the surprising fact that
what emerges most clearly from the collection as a whole is the
connection running from madness through psychiatry to politics:
not party politics, but the more fundamental politics of social cohesion. Madness Unmasked makes clear, time and time again, the
extent to which language itself is necessarily both a socio-political
58 instrument and a political framework for society. And this is true
not only on the level where mental patients have been classified in
society's language (as "mad", "neurotic", "psychotic", "schizophrenic"), but also on the level where individuals actually experience, and communicate about, themselves.
One might therefore expect that mental patients would constitute
a minority political group totally cut off from the mainstream of
social interaction by the deviant language in whose terms they
experience reality. To some extent, and for some of the time, this is
the case. But the writing in this collection ranges from the first class
to the boring, and all of it is intelligible in conventional terms. When
this is so, the gap between "them" and "us" must be far narrower
than the polarity of "mad/sane" initially conjures up for us. Paradoxically, this point is made most clearly by the weaker of the prose
and verse collected here. Such pieces are weak in conventional terms
not because they make no sense or lack order and structure but
because they are too conventional:
And yet
I am not healed,
For a word
A distant threatening sound
Shoots me off again
Shattering the cobwebs
That enfold me
Encircle me
Bind me
To some hidden sorrow
That lies there in a stupor
At the back of my head.
The narrowness of the gap separating many of those who have been
mad from those who haven't emerges here because the authors of
such weaker pieces fail to find an expression or metaphor they can
make their own. They become "stuck" in vague, conventional
abstractions and stereotypes, perfectly dramatizing the writers'
entrapment in the view of themselves sanctioned by society's language, the language of the "healthily" socialized who haven't broken
through to authentic self perception.
Who made Mickey mad? Did we freeze him out, embarrassed by
something that didn't make sense, didn't fit anywhere? I mean, did
we try and ignore the facts because stubbing cigarettes out on the
59 back of your hand wasn't something our friends did? If we did, did
we have any choice? When what we spoke were essentially different
languages, is it conceivable that those who were socialized could
have interpreted the messages of those who were not?
The point tying these questions and conclusions together is that
society did, in a sense, make Mickey and John, and the friends you
lost to the "bearded magician" mad — because Mickey and John
and your friends refused to, or couldn't, pay the price of admission:
the sacrifice of uniquely personal experience. But Madness Unmasked goes a good way towards showing that we are far closer to
them than we, or they, might realize. Our "sanity" and their "madness" are responses to precisely the same processes of psychic growth
and change imposed by society on every child. The difference between us lies only in the fact that our potential for madness remains
out of sight for most of the time in the subconscious.
And it's because we're so close in this way that the creative writing collected here can be intelligible to us. The description of the
mental patient's overt experience of conflict between personal and
public language is something we must dimly recognize having
covertly shared.
Furthermore, in making clear the relevance to madness of this
conflict between personal and public language, Madness Unmasked
also makes it clear that the goal of the mental patient and that of
many genuinely creative writers is a shared one, equally impossible
for both to reach: to reconcile the personal and the social vision.
The mental patient's quest for a self he or she can regard as both
personally authentic and socially "acceptable' 'is equivalent to the
creative writer's search for a language that will both communicate
(necessarily by means of conventions) and at the same time express
and describe his or her uniqueness.
Insofar as both of these goals are essentially formal, you come, in
the end, full circle. Although you don't begin to read Madness Unmasked hunting an encounter with form, this is precisely what you
find. The experience of madness presented here is a formal struggle,
involving the grammar and syntax, rather than the content, of living.
Where the verse or prose is formally unexciting you witness conventionality win the battle to govern self perception; and when the
writing is formally innovative, aesthetically vital yet still comprehensible, you seem to witness authentic self perception in action,
conventionality temporarily transcended.
60 Walter Rimler
When Joaquin looked up and saw Gonzales in the distance riding
toward him he extended his arm so that his thumb and Gonzales
were the same size and then he pulled it in as Gonzales grew bigger.
"What are you doing?" said Carmela.
Joaquin squinted one eye shut.
"What are you doing?" she said.
Joaquin shrugged and put down his arm. "We'd better see what
we can feed him."
"Why does he keep coming out here?" Carmela said.
"What's wrong with you?" he said.
She went to the fire and began to prepare dinner.
"Oh, come on," he said, staring after her. "I didn't ask him to
Gonzales arrived with a flourish, rearing his horse off its forelegs
and, after dismounting, he vigorously slapped the dust off his
"Well, you're happy," said Joaquin.
"For two reasons," said Gonzales. "Here's the first." He reached
into his saddlebags and pulled out a wineskin. He undid the cap
and poured a stream of wine into his mouth.
"Mmm!" said Carmela. "Now you're going to eat a lot. I wasn't
so sure but now we'll stuff you."
Gonzales handed the skin to Joaquin and Joaquin nodded his
thanks. He took a drink from it and handed it to Carmela who
happily raised her head so that they could see the diamond shape of
her jaw and they watched her throat bob once, twice and then she
lowered her head and beads of wine were dripping on her chin and
she was smiling, her mouth half open, as she passed the wineskin
back to Joaquin.
She was eighteen years old, a year younger than Joaquin: if one
were sculpting her face he would put his thumbs in and then down
for her eyes and then he would roll them up like boats for her cheek-
61 bones. Then he would make an indentation and slide them along a
gaunt, smooth slope which ended in her smile — a shy, impish smile
that ventured on, then off, then on again. She had black hair which
she parted in the middle and combed across her temples and behind
her ears.
"What's the second thing?" said Joaquin.
"This fine horse," said Gonzales, patting its neck.
"Where'd you get her," said Joaquin.
"From Blake."
"What?" Joaquin squinted at Gonzales. "You stole it?"
"It wasn't too hard. I got on her and rode away."
"You're going to get someone hanged because of this."
"We'll know in a day or two."
"He's not going to hang anyone. There's no one to suspect."
They passed the wine around again and Joaquin began to feel it
in his head. "You might get hanged for this."
"No, I'm not going to get hanged." Gonzales turned from Joaquin
and looked at Carmela. "And how are you?"
"Did you get good money for it?" Joaquin said.
"Let's not talk about the horse."
"How much did you get?"
"More than you made digging today." Gonzales took a long drink
of wine, raising the skin higher and higher as the wine went through
the air, curving, and into his mouth. "But I'll tell you. It's for fun as
much as for money."
"Unless you're hanged."
"Why do you keep saying that? Do you want to know why I'll
never be hanged?"
"You can't know."
"Shut up and let me tell you. Look, while you and I argue,
Carmela's drinking all the wine."
"It's good," she said.
"Tell me," said Joaquin.
"No one gets hanged who doesn't think he's going to get hanged."
"Well, J think about it sometimes." Joaquin tilted his head back
and let the wine trickle down into his brain.
"Then you'll probably find out someday."
62 "Don't say that!" said Carmela. She handed plates of beans and
bacon to Joaquin and Gonzales who sat on the ground facing each
other. Carmela brought her plate over and sat down too.
"The worst part of being hanged," said Joaquin, "is that you're
falling when your neck breaks. If they could make it so that you're
going up instead, maybe tie you to the tree and then bend the tree
over and let go so you go flying in the air — "
Gonzales shifted his weight uncomfortably. "Let me tell you something," he said. "When I first got on a horse I had watched so many
men on horses that I felt I had been riding since I was born. I knew
I wouldn't fall off. I knew it. And I never did. It's the same with
hanging. I know I'm not going to be hanged."
