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 '^^    o  JUL
international  BRIAN BURKE
Managing Editor
Poetry Editor
Drama Editor
Fiction Editor
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Advisory Editor
Editorial Board
jVU international
CONTEMPORARY WRITING PRISM international, a journal of contemporary writing, is published four times per year
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Second Class Mail Registration No. 5496. July 1983 CONTENTS
Josef Skvorecky
A n Insolvable Problem of Genetics
Ivan Klima
Klara and Two Men
Jaan Kaplinski
Two Poems
Osip Mandelstam
Marianne Andrea
Cyril Dabydeen
Two Poems
Rienzi Crusz
Lorna Goodison
Earl McKenzie
David Kranes
Hunt Imagines Himself
ichael C. Kenyon
Maggie Helwig
Three Poems
Tim Lilburn
Emily Sion
Peter Sears
Marie Delia Mattia
Rhonda L. Anderson
Roger Kuypers
Linda Carpenter
Andrea Lupini
Nicola Clur
Lesley Brook
Christopher Mark Brown
Two Poems
The Scar
Two Poems
Grandmother's Story
The Persecution of Mr.  White
83  Josef Skvorecky
An Insolvable Problem
of Genetics
[ From the secret diary of Vasil Kratky,
a third-grade student at the Leonid
Brezhnev High School in K.]
While offering a brotherly hand to many nations, our fatherland also
harbours a certain number of dark-skinned African students; some of
these undergo preparatory courses in the Czech language in our town.
Later they land the good name of our nation far beyond the borders of
our country, but my brother Adolf lost his lifelong happiness because of
their overly friendly attitude towards the population.
This is how it happened: for two long years Adolf was secretly in love
with the movie star Jana Brejchova and wrote her more than two hundred letters during this time. The interest shown by the film celebrity
was not in the least comparable to my brother's effort, and so Adolf began to pursue Freddie Mourek, whose skinny figure and seemly features
resembled somewhat those of the aforementioned actress.
The parents welcomed his decision because Freddie, as the illegitimate daughter of the Secretary of the Party cell at the Lentex linen factory in K., came from a family with an excellent class profile. Nothing
but a single flaw disturbed the great impression made by Adolf's girlfriend on our family, and that was her given name. One day while at our
house, Freddie, to the accompaniment of Adolf's bass guitar, sang a certain loud song in a foreign language. To my father's uneasy inquiry concerning the origins of the song she answered that it was a black American song, whose lyrics protested against discrimination. Father applauded, then extolled briefly the black struggle for equality; then he quite
suddenly became very angry, and turning dark red, he began to curse
the South African racists. Mother also became angry, and in the resulting friendly atmosphere Father asked Freddie why a girl as thoroughly
progressive and an activist of the Young Communist League, would call
herself by a name apparently of English origin. At that Freddie blushed and said that she could now reveal to them the
secret of her name because she had just agreed with Adolf to enter into
wedlock in a civil ceremony prior to the final matriculation examinations. Father was very heartened by the news as he happens to favour
early nuptials for youths finding themselves in their reproductive years,
since these are called for by the appropriate authorities in an attempt to
prevent population decrease. He then encouraged Freddie to reveal her
secret without delay. "My name", she said, "I inherited from my father.
He was a certain Frederick Positive Wasserman Brown, a migrant
worker from South Carolina, who as a member of General Georgie Pat-
ton's Third U.S. Army seduced my mummy in Pilsen, and then had
himself transferred to the Far East." "An American?" Father recoiled and
turned gloomy. Then he partially recovered: "A migrant worker?" and
Freddie, attempting to aid the complete recovery of my father who had
earlier lauded so eagerly the heroic struggle of the coloured people,
quickly added: "Yes. And besides my father was black." Against all expectations Father's gloom became permanent.
In the following days he began to bring home from the People's
Municipal Library books of a certain Lysenko; unable to find in them a
satisfactory answer to what he was looking for, he borrowed a volume of
the friar Mendel with pictures of various types of peas, white, gray, and
black ones. He studied those very diligently, and later when Freddie
again sang at our house negro songs in a foreign language, he asked:
"Listen, girl, that father of yours, was he a very black black, or was he of
a lighter hue?" "Very black," said Freddie, who herself is very white, but
has eyes which are very black, large and very beautiful. "So black that
during the war they used him in reconnaissance, when, completely naked he would in the darkest night penetrate through the German lines,
since he was completely invisible." And Father turned once again
gloomy and said no more.
However, that evening he advised Adolf to break off without delay
his relationship with the black man's daughter. Adolf resisted: "I'm not a
racist!" "Neither am I," replied Father. "If Freddie were a dark skinned
girl I would welcome her as a daughter-in-law, because the union with
an obvious member of an elsewhere persecuted race would doubtless
even further enhance the class profile of our family. But she is white.
There arises the danger, that on the basis of the reactionary laws determined by the friar Mendel, she will bear you a black child, and there will
be a scandal!" "What scandal? Black or white, it's all the same," Adolf re-
joindered, and Father explained: "Nobody will believe that this black
child is really yours. Everybody will think that it is the result of the efforts of our guests, the African students, and in that sense they will also
slander your wife." And he concluded: "Which is why you will break off
the relationship before it is too late."
Adolf turned crimson and ponderous. Then he said: "It is already too late. It is impossible to break off the relationship." A deadly silence
prevailed, interrupted only by Mother's moaning and Father's fidgeting.
From that day on, Adolf also started to carefully study the writings of the
friar Mendel.
No doubt it was too late; it was, I imagine, because Adolf loved Freddie much more than he had ever loved Jana Brejcova, although he
almost never sent her any letters. Freddie's mother, the textile worker
and Party Secretary, was invited to our house, and I, hidden behind the
large portrait of the Statesman, which conceals the hole where Grandfather's wall safe used to stand, overhead Mother emphasizing the terribly tender age of both the children and asking the esteemed Secretary's
consent to apply to some sort of a committee in the matter of an absorption (or something that sounded like that). I really could not understand
why the Comrade Mother (Mrs. Mourek) got upset to the point of refusing to co-operate with the committee, slammed the door and left, when
on other occasions, as a class-conscious woman, she had always shown
full confidence in committees, councils, and organs of all kinds.
It did not end there: the Comrade Secretary of the Party Cell at the
Lentex Linen factory in K. provided us with a further unexpected surprise. Soon after, when Father, Mother, my older sister Margaret, and
even Adolf himself began spreading all around town that the father of
Freddie was the migrant black Frederick Positive Wasserman Brown,
and at the same time introducing the people to the laws of heredity according to which a completely white person can give birth to a black
child thanks to the genes of its progenitor (in order to preventively protect the reputation of Freddie in case of a child with other than Czech
colouring), Comrade Mourek appeared again, and her squealing voice
could be heard from the parlour, expressing herself to the effect that
Father, Mother, Margaret, and Adolf were giving the girl (meaning
Freddie) a bad name around town and causing trouble, of which she
(Comrad Mourek) had had more than her fill throughout her life, the
result of some youthful transgression. And although Father, having
alertly declared himself the enemy of bourgeois morality, began to explain to her his intentions, he failed nonetheless.
As concerns Adolf, he deteriorated visibly, until finally he spoke about
nothing else but the friar Mendel. This aroused the suspicion of the
Principal of the high school, Comrade Pavel Behavka who for several
Sundays carefully observed from his table at the Cafe Beranek the
entrance to the Catholic church in the town square, (adding to his surveillance later on also the chapel of the Czech Protestants, and that of the
Czech Evangelical Brethen), to find out whether Adolf, as a result of
being converted to the obscurantist faith of the friars, visited the services. He did not, but being psychologically uprooted, he would acquaint everyone at any occasion, even completely strange comrades,
with the secret of the background of his fiancee Freddie, as well as with the laws of genetics. Finally, after a large number of arguments, fights,
and confrontations, Freddie one day broke up with him. To the accompaniment of his bass guitar they sang together for the last time the
protest song "Get Me a New Dolly, Molly!" and then she declared (I
overheard it secretly, hidden behind the portrait of the Statesman):
"Your indiscretion is getting on my nerves, and I don't intend to put up
with it any longer. Also, I would like you to know that I haven't told you
everything: for your information, the mother of my father Frederick
Positive Wasserman Brown was Japanese, his grandfather, who was
brought over from Africa as a slave in chains, was a Pygmy, which,
combined with the fact that my mother is one third a Jewish gypsy,
leaves me with a very good chance of giving birth to a green dwarf,
which your father will not be able to explain to the comrades with or
without his Mendel. And it's Good-bye forever, my little imbecile!"
Having said that, she left forever; and so my brother, deprived of his
life-long happiness by the presence of the African students, did not become a father.
Somewhat later Freddie gave birth to twins: one is a boy and the other
a girl, and both are completely pink. However, about that phenomenon,
Mendel says nothing at all.
translated from the Czech by Michal Schonberg
Every week a group of writers assembled in Prague to read satirical, farcical stories.
The texts shown to the censors differed, sometimes considerably, from the ones
actually read aloud in the small theatre. "An Insolvable Problem of Genetics"
was one of a series written by JosefSkvorecky; a popular form in the sixties, called
"Text Appeals," it was one way of circumventing censorship.
10 Ivan Klima
Klara and Two Men
KLARA's room. A couch, an arm-chair, three small tables, two of
which have various cacti and a large agave growing on them. On
the other table a large radio, another radio on top of the wardrobe
and a larger transistor set on the shelf above the couch. In the corner
a sink with a mirror above it and a shelf containing the usual toiletries. Next to it a small kitchen table with utensils and a hotplate.
On the wardrobe an empty bird cage. Another empty cage above the
sink. A telephone next to the couch. In a corner a clothes stand.
KLARA  comes in,   a bouquet in her hand,
lows her in, looks around, goes to the agave.
The MAN fol-
MAN:        So this is the way you live.
KLARA: Everyone looks at that first. (She takes a vase, fills it with water and
puts the bouquet of flowers in it.) My favourite with the spiny
leaves. But don't touch the blossom; if you rip one off, you'll
never again be happy. That's a superstition. Greek.
MAN: Happiness isn't everything.
(He takes off his coat.)
KLARA:   I like to be happy.
MAN: Everyone wants to be happy. But what are you doing with so
many radios, Klara?
KLARA: Got them all as presents. Something to remember them by.
Or for Christmas. I like getting presents. There's nothing
wrong with that, accepting presents, when they're given with
love. (The MAN goes through the room, stops in front of the empty
I'd never do anything bad. (She goes to the smallest radio and
turns it on.  Soft music is heard.) That's my doorway to the
world. I don't like it when it's quiet. Don't you do that? In the
middle  of the  night maybe —that's when it's quiet here.
Everything always the same. I'm always the same too. Then
I turn that on and maybe two men start yelling at each other
in some kind of funny language. And then I can imagine the
two men and the people who are applauding and the city
where they all speak this funny language.
(The MAN steps up to her.)
You're like a child, Klara. What about the cages?
Souvenirs —of a man. He made them.
If you knew what I know. I still have a lot to tell you. Does
the telephone work?    (He lifts up the receiver,  listens.)    You
never told me you had a telephone.
Nobody ever calls me.
To be happy.... That's like standing on the peak of a mountain and looking straight down and not getting dizzy.   (He
stops,   lifts up the telephone,   examines the bottom.)    I've never
trusted these things.    (He puts the telephone back down,  looks
around in the room, goes to the couch, sits down.) But for you that
too is the world.   (As if he suddenly thinks of it)   Klara, we're
finally alone!
I don't like being alone.
I like you Klara. I've never....  (He stands up, embraces her from
behind.)   You're the most beautiful woman I've ever met.
(KLARA kisses him, slips away.)
That's just talk, all the men say that. Want a drink?
(The MAN looks at the clock.)
12 MAN: Maybe we should... We're always just drinking. But today,
Klara, today when we're finally alone together	
KLARA:   I always like to drink.
(She opens the wardrobe, in which another empty cage is visible,
along with a blanket, a roll of wire, a tape recorder, a man's lounge
jacket as well as a bottle of wine and glasses. She takes the bottle
and pours two glasses.)
And I'd also love to dance.
MAN:        Here?
KLARA:   We'll move the table out of the way.
(She pushes the table off to the side, turns off the transistor radio,
opens the wardrobe again, turns on the tape recorder. Soft music.)
KLARA: When I'm dancing I'm happy. Why are you looking like
MAN: That woman in the dressing gown when we came in the
house, what was she all about?
KLARA: Just somebody. She lives here. Down on the first floor. I
can't know everybody who lives here.
MAN:        At midnight in a dressing gown in the hall.
KLARA: She's always standing there. Most of the time in the
doorway. Maybe she's looking for someone out there. (She
sits down in the armchair, pulls her knees up under her chin.) And
today I want to be happy.
(The MAN sits down on the edge of the couch, bends down to
KLARA, takes her hand and pulls her to him.)
MAN: Me too, Klara. And today I am. And today I will be. The
palm of your hand is so beautiful, Klara! (He lets go of her
hand. Bitterly)   I can't stand it when someone spies on me.
KLARA: So let's have a drink, and then.... But this music is no good.
(She stands up, turns off the tape recorder, goes to the radio on the
'3 wardrobe,  tries to find some music.)   It's been so long since I
danced... Something is always coming up.
(Stubbornly)   I don't feel like dancing.   (He looks at the clock.)
It's midnight. What would the neighbours...
They're sleeping.
(Nervously) Now that we're finally here. You yourself were
talking about happiness. Now maybe we could actually be
happy. Not think about anything, only about us, about our
love. There's hardly ever a chance to not think about anything else.
And you don't have to? Right at this moment you don't have
What are you driving at?
Men are always thinking about something. Even then. Why
are you looking like that?
I've imagined this moment over and over     (He embraces
You're so beautiful, Klara. Like —like —a flower.   (He kisses
her.) And the fragrance. Like —like —a flower. It's so hard to
say, but when I'm with you, it's like losing my senses.
(The telephone rings. KLARA pulls herself away from the MAN,
picks up the receiver.)
Hello... Yes.'... I don't know, I'll ask.   (She looks around.)   I
think it's for you.
For me! But nobody knows that I'm here!   (He picks up the
phone.) Hello....    (Waits) There's nobody there.  (Relieved)
There's just nobody there!
Maybe she hung up, since you took so long to think it over.
She? Was it a woman?
Who else would you expect to be calling now, at midnight?
14 MAN: Nobody knows that I'm here. Half an hour ago / didn't even
know that I would be here. I didn't even know— (He stands
up, walks nervously across the room to the empty cage.) — that this
apartment existed. I didn't know the address. I still don't
know it.
KLARA:   Oh, don't worry about it. Maybe it wasn't even for you.
MAN: And besides there was nobody there (He sits down again next to
KLARA, embraces her. Stops.) But she did call. And at midnight too. Once in a while it's true.
KLARA: .. .that someone calls up and asks for the man who happens to
be there. But men are often called to the phone. Even at
night. Because they have duties to perform. Even at night.
MAN:        But you said it was a woman.
KLARA: But men do have wives. Even at night. Even when they don't
happen to be with them.
( The MAN jumps up.)
Oh, don't get so excited. (Shepulls him to her.) I figure it this
way. They have wives, right. Isn't it correct that men have
wives and not husbands. Huh?
