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OCT.QPEP   - -■***
Contemporary writing from Canada and around the world S3 50     '"••! £>
A Page of Madness We Take
and we invite submissions which
explore this theme. Poetry, fiction,
short plays, translations, cartoons
and cover art in any style or genre are
Deadline for submissions: January 31, 1988.
Publication in July 1988. Author's payment $25 for every printed page.
Please clearly note "Humour Issue" on each manuscript. Enclose a
suitable SASE (outside Canada SAE with IRC's) for reply.
PRISM international
Department of Creative Writing
University of British Columbia
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Canada Tl
Ml international  JUL
Mike Peddie
Managing Editor
Catherine Burke
Fiction Editor
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Editorial Board
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Martin West PRISM international, a magazine of contemporary writing, is published four times per year
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Contents Copyright © 1987 PRISM international for the authors.
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Our gratitude to the Canada Council, Dean Will and the University of British Columbia.
Also financially assisted by the Government of British Columbia through the British
Columbia Cultural Fund and Lottery Revenues.
Second Class Mail Registration No. 5496. October, 1987. Contents
Vol. 26, No. 1   Autumn 1987
Kawabata Yasunari
Translated by Hiroaki Sato
A Page of Madness   31
John McGahern
Carlo Sgorlon
Translated by Jessie Bright
Robert Shapard
Philip St. John
August Strindberg
Translated by David Mel Paul
and Margareta Paul
M. H. Raymond
Joan Fern Shaw
The Creamery Manager   9
Mistral   19
The Dummy   27
Amusements   58
The Silver Lake    73
Jesus of the Aerials   90
An Allergy to Marigolds    95
Bruce Iserman
David Manicom
Walid Bitar
Heather Brown
Lois Baker
Ryusei Hasegawa
Translated by Hiroaki Sato
Nobuko Saisho
Translated by Hiroaki Sato
Bees    7
Sitting for a Portrait    8
Broken Homes    17
Xian   22
Carnavale   24
Scenario   25
Poems from Harbin   30
The Last Years
of Long, Long Showa   49
Escape from Japan   50
Until It's Cooked
Eat   53
51 Poetry
Marlene Cookshaw
Robert Cooperman
M. Cherie Geauvreau
Zoe Landale
Osip Mandelstam
Translated by Marianne Andrea
G. A. Hewett
The Queen of Burnaby   54
Sammy Explains Evolution   55
Roulette   56
Alice Baines and the Joys of
Marriage, Oregon Territory,
1859   65
Concertino   67
Shut Your Hole Honey,
Mine's Making Money   68
Only Movement of Your Needle   70
Sister Blessing   71
Leningrad   89
Nowhere O'er the Pears
105 Bruce Iserman
Two Poems
the flower
there's no memory
of the first —
will it be like
those spreading
and soft
nose? Sitting for a Portrait
The ghost behind the painting
in progress
toward an idea
of leaves
is melted
directly into window glass
as a green stain.
The dog
beside the man
is becoming another leg;
purple as red
has eaten her substance,
but the couch
is itself
no bulk more than color
smashed together
in the man, behind
he who lets ghosts
regard him
for the private ends
found bending
right through him, rendering
its blobs flat
and sticky
til every tube of paste
is rolled to its cap,
every person a ghost. The Creamery
John McGahern
The books and files had been taken out but no one yet had stopped
him from entering his office. Tired of sitting alone listening to the
rain beat on the iron, he came out on the platform where he could
look down on the long queue of tractors towing in the steel tanks, the
wipers making furious, relentless arcs across the windscreens as they
waited. He knew all the men sitting behind the glass of the cabs by
name. That he had made his first business when he came to manage the
creamery years before. Often on a wet summer's day, when there could
be no rush at hay, many of them would pull in below the platform to sit
and talk. The rough, childish faces would look up in a glow of pleasure at
the recognition when he shouted out their names. Some would flash
their lights.
Today no one looked up, but he could see them observing him in their
mirrors after they had passed. They probably already knew more precisely than he what awaited him. Even with that knowledge he would
have preferred if they looked up. All his life he had the weakness of
wanting to please and give pleasure.
When the angelus bell rang from Cootehall, he began to think that
they might have put off coming for him for another day, but soon after
the last stroke he heard heavy boots crossing the cement. A low knock
came on the door. Guard Casey was in the doorway but there was no
sign of the sergeant. Guard Guider was the other guard.
"You know why we're here, Jim," Guard Casey said.
"I know, Ned." Quickly the guard read out the statement of arrest.
"You'll come with us, then?"
"Sure I'll come."
"I'm sorry to have to do this but they're the rules." He brought out a
pair of bright handcuffs with a small green ribbon on the linking bar.
Guider quickly handcuffed him to Casey and withdrew the key. The bar
with the green ribbon kept the wrists apart but the hands and elbows touched. This caused them to walk stiffly and hesitantly and in step. The
cement had been hosed clean but the people who worked for him were
out of sight. The electric hum of the separators drowned their footsteps
as they crossed to the squad car.
In the barracks the sergeant was waiting for him with a peace commissioner, a teacher from the other end of the parish, and they began
committal proceedings at once. The sergeant was grim-faced and inscrutable.
"I'm sorry for that Sunday in Clones," the creamery manager blurted
out in nervousness. "I only meant it as a day out together."
The grimness on the sergeant's face did not relent: it was as if he had
never spoken. He was asked if he had a solicitor. He had none. Did he
want to be represented? Did he need to be? he responded. It was not
necessary at this stage, he was told. In that case, they could begin. Anything he said, he was warned, could be used against him. He would say
nothing. Though it directly concerned him, it seemed to be hardly about
him at all, and it did not take long. Tonight he'd spend in the barracks.
The cell was already prepared for him. Tomorrow he'd be transferred to
Mountjoy to await his trial. The proceedings for the present were at an
end. There was a mild air of relief. He felt like a railway carriage that
had been pushed by hand down rails into some siding. It suited him well
enough. He had never been assertive and he had no hope of being acquitted.
Less than a month before he had bought stand tickets for the Ulster Final
and had taken the sergeant and Guard Casey to Clones. He already knew
then that the end couldn't be far off. It must have been cowardice and an
old need to ingratiate. Now it was the only part of the whole business
that made him really cringe.
They set off in the Sergeant's small Ford. Guard Casey sat with the
sergeant in the front. They were both big men, Casey running to flesh,
but the sergeant retained some of an athlete's spareness of feature. He
had played three or four times for Cavan and had been on the fringe of
the team for a few seasons several years before.
"You were a terrible man to go and buy those stand tickets, Jim,"
Casey had said for the fifth time as the car travelled over the dusty white
"What's terrible about it? Aren't we all Ulster men even if we are
stranded in the west? It's a day out, a day out of all our lives. And the
sergeant here even played for Cavan."
"Once or twice. Once or twice. Trial runs. You could hardly call it
played. I just wasn't good enough."
10 "You were more than good enough by all accounts. There was a clique."
"You're blaming the selectors now. The selectors had a job to do.
They couldn't pick everybody."
"More than me has said they were a clique. They had their favourites.
You weren't called 'the boiler' for nothing."
A car parked round a corner forced the sergeant to swerve out into the
road. Nothing was coming.
"You'd think the car was specially parked there to deliver an accident."
"They're all driving round in cars," Casey said, "but the mentality is
still of the jennet and cart."
It had been a sort of suffering to keep the talk going, but silence was
even worse. There were many small flowers in the grass margins of the
They took their seats in the stand halfway through the minor game.
There was one grace: though he came from close to Clones, there wasn't
a single person he knew sitting in any of the nearby seats. The minor
game ended. Once the seniors came on the field he started at the sudden
power and speed with which the ball was driven about. The game was
never close. Cavan drew gradually ahead to win easily. Such was the air
of unreality he felt, of three men watching themselves watch a game,
that he was glad to buy oranges from a seller moving between the seats,
to hand the fruit around, to peel the skin away, to taste the bitter juice.
Only once did he start and stir uncomfortably, when Guard Casey remarked about the powerful Cavan fullback who was roughing up the
Tyrone forwards: "The Gunner is taking no prisoners today."
He was not to be so lucky on leaving the game. In the packed streets
of the town a voice called out, "Is it not Jimmy McCarron?" And at once
the whole street seemed to know him. They stood in his path, put arms
around him, drew him to the bars. "An Ulster Final, look at the evening
we'll have, and it's only starting."
"Another time, Mick. Another time, Joe. Great to see you but we
have to get back." He had pushed desperately on, not introducing his
two companions.
"You seem to be the most popular man in town," the sergeant said
sarcastically once they were clear.
"I'm from round here."
"It's better to be popular anyhow than buried away out of sight,"
Casey came to his defence.
"Up to a point. Up to a point," the sergeant said. "Everything has its
11 They stopped for tea at the Lawn Hotel in Belterbet. By slipping out
to the reception desk while they were eating he managed to pay for the
meal. Except for the sergeant's petrol he had paid for the entire day.
This was brought up as they parted outside the barracks in the early evening.
"It was a great day. We'll have to make an annual day of the Ulster
Final. But next year will be our day. Next year you'll not be allowed to
spend a penny," the sergeant said, but still he could see their satisfaction that the whole outing had cost them nothing.
Now that the committal proceedings were at an end an air of uncertainty
crept into the dayroom. Did they feel compromised by the day? He did
not look at their faces. The door on the river had to be unlocked in order
to allow the peace commissioner to leave and was again locked after he
left. He caught the sergeant and Guard Casey looking at one another.
"You better show him his place," the sergeant said.
To the right of the door on the river was a big, heavy red door. It was
not locked. Casey opened it slowly to show him his cell for the night.
"It's not great, Jimmy, but it's as good as we could get it."
The cement floor was still damp from being washed. Above the cement was a mattress on a low platform of boards. There was a pillow and
several heavy grey blankets on the mattress. High in the wall a narrow
window was cut, a single steel bar in its centre.
"It's fine. It couldn't be better."
"If you want anything at all, just bang or shout, Jim," and the heavy
door was closed and locked. He heard bolts being drawn.
Casually he felt the pillow, the coarse blankets, moved the mattress,
and with his palm tested the solidity of the wooden platform; its boards
were of white deal and they too had been freshly scrubbed. There was an
old oil can beside a steel bucket in the corner. Carefully he moved it under the window, and by climbing on the can and gripping the iron bar he
could see out on either side: a sort of lawn, a circular flowerbed, netting-
wire, a bole of the sycamore tree, sallies, a strip of river. He tried to get
down as silently as possible, but as soon as he took his weight off the oil
can it rattled.
"Are you all right there, Jimmy?" Casey was at once asking anxiously
from the other side of the door.
"I'm fine. I was just surveying the surroundings. Soon I'll lie down for
a while."
He heard Casey hesitate for a moment, but then his feet sounded on
the hollow boards of the dayroom, going towards the table and chairs. As
much as to reassure Casey as from any need, he covered the mattress
12 with one of the grey blankets and lay down, loosening his collar and tie.
The bed was hard but not uncomfortable. He lay there, sometimes thinking, more of the time with his mind as blank as the white ceiling, and occasionally he drifted in and out of sleep.
There were things he was grateful for... that his parents were
dead ... that he did not have to face his mother's uncomprehending distress. He felt little guilt. The shareholders would write him off as a loss
against other profits. The old creamery would not cry out with the hurt.
People he had always been afraid of hurting, and even when he disliked
them he felt that he partly understood them, could put himself in their
place, and that was almost the end of dislike. Sure, he had seen evil and
around it a stupid, heartless laughing that echoed darkness; and yet, and
yet he had wanted to love. He felt that more than ever now, even seeing
where he was, to what he had come.
That other darkness, all that surrounded life, used to trouble him
once, but he had long given up making anything out of it, like a poor
talent, and he no longer cared. Coming into the world, he was sure now,
was not unlike getting into this poor cell. There was constant daylight
above his head, split by the single bar, and beyond the sycamore leaves
a radio aerial disappeared into a high branch. He could make jokes about
it, but to make jokes alone was madness. He'd need a crowd for that, a
blazing fire, rounds of drinks, and the whole long night awaiting.
There was another fact that struck him now like coldness. In the long
juggling act he'd engaged in for years that eventually got him to this
cell—four years before only the sudden windfall of a legacy had lifted
him clear—whenever he was known to be flush all loans he'd out would
flow back as soon as he called; but when he was seen to be in desperate
need, nothing worthwhile was given back. It was not a pretty picture,
but in this cell he was too far out to care much about it now.
He'd had escapes too, enough of them to want no more. The first had
been the Roman collar, to hand the pain and the joy of his own life into
the keeping of an idea, and to will the idea true. It had been a near thing,
especially because his mother had the vocation for him as well; but the
pull of sex had been too strong, a dream of one girl in a silken dress
among gardens disguising healthy animality. All his life he had moved
among disguises, was moving among them still. He had even escaped
marriage. The girl he'd loved, with the black head of hair thrown back
and the sideways laugh, had been too wise to marry him: no framework
could have withstood that second passion for immolation. There was the
woman he didn't love that he was resigned to marry when she told him
she was pregnant. The weekend she discovered she wasn't they'd gone
to the Metropole and danced and drank the whole night away, he cele-
13 brating his escape out to where there were lungfuls of air, she celebrating that they were now free to choose to marry and have many children:
"It will be no Protestant family." "It will be no family at all." Among so
many disguises there was no lack of ironies.
The monies he had given out, the sums that were given back, the
larger sums that would never be returned, the rounds of drinks he'd paid
for, the names he'd called out, the glow of recognition, his own name
shouted to the sky, the day Moon Dancer had won at the Phoenix Park,
other days and horses that had lost—all dwindling down to the small, ingratiating act of taking the sergeant and Guard Casey to the Ulster Final.
The bolts were being drawn. Casey was standing in the doorway.
"There's something for you to eat, Jimmy." He hadn't realized how dark
the cell had been until he came out into the dayroom, and he had to shade
his eyes against the light. He thought he'd be eating at the dayroom
table, but he was brought up a long hallway to the sergeant's living
quarters. At the end of the hallway was a huge kitchen, and one place
was set on a big table in its centre. The sergeant wasn't there but his
wife was and several children. No one spoke. In the big sideboard mirror
he could see most of the room and Casey standing directly behind him
with his arms folded. A lovely, strong girl of fourteen or fifteen placed a
plate of sausages, black pudding, bacon and a small piece of liver between his knife and fork and poured him a steaming mug of tea. There
was brown bread on the table, sugar, milk, salt, pepper. At first no one
spoke and his knife and fork were loud on the plate as the children
watched him covertly but with intense curiosity. Then Casey began to
tease the children about their day in school.
"Thanks," he said after he'd signed a docket at the end of the meal
which stated that he had been provided with food.
"For nothing at all," the sergeant's wife answered quietly, but it was
little above a whisper, and he had to fight back a wave of gratitude. With
Casey he went back down the long hallway to the dayroom. He was
moving across the hollow boards to the cell door when Casey stopped
"There's no need to go in there yet, Jimmy. You can sit here for a
while in front of the fire."
They sat on the yellow chairs in front of the fire. Casey spent a long
time arranging turf around the blazing centre of the fire with tongs.
There were heavy ledgers on the table at their back. A row of baton
cases and the gleaming handcuffs with the green ribbons hung from
hooks on the wall. A stripped, narrow bed stood along the wall of the
cell, its head beneath the phone of the wall. Only the cell wall stood between Casey's bed and his own plain boards.
14 "When do you think they'll come ?" he asked when the Guard seemed
to have arranged the sods of turf to his satisfaction.
"They'll come sometime in the morning. Do you know I feel badly
about all this? It's a pity it had to happen at all," Casey said out of a long
"It's done now anyhow."
"Do you know what I think? There were too many spongers around.
They took advantage. It's them that should by rights be in your place."
"I don't know ... I don't think so ... It was me that allowed it... even
abetted it."
"You don't mind me asking this? How did it start? Don't answer if you
don't want."
"As far as I know it began in small things. 'He that contemneth small
"Shall fall little by little into grievous error," Casey finished the quotation in a low, meditative voice as he started to arrange the fire again.
"No. I wouldn't go as far as that. That's too hard. You'd think it was God
Almighty we were offending. What's an old creamery anyhow? It'll still
go on taking in milk, turning out butter. No. Only in law is it anything at
"There were a few times I thought I might get out of it," he said
slowly "But the fact is that I didn't. I don't think people can change. They
like to imagine they can, that is all."
"Maybe they can if they try hard enough—or they have to," Casey
said without much confidence.
"Then it's nearly always too late," he said. "The one thing I feel really
badly about is taking the sergeant and yourself to the Ulster Final those
few Sundays back. That was dragging the pair of you into the business.
That wasn't right."
"The sergeant takes that personally. In my opinion he's wrong. What
was personal about it? You have us a great day out, a day out of all our
lives," Casey said. "And everything was normal then."
That was the trouble, everything was no normal then, he was about to
say, but decided not to speak. Everything was normal now. He had been
afraid of his own fear and was spreading the taint everywhere. Now that
what he had feared most had happened he was no longer afraid. His own
life seemed to be happening as satisfactorily as if he were free again
among people.
Do you think people can change, Ned? he felt like asking Casey. Do
you think people can change or are they given a set star at birth that they
have to follow? What part does luck play in the whole shamozzle?
Casey had taken to arranging the fire again and would plainly welcome
15 any conversation, but he found that he did not want to continue. He felt
that he knew already as much as he'd ever come to know about these
matters. Discussing them further could only be a form of idleness or
Clones in some other light. He liked the guard, but he did not want to
draw any closer.
Soon he'd have to ask him for leave to go back to his cell.
16 David Manicom
Broken Homes
I'll tell you a story to help you sleep.
One reached down her dark blinkered head,
closed the red apple in a purse of loose grey lips.
Damp lifted tray of a child's white palm.
Long-lashed eye brown and calm pooled rain,
raised veins strung like welts along her nose.
She stamped the frozen river, shook her neck's long sleeve.
It happened in Quebec, along la Fleuve,
back then, in the village of a saint
beneath the fresh silver paint of twin steeples,
from barns fronting their empty ribbons of snow.
Frost had crocheted the windowpanes closed
when the men rose before light and drove sledges
onto the river to saw the blocks of ice,
far in the centre open water that never healed
cut into white miles a moving oil horizon,
tagging children danced by the still, steaming horses.
It was told to me, and now I'm telling you
how a sound that no one could hear
clicked in the horses' ears and they bolted loose,
how their suspended galloping fetlocks
curled like babies' fists under them,
under their dark bulk above the blinding white
beneath blue dawning sky, silent, even the frantic shouts silent
17 and how they should have floated
(freed of their snapped traces)
how everyone on the river that day
always believed they owned the peculiar careless word
that had startled away the beautiful horses,
the crying children more certain than the men.
