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international
Summer igj8 $3.00
Special Canadian Under jo's Issue    international
Special Canadian
Under jo's Issue Editor-in-Chief
DONA STURMANIS
Associate Editors
MARGARET COE DON DICKINSON
KICO GONZALEZ
Editorial Assistants
DOUG BANKSON JANE MUNRO
DAVID BROWN ROBERT J. RANKIN
KIM CLARK MERRILEE ROBSON
HAL GRAY LINDA SVENDSEN
GEORGE MCWHIRTER TERRY THOMAS
Managing Editors
HAL GRAY SUE STEWART
HAL GRAY
Secretaries
DONA STURMANIS
Publicity
ROBERT J. RANKIN
Advisory Editor
GEORGE MCWHIRTER
\M
international
A JOURNAL OF
CONTEMPORARY WRITING This special issue of PRISM international is dedicated to
Canadian writers under thirty. It was our editorial intention to be as representative as possible of the quality and
variety of their work.
DONA STURMANIS
Editor-in-Chief CONTENTS
VOLUME  SEVENTEEN     NUMBER  ONE     SUMMER   1978
Rosemary Aubert
Three Poems
8
Deirdre Ballantyne
May'78 (poem)
12
Peter Behrens
Morning, Valley of the Ten Peaks
15
Robert Billings
Two Poems
24
A. Blackfeather
Two Poems
27
Roo Borson
Collected Landscapes: Parti (poem)
30
Marilyn Bowering
Four Poems
32
David Brooks
Two Poems
36
Jean E. Brown
Child
39
Michael Cameron
The Ottawa Valley
43
Francine Corcos
Two Poems
45
Emilia Corning
Dance
47
Lome   Daniel
Two Poems
60
Barry Dempster
Two Poems
64
Dier Giorgio Di Cicco
Three Poems
68
Mary di Michele
Two Poems
7i
Patricia Eddy
Two Poems
73
Andre Farkas
Two Poems
77
Mona Fertig
Two Poems
81
Cathy Ford
Three Poems
83
Kathleen Forsythe
VII (poem)
87
Robin Fulford
Capone: 33, 34, 38, 50. (poems)
88
Bill Gaston
Angel
92
Jeanette Gaudet
Two Poems
103
Katherine Govier
The Thief, Fables: III
105
Stephen Guppy
Two Poems
117
Laurence Hutchman
Two Poems
"9
Tim Inkster
Two Poems
123
Frances Itani
Two Poems
124
Mark Jarman
arms of the blues (poem)
126
M. T. Kelly
Two Poems
129
Theresa Kishkan
Two Poems
132
August Kleinzahler
Three Poems
'34
Judy Lassen
But in fiction, in a dream of passion . . .
137 Anne Le Dressay
Three Poems
140
Kim Maltman
Two Poems
143
Mike Mason
The Van
146
Paddy McCallum
Two Poems
154
Kathleen McCracken
Three Poems
157
Bob McGee
Two Poems
160
Gail McKay
Mask of the North North East (poem)
163
Theresa Moritz
Two Poems
165
Daniel Moses
Three Poems
168
Susan Musgrave
Three Poems
170
Ken Norris
Five Poems
173
Linda Pyke
Two Poems
176
Matt Santateresa
Two Poems
180
David Sharpe
Conquistadors (poem)
183
D. J. Simpson
Deja Vu Poem
189
Carolyn Smart
Two Poems
190
Peter MacLean Stevens
Two Poems
192
Richard Stevenson
Two Poems
194
Michael Todd
Two Poems
196
Doug Turner
The Change (poem)
199
Kurt Van Wilt
Two Poems
202
Mihkel Voore
Two Poems
204
Bronwen Wallace
Two Poems
206
Desmond Walsh
Three Poems
209
Patrick White
Two Poems
212
Andrew Wreggitt
Stampede
214
Notes on Contributors
222
Books: Canadian Under-30 Authors
227
cover: Ray 1978, Jane Needham. 24" x 24"
PRISM international, a journal of contemporary writing, is published twice a year
by the Department of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia,
Vancouver, B.C. v6t IW5. Annual subscriptions are $5.00, single copies $3.00,
obtainable by writing to the Editors at that address. Microfilm editions are
available from Xerox University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and reprints
(Vols. 1-5) from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, NYC.
PRISM international now appears twice-yearly in the Spring and Fall. The cost
of single issues is $3.00, and annual subscriptions are $5.00. Rosemary Aubert / Three Poems
POETS IN A CAFE
A mime
his face traditional white
his slippers amazingly black
makes a world of air
drawing it toward him
as though it were a rope,
leaning on air
as though it were a cane,
leading it by hand
like a child.
And on another corner
a man is telling a tale
about a practical princess
who slays a dragon
by means of her common sense.
His hat is two feet tall;
the well-dressed watching crowd
drops coins in it.
We applaud
throw in what we can spare.
Moving on, we stop at a cafe,
sit and write
the poem of it.
We mention, perhaps
the street as theatre
the theatre in the street —
the bursting of life into art
everywhere the eye trained into loving turns. We are doing it now,
writing poems among the rubble
of empty coffee cups,
moving with the mime
the teller of tales,
moving with the love
each of us has for all of us.
The well-dressed crowd
is watching
much appeased
to be getting a glimpse
of art in the making
for the price of cafe au lait.
We laugh
we write them in as well.
There is room
for the whole world here —
we are making
the whole world
out of air. MADNESS
I have seen the spider hanging
at its own odd angle
dangle defying gravity.
I have seen twin suns
cross in the sky
dual solstice, knit ecliptics.
This is not right.
I have read the wings of moths
wherein is told the law of flight.
I have watched the splintered moon
rise half in the east, half in the west
and meet at the zenith, full.
This is wrong.
I have heard the voices of insects
that ring from the planks
of my house,
antennae vibrate my name.
Pinwheel comets over my roof
redden the sky with circular flame.
This is false.
I cut the cosmos
with the razor of reason
thin as the wing of a fly.
I know which planet is real
I have seen them both
and I am not afraid.
10 LOVE POEM
I want
to make a myth of you,
to postulate
the miraculous feats of your youth,
the dragons you slew
in countries beyond the place
where sea receives the sun.
I want a story
of you wandering like Ishmael
city to city, heart to heart.
I want you empty
like a finished god
surveying the world he knows
with wise scrutiny
with scorn for the weak-at-heart.
I want you to be Ulysses
looking for one last escapade
and I want to be
your final adventure.
11 Deirdre Ballantyne
MAY '78
there was a night
I remember colors:
two moth-green candles
scented (the fragrance
we couldn't name)
squat
sealing wafers of wax
to an orange plastic dish
(I think of Necco Wafers
the penny rolls
I bought as a child
at the corner store
spreading out the pastel
powdery discs
ceremoniously choosing
a different color each time
green . . . lime
such sweet coin!
the pinkish brown chocolate
ones were best)
plates of spaghetti .. .
flaming reds
curling upward
we
the silent fire-eaters
throats burning
12 with words unsaid
white somewhere . . .
a towel
a robe    blue lines .. .
Rupert Brooke's white cups
clean-gleaming ringed
with blue lines . . .
(I have been that kind
of lover)
the corner of a sheet?
quickening
in the corner of an eye
a visable pulse
(always with you
childhood images revive
breathe a sharper air
catch at the present
explaining:
red sun outside
the imaginary garden
beyond the unlatched
windowframe
l3 in the night-black:
a rounder vision)
fingers playing
in wheat colored hairs
across your chest
and down
to discover
in a darker field
dreamlike we moved
in and out of yellow
lamplight
mind's dimensions
out of focus
and as two lotus-eaters
our bodies revolved
suspended
between the deepening colors
of Mozart's music
a record turning
and the silver glints
(fish under dusk-violet-water)
of airplanes
mobile. . .
slowly turning Peter Behrens
MORNING, VALLEY OF THE TEN PEAKS
"No," he said, "it doesn't hurt at all." He closed his eyes. "I'm
cold," he said. I'm cold and then I'm warm and then I'm cold
again. Its very strange, I can't believe it's happening."
His face had been badly scratched and a bruise was beginning to
colour on his cheekbone. I had limbed off as much of the tree as I
could and the sweet-smelling pine boughs were scattered on the
ground around us. I sat beside him on the thin, cold ground and
waited.
It was still very early, it was one of those hard blue mornings in
the Rockies and the air was glassy and sharp. It was the second week
of October and the small brook down at the trailhead, where we'd
filled our tea-cans before starting up to the site, had been glossed
over with a thin, soft sheeting of ice.
In another hour the sun would reach us and burn off that bitter
edge which morning has, in the mountains. It was always cold for
the first couple of hours, until the sun was high enough to reach us.
It was always warm enough by noon, even in October.
We'd only been working an hour or so when he'd done it.
We were cutting out a new trail for the Parks Department, we'd
been working up at the Valley for three weeks. It had taken them
all summer to survey the thing out, chain and ribbon it — and we
were the first clearing crew. After we had finished taking out the
timber a grubbing crew would go through with axes, picks and
mattocks, peeling off the humus, digging out roots and rocks and
levelling off the trail.
We were working in a hurry, they wanted the trail dusted off and
done before the frost set in too deeply. Late October, there, in the
mountains — you never know when the snow might come.
He had been working up ahead of us when it happened, he was
cutting through a stand of big, wavy jackpines that had been tagged
to come down. Ello and I were a hundred yards or so back on the
trail, limbing the trees he'd already fallen and bucking them up to
firewood. We heard her snap — it can be loud as a gunshot, you
know, especially in that high clear air, after a dry summer. We
15 heard her snap and we heard him scream, and we dropped our saws
and ran down the trail and found him.
The third tree in the stand he'd been working had snapped off
coming down, and a twenty-foot top section had caught him on its
way and pinned him to the cold earth. It looked to us like his back
had been broken and he was pinned in such a way that we were
afraid to slice up the main branch and lift it from him. Pinned
there, in the early morning, on the cold earth, in the Rockies, his
young face smeared with blood, dust and black, tarry gobs of pine-
gum.
We had cut away what we could of the branches and Ello headed
off down the trail for the truck we'd left back at the trailhead. It was
a mile back down to the truck and fifteen from there, along the fire-
road, to Lake Louise. Ello would do it as quick as anyone could but
it would be an hour at least before he got back with help; and then,
if he made it in time, god knows what a trip we would have going
down the mountain with that stretcher.
He'd been in some pain just after Ello left. It was very bad then,
the shock more than anything, and he cried and begged me to use
the gun and end it for him. We kept a rifle up on the trail with us,
you always had to keep an eye out for grizzly in that part of the
Valley, especially in October. But it was only for a few minutes and
then the pain seemed to pass and he was quiet.
I crouched over a little fire I'd started up, blowing it to life and
then setting the teacan on to boil.
I looked at him over my shoulder. "It's better now," I said, "isn't
it? It doesn't hurt so much. You see?"
"Yes," he said. "Yes, it's better, it feels much better."
"It's not so bad."
"It's better, I don't know what I was thinking of."
"Don't worry about it, I wasn't even listening."
I turned from the fire and looked at him. He was a young kid,
twenty-one at the outside, and he'd only been with us a week. The
Department had sent him up when it looked like the two of us might
not be able to make it through quick enough. He'd been working on
a grub crew down at Fortymile. He'd used a saw before, though —
he wasn't a bad worker.
I pulled out my handkerchief and dipped it into one of the water-
cans. "I'm going to wipe off your face," I said. "You've got a few
good scratches, I think I'd better clean them out." I knelt down
beside him and began dabbing at the cuts with the handkerchief
16 and the cold water. "You've got some good ones here, you'll have a
couple of scars for a while. Nothing too bad. Scratches, really."
"How long is it?" he said.
"Ten minutes. He should be at the truck by now." There was a
small hospital at Lake Louise, but the wardens had a helicopter and
I knew they'd probably want to fly him right down to Calgary.
"I feel a lot better," he said, "I wish you could get this damn tree
off me."
"We'll wait till they come back. We'll move you then. We have
to be careful, have to take it slow."
"It's not so bad," he said, "it's not so bad as I first thought. It
was crazy, asking you to shoot — I'm cold. That's my problem, I'm
very cold." His teeth were beginning to chatter, the bruise on his
cheekbone had coloured in blue.
"Hang on," I said, "just hang on, they'll be here soon."
"It would have been suicide," he said, "it would have been
murder."
"That's right, I couldn't have done it."
"It was stupid. I should have been watching for it. I heard it go,
I heard the crack. I was pushing her down with my shoulder, I
wanted her to drop right back on the trail so the limbing would have
been easier. I didn't look up, but I heard it — "
"Don't worry about it."
"Do you think they'll get here in time?"
"What do you mean?"
"In time," he said. "Before it comes again. The pain."
"Oh yeah. They'll be here soon."
"How long?"
"Soon. Half an hour. A little longer, maybe."
"Because I don't think I could stand it, you know. It's all right
now, but I don't think I could stand it again."
"They'll be here soon. They'll give you something and you won't
feel it. We'll get you down the trail and they'll probably fly you
straight to Calgary."
"I'd ask you to use the gun if it came again. I know it would be
murder but I'd still ask you to do it. You'd have to. I couldn't stand
it again."
"Don't think about it. Think about something else."
"What?" he said. His voice was thin and dry and weak, an old
man's voice. "What can I think about?"
17 The tea-can was beginning to boil. I reached over and dropped in
a couple of bags, then moved the can out of the flames and let it
simmer. I wasn't sure whether he would drink or whether I should
even give him any, but it was all I had and if he wanted some I
would have let him have it.
"Do you want some tea?"
"Yes. Yes."
I poured some into a cup and set it down to cool.
"It smells good," he said. "I can smell it."
"Want some sugar? I've a couple of packs in my pocket, saved
them from the restaurant this morning."
"No," he said, "sugar spoils it. It's got to be pure, otherwise you
waste it, you ruin the flavour. It isn't tea when you drink it with
sugar."
I blew a little on the cup to cool it, and knelt down beside him.
"We've got to do this carefully," I said. "Don't move your head. I'm
going to hold the cup to your mouth and tip it in, a little at a time.
Swallow a little bit and tell me if it hurts you."
I tipped not more than a spoonful of tea against his lips. Most of
it dribbled down his chin.
"It's good," he said, "It's good, I can taste it."
"Want some more?"
"Another cup," he said. "Just one more cup. It's your tea, I don't
want to drink all of it. It's very good, though. You should try it
sometime without sugar."
I tipped out another spoonful and he licked his lips. "That's all,"
he said, "maybe I'll have another cup later. You have some yourself
now."
I poured some tea into the cup and added sugar from a paper
packet. I took some cigarettes out from the pocket of my shirt.
"How about a cigarette? I can hold it for you, you can take a few
puffs."
"That would be fine."
"It's the way Humphrey Bogart used to do it."
"I never saw any of those movies."
"You really missed something there. You really did. Those were
great movies." I lit a cigarette and took a couple of puffs, then I
held it to his lips and he took a short drag, holding the smoke for an
instant in his cheeks and then blowing it out very gently.
"How does that feel?"
"Good," he said, "it feels good. I never smoked before."
18 I took another puff and then held it down for him again. "Lauren
Bacall used to hold out Bogie's cigarettes for him, like this. I remember in The Big Sleep — that was a great movie — Bogie had been
stomped by the heavies and Bacall — she was this spoiled rich girl,
that was the part she played — well, he was beaten up, and roped
into a chair, and she was there and she wanted to help him but she
didn't know how. You see, everything was mixed up and he didn't
even know whose side she was on, she didn't really know herself,
except she was in love with him, and all she could do was light up
one of his Chesterfields and hold it for him. He'd take a few puffs
and she'd take it back and maybe have one herself, and when he
wanted it she'd give it to him again. It was the sexiest scene in the
movie. It was beautiful."
"What was the name of it?"
"It was called The Big Sleep."
"The Big Sleep?"
"Yeah, it was a Harold Hawks picture. He made some great ones.
I'm surprised you never seen it."
"I never went to movies much."
"You missed a lot, never seeing a Bogie picture."
He had stopped shivering and I figured maybe the little splash of
tea he'd had had maybe done him some good. It was better than
nothing, anyhow. It was better than just lying there, it was better
than waiting.
I figured we had maybe forty minutes to go, if the truck had
started right away and if the road into Lake Louise was in good
shape. I thought maybe he would be able to hang on after all.
I'd seen it before, you see; I'd seen it a couple of times. Not like
Ello and some of the others have seen it, the guys who came up from
the States after Viet Nam. But I've been in the woods for ten years
and before that I worked in construction, and even on a drilling rig
for a while, and I've seen it enough.
He was young, though, he was younger than me when I started.
I'll bet he'd never seen it. He was one of those college kids from the
East. There's a lot of them around the Park now, college kids and
hippies — they come out for the summer and they find a job in
Banff or in one of the hotels. Most of them go back in September
but some of them stay on. They get to like the mountains and the
work and they stay on and some of them never go back. Dave —
that was his name — he was one of them that stayed out when the
summer was over. It was the first real work he'd done, I guess — his
19 summer on the grub crew — and he liked it enough to stay on and
get himself hired for timber-work, turning in the pick-and-shovel for
a saw.
I pulled out my watch from the pocket of my jeans. It was a
quarter of nine, not long before the sun would reach us.
"Sun'll get here soon," I told him. "It'll warm us up. You'll feel
better then."
"I feel okay now," Dave said.
"That's good."
"It was awful at first."
"Don't talk about it, talk about something else."
"What?"
"Talk about the movies. Haven't you ever seen a movie?"
"Sure."
"But never any Bogart?"
"No."
"What you seen, then? You seen that big space picture, Star
Wars? That one with all the robots?"
"No."
"Well, what have you seen?"
"I saw Annie Hall last year in Toronto."
"Oh yeah? That's a fine movie, isn't it? I seen that when it was
playing down at Canmore. That's a fine film. She's one pretty girl,
isn't she?"
"Yeah."
"If you're getting tired, you know, maybe you shouldn't talk." His
voice was very weak and one of his eyelids had started twitching.
He closed his eyes.
"You should rest up, you know, save your strength. It's going to
be a rough trip down the mountain for you. We'll have to carry you
on a stretcher, I guess — me and Ello and the folks from the hospital.
We'll get you into the helicopter and they'll take you to Calgary.
There's that new hospital, you know, that they just built last year.
It's a good one, my brother-in-law he was there over Christmas.
Ulcers — that's what he's got. He said it was a damn good hospital.
That's where they'll probably take you."
He opened his eyes. His breath had been coming all right till then
but now he was starting to wheeze a bit, very softly, and there was a
trickle of saliva at the corner of his mouth.
"It's starting to hurt again," he said, "My arm, I think I must
have broken it."
20 "Just keep still. It'll go away. Keep still and forget about it. Do
you want some more tea?"
He closed his eyes again. "I can feel it starting."
"Have some tea," I said. "Don't worry, they'll be here soon.
They'll set your arm for you, put it in a cast."
"It hurts, it hurts." He was beginning to cry again.
"Don't think about it. I'm going to make some more tea. Do you
want a cigarette?"
"How long?" he said.
"Nine, it's close to nine. They'll be here soon, they'll be walking
up the trail and you'll hear them, and we'll get the tree off you and
get you into a stretcher and take you down."
"How long?" he said.
"Soon. Soon. Don't think about it, think of something else, think
of the movies."
"I don't like the movies."
"You never saw Bogart, that's why you don't like the movies. If
you'd seen Casablanca you'd think different. That was a great
movie, that was the best ever. I can't believe you never went to
see it."
"I used to go to plays."
"You did, eh? I never been to one, not a real one. They have
them on in town sometimes, over the winter. At the high school, you
know, with kids acting. I been to some of those."
"I went to lots of plays," he said, "my parents always took me
when I was a kid. We went to New York once, we saw three plays
on Broadway."
"Really? New York, eh? That must be something."
"In Toronto, too. I've seen lots of plays."
"You like them better than the movies, eh? You ever seen The
Caine Mutiny? That was a play. Bogart was in the movie, he was
the Captain. He was crazy, he had these little steel balls he kept
rolling together in the palm of his hand. When he was nervous, you
know. He was a very nervous guy. He was a loony, he'd been in the
war too long. You ever seen that play? There was another Navy
picture, with Fonda, Henry Fonda — it was a play, made a really
good movie. Mister Roberts, you ever seen that?"
"No."
"What plays you seen then?" I dipped my handkerchief into the
water and wiped away the spittle that had dribbled to his chin. "You
21 sure you don't want another smoke? I got plenty here, I got a whole
pack, I just picked them up at the restaurant this morning."
"I'm not so cold."
"That's good, that's a good sign. And the sun'll reach us soon,
you'll be good and warm then."
"You wouldn't get the gun, would you?" he said. "You wouldn't
get the gun? You could give it to me, I could do it."
"No," I said. "Forget it. They'll be up here soon. Forget it." I
tapped out a cigarette and lit it up quickly. "You sure you don't
want a smoke? It's a drug, you know — the nicotine. It's a narcotic.
It'll help."
He sucked weakly on the cigarette when I held it to his lips. He
blew out a little cloud of smoke and coughed.
"It doesn't really help," he said, "it doesn't help at all."
"Don't worry, they'll be here soon."
"How long? How long?"
"Don't think about it."
"It's cold. I'm cold again. It hurts."
"He'll be in town by now, they'll be starting out in the 'copter."
"It's cold, it's cold, I can feel it coming."
"The sun, look at the sun!"
"I can't see it." His voice was very weak. "I can't see it, I don't
care. Give me the gun, give it to me."
I took a drag on my cigarette. "Listen," I said, "I can hear them,
I can hear them coming up the trail."
He was crying, sobbing very softly, the only noise in those morning woods. After a while he quietened but he was losing consciousness very quickly. He said a few more words, I couldn't catch them.
He was warm enough, I think, towards the end. I kept talking for a
while so that he would know someone was there. After a while I
stopped and lit another cigarette. I could hear his breathing, slow
shallow and rattling. It went on for a while and then it stopped. It
wasn't bad for him, it was very quiet.
I finished my cigarette, still sitting there, and then lit another and
another and had gone through most of the pack before I heard them
coming up the trail.
I stood up then, I could see them through the trees. Ello leading
the way and a park warden along behind him, and two hospital
people with medical packs and a rolled up stretcher trailing along
about fifty yards behind.
22 They arrived, red in the face, breathing hard, trembling from the
run they'd had.
"It's all right," I said, "he's gone, he's dead."
Ello sat down on a stump, breathing heavily, wiping at his face
with a handkerchief. "Aw, shit," he said. "Aw jesus, the poor little
guy"
The warden was leaning against a tree, trying to catch his breath.
The people from the hospital had arrived and were kneeling on the
ground beside him.
"How long?" said the warden.
"About half an hour."
One of the hospital people turned to us. "Broken back," he said,
"he didn't have much chance. There wasn't much pain, though, was
there? He probably didn't feel much."
"A little. Not much at the end."
"Well," said the warden, "let's catch our breath, and then we can
start down."
While they were sitting I picked up his saw and started cutting
away the rest of the tree. Ello and I pulled it away and then they
strapped him into the stretcher and we started down.
It wasn't bad, the trip down the mountain — the morning air still
cold and dry, and we could spell each other on the stretcher.
The helicopter was at the trailhead and it didn't take long for
them to sling it on, and then the warden and the hospital people
climbed in and they took off, beating up into the morning sunshine.
Someone was driving the truck in for us from Lake Louise.
"We'll go get a beer," said Ello. "It wasn't bad, was it? He was
all right?"
"He was fine. He was cold for a while and it hurt him some but
he was all right."
"Hell of a morning," said Ello, "hell of a way to start the day."
"I could use a beer."
"We'll have to go back up for the saws. You can wait here, I'll go
up and get 'em."
"Get the rifle."
"Yeah."
He started back up the trail. I sat down on a boulder, by the
roadside. It was warm; morning, sunshine, in the Valley.
23 Robert Billings / Two Poems
THE ALPHA-WAVES
for Liz
The sleeping wake
of her broken life
is flame caught
to a blue cloak.
u
The land tortoises
in the zoo
near the Vatican,
1964: they mate
like boulders,
scrape and rock
but do not
shiver the earth.
24 Ill
To transpose
the dream
you must see belief in
the June sunset;
hang the print
of a seagull
flying into washed blue
— a paint-crack
in its crescented heart;
sing the alba
to a perfectly
tuned lute.
On Cyprus,
a man in a bar
said a heron
taking flight
is the soul of
he who flung
this earth on the sea.
25 BLACK MADONNA:
Near Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Believer in death
Nailed to a plank
By some disillusioned
Woodman.    What perfect
Wench gone?    What baptized
Child dead?    Squat, with
Rough hands, he carved it,
Put it here by the trail,
1834.    My love & I don't
Mind his dreams, some
Nightmare he couldn't get
A grip on.    We know about
Vows.    We believe in
What can be done.
26 A. Blackfeather / Two Poems
CITIES OF LIGHT
riding toward
the cities of light
there is a sense
of dream
alone
on a lost path —
leaves rotting,
moss
bleeding over
cedar    hemlock bark
and just beyond
the fierce city light
worker faces downturned
reflect
in mudpool roads
trees standing:
deep
slow eyes
protecting their memory
of fish-silver
and ivory wolf
there were colors
of rainbows
whirling water
in valleys
to the ocean    cloud-maker
and later
electricity
dreaming for passage
in the
headless night
27 FLATNECK AND THE NORTHWIND
flatneck
listening to thin needles
bend
and vibrate    like a bee's wing
changing the shape
of old man Face
threads move thru
his skin
his blood vessels
his bones
they come out his eyes
he attaches himself
to the north wind
every particle of ice
is dancing
as flatneck
describes a circle
outside the north
28 THE MALAHAT REVIEW
An International Quarterly of Life and Letters
Editor: Robin Skelton
Featuring publication for the first time in English of works of poetry,
fiction, drama, art, memoirs and critical essays from almost all the
countries of the world alongside the best of new Canadian writing.
Its contributors have included:
D. H. LAWRENCE, DAVID GASCOYNE, PABLO NERUDA, LAWRENCE
DURRELL, WILFRED MELLORS, W. S. GRAHAM, LADY GREGORY,
JOHN ROBERT COLOMBO, W. B. YEATS, KATHLEEN RAINE,
ANTHONY BURGESS, SAMUEL BECKET, JORGE LUIS BORGES, F.
GARCIA LORCA, MICHEL BUTOR, SEAMUS HEANEY, ZBIGNIEW HERBERT, PAR LAGERKVIST, C. P. CAVAFY, BORIS PASTERNAK, NESCIO,
G. WILSON KNIGHT, AUSTIN CLARKE, PETER RUSSELL, JOYCE
CAROL OATES, MARGARET ATWOOD, P. K. PAGE, JEAN COCTEAU,
FLEUR ADCOCK, ROBERT GRAVES, THEODORE ROETHKE, RENE
CHAR, ALFRED JARRY
Special Editions:
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of the Birth of Tragedy; a gathering in celebration of the
EIGHTIETH   BIRTHDAY   OF   ROBERT   GRAVES;   AUSTRIAN   WRITING
today; margaret atwood: A Symposium; west coast renaissance; A GATHERING IN HONOUR OF RAFAEL ALBERTI.
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COLLECTED LANDSCAPES
Poplar leaves fingering the light.
There is no color in the body
the color of the sky tonight.
Now and then
the trunks are naked as my arms
and someone drifts
beneath the thunderheads of leaves.
No one drifts between my arms tonight.
Light wanders down,
a trickle of dust,
to the garden,
blossoms on the grass, discarded.
