PRISM international

Prism international Prism international Oct 31, 1972

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Fall igj2
C**'*(0U44**'f0  Editor-in-Chief    jacob zilber
Acting Editor-in-Chief    michael bullock
Associate Editors    douglas bankson
Managing Editors    james mgginniss
Editorial Assistants    phillip groves
FALL 1972
Seeds for the Sonata
of the Birds
The White Jeep
Thanatopsis in Texas
Their Balconies are Made
of Fur
Nor Did Anyone Call
After Him
Two Stories
The Queer
Four Monks
Two Poems
The Other One
all day I move through ships
Two Poems
Love Poem
My Father Is Diving
Two Poems
Two Poems
Night Walk
Untitled Poem
Three Poems
For Maman Celie
As Infant
Your Cat with a Cobra Head
After Walking To & Fro
&Up& Down In It
Two Poems
Three Poems
The Mother Makes
a Phone Call
Five Poems
Three Poems
Three Poems
Four Poems
422-902-510 HB
The cover illustration, "A Perfect Fit," and the eight illustrations inside are
from prints by Conroy Maddox, the leading British surrealist painter and
collagist. The original of "Strange Country" is in the permanent collection of
the Tate Gallery, London, England.
PRISM international, a journal of contemporary writing, is published three
times a year by the Department of Creative Writing at the University of British
Columbia, Vancouver 8, B.C. Annual subscriptions are $5.00, single copies
$1.75, obtainable by writing to the Editors at that address. Microfilm editions
are available from University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and reprints
(vols. 1-5) from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, NYC. Alexandre Amprimoz was born in Rome and now lives in Windsor, Ontario.
He was educated in France and Canada and has published work in both
French and English, including several volumes of poems.
For a long time, a very long time, a heavy line kept pounding
against the boredom towers of his mind:
Mon ame s'assoupit aux murmures des eaux.
The red cover, the golden letters and the thick yellow pages with
their minuscule printing were a sanctuary from which emanated a
Perfume of Old. Lamartine and his langorous poems tailored their
own life in that docile coffin. "The Egyptians kept their dead by
techniques of mummification, we (the race of Gutenberg) keep our
ancestors locked between the pages of myriads of books... What
will remain of us?" he asked his philosophy professor one day. The
silence of the library seemed as holy as the silence of the cemetery.
The experience of the graves was locked in the books.
The line kept coming back like an ever returning wave:
Mon ame s'assoupit aux murmures des eaux.
Once more he began to read his diaries:
Roma ii di Agosto 1966
When staring at an aquarium I have often wished to pour my
soul into the body of a goldfish and have imagined that the music
created by its water waves would be similar to an allegro moderato,
a movement of a Mozart string quartet, in which the acoustic and
the visual would be perfectly welded together. For years I have been
wondering if my heart and my mind would ever find the sensitivity
and the precision to express such a beauty through the artifice of
words. When the word is dead the verb is in agony. "Holy Water!" he respectfully whispered.
There was no water sound and the sand looked even on his
imperfect and thorny shore of souvenirs where names returned like
the invisible waves he used to hear in the caved heart of murmuring
"Holy Water!" he repeated.
He knew that from immemorial time God had given to water a
Sanctifying efficacy, that the Egyptian funeral rites began with the
sprinkling of the fabulous Aqua Santa. Scenes from his childhood
as beautiful as myths passed again in front of his tired eyes.
He remembered the first time Nonno brought a white shining
obj'ect which looked like a cradle and on the surface of it the colours
of the rainbow would be reflected.
"Madre Perla, you can hear the sea in it," Nonno said.
With the shell against his ear he closed his eyes and saw the waves
keeping up their endless beat. Yes, the sea was the heart of the
world. "When the waves stop the world will die and the Archangel
Gabriel will come," he thought.
How many times did he listen to the madre perla to hear the
distant sea?
Madre: that was something like Mamma, somebody repeating
the same words all the time. Madre: a woman and a wave.
Perla: that was a beautiful marble. Mother and Nonna used to
carry necklaces and earrings instead of playing with them. They
wore those expensive marbles j'ust for the sake of wearing them.
Madre Perla: that was a beautiful mother, so beautiful that he
wouldn't get tired of listening to her water words called waves.
Words were like music: by repeating them you could understand
His grandmother used to plunge her hand into the font, touch
his own and then, and only then, would he be allowed to make the
sign of the cross. He never dared to ask what secret was hidden in
that font but kept praying to God to become tall enough to see that
mystery. He used to pray for the day when he would be able to
reach the keys to the higher shelves of the library, where his
grandfather kept certain works not meant for him to read; and for
the day when he would be able to jump two steps at a time like his
brother. The memory of his grandfather's funeral came back to his
mind not as something sad and gone but as a radiant image.
There was no wind kiss and the sun looked even on his un- wrinkled and stinging bank of remembrances where voices returned
upon his broken body, punctual as the everlasting water heard in
the hollow seaside rooms.
His eyes met the open page again:
Roma 12 di Agosto 1966.
I remember a young teacher, in one of those early grades, whose
enthusiasm was equal to his indulgence; he had organized a choir
from which no student was excluded, the children without any
singing talents were called the fish and were simply supposed to
open and close their mouths at the proper rhythm; the others who
could sing were the birds — I was a fish.
Colombo was the name of the school. It was the name of a smart
man who had found a way to go to America by boiling soft eggs
in front of Kings and Queens.
There were many things that he had omitted from his diaries.
In his early years, when his grandfather was still alive and used to
whisper strange stories about Mussolini, instead of telling fairy tales,
Nestor and his brother had for certain left vivid traces in the family
In the afternoon Nonno used to put them to bed for a few hours.
Nestor didn't like that at all. "If you sleep in the afternoon when
you wake up the sun is gone ... then what do we do?" he told Paul.
One day Nestor and his brother simulated instant sleep and
waited for the fall of their grandfather into the arms of Morpheus.
As soon as they heard Nonno snoring they realized that the old god
had granted them their wish and they silently stepped out of bed
and crawled their way to Nonno's desk.
"Listen to the golden clock," ordered Nestor to Paul.
"Do you think we can stop it?" asked Paul.
After a few seconds of reflection Nestor whispered: "Yes...
we just have to put the clock in Nonno's hat and fill it with water!"
"Yes, but if we go to the bathroom to get it, grandmother or the
maid might see us," answered Paul.
They needed water and decided to urinate in their grandfather's
hat on the bottom of which they had carefully condemned the
innocent clock.
"Mine is longer than yours, when it's long enough I'll be a
soldier," exclaimed Paul. "I don't want to be a soldier."
"Why?" asked Paul.
"Because then you get killed," explained Nestor as he began to
urinate in Nonno's hat.
"Do you think we can fill it?"
"Try . . . it's your turn!" commanded Nestor.
"I can't."
"Because you are looking at me," confessed Paul, humiliated.
Nestor turned around.
"I still can't," whispered Paul.
All at once they heard Nonno wake up and they went to hide
under the bed. The old man was furious:
"Come out of there you Birbel"
Nonna walked into the bedroom:
"What's the matter?" she asked.
"They pissed in my hat and ruined my gold watch . . . those two
Later the boys decided that all clocks were magic and should be
It was their "tic tack" sound that the adults feared so much, that
made them wrinkled and grey, that decided when people had to die.
It was the "tic tack" sound that had inflicted a severe defeat upon
Nestor in his fight against Chronos. He didn't like to think of time,
and music was the best way of forgetting it.
Roma 13 di Agosto 1966.
I always loved water and for years I considered Lamartine a
great poet because he had written the single line that kept splashing
back and forth in my mind. Because of water I began to write lines
which only rimed with the vision of solitude.
Along the Forum the evening wind marries the old harmony
with the day's ending sounds. We call it marriage by water
because it introduces the preludes of the water vices hidden by
the holy fountains of the oldest cathedrals. It is a wedding of air
and water around the Trevi fountain. I shall never compose
again upon tablets, bring me my Cythera!
The old harmony and the day's ending sounds: I believe in them as the weary seed of the spoken word. One must have a martello
mind to meet on the edge of day the ancient voice of Francesca
coming all the way from Rimini. I walk from fountain to fountain
in this shadowless day, without camel, looking for the oasis of Piazza
di Spagna, where the soul of Keats recites liquid poetry in the
endless cascade of ancient Aqua. The ice cream man stands like an
emperor in the steaming heat. I think of Wallace Stevens. The
longest kingdom is the kingdom of the Bard!
One must have a martello mind to shelter his ideas, whether
along the Forum or in the wet underground of Castel Sant Angelo.
Along the Forum dragging my silence through the open sky I
crossed the things of dusk in their full magic at a time when the air
was dense and old Uke the murmuring sea. All things here imposed
on me a secular whispering. I have bees in my mind: I shall produce
honey. The wind always returns the seeds of poetry to their first
It was easy to hum the aria of an Etruscan song. It was easy to
compose in a language invented by music . . . easy to sing when the
air was of silence full. A language light enough to float above the
fluttering aria. It was easy to dream on the shore about the approaching night of the clanging of clinging gladiators fighting with
the fluting weapons of hendecasyllables!
In a language invented by music the echo of the gone voices in
the Caracalla baths revealed the balm of Antique vices: the undone
monuments and the undone beds where women of Lesbos day after
day shared the glory of their intimate perfumes!
The echo of gone voices along Via Appia Antica where the
maturing sun spiced the Latin earth and the voices of distant lovers
came by way of wind to my ear, long and tired Uke the weary stones
. . . long and tired like the moment when my thirst meets the
waters . . .
When he was three years old he played with Titti. It was a nice
memory but he had forgotten to record it in his book. Titti was the
daughter of the maid. She was four and her long blonde hair was
the pride of her mother because very few Roman girls had such
attributes. He remembered that the softness of her pretty velvet
dress gave to his hands the same tactile impression that he used to
receive when he touched grandmother's canary. Birds were the earUest musicians of this world. When they became
old and tired they became fish by plunging into the waters. Birds,
men put them in cages as if they were slaves or prisoners. They
blinded canaries to make them sing better. To be blind was something strange. He read that Homer was blind. One of his aunts,
Zia Francesca, was bUnd too. She played the piano and sang very
well. She was ninety and people weren't too kind to her. He
remembered a terrible scene but he tried to forget it by thinking
of Titti.
"Titti, let me touch your dress," he asked.
Under her dress her legs were warm. She laughed but he didn't
understand why. He thought her head looked like a dove but he
didn't Uke the call of the dove. He thought of blinding her.
"Stop, we shouldn't do that," she softly said. He kept his hands
under her dress.
"Why should I stop? It is so nice," he answered as the maid
opened the door of the children's room.
The next day they had a new maid. Nobody said anything about
Titti and he never asked.
For years he kept dreaming of Titti the Dove. Perhaps if he
hadn't met her he never would have tried to compose "the Sonata
of the Birds."
He looked at Castel Sant Angelo, sheltered himself away from the
sun and read;
Roma, 14 di Agosto 1966.
As a child I believed that water came from the air and that each
bird would sooner or later turn into a fish, consequently I took a
great interest in birds and in their songs. Noticing that each produced
a different sound I concluded that they were the origin of music and
decided to write the "Sonata of the Birds." Again I dreamed of
Mozart. He stood in a Ught blue suit at the bottom of the pyramids
and to my question he answered: "Snow covered bed of notes . ..
your sonata garden . .. where faces spring Uke roses . . . from the
dark instruments ... is the magic mirror enveloping the endless
flowers and the cold stones? ... in a heart harmony where your
music sleeps..."
I decided that in the key of C the "coo-coo-coo" mournful sound
of the mourning dove would represent "do," since the Zenaidura
macroura, as it is called in bird guides, reminded me of a word old
Uke sepultura; and making frail nests with its whistling wings that
bird had a caU low enough to give a foggy image of death. I could
9 have chosen the screech owl for the same note but its mournful
wavering trill wasn't steady enough to represent a musical note.
When he was three years old he played with Titti. A few years
later Nonno decided that a tutor was needed for Nestor.
"I am getting too old, Professor Ancora wiU teach him mathematics and science. But I will still be teaching him the rest."
"Never!" answered Nonna. "We don't have too much money
now . . . it's not like before the war ... it could be ... if you hadn't
joined in with Mussolini..."
"I am the head of this house . . . and I still make decisions here."
Nonno's face was becoming red Uke a tomato, his voice was loud
Uke the preacher's.
Nonno usually spoke in a soft tone and for the first time Nestor
heard him raise his voice in a fit of anger. He felt very uncomfortable because he understood that his grandparents were arguing
about him:
"I could learn by myself ..." he shyly whispered.
"But we don't have enough money ..." repUed Nonna.
"How ridiculous!" burst out Nonno. "With all the flowers that
you buy for the garden ... all the dresses ... all the jewels . . . you
teU me that we don't have enough money ..."
Nestor began to weep and tried to hide his face in his hands.
He reaUy didn't mind crying because he Uked the salty taste of his
"If I had to Usten to you I should dress Uke a maid .. . Nestor's
father should take care of his son's education . .. and if you are
really concerned, why don't you send him to a public school..."
Nestor saw his grandfather's hand grab a knife and fling it across
the room towards his grandmother. What would make Nonno
do such a thing? He heard the old man slamming the door and
then the great silence began.
Nestor returned to the library and read:
Verani, omnibus e meis amicis
Antistan mihi milibus trecentis,
Venistine domum ad tuos penates
Fratres que unanimos anumque matrem?
10 The world was filled with things as beautiful as the Unes of
CatuUus. As Nonno was leaving the house Nonna remarked: "He
will come home drunk tonight."
Nestor said that he was sick, so he went to bed without supper.
Before falling asleep he thought that his grandparents shouldn't
argue about him because the world was fiUed with beautiful things.
Verani omnibus e meis amicis. . . that was music. "A race of conquerors," Nonno used to say. "Don't ever forget to Uve up to that
standard." He was of the race who at first conquered the world with
the sword; later soUtary men emerged from that people and their
names made Italy an endless fountain of art.
Antistan mihi milibus trecentis .. . Keats died there ... he heard
his echoing voice in the weeping of the fountain... He was five
foot taU . .. Uke him ... O to become a great poet! ... If not better,
then die.
He smiled noticing that the office of the American Express was
next to the House of Keats.
. . . Venistine domum ad tuos penates
"A race of conquerors," he thought.
Two Italian soldiers were trying to approach an American girl.
"A race of conquerors by warm weather!"
. .. Fratresque unanimos anumque matrem . ..
He sat at a half shaded table: "Una granita al caffe?"
"As usual," answered Nestor to the old waiter. "These diaries are
full of lies . . . but I never knew the truth . . . they are full of true
Ues . . . "
Roma 15 di Agosto 1966.
It took me a long time before I decided that the high "cheep"
of the Indigo Bunting would incarnate the high "do." Now that I
had set the limits of my octave I was left with six more notes to
re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti.
"Re" was almost an extinct note; the 'krrre' sound of the
Carolina Paroquet was one of those harmonious beauties that died
with the progress of "civiUzation": I therefore decided that it would
survive in my "Sonata of the Birds." Mon ame s'assoupit aux murmures des eaux; it was true; my soul would find peace by the
waters as I grew in age, and on the surface of the aqua-mirror I
11 would re-dream step by step the creator's reality, coming by this
progress through my own conception of aesthetics.
"Re" was the name of the Sun-God too and Egyptian ideograms
were filled with birds: the sun was an almost extinguished bird.
The Sun was only an image of the Sun-God and "Re" was the
soul of the universe — the soul of music.
"Re" was in me: a soundfull mirroring of music.
Professor Ancora lost his right hand in the war. He later learned
to write with his left hand and he had a way of hiding things
behind his dark glasses producing on Nestor an impression in which
fascination and fear were strangely united.
"That man is evil... he writes with the left hand ... he is a
Freemason . . . they bring bad luck and excommunication into the
house ..." These were the words with which Nonna had described
Nonno's friend; nevertheless she did add: "Now, don't say anything
to your grandfather." Nestor remembered that his father, too, was a
Freemason and mother used to complain about it. In his youthful
mind he had associated Freemasonry with all things that women
disliked and thus were good.
One day he overheard part of a conversation between Professor
Ancora and Nonno:
"He is a fast learner."
"I know," answered Nonno, "but don't spoil him . . . make him
work hard."
Adults had secrets but by now Nestor was more incUned towards
reading and thinking than towards gossip.
When they forced Nonno to stay in bed and they called the
doctor, Nonna found Nestor crying in the basement.
"What's the matter?" she asked.
"Soon Nonno will die," he answered.
"O Memory, you have no eyes!" he whispered.
Roma 16 di Agosto 1966.
The extremely clear and flutelike song of the Wood Thrush came
to my young untrained ear as a simple "ti" but much later I
discovered that its "quit" sound carried many notes of the scale.
I reaUzed then the validity of Paul Valery's words: "A work of art
is never finished but always abandoned." I do not know if I wiU
12 ever find the grace and innocence to finish "The Sonata of the
The Veery sings again as I see on my mirror memory a child
trying to imitate the winged Utile God: "whe-u-whe-u-whe-u-whe-
u-u-u ..." Don't let it fool you ... it is "mi" on the scale ... it is
me. ..." I am now sure that the wish of every poet was always to
be remembered as a musical note.
I began as a fish in a choir, and even though such a beginning
was not too sonorous, I realized later that it had the advantage of
being a good preparation for what critics today caU "The Literature
of Silence." With years I became more of a listener and less of an
If I had the strength to complete "The Sonata of the Birds" the
Eastern Towhee would sing for me "Dring-your-teeeee" but at that
time, for some unknown reason, I thought "la" was the best
approximation for its melodious song.
When he was three years old he played with Titti. A few years
later Nonno decided that a tutor was needed for Nestor. Professor
Ancora lost his right hand in the war.
There were many people at the funeral, but who kiUed Nonno?
AU men are murdered, no one dies a natural death. Nestor thought
that most of the murderers were present at the funeral. As for
himself death was slowly approaching: his insecurity with words,
his deficient pronunciation in certain languages, his extremely limited
manual dexterity and his incapacity for singing — all this was
indeed a form of death for a young man.
He looked down once more at the red note book.
"Sol" was offered to the Brown Thrasher because his song was
a pure melody rising from the earth; and "sol" was the French
word for ground. "A work of art is never finished but always
abandoned." I heard the Black Billed Magpie and her "cack cack"
sound was baptised "fa."
Suddenly he understood that resurrection too begins before death
is completely finished:
"We are never quite dead, never quite alive," he murmured.
And Uke all living things the resurrection came for "The Sonata
of the Birds."
53 It was on the rocky shore of La Rochelle when the skeleton of
my dreams was already formed, when I finally heard "The Sonata
of the Birds" for the water violin and the piano of the sea: the
music enveloped me and I never knew if it was coming from my
mind and flowing to the waters or if it was rising in the air and
penetrating my being. FOUR MONKS
Translated from the Japanese by Gregory Campbell
Four monks
stroll about the garden
occasionaUy Uf ting their black cloth
Pole shaped
with no enmity at aU
they strike a young woman
until a bat screams
One makes the meal
One goes in search of sinners
One indulges in self-poUution
One is killed by the woman
Four monks
each busily involved in their respective duties
Lowering the sacred doll
raising a crucified cow
One is shaving another's head
The dead one is making a coffin
From human habitation in deep night
a flood of birth water comes flowing
The four stand up together
four abnormal umbrellas
beautiful walls and ceiUng
A hole appeared there
rain began to f aU
15 Four monks
sit down to the evening meal
The one with long hands passes forks out
The one with a wart on his hand pours wine
The other two don't show their hands
While touching today's cat
and the woman of the future
at the same time prepared both bodies
The hands of the two built the hairy statue
Flesh tightens bones
Flesh is bleached by blood
Two are fat from gluttony
Two are thin from creativity
Four monks
set out on their morning reUgious austerities.
One in the form of a bird goes to the woods to meet hunters
One in the form of a fish goes to the river
to peek up the thighs of a maid-servant
One in the form of a horse goes from the town
carrying the instruments of massacre
One is dead and so rings the bell
The four never laugh loudly together
16 Four monks
sow seeds in the field
One of them mistakenly
makes an offering of a turnip to a child's bottom
The shocked mother's mouth like a chinaware face
sank the sun of red mud
Three of them get on unusually high swings and swing together
Three of them sing together
The dead one
speaks from the deep throat of the crow in the nest
Four monks
squat around the well
The laundry is a mountain goat's testicles
and the sanitary napkin that won't come clean
Three of them together wring out
the sheet as big as a balloon
The dead one carries it on his back out to dry
on top of the tower in the rain
i7 Four monks
One writes the story of the estabUshment of the monastery
and the account of the careers of the four
One writes the Uves of the queens' flowers of the world
One writes the history of monkeys, hatchets, and tanks
Because one is dead
he hides himself and sets fire to the records of the three
one after the other
Four monks
One in a land of withered trees gives birth
to a thousand illegitimate children
One in a saltiess and moonless sea kills a thousand illegitimate
One on top of a scale
tntwined with a snake and grapes
is amazed to find that the weight
of the legs of the dead thousand
is equal to the weight of the eyes of the Uving thousand
One is dead and is stiU sick
coughing on the other side of his stone fence Four monks
go out of the fort of the soUd breastplates
Because they have no harvests throughout their Uves
they hang themselves and sarcasticaUy laugh
in a place one stage higher than the rest of the world
The bones of the four are the thickness of a winter tree
and are dead until the age
when the ropes break
Translated from the Japanese by Gregory Campbell
A woman stands alone in Winding blackness. The room is sUghtly
warm, a faint haze drifts about Ughtly, gloomily, as though something with breath that ebbs and flows is settling down into a
weightless burden.
The woman is completely naked. Not one thread touches her
skin. No jewelry adorns her body; her hair hangs down — no
lotion, no comb has smoothed it. On her face, her hands, her feet,
not even the shadow of a single ornament anywhere. This woman
is as she was born, as she was created. The pores of her skin suck
at the darkness. With its long tongue the darkness Ucks her pink
nails. The disorderly dark eddies slowly around her fleshy thighs.
Like some huge hot flower her water-white body laughs, her hands
laugh also, her toes as weU.
Swimming motionless and silent—-in the purple darkness her
smoky-white shapely body softly sighs. The woman is a pale owl,
her feet white swaUows.
The darkness descends down, down, down, quietly to the bottom.
Palely, bluely, her red Ups savor a comfortable shudder and exhale
a narrow shadow.
Her eyes like a morning snake become reddish-black and one bat
flies out and away. The woman squirms like a leech and stretches
out as though to fill the far ends of the room. She breathes, panting
Then she touches one drop of lilac perfume to her left breast.
To her breast — as round as a cherry blossom bud — the fragrance of the perfume cUngs and utters a cry.
The face of the evening sun in
the center of the water
is my love
The thoughts of the leaves that fall in
the middle of the night
is my love
wordless, voiceless, shadowless
Takuji Ohte (1887-1934) was an avid reader of French poetry and uninfluenced by the work of his fellow Japanese poets. He worked for 18 years in the
advertising department of the Lion Toothpaste Company. Gregory Campbell
was born in 1938 in the United States and has spent most of his adult life in
Japan where he was employed teaching and translating. While in Japan he was
ordained in the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism. He is presently studying in the
Department of Religious Studies at the University of British Columbia.
21 Massud Farzan, a Persian writer, came to the United States in i960. Since
then he has been writing in English. His recent work has appeared in
London Magazine, The Literary Review, Encounter (London), etc.
It was in the fruit and vegetable section of a supermarket in
Montana that I first met Loh Shu-Ning Tsai. He was sniffing a
honeydew melon, eyes closed, with an empty pushcart by his side.
The light from the ceiling reflector shone on his smooth boyish face
and an immense brow that merged into the curve of his receding
hairline. His age was indeterminate, his figure roundish.
When my cart struck his, he opened his eyes and said, "Please
help me find fresh ginger roots." I didn't know what they looked
like, so we walked along the vegetable counter, reading the labels.