18 Mistral
Carlo Sgorlon
Translated from the Italian by Jessie Bright
There was a time when we underestimated it. At night we used to
hear it howling in the trees and in the canebrakes and for all that it
had a frightening voice and woke us with a start it seemed an ordinary thing which could contain no surprises. It was like one of those
animals that thousands of years ago had been wild but then had been
tamed by the stubborn intelligence of man.
Perhaps our mistake was not to notice in time the savage inflections
that now and then seemed to lacerate its nocturnal whistle. Sometimes
my wife Jeanne would awaken and sit up in bed shaking her half undone
braid. "Do you hear it? It sounds like the howling of a wolf pack," she
would whisper.
I wouldn't even open my eyes; I'd just squeeze her hand to calm her
down. Jeanne was from Picardy, it was natural that she wasn't used to it.
But I'd always been familiar with it and thought I knew everything about
I might add this too: I always found it somehow cheerful and exhilarating; when I used to come home with the cart sometimes I would stand up
on top of the load to better expose myself to it, to feel it in my hair or inside my shirt.
It also seemed to like boys. It flapped the rags they used as banners
when they played Crusaders Against the Moors and it drove their kites
painted with dragons and Saint Georges to dizzy heights.
It was Jeanne who first noticed that it was changing. A long long time
ago. She listened to it full of dread, as when you see a dog in summer
rolling around and baring its teeth in a suspicious way. "But when is it
going to stop?" she would say. It's already been blowing for three weeks
in a row..."
"Of course," I would reply. "Now is the season."
February and March had always belonged to it; what was so odd about
it continuing to blow? But Jeanne couldn't be persuaded. "It never used
to blow so hard. It seems different to me!" she would shout at me from
19 the attic windows or from the far end of the field, and thus it would blur
or eat up her words.
At the end of March I was taken with a strange trepidation for fear that
its violence might not diminish as it always had before. It never stopped
blowing neither day nor night. It dried up pools of rain water in roads and
fields within a few hours and one day later it was as if it had never
rained. It blew dry weeds under our feet and drove them against the
door of the house and heaped up all sorts of refuse against canebrakes
and pole fences.
Since it continued to blow more or less the whole summer we ended
up giving in to the idea that we had to engage in a serious effort to combat it. Other barriers would have to be set up to break its force and blunt
its impudent exuberance, to shelter our meager crops in every possible
The pole fences multiplied, marking the edges of every landowner's
holdings and some were persistent enough even to fill in every crack
with mud and straw so as not give it even the tiniest chink to pass
through. We planted new rows of trees and new canebrakes, deluding
ourselves that in so doing we had subdued it. Nothing of the sort. It
often appeared extenuated, or on the point of dying down but then it always came back vigorously, filling its lungs like a racehorse. There was
no doubt that its violence was increasing. Jeanne was right. The most
fearful among us had been right.
I was maybe the last to accept the reality of things, to surrender to the
evidence. The domesticated beast was no longer recognizable; some
obscure cause buried a thousand fathoms under the earth had drawn it
backward toward that savage state which perhaps had characterized it
when the world began.
The cutting of trees in the valleys of the Durance and the Verdon had
to be stopped at once; the pole fences had to be made higher, even at the
cost of bringing wood from ten leagues away, of using the tallest spruces
of the Lure Mountains. I became one of its most tireless adversaries
precisely because it had betrayed my complete trust. As far as work, resources and imagination were concerned, I was inexhaustible in my
struggle against its victorious advance. I sought to conquer it even with
its own weapons. I invented a system to dig deeper wells based on the
energy furnished by a windmill. It had in fact dried up the more superficial wells or else filled them in with dust.
I used to laugh when I heard old folks say that the Saint Lazaire hill
had moved many rods closer. But I laughed no more when I noticed that
the heights which overlooked my farm were threatening to knock down
one of the fences my father had built.
20 And it was itself advancing, growing huge, unleashing more and more
fury. At night its howling was enough to drive a man crazy, it bellowed
like a herd of oxen that picks up the odor of death in a slaughterhouse
corral. When a storm came up, it uprooted trees, flattened canebrakes
and fences and then as it diminished (still it never never went to sleep,
blast it!), left the earth and plant life parched, dried up springs and filled
houses and stables with sand, as if we were in the middle of a desert.
We realized that our struggle was useless. When a family noticed that
only a little muddy water remained at the bottom of their well, they
would load their household possessions on a cart and go away at night, to
avoid the anguished eyes of others. Every month, every day it had one
more empty house to take possession of. It entered them as the owner,
banged doors and windows, uncovered roofs during storms and howled
in rooms, hallways and closets like an invisible animal that could find no
At the end they all left. Even Jeanne. One evening she climbed onto
some friends' cart, helped up by the arms of others since her own were
full of rheumatism after years and years of begging me with tears in her
eyes to take her away because she couldn't endure any longer, couldn't
stand it anymore. Her eyes sought vainly in the dim twilight to read in
my own why I insisted on remaining, the only living inhabitant of a ghost
But I myself wouldn't have known how to explain it to her. Perhaps
only now, after months of solitude have I worked out a reason sufficiently close to the truth: which is that living like a shadow, like a
solitary owl, seems to me to be the most suitable way to respond to this
stage of the weariness of the world. Since the world has dried up, it's actually possible to fill an existence by spying from behind a canebrake or a
door left ajar... on him, the North Wind, the terrible Mistral.
21 Walid Bitar
Two Poems
The emperor's soldiers used to chisel
Our faces to fit his astigmatism.
When he died we heard
More chiselling;
Rows of servants were made to follow him
And humanize the ground.
We huddled round our candles,
Left him the moon;
It was brighter than our candles, but so far
Away, and the light was not its own.
When it waned
Our candles connected the days
Like canals connect one sea to another.
But the moon always returned, and before it the sun
Whipping us on with our eyesight.
For relief we swam, held one another's tongues
Like the sea holds waves,
The water's shell hatching with our splashes;
Who else would have populated the earth?
Through winters without wood screams
Were our only furnaces.
We climbed up and down stairs not to freeze;
Stairs are an abridgment of faith, we know,
But useful nevertheless.
Those were the years fairy tales turn
Into days knitted by the hands of some slow clock,
As if the only thing we could never
Count on was our memory.
22 But look: the neighbour's children
Stand beside our new museum and pretend
They are building it, not at all
Surprised by what is inside:
The emperor, now a wax figurine,
The soldiers terracotta.
After five thousand years, we are the sculptors
And the corridors of our exhibits connect
One day to the next.
Whoever walks into this place will never
Walk out on our past.
23 Carnavale
The carpenters saw
Away at new pavillions,
New dreams,
New ladders of sawdust.
Soon even the saints are rooted on,
And their shirts, torn,
Into confetti.
Chandeliers flex their biceps
To strengthen our view.
Up ahead a clown delivers
The sermon:
"Reality and I grew up together;
I look after it
Like I look after accidents."
Tomorrow his words might drownproof
In some gossip column
Or other.
But we have time till tomorrow,
Till the thinkers attach
Dots to our question marks,
Sell them off as fish hooks.
The thinkers live up in the ferris wheel,
Kilometres up.
From their binoculars they seem to think
We're seagulls blown off
Course by the wind.
From up there the horizon is a tightrope, ships
Barely balance; the city
Is unassembled, a jigsaw
Puzzle of lights easy to confuse
With the sky.
We may not be thinkers, but at least
We never discuss stars passing through
Till we tear the shirts off their backs.
24 Heather Brown
I could get off this bus
and find my fantasies about you
all shrivelled like fall apples still
clinging to winter trees.
(Blacklighted in the door, I'm Fellini's
impression of a sacrificial lamb,
waiting for the high priest
to slit my waiting chest,
expose the fleshly heart.)
Who wrote this?
The key image here is
mixed metaphor of Jew & Aztec.
I could live 20 minutes away.
& find all my intentions concerning you
lying in my mind like
unsorted/unfolded laundry on an unmade bed.
(Montage of memories
hurting like a bruise
only when you press it;
subjective pan,
slow, capturing
love stark terrain.)
Take 2.
Extreme close-up. Move in now.
Now I tell you.
Trap those lovely, haunted eyes
of the pierced soul.
Symbol of man's universal inability
to truly own anything.
25 I could get off this phone;
discover all my dreams metamorphosed
into mere conversations.
(Voice over in my brain
like 1st person account,
while exposed footage
pictures you & I holding hands:
backdrop beach & fiery pastel sunset.)
Reverse angle.
Let's go.
Final cut.
26 The Dummy
Robert Shapard
The thing to do was get out of town, but I couldn't help hanging
around all summer. One day my mother called and I went to the
"Your father's gone out to the room," she said, meaning the quarters
used mostly for storage, next to the garage. She was pale and blinking.
I said, "Oh." Usually she was the one who had her wits about her.
Now she seemed frightened, rubbing the back of her hand.
"I should have called the police," she said.
"He won't open the door," she said.
She followed me into the kitchen, as if I were going to hunt for sandwich makings, while she told me about her and Dad's plans for the evening. They hadn't had plans for years. I went right through the kitchen to
the key hooks on the back porch.
"Where's the key?" I said.
It had been in her hand the whole time. She gave it to me. "It's the
screen that's locked, not the door. I'm sure he's in there. He won't talk
to me."
"Call 911," I said.
I went out through the oasis my father had made of the back yard,
which had been nothing but bare dirt when my older brother and sister
and I and other kids had restled years ago while my father dug and
planted, an empty flowerpot for an ashtray, sipping from an icy gin,
oblivious of any small bugs. He would never kill a fly, we knew, but
sometimes drank one. As we grew older we helped him build the ponds
and brick walks, gone weedy now, the oaks higher than the house. Had
he actually been coach of our sixth grade football team? We lost every
game. If he was involved in rehearsals, he came to the dinner table in
costume. The Gentleman Caller, the Sherrif of Nottingham, or later,
King Lear, mad and hoary, using his imagination to fall in love with my
mother over and over for thirty years.
The back gate opened next to the garage and the quarters. I pressed
my face against the screen door, which was battered and rusty. The
room was L-shaped and dark but there was sunlight in the window on the
27 other side, and I could see the rolled up ends of some rugs.
There was nothing from the room, and outside just the usual sounds of
a summer afternoon, birds and squirrels chirping. Somewhere in the
neighbourhood a back door slapped, and someone called down the alley.
"Dad, I know you're in there." He was up to one of his tricks and I was
sick of them.
I found a metal trowel quickly in one of the stacked flowerpots along
the clapboard siding of the quarters and worked it into the crack between
the doorframe and the jamb, but the trowel was a cheap one made of thin
metal and instead of forcing the door open it merely bent, chipping the
paint. I kicked in the screen, which I should have done in the first place.
It was rusty and my foot went right through the bottom of it. I kicked
again and got my shoulder through, then reached up and got the hook.
He was on the floor, half on a rug, half on the wooden floorboards,
next to a stack of cardboard boxes full of junk. His head was under a chair
with the stuffing coming out of the armrests, the chair piled high with
junk, framed prints with the glasses cracked. It was hot and the room
smelled of hot tar paper and mildew from the rafters. There was no ice
in the gin and tonic but the glass was still sweating, dusty sunlight on the
chair legs, his cigarette out but the smoke still drifting. Dad had on the
clothes he wore in the role of gentleman gardener: tennis shoes,
L.L.Bean khakis, white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled. His arms
were open at his sides, two dark blue towels from Mom's bathroom
wrapped around his wrists, a Gilette Blue Blade on the floor under his
"Godammit," I said. The precinct station was only a few blocks away,
down by the branch library. Was my mother so tired of calling? There
was a flutter of birds up out of the eaves and I saw her in the driveway.
The window glass was hazy and standing there alone she seemed far
away, waiting anxiously in the sun of a long ago summer. My father,
though a gentle man, drank too much, and eventually his contract with
the college was not renewed, so my mother had had to work at the library, and I grew unmanageable and in my second year of high school ran
away from home. But my father brought me home again and I graduated.
I kneeled by my father. I couldn't see his face under the chair. He had
lost weight in the last year especially, and was very light. In the evening
light even the skin of his forearms looked like old paper. There was
nothing left of him. None of his clothes fit. His khakis might as well have
been stuffed with the crumpled onionskin pages of the radio soap opera
scripts he wrote and directed before and during the War, in New York,
when he acted off-Broadway and when even Hollywood was a possibil-
28 ity. But we kids were born by then, and my mother and father wanted us
to grow up in their hometown, where after all there was little theater.
"Now what?" I said.
My father didn't answer. His chest was still, that frail cavity, but he
wasn't fooling me.
The screen door opened. It was the police, an older sergeant and the
younger patrolman behind him bumping rescue gear against the doorframe. The sergeant looked angry and at the same time a little embarrassed. He had worked this neighborhood for a long time. I tugged my
father out from under the chair. I was angry and embarrassed, too. We
had all done this before.
But it was different this time.
It wasn't my father.
It was a dummy.
Old paper in fact, I saw now, stuffed into his old clothes, with a burlap
sack for a head. The mouth was crudely drawn in black marker. The half-
circles, drawn in black, indicated closed eyes.
I looked at the police. The police looked at me. I was amazed at their
faces. They were anguished. The late afternoon had come unmoored,
and behind them in the door it was evening. I cradled the dummy against
my chest. The burlap face scratched my cheek.
29 Lois Baker
Poems from Harbin
For Jia Ping Xi
Night, September
What brings to mind
the mistaken premise that purpose
lies in movement is not the Song Hua,
swollen now, flowing north to the Heilongjiang,
nor windblown sycamores on the wet bank,
but asking you on how many rivers does the moon,
stippled by passing leaves,
lie still.
Late April
For six months snow covers each day's trash,
a gradual mounding in the garden,
the riffled alleys.    But a thaw flips back
the calendar of use—expended fireworks
from the Spring Full Moon, raveling autumn baskets.
Today I watched a sweeper, fighting the Gobi wind,
flick a two of clubs into her dustbin.
(Here the familiar's more disturbing than the strange:
old men cut ace-high decks at the tobacco mart
in Zhong Shan Street, play rummy on the train to Dalian.)
Now delicate grayish lilacs bloom by the courtyard wall,
leaves almost shaped like hearts, almost fragrant
as May turns up the key to the iron gate, its diamond light.
The cottony seeds of willow mimic frost.
30 A Page of Madness
Kawabata Yasunari
Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato
* Night. Roof of an insane asylum. Lightning rod. Downpour. Flashes
of lightning.
* A showy dancer dancing on a showy stage.
In front of the stage standing iron bars appear. Prison bars.
The showy stage gradually changes into a cell of the insane asylum.
The showy costume of the dancer gradually change into the uniform
for a mad person.
The mad dancer is dancing madly.
* Madman A in Cell 1.
Madman B in Cell 2.
Madman C in Cell 3.
* The dancing dancer's legs.
A nurse walks down the long hall of the asylum.
Stops in front of a cell and looks in.
A mad wife in the cell.
The nurse walks away.
The mad wife.
* A bright Western room.
The clock strikes eight.
A daughter, turning the other way, puts on a raincoat.
A young man, who has been dawdling at a table, turns to look at the
The daughter opens the window to the balcony and looks out.
* Rain and flashes of lightning.
* The young man walks up to the daughter and makes a gesture
indicating, "Don't go home."
Sheets of paper on the desk blow away in a wind.
31 The young man collects them.
The daughter looks at him and laughs.
The young man pretends to be angry for a moment; sees a black ring
box and throws it at her.
She picks it up and opens it.
A wedding ring.
She frowns and thinks of her mad mother.
* The mad mother mad in the asylum.
* The daughter, after some hesitation, walks up to the young man.
Rain in the balcony. The door closes inward.
* Within the bars the dancer is dancing madly.
* Rain outside.
* The dancer.
* Musical notes shaped like flashes of lightning superimposed on the
rain outside.
* The dancer.
* In the rain, sounds of drums and many other kinds of musical
* The dancer, exhausted, falls flat on the floor.
Blood seeping from her toes.
* Musical instruments in the rain.
* The fallen dancer listens intently, rises to her feet, and resumes
* The floor becomes stained with blood.
The long hall of the asylum.
An handyman's shadow.
He stands in front of the dancer's cell.
He sneaks up to the door of the next cell, of his wife.
The wife turns to look.   A mad woman, she doesn't recognize him
as her husband.
The handyman calls out her name.
32 The wife, wordless, holds out her hand.   The handyman goes close
to his wife.
The wife snatches a button off from his shirt.    Expresses delight at
it on her palm. The handyman looks at it.
A guard walks down the hall.
The handyman, afraid of the guard's footsteps, hides himself.
The wife is playing with the button.
The handyman sticks his face in.
The wife turns to look. Then falls asleep.
The rain is blowing against the window.
The button falls on the floor. (Superimposed)
The dark water of a pond appears.
The handyman makes an expression indicating that he's
remembering the past.
The pond in darkness. A baby. The handyman, as a sailor that he
was, is looking for his wife around the pond. His wife tries to
throw herself into the pond; her daughter stops her by holding
her. The baby slips out of the wife's arms and falls into the pond.
The handyman's painful look.
A couple of scenes showing the handyman as a sailor. The days when
he treated her cruelly. Ports and towns he visited while wandering
about after abandoning his wife.
A long road. The gate to the insane asylum. The handyman walks
down the road and comes to the gate.
The handyman absorbed in his remembrances.
A rain-soaked cat jumps in the window and runs down the long hall.
Morning light shines in the hall through the window.
A nurse busily walks past down the hall.
A dog runs about in a big yard.
33 The gate-keeper's child is calling out to the dog.
The dog runs up to the child.
The child and the dog run about in the yard.
The child falls and starts weeping.
The handyman sees it and runs toward the child.
The daughter opens the door of a Western house and comes out.
Walks down the stone steps and turns to look at the door. Then,
looking down, she walks away.
The dancer's cell. She's leaning against the wall. She lightly knocks
the wall with her head.
The next cell, that of the wife. The sleeping wife notices the sound
from the wall, raises her head, and looks toward the sound.
The wall of the dancer's cell. A photo of the dancer in her showy
stage costume is pinned on it. It's torn. The dancer rises to her
feet and walks toward it.
The handyman is opening the windows along the hall with a clatter.
The gate of the asylum. It's chained.
The daughter shows up. Holds onto the door and looks in as if she
wanted to say something.
She is ready to walk away.
The gate-keeper opens the door. Looks at the daughter suspiciously.
The daughter musters her courage and goes inside.