Easter lilies, unicorns among flowers.
The humans move among them.
One, a horn of carved ivory, leans
on an imperceptibly swelling
tree.    I love
the fragile concaves of the body:
the twilight beneath the eyes,
the double hollows
where the ankle once had wings.
Every few years
while you are dreaming
they replace the world.
You wake aged,
are not the same again.
Sunlight deepens in the purple ruffled bark.
Shapes startle the fingers,
perfumed fragments twinge the nose,
the musical warp in air warps the ear.
Light is all there is to see.
30 The sea flakes in the distance,
under the wind
low to the ground
comes the quiet
of hoofbeats patterings gnawings
of the animals that lived here
and were silenced.
White rafts.    Roots mass
below a shifting floral night.
Between the lavender and green arcs
of the jacaranda, when air turns visible
and the throats' strings at last are tuned,
the human voice will play,
one day, to its end.
The stars have fictions of their own.
They come into being,
there may be heroes among them.
In and out of the trance.
Love
is not the only way
it is handled.
Loneliness is definite too.
Of most occasions people say
get away with what you can.
There is nothing
of the heart
to get away with.
31 Marilyn Bowering / Four Poems
WHERE THE JOINER DROWNED AND
NO ONE REMEMBERED
Did the wall say
where is my maker
did the roof say
where is my thatch
did the floor say
what weight can I bear
did the cupboard say
who went away
when the joiner drowned
where no one had drowned
or remembered the wind
like moaning of wood
alder is turned
fir well seasoned
iron is sharp
and forest waiting
what matters to me
said the pine board drying
is a water tight life
a private reserve
the joiner woke up
his hands red
and flapping
almost a pirate
almost a peter
he wept in his sleeve
when he saw someone standing
naked in water
without a name
32 BLACKWATCH
FOR JOHN O'DRAINE
Your coat is wet from your long journey.
You lie down in the grass
and brambles.
You're not sleeping
but worse,
fatherless,
and the wind north and cold
from the sea.
What's near to heart as arrow?
A deep water.
It could cost,
it could cast a shadow.
Your boots are gone,
and the ground holds you
like no woman could.
What's near to heart as arrow?
A deep sorrow.
It could cost,
it could cast a shadow.
I've been waiting
since I had no mother,
and John, who was older,
left for sea.
33 MAD BILLY
He cuts
he guts and skins himself
he stretches his skin
He signed himself lost
to attract his past
but it wouldn't come
and wouldn't come
so he went out after it.
a hand to a butcher
an eye to a game
a child or a spouse —
They fear the insane
who are blind
but
cross roads with great courage
stand near constellations
trying to touch
how love works inside
and harm inside out.
On the paper Billy wrote, "Bill,
you're going to die",
an unbearable lie
so he rubbed Billy out.
34 IS THERE A FRIEND
(plague memorial)
Taken on a sledge
drawn by a white horse
led by an old woman,
soft underbellies to the shrinking moon;
we were weaponless
calling out
Is there a friend?
May god be gracious
we are not avaricious
(born from a fast river
flung restless back into it);
we would fasten
our loose bones together
we would speak to a friend
Blind
sheets of rain
discover our cold limbs
It is safer to bury
the dead on an island
and not worry the wolves
35 David Brooks / Two Poems
WHEATFIELD
1
After the argument, the blood's
blind clutch, the detritus,
dark
opens slowly, discovers
only as the pulse subsides
the mute, unbidden things, seamarks,
their acres
awash with silver.
2
The constellations flare:
high in the south
a pale beast
shimmers
before the Hunter and his hounds
and a new wind
sweeps the sloughs, rakes
through the grain
the one
long
moment
of the river falls, the water's
brief
roar into whiteness.
36 Behind me a night-hawk
breaks
from a jack-pine, circles
and flaps westward
jagged under Orion
leaving how much
here
amidst the ripening
how much
leaning
on this dry
stump, cracked to its roots, the rings
of all its years
burst open?
37 THIS LIFE
(after Czeslaw Milosz)
When we look back at this life
what shall we say?
That it was a palace, full
of strange and beautiful women
who lured in a foreign tongue, who asked
impossible questions, who danced
to a music
that robbed our bones of flight.
That it was a car on a perilous rail, endlessly moving
through a white country
marked by a few farmhouses, from which often
nobody waved.
That in darkness it was a carved shell of light, so
easy to stray from,
so hard to maintain.
That in a vast desert we found the middens
of an ancient race, that we alchemized
at the sites of old fires,
that sometimes we left them
revisited by flame.
38 Jean E. Brown
CHILD
Dear God, it's started. I'm scared. I'm going to scream and I'll be
embarrassed. That shouldn't matter but it does. Stiff upper lip and
don't show emotions and all that crap. Someone help me! My guts
are falling out!
What a hell of a place to deliver — sitting on the toilet in the
washroom off the schoolroom — two feet by ten feet and the door in
the middle of the long wall. Sharon's here, wiping my face with a
towel. I must be crying but it's a long way up to the surface. The
pain inside is drowning me. Sharon's frightened. I must try to be
calm, for her sake. She's still got a couple of months to go. Lucky
kid. Funny, we all say we can't wait till it's over and here I am,
wishing myself back.
The Major's here and someone's brought my cape and purse. I'll
never wear a cape again. I've got to wipe my glasses before I go
anywhere. Can't see a thing through the tear stains. It's better
standing up. The pressure's off. Maybe this is a false alarm. They
say it's common in first births.
Everyone's in the schoolroom, waiting to see the condemned
woman take that last walk. I've been there too. Envious and scared,
hoping I'll be as serene and stoic as Trudi was. She packed her suitcase and tidied up in between timing contractions. Gave away her
clothes like she'd just inherited a million dollars and was going to
Paris for a new wardrobe. Don't think I'll give quite the same
performance. I'll do well to get down the stairs on my own two feet
with my mouth shut. Oh Jesus, that last one was bad. Fast, too fast.
Supposed to be ten minutes apart at first, but this is more like three
minutes. Major noticed it. She's got a good grip under my right arm
and we're headed for the stairs.
Made it. Just got seven steps up to the hospital door. I'm proud
of me. Haven't let out a peep yet. My jaw is so clenched I probably
can't talk, either, but the honour of the Browns' was not defiled.
Honour isn't a subject I should be joking about right now. There
are  more immediate  concerns — date of birth,  OHIP number,
39 colour of your grandmother's eyes. Why are they doing this to me?
Can't they see what's happening?
My face is wet again and the world's gone blurry. I'm in a wheelchair and the Major's stroking one hand as a nurse takes my pulse
from the other. A woman with a little boy is staring at me. The kid
is clutching his arm and screaming, but no one seems to notice.
She's smiling at me. "It's going to be alright," she says. "Don't
worry. You'll be alright." Thanks lady. I guess you've been here
before, but I find that's damn little comfort. Why do people think
it's any help to remind me of how common this is? I've never done
it before and that good old fear of the unknown is all that matters
right now.
The Major is saying goodbye and that she'll pray for me. Not
much comfort there, either. She is, though. I wish she'd stay. She's
only a little less than a stranger, but she's been good to me in the
past four months. Never met anyone like her. She shows such
genuine concern for everyone that needs her. Wish I had her
strength.
The pains seem closer — certainly stronger. The nurse is telling
me to undress and hop into bed, totally indifferent to my hands
clutching the wheelchair arms. I can't talk, can't tell her I'm afraid
I'll fall if I try to stand. She puts a white gown on the bed and
bustles out. The bones at the base of my back are pushing against
the chair, forcing their way through the skin. Trust me to have a
confused kid — doesn't even know the way out. There, the spasm's
passed. If I can just get onto the bed before the next one starts.
Someone will come and help me. Soon, I hope.
Another bolt got me as I stood, but I rolled onto the bed anyway.
The pressure is forcing me down onto the mattress, burning into my
hips. Out in the hall, a woman going by on a stretcher is screaming.
"No, no, don't, stop it! Nooooooo!" The scream echoes off the
sterile green walls. I want to throw back my head and join her, like
a symphony of dogs howling at the moon. Oh God, I'm scared.
There's no way out of this, no stopping it, no going back. I just want
a little rest, time to get accustomed to the idea. I'll be fine once I'm
rested — just give me a few minutes without this battering pain.
I'm not ready. It hurts, like I never thought anything could hurt.
How can women do this a second time? I certainly won't.
The nurse is back, putting my glasses away and pulling my dress
over my head. I wish she'd leave my glasses on — the world feels
safer when I can see it. She's telling me to relax and try to get a
40 little sleep, there's hours to go yet. Hours? It can't get worse than
this! I'll be insane. I'm a babbling idiot on the inside and catatonic
on the outside and it's only been forty minutes since it all began.
How the hell can I go to sleep when my hip joints are being dislocated from the inside?
I try to tell her that the contractions are only two minutes apart
and I want a pain killer, but she puts my watch on the bedside table
and shushes me. The doctor has been notified and he'll be in to see
me in a couple of hours. I'll be dead by then. Or crazy. Of the two,
I'd prefer dead right now. Another pain snaps me onto the bed, but
she's headed for the door and misses it.
My whole body is sweating. I kick the sheet down and fan myself
with the nightie. Those stupid cloth ties are biting into my back and
I twist around to undo them. It's cooler to lie naked. I use the rough
cotton nightgown to mop the sweat off my face.
The woman screams again — wordless high frequency keening
that cuts through my superficial calm. How I wish I could make
noise, anything to release this awful hurting. The heat is melting me.
I'm panting, using the techniques to retard birth but it's not
working. It's coming!
Two nurses are here, clucking about my not wearing a gown.
They've brought a trolley with stainless steel bowls on it. The
shaving ritual. One covers my upper torso and starts to speak but
stops as the pain slams me down. It presses, forcing all the breath
from my lungs, and slowly ebbs. I feel the warm dampness and cold
steel set to work. There's no discomfort. It's such a minor sensation
by comparison. Again the invisible pendulum swings back, harder
than before and I jerk under the nurse's hands. Blind as I am, I see
she's upset. Did she cut me? I can't feel it, but then I couldn't feel
anything so slight as a razor cut. There is a flurry at the end of the
bed and whispering. I feel left out, isolated in my distorted world.
If only I had my glasses on, I could at least read their faces.
One pulls a box of gloves from the bedside table and explains that
she's going to have a quick look to see how we are progressing. Feel
free, lady. Just let me know how much longer. She probes and draws
back. More huddled muttering and one runs, literally runs, from
the room. Tell me! She waits for a spasm to pass and continues
shaving silently. I'm desperate to know, but my jaw has been
clenched too long and refuses to function now. The trolley is pushed
aside and two orderlies wheel in a stretcher. They lift me over to it,
grabbing tight as I arch in contraction, and the nurses tosses a sheet
41 over. "We're going to the delivery room," she says calmly and I
panic. As the green walls blur past I want to cry like the woman
before. No! Stop! Take me back! Oh God, somebody, help me!
The orderly pats my shoulder and says I'll be just fine. Fat lot he
knows.
I'm sweating again but my hands won't release the edges of the
stretcher. I scarcely have time to breathe between starts of pain.
I'm being lifted again. There's a light shining straight in my eyes
but I can't block it because they've strapped my hands down. My
legs are tied in mid air and there's no way to refuse the pressure
now. Only my head moves, snapping back and forth to avoid the
light. Someone's holding my head, slowing it, stroking down my
cheeks. The searchlight is gone and her voice replaces it, meaningless
comforting sounds. She tucks my hair into an elasticized cap and
massages the back of my neck.
There are people probing at me, conferring in corners and coming
back to place hands on my stomach, but the doctor isn't one of them.
Why isn't he here? He promised me. I need him. Why don't they
give me the needle? I want it now, I need it! The world has split
into two opposing sensations: the battering ram between my hips
and the steady finger pressure on my face, ceaselessly stroking.
Someone just said something about five fingers — that's a measure
of dilation. Oh Jesus, it's happening! Wait kid, wait! There's no
doctor here. Kid takes after its mother — no sense of obedience. It
wants into this lousy world and it's coming out — now. There are so
many people here, green gowns and white masks and I can't see
their eyes. Someone tell me what's going on! How much longer?
Give me something for the pain — where's my epideral? There's no
break in the pressure. It must be soon.
The voice above my head stops crooning and curses the doctor to
someone unseen. "Get an intern to authorize it. She can't take much
more. She's just a child." Too right lady. Just a child playing
grownup and caught in the role. Why can't I cry like a child?
42 Michael Cameron
THE OTTAWA VALLEY
"Time passes by," observed Mrs. Fudd, pouring the tea. Owange
pekoe? Don't wowwy: it's 'Wed Wose'."
She ignored the musk ox trying to get in the west casement. The
condominium window was completely blocked by the huge, struggling animal.
Mrs. Muppet proffered her cup across the coffee table.
"Yes. Those rabbits are getting to be a nuisance. The Valley is
going to have to be very careful, very careful indeed."
But Mrs. Fudd was in a pensive mood. "Sometimes I pine for the
pines, myself," she said, getting up and looking out the north
window. (The sky was featureless.) "This tableland of wectangular
families is pleasant, but I'm a mountain girl, myself." She surveyed
the circle of alps that hemmed in the Valley. "And not a bird in
the sky —."
It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. Mrs. Muppet took out a bolo bat
and began lazily to get in some practice from the seat on the La-Z-
Boy chair.
Thwop.
"One."
Thwop.
"Two."
Thwop.
"Three."
The musk ox was solidly wedged in the casement by now. It
bellowed in mingled pain and fury as shards of broken safety glass
ground through its ribs.
"These condominiums!," Mrs. Muppet sighed in mock exasperation, ricocheting her fourteenth repetition off the animal's wide,
black nose. "The next thing we know, we'll be surrounded by
rabbits — ."
"I wish Junior would call," Mrs. Fudd mused aloud, turning back
from examining the outside tableland. "It's been almost three
days—."
"I wouldn't fret," Mrs. Muppet smiled, putting away her bat.
43 "Je t'assure: Elmy wouldn't forget his mother. I'm sure he'll call."
Just then the telephone rang.
"Mom! It's Elmy. In Tulsa — ," the familiar voice breathed. "I
just love it here at college. Pastuh Woberts has such dynamism.
Everybody just loves him . . . And I'm studying to use the bolo bat
. . . Yeah . .. That's all I can think of to report for now. ..."
"Alright, dear. And take care of your cold — ," his mother called
into the receiver, hanging up.
Mrs. Muppet smiled serenely over the lip of her teacup.
"They have such a dynamic mission down there. Even though it's
not strictly part of the Valley, of course. I personally refuse to accept
all this propaganda about good-luck charms. Still, you've got to
make concessions ..."
"I think so," murmured Mrs. Fudd absently, her mind still miles
away in Tulsa. "Telephones. What marvellous inventions. They
crisscross the tableland so intricately — !"
The two women sipped in silent pleasure at the way the afternoon
was going. Outside, a light spring rain began vaccinating the earth.
No bird interrupted the featureless sky.
"I was weading how they're stawting the decaffeination of coffee
pwocess next week," Mrs. Fudd mentioned between bites on a
biscuit.
"I'm sure they know what they're doing, Elma. Je t'assure —,"
began Mrs. Muppet but was interrupted by the front door slamming.
Mrs. Fudd's husband burst in dressed in red hunting jacket and
waders. He was toting a shotgun and gasping.
"Dwat those wabbits!," he cursed. "I tell you, it's an epidemic!"
"Owange pekoe, Fudd?," said Mrs. Fudd gently, used to her
husband's tantrums. "It's your favouwite. 'Wed Wose'."
Meanwhile, the musk ox had died. It hung Amply in the casement
like a mountainous carpet.
"The Valley has got to be very careful lately, Elmer, very careful
indeed," put in Mrs. Muppet, motioning him to sit down. "Those
rabbits are getting to be a nuisance — ."
"It's waining out," grumbled Fudd, sipping his tea. "And I didn't
notice a single bird in the sky, either."
A smell of dead musk ox filled the livingroom, and Elmer noticed
the corpse.
"Somebody get that antelope out of here," he said as a sound
drifted in the north window. It was the faint tread of rabbits' feet
from the circle of alps that hemmed in the Valley.
44 Francine Corcos / Two Poems
I suppose her mother told her
That ladies cross their legs
Around one man
And hobble after him
The rest of their lives.
On windy days
When her skirt stirred
She wished her thighs were breathing
In another man's eyes;
That her flesh wasn't cringing
Like a bruised animal
Against breasts she wore
Like old wedding bells.
She was beautiful
In her tight thighs,
With her blue eyes murmuring
Across the floor;
But no man has entered
The conversation.
45 TAO
If I were not white beauty
And you the man with fish black skin,
I might have asked to touch the hand
Where your jacket ended
Or lingered to stroke the stones
On your wriggling face.
I was not merely collecting
The skin of nocturnal divers,
But was afraid of your closed amputations,
Of the scales you shone
Black
Into my white spaces.
I might have disappeared
Had I ever slipped beside you;
We were perfect shadows.
46 Emilia Corning
DANCE
There it was, the round, yellow ball, playing in the evergreens. At
last. Olivia felt as if she had been waiting hours for it. Now she
could wake her grandmother. Together they could watch the sun
light up the sky.
She jumped out of bed, hopped twice to shake away the creases in
her frilled nightgown. She felt like a real dancer in its soft white
folds, gentle as the feathers of a swan.
Quietly, so quietly, she danced all the way to her grandmother's
room.
"It's coming Nanna, I saw it in the trees," Olivia whispered as
she opened the door.
The old lady sat up in her bed, her glasses in her hand. Already
she had dabbed two small circles of rouge on each cheek and
wrapped the red satin shawl about her shoulders. A look of relief lit
the old lady's eyes and was mirrored in those of the child. Something
long awaited was finally coming: daylight.
Olivia took an extra spin about the bed and ended in her grandmother's arms. The old lady reached out and turned off her night
light. Like turning off fear, Olivia thought feeling warmth rising
from her toes to her legs and up into her head.
"Show me Olivia, where is it," her grandmother asked, putting
on her glasses.
Silently, the child pointed to the thick evergreens at the edge of
the garden. A spark, another and another. A fire among the trees.
Not a word was whispered as they held each other and watched
the world emerge from darkness. Olivia hoped they could watch
alone. The last sunny morning her mother had heard them awakening and had come in to join them.
"Isn't it beautiful, what a hot day, a scorcher," she had said over
and over again, seeing only a sun. She had not understood that for
them it had nothing to do with beauty or heat; it was a ceremony:
the banishing of night, of fear. Sounds lost their insinuating, dreadful echoes; walls reformed into upright solid barriers; objects were
no longer distorted into dancing goblins.
47 Ever since she was a little child Olivia had feared the night, and
though she had never spoken about this to her grandmother she
knew by the old lady's night light, by a particular sadness in her
eyes at dusk, by her hesitations before darkened rooms, that she
understood. Olivia was sure her father had died in the night; hadn't
they told her after she had awakened, in the morning? And Suzy,
her dog, she too had been lost somewhere in that immense, vague
region of darkness.
The child pressed closer against her grandmother, hoping that
this time her mother would not interrupt them.
Olivia watched the sun until it was whirling and jumping into
the room, chasing out from the dark corners bits of night that still
stubbornly lingered. She watched it catch a pin, turn it into a jewel,
fall into a glass, explode into a hundred sparks. She could not move
her eyes fast enough to watch its rays restore the familiar comfort
of the room.
Pressing her grandmother's hand, Olivia thought of the day. It
was the best day of the week, the very best. It was Friday, market
day. After dancing class Olivia would go to the Ste Clothilde market
with her grandmother.
When the sun had left the trees behind, rising higher and higher
to blaze alone in the great blue sky, the child tiptoed back to her
room, pulled out the wooden chair to the center of it and used it as
a hand bar. It was no longer a chore to do dancing exercises. It was
like breathing.
While she bent her legs and straightened them, her mother entered
her room, sat on the bed and watched her.
"Very good, Olivia. A little deeper. Breath, that's it," she
repeated.
Olivia tipped from one side to the other, lost her balance, then
abruptly stopped. She put the chair back in its place.
"Are you finished?" her mother asked her in that hurt tone Olivia
dreaded. Ever since her mother had insisted on knowing if she loved
her grandmother more than her, and Olivia had not been able to
answer, that tone: half pleading, half accusing had crept between
them. Olivia did not think she loved her mother less, but she preferred to be with her grandmother than with any other person she
knew. When she danced for the old lady there were never any interruptions, never any instructions, though her grandmother had once
been a well known ballet dancer and her mother had never danced
48 a step. If only she could lock her room against her mother, against
her walking in, against her instructions, against her voice.
Olivia sat on her bed, her mother's voice still in her ears. A soft
knock sounded on her door, then it gently opened.
"Am I disturbing dear?" her grandmother whispered through the
barely opened door. "Shall I wait for you for breakfast? But take
your time." The door gently closed.
A smile spread over Olivia's face. It was market day. She quickly
pulled down her dancing slippers from the hook on which they hung
by the window. They were like sculptures, she thought, each crease
in the leather put there by a conscious movement of her feet, even
their frayed ribbons seemed precious. She placed them neatly in her
round case with her tights, brush and hair ribbons.
Outside, the milkman jingled bottles to a minuet.
"Good morning, Mr. Greene," Olivia called, leaning out of her
window.
"Good morning Olivia, fine day for the market."
Even the milkman knew today was her market day.
Olivia slipped into her white dress with the pink flowers and the
wide full skirt. She turned once letting it flare in front of the mirror.
A ray of sun struck her watch, illuminating her as if she were in a
spotlight. She danced all the way downstairs to where her grandmother was seated, waiting. Olivia took the old lady's hand.
In the kitchen, Annie was cooking breakfast. Her mother was
seated at the table. Olivia instantly let go of her grandmother's hand.
"Shall we go shopping this afternoon, Olivia?" her mother asked.
"I've seen the loveliest skirts at Katia."
She was doing it again. Her mother knew it was her market day.
Every other afternoon she was free after her dancing class. Olivia
looked to her grandmother for help.
"We were going to the market today," the old lady said.
"Oh well, if you'd rather go to market with your grandmother
Olivia, I don't want to interfere." She rose from the chair. "I won't
have any breakfast, Annie. I'm not very hungry." She left the
kitchen.
Olivia longed to run after her, and say please not today, don't do
this on my market day, but she knew from experience that her
mother would pretend not to understand.
Her grandmother reached out and patted Olivia's hand, "We'll
bring her some big fat cherries," she said. But Olivia knew it would
not help.
49 After breakfast Olivia found herself alone. The morning spread
ahead of her like a lifetime. Everyday it was the same; the hours
before dancing class seemed endless, the hours spent dancing, as
brief as a second. Today, market day, the clocks might as well have
stopped.
Outside the garden was shaded by the large trees. Only a few
select rays of sun penetrated the leaves making small round patches
of light on the grass. Olivia stepped inside them but the wavering
leaves extinguished them. She wondered if she should go inside the
house to read; but her mother had already drawn the curtains
against the sun making the house oppressive and dark. She squatted
beside the red peonies, inhaling their heavy, sweet scent, while the
bees circled her in rhythmic undular loops.
In the distance she heard the moan of a ship repeated once, twice.
It seemed she was in a very remote corner of life. She picked up a
handful of tiny green apples, freckled with worms and rolled them
over the grass just to see something move sprightly.
At noon Olivia's grandmother joined her for lunch, but her
mother did not. The empty place at the table reminded her that
once again she had been forced into a choice.
As Olivia ate her apple she became aware of the clock ticking.
She instantly forgot her mother. Time was gathering speed. Already
her heart was beating with excitement. It was nearing the time to
leave for dancing class. Olivia looked at her grandmother methodically peeling her own apple.
The old lady's face broke into a smile.
"Don't wait for me Olivia, go dear go. I'll be in the park across
the street, at three."
The child jumped out of her chair rushed over to her grandmother and hugged her. From the door she stopped to look back. If
she could find it, she would quiet this undefinable ache that always
throbbed whenever she left the old lady.
On the sun filled street, life had resumed a bearable pace. Cars
rushed past. Brakes screeched on the hot pavement. Olivia shielded
her eyes with her hands and peeked at the sun through her fingers,
then followed its rays darting off the windows and bumpers of cars.
She felt exhilarated.
Half an hour later Olivia was fastening the ribbons of her slippers
about her legs. In front of the mirror she tightly pulled her long,
brown hair behind her head, fastening it with an elastic band, then
5° she circled a wide, pink satin ribbon about it. She could feel the ends
pleasingly touching her neck.
The classroom was tense with bending, stretching bodies. Madame
Patou, the teacher was in a corner exercising her long limbs. She
wore her usual white tights under a long white skirt. Her hair also
white was bound firmly behind her head. As she bent and straightened, Olivia thought she looked like a tall, fine birch dancing in
the wind.
"Allons, vite." Madame Patou demanded attention. Her sharp
staccato voice struck out like a rap of a stick on a wooden floor. She
seldom smiled, but in her intense eyes Olivia could instantly catch
her mistake or a particularly well executed step.
Today Olivia's exercises came easily. A beam of light penetrated
through the small window transforming the classroom into a stage.
The spotlight fell at her feet. She glanced at herself in the mirror.
Was it really her? She was bewitching: the long tapered fingers as
fluid as running water, the small, firm feet as flexible as wire. She
lingered on her reflection, missing a step.
"Come, come my little Narcisse," Madame Patou called out,
clapping her hands three times to break the spell. "There is time for
that, the world will be your audience, now it is me."
The week before Olivia had seen Madame Patou caught also in
a ray of sun, watching the movements of her hands with an
enthralled look on her face. Then she had spotted Olivia watching
her too, but had continued dancing and admiring herself. Now their
eyes met. Madame Patou smiled: a clear, sympathetic smile.
After class Olivia stepped outside into the sun. She had not
realized while dancing how hot the day had become. Shading her
eyes, she saw her grandmother seated in the shade of the small park.
She looked distant, infinitesimal, a dot among the flowers and leaves.
Olivia hurried towards her, afraid she would fade into the shadowy
foliage. That faint throb had begun to ache inside her again.
The old lady, eyes closed, sat on a bench holding an empty basket
on her lap. She was resting. Her bright red chiffon dress draped
almost to the ground. Her short red mantle with ruffles at the edges
rippled with her breathing. Around her neck were five strands of
minute multi-colored seashells, the longest strand she held in her
hand on her lap. She had reapplied the rouge in two perfect crimson
circles on her cheeks. Covering her short, white hair was the wide
brimmed straw hat pinned with a pink feather that circled the rim
and fell slightly over on one side. Her hands were covered by red
5i gloves, each with six little buttons at the wrist. Olivia had never seen
her look more beautiful.
"Olivia, I didn't see you coming," the old lady said, looking down
at herself and blushing. "I put this on because of the flowers, the
sun .. . "
"I know Nanna, it makes you look just like a rose, a beautiful red
rose." And Olivia told her grandmother about that stray beam of
sun in the classroom that had turned her, for a fraction of a second,
into a real ballet dancer.
With everyone else, Olivia thought: mother, teachers, friends,
such a terrible amount of explaining had to be done. But not with
her Nanna.
It was a pleasant walk in spite of the heat, all downhill, past West
Avenue with its rows of elegant houses, past Vert Avenue with its
little boutiques, finally down past the tracks, by the houses with the
outdoor wash lines.
Bright red, yellow and blue frocks, underwear, socks of all sizes
and shapes fluttered in the slight breeze. Torsos, legs, feet: heads
tilted, Olivia and her grandmother watched the hundred fragmented
dancers twirl on the wash lines.