Loh spotted the ginger roots and bent down to take a paper bag. I
noticed that he was wearing red suspenders. He thanked me, then
he said a few other things which I didn't understand; he spoke
English with a strangely fast accent made of little half syUables. We
shook hands, and he pushed his cart of ginger roots to the check-
stands. I looked for Ught bulbs and toilet tissue, all the time thinking
why Loh chose me to ask about ginger. He couldn't have taken me
for one of the grocers; before leaving the motel in the morning I
had put on a corduroy suit with cuff-linked shirt, ready to report to
the college and meet Dr. George Thomas, the chairman of the
Humanities Department.
When the market door snapped open onto the parking lot, I saw
Loh standing there, his round face taut in the cold, holding the Uttle
bag with both his hands. He said, "Would you Uke a ride to the
college? My name is Loh."
I answered, "I have a car, may I follow you if you are going there
yourself? How did you know I was going to the college?"
"Well, you are the man from the University of Michigan, aren't
22 "Yes. How did you know?"
Loh grinned and spoke so fast that I didn't understand what he
The chairman, George Thomas, was a short man, somewhat
stocky, Welsh and rather dark, eating raisins out of a small box
and smoking a humble pipe. He walked around his desk on Hush
Puppies and shook hands with me. When Loh left, George Thomas
said, "Sometimes I think my real reason for hiring this crazy
Chinese is that he is the only man here who is shorter than I." And
he chortled out puffs of tobacco smoke and coughed slightly. He
wiped his glasses with a kerchief from his trousers pocket. As we
walked out of the corridor into the college parking lot, he talked
about Loh's Chinese poems, then about Glacier Park. "It's only
four hours' drive from here," he said when we got into his station
wagon. "We'll go there sometime. Very beautiful." He drove down
a dirt road, past a few one-storey houses, and stopped in front of
one with no curtains on its windows, surrounded by stretches of small
hills and prairies. From the back seat of his car George took a
blanket, a folding chair, a couple of small curtains and a few other
items and carried them into the empty house. He then walked to
the coUege, which wasn't far, and brought my car. "If you need
anything else call me. Use Loh's phone. If you call after eight I'll
be at the coUege working. Tell my wife what you need. My son
Harry wiU bring them. You can use Loh's phone."
Late in the afternoon when I came out of my house it was
snowing quietly, the snowflakes melting in the warm wind. On the
porch of the brightly lit house to my left, Loh stood holding the
screen door for a wet cat, a white, woolly Persian. He saw me
and let go of the door too soon. It closed shut; the cat backed
quickly away and sat on the porch.
Loh said something which I couldn't understand, so I walked to
his porch pretending that it was because of the distance, not because
of his accent. He held the screen door open for the cat and me, and
introduced his wife, called Shan in America, who sat facing the
television, watching Candid Camera. Inside their house was exactly
like mine except that theirs was brightly Ut and neatly, comfortably
furnished with Uttle cushions, sofa pillows, chair covers and wall
bolsters, all hand-made. Shan went to the kitchen which was visible
from the Uving room and in a short time cooked a variety of Chinese
dishes. They tasted very good; I hadn't eaten Chinese food like that
in restaurants. When I said this, Loh and Shan raised their heads
23 from the Uttle rice bowls they were holding in their hands, and
Shan said, "Chop Suey doesn't exist in China." Loh grinned approval. Shan added, "Toasted noodles American invention." After
supper we drank tea and watched television. The cat walked
around Loh and up and down his shoulders. He grinned and said,
"Crazy cat." Then, as if remembering something, he got up and
walked to the refrigerator and came back with a sUced piece of
ginger root. He sat down and began to rub it along the curve of his
balding hairline.
"Where did you find ginger?" Shan asked, surprised.
Loh grinned and continued to rub.
Shan repeated sternly, "I said where did you find ginger?"
Loh said, "Buttrey's. Next to mushrooms."
"Let me do it," she said and massaged her husband's baldness
with the root.
The classes were soon underway. Every evening Loh and his wife
invited me for tea, occasionally for supper. I took them fruits and
flowers and Persian saffron. Loh was fond of tangerines. He touched
and sniffed them, eyes closed, and said: "At home tangerines were
as big as oranges, vivid gold mixed with red. We had a couple of
tangerine trees in our yard. I used to go and shake the tree, the
fruits tumbled on my head and shoulders. Nice feeUng. Very
I had become completely accustomed to Loh's accent and
didn't miss a word except when he got excited, talking about Ezra
Pound's loose translations of Li Po, or when he got mad at his
wife, usuaDy over the cat whom he called Romeo because of his
nocturnal escapades down the hill. Infuriated, Shan would lock the
door from the inside and forbid her husband to let the returning cat
in. Loh would finaUy lose his temper and speak so fast that it was
difficult to tell if he were still speaking in EngUsh or had switched
to Chinese. But such moments did not happen frequently, at least
not in my presence. Usually we talked, Loh and I, about the college
and students. Shan turned down the television and Ustened in while
"Do you have Miss O'Reily?' Loh said looking at his class list.
"Very smart and pretty. Long hair and very fresh when she comes
from the cold. She is your student, too?"
24 "Miss O'Reily? Yes. She is in my writing class. Best writer in
"I gave her A over B-plus in Mid Summer Night's Dream test.
The rest of class C's and D's. You should marry her, Mahmood.
She is just the type of girl for you." Then he quoted from a
Shakespearean sonnet.
Loh had an expensive Swiss camera with telephoto lens. When
we drove to a natural pond, off the highway to Great Falls on
Sunday afternoons, he took pictures of seaguUs and other birds. On
the way back we would stop at a road cafe, next to a Texaco gas
station. Loh would order a pecan pie. "One of these days you'll
lose all your teeth," Shan would say. Loh would touch his front
teeth, which were white but loose and dangling Uke a small child's,
then forget the issue with a sip of his tea.
Once in a while I went to the movies alone or stayed in my house
reading student papers. At dusk when I got up to turn on the lights
and draw the curtains I saw Loh and Shan come out of their house
to take a walk. As they went down the hill, arm in arm and very
smaU, the whole evening scene looked Uke a picture in a Chinese
One day when I stopped by the Department Chairman's office I
saw George Thomas sadly puffing at a cigarette, his pipes lying
coldly on the ashtray. I knew that Donald Roabuck of Freshman
Composition Committee had been there.
"That son-of-a-bitch Roabuck has the audacity to tell me what
to do in my own department. So what if a couple of nincompoops
don't understand Loh's accent. First of all they would get used to it
in a day or two if they listened. But that is only an excuse. What
they don't understand is not Loh's accent but Shakespeare."
I took advantage of the occasion to ask, "Why does Roabuck
wear a white coat and sandals in such cold weather?"
George chortled and coughed. He crushed his cigarette in the
ashtray and picked up a pipe.
Donald Roabuck was a man with a potbelly and waxy white skin.
When talked to, he listened to everyone else but his interlocutor.
His office desk had all the accessories including a pad of note papers
with the inscription "From the desk of Dr. Donald Roabuck, Head,
Freshman Composition, Personnel Committee, and Faculty Council." Printed on the top left corner was the picture of a candle and
an open book with the words power and knowledge printed verticaUy
on each page. Also on his desk was a copy of College Composition
25 Association Forum in which he had pubUshed a scholarly article
caUed "DangUng Participle Revisited."
George said, "You know the Smith boy, the blond freshman we
transferred to Remedial English i o i ? This morning his dad comes
in, cowboy hat and all. He barges in, aU his three hundred pounds,
and says, 'Why does my son Smith have to take English — he's
going to raise cattle, he's not going to talk to them.' I sent him
to Roabuck's office just for the heU of it. Ten minutes later I go
to the fountain to drink water. Roabuck was serving the man coffee
in one of his miniature cups and slipping him a copy of his DangUng
Participle article."
Loh must have sensed Roabuck's antipathy toward him even
though the latter often said, "How are you Loh, it's very chilly
today." He had even given him a copy of his article and had said,
"Feel free to mimeograph it for your student use." Loh consistently
avoided committee meetings. In one of them, when Roabuck was
talking about the necessity of changing the name Remedial English
to something else, Loh fell asleep, his chin against his chest. After
the meeting, we climbed to the hill across the college where there
were graves with trees and a few flowers. He sat on a tombstone
and confessed, "The doctor has forbidden me to have sex more
than once a month. We do it the first of every Chinese month, I
have a hundred-year calendar. You know I don't beUeve in doctors,
but this one makes sense. Before that I did it twice a week. I was
depressed for days afterward. Not physical tiredness, you know that
I am not weak and practice my father's Chinese Yoga. Only depression." I wanted to ask, "What day of Chinese calendar is it
today?" But Loh broke in: "Did I really fall asleep in the meeting?"
He looked up at a couple of red-tailed birds on the bare branch
of a small tree and automatically his hand went to his side to feel for
the camera. Not finding it there, he continued, "It lasts three days,
but the worst is the day immediately following, particularly in late
afternoon. Then I feel so sad and depressed that I want to do it
again, not for pleasure, but as a kind of temporary death. Like
narcotics, maybe. I had an uncle in Formosa who smoked opium.
But with sex the pleasure lasts such a short time, although an hour
or so following is not bad. I became aware of it when I slept with
a whore in Hong Kong. I left immediately and walked aimlessly in
the streets. It was a very beautiful night. I felt Ught and enjoyed
being alone. A Uttle melancholy in a nice way. And I wrote two
poems that were published. I'll translate them for you when Shan
26 isn't home. Also I'll show you a poem about — remember I was
telling you about tangerine trees in our yard? One day I was shaking
the tree with the girl next door. I was only a boy. I was shaking the
tree, the tangerines falling all over us. Very sensual. Then all of a
sudden I saw the girl was holding her skirt in front of her to
catch the fruits. Very nice thighs, smooth and trim. Like Stephen
Dedalus' seabird girl. Very nice thighs. Did Roabuck see me sleep-
"I don't think so. Are you worried?"
"Not for myself. But I don't want Shan to worry."
Winter came with a heavy snowfall that lasted several days. The
town was trapped in a deep freeze, the college closed and service
trucks went around trying to start automobiles. Wearing a cossack
hat that made him look rounder and smaller, Loh shovelled part of
his porch and took a picture of the bare tree in front of the house
against the snow-covered hills and prairies. I went to start my car but
its door lock was frozen.
Overnight more snow fell and it became colder. In the morning
Loh made his way to his car and tried in vain to start it. He ran
back to the house, the earflaps of his cossack hat slapping his face.
I scraped the white ice off my Uving room window and looked out.
The window fogged and froze again. I stayed in and ate canned
soup. Late in the afternoon I scraped the windowpane again and
saw a thick grey smoke puffing out of the exhaust of Loh's car,
melting the snow and making it black. Loh and Shan sat in the
front seat, Loh behind the wheel, and as they backed out of the
driveway they signalled to me to join them. I sat on the rear seat.
Shan asked her husband to drive carefully. On the main street we
passed a well-Ut drugstore where a girl stood behind the counter,
watching the street. Loh turned his head watching her; the car
slowed down and rattled. Shan snapped at him and he said,
addressing me without looking back, "She is just the type of girl
you should marry." He shifted the gear. "No, I take it back. She
is nothing compared to Miss O'Reily. Remind me to show you her
final exam paper." The road cafe was half buried in snow, so Loh
drove once again along the main street.
"Why don't you apply for some other college?" Shan said when
27 we got back home and she turned the heater up and turned on the
Loh answered, "I have told you. They aU want doctorate."
"Why don't you finish your doctorate? All you have left is to
pass Old EngUsh."
Loh didn't say anything. Finding Shan waiting for an answer,
he made a trip to the refrigerator and back. He sat down and
rubbed the bare curve of scalp over his forehead with a sUce of
ginger root, then felt the area with his finger. "Look how it works,"
he grinned; "crazy." He bent down his head; I looked and saw
extremely fine and barely visible undergrowth of sparse silky hair
beneath the hairline. Whether the ginger had made them grow or
they had been there before I couldn't tell.
Shan said, "How about publishing? Why did you stop sending
your poems?"
"They don't publish my poems."
"Yes they do. Western Humanities and that other magazine.
Why don't you send them more?"
"I did. They sent printed rejections."
I didn't know until then that Loh wrote poetry in English. I
asked him to show some of them to me, including the published
ones, but he didn't know where they were. From the bedroom closet
Shan brought a cardboard box in which she had neatly placed Loh's
poems, including an offprint of a pubUshed poem on a thick paper
and the letter of acceptance from the editor of the magazine written
in longhand. She had not kept the rejection sUps. There was, however, a mimeographed letter with Loh's name typed on the top. It
Dear Loh Shu-Ning Tsai:
We in the editorial offices of Poetry Parade Old and New are pleased
to have received and read your poem. Soon you will see your name
printed side by side such immortal names as Edgar Allan Poe and
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. However, in order to —
As Loh grabbed the letter from my hand I glanced to the bottom
of the page and could make out boxes to be checked with figures
and dollar signs. He turned to his wife. "Why haven't you thrown
this out?"
She took the letter from him without answering and put it back
in the cardboard box. The cat arched its back, yawned and sat
28 It was toward the end of the winter semester that one afternoon
Loh and I returned from college together. Shan was waiting on the
porch and immediately began to speak angrily in Chinese. At first
I thought that her anger was caused by her husband's suspenders:
Loh was getting increasingly fond of suspenders. "With a belt either
your pants fall or you have to fasten it so tight that it's no good
for breathing which should be from abdomen. Suspenders are
comfortable and look nice." Of late he had been buying suspenders
of a different kind and colour in every store he could find them for
fear that some day they would be out of them. "In America things
are manufactured in hundreds of thousands or not at all." It didn't
take long before I found out that it was not over suspenders that
Shan was angry, but because of something more serious. I left them
together and spent the evening in my house. In the morning Loh
came to my office and broke the news. Roabuck had written a letter
to the chancellor of the State Colleges, with copies to many others,
including Loh's wife, in which he had accused George Thomas of
laxity in his capacity as the Chairman of the Department, as well as
partiality to foreigners. He had appended a petition signed by
twenty students who complained that they didn't understand Loh's
accent and wanted a teacher with a doctorate and scholarly publications. Smith, the son of the man in a cowboy hat, was among
the signers.
"What will happen to George?" Loh said. "He can find a job all
right, even though he is over fifty, but he has built his house himself.
And he is so proud of Glacier Park."
During the semester break I went to Helena. When I came back,
a mild Chinook wind had melted the snow. Loh was carrying a
box of books to the open trunk of his car; his wife was taking down
the curtains from the Uving room windows. The cat was sitting on
the tree, following Loh's movements.
That night we ate in my house. After supper I made tea. Loh
said, "Miss O'Reily is a nice girl. Very pretty and intelUgent. You
should marry her." For a moment he stared in front of him, then
he smiled. "I knew she wouldn't sign a stupid letter Uke that."
"Show him the poem you have written about George before you
mail it," Shan said.
Loh grinned.
Translated from the German by Sammy McLean
someone laughs
holds my face with its skin and hair out under the sky
makes words roll from my mouth
someone who has money, anxiety, a passport
someone who fights and loves
someone moves
someone struggles
but not i
i am the other one
who does not laugh
who has no face under the sky
and no words in his mouth
who is unknown to himself and to me
not i: the other one: always the other one
who neither wins nor loses
who does not worry
who does not move
the other one
who is indifferent to himself
of whom i know nothing
who no one knows who he is
who does not move me
that one is me
Hans Magnus Enzensberger is one of Germany's most outstanding contemporary poets. Sammy McLean attended Wichita University, University of
Oklahoma, University of Michigan and the Julius-Maximillians Universitat,
Wiirzburg, and presently teaches German and Comparative Literature at the
University of Washington. His book The Bankelsang and the Work of Bertolt
Brecht has recently been published by Mouton (The Hague).
3° all day I move through ships
D.   S.   LONG
aU day I move through ships
violating the thresholds of language
sentences frozen for export
the engine valves of punctuation
the mute stowaways sUding for a meal
even storms
forgetting the sea
all the harbours
moved inland by time
Ughthouses lost among wetcountry farms
the loneliness of lighthousemen
speaking their own private languages
as if their mouths were filled with seabird eggs
salty adjectives
changing with the tide
aU these remnants
of the meridians that divide us
reforming the land on the seabed
D. S. Long is a graduate student at Canterbury University, New Zealand. He
is the editor of Edge, the author of one book, Borrow Pit (1971), and has
contributed to numerous periodicals.
Translated from the Danish by Nadia Christensen
now the skeletons Ue exposed
on the border between mold and clay. Uke hearts
spUt in open wounds, if they still
beat, they are heard only by moles
by bUnd moles and insect larvae
hibernating for the winter.
and for the sake of your diary, Liebchen,
i note that the sun is about to go down. October
leaves fall, you would say, Uke a gentle funeral march.
but there is also another sound, of earth
dropped down into earth, a resonance-room of earth
laid in circles of earth, minds which understood nothing
have become their own answers, reassuring:
a thin husk of bone
divides us from metaphysics.
you are a child of your own sleep and therefore sleepless.
for your sake wanderers on the glassmountain slope never
find rest, the bird never finds its way back to its nest
and the wind in the prayerwheel repeats your words in a ceaseless
cradlesong that keeps you awake, you are set like a door
in the opening which dreamers go through when they wake
but through which you yourself are never allowed to pass,
you are a child of those who sleep and for their sake eternally
Henrik Nordbrandt was born in Denmark in 1945 and studied Oriental
Languages at the University of Copenhagen. He is the author of three volumes
of poetry. Nadia Christensen has recently completed a Ph.D. in Comparative
Literature at the University of Washington. Her translations of contemporary
Danish and Chilean writers have appeared in a number of magazines.
There is an atom of Ught
at the centre of our drunkenness
In the dark bed
it is what we dive toward,
nameless root of the stars.
Lawrence Mathews lives in Vancouver, and this year his poems have appeared (or will appear) in Canadian Forum, West Coast Review and Queen's
My father is diving, my father who does not swim
plunges down through a gUttering rectangle of water;
ticklish bubbles of sun trail at his heels,
in the moving web of light at the bottom he turns,
jackknifes, and rises, flinging his forelock
Uke a flop-eared spaniel. When he stands on earth
the water slides over his body like summer, Uke sun;
before I can praise him he dives and rises again,
spouting the water, in this summer that never occurred
for my father who does not swim
(in snapshots he stands at the edge of the boardwalk,
heavy of foot, heavy of mouth,
eyeing the sea and finding her shifty):
for my father who has just gone under the surgeon's knife
and who will emerge upright in a spinal brace
I remember this swimming day
and my father, who is old, is young.
Judith McCombs teaches creative writing at Wayne State University and is
one of the editors of Moving Out, a feminist literary magazine sponsored by
Wayne State University.
35 This is Linda Wikene Johnson's second fiction publication. Her poems have
been accepted by several Canadian magazines including Fiddlehead, Windsor
Review and Quarry. Linda will be a graduate student this Fall in Creative
Writing at the University of British Columbia.
The White Jeep
He saw the white jeep pass. The driver was frowning fixedly
ahead, not involved in the search except as a means of creating
mobiUty. Sitting up on the back was a man in a Ught green uniform,
his long black hair flowing down his back, his dark eyes swivelUng
right and left like a crocodile's. His large yellow teeth were set in
a permanent, bitter grin. Resting on his knee was an Enfield. Beside
him sat an old woman. Her hair was white, her eyes were whitened
out by bUndness. The streaky brown and grey of her face carried
cysts and stains of skin-cancer that continued down a hanging
throat and onto a wrinkled upper chest that showed the first hint of
pendulous, empty breasts and disappeared into a long white gown.
He thought for sure those hidden bags were thick and eaten with
cancerous growths.
Two guards in white uniforms came with the jeep, both on foot,
one ahead and one behind. Both carried rifles and turned their
heads rapidly back and forth on strong orange necks. The glares
they sent into the woods on either side of the road penetrated Uke
lasers through the brush, through the leaves and tree trunks, but
didn't find him.
He was there watching from the first branch of a cedar tree. He
sat until they had disappeared from sight. When they were gone,
he was reluctant to cUmb down. The tree had provided a screen all
around him and a stairway in the interior by which he could move
up or down, depending on the danger or lack of it and depending
on how much he wanted to feel the cool wind blowing over the
top of the forest. He was too warm. He was always too warm now.
His woolen shirt, which he didn't dare take off and leave behind for
fear of it being found, grated against his feverish skin. An itchy and
burning rash was developing. He scratched until his chest was raw
36 and bleeding. The hot blood clotted famiUarly into his shirt, gluing
it to his body.
He swung himself down to the ground and crept on his belly
through the low bushes on the edge of the road. They formed a
thick cover as he slithered beneath them and between them, then
down into the ditch. He stared hard in the direction the jeep had
gone. It was no longer visible.
He shot across the road, diving into the ditch on the other side.
Again he slithered through the bushes to the trees.
Then, he was running, zig-zagging between the trunks and
stumbling over bulging roots. The ground rose and fell unexpectedly.
He struggled up hills, often on his hands and knees, running and
tripping down the other side, red faced and burning. Even the
breeze he created by moving so fast could not cool him. The thought
of a bullet in his back made his brain fire to the point of compulsive
erratic movement. He dashed forward and back among the trees,
finding his way through a maze that led him up and down — in
six directions at once. His progress was slow, anxious, panicky. His
arms and legs flayed around him as if flying out from the centre
of heat. He met with resistance everywhere; he had to crawl under
a log, had to go around a briar bush, to climb over a ridge.
The heat emerging from his clothes circled his head. Falling to
the ground, he lay there gasping. His heart pulsed in time with
aching lungs. They crushed his chest in small, then rushed out,
expanding him again.
When he could think clearly once more, he felt small rocks
jabbing into his back. Rocks and sticks. He was conscious of discomfort. As he pushed himself to his feet again he felt the earth
where he had fallen. It was hot.
He was a bit faint, but walked on, following as straight a path
as he could. He thought vaguely of the old woman. Was she as
horrifying as she looked? Of course she was, of course. What other
diseases might be hidden under that white gown? What other
human rot? Or, possibly more horrifying yet, there might be nothing
at all under that white gown. Just blackness. She might end where
the breasts start. Maybe they never start.. .
He came to an old shed abandoned to this profusely overgrown
world. It was being sucked by mosses and Uchens and crushed by
young alders. Fat black and brown striped caterpillars crawled on
the roof. He went inside. There was little but worms and wood-
bugs. They squirmed around a few rusted nails, some newer beer
37 cans, the shining pull-rings and tongues, an old rag of a blanket, a
used and shrivelled safe defying decay.
He sat down outside and rested. His hands burned into his knees.
The white jeep was passing again down the road. He watched
from the line of trees, well hidden.
It came and passed him as a drawing on a long paper banner
carried by two cartoon-like figures. They looked vaguely Uke guards
in white uniforms animated by a frame by frame process of filmed
drawings or by flipping the pages of a series of sketches. Their
banner crackled with its representation of a white jeep holding a
driver in profile, his one eye very intent on the edge of the paper,
a black haired man aiming down the sight of a rifle pointed directly
at the viewer, and an old woman with eye-ball-less eyes staring
blankly at the theoretical victim.
The jeep crackled past down the grey streak of pavement.
He leapt out and dashed straight across the road, running on the
even ground to a fence. He went through it and found himself on a
wide, flat field.
The sky was a vast, smooth blue sheet above him, how far above
he couldn't tell. Trees rose here and there like black sticks penetrating
the blue surface. Fences ran at right angles across the field.
He felt somehow restrained as if his movements were limited. His
Umbs seemed more rigid; it was hard to scratch his rash. The blood
spread thinly over his chest. But the heat was still there — it was
even worse, burning him like hot tiles against his shoulder blades,
against the outside of his thighs. It made his thoughts and movements slow, as if someone had slipped a needle into the straight blue
streaks of his veins. He fought hard against this sensation and
plotted a course from the spot where he stood to one post on a
faraway fence.
Then he was in heavy, deliberate motion, his feet sUding across
the field, his eyes focused on that one post.
The man with long, black hair came to his mind. The rifle came
to his mind. The cool steel. The cold eyes. The touch of that man
must be Uke ice. The kind of ice that burns, sticking to your skin
until, in desperation, you puU away, wrenching off a piece of your
flesh, you rip off a layer of yourself. His hand withdraws with your
skin clinging to it. He lifts it to his Ups. His mouth is a furnace.
He holds you in his mouth.
