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international
WINTER 1992
Contemporary writing from Canada and around the world $4.50 (plus G.S.T.)
The Death and Desire Issue  in
JV/U international  JWU international
Editor
Rodger Cove
Executive Editor
Patricia Gabin
Fiction Editor
Francie Greenslade
Poetry Editor
Vivian Marple
Advisory Editor
Keith Maillard
Business Manager
Elizabeth Drumwright
Editorial Board
Terry Armstrong
Rita Davies
James Farenholtz
Zsuzsi Gartner
Patty Jones
Murray Logan
Shelley MacDonald
Fran Muir
Shannon Stewart
Laurel Wade PRISM international, a magazine of contemporary writing, is published four times per year
at the Department of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver,
B.C. V6T 1Z1. Microfilm editions are available from Xerox University Microfilms, Ann
Arbor, Michigan, and reprints from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, New York, N.Y.
Contents Copyright © 1992 PRISM international for the authors.
Cover Art by Richard Tetrault
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Payment to contributors is temporarily $20.00 per page plus a one-year subscription.
PRISM international purchases First North American Serial Rights only.
Our gratitude to the Canada Council, Dean Patricia Marchak, and the Dean of Arts' Office at
the University of British Columbia.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Government of British Columbia,
through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Recreation and Culture.
Second Class Mail Registration No. 5496. January 1992 Contents
Vol. 30, No. 2    Winter, 1992
Charles Tidier
Drama
The Butcher's Apron
Act One Scene Two   10
Bruce Eason
John Landretti
Maria Veronica Montes
Patrick Roscoe
Fiction
The One Time Writer-In-Residence    69
Miniature Golf   51
I Dreamed My Name Was Allegra   39
Peggy Lee In Africa   63
Poetry
Georgi Belev
translated from the Bulgarian
by Lisa Sapinkopfin
collaboration with the author.
Kelly Cherry
Barry Dempster
Tamas V. Dobozy
Marya Fiamengo
Victoria McCabe
Mark Miller
Sharon Olinka
Karen Petersen
E.M. Schorb
Laurie Anne Whitt
Love Poem   57
Two Poems About My Father   58
For Lost Love   48
Arabian Sea 1922   7
Del Monte Ranch, Questa,
New Mexico 1925    8
Swan   49
At Englishman's River   45
Problems of Age    60
Widower At The Clothesline   37
Scheherazade: Words Against Death   35
Lust   38
Paso Finos   9
The Moon Of Ripe Berries   46
Richard Tetrault
Cover Art
Looking Up (monoprint)
Contributors   77  Barry Dempster
two poems from the recently completed manuscript entitled Letters
from a Long Illness with the World, the D.H. Lawrence Poems.
Arabian Sea 1922
... the strangest feeling gliding down the Suez Canal, the eyes not
missing a palm tree or a sand dune; no matter how foreign a landscape
appears, the brain insistently recites every glimpse of solid earth.
I began to wonder if the physical world didn't rule me after all, that
I was nothing more than bones and uncontrollable sensations. But out
at sea, the feeling fades, the brain is scrubbed clean. The land grows
loose within me, dissolving, as if my muscles and my thoughts are turning
to salt water. I may not be able to walk by the time we arrive in Ceylon.
My entire being will spill on the sun-baked docks, trickling back into
the sea again. Either that or evaporating into thin air. Don't laugh,
it's the world and I at odds again; one of us will eventually disappear... Del Monte Ranch, Questa,
New Mexico 1925
... breathing in a nip of evening air, moonlight cools my lungs; I breathe
out the tiniest crystals of oxygen, like those stars on the tips of
fairy tale wands. I was terribly ill with malaria, 'flu, tropical fever
and an assortment of other demons, I almost died, I felt a string of
breath being pulled out of a hole in my chest, I couldn't find the daylight
not even in the sun. I'm back here now ten weeks, close to strong again,
and I'm almost satisfied. There is no paradise, believe me, my friend,
but if there was, I'd set it down beneath this pine tree, this moonlit
chair. Let Frieda scream for me, books holler, food tantalize, but
I won't budge an inch. I've been looking for the perfect world my entire
life, I've been sorting through air and moonbeams, through demons and
death. All the while it was here, for just this moment, almost satisfied... E.M. Schorb
Paso Finos
For Christie and D.E. Church
Fine-paced, their manes sweeping the shortest grass,
their chins held in like quick-stepping cadets,
almost miniature, they circle in wherever they are
like a carousel, and you can almost hear the music.
Sometimes they seem unreal, as if you watched
in a lucid dream the archetype of horse, the perfect
children's dream animal, the one that they could take
between
their fingertips and lift and place in air and see
the beautiful pinions form from barrelled ribs,
and lean back giggling together as the little horses hover
and wing off, flying in the children's psychokinetic
imaginations, like Persian storybook animals, like
what should really be, and, amazingly, nearly is. The Butcher's Apron
Act One Scene II
Charles Tidier
The Butcher's Apron is a full-length stage play first produced by Theatre
Passe Muraille for its world premiere in Toronto, Ontario, on 16 March
1990. It was directed by Brian Richmond and starred Stephen Ouimette
as August Strindberg and his doppleganger, and Pauline Gillis as Frida.
This play may not be reproduced in any manner whatsoever and no production presented without the express written permission of the author.
Synopsis—A dream play comedy in two acts, The Butcher's Apron is set
in the Berlin of April 1893. The Kaiser's empire of blood and iron marches in the wide streets, and the intellectual air is charged with sexual
politics and artistic ferment. The 45 year old Swedish playwright August
Strindberg, pursued by the demons of a failed marriage and public disgrace, is introduced at a reception to a young feminist theatre critic, the
21 year old Austrian beauty Frida Uhl. They fall in love and attempt to
forge a new kind of marriage wherein the Feminist and the Superman
may co-exist as partners, lovers, and equals. But first they must deal
with a very serious problem. Through an experiment in alchemy, August
Strindberg has become two people, and his doppelganger is out for blood.
In the text of the following excerpt, the doppelganger is referred to as
"Strindberg" as opposed to "August."
ACT ONE
Scene Two. The Library.
(A door. A small desk and chair. A divan. A bookshelf. A telephone. FRIDA sits at the desk. She
wears an expensive and provocative evening gown
and is talking on the telephone. Somewhere, in another room, a cello is being played.)
10 FRIDA: (on the phone) Hello, dearest Sister... it's Frida. I'm
calling from the library. The reception-
(Pause.)
I know it's late, past midnight, but... guess what? August Strindberg is here. (Short pause.) Strindberg, the
great misogynist, playwright, genius. He's here, tonight, in this house, dressed like the Flying Dutchman.
I have an interview with him for the morning paper. I'm
going to nail the Nordic pretender to the wall. (Short
pause. Laughs.) I have my ways.
(Pause.)
I'm not going home with you to Vienna. I thought we
settled that. It took me twenty-one years to escape my
father's house-(Short pause.) Munich? No!