At the sight of the market their feet moved faster. They entered it
on the side of the cut flowers. Olivia always chose this entrance. It
was the most exciting, lit by the afternoon sun. Roses: little sweetheart roses, thumb size buds in pink and red; tall involuted roses
balancing their heads on spiky stems, yellows and something between
pink and violet. Olivia passed her finger over their flesh. It felt
smooth and moist. Gladiolas: long, rigid, the flowers barely opened.
The same colors repeated themselves: orange, white, dabs of red
blending into purple, and more. There were spoked daisies, buttercups, violets, impatiens, petunias. Olivia pulled her grandmother
away before temptation made them reckless as it had every other
market day when they had bought too much. They left the stalls
with only two small pink roses which the old lady fastened in Olivia's
hair. They had not given in, but if not here, then somewhere else.
The vegetable stalls came next: carrots, beets, onions, celery:
green on red on orange. The basket became a kaleidoscope. Several
times Olivia had to bend down and collect vegetables that had fallen
out of the overburdened basket.
After the vegetables came the fruit. In a small corner of the
market Monsieur Labonte had a fruit store. Olivia watched her
52 grandmother tilt her hat to a precarious angle. Inside she saw
Mr. Labonte straighten his apron. They were expected.
Once inside the store, Mr. Labonte rushed towards them.
"Madame looks exquisite today," he said. Olivia watched him
take her grandmother by the arm and guide her away from the fat
peaches, oranges and apples they had approached.
"Those are nothing," he said in a disdainful tone, "for the uneducated," he added, escorting them to the far corner. There a few
open crates rested against a large picture of a deserted beach, with
enormous palm trees rising from its sand. "These," he said, "are my
aristocrats."
Pomegranates, persimmons, figs, apricots and bright red Morello
cherries nestled snugly in wrappings of varied colored tissue paper.
Olivia heard her grandmother sigh. She knew the old lady had seen
them growing on trees in strange countries when she had travelled
in her dancing years. With a slight pressure of the thumb and forefinger her grandmother felt the fruit.
"Your grand-maman is a connoisseur," Mr. Labonte said to
Olivia, looking forlorn, "so few connoisseurs in this barbarian
world."
While her grandmother talked to Mr. Labonte, Olivia chose four
apricots for herself, a bouquet of bananas for Annie and a handful
of cherries for her mother. Perhaps this once they would please her.
Olivia pushed the thought away and with it the uneasiness it
provoked.
As they were leaving Mr. Labonte handed the old lady a small
bag. "For you Madame and for Mademoiselle."
Olivia turned to look at the little man in front of the store. Every
week it was the same. The usual disdainful look on his face had
changed to a smile; his hands behind his back, he hummed to himself in the sun. It seemed to Olivia that only her grandmother could
make people look like that.
Outside they settle in a corner without people. Olivia found two
empty crates. They sat down. Last week it had been Morello
cherries, the week before apricots. The old lady opened the brown
paper bag. She pulled out a round bundle of tissue paper. Inside
was a peaked, purple fig, slightly bruised. Olivia unwrapped one for
herself. It split open with a tiny expert squeeze. She pressed the sweet
gruel into her mouth. She knew this was what the sun would taste
like, if you could eat it.
53 The old lady was already splitting her second fig. Olivia noticed
her eyes glittering and wondered what memory the fruit had aroused,
but she did not intrude on her grandmother's thoughts.
When the figs were all gone they circled the stalls again. This
time the old lady could not resist a fat cucumber she had resisted
before. Olivia saw her grandmother rub the arm that held the
basket; she slipped it out of the old lady's hand, giving her the light
dancing case to carry.
Olivia looked down at the basket that had taken almost two hours
to fill. Then she looked up at her grandmother. The ache inside her
began to throb again. No one ever ate these vegetables and fruits.
Her mother never even touched them; she made Annie throw them
away saying they were unclean.
Looking up, Olivia saw her grandmother's eyes on the basket.
"They're almost too beautiful to eat," the old lady said.
It had been one of the hottest days of the summer. The sun had
finally lowered, into the sidewalk it seemed, into all its pores. Olivia
could feel the hot air sweep up her legs and burn through the soles
of her sandals as she climbed the hill towards home.
Once or twice the old lady caught her breath. When they arrived
at the first bench she automatically sat down, breathing heavily. She
rubbed her swollen legs. Her shoes had suddenly become too tight.
The hat drooped a little to one side. She removed her gloves to wipe
her face, leaving a trail of smudged rouge down her cheek. On her
wrists Olivia saw the little marks left by the buttons of her gloves.
"Are you all right, Nanna?" Olivia asked.
"I'm fine Olivia, won't be a second. We can't be late for dinner,
or your mother will scold me." She smiled at Olivia, but a discordant
tone had crept into her voice, a quivering note as if she were about
to cry. She looked a little bewildered, a little frightened as her eyes
followed the stretch of street still ahead of them. Olivia wished they
had never come to market.
Several times Olivia tried to stop a speeding taxi. It was either
full or unwilling. At last the house was in sight, its tall hedge concealing half its height. That last block they had climbed twice as fast
as the rest. The old lady's breathing rasped out from her parted lips;
the bewildered, frightened look had not left her eyes. But the hurrying had not helped. They were late, seventeen minutes late.
Olivia's mother sat at the table eating alone. The old lady slipped
into her seat, placed her large hat and gloves under her chair, trying
54 to conceal them. She pushed her cape behind her shoulders succeeding only in making it look like a pair of gaudy wings.
"Take that to the kitchen, Annie," Olivia's mother said pointing
to the full basket. "I was hoping you would be home early, Olivia,
to try on the things I bought you; but I suppose you're not really
interested." Olivia saw her mother turn her eyes on the old lady.
"Must you wear that costume, Mother, and that make up, it looks
absurd at your age."
Olivia saw the old lady pass her hand over her eyes. They were
moist. The longer Olivia looked at the old lady the louder her
mother's words echoed in her head until in the indefinte light of the
dining room, away from the spotlight of the sun, Olivia really saw
an absurd old woman sitting across from her. Her dress looked
fantastic, ridiculous as if it had been pulled out of the trunk of a
travelling comedy act; her makeup was garish, the paint and
costume of a clown, Olivia tried to recapture the delicate ruffle of
the mantle in the afternoon's breeze, the iridescent colors of the
seashells about the old lady's neck, but they were gone.
The rest of the dinner passed in silence. After Olivia's mother went
to her room without a word. Olivia followed her grandmother to
the stairs, hoping to hear a story before going to her own room.
"I'm tired Olivia dear, I'm going to lie down early tonight," the
old lady said. There was a haziness in her eyes, a breathlessness
between her words. Olivia did not follow her upstairs.
In the kitchen Annie was roughly handling the dishes, mumbling
to herself. When she saw Olivia, she quickly pushed a bulging,
brown- paper bag into the garbage. Olivia's eyes had not missed the
action.
"They're your vegetables and fruits, it's no use worrying about
them now, your mother is probably right, they're infested," Annie
said irritably.
Olivia looked inside the bag. All the crisp vegetables and fruits
were mashed together with bits of the unfinished evening meal. She
looked at Annie again, her eyes full of tears. Annie put her arms
about her.
"Olivia, I'm sorry. It's not right, I know, not any of it. Your poor
old Nanna, dressed up so pretty and sparky." Annie heaved a great
sigh. "Look, I saved and washed the cherries, they won't poison
anyone, go out in the garden and eat them. No one will see you,"
she said.
55 On her way out, Olivia could smell the garbage. It was still
fragrant. Outside, suddenly, she took the cherries bought for her
mother and threw them against the stone wall. Inside her that
familiar, undefinable ache was throbbing. Crushing the cherries did
not make it go away. Looking around her she saw the garden had
become unfamiliar, without edges, and full of enormous shadows.
She looked up at the sky. The sun had completely disappeared; a
few useless stars had taken its place. Olivia shivered. She felt cold
and damp.
In her room she instantly switched on the light. On her bed were
three flowered skirts, and three blouses, neatly lying beside matching
hair ribbons. She crept to her mother's door, knocked three times,
but there was no answer. She returned to her room.
Carefully, Olivia folded her new clothes and placed them on a
chair. Before getting into bed she bent over her dolls lined up on the
dresser: Flossy, Berinda, Nina. She kissed each one and cradled
them. It had been a long time since she had held them. She did not
remember them being so cold.
Something awakened Olivia in the semi-darkness of her room:
whispering, sobbing. Her eyes opened on the barely distinguishable
forms of her dolls. They were shapeless, frightening. The moaning,
muffled and low, seeped in from every crevice of the room. She
waited until the sounds retreated farther away from her door. One
minute, or was it an hour? She lay still in her bed feeling the cold
rise from her feet to her legs. Now only the clock from the downstairs hall imparted rhythm to the stillness like a metronome. One,
two, one, two. Had it been a nightmare?
Olivia went to her door, opened it. The hall was dark except for
one feeble light drifting into it from her grandmother's room: the
night light. A bit of warmth returned to her hands as she thought of
climbing in bed beside the old lady as she had done on other nights
when she had a nightmare.
The room was silent. Slowly Olivia's eyes became accustomed to
the light. She came closer to the bed, lifted one knee up then stopped,
her eyes fixed on a large, white and red, dotted handkerchief bound
around the old lady's head and knotted at the top. She looked like
a clown, a clown with a toothache. Olivia giggled, then gasped. Her
grandmother's face was chalky white and her lips drooped at the
corners. Suddenly she was aware of the curtains: white, thin quivering like ghosts; the vase with a wilted rose cast a large shadow
56 against the wall; and the statue, the small holy statue with its arms
outstretched was slowly advancing towards her. She clutched the
old lady's hand to wake her. It was limp, cool. Olivia dropped it.
Now the cold had returned, so intense her arms ached. In the corner
of the room, she saw her mother, huddled to her aunt; both were
holding their arms out to her, crying noiselessly.
Running back to her room, Olivia shut her door against the darkness and cold that curled about that other room. Sitting on her bed
she clutched her arms tightly around herself, rocking back and forth.
She had found out the secret behind the terror of the cold velvet
darkness that every night stripped her room of its reassuring walls,
that turned her dolls into monsters and the curtains into unspeakable
waltzing creatures. She knew now: things really did happen in the
dark while you slept. People changed, people died in the dark while
you slept.
From her bed she watched the feeble stars, a bit of moon, powerless against that enormous mass of black sky. Large shudders shook
her as she looked about. Her dancing slippers caught by the night
breeze pirouetted about each other on their hook. Beyond the
window, she thought she could see the dark contours of the pines.
Were they coming closer? She shut her eyes. Instantly the hideous
clown lying in her grandmother's bed danced in her head.
Now every part of her ached from the cold inside her. Each
moment she thought of running to her grandmother to hold her, the
clown came back to her eyes. The bed was a sheet of ice. She
jumped out of it, sat in the middle of her room on the floor, a
blanket about her shoulders. Her head lowered, her legs involuntarily formed a semi-circle. She gripped her ankles and pointed her
toes from habit. Her hair fell over her, sheltering her from the monsters of the room. Gradually, imperceptibly her hands rose above her
head and clasped each other. The blanket slipped, leaving her pale
shoulders bare. In the circle of her arms her head swayed from side
to side. She moaned softly to herself. It was a tune.
She stood up. Moved to the center of the room, raised her head,
tilted it to one side listening to her moaning. Her hands lowered
behind her back. One leg to the side, foot pointed, it tapped in tune
to her sadness.
Quietly, her door opened, her mother still crying, looked at her in
the white fringed nightgown. She saw her poised, waiting, singing
softly to herself. For once wordless, she watched her swaying, then
57 silently, careful not to interrupt, she slipped out of the room closing
the door.
Olivia caught her breath, paused. Now she danced in the semi-
darkness. Her arms moved out and up, circling about her head. She
was turning, dipping, turning, skipping over and over again in the
small periphery of her room. Her white nightdress rippled and
swished about her legs.
Was it flowers she could suddenly smell? Violets? Wider circles
she spun, then narrower and narrower. There just ahead of her, was
it roses? A splash of red roses? She was turning again, jumping. Her
lips were no longer dry, they were moist with the taste of fruit. Her
room had filled with a sudden heat.
And then slowly, without noticing from what corner, what angle
of the room, the darkness began to lift. A thin ray filtered in, then
grew, expanded, enveloped the black; at last it was so bright, Olivia
could no longer see the contours of her room. Around and around
she whirled until she dropped to the floor, exhausted. Resting her
head in her arms she slept until the first morning light.
58 event
Journal of the
contemporary arts
Event is a literary and visual arts magazine which is
published twice a year by Douglas College. Short
stories, poetry, drama, reviews, essays, photography
and graphics are included in the 130 page issues.
Event has published several special issues which
include: International Women's Year issue (4/3), prose
fiction of Howard O'Hagan (5/3), and new writer's
issue (6/1).
Event has included contributions from Alden Nowlan,
Pat Lowther, Cynthia Ozick, Gordon Pinsent, George
Bowering, George Woodcock, Charles Bukowski,
Denes Devenyi, and Howard O'Hagan.
Event magazine is available by subscription. If you
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Name.
Address.
. Postal code_ Lome Daniel / Two Poems
WE DARED / WE LOVED
We dared to make them ours:
the trees    the rocks
the old discarded things
and places — the hill at the center
of town    the hollow down under
the hotel We dared to make them ours
until we were taken up
like the furniture
and rolled away
with the Poole and Mannix camps
the failed farmers    the hotel owners
We were rewarded
while it lasted
with days and nights full enough to last till now
perhaps longer
Days of wild hares caught in cages
and walking lost circle in the swirl of pine
Nights of stolen cigarettes and smoke
in hollows in the bush
and mornings of wild hares
gone out of holes no bigger than our fists
60 We loved the men who dared
to make the land their own
to take the trees
and tear them away until there was only earth
We loved the men who sat
in mammoth earth movers and trenched
the earth out who piled
it and packed it in the water's path
building a lake longer than you could see
deeper than the trees were high
But they are gone so soon
these men
who make things work for them
and now we hear they don't really
own the gravel the wires
the pipes laid through the sod floor of the forest
They go somewhere else
to build more dams and drill more wells
and leave us
with the waterbed dry
and the oil running through silent numbered gauges
leave us not knowing
who calls this land their own anymore
61 AFTER THE HUNT
The skin cannot be repaired
once dead
Earlier wounds — the jagged rock
met on an early fall
the searing slash of another buck's points -
have healed but tear out
later    before the skin is fitted
to mine
The hide can be traced back
to the tanners    the stench of salts
on flesh and fur
can be traced further back
to the hunter    a tag number
and the small shed where it was sliced
off the meat
Through the hunter I could find
the exact location of the killing
the point where the huge head hit
as the legs folded from under
62 The country men out west
could show me the areas the animals move in
the Indians tell of their ways
and how they tilt their head to different sounds
move instinctively with the shifting
of the breezes off the mountains
There is so much I don't know about this
scar over my chest
the wrinkles that run along the arm
but then a second hunt
would find nothing new
and the skin cannot be repaired
once dead
All I need to know
is to be found here
in the textures of the hide
the grain
of this skin
63 Barry Dempster / Two Poems
THE BIRTH OF BABIES
Babies
are born
at dusk
the sun
splattered
moon round
on a
pink thigh
water
& cotton
sheets
committing
darkness.
Babies
sleep in
black holes
in wounds
where stars
were hysterical
& sentenced
to memory.
Babies
hold death
rattles
in their
fists. Night
passes
64 powerful
all the men
under
lampshades
mothers
with eyes
as bright
as bulbs.
Babies
drop down
maps
bleed a
little
globe of
ghostly
stars
the sky
for one
instant
revolving
red
the shadows
free
as water.
65 THE SILENT CLAW
Speak to me
for Gods sake.
There are worse things
than death
■ PAT LOWTHER
Your silence is
beautiful because
I imagine what
you'd like to say
every housewife's
glory to tell
that story from
a cat's point of view.
Look at me.
There are green birds
behind me —
I hear you dreaming,
howling about the house,
gas bright eyes:
dictionaries.
The moon and you
slither over me,
light swishing when
I move. You lay
curled on one side
of the bed, breath:
cool fruit, the most
you ever intimate.
66 What you've always wanted
comes down from trees,
what you snare
screams for both of you,
disappointments in the air
like fur, feathers,
the frenzy, lost clarity
breaking you apart.
Your silence grows tedious
hypnotic purrs — do I imagine
them? Silence like a claw
kneading love kneading.
67 Pier Giorgio DiCicco / Three Poems
MAN IN THE MOON
There is the orange moon, all night moving
slowly, getting up there among those tender villains,
the black clouds. Sailed away from the brass fights
of the office tower. Started there, old man in the moon, left it
ovaling his mouth at the offices.
Man in the moon, I ask if you have been a long time.
It is so hot down here. It is mid-june, old man.
what do you say to that.
I have been watching your black eyes, unruffled
by wind or anything. It is time you came down, and told
us the secret of staying forever.
I do not love you but I want you to know, if I watch you
long enough, my eyes will piss out the magic that
keeps us together like a bag of dirt, old man,
what does the star-giver say, now that you have swallowed
an eon; in your image, we've been growing feet up,
I won't tell you how to get down,
until you raise me up. I have privilege, so much dust,
holding out on a mold of plaster that tries not to cry.
68 SATURDAY'S JOE ROSENBLATT
He Speaks of ants, and his eyes shuffle
backwards and forwards over the precise moment.
Outside, huge raindrops whiten the street; a bit of
thunder flashes under the low rooftops. He will
not go home. His mouth is full of the kind words
for young things, the new ones, the hard passions.
He says it right; he has put down the ladder.
Immured he says the word immured he is afraid of it;
poets get immured he says his tongue nimble with the kind
words for young things. He never gets immured, not with
the white coins of water, his lucent eyes caught up with
talk of ants, the new poems relaxing in him, though there
are no more poems, he says, his young hand sketching
the new words, flailing like the wings of sparrows.
He goes home, the white rain on him, he slouches into
it, the thunder washes up to his feet, he disappears around
the corner, the hard thinker, the rose poems
puffing like air in the august heat. A man fed-up
with his own kindness, like a bird on his sleeve he will not shake
off, his kindness returns, bringing petals, he is the nest
he is building for everyone to rest in,
until he has nothing left but the comings and
goings of friends, their white eyes on him, expecting
that he will stay in this world for an afternoon
longer than another, in my mind, with the coins of water,
the hard thunder, he walks into the afternoon,
and he lengthens it.
69 VISITING FRIENDS
You punch him in the mouth.
The back of his head falls open.
Your own books fall out, your most personal photographs.
You apologize. It is no good. A corpse will not speak.
His face is the same one you hated day after day.
His wife stands by. She does not even shed a tear.
She has said all she will ever say
You try to make it up to her.
You tell her the photographs alone are worth a fortune.
She kicks you in the groin, hard.
Outside, the trees are
breaking with april blooms.
Your wife, your children, like bright
confetti are falling from the sky.
A small man, with the name of chance, is tacking your
name to the door.
70 Mary di Michele / Two Poems
MATINEE
Flat onto her stomach
she slips into this basket
of baked earth, the grass
stubbles biting through the knit
of her T shirt,
her breasts sandwiched
between gravity and heaven.
He offers joints of weed,
thick as his thumbs,
blowing in the tall wheat
heads of golden flame.
They see as if underwater,
the air smoking itself
in late summer heat.
She is as yielding
as softly breathing dough.
They are hungry for each other
in the fields of grain.
7i CITY OF GOD,
The dark pupil is engulfed
in the white of the eyes,
sculptured, blank,
the head's in a tight freize of curls.
Pouring out the skin of stillness
like ashes from an urn
the statue comes alive.
He preaches to me that Jesus saves,
a black man wearing the pale
face of Jesus, the asphalt missionaries
mixing with the street vendors on Yonge,
toting dogeared bibles.    He wears a scapular:
the livid heart of Jesus drops
black blood.
"I like someone who reads."
he says, giving me a pamphlet
the size of a dog's pituatary gland
as I run for the graveyard
shift.
72 Patricia Eddy / Two Poems
CONFIRMATION OF A PRIEST
for Brian who died of leukemia
You told me about God
but you never introduced us.
I wanted to hold hands
and be friendly.
I wanted to talk this death over
before
it happened.
I wanted to sit down with the Father and the Son
and be a family.
I wanted to be saved
by someone I knew.
I knew you were a charlatan
when you yelled like a medicine man
and believed in burning bushes.
You took for granted Revelations.
I wanted it revealed.
You told me about mansions.
I wanted to know
which one would be his.
I wanted a pilgrimage
with confirmation at the end.
73 I knew you were a Judas
when I kissed your hem
and came away unclean
with my prayer passed over
my sins picked over and multiplied.
You made it seem like a miracle
for one so young to have so many.
I wanted loaves and fishes.
I wanted a modern Lazarus.
I wanted to sit in the catacombs
and feel the pulse of Christ.
You catechized.
Sit down.
No, kneel.
Have a sip of vinegar.
I will take away your collar.
I will deny you
three times
and three times more.
I will sell you for thirty pieces of silver
no, I will give you away free
and watch you slink off followed by your flock of sheep
to where you clutch a golden Bible
in the shadow of Golgotha.
74 BANQUET OF CARNIVORES
I went to a Portuguese wedding
to hear the holy, holy
in a foreign tongue
and touch the trembling
of the guaranteed virgin
beneath the veil
her breasts anchored down
by crucifixes
her hands offering
flowers
her smile
cracking
falling away.
I went to peek through the lace
for the blush on her face
the fear and the ice in her eyes
the eyes
the bowed head
the waiting bed
and the glorious dance
of lecherous old uncles.
75 I declined to dine
on the pig impaled
above a fire
and turning
turning
its crackling flesh
peeling
falling away.
The husband
shoved an apple
in its mouth
to force a grin
but still the juice ran down.
Who eats the eyes
the eyes
they always leave in the eyes.
76 Andre Farkas / Two Poems
THAT
for Ken Norris
That
locking myself out of the car
is the perfect metaphor
for my dry spell
is self evident
& that it happened in Toronto
& me from Quebec
makes it a political thing
& that she appeared like an angel
& I fell in immediate love
is an old story
& that she offered me her screwdriver
to compliment my coat hanger
is timely
& her kindness
human
77 LETTER TO BILL & NAIOMI
I carry the slice of b.c. cedar you sent me
in my pocket
and whiff it
on crisp quebec days
I type poems & thank yous
on made in quebec paper
and on mad days
wonder
will it spit them back in my face
because of 'wrong language'
(as if that were possible
BULL'S PIZZLE! TWICE!)
This will be folded/sealed
stamped/sorted and sent flying
over five provinces that were
until four years ago
just colours & answers on quizzes
over Ontario
where I convoluted
for three days
picked up hikers & wild flowers from the roadside
saw wawa, enough evergreen for years, the sudbury moonscape
and bathed in one of the great lakes
over the prairies
where the sky can and did change its temper three times in one day
78 Drove with my toes
Awoke one morning to a surrealscape of white horses sleeping astand
Sniffed prairie silence
Realized quickly that I could never fall in love with silos
and was stopped by a real RCMP
who asked if we had open drinks in the truck on-acount-of it being
Sunday
and he was polite and we said no and he laughed and we laughed
all the way to the rockies—the real thing hostie
(it wasn't even as scary as the alps
or as risky as the look-out on mount royal)
and over to Thormanby
where notes from the world was ashore
where you've built a boat to sail the world around in
where you've got a baby in the belly beginning
from where you send me b.c. cedar to get high on
where this should be by now/
last lines reading
the poem between us is the thread
keeps this crazy quilt together
79 We've changed a little
and a lot
in 26 years . . .
Back in 1952 our first small issue appeared. Gradually we
became a significant national literary magazine of short
stories, poetry, reviews and graphics.
Our goal has always been to seek out and publish good
new literature, particularly Canadian literature. Twenty-six
years later we're still at it, and publishing more than ever
in our new 100 page format.
Subscribe to Quarry. We've changed alongside a changing
literary milieu in Canada. We've brought you the best of
what's new for 26 years. We'll continue bringing you the
best. Count on it.
QUARRY
since 1952
4 issues/$6
Box 1061,    ^^^
Kingston, Ontario>
K7L 4Y5 Mona Fertig / Two Poems
WESTERN
Hips of black leather
Western walking
Pull over mama
I need a cool drink
She was rubenesque
Rode horses
And in the wide street
Held her head high
Mouths parted
The whip
Stung
The dry dust
I've always
Wanted a man
To lay tracks into
To lay tracks into me.
81 POEM FOR PETER
I am 24
My hands
Pull from the sky
What is bird
And what is not.
In the midst
Of it all
All dreams
Are this dream.
Far from the sea
And fine war
The life
In these words
Will survive.
If you could offer me
Anything more
Would it be too much?
82 Cathy Ford / Three Poems
from The Womb Rattles It's Pod poems
NO EMERALDS BENEFICIAL TO THE EYE
or topaz
swallowed relieves melancholy
even sexual longing
but a rope of pearls
that made her head hang
and a large, gold covered black stone
like a pigeon's egg effective against poison
and rosary constant cross
her jewels like seed pods
so grew her own myth
and armour through which arrows succeeded
only when they cut off her head
neither husbands or country or sickness
but that one surprise
she dressed in a red bodice
and petticoat
the wood cutter's axe missed once
death whispered "Sweet Jesus"
then struck clean
the head held high
an uburn wig clung to the air
while short grey her head fell to the ground
to earth
against which there is no protection
83 TWO WEIRD SISTERS
Sappho Sappho
our imperfect love affair is over
again
we
do not strive for perfection
the right words
the exact moment
rendered
helplessly forever
into dust laid time
I tire of you
say
you're tired
for once
"sick and full of burning"
water is all that is left us
this beginning
smile
from your bed
dying
84 grown old with your daughter
to attend you like suicide
just
a season past other loves
hyacinth
your love of woman
the poems
those headbands embroidered
worn in your dark hair
rose heart
Aphrodite
"May you sleep then on some tender girl's breast"
85 THESE WOMEN ARE ALL OUT OF BOOKS,
SHE SAID
they still sing the color of your river
nile queen
and I choose my pens that way
with admiration
the ink testimony to your beauty
which never was great
which never stood helplessly next to a throne
but sat itself squarely on such pale rock
and leaned on intelligence, strength and candor
for all those women who can never be known
yet sea green barge magnificent into power
the song grown green, even sunburnt
yet there is song
86 Kathleen Forsythe
VII
I am warm inside
deep in the womb-part
where the red bright red sloughs off
like snake skin
that's where my T is now
not in my head
if my eyes look vacant to you
I am back where I began
Red the feeling
Red the colour
Red not just pain
but here
where my snake-mouth bites my tail
Red the taste of the womb and the sea
87 Robin Fulford / Four Poems
CAPONE #33
Dour and dark mother
between worry to
feed what she
can touch.    Full of
family the meals come
to children too mean
to keep clean.
Before the cold
empty kitchen
husband Gabriel
reads his testament
upon the floor.
The rat caught under
Sicilian blade and
carved from eye
to ear;    a child
lost who found
new ways for
old wounds in
gangs spawning kids
to do the big job
at 8 with 20
year meanness.
Torrio introduced him
to the Five Pointers,
name famous and nasty.
Capone had the best.
Ritual loyalty
blood tied to blood
as easily as the edge
slipped between bone.
88 CAPONE #34
New York's gone for
Torrio.    He came west
to Chicago and Big Jim,
cruised himself to the
clean countryside
selling sex in the shade
of clapboard no-towns.
Here was business!
New percentage brothels
must have seemed
strange to them
and all from that
little man who
Capone loved like
a brother.