Joaquin eased onto his back and held up his hands as if he were
pulling the branches of a tiny tree to the ground. With a little jerk
he unpinched the thumb and index finger of his right hand and
said, "Twang!" Then he cocked his head as if his neck were broken,
making one side stick out.
Gonzales and Carmela both looked uncomfortable now, and it
occurred to Joaquin that he wanted to make them more uncomfortable. He took another long drink from the skin and passed it to
Gonzales, saying only, "Well, I hope you're right."
But he was imagining the rope around his neck:
"It's the only warm thing. Everything else is cold — especially
where there's light: in their windows and in their teeth. Then comes
that moment when you know that this thing is going to happen. It's
going to happen. My neck is going to break. In just a few seconds —
seconds like the ones I use to walk from here to there — in that
much more time I'm going to be dangling here, waving my arms,
kicking, reaching up, unable to breathe, my neck broken. It's happening now."
"No one should hang," he said aloud.
"Blake should hang," Gonzales said.
Joaquin rested his head on the ground. The night was cool and a
pleasant breeze lapped against his face. He wondered how the hot
sticky day had managed to so completely reverse itself, and change
everything with it. Even Carmela was different. She looked much
more fragile by firelight.
They quietly passed the wineskin. Gonzales sat crosslegged and,
after taking a drink, went through a little ceremony of looking the
skin over. He passed it to Carmela who lay on her side on the
63 ground, her hands cupped palm to palm, making a pillow of them.
Joaquin lifted himself slightly off the ground so that his head
dangled upside down and in this position he watched the night sky.
He concentrated on one black patch and then another, hoping to
catch the moment of a star's first appearance, but it was impossible.
Whenever he turned his head in impatience, a cluster of silvery
points, no larger than the smallest specks of gold found that day in
the ground, would light playfully out of his sight. It made him tense
in his back and shoulders — those muscles felt as teeth do when the
mouth is watering or when the jaws are pressed too tightly together.
He took another long drink from the wineskin, willing it into his
arms and shoulders.
Carmela still lay on the ground but now her head was perked up
from her hands. She seemed to crackle and flicker with the fire.
Joaquin was suddenly and inexplicably glad that she was not sitting
next to him. He did not want their bare shoulders to touch, as he
knew they would, at a tiny point, sticking and unsticking.
There had been a long silence. Carmela got on all fours and
crawled over to Joaquin, sitting next to him in exactly the position
he had feared. He had to smile. Her shoulder pressed against his,
but harder than he had foreseen so that they touched not on a point
but on an area as large as a fist. And it was okay. It did not bother
him at all.
Later, she lay in the tent with her hand palm up over her forehead. Outside, the fire was dying and the light showed through the
Joaquin lay on his side facing but not touching her. His eyes were
shut and he was thinking of things to say. He was beginning to
tremble. He wanted more pleasure from the seconds, one by one,
than he was getting and he knew that it was this wanting that
interfered with the pleasure but he could not help it.
"What's wrong?" she said. She put her hands to the sides of his
face and moved them down to his arms and legs and the hands
grew excited. He loved her hands now best of all.
"Nothing," he said. He touched her back and felt down its curve
and the old magic thing happened to him again, but it was not
enough. Although he did not want to, he mocked her, pretending
her skin was leather. The hair between her legs felt like a clump of
grass by the river.
Later, Carmela was fast asleep on her side, facing him and he lay
64 on his side facing her. Their knees touched. He rested his hand
lightly on her waist and felt her breathing. "She sleeps like a little
girl," he thought, "with her fist under her chin. Her mother probably warned her not to sleep on her back with her legs apart and
hands thrown in every direction." 'When you're married you must
sleep on your side with one hand between your knees and the other
under your chin, the way you did when you were a little girl. Do
you think your husband will keep feeding you if you snore and drool
all over your pillow?'
"Oh, here it comes again," he thought. "It's taking a chair there
by my ear. What do you mean, 'Who is this?' She's my wife. What?
Well, I just want her to keep on sleeping, to get a good night's sleep.
No, I don't want her to do anything else. What else can she do? I've
seen her do everything she does. What else should I want her to do?
I want her to stop me from thinking like this, but she has to get some
sleep. She can't stay up with me."
He moved his hand gently over her back. It always surprised him
how wonderful it was to do this. It was always new, almost shockingly new and he wanted to make love again but he did not want to
wake her. Then it passed and he only wanted to make sure that he
would remember how it felt to know how beautiful she was next to
him in the dark. He wanted to remember it exactly but he was
afraid to say, 'Let's remember this' to himself. "Oh, I'm going to
have snakes in my bones again.
"Do I love her?" He looked at her face and her black hair above
the blanket and the mound her body made underneath. "All she
does now is block out a patch of that over there, the side of the
canvas. Without her there I would have another patch of wall —
that wouldn't be too bad. Can I imagine her voice right now? I
can't! If I say, 'Carmela,' and she wakes up, what would she say?
How would it sound? I don't know! I don't know if I love her. If
she wasn't here I would probably feel just the same. She's not
brighter than anything else here. She's the same brightness as the
ground. And I can't hear her voice in my head."
He awoke just after dawn and he lay on his back waiting for her
to wake. When she did he said, "We should get to work."
"Oh, no," she moaned. She turned too, so that she was lying up
against him.
"We've got to," he said. He put his arm around her. "Just think
of coffee."
65 "Mm," she said.
He rolled away from her and reached between the blankets to the
cold ground underneath. "Let's start digging." He cupped his hand
and began to dig and paw at the ground.
"You're crazy," she said.
Joaquin emerged from the tent hugging himself, slapping his back
with his hands. He rekindled the fire and then went down to the
river. He loved to work hard in the sun. He liked the way the sun
drew perspiration out of his back. He even liked the monotony of the
work, which produced familiar, friendly thoughts. Gonzales' theft
occurred to him off and on through the day and when it did he felt
a twinge of fear. He knew about Blake and his Stragglers. He knew
that they were looking for opportunities like this and he began to
hate Gonzales for his recklessness and his stupidity.
They stopped work at sundown and made their dinner. When
they finished eating they sat quietly, waiting for it to be time to go
to bed. Joaquin was often uneasy at this part of the day. Night had
always been ominous for him — especially when all they could see
was one another. It seemed to him that all the lights of the world
had been turned off except their campfire which shone on them.
Carmela sat quietly, melting and reshaping a candle. To Joaquin
she appeared to be posing, as if she knew that, because of her beauty,
she would always be on stage. "Maybe she's like this when no one is
around," he thought.
He realized how hard life in the foothills was for her. He resolved
to make their stay as brief as possible. He promised this to himself
too, for he was uncomfortable in the mining country. He had plans
to go to San Francisco or to Sonora where they might be landowners.
Carmela played with the candle, molding the rim into a ridge
around the flame, making little balls of the wax that dripped to the
bottom. She looked up and said, "What are you thinking?"
"Come on," she said. "What are you thinking?"
"What are you thinking?"
"I'm thinking it's time to go to bed."
"You are?"
"Yes, that's what I'm thinking."
"You're always thinking that."
He leaned back on his haunches and looked at his fingernails.
Then he looked back at Carmela and watched her through the
flame of the candle. He squinted to put the tip of the flame into one
66 of her eyes and then the other. Then he put the blue middle of the
flame over her hair.
She looked up. "What are you thinking now?"
"Oh, I have something for you this time," he laughed. "See, I put
the flame in front of your hair," he squinted for her, "and then I
look at it without blinking for as long as I can and everything
changes — the colors become dots and then they move around."