MAN: I'm not saying that I don't have a wife. I've never tried to
hide that from you, Klara. Nor the children, either.
KLARA:   Oh have a drink and don't think about it.
MAN:        But she can't —she can't possibly know	
(KLARA hands him a glass.)
KLARA: Don't think about it anymore. You said you wanted to be
happy tonight. (She gets up, turns off the radio, turns on one of the
others, tries to find a different kind of music.) So you don't want to
MAN:        No. Klara, I still must tell you how....
KLARA: What the hell is wrong with you today? (She dances by herself to
the rhythm.)   Or don't you like being here?
'5 MAN:
KLARA:   (Stops)  What?
(The MAN gets up, embraces her.)
MAN:        I never would have dared to come here if I didn't like you.
And as soon as I saw you for the first time — (he kisses her)
you were like —like a miraculous vision.
KLARA: It's too bad you don't want to dance. (Shegoes to the sink, takes
off her sweater.) Then at least have a drink. But the music,
doesn't the music bother you? Wouldn't you like— (she takes
the pitcher of water) a shot of coffee? One time I knew a guy we
went off together to....The city had such a funny name,
something "polis". Down in Greece. And there was music in
the hotel till dawn, played on weird instruments, and there
we were making love in that heat, and on the floor lizards
were scurrying about. And sometimes in the middle of the
night we'd go down and start dancing. And behind the fences
the donkeys were screaming.
MAN:        And then you were happy?
KLARA:   I am always happy.
(The MAN gets up.)
MAN: Don't make any coffee, Klara. (He turns off the hotplate.) Some
day I'll take you off somewhere, too. (He leads her to the couch.
With sudden desire—) We'll be together. (He looks around the
room.) Without these cages, and we'll always be together
KLARA: Keep on talking. I love to hear stuff like this. A room with
ocean view. There, after we'd finished making love, we ran
outside, before it was really light, and the water was almost
hot, and then once more right there in the sand we made	
(Stops) You probably think, I But that's only when I really
like somebody.   (Stops)  But it's right to make love when you
really like somebody.
MAN:        (Embarrassed)   I think  Love is something very beautiful,
Klara.   (Cold)   Even if you shouldn't push it too far.
16 KLARA: I would never do anything bad. That must be terrible, to
wake up next to someone you no longer love, and act as if
you still do.
MAN: What do you mean by that? (He pulls back from her) Sometimes, Klara, love also means to endure and make sacrifices—to stand by someone, who needs you. If you knew,
what I know	
KLARA: But I don't know it. I don't know anything of that sort. I
could never stand it.
VOICE:     (Muffled behind the wall)   Klara!
(The MAN shudders in fright.)
(Violently)   Who is that calling you?
(In pain)   Klara.
Don't pay any attention to that.   (She looks at the clock.)  The
doctor is late...He should already have had his morphium.
MAN:        Who should have had his morphium?
KLARA: Oh, a —a sick man. Don't pay any attention to him.
He —he's just living here still. And sometimes he calls me.
When he needs something. But that won't last much longer.
Soon he won't need anything, anymore.
MAN:        (Cool)  Who won't need anything more soon?
KLARA: We met each other once....He was very lonely. I loved him
then. But now....He doesn't know anything about us. That's
when I brought him here. (She points at the wall.) But now he's
only waiting for the doctor to come to give him the shots.
MAN:        And you loved him?
KLARA: It's a long time ago. Now I don't love him anymore. I haven't
loved him for a long time. Now there's you.
MAN:        (Taken aback)  Yes. Now there's me.
That's the way it should be, that you're there and not him,
when I don't love him any more.
(Taken aback)   Yes that's the way it should be.
I always do what I should.
( The MAN gets up, walks across the room, stops in front of the
Watch out, don't touch the blossom!
Why not?
If you do, you'll never again be happy.
(Struggling; generous)   If you don't  He did call you.
If you think	
(She gets up, goes out. The telephone rings. The MAN looks ner
vously at the clock, goes to the phone, hesitates.)
(Then muted)   Klara!
(The phone keeps ringing.   KLARA comes back in,  goes to
the phone, picks up the receiver.)
Klara.... Yes....I'll call him.   (To the MAN)  It must be for
(She gives him the receiver, goes to the sink, fills a glass with water,
goes back out.)
Hello, who's there? Petr? I don't know any Petr, unless....
But you can't be that Petr. You don't know that I'm here.
Wait a minute, hold on....Hello, hello. Petr.... What's....
(KLARA comes back.)
I brought him something to drink. But he already had eight
of them at his bed anyhow.
(The MAN hangs up.)
18 MAN: Eight of what?
KLARA: Glasses. So, did she talk with you?
MAN: It wasn't a woman. Why did you bring him another one?
KLARA: He called me Otherwise he'd keep on calling. A man?
MAN; Somebody called Petr. Maybe he wanted something else.
KLARA: What else could he have wanted? And did he want something important, this Petr?
MAN:        I don't know. What is he doing now? Is he sleeping?
KLARA: Don't think about him! (Shepours him a glass.) Have a drink.
He just lives here now. And sometimes he calls. I'm already
used to it. And bring him something to drink.
MAN: But you can hear everything next door. The guy knows
everything about us.
KLARA: Don't worry. He's certainly not going to be telling anybody.
He won't be with us much longer. The doctor says so. But
drink up.
(She takes a drink herself. The MAN too.)
MAN:        Don't yell so loud! He can hear everything.
( KLARA snuggles up to him.)
KLARA:   Oh don't think about it. Think about something else.
MAN: Anybody can talk. You have no idea, Klara, what kind of
things people can gossip about. We just shouldn't stay here.
KLARA:   You are talking about a house.
MAN: (Decidedly) Yes. I'm going to take you away from this awful
place. Why the hell did he make these cages. Did he sell
KLARA:   Those are his cages.
'9 MAN:
Whose cages?
(Points to the wall)   His! Don't think about it.
Why are they empty?
He bought birds, and then he let them free. He carried the
cages to the window and said, "Fly away!"
That's what he said?
He always said something like that. But don't think about it
anymore. It's a long time ago.  (She hands him the glass, gets up,
turns off the large radio, turns on a transistor set, tries to find dance
music.)   Sure you don't want to dance? Listen to that great
(The VOICE behind the wall coughs.)
What's that?
He coughs. Because of his smoking. Cancer. He smoked too
(Softly)   He has cancer?
(Softly) How can you yell so loud! He must hear every word!
He knows it.
That's awful.
Don't think about it.
(She hands him a glass. The MAN drinks.)
What's his name?
Don't think about him. You don't seem to be able to not
think about things you're not supposed to be thinking about.
No,   I've  never been  able  to do that.   Man  does have  a
conscience, doesn't he?
20 KLARA: Sometimes when he calls me it almost seems as if it's my own
voice. That I'm calling myself. Klara! So that I watch out for
myself or something. So that I just don't forget everything.
And then I'm happy, very happy, that I hear this voice.
MAN: Maybe I know him.
KLARA:   I always called him Leo.
MAN: (Relieved) Leo...Leo.... And then what? (Amazed) Don't you
know the rest of his name?
KLARA:   Oh don't think about him anymore.
MAN:        Klara.
KLARA: Yes? (The MAN is silent.) Don't think about him anymore.
He doesn't know anything, anyhow.
(She strokes the MAN.)
MAN:        Klara Actually, I've been a fool. Finally I'm with you. I've
wanted it so much for so long. (He kisses her.) I don't want to
think about anything else. Only about you. Why don't you
say something?
KLARA: I'm listening to you. Isn't that right, that I'm listening to
MAN:        When I saw you for the first time, Klara....
(Doorbell in the corridor. The MAN freezes. KLARA gets up.)
Where are you going? Somebody rang the bell  At this
time   (Freezes) You're not going to open the door, I hope!
KLARA:   Suppose it's good news?
MAN:        Good news? At twelve-thirty in the night?
KLARA: Maybe somebody in America just thought of me and is inviting me  It's not twelve-thirty at night there.
(The bell rings again.)
21 MAN:
Don't open it!
It might be for you.
(Startled)   For me? But nobody has any idea	
You can't know who might have seen you.
Exactly    ( The bell rings again.)
It might be the doctor.
(She goes out.
The MAN looks quickly around the room to see where he can hide,
goes to the clothes stand, stands behind it, notices that he's made a
fool of himself, opens the wardrobe, takes out the cage, gets in the
wardrobe, pushes the cage out a bit further, closes the wardrobe,
opens it again,  notices that the wardrobe doesn't have a floor, is
surprised at this, takes the cage, puts it on himself, climbs in the
wardrobe like this and closes the wardrobe.
KLARA comes back in.)
Where are you?
(The MAN steps out, moves the cage out of the way.)
Who was that?
The lady from before, when we came in. The one in the
dressing gown in the hall.
What did she want? Now at half past twelve?
She asked if the doctor was here.
Why does she need the doctor?
Maybe she also wanted an injection like that.
What kind of injection?
Morphium. Maybe she wanted him to give her a shot of
22 MAN: But she can't get morphium if she — if she doesn't have any
KLARA:   Maybe she has some kind of pain. That's not our problem.
MAN: But that's impossible, if the injection was meant for the man
in there. For the guy with the cancer.
KLARA:   So how come she waits every night for the doctor?
MAN:        But the doctor would —
KLARA:   Oh don't think about it.
MAN: But you must know if the doctor gives the injections to the
man in there.
KLARA: Oh don't think about it. It's not your problem, nor mine
either. (She sits down next to him, embraces him.) Don't think
about it anymore.
MAN:        Klara!
KLARA:   What?
MAN: Nothing.... You're right, Klara. Won't she come back
again? Is anybody else coming?
KLARA: No, not anymore. Don't think about them anymore. You
were saying, something about when you saw me for the first
MAN: Right. Remember? It was in the train that time. When I saw
you in that blue dress, it was as if someone had touched me
with a piece of iron, of white-hot iron. And I couldn't think
of anything else but you.
( The phone rings.)
KLARA:   Just keep talking.
MAN: How am I supposed to do that? Don't you hear the
KLARA:   Oh, let it ring.
23 MAN:
Let it ring? Suppose somebody's calling me?
(Amazed)   What?
Or suppose it's good news for you.
You never hear good news over the phone. Nobody ever calls
me, anyhow.
(The MAN holds his head. )
And if it's the doctor?
What doctor?
The one for the injection for him in there.
Him? No, it's not him.
How can you know that it isn't? Pick up the phone!
( KLARA reaches out for the phone.)
Hello...Yes,  I'll ask him She wants to know how long
you're going to stay here.
(Explodes)   Who wants to know that?
The lady who keeps calling you.
(Ripping the phone from her)     Hello...Hello,   who's  there?
(Exhausted) Hung up. Did she say who she was?
(Relieved)   What's her name?
I didn't catch the name. ( The MAN takes a glass, drinks.) Aren't
you going to go on talking?   (The MAN is silent.)   Should I
turn off the light?
Yes...Or maybe you'd better not. Can you hear from next
door? Can you hear everything?
24 KLARA:   I don't know. You can go over. Then you can hear for yourself what you can hear.
MAN:        Go over? No. Not there. But you say, he —he really doesn't
understand anything anymore?
(KLARA gets up, turns on the floor lamp, turns off the big lamp,
steps to the window. She draws the curtain.)
KLARA:   Now's the time when the snakes and lizards slither about.
MAN:        Where?
KLARA:   Out there. In the fields and places.   (She moves down next to the
MAN,   half-sitting,   half-lying.)    The snakes were slithering
around   the   trees   there And   we   danced   till   dawn...
And then...It's a long time ago.
(The MAN doesn't move.)
MAN:        Can't you turn off the phone somehow?
KLARA:   Sure.
(She starts to pull the wire out of the wall.)
MAN:        Just leave it.   (He looks at the clock)  I don't suppose anybody
else...   (Remembers)   ...Maybe the doctor.
KLARA: He won't come anymore.
MAN: But you said he would come!
KLARA: Not anymore. Probably he's already given himself the shot.
MAN: What?
KLARA: The morphium.
MAN: But that's impossible. No doctor would do that!
KLARA: Oh, don't think about it.
25 (The MAN drinks.)
MAN:        How am I supposed to not think about it?...Klara!
KLARA:   What?
(The MAN lays his head in her lap.)
MAN:        Klara, have you loved a lot of men?
KLARA: A lot? Why do you think a lot? I'm not a...I just...If I
stopped loving someone, I just didn't stay with him any
longer. That wouldn't be right, if you stay with someone you
don't love, you don't stay with someone you don't love.
MAN:        What about the ones you used to love?
KLARA: I pray for them. To my God. In the evening, when I'm
alone, I lay myself down— (She lays herself down) and fold my
hands, and I place my legs like this...Not crossed, like when
you sleep.
MAN:        (Amazed)  Klara...
KLARA: Dear Lord, Klara is alone again. Let her be happy, anyhow,
her and the man she loved. May he find happiness, even now
when she no longer may see him. And he looks down upon
me, a nice, fat Lord with sandals and wishes us both happiness.
MAN: And did you pray for him in there?
KLARA: Yes, but that's a long time ago... (Softly) But it's not my
fault, that...Don't think about him, anymore.
MAN: Klara.
MAN: It's very good of you.
KLARA: That I pray?
26 MAN:        That you've told me everything. It brings you so— near to
me...I love you.
VOICE:     Klara!
MAN:        (Almost desperate)   I am here with you.   (He kisses her.)
VOICE:     Klara!
(The phone rings - The MAN jumps in fear.)
MAN:        Again!
KLARA:   What?
(The phone rings.)
VOICE:    Klara, Klara....
MAN:        He's calling you from in there, and out here....
(He points to the phone.)
It's probably for me again.
KLARA:   Would you like to go out for a moment?
MAN:        Go out?
KLARA:   Go in to him.
( The phone rings.)
MAN:        To him?
KLARA:   He's calling.
MAN:        Yes, but you. I —I can't go in there.
(He gets up.)
KLARA:   Sure you can.... At least you'll be able to hear what you can
27 (The phone keeps ringing.)
But suppose someone	
(He goes to the door, but stops on the threshold.)
And this person, Klara? Suppose he —suppose he's afraid of
me too?
He's not afraid of you.
(She reaches for the phone.)
He won't even see you. It's dark in there.
( The MAN goes out. KLARA lifts the receiver.)
Hello Ah, yes, my God, my dear Lord, make it come to
pass, today your Klara makes an extra-special request that
you make it come to pass. Look down upon her and remem
ber how often you have already made it come to pass.
(Waits)  You're silent, God? You're angry? Lord, I see you!
Your fat paw.... You tighten up your sandals and look at
me. How I lie here and wait. It shall come to pass, God, you
shall make it come to pass... Yes, now I hear you. I know,
you are making it come to pass, my little fat one.
(She hangs up.  The MAN comes back in.)
Klara... This person is  It's terrible. I think, he's dying.
What did he want?
I don't know if I understood him correctly. He wanted wine
or something. He was so hard to understand.
Wire. He always wants wire.
But that's impossible!   (Screams) Why wire?
Oh don't think about it. Have a drink.  (She fills his glass.) It's
not your problem.   (The MAN empties his glass in one gulp.)
Klara, my darling! You know that I love you.
28 KLARA:   Yes, that's what you're always saying.
MAN:        (Softly)   Why does this person need wire?