The gate-keeper's child follows her.
The registration window of the asylum. The daughter requests a
meeting with her mother.
The registrar refuses.
The gate-keeper's child, standing by, asks, What's the number of the
cell of the mad woman?
Cell No. 25.   The handyman is standing in front of the cell of his
The registrar agrees to a meeting with much reluctance.
The daughter follows the child.
34 * The child runs up to the handyman in the hall and tells him that
someone has come to meet the mad woman in Cell No. 25.
The handyman looks suspicious.
* The handyman and the daughter see each other. Both are surprised.
The daughter cries out, "Father!"
(She doesn't have time to wonder how he has become the handyman
of this asylum....)
She only has time to express her deference to her father, and goes
straight to her mother's cell.
The handyman blocks her by raising his arms. Tries not to show her
her mother in a painful, mad state.
The daughter pushes her father aside and proceeds to the door of her
mother's cell.
* Her mad mother.
The daughter sneaks up to the bars of her mother's cell and says,
"Mother, I'm getting married."
Her mother looks blank as if she didn't understand the words.
The handyman looks pained that his daughter didn't disclose her
marriage plan to him first.
He puts his hand gently on her shoulder.    Looks as if he wanted to
say something.
The daughter, miffed, brushes off his hand.
And, turning to look at her mother, she readies herself to leave with
a weepy face.
The daughter passes by the registration office.
The handyman sees her off.
The daughter goes out into the yard.
The gate-keeper's child is there.
The daughter seems to be asking him something.
The daughter and the child walk through the yard side by side.
At the registration office the handyman stands still, looking toward
the yard.
Down the hall of the asylum walk doctors, assistants, guards, and
Morning checkup.
35 Checking on Madman A.
Checking on Madman B.
Checking on Madman C, etc.
From each cell many mad people come out into the hall.
These are the mad people who have been permitted to take a
morning walk.
Similarly, mad women, a great many of them.
The wife's cell.
A doctor checks on her.
The handyman stands in front of the door of his wife's cell. As the
doctor comes out, he asks him how she is.
The doctor turns to look at him momentarily, but doesn't seem to
want to talk to him. (None of the hospital people know that this
woman is the handyman's wife.)
The handyman walks away.
The wife is also permitted to take a morning walk.
Before leaving her cell, she tries to wear the button last night on her
head as if it were a hairpin.
The button falls on the floor many times.
The nurses and others laugh at this.
The wife does her makeup facing a wall as if it were a mirror.
A mirror appears on the wall.
In it appears her beautiful self of the past.
She walks out of her cell.
In the dancer's cell the dancer is madly dancing. Because she's
excited, she isn't permitted a walk.
Down the long hall the wife and other mad people go out.
In the yard the handyman is weeding.
A great many mad people come out into the yard.
The wife is sitting, looking at the sky.
36 The daughter and the child are sitting on a bench in a flower garden.
The daughter is asking the child about her father, the handyman.
The child is giving her replies bothersomely.
Mad people walk past in front of them.
Alarmed, the child runs away.
Uneasy, the daughter, too, rises to her feet.
The handyman is weeding.
The child comes running and jumps up to him.
He asks, "Is the woman of No. 25 your bride?"
The handyman fiercely denies it.
"But," the child says and points toward the bench.
The daughter is walking across the flower garden.
The handyman walks toward his daughter.
Called to, the daughter stops walking.
The handyman comes near.
The daughter, while looking polite, looks away.
Tears  appear  in  the  handyman's  eyes.  Asks  his  daughter for
The daughter bites her lips.
The handyman says, "So you're getting married."
The daughter nods.
The two of them walk quietly.
A group of mad people are resting on the lawn.
One of them becomes excited, rises to his feet, and pretends to give
a sermon.
Many mad people applaud.
Guards forcibly take the excited madman away.
The wife is looking at the sky quietly amid the group of mad people.
A beautiful scene floats up in the sky.
The wife is looking at the sky.
The handyman and his daughter come and stand behind the wife.
The daughter becomes lachrymose.
37 The handyman is struck by compunction.
* The wife stretches her arms toward the sky.
* One madman notices the beautiful daughter and comes running
toward her as if ready to leap on her.
The daughter starts running away.
The handyman holds onto the man. Guards help him.
The daughter dashes out of the gate of the asylum like an arrow.
* The beautiful, illusory scene in the sky disappears.
* The gate. The gate-keeper is looking at the daughter who is dashing
* The dancer's cell. The dancer is dancing wildly in a fast tempo.
* One of the mad women who have finished their morning walk rushes
to the bars of the dancer's cell. An attendant tries to take her
away, but she doesn't budge.
* The mad dance the mad woman saw.
* The madwoman applauding.
* The dance.
* Hearing the applause, many mad women come running.
Guards and nurses try to take them away, but they don't budge.
The mad people, making commotions, watch the dance.
* Madwoman A watching the dance.
* The dance as seen by Madwoman A.
* Madwoman B watching the dance.
* The dance as seen by Madwoman B.
* Ditto, C.
* The dance as seen by C.
38 * A group of madmen, hearing the commotions made by the women,
come running.
* The dance.
* Men and women, in confusion, make a lot of noise in front of the
dancer's cell.
Guards and nurses take away one or two of the mad people.
* Doctors and many members of their staff hurriedly arrive to give
The handyman is one of them.
They take away the excited mad people one by one.
Mad People 1, 2, 3, 4 as they are taken away —.
One madman, who has been wildly swinging his arms, hits the
handyman's wife who happens to be standing by.
The wife falls on the floor.
The handyman, enraged, hits the mad man.
The madman grabs the handyman.
The handyman becomes pinned to the floor.
Mad people surround them excitedly.
Doctors separate the handyman and the mad man.
Mad people are gradually taken away, and few remain in the hall.
The  handyman   is  abjectly,   repeatedly  bowing  to  a  doctor  to
The doctor is very angry.
* The wife, who, lying on the floor, was watching this as if it had
nothing to do with her, rises to her feet on her own and quietly
goes into her cell.
* The doctor angrily takes the handyman away.
* The wife's expressionless face.
The doctor's room. The doctor's scolding the handyman.
The handyman, growing angry, moves to leave the room.
His mad wife shows up in his brain.
Having second thoughts, the handyman moves back and pleads with
the doctor.
39 * The turnstile of a station. The daughter is buying a ticket in a hurry.
* The train begins to move.
* A pitiful old man picks up a silver coin next to it.
* In the bright Western room a young man is turning the pages of a
magazine. Waiting for someone.
A maid leads the daughter in.
The young man and the daughter at once go out, barely hiding their
* The wife behind the bars.
* The dancer's cell. The dancer lies, her arms and legs bound.
* In his room the handyman is lying, deep in thought.
* A shot of the daughter biting her lips and the handyman in the yard.
* The handyman is worried about his daughter's marriage. Noisily
opening the door, the gate-keeper's child sticks his head in,
shouts, "Here comes something exciting!" and rushes out.
The handyman rises to his feet and looks out the window.
* Near the asylum passes an advertising band of musicians.
Banners and other things announcing Big Sale and Lottery.
* The handyman's watching.
* The trumpet of the band. The banner saying Lottery.    Handbills
being strewn on the street.
* (It's a night scene now.)
* A lottery place at night. Decorative lights. Banners. Mounds of
prizes. Other things. Throngs of people.
The people, each carrying a shopping bag, draw their lots by turns.
Young women in a "cloven peach" hair style are handing out the
prizes. Everyone gets something uninteresting.
The handyman, carrying a small amount of purchases, appears.
He picks up one of the cookies that are used as lots, and hands it over
to one of the young women.
40 The young woman opens it, shows surpise, and smiles. Shouts,
"First prize! First prize!"
Everyone gathers around them.
Another young woman shakes a bell.
The throng presses close and makes a good deal of commotion.
The man in charge of the lottery takes down the first prize: a chest.
One of the young women hands formal party attire, with a tag saying
"To Go with the First Prize," to the handyman.
The handyman's joy.
The lottery people help the handyman put the chest on his back.
The handyman walks down the street with the chest on his back. A
throng of noisy people follow him.
The daughter, coming from the opposite direction, joyfully runs up to
the handyman.
The handyman joyfully tells his daughter, "Now we have a wedding
present for you."
The dancer's cell. The dancer, wearing the formal party dress,
dances joyfully.
The window of the handyman's room. Noon. Awaking from his daydreaming, the handyman laughs and closes the window.
The dancer's cell. The dancer, her arms and legs still bound, is
Down the hall the man in charge of food and the handyman are
carrying lunch for the mad people.
The mad people, sensing that their meals are coming, peer out of
their cells.
In an elegant furniture store the daughter and the young man are
buying an elegant chest.
In her cell the wife is quietly eating her meal.
The handyman, cautious lest other people notice him, approaches his
wife and takes two rice cakes out of his pocket.
His wife takes them casually, sets the meal aside, and eats the cakes
The handyman casts wary glances around.
41 A couple of mad people eating their meals in other cells.
In the hall the man in charge of food calls to the handyman.
The handyman, surprised, leaves his wife and, pretending to be
really tired, puts the used dishes in a basket and carries it away.
The kitchen of the asylum. A cook is doing dishes expressionlessly.
Water is dripping from the faucet.
Opening the door, the handyman comes in. He seats himself.
A rice bowl drops and breaks.
The handyman looks at it gloomily.
The cook is doing dishes expressionlessly.
The gate of the asylum. The young man's friend asks the gate-keeper
about something and walks away.
The bright Western room. Told by his friend that his lover's mother
is insane, the young man puts on a gloomy expression.
The young man sits, facing a table, looking intently at a spot.
The friend walks about in the room and, trying to light his cigarette,
happens to look at the balcony.
Sitting on a chair on the balcony, the daughter is listening.
The friend notices the daughter, laughs as if his story was a joke, and
takes his leave.
The daughter stands outside the glass door.
The young man, looking cheerful as he does always, welcomes her.
The daughter looks dejected, suffering.
Seeing this, the young man looks slightly depressed.
The daughter silently leaves the room.
In his room the handyman is lying down, exhausted.
Near the fence of the asylum. Children at play.
The gate-keeper's child comes near them.
To attract the children's attention, the gate-keeper's child mimics
Madman A.
The children are amused.
The handyman is looking at this out of his window.
42 *
The children egg the gate-keeper's child on.
The gate-keeper's child mimics Madman B.
The children egg him on.
The gate-keeper's child doesn't do it any more.
The children threaten him.
The gate-keeper's child mimics the handyman's wife.
In the window the handyman's face.
Despite the children's threats, the gate-keeper's child refuses to do
any more mimicking of mad people.
The children torture the gate-keeper's child and in the end make him
* In his room the handyman lies down again, exhausted.
* The door opens a little, noiselessly. A feeling of hesitation outside
the door.
The handyman turns to look.
Saying "Father," the daughter comes in.
The handyman looks at his daughter.
The daughter,  looking as if about to burst into tears, quietly
approaches  the  handyman  and  seats  herself abstractly.  The
handyman tries to learn what bothers his daughter.
The daughter remains silent, hanging her head. She has come to visit
her father because the young man learned of her mother.
* The handyman sees the engagement ring on his daughter's finger.
The daughter weeps, saying, "I can't get married any more."
The handyman says, "You better give it up."
Hearing the word "Give up," the daughter suddenly turns rebellious
and leaves the room.
The handyman watches her leave.
* The broken rice bowl.
* The handyman quietly sits down. He suffers, thinking of his
daughter's misfortune.
The light turns on.
* The hall at midnight. The handyman, casting fearful glances,
43 approaches his wife's cell.
The wife, hearing the noise, opens her eyes wide.
The handyman opens the door of the cell with the key he had stolen,
and goes inside.
He hurries his wife out into the hall.
* A mad person's shrill laughter.
* The handyman is taken aback.
* A couple of mad people's shrill laughter.
* Down the long hall the handyman flees like a demon, carrying his
wife in his arms.
* The exit of the hall. The handyman opens the door and tries to take
his wife out.
The wife looks at the darkness outside, turns fearful, and steps back.
The handyman tries to take his wife out forcibly.
The wife, fearful of the darkness, resists violently.
* In the darkness the pond in the dark forest floats up.
* As if trying to push it aside, the wife flails about wildly.
* A dog howls in the distance.
* The wife falls down.
The handyman, surprised, touches her chest.
The breathing is hard. He touches her forehead. She has fever.
The handyman runs away to fetch water.
Left alone, the wife rises to her feet and quietly walks away toward
her cell.
The handyman returns with water. His wife is no longer there. He
looks for her.
Then he runs toward his wife's cell.
* In her cell, the wife is sitting, looking blank.
The handyman comes and urges her to run away for their daughter.
* In the hall. A guard's footsteps.
44 *
The handyman flees, in a hurry, down the hall. He drops the key.
The key on the floor of the hall.
Passing by, the guard picks up the key and looks at it in puzzlement.
He sees no one.
The handyman runs into his room.
He sits down as if falling and heaves a sigh of relief.
He's oddly excited and confused.
He feels as if someone is whispering to him, "Take your mad wife
away to a distant place to enable your daughter to be married
happily." He also thinks he won't be able to stay near his wife after
tomorrow because he dropped the key.
The handyman's expression is chaotic as if stricken with illness.
The iron prison door opens quietly, noiselessly.
The handyman take his wife out of her cell.
Turning back, he sees Mad Women A, B, and C standing at the
entrance of the room.
Down the long hall the handyman flees.
The mad people come chasing him.
Countless mad women stand in front of the handyman.
There's a sharp call, "Handyman!" The handyman, startled, turns to
The director of the asylum is standing there.
The handyman tries to run away.
A great many nurses block the handyman's way.
The handyman grapples with the director. He kills him.
Then he beats to death a number of doctors, assistants, guards, and
mad people.
Three beautiful automobiles enter the hall and drive down the
corpses lying on the floor.
In each of the three cars is the daughter in a wedding dress. Next to
her sits a mad man who is supposed to have been killed a little
earlier, also in a wedding costume.
The wife stands in front of the cars to block them.
The daughter puts her hand over her husband's face lest he see her
The wife climbs up a car.
45 *
The driver tries to push her aside.
The handyman, trying to pull her off, beats her.
The daughter forgets to cover her husband's face, gets out of the car,
and protects her mother.
The madman, holding onto a door of the car, says, "Fight! Fight!"
A hearse comes in and stops in front of them.
The assistants and mad people who have been killed get in the
hearse, accompanied by the nurses. So does the director, with a
terrifying expression, and glares at the handyman.
The wedding cars run away.
The hearse runs away. In the car the director and assistants are
delightedly laughing and talking.
The hushed hall. The handyman is standing, holding his wife.
The day breaks.
In his room the handyman is sitting. Holding his head in his hands
he's agonizing. Suddenly he awakes from his dream.
Object 1 showing the dawning.
Objects 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc.
(The handyman's dream continues.)
In the hall three mad people are behaving madly.
The handyman approaches them with a basket, smiling.
In the basket are a great many masks with gentle smiles.
The handyman puts the smiling masks on Mad People A, B, and C,
by turns.
The mad people's violent behavior stops, and they put on gentle
Many mad women are sitting in the hall.
The handyman puts a mask on every one of them.
At once everyone's face turns into a gentle smile.
The handyman puts a mask on his wife's face, too.
The wife's gentle smile shows love to the handyman.
The handyman puts a mask on his own face, too. A smiling face. And
he hugs his smiling wife.
(Superimposed on the dream, the scene switches to the handyman
doing the morning sweeping of the hall.)
The handyman continues to do the sweeping methodically, silently.
The director and a nurse pass by and pleasantly respond to the
handyman's greeting.
46 The handyman remembers his dream, and laughs.
* The director and the nurse stand in front of the wife's cell.
The wife is sleeping peacefully.
* The dancer's room. The dancer is madly dancing today, too.
* The director visits one cell after another, accompanied by the nurse.
* The handyman is sweeping the long hall methodically, silently.
* The young man's bright Western room. No one is there.
A bunch of beautiful flowers in the room tells of the wedding of the
daughter and the young man tomorrow.
Kawabata wrote the script at the request of the director Kinugasa
Teinosuke. In 1975, when his film version, which had been long assumed lost, was discovered in his own home in Kyoto and shown in
Tokyo, Kinugasa, who died not long after the discovery, had this to say:
"I made A Page of Madness in 1926, a half century ago. At that time
we were still in the age of silent movies, when the cinema was going to
be heightened as an art form worldwide. I too wanted to make movies I
could believe in, free from the constraints of studios. So I consulted Mr.
Yokomitsu Riichi, whom I was acquainted with, and he introduced me to
Mr. Kawabata Yasunari. The script he wrote as a result was A Page of
Madness. I decided not to use subtitles at Mr. Yokomitsu's suggestion."
Kinugasa was originally a stage actor who specialized in playing
women. At the time he turned to Kawabata, he was thirty but had already made 25 movies—all low-budget, standardized, and made "with
divine alacrity." He financed the entire cost of the making of A Page of
Madness himself. It was the first time this was done in Japan.
Yokomitsu Riichi (1889-1947), whom Kinugasa mentions, is a
novelist. He wrote a short story which won for him, Kawabata, and
other writers of his group the appellation "New Sensibility School."
Hiroaki Sato prepared the translation when the movie was shown at
the Japan Society, New York, in the spring of 1987, as one of the ten
films selected for the series, "Japanese Literature on Screen."
47 Ryusei Hasegawa
Two Poems
Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato
The Last Years of Long,
Long Showa
Amsterdam was in a winter shower.
Looking for airmail,
didn't an obnoxious man called Satie
walk past a cold back alley?
The back collar of his coat turned up,
just like a white heron in the rain,
didn't that former pianist, flying low,
transform himself into a shadow sliding past a tower?
"Is anyone there?"
"I am at your service, Sire."
Mumbling such a dialogue,
didn't an Oriental who looked like another Satie
trudge away?
At times there's a disease of thinking that a detective who,
always at a loss as to his responsibilities,
is tailing you, unwilling to let you go,
but there also remains the disease of the spiritual history in
which Mr. Former God always follows you everywhere.
Where are the sounds?
when, exposing its somewhat droll skeletal figure,
the path for the "notes" of the sounds is all set.
The investigation is endless but
anyone will do, just catch a white heron for me.
I always close my eyes.
Short eyelashes are embarrassing.
They even repel the raindrops at once.
The last years of long, long Showa when herons rise and return,
even the flying birds drop to the ground,
but even so wisdom is reflected, said the resident Japanese.
Vaguely the "notes" of the sounds
cling to the bottom of my memory.