Reaching the fence post, he saw, straight in front of his eyes,
38 another object to walk to — a tree. If he kept on this way, from one
object to another across this field, he would come to another road
It was a good thing they didn't have heUcopters, but this sky —
you could almost walk on it. He might as well be walking on the
sky as on the ground.
The sun's rays were flat. They bored right through his head.
When he reached the tree he stopped, panting heavily. The heat
sUd down his throat and cascaded over his body Uke a flood. His
breath was very short. His lungs could hardly move. He was suffocating in his own heat. His eyes seemed pressed against the back
of his head. His heart touched his backbone.
The road must be just over there. He was moving again towards
a distant post.
Darkness came very suddenly. He was stumbling aimlessly in a
space whose boundaries he couldn't find. When he tried to Uft his
arms and fling them around him in hope of trees or fences he found
that not only did his arms refuse to rise, but they seemed firmly
glued against his body, seemed almost to be fusing into his sides.
The huge and vicious heat inside him seemed to be melting him
Uke a witch's wax figurine — first the arms, then the legs, then the
facial features, indefinable, running over themselves, then the head,
flattening into the central blob that wasted quickly, disappearing
into a vapour.
He sweated profusely, stumbling and swearing. His legs were
weak — they seemed thinner, shorter.
That road should be around here somewhere. There should be
one soon. It should be straight ahead. But the idea of "straight
ahead" failed him. There seemed to be no direction in this darkness.
His feet ceased to move. Perhaps they had disappeared; he couldn't
tell. Sweat ran under his clothes freely and he seemed to be burning
aUve while the darkness became more intense.
Suddenly he saw a white spot, fixed in space. It hung right in
front of him. It became the point of concentration for all his senses
and thoughts. They were being siphoned towards it.
He felt the heat, the heat in a degree he could no longer stand.
It was obliterating his mobility and his body.
Then there was the indescribable coolness of a bullet passing
through his heart. He felt himself reduced to one cold point inside
his chest.
Long legs crawl Uke trees
Into circles of smoke.
Without vision.
Ties lost their necks.
Glasses desire frozen hands.
Faces grin without body.
He hung on one nerve
Until his knees collapsed
On the colored carpet.
Legs prolonged the room.
Parakeets of weather forecasts
Spread their wings
Over dried-out brains.
Yesterday, the clouds stayed
At eight thousand feet
Today they descended
Into lower regions
To cover tomorrow's
The wings crumble under the ice.
No resistance.
No forward.
Only faded ties
Glued to the gut.
40 Perspiration
The lamp shade, heavy with smoke,
Reflects the tie even after
He is gone.
His presence ignites denial
Of hunger
of birth
of children's songs.
His absence recalls sharp blades
Driven into blood.
His sleep,
A sheet of wrinkled nerves.
His dreams dryer than the ink
On yeUowed pages.
At day break
A rhetoric of dust
Wet at the end of coffeespoons.
His thoughts,
Threaded galvanized pipes
Without pressure,
Parallel Unes
Without joints.
No frequency changes.
Uninterrupted voice transmissions
From eight to five.
Rainer Schulte was born in Germany and attended universities in the United
States, Italy, Spain and Mexico. He received his Ph.D. at the University of
Michigan, Ann Arbor. Since 1965 he has been Director of the Comparative
Literature Program at Ohio University, where he also edits Mundus Artium:
A Journal of International Literature and the Arts. He is the author of one
book of poems, The Suicide at the Piano, and his work has appeared widely
in periodicals.
42 Gerald Schoenewolf is a commercial artist living in New York. His work
has appeared in Esquire and Datebook and is scheduled to appear in the
Transatlantic Review. His plays have been produced in New York at such
off-off Broadway theaters as the La Mama, etc., The Playwrights' Workshop and
the New York Theater Ensemble.
Thanatopsis in Texas
Early summer, and the mornings were new and cool. Honeysuckles gathered along the fences and were cool. Carpet grass on
front lawns was cool under bare feet; marble hallways in the old
school building cool in the shadows between doorways; wooden
desk seats cool where they touched legs below bluejean shorts;
yellow cotton shirts resting lightly on easy shoulders, fingers touching
the back of the neck, breezes from the open windows during the
prayers — all of them cool.
He was eight years old and it was his third summer of bible
school. There were ladies, ladies who brought with them smiles and
white paste made from flour and large hunks of red clay kept in
pickle jars. There were vanilla and oatmeal cookie recesses, with
raspberry punch that tingled on the tongue, and the smiles of the
ladies were cool as he ate the good cookies and drank the good
punch and chased girls under the chinaberry trees.
And he was loved. All of the children, running across the long
schoolyard, the boys who played skyers and skinners and the girls
who yelled "CindereUa Had a Fella" in jangly voices as they skipped
rope, all of them were loved. God loved them and Jesus loved them
and the Ten Commandments and Moses loved them and the
Twenty-third and Seventy-ninth and One-hundredth Psalms loved
them. And the ladies with their soft smiles and the Pastor with his
soft eyes and the townspeople, watering their vegetable gardens in
the afternoons.
Walking to school down the middle of gravel backroads, past
chickenyards and acres of wild mesquite, he would sing the popular
43 songs, concerned only with making each phrase perfectly smooth and
from the heart. Housewives in pink terrycloth robes with baking soda
on the sleeves waved to him from behind screendoors. Ants flourished
in mounds beside the road. Horned-toads lurked nearby. And the
same old man wearing a big white stetson hat passed by every day
saying, "Hi, there, cowboy! Where's your six-gun?"
"It's hidden," he chirped, smirking.
"Well, keep an eye out for crooks," the old man winked, hob-
bUng merrily on.
Then, crawUng through the hole in the hedge below the school
grounds, he could hear his mates screaming, the baU popping into
gloves, through the teeth whistling. He trotted excitedly onto the
baseball field.
"You take von Lieder!"
"We had him yesterday!"
"But it's your turn!"
"We don't need him!"
The ball didn't come out to right field very often, but it wasn't
lonely. He was aUve, and there were caterpillars, green as leaves,
waddUng through the grass about his feet. Batters came and went,
balls sailed into the air, runners cowered along the baseUnes, and
one of the caterpiUars mounted his big toe. It tickled nicely.
"Von Lieder, wake up!"
By the time he saw it, the ball had already passed him. He gave
chase, picked it up and threw it as hard as he could. It stopped
short of third base and another boy had to come out and get it.
Two runs scored.
"Sorry!" he shouted.
"Just pay attention, von Lieder, okay? My God!"
And then the bell rang, clear as a mother's call, and bare feet
clapped against the cement stairway, echoing through the high-
ceiUnged corridors. JoAnn Mogford, with curly blonde hair and
impish blue eyes, was waiting for him.
"Are you coming over after school? Mama says we can play in
the chicken house if I put on my old clothes."
"Okay, but I have to go home first and eat lunch."
"Don't forget to bring your bow and arrows."
He sat down behind her and watched Mrs. Schmidt, who was
writing on the blackboard in block letters: "Please remember to
bring in some string on Monday..." He took out his Bible, story
book, pencils and scissors, and then he pulled a lock of JoAnn's hair.
44 When she turned around he was staring out the window, his Ups
pressing back a smile.
"Stop that, you skinny baboon!"
"Stop what?" he asked in a serious tone of voice.
"You do it again and I'll sock you!"
She whirled around, sitting up in her chair, and he knew she was
waiting for him to do it again. Smirking, he slowly moved his hand
toward the back of her neck, but before he reached her she spun
around, her wooden ruler in hand, and whacked him across the
top of the head.
"Oooouch! That hurt!" he cried, and kicked her in the rump.
She gasped indignantly and stood up, gritting her teeth. "You
asked for it!" She was kicking at his shins. He moved his legs
back and forth, laughing gleefully.
"JoAnn, what are you doing?" Mrs. Schmidt asked from behind
her huge desk.
"He started it!"
"She did!"
"He did!"
"All right. Sit down please. Let us pray."
He bowed his head and folded his hands, looking forward to
colouring the pictures of angels and bearded men in robes, pasting
stars in olden skies, or perhaps some new porject tucked away in the
secret drawers of Mrs. Schmidt's desk.
Then, as Mrs. Schmidt, smiUng her joyful smile, began to read
them the story of Adam and Eve, something extraordinary happened. She had come across the words "mortal" and "immortal"
and stopped to explain their meaning: "You see, because Adam
and Eve wouldn't listen to the Lord — because they were bad and
ate the apple even though the Lord told them not to — the Lord
punished them. He made them mortal. And so aU of us are mortal,
we all have to die — you, me, everybody has to die ..." Suddenly,
on this cool day, sitting at his desk with the famiUar "Rudy +
Karen" carved in one corner, the world somersaulted into another
dimension. It was only the tiniest instant, dissolving as quickly as a
raindrop, but it left him horrified. Nightmares from the deep had
punctured his day world and he no longer felt safe. He sat very
still, staring at Mrs. Schmidt as though she had deliberately betrayed him. Her smile had the Devil's glint in it. The patch of
sunlight across the floor was the Devil's work. Looking nervously at
the faces of his classmates, he found none with whom he could
45 share his feelings. He had seen what most of us see sooner or later,
usually later, and it seemed to him that he alone among the whole
class had understood. And he didn't feel better when Mrs. Schmidt
continued, smiling her smile, "But if we are good and beUeve in
Jesus Christ, our Saviour, then we will Uve forever in heaven!"
"Hey, Jimmy, where are you going?" JoAnn called. "Wait up!"
Class had been dismissed and he was hurrying across the grounds
toward the gate.
"Aren't you coming over? Wait a minute, will you! Listen, I
want to talk to you! Wait up!"
"I'm not coming over!" he yelled from the gate.
"What?" she cried indignantly across the field.
"I said I'm not coming over!" he shouted angrily.
"You bastard!" she shrieked.
He whirled from the gateway and ran aU the way home.
That night as he lay in his bed, after his parents had turned out
their light, it happened again. He sat up, the springs squeaked and
the covers flew to the edge of the bed. His heart was pounding so
furiously he was afraid it was going to crack open. Goose-pimples
rose on his arms and legs, followed by a chill that blew through his
entire body, and for a moment he thought he was going to be sick.
He laid himself down, carefully, folding up into a ball, and waited
for the sickness to pass. But it didn't, it came back again in an even
stronger wave, and he buried his face in his pillow.
The word "mortal" was scratching in his mind like a fingernail.
Angels with radiant faces were there, too, and God, with a long
dark beard and stern eyes, and a Jesus whose hair was long and
fair and flowing in a mysterious wind, all of them were there,
spinning and watching from the dark of eternity.
I'm not superman, he thought. It could happen any time. Somebody could hit me over the head and break my skull. Somebody
could scrape out my eyes. My heart, my stomach, they could wear
out like old toys. A bird with claws could scoop up my veins and
puU them out. A snake could bite me and poison me to death.
It could happen just like that, and everybody would go on without
me, and nobody would miss me.
He rolled over in anguish, overwhelmed once again by the idea
that he would not always be in the world.
Oh, God, he thought. Please, God. Give me a chance of my
own. I won't eat any apples. I'll do anything you say, just give me
a chance to prove myself. Please, God. I had nothing to do with
46 it. It isn't fair. I'll say a prayer every night and every morning.
I'U go to Sunday School and Church every week. Oh, God, please,
God, oh, please, please, please give me a chance. I can be so good.
You'U see how good I can be!
So the night went on, the longest night of his young Ufe, and
when he finaDy fell asleep his dreams carried the same theme that
had kept him awake. In the morning his mother had to tickle his
feet much longer than usual to wake him.
"Jim-bow, get up, Jim-bow!" she said in the high, baby-talk
voice she often used with him.
He opened his eyes and looked at the window, where the sunlight
was thick with good cheer, and he was sure a miracle had kept him
aUve. His mother, wearing her curlers, hairnet and bathrobe, sat
beside him to tickle his ribs. He didn't move or look at her.
"What's the matter with you?" she asked. "Are you sick?"
He gazed out the window.
"Let's see your eyes." She drew close to him and studied the
surfaces of his eyes. She put her hand on his forehead. He gazed
out the window. "You're not sick, are you?"
He gazed out the window.
"No, Mother," he said, after a time, as though it were stupid of
her to ask.
But as he walked to school he began to think about being sick,
and the nearer he got, the sicker he felt. He stopped on the other
side of the hedge and listened to the boys playing baseball. He sat
down, holding his knees, and pulled up a few blades of grass. He
was stiU sitting in the same position when the bell rang, and he
heard the boys running off to the building and then it was quiet.
After a while he stood up and began walking along the road that
led to the creek.
He passed a field where Hazel's cow lay in the middle of a patch
of Johnson grass chewing her cud, swatting flies with her tail, and
he stood by the fence to watch. Happy cow, he thought. You have
to die, too, but you don't know it. He picked up a pebble and flung
it at the animal. It hit her on the back and she swatted at the mark
with her tail.
He passed an ant nest, lying on a ridge of black loam in front of
the trail to the creek. He looked at the ants, flittering happily about,
and he thought: Who is your God? Am I your God? And he kicked
the mound down, closing the hole and scattering the ants.
Walking down the slope he could see the creek, the sun on its
47 back, and there was only the sound of sparrows whistUng and flying
from tree to tree. He sat down on the bank, letting his feet dangle
into the water, cool as syrup.
The ladies wiU wonder where I am, he thought. And JoAnn. And
the Pastor. Let them wonder. Later, as the sun had crossed the sky,
he thought, Mother will wonder why I'm not home for lunch. StiU
he sat with his legs dangUng, gazing at the sparrows, the rustUng
leaves of the trees and the moving water that carried twigs and tin
cans and horseflies along to some far-off ocean.
Then it began to grow dark. The clouds ganged up, blotting out
the light, and the wind came over the blue granite hills, smelUng of
rain, shedding the ripples in the creek. It began to drizzle, then to
rain. He sat motionless, hunched over, watching the ripples. The
rain dropped on his back and head, dribbUng down his forehead
and off his nose.
It can't be true, he thought. How could something Uke that be
true? But it is true. It's true, true, true, and there's nothing I can
do about it. Nothing! God has played a dirty trick on us. Everybody
knows it, but nobody says anything about it. Why is that? he
wondered. Why hasn't anybody ever said anything about it? He
sighed and said in a soft, barely audible voice: "I wonder if I'll ever
be happy again." And then a mood took hold of him and he wanted
to sing.
He sang with all his heart. He sang "Here We Are Together"
and "Star Man" and "EspeciaUy You" and "The Proud Hills of
Texas," and he was thinking about going home. He sang "When I
Was Young and Foolish" and "Autumn in the Valley of My Heart"
and "You Are My Sunshine," and he was thinking about going
home. He sang another chorus of "When I Was Young and FooUsh"
and another chorus of "Here We Are Together," and he was cold
and thinking about going home. Then he sang one more chorus of
"The Proud Hills of Texas," and he was shivering and it was dark
and it was no good any more, there were no more songs in him.
He trudged slowly homeward, trying to think of something to tell
his parents, who would be waiting for him, his mother worried, his
father angry. When he saw the house, dark and ominous with the
threat of punishment, he thought: Maybe I can go somewhere else.
But where? Shivering again, he cUmbed up the back steps.
"Well, here you are?" his mother said, standing over him. "Where
have you been?"
48 He had sneaked in the back way and was standing in his bedroom, shaking, dripping water on the rug.
"Well? Answer me!"
"... Creek," was all he could say.
She began to unbutton his shirt but he moved away. "Look at
you, you're soaking wet," she said. "Take off those clothes before
you catch a cold. Where've you been? We've been worried sick
about you all day. I called the school and they said you weren't
there. Where were you? Can you answer me?"
He was having difficulty, shaking as he was, getting his pants off.
And besides, he didn't know what to say. Then he heard his
father's footsteps down the haUway.
"Well, what's the story," he asked the mother.
"He was at the creek," she answered nervously.
"What's the matter with you?" he asked the boy. "Don't you
have any sense?"
No, I don't have any sense, but what's the difference? He started
crying, standing in his underwear in the middle of the room. What
does anything matter? he thought. Nothing matters.
His father shook his head and walked away. He was crying full
force now and couldn't stop. He lay on his bed, face down, his arms
stuck out at his sides with the palms upward, and his mother sat
down at his side.
"Why didn't you go to school?" she asked in a gentle voice. "Did
something happen?"
He couldn't bring himself under control, and he didn't want to.
"Did somebody do something to you? Did you get into a fight
with somebody?"
He cried out, thinking that her remarks were ridiculous, and
turned his head away from her. She rubbed his back and said,
"Stop crying. It isn't good for you to cry like this. A grown boy Uke
you, crying his head off. Come on, now. Don't be such a sissy."
When he had about stopped she continued calmly, "Now, tell me
why you didn't go to school."
"... I couldn't," he mumbled into his pillow.
"But why?"
He whirled around and looked at her defiantly. "I'm not going
back there any more."
"Why? What happened?"
"Nothing happened!"
"Something must have happened."
49 "Nothing! Nothing! I just don't want to go back there any
"But what is it?"
"Oh, Mother!" He was shaking his head and squinting as one
does when in pain. "Oh, please, please, don't make me go back
there! I'll do anything, but don't make me go back there! You can't
make me go back there! You can't! ..."
"I just don't understand," she said, sitting back to study him.
"Did one of the teachers do something to you?"
"No, no, no!"
"Then what?"
He hesitated, wanting to teU her. But he couldn't. He didn't
think she would understand, and anyway he didn't want to recall
the horror of the night before, a horror that even at that moment
was somewhere inside him ready to explode again. "I'm not going
back!" he cried. "I'm not going back! I don't care what anybody
says, I'm not going back!" He rolled over to cry again.
His mother sat silently for a while. "WeU ... I mean, you know
you Uke to go to Bible School. I thought you Uked Bible School?
You always said you Uked it before. Your cousins went to Bible
School. And it's good for you, you learn things there that you don't
learn at school... I know you've had a bad experience, but whatever it is, you'll get over it, you'll see . .. Can't you teU me what it
was? All right, you don't want to talk about it. . . Stop crying now!
You're going to wear yourself out. Come and eat some supper and
then go right to bed. I'm afraid you'll catch a cold. What did you
do, swim in the creek with your clothes on? . . . Stop crying, wiU
you? I'll teU you what, tomorrow I'll go with you and we'll talk to
the Pastor and straighten everything out. Whatever the trouble
is, the Pastor will understand. "You'll be all right." She stood up.
"I'll go put your supper on the table."
He went back, but he didn't sing on the way. And when the old
man in the stetson passed by and said, "Hi, there, cowboy! Where's
your six-gun?" he answered:
"I threw it away."
But the old man didn't seem to notice the difference, for he
repUed, just the same, "Well, keep an eye out for crooks," and
hobbled jauntily away.
And when he walked out on the baseball field and the boys began
hoUering, "You take von Lieder!" he answered.
"Nobody's going to take me. I'm not playing."
5° When he continued to do this day after day, they began to want
him to play, trying to coax him into it. Pleased by their attention,
he eventuaUy took his place in right field, letting the balls go by in
his fashion.
"Why don't you ever want to come over any more?" JoAnn
Mogford would ask him as they sat in class, resting her chin on
the back of her chair. "Don't you Uke me?"
"I have to do some work for my mother," he would answer.
"I'll bet!" she repUed, twirUng around.
One day she held out some money. "Guess what? Mama gave me
enough money to go to the movies this afternoon. I have enough
for you, too. You want to come?"
"I don't know."
She leaned close to him, smiling a strange smile, and whispered
into his ear. "If you come to the movies, I'll let you do something."
She was blushing.
"Do what?" he asked. He didn't know what she meant.
"You know," she whispered, her breath warm in his ear. "What
you always want me to do."
He looked at her and the trace of a smile appeared at the ends
of his Ups. "You'll let me kiss you?"
"Shhhhhh!" She put her finger over her lips.
School drifted on into the middle of summer. He was there each
day, folding his hands and closing his eyes during the prayers,
singing the words of the hymns and watching the ladies smile during
the Bible stories. The smiles of the ladies were no longer cool now,
and they wiped their red necks with handkerchiefs. Nothing was
cool any more. Summer had squatted down over the Uttle town
and the sun made the tar on the new asphalt streets hot and soft as
butter under bare feet. And the horror was always there, following
the boy around Uke an unwanted playmate, but he didn't play with
it any more.
I find
a pieced cape
of triangular faces
my metalUc outUne
the print I leave unUght
a skeleton
as black as
my shadow
has many eyes
the tail of a midnight peacock
I talk backwards
pulUng wings
from my seU
snakes coil
growing dark
the dance of skins
Your feelings
you carry
in three
small boxes
52 while I am sifting
thru your fingers
a poor photograph of roses
You fill the cupboards
with timetables
I cannot calculate
numbers mean
is air
This has to stop
this carousel
of dancing ponies
with silent endless
my hands are cold
holding the iron mane
thru the night
A brown smear
across a yellow plate
reminding me
of wine-soaked Uvers
garden peas
The method
in this madness
is poetry
seeing this hurricane
of cups & tablespoons
straying across the counter
as poem
gaining flesh
& stone-bone antlers
The routine stitching
in the birth
the circle within
the circle
the feast edged
with soft grey
Susan Landell is living in Vancouver and presently publishing a book of
poems with Talon Press as well as taking courses at the University of British
Columbia leading to an M.F.A. in Creative Writing.
(for Ernest Sandeen)
Writing poems
is Uke walking
over & over
in the dark
toward a half
f amiUar person
waiting on
a nearby corner
under a dim
Ught & discovering each
time anew
his feet fill
the shoes
you have been
walking in.
Norbert Krapf teaches at C. W. Post College of Long Island University. He
began writing poetry in 1971 and has poems appearing in Western Humanities
Review, Bitterroot, and the English Journal.
55 Ian Robinson lectures in Comparative Literature at Kingston Polytechnic,
Surrey, England, and edits Oasis magazine. His work has appeared in The
London Magazine and elsewhere.
Their Balconies are Made of Fur
"What?" said Irving, settUng his Burgundy on a copy of the
I-Ching. "Do I in fact detect the first, faint sibylline whisper of
snow, the hush that presages the cold? Does this unnatural silence
beyond the window herald what might be termed the swansong of
One might, he decided, walk upstairs and discuss the matter with
Eric. But of course Eric would be busy. Or not interested. Possibly
he might not even be in. On the other hand, there was Frederick.
But that was just the trouble. Anyway, it might be wiser to take a
look first. With a sigh, Irving raised himself from the chair and went
to the window. As one might expose the unexpected rabbit in the
top hat, so he flung back the curtain to reveal the world outside.
A thin white gauze was indeed obscuring the houses opposite. That,
thought Irving, is all I need. He watched. People hurried about, a
boy ran, cars hissed past. It was all very usual. Pleased by his correct
guess, Irving returned to his study of the I-Ching.
Silence expanded round him. Irving listened to his breathing.
It was a sound he responded to. It had reassurance. Unlike the
room above his own. There was no reassurance in that. It had been
empty since yesterday. Ruth had gone away feeling deprived. Her
body was deprived and her heart was deprived. She said. "You and
your enthusiasms," she said. Irving had sniffed at this, sensing her
Umitations. "Kate is not an enthusiasm," he declared importantly.
"And anyway I am a free agent." "Oh yes," Ruth said, "you're
a free agent, all right." She went back to her room to pack. Irving
walked into the hall to telephone the good news to Kate.
56 In the afternoon Paul came to play chess. They sat over the
board. "Ruth has gone," Irving said, "or is going at this moment."
"That makes things simpler," said Paul, who knew all. "I suppose it
does," said Irving. "Or does it?" Paul asked. "Time will, as usual,
tell," said Irving. "Maybe," said Paul. "That is check mate, I
think." Mainly through a vigorous use of the Greco counter gambit,
it was.
When Paul left, Irving climbed the stairs to tell Frederick. "Ruth
has gone," he said. Frederick nodded. He was sorting old newspapers. "I must get on with this," he said. There was no point in
continuing this conversation so Irving came back downstairs to
prepare his room. Kate was coming round to cook sausages. Later
they quarrelled mildly.
The I-Ching provided no answers at all. It was useless, Irving
decided, to sit about like this, listening to the snow falling and the
room above being empty, even if it were Sunday. He would go
and telephone Henry. They might go to the cinema together. There
was still time.