KLARA: He wants me to wire him up, like this. (She shows him
how.) Probably he was once in prison and knows that if
there is wire all around, he won't be able to escape. And he
doesn't want to escape. He wants to stay here. Here. With
me. And that's it —here. Now he'll want me to bring the dog.
MAN: The dog?
KLARA: They probably had dogs guarding them there.
MAN: Where?
KLARA: Don't think about it. Why is that all you think about?
MAN: Klara, when was he locked up'
KLARA: I don't know. I never asked him. Maybe in the war, maybe
now. Maybe in the war and now. I never asked him.
MAN:        But you said... You said that you loved him.
(KLARA pours him a glass.)
KLARA:   Oh, don't think about it. I don't love him anymore.
VOICE:     Klara!
MAN: He's calling you.
KLARA:    He wants you to bring him the wire.
MAN:        Me?
KLARA: He asked you for it.
MAN: But he's calling you]
KLARA:   He doesn't know your name.
(The MAN gets up.)
29 MAN:
I'm not going.
(KLARA gets up, opens the wardrobe, takes out the roll of wire.)
But you can't do it. It's crazy!
He wants it. It used to be he didn't want it. Didn't even want
to talk about it. But now, now he wants to stay here.
(She goes out.)
Maybe you'd better call a doctor!  (He goes to the phone, thumbs
through the phone book.)  Emergency.... But I can't Or else
I'd better....   (He goes to the clothes stand.)   But I don't even
know the address.    (He goes back to the couch, pours himself
another glass, drinks it. KLARA comes in.)
Now he wants the dog.
( The MAN is silent. KLARA sits down next to him.)
No. But all this....
Don't think about it. You can't do anything about it. Me neither. I just took him in here, because he was so lonely.
Why was he locked up?
How should I know why they lock people up? Maybe he did
something. Or maybe not.
(Desperately)   But you loved him.
We loved each other.
And you mean you didn't even ask him...You must have
asked him why they had locked him up!
Why? We never talked about anything like that.   (KLARA
lays her head on his lap.)  Now I feel so well with you. Look at
me like before...So...Then I have the feeling that I really
don't exist. And I feel happy.
30 MAN: Klara!
MAN: He's calling you!
KLARA: Don't think about it now.
MAN: (Desperately)   He wants the dog!
VOICE: Klara!
MAN: (Desperately)   But he'll keep on calling!
KLARA: Don't listen.
VOICE: Klara!
MAN: But I can't stand it!
KLARA: Then you'd better go and start barking.
MAN: I should go and start barking.
KLARA: He wants to hear dogs barking. He didn't used to want that.
As long as we loved each other. But now. So that he knows
that they're guarding him. That he's here and can't get away.
Go and bark, go and bark.
VOICE:     Klara!
KLARA:   Okay, either you're going or you're not.
( The MAN gets up, pours himself the rest of the bottle, and drinks
it down.)
MAN:        Come and bark. Klara, I'm coming to you to bark!
KLARA:   Oh don't think about it.
MAN:        On all fours or standing?
KLARA: He won't see you anyway. It's dark. He just wants to hear the
31 MAN:
Okay, I'm going, Klara.
(He goes out.  KLARA stretches, puts on different music —the
MAN comes back.)
It's quiet here. It's awfully quiet here.
(KLARA presses up to him, embraces him.)
Don't thinlcabout anything.
I won't think about anything. You're right. I am with you.
That's the way it should be. Think about nothing. Only
about you. That you are beautiful. That I'm holding you in
my arms. That we are happy.   (He stops, listens.)  But I hear
footprints. Next door. There, where the man is lying.
Don't think about it. It's not our problem. It's a stranger, for
God's sake. Don't think about him. He just lives here. He
doesn't want anything. Just to stay here. So don't think about
him. You can't think about everybody.
(Full of terror)   Klara This one time  I... I	
Kiss me, hold me, tighter!
I... One last time... Klara!
(Sits up)   I can't go on.
(KLARA gets up, straightens her hair.)
Klara  No  Don't leave me!
(A falling body is heard.)
What was that?
(KLARA goes out. The MAN rushes to the clothes stand, and
puts on his hat.)
(From the next room)   Come here!
Where? Me?
32 KLARA: Come here!
MAN: Did something happen?
KLARA: Come here!
MAN: But I....
(He takes off his hat, hangs it back on the clothes rack, goes out,
comes right back with KLARA. Together they carry the dead man
and lay him on the couch.)
We've got to get a doctor right away.
But the guy is    (He goes to the sink, washes his hands.) The
guy is dead.
The doctor said it would probably happen at night. (She takes
a blanket from the wardrobe and covers him up, but as if he were still
alive.)   He didn't say in which night.
MAN: Okay Klara, then I'll.... Somebody has to come. A doctor.
Or maybe even the police.
(He goes to the phone.)
KLARA: That time in the hotel when the music played all night, there
was a black-haired Greek— (She takes the dead man's hands and
lays them on the blanket.) He kept looking at me while I was
dancing. He just sat at the table and looked. And then they
started fighting. They really roughed each other up, both of
them, until the Greek broke his arm. Here. (She raises the dead
man's arm and pushes his sleeves up a bit, looks at the scar.) With a
knife. The blood came spurting out. Everything was white
there, walls and tables and chairs, covered with white
leather. Later everything was covered with blood.
MAN:        You mean it was him, who was down there with you?
KLARA:   It was a long time ago.
MAN:        Klara, you've got to call somebody!
(She goes to the phone.)
I don't like the police. I can't stand these guys with uniforms.
Right away they want to know who you are, what you're
doing here. And I'm	
I'm not going to call the police.
They may come anyway. But you....  (Stops)  But you —you
won't say that I was here when he —when it happened.
I won't call anybody.
Klara, if, if they still happen to come, for God's sake don't
mention that.... Christ I never should have.... As soon as I
heard him calling, or the telephone, the first time it rang, I
should have gone. And waited until another time, somewhere else —where we could have made love, Klara, and it
would have been beautiful. Because I....   (Stops)  What are
you going to do now?
Call up.
(Hysterically) Where?
I don't know, probably the police.
(The MAN rips the phone cable from the wall.)
You can't do that! Do you want to ruin me? And as for him,
he just simply died. Natural causes. The doctor, call the
Yes, I'll call the doctor.
And I'll—  (He goes to the wardrobe, comes back, connects the cable
again.)   Okay, call him up. Call him. Right now, while I'm
(The phone rings. KLARA answers.)
34 KLARA: Hello... Yes... He's here, but he's already.... (To the MAN)
It's for him. (Shepoints to the corpse.) Would you like to take it
(The MAN rips the cable from the wall.)
MAN: (Cries) No, I don't! I don't know anything! I don't know the
guy! You were his lover, not me. I am not here. I never was
here. I did not speak with anybody. I did not hear anybody.
(KLARA plugs the cable back in.)
KLARA: Doctor, in case you're still.... He's, he's already.... Yes.
(She hangs up. The MAN moves back.)
MAN:        That was the doctor?
KLARA: He didn't come this evening. When he saw that you were
MAN:        He saw that I Did you say something to him?  (Hegoes to
the window, pulls back the curtain slightly.) Or did he really see
me? But I.... In any case he doesn't know my name. What's
the doctor's name?
(KLARA goes to the dead man.)
KLARA: He'll come now, in a little while. We've got to move him out
of here.
MAN:        Okay, Klara, I    (He goes to the wardrobe, puts on his coat.)
You must realize, Klara, that they can't find me here.
(KLARA stands in front of the corpse.)
KLARA: He loved to hear music and to dance. Back then— (She turns
on the second transistor set, and lets another hit-tune play.) We were
all happy. Back then I was Then it was all over.
MAN: I still like you, Klara. More than you can imagine. But it's
already almost light. I've got to go home.
35 (He goes to the vase, takes the bouquet, thinks it over, puts the
bouquet back in the vase, goes to the door. KLARA goes to the
large radio, turns it on. There is an excited dialogue between two
men in a completely foreign language, then applause.)
KLARA:   And back then, when he was fighting...
( The MAN is waiting at the door.)
MAN:        Okay, Klara.
(KLARA is standing in front of the corpse, does not turn
KLARA:   I will pray for you.
MAN: For me? (He shrugs his shoulders.) Okay, then goodbye,
Klara. We'll meet again. And this doctor.... Klara, you were
here alone. He must not learn anything about me. (He tiptoes out.)
(KLARA goes to the wardrobe, takes out the MAN'S lounge
KLARA:   And we loved each other.
(She goes to the corpse, lifts him up, puts the jacket on him.)
Now you're dressed for the occasion  And back then you
just had to call me, and we'd be lying there naked.
(She lays the corpse back down, gets up.)
(Amazed)   It's so quiet here. So quiet.
(She goes to the transistor set, turns it on —organ music and a
prayer are playing.)
And even then when we no longer loved each other....
(She listens.)
This quiet....
36 (She takes the tape recorder from the wardrobe, turns it on full
And even then when he called "Klara" it was as if the voice
came from me, that's the way it sounded to me. Sometimes I
waited for him, here in this quiet even when we no longer...
( The phone rings.
The doorbell rings.) longer loved each other.
(She goes to the agave, starts to break off the blossom, stops. Then
she takes the bouquet from the vase, goes to the corpse, lays the flowers on his chest, gets up.)
(Screams)   I can't stand this quiet!   (Waits)
( The phone rings. The doorbell rings. The radios play. The tape
recorder plays.)
Can't stand it! Can't stand it!
(She retreats to the arm chair, sits down, fold her hands.)
My God, my nice, fat Lord, make it come to pass, at least
look down upon your Klara today.... ( Waits) You are silent,
(She shakes her head.)
I can't even see you. Today I can't even see you. Not even —
Not even you are looking down upon me? But I want to — I
want to be happy!   (Waits)
( The phone rings. The doorbell rings.)
Don't let it be so still! Just one noise, one word....   (Waits)
(She climbs on the chair.)
(Forces out one after the other, as in ecstasy) Klara, Klara, Klara!
37 ( The light goes out. Sudden stillness. Only the transistor set continues playing soft organ music.)
(Softly) Klara.
(She climbs down from the chair, crawls to the sink.)
This one time, the last time, one last time.... Just one word.
(Screams) Klara, Klara! Don't leave me!
(Complete darkness.  The sound of flowing water.)
translated from the Czech by Peter Stenberg
and Marketa Goetz-Stankiewicz
38 Jaan Kaplinski/Tow Poems
White clover asks nothing
but when they ask in whose name
I will reply in the name of white clover
only bones and tin buckles remain after soldiers
resin has eaten the crosses from the pines
white white white clover
one stalk three leaves: Father Son Holy Ghost
dark needles bark fluttering in the wind
crimson was the question green is the answer
translated from the Estonian by the poet and Sam Hamill
39 Everything is inside out, everything is different —
colorless, nameless, voiceless —
that sky overhead is an axe-blade. No one knows
that what mirrors the stars and the Milky Way is an axe.
Only those who love see, and remain silent
while in the sky the mirror-blade gets loose and falls
through us, a black starry dark
falling through a blacker dark, and nothing can stop it.
It falls no matter how we turn, always,
it hits us and divides head from body.
The sound of the abyss rises like clouds through us.
Twin stars are high: one light, one dark.
Everything else is illimitable void and distant,
dust motes whirling through a dark cathedral, everything else
is a black shawl where the fine old fire has written our names
translated from the Estonian by the poet and Sam Hamill
4° Osip Mandelstam
Insomnia. Homer. Taut sails.
I have counted the ships half-way down!
That long, extended flock,
A train of cranes
Which rose up toward Hellas once,
And like a wedge the cranes
Move on toward foreign shores.
Heavenly foam lies on the heads of tzars,
Where do you sail? Were it not for Helen
What would be Troy to you?
Oh Achaens!
The sea and Homer, all moved by love
Whom shall I listen to? Homer is silent,
But the black sea talks, roars and draws
Near my pillow, thunderous and crashing.
translated from the Russian by Marianne Andrea
4' Marianne Andrea
The sea ebbed
And left a strip of bandage,
Coastline chalked
Like statuary in mist;
Sea-grass, gray at best
Stand in rigid fingerlings.
No terns swoop from the dunes
To scold me for intrusion,
No sandpipers scatter,
Footsteps leave no prints;
In the hard sky
The sun and moon have one color.
From northwest a snow-squall
Pushes through sedgy marches.
Nowhere to light -
It whirls off, sullen, green
And full of fury knifes the air
As if to maim
And leave its quarry
Ragged and remote.
Eight wide-winged gulls
Challenge clouds in foul weather,
Swing above breakers at the wind
And pull the air at angles.
The Cape is their nest,
They do not yield to seasons;
But in this plundered corridor
I walk the evening as on shore of Lethe;
Like gulls ask no consolation.
42 Cyril Dabydeen/ Two Poems
I begin my book of legends
to be other than I am.
I walk across the high bridge,
barefoot in the blistering sun.
I swelter, seeking shelter
from overhanging trees.
Dismay follows with a young
bull bellowing; my father's lasso
converges. He looks back
as I imagine an outside life —
fishing in Ontario, skiing down
Vancouver mountains —
from glossy magazines.
I am still on the winding path,
looking for retreat once in awhile.
I continue to be livid,
I take further note of the sun.
Later in Canada, amidst deciduous
trees, I test myself: I am in a
muskeg, hounded by blackflies and
mosquitoes. I plant tree after tree.
I brace against the cold in northern
Ontario — freezing one more time.
43 Ill
In Kingston I am a founding father
living up to treaties; I bolster
with the old fort: I nurture defence
with brittle skin and flesh;
I grimace as guns keep
firing in my head.
In Ottawa I am Governor General
and Prime Minister too,
Parliament Hill my domain. I look
around: cannons firing from the past,
relived in my dreams. A burning next.
I continue to listen to entreaties.
War Measures Act. My mind festering
Finally, my mother, to remind me
of myself, sends a postcard from
Tobago —she on her first holiday
after fifty years or more.
I continue to make humming noises
in my sleep
My mother is at it again
travelling to the island,
she, a Gulliver
I am away, making Crusoe
strides, imagining her steps
in dreams: I lie, oceanless
she intermingles with
the sea in her ears,
I expand my lungs
as the leviathans
converge from some
dark-watered creek
my body heaves
Another letter
a brother's carnival
he champs through the forest
with gritted teeth
immigration songs locked
in his heart
children frolic:
they look around
squint at the sun
45 laughter next
I talk about ice
& snow —
how I miss togetherness
I continue to gather
them under the ribbed
of my travelling self
46 Rienzi Crusz
(for Anne)
For you, brown lover,
with buffalo curd and palmyrah honey
still sweet on your lips,
the raven winging in your hair,
I offer the immigrant land
with no contrary season,
only summer,
and summer and summer.
No white laming cold before the thaw,
no cutting nodule of spring,
no fallen leaves to confuse your feet,
only the consummate thing,
the full-blown rose, the sun
in batik exuberance.
Now also ask for the sweet warm rain,
the once monsoon harvest of fruit:
jambu, mango and mangosteen;
guava and rambuttan, the tender cadju
wrapped in green leaves, the jaggery bell
of the godambara-rotti man,
and I will tease the Asian condiment
from the summer almirahs of this land.