48 I am waiting for obnoxious Satie because,
on the other side of the winter shower in Amsterdam,
I heard something like the future of wingbeats.
Even while riding a bus of a foreign country
and clutching a seat,
maple-hunting and snow-viewing events revive in my mind.
By the water at "cloud-dwelling" Ouchi where his lordship
spends his leisure,
an illusory ful-ful drifts, and
humming something like
"Within the littoral lies the kingdom,
that's the thought I depend upon,"
five black herons
in frock coats
stand forever and ever getting wet.
I am grateful for your wise consideration, yet I am grateful.
This is because, for the first time in a long while,
I saw a totally drenched Oriental newspaper
in the winter shower of Amsterdam.
Cutting down the sounds,
where is the path of the "notes" of the sounds?
The death of a single ibis.
Reaching a pub in a suburb
I sprinkle wine the colour of diluted blood.
49 Escape from Japan
If I were to escape
where would I head for?
Straight to Anatolia in Turkey.
Go to the place of wild human beings
who scatter swirls of laughter,
utter cries that echo in the forests,
set fire to the territories of the Palace
trusting the strength of their angry, giant legs,
and follow the camels and mohair goats
that are the great fantasies of the past.
In the mountainous steppe of Anatolia
there are feral passions that can't be cut off by their
They continue to resist the winters of the steppe
where they continually migrate, the nationality of Turkey.
Even in the niches of Spain, Japan, and the Philippines
there are small Anatolias
like milestones, of the dark modern age.
When it comes to the seductive light of a young man
it's to kick government employment
and hurtle himself, his own body,
into a world that shoots the sun.
50 Nobuko Saisho
Two Poems
Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato
Until It's Cooked
At the dead end of a narrow alley, the wind blowing through,
a mere board enclosure, its roof a canvas sheet,
an eatery more like an unclean pub — there
I force myself to order a single serving of porridge.
In this bustling town
there's no other place I like.
Seating myself on a wooden chair gleaming with grease
I peer into the hands of the owner, an old man,
behind the counter.
Muttering something, the old man
skillfully breaks an egg with one hand
into the boiling earthen pot.
There's no other guest — no,
guests are seldom here.
On the other side of the rising steam
there's the sound of his snuffling up his nose.
Deep into the night, every time I turn the corner of the building
into this alley
I give up yet another part of my aesthetics.
Eating only once a day
is my aesthetics, someone said long ago.
Tonight I gave up my consciousness.
What I gave up last night, I can't recall.
Whatever it is that I give up, my secret pleasure
is to wrap it in a torn piece of the years and months I've saved
for no purpose
and let it blow away in the wind among the buildings
as if it was the deed of living.
To read out the symbols for mathematical formulae written closely
into the fake cobbled road,
this area is too dark.
51 To be sitting at the entrance of this canvas-roofed place
for a mere dozen minutes
until the porridge is cooked
is appropriate for me.
"Here we are."
With an unprofessional move of his hands
the old man puts the earthern pot on the counter.
The accumulation of this whole day melts that moment.
I quietly rise from my chair, put down the coins,
cast a glance beyond the shoulders of the old man who's looking
at the backdrop of this eatery,
the barren plain,
and step out, leaving the porridge uneaten.
Just because I want to place an order
every night
I come blown by the wind among the buildings.
52 Eat
Eating salad
the woman bites the faintly bitter persistance
that oozes lightly at the brilliantly sliced end of celery,
sucks the weight-reducing calories of thread-like cabbage,
at times, licking the juice that clings to her lips,
gives a small sigh.
Various kinds of grasses piled up high.
Countless refracted shadows cast on the cut-glass table ware.
Dailyness is the taste of mayonnaise.
The raw real thing that pursues the true image of undependable-
She sprinkles salt.
She eats using chopsticks.
Feeble cat's cradle illusions
that are fabricated out of the tips of the two sticks.
Because the fork is a savage animal's paw that plunges in,
the knife a glittering tool of slaughter,
and the spoon no more than a slow-moving monotonous palm,
she avoids them with distaste
and carries into her mouth the bits and pieces of an unknown
which were nipped before they bloomed:
echalote, sweet carrot, lettuce, onion,
parsley, radish, broccoli.
Reflected in the windowglass the sun pours on
is her intently eating posture.
Finished eating,
she takes up her glass again
with her fingertips that have turned girlish,
and swallows in one breath
the whole lake brimming with the cold hours of primordial time.
And she rises to her feet, clean.
53 Marlene Cookshaw
Three Poems
The Queen of Burnaby
This Monday morning another goodbye and I'm beginning
to manage quite well: Take good care, I'll see you
next weekend at dusk in front of Denny's
The sky's as matted as the alphabet-block quilt
I left on the clothesline to dry   On the ferry
the businessmen gulp coffee and examine the Sun
Bleary eyes gradually clear, shoulders assume
the shape of suits   A few Alberta families
breakfast to occupy the kids   The kids admire
the balloon-wrapped muffins and packaged cheese
Desire most, even those in dresses and blond curls,
to lean over the aft rail and toss boxes in the wake
I contemplate the sandwiches M packed, wave
my napkin at the neighbouring sea   All children
dream of the pleasures of abandonment    Though in dreams
they panic when the family house has vanished
In time the houses duplicate and streets repeat
themselves   It matters little whether numbers
increase from west to east or children have memorized
the spelling of their names    In the end they'll return
to the maritime province where grandfather docked
Mine was a bricklayer, I tell the empty ashtray
They'll practise a form of birth control that
will allow them one daughter, one son
I won't have children, I told M   He shrugged
I shift with all the passengers to watch a pod of dolphins
starboard   Now the child's blond hair swings forward
When she turns her head, they cannot see her thinking
Now the grain elevators at Pearce and smokestacks
of the Queen of Burnaby are being invaded by mice Sammy Explains Evolution
Sammy steps from the dock
into knee-deep ocean, beckons
us to follow    M and I
cannot help but laugh, he looks
so odd standing in the water
in his arctic gear: the snug
grey toque, trouser cuffs rolled,
the sleeves of his sealskin jacket
loose over baggy underwear
He wades farther and we
stumble into the shallows
When the water closes
over his head we return
to the beach   Above the shoreline
a cherry tree spins in full
blossom, pink blooms
clouding the purple bark
Stooping beneath one fragrant
bough, we discover the petals hard:
waxen disks that the wind rattles
But there is no wind
Sammy grins from a perch
at the tree's centre,
shakes the branches
Tree become timbrel,
dripping with rosy shells
Slick as a shorn polar bear, he laughs
he tosses petals in our hair
55 Roulette
For Jack Lane
On the wide prairie street
snow damped the traffic noise
and tossed the borrowed boots
on your too-small feet
and the squeak of the boots on snow
and the double heel-toe required
to keep the boots on, had you humming
from Revelstoke Lumber to 6th Avenue:
I's the b'y that builds the boat'«'
I's the b'y that sails 'er
I's the b'y that catches the fish 'n'
sends 'em 'ome to 'lizer
In a steakhouse built since
the railway that took you west
stopped passing here
you sit at table with a man
with whom you once lived
—he used to sit alongside you
in restaurants, shared what you saw
He tells you this:
When I was ten, my father's friend
drove up from San Francisco,
a gambler with a pencil moustache
56 He took me for a ride in his 1955
Thunderbird with the top down
—though there was snow then too
At the stoplight on 3rd Avenue
he said 'Open the glove box'
and I did, lifting out a revolver
that he watched me examine
till the light turned green
Alf shrugs his left shoulder:
a newly acquired gesture
His name was Jack Lane
I don't know why he showed it to me
But you are not ready
to end the scene so easily
Something in the small boy's vision
compels you to remain beside him
on the diamond-tucked upholstery
—the gambler at the wheel,
the glove box opened like a timepiece
and reach with the child again
into that hinged rectangle
for the pistol's pearl stock
57 Amusements
Philip St. John
Uncle Tom drove us out that Sunday, he took us down slowly to
the carpark by the pier and stopped at the grass verge in front of
the bay. Millie wanted to wee. Uncle Tom told her she'd have
to wait. Carmel and I asked if we could get out and throw stones at the
water. Uncle Tom said it was too cold. When Millie started to sing, he
glared at us with his bulging red eyes and we all sat very still and
listened to the water splashing on the rocks below.
After a while Uncle Tom got out and leaned his head in and said we
were to stay right there until he got back. Millie asked where he was going and he just slammed the door.
We saw him walk slowly across the carpark and stumble as he tried to
jump the low wall. We laughed. Then we saw him head up a side-street
into the town.
"I hate Uncle Tom," Millie said. "He's a nit."
My big sister slapped her on the arm. Millie hit her shoulder.
"You're a nit too," Millie said. "You're an even bigger nit."
I climbed into the front as they started to fight. Carmel scratched Millie and Millie bit her hand. Then Carmel stuck Millie's face down into
her skirt and Millie tried but couldn't wriggle free. She had her face in
the red and blue cloth. She shouted into the skirt. She said, "Bollox."
Carmel let her go.
"Oooh," she said, pointing at her and smiling. "Ooooh."
"Shut up," Millie told her. "I don't even care." Then, in a loud, singsong voice, she went, "Bollox. Bollox. Bollox. Shit, smelly shit and
piss. Bottoms, shit and oranges."
These words made her break up in laughter. She kicked at the back of
my seat and I fell forward against the horn. There came this very loud
"Oooh," Carmel and Millie said. "Oooh."
They pointed their fingers at me and made this noise. I tried to shout
over the noise that it was their fault, but they made the noise too loudly.
I tried to hit at them, but the back of the seat was too high and I couldn't
reach. Then I saw Uncle Tom stepping over the low wall.
"He's coming," I said, scrambling into the back.
58 Uncle Tom lowered his bottom in and I tried to keep my fast breathing
slow, my hot face covered by my hands. He started the car, and through
my fingers I saw his face turn so he could look behind as he backed out
onto the road. He took a corner gently and we all fell sideways. He took
another corner gently and we all fell the other way.
"Wee," went Millie.
"Quiet back there," went Uncle Tom.
He took us around a bend and up a hill to a set of lights and we went
through the green lights and on up the hill to a roundabout and he curved
around that, leaning his body over, while we all fell on top of each other
in the back. I hit my head. When I sat up there was another squeal and
the three of us tumbled in a heap on Carmel's side. Carmel pushed her
palm into my face and told me to get off. We were going out the Bray
road by then and we were making a lot of noise. Uncle Tom said to
kindly keep quiet back there, please.
So we did.
In Bray he stopped the car by the sea railings and we asked if we were
going to the amusements, but he said no, certainly not, he had some
business to attend to. He got out and looked in at our faces. He put his
hand in his pocket and we all sat forward. He frowned. Then from his
pocket he took a bag of sweets and waved them in front of us.
"Share them equally now, Carmel," he said, frowning and tossing in
the bag. He turned then and crossed the road.
"Uncle Tom's gone into the bar and lounge," my big sister said.
"He's having a pint," said Millie.
"He's having a pint of stout," said Carmel.
We started throwing the white and green sweet wrappers into the
wind and we watched them turn and fall, dropping out beyond the railings onto the sand. Then Millie said that she wanted to wee again. She
said it couldn't wait.
"Right" said Carmel, after she'd had a think, "all out."
We hurried across the grass and hurried over the road. In front of the
wooden brown door of the bar and lounge we stopped and looked at each
other. Each of us looked scared. Then Carmel stepped up. She put her
back against the door and pushed it in. Millie and I stepped inside and
Carmel came after. It was dark and we were on a mat in a short hall.
From the room beyond, the smoke of cigarettes and the tinkle of a cash
register came, and we stood there, looking and listening, not moving an
inch, until this man in a white shirt and black tie came up to us and said,
"Yes, ladies? Can I help?"
59 He bent his grey head down and kissed our hands. He smiled. We said
we wanted to see our Uncle Tom.
"Come this way, please," he said, bowing and pointing with his arm.
We followed him along past tables and the people who were drinking
gave us smiles. As we walked, the man in the white shirt was shouting.
"Uncle Tom." he shouted. "Uncle Tom."
We passed through a door and he held it open and there was another
room with red seats and quiet music. We walked by tables which had
chairs turned upside down on top of them. Hardly any people were
around, just some men up at the counter. They were hunched over and
they were watching the bottles which hung, with their mouths pointing
down, in front of mirrors. Uncle Tom was one of the men.
"Oh," he said. "And what are you lot doing here? Didn't I tell you to
wait in the car?"
Carmel whispered to him about Millie. Uncle Tom nodded and
pointed to a door and my two sisters went through it. Then Uncle Tom
lifted me up and sat me on the stool between himself and this other man.
"This is Mr. Fitzgibbon," he said. "Jim, this is Lorna, my niece." Mr.
Fitzgibbon patted my cheek with his hand. He opened his mouth and his
teeth were all yellow or brown. Hair was on his nose.
"You're a fine girl, aren't you Lorna?" Mr. Fitzgibbon said.
"I don't know," I said.
He patted my cheek again.
"Hasn't she the cutest little face, Tom?"
"Haven't they all?" said Uncle Tom. "Isn't that the problem?"
Millie and Carmel came back. Mr. Fitzgibbon asked if he could buy us
an orange. Uncle Tom frowned, but said nothing.
"Thank you, Mr. Fitzgibbon," we said.
The two of them took us over to a table and we sat on the cold red
plastic seats and drank our orange. We were ever so quiet. Uncle Tom
looked at the white top of his pint and Mr. Fitzgibbon kept showing us
his teeth when he smiled.
"Ah, you're very good," he said. "You're great girls... Some day,
Tom, you're going to have to settle down and have a few of your own."
"And why would I do that?" Uncle Tom said back. "Haven't I enough
problems as it is without having a woman into the bargain?"
Mr. Fitzgibbon didn't answer. He was tickling the back of Millie's
neck and she was raising her shoulders and giggling.
Uncle Tom belched into his fist. I saw water come into his eyes.
After our drink we said goodbye to Mr. Fitzgibbon and he shook our
60 hands, saying delighted to have made your acquaintance, girls. Then we
went out to the cold pavement. We stood there. The wind was blowing
at our skirts and our sad faces were looking up at Uncle Tom. He was
wobbling beside us. His hands were in his pockets and the collar of his
jacket was pulled up to his ears. He saw our sad faces and he frowned.
He looked at his watch and clicked his teeth. He blew out a big long sigh.
"Five minutes then," he said, shaking his finger. "Only five, mind. I'm
getting too old for this carry-on."
We followed him down to the amusements and he nearly tripped up on
the edge of the path as we went in, but Carmel nudged Millie so she
wouldn't laugh. There was a hall inside and it was empty, except for
some ladies who were staring at the fruit machines and snapping down
the black metal arms. Then we entered the place which had the
dodgems. Four of them were skidding around, blue and red sparks dripping off the top of the poles which stuck up from their backs. Uncle Tom
said he was going to take my sisters first. He said he'd take me after.
I looked over the wall of the rink while they went around. Uncle Tom
was driving and he had his free arm around the other two and he was
moving very, very slowly. They hit up softly against a man and a woman.
Then they hit up softly against a boy in a blazer. Then the cars came to a
stop. They got out and Uncle Tom came to get me.
"Hurry on there," he said. "We haven't all day."
I walked onto the shiny floor and went after him to the car. I saw Uncle Tom go down. I saw his legs split and his hands go wide as his body
dropped down and his face hit the floor with a bang. He lay there with his
arms stretched out. Then he sat up.
"Shag this for a game of cricket," he said.
He put his hand to his face and looked at the blood which came off.
Then he put his hand to his face again and more blood came off. He stood
up then and walked over and he turned me around so I faced the street.
Blood came onto my shoulder.
"Are you satisfied now?" he said to us. "Have you had enough sport
for this particular afternoon?"
In the car as he drove, Uncle Tom dabbed a blue handkerchief at the
blood on his face. He was muttering to himself. I heard him say, "The
absolute, complete and utter limit." We were very still. I looked at
Carmel and Millie and they were like statues with huge eyes.
He was taking us along strange roads. We passed a tall church, a supermarket, a petrol station and a bank. Then he turned onto this narrow
road which had caravans and cars and two dirty horses in the field beside
it, and I saw that he was taking us to Granny's house, where he lived.
61 We said nothing. We sat there quietly until he stopped in the drive. He
got out and pulled his seat forward.
"All out," Millie said then. "All out."
Uncle Tom smacked her head. Millie stuck out her bottom lip, but she
didn't cry. The three of us followed a little behind as he walked up to the
front door.
"Lord, Tom, whatever happened?" Granny asked, as we entered the
hall. "You didn't have another crash, did you?"
"No," Uncle Tom said. "As a matter of fact, I didn't."
He stepped past Granny and we followed him into the kitchen. At the
sink he bent himself over, tossing water into his face. Granny gave us a
quick smile. Then she opened a drawer by the cooker and took out a
bottle and poured some yellow stuff from the bottle onto some cotton
wool. Uncle Tom was towelling his face.
"Here, pet," she said, holding out the cotton wool, "let me."
Uncle Tom wriggled his shoulders.
"Would you ever stop fussin', ma," he snapped.
"It's just a bit of iodine, Tom," she said.
"It's just a touch of iodine, Tom," he copied her.
"There's no call for that, now," she said.
"There's no call for that, now," he copied her again.
He threw the towel back onto the rack and took off his jacket which
had blood on its collar, and he handed it to Granny.
"Where are you off to now?" she asked.
"I'm going inside to have a glass of whiskey and a bit of peace," he
said. "That's where I'm going."
He slammed the door. Granny was left holding his jacket. She looked
at it, then she looked up at us and smiled. The smile was a faraway one
and it went on for ages, like she didn't know why she was smiling and
was trying to think up a good reason for doing it.
"Well, pets," she said, brushing the jacket with the wrinkled back of
her hand, "would you like a drink of something?"
We said yes please, thank you very much, Granny.
She folded up the flap of the table and set down three glasses of
orange and a plate piled high with chocolate biscuits. We ate and we
drank. When Granny asked what had happened, we told her.
"Such a man," she said.
In her black leather chair she sat down and took up her knitting. For a
while she jabbed the needles in and out of the chocolate brown, chunky
strands of wool, then she tilted her head to one side and looked out the
"Is he staying for tea, I wonder?"
62 Millie said she didn't know, but Granny wasn't listening. She hadn't
been talking to us, really. She went to the door and called out to Uncle
Tom, asking if he'd be going out before tea. His voice came from the
other room. He said he wasn't hungry.
"He'll be the death of me, that fella," she said, sitting down.
We had finished our orange and were staring at our empty plate. Millie started playing with her glass, rolling it around on the table, and
Carmel and I kept our hands in our laps. Granny's face jerked up all of a
sudden. Her eyes widened.