1919 — Chicago welcomes Capone.
New vice for new time.
Big Jim gone soft
spreads an ocean
of brain over his
own tiled vestibule
Torrio again losing
pinochle to a
wife that brings
him slippers.
89 CAPONE #38
You people of Chicago know what it was like.
Prohibition of mobs and boundaries, streets of
booze.    Yes, they learned from Torrio and
shared the cream.    He was a man of deftness.
For three peacetime years Chicago courted
Prohibition.
Chicago was wet
and the little man
was full of
hostile business
believing bullets
greased garlic killed
with gangrene.    Aim
the disease, pull
the germ.    The
hospital learned
to smell wounds.
Dead alcohol must be
protected.    It gouged
out eyes leaving
new insanity on
the street.
Stoke that yeast in yer alky cooker
get to heaven a little bit quicker.
Comin' today for tomorrow's run
better have ready that street-dead fun.
90 CAPONE #50
Gangsters are in many ways just like ordinary
people.    All like to patronize certain places.
Well, the mobs fell into the habit of having
a cut and shave at Michigan Ave, and though
the barber feared such a clientelle, the tips
made everything acceptable.    Generally speaking, gangsters are very generous people about
things that don't count.
Anyway, before long, knowing the whereabouts
of certain people meant assassination was inevitable.    The shop became very busy and it
was only the profits that kept the place open.
Oddly enough, Michigan Ave remained popular with
the mobs.
To prolong this good fortune the barber, also
owner, decided a shop policy was necessary and
soon implemented what he considered to be sound
revisions.    Never would a chair face any direction but the door;     never an eye towelled.
91 Bill Gaston
ANGEL
Monday, December 26th.
Well, I have a week to get rid of him. Get 'rid' of him — that
sounds so callous. 'Exorcise' him then, is that any better? No, because
when it's done it's all the same anyway. Donny will be gone, gone
gone gone, and there's no sense being technical about it, or even
polite.
Less than a week. Start the new year without him, that's what the
promise was. Doctors, parents, friends: I stood there, feet apart with
courage on my chest, like a fool, and told them all. But the clincher
is that I told myself, promised myself, as well. No more deception. I
know as well as anyone that my health is going right down the tube,
so the sooner it's done the better, before it's too late. (Well, I sense
Donny coming now, so I'd better pack this thing in — it would be a
mistake to let him catch me at it.) No doubt we'll go to the pub
tonight, and no doubt we'll end up loaded, as usual. I think he
knows something's going on — he's been drinking even more than
ever now. Every day. He drinks, and I pay the price. But how can
you help but love the guy? I'm dreading New Year's like a very old
Frenchman dreads the guillotine. Witty. . . . Still I feel like I'm
standing in front of a rush hour bus — a bus with 'Saturday' written
above the window.
Tuesday, December 27th.
I can picture Donny as he got up and began to weave between
the tables, toward the can. (His ass, dodging tables, waggled like
some grotesque parody of a cheap hustler.) But then an idea hit me:
pushing through tables in the pub is like pushing through life —
some of the way is smooth, some is an obstacle course with strange
and unknown angles to be guessed at, drunkenly. Some people along
the way are courteous, others belligerent, the vast majority just
dumbly-aware that you exist. A pack of wolves probably exhibits the
same range of relationship: people and wolves find friends, encounter
enemies, and then just try to cope with the rest. And when we finally
92 finish pushing past all the tables, friends, enemies, faces and other
obstacles a whole life-time long, where do we get to? .. . the urinal!
Relief in heaven. Piss in bliss. (Cynical drunk talk is fun, but does
no-one any good in the end.)
Coming back laden with good toilet graffiti, Donny had us both
laughing so loud that other people turned around to us, grinning as
if they knew what we were laughing at. They seemed to approve of
us — no, they wanted to be with us. Their look had that "We're
your sort of people" tone to it. That and an aggressive eagerness
which suggested that, were we to invite them to our table, they'd
jump at the chance and gather like bright-eyed children round a
hearth to listen to two elders share their wit. Not quite that but, to
the point, Donny was affected by none of this. Even a subtle extrovert would have become more animated, or at least more regal. Had
the stares been disapproving, Donny's style still would not have
changed. He never notices people noticing him. And that is probably
our major difference, because I'm very aware of what people seem
to be thinking about me. But Donny just doesn't care. And that's no
doubt why Donny is so alive, so spontaneous, and so goddamned
funny. When something happens: I cringe, and Donny spits. And
then he toys with the mess he's created, tools around in his spoken
gob, explaining it, appeasing the offended. I'm just afraid to make
the social mistake. Face it, I'm probably a pretty boring guy to be
with, so dull, so submissive. Donny once called me a 'situational
barometer,' which colours me paranoid. Maybe I am. But Donny:
too bold to appear sensitive, too naive to appear intelligent.
We complement each other — that's why I love him. We're dull
and flamboyant. Lead-serious and balloon-light. My friends are
bright and like to talk, but Donny attracts that cart wheeling fringe
element — kooks, poets, living jokes — who keep me on the edge of
my chair just listening, and watching Donny fit right in. And he
draws girls like flies. Where would my sex-life be if it was just me,
alone? Probably just me, locked in the bathroom, alone with a skin
book. I follow Donny's careless magnetism as women come and go
— I follow like a sheep (a sheep's personality?) in wolf's clothing,
picking up the pieces.
But. Four more days. The thought hits and I feel cut in half by it.
Donny and I had a good time last night. I'm nothing without him
— I admitted that long ago and I'll admit it again. The doctors can
go to hell.
93 Wednesday, December 28th.
Here at the bar again, just like last night, the night before, and the
night before that. I don't mind at all when Donny goes off and
leaves me for a while — it gives me a chance to write this while it's
all fresh. I have to admit that the beer helps a bit, kind of brings
my thoughts up to the surface and all I have to do is write them
down.
Waiter Wong is a tactless asshole. Ever since he got his stupid
nickname (I don't even think his name is Wong) he acts like he
owns the place. I don't begrudge him his little games and bits of
pride — he's an old man and a hard worker, God knows — but he
should just show a little more class, especially when I'm with people.
Every time he brings a round there's some shitty little crack. "I think
I'll pick on Crazy Eddie," is probably what he thinks to himself.
Just a few minutes ago it was, "Well, who is it tonight? Donny-Eddie
or Eddie-Donny?" And then a slimy waiter-wink to the two girls
sitting a few feet away, who I didn't even know. Well, maybe they
knew me, or at least Donny. I just stared at Wong for a time, but
he wouldn't take that snotty smile off his face so I said, "Donny's
gone for a little while." And then he had nerve enough to ask me to
let him know when Donny gets back, because he had a joke for him.
As if he didn't know Donny when he saw him — the expressions we
wear are totally different. No tact Wong. And cruel to boot.
I can't get Sunday off my mind. And the nearness of this 'D' day
(a black joke, but true) gives me a sense of urgency, and I feel
compelled to put everything down, to get Donny and me on paper.
Maybe I'm afraid of forgetting him, as if that would be possible.
It all seems so hazy and unreal now, a pastel dream, thinking back
to that night, six years ago. An indelible movie, and I run it over
and over again. The sunset over Spanish Banks, I remember, stood
fixed, the clouds immense and colour perfect. A golden giant surprised by its own beauty, standing a step back from time, in awe of
itself. Every sunset has something of the sadness of passing, but this
one felt poignant and huge, like the Fall of an Empire — the end of
a day that was an empire of light. Impossible to paint. To try would
have been travesty, an insulting splish-splosh of preconceived ideas.
Here were real colours — colours like the feel of untouchable skin.
And it was all so natural when Donny came floating down out of
the sunset. It was natural and necessary when he said we could move
like the sun, when he said he would never leave me alone, when he
said it would always be easy. At that moment we joined mental
94 hands, and it was easy, and the ground could not hold us down. We
were together at last, and we had always been together — we both
knew this. Time moved in our eyes like subtle explosions, each
moment a mandala. (It feels odd to talk about it now. Unreal. And
the doctor called all of it delusion, a mescaline dream, but you
couldn't have convinced me of this then.)
All in that one evening — the meeting of souls, sharing common
fears, ambitions. I was amazed at the time that we both had the
same memories. And it all seemed to fit. The world was aggressive
and blindly dull like some lumbering poisoned animal. The world
had no place for two like us. Together we were perfect, and our
bond hovered over us like a musical chord, an angel, who sang to
both of us. The holy trinity — Donny, me, our angel.
It's strange. Though I'm no longer very much aware of it, that
singing has gone on for six years. And everything would have been
fine had Donny not gone bad. Gone down, become a drunk, and a
cynic, hiding from life. As if he decided he was an outiaw, and
reality some kind of posse.
Last night sums up his present state. I have a picture of him
sitting forward with the music, swishing his mouthful of beer with
the beat, his cheeks puffing and pulling like a cartoon fish. He stared
at something unseen. And one more thing I think is too bad, in a way
— he's remained conventionally handsome despite all this, this
bloated lifestyle. (Not me — and friends have noticed this, amazed
— he drinks every night in his carelessly attractive way, and I get up
every morning, hungover, ugly.) Anyway, last night a woman whose
face we both knew (but Donny I think had forgotten) fell in place
beside him and began to work whispers in his ear. Donny's cheeks
continued to fish and in the dim light his face looked like an impertinent little moon going on and off. I could see a hand on his balls.
The fingers danced to a jerky but stubborn little rhythm all their
own. Donny wasn't aware how much the hand looked like a fleshy
spider — perhaps we all forget at times. It seemed to be sucking
something visible up out of his crotch. But Donny didn't even care,
he didn't give a shit one way or the other. He just sat there swishing
his beer.
The years had long ago taken surprise away from both of us, but
I can still get shocked by Donny's complete lack of innocence. It
shouldn't be so complete: I remember clearly the first time he
apologetically got a girl to sleep with him. And how we all hated
beer but still forced warm six-packs in the park. His was too fast a
95 fall, and extremes in movement so often take the cancerous plunge.
A quick change artist is no longer himself. He just doesn't care
anymore.
This beer I hold holds one million more. Platitudes. I share
Donny's dissatisfaction these days, but at least something stays with
me, a desire to — I don't know — find something better! I still can
become a pissed-off wasp, frantic at something small in a wide sky.
But I look for something salvageable, something that keeps me
writing these diary-shopping lists, things that I might read again if
in the mood. I try to do on paper what Donny used to do in life.
Thursday, December 29th.
Who am I to stand and judge him? His withdrawal from reality-
poison certainly fooled the doctors, and I have to admit that once
in a while it even fools me. He's still an artist, he's still got it. And
sometimes — forgetting — I get down on him and act like some
bug-eyed parent telling his artist son to get straight, get a real job,
be an accountant. Last night I wish they were all there to listen to
him, he probably could have explained it to them, set it all right
for once.
Last night, in the pub, he came back finally and came up with
something perfectly bright and lucid, like the Donny of old. Yet he
was drunk to the point of having trouble getting out of his chair and
his eyes had already forced themselves shut. He looked as if he'd
been sleeping for about fifteen minutes, but was in fact busy watching people and things dodge by his closed eyes. And then suddenly
out of nowhere he said: "I know you know already that people are
colours. Colours." He was saying this painfully slowly, as every word
seemed to pause and then discover what was to come next. An ultra-
slow falling domino chain, with beer breath between each tic, tic,
tic, tic. "You know this Eddie, but do you know what you don't
know? You don't know that people are also music. Some call this
'vibrations' but that's too constant, too dull a word. It's actually a
sort of jazzy free-form music. And it's this music that makes the
colour in the first place.
"You don't know that everyone's colour and mixture of little
shades is only a key to their own . . . unique . . . music, which is a
deeper thing. Some people sense their own colour and then work on
their personalities . . . accordingly . . . but hardly anyone is aware of
their music. Or anybody else's music, which is worse still. Music is
the key. People should be able to play on each other like finely-tuned
96 instruments. Two people... always make a third thing. It can be
good or bad. It hangs in the air, suspended like ripe fruit to be
picked and tasted. Two people . .. together . .. making a new music
that is bigger than both of them. And look — incompatability is
only the measure of fucked-up musicianship. Tell that to our...."
I think he was actually going to say "to our doctor friends," or
something, which would have let the cat out of the bag, but then a
friend from a few tables away brought over some beer he wasn't
going to finish. Donny shot him a smile, and then shook his head
and said "sorry," meaning he thought he'd been babbling away to
himself. Babbling or taking himself too seriously — both taboo to
Donny. Which is strange when you think of it, seeing as they're at
opposite ends of some kind of conversational gamut. The guy smiled
back at us and said, "How you doin' tonight Donny? And how's
Eddie? Is he around?" "Yeah, he's here," answered Donny, "and
we're fine, we're both fine."
Friday, December 30th.
Last night, again, Donny was bar-brilliant. So this morning's
thoughts bring back some of the better moments. It's funny — when
you take the past and analyze it, spread it thin on a board and
retrace developments like a series of pictures which get fuzzy and
fade on into the distance, the present sits here like a perfectly logical
conclusion. Steps on the board — from good to bad to worse —
have simply brought me here.
So I can see how Dony was, how I was, and how we've come to
this conclusion with a bad smell, this confused flat tire on a rainy
night road, this birdshit impasse. I remember how we were. And
how proud I was that Donny chose me. Donny my best half. Donny
who would quote Milton. Donny the arrogant. Donny who would
throw his personality, like pieces of fluorescent clothing, into every
corner of the room. Donny who would surround you with the warm
earth of his words and make you see the things of beauty, the
moments of colour, that moved in and about your life like little
smiling friends. Donny the wit.
Last night Robert "Samuel" Clemens, the writer, joined us and
some friends at our table. As usual, as soon as the mandatory
socializing was done, all the gossip exhausted, the would-be writers
started making themselves known. Would-be writer friends of mine,
of Donny's, and their would-be writer friends. "Robert, I've been
working on this concept and...." "Robert, I notice you've been
97 shifting into a more realistic vision in your latest stuff, and that's
beautiful and it's beautifully done, well I have this idea for a poem
of my own...." They'd been oogling his mind — salivating — all
on the edges of their chairs waiting to publicly notice him, and be
noticed. All this time I could feel Donny seething at this, really hot
at everyone, cynical chuckles, watching these humble poets prostrate
themselves at the feet of the Master. Here we were, a group of hips,
creatives, eccentrics (well, Donny at least), carrying on a Beatle-
mania of artistic sophisticates. After an hour of this sort of thing,
Donny stood. He held out his hand to Clemens, and then gestured,
with a slow sweep of his other hand, to the rest of them. A mocking
black prince, he spoke:
Then thick as locusts black'ning all the ground,
A tribe, with weeds and shells fantastic crown'd,
Each with some won'drous gift approach'd the Power,
A nest, a toad, a fungus, or a flower.
Bang. He let it sink. Then, to the silence, he dug in more: "He has
done it. You must do it too. Now let us sit and drink to the human
tragedy, the real, and less to the successful throne appeal!" He
started shouting a bit at the end, angrily, and everyone, wide-eyed,
no doubt thought he was nuts, and even more obviously a prick. In
one case they were right — it was an asshole move. But his madness
gave them nothing but the truth, the cruel truth, out of the blue.
And it was —■ arrogant —■ but it contained Donny's best gem, the
gem of old, even if it lacked a little love. They seemed to forgive him
a little, I think. His charisma made them. After suffering that first
awkward moment, and after mumbling to themselves and forcing a
few sips of beer, I could sense them silently applauding.
But all this made me sick for the past — in the past he would
have been loving. Eccentrically funny, and nice. Sometimes I feel
like grabbing his lapels, turning him inside-out, yelling: Donny!
Donny! Can you hear me! Can you remember our sunset! Can you
remember Europe, Greece, playing chess and talking with the people
in tavernas, the crystal water, making people love us with your talk!
Working, muscles sweating in the Prince Rupert sawmill! Donny!
What has turned you this way? Why do you turn against your
friends? Why do you insult men in suits? Why do you attack women
with makeup, insult them, laugh at them, smear it all over their
faces? Why do you scratch swastikas on new cars? Donny they are
victims, like you and me. Why do you refuse to let me see my
98 parents? Why do you refuse me well-meaning friends? Why do you
persist? What is it you fight? Cynic, drunk, madman! Donny —
these names hurt, we cannot escape them. You invite prison. I won't
let you lead me there. Donny! I can't even get a job because of you
now! Because of you people think I'm insane! We are insane.
Donny! We are insane!
Saturday, December 31st.
Donny came home with a girl last night. Everything was all set,
but then he got too drunk and stupid on her shoulder, and she got
pissed-off and left. (Did he go for her makeup?) Then he began to
stumble around the apartment laughing, drunker still, bubbling his
back-throat saliva while duck-walking from one wall to the other.
An attempt, I guess, at the satire of some other planet. He's sinking.
Still sinking. Does this make it easier for me to do it? Tonight —
that's my promise. No, it doesn't make it easier, only a little more
pitiful.
And yet this morning it was good again. He turned on my radio
to get me out of bed. He'd slept like a pink baby, and now in a good
mood, A Saturday Good Mood he took me downstairs where he
opened up his First Beer. SSSST. "That hiss," he said, "our troubles
flown to space — gone, gone to run another race!"
Who am I to judge him? Who am I to throw him away? The sad
fact is that I understand him so well — I just can't go along with
the direction he's taking. And the doctors keep telling me that the
longer this goes on the more permanent our 'relationship' gets. I wish
he would just snap out of it and be like he used to be — then we
could carry on like before and maybe, like before, nobody would
notice him around. Just me having a little fun.
The pair in the sky. That's what we used to call ourselves. Indivisible —■ I'm sure if God came down and said to us, "Ed, you be
Donny for a while and Donny, you be Ed," I don't even think we'd
notice the change much, let alone care. For six years, two souls
travelling together in a raft on a sea of Outside.
It kills me: if we had happened to be two people we'd simply be
two inseparable friends, much like we are now — but with one free
to go to the bathroom while the other sits in the kitchen reading the
paper. Too bad. Tragic. No: absurd. "Here we are, Donny and me,
partners in absurdity." (I guess I'm still thinking of Donny quoting
Pope in the bar.)
99 It's life's absurd tangle that's wearing away Donny's finer edges.
And tomorrow he'll be gone, he'll be worn away altogether. The
doctors are right: this can't go on, it's all an unhealthy game, I'm
insecure, I can't stay screwed up, I have to get a job, go to school
again. I have to be Ed James, and Ed James alone.
Saturday Night.
It's done. I decided to confront him with it. I had to explain —
say good-bye, I guess. I have to get this down fast. It might be the
last time I'll ever feel him. Remember.
It was ugly. I brought it all out, told him what the doctors said,
that we were bad together now — all of it. How 'normalcy' had its
points. One had to work, eat, live, think of future. Alone I was
normal — sad, soulless, insecure, yes — but normal. He was dis-ease.
He was my disease. It was good before, obviously, I told him, but
not now. Now we were insane. Now we were, as the doctors said,
certifiable. I tried to be thorough, but humane, and I think I only
succeeded in sounding wishy-washy.
"Rest. Listen to me," he said, after I was finished, and quiet, "we
either stick with our own .. . insanity ... if that's what you choose to
call it, or we conform to theirs. Show guts. It's only a choice, and a
perfectly easy one if you ask me. We ignore them all. We are porcupine."
Then I made the mistake of saying, "Donny, I'm not really asking
you at all," and then immediately regretted it. Sort of a lousy way of
telling him we were playing by my rules, and my rules alone. When
I think of it now I know how I should have done it. I should have
taken it to our music. No confrontation, only playing. But then —
does music ever offer any conclusions?
So he said: "Oh. So I have no say in this? This over-ripe affair?
I play no part? After six years — six years of good hell and better
heaven — and suddenly I am nothing? That is exactly what I am to
you —■ nothing! No-thing. I'm a thing, a figment. Well, who in hell
else has been good to your inadequacies! Who else, tell me, who else
has filled you up?"
"Okay. Okay," I think I said. I was trying to calm him. He was
yelling. But I wanted to yell back at him: Donny! Donny!
"Okay? What's 'okay' about any of this? Fuck all your friends
and your doctors and their 'self-confidence' and their 'stabilized
personality.' And if you want to be like one of them, a sucking fat
animal floundering on the ground, and shove me away like some
ioo common pain in the ass — then fuck you Edward James!" Before I
could stop him he had wheeled and smashed his beer glass into the
sink. And then he was gone.
Poof. Out of my pitiful mind. I called, I concentrated, but I
couldn't reach him — he's gone somewhere new, somewhere deep,
gone.
So that's it. He was once perfect — we were once perfect —■ and
I'm back now where I started from. And all that's left of him is this
glass here in my sink. Broken glass piled, jagged and wedged in the
drain. The long points are stuck there, drawn through the holes by
the suck of water, and I ease them out like splinters out of unfeeling
skin. Funny how drains are never noticed until something gets
stopped there — pieces of broken-off lettuce leaf, spinach or beet
stems, or noodles — they catch and both ends straddle the metal
and hang heavy in the holes, wet rot. But this glass is clean, not
food-filthy. And the hesitation that I feel, looking at it, comes from
its shiny aggression, like chrome shards of a car accident that He in
the street and seem to vaguely hold a grudge. I don't know where
Donny's gone. I can feel him somehow, and somehow I know it's
different. I don't know anymore if this is a good thing or a bad thing.
I don't care. I'm tired. Death in the room.
Sunday, January ist.
Odd, odd, the hand, the pen. I have never written before. My
poor Eddie would take care of that. Also strange to be writing in his
notebook, but I cannot doubt that he would want it carried on, on
— this running document of pain.
I do not know when I will waken him and let him come to me.
Down and deep he will stay, a calming sleep, for weeks, or until I
need him to instruct me. Practical matters dictate much. Porcupines
must eat. Maybe the Eddie was right, maybe I should settle my
movement. He can go to school, find work to do. I will have my face
conform. And we will not bite. We will mouth and tongue.
Cruelty is a word spread thin. It means evil purpose — no other
—■ and is rare. My action stemmed from pain, from discord, and
only sought a better music. I should not have become angry. I did
not know how to tell him that it was already too late. Doctors:
children! It was Eddie who went to their sessions and they assumed
it was Eddie's soul to save. To think they aspire to remake a soul!
It was already too late Eddie —■ it was always too late, from the day
I came to help you see. The pair in the sky we were, we are.
101 How could I have told you that you no longer existed, that you
existed only through me? You would have panicked, rebelled at
losing your illusion. And you were right to bring things to a head,
the head I wrenched from you and shattered. It was hard for you
the way it was, watching this poison life tear at the wings of our
peculiar angel.
102 Jeanette Gaudet / Two Poems
APARTMENT POEM
for Don Domanski
through a fashion of pipes
and snapping water
come the voices —
small indications claiming
the furtive silence
and beating it with feet.
as an animal
would mark its flesh presence
in another territory
so the voices come
and curl between these walls
leaving their yellow sound to grow
and fill chairs —
leaving no room for guests.
STARTLED PHEASANT
my foot has opened the earth.
I have given birth
to the sharp edge of wing
a chevron streaking the darkness
a nothing pommelled with wind.
the burr of weeds is still
the sky has wired shut again,
and again,
the plunging earth is sealed.
103 Ilfl
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THE THIEF —FABLES:  III
She was a woman who thought nothing could be stolen from her.
She regarded herself as unique, and therefore saw no other of her
sex as a threat. But one night as she slept, alone in her husband's
bed in their wide rooms atop one of those sleek columns that push
up from the city into the star-pricked quilt of night, a fault opened
up in her world.
She woke, instantly alert, her eyes solemn stones over her slant
cheekbones, her heart clamped against its own thudding. She
touched the space beside her. Her man was not there. It was the
knowledge that he was with another woman that had wakened her.
Her sleep spun off, remote as a comet.
She sat until dawn, her long black hair around her neck like a
cowl, the heel of her hand pressed into her mouth to stop her from
crying. When her husband arrived, his face ashen but still warm, she
was composed. Under duress, he confessed to being with another
woman, to loving this other, who was a young girl of their acquaintance. The wife smiled to know she'd been right. Gently she urged
that he go to this new love. She displayed no passion, choosing to
keep her pride intact. She packed a bag and left, tenderly pressing
the side of his head against hers, for she knew that whatever happened, they'd never be together again.
She found a small attic apartment in one of the old houses that
still stood around the feet of the sleek highrises. The walls in her new
home were stained from the traffic of other lives, a splotch of wine
here, a gouge from a nail there. She puttied up the holes and painted
it all relentless white. She bought a Chinese print fabric to drape
over the old couch that was left in the place. Adding objects like
letters to a blank page, she made it her own. She had a wicker chest
that had belonged to her mother, a crouching armchair bought from
a junk dealer, a narrow-legged table at which she could sit cross-
legged to eat, and a hand-woven rug. She hung a map of the world
and a mirror on the wall. It was all hers and nothing admitted the
existence of any other person.
105 She loved the attic from the very beginning. The bedroom became
her favorite place. Under a turret, it had low walls that converged
over the centre of the room. She was extravagant in buying the old
iron bed with the curls for a headboard that looked like a boat from
a fairy tale, but it seemed perfect for her. The threaded reflection of
daylight passed into the room narrowly through a window that
looked nowhere but into the next roof. She hung her clothes in the
closet and placed her hair brush on the dresser. With her radio
speaking alongside her, she sat out her nights by herself. Alone, she
was not unhappy. Most of all she felt safe, and she found that she
could sleep once again.
Often she lay on her back on the whimsical bed, looked through
the uncurtained window and let her eyes sink into the darkness. Or
she stared at the point where the slanted walls met the ceiling over
her face. She dozed and she culled images from her dreams, like
someone feeding herself after a long fast. She lay on her side sometimes, curled like a snail. She thought about the woman she was,
alone as a god and inventing her life again.
Apart from the wildness of her dreams, it was a minimal life she
was leading. Fortified by her nights alone, the woman carried on
with her job teaching small children, and perhaps was more tender
than usual with them. She had always been quiet with her associates
and now they almost seemed to fear her.
When she began to want people again she called up single women
who were friends. She went to movies. She was invited out to dinner
by couples who nervously vowed to be friends with both her and
her ex-husband, about whom they offered news without referring to
his young woman. She dreamed through the dinner parties, feeling
a worm of bitterness in the pit of herself because she hated to be
treated kindly. She brazened it through by not believing herself
pathetic. But more and more, as the world held up its mirrors, she
began to see herself as the victim of a crime.
Until then she had not imagined the other woman in her place,
not wondered about her or felt she was even a rival. She had viewed
this girl, who was pale, with a moon face and a high round forehead
like a madonna's, as much less than herself. The loss had therefore
not been a defeat but a sad manifestation of the weakness of her
husband, that was all. But now more and more the face, white and
unshadowed, came up in her dreams. Thinking of the girl, the
woman cried as she had never cried before.
106 By now a decent interval had passed, and people began to offer
her introductions. Until then she'd avoided men. Even at a stand-up
gathering, she'd find herself steering automatically away from men
who attracted her. It was because when faced with such a man, the
woman could only speak lies. She would look into his face and see
him diminished behind a lens of secrecy. But her friends taught her
that she was lonely, that she needed to be with a man, that she
needed to prove herself in that way after enduring this rejection by
her husband. So the woman allowed herself to be drawn back toward
men.
She found herself — at bars, at parties, everywhere where men
and women sought each other — on an elaborate court where games
were played full-dress. Out of practice, numb to the heart, the
woman felt that sex and love were the sports of more nimble, more
deft persons than she. The months of undisturbed sleep in her own
bed had made her a virgin again. She received several overt offers
from men who sought out women like her; these she declined with
a pounding heart. She met a teacher at a convention who interested
her, but that night she dreamed of him coming into her room and
the next day she couldn't speak to him. And then when it had been
three seasons since she'd left her husband, some logic told her she
was prepared.