"Do you want to go to bed now?" she said.
"Hmm?" he said, squinting and then he jerked his head around
violently. From the black, rising, it seemed from the ground, five
men appeared. Joaquin rushed in their direction but one of them
brought a gun down on the back of his head.
When he came to it was very quiet. There was only starlight but
he could see Carmela lying by the tent and he quickly went to her,
ticking like a clock.
Her throat was cut and he stepped into her blood up over the toes
of his boots.
He screamed so that sparks lit up the black insides of his head and
he continued the scream and the sparks, pumping air into them,
using his lungs as bellows. When he opened his eyes again and she
was still there he tried to make the sparks again but they would not
come. All that came, and mercifully, was the next moment.
He lifted her from under her legs and neck and, holding her
across the prongs of his arms, her head dangling down over the
joints of his forearms, approached his horse which pranced nervously
in the dark. He stood her on her feet. A sudden gust of wind struck
them, lifting her torn dress and pelting his eyes with dust and it
occurred to him that this was the first time she had been out at
night without feeling the chill against her face.
With his hands around her waist he tried to lift her vertically onto
the animal but he had raised her only a few inches before he saw
that he could not lift her all the way. He thought of laying her
down, mounting by himself and reaching down to lift her from
above, but he feared the comedy of it. Desperately, he approached
the horse again, this time holding Carmela horizontally, across his
arms as he had held her before, one arm under her thighs and the
other supporting her neck. Her head seemed much too heavy and he
feared it might come loose because of the cut in her throat. The
horse balked at both of them and backed off. He approached again
and this time succeeded in lifting her onto the base of its neck. With
his left arm still around her waist and steadying the horse as well as
67 he could, he pulled himself up behind her, forcing her to sit erect in
front of him, his arms around her waist and his hands in her lap,
holding the reins. Then, quietly, he clicked his tongue and the horse
began at a trot.
The wind pushed against his face and against his arms which were
around her waist and he remembered or knew for the first time that
she was not really there, that she was really not next to him at all,
that he was alone and that it was wrong for him to think that she
was really there, although she was and he had his arms around her.
Coincidentally, her grave was finished just at dawn. He stepped
back to let the sun light the place before filling it in and he thought
about how sunrises and Carmela lying covered with damp brown
earth would probably be combined forever for him. As the sun rose
some of the horror eased as if the heat were drying it. It seemed as
if it were already a long time later although she had been playing
with the candle only a few hours before. He realized then that there
was still this agony to face: that "only last night at this time we," or
"two nights ago she was doing" or a week or a month or a year. He
knew that it would be like that, he could have predicted that part of
it if someone had told him that this all was to happen.
He wanted to say "I love you" but realized that he could not say
it aloud once he had already thought it, even though he wanted to
say it. Then, in the middle of that thought he said "I love you"
anyway and it worked.
Possibly because of this, although he was not sure, an eerie and
unexplainable joy rose in him and he fought it down. He thought to
say over her grave that he would kill Blake and the others but the
same thing happened as had happened before saying "I love you"
and now he could not interrupt himself by saying it anyway because
that had been done before and it would not work again.
Joaquin spent more than a month alone in the foothills of the
Sierras, sleeping in abandoned shacks or, when it was not raining,
sleeping on the ground in his blankets. He stayed away from people,
doing all he could to be sure he could not be seen. But some
travellers did catch glimpses of him and they told their friends in
Murphy's that he was mad — that he danced on the hill tops in the
middle of the night and that he howled.
68 These reports were untrue, although he did develop some strange
habits. Whenever he walked he stepped cautiously, watching the
ground around his feet for snakes. He would permit himself to stand
still only to look at the landmarks he had missed — and then he
would continue, watching his feet, only vaguely aware of the sounds
of birds and insects and running water. He could relax only by
pretending to be an island whose sovereignty snakes respected.
Physical habits and mannerisms took up much of his energy. He
was continually squinting his eyes until there was a satisfying pain;
twisting an eternal kink out of his neck; stretching the tendons in his
wrists; and seeking smaller and smaller bones to pop in his knuckles.
It was the same way in his mind. "How long have I been pressing
my tongue against this bump in my mouth? Was it there before she
died? I'm sure it's been around at least since summer. Maybe I've
had it all my life, I don't know. When did I learn to lace my boots?
Was I lacing them last year? Is there any proof?"
When he lay down to sleep he found it necessary to close a
thousand eyes all over his body. He was suspicious of the grass
underneath him and of what might be crawling below it and he was
suspicious of the sound of the wind, which continually changed
pitch. Sometimes it seemed like human breath, like Carmela's breath,
and he found that it made him frightened of her.
He thought of her constantly. He thought back to when he had
met her and how he had felt sorry for her. She had seemed too stiff,
too conscious of the expression on her face. She had seemed trapped
by the structure of her head — the more he looked at it the more it
seemed like a cage. Maybe, he thought, the bones beneath her skin
were wires covered with skin which, although lovely and delicate,
had not been given enough slack. Maybe it would split apart if she
yawned too deeply or laughed too suddenly. Maybe, if the skin split,
feathers and bits of bird would trickle out.
This all changed as he began to know her well. Where she had
seemed thin and fragile he soon knew her to be robust and even a
little portly, although it was only a few months later and she had
not really changed. At first, she seemed to be a quiet girl with a
secret mental life. But in a short while it was obvious that she was
the opposite — not thoughtful at all, but exhuberant and impulsive.
He remembered how, after they were married, he sometimes looked
into her face and called up the first pictures and there the two
Carmelas would be, side by side or superimposed, different and the
69 He remembered little things about her: the way she patted her
collarbone with little taps of her hand when she swallowed something the wrong way; the way she moved a finger back and forth
under a twitching nose just before she sneezed. Sometimes, after
they argued, she would look up to him with wide eyes and make him
laugh by whimpering guiltily like a dog. After making love they
would often lie quietly, holding hands.
They had worked in Los Angeles on a ranch for several weeks to
earn enough money to come to Murphy's Diggings. While there,
they had eaten at cafes. It was then that Joaquin first noticed how
she loved to eat. She had a way of tipping a bowl of soup and
steering all the crackers lovingly to one side with little clinks of her
spoon against the glass, never taking her eyes off them until they
were all safely swallowed. She did the same with green peas: she
would separate them from everything else, building them into a little
pile, keeping the topmost peas from tumbling to the bottom by deft
use of her fork, and then she would eat all of them before touching
anything else on her plate.
She had a special way of saying things. In the morning, on waking, she would sometimes sit up suddenly and say, "Bacon!" and she
even had a special melody for the word. She also had a melody for
the word "me." Sometimes her "me" had a third person sound to it,
as if "me" were her child or doll. She would say, "I'm going to dress
me now" or "I am going to get me some of those cakes" and there
was enchantment as well as pathos in her words. It was as if her
"me" was a child's doll. Sometimes Joaquin loved this in her but
other times he saw a sadness in it, and felt a sadness for her.
He remembered her warmth. She had always been strangely hot,
sometimes burning to the touch. When she cried her face felt feverish ; it seemed to him that the tears, which followed each other at a
slow, stately pace in very big drops, would have to steam before they
could get down to her cheeks. Oh, he thought, what an actress she
was when she cried. She let the tears go as far as they could and, no
matter how uncomfortable they were, she wouldn't blot them with
her hands.