Eric was busy upstairs. He had invited a man round.
The snow stopped at three a.m. Irving did not see it stop. He was
dreaming about Ruth. Later that week there was a thunderstorm.
Frederick forgot to go to work one morning. He had been thinking
the night before. Henry moved into the empty room. Irving had
persuaded him to do so as they sat watching girls in a coffee bar
after the cinema. Paul came round to play chess again. "Check
mate," he said, "You're not concentrating." "No," said Irving. He
could hear Henry moving about upstairs. It was not the same sound
as Ruth made. "That's three in a row," said Paul. It was raining
outside. Irving listened.
Henry had decided to paint. Irving had caught him at it one
weekend morning while he was waiting for Kate to make an appearance. Henry had decided to paint five five-feet by four-feet views of
his room and five three-feet by five-feet views from his window. It
seemed an opportunity not to be missed. Now that he was occupying
it. "At least I have an object in life," he explained to Irving.
"Otherwise everything is too unstructured and becomes insupportable, even futile. Without an object, a goal, a framework in which
to operate, one is lost. Without Umitations, of a sort, one has room
to expand too much into a kind of vertiginous formlessness. And
nothing gets done, do you see?" "You explained that very well,"
said Irving. "So what?" "You should take up something and not sit
57 about thinking," said Henry. "It's bad for you." "That's the doorbell," said Irving, who had been Ustening for it, "I must go." "And
I must make a start," said Henry. "I'm glad I came here, it will be
good for me, I can see that now."
Running down the stairs, Irving thought, perhaps I ought to
move? That afternoon he and Kate made love. And again that
evening. While they sweated the first time, Frederick got up. He
put the kettle on. I ought to go out, he said to himself, really. It was
a not unpleasant day. He experienced a desire to communicate with
others. Then he remembered his papers. He had a lot to sort out
before Monday. He could always go downstairs later and talk to
Irving and Henry.
Irving said, "You're beautiful." The fingers of his left hand
traced out the inside of a firm thigh. Kate giggled. "What's Henry
doing upstairs all day?" she asked. Irving told her. Later they went
out for a Chinese meal.
Up the steps from the underground at Tottenham Court Road
came Eric and looked about him. The pavements were full of
people. Most of them seemed to be going down Charing Cross
Road. On the other hand, a substantial number seemed intent on
Oxford Street. Well, it's evening, thought Eric, detecting a spit of
rain above his left eyebrow. Behind him, a young man with wavy
blond hair was waiting in a shop doorway. Eric smiled to himself
and turned in the direction of Trafalgar Square. The young man
eyed him surreptitiously and did not at first foUow him.
It was definitely getting to be spring. People were discarding
mackintoshes and the Ught lasted longer. One night Frederick
forgot to fill his hot water bottle and never knew. Hundreds of girls
emerged on to the streets, as if after hibernation. Paul and Irving
found it pleasant to wander about the streets looking at people. The
air was crisper, warmer. Afterwards they went to the pub. "How is
Kate?" Paul asked. "All right," said Irving, fiddling unhappily with
a match box.
At eleven o'clock at night Frederick began to come downstairs
and ask his questions. For instance, one night he asked, "Do you
reaUze it's Friday?" Another time he asked, "Do we reaUy know
each other?" Usually nobody gave him any answers. Frederick
started to look uncomfortable. "I'd better get back up," he would
say, "and get on with things." It was often midnight, or nearly.
Kate came to see Irving every Saturday night, apart from other
times. Henry did not mind, he had his painting and besides he
58 rather Uked Kate, but Paul was put out because he missed his chess.
So it goes, he muttered to himself.
Henry was about to begin the first of his views from the window.
He had finished the others. There were leaves on the trees outside.
It must be spring already, he concluded, not having noticed it
before. Eric was not in his room, he hardly ever was. There was a
photograph of a man on the chest of drawers. It was inscribed "For
Eric, with love from Charles."
In his room Irving was reading. Henry said, "Do you know, it's
spring already, I think." Irving put down his Wittgenstein unwil-
Ungly. It was apparent that more was to come. "I've just been in
Eric's room," Henry added. "Is that aU?" Irving asked. "No," said
Henry and mentioned the inscription. "What do you think?" "Uber
was man nicht sprechen kann, dariiber muss man schweigen," said
Irving, who had just read it, with the aid of a parallel text. After
Irving had translated, Henry said, "Yes, I suppose that might be
best. In this case." The clock ticked and Henry watched it carefuUy.
"I'm very worried about things," he said.
Frederick sat and thought. Especially, he thought about the noises
Eric made in the next room when he was entertaining at night.
It was late at night when Irving decided to change his way of
Ufe. "I am going to change my way of Ufe," he announced. "How
interesting," said Kate, who was taking off her stockings. "I am
going to mend my ways," Irving went on. "Oh dear," said Kate,
"don't be too drastic," and turned off the main Ught. "Yes," said
Irving, "I am going to be less dissolute, more directed and determined. I shall not fritter away my time with needless trivialities."
"Of course you won't," said Kate, "come to bed." She was already
in it. Irving stared at the pile her clothes made on the chair. Her
brassiere and pants were pink, he noticed. He had never noticed
before. But, thinking that he had not quite stated his case, he added,
"All this has gone on too long. I shall study things, I shaU get about
more." Kate raised herself in the bed, exposing a fat breast. "Start
tomorrow," she said. "After aU," Irving pointed out, "one must
recognize and use what talents one has." "Exactly," said Kate, "put
the other light off and come in here with Uttle me." Irving was
oddly elated. "There is nothing like taking decisions," he said,
getting on to the bed. "Your hands are Uke ice," said Kate. "I don't
think you understand me at all," said Irving.
Some time later a letter arrived from Ruth. "I am here as you
can see," she wrote. The letter was postmarked in Munich. "I am
59 engaged to a German architect I met in Dalmatia. We go out
drinking a lot. How are you really? The weather yesterday was
terrible. Next Thursday we may leave for Lake Constance." Putting
the letter down, Irving wondered: Why does she tell me all this?
and went out into the garden.
Alone on his bed, Frederick sat. He was making plans. On three
chairs and two tables there were towers of yellow newspapers. The
bed was supported at its central point by three books, none of them
his. He was watching a spider trying to escape from a tall glass vase
and continually falling back to the bottom. This was a significant
moment in time, Frederick felt. At any moment we may take a
decision that can unknowingly affect the rest of our fives, he was
thinking. This frightened him and he decided not to act. The spider,
at that particular moment in time, appeared as a precise symbol
of the human condition. At least, to Frederick.
Inside the pocket of his jacket Irving kept Ruth's letter. Sometimes he read it over again and sometimes he just touched it.
Henry said, "I'm worried about not getting anywhere. Painting is
all very well."
Eric said, "Pleasure is sometimes not enough. One does long for
a permanent relationship."
Paul, who was visiting, said, "If only I had more money."
Irving said, "My schemes for personal reform go badly. I keep
repeating myself."
Kate said, "I have simple needs."
Henry said, "I must get back to work. I wonder where all this
is going to end."
Frederick said, "Tomorrow is Thursday."
Irving quarreUed with Kate. It was about her bad coffee. "Going
to bed is one thing," he explained, "making coffee is another." Kate
looked bored and at her watch.
It was summer. Whenever Irving went out he remarked an
abundance of female flesh. In the parks people lay on the grass like
dead fish. Frederick, stuck up under the roof of the house, found he
had to sleep with the window open. He also had to be careful where
he left his photographs or they curled up at the edges. The spider
was dead. That, he believed, was even more symboUc. Eric said,
"I'm going to Majorca, Saturday fortnight. I think I shall invite
Julian to come with me." Paul sat in public places and made notes
on human behaviour. Later, he told Irving he was going to say it
60 aU in a novel. "That will teach us," said Irving. Later still, they got
very drunk in a pub off the Edgeware Road.
Henry went up to ask Eric to bring back some Spanish cigarettes
from Majorca. When he knocked, Eric caUed out crossly, "I am in
bed." "Oh," said Henry and added, "I thought I'd tell you I've
just finished my paintings." "Look, sod off, dear, I'm busy," Eric
"It would be quite pleasant to invite a few people round," said
Irving, suddenly. He liked the idea of being a host. He thought it
might give him a better impression of himself. "You mean, a
party?" Paul asked. "It's your move." "Just a few people," said
Irving, sUding a bishop across the board. Paul smiled. "I shall now
execute your rook," he said. "A select few, you mean?" "That would
be very suitable," said Irving, "I think." "Mate," said Paul. "On
Saturday," said Irving.
There was plenty to drink and little to eat. Mr. Huxtable and
Judith sat in one corner together all evening. Frederick had put on
another pair of trousers. Henry was getting drunk to celebrate the
completion of his paintings. When people passed by him he told
them about this. Eric had brought his friend JuUan, who was much
younger and blonder than he was.
"Eric is arguing with his friend," said Paul. "Isn't it depressing?"
said Irving. Frederick said, "Formidable," to no one in particular.
Kate had brought her friend Anna. "That is very succulent," said
Frederick. "I think it should be used. I shall make an advance."
"Do," said Irving. "I gather that many have, with astonishing
success." Irving had taken this opportunity to invite many people
to whom he owed favours and whom he rather wished never to
see again. He drank slowly, remembering the last party he had given
when Ruth had been living upstairs. Kate was talking to Henry,
who was leaning on her. Dotted around the furniture in various
attitudes were Rita Small in black, Mrs. Carpington-Browne in
pearls, Edward Duxbury in a soiled cummerbund and Caroline
Murchison with a scooped-out front. "Such a pity," said Frederick,
"it's titless." "Really?" Paul queried, "I thought there were some."
"I looked in," explained Frederick. Eric came up. "My dear," he
said, "pearls — imitation, of course." "No, real," Irving corrected.
"Goodness, I must go and chat her up at once," said Eric eagerly,
"it will annoy JuUan." Henry disappeared and Frederick began to
totter vaguely.
Anna said, "I Uke you," to Irving. "And your friends." "How
61 agreeable for us," said Irving. "Come on here and dance," said
Everyone enjoyed himself. Dr. Rycroft had come from the surgery
down the road, Dora Matthias had made it from Streatham without
her mother, Lydia Piekarczyk had travelled aU the way from Purley
with a paper bag, Major Merritt, after several injections, from
South Kensington and D. A. Garrod had somehow escaped multiple
injuries on the way by car from Muswell Hill. Mary Baby and Rex
were doing their thing in a corner and Mrs. Kitty Manilescu, L. U.
Okakpu, Theresa Gaussen, Tim O'Hara-Wood, Costas Gavrilides
and Sydney Allenstein were talking to everybody else. Very satisfactory, thought Irving.
Towards the end, when most people were drifting off and the
others were drunk, Paul stood up on a chair. Anna was leaning
against his leg. He said in a loud voice, "This is it, face it squarely.
I predict baldness and obesity to come for all of us. I predict a
glowing future of chromium expressways and greater powers for the
poUce. I predict bigger, more expensive, less durable and useful consumer goods. I predict the fingering death of the individual. I predict
the gradual enslavement of the world to the pleasure principle —
starting now. I predict myself going to be sick in exactly two
Everyone who heard him clapped and Paul left the room. Why
do I give parties, Irving asked himself, on the other hand, why do
people want to go to parties? "Life is not like that," said Frederick
seriously. "What do you mean?" asked Irving. "I don't know," said
Frederick and sat down heavily, closing his eyes. "Where is Kate?"
Irving demanded of anyone who would listen, as he stepped over
a corpse. Later he saw her come downstairs with Henry, but decided
to ignore this. For the time being. They were looking pleased.
Eric went to Majorca, but not with JuUan. He said he was going
to look for Spanish sailors. "Are there any Spanish sailors?" asked
Irving. "It sounds rather Uke talking about the Austrian navy." "If
there are, I shall find one," said Eric. "Or them," said Irving. "That
depends on how energetic I feel," said Eric.
One morning Henry caught a train to Paris. He was going to look
at paintings. Frederick went to Brighton but returned after three
days. It had been raining there, he said. Paul sent a card from
Cornwall. "There are palm trees here," he wrote. "I am developing
a love of water, novel half-done, miss chess, back Thursday week."
Irving did not go on hoUday. He wandered about the parks in
62 London as he had used to do with Ruth, and went rowing on the
Serpentine. He talked to newspaper sellers, old men in deckchairs
and pubUcans. Two or three times he persuaded Frederick to come
out for a walk. It was very hot. Kate had gone somewhere up
North with her parents.
The end of the month was cloudy. Paul came round with some
wine. "Maybe we should all get married," he said. "Even Eric?"
Irving asked academically. "I don't think that would quite suffice,"
said Paul. "It would be different if we had money." Irving asked,
"Why?" "The rich see things differently," said Paul. "Money
protects them from stress, they are not Mice us. They have two cars
and three bathrooms, elegant apparel and several dogs. Large ones.
They sleep on feathers and do not worry, their minds are closed, but
comfortable." "You're overstating your case, I think," said Irving.
Paul went on: "Just imagine it. Bulwarked in fur and expensive
cloth, buttressed by an opulent ease against all the things we
struggle over. Life would be very easy." "And very boring," said
Irving, not quite sure if he believed this. "Their wallets lined with
banknotes, their balconies with fur," Paul continued. "Hyperbole,"
Irving commented, "though none of us, I suppose, is happy with
the way we are." "Of course," said Paul, "it's all wish-fulfillment.
I Uke Anna. I think I shall marry her." "ReaUy," said Irving. "Have
we time for another game?"
Frederick walked alone down pavements like wet liquorish to buy
cigarettes. He looked at the stars, now that it had stopped raining,
and discovered that he had a headache.
"Not now, Irving," said Kate. "I just want to sit here." "That,"
said Irving, "is rather a volte face for you."
After a month and a half away, Eric returned. "Those Spanish
sailors are cows," he announced. "Guess who I saw out there? Your
Uttle friend Ruth. She's coming back to England soon, heaven knows
why. Said she'd come round here immediately, poor dear." "What
about her German?" Irving asked. "I know nothing of any German," Eric declared haughtily, "she was alone and dejected when
I met her. I was drunk." He giggled. That night Irving could not
When Henry came into the room to look for him he saw Kate
walking about in her underwear. "Oh," said Henry, "I'm sorry."
"Are you?" said Kate. "Come in, he's gone out, how was Paris?"
"All right," said Henry and added, "French." "I'm bored," said
Kate. "Come and see my paintings," said Henry. "Like this?" Kate
63 asked. "Why not?" said Henry. He could really think of no reason.
They spent a long time upstairs. Irving got back very late.
One morning Frederick woke up and reaUzed it was autumn, or
even later. I must get a move on, he thought. But there was so Uttle
time for anything. No sooner had he noticed it than it vanished
from the room, leaving him to adjust. He farted and lit a cigarette.
Then he moved a pile of paper off a chair. Where shall I put it
now, he wondered. Then he thought, Tomorrow is Monday. But
this did not help. Trees were shedding their leaves, the branches
were turning black. At night there was a wind. "Oh dear," said
Frederick aloud.
Putting down his cup, Irving wondered about everything. He
considered the situation. Eric is fickle, he decided, Frederick has no
sense of himself, Henry is unscrupulous, Kate intellectually Umited,
Paul too pragmatic and I don't know who I am. And yet here
we all are, he thought, what happens next? Kate said, "What are
you thinking about?" "Nothing," said Irving. "If you find my
company boring, you have only to say so," she went on and climbed
into his bed, wobbUng. Irving regarded her milky shoulders. He
beUeved she looked beautiful. "Come on, if you want to," she said
in a tired voice. Irving made no move. "You know," Kate said,
frowning, "I find Henry more stimulating than you are, these days."
"I see," said Irving and went to the lavatory.
One night there was hail, another there was rain. Paul said, "I'm
getting married. To Anna. Do stop looking out of that window
and listen." "I'm sorry," said Irving, "it's a form of compensation.
Congratulations. No more chess, I suppose?" "Don't be ridiculous,"
said Paul. Irving wondered about Ruth. Where she had got to. Or
rather, with whom. "And Kate?" Paul inquired politely. Irving
grunted. Paul looked wise.
"Now that it's winter," said Eric, "I thought I might get a scarf.
Don't you think it's rather delicious?" Henry eyed it. "Scarves are
in," said Eric defensively. They were in Henry's room. Irving
entered and looked around. Suspiciously. "Where are your paintings?" he asked. "I've sold them," Henry said. "I'm going to Paris
for good." Then he added, "Next week," cautiously. Irving said,
"How nice." Henry seemed about to say more but thought better
of it. He and Irving looked at each other. Eric said, "What an
embarrassed pause. Don't you rather admire my new acquisition,
Frederick dusted his hot water bottle, then he filled it. He debated
64 whether to talk to Irving or write a letter. Another decision. He
postponed it by going to bed.
The temperature dropped. New lows were reported from the roof
of the Air Ministry building. Paul discussed things with Irving.
Henry bumped around upstairs, packing. Then one day he left,
apparently without any regrets. Eric sat in his room talking to a
negro. Or so he announced beforehand. Frederick spent a lot of
time looking for a fresh spider. Paul asked, "Where is Kate lately?"
"She sent me a card from Paris," Irving repfied. "I'm not surprised," said Paul. "If you had moved that pawn the other way
it would have been check." "I was aware of that," said Irving. "At
After Christmas Paul got married. Eric said, "Another good man
wasted." Afterwards he added, "Solomon absolutely insists that I
share his new flat with him. He does have such exquisite taste."
Paul wrote from the country to say that he was staying down there
for six months. Irving paced round his room and listened to the
silence overhead. Sometimes he read a book, sometimes he did not.
Winter had narrowed the world. Irving began to wish he had
been someone else. There are times, he decided, when positively
nothing else matters.
It was warm in Frederick's room. Frederick moved some papers.
"Well, here we are," he said brightly. "Yes," said Irving, "all that's
left of us. Everything gets smaller, had you noticed?" "I don't think
I had," said Frederick. "First Ruth left, then Henry, then Paul and
now Eric," said Irving. "Ruth," said Frederick, "I remember Ruth."
"Yes," said Irving. "It's not quite that bad yet," said Frederick, "it
never is." He had had his horoscope cast but refused to reveal what
it revealed. Irving grunted. He was going to say something else, but
instead he said, "That's an interesting-looking spider." Frederick
looked quite pleased. When they had finished the wine he said,
"I'm afraid I've got some urgent letters to write."
Irving went into Henry's room, which was still empty. There was
nothing there, except some paint stains on the floor under the
window. Alizarin crimson and yellow ochre. Irving tapped his teeth.
He felt empty. There are certain bulwarks to be found in order, he
decided, certain buttresses in habit, that help defeat the passage of
Instead of writing letters, Frederick stared at the spider. They
watched each other. Frederick comforted himself by thinking, Tomorrow is, after all, Wednesday.
65 Much later Irving thought, People change. There was no need
to be there just because they expected it. He went down to his room,
noting a bite in the air. He turned on the gas fire. Everything was
exactly as he had left it. He Ustened to the silence above him until
it became painful. Then he watched the bars of the fire glow red.
Soon it would be spring again, except that a year had passed. So
Irving reached for a book, settled himself and wondered what had
happened to Ruth.
Translated from the Russian by Burton Raffel and Alia Burago
Don't tell anybody,
Forget everything you saw —
A bird, an old woman, a jail,
Anything .. .
Or else, the minute you unlock
Your lips, when dawn comes
You'll start to shake
Like a fine-firred pine tree
And you'll remember a wasp at the summer cottage,
A children's pencil-case,
Or forest blueberries
You never picked.
Osip Mandelstam, perhaps the best Russian poet of this century, died in
1938, a victim of the Stalinist era. This poem, along with the rest of his
surviving poetry, will appear in 1973 in The Complete Poetry of Osip Emilie-
vitch Mandelstam, translated by Burton Raffel and Alia Burago and published
by State University of New York Press.
Alla Burago is a graduate student in the Slavic Languages and Literatures
Department, University of Texas at Austin; a specialist in medieval Russian
literature. Burton Raffel is a well-known translator who has been teaching at
the Ontario College of Art in Toronto and is now a visiting professor of
Humanities, York University.
Rubbing two sticks together,
we create fire —
rubbing two stones,
we get blood.
It looks like something else;
rain, perhaps.
But when clouds
drip Uke wounds,
we know.
The stone
leaves a path.
It leaves a voice.
It does not want to bleed.
A hard bubble rising
rich with its name,
one stone faces another.
It defends its monumental color.
Other stones live
as if they were glass.
They do not know their Uves,
but shiver and die
quietly in autumn,
under red leaves.
Some are bitter, some brothers.
Some are soft as pears.
David Bissonette has been featured in Esquire and America magazines. His
latest book is Thin Men Die Happy.
Raw night an anxious wrist
the haunting weight of blood.
My headUghts brush
the broad side of a barn
the black doors leap out
Uke caves.
I wake
at the edge of my body.
The woman's white shoulder full
with the silence of wood.
New snow. A stretch of Ught
settles the far hill.
My breath spreads suddenly
a wet moon on the window.
I step back as from a fence.
Sweat crows
in the hollow shacks
of my hands.
This is for you
when, at night,
you enter
the long body
of your bed
your flesh
the earth
under thin snow.
And for me
as I wake suddenly
from a dream of sand
where waves
of an ocean
ebbed slowly
then left
those dark women.
for myself & friends
with out tongues,
under flat moon,
shall we speak
our words
that brush against
a bull's
if a stranger, bent
on knees
& palms,
set his ear
against the soil,
he might puzzle
at the low laughter
of mourning doves
Dan Dyer took a B.A. in English from Wabash College, Indiana, studied with
Jerome Rothenberg in New York and now lives in Wichita, where he assists
the Director of the Wichita Art Association.
71 Jean-Guy Carrier is 26 years old, French-Canadian, born in Southern
Ontario, raised in Quebec and Ontario, educated in Ottawa where he worked
as a reporter on a daily paper until two months ago when he became a
bureaucrat in the employ of the federal government.
Nor Did Anyone Call After Him
From the farm lands he'd taken himself to the lumber camps of
the Riviere Noire.
When he sought the memory of it now he saw flies, smelled
gummy wood and felt upon the flesh of his arm the scratching of
dry branches.
They felled and cleaned and piled from dewy morning to dusk.
Then, mere silhouettes, fragments of the giants they were in the
mornings, they dragged themselves and their tools through sand
trails to camp.
The clap-board barracks were bunched on a bridge of land
between two lakes. Two weary eyes, moving painfully in the sockets
of the skull, the buildings were a haven of food and inactivity.
He was smaU so they put him on a drag team. Tended a pair of
grey mares: huge nostrils forever feeling the air about them. They
put on the team with him a youth who preferred his hand upon
introduction; a head of curly hair and a gentle face. "Georges
Dompierre," he said. WilUam shook the hand. "WiUiam Moreau,"
he answered, and they smiled for each other.
Strong youths both of them. They worked well in concert:
Hooking felled trees for the horses to drag up to clearings, to be
cut and stacked there in tidy cords.
Georges was two years older than William but most who saw
them together would have given William the edge in years.
They worked with few interruptions, wasting time only for
occasional swipes at the swarms of flies. The words exchanged were
merely for the sound of voices: "Damned hot... Damn right."
72 There was no one else each of them knew better so it seemed
only natural to set their bunks beside each other. They played catch
baU some evenings, always muttered good night to each other before
turning to sleep.
It was more friendship than most could hope for and they held
to it. Yet when William went for walks down the bush trails in the
evenings it was alone. Georges understood that was the way it was
to be.
They jostled and wrestled each other to the ground some
deUrious afternoons. Once when a thunder storm cut the day short
they rolled in the mud, yelping wildly, pulling at each other until
they both lay exhausted in the rain.
But Georges was not a friend WilUam would trust for confidant.
There was no one reason for it. They were friends for banter, allies
against loneliness, but the conferring of secret knowledge put in the
hands of others a power both of them distrusted.
In the eyes of all about them they were inseparable brothers,
seemingly sufficient unto themselves; to the point where their
exclusivity was taken for rejection and resented as such.
There were whisperings about them, as there always were about
someone. It came eventually to mark them from the others; provided a sense of identity they came to cherish and thus drove them
to more obvious shows of association, though not to mutual confidence.