"And what about the girls?" she said. "What will their mother say
when they don't arrive back on time?"
She set the knitting on the floor again and, pushing her palms down
against the arm of the chair, lifted herself up. She went out to the hall.
"Tom," we heard her call, "are you driving the girls back to Marion's
or what?"
We waited for her to come back. We waited a while. Darkness had fallen
in the back garden, covering the trees and the wooden shed down by the
back wall. The street lights were shining on the road beyond. It was
dark in the room. Carmel said that it was way past the time at which we
should have been home.
"Shit, crap, piss, grapefruit," Millie said.
Carmel slapped her wrist.
"Banana your bloody apple," Millie said.
Carmel smacked her face. She stood up, putting her hands on her
hips, just like our mother does when she's in a temper. She said what a
right little brat Millie was.
"I don't care," Millie told her, "you slimy bum."
Carmel took hold of my little sister's hair and yanked. The two of
them grabbed hold of each other and they toppled onto the floor. They
rolled about, wringing each other at the neck until their faces turned
purple and their eyes came close to popping out.
"Stop it," I said, and I stood up. "Stop it or I'll tell Granny."
But they kept fighting. Carmel sat on Millie's stomach and Millie
banged the soles of her new red shoes against the carpet.
"Last chance," I said, opening the door. "Or I'm telling."
But they only got worse. Carmel was starting to bounce the back of
Millie's head against the carpet.
I went out to the hall and looked into the dining room. All the chairs
around the old brown table were empty. Then I looked in the room
across the way and the television was on, but nobody sat in there. I went
back to the hall. Granny was tip-toeing out of the room by the front door.
63 "They're fighting, Granny," I said.
She nodded. "Yes, pet." She was easing the door closed.
"They are," I said. "They're choking each other."
She nodded again and put a finger to her lips. She smiled.
"Shh." she said. "Uncle Tom's having a little nap. Shh."
She opened the door a bit and peeped inside.
"Would you look at him," she whispered.
I looked into the room. Uncle Tom was asleep in an armchair with his
head rolled onto his shoulder and a glass in his hand. He had a grin on his
broad red face.
"Just look at him," Granny said.
I looked again. His mouth was open, his eyes were shut, his head lay
on his shoulder, and his grin was making tiny snoozing noises. Granny
sneaked over and gently took the glass from his hand. She patted his
head and he twitched, but didn't wake up.
"Isn't he a sight?" she said, stroking his hair.
And he was. It was strange, but for a moment he didn't seem like Uncle Tom at all. He was more like a big boy who'd become exhausted and
hot from running around and who'd curled himself up in a chair for a rest.
That was how he seemed to me just then, as Granny pulled the door
shut and as Carmel banged into the back of Millie's head the three hard
lumps which didn't go down for a week.
64 Robert Cooperman
Alice Baines and the Joys of
Marriage, Oregon
Territory, 1859
He's a good man, but his hands chafe me
of an evening in the bed we transported
against all advice from Ohio to Oregon,
my heart frozen like a mouse, scenting owl,
at some of the river fordings—banks
steep as the end of the world.    But Thomas
had a sure grip on the tiller and a way
of talking to the oxen that made them
think they could pull through any
kind of obstacle.    With them he was
a gentleman of pleasure, his hands
picking out ticks behind their ears,
and nuzzling their broad muzzles, finding
bits of sugar to keep them happy and moving.
But with me his fingers are branches
scratching a window on a stormy evening.
His touch freezes me, rubs me every way
but the right one, makes me feel
like a nervous cat.    His own shyness,
I suppose, but he hasn't learned after
five years of marriage and I've no courage
to tell him there are other ways to touch
a lady when the moon is full as a ripe
apple throbbing with juice.
65 So I lie awake, dreading his hands,
hoping he'll be too tired from ploughing
or reaping or building another fence—
and most nights he is.    I listen
to the emptiness of the Oregon sky,
flinching at the least sound or movement
that could be an Indian or bear or wolves,
or Thomas turning in bed, sap beginning
to run—from a dream of our stallion
covering a distant neighbor's mare.
I'll hear his sleep-gruff voice asking
if I'm sleeping, his hands kneading
my breasts as if dough or dirty sheets
to be scrubbed clean against a board.
I'll lie still as fear, while his weight
shifts, and the bed begins to rock
and creak like a wagon coming apart
in a river whose current thuds
against the boards like fists
in its dull, drunken rage.
66 M. Cherie Geauvreau
Two Poems
you got the picture?
your heart threw you from bed
slammed feet to the floor
got the picture?
you thought it a dream
all that bop/ discordant jazz
the picture?
your mouth sang real sang red
the brain's clean now, pain's
the flamingo fling in my life
the curt beautiful riff in my
wanna go dancin before you   fly?
67 shut your hole honey,
mine's making money
i want man love   i want
that thing in the language that is male   genetic syn
tax   couched decorative lines
of forests and arrows
and brooks runneling into the bosom of the sea
i want that response in reading/women
the ahs and oohs
yes   and
give me a woman with a ferrari heart who
buys   the   metaphor   /goddesses   be   damned   re/claim/ation   be
i want that
nether power, that
clout waking the loins,
tooling the engine of my beloved
iter    iter
i want to ride all the roman roads    un/quest/ioned
and conquer with my hidden
tongue my
man tongue   deceptive, soft
with words of silk with
words of love
i want this typical classical novel for my life/
textual serpents be damned   poeming be damned/   father tongue slip
into me
a tongue i can count on   quixote
quixote; centuries in the picaresque; millenium in the morals;
i want   aquinas and
augustine and sartre (pepper my
victuals with voltaire)   i'll be
a pet of metah physics, he
68 will sing in my entrails read me
like a chicken    (prophetically foul)
there'll be russell and saint paul
merton and kafka   officianados right
hand   man
women will shake
me down for shakespeare    i'll
sing their tune and   She
will come and   buy
this emerging voice
i'll be her hero
i'll be her man   get
what i want what's my due and
write it   She'll
wear stiletto heels for me    murder
her babies for me   and
menstruate in another room while i
work out my man love on
paper while i
apply that thing in the language   while i
stickhandle a way into her
recalcitrant heart   pop
her net   tickle her twine    and
score by jesus score;
i want to be the man who
writes of
women and wins the booker
69 Zoe Landale
Two Poems
Only Movement of Your
After twenty years, again, taste of wintergreen.
The Irishwoman with calm hands
who taught Grade Five girls the bright language of thread,
obsolete, coloured so wonderfully
you entered eagerly its minute landscape.
In your mouth, embroidery floss separates
three-strand by three-strand   snarls
six strands flail    into a lustrous knot.
Blue and delicate, a smocked dress
struggles crisp from its paper pattern.
You want to sew a new heaven.
And the thrift stores and the worn clothes
were passed away and there was no more darning.
Everything you are given    needs mending.
Cloth lies limp, in need
of seam to seam transfiguration.
Evenings, only movement of your needle
keeps the world from unravelling.
You take tiny neat stitches: much depends
on this. Nations.
Creation ever appearing;
your baby strews chaos, you bind it
into neat shelves of teddybears,
stacks of clean laundry.
In the wooden highchair, over porridge,
she smiles wider and wider, includes
you and her, laughing, three new teeth
in a conspiracy    of sudden oatmeal delight.
Weight slips from your stitches;
You taste wintergreen   morning. Sister, Blessing
This morning, Karen,
I heard you go laughing
out the window.
Ten years dead, your glee was irresistible,
flavour immediate:
hot buttered toast,
fine grain of skin
I could not rid myself of   seeing
cold   on a coroner's stainless steel
body tray
Eddying, you felt joyous,
pellucid with winter sun.
Free of those   hard white smashes
along the veins
solidification, sparkle   of air,
you laughed:
I amazed myself, was glad
to hear you.
For ten years, I have dreamed you were alive again
woken shaking,
distended with freeze-frames,
the upstairs room you
wrecked   with astonishing wet-scarlet
blood on the glass, on pulled-down
curtains, wrists dragged across
white walls;
the weekly ambulance bills,
you   falling   falling
voice gummy as used tissue:
I had forgotten you
ever   laughed
71 This morning, Karen,
I heard you go light and laughing
out the window;
all day the house was swung
from one bright chord of sound
72 The Silver Lake
August Strindberg
Translated from the Swedish by David Mel Paul and Margareta Paul
The game warden had his gun with him, one sunny morning in early
summer, when he went out, on the island in the sea, to discover
new beauties. That is, he did not wish to tell anyone that he intended to look for the enchanted Silver Lake, for, to find it, one must be
silent and go alone.
So he scaled the height where the mill stood, took out his compass
and figured out his course to the fourth lake, which he had never succeeded in reaching, despite serious exertions. Certainly people had
hinted at the way there, even described it in detail, yet no matter which
way he went, he came not to Silver Lake but to Home Lake, which was
very picturesque, with its high stands of reeds where the sedge sparrows climbed and its waterlilies that the coot hens skittered over. Each
time he came home with his intentions unfulfilled, his landlord, the old
fisherman, smiled and explained that it was so easy to get there if only
one could reach the cloudberry bog where the woodcocks mated.
But now the path led over these dry steep ridges where dwarf pines
were hanging on by their twisted fingernails. The stone here was not the
usual granite but a dense fine-grained porphyrite, sometimes pistachio-
green, sometimes rose-red, which had fractured into footstools, chairs
and couches, and shot through among them was white limestone in long
strands like linen laid out to bleach. Then came a precipice; suddenly, a
grove of birches with orchids; a little valley with alder trees in a green
lawn, a playground for the elves, who had also danced in a ring that, under their magical steps, turned copper-green. The ground becomes wet;
wild rosemary and cottongrass have come here and young pines stand as
straight as fencepoles. New stone footstools, new tiny valleys, now with
hazel and oak. There is a knocking, as at a nighttime door by a latecomer: it is the woodpecker. There is a whimpering and moaning, as of a
woman in childbirth: it is the wood dove. He knows all the sounds, he
knows all the plants and animals, so that if he heard or saw something
unfamiliar, he would take it as an affront.
But onward it goes, straight northeast according to the compass; now
73 the fences begin to close in, but do not hinder; a close-cropped sedgy
meadow with mountain ash and with cypresslike junipers; a tufted bog
that has to be waded through; in a word, a whole compendium of miniature landscapes. At last he hears below him a pounding and a splashing,
clambers down a steep slope, breaks through alder bushes, and is standing before a mountain lake of incomparable beauty. Nature has certainly
done her best, yet it seems as though a human hand, too, has been involved, smoothing, trimming, and arranging.
The lake is actually no more than a couple of acres in extent, yet it offers shores of such variety, with so many capes, bays, and harbours, that
the eye finds something new every moment. There, a great pine stands,
shading a steep bluff; there, a white birch hangs out over the water
lilies; there, a reedy inlet is bordered with alder trees; behind that, a
bog tufted with buckthorn and flytraps; even, a little islet. What
heightens one's pleasure in this placid tarn is that one sees by the
treetops and clouds that it lies high above the sea, which, far below, one
hears thundering with long breakers.
A light morning breeze had now stirred the surface a little so that it
splashed against the rocks on shore. But the water, which mirrored the
blue heavens on its surface, on the shore proved to be of a frightful
brown-red color like coagulated blood. A frightful idyll, all the more so
as the whole of this splendor seemed inexplicable, gratuitous. How had
this basin come to be, and how did the water come here? The hollow
could be a crater, but also the entrance of a mine, and the stone fragments on the bottom gave credence to the latter.
Popular legend told only of the origin of its name. That is, Silver Lake
was said to have received its name in the previous century, when, during the Russians' pillage of the skerries, the inhabitants collected their
silver and sank it in the lakes, to be retrieved once peace returned. But
they said the treasure here was never found again, from which people
concluded that the lake was bottomless. Later this story had become associated with curious rumors of ghostly disturbances that occurred
whenever anyone tried to fish there, with the result that no one, within
living memory, had tried.
With the practiced eye of a fisherman, the game warden saw at once
that here there would be excellent fishing, and having, by tossing sand in
the water, lured up small fish from the depths, he set out for home,
firmly determined to start fishing as soon as he had brought back a boat.
The way back should have been easy now, when the position of the
sun showed the direction of home, but the lake was well-guarded, and
when his foot instinctively sought the straight path, it did not lead toward the sun but swung to one or the other side, so that the wanderer
74 thought he had happened inside a rotating wheel, which dropped him off
each time on a hummock besieged on all sides of mire.
Tired, sweaty, and nervous, he sat down at last on a stump and
studied the sun. But it had reached its zenith and so had moved. He
looked at the compass, but it showed north and south and its rose told
nothing about the direction of home. Leaving home, it had shown the
lake to be in the northeast, but to go back in a southwesterly direction he
would have to be beside the lake. Just then he noticed a mud wasp which
seemed to want him to rise from his seat, hinting with an irritating song
that he had been sitting in its way. But the hunter had no fear of flying insects of such small caliber and shooed the thing away with his hand,
which at once let him know by a convulsive twitch that it had come too
near the flying needle. To ease the pain, the wounded man bent down to
tear up some wet moss for a dressing. He took a pinch as broad as two
fingers, exposing the soil, but in the hole a blackbanded thing was writhing, that turned out to be a viper.
This was a very common occurrence, for a person to sit down on a
wasp's nest, for one can make a mistake; yet, that the viper should have
been just there, under that square inch, when the island consisted of a
couple of thousand acres of mossy ground suitable for vipers, this did not
fail to leave an unpleasant impression.
Now the hunter decided, imitating the wilderness scout or leather-
stocking, to climb up in a tree to reconnoiter. The tree was right there,
but the most important branches were missing, and just where he was to
climb the trunk was not soaped, which would have been an advantage,
but smeared with resin, and this did not help to cheer up someone who
was already downhearted.
From the tree nothing more was visible than still higher treetops, and
the sun, which was now so high that it seemed to be at home in all directions.
The hunter felt he was fighting against someone. Against himself?
This, he could not admit, for he was certainly on his own side, and so it
must be against someone else. Whom? It was not the blind powers, for
these powers had eyes before and behind and their actions were calculated, conscious, cunning as he himself, and then some. Was it chance?
No, because, during his many attempts, chance would as likely have led
him right as wrong, since by definition chance meant something indifferent, lacking calculation, neither for nor against, and here there was
only against.
During this reasoning he had begun again to walk, and when at last it
brightened between the trees, he found himself right before the lake. It
was pretty to look at, but he was weary of it, and wanted to see some-
75 thing new, anything new! And so he decided his position by the compass, set a straight course for home, and let his legs go. Yet, when they
had carried out a certain number of oscillations, they pointed stubbornly
toward the center of the earth, so that their master collapsed them,
folded them up neatly and laid them on a rock footstool, while he himself
propped his backbone against a tree trunk that was not resinous.
And just for that reason, it served as a promenade for a summer camp
of ants, which began closely to investigate the tired wanderer's hunting
clothes. The hunter, up to now only nervous, took this as a personal attack and lost the last trace of his good humour, which otherwise seldom
failed him. The anger, which probably stimulated some kind of secretion
in his stomach, now exerted a secondary effect on his intestines, and an
unexpected feeling of hunger joined company with all the other miseries.
When his need was at its greatest, he hears afar his own dinner bell ringing for lunch, he sees in a distant vision his wife and children standing
hungry, not daring to sit down to table, sees the well-supplied table ...
All his lower instincts awaken, and are mixed with childhood
memories and peppered with feelings of loss of what he owned, but
could not reach. And out of chaos arises the only clear thought: I have
gone astray, and must get home! It is then that a youthful memory
arises, bobbing up like a big life preserver, and he clutches it. The
memory, from his boyhood years, of wandering in the woods and the
path being found by following a good old tradition and turning a jacket
inside-out—this seizes him. After an inner struggle with his self-
esteem, he draws off his garment and turns it, though first he looks carefully around to be sure that no one is watching; and then he walks right
straight on, just as if the great highroad lay open before him.
The first feeling he experienced after he reversed his clothes was one
of clumsy, tight discomfort; and the impression his body had made in the
lining now became like a wax impression he was wearing outwardly.
This gave the illusion that he was doubled and was carrying himself, and
he felt a responsibility for the one whom he had taken in his arms. On
the other hand, he had become free from something; he had flayed himself and carried the sweat-warm skin as one carries one's summer coat
over one's arm; but in that skin also sat something of his soul's crusty
shell, and he now experienced a sensation of spiritual nakedness, lightness, and freedom, which heightened his ability to feel, to think, and to
will. Therefore, he seemed to be flying forward, going right through
tree trunks, gliding across quagmires, evaporating through juniper
bushes, flowing through a cliff. And within ten minutes he stood on his
two feet on the height by the mill and shouted hello to his children, who
were waiting below by the cottage steps. He was just about to spring
76 down the hill when he remembered the jacket. A feeling of embarrassment made him go behind the mill to turn the jacket right-side-out, and
when he crept into his shell again, he felt somehow comfortable and
calm, but clumsily ordinary and sweaty.
In two minutes he had the whole bunch of children hanging around his
neck and all his hardships were forgotten.
The following morning the game warden took his fishing rod and went to
the lake, or so he said. He went, but he never got there. So he returned
and found a guide, as well as a big piece of chalk. He numbered the stone
stools and the tree trunks with the chalk, dismissed the guide, and cast
in his line. After half an hour he had pulled out a dozen little perch that
were as alike as a dozen berries, all being four inches long and coal
These were the bait and now the main fishing would begin. To this
end, he set the boat in the lake and fetched a setline with floats. Now
that he could master the lake, and sat in the drifting boat, he felt at
home. This was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen in nature; he
longed only to be here; he peopled the shores with his memories and his
thoughts, and grew together with his surroundings so that he was alive
and satisfied only when he was here, and alone.
The great moment approached when the deep would give up its
secret. The evening before, he had set out the four hooks with their
brightly painted floats, large round cork discs. The morning after, he
saw that one of the four had turned up its white side like the belly of a
dead fish, and then he understood that something must be there below.
So he pulled on the line and felt something heavy. After hauling in awhile
he saw beside the boat a monster whose back had markings resembling
those of a boa constrictor, but whose flanks shone like old gold. It was
the biggest pike he had ever seen, and so unlike all the others in color
and markings that he became unpleasantly affected by it, so that he
noticed such a simple thing as the black woodpecker giving a shrill cry
from the shore and a cloud passing over the sun, stirring a gust of wind
that heeled the boat over, even though not a tree on the shore moved.
Returned home with his prize, he displayed it for the fisherman and
his family, who expressed neither surprise, pleasure, nor envy. And
when he walked away from them he heard the old man mumble: "That,
he should never have done!"