(Pause.)
I told you, I love Berlin. My daily life is a sweet volatile
mix of the bohemian and the bourgeois. I starve for
days at a time and in between drink champagne. My education is suffering a complete breakdown. The artists
and writers among whom I circulate are the most unnatural, unwholesome, eccentric, queer, odd... nothing but talent.
(Pause.)
Sister, I am a journalist and a critic.
(AUGUST, dressed in tux and tie and a great
flowing cape, suddenly appears at the library door.
He carries a large, green linen bag fastened at the
top by a large black button. He winks at FRIDA,
and she winks back.)
Here he is. (Short pause.) Strindberg. I'll see you back
at the apartment (Short pause.) I don't know when...
sister, goodbye. (Hangs up.)
11 AUGUST: It was hard work shaking them off, but here I am.
VOICE: (offstage) Strindberg... Strindberg...!
FRIDA: Quick. We can close the door.
(AUGUST enters the library. FRIDA closes the
door. She has a key.)
AUGUST: Qaughing) Those old fakers,  those fucking farts...
patrons of the arts, indeed.
(Meanwhile, FRIDA locks the door.)
FRIDA: No one shall disturb us.
AUGUST: (going on, mocking the outside world) If science inter
feres with progress, science must reverse itself.
(FRIDA hides the key. A knock at the door.)
FRIDA: Shhh!
VOICE: (behind the locked door) Hello. Who's there?
(Another knock.)
Strindberg... ?
(A long pause. FRIDA listens at the door.)
FRIDA: He's gone.
AUGUST: Oh, thank god for that.
(AUGUST and FRIDA laugh together.)
AUGUST: Receptions, my young lady,  oh how I hate them.
Theatre managers, actors, playwrights... always trying to borrow money, or to steal an idea.
(AUGUST shudders.)
12 Sometimes I get a raging desire to say exactly what's
on my mind, but if people were really frank and honest,
the world would collapse.
FRIDA: Boom. Let it.
AUGUST: Ah, a library. We're among friends here.
FRIDA: Yes... we are.
AUGUST: Indeed, mademoiselle.
FRIDA: Duck, duck, goose?
AUGUST: Duck...?
FRIDA: It's a game. Don't you know it?
AUGUST: Yes, of course I do.
FRIDA: Well, then... duck, duck, duck... goose.
AUGUST: I'm the goose?
(FRIDA nods.)
Well, you are a young lady and have to be careful about
your. . . reputation.
FRIDA: I want to write books, and you are August Strindberg.
AUGUST: That is exactly what you will never be forgiven. But, I
have never yet caused gossip about any nice girl.
FRIDA: Only the not-so-nice ones cause gossip?
AUGUST: Well, aren't we clever.
FRIDA: I have read all of your plays... the novels, too.
AUGUST: (amused) You have? All of them? Are you sure?
13 FRIDA: I have devoured you.
AUGUST: (alarmed) Devoured me?
FRIDA: Like a hungry beast.
AUGUST: Who are you?
FRIDA: Who am I, Herr Strindberg?
AUGUST: Yes.
FRIDA: I am Frida Uhl... but, we have already been intro
duced.
AUGUST: Frida Uhl... (Short pause.) And where do you come
from, Frida Uhl? What is the story of your life? You
see, you remind me of someone I once knew... centuries ago it now seems, and you may be... (Short
pause.) Have you ever seen your mother dead in a box?
FRIDA: My mother is very well, thank you.
AUGUST: Do you believe in reincarnation?
FRIDA: I believe in reclamation, equality, and the battle of the
brains.
AUGUST: What is the first thing you remember?
FRIDA: My father's voice: Obey!
AUGUST: Do you remember the womb?
FRIDA: (laughs) No.
AUGUST: I do... the womb-of-the-dead-twin.
FRIDA: Dead twin...?
(A spotlight comes up on STRINDBERG.)
14 STRINDBERG: Ever since I was born, I have always had a rival, a
ghostly twin who got everything while I got nothing.
From the very beginning, my mother nursed my
shadow in the warm, bright kitchen, while I was left
alone in the damp nursery with the door closed. Like a
potato in a cellar, my hungry howls sprouted in the
darkness, bellowing for one drop of sweet, human kindness. Mercy. (Short pause.) Oh, what a rotten ratshit
inferno I've had to put up with all my life. All my life. My
twin brother. The ugly sucking vampire.
(Pause.)
One day my shadow brother brought into the house a
dead ladybug, and mother, who was always so busy
with pots and pans and pietism, somehow found the
leisure time to construct a miniature casket of cedar-
wood, and she and my vampire brother buried the lady-
bug behind the rhubarb in the garden. A ladybug. You
could pinch it between your fingers. (Short pause.) I
learned the Latin names and the precise habits of each
and every thoracic insect within the city limits of Stockholm ... and mother smacked me across the face for
muddying my galoshes in pursuit of the last elusive
species. (Short pause.) My brother, my rival, scrawled
a stick-figure caricature of the king of Sweden. Mother
baked him a pudding. At the age of six, I mastered the
art of painting in watercolors. My sense of perspective
was astounding. All my efforts, into the garbage. (Short
pause.) My shadow, my twin, had two lines, two lines,
in a Christmas pageant, and mother made him a white
linen shirt with mother-of-pearl buttons. I composed a
thousand-line epic poem celebrating the compassion of
Christ. Mother lectured me on the sin of pride: seek ye
to be forever simpleminded.
(Pause.)
My mother was pale and sickly, transparent like a
pelargonium. Do you know that flower, forever foreign
to the goodness of the sun, consumptive white leafs
shot with blood... ?
15 (The spotlight fades.)
AUGUST: A digression. Please... tell the truth, what is the first
thing that you remember?
FRIDA: The first, the very first thing I can remember... well,
yes, it was the sun. The laughing sun. And for years,
even now, if the sun smiles on me, I am happy... very,
very, very happy.
AUGUST: What month were you born?
FRIDA: I was born in April... in Austria.
AUGUST: Sun on snow, then.
FRIDA: Yes.
AUGUST: Blinding purity. The Madonna. Of course, it is you, isn't
it?
(Pause.)
FRIDA: The second thing I remember is not so pleasant.
AUGUST: I know.
FRIDA: You do?
AUGUST: You are an orphan.
FRIDA: No.
AUGUST: No? Are you sure?
FRIDA: Quite sure I'm not an orphan... but something of a
gypsy, I suppose.
AUGUST: You see, I know. Please... a little exposition.
FRIDA: I... (Short pause.) How do I say this? I... I did not
come into the world because my father loved my
16 mother, but because he loved another woman he was
trying to forget.
AUGUST: You poor child. God bless you.
FRIDA: As a... remedy? Yes, that's the word. As a remedy to
my parents' marriage, I was a failure I'm sorry to say.