What you deserve will be
what you always had
in your warm rich blood:
the green land
that cast you with wedding band
on these white shores.
47 Lorna Goodison
"I've done my best to immortalise what I failed to keep."
- Joseph Brodsky
And now I am a lepidopterist
with my rows of bitter pins
securing here, now there
the flown species wings.
If we soak the memories
in our bile
they will keep and crystallize
come clear
in the heat of this now poisoned air.
I thought I had you/where are you?
You gave up on us/I gave up on you
You changed your mind/I'm changing mine
Lord, even in death the wings beat so.
Hold still
let me put this last row in.
48 Earl McKenzie
I know that I shall never be at peace again
with the blue stones of my river,
stones washed by centuries of rain
out of the hills around me;
stones at the bottom of the river,
cool in the heat of the sun,
basking in the shimmering light.
I have seen the mist of the valley
floating over them,
angels of fog
walking over the monuments.
I have seen them at the edge
of the chasm,
darker than fear;
and I have been the first to see them
on mornings younger
than the optimism of birds.
I have sat on those stones,
canopied by rose-apple and trumpet trees,
and felt the water
gouge the land beside my feet.
The blue stones of my river
have sunken lower now,
and I know that I shall never touch
their surfaces again.
49 David Kranes
Hunt Imagines Himself
Hunt imagines himself as a person named Hall. He imagines Leah as
Jewel. He imagines a history.
They are, in fact, in a Benton Harbor, Michigan motel room. And, it
is, in fact, the middle of the night: June, cool; Hunt awake; Leah sleeping, hand on Hunt's knee, as if it were the knob of a door she were about
to open. New Hampshire is past. Sore and possible division are past.
Todd and Sean are in Connecticut with friends who will set them on a
plane in a week. Allowing Hunt and Leah to have what Hunt has called,
"a crossing." "Crossing," Leah smiles, and because she is very sweet on
Hunt in their reconnection, doesn't correct him. But, in fact, they are
half way to Tucson, which will be the new family home. And they are
both trying to be very tender and easy and discovering of one another.
And their Volvo is in The Flying Dutchman Garage with a thrown rod.
Light seems almost squeezed, it is so dim, through their motel window.
And Hunt is touching Leah's shoulder in the middle of the night, and he
is imagining: Himself/Hall. Leah/Jewel. And a history.
Hall's history is that he had a grandfather lost at sea, no traces, and
that his mother was lost in an historic Everglades' fire. Hall's history is in
Florida. Hall does not know his father. Hunt imagines that. And Hall
snaps sweating from dreams of smothering, drowning, sinking away.
Hall is not Hunt. He is Hunt's imagining. Hall is a person coming of age
in a cocoon of mystery. And what Hall has sought, in Hunt's history, is
to find some remarkable power in that mystery: some beauty, a joining.
Hunt imagines Florida, though, giving Hall only hints. A moment,
playing football, where he became the contact. The anesthesia of ocean
salt, inhaled, striking his brain. The morning songs of wild birds. And
Hunt knows, beyond imagining, that when Hall first touched a woman,
gravity suspended: Hall felt more touched than touching; Hall felt electrocuted. Hunt imagines Hall with a history, from that point, of migraine headaches.
Then Hunt imagines Hall at Florida State. Leah opens her mouth,
beside Hunt, as if to speak; as though, in sleep, to make more room for
5° her breathing. But Hunt imagines Hall and science, hypnotized almost
by the equation signature: parts, becoming whole while the whole becomes parts, equillibria. Hunt imagines Hall writing equation after equation. He even imagines Hall writing a poem about a wild parrot: "
sweet, painless equilibrium with your color and song." Then, on the
June night of Hall's graduation, Hall uses a key he's been given as an
honors student and lets himself into the chemistry building. In the lab,
with only the familiar quadrangle lights outside shedding visibility (like
the motel lights now in Benton Harbor), Hall moves beside long reagen-
bottle shelves, touching not so much their labels as their seasoned glass,
breathing acetone, so sweet and thick amidst the equipment shadows of
the space. And Hall, Hunt knows, feels himself trapped, uneducated
and on the edge of tears.
So Hall begins a journey. He goes to Atlanta and works in an optics
lab. Nights, he visits disco bars. Hall has few friends and gets confused
about solitude. Often he gets up in the middle of the night and writes
From Atlanta, Hall goes to Toledo. He takes a job with Owens-
Illinois, at their computer graphics division. He finds Toledo strange, no
real downtown — though people say they're building it. In Toledo, Hall
meets a woman. Her name is Jewel.
Hunt studies Leah. He feels the gravity of her hand on his knee. He
kisses her, very lightly, on the top of her head.
Jewel is divorced. She has a boy six and a girl five. She is twenty-
seven. What she loves is photography. And for a while, Hunt imagines,
she made a go of it, accompanying groups of men on hunting trips,
shooting their kills. But Jewel tells Hunt, tells Hall...that it made a
whore of her or nearly did, so she stopped climbing into Cessnas and
Lear Jets with 40-year-olds and took a job in a flower shop —which is
where Hall calls her.
— Hi. What's hot today?
— We're pushing blue carnations.
They laugh. Hall comes over and takes Jewel to lunch. Hall falls in
love. His migraines clear and then get worse. He finds himself walking
down the street, then losing balance; it scares him. Jewel scares him. Yet
he loves it. She is the only woman he has ever, truly, made love to, and
he blanks out at times, like smoke inhalation, though he doesn't tell her.
But Hall loves Jewel. He writes in a journal: "With Jewel, there is the
most elegant, precarious terror I have ever known."
One day, Jewel calls from her flower stand. — Let's make this actual,
she says. —Let's make this whole picnic real.
Hall catches his breath. Tears are pushing at the corners of his eyes.
'Real?' he thinks: 'real?' What's 'real?' His head starts dizzying, as though
5i he were under water. —We'll talk about it, he says.
— I'm talking about it.
— Tonight. Your place.
— I'll be there. Jewel laughs and hangs up.
That evening they make love, and, embraced, Hall tells Jewel about
his headaches. About equilibria. About his elegant terror. And when he is
finished, he is sobbing. Then laughing. Then both. He reaches for
Jewel: He hasn't asked her questions; still, he expects answers. Instead,
she slides from the bed and walks across to her window and stands there,
palms flat against the glass, fingers spread, looking out. Outside, there is
the elevated interstate, heading north to Michigan, south to Cincinnati,
its arclights entering and wrapping her tight and tapered torso like filmy
Hall feels himself in a car on black ice. Jewel leaves the window, the
bedroom. Hall finds her in the kitchen eating leftover Chinese chicken
wings. She won't talk. She won't look at him. When they start an exchange, every word is spare, opaque, brittle.
— Wings, Hall says as an opener.
— Wings, Jewel repeats. —Leftover wings. Cold.
— Would you like a microwave? Hall asks.
Jewel looks at him, trying, he feels, to enter his eyes. — Would you?
she asks.
The next morning, Hall leaves Toledo. It is the most inexplicable
move he's ever made: packing two suitcases, vanishing. Somehow, he
knows, he has done a terrible thing, betrayed Jewel. Or has a terrible
thing been done to him? His head is splitting. He can barely stand.
Something, frighteningly, has shifted. On the bus, Hall remembers saying to a fifteen-year-old girl once, in Florida, when the image of her halter, slipped nearly from her shoulders, had shaken him: "I lost my
So Hall leaves Toledo on a bus. He gets off the bus in Denver, buys a
Lotus, totals the Lotus in Grand Junction, Colorado, rents a Citation
and drives it to Las Vegas. Jewel has no idea where Hall has gone. He
may be in Toledo. It is all, Hall feels, like some sort of structural
accident: a loose thread in the industrial carpet triggering a fall down
Hunt leans against the headboard of his Benton Harbor motel bed.
History, he thinks. In the lot quadrangle, outside, everything is quiet,
except the light. It seems to move as it enters, though Hunt knows, in
fact, it doesn't. Leah no longer holds Hunt's knee. She has shifted onto
her side, curled slightly. Why is Hunt awake? You make The World up half
the time in your head, Leah has said. More than once. So is Hunt making
himself up by imagining Hall? He smiles. And what about Jewel? What
happens to Hall and Jewel in Las Vegas?
52 Hunt imagines Hall loving the glass! He imagines Hall's migraines
fading and Hall back in equilibrium. Hunt imagines Hall feeling separation from Jewel. Still, what can he do? Hall has taken a job as a specialized security person, working the monitor room high above a strip
casino's chandeliers and ceiling mirrors. Hunt imagines an enormous
gridwork of I-beams. They are all wired with closed-circuit cameras
which angle down; staff people adjusting the cameras from a catwalk
that is part of the grid. But Hall is in the monitor room, studying images
that the various working cameras sweep, pan and rotate across, zoom so
close that they can read the printout on a player's digital watch, pick up
dirt underneath fingernails, wrist hair, lipstick cracks, loose threads on
buttons of a blouse.
And though Leah would never imagine herself as Jewel, Hall, nevertheless, feels his flight from Jewel accutely. He tries to waylay his feeling.
For twenty months, he tries to minimize, analyze, laugh at, forget it.
But then Hall's migraines return. And as at home as he is in this glass city,
with his remove, his distance, his monitoring through the video images
and the one-way glass, Hall feels that equilibrium begin to slip again. And
Hunt feels it too. Solitude. Remoteness. But what does Hunt imagine
Hall can do?
Hall sends Jewel a package! Hall sends Jewel a package with the label
typed, so that she can have no notion who it is from. In the package is an
airline ticket and confirmed prepaid reservations to Hall's hotel. Hall reserves one of the rooms the hotel keeps for high rollers. It is a room with
the same glass ceiling of the casino, with the same mounted cameras in
the glass. The casino likes to know just where high-rollers are.
So, because Hall wants to see Jewel, he sends a package, hoping that
she might come, that he might watch her, that he could bring at least the
camera close to her skin, her body again. Hall knows that Jewel, being
Jewel, will probably toss the whole package in a trash barrel. Still, if Hall
can see Jewel's hair, flowing down and across her shoulders, see her eyes
flash, he will feel...maybe balance again. Perhaps. What can he lose?
Hunt imagines Hall going to McCaren Airport. He imagines Hall's
excitement. Hall's been drinking. Hall's been drinking too much for the
months he's been in Las Vegas; the top of his Sony is a shelf for glasses.
She won't have done it, he's thinking; She won't have cornel But then, on the
Western Airlines screen, Hall sees Jewel's flight: DEPLANING, and he
stands in the concourse corridor —music, hotel-and-casino sign lights,
the eternal tape, "Welcome to Las Vegas..." dancing like a Bob Fosse
movie, the carousel of slots performing behind him. When a knot of passengers round a corner, Hall turns to the wall, grabs an MGM courtesy
phone and becomes a fixture. If Jewel is in the crowd, she walks right
past him.
Two hours later, working, Hall picks Jewel up on his screen. The lens
zooms in on her eye shadow and Hall wonders whether he might not go
crazy. Jewel has checked into the hotel at 3:42; Hall knows that. Charlie
53 T. was her bellman. And Hall's champagne and orchids and five hundred in five dollar chips were stacked on her vanity. Hall has watched
Jewel — showering first: touching herself with the Jacuzzi wand; and
Hall, watching, has felt himself both partnered and sad. He has come
close. And felt dizzy. He has brought his camera in: so close that he
could see the erectile tissue. An hour before this moment watching Jewel
sip a Marguerita and play blackjack, Time and the physical world, for
Hall, have broken down and Hall has felt himself and Jewel, together:
on a blanket by a stream; in a tiny room; joined and by a gasfire in a ski
cabin; parked in a car. But, too, Hall has felt The World come back and
has heard the muzak in the monitor room and has felt corrupt and in an
awful movie. Will it be this way only, Hall has thought: the camera? Controls
above glass for her entire visit? Or will I approach? Will there be touch? Words?
"What's that?" another worker whom Hunt decides to name 'Lew
Jacobs,' up from his own monitor for coffee, asks Hall.
"Just a player," Hall says.
"Why the eyes?"
Lew: You don't know this woman's eyesl Hall thinks. Not like I do. You
haven't seen them pool. You haven't seen them coil out, like a pinwheel,
her amazing eyes when she's entered. You don't know brown and green.
"Lew —you watch your console; I'll watch mine, okay?" Hall says. He
hates Lew's kind of driven competition. Hall knows obsession, too; yes;
once, when he and Jewel were in the Toledo Art Museum, surrounded
by Phoenician glass—Jewel's daughter, Christi, on the floor at their feet,
cross-legged with a sketchbook and a box of pastel crayons — Hall admitted: If I had the nerve, I would light myself on fire every day for a living. But
that intensity was not, is not Lew's.
Hall watches Jewel play blackjack —so close to her mouth. Hunt
bends and kisses Leah; she doesn't stir; she carries Hunt's touch into
sleep. But Hall watches Jewel. He watches Jewel lose. Jewel win. He
sees her sometimes scanning the casino space to discover her benefactor.
Hall remembers intimacy: histories that they told one another in the
dark or walking at the edge of the Maumee River. How to weigh Past intimacies against this moment? Now Hall has the edge. Right? In their
brutal, breathtaking Toledo closeness, who had the edge? Both?
Neither? Hall remembers Jewel drew his blood. He wonders what will
happen, now, if he reveals himself. Time's gone by —nearly two years.
Hall worries about Jewel's blaming him. What if some other person has
been cruel in the interim? What if, like her mother, Jewel has free-fallen
through a sky of suicide? Hall zooms the camera, shifts, watches Jewel's
tongue lick salt from the rim of a marguerita. The image cuts him loose
suddenly from guilt.
54 When Hall goes on overtime, because Lew is gone, he moves from
console to console, watching Jewel drift the casino. He sees her in the
North cocktail lounge, appearing to wait. He sends for scotch. "Management's gonna be pissed," another worker tells him. "Fuck it," Hall
says and sees Jewel playing slots. He sees her back in her room. He sees
her confused. Pacing. Hall orders more scotch. Jewel is writing, Hall focusing, a postcard to her dead mother: Mother—is this the sort of place you
went to in your mind before you tightened the nylon? Please! Answer me! I read your
stories. I brought you cut flowers in Spring. I made a promise that I would never
stop trying to love God. Please! Hall can read every word. He sees Jewel
stick the postcard onto her mirror, then cry. He almost goes to her door.
What is Leah dreaming? Hunt wonders. What's inside? What's on her
face? Hall watches Jewel hold ice cubes, from the champagne bucket, up
to her forehead, splotching it. He drinks. He watches her sleep. He stays
up the entire night and focuses in on Jewel's eyelids, hoping to see,
somehow, her dreams. Hall battles a migraine. He sees Jewel wake, use
the telephone. He sees her in bra and panties. He sees her pinching an
acne spot by her nose. He sees her remove a fingernail, zooms in, sees
the chewed nail underneath, watches as Jewel fastens the false nail on
again. Then —sweating, dizzy with scotch—Hall sees Jewel disappear
from the monitors altogether, gone: not in her room, not in the casino,
not in the Steak House or the Mediterranean Piazza or The Coffee
Shop. She's on no camera.
Hall panics.