But he remembered that sometimes her crying had been undeniably real — when she seemed helpless in doing it, ungraceful, even
ugly. The area around the eyes would become red and grainy and
she would seem so pitiful and sorry for herself. Nothing was left of
her then. Everything she was was coming out of her eyes and he
70 asked himself: Was there so little of her that it could all come out of
her eyes?
When he thought of their lovemaking he always returned to two
occasions. Once they awakened to find themselves moving on one
another and, as they moved, the day broke and when he came into
her it was dawn. Another time, in Los Angeles, he came into her
mouth for the first time, filling her lips to overflow, thick and white,
and she smiled like a child who had made a mess of its milk.
The winter of 1851 was one of the worst on record. Creeks
became rivers, rivers lakes, gorges became waterfalls tearing down
giant trees, and whole towns flooded. But in late November came a
sudden, brilliant Indian Summer day. It was like a ghost of the
summer and he felt, for the first time since her death, a surge of
Not knowing what to do with himself, he spent much of the day
in his blankets. That night, a bat snapped over his head making
him suddenly aware of cricket sounds and the longer he listened the
louder they became. He wondered how he had managed to be
unaware of them before. Then came a sudden terror that they would
stop. He sat up. Fluttering about a bush was a moth and he watched
it. Without warning, as if a harp had been played in his chest, he
felt its magical excitement. It combined with his fright, threatening
to take him away, and he struggled to keep from following it by
shaking his head.
He lay awake that night thinking about what had almost happened. He remembered how, as a child, he would stare at something
until it became a mass of dots. He would say to himself, "The dots
are coming" and would try not to blink but the field of his vision
would become so abstract that he would be frightened into blinking
it back to normal. There had been a ritual attached to this game.
Each time the "dots" came he would realize that he had not thought
about them since they last appeared. The ritual of realizing this
became so sacred to him that, on one or two occasions, when he had
found himself on the verge of thinking about the game, he had
raised a screen of chatter in his head to turn the realization away.
Then, the next time he said to himself, "The dots are coining," he
would ask himself how long it had been since the last time they had
come. He never knew for sure if it had been months or years.
Toward dawn he was still awake, but calmer. He adjusted his
saddlebags, which he used as a pillow, and felt a little bulge in
them. He reached inside and took out the end of a loaf of bread. It
7i was old and brittle and he realized that when it had been fresh,
Carmela had been alive.
The words, "only a month ago," came to him but he had long
been ready for them. He knew what to do. He said them aloud:
"Only a month ago" and laughed because they were changed so
much by the sound of his voice. They seemed much less threatening
out in the cold on their own than they had been when warm and
confident in his head. "You didn't think you were going to be
thrown into the cold, did you?"
The next day was also sunny. In the morning he dug a hole in the
fresh damp ground, happy in the smell of the earth, and he squatted
over it, his black dusty pants stretched tight across the poles of his
knees. For a moment he thought himself deformed —- the joints at
his thighs and torso appeared comical, like sticks in an apple.
"I'm good at this," Joaquin said. "I'm probably the best." He
laughed out loud. "And no one will ever know."
Under the bottom branches of a little bush, a squirrel watched
him with a beady eye. When Joaquin looked back it moved its head
with a quick jerk, twitching its nose. "I wonder if he enjoys this
smell as much as I do," he thought. He remembered that he had
loathed the smell of Carmela's gas. It had smelled just like his own,
possibly because they ate the same things. Once, he had come into
the tent to see her sitting up in the blankets, sniffing over and over
again, as if she could not get enough of it.
"Shut up!" he said to himself but he remembered her belches,
how they hung motionless and invisible in the air and how he would
sometimes walk through one, recognizing in its smell the food she
had just eaten.
"Shut up," he said again.
After he had covered the hole he noticed that the squirrel was still
"You keep quiet about this," he said. The morning sun was hot
and his black clothes were uncomfortable. "Well, you might as well
see it all."
He took off his shirt and then his trousers and stretched again,
feeling the warmth on his nakedness. "Shall I do a little dance for
you?" He put his fists to his waist and turned around, laughing.
He was lean and compact. Too compact, he thought, for his limbs
seemed to be pushing in toward the center of him, as if an iron core
deep inside were producing gravity. His wrists pushed against his
72 arms, his arms pushed into his shoulders and his shoulders struggled
against his neck. It seemed to him that all his energy derived from
the pressure and tension between connecting bones and, in response,
he gritted his teeth and squinted his eyes, compounding the tension.
But this day that tension was gone. He lay in the sun, his loins
soaking more of the warmth than the rest of him. "I'm a pig down
there," he thought.
Then, with a start, he noticed two men riding toward him.
He judged that they would ride past close enough to see him. He
was not nearly as adverse to human contact as he had been a few
days before and, for a moment, he thought that he might let them
come upon him naked in the sun.
Though he soon thought better of this, he remained in a talking
mood. Dressing and packing his things quickly, he mounted his horse
and circled behind them.
"Hey!" he shouted. His gun was drawn and he motioned with it
for them to drop theirs.
They did so and watched him as he approached. They were
apprehensive, and something in their fear made him both angry and
playful. As he approached them he was surprised at the intense
scowl which had pushed its way into his lips, and he thought: "It
must look to them as if I'm walking in place." He remembered how
he and Carmela had once watched Blake and his men moving up
and down on the horizon as if it were sticky, and now he wondered
if these men were filled with the same dread he had felt then.
When he reached them they raised their hands. One man was
thin and bony with taut skin and thin lips. The other was large and
jowly with thick puffy lips. "I'm going to be looking at lips for a
while now," thought Joaquin, "comparing the lips of everyone I
This amused him and he chuckled.
"He's out of his mind," the large man whispered to his friend.
"We're going to have to jump him."
"Then I'll have to shoot you in the face," Joaquin said and he
burst into laughter. His laughter was loud and full and he played
with it, raising and lowering its pitch, making it wide and then thin
as if it were soap bubbles shaped by the ring of his mouth. He looked
directly at them as he laughed, and knew that his eyes and the rest of
his face, apart from his mouth, were intense and angry. He would
have loved to have been able to see himself but it was almost as good
to see their faces. They were certain he was mad.
73 "Don't be scared," he said. "I just want to take a look here." He
went over and inspected their mules. One of them carried equipment
which was of little use to him, except for ammunition. The other, to
his astonishment, carried only onions. Joaquin reached deep into the
sack but came up with nothing but onions.
He laughed again and this time was unable to control it and, for
an instant, he was forced to close his eyes. He backed away so they
could not jump him, and kept his gun on them. But his eyes
threatened to close again and there was sweat on his brow from fear
that they would get the advantage of him.
"I'm sorry," he said after he had regained control. "I'm just
going to take your onions," his voice took a small, embarrassing
ascent on the word 'onions' and he felt the laughter coming again.
He fought it down, this time with anger. Drawing his knife and
keeping the gun aimed, he cut through the netting of the sacks and
the onions tumbled to the ground, some rolling under the mules but
most dropping to his feet. He had never seen so many onions before
and he had to forcibly stifle another squeak by pressing his lips
together. One of the onions rolled over to the edge of his boot and
he stomped on it, splitting it. He stomped on it again and again
until it was crushed. Then great peals of laughter rose out of him
and he knew that he could not control himself. He was genuinely
"God damn it, Bobby, let's get out of here."
"Is that all you want?" the other man said. "Are the onions all
you wanted?"
"Are the onions all I wanted?" Joaquin said. He collapsed onto
the onions and rolled about, laughing so that his chest felt as if it
would split. "Stop this," he said to himself. "Get out of here!" he
said to them. But they did not move. "Go away, go away," he
motioned to the two men with his gun, but his voice came out in
hiccoughs and gasps.