The first man was an unlikely person. He lived on her street, and
sometimes as she walked in or out of her apartment he drove by, his
rusty-bottomed Chevrolet chugging softly, his hands gently poised
at the top of the steering wheel. He would nod to her. One day she
was waiting at the cashier in the corner store when he appeared
behind her, holding a jug of milk. He was tall and very thin, with
longish hair and an Egyptian profile. He said his name was James
and he offered her a ride home. She asked him in, and he sat
awkwardly on her couch. He commented on the glassware as she
served his beer. She explained that it was booty from the marriage.
James was delighted to hear she was divorced; his wife had left him
only two months before. They exchanged their sad stories, growing
more and more animated. When it was time for James to leave, they
were both smiling widely.
In a few days James called her. The two of them went off like
kids to a movie. He was driving a little too fast; she was sitting hard
against the door. The film had a lot of sex in it. When the hero laid
his hand on the heroine's breast, a grainy dune slung across the
thirty foot screen, the woman clenched her jaw. When their movie
107 star bodies heaved like universes in birth under the lights, the woman
was miserably embarrassed. James shifted his narrow hips away
from her across the sprung cushion of the theatre seat. Leaving, they
held hands in commiseration, his dropping low to catch hers. They
went to a bar and he drank three beers, sliding lower and lower in
his chair. She leaned over her vermouth and nibbled on the swizzle
stick.
What they'd seen in the movie had dropped between them like a
stage facade, tacky and overdrawn, but instantly indispensable. If it
were lifted, there would be nothing. So they both knew what was in
store. He had drank a little too much, and was weaving as they set
off. In the car he pulled her beside him and dropped his lank arm
over her shoulder. She asked him in.
They said nothing as they climbed the flight of stairs to her attic.
James' feet thudded behind the woman loosely, as if his shoes were
too big. He wanted neither tea nor coffee, but shored himself in the
corner of her couch, muttering about his wife. She moved nervously
from wall to window, finding nowhere to go in her own home. When
she came near, he flung his arm around her and she sat close beside
him on the couch. They stayed like that for a while, looking at the
opposite wall, their breath coming separately and fast.
When his arm grew tight on her shoulder, she went limp. He
pulled her around in front of him and kissed her hard, pressing her
lips back into her teeth and then forcing them apart with his tongue
which was rough as a horse's. She noted he was disturbing the
printed cover on her couch. She did not think of what to do; she
relinquished herself. He seemed to know what he was doing, so she
allowed him.
His breathing went deeper into his abdomen. He thrust her sideways suddenly, to get himself horizontal, and pulled her down
beside him. He kicked off his loose shoes which clomped to the floor.
Then he dove down over her. She was acutely conscious of her backbone pressing into the spine of the couch, and of her neck jammed
against the arm of it. She strove for greater limpness to relieve the
pressure. He ground his hard genitals into the side of her hip.
Fearing for her neck and quite unable to breathe, she tried to find
her hands and press her head upward.
"Why don't we go to the bedroom," she said softly.
Disturbed, the tension went out of him. He looked quizzical and
moved his weight off her. He pushed back his hair into place and sat
up, stabbing around on the floor for his shoes. He shifted his pants
108 into a comfortable position. She sat up and felt her neck cautiously.
His weight being off her was a tremendous relief, but somehow she
didn't want to escape. Looking at him, she felt a quite irrational
desire take breath in her belly and burn. She touched his hand. He
found his shoes and picked them up, heels together, in one hand.
They stood and walked toward the bedroom. He placed his shoes
neatly outside the bedroom door.
The woman leading, they lay down beside each other on their
backs, acquiescent before some imperative. They were still, still, still.
The woman wanted to encourage James, lying meek and mournful
as he was, but she knew now she'd erred in bringing him into her
bedroom. It had made her the aggressor, and that deadened him.
She stared straight up to the point where her walls tied themselves
together over her head, and thought of the night beyond her ceiling.
She touched James' belt buckle. He flipped over and lay flat on top
of her.
Not speaking, keeping their faces firmly tucked by the chin over
each other's shoulders, they moved around exploratively, two opposite contours finding a fit. James undid the buttons of her blouse
and drew it off her, carefully, and then dropped it over the edge of
the bed. She undid the buttons of his shirt and he shrugged himself
out of it. She took off her tights and her skirt, while he rattled his
bruising buckle and curled himself out of his pants. Modest in their
briefs, they pulled up the bedspread and slid themselves under it.
Everything was too quiet, and a kind of vacancy settled on them.
The awful truth was that neither of them wanted to make love now
and it was too late to retreat. The only way was forward, to get it
done and behind them. The woman retrieved her hand from under
his side and slid it into his shorts. It was warm in there and
incredibly soft. She felt she was invading some poor animal's nest,
feeling out unhatched young from the tangles of hair. There was no
movement. She let her hand stay there. Still nothing. She panicked,
and withdrew speedily.
And then her own body turned foreign. Her flesh was heavy, dull.
She felt hopelessly undesirable. Closing her eyes, she saw her husband
scanning her with pity. Furious, she wanted to rid her sight of this
man, this terrible mistake, in her bed.
He lay there, immobilized. She yawned ostentatiously. She could
hardly bear to hear his mutters, when they began to come out, that
he'd had too much to drink, that he didn't know her well enough.
She said nothing about how well he'd known her when he pinioned
109 her on the couch. She made light of it. She almost apologized for
having demanded this of him. She would have said anything then to
get him to leave. But he made no move. And she was terribly tired.
Before he drifted off to sleep she made herself ask him.
"Are you going to go home?" she said. She wanted her walls to
herself again, and his shoes removed from where she could see them
outside her bedroom door. There was no answer.
"Please," she said, "I wish you'd go." It was hard to be firm. But
she just couldn't bear him to be there. "I won't be able to sleep if
you stay," she said. "I can't sleep with men, Please."
But he was not going to go. He roused himself to become adamant
about staying. He simply said he was staying. He seemed to feel he'd
claimed the territory. Perhaps he saw leaving then as the final defeat.
At any rate he simply lay there, boneless. Considerate of his assaulted
manhood and too timid to make a scene, she could not make him
leave. She rolled away, cradling in her belly a tight nest of resentment, taking her hips as far as possible from the heat sent off by his
lank body, and pretended to sleep. She was angry all night, and
afraid to move for fear he'd know she was awake.
At dawn he approached her again and again was impotent. She
pretended she was sleeping the whole time. At eight o'clock she got
up, put on her robe and went out to make coffee. He slept until she
was ready to leave for work, when she stood by the bed fully dressed
and announced that he'd better get up. She turned her back to let
him slide out from under the covers and find his clothes. She could
hardly speak for hating him. He kissed her proprietarily and patted
her hips before scuffing down the stairs and out the door.
All day when she closed her eyes she shuddered thinking of that
night in her bed. Later at home, when her walls were back around
her, she realized that the trouble with James had been that he didn't
like her. She decided right then that she wouldn't ever go to bed
with someone who didn't love her. She froze James out when he
called, as he did, with a kind of leer in his voice as if there were some
lurid rite in their history to be enacted again. It was weeks before
she had anything to do with a man again.
This time she was at a party and noticed a man, a short, thick-
haired man with hawkish eyes, watching her. She circled the room,
talking to this one and that, feeling always the beam of his brooding
eye on her. He came up to her, called her by name, and asked if he
could telephone. She agreed with a slight incline of her narrow, dark
head, and left the party nearly forgetting him. But he called, and
no there ensued a courtship of such tact and insistence that she had
known this man, whose name was Raoul, for a whole month before
she realized what it was he wanted.
He wanted her. Raoul sometimes leaned toward her across a table
with a look so naked and intense as to consume her. But he was
careful not to overwhelm her; he held himself back. She felt immune
to him for the longest time. But one night at the beginning of a
holiday weekend they sat in her apartment with a bottle of wine
nearly empty between them and the telephone rang. It was her ex-
husband, calling to ask how she was getting along. She spoke easily
and gaily, feeling a stream of her heart go out to him. She could
almost hear his young woman like a soprano part in his voice, and it
was perhaps with her that she wanted to connect. The woman
looked over at Raoul as she spoke and felt a cracking inside. When
she put down the telephone, she took Raoul's hand between her own
palms and pressed it. There was a pulse inside.
They left her apartment with arms slipped across each other's
backs, went to his place and built a fire. He welcomed her there after
a long wait. His house was lined like the gentlest of traps. He was
reassuring. He slid cushions under her head and back as he eased
her down to the rug. For moments, the woman felt as if he were
blind. He was slow in exploring her, his stubby fingers lifting and
sensing the air and her skin like follicles of some sea plant. He
murmured things like "Now just raise your arm," and "We'll have
you out of this in one minute," as he undressed her.
They moved to the bedroom, he bare-chested and barefoot, she
wrapped in a throw rug and clutching most of her clothes. She
nearly panicked when she saw that he had lights that dimmed by
stages and piped-in music. But Raoul was equal to it all. He was so
delicate and dedicated that soon their bodies were drawn up
together like a harp, sounding one long, mellow chord. Afterwards
she did not even want to turn her face away, he was so comforting.
And then the room was so dark that she slept, or else did not
know waking from sleep. His breathing was soft and insensate. She
could see and hear nothing else at all. The dark was as dense as if it
came from inside of him. The night had nearly passed when she felt
him move, and then there was the progress of those weaving,
hungry antennae over her body. They made love again, he slept,
and moaned.
At the end of three days she knew he loved her. He wanted to be
with her all the time. He was reluctant for her even to look out the
i n window from the rooms where they stayed. He laughed when she
joked; his anger was roused by her troubles. They told each other
stories to make a past for themselves, but she found herself less
interested in him than in herself. He was joyful, and she was
generous. Like a hostess at her own body, she was pleased to make
him so happy.
Of course at the end of the weekend she had to go home. Her
white apartment had borne her absence like a cheated spouse; the
refrigerator was full of old food, the plants drooped, and her room
was accusatory when at last she slept in it alone again. But she
reclaimed it, cleaning and dusting and sitting alone on her couch
with the radio on the chair opposite. Raoul called after two days,
and she was delighted. But she was nervous about going to his house
because it seemed to put her life off course. At her place, he paced.
He found the chairs uncomfortable, the walls glaring, the sink too
low to wash in. So the next time they met she went home with him.
She found herself going there every weekend, as to a recurring dream
that blotted her out, escaping herself, but each time she became
nervous more quickly, and irritable. She felt lonely for her apartment and lonely for her own loneliness.
But he loved her. He cooked her omelettes for breakfast; he kissed
her on corners; he let her know that she had changed his world.
When they made love he pleased her more and more and the harp
trembled in all octaves. But when he said "I love you" the words
hung over the bed like an unanswered accusation.
What happened then was that she became unable to sleep again.
She was no longer sure she had ever slept at all with him. She lay in
the dark of his room striving to make out the outlines of furniture,
the black glint of a mirror. She tried to hide her sleeplessness, but he
could feel it. His voice came to her from sleep, the thought traversing his consciousness like the bow of a stringed instrument. "You're
awake," he said. "Sleep." Like a hypnotist. "Sleep." But she
couldn't.
That night she lay until the sun came up, the next she got up and
went into his living room where she slept on the rug. The last night
she made love to him and then said she wanted to go home to sleep
alone. It was the end of something. Raoul said he'd walk with her,
but she wouldn't let him. He lay on his back, his eyes like a fire
burning itself out. She walked slowly all the way home, the night
lapping against her cheek like a faint cold tide. In her own bed she
slept heavily, pushing back dreams of the moon-faced young woman.
112 Of course the problem had been that Raoul loved her too much
and his loving made a circle within which she could not exist.
She thought herself bad, wicked for this; here was this man offering her all his spirit and wealth and she could not accept. An
animal in a strange den, she had been wary, fearing ambush of
her body and soul. Now she was doubly alone, the abandoned
and the abandonning one. The woman repotted her house plants
and washed the windows. She thought of her husband and how rare
their love had been. She thought of the woman who'd thieved him
from her; she beat her fists against the broad, cool cheeks and
pressed away her image. She hated the thief. But the worst was that
now the woman felt herself becoming one of these thieves. Cut away
from everyone, the woman felt like a cruel, predatory reptile reduced
to stealing from her own kind.
Because all the men she met now seemed to be married. The
woman knew about this problem, because she'd heard other women
refer to it; but she'd never seen herself as one of the others, the unclaimed. She fought against it. She walked into her singles' bar and
sat at the counter. On her right sat a polished man in a pin-striped
suit; even though there was no wedding band on the finger she could
see he was married. Behind the lens of his eyes there was a woman,
seated then in the passenger's seat of a wide chrome-toothed car,
then patiently laying out the trousseau flatware on a teak table, not
looking at the clock, knowing her husband was late and refusing to
imagine just where in the cold sprawl of the city he was sitting,
looking down a bar counter at other women. The woman turned her
eyes from the knowledge; she paid for her drink and left.
Sam was a married man, but perhaps she thought he was different. She was dazed by him. He walked into her classroom to inspect
her teaching, and stood at the back, one knee bent, hands in his belt
loops, spreading apart his suit jacket, smoking where smoking was
not allowed. They had lunch. He reached to look at a ring on her
right hand. When he touched her she jerked back the hand, but
he'd caught it firmly. His eyes caught hers too, and seemed to say,
"I can do this if I want." They talked work, but it was like walking
on a wet clay slope after that. The woman felt she was slipping,
sliding down, losing words, losing her tension, leaning into him.
Sam and the woman saw each other for lunches after that; then
dinners, then one day he arrived with a gift and she knew he'd
decided to make her his lover. She thought she loved him, but
somehow she was unwilling about this affair. She never felt com-
"3 fortable. Sam would take her to dinner and then they'd go back to
her place, drink brandy on the couch, and go to bed at the unnatural
hour of i o o'clock so that he could get up at midnight and go home.
She lay with the sheets tucked over her breasts and watched him put
on his three-piece suit untidily, tie and collar never quite in place,
somehow deliberately. He kissed her hurriedly and apologetically.
She began to count on his leaving this way, because she was nervous
when he was there. Knowing he would leave at midnight so that she
could sleep made her feel safe.
This went on for weeks without the wife coming into the affair.
The woman told herself that the wife did not matter, that if Sam
had affairs it meant there was something wrong with the marriage,
so that if it weren't her, it would be someone else. Therefore she told
herself she was not guilty, but simply an accidental witness to a
general infidelity.
Of course this was only skin deep. The woman grew curious about
Sam's wife, and Sam came to want to talk about her. He believed
that he would leave his wife very soon. But in the meantime, they
talked about her and she came into the affair. When he spoke, as he
did smoking a cigarette propped up in bed after making love and
before midnight, the woman saw the wife open the bedroom door,
and come in under the slanted ceilings where a little fight fell from
the narrow window. The wife came in and sat like a mother at the
foot of their bed, a hand outstretched on the blankets. She had two
children; they were sometimes behind her, sometimes in front of her,
but always near. She was a tall redhead, Sam had told her. She
liked to walk for hours, this woman, walked anywhere without looking around her, just to move. The woman saw the wife drop her
head where she sat, as Sam explained her unhappiness. He did this
with compassion. The woman saw the wife nod as Sam said that she
was afraid to leave him because she thought there were no other
men in the world.
This image gave the woman a certain pleasure. She was on the
outside, after all. As Sam talked, she felt included in his family. It
was easy to be the other woman. Oh, she fancied someday it would
end, that Sam would indeed leave his wife and they would be
together. But she didn't long for this future; she let it rest somewhere
else without wanting it upon her.
One day Sam came to meet her at school as he often did, and
they went to her place while she changed clothes. Sam sat on the
couch and read the newspaper. He seemed less fueled. They had a
114 drink and bickered over where to eat, finally choosing a new Chinese
restaurant that had been well reviewed. The woman wrapped herself
in her long dark coat which flared behind her as they took the stairs
down two at a time, and slid into the car seat beside him, laying her
head briefly on his shoulder as she often did. At dinner she speared
shrimps with a chopstick and they gossiped and joked about other
teachers. The dinner stretched longer than usual, and it was nearly
11 o'clock when they came back to the woman's house. As she
brought out the brandy and he lay back on the couch with his feet
up, she began for the first time that evening to feel strange. Something had changed.
She sipped her brandy, sitting sideways on her feet on the couch
and looking intently at Sam, who fixed his eyes on the cigarette pack.
"Not even an hour left tonight," she said, "and you'll have to go."
"I thought I wouldn't go, tonight," he said, evenly. "Is that all
right?"
The woman said she was delighted. She didn't want to undignify
the moment by asking what arrangements he'd made with his wife.
She exclaimed in gratitude and hugged him. But in among the cages
of her bones something began to move, tensing itself, gathering itself,
something terrible and familiar.
Now there was nothing to do. Sam complained that she didn't
have a television. They each went to wash, brushing shoulders in the
narrow hallway and saying 'excuse me' like strangers. They went to
bed too early, out of habit. They made love and the woman could
not concentrate. She wondered about the wife. She could not keep
back a crowd of images that went through her mind, blocking out
Sam, and the coiling and uncoiling animal inside her counteracted
the movements of their bodies. They had finished, and he had gone
off to sleep like a child, holding her against him like a stuffed
animal, before the woman knew what was happening. She loosened
his arms from around her body and sat up.
She thought of the red-headed wife. She thought of her walking,
only this time she saw her under a blue-black sky with brilliant stars
pricking out, like tiny holes into some brighter place. She saw the
redheaded wife sit straight up in bed, scream, and force the heel of
her hand into her mouth to stop herself, under the ceiling of her
bedroom, under the black sky where the stars pricked and she
herself, the red-head, strode, cold air against her cheeks. She felt the
pain lash at the inside of the red-headed wife, and at her own heart,
and she knew she'd met herself again in the coils of her life, or what
"5 passed for her life, which was really the curling, sliding trail over
wet clay left by snakes of other lives. She saw the moon-faced girl
then, sleeping smooth-skinned beside her own husband. She reached
out into her image to waken the moon-faced girl, so that she too
would sit up in bed beside her sleeping man and cry out. Because it
was really the three of them, the moon-faced girl and the red-headed
wife and the woman who sat now in bed straight up, teeth digging
into the flesh of her own hand, who were receiving their own lashes,
who belonged to each other and must speak. In her mind the woman
reached out both arms to seize the hands of the two other women, to
hold hands and make a circle. But she sat, legs shrouded in sheets,
and made no move.
116 Stephen Guppy / Two Poems
MERCURIUS
Liar,I know you -—■
Fire-thief,
Blasphemer
Changing
The dead
Into pillars of ashes,
Stealing
The marrow
From the bones of the light.
Two-faced,
You wait
At the cross-roads of morning
To marry
The daughters
Of the East and the West.
117 EULALIA
Speak,light
Out
Of the mountain,
Out
Of the core
Of the shining stone.
Crack,tree
Lightning
Fears you,
Corkscrew
Tail of goat.
My
Tongue
Roots in the darkness,
Speak,night
Out of my blood.
118 Laurence Hutchman / Two Poems
NIGHT-VIEW
Wind is your voice
breathes in late winter streets
across empty chalk-white roads;
leave your metaphors
near blue and silver ice
then follow your eyes
to the dark sky's rim,
chateaus, mansions, canticles.
Follow the mountain's road
the sound, the sweep, the curve
of your breath along high ridges
down past domed asylums and old lamps
where people murmur in grey breaths
under the cold blue exile of this night.
"9 BALCONY
Glancing at my directions
for the number of your house on Ste. Famille
those Parisian fronts with Brooklyn railings
across Sherbrooke tarnished figures from antiquity
then you two waving from a balcony.
On the doorglass a pastel flower
blooming:
bounding up the stairs
they give way like waves
leaping up into the light of your apartment
music of Morocco swirling
through Greek pillars, crystal chandaliers,
a mosque glimmers in water
in an alcove of a photo
people are waiting
you on the balcony by a rusty railing
waiting. Pigeons, grey, mauve, green feathers
rise through heat,
vertigo
and so here we sit on this shaky balcony
above Ste. Famille,
and talk
about Indian rhythms, Black rhythms
and one floor down
a girl
sits before her round red table
cafe, fromage et croissants.
120 Soon in the yellow kitchen
the lady and the unicorn singing
singing of Mallarme's angel
and out there
in the skies
the sun setting on the green mountain
our bodies outlined,
the balcony
glowing.
121 Tim Inkster / Two Poems
HER ONLY SON, PIERS
The night is in fact
your mother's bowl, turned
upside down on the world
after rain.
Or so the boy Piers
was told by his mother,
who explained the stars
as sugar
and the moon a lump
of butter left after baking
cookies.
That it rained at night also
was a question Piers asked once
only, after the day he lost
his taste for cookies.
That is Piers in the corner
sitting, with one eye closed
and the other fevered,
red and wide
as if an eye were the only
possibility left.
Sun moon stars and rain.
122 STREETCRIER, A WOODCUT BY BEWICK
He could have farmed, perhaps,
he was able; or become famous.
At one time he was slight,
but displays now a weakness
for tobaccos and beer.
His career was many times thwarted
by the woman he couldn't embrace,
not that he was religious,
merely principled. He shared
with the parson a common interest
in pipes, and antiquarian books,
one of which was not the bible.
Still the woman's breasts were
always too ponderous.
123 Frances Itani / Two Poems
MISS PERRY
in our one-room school
Miss Perry, teacher
(all grades up to seven)
forbade the crossing of feet
during the Lord's Prayer
and shuffling, for the flag
she was not fat
but big, lumpy, non-linear
wore long green tartan skirts
white blouses
had blue hair, and a peaked nose
every morning, at the platformed piano
the loud pedal straining
beneath her iron, oxford foot
she played Marche Militaire
pounding as though she'd kill the piano
for letting that out of the keys
124 RAOUL
for W. O. Mitchell
taught French
dragged one foot behind the other
(perpendicular to his walk)
slid along halls
in his dusty, pinstripe suit
his hair was thin on top
always damp, looking freshly parted
as he entered and left a room
he bestowed on us
the sounds of his culture
picked his nose
stood silent in long thoughtful poses
then in sudden whooshing arcs
he swung his thigh-stiffened leg
over his head
cuffing the blackboard with a shoe
125 Mark Jarman
ARMS OF THE BLUES
'She's tougher than a pontiac
got a face like the coast' the radio tells me on the Yellowhead
some country and western station out of Edson
driving into town the beer gets warm between your legs
Too much craziness coming back to the city
moon drools piano key yellow
blue pines wave like a train station
chimney fingers smoking gravel clouds
broken throat sky
it's a traditional blues number
still every weekend I drive in pay the tolls
pretend I'm living in this century
White poplar branches belly dance like kelp on the tide
yellow lamp posts flash their halo on the larch
giving me that holier than thou look
some jet off the base scratches the sky, a smoky zipper
exhaust trailing red in the sun
But I'm down at the Kondiker tavern tapping my foot to Stormy
Monday
piano throws up dust, a little slide guitar with my beer
black guy blowing harp in the can
echo's better in here he says fingering the blues
126 A tanned girl plays shufneboard in faded blue cut-offs
white stripe of skin showing around the rough edges
lifts one nice leg behind her every time she throws a rock
But god doesn't look too pleased as the chord changes
and an angel pokes my arm and lifts one of my draught
as if wishes were underwear beneath a white Mexican blouse
light blue panties against smooth brown skin
or an oak's thin shadow prowling on whitewashed walls
window next door flicks on like a flashlight
bats panic, water slips on the rocks
One finger on her lips
one hand on her hips is how I remember her
dead still, a fossil in rock
she is tougher than a pontiac
cut her teeth on my tin heart
held it in her ivory fingers
Now her and Vern hand out Watchtower
on Jasper Ave by the Bay
they're living in this century
god holds us in the arms of the blues.
127 The ONTARIO
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a North American Journal of the Arts
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Wendell Berry
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Marian En gel
H. E. Francis
William Goyen
Elizabeth Han sell
Samuel Hazo
Bill Henderson
William Heyen
Daniel Hoffman
Lewis B. Horne
David Ignatow
Maxine Kumin
Irving Layton
Denise Levertov
Irving Malin
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Tom Marshall
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W. S. Merwin
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Robert Phillips
David Ray
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M. L. Rosenthal
Philip Roth
David R. Slavitt
William Stafford
Peter Stevens
John Updike
W. D. Valgardson
Linda W. Wagner
G. F. Waller
Tom Wayman
Theodore Weiss
Richard Wilbur
Colin Wilson
George Woodcock
J. Michael Yates M. T. Kelly / Two Poems
LITANY
The day they published the poems about whales
two men from Brooklyn poked the eyes out of a Dolphin.
The paper said it cried like a baby.
A man ran over the face of a bear with a 70 horsepower
mercury at Bon Echo. He was trying to "turn her" as she
swam into the park.
At Pogamiskiming the engineer held up his bass. Between
thumb and forefinger in the jelly of the eyes. They're
going to dam the river.
According to Hemingway two gypsies killed the bull that
killed their brother by gouging out its eyes and spitting
in the sockets. They believe in honour.
In Italy they put needles in the pupils of decoys. The
cries of distress bring others. Canary and hummingbird are
are the major game there.
Chickens in a cage, flies, a ton of wet shit, eggs and
eyes like red sores. I've seen a wild bird and a whale.
I've seen a wild bear.
The menace was a privilege.
129 HAWK ON THE ROAD
A sparrow, its back open, like straw.
The nodular guts look dirty, preserved.
I notice this bird while cleaning
a weapon: four feet away.
The predator had been hit, and left.
Claws, beak move; an old man whispers.
Because of their edge I, loosely,
push it aside with my foot.
Breath is indignant; a hiss and a sigh
cough from the dusty tumble.
Surely it has to be killed,
crippled, faint movements,
an eye popped.
My blow,
at the tiny helmet of a head,
tentative.
130 The eye pushes out, the bird
covers its head with a wing,
a gesture so medieval, beautiful:
I can't breathe.
The wings and feet are cut off,
not as trophies, but for magic.
Meat comes out of a leg, translucent,
warm as someone you sleep with.
Hours later the sand cleaned steel
smells of fish.
The wings are dark, not mottled now,
There is no arc, no hiding.
The way
The best
Die.
131 Theresa Kishkan / Two Poems
WICKANINNISH FOREST
for Hughes & Baskin
Your crow lives in this forest.
His sound breeds in the underbrush
to make more like him.
Your crow struts on a half-dead hemlock.
I have nothing now to feed him,
so he will visit in the night.
He is dark
He is sly
I can say it was a dream,
I did not even see him.
Your crow lives in this forest.
His sound breeds in the underbrush
to make more like him.
132 OLD MOTHER'S SONG
Let me tell you
how he lured her from me
made her an island on her own
forested her with his magic seed
how he walked the new island's circumference
past Ucluelet, Brooks Bay
past French Creek, Winter Harbour
how each place echoed his faithless name
on the heron's tongue
in the heart of stone
how he left
Let me tell you
he is the shadow on the beach
the foghorn calls to
he is known only by his footsteps
yet he lies with her in every dream
the nightmare rapist or fatherless child
all the trees on that island lean to his music
each river waits for his shadow to fall upon her
to ease her restless shape
Let her walk into tall water
Let the difficult tides tug her to them
Let her drown to his song
133 August Kleinzahler / Three Poems
THE FOOL-KILLER
Tell me whose lips
stop the biting thing, whose
touch is a drug.