There were times, some especially doleful evenings, when it
seemed they might pry revelations from each other. But their guard
was too well raised. The awkward probings died in jests and
knowing laughter.
But their work together was always satisfying: drove the horses
down the bush paths, heaped logs in tall cords. So high they
eventually had to lash chains across the tops of them.
WilUam was securing such a pile when one of the logs beneath
him slid an inch. It jerked the chain, dislodged other logs and
suddenly William was borne down on the tide of crashing wood.
He was struck blows upon the shoulders and legs which left him
dazed amidst the tangle. He was aware of shouts and men pulling
him up between them, asking if bones were broken, was there pain.
Nearby a cluster of men fussed with something in their midst.
The group opened to reveal a body under logs. William knew it was
Georges. And knew from the glistening pulp on one side of the head
that Georges was dead.
73 He lay in the darkness of a small cabin after the accident. There
was only a scalding sensation on one thigh, yet they'd ordered him
to rest. No one came to see him, no one to disturb the silence.
A muffled silence beyond which he detected duU thuddings and the
rumble of what seemed to be voices. He was quite content to Ue
on the periphery of it all.
He lay silently, aware of his oddly swollen eyes, the cheeks dry
as parchment, and guarded himself from thoughts of tears. Gathered
himself to serenity. He had descended dangerously near a wish for
obUvion, but instinct had denied him its consideration. Now he
dared not wander beyond the numbness it soothed him with.
He lay breathing with studied measure for a span of pleasant
hours. A man came to prod and probe him, pronounced him well
but advised further rest.
As he lay in the silent evenings, with the sounds of men barely
discernible beyond the waUs, he allowed himself reveries of pleasant
times and words; aU securely behind him, stored up for his comfort.
GraduaUy he eased himself into a fond remembrance of Georges,
whose face and voice came in the sequence of mother, brothers,
home; many cherished things it was nice to possess a memory of.
It was all the same really, he told himself. It could aU be understood and controlled within the same Ught.
When he was well and expressed the wish to stay they offered him
another horse team but he declined, asking for something else. They
put him in the kitchen.
Beans bubbUng in the pot, the heady aroma fining the nostrils,
nourishing in itself. To make them he flooded white beans in water
till the skins loosened. Plucked chunks of salt pork from the brine in
a barrel, cut it to morsels and pressed them beneath the beans.
Laced it all with molasses and salt.
The men entering for the evening meal advanced from the
darkness into the somber Ught cast by oil lamps on the tables. They
moved upon the boy, a muttering lump of men, for their ladling of
beans; each wary lest he be denied his just share of pork.
Featureless men, muted by exhaustion. Each tore a portion of
bread from the loaves set on a bench. Tore it Uke rending flesh, with
a casual violence. They sat hunched, elbow to elbow, on both sides
of wooden tables. Silent save for the sound of their eating: The
scrape and tap of metal spoons on metal plates.
He stayed for a year of such evenings. A job, he would call it
74 later. And for one year's worth of this job earned enough money
to imbue the confidence to leave.
Such bitter, lonely evenings, he would mutter to himself much
later. So many souls pitiably ensconced within shells of lonefiness.
Little shells of longings it was a constant effort to repress; little
shells lined with the faces of those who waited out there, in the
country, season upon bitter season, for the fruits of this labour.
Sometimes one of them would leave. They could tell by the way
he was the night before that he would not stay the season. There
was not a one dared look after him as he went.
Such bitter, lonely evenings. The days he could not even remember. He left finally one spring morning with some others, all winter
jacks become suddenly grateful farmers. Shared the road with them
through the country, wishing each well as he took a separate fork.
They moved Uke lumped aspirations, winnowing a dauntless path
homeward; an end to loneliness.
How many, he wondered, sought their barns to cry in the darkness there. So unutterable a pain to be so helpless in. When it came
his turn to branch from the group they called farewells after him.
He saw them waving long after he no longer heard them. Would
never see such shadows again, he thought. Each a face and a few
phrases to mark him forever in his memory. Never to be seen again.
Home. He moved upon it as if nothing had ever estranged him
from it. Where else to go?
He saw his mother through the screen door, her back to him, busy
at something. She turned at the squawl of the door opening. They
stood, each uncertain a moment, then she ran to embrace him.
He let himself ease into her arms, abandoned himself to her
embrace, his face smothered in her shoulder. He was too overcome
to stay the sobs that trembled to his throat, even when his brothers
ran to kiss him.
If there had been wounds at all he barely remembered them as
he sat with his mother and brothers, urged to eat more, recounting
his Ufe of the past two years. What had seemed a burden of futility
was suddenly a golden vein of anecdote, a treasure for the avid ears
of his family.
They talked weU into the evening, aU aware of their father's
pending arrival, but none daring mention it lest it spread a pall
upon the day. Finally, the younger boys, having kissed their mother,
yawned themselves up the stairs to bed.
"You can share the bed with them," his mother said, as she
75 gathered soiled plates from the table. "Let me help you," he offered,
approaching her. "No no," she said, and restrained him gently with
hands upon his arms.
She looked up into his eyes, "you go get some rest." He imputed
concern to the gentleness of the eyes, the inflection she gave the
words. It incited a reciprocal tenderness; "alright," he conceded.
He leaned forward to kiss her forehead. She leaned into it, received it with sealed eyes, and returned an affectionate pressure
upon his arms. He walked to the staircase, feigning a yawn. She
turned to her work at the table.
But he was not reconciled to sleep. There was really so much to
be said yet, so much stfll pending. He paused at the foot of the
stairs. Turned to observe his mother gathering dishes in stacks,
deUvering them to the sink.
He waited at the foot of the stairs, head resting on the corner
post. Noted his mother's every movement. The quick hands. Rough
face .. . thick in the body, hair brown, tamed to a bun. Noticed,
as he watched her, the face distended to folds, the ankles swollen,
the breasts encumbering. Would have caUed to her then, saddened
by her aging. Mother, he would have said; mother. . . and would
have asked the cause for the worry Unes upon her brow.
He would have asked plainly just then, certain that somehow his
absence had earned him candour. Would have demanded just then
that she brush aside the veil of motherhood she clothed herself in.
But he did not, could not finally step across that threshold.
He compromised with another question: "Do you think poppa
will be back soon?" She was aware of him watching for she responded instantly: "Who knows, I think he was off to Mr. St. Cyr's.
He wants to buy land again." She shrugged the remark. He stirred
from the stairs, approaching her. She was gathering the table cloth,
bunching it to herself. Her back was to him. His voice played for
just the right edge of detachment; "What do you think he'll do?"
She did not alter the pace of her movements, "God only knows,"
she said.
This was not fair. He wanted silent pauses for his questions. He
wanted somber reflection, not these curt dismissals. He tried again,
"Has he said much about me since I left?" It roused an edge of
irritation in her voice: "Him? When has he ever said anything?"
He wondered if it was his father or his interrogation which
provoked her annoyance. He extended a hand to touch her. She
76 moved away just then, folding the table cloth in quick movements.
Walked to the cupboard.
"He's always buying more land," she said, almost pouting. He
watched her cram the cloth into a drawer. Quick pushes and jabs
she used, anger in them. There would be more, he knew, and
She had always had a way of evading his queries with sharp
dismissals. This impenetrabiUty always stood, it seemed to William,
between her and a true expression of sentiments. Her reserve
brooked only the safe tenderness of motherly caresses, gentle words.
No revelations nor fears of the heart were ever allowed to intervene in discussions with her sons. Especially in matters pertaining
to their father. They gathered the impression, over years, that she
granted him an evil nature and thus gave him licence for it.
She returned to wipe the table. "The boys are glad to see you
back," she said. The cadence of the words marked the rise and fall
of her back as she pushed the cloth over the table; the strain in
her motion obvious in the way she pushed hair back from her face.
"Your father's out looking to buy more land," she said, still
working, pushing the cloth. "Always land or something else," she
said, to explain something. A sense of strangeness held William
rigid behind her. She almost writhed it seemed, like something
Any sudden motion, he felt, might upset her balance, topple her
from a brink of panic; and take him with her. Yet he yearned to
go to her, to hold her and have her cry upon his arm.
She turned to him suddenly, the cloth still in her hand. Her eyes
restrained him. "It's so good to have you back," she said, and a
smile spread a warmth of love upon her features. But the fragility
with which she sighed and touched her forehead, the troubled light
in her eyes crushed his last resistance. Tears weUed, trickled down
his cheeks.
He welcomed them, sure that her awareness of their mutual pain
would open her to him. She came, spread her arms to enfold him.
"You're such a good boy," she said cupping a cheek in her hand.
"You'd best go get some sleep William," she said, looking up into
his eyes.
Pressed him to herself repeating "such a good boy you are," as
if to some dear absence. He sensed the distance in the voice, the
strangeness of an incantation, and surrendered to the sobs that
wracked his body, that bent him forward to her breast. "Poor boy,"
77 she said, and held him to herself. She swayed gently with him
quivering upon her breast; swayed and caressed his bowed head
repeating "poor boy, poor boy you're exhausted."
He sought respite from words. They tended to roil a knot of
emotion which burst too easily to tears. He felt his eyes still swollen;
lay in the darkness, upon blankets spread in a corner of the room
in which his brothers slept.
Had not dared awaken them. There were questions he would
have to answer soon: What to do, where to go and why is it the
way it is and can it be different if I wait?
He set them aside for now. Anything he could imagine, dream . ..
was better. He knew at heart it could not be set aside for long, that
it must soon be dealt with. But not just now. A Uttle rest now,
a Uttle sleep.
He was shaken awake and knew instantly the voice that called
him: "Billy, Billy, come on." He raised himself on one elbow,
quickly alert. The huge umbrage lifted from before him, towered
above him in the darkness. "Come on downstairs," he heard his
father say.
He pulled on his trousers, buttoned them with care. Knotted his
shoe laces with steady hands. Tucked his shirt in with measured
calm. He knew there should be no haste, no awkwardness from
which to stumble into weakness.
There was only the sUghtest twinge of uneasiness and he thought
he could contain it if he moved with caution. The stairwell was an
enclosed chute. Standing at the top he saw the landing illuminated
by the kitchen light. And within the silence of the house he heard
the faint roll and creak of a rocker on the kitchen floor.
He descended. His father was first to proffer a greeting, a terse
hello. He sat in the rocker by the stove; wore a black vest and white
shirt... his business clothes. William nodded hello in return. Such
a small man.
He remained by the stairs. Habit, he thought, and remembered
how as a boy he always kept it as an avenue of escape. Not this
time, he assured himself, and moved from the stairs. "When did
you get back?" his father asked.
"Just this afternoon," William said, and lowered himself into a
rocker, across the room from his father's. Joseph shifted in his
78 chair. "Did you have a good winter," he asked and leaned back
for one of the pipes in the rack by the stove.
The amiability of the tone surprised William. He answered
with a mere "yes," still wary of his father's motives. Joseph rapped
the pipe on the stove so the ashes dropped into a bag. "Have you
got money," he asked, his attention focused on the filling of the
"Yes,"  William answered, still waiting.  The  thought of how
small this man really was fascinated him. His memories of him
conjured a body to blot out suns, a maw that in the worst of his
nightmares opened to gobble entire families.
And here he was barely filling the rocker. William saw his father
shift again, saw him hook a leg over an arm of the chair, bring the
pipe to his mouth.
His father's face: A compact of wrinkles and ridges with rude
ears below a bald pate. It looked up at William. The dark, round
eyes stared at him and the small mouth below them formed the
words William was waiting for: "Then what are you doing here?"
He almost sighed relief. It was finally said, Uke he knew it would
be. And he must tread more cautiously now. For this was his one
remaining apprehension, that he would slip and lose his grip of
words. If it should descend to screams and tears he would be lost.
Say it with ease, such as "to see the family," and after a suitable
pause, "to visit."
"When are you leaving?" He was ready for it but it twisted no
less a pain. He might have winced had he not been so desperate for
control. He let it lie a moment, a matter of seconds, until the
emotion drained from it and it seemed only a query within a
context of fact.
He answered in as few words as possible, explained his intention
to find work in the city. He restricted himself to details, allowing
no indulgence of feeUng, for he did not trust himself to hold to his
There was too much agitation from within to plead, or beg a
place in the warmth of this family, a bed in a corner of this house,
this home he had been driven from but had never ceded.
The flame of the match inclined to the bowl and his father
drew the first puffs from the pipe. There were a number of oblique
paths along which they could approach each other. William listed
them mentally. But he was too weary; too much of his strength
committed to severing the last of his attachments to this man, the
79 house that was his and the other beloved souls who Uved fitfuUy
within the bounds of his wiU. He waived the options for further
WilUam rose from the chair. His father looked up at him. "I'd
better go off to sleep now," WilUam said. "I'll be off in the
morning." "Fine," answered his father, "I'll see you then." WilUam
did not look into the man's eyes, made no attempt to gauge the
emotion in the words. There could be no turning back.
The roU and creak of the rocker pursued him up the stairs. He
listened for what seemed an interminable period for the sounds of
his father ascending the stairs to bed. He dreamed of logs in a
river, flowing in a tangle of rapids, tossed there one upon the other,
bashing each other through the roil of water.
His brothers and mother saw him off in the morning. He was
thankful for the pleasant breakfast. His mother guarded its air of
ease, allowing no rupture of emotion. She prepared him food,
wrapped it in a tidy bundle.
He last saw her in the doorway, her hand waving farewell, the
brothers clustered beneath and beside her, waving also. He was
grateful for the apprehension apparent in her gesture, the tension of
her features. Grateful above all for her restraint.
He saw his father when he turned the corner of the house: a
hand in a pocket, the black vest and an impassive face. "You're
going now?" the face asked. WiUiam's yes sounded similiar equanimity. "Do you know where for sure?" his father asked, raising
the pipe to his mouth.
"I told you yesterday," William said. They stood near each other.
Immobile. William's eyes did not flinch from his father, held him
in fuU sight. No surprises today. He did not move when his father
approached him. It seemed for a moment as if Joseph might smile,
until he knew that his son's hard features would not yield.
The father dared place a hand upon his son's shoulder. They
looked at each other, eyes searching. Moist eyes, WilUam saw. Dark
eyes in moist pouches of flesh, and a tremor in the hand upon his
He pushed it away. Pushed the hand off his shoulder and walked
away without looking back, not once. Nor did anyone caU after him.
80 13
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>     V.
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K   o
h O
S«l the strange country
Collage     1940
Conroy Maddox
Collection: Tate Gallery KEEPER OF THE ARSENAL
Collage     1971
Collage     1971
Collage     1971
Conroy Maddox Collage
Conroy Maddox Collage
Conroy Maddox P
o   „
w £
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O ho
«   ^
She had the soul of a servant
and I hated her for it.
She wore for jewelry
African fetishes wound in sheepskin.
Her skin
black as the eye's pupil
seemed to steal the sunlight
storing it in her heart
that I might not see it.
One night as she slept
I whipped her.
It was done solemnly, without passion
and the blood started
Uke a door opening
at the end of a dark hall.
Jeffrey Hagedorn  has just emerged from Hobart College,  the  Stockbridge
jail, and a Haiti of the soul.
I come out as the fox out of the wheat
as the mouse out of the cheese
as the horse out of the field
as the cow out of the sun
as the squirrel out of the tree.
And I am all of these.
Where will you find me?
I take refuge as the kitten in the wool
as the leopard in the fog
as the bee in the frozen scent
as the dog in the maze of rooms
as the fish in the quiet sea.
And I am all of these.
How will you touch me?
I want you as the lame deer wants the wood
as the tired rooster wants the dawn
as the calf wants the pail of milk
as the stray sheep wants the staff
as the dead bird wants the wind.
And I am all of these.
90 Fox
You name me human.
Rochelle Ratner's first book, A Birthday of Waters, was published by New
Rivers Press. She has just completed a book-length poem entitled "Pirate's
Song" and will have poems appearing shortly in Ironwood, Shenandoah,
Antaeus and other magazines.
Owl wives
Feathered ladies
And mean
When dog-breath
In bald yards
From long perchings
On bad logs
Black reckonings
Under softened wood
With mouse-bits
In tidy claws
92 To Une damp sills
And peer
Queer eyed
Through curtain chinks
With cUcking beaks
And woolly tongues
To sit the moon-hours
And the sleepers out
To knit
For sunken heads
Bad dreams
Nigel Wells is a prolific young English poet now living in Wales.  This is
his first publication outside the U.K.
for betty
It was a rain
Uke this that dead was made.
The river had an erratic
voice turning
the night into sharp blades
and a man with green eyes in his tongue
ate me
Uke a T-bone steak.
(I should have stayed
making love
or should have tried telling myself
secrets that don't
make sense &
but MINOU, your cat with a
cobra head was there,
of my aubergine Ups & so, I left)
Then, the water recited
your name
and your hand found mine.
94 Once upon a time you said:
"There is no permanence that needs us."
And I was bruised.
What is essential? And what is true?
I know that I have
died before &
Sometimes in May & Perhaps in June.
How strange it is to die again.
N'est-ce pas?
But I shaU die the way
a Uzard dies,
at midnight fooUng the stars.
Nicholas Catanoy left his native Rumania for political reasons after having
established himself as a novelist in that country. He now divides his time
between Fredericton, N.B., where he works as a physician, and Paris, where
he is an Advisory Editor to Editions du Seuil. He now writes multi-lingual
the kitchen is sleeping,
there aren't any motorcycles
sneering in machine gun thunder
up the hill outside the window,
only two tiny lungs
quivering like tattered
new year's eve crepe.
in the refrigerator bottles of beer
graze like bison on the Great Plains,
lamplight shines thru the toes
of my groaning feet, the bones
are cracked pottery — bathtubs
are saviors.
my thoughts are still in hand-to-hand
combat with reflex, some
sort of indigestion of the present.
I will graze awhile with the bison
& swim with the saviors
then slip my cancelled eyes into
the slot marked sleep putting
in my request for a brand new pair.
96 the night wiU be as peaceful
as a deserted battleship while death
out in the hills digs a hole,
its shovel striking rocks
ringing Uke a telephone, the grave
is a wrong number
that we answer anyway.
Douglas Blazek has just finished editing a large and comprehensive anthology
of "disaffiliate" poets from the littlemags i960-1970.
97 Alfred Doblin (1878-1957), controversial German novelist, short-story writer
and dramatist, is best known for his novel Berlin Alexanderplatz. Patrick
O'Neill is an Assistant Professor of German at the University of British
Translated from the German by Patrick O'Neill
The Murder of a Buttercup
The gentleman in black had been counting his steps at first, one,
two, three, up to a hundred and back again, as he made his way
along the wide road edged with firs up to St. OttiUen, swaying so
far to right or left with each movement of his hips that he sometimes
staggered; then he forgot it.
His Ught brown eyes, bulging and friendly, stared at the ground
that moved along under his feet, and his arms swung from the
shoulders so that his white cuffs fell over his hands. His head jerked
whenever the yellow-red evening Ught between the trees made him
squint, his hands made hasty, indignant motions of defence. The
slender walking-stick in his right hand swung over grasses and
flowers at the wayside and diverted itself with the blossoms.
It became entangled in the sparse undergrowth as the gentleman
quietly and absently walked along. The grave gentleman did not
pause, but, stiU sauntering along, tugged lightly at the handle, then,
caught by the arm, looked around indignantly, pulled at the stick
without effect at first, then, using both hands, successfully wrenched
it free and stepped back breathlessly with a swift glance at the
stick and at the grass, the gold chain on his black waistcoat flying.
The fat man stood there a moment, beside himself. His top hat
was sitting on the back of his head. He stared at the matted flowers,
then hurled himself at them with raised stick, lashing out blood-red
in the face at the silent plants. Blows whistled right and left. Stalks
and leaves flew over the road.
Letting his breath out noisily, the gentleman walked on with
flashing eyes. The trees strode past him quickly; the gentleman paid
98 no attention to anything. He had a tilted nose and a flat beardless
face, an elderly child's face with a sweet Uttle mouth.
He was forced to watch his step at a sharp rising turn in the road.
As he marched on more quietly, wiping the sweat off his nose
irritably with his hand, he discovered that his face was completely
distorted, that his chest was heaving violently. He grew alarmed
at the thought that somebody might see him, one of his business
colleagues or a lady, perhaps. He touched his face and convinced
himself with a furtive movement of his hand that it was smooth.
He walked quietly. Why was he panting? He gave a shamefaced
smile. He had sprung at the flowers and had wrought havoc with
his walking stick, had struck indeed with the same violent but weU
aimed arm movements with which he was accustomed to box his
apprentices' ears when they were not sufficiently adept in catching
the flies in the office and presenting them to him arranged in order
of size.
The grave gentleman shook his head repeatedly over the peculiar
occurrence. "One gets nervous in the city. The city is making me
nervous," swayed his hips reflectively, took his stiff English hat and
fanned the fir-scented air towards his head.
After a short time he began again to count his steps, one, two,
three. Foot stepped in front of foot, the arms swung from the
shoulders. Suddenly, as his gaze swept vacantly along the edge of
the road, Herr Michael Fischer saw a stocky figure, himself, stepping back from the grass, hurling himself at the flowers and cleanly
striking the head off a buttercup. What had occurred before by the
dark road was taking place tangibly before him. This flower here
was exactly the same as the others. This one flower drew his gaze,
his hand, his stick. His arm rose, the stick whistled, plop, the head
flew off. The head somersaulted in the air, disappeared in the grass.
The businessman's heart beat wildly. The separated head of the
plant was sinking now, burrowing into the grass. Deeper, deeper
and deeper, through the blanket of grass, into the ground. Now it
was beginning to rush towards the centre of the Earth, no hands
could hold it any more. And from above, from the stump of a body,
there dripped, there weUed from the neck white blood after it into
the hole, a little at first, Uke spittle from the corner of a cripple's
mouth, then in a thick, viscous stream with yeUow bubbles, ran
towards Herr Michael, who tried vainly to escape, hopped to the
right, hopped to the left, tried to leap over it, surging already against
his feet.
99 Mechanically Herr Michael placed his hat on his head, which was
covered in sweat, clasped his hands and the stick to his breast.
"What happened?" he asked after a while. "I'm not drunk. The
head can't fall, it has to stay lying there, it has to stay lying there
in the grass. I am sure that it is lying quietly in the grass. And the
blood ... I don't remember that flower, I know absolutely nothing
about it all."
He was amazed, consternated, suspicious of himself. Everything
in him was riveted on the furious agitation, was thinking about the
flower, the sunken head, the bleeding stalk. He was still leaping over
the sUmy river. If anybody saw him, one of his business colleagues
or a lady.
Herr Michael Fischer drew himself up, grasped the stick in his
right hand. He glanced at his coat and drew strength from his
attitude. He'd soon subdue these rebellious thoughts: self-control.
He, the boss, would put an energetic end to this breach of discipUne.
One had to face these people very firmly: "Yes? We are not
accustomed to that sort of attitude in my company. Janitor, throw
the fellow out." And standing, he brandished his stick about in the
air. Herr Fischer had assumed a cool, critical expression: now we'd
see! In his superiority he even went so far, up on the wide road,
as to scoff at his timidity. Wouldn't it be really funny if next
morning there was a notice in red on all the advertisement-pillars of
Freiburg: "Murder of an adult buttercup on the road from Immen-
tal to St. OttiUen, between seven and nine p.m. The suspect" et
cetera. Thus scoffed the flabby gentleman in black, enjoying the
cool evening air. Down there, the nurses, the courting couples would
find what his hand had wrought. There wiU be screams and
horrified running home. The criminal investigators would be thinking about him, the murderer, who would be laughing up his sleeve.
Herr Michael shuddered dissolutely at his own mad recklessness, he
never would have thought himself so depraved. Down there, however, there lay visible to the whole city the proof of his rash energy.
The stump is jutting rigidly into the air, white blood trickles from
its neck.
Herr Michael extended his hands in front of him sUghtly, defensively.
It is coagulating above, all thick and sticky, so that the ants get
Herr Michael passed a hand over his temples and exhaled loudly.
And beside it the head is rotting in the grass. It is squashed,
ioo broken up by the rain, decomposing. It is becoming a yellow, stinking
pulp, shimmering greenish, yellowish, slimy like vomit. It rises,
aUve, runs towards him, straight towards Herr Michael, tries to
drown him, streams slopping against his body, splashes up at his
nose. He leaps, hops only on his toes now.