Hunt's throat is dry. The air conditioner in the Benton Harbor room
seems to have discharged something talcy, and Hunt's breathing grows
unsettled, fast. Hall is walking, carrying his warm scotch in a heavy
highball glass, along the I-beams of the grid, where, below, through the
one-way glass, are wide, stretching angles of tables, all the dealers in
white shirts and blouses, their hands moving. Hall wonders, tired, unsteady. It is crazy light, the chandelier brilliance below, beam to beam.
And Hall's drunk. Hall's eyes seem dry in his head; he has trouble
opening and closing them. The highball glass nearly drops. He hesitates.
He lowers himself, bending, and sets the glass on the glass, the scotch on
the mirrors. It rests there, like a flaw in some synthetic gem.
Hunt gets up from the bed and goes to the bathroom. He draws cold
water in a plastic cup.
"Something the matter?" Leah asks him, sleepy, when he returns.
He pats her, slips an arm around her. "Just thirsty," he says. And
Leah falls back to sleep.
When Hall picks Jewel up again, she is at a roulette table, looking detached. She puts chips out, gets some back, puts others out again. Her
expression is: All right —I am submitting to this; I am following through what
must be my part in this —but you must know it's all just fucking lonely.
Hunt takes a breath that he holds for nearly a minute. Minute and a
55 half. Hall exits the monitor room again. The staff is busy checking inappropriate cuts, die tumbles, inconsistencies. Last week, Hall remembers, in the back office, they ripped the hearing aid off a man because
they thought he'd been wired to some computer. Hall feels the power of
some chemistry, some unapprehended law or set of forces. There's a
glass elevator that drops from the grid, and he takes it. His brain feels
unattached to his head, at best a satellite. In the employee lounge he gets
coffee. Dealers are talking about the NBA draft and what's going first:
The Big Man or Speed.
— What's the point-spread on Height?
— Lopez is giving seven-to-five on Agility.
Hunt wonders where he is —though he knows he's in Michigan, Benton Harbor. What's happening with the Volvo? Can you repair, or do
you have to replace, a rod? Should they have left New Hampshire?
Tucson?! What painter ever worked out of Tucson?! Is he a Religious
Painter? Suskind has warned him about that — Forget this Adoration and
Annunciation shit!— Or is he really just a person skilled at portraits?
Occasional still lifes? What's the route that he and Leah are taking from
here, beside the lake, in Arizona?
Jewel is still playing roulette when Hall begins walking toward her, as
though it were her sentence. She is inside herself. Hall wonders if she is
with her mother. Hall thinks about all the threads that hold sanity on. In
any of us. He remembers his words: If I had nerve, I would light myself on
fire every day for a living.
"Jewel." Hall has to say it a second time— "Jewel" —before anything
reaches her mind.
"...You," she says.
All Hall can do is nod.
Jewel gets up. She begins, with Hall, to walk, not a word of
conversation, across the carpet of the casino. "Your chips," Hall says and
turns back.
Jewel returns and gets them. "Do I thank you?" she asks.
They are walking again. Hall is making a laughing sound. "Probably
not." He feels her arm brush his and feels the brush like an electrical
"I'm fairly angry," Jewel says.
Hunt thinks: Her anger has an intention beyond Leah's.
"Yeah," Hall replies.
Then, suddenly, someone from a craps table thunders into them,
knocking Jewel down, giving Hall a head shot when Hall grabs his shirt.
"Oh, shit; there's blood," Jewel says to Hall, both of them on the
diamond-patterned carpet. Hall touches his lip. The man is gone.
They go outside. The sun is thick with silence on the tennis courts.
"How's Christi?" Hall finally asks. "How's your girl?"
56 "Why did you do this?"
"I work here now," Hall says. "Have been. For a year and a half."
"That's not an answer."
Hall knows. He sees a white-haired man doing yoga and thinks of his
drowned grandfather. No; it's not an answer, Hall thinks. His mind is
falling. Hall and Jewel stand and watch a tennis pro giving volley lessons
to a very tanned woman about five-nine and in her fifties. "Wrist!
Wrist!" the pro is snapping.
They go, sit by the pool. "Marguerita?" Hall asks. Hunt, once again,
feels thristy. He wishes he had a screwdriver. Very tall. Or Harvey
Wallbanger. Jewel agrees. "You know," Hall tells her, "this one hotel is
more self-contained than Toledo."
"If you had done this yesterday," Jewel says, "cleared this up yesterday, it might even have been exciting, nice. But "
"Would you like to see a show?" Hall asks.
"It's a bad trip."
"Will you have dinner?"
"You're a cruel son-of-a-bitch," Jewel observes, sounding, in Hunt's
imagination, like a Leah-made-tough.
"If Christi, or Eric were here —we could all go to Circus Circus."
"It's hot out here," Jewel says. "How do you live where it's so dry?"
"It's like Florida," Hall says. Then, when Jewel gives him a quizzical
look, he admits: "Not really. I was just...making something. Up.
They go back inside, to the Mediterranean Piazza, for lunch. Jewel
has mixed fruit; Hall has a crabmeat salad. Hunt remembers the spectral lady, Victoria Speer, his one trip to Las Vegas, decimating her
shrimp. Hall tells Jewel about his work in the computer room, though he
doesn't describe, specifically, his tasks. "I like your hair that way," he
tells her. "It's simple. Natural."
"Did you intend to come here?" Jewel asks. "When you left?"
"I could rent a car," Hall says. "Ever seen Lake Mead?"
"Is it 'self-contained' too?" Jewel laughs. "I'd like to see something that
wasn't bloody 'self-contained.'" Hunt's skin, against the headboard of the
motel bed, feels itchy. Hall sees Jewel's amazing eyes.
They drive to Lake Mead, to a marina, and Hall rents a boat. Along
their route, on the Henderson highway, Jewel tells Hall about the recent
months at her flower shop. "I can't keep the mums!" she says. All the
white and yellow and even copper-colored mums have been dying on
her. And in the sixteen-foot sailboat, now, heading out to the center of
the bay, she throws her head back, amber hair furling around the mast,
seizes the cloudless sky in a single vision and says, "Shit!"
"Coming about," Hall warns her. He feels badly about his own intrusion, but he needs to tack.
"Are you planning to drown me?" Jewel asks. "Is this An American
57 Tragedy? Does this come with the champagne? And the orchids? And
the chips?"
Hall takes a breath, equal to the horizon, and tells her, "This entire
lake is a construction."
Jewel smiles. Somewhere, she's found a humor in Hall, and she seems
to relax. They sail up one bay and down another. Hunt feels very close.
To them. To Jewel and Hall. To their motion. His eyes are shut in his
Benton Harbor bed. Leah's breathing is an audible element. Hall and
Jewel abandon talking. Jewel stretches, like a sleek animal, in the sun.
She takes her blouse off. And bra. Hall's chest feels like a metal bar is
placed against it. Hunt feels compressed. Jewel's breasts have all the
shape and power of a boxer's arm. "I wish we'd thought to bring wine instead of beer," she says at one point, and then, without commenting, she
points to an airplane first, then to a cliff active with swallows.
"Nice," Hall manages. The sun, on his shoulders, feels like fire.
"Why did we break apart?" Jewel asks her question easily.
Hall lets the rigging go, sail luff. "Why don't we swim?" Hall suggests.
Jewel laughs because Hall's ducked her leading question.
But Hall's shoes and socks are off. His shirt. His pants. Jewel watches.
"I remember your body," she says, and Hall feels stupid. He pulls off his
jocky shorts and dives from the boat, glad for the shocks of both temperature and water. Hall stays under, in a kind of test-run of drowning,
then surfaces, breaking into a swim. The swimming, Hall feels, pulls all
the crazy dust of him together. By the time he stops to check where anything might be, the boat is empty and Jewel is somewhere with him in
the water.
Hall swims back. "How deep?" he hears Jewel asking.
He stops, sees her treading water. "Feel good?" he asks.
"How deep?" she repeats.
"Very," Hall says. "It was all canyon."
"The kids would go crazy here!" Jewel says.
Back in the boat, they have only the sun to dry them off. "You are
really beautiful," Hall says. He opens her a beer.
"I have a wrestler's body," Jewel says. She laughs, looks at the sky,
says: "God!"
"I'm sorry I waited," Hall confesses.
"It's your style," Jewel says. And her words suddenly track her on an
interior. She comes out, for observation: "The water's like glass," she
Hunt wonders why this whole elaborate imagining hasn't put him to
sleep. Why is he more alert than when he began? He counts his day's
cups of coffee.
After they've returned the boat and are crossing the marina parking
lot to the rented Ford, Hall asks Jewel: "Was that true? I mean, about
the mums dying?" Hall feels like he should be in Florida.
58 Jewel stops in the gravel. She's seething. "You prick," she says.
"It's just so strange," Hall says. He doesn't want her to be angry.
"Really? What's strange?" Jewel fires.
Hall doesn't answer. All he has is another question, that gets no
further than his mind: Do you think you're responsible?!
"...Nevada," Jewel says, later, in the moving car.
"Christ: It sounds like we should be in Spain. Nevada. Not in The
United States."
"Toledo's in Spain," Hall says.
Jewel drifts to silence again, then says: "Take me to the airport."
"Why?" Hall's blood overloads, he almost stammers.
"Forget it," Jewel says.
"You have all your stuff at the hotel," Hall says. He's not sure what it
is, precisely, that he's done. His car feels out of control, slightly.
"God, I'd put you in order." Jewel is crying. "I'd, dammit, put you in
order: Why couldn't you have stayed there?!"
Hunt stops imagining. He tries. Does Leah feel like Jewel? Does a
part of Leah wish Hunt had simply left? Or is Leah happy? Has Leah ever
been happy? What makes her happy? Does Hunt? Does Hunt make
anyone happy? Does Hunt have an actual exchange with any other person? Or is he just by himself: like right now, in the middle of
this Michigan night, trying to put his skewed frame around The
Universe? Suddenly, in the bed, Hunt feels topheavy. It seems, that if
he's not careful, he is just going to slip off onto the floor. And wake Leah.
Hall's crisis is not his, Hunt instructs himself. Leah is not Jewel. Leah's
mother's alive! Hunt only visited Florida once, when he was twelve. And
he and Leah are married! Hunt gave up fascination with chemistry years
But what is the resolution of Hall? What about Jewel? What about the
two of them?
Coming parallel to Las Vegas Boulevard South on the highway, Jewel
wonders aloud: "Am I in a television show? Is this whole thing a television show of some sort? I feel like I should be a print of myself or something. Like I should be on film."
Hall almost confesses.
"It feels like the gravity's different here," she goes on. "Is that possible?
Might there be less gravity? Do people who are born here, who are born
and live here, do they tend to be taller? Thinner? How's the Las Vegas
basketball team?"
"Gravity's the same," Hall says. A knife blade is beginning to probe
his cortex, as he turns off onto Tropicana Boulevard. "Gravity's the same
for everybody."
59 "How do you know?"
"It just is." Hall steals a look and sees Jewel smirk.
"We don't have the same gravity," Jewel says, taunting Hall.
"We never did."
Hall knows it's a game; still, she gets him. "I don't think you would
have stayed with me," Hall says. It's an unplanned statement, and they
pull into the employee's section of the hotel parking lot. "I think what's
most important to you is some belief that you can always change. That
you are changing. You don't want to be permanent. You don't want to
be fixed. If I'd stayed —you wouldn't have. I was a burden!"
Hall cuts his engine. He looks hard at Jewel then thinks that if she had
a gun, she would kill him. Hall knows that in Las Vegas it happens a lot:
women shooting men with small pistols in cars in casino parking lots in
the sun.
"I'm sorry," Hall tempers his accusation. "Jewel: you pissed me off
trying to get me with that gravity thing." Hunt feels very close. Hunt
feels closer than just seeing the two from the other side of the windshield.
"Tell me why the mums are dying," Jewel asks Hall. She asks it with
no artifice.
Hall breathes. His migraine seems to appear in waves. He tries to
imagine an answer to Jewel's question, but can't; he gets out, comes
around to open her door. The air is 97 or 98 degrees. They walk a row of
cars toward the tinted panels of the hotel-casino, the heat nearly denying
reality, contradicting the outside, spuming foundations. "Tell me why
the mums are dying," Jewel repeats. She is crying, and Hall loses his
balance as he opens a door and they cross a threshold into conditioned
air. He tumbles into a Wall Street Journal dispenser.
"Do you want them to live?" he asks her.
"Are you all right?" she asks because Hall's unsteady.
"Do you want them to live?" Hall repeats.
"I want you to come with me to my room," Jewel says.
Hunt remembers...something...what?...he can't remember. What is
he remembering?
"I have to be at work in fourteen minutes," Hall tells Jewel. "But I get
off at midnight."
Jewel says, "Come then."
Hunt has the impulse to wake Leah. He has the impulse to tell her
what he has begun and what is spinning now through his head. But	
Hall kisses Jewel. He feels awkward. It is on the side of her head, and
he breathes her hair, breathes almond. She leaves, and the elevator takes
Hall up above the mirrors and to the grid. Hall craves a drink. He's had
no sleep. What if I jump through these mirrors and hurtle down on the players,
Hall asks himself crazily. Would that be some statement? Would that be like
60 lighting myself, every day, on fire?... Like the painting of Adorations? Hunt
At work, Hall finds a man marking cards with his fingernails. He sees
that Lucille, in pit #3, has wrists hatched with razor scars. He refuses to
watch Jewel. They are somewhere else. They are on another plane now.
They are beginning new. Hall is ashamed and angry at his own distance.
And of his observation. Once, he catches Jewel, accidentally, in the East
Lounge drinking a Black Russian but he whips the camera away. At
midnight, he calls her.
"Where are you?" she asks.
"In the lobby," Hall says. "Come down. I need to show you where I
"I need you here," Jewel says.
Hall's breath is heavy, like drapery sucked against his lungs. Hunt
feels the weight of breathing too. Leah sleeps. "This...let me show you
this first," Hall says. Then he adds: "It's necessary."
There is a stillness over the phone —which is like all the quiet in Benton Harbor. Which is like all the quiet between one home and another.
Which is like the quiet of balance and decision. Hall says, and Hunt
mouths the word aloud from the foolish raft of his bed in the motel room:
When Jewel exits the elevator, she has thrown on a navy skirt and
khaki blouse. "Where are your shoes?" Hall asks.
"I was rushed," Jewel says, and makes a queer face, wanting it to be a
joke but knowing that her face is probably angry.
Hall takes her hand. They ride the glass elevator up, above the mirrors to the grid and monitor room. Hall knows that he has violated Security; still he takes Jewel. He takes her into the room, and walks down a
row of consoles, other employees giving Jewel looks. "This is what I've
been doing," Hall says. It's a confession, and his voice is direct. "Excuse
me, Charlie," Hall says to a bald man and leans over and begins to fiddle
with the man's console. Then, to Jewel, Hall says: "Look." He's found a
player and, starting with a head shot, Hall moves the camera in. And in.
"Jesus Christ, Man: Get her out of here," Charlie whispers. "The
woman's barefooV."
"What is that?" Jewel asks, "Hall, what is that: A microscope?"
Hall points to the screen: a man's eye that the camera is now nearly
inside of; he points to line-shadows which pull and relax where the
camera's zoomed. Hall tells Jewel: "Nerves."