The weeks pound on.
A dog loves whoever dishes
out the meat.
And a dog loves spring.
They who vanquish the Fool-Killer
are safer than gold, than
bonds;
as sure as good land
in a shrinking world
they thicken, accrue
(even as the thermostat
holds)
just like robust mammals
do
when the weather turns
and grow another layer
when there is no air at all.
J34 VIKINGS OF THE AIR
Our skycraf t rides too low to clear the heights ■—■
"Dump the goods, my boyos; save this balloon."
The pink rocks of Arcadie fall out of sight;
down down through moving stacks of cloud
our plunder falls like defused bombs.
Peasant skulls explode in fields of chard.
The cargo we bartered bravely for is lost.
Screwed again. Heft brought us low
and close to jeopardy. Below, each spring
herring fishermen are likewise sunk by greed.
Happily, air is what fuels our craft
and we can buy air by dropping what we must.
"Give them back what we fought like gods for.
Make height, you bastards. The wind
drives east toward the sea and our wives
are sure to moisten as our craft comes into sight."
135 SPLEEN
The night Ottawa brought down the budget
Mrs. Mooney's pals sat shit-faced in the bar
next to three Quebecois, brilliantly scarved.
Around the block streetlamps intruded
on clusters of branch —
et voila:
catkins dripping from ash.
A hundred million was spent to make jobs.
Bronchial trouble was in every house.
March had been wet. Dark women looked pale;
fair women, sallow. All that day
the skin doctor lanced eruptions.
Bankers were generally pleased.
The last traces of black snow became air
and that air trailed a slow Greyhound
to the Dairy Queen in Plattsburg.
It was a budget without surprises.
The dead were dead. The rest of us on call.
136 Judy Lassen
BUT IN A FICTION,
IN A DREAM OF PASSION ...
Louis who purports on the first page to being somewhat of a central
character is as conscious of the ineffectuality of his name as you may
be. He will make a joke about it when he introduces himself. But
because he smiles and shows the gaps between his teeth — an
allusion to Chaucer — you wont know whether his joke is the truth
or just another party line, a lie.
He wears the earring like a double negative he says. He hopes that
it and the name will cancel each other out while still being provocative. But a name is like a sentence for life: irrevocable. You can
change it but like a poorly done nose job nobody ever forgets it. In
the half light its fine but theres no denying it in the white sheeted
relief of the morning.
Louis prefers the night life.
The room is Boston fern green and macrame beige. You feel of
course youve been here before and you have. Now what can he do
before the turning of the page? Host abandoned what can he say
after "My name is" to make you forget it? Louis chooses his chair to
colour coordinate. He sits down with you and instantly you feel as he
laughs with you at his own too glaring facade, his self-deprecating
neon "This is honest, this is real."
"Who do you know here?" Not the worst opener you could have
chosen. And "Havent I seen you in the bar before?" Both hes heard
before but will dazzle you with uncommon replies, or try. "If youre
speaking biblically isnt that a little too personal?" And to the latter:
"Are you trying to slur my impeccable character?" He grins and
youre immediately disarmed. So you trust him with your metaphoric
child and let him spoil it with too much attention because the more
he talks the more you think you glimpse between the teeth.
Louis was drafted but though he had a facility for foreign tongues
he wasnt sent abroad. Instead he was kept home to seal the open
sores of the wounded. This he tells you as he fakes the limp of a
combat veteran. And strangely its him you feel for.
He insists you try a drink youve never had before and its taste in
137 your mouth tells you youve acquiesced. To Louis all ruts are
dangerous but his own.
He never dances. Yet every move he makes in getting from his
chair to the bar and back for his refill, sidling past the talkers,
easing through the dancers, oozes grace. You dont feel cheated.
Youve studied body languages and you think you read his. But to
apply the usual comparison — animal-like grace — overlooks his
self-consciousness. You may laugh though — "Now hes going too
far" — when he tells you hes shy. If the crowd should clear, if you
should find yourselves suddenly alone . . .
"Were so bored that we relie on the occasional typographical
error for excitement. The left index fingers the most likely to make
a slip." Louis is full of this kind of postulate which he presents as
axiom. You think that given time you could prove him wrong but
he doesnt stop, never stops long enough for attack.
An open door admits drafts and admit it: you wouldn't dream of
unhinging a door of his well built house.
His is the case of living by hard sell in a soft land. You guess
immediately he doesnt come from here. He has too much style.
"Foreigner eh?" He only smiles again. "I like to think Im different."
Louis is upset that the contents of his shopping bag wont be the
museum pieces of tomorrow. The books he collects have hard covers
and their pages arent cut. New books he calls virgins. Yet you
assume hes well read.
A woman passes and through the sheer of her skirt, through the
space between her legs, you see the shape of a bottle and a half filled
glass. Still life.
To lose this self-consciousness, to forget where a line should end,
to let a central character slip off to the side, find his own way
through the crowd, pass right through the door without apologizing
to the host, taking his discrete evenings choice with him: tis a
consummation etc. Louis is restless. His eyes sweep the crowd off
their feet and under the rug.
Louis is a student of life searching for a consistent fiction. He
wonders where the muse enters to impregnate. You wonder how an
intellect finds room to move in his fleshly mind.
How much of this sudden silence is your own? How long can you
expect him to love his own voice? These are just questions. Soon he
will turn to you with those cynical hopeless eyes, slay you — Popes
model — with those daggers and you will know hes saying "Are you
138 worth talking to?" Maybe when he recrosses his legs your knees will
touch and you will think without wanting "It's possible."
Its your show, you know how to arrange the bodies, how to
derange the brains to suit the needs of your story. If you only knew
your power, if you guessed that Louis would go home thinking of
you, reliving the evening, recalling your words, maybe even feeling
inadequate. "Him? Never!" Now get on with it. Cast the dye.
Mould the clay.
Later when the crowd thins out and the smoke clouds part you
glimpse your reflections in the black backed window. Louis fixes his
hair whenever the chance presents itself. Its thinning. And you
wonder what he would have you say. Will have you saying. Should
you stay?
His couch is comfortable. You hardly notice the setting has
changed so aesthetic the movement. Now he will say "I love you."
This heralds the end.
For you his pants, discarded in the middle of the floor like a snails
spiral eviscerated, become a last little island of the familiar anchored
in all this strangeness.
He is your compulsion, your thirst for knowledge, your nights
curiosity. There is a strange liquor on your tongue. To know is to
own.
Never further from the truth.
Louis smiles with abandon and stands before you vainly puffed up
by his fleshly mind: the immaculate conception. Not even his muse
would touch him.
Between the nude frail shoulders you hardly recognize his name.
A pinprick of truth would deflate him.
Louis abandons his smile. Is this the image in the window pane?
This is one way of getting to know me.
Never further from the truth.
Louis shows you the door, no more. Sun lights dust on the
windows not even a fly can see through.
You will go home after that first meeting, question your senses,
and feel him pinching you. Is he a lie? Alive? Is this the worlds oldest
dream: to be or to seem?
139 Anne Le Dressay / Three Poems
COVER MY TRACKS
Cover my tracks.
Scramble the traces of my steps
in the sand, in the snow.
The path is not clear
nor ever has been.
(I am distracted by shadows,
dazzled by shapeless presences
luring me aside)
I cannot move quickly:
there is too much to clear away
in the tangled forests.
I have chosen a difficult master,
cover my tracks.
140 WE ARE LOOKING FOR THE DESERT
We are looking for the desert.
We have never seen a desert.
We are looking for sand,
for golden dunes in the sunlight,
for cactus and emptiness.
We are looking for the illusion
of Sahara:
(buried cities,
sandstorms and camels
and mysterious
desert nomads)
We are looking for this.
We would prefer
not having to travel too far.
141 SONG IN WHITE
Clouds fell
sometime in the night:
come morning
everything was white
and you could see the cold breath
of the sky
touching every still object
with white crisp froth.
There was a world
white on white,
and the cold steam of the clouds
washing over and up
and opening around stark trees
and white round hills.
And a silence
moving like the clouds
across the face of the sun.
That too
was white.
142 Kim Maltman /Two Poems
IN LIEU OF A WAKE
This much for ourselves.
The inevitable destructive courtesies.
We erase concerns
and unearth others.
There are many reasons to excuse
and many actions also
but the truth is simply
that the truth is
clumsy passed from hand to hand.
I would apologize for anything now,
but the dead
are unreproachable,
composed and well-dressed,
floating downriver in old cars.
143 A SOURCEBOOK OF CHRONOLOGY
It was nothing.
In the mountains the clouds flowered.
Elsewhere
all the birds were dead
and putting facts together.
I said I remembered nothing
of importance.
In the garden
of stone miracles
the sun sat down.
A bird
dipped headfirst through a fountain
and recovered. Things
are often as they seem.
Surely you would not exclude yourself
from mockery.
The facts point
all directions
and the eye is not admissable
as evidence.
144 StoryQuarterly
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#4
Name
Address .
City.
State
Zip Mike Mason
THE VAN
You.
And the dirty canvas backpack that you have taken off by now.
And the gravel on the road shoulder that you kick up with your
toe in your small blank frustration of waiting and then smooth again
with the ball of your foot for something to do.
And a big green and white sign giving the mileage to the next
town, where once again you will know no one.
And the cars that don't stop.
And apart from these things, there is only the gray maritime fog
forming and unforming in wet ghosts and veils, drifting, and that is
what you feel like inside.
You are not expecting the van to stop. It emerges ghostly from
the sheeting piles of fog, just sliding through veils like a bodiless
thing, like a big soft moth, coloured the blanched grey of mushrooms, no lettering on the side. It rolls up and past with no sound
but the swish of tires on pavement, which is no sound. And then it
stops down the road a bit just inside another misty veil, alighting on
the road shoulder and quivering there like a drenched and colourless
butterfly, and you still not expecting it to stop and thinking it
probably won't be there when you get to it.
But you have already picked up your pack and are running,
reacting automatically and without much hope or excitement or
even relief, because you have been on the road for so long. And the
van is still there after all, and it is comparatively real, and already
the side panel door is sliding open, and suddenly it is just as if you
hadn't been standing back there in the wet maritime fog for five
hours at all, as if all that time was not a time at all but a place, and
you had left that place behind you back on the road shoulder with
no more evidence of your presence there than a bit of shuffled gravel.
Both your place and your five hours have been sucked back into
those shifting piles of veiling fog, and the five hours don't even have
shuffled gravel to tell you where to find them again.
So you hand your pack to someone and climb in through the
panel opening and make your way over the crowd of bodies in the
146 back of the van until you find a small corner of space for yourself.
Then you sit down with your legs bunched up, huddled on the metal
floor in your fog-damp heavy clothes, too tired to notice much
around you yet, too tired and too dulled after being five hours buried
under layers of wet fog and now to be in a place where, if it isn't
quite dry or warm or light, at least the air doesn't cling to you and
crawl on your skin like cobwebs as the fog did. You sit huddled
against the big rounded bulge where the wheel comes, and although
the van is moving now it is still too soon for you to be uncomfortable
against the jolting metal. Even the strangeness of the sudden change
does not penetrate you yet, as you sit anaesthetized in your loneness
and weariness.
Gradually, though, you become aware of all the people you have
stepped over like baggage to get to your little corner of space. It is
very crowded, so you count and you find that there are twenty-two
people in the back of the van, plus the driver and the boy in the
passenger seat which makes twenty-four in all. The twenty-two are
all bunched up like you, except for three who have their legs
stretched out in front of them, two of whom do not know or do not
care about the extra space they are taking up, but the third has a
nervous look on his face as if he is afraid someone will tell him to
move his goddamn legs and he will lose his comfortable space. He
has a gold cross on a chain around his neck, and he is smoking and
this also appears to make him nervous although there are others
smoking too, flicking ashes on the van floor, and the air in the van
is thick and stale.
After the people taking up too much room you notice the people
next to you, because the people next to you are always very important. On your left, and now you are aware of his shoulder and arm
touching yours, is a big beefy blond man with a round face and a
new pack, wearing stiff unfaded jeans, a straight type and obviously
not a seasoned hitchhiker. He probably won't bother you although
he might turn out to be a talker and you don't want to talk. Mostly
it's the new hitchhikers who like to talk. A lot of the old ones, like
you, are tired of it all and just like to brood behind washed gray eyes
over the drug of travel that has eaten grayly away at their lives.
To your right are the chess players. This summer there are always
the chess players, playing on small plastic pocket sets where usually
some of the men are missing and they replace them with matches.
They challenge everybody and each game lasts no more than twenty
minutes. But you don't want to talk and you don't want to play
147 chess, so you prepare to be unfriendly if you have to, and thank god
you have learned how to do this and still get what you want some of
the time.
The next person you look at is the boy up front in the passenger
seat. He might be as old as 25, but he has that smooth and careless
look of a boy and this is how you think of him. He is clean cut and
wearing a red handkerchief knotted around his neck, and it crosses
your mind that he might be a fag although there is nothing else
about him that particularly suggests this except maybe the smooth
boyishness of his face. Anyway, you hate fags because of all the lousy
rides you have had with them, and although you cannot pin it down
to that there is something in this boy's look that you dislike intensely
and that you would not trust. He talks constantly with the driver
and it doesn't occur to you that he is a hichhiker, but then you hear
somebody say that he was the first to be picked up and that was
yesterday and that is why he has the passenger seat and is so friendly
with the driver.
So one by one you become aware of the people around you, and
you study them because there is nothing else to do, and some of them
hold your attention more than others. You also listen but mainly you
look. The van stops twice more soon after you get in and two more
hikers are picked up raising the total to twenty-four in the back, and
with twenty-four packs also it is very crowded and there are many
cigarettes being lit. You gather that the driver had an empty van
and is now picking up every hitchhiker in sight to try and be a good
guy. And all the hikers think he is a good guy, even though there
are no windows in the back of the van and you are all out to see the
country. But when you have been travelling a lot you do not care
too much about windows anymore, windows having become just
another kind of wall between you and your longing. A man with a
huge gray windowless van could pick up the whole world and take
everyone to the moon and he would be a good guy for doing it, and
everyone would smoke and play chess on plastic sets and be grateful
just to be moving.
The van does not stop again for a long time, and despite the
inevitable emergence of a few jokers and loud talkers and friendly
types around you, you find yourself drifting away from this strange
rolling bubble of humanity, fading down into the long road and the
stretching hours and into the hum of the wheels, the sound of
travelling, which is louder and more persistent than any other sound
and into which all other sounds glide and merge and then disappear
148 as things do on a long watery horizon in late afternoon. Even when
the van stops finally for gas, the hum of the wheels continues in
your mind and the conversation with the attendant and the noises of
the gas pump are like dreams or half-remembered sounds against the
hum of travelling and against your own boredom and weariness.
And it is also like a dream when the driver gets out of the van and
the boy in the passenger seat turns around and explains to everyone
how the driver has been such a good guy and isn't too well off and
you should all chip in and buy him something. When that happens
it turns you sick inside because you have seen it before. The twisted
gestures of friendliness and the grotesque reaching for warmth have
all happened before in your travelling, and just like this, and in the
end they all go sliding under the wheels of the hum and are pressed
into the gray pavement. And you are glad of the hum that rolls over
everything, and over you especially, because it envelopes you in a
small hazy sac where you have no responsibility except for keeping
your own nose clean.
So most of the hikers give when the box comes around, some fifty
cents and some a dollar bill. Some of them do not have much money,
but then they do not have much to lose and can afford to seem
generous. A small price, possibly, for a bit of acceptance. But you,
you pull up the hum close around you like a blanket and give
nothing, for too often you have felt warmth and been secure in it,
only to be deceived and lost when the warmth suddenly went cold
or was taken away. The gray hum of the wheels on the pavement, at
least, is unchanging and will not switch faces on you.
When the driver comes back you watch him as he climbs behind
the steering wheel of the van and then asks where the boy is. His
middle-aged face is scarred with acne, the short hair slicked back,
eyes dark and wandering. Someone says the boy has just gone to the
bathroom and will be right back, and a few people grin at each
other over the surprise. Everyone wonders what the boy will buy.
When the boy returns he is carrying a plain brown bag. He
presents this to the driver and makes a suitable speech on behalf of
the group and everyone claps and gives three cheers like a bunch of
bloody school kids on a bus trip and you think christ what a simpering bastard that prick of a boy in a red neckerchief is. The driver
takes the first forty-ouncer of rye out of the paper bag, and you hear
the boy say how maybe he should taste it to see if it's any good. So
the driver screws open the bottle and takes a long swig, and then
since one goddamn generous turn deserves another he passes the
149 bottle around, first to the boy, and then into the back. Everybody
takes a swig, and you take a good swig too because what the hell.
And now the van is rolling again, and the bottle is going around
again. After the second round there is still about two fingers in the
bottom and the driver finishes it off. One of the chess players takes
out a guitar and a few people start singing with him. The big blond
man in the new jeans beside you asks you where you're from, and
you say oh hell to yourself and then close your eyes and pretend you
didn't hear and he takes the hint. Sitting back against the jolting
metal of the van with your knees up, you are cramped and uncomfortable. The singing is quite loud, and seems only to make all the
bodies much closer, more crammed together. It occurs to you to get
out and try for another ride, but it is too close to nightfall for that.
So you hunch down into yourself and try not to listen to the singing.
Road songs, camp songs. Then someone nudges you and you open
your eyes. You take the joint and drag on it and then pass it to the
blond man who passes it on without smoking.
Now the second bottle of rye is going around. This time it lasts
only one trip, but there is still a good swig left for the driver. The
people in the van are really loosening up now, the jokers and storytellers competing, the laughers laughing, the two girls sucking in
attention, and the party atmosphere makes you want to disappear.
But none of the talk or the party noise can get above the low, gray
purr of the van rushing through the fog, the ghostly whiteness of fog
that you know is pressing from the outside the way a cat presses on
the legs of a standing person, stiffly and coldly seductive.
The next thing you know the van is making another stop, but this
time the side panel door opens and everyone starts to pile out.
Through the front window of the van you can see the coiled red
neon of a bar sign, blurred around the edges like a rain-soaked
flower, blinking on and off, bleeding through the fog in slow pulses.
The driver, you learn, is going to buy a round to show his appreciation for the rye.
For a moment the small bare warmth of the bar room, filling with
hitchhikers, seems like a shrine, as if some destination has finally
been reached. You relax a little as you do in bars, but still you choose
a seat with your back to the wall, and sit with the chair tilted
rockingly and wait for this to be over so you can get on the road
again.
After the driver's round, other rounds are bought. The boy gets
one, of course, and two of the guitar players, and then, not so
150 surprisingly, the blond man in new jeans who is sitting at your table.
Included in the rounds are the few local patrons, old men who are
quiet, wary, resentful of the intrusion, but who accept the drinks
anyway. So you all sit there at tiny round damp tables drinking draft
that smoulders to piss in your bladders, and by the time the group
finally gets up to swing noisily into the street, night has fallen and
the fog is stained nicotine yellow from the streetlights.
Then, less than a mile out of town, when people are still settling
into place and you haven't yet been handed a beer from the half
dozen twelves someone bought at the bar, the van slides off the road
shoulder and tips into the ditch, casually, sloppily, like a drunk
falling into an armchair. The panel door is jammed into some mud,
the van sloping forty-five degrees, so you all crawl into the driver's
seat and haul yourselves up out of that door into the foggy night as
if you are swimming up from a sunken ship.
Right away people start disappearing into the trees to take a leak,
but gradually they drift back and listen to the boy in the red neckerchief and a couple of other leader types talking over the situation.
The driver is sitting out of it, sitting on the bank of the ditch as if
he had fallen there, and you watch his bleary-eyed confusion and a
kind of sadness or even fear in his eyes as he surveys all these young
strangers surrounding his van and heaving it back up onto the road.
—■ You know how to drive one of these things? — he finally
manages to ask, the words thick and slurred, directed to the boy.
■— Yea, — says the boy, — as a matter of fact I used to drive one
myself, — and there is such oily smoothness in that answer, the voice
snakelike and drawling with some sort of accent. You look at the
boy again, standing there with one hand on the open door of the van
as if he owns it or is advertising it, and you see that he is tall, lean,
almost tough-looking, with something like a cowboy in the way he
stands and talks. Probably just a prick and not a fag, you think.
Now the van is moving again, rolling as if on coasters down the
black ribbon of road down into the mouth of night down through
the shifting tunnels of fog, and you and the twenty-four other hitchhikers in the back and the boy at the wheel and the driver slumped
in the passenger seat have all turned to silhouettes in a humming
cave of motion. Things are quieter now, and you sip your beer and
grow hypnotized by the cigarette ends arcing and flaring in the dark,
and by the headlights of a few passing cars that stave in the front
window making brief, pocked marble busts of all the faces, sudden
brown-and-yellow photographs in the theatre-dark van.
151 You have your usual place by the wheel hump, and it is almost
comfortable, alcoholically comfortable, with your head lolled back
and your jacket rolled up as a pillow against the wall so that you get
the feel of motion and of the road vibrating through your skull. The
beer has taken the edge off you, and although you are the kind of
person who never feels quite good, because you never allow yourself
that luxury anymore, at least you are feeling not too bad now and it
is all right just to be moving. For moving is nowhere, and that is the
place you like best.
And just then — just when you have been almost lulled by the
alcohol and the unbroken motion and hum into a kind of trust or
acceptance of things, and when the sleep that has been trying to
come for a hundred miles is just now beginning to creep in — that
is when the second accident happens. Without warning you feel
yourself tugged forward as the brakes slam on hard and then sideways with the wheels wrenching around so that for a moment the
van is skidding almost backwards at a crazy angle, and then it hits
and your shoulder snaps back against the metal wheel hump like a
concrete gun going off.
But when everything stops you are OK, just spinning a bit, and
the first thing you are aware of is the no good prick of a boy in the
red neckerchief turning around quickly in the driver's seat, asking
how people are and handing out gum to cut the alcohol smell on
everyone's breath. Then you all pile out of the van and stand around
on the fog-wet glistening pavement, each telling how it was in
clipped, breathless excitement. Watery, foil-coloured scraps of light
are playing off the caved-in back end of the van, and the passenger
side of the Buick is crumpled in drapes and folds like a piece of cloth,
and these are almost the only wrinkles in the fog-smooth cat-bodied
night.
Somehow, no one has been hurt in the accident, not even the
driver of the car who got the worst of it, and so there is nothing to
drain off the aimless confusion of the moment into any emotion as
definite as pity or emergency. The lights of a town gleam in the near
distance, and directly overhead, suspended on a wire and dangling
above the middle of the road like a marker over the scene, you see
the set of traffic lights that the boy missed. Slowly they change,
green, amber, red, green again, the lidless eyes blinking dispassionately.
For you, whatever slim tragedy the moment holds, whatever feeling you can muster up within your own scared breast, is focussed
152 in the small, acned, uncomprehending face of the van owner, whom
nobody can look at except out of the corner of an eye. Sobered up
enough from the shock that he can stand with his arms crossed and
look like the owner of something, like the one responsible, there is
still enough alcohol swimming in his veins that he can't seem to get
out any words to the angry driver of the Buick, or to the boy who is
loading him with apologies and explanations in that cool sincere
voice that pricks have. Or maybe the owner of the van isn't drunk
at all anymore, maybe he is just struggling in himself to hold back
tears of some kind.
So that's what they do to you, you think. You try to be a nice guy,
try to help a few people and maybe make a little fun for yourself,
maybe even be somebody special for a change, and this is what they
do to you, they get you drunk and smash up your van and . . . Well,
shit.
It doesn't take you long to realize that there is nothing here for
you anymore, nothing but the goddamn cops and you have had
enough hassles with them already. So you don't wait for the sirens,
you sling one arm, and then the sore one, into the straps of your
pack and begin hiking into town on the gravel shoulder, a few cars
stroking past you, metal glistening briefly in the luminous mist, and
just once you look back to see the other hitchhikers, spilled out of the
white van's belly like parachuted seeds from a pod just jiggled by
the wind, strung out now down the dark wire of the roadside, singly
or in pairs, the line of them diminishing back into shifting ghosts of
fog, filing back through the corridor of night and distance like a
trail of disappearing footprints.
J53 Paddy McCallum / Two Poems
LIONS
This is an arbitrary stop,
a cafe on the road to Salem.
We have passed and passed-on,
this coastline's flock
of sand is flying straight up.
Willowgrey in Autumn is the earth
and its white hair too,
frilled, not frivolous,
not lace, no matter how I love,
to forget this surf and its castout look,
the way it sprawling falls
is wonder gone.
The dead sealions, or dying,
drift in black from oil.
They crown the proudest rock and stare
northward, up the sound,
but are silent: I would be
as ready as these sentries are
to die from swimming deep.
154 I lift my eyes into the dripping wind,
open as this lion's yawn,
opening wide as a bend in the channel
where freighters turn. Stone,
stone and stumps, stunting
the summer cottage growth.
I need a place, mossing room,
to grow weedy in, to sin and sing,
to be quiet in, quiet
as the farmer in me who doesn't care
if vermin thicken and weeds strike.
Only the silence of this view and how it writes
streaming answers in the steam
of the lion's dreaming as he pounds
his flipper, barks twice,
shakes his head and never leaves his ground.
155 ABOVE THE CIVIC MARINA
Barges He like Bibles on the bay's table;
the city's a big hotel
and the bridges lie like hatcheck girls
for a drink. Open up,
boats are dancing, halyards tap.
Where is the wind, the voice
of movement in the throat
of a young girl diving
from pilings into oil
seeping from a trestle.
I fear for mussels in their rigid hives,
wasps clinging to shaking timbers.
It is our lives
that shake and solidify
as I move across each body of water
boats hide, cluster.
The blind sailor with his wife can't see
oceans parting, traffic backing
up into the sky.
Rigging clicks and takes a tack
deep into memory. God's stowaway
drenched the sea with sweat
in the whale's gut, but suffered
ocean sunlight too long.
I've been standing too long.
I need to sit myself on stone
or a sloping bit of lawn
and watch the channel taper for the spawn
of cutting engines, dropping sail.
156 Kathleen McCracken / Three Poems
MY GRANDFATHER DIED
My grandfather died
this land
under his
nails,
now
he sleeps
beneath a
fertile plain,
his right eye
watching.
My father left
spat his farewell.
Like a lover's
last kiss
the earth dried
as he turned.
I carry
grass and stones
in my pocket,
leave some
on every windowledge
I pass.
157 I HAVE SEEN
I have seen
wind wring blood
from snow
I have known
ice to the bone
and deeper
I have watched
seven sure lovers
ride the road out
Still I flinch
at your easy touch
light
against my skin.
158 PARTISAN
left with
the gunfire
a dying echo
slogans a
dying whisper
he turns
in the wind
in the soft
grey light
strikes
the match
and
begins to sing.