The sensitive gentleman started back. He felt a hideous taste in
his mouth. He could not swallow for disgust, could not stop spitting.
He stumbled repeatedly, hopping uneasily as he continued on with
pale blue Ups.
"I refuse, I refuse most emphatically to enter into any contact
with your company."
He pressed his handkerchief to his nose. The head had to be got
rid of, the stalk had to be covered, stamped down, buried. The
wood was reeking of the body of the plant. The smeU went along
with Herr Michael, grew ever more intense. Another flower would
have to be planted in that spot, a fragrant flower, a garden of
carnations. The corpse in the middle of the wood had to be got rid
of. Had to.
Just as Herr Fischer was going to come to a halt it went through
his head that it was ridiculous to turn back, more than ridiculous.
What did the buttercup matter to him? Bitter rage flared in him at
the thought that he had almost been taken by surprise. He had not
pulled himself together, bit his index finger: "Watch out, I'm
telling you, watch out, you damned scoundrel." Simultaneously
fear cast itself over him from behind.
The scowUng fat man looked around nervously, reached into a
pocket of his trousers, withdrew a small penknife and opened it.
Meanwhile his feet carried on. His feet began to irritate him.
They wanted to become lords and masters too; their rebellious
urging forward enraged him. He'd soon quieten those little steeds
down. They'd feel it. A sharp stab in the flanks would tame them.
They carried him further and further away. It almost looked as if
he were running away from the scene of the murder. Nobody was
to think that. There was a fluttering of birds, a distant whimpering
was in the air, and came from below. "Stop, stop!" he shouted at
his feet. Then he drove the knife into a tree.
He embraced its trunk with both arms and rubbed his cheeks
against the bark. His hands were fingering the air, as if they were
kneading something: "We shall not go to Canossa." Brow furrowed
with strain, the deathly pale gentleman studied the cracks in the
tree, hunched his back as if something were going to jump over him
101 from behind. Over and over he could hear the telegraph connection
between himself and the spot ringing, in spite of his trying to tangle
and silence the wires with kicks. He tried to conceal from himself
that his fury was already paralyzed, that a gentle desire was flickering in him, a desire to capitulate. Deep down there was a greed in
him for the flower and the scene of the murder.
Herr Michael flexed his knees tentatively, sniffed at the air,
Ustened in every direction, whispered anxiously: "I just want to
bury the head, that's all. Then everything will be aU right. Please,
please, quickly." He closed his eyes unhappily, turned about on his
heels as if by accident. Then he sauntered, as if nothing had
happened, straight on down with the nonchalant step of one taking
a stroll, whistUng softly with a carefree air. Breathing easily, with
a sense of reUef, he caressed the treetrunks by the wayside. He smiled
and his Uttle mouth grew round, Uke a hole. Loudly he sang a song
that he suddenly remembered: "A hare there lay asleep in a
deU..." He was repeating the mincing, swaying of the hips,
swinging of the arms of before. He had pushed the stick guiltily far
up his sleeve. Now and again he crept back quickly at a bend in
the road, to see if anybody was watching him.
Perhaps she was in fact still alive — how did he know indeed that
she was dead already? It flitted through his head that he could
restore the invalid if he appUed splints, perhaps, and put on a
dressing with adhesive tape around the head and stalk. He began
to walk faster, to forget his composure, to run. All at once he was
trembfing with expectation. And fell full length at a bend against
a felled treetrunk, catching his chest and chin so that he moaned
aloud. When he picked himself up he forgot his hat in the grass;
the stick, broken, ripped his sleeve from the inside; he noticed
nothing of it. Aha, they were trying to stop him, nothing would
stop him; he'd soon find her. He climbed back again. Where was
the place? He had to find the place. If only he could call the flower.
But what was her name? He did not even know her name. Ellen?
Perhaps she was caUed EUen? Certainly, Ellen. He whispered into
the grass, bent over to poke the flowers with one hand.
"Is Ellen here? Where is Ellen? Well? She is wounded, her head,
a Uttle below the head. Perhaps you don't know that yet. I want to
help her —■ I'm a doctor, a Samaritan. WeU, where is she? You
can trust me with the information, I tell you."
But how was he going to recognize the one he had broken?
102 Perhaps he had her in his hand at that moment, perhaps she was
breathing her last breath close beside him.
That could not be.
He roared: "Hand her over. Don't make me miserable, you dogs.
I'm a Samaritan. Don't you understand German?"
He lay right down on the ground, searching, finally burrowing
bfindly in the grass, squashing and tearing the flowers, his mouth
open and his eyes flickering and fixed straight ahead. He gloomed
a long time to himself.
"Hand over. Conditions will have to be set. Preliminaries. The
doctor has a right to the patient. The law wiU have to be brought
The trees stood black in the grey air by the wayside and all
around. Anyway, it was too late, the head had certainly dried up
by now. The thought of death, final, horrified him and shook his
The black, round shape stood up out of the grass and tottered
on down by the side of the road.
She was dead. By his hand.
He sighed and rubbed his brow reflectingly.
They would attack him, from all sides. Well, let them. Nothing
worried him any more. It was all the same to him. They would
knock his head off, tear his ears off, put his hands in glowing
coals. He could not do any more. He knew they would all be having
a marveUous time, but he would not utter a sound to gratify his
despicable tormentors. They had no right to punish him, they were
depraved themselves. Yes, he had killed the flower, and it was no
business of theirs, and he had the right, which he would defend
against all of them. He had the right to kill flowers, and he did
not feel obliged to justify it in any more detail. He could kill as
many flowers as he pleased for a thousand miles around, north,
south, east, west, whether they scoffed at it or not. And if they
carried on laughing Uke that he would leap at their throats.
He halted; his glances darted poisonously into the heavy darkness
of the firs. His lips were fuU to bursting with blood. Then he
hurried on.
He probably should make his condolences here in the wood to
the sisters of the deceased. He pointed out that the accident had
occurred through practicaUy no fault of his, drew attention to the
sad exhaustion with which he had made the climb. And the heat.
BasicaUy, of course, he was indifferent to aU buttercups.
103 Despairingly, he shrugged his shoulders again: "What else will
they do to me?" He ran his dirty fingers over his cheeks; he could
not see his way out.
What was aU this, for God's sake, what was he doing here!
He tried to sneak away from it all by the shortest possible route,
down across through the trees, to collect his thoughts once and for
all clearly and calmly. Quite slowly, one point after another.
To avoid sUpping on the treacherous ground, he feels his way
from tree to tree. The flower, he thinks cunningly, can stay by the
road where it is. There are enough dead weeds like it in the world.
Horror grips him, however, as he sees a round, pale, bright drop
of resin appearing on a trunk he touches; the tree is weeping.
Fleeing in the dark onto a path, he soon notices that it is becoming
pecuUarly narrow, as if the wood were trying to lure him into a trap.
The trees are assembUng to hold court.
He must get out.
Again he runs hard against a low fir; it strikes down at him
with raised hands. He breaks his way through violently, the blood
running in streams down his face. He spits, lashes out, kicks the
trees, yelfing, slides down, sitting and rolUng, finally runs head-long
down the last slope at the verge of the wood towards the Ughts of
the village, his torn frock coat thrown over his head, while behind
him the mountain rustles threateningly, shaking its fists, and everywhere trees can be heard cracking and breaking as they run after
him, cursing.
The fat gentleman stood motionless by the gasUght in front of the
little village church. He had no hat on his head, there were fir
needles and black earth in his tousled hair which he did not remove.
He gave a heavy sigh. As warm blood dripped along the bridge of
his nose and down onto his boots he slowly took the ends of his coat
in both hands and pressed them to his face. Then he held up his
hands to the light and was surprised at the thick blue veins on the
back of them. He rubbed at the thick lumps and could not rub
them away. When a tram sang and howled its way nearer he reeled
on home through narrow alleys.
Now he was sitting dully in his bedroom, saying aloud to himself
"I'm sitting here, I'm sitting here," and looking despairingly around
the room. He walked to and fro, took his clothes off and hid them
in a corner of the wardrobe. He put on another black suit and
read the newspaper on the couch. He crumpled it up as he read:
something had happened, something had happened. And he felt it
104 fuUy next day as he sat at his desk. He was turned to stone, could
not curse, and a strange stillness accompanied him wherever he
With feverish eagerness he argued that he must have dreamt it
all — but the cuts on his forehead were real. Then there must be
things that cannot be befieved. The trees had struck out at him,
there had been a wailing about the deceased. He sat there sunk
in himself and, to the astonishment of the staff, did not even bother
about the flies buzzing. Then he began goading the apprentices,
abandoned his work and began walking up and down. They saw
him several times striking the table with his fist, his cheeks swollen,
shouting that he would make a clean sweep once and for all in the
business and otherwise. They would see. He would not be made a
fool of, by anybody.
Next morning, however, as he made out the books, something
made him enter ten marks to the credit of the buttercup. He
started, feU into bitter rumination of his powerlessness and ordered
the head clerk to take over the accounts. During the afternoon he
himself, silently and coldly, put the money in a special box; he even
felt it necessary to open a separate account for her; he had grown
weary, wanted peace. Soon he was driven to make her offerings
from his food and drink. A Uttle dish was set every day for her
beside Herr Michael's place. The housekeeper had thrown up her
hands when he had ordered this place laid — but the master had
forbidden any criticism with an unprecedented explosion of anger.
He was paying, paying for his mysterious guilt. He was performing divine service with the buttercup, and the calm businessman
asserted now that each person had his own religion; one had to
assume a personal position to an ineffable God. There were things
that not everybody could understand. A trace of suffering had appeared in the gravity of his monkey's face; his corpulence had also
decreased, his eyes became deep set. The flower, like a conscience,
watched over his actions, stringently, from the most important to
the smallest everyday deeds.
The sun shone often during this time over the town, the cathedral
and the hill with its castle, shone with all the fullness of life. One
morning the hardened man broke out crying at the window, for the
first time since his childhood. Quite suddenly, cried until his heart
was almost breaking. Ellen, the detested flower, was robbing him of
all this beauty, accused him now with each one of the world's
beauties. Sunshine glows, she does not see it; she cannot breathe the
105 perfume of white jasmine. Nobody will come to see the scene of her
shameful death, no prayers will be spoken there: she could throw
all this in his face, however ridiculous it was and however he might
wring his hands. Everything is denied her: the moonlight, the bridal
bliss of summer, the quiet co-existence with the cuckoo, the strollers,
the children's prams. He drew his little mouth together; he wanted
to hold back the people as they moved up the hill. If the world
would only perish with a sigh to shut the flower's mouth! He even
thought of suicide as a means of putting an end to this misery.
Between times he treated her in embittered fashion, deprecatingly,
pushed her to the wall with a sudden rush. He cheated her in small
things, knocked her dish over hurriedly as if by accident, miscalculated to her disadvantage, treated her often as cunningly as a
business competitor. On the anniversary of her death he behaved as
if he remembered nothing. Only when she seemed to insist more
urgently on a silent commemoration did he devote half a day to
her memory.
In company one time the question of favourite meals was being
discussed. When they asked Herr Michael what he most Uked to eat
he stated with cold deliberation: "Buttercups. Buttercups are my
favourite dish." Whereupon everybody shouted with laughter, but
Herr Michael cowered on his chair, listened to their laughing with
clenched teeth and savoured the rage of the buttercup. He felt
himself a monstrous dragon, gulping down Uving things without
qualm, thought of wild Japanese rites and harakiri. Even though
secretly he expected a severe punishment from her.
He conducted this sort of guerrilla warfare with her incessantly;
hovered incessantly between mortal anguish and ecstasy; he drew
anxious comfort from her cries of rage, which he often thought he
heard. Daily he thought up new tricks; often, in high excitement, he
would withdraw from his office to his room to hatch his plots
undisturbed. Thus quietly the war ran its course, and nobody knew
anything of it.
The flower belonged to him, was one of the comforts of his life.
He thought back with amazement to the time when he had Uved
without the flower. He often took the walk to St. Ottilien now
through the wood, with a defiant expression. And one sunny
evening, while he was taking a rest on a fallen treetrunk, the
thought flashed on him: here, on the spot where he was now sitting,
his buttercup, Ellen, had stood. It must have been here. Melancholy
and nervous devotion seized the fat gentleman. The way things had
106 turned out! From that evening to this. He let his eyes, grown
sfightly clouded, wander in a reverie over the weeds, the sisters,
perhaps daughters, of Ellen. After long meditation a roguish expression twitched over his smooth face. Oh, his fine flower would see
something now! If he dug up a buttercup, a daughter of the dead
one, planted it at home, cultivated it, looked after it, then the old
lady would have a young rival. In fact, when he thought it out
properly, he would even expiate the death of the old one. For he
was saving the Ufe of this flower and compensating for the death
of the mother; this daughter was very probably going to rack and
ruin here. Oh how he would annoy the old lady, how he would
leave her out in the cold! The businessman, weU versed in legal
matters, called to mind a paragraph on compensation. He dug out
a nearby plant with his penknife, carried it home carefully in his
bare hand and planted it in a porcelain pot resplendent with gold,
which he placed in position on a small inlaid table in his bedroom.
On the bottom of the pot he wrote with charcoal: "Paragraph
2403, section 5."
Daily the happy man watered the plant with malicious devotion
and made offering to the deceased, Ellen. She was legally, if
necessary under pain of police measures, constrained to resignation,
got no dish any more, no food, no money. Frequently, lying on the
couch, he thought he heard her whimpering, her long-drawn-out
moaning. Herr Michael's self confidence rose in undreamt-of manner.
Sometimes he almost had touches of megalomania. Never did life
pass so serenely.
One evening, after he had sauntered home in high spirits from
his office his housekeeper reported right at the door to him, calmly,
that the little table had fallen over when she was cleaning, that
the pot had broken. She had had the plant, the common dung-hill
weed, thrown into the dustbin along with all the pieces. The sober,
slightly contemptuous tone with which the woman recounted the
accident showed that she strongly approved of the procedure.
The rotund Herr Michael hurled the door to, clapped his short
hands, squealed loudly for joy and swung the surprised female aloft
by the hips, as far as his strength and her length permitted. Then
he swaggered from the hall into his bedroom with flickering eyes, in
extreme agitation; he wheezed noisily and stamped his feet; his Ups
Nobody could point at him; not with the most secret thought
had he wished the death of this flower, not offered the tip of a finger
107 of a thought towards it. The old lady, the mother-in-law, could
curse now and say what she pleased. He had nothing to do with her.
They were finished. Now he was rid of the whole buttercup crew.
Right and Fortune were on his side. There was no doubt. He had
outsmarted the wood.
Right away he was going to St. OttiUen, up into that stupid,
grumbling wood. In his thoughts he was already swinging his black
stick. Flowers, tadpoles and toads too would have to go. He could
murder as much as he wanted to. He didn't give a hang for any
Convulsed with laughter and maficious joy, the fat, impeccably
dressed businessman Herr Michael Fischer rolled on his couch.
Then he sprang up, slapped his hat on his head, and stormed
past the startled housekeeper out of the house onto the street.
Boisterously, he laughed and spluttered. And disappeared Uke this
in the darkness of the mountain wood.
The Dancer and the Body
It was decided when she was eleven years of age that she would
be a dancer. With her tendency to contort her limbs, to pull faces,
and with her pecuUar temperament, she seemed cut out for this profession. Clumsy in every step until then, she learned how to master
her elastic sinews, her too smooth joints; again and again, she
carefully and patiently stalked her toes, her ankles, her knees,
avariciously attacked the narrow shoulders and the curvature of
the slender arms, lay in wait, watching over the play of the taut
body. She succeeded in shedding coldness over the most exuberant
When she was eighteen years of age she had a small figure, light
as silk, over-large black eyes. Her face almost boyishly long and
sharply cut. The voice bright, without coquetry and music, chopped;
a quick, impatient walk. She was loveless, observed her disabled
colleagues clearly and was bored by their complaints.
When she was nineteen years of age a pale sickness befell her, so
that her face shimmered interestingly colourless in front of the
blueblack knot of hair. Her Umbs grew heavy, but she played on.
108 When she was alone she stamped her foot, threatened her body and
struggled with it. She spoke to nobody about her weakness. She
ground her teeth over the stupid, childish thing, which she had
just learned to subjugate.
When Ella bit her lips with pain her mother would throw
herself on the couch and cry for hours. After a week the old woman
came to a decision and, looking at the floor, told her daughter that
she should end it and go to hospital. To this Ella made no reply,
merely threw a malignant look at the wrinkled, hopeless face.
Next day she went to hospital. She was crying with rage in the
car under her rug. She would have Uked to spit on her ailing body,
sneered bitterly at it; she was sickened by the wretched flesh, to
whose company she was tied. Slightly afraid, she opened her eyes
as she touched the limbs that were drawing away from her. How
powerless she was, oh how powerless she was. They rattled over the
surfacing of the courtyard. The doors of the hospital closed behind
her. The sisters lifted her gently into bed.
Now the dancer forgot how to speak. She no longer heard the
imperious tone of her voice. It aU happened without her voUtion.
They watched for every utterance of her body, however, treated it
with measureless gravity. Daily, almost hourly, they questioned the
dancer about its affairs, documented it carefully, so that she was at
first irritated by it, then became more and more astonished. She
soon drifted into a dark fear and instability; a horror of this body
came over her. She did not dare touch it, to brush against it, stared
at her arms, her breasts, shuddered as she watched herself a long
time in the mirror. Her mouth swallowed medicine that she gave
it to drink; she accompanied the bitter drops as they ran down and
wondered what it did with them, the childish, oh the masterful,
dark body. She grew small as a fly; and at night the fear of death
stood behind her bed. Her eyes that saw mysterious things grew
stiff. The scornful girl with the boy's face was pious now and prayed
with the sisters before the fall of night. Her mother got a fright
when she visited her daughter. Her child had never been so despondent, so much in need of help. "We are all in God's hand," the
mother comforted the wasted girl who clung to her. "Yes," the
dancer whispered, "we are all in God's hand."
The unchanging coming and going about her calmed her down
again, the horror disappeared as quickly as it had befallen her. Her
disgust for the sick people in the ward flamed up. And indignation
lurked in her sharp features that they should pay it — destroyed,
109 destroying — reverence, and ignore her, as if she were dead. That
offended the masterful girl. She locked her body up, threw it in
chains. Now it was her body, her property. For her to decide over.
She Uved in this house; they should leave her house alone. Every
day they beat at her breast with hammers and listened to her heart's
conversation. They painted her heart on her breast so that everyone
could see it; tore what had been hidden in it into the Ught. Oh, they
were robbing her. With every question they carried away a piece of
her. They fell upon her with poisons, which were finer than needles
and probes; they found her out, drove her right back into her fox's
den. The thieves were taking everything from her, and so she was
not surprised that she was growing weaker day by day and lay there
pale as death. She grew embittered now, and defended herself. She
lied to the doctors, did not answer their questions, concealed her
pain. And when they tried to question her again she made herself
stiff in the bed, pushed the sisters back, even laughed with suddenly
flaring hatred in the faces of the doctors, who shook their heads,
and pulled a scornful grimace at them.
But she could not keep herself so feverishly brave for long. Every
day, without a break, the white coats went through the wards,
tapped at the sick people, wrote everything down. Daily and hourly
the sisters came, brought her food and medicine: the dancer grew
weary at this. She threw the toy down again; with dull contempt
she tolerated them. What was happening was none of her business.
A childish creature was lying there that was making her miserable;
why should she fight for it, why should she envy it its honours? She
rested slackly in her bed. The body, a piece of carrion, lay under
her again; she paid no attention to its pains. When she felt the
stabbing pains at night she said to it: "Be quiet till the rounds in
the morning; tell the doctors, your doctors, leave me alone." They
operated separately; the body could take care of how it got on with
the doctors. "A record wiU be made of everything." She cut the
annoyance short with that.
Often she felt a smiling pity for this stupid sick child that lay in
her bed. She reported calmly and conscientiously what bothered it.
Indifferently and slightly ironically she observed the doctors and
noted ironically the lack of success of their efforts. A tense gaiety
came over her again and wild, laughing, malicious joy at the misfortune of the doctors and the destruction of the body. As she
pressed her laughing mouth into the piUow she regained her old
disdain and her coldness.
I 10 As soldiers went by the hospital in the afternoon to the sound of
marching music the dancer abruptly sat up in her bed with glowing
eyes, Ups tight, completely bent over. After a while a soft but sharp
voice summoned the sister to the bed. The dancer wanted to sew
and asked for silk and linen. With a pencil she rapidly sketched a
strange picture on the white cloth. There were three figures: a
round, clumsy body on two legs, without arms and head, just a fat
two-legged sphere. Beside it there towered a tall, gentle man with
gigantic spectacles, who caressed the body with a thermometer. But
while he was gravely occupied with the body, a small girl, skipping
on bare feet, thumbed her nose at him from the other side with her
left hand and plunged a pair of sharp scissors with her right hand
into the body from below, so that the body spilled out in a thick
jet like a barrel.
The dancer embroidered the picture roughly with red thread and
occasionally laughed gaily to herself.
She wanted to dance again, to dance.
She wanted to feel her will again, as before, when she shed
coldness over every exuberance of the dance, when her taut body
streamed like a flame. She wanted to dance a waltz, breathtakingly
sweet, with it, with the body that had become her master. With a
movement of her will she could grasp it by the hands again, the
body, the lazy beast, hurl it down, hurl it about and it was no longer
master over her. From inside she stirred up a triumphant hatred;
it was not it who went right, she who went left, but they — they
leapt together. She wanted to roll it on the ground, the barrel, the
Umping manikin, spin it along head over heels, stuff sand in its
She called for the doctor in a voice that had quite suddenly
become hoarse. Bent over, she looked into his face from below as
he looked in amazement at her embroidery, then said up to him in
a quiet voice: "You — you fool — you fool, you idiot." And,
throwing off the cover, drove the scissors into her left breast. A
shrill scream stood somewhere in a corner of the ward. Even in
death the dancer had the cold, contemptuous expression about her
Too many metaphors have died in our bedclothes
around midnight
the latest: a large ulcerated mushroom
which lolls on its thick puce toxic pillar
that was first excreted from the tissues of the mattress
one recent and notoriously dank night;
and this excrescence
(which will soon die)
is not the last,
will not be the worst.
A well-padded voyeur
— with a zooming lens —
might have beheld admirable things:
on the yyth night
a large quartz globe
screwed into the bedframe
pulsated with a dazzling orange glare
on the ggth night
a turbulent hump of stained banknotes
and other discarded filters from our mucous system
are pulped by a jet of blood from the bedside socket
two hands mould an idol from this papier-mache
on the 144th night
a thunderstruck Christmas tree was rooted to the quilt
tightly strung packages of maimed meat
were bending its centipede branches backwards . ..
112 on the 666th night
the whole room was passing through a black hole
in the antimatter of the ant-speckled bodies
small clusters of stars were observed
on the ioooth night
a thin male demon had been crucified on the ceiUng
he glared down at the snowscape of the bed
as yet unpunctured by mushrooms
on the iooist night
despite the slow dripping of blood or water
from the chitinous corpse of the un-dead demon
despite the high whine of the overdrive
that propels this bedroom through the infinite darkness
despite the steady tremble of electrons
in the hand of glory that illumines these mummified lovers
— a translucent globe of electrified opal
(some old stone too heavy for God to lift)
has gently settled on the bloodstained pillows
Tonight the voyeur sleeps
in his leather-Uned grave
Tonight the nite time
is not the rite time
to screw together
the weather-beaten portable altar
on which we perform our burlesque black masses
Tonight we shall sleep
without our false noses
between clean sheets
without our blue auras
"3 between clean sheets
without orgone receivers
between clean sheets
with no sweat
Out in the perpetual rainUt city
two rusty ghost boxcars are conveniently coupUng
and the hoarse alto of a railroad horn
hovers round a flattened seventh.
My devil's nature may be huge
and all cold
but we got to
keep on
keepin' on ...
everything fails:
the steam hearts of the first women
the whispering cloud of dark tissues under my
skull cap
(which exudes a few grams of colourless blood)
the sun stinking out the horizon
all our wearying catalogues of damp furry objects. .. .