He took one of the onions, sliced it with his knife and put a slice
into his mouth. Then he walked up to the big man, part of the onion
dangling over his lower lip like a cigarette, and he said, "Go away
now. I'll take care of the onions. We're friends." He staggered backwards, waving his gun wildly. He fired over their heads and they
rode off in the direction of Murphy's.
That night, after a dinner of rabbit and onions, he sat against a
tree and watched the night sky, his legs flat in front of him and his
hands folded on his stomach. He breathed against his extended
74 lower lips so that onion smells in his breath were deflected to his
nose. The onions and the rabbit produced an extraordinary odor
and he breathed and sniffed again and again.
When he lay in his blanket going to sleep, his head rested on one
of his hands and the new smell was on his fingers. He breathed in as
slowly and as deeply as he could, fascinated. Then he grew tired of
it and wished that he had some way of washing it off. But the
fascination remained and he continually brought the hand back to
his nose until he finally fell asleep.
He hoped all the next day for another encounter. "Next time I'm
going to watch their ears instead of their lips. I'll fire into the air and
see if their ears twitch. Maybe I should have made those two peel
their onions. They might have died, there were so many onions."
He also remembered the longing he had felt when he lay naked in
the sun. It had been the first sunny day since he had had a wife.
How his legs had soaked it up. "Let's go!" he said to himself.
"Where? Let's go into town! Am I about to do that? Don't ask —-
let's just do it. Come on, let's go into town!"
By the afternoon his belongings were carefully packed and he was
intent on going to Murphy's. He said, "I don't know" to all the
questions that arose within him: "What am I doing? Am I going to
kill them? Shouldn't I think this through?"
On the way he took pleasure in looking around; the hills were
tucked under their blankets of yellow wild oats and in the sky was an
assortment of clouds, some long and streaked, others round and
puffy and still others immense, though they were white and benevolent. The sky was a good show. Each cloud moved with its own
kind, and each kind travelled in its own direction, silently and mindlessly. Here and there would be a stray cloud moving faster, it
seemed, to catch up with its pack and its serious and preoccupied
look would make Joaquin smile.
When he reached the high country, a mile to the east of the town,
he looked down on Murphy's — on the simple wooden houses, each
with its little corral, a few with gardens and picket fences; he looked
at the nucleus of the town — the main street where buildings were
side by side. He wondered if anyone down there could see him and
he pretended that the whole town was watching him. He sat up
straight on his horse and threw back his shoulders. "They're thinking : Here he comes! Here he comes! What's he going to do? He's
going to revenge her." And he felt self conscious. When he lifted a
75 hand to scratch his face he imagined them backing off, saying, "He's
going for his gun."
But no one noticed him when he entered the town. The street was
full of people who had finished their day. Some were on their way
back to their houses, others were on the way to the saloon or the
cafe, both of which were already crowded.
Joaquin went to the livery where he lodged his horse and then he
walked down the street toward the cafe. He was anxious to sit at a
table and have a proper meal. But, through the window of the cafe,
he saw the two men he had accosted the day before. "I may be in
trouble if I go in there," he thought. "I don't want trouble so soon.
I'll come back after they've left." Then he noticed, at another table,
Blake and two of his men. His jaw dropped and his heart raced but
he felt no anger. Instead he was awed and shy as if they were very
A queasy feeling replaced his appetite and he moved on. At the
end of the street was the hotel. It was the tallest building in town.
On his previous visits to Murphy's, Joaquin had assumed it to be the
whorehouse. But now he saw the sign outside which read: Green
The proprietress was sitting behind a large mahogany desk, which
took up almost all of the small foyer. She was an ugly woman, in
her early forties. She had a large face with a hooked nose and large
puffy lips.
"Are there rooms to rent here?" said Joaquin.
"There's one that's empty."
"I may want it tonight."
"Well, it might be here."
"Well, so may I."
"What's your name?"
She seemed to be puzzled and she squinted at him. This made
him suspicious and he turned around to see if anyone was behind
him. There was no one but, while his back was to her, he wondered
if someone were behind her on the stairs. "I could keep turning
around forever," he thought and when he turned back to her he was
smiling at this.
She was nodding at him, as if to say: "Yes, you could keep on
turning around forever."
"How much?" he said.
"A dollar a night."
76 "Okay," he said. He withdrew a little drawstring purse from his
shirt pocket and produced a silver dollar.
"Good," she said. She did not move.
"Can I have the key?" he said.
"I'll show you up."
In the room was a dresser, a pitcher of water with two glasses on
top of the dresser, a card table with two chairs and a bed with brass
posts. As if to make up for the lack of a painting or other decorations, the window was large and from it the entire street could be
Tiny Bush put the keys on the dresser and sat at the table. "Why
don't you sit down?" she said. When he did she said, "Would you
like some wine? I have a bottle of very good wine downstairs."
Without waiting for an answer she hurried out of the room.
"Oh, she wants that," thought Joaquin and he waited, wondering
what he had gotten himself into.
He heard her heavy footsteps coming back up the stairs and she
appeared in the doorway with not one but two bottles of wine. She
raised her eyebrows at him as if to say, "Yes — I have two bottles
of wine — what do you think of that?" Then she closed the door
behind her. She put the bottles on the table and brought over glasses
and a corkscrew from the dresser. Then she sat down and struggled
unsuccessfully with the first cork. The flabby skin on her arms
quivered and, in defianice of that, she moved her arms all the more.
"Let me do it," he said.
She lifted the bottle off the table and tucked it in the crook of her
left arm while she pulled at the knob of the corkscrew with her
clenched right hand. It still did not come. "This little bastard," she
said, putting the bottle back on the table. She pulled again and the
cork finally did give way, but this made her even angrier.
"Well, don't stare at me," she said.
"I'm not staring."
"Yes you are."
"Alright, I'll look somewhere else." He looked out the window.
She filled the glasses, took a sip and then another. Then, rolling
her eyes and rocking her shoulders, she leaned toward him and said,
"Why is she making fun of me?" he thought. He smiled at her
and lifted his glass as if he were toasting her. She raised hers in reply
and they both  drank.  The wine began to affect him and he
77 cautioned himself against getting drunk. "You know," he said, "it's
been months since I sat in a chair. I feel like there is something I
should do that I'm not doing. Some ceremony."
"This is a ceremony," she said. She finished the wine in her glass
and poured another, leaving only a few drops in the bottle, which
she emptied into his glass. "Oh, I'm feeling it in my hands."
"In your hands?"
"See?" she lifted her arms and dangled her hands as if they were
rubber on the ends of her wrists. She put them on the table and
made them bounce.
Joaquin tilted his chair back and laughed. He dangled his head
over the back of the chair. His throat was up and his attention fixed
on the ceiling. "The last time I was drinking wine there were stars."
"I'm sorry this room has no stars."
"No-no. I think I'm the first person who ever became sick of
stars." He reached for the other bottle. "My turn," he said and
applied the corkscrew.
"If you have to throw something don't throw the bottle," she said.
But the cork came easily and he held it up proudly, slapping it on
one end like a new baby. He made a baby's cry.
"Is it a boy?" she said.
"It's hard to tell."
There was a sudden loud yell from the street and Joaquin whirled
around. When he turned back Tiny was smiling. She picked up the
cork and hopped it up and down toward the bottle. "Mother," she
Joaquin picked up the bottle and nuzzled its mouth against the
cork. "My baby," he said and, to his astonishment, he nearly cried.