"Fuck\" she says, then throws her head back, straight to the sky —if
there were a sky looming over it; and her eyes look betrayed. "Oh, God,"
she moans.
Hunt's hand is on Leah, almost squeezing. "One more thing," Hall
61 says. He feels like he's drowning. He feels like he's burning. Hunt feels
electric lights, in the dark, burning him. Jewel shakes her head as Hall
presses buttons, finally getting her room on the screen and finding
pierced-earring-opals —so close the camera looks inside the stone.
"What the Christ are you two up to?" Charlie asks. But Jewel has
made the most awful sound of rage. She bolts —Hall in pursuit.
Jewel runs out onto the grid. Hunt starts coughing. He mustn't wake
Leah; he does not want that; but the Best Western air feels like it has
been conditioned to dust: Hunt presses his chest. On the grid, Jewel's
bare feet cling, looking white, to the blackened I-beams. "Jewel!" Hall
calls out, chasing her: "I just wanted to be close —don't you see? Just
even for a short while again: I wanted to be close — without troublingyou\"
Hunt tries, violently, to contain his coughing. Hall closes the
gap —until Jewel leaps from his beam and is unmoored and in the air
above the thousand panels of one-way glass, the acres of mirrors on the
'Wo!" Hall shouts out. And Hunt shouts it too. In the room. Leah
startles. Then Hall sees Jewel land, and Leah relaxes — shakily at first,
but then steadying —on the next beam, five or six feet away.
"You prick!" Jewel screams. Leah pulls the sheet up. Jewel's body is
heaving; her face is plastered with tears. Hunt wonders what the hell
Leah might be dreaming about. Often, she tells him, she dreams about
them joined. "God!...Jesus Christ!" Jewel shrieks. They poise, across
from one another.
"Don't move," Hall says. He urges: "Please: Please —be careful."
"I'll move anywhere I goddam want!" Jewel announces. And she looks
as if she wants to move up, like an Apollo moonshot.
"Can we talk?" Hall asks. And Hunt is crying.
"I think you're sick!" Jewel says. And then she repeats the brutal word:
"I think you're beautiful," Hall says — headache or no headache —and
holds on.
Jewel's eyes drop from Hall's face to his feet. "Don't come over here,"
she warns.
"Let's go..." Hall begins. "...What if we go —and have some lobster
and some Pinot Chardinay? —At the Barbary Coast. They have a roof
"'A roof place'?"
"Yes." But Hall can see, suddenly, that something is very funny, in a
crazy way, to Jewel. Still, before whatever the moment is gets realized,
there is the voice of a Security Guard booming from a catwalk near the
monitor room, the vision of his hand ready on his gun: "Off the beams!"
he orders.
Jewel and Hall stare, above the glass. "You left Toledo," she says.
"You walked away to your window," Hall says, "And just stared out."
62 "But Toledo's not 'self-contained.'"
"Great! Fine! Go home then! Revive your mums!"
Jewel lets loose. She swings. And, in an awful moment, she is falling.
Forward. But Hall reaches. Off balance. In an attempt to catch. Jewel is
falling. Hall is falling. Hunt feels a scream, desire or fear, uncoiling the
length of his viscera. But then Hall's and Jewel's hand clutch. Hall is
holding Jewel. Hunt is holding Leah. Their feet brace violently against
whatever beams and suddenly everything is that exquisite terror and instinct that is never planned. Two hundred feet above any floor, two
people lock bodies, two people buttress one another: poles of some tenuous room: frail, equilibrated, crude architecture. "Off those fucking
beams!" the guard thunders. But it takes more than a threat to uncouple
"What is it?" Leah, now awake, holds her shaking Hunt. "What?
— Darling!"
"...Something," Hunt manages, finally. "Something. I woke out
of....romething." And Hunt understands, somewhere in his chemistry,
this moment in their lives.
63 Michael C. Kenyon
I awake at Dawn and think of June
I open my hand on the knife blade
steel seems so cold as I watch my
breath above these smudged boards
hearing the water gurgling just a
foot below as I hunt for the hook
That wind has blown the door open
during the night again as I slept
and again the rope dangles frayed
I have the choice of cutting more
fishing line to resecure the door
and angling only the lowest tides
or of utilising my last good rope
whose present duty is to maintain
the suitable altitude of my pants
Lying supine I lick my blood away
64 remember the hook is in my pocket
creep over to fix the broken door
with the belt then scoop the last
spoiled dogfish from the bait jar
fasten the hook to the nylon line
flouting  some  sanction  of fingers
I crawl to the brink of the wharf
drop the hook to dogfish and pull
the green line from the green sea
slit open the fish slide the guts
to a seagull on the boards and we
scream at each other for a moment
Then I belly inside to a lunch of
dogfish lobscouse I scratch at my
wound open the chest and take out
the   child's   picture   the   last   butt
65 Maggie Helwig/ Three Poems
I paced the radius of the radiant
arm of God
holding a silver pen.
I had to turn back when
I used up all my paper.
I drew the circle of vertebrae
at the nape of the neck,
the cell's dark code of history, the operation
of a spell for safety under sail when on the sea.
I thought to map
circumferences of the grounds
whereon stood holy men before the fire spoke
but falling from the zenith of the arc
I broke my compass
and fell under contract for my heart.
I turned upon myself until
my feet grew slippery in fever
and I fell.
Arms raised in this tight space and under
waves of clinging weight
I spin and sweat
at the rim of the trace, the bell of the flower
the pit of the well,
am bitter centre, acid nucleus, and
recall, recall soul into soul
in narrowing fear —
where have I come, where is it that I dance
what is this endless place at which
all things are near.
Sisters, beware
The turn is only turning, and escape from air
is not the end.
Be angels invisible, be centre still
be spirit purely poor —
oh, but take care
When you have reached the open heart
the curling end, tail
of the twin spiral of your being —
wait —
the reason for your emptiness is there.
Be soul drained utterly, fling out your arms
and drink your fill.
Cast off your robes of nakedness, discard
even the beauty of last loss
and sing of glory, glory, glory.
68 Tim Lilburn
Last miles of Sahara wind
Worry the hill.
Here is England,
Ten windworked stones and a broken lamb,
Battalion of bone
Facing the Alantika Mountains
Where maps went blank
Seventy years ago.
Malarial wife of a colonial banker,
Corporal from Bedford,
Child of ten,
The wind spares the last
Millimeters of name
In dissolving stone.
The baobabs grow like fright.
69 Emily Sion
Clouds       a loud silence
over the harvest field.
This sunbrittled hay can go black with rot:
this purplest timothy,
this bee-lioned clover.
We hurry       hurry
The day crumbles into dry thunder,
tinder for lightning,
and me with a metal pitchfork
and a water-soaked hat on my head.
A moose's skull on the gate
catches the last of the sun,
the clouds close-in growling and snapping;
I hurry past with the perfect hay
getting in as much as I can,
cover the rest.
Rain       soft       apologizing,
then hard and soaking,
sheets the skull,
the tarps,
the roof.
Inside, a green breathing
echoes around the barn.
70 Peter Sears
A scissoring and a whooping
rushed the air above my house. I looked up
through my hands, the sky a jabbering
of birds. They flicked and blurred
and how packed they flew stunned me.
They took the sky across a field
into a tree. I felt the clattering branches
try to let go. The birds lifted,
black leaves, black leaves,
and blew across the house. Marie Delia Mattia/7wo Poems
In famous colours
she dresses
cheap nylon
over rough calves
trailing fingers
A ritual
of a woman
her care
and concentration
not often distracted
I bless your Abuela
but curse
the noble birth
of babes
drawn out
of carpet bags
Mark the open place
Where anthills speckle ground;
Where dancers dance
Upon the face
Of all, but make no sound.
Arms lift to the sky,
And as they clap their hands
They fight to see
The reason why
But find no words in that.
Marie Delia Mattia, First Prize PRISM High School Writing
Competition: Poetry
73 Rhonda Anderson
In the morning, sometimes,
Birds are dead
And cows are stiff and hunched,
Crowded in a bunch.
Death, patient in the cold.
The sun is bright and false,
The sky hard blue,
Tight and painful is the breath,
Sharp with death.
The wind so deep and slow.
Double feed slides
From the fork;
In February    April's hay
Keeps death at bay.
Desperation clings and grows.
And in the morning,
On the ground,
Soft and small,
The birds are dead.
74 Roger Kuypers
The wild blur of white curved rapidly in behind him. The growling
pulse of his engine was stolen by the wind and left to hang among the
frosted trees. John grinned with exhilaration as he overtook his friend on
the motorcycle.
He was enjoying himself; something he hadn't done for a long time.
He felt a new sense of control.
As the road ahead stretched out to become an empty apex, his grin
tightened. The hands clenched the wheel with a new determination. The
eyes that narrowed into vicious slits were no longer his; John was no
longer driving. He had taken a back seat.
John lifted his face from the wheel. His feet were cold and covered
with snow. The black Lotus rested neatly at the end of the road. "Not
again", he pleaded with himself.
John turned the key in the ignition and the warm motor jumped to life
immediately. He pulled the wheel sharply and brought the hood of the
car around to face the road. Something behind him rolled heavily and
dropped to the floor of the car.
The black splintered object was at first hard to recognize. It had been
crushed and was now marred with freshly dried blood. The blond hair
that stuck to it in disarrayed tufts was unmistakably that of his friend. It
was his friend's motorcycle helmet.
John felt a wave of shock wash through his weakened body. He nervously slammed the car into reverse and took the city-route home. The
road and the secret it held would have to wait.
John fumbled hopelessly with the key to his door. He stepped inside
the warm comfort of his home; feeling a loss of control over himself, he
fell to the floor.
In his deep, disturbed sleep, John saw visions of a motorcycle. Its
frenzied rider fought to keep control over the stunned beast. A look of
disbelief was etched eternally on his face as the motorcycle veered across
the road. It launched itself from an ice packed snowbank and ploughed
into a patch of light powder. There it rose up on its screaming back
wheel and slowly crashed backwards on top of its dead rider. The bike
coughed and kicked and tore at the young man's clothes, spraying scarlet
snow in every direction.
75 The killer knelt down beside the dead man. John saw the reflection on
the scattered visor. It was a face he knew very well —his father's. John
didn't understand. His father had been dead for over two years.
John felt claws tearing at his throat, just as odd occurrences clawed at
his mind. He awoke to find his cat toying with the gold chain hanging
from his neck. John's father had given him the chain.
John looked into the mirror on the hallway wall. His father was pale
and matted with sweat. The lines around his eyes had been carved by
pain. He promised himself that he would see someone, find help. He
wasn't to blame for what was happening, but the guilt he felt was
John made up his mind to go back to the road. Some part of him knew
what had happened.
He swung open the door of his black Lotus and was embraced by its
supple leather seats. He had failed to notice the dent on the side of the
The Lotus had been a gift from his father. A beautiful black Esprit;
sleek, low and fast with a slightly satanic look. Its wide black tires clawed
the asphalt. The polished chrome exhaust pipes resembled the threatening barrels of a gun.
John's father had always wanted the best for his son. And in return he
expected the best from John. John's father had been very successful in
business but not with his son. Father was constantly bothering John
about his grades, his manners and his friends. They were never good
enough for him. John had hated to disappoint his father. After all, his
dad had always been good to him, he thought. He had worked hard to
give John the things he needed.
This hard work had resulted in an early death. His father's death had
left John feeling guilty. Guilty for not being what his father wanted him
to be. John promised himself to make it up to his father.
Slowly John's outlook on life and the things around him had changed.
It seemed that his father had become a part of him.
On reaching his destination, John paused and prepared himself for
what lay ahead. The road in front of him cut a long icy scar through the
forest, just as it had cut a scar through his mind.
The snow of late November weighted the branches of the forest. Their
icy fingers pointed down at him accusingly.
He slipped the black Lotus into gear. It purred authoritively as its
tires gripped the light snow. He guided the car along the white path with
smooth experienced precision. He and his friend had raced here often,
car against motorcycle. The "Scar", they had laughingly called it.
John relived the race that had taken place earlier that day. He relived
every corner but found that it was getting more and more difficult to
John shifted down into first as he approached the stretch where he had
76 passed his friend. His eyes searched along the side of the road for any
sign of an accident.
He crawled along at a frustrating pace and saw nothing. He was
trying to believe that nothing had happened. The needle on the speedometer rose, as did his hopes. He was nearly convinced that nothing had
happened when the grotesque red stain flashed by the car.
John brought his foot down hard on the brake and the four wheels
froze simultaneously. The speedometer needle dropped. The back end
of the car swung around violently before sliding to a halt. Unusual for
the Lotus, but John foolishly disregarded it. The front of the car was
somehow heavier than normal.
John scrambled up the deeply-scarred snowbank and gazed down at
the patch of snow where rider and machine had landed.
Where once a light blanket of powder had rested, blood, snow and dirt
now combined to form a disarrayed mess. Fragments of motorcycle littered the area. An aura of death hung over the clearing like the freshly
soiled blade of a guillotine. But there was one item missing. The body.
John suddenly felt very vulnerable; he had never tasted fear so strongly before. He grabbed the mutilated handlebars of the bike and dragged
them quickly back to the car. He would have to move the wreck piece by
John knelt down at the front of the Lotus. He groped clumsily for the
latch that released the hood. It sprung open and something seemed to
grab his leg. Staring from within the trunk of his car, torn, frozen and
mangled, was the dead body of his friend.
From deep within his mind John heard the voice of his father. The
look of shock on his face was replaced by a grin of revenge. Once again
his eyes became vicious slits.
He shut the trunk and drove away.
77 Linda Carpenter/ Two Poems
By the creek
the trilliums and wild violets
Rose scent
softens in the heat
of the afternoon.
The calm of day plays on
led by a robin
drowning like Narcissus
in the beauty of its song.
But in the creek
a flash like lightning —
eels devour each other.
I remember how it was
You turned away
walked down
the winding gravel road
as lonely
as three in the morning
when bears cry
79 Andrea Lupini
Grandmother's Story
July is very warm in Italy, and this July was particularly warm, so that
when Gina and I went outside for a walk, we had to bounce from the
dusty road to the green field, wiggling our toes and cooling our feet.
Mama came out too, with little Augusto, already thirteen months old,
but looking small and weak cradled in Mama's strong brown arms. She
went into the shade to talk with the neighbours, waving goodbye to us as
we journeyed up the hill, sweaty hands clasped tightly together. I loved
my little sister, though I had always envied her name, and had once even
asked Mama why I hadn't been named Gina, or even Assunta, after her.
"I gave you the name of the Blessed Virgin, Maria," she had responded, rolling her eyes heavenward. "What more do you want?"
Maria certainly was the holiest of names, but at times I wondered privately if holy things were necessarily pretty things. Still, I was proud that
Mama needed me to help take care of Gina, now that Papa was away in
America, and my uncle, who was living with us, was at the market in
Fano and wouldn't be home until tomorrow.
I pointed out to Gina which vines grew the best grapes, and which orchards belonged to people we knew, and then watched her as she smiled
at the tiny butterfly I held in cupped hands, its wings beating until I
released it high above my head. We stood and watched as it disappeared
in the deep blue ocean of sky. Then we turned and started home.