Paul Green's poem The Sighting appeared in Prism 10/2. The audio version
of Around Midnight is available on Canada's pioneer tape magazine DNA,
produced by Lawrence Russell at the University of Victoria, B.C. Green's first
book of poems Directions to the Dead End will be published by the Sono Nis
Press this fall.
Translated from the Portuguese by Eloah F. Giacomelli
The clouds are hair
growing Uke rivers;
they are the blank gestures
of the mute singer;
they are the statues flying
alongside the sea;
the Ught flora and fauna
of countries of wind;
they are the painted eye
motionlessly trickUng;
the woman leaning
on the porches of sleep;
they are death (the waiting for)
behind the closed eyes
the blank medical science.
Our blank days.
All the transformations
all the chances
would happen without my consent.
AU the attacks
were far from my street.
Not even through the telephone
would they hurl a bomb at me.
Someone would multiply
someone would take pictures:
it would never be within my room
where no evidence was Ukely.
There was also someone who'd ask:
Why not a gunshot
or the room suddenly in the dark?
I cancel myself, I commit suicide,
I traverse long unchanged distances,
I shun you, I execute you
at every moment and in every corner.
In the end of a melanchoUc world
men read newspapers.
Indifferent men eat oranges
that sting Uke the sun.
They gave me an apple as a reminder
of death. I know cities send wires
asking for kerosene. The veil I saw flying
dropped in the desert.
Nobody wiU write the last poem
of this particular world of twelve hours.
Instead of the last judgment I worry
about the last dream.
Eloah F. Giacomelli, a Brazilian, immigrated to Canada in 1969. She lived
in New Brunswick and in Ontario before she came to Vancouver in 1971- She
is a lecturer in English at the University of British Columbia. Some of her
poem-translations appeared in Contemporary Literature in Translation; others
will appear in The Malahat Review and in Mundus Artium.
Il8 Denis Trudel teaches at the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
He has poems in the forthcoming anthology New Voices in American Poetry
(Winthrop) and is the author of a Fiddlehead chapbook, The Guest.
Once a week he drove straight from work to some town he didn't
know and placed his overnight bag in the room of some hotel or
Then he proceeded to get very drunk, taking his time, drinking
beer, touring the town's bars and falling onto the strange bed which
rocked through uneasy seas but left him bUnking into the new day
feeUng somehow cleansed.
It was an arrangement he had with his wife — a compromise he
had said when gently insisting on it at age thirty-three between his
joy at being a good husband and father and something in his spine
that wanted him to be the lone wolf of the Seine or Wabash. Over
the years it brought him some strange rewards.
For instance the time he drove to Burton, a village further by an
hour from the distance he usually went but he felt in his roots the
need to cleave new air. It was early spring.
It was spring and the sudden warmth along the dusk seemed
breathed from the hulk of the most compassionate cow in the world
having chewed the outfields of his childhood as he stood there.
Something moved out from his . . . veins and placed its hand on
the thigh of some old woman living alone in one of the houses
behind the neon of Buckeye Street.
Or nudged something in the dream of a boy whose father was
becoming earth in Asia: it led him tingling into the Nite Spot just
as Sally Free Throw was preparing to leave.
She stopped in front of his face, which was different from any
she had seen all day in Burton.
"9 She bathed in the Ught or warmth that came from it; she turned
toward Joe Doat whom she had just called a bastard motherfucker.
Joe Doat stood with a poolstick, obUgatory cigarette making his
eyes wince. Big denim shoulders sayin Fuck you: whatever I don't
SaUy Free Throw took a step backward, smiling at the stranger.
He grinned:
He was suddenly free, how for long he didn't know or pause to
wonder, he nodded at the short crowd around the merrily coloured
balls, pausing at its shaggy peak to marvel that he feared that
face no more than his own kneecap when it spoke:
"Eat shit, mister."
SaUy had wanted Joe to leave his stick and take her to a whopper-
burger; now she only wished to go on surrounding the waft of mirth
the night had born.
He slowly approached Joe Doat's breathing: didn't decide to
simply found himself in motion. SUm Jims passed on one flank.
"Baby I gonna cross your porch" dropped to the turntable on the
other. "Don't pay no attention to the slob," said Sally Free Throw.
But he did he walked up to him. Stopped. Funky Piersall trying
not to look puzzled beside the four baU.
He carefuUy leaned on tiptoes and kissed Joe Doat on the mouth.
And then turned, walked across the room and out the door. Sally
foUowed. "DoU you got me wrangUn 'stead of dangUn ..." followed.
"This way," said Sally toward an alley. "Jesus, mister," at its
other end: Bird Street full of peace that looked like houses.
Nine p.m. Near dark. The trees deep with latent applause.
"Sounds good," he said moments later when Sally Free Throw
suggested fooUng around with a baU over by the junior high. He
thought she meant catch and they would stop for a Softball or mitts
her brothers' maybe. But didn't and arrived at the school, her cool
hand in his and went around to the back where she nudged open a
window and beckoned for him to join her under the gaze of a
crayoned John F. Kennedy.
"What's up?" he said to SaUy.
Who was called Free Throw partly because of an appetite for
wrapping her legs around a man and jaggUng with him toward
where she otherwise couldn't go although if Buddy Esso and Joe
Doat didn't have such big mouths her name would be as unstained
120 as a certain Turnip Festival Queen who did it with two guys on the
ping pong table in her ceUar when she was fifteen for Christsake.
But this was different this was the warm itch down there, sure,
but. "Gym. Check out a ball," she grinned.
He followed her along a strict maze of lockers. Smell of sandwiches cramped many mornings near overshoes.
And then . ..
Around the corner the Assistant Principal steaUng a typewriter to
pay for his wife's new kidney? No: but he thought of that as a
Echoed off into doubt but reoccurred as another, nearer. Several.
Sally Free Throw pulled him into a room marked girls. Where
he knelt beside her firm proportions, aware of them.
"You fiddlin some shifty kinda bulllll shit," sang the juke at the
Nite Spot. Ought to bottle the scent of a randy girl's armpits during
a spirited night of April:
If their shoulders brushed too hard he'd take her on the tile.
Instead they watched through slots in the door as past them came
a man wearing a dress. Strange creature with a tail. Big papier
mache pear. Indian brave. Captain America. Chunky member of
a harem. Others.
Is this what goes on at night in the schools? he wondered.
Meanwhile Joe Doat, having blinked the barstools back into
focus. Having broken his cuestick on the edge of the table to
regain the heft at his crotch — grunted at Funky Piersall and Honda
to move after the faggoty creep. Stomp out his blinkers. Up Buckeye
Street they sauntered. Into a Dodge, up Mill Street. Down Springer.
Up Dump Street.
"How bout the school?" one said. "Maybe she snuck 'm in the
gym." "Try the school," said Joe.
The figures must have been from a costume party at the Rotary
or Legion having stopped off to borrow a projector and screen or
something led either drunkenly or not by the Assistant Principal. Or
some teacher, he decided the next morning on his way back to the
city. Worth precisely the shrug sent after them by Sally Free Throw.
Called that also because at age fourteen she had beaten an all-
county forward to a savings bond by sinking eighteen of twenty and
hadn't lost her touch. He learned.
Under a basket at one end of a tennis court behind the home of
Willis Burton III  (sunburning in Florida)  lighted by the moon:
121 serenaded by crickets near the junior high, and learned too his
hadn't died forever.
He bagged a jumper from the corner. Sally Free Throw hooked
one from twenty feet;
He took the rebound, behind the back to SaUy for an underhand
layup. Out to him for a set, Sally with a turnaround jump that
blocked the moon and sent a sweet whistle through molecules out
around the cord.
He cut for the basket, took a bounce pass, leaped high above her
eyes, shifted it to his other hand. Tocked the backboard and in.
While Joe Doat etc. eased without headlights to a stop in the
parking lot and moved toward where, sure enough, sounds were
sneaking along the corridor near Library and Visual Aids: hide
inside spare lockers until they get close and then scare the shit. ..
He took off his shirt.
Sally shed hers, wiped her forehead. She made ten shots before
he did in one-on-one but he beat her in a game of Horse.
Probably small creatures watched as they moved their bodies
around the ball, laughing softly and ripening beyond midnight.
He waited as she took off her jeans to move quicker. Waited for
her one-hander from back of the circle. Jumped at the sound of the
rim and reached and guided everything into place.
122 Helen Potrebenko was born on a farm at Woking, Alberta and is now a
taxi driver in Vancouver. Her work has previously appeared in The Pedestal,
The Grape and The New Leaf.
The summer of the postal strike was when Ruth decided to
become a lesbian. The idea had been difficult enough to accept, and
putting it into practice seemed impossible. She asked the doctor
how one went about becoming a homosexual, but he only looked at
her strangely and pretended it had been meant as a joke.
She had gone to the doctor about an ear infection. The drugs
he gave her for it didn't do anything at all, so he tried another kind
and the other kind made her partially deaf, which terrified the hell
out of her. When she got used to the idea, she told her employer she
could not hear well enough to answer the telephone and could she
take her hofidays now and he agreed. Then she asked if she could
have an additional month's leave of absence without pay which the
boss wouldn't let her have, so the day before she was to leave
for her holidays, she gave her notice. He was visibly relieved.
Ruth had hoped he would ask what she would do now and she'd
have told him about being a lesbian and ask his advice about how
one went about it, but he didn't ask her anything.
The reason she had wanted the extra month was that some
friends in Vancouver were going away for a few months and asked
her to live in their house while they were away, to fight off the
The house was on the edge of the Shaughnessy district, one of
those small box things, but with a lovely large tree in the back yard
and a lawn of green grass. The whole thing happened in a week,
during which week Ruth wrote to Rodney that she would be
in Vancouver for a while and hoped to see him. She wrote the
123 Vancouver address and phone number in large letters at the bottom
of the letter.
The house looked as if no one had ever Uved in it, which was
strange. Charlotte had been large, loud, and messy before she
married John Cameron, but now she took care of this odd house
which looked like no one had ever Uved in it. The house intimidated
Ruth; she was afraid she would rearrange the chairs, or make the
carpet look like someone had walked on it; in any case, it was
nicer outside under the big tree.
The trouble was that, being partly deaf, she couldn't hear the
telephone from outside. But Rodney was not Ukely to phone
immediately so she spent the first day lying in the sunshine in the
back yard. The second day, she stayed in the yard also, although
she was sure Rodney would phone and was too nervous about
missing his call to appreciate the sunshine. It rained on the third
day, and she moved inside.
She was afraid to move around too much for fear of making the
house look as if someone had been there, so she spent most of the
day perched on the edge of a kitchen chair trying to read, but
found herself unable to concentrate. She had been deaf for more
than a week already but still wasn't used to it. The silence upset her,
setting up weird noises inside her head.
The doctor she had been referred to in Vancouver examined her
infected ear and gave her a different prescription but said the other
ear wasn't infected. He told Ruth she could probably hear quite
fine out of it; that she just didn't realize how much difference being
deaf in one ear made. When she asked him how to become a
lesbian, he looked startled and suggested perhaps she would Uke
to talk to his friend, a psychiatrist, but Ruth reckoned he probably
wouldn't know either. The medicine didn't help.
That was the fourth day, when she had the appointment with
the doctor. She would have liked to dawdle downtown and look
at people and things, but Rodney might phone and she would miss
the call, so she went back to the house again. It was a nice day
and she would have Uked to go out on the velvet grass, but instead
she sat near the phone, not moving around much for fear she would
rearrange the house. It was impossible to think that four days had
almost gone by and she hadn't seen Rodney. She could visualize him
so clearly, but he wasn't here, and the almost reaUty of him only
made being alone more unbearable.
If the postal workers weren't on strike, she could have written
124 letters, or received them, and not felt quite so isolated, but there
was no mail, only the silence of the silent house. Ruth thought she
should go out to look for a job, but she was too deaf and would
make a bad impression on possible bosses. Besides, most of her
experience was on the switchboard and you couldn't have a deaf
telephonist. Though she could hear on the telephone with her right
She phoned the only other person in Vancouver she knew who
used to be Anne Carter before she got married and had several
children. Anne said she was really glad to hear from her and they
must get together one day soon when Anne wasn't quite so busy.
The children could be heard screaming in the background and Anne
said apologetically she didn't have time to talk now.
On the fifth day, Ruth still couldn't concentrate on reading
anything, so she started watching tv. Unless the tv was turned on
way too loud she couldn't hear it, and turning it on that loud
seemed obscene in this perfect house. So she watched it without
hearing it and the people strutted and gesticulated senselessly on
the screen. She couldn't tell what the programmes were about but
in the commercials, magic things flew in windows, to show women
how to clean their sinks and women had but to use the right
shampoo, deodorant, or whatever to be surrounded by the men of
their desire.
Maybe Rodney hadn't phoned because her armpits stunk. Maybe
if she switched shampoos, she wouldn't be so isolated in this city
of a million people, alone in a world they said was overpopulated.
The tv showed her pictures of dead people all over the place.
Some of them were real and some weren't. She couldn't tell which
were which.
On the seventh day, Ruth slept for 24 hours. She kept getting up
half-asleep for a drink of milk or water and felt quite feverish which
was a bad sign because that meant the drugs the new doctor had
prescribed weren't doing anything at all for the ear infection. When
she went back to see him, he said she had otitis media and gave her
yet another drug. She explained about not being able to look for a
job, and he was properly sympathetic, then he looked at her
curiously and asked why she wanted to become a lesbian.
Ruth said it was because most people thought she was anyway,
or said they did, because she wasn't an easy lay though she was 26
years old. She thought sex was another kind of communication and
most men had nothing to communicate to women but contempt,
!25 and she didn't usually think she deserved that contempt. She thought
that women knew how to love, to feel things, and communicate
love, but men hadn't the ability or the desire, so perhaps it would
be better to have sex with women. The doctor said he didn't think
so, and Ruth said she didn't think so either.
What had made her decide to become a lesbian was that whenever people told her she was probably a lesbian and she said she
wasn't, they said her protestations proved she was subconsciously a
homosexual. Ruth thought if she became a lesbian and protested to
everyone that she wasn't heterosexual, this would prove that she was
subconsciously heterosexual, and they would quit bugging her about
lesbianism. The doctor looked at her with a perplexed frown and
then said she should make an appointment for the next week about
her ear.
Ruth went home on the bus in silence, to the silence of the house,
and the phone that didn't ring. Every little while she was seized by
a great sense of expectancy and felt that any moment, just any
moment now, she would hear properly again: a clock ticking, cars
driving by, birds. But nothing happened and gradually she sank
back comfortably and with a sense of almost reUef, into the silence.
On the tenth day, Ruth began hearing music inside her head,
which was rather pleasant. She sat in the kitchen most of the day,
leaning on the counter, listening. It was strange music, without
rhythm or melody, like a surrealistic painting. She listened most of
the day, but towards evening she was seized by a wilder longing to
see Rodney and the music made it worse, so she walked around
the kitchen table singing until the music in her head stopped. "I
used to think I was a gypsy boy, until I let you take me home."
Every time she tried to sleep, the music started again, so she stayed
up most of the night singing. "So long, Marianne, its time to leave
again; to laugh and to love and to cry about it all again."
When morning came, she realized Rodney wouldn't phone during
the day anyway, as he was working, and it had been totally insane
of her to sit beside the phone all day. She need only sit by it in the
evening. That was the eleventh day, when Ruth went out to the
back yard again.
It was really nice in the back yard. The grass was soft as velvet
and the tree incredibly green against the sky. Ruth slept under the
tree most of the day, moving whenever the sun moved. There was
a Ught breeze which felt like a caress. It was aU hers; the breeze and
126 the leaves moving soundlessly. No dogs barking, no car motors, just
silence and green grass.
The next morning she walked around, sneaking along with soundless steps, watching the sun come up and then had breakfast in a
cafe on Fourth Avenue. The sun was warm and beautiful and Ruth
was seized by a great sense of exhiliration. It seemed to her she
could collect rays of sunshine Uke a bouquet and present them to
someone, but then she remembered there was no one to give them
to. She went back to the house and slept in the back yard until
evening and then rushed into the the house panicky lest Rodney
had phoned. She was panic-stricken the whole evening, and sat
around chewing her nails.
The next day, she cleaned up the house. Whenever she finished
one part of it, she sat staring at the cleanliness and biting her nails.
She thought how nice it would be to have Rodney visit her in a nice
clean house. The telephone rang a couple of times that day, sending
her into a state of dithering jelly. Once it was a wrong number, and
another time someone wanted to talk to John Cameron, and Ruth
explained they had gone to Europe for two months.
That was the thirteenth day. Thirteen days are three hundred
and twelve hours. Three hundred and twelve hours are nineteen
thousand, seven hundred and twenty minutes. Nineteen thousand,
seven hundred and twenty minutes are one milUon, one hundred
eighty-three thousand, two hundred seconds. Sometimes Ruth
counted to make the minutes go faster. Count to ten slowly. Six
times for every minute. She had lived through six of those slow tens
nineteen thousand, seven hundred and forty times. Even just one day
was one thousand, four hundred and forty of those six slow tens.
After she had counted for a while, she started to sing again, loud
and frantic. "Your eyes are soft with sorrow, hey, that's no way to
say good-bye." She hated the sound of her voice echoing hollowly
inside her skull but anything was better than that oddly disembodied
voice counting off ten times over and over again.
On the fourteenth day, she went back to see the doctor again,
still deaf and he was very irritable about that and acted as if it
was all her fault none of the medicines had worked. Ruth wanted
to tell him she had never seen doctors cure anything except accidentally, but he was a nice guy, so she didn't say anything but
meekly took the blame. He gave her a prescription for some complicated kind of ear drops. Ruth got the prescription filled and then
walked around for a while, looking at the people  and it was
127 comfortable inside her silence, with people sneaking down the street
and cars driving noiselessly by.
In the evening, sitting by the telephone, she started counting
again but found it didn't work any more. If she checked her watch
to see if six slow tens really was a minute, she found it was only
just over thirty seconds. She'd been counting faster deliberately to
make time go faster and felt quite ashamed of herself.
In the night she awakened feeUng odd. It was like lying in the
bottom of a canoe that was being washed around gently by the
waves. She went back to sleep but woke up again because her ear
was aching. It was all red and swollen now, as well as being deaf,
and ached something awful all night. She called the doctor and he
said irritably it must be a reaction to the medicine and then phoned
the drug store for another kind of medicine which Ruth walked
down to get, staggering somewhat as her balance was rather awry.
The medicine turned out to be the kind the first doctor had given
her, which hadn't helped, but she was too nervous to tell the
druggist she already had some of that. All day she slept under the
tree and in the evening when she went inside, her balance was even
The waves were rougher and Ruth, in the canoe, felt almost
seasick. She would have gone back to shore but she couldn't unless
someone called her. There were people on the shore laughing to
each other, but no one called her.
The next day she went walking again. She staggered less than
the day before but still felt most disassociated. The silent world of
muted steps wavered in front of her; the street undulated silently
before her as she walked. The music started again in her head,
only it kept time with her lack of balance and made her seasick. She
had to sing to get rid of it, so she walked down Broadway singing:
"Danger waters comin' baby, hold me tight." The singing didn't
have to be very loud as her own voice echoed hollowly inside her
skull, but still, people looked at her curiously.
Once, when she went to step, she found the sidewalk was a lot
farther down than it had previously been and she got scared. She
leaned against a wall for a bit before feeling steady enough to walk
on. "Danger waters comin', baby, hold me tight." The people
looking at her made her angry. As she continued to Granville where
there were more people and more looks, she found herself shaking
with rage. They had no right to look, asking a question with their
eyes if they didn't really care. Ask me if I'm all right, she asked
128 them with her eyes, but when she did, they looked away and hurried
to get past her. Ask me if I'm aU right, ask me if i'm all right.
But nobody did, and she staggered and sang her way back to the
house in the muted day.
And then she lost count of the days. Before, she had only been
frightened in spurts, but now she got very frightened and it didn't
stop. She could no longer remember how long she'd sat, how many
evenings the phone hadn't rung, how many days of silence there
had been. The tv figures terrified her and the streets threatened.
Even the tree towered menacingly above the treacherous grass.
The canoe was in rough water, tossed by the waves and the voices
from the shore had grown fainter and disappeared.
One day she sat shaking in the doctor's office and he was telUng
her angrily that he'd tried every medicine already and it was because
she was dirty that the infection wouldn't go away. At that precise
moment, Ruth realized Rodney wasn't going to call. You're stupid,
she said, you're really stupid, and walked out of the doctor's office,
silently, and out to the silent street.
She hid in bed, afraid to go out of the house any more, and by
then she no longer cared if the telephone rang. She couldn't have
picked it up if it did, for it crouched on its table Uke some black
menacing animal. If she stayed out of bed too long, the house
nobody lived in would absorb her into its smooth plasticity so she
stayed in bed, mostly sleeping, and only got out of bed to get a
drink of milk.
The canoe had drifted into calm water and there was fog gathering so that the shore was no longer visible. It had been frightening
to be drifting away, but now that she was really alone in the grey
silence, it became pleasant. The fog was getting thicker as she
drifted slowly into the greyness and a deeper silence.
Stumbling dizzily towards the fridge one day, Ruth found there
was a bunch of letters on the floor. Holy Christ, she said, with a
voice that echoed strangely in her skull, the mail strike is over. Mail
strike. That couldn't be right. Postal workers' strike. If the mail had
been on strike, it was these very letters which had refused to be
deUvered, parading around the post office saying: unfair to mail.
They had given in and were now lying ignominiously on the floor
beside the front door.
She didn't pick them up that day. The next day she got up early,
made some porridge for breakfast, dressed, put on some coffee, and
then sat waiting at the door. When the postman came to drop yet
129 more letters in the slot, Ruth opened the door and said, did you
win? Yep, he said smiling, then added a whole bunch more but
Ruth couldn't hear what he said. I'm glad you won, she said as he
walked away down the walk, and opened the letters to read over
The Camerons were going to be back a week earUer than expected. Her mother wondered how she was. People in the place
she had worked last missed her. A friend was having a good holiday
in Montreal and wished Ruth had come.
Ruth promptly began writing a letter to her mother. Halfway
through there was a loud pop inside her head and then she heard
birds twittering, then cars going by, and then the bathroom faucet
dripping. She sat staring vacantly around her for some time, then
wrote her mother about the ear infection and how the medicines
had prolonged it but now it had gone away all by itself. She told
her mother she felt remarkably good, which she did.
She went out for a couple of walks that day, not venturing very
far because the sounds were too loud and sometimes frightening.
But it was nice to hear. Footsteps struck her as most fascinating;
she had never before realized the immense variety of footsteps there
were. Then she lay around in the back yard listening to birds, and
the sound of the breeze swishing leaves.
The next day she washed and dressed carefuUy and went out
job-hunting. She had several unproductive interviews during which
people talked at her entirely louder than necessary. One fat old man
leered and patted her knee and Ruth tried to smile at him because
she was getting short of money, but he didn't give her a job anyway.
When Rodney phoned, she was surprised to hear from him for,
by that time, she had forgotten what he looked Uke. But the famiU-
arity of his voice brought back the longing again. He complained
plaintively that he had tried to get her before but she was never
home; and that he'd been almost desperate enough to camp on
her doorstep to wait until she got home. It turned out that he had
phoned once before. He asked if she wanted to go out for dinner
the next day, and Ruth said hesitantly she probably didn't. Rodney
sounded hurt; she'd been in Vancouver all this time and he hadn't
seen her. Ruth felt apologetic and agreed to go to dinner with him,
but why not today instead of tomorrow.
When he came, he said she was as beautiful as ever, but hadn't
she lost some weight? Ruth said she had and told him he was
looking beautiful, which he was. They ate in an obscure Indian
130 restaurant on Fourth Avenue and Rodney insisted on ordering wine,
so that Ruth was almost immediately drunk. Rodney talked cleverly
but Ruth hadn't talked to anyone for so long she couldn't remember
how, so she just sat listening, nodding and smiling, feeUng euphoric
from the wine and the sound of his voice. After dinner, he said she
hadn't yet seen the place he was living in now, so they went to his
place and he served coffee and some sickly sweet stuff which he said
was an excellent liqueur.