In the middle of the night he lay awake. The window was open
and a breeze came in like cold breath. If it had been warm he
would have remembered the summer and Carmela, but it was cool
and he lay thinking of what he had planned for the coming day.
"I wonder how it's going to happen; where it will be; what I'm
going to be thinking. I wish it was now. I wish I didn't have to lay
here the rest of the night."
Tiny lay next to him, sleeping, her head on his shoulder. She was
an uncomfortable lump against him and he wished very much that
she was not there. Just before dawn she left the bed. She crawled
over Joaquin and caught her foot in a tangle of blanket and almost
fell to the floor. She quickly put on her clothes and left the room.
78 The next morning he thought of her with embarrassment. As he
went down the stairs he wondered if she would be at her desk and,
if so, how she would act toward him.
She was sitting at the desk. He said good morning to her.
"Good morning," she said.
"Have you eaten yet?" he said and immediately wished he had
not asked her. He did not want her with him at the cafe.
"Yes," she said. "Thanks."
"Well, I'm going to get some food," he said and tipped his hat.
At the door he turned back and said, "I won't be staying another
night —■ I've got all my things with me."
"Okay," she said pleasantly.
In the cafe the waiter took his order of eggs with sausages and
coffee. He was very hungry but he waited most anxiously for the
coffee. "This is the way I should eat," he thought. "I was made to
eat in restaurants."
The night before, when drinking wine, he had discovered that,
when his mouth was closed and with just a few drops on his tongue,
he could, by exhaling slowly through his nose, realize subtleties of
taste he had not known before. He also discovered that different
parts of his tongue tasted the wine differently. Deeper down, the
wine sent prickles to the hinges of his jaw, under the ears and
released a noxious, fascinating odor. Now he tried to do the same
with the coffee. It made a bitter little explosion on the tip of his
tongue. Deeper in his throat, the odor rose again.
When his eggs and sausage arrived he at first tasted them in this
careful way but was soon eating hungrily. When everything on his
plate was finished he ordered a second cup of coffee and returned
to his experiment. He was happy. He leaned back in his chair, and
stared out the window of the cafe. A tall blond man was looking
into the window, using his hand as a visor over his brows and then,
satisfied that the proprietor was about, he entered.
"That's Channing," Joaquin said to himself. "Is Blake coming
too? This is going to be it, then."
Channing took a seat and was immediately approached by the
waiter. After giving his order he pulled out a cigar and lit it. Then he
began to tap his fingers on the table. He was oblivious to Joaquin.
"This man killed her," he said to himself, but he could not make
himself understand or care. He was excited because of what he knew
was going to happen but he could not work up hatred. He felt,
instead, the same awe he had felt the night before — it was as if he
79 were in the presence of a famous man. "He was inside her," he told
himself, but that did not work either, even when he forced himself
to again imagine the scene. "He cut her throat!" he said to himself
but this was equally useless.
Channing, puffing on his cigar, pulled a thin leather book out of
an inside pocket of his coat, opened it apparently at random and
began to read, moving his lips. Every so often he would smile and
chuckle. The waiter brought him his breakfast and he took the cigar
out of his mouth long enough to thank him and give him a friendly
He was a handsome, boyish man and Joaquin could clearly see in
his features how he had looked as a boy. "He looks as if someone
grabbed a boy by his head and toes and pulled. His face stretched
out and now you can see his cheekbones. Would I kill a boy if he
killed Carmela?" His mouth went dry. He watched Channing chewing his eggs and imagined the food sliding down inside him to his
stomach. Then he imagined a bullet striking the stomach, splattering
egg onto the street. "He was in her. Why did he do that to me? But
what did he do? Did he do very much? I can't even remember her."
Channing finished and stood up. He put some coins on the table.
Then he pulled a watch out of his vest pocket and looked down at it,
developing a momentary double chin. When he left the cafe Joaquin
followed him.
Channing was bow-legged and bow-armed: his arms curved from
his shoulders to his waist like handles on a vase. He took long steps
and the thick heels of his boots made distinctive clops. Joaquin
mimicked him: he bowed his own arms and, when Channing
stopped to look into a window, Joaquin stopped too and turned his
head in the same direction. At the far end of the street was an open
stall of mining gear and cooking equipment. This part of the town
was deserted. The shopkeeper at the stall was not around.
Joaquin took a deep breath and summoned a picture of Carmela
to his mind. The one that appeared was not to his liking and he
wondered if this was a bad omen.
"Channing!" he shouted.
Channing turned around. He immediately realized Joaquin's
intentions but seemed puzzled as to who Joaquin was. Then he
suddenly laughed. "You're the hound! Give us a howl!"
People had gathered already on the other side of the street, behind
Joaquin. They moved so quickly and quietly that they seemed to
80 have rehearsed. Men came from inside the buildings onto the street
to lean on posts and sit on steps.
Joaquin kept his eyes on Channing and waited. He began to relax
and the thumping of his heart softened. He was happy again. Blue
air seemed to flow inside his bones and he was grateful for that,
although it occurred to him that such a feeling was uncomfortably
When he saw the first flexing of the muscles in Channing's right
arm he drew his gun. Channing took one shot in his hand, and
another in his chest. He was pushed back into the stall where he fell
amidst a clanging of metal hardware and came to rest spreadeagled,
covered by pots and pans.
Joaquin turned around. The crowd was growing thicker. They
were blocking the entire street, although they remained motionless.
He walked over to the nearest horse and mounted it. The crowd still
did not move. They were bunched together as if they intended to
take as small a space as possible. When Joaquin, now on horseback,
moved toward them they backed off. He continued down the street,
his gun drawn, and they continued to back off. Except for the
people in the front row he could see nothing but heads and of the
heads little could be seen except hair. A hundred mops of hair
seemed to blur together and he had to blink his eyes to make them
again look like people. Then it occurred to him that this awkward
silent mass of people might be watching something that was happening behind him. Perhaps someone had circled around behind him
and was at that moment taking aim. He did not want to look, for
fear that someone in the crowd might take a shot at him, and so he
watched their faces for some sign of what was going on behind him.
He could detect nothing.
Then it occurred to him that, except for Channing lying dead
among the pots and pans, he knew nothing at all of what was
behind him. He could not remember what was on the cross-street —
whether there were houses or not and, if there were, what they
looked like.
He turned to see. The sky was absolutely clear, good enough for
drinking. The hills, which during the summer had been yellow and
dead, were now covered with fresh grass. They looked like giants
tucked under green blankets. They were the kind of softly sloping
hills that children roll down with their arms at their sides.
"Oh, I love this! I love this," Joaquin thought, turning around
81 again to look at the crowd. He spread his arms out as if to embrace
them. They backed off again.
For the first time he saw Tiny among them. Remembering how
she had watched him turn around in the same way the day before,
he made a full circle on his horse and then another. Then, slightly
dizzy and amazed that no one had shot at him, he turned back in
the direction of the green hills and rode away.
That night he could not get the sound of the crashing pots and
pans out of his head. Over and over he watched Channing's head
bend over, his chin touch his chest, arms first up in the air and then
down lifeless to his sides, stagger backwards and finally crumple
down, the pots and pans crashing on top of him. Every few
moments, when he would be drifting off to sleep, that sound would
return maliciously, as such things do in a fever.