What especially depressed the game warden was the fact that the
fisherman, owner of Silver Lake, did not follow his example and take
pike out of it, despite the prevailing lack of this most expensive variety
of fish. And to his questions about the reason, he obtained only evasive
77 replies. That otherwise sober, intelligent, practical, calculating people
could act against their own interests suggested a strong motive that, in
this case, must be based on experiences. And experience had taught:
those who last tried to fish here suffered harm thereby. This was cause
and effect. The question why they suffered harm was answered in full by
the statement: because they fished here.
The name of this was superstition, and as the game warden was a man
of enlightenment, he paid no attention to the warnings but on the contrary decided to make an example that would give the deathblow to this
false belief and superstition. Therefore, he fished every day and, moreover, could not tear himself away from the magical lake, which had bewitched him.
Up to now he had always been alone and had deliberately not brought
anyone here because in this landscape, which he had discovered and
recreated for himself with his own personality, he did not want to introduce anything that might interpose between him and the perianth with
which he had enveloped himself. But one day he gave in to the children's
earnest pleas, and they were allowed to go along.
When he now saw their brightly clad little forms and heard their lively
chatter, he thought that the lake lost its gloomy character; everything
was rejuvenated and cleared up; the silence was broken and the sea gulls
flew over to see what was going on.
The children had never fished before and when the first fish was
pulled up by the oldest girl, a nine-year-old, such a handclapping and
shouting for joy rang out that even the little fish leaped up out of the
reeds. This was the Silver Lake's heyday.
Looking at the game warden's family, down in the green hollow below
the mill, one saw only an idyllic happiness. Everything went quietly and
calmly in the small cottages, and the parents outdid each other in tenderness and concern for the children's well-being.
Yet an alert observer noticed that behind that peace lay years of
fought-out storms and that something obscure and menacing hung over
their fate. People must have seen that the family lived in two neighboring cottages and that each of them had a separate dwelling. The fisherman had also noticed, when he came out at sunrise, that the wife, who
suffered from insomnia, was still pacing the pier down by the boat
house, and that could happen at two or three in the morning. Some
wondered whether they were married, others thought they were
However, one morning the game warden sat at the breakfast table
with the children—his wife still asleep—chattering about one thing and
78 another, when, down in the meadow, the people of the village began to
gather, which always meant that something had happened. Soon the hum
of voices grew louder and the gestures, livelier. This aroused the
curiosity of the game warden and soon, without half trying, he heard
what was the matter.
The town clerk of Soderby, who had walked out into the island a
couple of days before and not been seen since, had now been found a
corpse in Home Lake.
Now the game warden stood right among the group:
"The town clerk? What was his name?"
"His name was such-and-such."
"Was he married?"
"He was sort of married, but his wife lived in town, by herself."
The game warden lost interest in asking more, and instead proposed
that together they should go fish out the corpse and then lay it out
decently in the barn until the opportunity arose to get it into town.
The march toward the lake commenced, but their disinclination to see
the corpse was greater than their curiosity, so that the game warden arrived third, after two fishermen.
There, by a little point, in shallow water, lay a well-dressed man in
such a posture as if he were turning his back on the earth, and with his
half-open eyes regarding the arch of heaven. Calm shone from his expression, which had taken on that aristocratic pallor with which suffering
and death ennoble even a coarse visage.
Yet while the game warden was looking at the dead man, something
stirred his memory, and when he asked the name again, image and name
came together. This was an acquaintance of his youth, a schoolmate who
had the same name as he but for a single letter.
What a bizarre coincidence that they should meet again just here, in
the wilderness, and in such circumstances! He became almost offended
by the coincidence, for now the gossip would start, his own name might
be mentioned in connection with the suicide; the wife would come here,
lamentations and discussions would be heard, and, on top of that, the
summer's calm would be broken. And finally: what did this whole story
have to do with him? This was no friend who lay here dead, only an indifferent person who had once sat in the same school class as he, and
hadn't many others done the same?
In the meantime, the corpse was brought up to a barn and wrapped in a
white sheet on a bed of spruce twigs. After the terror of death had subsided, the villagers came together and now the funeral oration was
"He was mean to his wife."
79 "And drinking as terribly as he did."
"They say she's a very proper wife."
"Of course he's done away with himself!"
The game warden left the assembly most unpleasantly affected; it was
almost as if they were flogging him. And especially the last thing he
heard when he turned away lodged in his hide like a burr:
"Well, it's a wonder he didn't end up in the Silver Lake. That would
have been something to fish up."
The meaning of this was: They were not pleased at his fishing out
there, and this accident was interpreted as a consequence of his forbidden fishing.
Besides, he felt a mute antipathy radiating from the company, and not
a hint of appreciation did he get for taking on the duty of telegraphing to
the relatives of the deceased and ordering a temporary casket from the
village carpenter.
Arrived home, he experienced a reluctance to discuss the subject with
his wife, but he had to describe briefly the incident, whereupon a terrible silence fell between them.
On the following morning the wife of the deceased arrived, and when the
black and white form with the black-veiled face came into view down in
the meadow, the game warden felt his incipient repugnance mounting,
for he did not trust this sorrow. However, he went out to meet her and
introduced himself.
After five minutes his repugnance was transformed into compassion
and sympathy. The woman was still young, and bore that beauty of
chastity that is not of the features but of the expression; no false words
existed in her vocabulary, and her voice had a ring of purity. But he
quickly saw it: this woman has not loved this man, perhaps never has
loved any man; but, on the contrary, would have been capable of sacrificing everything for her children, had Fate allotted any to her.
It was when they reached the barn that she first began to cry. Feeling
her false position and suffering from the spurious appearance of cruelty
that had fallen on her because she had not looked after one who was half-
mad during his final days, she stood mute, for she could not defend herself without accusing another; and had she spoken ill of the dead, she
knew she would be lost.
The game warden, who at first had not wanted to bring the grieving
woman together with his wife, for reasons he could not express, now felt
called upon, for reasons just as inexpressible, to make them acquainted
and let them unburden themselves to each other, for he suspected that
80 something of value to both of them might arise out of this. So he invited
her to his home, and when he had introduced the two ladies, he left them
on some pretext.
From his room he then heard a low murmur of both voices, which continued unceasingly, occasionally rising in a complaining tone. But soon
they were drowned out by the sound of the saw, plane, and hammer
down in the boathouse, where the coffin was being made.
When peace was restored on the island, the game warden retained his
impression that this coincidence had been a blow intended for him, but
one that had missed its mark. For, had the accident occurred in the Silver Lake, it would have been as though his head were cleft in two, because then people would have had proof positive that some kind of
deviltry had been fished up by the godless one.
Once more, gatherings at the landing, and this, only a fortnight after the
wake over the corpse in the barn.
This had happened: the best pilot in the village had gone and run a
steamer aground, and had been fired. This meant ruin for his family, including eight children.
In August, when the herring should run, they failed to appear; and loss
of the rye crop followed closely after. Taxes had to be paid, and this was
a blow.
The owner of the mill had a loan on his house with payments due, and
the mill stood empty for lack of grist.
People's brows were clouded; the dance barns stood empty, but the
mission hall filled up. It wasn't fun to be in the country any longer, and
the game warden's family left for the city earlier than they had planned.
It is spring again, but so early that the trees have not yet budded out,
and dirty snow lies in the crevices. But the game warden has come out
to the island, alone this time, and he has rented a cabin on the heights
behind the mill, which he dares not approach for fear of having to look
down in the abyss over by the harbour, where the cottages lie in the
green hollow, under the oaks. People have accepted him just as a paying
guest, but without any pleasure, more with dread and aversion. His being alone they interpret in their own way, asking no explanation. Just the
fact that he is not with his own makes a painful impression, which casts
blame on him.
When he walked down to the lake and found everything transparent,
cold and leafless, he experienced a terrible oppression. The boat lay
there, but full of water and rotted leaves. The reeds were frozen and the
81 lily pads had not come up yet. A pair of loons, traveling through, had
stopped over, and their plaintive cries resounded over the desolation.
When he saw the rock where the children had pulled out their first
fishes and where the bait box still lay, he saw a black pit open before
him; all that he had lost became clear to him in an instant, and he broke
into that kind of weeping that resembles the shrieking of wild beasts,
when the soul seems about to burst all the ligaments and vessels of the
After this he recovered, slumped into a dull resignation at what was
beyond help, and started to bail out the boat, mechanically rather than
with any purpose. And then he rowed out on the water. Yet he saw the
landscape as through a rain, and his swollen cheeks burned, while from
time to time sobs shook his whole body.
To throw in a fishing line, or to consider setting traplines, did not occur to him. Interest was lacking when no one was waiting for him at
home who, with jubilation and endearments, would accept and admire
his catch. And out of this perception arose an endless feeling that all of
life had lost interest for him.
A slow, penetrating cold rain began to fall, but he accepted this with a
dull irritation and did nothing to protect himself. Soon he sat with his
feet in water and felt his socks getting wet, while the boat got heavier
and heavier to row. At last the boat bumped into the land, which gave
him a reason to step ashore and wander at random through the marsh,
over fences that he broke down or kicked through. Juniper bushes and
pine saplings he broke in bits like matchsticks, and he cursed aloud as he
crashed onward like a mortally wounded bull elk.
When he came out of the thicket and up on the dry ridge, at once he
found himself beset by a hundred swarming crows who cawed in unison
and were evidently angered by his presence. This was so unusual for an
old hunter that for the first time in his life he felt superstitious. He
halted, amazed and affronted at their audacity, for the fact that he lacked
his gun, as he saw it, should not warrant this attack. He looked down at
the ground to find a stone, when his wandering eye was caught by an unusual pattern formed by the light-green rosette lichen that spreads its
hieroglyphic writing over any smooth rock surface it finds. The flourishes caught his attention and he clearly read the letters C.V.I.I. in
Roman capitals. His inflamed imagination sought a meaning and thought
it had found that C = Carl and VII = 7, the same as Carl the Seventh.
But since the numerals were already there and numbers say more than
letters, after that he exclaimed: C equals 100 and so it is 107 that is written here. "What is this? Does it mean that I should play the lottery with
this number?" A hundred seven, a hundred seven, he repeated to him-
82 self, and walked up the hill, since the crows guided him part of the way.
He reached his boring, lonely cabin, which he, as a person without
prejudice, had rented defiantly, since his schoolmate, who had drowned
last year, had spent his final days there. The schoolmate did not return
to haunt the place, but it was as if his sighs of pain still adhered to the
walls, and the floorboards creaked under the many heavy steps he had
taken to wear away his sorrow and tire his body for sleep.
It rained the whole day long. Toward evening, the mail arrived with a
newspaper. He did not have to tear off the wrapper to read the number of
the year of issue, which was 107.
"A hundred seven," he repeated to himself. "How strange chance
events can be, sometimes! There's the number again that I found on the
hill. And how strange that I live in this house, where he lived last year,
and in the same painful circumstances. Maybe the point is, that I should
drown myself, too?"
Gone were his peace and his luck, with his happiness. It was as if, losing
his children, he had also lost his guardian spirits. Nobody to greet in the
morning, nobody to kiss in the evening; no one to play with, to be interested in, to love and be loved by. Abandoned to solitude, he felt himself
hounded and persecuted. Reverses and vexations, aversion to work, bad
dreams in the night, dreams that assumed a terrible realness but to
which he assigned no importance, and which did not make him afraid of
the dark.
In the daytime he "walked around and died," slowly but noticeably—
that was how he himself described his condition.
Yet no matter where he walked, he came always to the lake and there
he sat, in the boat, but without bothering to fish. Often he lay down on
the children's rock and searched for their little footprints in the moss; or
he pressed his ear against the rock walls as if listening for their merry,
kind laughter and innocent wrangling at play. Everything was gone, so
totally gone that even time could not heal the wound, for, should he see
them again some time in the future, well, then they would be big unpleasant people, no longer little, loving, grateful, innocent beings with
souls and bodies as fresh as spring flowers. It was over! Irrevocably.
But wherever he went, he never went to the mill, for there one saw
the cottages and the meadow, and he did not trust himself so far. And the
mill stood there like a monument, with its sails in a great cross on the
grave of the loveliest memories.
What he did not wish to do, though, he would have to do. That is, a
message came one day from his landlord of the previous summer, who
had contracted pneumonia and whose life was in danger. For lack of a
83 doctor, his wife had asked the game warden to come down and advise,
should he not be able to help. The game warden responded that he was
ignorant of the healing art.
Another message came, asking the game warden to come down, because the sick old man had something to tell him.
He did not dare to refuse the plea of someone who might be dying, for
people would have ostracized him, stoned him, or shot accidentally at
So he went, cursing the chance that forced him to go where he least
wished to go.
He had to walk by the mill and down into the hollow by the shore. The
cottages, standing empty and unrented, he did not look at.
Coming in to the sick man, fully aware that he was doing no act of
love, he asked about the patient's condition and got some gloomy
replies. At the urging of the wife, he told them about how city people
generally treated pneumonia. Then he waited for what was coming.
The patient had lain and stared at him strangely for some time. At last
it came, in a weak voice:
"Do you still fish in the lake?"
"Oh, sometimes," the game warden answered.
A long pause, and then:
"That, you should never have done!" the sick man whispered.
There was nothing further to say, and the visit could be considered at
an end.
"Old wives' tales!" he said to himself when he emerged, and as if stiffened by this thought, he advanced on the cottages.
When he came to the green gate where the children, like swallows,
used to fly into his arms, he felt the blood oozing back toward his heart,
and a feeling said: Now I'm dying!
But he went in. Black and empty the windows gaped into the children's bedroom, where the little beds stood ... These were not graves,
for in graves there is something, yet here there was absolutely nothing.
It was worse than death, it was burial alive. His heart stopped for a moment while his eye surveyed the garden; their little plots lay overgrown
with weeds ...
"Now I am dead!" he felt; but his heart began to beat its old beat down
there against his ribs—
When he got home, a constable sat waiting on the steps. Of course, it
was only messages from the District Court, but in the country a visit by
a court officer always gives a bad impression, and the hostility to the
game warden increased.
In the evening he sat leafing through a year's issues of the Illustrated
84 Saturday Magazine, and found a description of the Pyramids. When he
came to Menkaura, or the third pyramid, he noticed that its base was
107 meters. Again the number 107! But the meter was a cosmic measure, since it amounted to one ten-millionth of an earth quadrant. Had
the Egyptian builders of the pyramid wanted to preserve some astronomical secret? With this question, his gaze fell upon the almanac, and
since it had an index, he looked up the table of planetary distances.
There he found the number 107 three times. First, the distance between
the earth and the sun was 107 sun-diameters. Further, Venus lay 107
million kilometers from the sun. And finally, Jupiter was 107 million
geographic miles from the sun.
Now he tried to set these numbers into some connection with his own
fate, but it proved impossible to get anything from this. However, this
was a puzzle that distracted him till he tired. It was like playing solitaire
or guessing a charade.
The old fisherman died on the tenth day, and there was a funeral, and division of the inheritance, and disputes, and litigation.
One month later, the district police superintendent came to root into a
dark matter that threw the whole island into an uproar. A married man
from the southern end of the island had disappeared and murder was
suspected. And now it got into the papers.
Since everyone on the island was more or less related, this became a
communal sorrow, and everyone felt disgraced in common. There was
talk here and there of Langholmen prison, and of the block, but the guilty
party wasn't found out, so that the investigations and the interrogation of
witnesses went on the whole summer.
The refrain always was:
"That, he should never have done" (meaning, fished in the lake).
All the island's misfortunes, which now were impressive, and which
came after a long period of comfort and calm, arose out of the lake; however, without anyone being able to describe exactly the connection or
the reason.
It was so; everyone had observed since time out of mind that things
went wrong if anybody fished there. So the anger of the islanders was
transferred to the one who had broken the ban and drawn evil down upon
the island.
The game warden, whom sorrow had made sensitive, felt the hatred
and animosity pressing on him, so that he wasted and shrank, but his
sound constitution resisted, and also his fixed idea that some day a grand
interest would rouse him and give his life a new momentum.
One morning in midsummer he walked by the house of his neighbor,
85 whose sickly child sat and played in the yard. The playthings his grandmother had given him were a dried gooseneck with peas inside and a bit
of rock that shone white. The stone attracted the game warden's attention and he asked the grandmother where it had come from.
She answered that somebody had found it long ago, when they blasted
a drainage ditch.
"Here on the island?"
"Here on the island!"
It was white galena and consequently contained silver. So the island
contained lead and silver.
When he came home, he took out his mineralogy book, and when he
found the heading Silver he saw at once, under Atomic Weight, the number 107.
So this was the island's secret, written in the lichens' hieroglyphics on
the rock. This was the secret of Silver Lake, into which no treasure had
ever been lowered, but out of whose abandoned mineshaft someone may
once have extracted the white treasure that now seemed to be watched
over by jealous powers.
On a careful examination of the island's geology, he found that it belonged to the same formation at the Sala silver mine, which bespoke the
existence of hidden riches.
Now he had been given the grand interest that would fill his emptiness, and he clung tightly to it as to his only salvation.
After trying in vain to find the ditch where the blasting took place, he
got himself a hammer and chisel and went around breaking open rocks.
He did not keep the matter secret from the people of the island, but on
the contrary attempted to interest them in the enterprise, yet without
success. Meanwhile he began to drag the lake, to raise samples of the
stone fragments, but he failed. When he then proposed to the inhabitants
to blast a ditch and drain the whole lake, they became angry.
His attempt to interest experts in the city was met with coldness and
the objection that galena is found everywhere. He wrote in the paper
concerning the matter, and it was read as something very interesting.
He went around offering shares in the enterprise to companies, but they
demanded assays, samples and surveys of the deposit, and seeing as the
deposit was the whole island, he was brushed off.
It should be noted here that he was not offering silver mines, but lead
mines. At last he lowered his sights, proposing to them that they work
the lime stratum, which was valuable in itself, and so the lead would be
uncovered and then the silver with it. But their laziness exceeded their
He was still at that point where resistance gives one strength and acts
as a spur; so he bought himself a rock drill and dynamite, firmly deter-
86 mined to blast a ditch and empty the whole lake into the sea. When he
had roughly worked out the level, he found that the outlet would go right
through the ledge, which was connected in his memory with the children
and their first fishing catch. But it didn't matter; nowadays nothing mattered. And soon he stood there with the drill and pounded with the
sledge as if he was pounding someone on the head. It ached in his hands
and in his brain, but the one pain drives out the other, he thought.