They, my mother and father, soon separated after my
birth. Mother returned to her family's estate on the
Danube... very, very rich, very, very, dull. (Short
pause.) Father moved to Vienna. He's the editor-in-
chief of the Imperial Gazette, Austria's largest and
most powerful newspaper. (Short pause.) My parents
put me in one convent school after another. London,
Paris, Italy, Switzerland, everywhere the bright sun
shines, but especially Paris, which I love like a sister.
(Short pause.) I hate... hated all the schools, the pious
hypocrisy, the superficial education. (Laughs.) Ten
years of virginal incense among the brides of God. But
to live in a new country each new year was wonderful.
Wanderlust enflamed my blood, the hot sun, and I have
become... what? A sophisticated, pantheistic sensualist, I suppose. (Laughs.) 'You don't live, you vegetate,' says my father. (Short pause.) And now, I love
Berlin. I do. Always so much noise and shouting. It
resembles a gold-mining town in America... don't you
think so?
AUGUST: Well... a young emperor is building himself a capitol.
FRIDA: Life beats high, and the sun, the sun shines on Berlin.
AUGUST: Ignis fatuus... even in the middle of the night.
(Pause.)
FRIDA: Herr Strindberg, what are you doing?
AUGUST: Circumnavigating your navel with my index finger.
FRIDA: Oh...
17 AUGUST: Is that not an accurate description?
FRIDA: Please... stop.
AUGUST: Who are you? Really, I mean. Tell me.
FRIDA: I don't know what you mean.
AUGUST: One last time, what is your real name?
FRIDA: I told you, I am Frida Uhl.
AUGUST: Frida Uhl...
FRIDA: Herr Strindberg, please...
AUGUST: I beg, call me August.
FRIDA: August, stop it.
(Pause.)
AUGUST: So, then, now I know. You are the cruel Madonna who
sharpens her teeth... who boils to a thin, rancid soup
the hundred bones of her children.
FRIDA: I have no children.
AUGUST: You stand exposed.
FRIDA: I don't know what you're talking about.
AUGUST: You don't?
FRIDA: No, I don't.
AUGUST: Do you... want to fuck me? (Short pause.) Well?
FRIDA: As a lady, I'll pretend I didn't hear-
AUGUST: You're not a lady. You're a woman. A woman who locks
the library doors. Yes, I saw you. You think you're pre-
18 FRIDA:
AUGUST:
FRIDA:
AUGUST:
FRIDA:
AUGUST:
FRIDA:
AUGUST:
FRIDA:
AUGUST:
FRIDA:
cious? Priceless? Fragile? Unique? Intellectual? Super-
modern? Liberated? The Stronger? Which? How many?
All? The living feminine contradiction. Ha. You must
know, I left behind two dozen of your like in Sweden.
Give me a fortnight, and I shall do at least as well in
Berlin. Well, bring out the sabres... the pistols.
What's your retort?
My retort is this: I am both serious and professional,
Herr Strindberg.
(FRIDA goes to the desk.)
Ink. Pen. Paper. Shall we interview?
Have you read Nietzsche?
Yes.
And?
I, too, expect and hope for something new to come into
the world.
You are a feminist. Or think you are.
Because I express sentiments that differentiate me
from a doormat? (Short pause.) We live in exciting
times, Herr Strindberg.
August.
Today, a twenty-one-year-old female seizes the will to
power.
Oh...?
You think that because of my father... to be sure, I
begged and plotted to win my position as a Berlin
theatre correspondent, but it is by my merits alone my
by-line continues to appear.
19 AUGUST:
Congratulations.
FRIDA:
Shall we interview?
AUGUST:
No.
FRIDA:
Yes, we must. I insist.
AUGUST:
On the battle of the b
you are. Who you really are. You remind me of someone I once knew a long time ago. I am trying to trace,
but my memory is a complete blank. (Short pause.) You
want to write books?
FRIDA: Yes.
AUGUST: Then you must learn something about writing. There's
no profession so crude, so devoid... if you knew what
life looks like after... after you, the writer... after...
FRIDA: There is great beauty to be found in the treasures of lit
erature.
AUGUST: Flowers are beautiful... not words.
FRIDA: As a writer, you have no faith in the world.
AUGUST: Faith in the games that children play.
FRIDA: Does anything fulfill its promise?
AUGUST: Only the imagination.
FRIDA: Shall we... shall we interview?
AUGUST: Yes, let's.
FRIDA: Good.
(Pause.)
The great poet, playwright, novelist—
20 AUGUST: Chemist.
FRIDA: You,   Herr August Strindberg,   have  recently been
divorced in Sweden. The echo of your divorce has
resounded through Berlin like a battle cry.
AUGUST: Yes... placed between two alternatives, either to kill a
woman, or to be killed by her, I took a third one. LI...
left her.
FRIDA: And...?
(Pause.)
And... Herr Strindberg?
AUGUST: Yes... yes, excuse me. What was the question?
FRIDA: Your divorce—
AUGUST: That word! It's like an axe. I can scarcely speak...
breathe...
(Pause.)
FRIDA: Another tack, perhaps?
AUGUST: Yes, please...
FRIDA: Today, in Berlin, one reads only French and Scandina
vian books. The young German writers, since the
seventies have got all their ideas from the North. There
true genius lies.
AUGUST: Well... I am forty-four, an exile, and an orphan, with
only a trunk for my servant. And the spring of 1893
finds me in Berlin, living as a bachelor in a furnished
room—
(A spotlight picks up STRINDBERG.)
STRINDBERG:  Living as a superman in a boxcar.
21 (The spot dies.)
FRIDA: Did you... say 'boxcar?'
AUGUST: Boxcar...?
FRIDA: Yes. Did you say you are living in a boxcar?
AUGUST: I said I am living as a bachelor in a furnished room.
(Pause.)
FRIDA: You have a reputation as being the great woman-hater.
Is that correct?
AUGUST: I am always asked this question. The woman-lover
would be closer to the truth.
FRIDA: Yet in your book, A Madman's Defense—
AUGUST: Here we go.
FRIDA: In which you vivisect your wife like a trussed frog—
AUGUST: I can scarcely breathe outside the presence of a
woman.
FRIDA: Is it not true, what you said?
AUGUST: What... that I was married to a cow wench, a phono
graph, a vampire? Absolutely.
FRIDA: How can you speak so about the woman who has been
your wife?
AUGUST: I see-
FRIDA: No woman, in the history of the world, ever said or did
what you attribute to her.
AUGUST: I see my ex-wife has already her congregation in Berlin.
She's the holy martyr in the church of the third sex. I
22 shall have to rewrite the whole of theology, criminology, economic theory, and at least add a whole new
chapter to botany merely to be understood.
FRIDA: Define the third sex.
AUGUST: The manly-woman, of course, who wears pants and
smokes cigars, spawning a whole generation of lacey,
lilly, paper-dolly men.
FRIDA: Your logic astounds me. Have you any evidence?
(AUGUST unbuttons the linen bag, and pulls out
a whip.)
AUGUST: The man brings the whip to the woman who sharpens
her teeth.