82 Hector De Saint-Denys-Garneau / Two poems
Translated by Fred Cogswell
To start up a fire
Under the ashes
Watch out
We do not know
Among the debris
Watch out
We know too well
Among the debris
The least breath puts out the fire
Underneath the wood
The fire starts up
In secret cunning
Growing in strength
Watch out
The fire starts up
Scorching the wind of its going
The fire starts up
But where can it go
Among the broken
Scattered debris
In the tight-packed
The heat warms
The wind scorches
The heat rises
And curdles the sky
83 In fitful waves
The dull heat
Warms and twists me
The heat warms
With no clear-cut flame
The heat rises
Without a banner
Curdling the sky
Making trees tremble
Scorching the wind of its going
The landscape
Cries out for mercy
Animals have frightened eyes
Birds are bewildered
In the sky-curdling heat
The wind can blow no more
Toward the tall trees groping
With open arms
For a little air
The landscape cries out for mercy
And the intolerable heat
Of the started up fire
Amid the debris
Has no outlet at all
For either flame
Or a breath of air
Oh! what a voyage we shall take
My soul and I, what a dragging trip
And what a country we shall see
What a slow land, the land of ennui
Oh! to be so weary in the evening
We return and notice nothing
And last to die during the night
Dead of boredom in our own despite
85 Ken Smith / Two poems
All night with trains shifting
out at my sleep's edge.
I was a fish, I
was a bird, I was
the horse crossing the uncrossable
plain of scattering animals,
stars & stars.
Doors thump.    Song of some drunk
in the late & dangerous street
singing Laguna, lonely,
trailing booze baritone echo.
In near sleep I see
in the wood's flickered light
shining on briars & nettles
where is the flower
I can get to.    In my dream
she is the dancer
& we are to know how it is
to be some thing, touched,
bones in the skin, touching,
bodies cupped on each other
& calling
into the other's throat sound
shudder of gutterals the one
cry in the one place
naming itself.
86 The feeling
described is
oceanic, a
jamming of sea,
sky, stain
of cloud shadow
moving across fields,
water dried up,
the earth's grass,
body with body, a leaving
the self & arriving
with weeds in the old sea,
high cloud blue
gull alert & easy
over the old wind.
Some cry
rising in me
finding other cries
wherever, whoever,
checking where each
cry comes from
& there's times
I'd turn it all off
& go live in Surbiton.
That's talking.    This
is the dancer, heron's
blue life above water, the Ions
flight of the sparrows,
the owl's
straight look.
87 Dara Wier
First time was in rearview
a muted eastern mountain
in retrospect I must
have seen it as a man.
Then daily sun-sharp or
behind the rain
the color came or changed
with weather.
One in-town tree
topped it    got its
look from perspective.
Three months of mountain,
nun blue rearview mornings
afternoons black man brown
straight ahead.
Today I saw the mountain
it had moved maybe
to comfort me you say
they all do
then foolish you
walk to the window
draw shades to the sky.
88 Or don't worry five weeks later
it's probably a seasonal change.
You can't see me
I am become a field.
Like t.v. monsters
I am clear
energy I move
you can't see me.
You study
they say the sun's moon's
earth's combined pull can move land
I can't hear you
I am moving land
all of it    scanning it
meeting mountain at rind.
Friday comes
I come home to comfort you
it could have been the curse
damn weekends while I wait
I want a way to stop up spaces.
89 8
Dream the mountain makes me
identical mound
no force, field, or mover
I am mound.
You study search
buy glasses books
you say to comfort you
man you are dust to dust
you look at the mountain
miss    the mountainless space
I am the mountain holding mountain
in place.
Chicago Review, Vol. 26, No. 1, 1974, published by University of Chicago, $1.95
single copy,  $6.g5/year   (4 issues),   180 pp., fiction, poetry, non-fiction, art.
Tamarack Review, Issue 62, First Quarter 1974, published by the editors at
Toronto, single copy $1.95, subscription $7.50 p.a.
Wascana Review, Renaissance Issue, Vol. 9, No. 1, $2.00, subscription $3.50 p.a.
(2 issues), published by English Department, University of Saskatchewan,
Mosaic VII/4 Summer 1974, A journal for the comparative study of literature
and Ideas published by the University of Manitoba Press, 178 pp., subscription $8.oo/year, single copies $2.25.
The Falcon, Vol. 5, No. 8, Spring 1974, published by Mansfield State College,
Mansfield, Pa., subscription $2.00 per year (2 issues), single copies $1.00.
The Fiddlehead, No. 102, Summer 1974, published in Fredericton, N.B., with
assistance from the University of New Brunswick, St. Thomas University and
the financial support of the Canada Council, subscriptions $6 a year (4 issues)
to Canadians - Americans $7 a year; single copies $1.50, 143 pp.
The Malahat Review, No. 32, October 1974, published by the University of
Victoria, Victoria, B.C., 144 pp., subscription $5.00, single copies $1.50.
New, No. 24/1974, published by The Crossing Press, Trumansburg, N.Y., twice
a year, subscriptions $2.75 individuals, $3.25 libraries, single copies $1.50.
Babel, No. 3/1974, Vol. XX, Official Organ of the International Federation of
Translators, published with the assistance of UNESCO, subscription DM 30
a year (4 issues), single copies DM 8.
The Paris Review, Summer 1974, published by The Paris Review, Inc., Flushing,
N.Y., subscriptions (6 issues) $9, single copies $1.95.
Tamarack Review, Issue 63, October 1974, published by the editors at Toronto,
subscription $7.50 a year, single copies $1.95.
Mundus Artium, Vol. VII, No. 2, 1974, a journal of international literature and
the arts, published two times a year. Annual subscription $6.00; single copies
Symposium, Vol. XXVIII, No. 3, Fall 1974, published quarterly by Syracuse
University Press, Syracuse, N.Y., annual subscription $8.00, single copies
The New Orleans Review, Vol. 4, No. 3, published by Loyola University, New
Orleans, subscriptions $6 per year, $1.50 single copy.
Western Humanities Review, Summer 1974, published quarterly at the University
of Utah, subscriptions, $5 per year, $1.50 single copy.
Montreal, Maloney, Elizabeth Hoskinson (ed.), 1974, Hounslow Press, Toronto,
photographs of Montreal. $7.95.
91 The House Poets, Eight Toronto Poets, Jewinski, Hans (ed.), 1974, The Missing
Link Press, Toronto. $2.50.
Bohemian Embassy II, Jewinski, Hans, (ed.), 1974, poetry collection.
Auden, W. H., Thank You, Fog, Random House, New York, 1974, 59 pages,
$6.00, last poems.
Warren, Robert Penn, Or Else: Poem/Poems 1968-1971, 1974, Random House,
New York, 102 pp., $6.95.
Brewster, Elizabeth, In Search of Eros, 1974, Clarke, Irwin & Company Limited,
Toronto, 87 pages, $5.50.
David Summers, The Poisoner and others,  1974, Hippopotamus Press, Sutton,
Surrey, U.K., 20 pp., $1.80.
John,  Roland,  Report From  the Desert,   1974,  Hippopotamus  Press,  Sutton,
Surrey, U.K., 23 pp., $1.50.
McWhirter, George, Bodyworks, Oberon, 1974, 151 pp., stories.
Bowering, George, Flycatcher & Other Stories, Oberon, 1974, 114 pp.
Carrier, Jean-Guy, My Father's House, 1974, 95 pp., stories.
Bissett, Bill, Medicine My Mouth's On Fire, 1974, poetry.
Kutner, Luis, Due Process of Rebellion, Bardian House, Chicago, 1974, 119 pp-
(plus notes:  169), $7.95, non-fiction.