On the way we met Rosa, a young girl, and a good friend of my mother's. She was tall and slim, and as I fell in step behind her I began to
imitate her slow, steady gait. Behind me, Gina was imitating me imitating Rosa, so in this queer procession we made our way down the
slope. An older woman, another friend of my mother's, came out onto
the road ahead of us.
"Rosa, Rosa!" she called. "Did you hear what happened?"
"What?" cried Rosa, eager for gossip.
"Assunta's baby just began to cough and it died right in her arms!"
Horrified, Rosa turned to keep me from hearing, but it was too late.
The older woman, seeing me for the first time behind Rosa's lanky form,
reached out to grab me, but in terror I dodged her arms, racing past her,
and frantically ran the few remaining yards to our house, dragging a
80 whimpering Gina with me. I kept telling myself that it wasn't true, that
Augusto couldn't be dead; cold, white, and waxen like the bodies I had
to file past at funerals in the church. But when I reached our porch, there
crouched my mother, weeping, and rocking back and forth, clutching
my tiny dead brother.
My father, receiving my letter nearly two months later, mourned the
death of the son he had never seen.
My uncle, returning from Fano the next day, paused at the edge of
town to listen to the church bells ring, trying to imagine which old man
had died.
Nicola Clur
the gray dawn
single gesture
the mirrored
81 Lesley Brook
Forth and back
he plays on the swing, asking.
I answered with tact
a question about a bird's wing.
I laughed and found
he sits while I push
From behind
he agrees the snow is turning to slush
I'd cropped his poker-straight hair
he wears above his grey long-sleeved sweater.
And I should have patched his jeans wearandtear,
he says his feet through his shoes are getting wetter.
Before I left I pushed it again,
He too stands watching it, alone on its chain.
82 Christopher Mark Brown
The Persecution of Mr. White
Blain dove from behind the marble pillar and rolled, snapping off a burst from the
Borgen machine pistol. The shells tracked across the wall, chipping concrete, then
exploded into the chest of the assassin. Blood and bone fragments sprayed from the
dead man. His corpse jerked twice and slid down the wall.
Blain grinned and moved on.
Mr. White was pulled from his fantasies by a disturbance next door.
He had been Blain in the city museum hunting the government hit man;
KILL OR BE KILLED! Now he felt cheated.
He dropped the paperback and wiped his damp palms on his trousers.
Grunting, he heaved himself from the lawn chair and stared over at the
yard across the garden fence.
Somebody was backing a huge, eight-wheeler boat trailer into the
garage and having trouble making it fit the entrance. The fender scraped
a wall and the man driving slammed the wheel in frustration.
"Too bad," chuckled Mr. White. "Too damn bad."
Mr. White fished in his pocket for his cigarettes and lit one up. He
took a long pull and felt himself relax. He was trying to quit, but it was
his summer vacation. When he got back to his office, it would be the first
thing he'd do.
The man next door had successfully backed the trailer and was unlatching the coupling on his flashy red pickup. He was working quickly,
with a military precision, as though he was short of time.
Mr. White observed that the trailer was unusual; the object, cradled
under the orange tarpaulin, was shaped like a cylinder laid upon its side.
Maybe it was one of those hot rod racing jobs.
The man pulled down the aluminium garage door and locked it carefully with a key from his wallet. He parked the pickup off the dirt road
and stalked away towards the house, carrying a suitcase.
"Hello!" Mr. White called from across the fence. "Nice day!"
The new neighbour ignored Mr. White, went inside, and slammed
the door. Mr. White, stunned by the insult, wanted to go over there and
slap the punk's face around, but he was a mature man and did not let
little things like that bother him. Still, he wanted to so badly he felt sick.
83 He had come to the lake for six years now, every summer. He was established here and no weasel-faced new neighbour had the right to treat
him like that!
His face was flushed and he felt like an impotent fool. He finished his
cigarette and flicked it in the grass with the other butts. He then went
inside and opened the fridge, pulling out a package of Jiffy's Doughnuts.
He ripped open the box.
Orange coconut! The box said, Jelly Doughnuts'. Those idiots! He
hated orange coconut. Tomorrow he'd drive into town and exchange
Mr. White sighed and bolted down a doughnut before he could stop
himself. It was too late to return them now.
He shrugged wistfully and took the box into the den, to read the Sunday paper. It was nice to sit in the Lazy Boy recliner and glance over
the headlines.
Boxing was great to watch on T.V. If he had joined that club when he
was a boy he would probably be in the paper right now. No doubt about
it, he'd been tough back in high school.
Now there was a stupid sport. Damn cars kept going round and
round. It was only good when there was an accident with a nice explosion.
A girl in a panty hose advertisement stood with an arch smile, stretching her long legs. Mr. White felt hot and anxious.
Later, he went to the fridge for another beer. His mouth tasted vile.
Probably, he should be watching his diet more carefully; twelve doughnuts was too many. He threw out the empty box and slid a Hardy Man
Dinner in the oven. There was some chocolate layer cake left over from
lunch. Best to save it for dessert...Well, one piece wouldn't ruin his
A movement caught his eye and Mr. White stared out the window.
The sun was setting and the glare dazzled his eyes. The man next door
left the garage through the side door, locked it and walked into his
house. The single window on the side of the structure was covered, so
Mr. White could not see inside. The new neighbor had tacked some
black material on the inside of the frame.
"Strange," Mr. White reflected. "What's he trying to hide in there?"
Disturbed, Mr. White returned to the den but forgot about it while he
84 watched football. It was an excellent game and the opposition got annihilated. He particularly enjoyed the half time parade and cheerleaders.
When it was over he changed to the eleven o'clock news.
"Controversy still rages concerning the flea collar marketed by American Pet Aids. Several dog owners claim the collar has poisoned their
The picture switched to a fat woman crushing a poodle to her chest.
She was speaking, "And then Little Sammy, Sammy was my chihuahua,
Little Sammy comes stumbling into the living room and looks at me real
long and sad and I went over to pet him and he just up and dies all over
the carpet. It was horrible, horrible...Well I've got you now Big
Sammy." She kissed the poodle and squeezed him possessively, "I've got
you now and nobody's going to take you away from Mother."
Abruptly, she glared up into the camera stabbing with a plump finger
at the lens. "I tell you something's got to be done. Someone should be
Mr. White looked down at the cake pan hopefully, but he'd already
licked the foil. He searched for his cigarettes. None left. Well, that was
good because if he started to cut down now it would be easier to quit
later on. Probably, when he went into town tomorrow he wouldn't buy
any more.
There was supposed to be a hot film on tonight. Angelique in Slave to
Pleasure. He checked the listings but found the set did not get the
Why did life have to be so difficult all the time! Nothing ever worked
He went back to the kitchen to discard the empty beer cans.
A light was shining behind the covered window in the garage. That
scum next door must be working there still. What was he doing this late
at night? Mr. White didn't like it. Something strange was going on in
that garage. He would be sure to keep a careful watch on this new
Mr. White awoke the next day and stretched, rubbing the grit from
the corner of his eyes. He looked over at the wall clock.
Twelve-thirty already!
He had planned to get up early and take the lake hike. Tomorrow he'd
do it for sure. Right now he'd just sleep in for another ten minutes	
It was three in the afternoon when Mr. White slid out of bed. His
mouth felt so sore that he decided not to brush his teeth. He had soup
and potato chips for lunch, and a large bowl of fudge ripple ice cream.
After his third cup of coffee he felt more energetic and dressed to go into
The Neighbour was out.
Pleased with his slyness, Mr. White sauntered out the door and into
the Neighbour's yard. He tried the garage door, but it was sealed with a
85 heavy padlock that the Neighbour must have installed the previous day.
He considered forcing the hinges but subsequently rejected the idea. He
could get into real trouble for that Disappointed, he examined the side
window. It was locked from the inside. He pressed his check against the
frame and peered through. The darkness inside was almost complete,
but as his sight adjusted he could see something in there, and it was
strange, like a	
The red truck exploded up the dirt road trailing dust like a comet's
tail. The magnum wheels locked and it slid to a halt shrouded in a dirt
fog. Oily smoke belched from the chrome exhaust.
The door swung open and the Neighbour leapt from the cab. In a
single liquid movement he plucked a crowbar from the truck bed and
vaulted the backyard gate.
He sprinted up the lawn swinging the bar.
"No, please!" Mr. White squealed, shielding his head with his arms.
The Neighbour swung back to smite Mr. White, but spat and tossed the
metal away. He grabbed Mr. White's collar and shook him. His nails
dug into the flabby chest, like claws.
"If you ever come near this garage again I will hurt you very badly."
"I'm sorry, I...."
"Silence!" He slapped Mr. White across the face and then backhanded
him: "Get out!"
Mr. White lumbered home. The Neighbour unlocked the garage and
walked inside.
He could have been killed. That guy was crazy! Nobody treated him
like that! Nobody! His body heaved for oxygen. Mr. White tore open a
pack of Twinkies with his teeth. He could feel his flesh tremble and the
blood rushing in his ears.
Sitting down he felt calmer and wiped the cream filling off his face
with a towel. He reached for some chocolate cookies off the shelf and
some instant coffee to help his nerves. Should he call the police? He
picked up the phone and put it down. No point in starting trouble for
himself. It would be necessary for him to go to the police, show up in
court, and then what if nobody believed him? After all, he was the one
who had been trespassing. If he went to the police and they found something illegal in that garage...And if they didn't wouldn't he look like a
It seemed to Mr. White that he had read a newspaper story once, in
which a man pressed charges for assault, lost the case and was found the
next morning hanging from a barbed wire noose.
Mr. White decided, definitely, that he was not going to start trouble
for himself. Maybe he should leave in the morning, but the house was
paid for another two weeks.
"Nobody treats me like that," he mumbled. "Just what the hell is in
that garage?"
When it was completely dark, Mr. White crept out to this car and
86 drove into town to buy food and cigarettes. While he was there he took
advantage of the Pancake House 'all you can eat' Dinner Special.
Four days passed. The Neighbor spent almost all his time inside the
garage and ate his meals there as well. He did not leave in his pickup
truck again, or take the trailer down to the lake. He kept it locked away
On the fifth day Mr. White had to know what was hidden in the garage under the tarpaulin. He couldn't read the paper, or concentrate on
T.V., and once he forgot to buy food for dinner.
He had to know.
He waited until three in the morning before he moved in. He was
dressed in jeans and a dark shirt. A hammer, screwdriver, and other
tools were tied to his body. There was a kitchen knife taped to his ankle.
He'd seen that in a movie.
He stealthily levered himself over the fence and crossed to the garage
window. The house lights were out and he could not rid himself of the
fear that someone was standing up there, invisible in the dark, watching
him and waiting. He slipped the screwdriver in the jamb and tried to
jostle it open. Five minutes later he gave up, confounded. The only way
to open it would be to smash the pane and that would wake the
Neighbour —Maybe he slept with a shotgun!
Mr. White decided to go home; it was useless. He knew he'd tried. He
still had guts.
As he turned to leave he noticed that the padlock was off the door.
Before he had time to consider what he had done, he was inside and the
door was closed behind him.
The room was full of strange sculptures made of human bones. Against the wall a
ribcage acted as a lampshade. The ceiling was hung with mobiles made of fingers
and small bones. Suddenly, a man plunged through the doorway wielding a meat
cleaver. He was dressed in a butcher's smock and his face was covered with a mask of
dried skin. He snorted like a pig and struck with the cleaver, splitting —
Alone with his fear and the darkness, the scene from the horror film
had seemed to come alive before Mr. White. He switched on his flashlight and flicked the beam about. It was a normal garage with a built-in
workbench, littered with delicate metal tools, and a large double cupboard next to the doorway. Filling the space was the huge trailer with the
wheels wedged behind wooden blocks; the tarpaulin had been removed.
Supine along the trailer frame was a small nuclear missile about
thirty-five feet in length. It was black, elegantly tapered, and evil.
"Damn!-" said Mr. White.
He approached to touch the sleek metal. ICBM USA EXPERIMENTAL was stenciled on the side in neat white capitals. In the feeble
light of the flashlight beam it was beautiful and frightening. It seemed to
float in the shadows like a great black shark; an ancient, insatiable
Mr. White tried to laugh to dispel his unease. He whispered: "Boy, is
87 this guy in for trouble." He tried to think what Blain would do now; but
he only had a kitchen knife. He knew that Blain would have gone ahead
and taken the Neighbour out. He felt ashamed. Well, the police would
know how to handle it and he would be a hero!
"Don't walk another step, fat man."
The Neighbour stood between Mr. White and the garage door, his
hand on the light switch. In his other hand he gripped a Luger sporting a
silencer on the long barrel. Behind him, the cupboard door was ajar. He
said, calmly: "I sleep inside there, fat man, so nobody can mess with my
baby. Got anything to say?"
"I...I was leaving. It was a mistake!" Mr. White pleaded.
"Yes, it was a mistake. You think I'm sending this to Russia. I am.
But not in the manner you believe. I'm launching it at Leningrad."
Mr. White gasped. "But you'll start a war!"
The Neighbour smiled and prodded the Luger barrel at Mr. White's
stomach, which flinched. He said: "Let me explain it simply to you. I
used to work for Boeing in cruise missile design. I pioneered what you
are looking at now: the Piranha Class Cruise Missile." He patted the
tailfin affectionately. "This is the most sophisticated cruise ever; nothing
performs like it. Its guidance system is based on an ingenious and yet
simple idea. It samples radio and television waves to home on its target.
Think about it: the higher the population density, the more waves
emitted, and the more attractive the area is to the Piranha. The propulsion uses a radical variation on the pulse jet and hits mach four at two
hundred meters above the earth! That's faster than any 'stealth' machine.
The Piranha follows the contours of the terrain exactly. It modifies its
flight path to fly around mountain bases and skim down into valleys to
avoid radar tracking. But even more entrancing, she's remarkably light
and compact to give her incredible mobility; I can move her on a conventional boat trailer!...And now attend most carefully, this is my
greatest innovation. She has a completely independent launch capacity—no fueling or launch units are necessary. All I have to do is winch
the trailer up to thirty degrees and she'll take care of the rest. I'm
launching her at nine o'clock tomorrow evening. Incredible, isn't it?"
Mr. White whined: "You're crazy! You'll die if this thing hits Russia.
Everyone will die."
The Neighbour looked at him with undisguised contempt. "Of course
everyone will die. That's the whole point, you fool. Everyone dies. You
don't think I built the Piranha not to be used, do you? I didn't spend
twenty years of my life building an ornament." His urbane manner
faded. "Listen, when I perfected this weapon, the government was upset. They worried that the Russians would hear about it and panic. 'We
don't want to upset the balance,' they told me, 'It's too advanced for the
times'. With this missile you could actually win a war with no more than
say fifteen percent of your civilians crisped. You want to hear something
amusing? I stole this by secretly programming it to fly off the test site and crash in Great Slave Lake up in the Territories. The military boys
allowed themselves to believe that she had malfunctioned and fragmented in the atmosphere. Then I just waited for my vacation and
travelled north to the lake. I tracked her on a special beacon I installed,
and recovered her from where she was twenty feet below the surface on
flotation bags. That was nine days ago. It's taken me some time to fix her
up and synthesize more fuel."
"You mean that thing has an atomic bomb inside?"
"Of course not! They don't use warheads on flight trials. It isn't necessary. All the Russians need is for this thing to come screaming in on
Leningrad at mach four and they'll hit all the buttons. After all, everything's automatic. Goodbye, fat man."