(AUGUST snaps the whip.)
FRIDA: You have a whip, but you have no evidence.
AUGUST: Ask yourself, can one love and not hate?
(Snaps his whip.)
FRIDA: Put that silly thing away.
AUGUST: We are all so much entangled, man and woman...
things can't be put right, but must be burned up,
blasted, butchered.
(The whip hangs at his side.)
FRIDA: Then, do it. Clear the boards. A new race, the super
man and the feminist, will create a new world.
AUGUST: Ugh, impossible.
(AUGUST drops the whip, sinks down upon the
divan, and hides his face in his hands.)
23 FRIDA: But they must, they must. The status quo, man's domi
nation of woman, is a monster.
(Pause.)
Herr Strindberg... ?
(Pause.)
You must understand, it is not always easy to be charming when one is mad with rage. Hardly a night goes by
in Berlin but a woman is brutally murdered.
(Pause.)
Herr Strindberg.
(A spotlight picks up STRINDBERG on the divan.
He looks up.)
STRINDBERG: I am August Strindberg, the real August Strindberg.
I'm the victim of a doppelganger. A shadow, a double-
goer walks in my shoes, talks through my mouth.
Thief! Criminal!
(STRINDBERG produces a dagger and stabs the
air behind his back, never at FRIDA.)
Where is he? Where? Where?
FRIDA: Herr Strindberg-
STRINDBERG: Where is he? Where? There? Here?
FRIDA: Please, put the dagger away—
STRINDBERG: Where? There-
FRIDA: You don't have to fight in here. Please—
STRINDBERG: What, this isn't the earth?
24 FRIDA:
It's the library.
STRINDBERG: This is earth. You're not fooling me. Earth... where
we mate and destroy. (Stabs the air.) As long as the
mechanism keeps running, it's kick and scratch and
fight with your hands and feet for all you're worth.
(Fighting the air.) Where? There. Here—
FRIDA:
No, no... please... please—
STRINDBERG: Outside the courtroom, following my divorce, my wife
of thirteen years, my ex-wife, came up to me and said,
'Well, did you get what you wanted?' And I said, 'When
the time comes for me to die, I'll be able to say I don't
owe anybody anything, and I never got anything for
nothing.' (Stabs the air.) 'Everything I own, I had to
fight for.'
FRIDA:
(STRINDBERG puts the dagger to his throat.)
Herr Strindberg, no!
STRINDBERG:  Who are you? Who are you?
FRIDA: Don't be afraid.
STRINDBERG:  A woman-Ahhh...!
(STRINDBERG drops the dagger, moves behind
the divan.)
Don't touch me! Don't—
(STRINDBERG flees. The sound of a regiment of
soldiers marches through the library.)
Berlin. The air snaps with the will to power, and the
earth is a paved parade ground for marching toy
soldiers. Blood and iron. The survival of the fittest. The
battle of the sexes. The revolution of the elite. Drums.
Guns. March march march march march...
25 FRIDA:
(The soldiers fade into the distance.)
Beware the shattered day soldiers fight wars in the sky
and Berlin is a raging curtain of flesh and fire.
(Pause.)
I am August Strindberg. I move in and out of worlds,
step in and out of roles. I range freely across the time. I
am the dreamer, the artist, the superman. I know the
past, and the future. But look, look here.
(Pause.)
I have no heart, no heartbeat, no present. I am completely isolated from the momentary world of man,
woman, and child.
(Pause.)
Herr Strindberg... ? Are you... can I... would you
like something?
STRINDBERG:   Life is hard. . . like when you pull a hook out of a fish's
throat, and the heart follows.
AUGUST:
FRIDA:
AUGUST:
FRIDA:
AUGUST:
FRIDA:
(The spotlight fades.)
Oh, hello... mademoiselle.
Hello...
Now, what was the questioa'
Question... ? (Laughs.) I've... forgotten. Are you alright?
Wasn't it something about the feminist and the superman creating a new world?
Yes, it was, but you—
26 AUGUST:
What do you think?
FRIDA:
What do I think?
AUGUST:
Yes.
FRIDA:
Are you... please,
AUGUST:
FRIDA:
AUGUST:
FRIDA:
AUGUST:
FRIDA:
AUGUST:
FRIDA:
AUGUST:
FRIDA:
AUGUST:
FRIDA:
me.
I never would. (Short pause.) Do you believe, for example ... this new world will retain the institution of
marriage?
A new, modem marriage, yes.
How so?
Marriage must become a free contract between equals
... but only the liberation of women—
(AUGUST notices the dagger on the floor.)
Oh...! Has someone been here looking for me? Well?
What do you mean, looking for you?
While I was away. Someone has been here.
(AUGUSTpicks up the dagger, puts it away in the
bag.)
While you were away?
I have the power... my soul has the ability to escape
my body.
Is that easy to do?
Not difficult, really, not for me, but, it is tiring. Sometimes I remember every detail, and could write a story.
Where does your soul go?
27 AUGUST: Well, sometimes, I go for a walk on the beach beyond
the stars.
FRIDA: You mean your Swedish islands.
AUGUST: (laughing) No, no, dear girl, Sweden, the last time I
looked anyway, is still to be found on the planet Earth.
FRIDA: You walk in the sky.
AUGUST: Yes.   And   I  have   discovered   that  the   stars   are
peepholes.
FRIDA: Peepholes, Herr Strindberg?
AUGUST: Absolutely. If you walk up close enough to the stars,
you can look through them and see paradise on the
other side, blazing with glory. You can. You see, I believe in transmutation. All knowledge can be reduced to
one element.
FRIDA: You believe in alchemy.
AUGUST: I believe in a primary matter out of which all the ele
ments have developed by splitting, condensation, dilution, copulation, crossing, etcetera, etcetera.
FRIDA: You are saying you can make gold.
AUGUST: Aha...
(AUGUST digs into the bag.)
I could... evade... a direct answer to your skepticism
by saying... oh, something like... the fact that I can
trace the evolution of the common housecat, felinus
domesticus, does not mean I can hocus pocus produce a
wildcat out of the bottom of my hat. But, I need no evasion. Here is my reply.
(AUGUST produces a couple strips of scorched yellow gauze permeated with tiny golden specks.)
28 Behold.
(Gives the strips to FRIDA. Pause.)
Well...?
FRIDA: Is this gold?
AUGUST: More or less, a finished gold.
FRIDA: What do you mean by more or less?
AUGUST: An intermediary stage between common sulphur and
pure gold. If I were to properly remelt it with copper
and some other substances, etcetera, etcetera, the result might be a refined gold.
FRIDA: Then, so far, it is not gold after all—
AUGUST: It is!
FRIDA: Then, one could use these products, Herr Strindberg,
to increase one's cash funds?
AUGUST: What? Sell science for money? What a sin. Disgusting.
(AUGUST takes back the strips.)
Thank you.
(Puts them away in the bag. A hard knocking is
heard from the other side of the locked door. We
hear a voice:)
VOICE: Hello... hello... anybody there?