Wells, James K., Ipani Eskimos — A Cycle of Life in Nature, Alaska Methodist
University Press, 1974, 11 o pp., describes life of the Ipani Eskimos month by
month from January to December.
Larson, Philip and Schjeldahl, Peter, De Koning Drawings/Sculptures, Dutton/
Clarke Irwin & Company Limited, New York/Toronto and Vancouver, 1974,
$6.00, Walker Art Center exhibition catalogue.
Ross, Sinclair, Sawbones Memorial, McClelland & Stewart, Toronto, 1974, 140
PP-. $7-95) novel.
Chamish, Barry, 'Mack', Split Level Publishing House, Winnipeg, 1974, 120 pp.,
Clever, Glenn, Count Down, Borealis Press Limited, Ottawa, 1974, 59 pp.,
$2.95, poetry.
Farley, Tom, The Last Spaceman, Borealis Press, Ottawa, 1974, 68 pp., $2.95,
Dyroff, Jan Michael, (French) The Poems of Rufinos, Borealis Press, Ottawa,
1974, translations from The Greek Anthology, 55 pp., $2.95.
Bittle, David, Touch, Borealis Press, Ottawa, 1974, 80 pp., $2.95, poetry.
Helmsley, Stuart, Up Parnassus, Borealis Press, Ottawa, 1974, 64 pp., $2.95,
92 Shields, Carol, Intersect, Borealis Press, Ottawa, 1974, 59 pp., $2-95> poetry.
Lowther, Pat, Milk Stone, Borealis Press, Ottawa, 1974, 94 pp., $3-95; poetry.
Andrew,  David,  The Lure of Lanark, Borealis  Press, Ottawa,   1974, 84 pp.,
$2.95, poetry.
Tierney, Frank M., The Way it Stands, Borealis Press, Ottawa, 1974, 64 pp.,
Campbell,  A.   P.,  Albert  the  Talking Rooster, Borealis  Press,  Ottawa,   1974,
$2.95, illustrated children's storybook.
University of British Columbia
Hours: Weekdays 8:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Agha Shahid Ali teaches English in the University of Delhi. His poems
have appeared in journals in India and abroad. A volume of verse,
Bone Sculpture, was published in 1972.
Carolyn Borsman is a student at UBC in the English and Creative
Writing Departments. This is her first poem to be published.
George Bowering's latest book is At War with the US, from Talon-
books. "Was not included in Contemporary Poets of British Columbia.
Recently edited Image 20, an anthology of avant-garde poetry. An
editor of Open Letter."
Robert B. Bowie is "an inventor, graphic artist and poet who lives in
College Park, Maryland. I've had poems published in Harper's, Midwest Quarterly, Tractor, The American Pen, The Miscellany and many
others. Am putting together my first book of poems."
Robert Bringhurst's third major volume of poems, Bergschrund, is due
out from Sono Nis Press later this year. He has also recently published
a chapbook under the title Eight Objects (Kanchenjunga Press, 1975)
and is working on a translation of Aeschylus' Persians.
Kay Burkman is a former employee of Brock University Library. While
a student at Brock, she published Blue Album, a chapbook of her own
work, as an issue of their literary magazine, Poesis. Two of her poems
have appeared in Quarry.
John Carroll received his MFA from the Department of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. He lives and writes in
Fred Cogswell is the author of ten books of poetry and four of translation. He was the editor of The Fiddlehead, The Humanities Association
Bulletin, and publisher of Fiddlehead Poetry Books. The translations
included here will appear in The Poetry of Modern Quebec to be
published by Harvest House in 1975.
Rienzi Crusz was born in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and educated at the
Universities of Ceylon, London (Eng.), Toronto, and Waterloo, Ont.
Has published in New York Quarterly, CBC Anthology, Prism, Malahat
Review, Prairie Schooner, and others. One book, Flesh and Thorn
(Pasdeloup Press; Stratford, Ont.) Second book, Sun-man, due by the
end of 1974. A third book, Cinnabar of Sun, due 1975.
John Ditsky is 36, married, has a daughter who is 9. He teaches U.S.
Literature and Modern Drama at the University of Windsor. His poems
and short stories have appeared in more than 100 publications.
94 Don Oomanski was born in Sydney, N.S. in 1950 and is now living in
Halifax. Some of his work is soon to appear in The Dalhousie Review,
The Far Point and The Canadian Forum.
John V. Hicks was born in England but has lived his life in Canada,
most of it in the West. "Organist and choir leader for a number of
years, though not regularly engaged on it now. Have had a number of
short fiction pieces on CBC during the past few years, and a group of
poems on CBC Anthology last year. Most recently published poems
have been in Antigonish Review, Dalhousie Review, The Fiddlehead,
Wascana Review" and many others.
Jack Hodgins is a graduate of the University of British Columbia and
now teaches Senior high school in Nanaimo, B.C. He was the co-editor,
with W. H. New, of the anthology, Voice and Vision (McLelland &
Stewart). He won the President's Medal, University of Western
Ontario, for "After the Season" in Wascana Review. His short stories
have been published in many literary journals.
Joe Hutchison is a graduate of the UBC Creative Writing Department
(MFA, 1974). His poems have appeared in Gar(r)otte': A special
issue of Edge, The Fiddlehead, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Australia and
other magazines. He now lives and teaches in Denver, Colorado.
Wayne McNeil is 21 and was born and raised in Toronto. Has had
poems published in various Canadian magazines and has published two
small volumes of poems: Shells (Catalyst Press, 1972), and Pantomime
(Catalyst Press, 1973-74).
Robert L. McRoberts has poems coming out in Choice, Dacotah Territory, and Lucien Stryk's anthology, Heartland II: Poets of the Midwest.
Recently he's had poems in The Iowa Review, Concerning Poetry, The
New Salt Creek Reader, and Apple.
Ron Miles writes "little, having committed myself to other important
things like wife, children, the teaching of literature and writing here in
Kamloops. ..." His most recent publications have been in Quarry,
Event, Concerning Poetry, and The Fiddlehead.
Andrew Pottinger was born in England and now lives in Vancouver
where he is an assistant editor at UBC Press. His reviews have appeared
in the Journal of Modern Literature and Canadian Literature, the
latter of which will carry in a forthcoming issue an article by Mr.
Pottinger on Malcolm Lowry. He is currently working on his doctoral
thesis on Literary Creativity.
Walter Rimler was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., grew up in Los Angeles, and
lives now in San Francisco. "I am presently student teaching in a S.F.
95 high school and will soon, like many others, be looking for a teaching
position." He has had stories published in The Falcon, The Florida
Quarterly, WRIT, and a recent issue of Prism international. "I am
presently working on a novel."
Ian Slater was born in Australia in 1941. He is now a Canadian citizen
and Vancouver writer. Several of his plays and short stories have been
broadcast by CBC Radio. He is currently movie and theatre critic for
The Columbian newspaper, Coquitlam, B.C., and is writing a doctoral
thesis in Political Science at UBC on George Orwell.
Ken Smith commutes between England and North America. He has a
book of poems, Work, distances (Swallow, Chicago), and two forthcoming prose books: Backwards in a frontwards movie (Arc; Tod-
morden, Lanes., England), and Anus Mundi (Four Zoas; Atlanta,
Georgia, U.S.A.).
Dara Weir is "living in Pittsburgh teaching writing at University of
Pittsburgh — for a little while. Soon I hope to be gone from here to
Texas Hill country."
for almost every taste
and purpose can be found,
easily, at
919 Robson
670 Seymour
4560 W. 10th Avenue
1032 W. Hastings
C A 4-7012
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