When he had driven the drill about two inches into the rock, the
fishermen came, attracted by the noise, and forbade him to continue,
threatening to send for the constable.
A dispute arose, during which the islanders used the opportunity to
tell him everything they had had on their minds for a year, and which
concerned all his private circumstances, his silent sorrows, his family's
secrets, and his financial affairs. He stood there as if naked, felt shame,
became speechless, and collapsed.
Now he had reached the point where the resistance seems invincible,
when one feels he has fought against overwhelming odds and has to admit himself defeated, since he has been knocked down with his enemy at
his throat. And in the same moment, doubt awakened.
When he headed for home, he stopped on the hill to check whether the
number 107 was really written there in Roman numerals. The lichen was
there, but he no longer saw any letters or numbers. Then he went looking for the neighbour's granny again and asked if she was sure that the
rock fragment had been found on the island.
"Well, not so's a body can remember!" the old woman answered.
Thereupon he opened his chemistry book and found that silver's
atomic weight was given there as 108 plus a decimal fraction, and so not
107. This last was truly a relief to him, for this game of numbers had
been on the way to making him superstitious, and that was the last thing
he wanted to be considered. Comically enough, in his eagerness and so
as to play upon people's false beliefs, and at a naive moment, he had confided the game of numbers to them. Yet, there he had miscalculated, for
their superstition did not extend so far.
"That anybody can believe such a thing!" they had answered, with a
spiteful grin.
That about the lake, that was something different, and they were
cleverer than he, for they did not engage in any detailed explanations.
When the little steamer backed away from the island, the game warden
huddled in the aftercabin, looking straight ahead of him as if he thought
he could make himself invisible and blind at the same time. But a cross-
swell from the bay made the boat roll so that the portholes on the
87 leeward side dived down. Through the round hole, he now saw, as in a
peep-show, but only for a second, the mill, the cottages, the rock....
"Illusion! The Devil's delusions, all of it, everything," he thought.
And at that moment a huge herring gull screeched outside the porthole: Gall! Gull! Gall! Gull!
"Satan!" he answered, and lay down on the sofa with the blanket over
his head.
Ten years later, when the game warden had long since left his duties and
vanished from sight after leaving his last visiting card at some kind of institution, the morning paper contained the following notice:
treasure in the rock on island x. In the Stockholm skerries, on Island X, surveys have been carried on during the summer to investigate to
what extent useful minerals exist in the rocks. These investigations have
been crowned with success. They have found various kinds of stone:
granular limestone (marble) of several kinds, feldspar, quartz, among
others. The investigations, which were carried out by interested parties in
Stockholm, have in turn given rise to a good many purchases of property out
in the skerries. That is, to gain access to all of the stone, these parties have
felt themselves called upon to purchase homesteads within whose holdings
the useful minerals are situated. Even though the former owners have not
themselves had the resources to exploit the valuable minerals, nevertheless
they have been paid more, up to 50 percent more, than if their homesteads
had been sold to farmers, who, of course, must only consider what value the
soil may have. Already, this fall, the work has begun in the quarry out in the
islands, and they have also shipped stone in to Stockholm, but in the spring
the work will begin on a larger scale, the County Journal reports.
The Silver Lake appears in English for the first time. It is taken from the
Roofing Ceremony and the Silver Lake, due to be released in November
as part of the University of Nebraska Press' Modern Scandinavian Literature in Translation Series.
88 Osip Mandelstam
Translated from the Russian by Marianne Andrea
I returned to my city, familiar to tears,
To its veins, to childhood's sore throats.
You returned — then quickly swallow
The cod-liver-oil of Leningrad's river lights!
Swiftly acknowledge December day's fog
Which the sinister street-tar mixes with egg-yolk.
Petersburg!    I don't want to die yet:
You posess all my telephone numbers.
Petersburg!    I still have addresses
Where I will find the dead voices.
I live on a black stairway, and a door bell
Strikes at my temple, tearing the flesh,
And all through the night I await dearest guests,
Shifting the shackles, the chains on the door.
December, 1930
89 Jesus of the Aerials
M. H. Raymond
I know how he got here. I know when and why he came. I saw the
freighter coming in, saw him getting off alone, before they led off
Briand's dazed new cow and unloaded all the crates of chemicals and
peeping chicks and mangy lettuces they bring in winter to this turnip culture.
I saw two little boys, Briand's youngest and his cousin, start following
him as he left the wharf. They were laughing at his long bare feet.
"I'm tough," he said, and the little boys were silent for a minute, but
kept on beside him. One of them sat down on an icy doorstep and began
taking off his furry boots and red wool coat.
"Put them on again," the stranger said. He was young and small and
thin, unshaven or lightly bearded. He had a leather satchel hiked on over
layers of sweaters, brown and grey and blue. I could see tanned flashes
on his white-pinched feet where as recently as summer, somewhere
else, he must have worn some kind of open shoes.
"I'm tough too," said Briand's boy.
"Put them on again," the man repeated and went on his barefoot way
again up the narrow, snowy street towards the back of town. The boy
forced his boots back on without lacing them and ran after his cousin and
the man.
The street was filling now with the puttering of the shopkeepers' little
rusty cars and the talk of knots of heavy, kerchiefed women, all hurrying
down for the new vegetables and meat.
"Jacques," yelled his mother as they passed her. "Do up your boots!
Where are you going?"
"With Gustave," he answered, and she left it at that.
Two more small boys joined up with them, then Gustave's officious
twin sisters in their identical white coats and braids. The man sat down
quietly on a clean-swept bench in the square, in front of the peeling yellow concrete hospital, and waited while the girls tried to tell their
brother that their mother would be looking for him.
"No, she's not," he countered.
The other boys were throwing snowballs at the icicles that hung from
the hospital's eaves. A sister came out of the low door of the dispensary
90 hidden under the porch and shouted at them to stop it. She was shivering, and slammed the door shut without waiting to make sure they
stopped. Jacques threw one last snowball after her, and the twins lit into
him. The man spoke up.
"They're good children, and are only taking an innocent joy in life before they forget how. Come with us too. I am going to the glacier."
Albertine and Ernestine, chastened, tried to recoup their feeling of
adulthood. "Shouldn't you have some shoes?" asked Ernestine.
"We'll get you some of our Papa's," said Albertine.
All the boys at once told them that the man needed no shoes.
"I prefer not to have any," he corrected, and picked up his satchel.
The girls said that if they were going, they should tell their mother
"Yes, tell her." He went on fitting his satchel back over his shoulders
in their shifting layers of sweaters. "And tell her too, that I've come
here to pray."
"To pray?"
Albertine and Ernestine went home, but were waiting there, and
when the group passed by their house, they came out with their mother.
"What is this?" she asked, a ruddy woman on her doorstep with her
children close behind her.
"I was told to come and pray here at the glacier. And I am on my way
to do that, but you also may come."
"I have a meal to prepare."
She let the girls go, though. Their grandmother, who had hovered in
the hall to listen, took her coat and stick and followed painfully, to speak
to the stranger.
"Are you hungry?" asked Briand's old mother, nearly blind and lame,
her pale eyes wide with hope. "Do you want something to eat?"
He said he was no longer hungry, and asked if she'd go with them.
Their slow progress slowed yet further. At the steep back of town,
among the last, poorer houses, the wind grew stronger. Everyone was
at the waterfront. The sounds of town died away. Beyond the voices of
the children, grown quiet like their quiet leader, there was nothing to be
heard but the sigh and chink in the wind of old iron bedsprings made into
fences, and occasionally, the miserable snuffle and clump of a horse tied
in a backyard.
It was harder walking once the street had faded into the high field
above town. The perpetual wind had left only a thin wash of snow over
the prickly ground-cover and lichened stretches of grey rock. The old
woman wrestled with her nail-tipped cane as it broke through the
patches of polished snow.
91 There were groups of crosses scattered throughout the field, and the
man said that he wished to add a cross himself. They looked, and finally
in the shelter of two rocks, with the ropy ice of a frozen waterfall between them, they found enough of a tree for him to build his cross. He
cut it down with a saw he took out of his satchel, and dragged it a little
further yet before he stopped to cut and trim and build.
The sun was setting by the time he had finished, and the ice at the end
of the field was a wall of light. He had broken off the claws of his hammer
as he picked at the frozen earth to stand the cross. He abandoned it
there, and his satchel, and told his followers to stay behind as he went a
little higher up and scrambled onto a high point of rock.
He turned his back to them, looking towards the glacier, and fumbled
under his clothes for a minute. He faced them again. From around his
waist they saw him unwind a huge and shining, red and brilliant serpent.
For the first time, they heard his full voice.
"Satan is with us. It is not enough merely to destroy him. I am greater
than that. I am such that Satan will be lost in me. See? He is with me,
and I will swallow him, and when I am done, all will be done. I have
come here, for this place is holy: it is empty."
They would have fled, for they saw then, as he raised it to his mouth
and began in agony to swallow, that the serpent was the bowels of the
The thing was done quietly, for it was not until the day after the ship
had called on him that the radiographer stationed on the island looked
out into his field of antennae and saw the extra cross among them.
Closer he found the suicide and his satchel full of bread and nails, with
a Bible, saw and broken hammer lying near. The disciples the stranger
had made had melted away as the sun rose, leaving nothing but the nails
he had used for eyes in their snow faces. It had taken only one tree to
build the cross, and he must have brought the little painted wooden figure with him. From the ground at least, it looked just like the man himself.
Before he called to shore, the radiographer put up guy wires on this
cross too to hold it upright where it stands in the field of aerials,
shallow-rooted in the permafrost. Their wires are ringing in the winds
across this empty rock, and the million whispering voices that they
gather in are silent under them.
92 G.A. Hewett
Nowhere O'er the Pears
Mustachio Pear twas benign,
inscrutafruit grove he, picked,
sacred leaves ornamental,
goldening sun had'nt hid.
Tree frogs mate in the briar,
ferret calm amble his way,
immigrant gnomes walk hidden,
Pear vibes bidden today.
Nowhere o'er the Pears no worry.
Nude beachcomb awe find rusty bolt and wood driftforms
to jazz, snack and smoke on the boat.
Pears, berries and junk our booty.
Scrap copper in the sand, where from?
Curious car heap in the field.
One lung steel in orchard.
These trees and berries have, us, absorbed,
fibres in time we consume.
A splendmystic island paradise,
there's a tree smack dab centre of a rock tomb.
Nowhere o'er the Pears no hurry.
Mud, squishedly bottoming
shallow in foreign tidal lake.
Island sparse, rich three foot moat surround.
Toes through contoured sediment,
the Nile and China we're at.
Sublime succulents cling tough, claim the rocks.
Ancient Pine, Arbutus reign.
93 Nowhere o'er the moss no flurry.
Powering over the mysterious kelp forest,
motionly entertaining basking seals.
Barnacle mountains loom up beneath,
scary, but by luck relieved.
Pebbledshadows to beach, scrunch 'neath bows.
Silence of the Seagull void.
Sole serenity of shore anchors gently
The Sea, a Tree, a wear and tear Pear,
pebbles, bush, junk, wasp, dog.
Woods to forever, Sea gone beyond,
mice in the field, ducks on the pond
Tidal, we idly exist,
breathing the evening mist.
Nowhere o'er the Pears,
Discovery over our cares.
94 An Allergy to
Joan Fern Shaw
gain she opened her purse and withdrew his letter. Again his
handwriting, black and British, spoke with Cambridge accent,
hurried whisper, quick glances over the shoulder:
Dearest Heather,
Must rush. V has gone to pick up the children. Will return any
moment. The Montreal conference is all set for 31 May. I've
booked a nice hotel for two nights. According to my office
calendar, your period is due that same weekend, curse the luck.
However, as it is the only time I can get away from home in the
forseeable future, we'll have to make the best of it...
"Another gin and ginger ale, please."
The train slid out of Union Station so smoothly she didn't notice it had
started. She was involved in the end of the letter. In the words of love
and passion. 'Longing to hold you in my arms, darling.' Words that
balanced the opening.
First Class with Snack, the travel agent had advised. 'I have to come
by train, Nigel. I can't afford to fly this time. The dental insurance has
run out on Adam's orthodontal work,' she'd written. 'But I'll be there
about 10:30 and we can have a later supper... '
She looked down at the book she'd brought along to read, possibly,
but more to hold, as she used to hold her prayerbook, long ago.
Elizabeth Smart, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept.
The book was resting on the new white skirt she'd bought for the
weekend. Her clothes closet was full of memories of Nigel. That pant-
suit she'd bought for the Learned Conference, the CN Tower dinner
dress, this blouse and shorts for the weekend his wife went away, the
sweater for the afternoon at Centre Island when he came to Toronto to
pick up his computer.
An unfamiliar display of east Toronto suddenly appeared in the train
95 window. Homes and factories moving at absurd angles with wires racing
to underline unimportant things, flapping sheets, backyard junk. A fat
woman bent her wide rear to the train; a dog jumped to catch something;
a child overturned his tricycle. All instantly gone.
Trainrides of her childhood returned in flashes just as fleeting. Steam
engines cutting through towns where both sides were the wrong side of
the track. Ornate little station houses, always wine-coloured. Black coal
dust on window sills; a new colouring book and crayons with the point
still sharp. Newspapers spread over her legs so the conductor wouldn't
know she was too old for child's fare. Often the conductor would wink as
he tucked the ticket into the window blind. Her mother wouldn't catch
the wink; wouldn't have cared if she had. But Heather had felt humiliated; the way she felt so often with Nigel. She tried to imagine Nigel
winking. Nigel's winking. She smiled and a stereo pain hit both of her
breasts. Maybe she should take a couple of 222's but she'd already had a
Gravol and all that gin.
Again she went over the litany:
I love Nigel and he loves me. Love is the most important thing in life.
Some day we'll be together in the open for all the world to see. He
doesn't love Vera but he can't leave her yet because of the children ...
because of the children ...
At this point a Greek Chorus of old crones in black always took over,
Christ, not tears. Not tears tonight.
Crying could be indulged in freely when I was young, her thoughts
sped along worn tracks. Then I could cry for hours, splash on cold water
and face the world renewed, looking better than ever. Now, tears leave
my eyelids swollen for hours, days. Like the night I phoned Nigel because I'd found the first lump and I was so scared and alone. It was almost midnight but I had to talk to him so I broke the rules and phoned
him at home. He was in bed with her. Panting.
'I'm sorry (pant, pant) you must have the wrong (pant, pant) number.'
There is only one reason for Nigel to pant in bed. And I cried all night,
pacing the floor, talking to the grandfather clock who kept ticking and
chiming smugly. I vowed that night that when I died of cancer, I'd leave a
last request that the old clock's bloody accurate works be torn out so he
could serve as my coffin. And let my rotting flesh foul his eternity.
And Nigel could go panting straight to hell.
96 The next day my eyes were so swollen I could see liquid moving inside the lids. Adam noticed at breakfast, 'Who punched you out, Mom?'
So did my home form class, the other teachers, even the principal who
hardly ever looked anyone in the eye. So I invented the marigolds. An
allergy to marigolds, you see.
Lake Ontario cut through a subdivision in Oshawa and the slash of blue
water reminded Heather of sandpails inverted and raised so slowly that a
perfect castle rose from the beach. A perfect moist sand castle. To be
kicked away, blown away, washed away by uncaring waves. And she began to cry for the perfect moist sand castles and breast lumps and
The eyes, Heather, the eyes.
Your weekend of passion.
Swollen lids on top of swollen stomach on top of swollen breasts.
God, how the breasts hurt—at least two cysts this time, maybe three.
She had resolved not to tell Nigel about the latest lumps; it would
spoil the magic for him. But one lump was growing so big, he was sure
to feel it. Breasts were important to Nigel. Apparently his wife's breasts
hung to her waist. Heather had never seen the wife, Vera. V in all his
letters. V is going to be away... V is used to my going to Toronto for
meetings ... V just said she might come with me on the weekend; in that
case ... V has planned a bridge party so I can't possibly ...
V's breasts hang to her waist.
And here comes Heather with the beautiful bosom heading to
Montreal for a romantic weekend with Vera's husband. I'm sorry Vera,
but, you see, he loves me. It's all a question of love. He is tender and he
holds me as I sleep. No one has ever done that before, Vera. No one.
And so I accept the humiliation. I think at times I even expect to be
hurt. Set myself up for it, so as to balance the happiness I get. As in
Nigel's letter: after the shame comes the joy. Being loved is worth the
nagging feelings of being used and discarded. Hiding in hotel rooms.
Some day we'll be together...
Ah, the Greek Chorus: OTHER MEN ...
Listen, you old bags. Love is the most important thing in life. It's
worth the shit, so go suck an olive.
Through the evening shadows the train moves east, racing the earth
toward the night. And in the night Heather will be held as she sleeps in
the arms of her lover.
The eyes, Heather, the eyes.
Oh dear, was I crying again?
I must look around for something to keep the eyes dry. Lots of things
97 happen on trains. Murders, robberies, slices of life. I've got to get out of
my head and into the setting.
Three women and a man get on the train and arrange themselves in a
double seat ahead of me. They talk loudly in French and order beer;
their faces and their voices are flushed. I understand much of what they
are saying until an unknown word bursts into the conversation; all comments lean on the one word and the talk becomes meaningless to me.
Still I watch and listen.
Across the aisle a very small woman sits reading a business magazine,
marking certain sections with a pink fluorescent highlighter. She looks
over and smiles at me but her smile seems insane, as if she is about to
attack me with her sharp, even teeth. This certainly takes my mind off
the weeping. Then I realize that she's not looking at me at all. She's
staring into space, probably trying to figure out her next move in the
stock market.
She has fuzzy grey hair, parted in the centre and held in place with
two red plastic barrettes shaped like little birds. I haven't seen those
things since I was a kid and I got them in my Christmas stockings. Red,
yellow and blue birdie barrettes perched on a card from Woolworth's. I
feel warmer towards her now. I'm not sure if she's a midget or a dwarf or
just a very small woman; I suppose there's a way to classify people like
cars or beds. Now she really is smiling at me and her smile is insane. I
smile and nod and wonder if I look insane too.
A headache moves in to compete with the breasts and the uterus. My
field of vision is filled with the steward and a tray. Ah, the Snack. First
Class with Snack. My Luxury. The first time in my life I have ever travelled first class on anything and even then, it's the lesser first class.
First Class with Dinner, now that's where the winners are. But I had to
make the trip somewhat special as a prelude to my romantic weekend,
and First Class with Snack is certainly one step up from Crowded Coach
with Bag of Peanut Butter Sandwiches and Classic Coke.