FRIDA: It's Otto. Shall we unlock the door?
AUGUST: Yes. Let's not have scandal.
FRIDA: I've misplaced the key.
29 AUGUST:
Find it at once!
OTTO:
(knocking) Hello... who's there?
AUGUST:
The key! The key!
FRIDA:
I can't find it.
(AUGUST throws himself at the door and tries to
open it by brute force, but to no avail.)
OTTO:
(knocking) Hello... unlock the door.
AUGUST:
That's what I'm trying to do.
FRIDA:
Aha!
AUGUST:
You've got it?
FRIDA:
No. It's disappeared.
AUGUST:
Torture me in hell.
FRIDA:
Otto, please stop pounding on the door.
(The knocking ceases.)
OTTO:
Well, you two: the wild Swedish lion, and the youngest
woman in literary Berlin... locked away in the library.
FRIDA:
I've misplaced the key.
AUGUST:
I didn't know it was locked.
(OTTO is laughing.)
I assure you, Herr Neumann-Hofer—
FRIDA:
Otto! Stop laughing.
(OTTO controls himself.)
30
i	 I am interviewing Herr Strindberg for my newspaper
column, and I have every intention of concluding my interview with Herr Strindberg. Then, we shall commence a thorough search of the library for the key. Am
I understood?
OTTO: (chuckles) Of course, conclude the interview. I'll wait
for you in the drawing room.
FRIDA: Herr Strindberg has graciously offered to see me home
to my apartment.
AUGUST: I have?
OTTO: (chuckles) Strindberg knows best.
FRIDA: Good night, Otto.
(Pause. AUGUST listens at the door.)
AUGUST: Well, I guess he's gone.
FRIDA: Look.
(FRIDA has the key.)
AUGUST: You had it all along?
FRIDA: Yes.
AUGUST: Well, well, let's conclude the interview.
FRIDA: Let's.
(Pause.)
Herr Strindberg... what is your final observation on
the institution of marriage?
AUGUST: As constituted today, it's like watching animals being
butchered.
31 FRIDA: That's hateful.
AUGUST: No, hate is the mastery of the cleaver.
(FRIDA is writing. A spotlight picks up STRINDBERG.)
STRINDBERG:  It was my heart, my heart that was cut out!
(STRINDBERG begins to choke himself to death.)
FRIDA: August, no!
(STRINDBERG falls back upon the divan. His
body heaves for breath, his hands at his side. The
spot fades.)
August, August, are you alright?
(Pause.)
AUGUST:
FRIDA:
AUGUST:
FRIDA:
AUGUST:
FRIDA:
AUGUST:
Yes... I think so. (Short pause.) I see... I have...
fatigued you. Sometimes I go on talking for hours without realizing... you see, it has been... it has been a
very long time since I have been able to share...
(Short pause.) I think I should see you home now, Miss
... Miss... ?
Uhl... Frida Uhl.
Frida Uhl. (Short pause.) Shall we... ?
Where will you go... after you see me home?
There is a tavern named Das Kloster. (Laughs.) I've
given it the nickname Zum schwarzen Ferkel.
The Black Pig?
Oink, oink. Home-away-from-home for all the exiled
writers, artists, and actors. I am the center—
32 FRIDA: Don't go there.
AUGUST: But, you see, my friends—
FRIDA: Not tonight. Please, don't go there tonight, but, please,
August, straight home to your hotel.
AUGUST: I don't understand.
FRIDA: I would like this night to be remembered tomorrow as
... our evening together. Please.
AUGUST: I have something for you.
(AUGUST digs into the bag, and finds what looks
like a package of meat, wrapped in butcher's paper
and tied with twine.)
Here. Take it, it's yours.
(FRIDA takes the package.)
FRIDA: Something... what is it? Meat? What?
AUGUST: Open it!
FRIDA: Herr Strindberg, what is it?
AUGUST: My heart.
FRIDA: Your heart.
AUGUST: Yes.
FRIDA: Oh no. (Laughs.) No no no no no. Take it back, please,
at once.
AUGUST: Very well.
(AUGUST takes it back.)
I don't mean to make a fool of you.
33 FRIDA: Of course you wouldn't.
(AUGUST puts the package back into the bag.)
AUGUST: I, I must know what kind of creature you are really.
(Short pause.) I would like... to walk by your side, always, forever, beneath the trees, beside the sea.
(Short pause.) Believe me, precious child, tonight, in
the library of Otto Neumann-Hofer, you did, indeed,
hold in your most compassionate hands the actual physical heart of August Strindberg.
(End of scene.)
34 Sharon Olinka
Scheherazade: Words
Against Death
The light admitting
mechanism fails.
Two retinas detach
like pink balloons. A demon crouches
at the foot of the bed
clear as a computer print-out,
his chartreuse neon head
in levels, pagoda-like,
his hands golden tassels
that twirl pure emptiness.
You are wheeled
into the brain scan tunnel,
and x-rays click. What is wrong
cannot be set right.
Delicate spider web
of an immune system,
crystalline,
no stronger
than a hymen,
you have broken down
and your bridegroom
is here. He has
dead eyes
in a casket,
raw pearls.
You have a disease
common to women
in Kyoto
in their scented
red kimonos,
women in saris,
and all women
35 with dark,
dark eyes.
There are medications,
and doctors
with cold hands. Soon
you will grope
for light switches, hesitant,
your own house become
an obstacle course,
fish nerves
alert.
There are complications
Blood drawn in vials,
four kinds of pills.
Then you recall a voice
from your childhood,
when in dreams
you stood on a cliff
thin and pale
in a black cloak,
hair flowing,
and commanded the sea.
The voice rises
over minarets,
blends with bird cries,
grows stronger,
spins out word
after word
after word,
tells tales,
and it is your voice,
though the jealous king
eats your flesh
and plans your death.
36 Mark Miller
Widower at the Clothesline
Another Omo-scented morning-
he's reaching up toward heaven,
pegging out his days,
his past and present
from the clothes-basket at his feet
where his bickering children play
in sand and the peg bucket.
Downwards, the yellow-muscled sky
presses its spear-points in
and behind his squinting eyes
he imagines other colours
than these, faded and limp,
swinging on the rotary line.
37 Karen Petersen
Lust
My moon is ablaze again, wrought with rain
wept from the flame of my cat-in-heat ancestry
I'm a marionette to every whim of my metabolism
without ever touching the men carved on my belly
without having tears to cultivate my earth
without even seeing the veil's descent
enveloped by many lifetimes of solitude
pursued by thunder through my veins
between the dank sheets of my sighs
I straddle my lunar throne
feeding on my hunger, alone
and lusting, ravenous.
38 I Dreamed My Name
Was Allegra
Maria Veronica Monies
Last night I dreamed my name was Allegra. Really it's Glory. But
he always says "Gloria." No matter how many times I tell him. His
fat sister Ellie calls me "Glo," which is even worse. "Glo," she
says, lighting a cigarette, "you've been great for Walt. Just great. Fill up
my cup one last time, Glo."