159 Bob McGee / Two Poems
THE FLIGHT INTO JAMES BAY
1
We left the island city
our hunchback queen knee-deep
in the slush of March
Rose out of the idiot beseeching
puzzle of streets and sailed blind
as marrow in a cloud of bone
To a marble palace
a masonry of clouds rising
unbelievably into space
In the turquoise sky
women brought us food and alcohol
and we took off our heavy coats
We cruised the upkept hanging
gardens of the atmosphere
carried by the grace of our engines
160 When the wind's rodeo
strapped us back to our seats
we fell into the cellar of air
Into the quick snapshot glimpses
of scars where the Ice-Age hauled
immense machinery in its retreat
Our dues presumably paid in full
we pulled in our stomachs
from where they were in the sky
Struck the taiga's reef
ground to a stop and sat
in the silent absolute maze of ice
161 GILGAMESH ON A SLASH CONTRACT
for Arthur Lefebvre
His shadow fastened to the bent knees
of his low woodsman's gait
sixty years ago when he raged
at the bush and its cedars
when his stout shadow was his Enkidu
When he beat back the distance
that vastness some called Humbaba
and fir trees rattled with death
from the double-axe Daedalus forged
when the river was a boneyard of logs
His shadow was his only ally
cursing the sun that held it
to the tight suit of black skin
with the bucksaw's dialogue
swaying in the evergreen underbrush
And the sun still tries to get at
that shadow safe beside my great uncle
moving through camp with his chainsaw
his dark double aping his steps
holds the saw's shadow like a violin
Moving through the taiga slashing
a clean trail through this maze
leading his shadow down the corridor
to burn a thousand offerings of wood
along the powerline to Montreal
162 Gail McKay
MASK OF THE NORTH NORTH EAST
One of my eyes is a lake in northern Ontario,
the other, a lake in Quebec.
6 A.M. : like flies at my mouth my southern
cities begin.    But here, in the north, the rain.
Unborn, I saw my father
riding the rails.    Underwater
sounds in the womb: his riding
into the War.    Born,
covered in blood, held
upside down by my heels.
"Inarticulate," they said
when I screamed
like a city.    "Warchild, birthmark:
flies at mouth."
No refuge.
Kristallnacht.
Guilt.    Flies.
My mother shrank from the future,
her skirts glacial, the Arctic skirt.
Child herself, reading aloud pamphlets:
"Fontanel: 'softspot' (between
four bones of the head)
pulses with the heart.    As,
in the right light, form
can be seen through bone
china, so too with the membrane."
163 Look into a northern lake in Ontario,
a northern lake in Quebec.
Look close— a whale lists in her sleep in
stone-hulled Hudson Bay.    She speaks
out of my mouth
hopeless vowels.    "Charming," the articulate
among you say.
How the rain pounds.
Cover the gap (between
boreal, austral; auroral
and the west)
in my skull
with your hands.
164 Theresa Moritz / Two Poems
HANDS OF AIR
Hands of air
open mouths in the emptying pool
and blinded on the silver stomachs
of the leaves like fish asleep
in the rapids of a breath
The diamond lizard at the heart
licks up tomorrow
from the children in the womb
and winds its tail around the throat
of the drowned man asleep
in the sunless channel: he must not
be borne away in the current of blood.
Not only a man
but birds and the animals stirring
in the cemetery woods
in their bodies
have warmed the air
above the bitter crevice,
which has no sun
but many clouds and tears.
Blades
silver fingers
touch my wrist.
I press my palm against my heart;
it has opened into the air.
165 LIKE THE DARK, IT MOANS
In the lawn, a dark glass where the night swims,
where light-drinking eyes
of cats and mice small stars
in his father's arms moves through
black grasses and paved avenues
as the comet passes
to enter constellations
aging in the earth's eyes.
" Father, this comet lights my fingers
but does not burn. It does not freeze
yet all the emptiness between the stars
has gathered in its tail of ice. I am dead, perhaps:
time exposes its heart to me,
I see it beat. "
" Child, we are of one age
new-born and dead in this blind mirror.
I give you full measure
in the comet's round pupil. You give me
time, a minted coin or moon with a face
breathing in your palm.
Come away, or will you force me
to accept too much? "
Like a tear, the comet grows.
Like the dark, it moans
for a corner of the sky.
166 Hudson
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State 	 Daniel David Moses / Three Poems
AREN'T YOU TIRED OF FIRE?
Consider this flake the wind's
lost tooth or the ghost
of an eye.    Isn't it
beautiful as it turns
its symmetries?
It's the spinning
coin you use to buy
eternity.    Take it.
It won't ring
false.    It's the
prize for you and nothing
to stagger away
from or shiver
at.    It won't bite or
glare like some
wolf.    It's just the sheet
to a bed and air
is the mirror.
Come and lie
down.    Your father is here,
feeding
the dreams he once
owned.    Come.
Your mother is here and she
eats up her own
face
out of the air!
168 I AM NOT A SNOWSHOE RABBIT
The goggles have bone lenses.    They admit
only polarized light and the horizon.
I track the bright cloud which hoards all heat
till a cough breaks my attention.    The raw note
shatters and sifts.    I search the white shadows
for its source.    The only tongues and throats
are hissing drifts.    There are no other ghosts.
A hollow looms dark as a mouth which I greet
with lungs open wide for breath.    Breath is the one
body, it is what the cold eats.    It climbs the hills,
all ice and frozen air, and it is beautiful
the way it falls.    There is nothing else now
to see or hear, and nothing else to do.
THE HANDS
Yes, our faces are ten blanks
but bearded with the ghosts of
quarter moons.    So we are wise, wiser
than you who go clothed in fur,
than you who have eyes.
169 Susan Musgrave / Three Poems
BOOGEYING WITH THE QUEEN
down along the old canal
wearing an ankle-length overcoat
in spite of the heat
sucking sweets By Appointment
To Her Majesty —
the old girl got a good kick
out of that one.
You should have seen her
doing a gang-scuffle outside the
dancehall
or perfuming her body in one of the
lavatories:
she was perfect
She dressed for the occasion,
a crowbar up her skirt and a
quantity of quicklime.
Hard luck to the whore found dead
in a weedbed
she was queen of the quick throw,
queen of alley ways.
She was beautiful and we
loved her
pock-marked with a pistol
she danced naked over our faces
170 queen of the underground
it felt good, good, good
to be lying beneath her.
They all loved her,
the tarts and muggers on the
commercial road.
She had a full heart for a
hatchet-man, a kiss for a killer.
You should have seen her
teetering on spikes
a grudge-bearing scullion she was
obvious royalty.
When she danced we came alive,
when she danced she was really living
There was no dance she couldn't do,
hard and fast in a small lifetime.
171 "& the great white horses come up
& lick the frost of the dream"
I touch your cold face,
your closed lips and eyes.
I touch the dead place in the
bed, the place where you still lie.
"Did you remember to feed the horses?"
you say, suddenly rising.
Of course, the horses.
You dreamed they died.
YESTERDAY AND TODAY
I am the girl in gazelle horns
and a torn nightdress.
I have no body.
See, nothing hurts.
Yesterday it snowed.
I lay down making a large good angel.
Today it thawed.
Another looked out through her small
blind eyes, crying
whose horns are those,
whose torn clothes?
172 Ken Norris / Five Poems
ON THE DEATH OF MAX ERNST
My friends, Max Ernst is dead.
You knew Max, that elderly gentleman
Who ran the tailor shop down the street,
Who pushed cocaine under the counter,
Who raised havoc by lowering his prices.
You knew Max, the pervert they found
One morning exhausted after spending a night
Screwing park benches, dear sweet Max.
Dear
Sweetmax,
Now with Marcel & Tristan & Hans & Richard
& Wieland & John & Kurt & Theo
& Francis & Hugo & Man, all in heaven,
Young again & putting the authorities
Uptight, a soiree here, a soiree there,
Dada in the cabarets down the back alleys
Of the golden streets of decadent New Jerusalem.
My friends, Max Ernst is dead.
173 FOUR SONNETS
1
Saints are forever with me;
& then there is the lady
who wore only sweaters;
she is there, her image contained
in every pane of glass, every
door I walk through. So often
she is holding a dead cat
in her arms & sings to it
of long voyages, of failures
compiled in the columns
of wisdom & love. If ever she
leaves me I'll finally be free;
on that day I'll find myself
having to start over.
The snow falling, blowing,
is a lyric I have shaped
into a sonnet. These lines
perfect themselves pretending
to be the slopes of
sculpted mountains. Those
who think the snow is wild,
uncontrollable, have never
taken a turn down a wrong avenue
to discover the love
they have always wanted.
I count up the lines.
Three short.
I add more snow.
174 An open-winged bird
has just alighted
on a bare branch of the tree
that's just outside my window;
there it now sits, hopped,
just took off, is there
no longer, left before
I could even find
something to connect it with
by the simple process of metaphor.
Now there's only a bare branch,
bare tree, shaken by wind,
no bird in it, &
with no bird no song.
In memory
you fill me
with the scent & appearance
of Chinese flowers.
Time after time
you would talk to me
of Colette; I'd listen,
gradually becoming cognizant
of the women I shared
you with; always
in your arms I'd find
the peace women
give to other women,
you giving it to me.
175 Linda Pyke / Two Poems
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
this logic is seductive.
i seek to know you,
i compare:
barrow
barabbas
abelard
rasputin
starkweather
harris
raskolnikov
i could go on .. .
i gather names
into a liturgy
of sinners, saints,
men of crime and passion,
i rewrite your history
again and again,
i am always the woman:
176 bonnie parker,
tough-talking, gun-toting,
master mind,
heloise
at midnight letters,
alexandra mesmerized,
caril ann fugate,
romantic and ripe
(for the alchemy
of semen and blood),
and the women who wait,
some faithful, some not,
while punishment endured.
177 NOW APPEARING
in this photograph
we appear as
"the virgin and the gypsy",
a carnival act,
curious mismatch
of innocence and knowledge.
it is true
i was untouched too long
and too long could not focus
on my centre, the source
and force of hunger . . .
and it is true
you have journeyed far
in caravan
(menagerie, menages-a-trois,
a-quatre, a-cinq),
journeyed alone,
performed tricks,
were cunning and wise,
thighs opened, roads,
(til now) you always escaped.
178 but this is not mismatch,
is not curious:
for what is a gypsy
without his virgin?
and what is a virgin alone?
.. . and now we arrive
in the camera's eye,
in a future
even you could not see:
this bare prison yard,
one gypsy, one virgin,
stars grind /
opposites
embrace.
179 Matt Santateresa / Two Poems
PICTURE WINDOW
Vacations: schedules of
doing nothing
more than looking, clicking
photos, postcard sending, back
home through empty distance,
empties
empty as this motel room
where shaving off days,
sleeping in preparation for
newer beds, bathing in
simple notions of what to do
next, takes time, and place
in singular
quiet, albeit the sound
of niagara falls, falling
in tons of picturesque cascades
outside the window, replacing
a legendary traffic of
urban love and hate.
writing home to empty rooms,
the ghosts who maintain the garden,
the clock ticking unrelentless,
the walls with empty frames
fills
with a background of
niagara booming in each
notion i put down behind
the postcards face depicting
the falling falls, falling motionless
180 reminds one of a quality of what
it was at the minds edge
when a whirl wind rose dust to
wilderness without a line being
dropped to anyone:
that first unspeakable stillness
swirling.
but, considering none of us
were there, we remain
as the small figure on the postcard's face
looking up at the falls: design
of water, rock, sky, from behind a guard rail
standing insignificant but who
figures in the idolatries
bringing to each scene the words to break
the silence of all seas, wandering
in and out of what is not ours:
lettering the emptiness,
writing letters home
about a vacation,
wishing i were here.
i»i APIARY
night an apiary stirs with bees
and you begin to veil yourself again
out below the moon awakening
a noisy hive bees active wary
apprehension roils their language
with mean intent without warning
one stings you its unseen line but
you still work the bee expended you
flick him off the second manages beneath
the netting to get at your eye pinpoints
the retina you recall the first blindness
a third pneumatic bee riddles the ear while
another goes for the heart while
you think how immune you've gotten
I»2 David Sharpe
CONQUISTADORS
War of the Worlds
Implacable cities like chariots pack
goldless,
bloodless
Modern
Men.
We were ever Inca until
Stone-faced intelligence landed,
wheels a-rolling,
in stone age fields.
With scrip and horses,
with metal bodies
and knowledge like a heat ray,
Gods melted gold, sacrificed
men of the new old world.
183 God Save the Country
He opened shop on an alley. Each day he glared at the size of
his windows and determined to grow, at least to the backstreet.
He fashioned his feet into foundations and covered his joists
with skin.    As shoppers plied and multiplied along the street,
he embraced a pub in the rear living quarter and, since he no
longer stood so tall, moved his pallet under a counter.    Drinkers
entered his front door and negotiated his stores to reach their
bottles of beer. He propped his hands on the sidewalk; shaved
the inner walkers inside; then joined several fingers in a weir
across the road.    The houses beside he tore apart with a few,
begrudged bones.    He designed a chamber above the store, to live
in first, then when he could no longer climb the sill, to house
his store detectives.    When the town council laughed, called him
Little Sweetbread, and refused to extend his open hours to twenty-
four, he exhorted his customers with the largest microphone ever
brought to the smallest lips:     Buy loyally; ring defiance at the
Liberty Till!    When at last the mayor stepped in from the
brilliantly-lit, pre-dawn street and, beaten, bought the last
ounce of flesh, the winner proclaimed peace.    He opened his
government in the town the same day and grew thin as a voice
towards the country.
184 Puberty
The child is
plundered of his gold,
his once finely traced treasures
hammered by new
conqueror desires
blunt as bars
and stacked out of sight.
Ingots
private and thick as shame.
A ship so proud,
the land stands at bay.
To her
the harbor bows,
piers
like open arms.
But with onboard craft,
she will take his goods
untouched
away.
Conquista d'or
Land on the horizon, the decks hot with sun and
time, we come to the crest of a sea
and slide off a wave into port.
From the shops to the sand
men flow in the heat
185 To the edge
To the sight of our bronze ship
Our vermilion eyes gathered at the rail.
We have the woman with us.
She sinks like a spear into the crowd,
her arms raised.
Voices bend to her,
Follow her shaft far from us.
So we turn unseen from the town
with dust washing our feet
Up the chest of their mountain
In a coat of winds locked,
like us,
With a clasp of gold.
Placed in the summit sun,
The woman we find before us.
We bend to our knees on bone rock,
the drip of blood in our ears.
Our shout jumps from groin
To throat
To fist
And riches, like the woman, fall to us.
To our ship that groans in a blanch of cold,
We wedge gold in our wounds
and run to sail.
On a grey beach,
Men hardened at the sight of our hands
Watch us take offence
And the woman
with us again.
186 Metal bright eyes
bonded across a table
to a lover.
Precious alloy.
Refine.
Smelt crude days;
hands, run together
full of ore
in heat
with care,
with care.
Love Drunk
More passion of the sexes as men
gulp down the ferment of pale,
pregnant hops.
And wine from swollen ovaries
courting with mankind.
Potion love,
the seizer of Romans:
venal, VD, vici.
The serpent eats tail and
rolls
round
around
and round the rod.
On him,
the cosmic tire,
the wagons of desire
wheel
the children of gold
rushes.
187 1 y}
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Branching Out, Box 4098, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
T6E 4S8 	 D. J. Simpson
DEJA VU POEM
Coming into the valley from far away,
drifting rain & the sun mixed
winds & spray
in the gold-black reaching
like a new hand,    The Shine
enclosed, by compass
by time
(in both respects the
wave & particular breaking down)
upon a page,    Thompson's
notes upon    a river,
a few words
— "having a good time I
miss you."
This rainbow
repeated over the hills
and Heffley
receding, the country my
life & wife
unknown Earth to touch
this
spectral green,    The Surprise
imagined
in the next traveller's eyes.
189 Carolyn Smart / Two Poems
ONE ANSWER
is that not what we are always saying
in whatever way we can,        Mary-Anne, there is
no other recourse, and all our lives we look
for those that have the words, rare but
wonderful the phrases, mostly we have the tears:
relief or sadness I am often not sure, but
to be able to say "what I am really saying"
and we see ourselves old, in theatres,
on streets, still eager, holding out
our similarities like pure translations        I need
these tokens for my public events,
your jokes, my laughter
190 DONNA'S POEM
her eyelids are moving,
she is dreaming of the hydro dams,
the giant turbines, her high heels
in the muddy waste, she is
leaving soon by aeroplane.
her hands move to her mouth,
if she were awake it would be monday,
her body lies on top of water,
the sound of mills in the distance.
there are many times she glimpses trees.
her husband, his parents, are drinking tea.
she looks up from the base of the waterfall
there is a man with his hands on her breasts
and she thinks of the women
he has touched this way before
she knows they allowed their faces
to escape elsewhere, smiling.
she is awake now, she finds herself
drunk with northern air,
she carries the dream with her into the day;
looking carefully for the man,
at five she meets him,
she listens for the smooth slip of soda
in each careless glass.
I9I Peter MacLean Stevens / Two Poems
TO FRANCOIS VILLON
Villon,
Villain:
You who lurked
about the plague-hushed Quarters
Of pewter-skied Paris;
You who haunted
The loud bars and drank
Last year's dark wine;
You who felt
The slim steel of the dagger
Pass between the ribs of that drunken,
churlish priest:
Your black letters
Cry out and
Twist like pendus
In the cold wind,
Twist like a thrust knife
In the back of a fat-pursed world.
192 JANITOR:  UNIVERSITY RESIDENCES, 1977
The slow-eyed man
In Sherwood green,
Changer of spent bulbs
And custodian of all things mechanical,
Arrives each morning in the half night
Before our dim awakenings;
And he watches us
File clipboarded to the yellow doors
Into looseleaf winter.
In the afternoon
He manhandles the grey floor polisher
From the supply room.
Like Hercules burying the immortal head of Hydra
He lodges a concrete brick
On the drizzle-coloured cowl.
Slowly, now, the droop-eyed man
In forest drill
Buffs the tiled floor to a menacing gleam
Still as the air before a storm.
And then I
Come galing up the stairs from classes
Hurling the gritty melt from my boots
Across his floor
The slow-eyed man in Sherwood green
Stares fiercely after me, as though
I had flung ink on the Da Vinci cartoon
r93 Richard Stevenson / Two Poems
FIGURE AND GROUND
Clouds turn their shadows
over and over,
examining them
like a new pair of shoes.
Put back: there:
words squirming:
an animal without
its skin
Tangled fuselage and broken wings
strewn about, tattered pieces
of a shadow that once
circled overhead;
sun burns with the intensity
of a hawk's eye.
We burrow in the snow
to keep from showing.
J94 COMPASS
Skin the only thing
left at this latitude,
clings. Glacial deposits
in the brain.
The mind/light refractory:
bodies slide past each other
in a lateral morraine.
Is this true north?
Sun battens
on the sleeves of our shadows,
filigree: no two snowflakes,
no two magnetic traces are alike.
South of here
our eyes roll up like maps.
*95 Michael Todd / Two Poems
THE BEAUTIFUL ANIMALS
then they smell me,
the beautiful animals
 MICHAEL ONDAATJE
The beautiful animals
move about us
skunk, deer, leopard
in the underbrush
the green birds rise and sing
wild dog moves
howling about the house
its blue eyes gas bright
burning
your body
the body of
the beautiful animal
moon
slithering palely over
you, your
shoulders body
cool fruit
you
beautiful animal
196 Tomorrow
will they find you
running crippled half-
mad across the
lawn, blind sun
breaking up
the fire
in your fire fangled feathers
the silence
we hold in
each of us
a locked razor?
197 THE LETTER
The pattern of your handwriting
spreads out, a spider web
across the blue page.
Words escape
like a fleet
from the arms of the harbour.
Beyond the window
the cold sea plunges
northward
a mindless fury of whitecaps.
Your letter holds a calm.
A submarine forest
of green words
swaying, in the tide-swell:
faint odour of stillness.
The blood is caught
in so fine a design:
Blue expanding into green.
Your words transparent
passages of light.
The rhythms of the sea remembered,
in your swaying hips
in the gentle swell
of your breasts
beneath my hands.
198 Doug Turner
THE CHANGE
The winter leaves slowly, cold
it stays
in the morning
pale sun coming over the mountains
reluctant, but still coming
to melt snow on the ground
slow but going still
snowflakes sag into the earth
which trembles underneath yellow bulldozers
and skidders,
steel treads and elephant tires
ripping through clinging snow into the ground
churning mud as the saws roar
bringing down the big timber
that spears the sky
groan and creak and splinter
as they crash groundward
anything underneath, crushed
sometimes the fallers, not moving fast enough
the big timber snaps arms and legs and ribs
driving skull bones into brains
screams lost
in the brutal boom
of the timber hitting the ground
skidders and cats
too dangerous as they jerk and lurch
sometimes flipping over
operators flipped over caught underneath
the metal
alone
trembling
like some wino hitting the early streets
199 his warmth barely touching the cold buildings
a long way from the mountains and machines
yer damn
right
he knows
what it's all about
even though he's like the early morning winter sun
pale yellow and quivering weak and liable to
just fade quick-like behind dark clouds
no, not dying
just fading
the departure date is there
for all, even the sun
will burn out
yer damn right
just like this damn winter
will go, the snow melting slow
but sure, the winter will go
the sun will start flashing bright
a big nuclear eyeball
and the snow
will go
be gone, just another memory
to be reckoned with just like the next winter
which will probably come just as slow
as this one is leaving
like a lover no longer loved
having trouble
finding the way out, the new lover
tripping on the old one on the way in
the going slow
the change
filled with indecision
and a few regrets
200 A provocative, different magazine
that takes a good hard look at
the world, and presents unusual
ideas in a beautiful graphic format.
Articles in recent issues
include:
Megavitamins
Old Woman Legends
Sculpture by Persimmon
The B.C. Pen
Strange Men at Bus Stops
All this and Canadian art
work and photography,
reviews, fiction, poetry,
cartoons, etc. etc.
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The Fiddlehead
The Observatory
U.N.B.
FREDERICTON, N.B.
E3B 5A3 Kurt Van Wilt / Two Poems
PIRAEUS
for Yannis Ritsos
Snow has slashed his summer pact with sun
and erased Piraeus in mid-day;
there will be mayhem in heaven for at least
a week.    Honor is not among the elements.
He has, however, been solicitous enough to place
a drop-cloth on my garden and permit a corridor
of light to upon my door.    I do not deceive myself,
I know his fondness for jasmine, spirited from
China in a silken scarf
in a jade carafe.
The fisherman.    I had thought to visit —
to drink retsina and trade a limerick
for a fish.    A sturdy mackerel or a melancholy
mullet awry from Alexandria.
Too, the wine merchant.    No,
Indeed I am fortunate to have a port in this port
whitewashed to non-existence.    Feta and tea
will stay me in this unscheduled extinction, and
bracing brandy dull the edge of reliance.
I shoulder a single beam of light until
decorum is restored among delinquent deities
and the seaport city reappears.
202 DARK ROOFS
Dark roofs are split.
The demented stir, stutter and dance,
dance out doors and spin.
Their nonsense voices well into a sparkling cloud
which drifts like morning fog over the metal river,
making the universe in twos:    mirroring monads.
The dyad halves.    Drawn by the scented moon
the mist ascends with its reflection.
Surrounded by the arms of mother and lover
they take their place as stars within her breast.
Dancers file
from sallow fields into their beds
in perfect step, knowing nothing.
203 Mihkel Voore / Two Poems
a child who handles the clock as a toy
sits in the corner undoing the ribcage
sticking his fingers between tongues of brass
takes apart the spring and wheel
searches for a trace of time which drives the whole
asks me as i stand beside him
what meaning does a clock have
that does not breathe the moment
204 II
leaves are coupled with design
chance the only game whose rule
beauty does not break
you were the big kid washing
her breasts in the basin
with blue veined hands
then i am the child
in the doorway thinking
all women hope to be mothers
your corn fed belly
will deliver up a name
with voice and legs
who will cough the night
draw the reeds of your dress aside
to gaze at your belly
your smooth orange belly
a lamp filled with birds and the wind
they built aviaries in your head
your fingers sweep roots
from the clouds
they are set free
to roam along amulet blue
the story is forgotten as it is told
the instant music is slender and taut
the meanings remain simple and sparse
your spine is a sceptre of crystal
the moon braids into
a staircase of lace
205 Bronwen Wallace / Two Poems
STRIPPING FURNITURE
The Family says
that Grandma painted the rocker
for each new baby
And after two days
of scraping at stubborn layers
of thick white paint
I can believe it      begin to think
I must be crazy      cooped up
in this stuffy room
the smell of the thinner
making me sick
my back aching
knowing the kid won't recognize
the difference between this rocker
and one I could buy
second hand somewhere
And why would she bother?
When would she have the time
what with milking and canning
and meals for the threshers and
a half-dozen other kids
the grandmother I remember
as brittle as this paint and
so stubborn you'd think
she'd have a kid
in the barn somewhere
and go right back to the milking
isn't that how it is anyway
after seven or eight?
206 I reach for the scraper
slide back another layer
pushing toward
some afternoon in late summer
supper wanning on the stove
kids playing on the porch      a baby
crying in the back bedroom
and the woman I begin to imagine
with hair the colour of soft bare wood
squatting heavily beside this rocking chair
dipping her brush
207 FITTING IN
The man in the plant store
tells me he's an
interior landscaper
That's right; plants for
public buildings    shopping malls
the real work's keeping them
in shape    all that artificial
light and air-conditioning
can give you strange results
especially with trees
but I'm thinking of
the tellers in my bank
all brunette and busty
the size 9 blondes
in the jean shop up the street
the dial-tone voices
of telephone operators
nurse's hands
cool as tile walls
dimestore clerks always
tinsel jewelry and cheap perfume
the velvet ladies
of expensive boutiques
He sees that I'm not listening
and gets down to business
You want a plant
for a terrarium right?
I'll let you have a cutting
from this spider    these things
can grow five feet across
but if you keep trimming them
they'll adapt
and they're very showy
under the glass
208 Desmond Walsh / Three Poems
I
And if I were found guilty of following you
would you still welcome me for tea
and other decorations that go with conversation
Come back to this place
between the hand and the flesh
where all lies receive a fair trial
Come back to this room
let us see if friends have changed us
209 II
Even though you think
you're too safe
to be shocked
I'll get you
When you're alone
and your only entertainment
is the moonlight on your breasts
don't be frightened
by eyes at the window:
although I've been hurt
I still have
a sense of humor
210 Ill
Something tempts me to free myself
we live in the same country
and that is too close
It is your fine sense of discipline
or my fine sense of humor
that makes me say this
or maybe the delicate balance
between them has sentenced us
to our separate poisons
Something tempts me to wait
our conversation never struggles to survive
and that is too safe
We will both wait
and when it is time
we will arrange a meeting
to compare our distance
211 Patrick White / Two Poems
LYRE
The birch-tree trunks are white as plaster casts
And advokat, their leaves, a custard yellow,
Trembling in the wind, bleached enthusiasts,
While skies grow dark as overcast Othello.
A blonde and healthy girl, a soft caress,
Kind enough to love, round enough for lust,
How many years ago we were abed
That night a storm developed from a gust
And calm as salt, she started to undress,
And numb, I viewed her nakedness,
A body sweet and warm as winter bread?
And wine, the drowsy lovers must have wine
And shadows guttering with candlelight,
And take it for a most propitious sign
A moth has found a refuge from the night;
And afterglow of embering desire
Must keep a second-storey window lit,
And comfort any passerby who braves,
For reasons only he can posit,
The icy rain, and high demonic choir
That shrieks through power lines as if a lyre
Could still be why such brutal weather raves.
I've passed that window many times since then,
Rectangle silvered by a summer moon,
Or idle musing of distracted pen
When themes and leaves and images are strewn
Along the grey abandoned avenue
Where rustling birches luminous with rain
Recall one winter's strange delirium;
I've passed, mornings on a windowpane,
As if I looked for evidence those two
Still enjoy that second-storey view,
Though lyre's tamed to tintinnabulum.
212 IN PURSUIT OF AN EARTHLY EXCELLENCE
The trees at night, the streetlights and the rain;
The leaves are soggier than wasted cereal.
I know the bland fulfillment of the sane;
I tinker with a fussy aerial.