There had been a time when Rodney's conversation had irritated
her because he was such a liberal. Ruth thought liberalism was the
politics of the chocolate givers; handing chocolate bars to Vietnamese
children maimed and orphaned by war. But now it was really
pleasant to hear him talk. Ruth hadn't thought anything had
happened anywhere in the world during those weeks of silence, but
apparently the war had gone on, and there had been the usual
number of crises, as one would expect of the dying capitaUst empire.
But then, the inevitable moment arrived and Rodney came to sit
beside her. His kiss was pleasant and famiUar, but after a while
Ruth reaUzed that she was being competently and casually seduced
once again and what a stupid thing that was to have done. She
jerked away from him and went to sit on the other side of the
room, staring at him malevolently. Rodney was nothing if not
smoothly polite, so he pretended nothing untoward had happened,
and began talking about his work, meanwhile circling the room to
get closer again.
Rodney, she interrupted him abruptly, you said we were friends,
what does that mean? He looked uncomfortable as he always did
whenever anything to do with emotions was mentioned, and muttered that he liked her and they were friends. Friends don't fuck,
she said, or at least there's more to both friendship and fucking than
you make out. Rodney now looked extremely unhappy because he
didn't like to call fucking fucking; he didn't like to call it anything
at all, he only wanted to do it while pretending he wasn't really. If
we're friends, Ruth said, why is it almost a year since the last time
I saw you? Rodney said it wasn't his fault, she had worked out of
town and then she hadn't been home when he called. Ruth said
there were ways of getting around aU that. He said, struggling
manfully to make sure she understood the exact amount of distance
he wanted between them, that he had thought she wanted to get
married and he didn't want to marry. Ruth was really puzzled by
that and she said she didn't want to get married. You said you
l3l loved me, Rodney said. Sure, sure, I love you. I love my mother
also, and Charlotte, and . . . Bertrand Russell. Rodney shrugged and
asked if she wanted more coffee and Ruth said no, she wanted
to go home now. She would have Uked to walk, but he insisted on
driving her. He kissed her again, said he'd been happy to see her,
and that he'd call her soon.
Ruth looked at him curiously under the porch light. Why did you
say that? Say what? That you'd call soon — you always say that
and I always befieve you, but it never happens. We've already been
through that, he said unhappily. Ruth couldn't remember, but if
Rodney said so, they must have already been through that. Don't
call again, she said. Okay. She waited for him to say something else
but he was already turning to leave. Is that all, Rodney? I'm sorry
you feel that way, of course, but if you've made up your mind
there's not much I can do about it. I've decided to become a lesbian,
she told him. Oh? Yeah. Urn . . . why would you want to do that?
Why not? Look, he said, if we're going to stand here talking, why
don't we go in? No. Okay, then just tell me why you want to take
up homosexuaUty.
I don't, Ruth said, and won't probably. I'm only using it as a
symbol. Or something. This being still the age of Freud when only
the symboUc is real. What I mean is this is a man's world and Uke
.. . women should have some power. I shouldn't have to hover
hopefully on the edge of your Ufe Uke this. I should have other
choices. Screw as well as be screwed. No ... I mean, Uke enough
power so nobody gets screwed. That's not. .. See, I'm talking about
it as if it were a sexual matter, and I don't reaUy mean to participate
in that perversion. What I mean is about life and why. .. Being
part of society . . . Like, the community including everyone, not for
the benefit of a few . . . Well, what the fuck, how could I know
what I'm talking about when I don't know what I'm talking about?
How would I know about communities, never having Uved in one?
She couldn't think of anything else to say so she smiled weakly
and apologetically, and then went inside. She watched Rodney
through the window. He started the car and sat for a while with
his hand on the gearshift, then threw the car in gear and drove
rapidly away.
Ruth turned on the tv long enough to hear about the invasion of
Czechoslovakia and then went to bed. She put a piUow over her
head so she could dream about being deaf again and drifting away
in the canoe to where there was only endless time and silence.
The mother wanted to see the child.
What difference did it make to her
That the child was large as a tree,
Had interests,
Had things in her ears caUed earrings?
She sent the 4 winds out looking
But they came back with letters
Stamped address unknown.
The mother sent out the storm clouds
Shaped into ears.
They came back empty,
And utterly dry.
The mother decided to consult her mother
Who Uved in an album.
She pressed her fingers onto the faces,
Tiny as coins. Finally, she heard it,
A voice calUng sickness.
She lay down in front of the mirror,
She began wrinkUng herself like a prune;
She took on the color of scouring powder.
She took a deep breath and her bones
Began elbowing her skin.
The child was hidden in a forest.
She spent her time reading a book.
All day, she heard something
In the voice of the crow.
Finally, she spread her deck of cards
In a fan on the floor.
*33 She turned three of them up;
All three were hearts.
She picked up her small sflver mirror
Covered with cupids and flowers and birds.
She looked at the cards in its face.
There were three queens of spades.
The chUd went to the mirror.
There was the mother, barely aUve.
The child put on her robe,
And stepped through the mirror into the room.
The mother's eye barely moved.
Her breath was thinner than thread.
The child bent over, calling her name.
The mother sat straight up
She plumped up like a fig.
Ingrate I she screamed.
She took the bone from her arm
And hit the child on the head.
The child lay stiU,
A pool of earrings and silk.
The mother pulled on her girdle.
She stepped over the body.
She caUed for the nurse.
She checked on visiting hours.
She urged care on the nurse
Lifting the child to the bed.
She bent over the child;
She cradled her hand.
134 She stepped through the mirror,
Neat as a pin. She told the nurse,
Take care of my baby.
She caUed back to the child
Don't worry about a thing.
I'll come everyday.
And she did.
Susan Fromberg Schaeffer is an Assistant Professor at Brooklyn College.
Her poems have appeared in a variety of magazines in Britain and North
America. Two volumes of poetry, The Witch and the Weather Report and
Nearer and Nearer to the Beak of the Crow, will appear this year. Her novel,
Dream of the Flat Earth, will be published by the Macmillan Company in
Translated from the French by Betti Hamilton
10    We must distinguish
the voice of the sea
which is cracks and clamour
from the voice of the mountain
which fills space
without a fold.
21    Suddenly the dry point of the compass
an animal which tries at first to flee
but pinned to the ground
it starts to howl
while the other point
rapidly receding
draws a circle on the sea.
22    Stones
feel neither hunger nor thirst.
Only our flesh
after stones.
136 23    The young fir tree
looks so much like the bear cub
that they could be taken for brothers
Uke Ughtning and the window pane.
87    The cat
shares with the sun
the absence
of its body.
Later the sun prowls
around the bones.
Pierre Garnier is the author of several collections of poetry, the translator of
a number of works, mainly poetry, from German, and a forerunner in the art
of Concrete and Spatial poetry. Betti Hamilton is the soul survivor of 18
years in northern British Columbia. Her education was interspersed with two
years residence in Paris. She recently graduated in French from the University
of British Columbia. The following poems are taken from Perpetuum Mobile,
Gallimard, Paris, 1968.
137 THREE POEMS BY 422-902-510 HB
from The 1st Coming
I can remember the clay, way way back, long time ago, before
semen or navels, before human grunts, before hair and sweat, I can
remember the clay;
how the strong Hands of God descended and
plucked out the perfect flowers He created the day before, wormed
His Fingers into the soil and clay to remove roots. (He could have
snapped His Fingers, bUnked an Eye, or squeezed a Pimple and the
flowers would have vanished, poof, root and aU.)
I can remember the
clay being worked in His Hands, Sweat dripping from His Brow.
He demanded of HimseU that man would be perfect and not
perfect, not too perfect, just perfect enough. His Fingers had to be
calUpers, His Hand controlled with an exact knowledge of geometry
and chemistry.
I can remember the clay, way way back, long time
ago, beyond the corridors of knowledge, way way back.
UgUness is a daydream of beauty. Clay is my final ancestor.
Catholicism is a comfortable con—cept. Without God I would fall.
Because of my pride in flesh and blood I wiU not place in my
arm-pit a religious crutch. Let me identify with crawling; it is more
irrational than mere Umping.
your untouched breasts
bother me
like metaphysical questions
138 My Messiah!  My Messiah!  Oh Christ, I am waiting for Your
arrival on a boeing 747. Dorval is so organized without You.
Watch how my blasphemies become tumors in the wind, wing their
way to back aUeys to comfort neglected shadows. Your prayers sit
Uke proud eagles on the tops of skyscrapers. Your songs are the
familar pigeons of ruins. See how they shit into the aUeys.
For my
part I must blaspheme. My voice is for a drunken silence sUding
along brick walls. Watch how I inject my words with hard narcotics, how they slump into a nod. The nightmares no longer
Never forget where the roots of roses dweU. Beauty draws blood
with its thorns. From larvae resurrect the soft moths of darkness,
criminels de quietude.
is it the stuff
that beauty rises from
that beauty conquers
and destroys
that beauty falls into?1
1 From the poem "Call It Creative," pp. 48, 49, Walking On The Greenhouse
Roof, by Wally Keeler,  1969.
139 All males past puberty tend to have hair growing from their balls,
not too thick, just thick enough to leave the impression that they
were woven by spiders and that the wrinkled sac was the booty the
web captured.
(Darling Divine I love you, how your muscles strain, how beads of
sweat Uke pinballs flow down your chest. Dariing Divine I love
For my sake be gentle. Don't tug or pull too hard. Don't
crush. For my sake be gentle. Carry it in your open palm like a
valuable coin you don't mind losing.
It does n't matter who you make
For Christ's sake
Straighten me out!
And this next piece of Coming explains my disbelief in .. . uh, uh
... what's-his-name . . .uh . . . God.
140 You may have discovered a few strange truths, or maybe unstrange
truths commonly called famiUar truths written in a strange way.
Perhaps it is all a trick with mirrors, sleights of language. Perhaps,
If God should strike me with Ughtning, caU my death suicide-
wiU give credit to no one.
from The 7th Coming
A Uttle rain is dew faUen from angel's wings when they wake.
you see an angel you are witness to a miracle. I would Uke to see
an angel. Would you forgive me if I feU in love with an angel? I
would fall in love at first sight I know.
There is only one way to
earn wings. (Prayers are such smaU currency when wings are so
expensive.) Your face must be glowing before you can have wings.
I am sure of that because the saints had glowing faces.
Oh! I would
faU in love with an angel the moment I saw one. I would die to be an
You have to do that you know, die. Death comes before angels.
You cannot commit suicide. Suicide disqualifies you. My father was
After Death leaves you are eUgible for wings. Angels
know if you are eUgible or not.
(God knows too but He leaves the
matter of wings to His subordinates. God is power; angels are
beauty. I am not a lover of power. Forgive me if I faU in love with
an angel.)
Death is something you purchase at a sale and the goods
are non-returnable and satisfaction is always guaranteed. (Does
Krauman's Pharmacy have many sales?) I hope there is Uttle pain
in growing wings.
I want to be an angel some day. If I eat the right
foods, recite the proper prayers, and fuck only virgins, wfll I be an
angel? Forgive me, I have fallen in love.
from the 10th Coming
The lack of research and study into the psychology of rooms is
deplorable. Rooms are important. There are as many different
rooms as there are people who inhabit them. In rooms occur
murder, the act of love, compromise and deals. FamiUar rooms hang
from their walls the remnants of relatives.
Drawers are Uttle rooms
for effects of the body, whereas rooms are usually for bodies.
Drawers contain diaries, knives, sweaters, prophylactics, cold creams,
socks .. . Drawers are rooms without a room, Uke fish in the sea,
Uke a cock in a condom in a cunt. Things used in a room are usuaUy
suppUed by a drawer.
And floors? What of ceilings? Are walls the
vows taken in the holy matrimony of floor and ceiling? Are walls the
separation papers of floor and ceiUng? What are walls anyway?
are the most expensive inhabitants of rooms because they neglect
everything but each other. Passion can be measured by the lovers'
ignorance of the presence of Alice who stepped in through the
bathroom medicine cabinet mirror or concave shaving mirror; it
hardly matters.
Rooms nurture and cocoon rumours of love. Rooms
are selfish this way. But if we wait long enough, and if the room is
cheap enough, or until the lovers let webs spin in the corners, sag
with discarded dreams, some rumours will seep out under the door
Uke a warm pool of blood.
And I offer these revelations, these blood-
puddles smothering the Unoleum. I caU them "Uncoordinated Fragments Of / From A Room" because there is nothing else to caU
them. The something I call them is your driver's Ucence in case of a
confrontation with the conscience cops.
143 "... in the off-on neon dimness of cheap hotel rooms." In the
after-noon-mornings the floor would be a snowbank of poems, the
crumpled ones too proud, the bent ones beggar-masterpieces.
corpses of self-conscious underwear wreath the bed.
DeUna I love you
but let us read each other only.
I leave my lovers behind Uke a trail
of skid-marks.
Privacy is a dark secret. Hands are private.
Sometimes my poems are dust-bins. Late lonely nights I return to
the love-pits and sweep up the left-overs. Does this mean I have a
clean record? Have I gone clean? The man picking his nose is
doing nothing else.
Miracles are the dust particles fallen from the
wind-wings of angels.
I never knew her name — just her mouth.
A room Ues between the
folded wings of a moth. (O candle tease sweetly) The walls are
usually soft. The girl is usually naked. I am usuaUy seeing things;
celebrating. Tattered curtains are of no concern. Beneath the
blanket her knees are drawn up, her cheek married to them, her
arms embracing them. Her back is bare and lovely bones. Her hair
is Uke the curtains. Is there any reason for speaking? Silence is a
spider weaving us .. .
422-902-510 HB is the designation now used for all purposes by the former
Wally Keeler. He adopted it during the inauguration of the People's Republic
of Poetry in Belleville, Ontario, in March 1972. As Wally Keeler he is the
author of one book of poetry, Walking on the Greenhouse Roof, published by
Delta Canada.
4i2 2-902-510   HB   (formerly Wally Keeler)
The moon supposed to be not
touched. No one suppose to
go there.
The moon takes root
In this fallen cairn
This ancient altar
At the top of the ridge.
Lured by its Ught
Between the stones
I wander down
The inner staircase
Through bones
And scroUed maps
Through artless gods
Half eaten away.
I pass through
Tunnels and caves
Over mounds of hides
And wooden knives;
Capilano Indian
H5 Drawn by the moon
To the quiet Ught
Into its camp
Of shaggy nomads.
They circle and
Squat Uke boulders
Graze the roundness
Of my head.
They smell the blossoms
Of my ears
And Uft and pull
My tongue to watch it
Slip Uke a fish
Through their hands.
CoddUng my testicles
They whisper to my feet
The invention
Of my name.
Though the decks are warped,
The huU split and
Stowed with fireweed,
The Casca's beU stiU
Clangs in the wind;
It calls me out
Over the alder flats,
Drawing me closer
Until its sound
Pounds Uke the pulse
Of the riotous miners
Who float from beneath
The giant paddle,
And lure me
Into the luminous dark,
The undercurrent of the dead.
The wolves scratch the belt
From Orion's waist
And whirl it like a scarf
As they dance down the valley
HowUng drunk on whiskey
Fired by the moon.
They sneak on to the porch
And naU it above my door
Then scramble innocently
Over the hills
To snatch the frocks
From the Seven Sisters.
Robert A. Hedin is currently in the M.F.A. programme at the University of
Translated from the Serbo-Croatian by Slobodan Stefanovich
Easiest was the ascent,
and before that
The decision there, in the dust, at the base
Of the pillar that was perfect even without me —
Here I am now, in balance,
I fly without wings, I fly around the infinite point,
Neither sky nor earth;
here on top of the piUar
Where I have begun to doubt —
Look, my thighs are withering and my ribs
Curiously protrude; the flesh devoured by the poison
Of time undigested,
here on top of the pillar
Where the wind sways me, where I burn like a candle,
Though the candle does not change;
All I have is words,
Blessings on the market, on the murmur under the pillar,
On the rubbing of the mules, on the tinkling of the scales —
And the stars, hardly any closer,
At night when the square is empty, and my shadow
Unhappy on the clear outUne of the pillar's shadow:
By my ashes you shall know me.
The sea endured us, occupied with the eternity
In itself; and so we sailed, from shore
To shore, for days, nights, years.
The most beautiful shores, of course, we did not touch.
Only the wind carried torn fibers of fragrance
From the immense orchards at the end of the world,
Which were off our course; but we came to know
Love and death, and gained a Uttle sense,
Hard granules of gold in the sand of memories;
Yes, and the pride of adventure, stained with blood
And washed in the clean winds, under the stars
On which we clumsily engraved our names.
In the end we returned whence we had set out;
The crew scattered like a necklace; the thread
Of our destiny broke. The captain was crushed by the prow of
the ship.
The sea remained unchanged. Everything remained unchanged.
The ship with flowering ribs rots on the departing shore.
But only a few know the secret:
the end is not important,
Important is only the saiUng.
And we were sometimes so frighteningly close
To the homeland,
immediately on the other side
Of the thinned air; we listened
For the swift winged words, to the sense surmised
In the artless translation of the Ughtning;
Frightened, we would flee into the illusion
Of time, into a false equiUbrium —
Our essential memories are images seen at waking:
Chestnut and wild fig, and slow flame
Among ruins,
and everything we caU memory
Shines at the tip of a long, bright needle
Where the taste of fire mingles with silence
In the air above the short-Uved silver
Of the sea between two storms.
Here is the Une where the song hesitates,
Here is the wind that spits on the candle, turns
The bird back in its flight, breaks the bones.
Here is my broken echo, syllables blinded
At the touch of the bestial air of a foreign land —
It is time for death again.
They will pull out my tongue, swollen
Into bitter buds, tear from the shoulder
My arm with the lyre,
too late —
Already I am on the other side,
AUeady in the homeland, among the unravelUng of roots,
Already rising, I recognize the corridor —
O, circular path, terrible, perfect,
Here is the time for song.
Ivan V. Lalic was born in Belgrade in 1931, where he still lives. He has
written poetry and radio dramas, and has translated from French the poetry
of Pierre Jean Jouve. He has published a selection of his translations in an
Anthology of Modern French Lyric Poetry. Slobodan Stefanovich was born
in Yugoslavia in 1943 and came to Canada in 1966. He majored in Russian
language and literature at the University of British Columbia, where he is
currently studying comparative literature.
atwood, margaret, Surfacing, 1972, McClelland and Stewart, fiction, 19a pps.,
bell, don, Saturday Night at the Bagel Factory, 1972, McClelland and Stewart,
fiction, 208 pps., $6.95.
brewster,  Elizabeth,  Sunrise North,   1972,  Clarke  Irwin,  poetry,  87  pps.,
Classen, h. g., The Time is Never Ripe, 1972, Centaur Press, essays, 256 pps.,
$3.50 paperback, $6.95 hardcover.
eaton, charles edward, The Girl from Ipanema, 1972, North Country Publishing Co., short stories, 193 pps., $5.95.
ekelof, gunnar, Selected Poems, translated by W. H. Auden and Leif Sjoberg,
Pantheon Books, 1972, 141 pps., $5.94.
ellenbogen, george, The Night Unstones, The New Cambridge Series of
American Writers, Identity Press, Cambridge, poetry, 1972, 67 pps., $4.50
hardcover, $2.25 paperback.
gustafson, ralph, Selected Poems, McClelland and Stewart, 1972, 128 pps.,
metcalf,  john,  Going Down Slow,   1972, McClelland and  Stewart, fiction,
178 pps., $6.95.
University of British Columbia
Hours: Weekdays 8:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
153 mow at,  farley, A  Whale for the Killing,  1972,  McClelland and  Stewart,
fiction, 240 pps., $6.95.
Phillips, louis, The Emancipation of the Encyclopedia Salesman, 1972, Prologue Press, New York, narrative poem, $1.00.
richler, mordecai, Shovelling Trouble, 1972, McClelland and Stewart, fiction,
158 pps., $6.95.
sarna, lazar, Mystics on a Picnic, 1972, Hillel Poetry Series (Four), Montreal,
basmajian, shant, Spare Change Poems, Old Nun Publication, 1972, Toronto,
90 pps., poetry.
Babel, International Journal of Translation, No. 2/1972, Vol. XVIII.
Blackfish,  Blackfish  Press,   1851   Moore  Avenue,   Burnaby,  B.C.,   paperback,
poetry, 75^ per copy, $2 for 3 issues.
Canadian Literature No. 53,  Summer   1972,  A  Quarterly of Criticism  and
Review, 112 pps., $2.00 per copy, paperback.
Chicago Review, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60647, Single: $1.50,
Subs:  $5.00 a year, $9.50 for 2 years, paperback.
Ellipse 10, A Quarterly Review of French and English Writers in Translation,
1972, $1.50.
for almost every taste
and purpose can be found,
easily, at
919 Robson
670 Seymour
4560 W. 10th Avenue
1032 W. Hastings
CA 4-7012
154 Epoch, published by Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14850, 1972, 334
pps., paperback, $3.00 per volume, $1 per copy.
Gnosis, Tri-annual of new poetry and short fiction, paperback, 48 pps., Single
issue $1.25, $3.00 per year, $5.00 for 2 years.
Is. 11, The Coach House Press, poetry, subscriptions: $5.00 for 3 issues, $1.50
per copy, 80 pps.
Mosaic, Journal for the Comparative Study of Literature and Ideas, published
by the University of Manitoba Press, 204 pps., $1.75.
Partisan Review, published at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, subscriptions:
$5.50 per year, $10.50 for 2 years, paperback, 292 pps.
The Carleton Miscellany, Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota 55057, 1972,
166 pps., paperback, $1.50 per copy, $3.00 per year.
The Greenfield Review, Vol. 2, Nos. 1 and 2, 1972, published by The Print
Center, Inc., New York, 64 pps., $1.00 per copy.
The Malahat Review, Edited by Robin Skelton, University of Victoria, Victoria,
B.C.,  1972, poetry,  152 pps., $1.25.
Overland, Quarterly Australian Literary Magazine, Autumn 1972, 50/51,
Subscriptions:   $2.00 per year.
The Paris Review, Interviews, Prose, Poetry, Art, 208 pps., $1.25, Winter 1972.
Quarry, Vol. 21, #2, Spring 1972, edited by W. J. Barnes, Quarterly Magazine,
published in Canada, 4 issues $4.00, 72 pps.
The Wormwood Review, Vol. 11, #3 and Vol. 12, #1, edited by M. Malone,
1971, poetry, 44 pps.
Unicorn Journal, 1972, published by Unicorn Press, Santa Barbara, Ca., edited
by Teo Savory, single copy $2.00, no pps., paperback.
Unmuzzled Ox, edited by Michael Andre, quarterly magazine, paperback, Vol.
') #3; '972, Subscriptions: $4.00 per year, $7.50 for 2 years, 57 pps.
University of Toronto Quarterly, A Canadian Journal of the Humanities, July
1970, 460 pps., subscriptions:  $6.00 per year.
West Coast Reviews, A Quarterly Magazine of the Arts, 1972, edited by
Frederick Candelaria: Peak Publications Society, Simon Fraser University,
$1.50 per volume, 64 pps.
Western Humanities Review, published by the University of Utah, 1972, 202
pps., $1.00 per copy, subscriptions:   $4.00 per year.
155 The Canadian Fiction
Editor: R. W. Stedingh
Fiction   Essays   Photos   Manifestoes   Reviews   Graphics
The Canadian Fiction Magazine is a journal of contemporary Canadian fiction. The editor invites manuscripts from writers residing in
Canada and/or Canadians writing in other countries. It is published
four times per year by the editor.
Past issues have included work by Eugene McNamara, Leon Rooke,
Michael Bullock, Lawrence Russell, J. Michael Yates, George Payerle,
Andreas Schroeder, George McWhirter, Glenn Clever and many others.
Future issues will include a complete novella by Linda Wikene Johnson
and fiction by such promising writers as Michael Mirolla, Don Thompson, Charles Lillard and Don Bailey.
The editor invites your support for this CANADIAN literary magazine.
Please send all donations, subscriptions, and manuscripts to:
The Canadian Fiction Magazine
The Canadian Fiction Magazine
I enclose $ for a year subscription to The Canadian
Fiction Magazine.
1 year — $ 5.00 2 years —$ 9.00 3 years—$13.00


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