In my dream, Walter's name is Jaime and he has smooth brown skin
and soft, muted features and comes from an island where everyone
knows how to sing.
Finding me was Ellie's idea. She answered the ads in the paper that
said things like, "Oriental Girls Desire Romance/Marriage," made the
phone calls, and even wrote some of the letters to me that were supposed to be from Walter. They found my picture in a catalogue called
"Flowers of the Philippines." In the picture, my smile is wide and my
head is tilted too high and my eyes are looking off to the right, as if I'm attempting to seduce a fly. My hobbies are listed as cooking, sewing, and
gardening and my favourite colour as yellow. In fancy script below my
made-up measurements it says, "This gorgeous twenty year old oriental
flower is ready to be plucked." Walter keeps the catalogue in the night-
stand on his side of the bed.
"My occupation was 'welder,'" Walter wrote in one of his letters. "But
I was hurt on the job and now live on a handsome monthly allowance.
What are some things you like to do besides cook and sew? We can easily
do them." Walter was fifty-two years old at the time, but sent me a picture of himself at twenty-eight and, in fact, was not lying when he wrote
that it was the most recent picture he had of himself.
"My father lived to be ninety-four years old," he wrote in another letter. I thought of that the first time he climbed up on top of me. I cried all
the way through because of the hair on his back and the way he kept say-
39 ing, 'Oh, Gloria. Gloria.' He finished with a loud grunt and when he got up
to go to the bathroom, I ran away.
Ellie found me a few hours later at the coffee shop in the mall. I was
drinking tea and thinking about Walter and how I thought he had the profile of a rat and how when he nibbled at my breasts it reminded me of a rodent picking through garbage.
She sat across from me in the booth, leaned in close and said, "You ungrateful slanty-eyed little bitch. Who do you think you are, Glo? He married you didn't he? You've got a place to live, don't you? And plenty of extras. I want you to remember one thing: I'd send you back in a heartbeat.
Don't you forget it."
That was two years ago.
Ellie is enrolled in the Gwen Reese Weight Reduction Program at the
mall and has fallen deeply in love with her counsellor, a skinny pale blond
boy young enough to be her son. His name is Alan.
"Alan says I have a strong, noble spirit and that I'll lose this weight in
no time. What do you think of that, Glo?" she says. She never waits for
me to answer, so I never do. I do look at her, though. All the time. She is
made up of big lumps of pale, bumpy dough and tries to hide herself under
tent-like shirts and loose, stretchy pants in bright colours like red, green,
or yellow. She is the kind of fat person that children point and laugh at,
but all that's lost on Ellie. She wears her short, blonde Frankenstein haircut with pride and throws a confident shoulder out with every lumbering
step she takes.
Walter sends me to Ellie's apartment every Tuesday to clean up. It
was her idea. "Walter," she'd said, putting a pudgy hand over his, "you're
my big brother. I love you. I wouldn't take her it I thought it would inconvenience you. Just once a week, Walt. Whatever day you want."
The first time I went, her friends dropped by in order of importance,
the last one arriving in a housecoat and slippers. They took turns making
me do things, giving each other sideway glances before making their requests. "A glass of water, Glo honey." "Hang up my coat, will you Glo?"
Ellie played mistress of the house and I daydreamed of pinching off
chunks of her flesh.
I find used Q-tips between the cushions on her couch and dirty
Kleenex in weird places, like on top of the refrigerator or in the silverware drawer in the kitchen. I sometimes walk in on her when she's on the
phone picking her nose and trying to make appointments with
housewives to demonstrate and sell knife sets. Ellie can be very persuasive. "These are one-of-a-kind knives at once-in-a-lifetime prices,
40 ma'am. Don't pass up this fabulous opportunity." She makes plenty of appointments, but no one ever buys anything. Ellie thinks it's because of
her weight problem.
At 4:00, she always turns on her favourite talk show. One day the topic
is "Sexual Fetishes: Facts and Fears." Two psychologists, a woman
whose husband wants her to make certain animal sounds when he makes
love to her, and three men with assorted fetishes make up the guest
panel. The woman dominates the conversation. I can hear her crying as I
spray glass cleaner on Ellie's shower door. "I am not an animal," she
says. One of the men explains that he is uncontrollably attracted to extremely obese women. "You know—there's just more to love," he says.
The audience laughs.
When I come out of the bathroom, Ellie is sitting on the sofa looking
hopeful. "Oh, Alan," I hear her whisper. I see tears in her tiny, black
eyes.
Walter is suspicious of Alan. "I don't want that little fairy-looking guy
taking advantage of Ellie. Know what I mean, Gloria?" he says. "He's one
of those 'smooth operator' types," He shakes his head and drinks his
beer and changes the channel on the TV.
Walter likes to talk to me, even though I don't always answer his questions or acknowledge his remarks. He is impressed with my perfect
English and makes me sit in the living room when his old welder friends
come over. "Gloria? Come on out here, honey. There's a room full of
men that want to say hello." They fight over the chance to tell me stories
about when they were handsome young servicemen driving the bargirls
in Manila wild with desire.
At Ellie's, I have to answer the phone like this: "Hello. You've reached
the residence of Ms. Ellie Wolco. May I help you?" Alan always calls before lunch to offer Ellie "phone counselling and support." I love the look
on her face when she snatches the phone from me and huskily reveals her
menu selections for the rest of the day. "I'll be dining on the tender pork
with baby vegetables. And I'll have a slice of that creamy mixed berry
cheesecake. I never forget dessert," she says, getting a dreamy, faraway look on her face. Before they hang up, she answers his questions
about her mood and willpower level and lets him know that, yes, she will
take a brisk twenty minute walk one hour before dinner and will snack on
no more than three apple slices afterwards to help curb her appetite.
One day Ellie is at a knife-selling appointment and misses his call.
"She's not home right now," I say. "Is this Alan?"
"Yes, yes it is." His voice is high-pitched and friendly.
41 "Alan, my name is Allegra. I'm a friend of Ellie's."
"Well, hello."
"Hi. I'm very worried about her. Could I meet with you to talk about
it?"
"Oh, absolutely. Allegra. Allegra. I'll pencil you in for two o'clock
tomorrow. How's that?"
"I'll be there," I say.
The Gwen Reese Weight Reduction Center is bright and airy. It has
lime green and pink decor and tall potted plants and wood ceiling fans. A
huge, sad man sits in the reception area alone watching the TV. It tells
him how he too can "live the life he was meant to live in the body he was
meant to have." Whimsical guitar music plays in the background.
The girl sitting behind the counter has long, pink fingernails. She wears
a white lab coat monogrammed with the ornate Gwen Reese logo.
"Welcome to Gwen Reese," she says. "May I help you?"
"My name is Allegra. I have an appointment with Alan."