Mr. White peered down in astonishment at the orange dart plume
stuck in his belly, and at the Neighbour, playfully blowing the smoke off
the Luger. He tried to say something, but someone was pumping black
mud into his head with a high pressure hose. The cement floor sprang up
and smashed into his body.
Something was pressing on Mr. White's face. Like enormous lead
shields, his eyelids rolled back and he squinted up at the sunlight pounding down from the window. He tried to lift his head, but his machinery
seemed jammed. He had something important to do. What was it?
Someone had shot...and drugged him. Yes, he'd been drugged, and
where was he?
Things seemed to be bending and twisting, but he was sure that he
was back in his own house, on his bed. The tools that were tied to him
had been removed, and the kitchen knife was gone.
That damn Neighbour.
He braced his arms beneath himself and tried to stand, but he collapsed on the floor and was sick. He almost gave up, but he was ravenously hungry. Gradually, he grew stronger and his head cleared. He
crawled into the kitchen to the phone. It was gone. Ripped off the wall
with nothing left but a torn red wire. He stood, though his legs felt boneless, and wondered if he could make it to his Buick. The wall clock read
eight o'clock P.M. He'd been unconscious all day. He checked the fridge
and found that all the ice cream had been taken.
That damn Neighbour!
Mr. White hit the accelerator hard. He hurtled past the garage. The
pickup truck was gone! He drove as quickly as his coordination allowed.
Twenty minutes later he pulled in at the police station.
When Mr. White walked through the glass doors, a thin, hardlooking
policeman got up to meet him. He had short black hair and bad skin.
"What can I do for you?" he inquired.
Mr. White hesitated, then blurted: "I have something really important. It is a matter of...National Security!"
"Fine," the policeman answered, looking at Mr. White rather strange-
89 ly. "I am the senior officer here. Please step into my office." He followed
Mr. White inside and shut the door firmly. "Have a seat, sir. I see you
are admiring my collection. It's a pastime of mine. Now, what is the
problem you have?"
Mr. White was confused. The walls of the room were cluttered with
hunting trophies: wolf, deer, and bear heads were mounted along the
walls. Shotguns and assault rifles were racked behind the desk.
Mr. White twisted his watchband nervously. "I'm renting a place for
the summer up by the lake. My neighbour has a deadly weapon in his
garage." The policeman sat down slowly. He asked: "Is this weapon a
Piranha Cruise Missile?"
Mr. White lurched forward, spluttering: "Yes, how did you know!"
The policeman glided his chair back on its casters so that his hands
rested near the gun rack. "I'll talk straight with you, Mr. White. I received a call this morning from your neighbour. He informed me that
you were a lunatic, that you have accused him several times of concealing a cruise missile in his garage, and that he planned to use it to destroy the world."
"But it's true!"
"He told me you threatened to call the police and have him locked
away for good. He doesn't want any trouble. He just wants a peaceful
vacation." He paused and stared at Mr. White. "He invited us to check
the house over and I did. We examined the house and grounds thoroughly, especially the garage. There's no missile or weapon of any
Mr. White became very red in the face. "There is a missile! He's taken
it away. You've got to believe me!"
The policeman sighed. "You're a lucky man, Mr. White. He's not
going to press charges for harassment and assault, and he's leaving this
evening. Apparently, you threatened him violently with a crowbar and
ripped his shirt."
Furious, Mr. White jumped up. "That's a lie!"
The policeman snatched a shotgun off the rack and worked the pump.
"Don't get yourself excited now, sir."
Mr. White let himself out of the office. The Neighbour had said the
launch was tonight at nine o'clock. There was so little time! He glanced
at his watch; it was eight-thirty. By the time he was approaching the lake
road, it was dark.
The pickup was back! Mr. White parked and jumped out. The big garage door was folded up and the light was on inside. The Neighbour sat
in the middle of the empty room in Mr. White's lawn chair reading Mr.
White's paperback. Mr. White walked cautiously up to the entrance. The
Neighbour glanced up from the book. He remarked: "This Blain character is quite disgusting, murdering corrupt bankers and then sleeping
with their daughters. Blain: MASTER OF SEVEN MARTIAL ARTS!
9° Extraordinary nonsense! The Piranha is up at the lake picnic grounds in
the clearing, if that interests you. I'm going up there and launch it right
now." He checked his digital watch. "ETD is fifteen minutes."
The Neighbor rose, strolled to his vehicle, and started up the engine.
He backed into Mr. White's Buick, shattering the headlights.
He roared away, illuminating the dark like a phosphorescent fish in
the depths of the sea.
Mr. White scrambled into his car to follow. With no light he could not
travel more than fifteen miles per hour along the invisible surface of the
dirt road. Twice he left the edge and almost piled into a tree.
His Neighbor must have been travelling about fifty!
He climbed the last stretch of hill to the clearing.
Flames twisted up into the black sky. A hard booming roar hit his ears
a second later. Fifty meters away in the scrub grass was a circle of
glowing earth dancing and smoking with small fires.
The missile was gone.
Mr. White walked out across the clearing to the launch pit. Up close
he could see that the dirt was fused into a crude glass by the action of tremendous heat.
Mr. White turned around. The Neighbor was standing back in the
shadow of a tree. "The retaliatory wave will arrive here in about ten
minutes. It's likely that we won't receive a direct hit up here, so we might
have twelve hours before we die from radiation bombardment." The
Neighbor laughed cheerfully. "Look, why don't you come home with me
and we'll talk. We can take my car. You'll never need yours again
The pickup was parked behind some bushes. Mr. White followed and
climbed inside. They drove back to the house, Mr. White silent and
withdrawn and the Neighbor singing with a rich vibrato: "So long it's
been good to know yuh. So long it's been good to know yuh. So long it's
been good to know yuh. What a long time since I've been home. And
I've gotta be drifting along. The sweet-hearts they sat in the dark and
they sparked. They hugged and they kissed in that dusty old dark. They
sighed and they cried and they hugged and they kissed, but instead of
marriage they talked like this: Honey —So long it's been good to know
yuh. So long..."
As they walked into the Neighbor's house, he leaned over and whispered to Mr. White: "That song was 'So long it's been good to know
yuh', by Woody Guthrie."
Mr. White thought to himself just how much he hated Woody Guthrie
The Neighbor's digital beeped twice. He grinned. "She's in Soviet airspace, a matter of minutes now. Counter strike should arrive in three
hundred seconds."
91 Mr. White crossed to the sofa and fell into it burying his face in his
"Why! Why, did you do it?"
"I can't cheapen the beauty of the thing into something that you could
see. If you do not understand already you never will." Reaching into his
pocket, he lifted out a small pair of steel scissors and began to trim the
nails on his left hand. "This may seem strange...clip...but why don't
you...clip...tell me something about yourself...^/)...What are your
plans and dreams, my friend?"
Mr. White beat his hands on the arm-rest. He shouted, "You've killed
me and my life was just starting to work! I was going to go on a diet and
quit smoking! I hate my job; you don't understand, working in a bank is
sheer hell! It's so dull....Every Friday the same old bag of a lady comes
in and counts out her pennies onto the counter, one after the other] I was
going to quit and become a ranger like I always wanted to. For fifteen
years I wanted out but I didn't have the guts. This year was different! I
could have, really "
The Neighbor patted Mr. White compassionately on the shoulder. He
said, "Be brave, man. The days of man are as nothing. Tell me if you
had another chance, would you change?"
"Of course I would! I hate myself. People stare at me in the street and
laugh. I'm embarrassed to buy clothes! The only excitement in my life is
food — it's the only real friend I have. My doctor told me I'm headed for a
heart attack, and I pretended that it wasn't true, but he was right. I could
change...I would change! But you've taken it all from me. YOU
The Neighbor stepped back and grimaced. He said firmly: "Please
stop bellowing. The Soviet missiles are here and we're still alive. Let's
check the radio."
He crossed the room and switched on the portable stereo. There was a
wail of static: "...repeat, not approach core...evacuate...please..." The signal cut out with a
howl of raw sound.
The Neighbor switched it off. "Station must have been hit. I'm surprised we got anything at all." He turned on the black and white cable
T.V. that came with the house. He flicked through the channels but
there was nothing but snow and frenzied lines. The Neighbor straightened and winked at Mr. White. "All gone," he said. "My friend, we are
dying men. The hard radiation we have absorbed by now is already
ripping our cells apart; the protein in our bodies is degenerating rapidly.
In three hours or so our hair will fall out and our vomit will be mostly
blood. After that, our eyes and gums will bleed and the pain will be
He opened a desk drawer and took out a shiny tin box. "The black
pill, Mr. White. It contains a fatal dosage of potassium cyanide." He
92 opened the lid with a flick of his index finger. "Take one, Mr. White, it
will be much cleaner this way. Death is very quick. I shall take one in an
hour or so. Of course if you have a bathtub and razorblade in your
house, you might prefer..."
Mr. White grabbed a pill from the box and stuffed it in his trousers.
He wept noisily.
The Neighbor frowned. "Please, you are making this lovely time most
unpleasant for me. I must ask you to leave my house."
Mr. White shambled out the front door, consumed in his misery. The
Neighbour called after him: "Goodbye, Mr. White, you'll never see me
again. I urge you to savour the life you have left; one second can seem
an eternity —Don't look up at the sky or your eyes might melt down your
The Neighbour closed the door.
Mr. White wandered out across the yard to his house, gazing at the
ground. He went inside and found the power was out. He was horribly
hungry, and he ate and drank in the dark for almost two hours. Then, he
took the black pill into his palm and found that he could not swallow it.
He cried himself to sleep and dreamed of his death.
When he awoke at three o'clock the following day, Mr. White's hands
went to his face with a great dread. His eyes were wet, they were
bleeding, he...His eyes were wet with tears. He seemed normal.
Whimpering, he placed a hand hesitantly to his hair and tugged. It hurt
and was firmly rooted. He rushed to the bathroom mirror to examine his
They were normal.
A plane murmured off in the distance.
Mr. White walked out into the backyard. The sky was clear; it was a
hot, middle of July day. There were no pillars of smoke in the distance
and the air was fresh. The garage next door was empty and the trailer
and pickup were gone.
And so was the Neighbour.
Mr. White looked up and saw that the powerline to his house was
neatly cut. He ran over to the Neighbour's house and tried the door, it
was open and he walked inside. He went to the phone and dialed 'O'.
"Hello, Operator."
He tore the receiver out and threw it at the wall. It bounced back and
struck his forehead.
He stormed into the living room and turned the television around.
The cable leads were wrapped with insulating tape where they were
wound around the contact screws.
Mr. White lifted the set and hurled it to the floor. It sparked and
flashed. Unfortunately, the Neighbour had taken his radio —or had it
been a tape recorder? — with him.
Shuddering with fatigue, Mr. White trudged up the slope to the picnic
93 grounds. He searched the area and found, twenty feet from the ring of
the scorched grass, a plastic carton and three empty gasoline cans discarded in a bush. He flipped the carton over and read the label:
It would be easy for a man at night to watch for a car coming up the
hill and to time the effect just right.
Mr. White drove home in his car. What had he really seen? Didn't the
government sometimes build mock-ups of rockets for public display?
But he had touched the missile and felt the solidity of the machined
Back home, he opened the fridge and took out a package of Jiffy's
Doughnuts that he had missed last night in the dark.
They were orange coconut, but he ate them anyway.
Christopher Mark Brown, First Prize PRISM High School Writing
Competition : Fiction
Rhonda L. Anderson is a grade twelve student at North Peace Secondary School in Fort
St. John, B.C.
Marianne Andrea has appeared in PRISM as a poet and translator. Born in Russia, she
has lived most of her life in the United States.
Lesley Brook attends Grand Forks Senior Secondary School in Grand Forks, B.C.
Christopher Mark Brown, a grade twelve student at University Hill Secondary School
in Vancouver, B.C., is the winner (Fiction) of the B.C. and Yukon High School Writing
Competition, for The Persecution of Mr. White.
Linda Carpenter is a student at Mission Senior Secondary School in Mission, B.C.
Derrick Clinton Carter's work on PRISM 20:4 and 21:1 has been nominated as a finalist for a 1982 National Magazine Award for best cover design.
Nicola Clur attends Hillside Secondary School in West Vancouver, B.C.
Rienzi Crusz is currently editing an anthology of Asian Canadian poets, with Cyril Daby-
Cyril Dabydeen's published works include Distances, Goatsong, and Still Close to the Island.
Lorna Goodison is the author of Tamarind Season, Kingston, Institute of Jamaica, 1980.
Sam Hamill, in collaboration with Jaan Kaplinski, is working on a translation of Kap-
linski's Selected Poems. He is the publisher of Copper Canyon Press.
Maggie Helwig's first book, Walking Through Fire, was published by Turnstone Press.
Jaan Kaplinski's poetry has appeared in Willow Springs and Northwest Review. Kaplinski
lives injartu, Estonia.
Michael C. Kenyon appeared in issue 20:4. His poetry and fiction has been published in
many Canadian literary magazines.
Ivan Klima was born in 1931 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. He has published more than a
dozen plays, three novels, several collections of short stories, and literary criticism. Since
1968, his work has only appeared outside Czechoslovakia.
David Kranes has published novels, short stories, and plays; his most recent play is In The
Valentine Lounge (May 83), at the Manhattan Theatre Club (NYC).
Roger Kuypers is a student at Lord Byng in Vancouver, B.C.
95 Tim Lilburn works on a farm near Guelph, Ontario.
Andrea Lupini, a poet and prose writer, is a student at Magee Secondary in Vancouver,
Osip Mandelstam was born in January, 1891. He is the author of Stone and Tristia (1913
and 1922). He died in exile in Vladivostok in 1938.
Marie Della Mattia is the winner (Poetry) of the B.C. and Yukon High School Writing
Competition, for her poems Rock Force and Contessa. She is a studeFt at North Surrey
Senior Secondary.
Earl McKenzie lives in Jamaica.
Peter Sears lives in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, where he is the Dean of Students,
Bard College.
Michal Schonberg is the dramaturg of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
Emily Sion writes poetry, nonsense verse, and minute stories.
Josef Skvorecky is a Canadian writer, writing fiction in Czech. He teaches English and
Film at the University of Toronto, Erindale College. His most recent novel is That Swell
Season, Lester & Orpen Dennys.
Marketa Goetz-Stankiewicz is the Head of the Department of Germanic Studies at the
University of British Columbia. She is the author of The Silenced Theatre: Czech playwrights
without a stage, University of Toronto Press.
Peter A. Stenberg is an Associate Professor in the Department of Germanic Studies at
the University of British Columbia. He has published in Swedish and German Literatures—particularly that of Austria and Eastern Europe.
96 Supplement to PRISM international, Volume 21:4
July, 1983
The National Magazine Awards Foundation has awarded the
du Maurier Award for Poetry to Erin Moure, for her poem
"Tricks," volume 20:3; and the Bomac Batten Award for
Magazine Covers to Derrick Clinton Carter, Brian Burke, and
Shin Kishinoyama, volume 21:1. The Editors of PRISM
international would like to express their appreciation to the
Awards Foundation, and to the artists for their contribution
to the magazine. •     „.V;.    .


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