The food is dainty and miniature like an airline meal. I love the tiny
salt and pepper shakers. I eat busily and so do the French people and the
small woman. The car is very quiet and for a while my entire world is a
Heather hurried to the washroom. Hurried because she was afraid someone would steal her suitcase from the rack above her seat. Hurried because she felt the flow of blood, that warm warning signal every woman
knows so well: get to a bathroom quickly, my dear, or the world will be
in on your secret; the wine will sour; dogs will go mad.
She glanced back at the car. The French people had become soft-
98 spoken and sleepy after the food. The small woman was stretched out
across the double seat with her eyes closed; she fit perfectly. Every now
and then she smiled insanely in her sleep. There were no other passengers at this end of the car, the non-smoking end.
Now Heather faced the challenge of trying to clean up in close,
moving quarters where everything was designed on a scale to suit the
small woman.
She laid stiff pieces of toilet paper on the toilet seat before she sat
down. Heavy flow this month; clots too. She would have to see the doctor about the clots after she saw the surgeon about the cysts. No little
paper bags. Shit. As the train leaned to one side and then the other, she
struggled to fold a paper towel into a neat package, thinking of Roman
women, Egyptian women. Was Gordon Sinclair the first to speak out?
How did you women handle it down through history? Where are the records? Sweating now, blood on her hands and under her fingernails, she
dug around in her purse for the cleverly disguised tampon holder. The
train swayed and half of her toilet paper slid to the floor. Horrors, she
was touching bare toilet seat. Crawling with VD germs. Well, good.
We'll inoculate Nigel with a mighty dose of the clap and let him try to explain that to Vera.
VD from H to V via N. Via Rail. She started to laugh but there wasn't
enough room to laugh.
At last she was able to stand up and smooth her skirt. It still felt new
and crisp. Christ, a streak of blood right down the front. Dirty little sink
with two shades of hair and just a trickle of water. The paper towel left
fibres on the skirt and the stain didn't quite come out.
Then she dared to look into the mirror.
Yes, she certainly had been crying; her eyelids were puffy and the
running mascara magnified every wrinkle in its path. Maybe it was the
light in this horrid cell but her face looked shockingly pale, like Dracula
before a bite to eat. Another fit of laughing. Oh what a beauty to embark
on a weekend of wild abandon. Her mouth felt scummy. Toothbrush? In
the suitcase. Why couldn't she remember to carry one in her purse like
all these well-groomed ladies you see in hotel powder-rooms?
Oh, to hell with it. This is the real Heather and if he doesn't like what
he sees, well tough tit.
Speaking of the other problem, she undid a couple of buttons and
reached inside her blouse to check. In the mirror, the gesture looked
like lovers, parked somewhere in youthful ecstasy.
One lump wasn't bad; he won't even feel it. But, oh dear, the other
was the size of a robin's egg. And sensitive? She could barely stand to
touch it. One lump or two, my love.
99 She could have gone to the surgeon to have them aspirated when they
first appeared, but he always warns, 'Now, don't touch the breast for a
couple of weeks. Not even a self-examination, mind, or the cyst will return with a vengeance.'
Return with a vengeance.
Whether to upset the surgeon or the lover?
And there had been the wild hope that the little buggers would just go
away all by themselves (they never did; these were her sixth and
What a fetish Nigel had about breasts. Heather wasn't at all hung up
on any one part of his body. Beautiful eyes, yes, though perhaps a bit
close together. If he, say, had to have an eye removed, would she love
him less? Of course not. It was the whole Nigel that she loved and as she
thought of him she felt that total rush of wanting with no particular area
of his anatomy in mind.
Trying to get the mascara valleys out from under her eyes with hand
lotion, she recalled a conversation she and Nigel had had shortly before
her first lump was removed.
'It's small and I'm sure it's just a harmless cyst, but the surgeon wants
to do a biopsy. Nigel, if it is cancer, if he does have to take the breast off,
will you still love me?' It had sounded so silly, so like a soap-opera question and she'd been certain of the answer, but she wanted to hear his
voice saying the words of comfort.
But he said, 'I don't know, Heather. I honestly don't know. So much of
our relationship is sexual, you know? I've never been so wild about a
woman's breasts in my life. Your body is absolutely breathtaking ... '
She'd been so stunned, she hadn't answered.
'... and speaking of your gorgeous body, come here, my love ... '
And she had turned to him, strangely jealous of her own body, of the
way her two breasts sought his chest. In a few moments, she was lost.
It had turned out to be a harmless cyst. Except for a tiny scar, faded
now, the breast was perfect. But his words hadn't faded. And whenever
they returned, they were followed by the faithful Greek Chorus:
She sat back down on the toilet seat and covered her face with her
hands. Tears again, just when she'd patched up the mascara.
She thought of her body, trim and quite lovely, for a woman her age.
Age. Wouldn't it be a waste? A terrible waste to go through these last
good years without a man's touch, a man's desire? Surely the moments
of pain were nothing compared to the pure rapture of belonging to the
one you love. If only for a weekend.
She took a couple of 222's with a paper cup of gritty water as the train
100 jerked to a stop. Her hip slammed against the sink. Oh lord, there'll be a
bruise the size of a grapefruit.
Back in her seat—yes, suitcase still there—Heather notices that the
French quartet has become animated again and the small woman is
joking with them in French. Heather waits for a chance to join in. Rehearsing.
"Yes, this train is always late. Wait and see," the small woman adds
and dangles her little feet in the aisle. She is wearing tap shoes, black
and silver with bows.
"So we have time to drink more beer before we return to the old
grind, eh?" the man says and pats the knee of one of the women. The
blonde one with the loudest voice.
"Hey, you are a dancer?" the blonde asks.
"No, I am a stock broker," the small woman answers and makes no
reference to her shoes.
No one speaks and the steward delivers more beer and tiny packets of
peanuts. Heather is tired of trying to frame interesting comments in
French; she always gets the word for peanuts confused with the word for
She picks up her book, opens it at random, and begins to read. Anywhere there will be pain she can identify with. After a few sentences,
she is alone in a hotel room, pregnant, wanting her lover, listening for
the sounds of the elevator.
Rain hits the black windows and moves across them in unnatural
horizontal lines. She imagines apples falling sideways, birds flying upside down, a spring when all new growth is blue. As the train slows
down and stops, the rain moves diagonally, then vertically, normally,
like tears.
A porky workman rolls through the train, whistling, carrying a lantern
and a wooden tool box. He wears the striped bib-overalls and cap of one
of the Three Little Pigs at Disneyworld. She wishes Adam could see
him. How he would love to follow the workman and ask questions. She
wonders if Adam and Nigel would get along. No, it never works out
when she thinks of Adam and Nigel in the same breath.
"What did I tell you? This train is always late," the small woman
whispers to Heather with her hands around her hateful mouth.
"There is a little trouble down the track. Nothing serious. We must
wait for another train to pass. It won't be long," the steward announces
in English and French. Heather understands the French perfectly because it came second; she must tell Nigel how her French has improved.
101 In the manner of Shirley Temple, the small woman begins to dance in
the aisle singing "On the Good Train, Lollypop". Everyone laughs, even
the smokers at the other end, all joined together by the inconvenience of
the train's delay, the absurdity of the song and dance, the momentary
suspension of their lives. Heather prepares to tell the incident to Nigel.
While planning the sentences and pauses, she misses the actual ending
and when she comes back into the present, the small woman is again
reading her business magazine, underlining sections with the highlighter. On her feet are the brown pumps she was wearing before. The
train is now moving swiftly.
Heather wonders whether she imagined the incident but she will tell
Nigel anyway. Sometimes at the end of a weekend they run out of things
to say, so she stores up little anecdotes to fill in the gaps. It doesn't matter if they are entirely true.
As the train approaches Dorval, the French quartet stands, sits, adjusts, and makes obvious preparations for departure. The small woman
has fallen asleep again.
"But my suitcase is not there," the blonde yells. Her friend replies
that he put it on the rack at the end of the car with the other bags. He
says this four or five times in both French and English, to include everyone in the problem.
"Anyone could have taken it and got off at any stop," she begins to
cry. Heather glances up at her own bag, safe above her. She'd taken her
small case so she wouldn't have to leave it at the end of the car. Still,
what would a thief gain from it? A black nightie with pretty lace, lots of
sanitary supplies, sexy underwear, sensible underwear, a pant suit, a
pair of walking shoes, her spare partial plate and a ... what does Nigel
call it... a sponge bag.
Nigel doesn't know about the partial plate. He doesn't notice details.
Just as well. Heather imagines herself turning into a huge mass of
details: wrinkles, grey hairs, missing teeth, lines and liverspots. Is a
robin's egg cyst a detail? She would soon know.
"My diamond pin!" the blonde adds to the long list of valuables in her
lost luggage. The steward fills out a form and talks about insurance. The
blonde is still crying and her eyes are beginning to grow puffy.
An allergy to marigolds, mon amie?
"What did you say?" Heather asks the small woman.
"I said that always on this train something is stolen. Usually it is only
a pair of gloves or a book. And I know who does it." She winks.
Tired of thinking of her as the small woman, Heather asks her name.
"I am called various names. As a stock broker, I am called Ruth. But
102 please continue thinking of me as the small woman." Her laughter is
savage and Heather turns to watch the horizontal tears slide across her
windowpane. In bed, she has cried horizontal tears.
The lump throbs in time to her heartbeat.
Quite unexpectedly the Greek Chorus appears, chanting: AFTER
THE FIRST LUMP THERE IS NO OTHER Heather laughs out loud
and the old hags look at one another in confusion and flee. Thus cleared,
her mind relaxes and Heather rests her head on the seatback and closes
her eyes.
The smell is that of a first aid kit, opened in haste.
Five years ago, the recovery room.
I awaken sense by sense.
I try to focus on my chest. Two breasts or one? There is pain on the
right side of my body from shoulder to hip. The bandage is so tight.
"Benign ... nign ... nign ..." comes a voice from somewhere above.
"What?" my own voice is unfamiliar.
"The cyst was benign," the voice repeats, irritated, on to better
Benign. Does that mean cancer or not? I can't remember. There's the
other word. Malignant. Both words sound ugly. Benign is the good one.
Yes. I still have two breasts. Nigel will still love me. Benign is the good
one ... I drift away ...
Back suddenly because a child is crying. On another stretcher, a
young boy, his face close to mine, mouth a wet pink cup.
"Don't worry, honey. It's all over now. We're in the recovery room,
see, we're recovering." My voice is wrong. Precise and lisping, like a
drunkard. My front teeth are gone. Of course, they took out my partial
plate. I resemble the bride of Dracula. The boy screams. Briskly he is
wheeled away from my hideous fangs.
I frighten children and I am in agony, but still I have my breast. Just a
littler corner missing. A breast can have a corner if an eye can. Out of
the corner of my breast, I fall back to sleep.
Heather's head fell forward and jerked up and awake. The train had left
Dorval. The French people and Ruth were gone. She felt vastly alone in
the car.
Her suitcase. Gone. Her purse. Gone. Even .By Grand Central Station
I Sat Down And Wept. Gone.
Her first thought was of Nigel and how the weekend would be ruined.
"Nigel, I've lost my suitcase and my purse and I have breast lumps and
clots and my eyelids are puffy."
Right on, girls.
How about adding something about the breast fetish.
Heather wept. Horizontal tears because she'd doubled up on the seat;
it didn't seem fair that tears from a fit of laughter also damaged her eyes.
As she stood up to do something about the missing things, she noticed
that the headache was gone. Hell, so were the stomach cramps. Even
the old robin's egg had calmed down. And there, on the seat in front of
her stood her suitcase and her purse.
Everything seemed to be there. Money, credit cards, ticket, keys.
The suitcase was still locked.
When the bright lights came on Heather took a quick glance at her
eyes in her compact mirror. She tried a few pats of powder but it was
hopeless. She put the compact back and gathered up her things.
The book was still missing. Well, she'd practically memorized it anyway and maybe someone else needed it more tonight. Someone like
Heather stepped out into the sound and light of Montreal Central Station.
In the crowd, way down at the end, Nigel caught sight of her and
waved. He was carrying a stiff little bouquet of yellow flowers. No, they
couldn't be. His wet hair, plastered to his face, gave him a painted, flattened look. But his beautiful eyes were glowing and his arms stretched
out to hold her.
Without breaking stride,
Heather reached into her mouth,
removed her partial plate,
and swept into her lover's arms.
104 Contributors
Marianne Andrea was born in Kiev, U.S.S.R. Her translations have appeared in the New
Orleans Review, Seneca Review, Malahat Review, Denver Quarterly and Waves.
Lois Baker's poetry and short fiction have appeared in Poetry Northwest, Colorado
Review, Calyx, Mississippi Mud, Folio, New Oregon Review, Poetry Now and others. She
received an Oregon Arts Commission grant for work on a novel in progress and first fiction
award (1987) from the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. She taught in Harbin, PRC,
in 1986, and teaches English as a Second Language at Portland Community College.
Walid Bitar's work has appeared in This Magazine, Arc and Dandelion, and has been accepted by Quarry. He hopes to go to the Middle East as a freelance journalist in the coming
Jessie Bright teaches English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. In addition to Carlo
Sgorlon she has also translated short stories by Vitaliano Brancati.
Heather Brown lives and works in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Marlene Cookshaw's poems have appeared in a number of Canadian periodicals, including Malahat Review, Descant and Fiddlehead. Her first collection, Personal Luggage, was
published by Coach House Press in 1984. The poems in this issue are from a recently completed manuscript called Cuba.
Robert Cooperman's poems have appeared in College English, The Fiddlehead,
Antigonish Review and many other journals.
M. Cherie Geauvreau lives and writes on Salt Spring Island, B.C.
Ryusei Hasegawa is the founder of Creation 21, a cultural retreat for artists and poets on
Noto Island in Japan.
G.A. Hewett is a young and gradually aging dude who enjoys sailing. Nowhere O'er the
Pears is about a sailing trip to Discovery Island, off Oak Bay in Victoria, in a folding
schooner, the Natty Dread.
Bruce Iserman is head of English at a rural Ontario high school, where he teaches writing skills, in part by doing the assignments along with the students. He is an associate editor with Taproot, a poetry magazine. Owning a word processing computer has enabled him
to publish his poetry widely over the past year.
Zoe Landale lives with her husband and young daughter in Ladner, B.C. Her poetry and
short fiction has appeared in journals across the country; most recently in West Coast
Review, Grail and Room of One's Own. She is currently working on a second children's
novel and is the President of the Federation of B.C. Writers.
Osip Mandelstam was born in Russia in 1891. He published two collections of poetry:
Stone in 1913 and Tristia in 1922. He was arrested in 1934 and exiled to Voronezh.
Released in 1937 he was arrested again one year later and sent to Siberia, where he soon
died after.
105 David Manicom writes in Montreal, where he is assistant editor of Rubicon. His poetry
has appeared in many journals, including three previous issues of PRISM. Recent work is
published or forthcoming in Event, Malahat Review, Canadian Forum, Fiddlehead, Matrix
and Shenandoah (U.S.). His first collection, Sense of Season, will be published by Press
Porcepic in the Spring of 1988.
John McGahern was born in Ireland in 1934. His novels are The Barracks, The Dark,
The Leavetaking and The Pornographer. He has written three volumes of stories: Night-
lines, Getting Through and High Ground.
David Mel Paul and Margareta Paul are a husband-and-wife team specializing in
Swedish-to-English translations.
M.H. Raymond lives in Halifax with her husband and one-year-old daughter. She has just
begun writing again after ten years. Jesus of the Aerials is her first published work.
Nobuko Saisho's work appears for the first time in English.
Hiroaki Sato has published more than ten books of Japanese poetry in English translation. One of them, From the Country of Eight Islands, which he translated and edited with
Burton Watson, won the P.E.N, translation prize for 1982 and has recently been reissued
by Columbia University Press. He writes a biweekly column called Here and Now in New
York, and he regularly reviews books.
Carlo Sgorlon has won major Italian literary prizes and his work has been the subject of
considerable critical attention. His novels have been translated into German and French.
Robert Shapard is co-editor, with James Thomas, of Sudden Fiction: American Short-
Short Stories, recently published in trade paper by Peregrine Smith Books. His fiction has
won General Electric/Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines and National Endowment for the Arts awards, has been published in Cimarron Review, Greensboro Review,
Mid-American Review and other journals, and is forthcoming from The Literary Review. He
teaches at the University of Hawaii.
Joan Fern Shaw, fiction editor of Waves, received a Canada Council project grant to
work at the Leighton Artist Colony at Banff where she completed her second story collection, Managing Just Fine, and her first novel, Raking Up Leaves. Her collection of linked
stories, Raspberry Vinegar, won the Gerald Lampert Award in 1986.
Philip St. John lives and works in Ireland. Amusements previously appeared in New Irish
Writing last year.
August Strindberg (1849-1912). Swedish dramatist, novelist and philosopher. For
more information about Strindberg and the Modern Scandinavian Literature in Translation
series please write to University of Nebraska Press, 901 North 17th Street, Lincoln,
Nebraska 68588-0520.
Kawabata Yasunari was the only Japanese to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1968).
His script for A Page of Madness has become a classic of the experimental cinema. He died
under mysterious circumstances in 1972.
106 [CtfTddlehea
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Single Issue $4/4 Issues $12
PO. Box 1416, Northbrook, IL 60065 (9
The New Quarterly
new directions in Canadian writing
"Some of the freshest and most innovative writing in
Canada." KeithMaillard
Now in its seventh year, The New Quarterly continues to publish
the best of the latest in Canadian writing. Kinsella, Brewster,
Musgrave, Virgo, McCormack, Maillard, Kroetsch, Rooke, Elliott
are among the many established writers who have appeared on
our pages, but we are also committed to encouraging the provocative imaginations of the top writers of tomorrow.
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Back issues of our special issues on magic realism, Sean Virgo, Susan
Musgrave and family fictions are still available. co   >,-;
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PRISM international
$1000  1st Prize
$ 500 2nd Prize
$ 250 3rd Prize
plus publication payment
Deadline: December 15,1987
Final Judge: Audrey Thomas
Fiction Contest
Prism international
Department of Creative Writing
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1W5
Canada Fiction
John McGahern
M.H. Raymond
Robert Shapard
Joan Fern Shaw
Philip St. John
Lois Baker
Walid Bitar
Heather Brown
Marlene Cookshaw
Robert Cooperman
M. Cherie Geauvreau
G.A. Hewett
Bruce Iserman
Zoe Landale
David Manicom
In Translation
Ryusei Hasegawa
Osip Mandelstam
Nobuko Saisho
Carlo Sgorlan
August Strindberg
Kawabata Yasunari
ISSN 0032.8790


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