"Allegra. Allegra," she says, running a fingernail down the page of an
appointment book. "That doesn't sound Chinese." She flips her head up
and stares at me.
"It's not anything," I say. "And I'm not Chinese."
I can see Alan's veins through his skin, on his face and hands. They
give him a green, unhealthy glow. He buys me a soda and we sit near the
entrance of the mall on a bench underneath a fake palm tree. High school
kids filter through the glass doors in tight groups of four or five, laughing
and smoking.
"Your name suits you perfectly," he says, after watching me sip my
soda for a few minutes. I smile. And then I get very serious.
"Oh Alan, I just don't know what to do. I want so much for her to lose
the weight," I say. "So much."
"What do you mean? What's wrong with her?" he says. He looks right
into my eyes, first concentrating on the left one, then the right. When I
start to answer him, he stares at my mouth.
I begin to make up stories about Ellie. How she spoons sugar over her
"low calorie, great tasting frozen dessert," how I once saw her add three
handfuls of mozzarella cheese to her "zesty, real Italian pizza," and how
she frequently purchases a chili dog from the balding street vendor on the
corner of Lewis and Clark while taking her daily, brisk twenty minute
walks.
"Wow," he says. "Wow. That's too bad."
"Yes."
42 "You know, I think it's great that you're so concerned about her," he
says. He looks down at the floor between his feet and his fine, wispy hair
sweeps forward, swinging.
When we say good-bye, he hangs on to my hand for too long and I let
him.
"Will I see you again?" he says.
"Maybe."
Now I walk to the mall a few times a week and pass by Gwen Reese,
catching his eye, but never stopping. He runs out the door to try and find
me, but I duck around this corner or that and watch him, his face as hopeful as Ellie's the day I heard her whisper, "Oh, Alan."
There's no consoling the inconsolable. Ellie is proof of that. She is
depressed and can't even bring herself to make her knife-selling calls.
"He doesn't believe me anymore," she keeps saying. "I don't know
why. I don't know why."
She eats everything in sight.
Walter feels sorry for her and sends me over on Thursdays now, too.
Ellie says, "Glo, do this. Glo, do that. Glo, do you know how to make
fudge?" She is pinched up and crying all the time, her small eyes so swollen they are nearly closed. I make her cookies sometimes and banana fritters sprinkled with powdered sugar, too.
Ellie is like this for two weeks and then, as if she put a time limit on her
misery, she re-emerges, her old self. She has developed a final plan to
make Alan believe in her again. She confides in me as I scrub her toilet.
"Guess what we're doing on Group Sunday," she says. One Sunday a
month, some "Gwennies" get together for a group activity. Sometimes
they take a historical walking tour of the town or ride bikes. They don't
go to the public pool anymore because some teenagers once waited outside and yelled, "Whale watch! Whale watch!" as they were leaving. I
keep scrubbing.
"Well, I'll give you a hint," she says. "I bought this especially for Sunday." She holds up a light purple, stretchy one piece running suit. It's
enormous. "We're going on a walk/jog through Lancaster Park. Alan is
our group leader. What do you think of that, Glo?" She turns and walks
away then, but returns a moment later. "Run a bath for me, Glo. I feel
like celebrating."
On Sunday I tell Walter that I'm going to church, but follow Ellie to the
park instead. I can tell by her bouncy new walk and the way she holds her
head that she is excited, confident. Her stretchy suit glimmers in the sun.
43 From a distance, I watch the Gwennies gather at the Sunshine Trail
sign, adjusting their sweatbands, lacing and re-lacing their shoes. They
buzz around Alan when he arrives, falling over each other to greet him.
All but Ellie, who is playing hard to get. I leave them as they begin to
stretch out their legs. I take a trail that runs into theirs and wait at the intersection, hiding a few feet off the path.
Ten minutes later, I hear them. They laugh and talk in short-of-breath
voices, encouraging each other with words of advice. "Don't forget to
breathe." "Listen to your body. If you're tired, slow down."
Alan sees me right away and shoos the Gwennies ahead of him with a
laugh. "Look out ladies—I'm right behind you and believe me, you are
looking good." Ellie takes this as a personal compliment and begins to jog
with enthusiasm, pulling out in front of everyone. She never even sees
me, but I duck behind some bushes anyway.
"Allegra? Allegra?" I stay where I am, wait for him to find me. "Where
have you been?" he says.
He doesn't even kiss me. Just unbuttons my sweater and touches me
all over. His hands are cold and smooth and though I don't respond, I
close my eyes.
By the time Ellie finds us, his head is nestled between my breasts. He
says, "Oh God, Allegra. God."
"Allegra?" Ellie screams. "That's Glo!" Huge sweat marks stain her
running suit. Her hair is plastered flat against her head.
I push Alan away gently and button my sweater. "Dammit, Ellie," I
say. "My name is Glory."
44 Marya Fiamengo
At Englishman's River
For Jim Wilier
It is mid-morning
the sun slants on the hot
white outcrop
of opulent rock.
Below
the shallow pool
gives way
enlarges
into the wet green
of dim jade depth.
A woman
swims
alone in the vivid
bliss of aqueous cold.
Vibrant navigator
she floats
mammalian
temporary deity
water blessed
blood untrammeled
by the cold
of pebbled river
bed.
A cyclic movement
of limbs
a flex of supple
arm and wrist
stretched to contain
the fluid poise of
wilderness.
45 Laurie Anne Whitt
The Moon of Ripe Berries
Fori.
1
Full summer
on the Keweenaw.
Everything that grows
has begun a sudden rush
to completion:
overnight
the woods thicken,
tangle the eye
within feet
of the cabin;
bittergreen scent of
tomato plants,
gone lush
& pendulous,
settles heavily
through the garden.
This is the moon of
ripe berries,
when summer quickens
& slowly slips
into fall;
when
everything that lives
gathers close
and full, and can wait
no longer.
46 You must have felt
it coming   but
I was caught
unaware.
Standing by your grave
I watch this last
determined surge
of life
at its most plain
& inexplicable:
a blanket of
new grass
sprung from seeds
I placed there
seven days ago.
The moon of
ripe berries,
when Superior sends
its first chill
promise
rippling through
the night;
when creatures
on four legs and two
come full circle,
& wander together
between seasons.
The moon of
ripe berries,
when I gave you back.
47 Kelly Cherry
For Lost Love
Sometimes the light, in such-and-such a way,
Will fall on trees, as if by accident
(Say "dropped from heaven," not quite "heavensent").
On such an accidental sort of day
Everything seems contingent, reality
A mere matter of Norwegian spruces' closeness
To the curving windows on the west side of the house,
And even your not being here with me
Looks no more than a random non-event.
As day drifts toward night, unconcerned as chance
Itself—or knowing its destiny is charted
By a greater chance—I wonder where you went
When all the world conspired to see us parted...
Or so it seemed; it now seems happenstance.
48 Tamas V Dobozy
Swan
In '84 the rain on the road
sounded like tin bells. Seemed
like the car I was in
drove over those bells. The
tones of tin striking tin.