My heart's been wheeled away, an invalid;
I can no more than guess at what is wrong.
I wished the worst be done that it might pass,
But being done, there ended days of song.
I loathe my lot. Who'll open with a bid?
An auctioneer has certified me dead.
I gorge the gullet of an hourglass.
Satisfied? Content? What song can come of that?
I do not think a robin sings to please;
He sings because he's twice escaped the cat.
The spring is full of high-pitched victories.
An adversary gives him cause to sing,
And singing is an earthly excellence;
A song is drowned with any bag of cats.
The dead alone leave nothing out for chance;
All the reckless robins come the spring
Will celebrate the risks of wintering
While caution stammers with its diplomats
An auctioneer, an hourglass, a bird:
Three throats are full of my predicament.
Something counsels me to pick the third;
The other two can claim whatever rent
They feel is due: I slam the door. I quit.
November's ruin is delight to me —
God hang goiters from their ugly throats;
I denounce their weak conformity —
Or catch them passing shoddy counterfeit.
My heart returns, joy's misfit.
These squandered leaves are promissory notes.
213 Andrew Wreggitt
STAMPEDE
I quit. Those are the most beautiful words in the language. They roll
around in your mouth like two shiny marbles and when you finally
spit them out, they explode like bullets. Bang, bang. I quit. I was in
such a hurry that I left my tools in the shop. I picked up my check,
threw everything I owned into my car and was gone within an hour.
I have never seen a highway look so good in all my life, my'67
Pontiac storming after that asphalt ribbon as it ran away across the
hills, and that crummy little mining town disappearing behind me
like a bad dream. Jesus, I thought I had wings. It was summertime,
dry and windy and wild as stampeding horses. There's nothing that
can touch that feeling. Somewhere near Cache Creek I remembered
the Calgary Stampede was on. I'd been there before, the town was
full of beer and women. I headed east. The plan was to spend all my
money and eventually get another job, but hell I'd saved a lot and
the horrible eventuality of employment seemed a long way off. I
arrived in Calgary in the middle of the night and spent nearly two
hours trying to find a room. Every tourist and cowboy in western
Canada was there, gobbling up hot-dogs and sleeping in every available bed. I finally found a vacancy in a place called "Modern
Rooms."
I slept through the better part of the next day. When I finally got
up, I looked around at my room. There was a broken beer bottle in
the sink and some kind of scummy substance on the night-table. For
the first time in two years I felt at home. I yelled at the chambermaid on the way out and drove to the nearest bar. It turned out to
be the Westwind, a huge barn of a place with a country band
yodeling like crazy in the smoke and broken glass. The band was
inviting people to come up and sing, so after half a dozen beer I
fished my guitar out of the trunk of my car and went up. It was the
time of year or my general euphoric madness I guess, because I'd
never done that kind of thing before, but up I went. I gave them a
bit of Hank Williams, "I got a feeling for the blue 00 00 00 00 000s
since my baby said goodbye." and then I cranked out a shaky but
enthusiastic "Yellow Rose of Texas" and sat down. Nobody seemed
214 to care if it sounded bad, they were all as crazy drunk as I was.
Three or four wizened old rubbies bought me beer and we sat there
yodeling right along with the band as though we'd been born in that
bar and weaned on the draught taps. The solemn ghostly waiters
drifted by and the tourists-cum-cowboys whooped and hollered in
their squeaky new boots and cardboard stetsons like the world would
end if the illusion broke.
I was feeling pretty loaded so after awhile I decided to take a
walk and try to pull myself together. I walked into the parking lot
trying to remember where the hell my car was when I noticed someone painting something on the side of the building. I went over to
take a look. A beautiful young Indian woman was madly printing in
bright red paint, "FREE TOMMY JOHN." She hadn't noticed me
so I got right up behind her and piped up.
"Who the hell is Tommy John?"
She swung around so fast, the paint on her brush swished and
splattered on my face.
"Oh . . . sorry."
She was very drunk.
"Jeez . . . naw, never mind, it's okay."
I wiped my face with my sleeve and nearly lost my balance. She
had dark eyes that snapped and spat fire.
"What're you doin sneakin up like that?"
"I was just curious. Who's Tommy John?"
"My husband. Cops threw him in jail for beatin a guy up." She
was reeling with booze. "He's s'posed to ride in a couple of days in
the Stampede. Bastards put him in jail."
"Zat so?" I said still wiping at my face.
"You don't believe me do you?" She was waving the damn paint
brush again. "Fuckin white men don't want to see no Indian ride
better than them."
"No, I believe you."
"Indians make better cowboys than fuckin white men!"
"Could be alright. . . you figure they'll let him out if they see
that?"
I pointed in the general direction of the wall.
"Naw." She looked down and hiccupped. "Gotta do somethin . . .
got no money for his bail."
"Hmm" I said significantly.
Just then a cop car wheeled into the parking lot. I turned to tell
the girl to get the hell outta there but she was already gone.
215 "Jesus, like a cat." I muttered.
The cops jumped out of their car and looked at me. I felt pretty
silly, standing there beside a can of paint, red flecks all over my face
and sleeve and "FREE TOMMY JOHN" screaming off the wall
in bright red behind me. I started right away.
"Did you see that? She was painting on the goddamn wall. I ran
over and tried to stop her and she splattered me with paint. Goddamn bitch. I was gonna grab her but she got away from me." I
don't know why exactly, but they believed me. I went back to my
room and passed out.
When I woke up the next morning, the beer bottle was still in the
sink. It was beginning to annoy me so I picked it out. I didn't feel
so good. It was hot, too goddamn hot. The streets wobbled with
heat waves and everything was too loud. I tried walking around for
awhile but it didn't help. The sidewalks were jammed with tourists
and kids and we were all just milling around, sweating and getting
in each other's way. I ducked into a Woolco and ordered a coffee at
the sandwich bar. There was a big guy sitting beside me listening to
a transistor radio, eating a cowboy sandwich and belching constantly.
The radio sang out a Dolly Parton tune, "It's all I can do to keep
from fallin in love with yooou" while our jammed little counter ate
and belched in solemn reverence. "Looks like we're in for another
record crowd today out here on the Stampede grounds." Jesus, I
thought, maybe I'll go tomorrow. I got up and made a bee-line for
the Westwind. It was cool and dark in there. I heaved a huge sigh
of relief as the first beer giggled down my throat.
"Hey white man. How come you're not in jail?"
I looked up. It was the Indian woman again. She really was beautiful, a real Indian princess. She had a crooked little smile on her face
that was uncomfortably close to a sneer.
"I told em you did it."
She laughed and sat down.
"You buy me a beer?"
"Ya, okay."
She turned around and waved at the waiter. She looked at me.
Her eyes could have started a fire.
"I like you, what's your name?"
"Mex."
"You're no Mexican."
"Nope."
The band broke into "The Orange Blossom Special."
216 "You a tourist?"
"I guess you could say that."
"You got a fancy hotel room eh?"
"Ya." The beer was starting to taste better. "Tell me about the
Indian cowboy."
She did. How he worked small rodeos for years, getting better and
trying to save up the entry fee for the big one, the Stampede. How
he got busted for putting some guy in the hospital after he'd already
qualified for the finals and how it's all been wasted unless she comes
up with $500 for bail. Smashed up their truck on top of it all.
"Ya," I said, "It's a tough break alright."
"Tough break? What the hell do you know about tough breaks
white man?"
She was silent for awhile. Somewhere under that beautiful dark skin
she was boiling like a volcano. Suddenly she turned to me.
"You wanna make some money?" I waited. "There's a big purse
for the saddle bronc event. You get Tommy out of jail and when he
wins, we give you $700 back."
"What if he loses?"
"He won't lose." She paused. "If he loses, he goes back to jail and
you get your $500 back."
"I don't know anything about him, how good he is or anything."
"He's good. He's already qualified for the finals. I'll show you."
She fumbled in her purse. She was excited. When you're desperate,
the smell of a sucker is intoxicating. "Look." She hauled out a bunch
of newspaper clippings, a couple with pictures. Tommy John, first
prize in saddle bronc. She pointed out a dusty Indian standing beside
a chute. I looked at them all. It was impressive.
"What if you both just skip town after I spring him?"
"Look white man, we come a long way, years, to get here. We're
not goin nowhere."
I must have had a skeptical look on my face. She lowered her voice
and leaned forward.
"There'll be an extra in it for you."
"What kind of extra?"
"A good fuck."
"What?"
"You heard. All night. For two nights. Whatever it takes until
Tommy rides." There was a tingling feeling at the back of my neck.
I felt jeezly uncomfortable. I ordered more beer. "You're a single
guy, lots of money, come here looking for some fun. Me and Tommy
217 are serious, we're here to win. It's business, I don't care what it
takes."
"I can see that."
"You can think what ever the fuck you like white man, I'll get
that money."
She started to get up.
"Hold on. Sit down and finish your beer."
She did.
I met her the next day and we went down to the jail. It hurt to
put that much money across. My brain was screaming "sucker."
The Princess didn't say anything, just stood there like a statue waiting for them to bring Tommy out. He finally appeared, walking up
a corridor with a cop beside him. He looked at me long and hard,
looked over at the Princess and started walking out. I couldn't
stand it.
"Hey wait a minute."
He stopped and turned around. He looked at me, cold as an iceberg.
I turned to the Princess. "Listen, I don't need any extras."
"Something wrong with your stomach?"
"I got an offer I couldn't refuse last night." I lied.
"Okay." Her expression didn't change. "I'll meet you tomorrow
at the Grandstand, Gate I, two o'clock."
I walked out. It was hot again. The Stampede banners that draped
over the street, hung like shrouds in the deathly still air. Somewhere
in the distance there was the sound of a train, a solemn rumble
churning over the traffic noise. She was right, there was something
wrong with my stomach.
I tried to go to see a movie that night. It was about a longdistance horse race in the old west. These guys were driving themselves and their horses into the ground for the money and the prestige of the big race. Somebody in the line-up had said that Gene
Hackman wins in the end and I left about half-way through. It was
dark when I walked out. Fireworks were crashing over the Stampede
grounds, unfolding like big noisy flowers and then dissolving, the
last sparks being sucked up into the darkness. I needed a drink. I
walked into a little bar and played pool until closing time. I took ten
bucks off a kid that was too drunk to hold his cue.
I got to the Stampede grounds about noon the next day. There
were kids everywhere, screaming on the roller coaster and the mad
mouse and the octopus and eating cotton candy and popcorn and
218 hot dogs, faces plastered with sticky goop and a furry thing tucked
under each arm. Voices poured out of loudspeakers like firehoses and
people crowded everywhere. I slipped into the casino to get away,
lost fifty bucks in twenty minutes and left. I put my head down and
plunged toward the Grandstand. It was only 1:30 but she was
already there.
"Hello Mexican."
"Hello Princess."
We went to our seats.
"I didn't expect to see you here."
"I told you once ..."
"Ya, I know. You want some junk to eat?"
"No."
We sat watching the calf-roping in silence. After awhile she turned
to me.
"I still owe you. Whether he wins or not, I still owe you."
"I told you to forget it."
"Ya, I know."
The saddle bronc event was just starting. Tommy was the second
last rider.
"He's got good horses for the first two rides. The last one is a
mean bastard."
"How do you know?"
"He gets to see them ahead of time."
She was right. He went the distance on the first two horses. He made
it look easy. I was watching her. She sat there cool as a cucumber,
never moved, just watched.
"If he goes the distance on this last horse, he wins." She said it
like she was reading a newspaper.
"Jesus, you talk like you don't even care."
She looked at me. No, it was there, in her face. She was scared
shitless. I looked back to the field. His horse came out of the chute
cracking like a whip. I thought he was going over right away but he
didn't, he hung on like a rag waving on the end of a stick. The horn
went just before he got thrown. There was a big cheer from the
crowd. The guy on the loudspeaker was jabbering away like crazy,
and the place was jumping. He picked himself up and walked off,
didn't wave or anything, just walked off. I looked at the Princess.
She was sitting with her eyes closed.
"Hey. You win Princess."
219 She didn't say anything. We walked down below after awhile where
the riders were. I waited at the door and watched her go over to
Tommy. They talked for a couple of minutes, he handed her the
check, and she walked back to me. She looked cleaned out, empty.
"Let's go to a bank." she said.
There was a bank on the grounds so we went there. I watched her
count out the money.
"There, that's $700."
She held it out to me in a big bundle and I took it. I looked at it for
a minute and stuck it in my pocket.
"You want a drink?"
"Sure."
We went to the beer garden and I bought two beer.
"How much money does that leave you?"
"Enough."
"What about your truck?"
"It's totaled. Listen, I gotta go to the can."
She got up and disappeared into the crowd. She was going back to
Tommy.
I drank a few more beer and then left. I kept telling myself, I'd
just made $200,1 should be celebrating. I bought a bottle of whiskey
and went back to my room. I didn't feel like facing another crowd
of people, all that bloody noise. I pushed the window open and
poured myself a tumbler of whiskey. The sun was starting to go
down. There was still no wind. I sat there drinking and watching
the street for a couple of hours, until the fireworks started crackling
again. There was a knock at the door. It was the Princess.
"How did you know I was staying here?"
"You told me, the first day in the bar."
She closed the door and sat down on the bed.
"Okay, why'd you come?"
"I still owe you."
"Listen, I told you I didn't need any extras. I got my money."
She started unbuttoning her shirt.
"I know." She stopped and looked at me. "It's not for you. It's so,
I don't owe nothin." Her eyes were bright in the darkening room.
It was something sad and wild inside her. "It's important." she
whispered. She stood up and embraced me. The sobs came slowly at
first, then faster until her face was wet with tears. Outside, the fireworks thundered and died in the blackness of the prairie sky.
220 QTCA1N
"Grain has achieved a standard of excellence that
puts it among the best of our contemporary
literary magazines." (PAUL STUEWE in QUILL & QUIRE)
Grain pays $10 for poems, S15-S50 for prose.
Subscription rates are $3.00 a year (3 issues), $5.00 for 2 years.
Subscriptions and submissions may be addressed to:
GRAIN, Box 1885, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7K 3S2 NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
Rosemary Aubert is a poet and editor living in Toronto. Her work has
appeared in numerous Canadian magazines. A collection of her poetry,
Two Kinds of Honey, was published by Oberon Press in 1977.
Deirdre Ballantyne is a landed immigrant from the United States. She
is currently working on a collection of poetry and drawings. Her work
appears in many literary magazines and periodicals.
Pefer Behrens is a twenty-three-year-old Montreal native. He has a
story appearing in Best Canadian Stories '78 (Oberon) in the fall.
Robert Billings is currently the Associate Editor of Poetry Windsor
Poesie. His poems have appeared widely, and a collection of early work
appeared through Fiddlehead in 1977. A second book, St. Matthew's
Hill, has been completed, and a third, The Elizabeth Trinities, is in
progress.
A. Blackfeafher has had poetry in Event, Boreal, Karaki, and Back-
roads. He works as a fishing guide out of Whaletown, Cortes Island,
B.C. He was born in 1951 near Alert Bay.
Roo Borson is a writer living in Toronto. A book of poems, Landfall,
(Fiddlehead) was published in 1977.
Marilyn Bowering was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1949, and grew
up on Vancouver Island. She has had three books of poetry published,
and is now in the process of editing an anthology of poetry for children.
David Brooks has recently phblished in Tamarack, The Antigonish
Review, Antaeus, Poetry Australia, and The Ontario Review. He was
born in 1953 and now lives in Toronto.
Jean E. Brown is a twenty-seven-year-old student majoring in Economics at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University.
Michael Cameron was born in 1951 in Montreal. He is finishing an
M.A. in English at McGill University, and has had poems in various
literary magazines.
Francine Corcos is twenty-six years old and a part-time student at York
University.
Emilia Corning lives quietly with her two children in Montreal.
222 Lome Daniel was born in 1953 and grew up in west central Alberta.
His second book of poetry will be published this summer by Thistledown Press.
Barry Dempster is the editor of the anthology Tributaries due out in
the fall from Mosaic Press/Valley Editions. His own work is forthcoming in Saturday Night, The Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review, and
The Dalhousie Review.
Pier Giorgio Di Cicco is Associate Editor of Books in Canada, and editor
of Roman Candles, an anthology of Italian-Canadian Poets published
by Hounslow Press. His most recent volumes of poems are The Circular
Dark (Borealis Press), and Dancing in the House of Cards (Three
Trees Press). His forthcoming volumes are A Burning Patience (Borealis Press), and The Tough Romance (McClelland & Stewart). He is
twenty-eight.
Mary di Michelle has been published in numerous literary journals and
anthologies. Her first collection of poems, Tree of August will be published by Three Trees Press in the spring. She was born in Lanciano,
Italy, August 6, 1949, and immigrated to Canada in 1955.
Patricia Eddy is twenty-three years old. She lives and works in
Vancouver.
Andre Farkas lives in Ste. Anne De Bellevieu, P.Q.
Mona Fertig has opened up a literary storefront in Gastown, Vancouver. She lives and writes in Burnaby.
Cathy Ford lives on Mayne Island, B.C. Her latest collection of poems
Tall Trees (blewointment press) is her third. Cathy was born in 1952.
Kathleen Forsythe has published several volumes of poetry. She was
born in Fredericton, N.B., March 24, 1949.
Robin Fulford is a teacher by profession and lives in Toronto. He is
twenty-eight years old.
Bill Gaston has published in several small magazines. This is his first
short story. He lived in Borneo for a number of years and played pro
hockey in France for a year. He now is a logger in the Squamish Valley.
Jeanette Gaudet has been published in Waves and Germination, and in
1976 won the Nova Scotia Writer's Federation prize for poetry. She
studies ceramics at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.
223 (Catherine Govier is twenty-nine years old and has been working as a
journalist for three years.
Stephen Guppy recently graduated from the University of Victoria in
Creative Writing. He has appeared in Island, Event, and The Malahat
Review. Stephen was born in 1951.
Laurence Hutchman has published two books of poetry, The Twilight
Kingdom and Explorations. He is presently completing another book.
Tom Inkster lives in Erin, Ontario. He and his wife, Elke, are owners of
The Porcupine's Quill, Inc.
Frances Itani grew up in rural Quebec. A book of poetry No Other
Lodgings is being published in the summer by Fiddlehead Poetry Books.
Mark Jarman is a student at the University of Victoria.
M. T. Kelly was born in Toronto. He has worked as a journalist for
MacLean-Hunter Ltd., and Thompson Newspapers. His poetry has
appeared in numerous magazines. A novel, / Do Remember The Fall,
was published in 1977.
Theresa Kishkan lives in Victoria, B.C.
August Kleinzahler lives in Montreal. A book of poetry is due in the
fall.
Judy Lassen has appeared in Antigonish Review, Event, Northern
Light, CV/II, Room of One's Own, and CBC Anthology.
Anne Le Dressay has published in The Mennonite, Wind, Poetry of
Manitoba, CV/II, Pierian Spring, and Salt. She is twenty-eight years
old.
Kim Maltman attends the University of Toronto where he is completing a doctorate in Physics.
Mike Mason will be appearing in Grain, R.O.A.R., Waves, and Best
Canadian Stories '78. He is twenty-five years of age and lives in Beause-
jour, Manitoba.
Paddy McCallum works as an assistant producer/scriptwriter for Vancouver Comunity College's Audiovisual Services. He was born in Vancouver in 1952.
Kathleen McCracken is a highschool student in Flesherton, Ontario. She
has a book of poems to her credit.
224 Bob McGee has published three volumes of poetry, Three Dozen Sonnets, (Vehicule Press, 1973), Cromlech (broadsides), (Thornproof
Editions, 1975), and The Shanty-Horses, (New Delta).
Gail McKay is publishing a book, The Pat Lowther Poem (Coach
House), in the summer. She is twenty-nine years old.
Theresa Moritz lives and writes in Toronto, Ontario.
Daniel Moses is a Delaware Indian living on the Ohsweken Reserve,
Ontario. He was born February 18, 1952.
Susan Musgrave lives in Sidney, B.C. on Vancouver Island. Her publications are too numerous to list. She has six volumes of poetry.
Jane Needham was born in 1949 in Sarnia, Ontario. She attended
Parson's School of Design in New York City, and now works as a freelance illustrator in Vancouver, B.C. Previous paintings have appeared
on the covers of Stories for Belated Drinkers (Intermedia) and The
Greenpeace Book (Orca Sound).
Ken Morris is a member of the Canadian League of Poets. He has
published four books. Ken is twenty-seven years old and lives in
Montreal.
Linda Pyke was born October 19, 1948. She is a poet and sometime
book reviewer. Linda was first published in 1975, and has had seventy-
five poems appear since then in various literary journals.
Matt Santateresa (also known as Matt Tolland) was born March 15,
1950, in Montreal. He is currently completing a manuscript with the
assistance of a Canada Council grant.
David Sharpe has appeared in Quarry, Nebula, Canadian Fiction
Magazine, Poetry Box and Green River Review among others. The
poems that appear in PRISM are part of a book-length work called
Unions.
D. J. Simpson was born January 28, 1950. He lives and writes in
Kamloops, B.C.
Carolyn Smart has previously been published in The Canadian Forum,
Waves, The Fiddlehead, and Quarry. She lives in Toronto.
Peter Maclean Stevens is a fourth year honours student in British
literature at the University of Saskatchewan. He was most recently
published in Number One Northern, and an anthology of Saskatchewan poetry published by Coteau Books.
225 Richard Stevenson is at work on his first collection of Poetry. He was
born in 1952 and lives in Victoria.
Michael Todd is a master's student in English at the University of
Toronto.
Doug Turner was born in 1949 in New Westminster, B.C. He has
appeared in Quarry West and Yellowhead.
Kurt Van Wilt has just graduated from an M.A. program in English/
Creative Writing at Concordia University in Montreal. He is twenty-
nine years old.
Mihkel Voore has been published in Acta Victoriana, Writ, Intrinsic,
and Canadian Author & Bookman. He was born in 1954.
Bronwen Wallace has had poems in Tamarack Review, Canadian
Forum, This Magazine, and The University of Windsor Review among
others. She lives in Kingston, Ontario.
Desmond Walsh has published one book of poetry, and a second will
be done by Breakwater Books in the fall of '78. He is twenty-three years
old and lives in Beachy Cove, Nfld.
Patrick White is the General Editor of the Ottawa Review. The poems
that appear in PRISM were written on Vancouver Island.
Andrew Wreggitt has just completed a BFA in Creative Writing at the
University of British Columbia. He is twenty-two years old.
226 BOOKS: CANADIAN UNDER-30 AUTHORS
Borson, Roo; Landfall; Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1977; 55 pgs; First
collection. Selections from Landfall have appeared in PRISM, Northern Light, Event, Black and White, Quarry, and Revue 2. Roo was
born January 1952 in Berkeley, Ca., and now is a Canadian citizen.
d'Amboise, Jacqueline; Mother Myths; Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1978;
100 pgs. First collection. Selections from Mother Myths have appeared
in The West Coast Review, The Canadian Forum, The Malahat
Review, Descant, and Exile. Her poems have been broadcast on CBC
Anthology. Jacqueline was born April 7, 1948, in Sturgeon Falls,
Ontario.
Firestone, Catherine: Daydream Daughter; McClelland & Stewart,
1976; 94 pgs. Second collection. A book of French poems has been published in France. The poet was born in Ottawa, 1949.
Ford, Cathy: Tall Trees; blewointment press, 1978; 96 pgs. Third publication. Photographs by the author. Besides her three collections of
poems, Cathy has edited an anthology of short fiction, (Canadian Short
Fiction Anthology, Intermedia). The poet was born April, 1952, in
Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.
Forsythe, Kathleen: Time and Untime; Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1977;
5/ pgs. Fourth publication. Other collections include Inside Me, The
Hair Cage, and November-Dead-Time. Kathleen was born in 1949.
Henderson, Brian: Paracelsus: A Poem in Forty Parts, with A Prologue; The Porcupine's Quill, Inc., 1977; 42 pgs.
Hennessy, Bryan: Counting Gifts; Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1978; 28
pgs. First collection The author is employed as a musician, and was
born in 1949.
Kleinzahler, August: The Sausage Master of Minsk; Villeneuve, 1977.
20 pgs. Poems. Another publication is due in the winter by Coach
House.
Maltman, Kim: The Country of the Mapmakers; Fiddlehead Poetry
Books, 1977; 64 pgs; First publication. Poems from The Country of the
Mapmakers have appeared in Quarry, The Fiddlehead, and Canadian
Forum, among others. Kim was born August 23, 1950, in Medicine Hat,
Alberta.
227 McCracken, Kathleen: Reflections; Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1978; 52
pgs. First publication. Poems from this collection have appeared in
The Malahat Review and Laureate. Kathleen was born in 1962.
McGee, Bob: The Shanty-Horses: James Bay Poems; New Delta, 1977;
50 pgs. Third collection. Poems from this book have appeared in
CV/II, The Canadian Forum, and Davinci.
Musgrave, Susan: Selected Strawberries and Other Poems; Sono Nis
Press, 1977; 164 pgs. Sixth collection. The book is composed of revised
versions of poems taken from Entrance of the Celebrant, and Grave-
Dirt and Selected Strawberries. Susan was born in 1951.
Nelson, Sharon: Seawreck; Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1973; 32 pgs.
Third publication. A new book, Blood Poems, will be put out in the
fall by Fiddlehead. Sharon was born in Montreal, January 2, 1948.
Oulton, Bawnie: Pocket Crumbs; Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1978; 23
pgs. First collection. The author lives in St. John's, Nfld. She was born
in 1950.
Plourde, Marc: The Spark Plug Thief; New Delta, 1976; 97 pgs.
Stories from this book have appeared in Grain, Jewish Dialogue, Northern Journey, and Quarry. Fifth publication.
Sarah, Robyn: Shadow play; Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1978; 43 pgs.
First collection. Selections from Shadowplay have appeared in The
Antigonish Review, Poetry Toronto Newsletter, Quarry, Waves, and
Versus.
West, Ann J.: The Water Book; Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1978; 44
pgs. First collection. Poems from this book have appeared in The Far
Point, The West Coast Poetry Review, Mundus Artium, and Oasis.
Ann was born in Vancouver in 1950.
228 WRITE.
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Graduate and Undergraduate
Programs in Creative Writing
ON THE WEST COAST.
The Department of Creative Writing offers complete programs leading to the degrees of Bachelor of Fine Arts
and Master of Fine Arts. Creative Writing, which began at the University of British Columbia in 1946, became a
wholly independent department within the Faculty of Arts in 1965.
Workshops, tutorials and conferences are handled by a permanent staff of established writers and distinguished
visitors. Areas covered include the writing of drama (stage, radio, film and television), poetry, short and long
fiction, imaginative non-fiction and translation. Qualified MFA students may elect to pursue special programs in
translation or interdepartmental programs in playwriting in conjunction with the Department of Theatre.
The 8FA program gives undergraduate majors the chance to take more than half of their third and fourth
year courses in Creative Writing. In the MFA program graduate students may take all of their courses in Creative
Writing during their two years of residence.
Limited enrolment, individual attention and high standards help establish a productive atmosphere for the
serious apprentice writer.
UBC's 1000-acre campus covers a point overlooking Canada's largest port and the cosmopolitan and culturally
active city of Vancouver.
If you are interested in a fully professional Creative Writing program, write for further information. The deadline for application to the MFA program is December 10.
Douglas Bankson
Head
Department of Creative Writing
University of British Columbia
2075 Wesbrook Place
Vancouver, B.C.
V6T 1W5
CANADA
The University of British Columbia ISSN 0032-8790

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