Only in '84 was the rain like that
it's never been the same since.
If I could reproduce that sound
I'd file it. File #431
I'd call it. File #431
sounds like the rain
of nineteen eighty four.
That sound is very dear to me,
I'd say.
All my life
there's been one only I've ever known.
Only the image, the idea, the person.
Only a story
as incomprehensible & bizarre
as the one before & the one next.
The family photo album
is a file. A file of some events
I don't remember. A file
49 as incomprehensible & bizarre
as the swan.
The black swan by the reeds
spreads its wings & song.
The black swan sings
at the end,
as incomprehensible & bizarre
as the one sound
we also make.
50 Miniature Golf
John Landretti
Near the hospital was miniature golf. It was the last thing a guy
might think of doing at a time such as this, but I was needing to
do something and there weren't much else around. I went five
nights. They had a white shed up front and some pop machines in cages
and you bought your ticket at the little counter. They kept a kid inside
and it was his job to hand out the putters and stubby pencils. Five nights
and always the same kid. This kid had been burned—you saw that right
away-the skin around his eyes melted back, bringing out the sockets. He
liked his job, ringing up the register and making change. He liked to point
those putters at you.
"Only a buck to try your luck," he was always calling out. The only
ones he didn't call to were the girls that came for pop or else stood by the
cars that the young fellows drove in and parked any which way on the
painted lines. Them, he would just watch, kind of blank-eyed.
Personally, I'm not the putting sort and I kept clear of him. But last
night when I came past the shed he called me over.
"Your fifth night here," he told me. "I think you want to give it a try."
He gave the putter a shake, not in a pushy way, but more like a guy
just being friendly. I wouldn't take it though. I kept my hands in my pockets. The kid shrugged, as if it was all the same to him. He flipped open a
silver Zippo and lighted up. The lid closed with a small clank. "You all
from the hospital," he said.
I kept my mouth shut. I wasn't so ready to say. He waited like he had
plenty of time, the smoke uncurling at his hand. "We get people from
there now and again," he said. "I can always pick 'em."
"Well, you picked right."
He licked his finger and stroked the air. Then he set the putter out
front on the counter like he was sure I was going to take it. He was a
cocky kid.
A couple strolled to the counter and the kid gave them a howdy-do and
a couple putters. His scars made it hard for him to smile. His cheeks
were hard and creased like badly laid tape. They didn't move with his lips.
"Your change," he said. "Two bucks from ten that's eight and here you
go. Have a good one!"
51 The couple went off together and the kid watched them. He closed the
till with the tip of one finger.
"It's my wife that's up there," I told him.
The kid lighted another cigarette. He looked at me like he still had time
and I don't know why but there I was, telling him: Nine days ago she was
carrying a pan of water when she got a look on her face and grabbed her
chest. Before I knew it she had fallen with the pan. I called the ambulance. They said it was lucky I'd been there to call, and I'm glad for
that. I sure couldn't do much else. What I did was to kneel beside her and
dry her a little with my shirt. That was all I could do.
The kid flicked ashes over the counter. I finished by telling him about
the operation and how we're waiting for a heart—seven days now. The
kid didn't comment. He was quiet a moment, as if he were thinking it
over, what I'd said.
Three boys plugged change into the pop machine. They walked off,
drinking.
"I knew a family," the kid finally said. "Their father needed a liver, and
they sat a month in that motel up by the Kentucky Fried. The kids used
to come around here looking for aluminum cans."
We were quiet again, and I shifted around. I don't know where my talking came from. I guess I was tired. I brought out a dollar for a cola when
four girls came up, all shouting and commotion. They stood at the pop
machines and made a big to-do about collecting change from their pockets. The kid tried to look easy but it wasn't hard to see that it took more
than a little courage for him to stand there and not turn away. He toyed
with his Zippo, tapping it one way and then the other. Two of the girls
went past me to the counter. They were horsing around and grabbing
each other's wrists. When they saw the kid's face, they stopped. The
first girl asked for some change.
"Sure," the kid said, and he held out his hand.
The girl laid the bills on the counter. He wasn't really looking at her and
so his hand hung there a moment. Then he saw the money. His fingers
kind of rolled into themselves and sank onto the bills.
The other two girls were already running for the road where a car was
waiting for them. The first girl wiggled her fingers for the change and the
kid began counting. He used that stylish way he had—fifty, seven-five,
buck, buck-fifty...
Her hand was gone before he'd finished and he dropped the last
quarter on the counter. She was already a good ways off to that car before the quarter stopped rolling. The kid watched her a moment, then hit
the no-sale and dropped the quarter in the till. I saw him kind of smile to
himself. He picked up the putter he'd offered me and returned it to its
rack.
52 "I never golfed before," I said, shaking the change in my hand. I
hesitated, then slipped the money back in my pocket.
"Me neither," the kid said tapping the Zippo between his fingers. "No
miniature golf where I grew up. It's all carnivals and rodeos." His lips
grinned, but his eyes were still the eyes of that private smile. "Got here
in January," he said. "It was the very first time I seen snow. I wore all my
t-shirts coming off the bus."
I asked him if he'd come by himself.
"Sure did," he said. He paused, eyeing me up. "You're a farmer," he
said.
"Forty-seven years."
The kid licked his finger and stroked the air. "It's your hands," he explained.
I looked. Those hands, they'd done some work.
The kid relaxed. He seemed to grow confident again. "I used to pick
tomatoes," he said, lighting another cigarette. "But it weren't me. I like a
job where you can sit. I'm an idea man."
"I don't like just sitting," I said. "I like to keep busy."
"Not me," the kid said. "You take your car washes, for example.
You're not going to find me in one of them. No, sir. All them towels and
spraying and shouting? That's no place for a thinking man. Being who I
am, I'd stay at this job, it's not bad. Except, of course, they got themselves bought up by a strip mall. In three months there won't be a thing
around here but some surveyor's sticks and a whole lot of mud."
A rescue-copter sped by with a thuddering you could feel in your
bones. Like always, it banked wide over the highrises and then slowly
went down behind the new emergency wing. It was a big hospital, spread
in all directions, and they were still building on.
The kid was just smoking now. On the driving range the balls clicked
up into the darkness and came down with a bounce on the lighted grass.
They would roll close to one another and lie still.
I asked him what he'd do when they shut down.
"Something," he said.
I nodded. "I got me a trailer up there in Lot D. Come by tomorrow at
seven and I'll give you breakfast."
The kid looked at me and right off I regretted having opened my
mouth. But there it was, out between us and I didn't see I had any choice
but to stand behind what I'd said.
In the hospital I checked with the people at the desk. No change, just a
call from a cousin upstate—we hadn't any children of our own. A niece
had come by, left more flowers and a card. I went up. In the elevator I
removed my cap, like it's church here. I walked down a green hall and
53 followed the arrows past a blue hall where there's a lounge with some
real trees and a few plastic chairs. Then I was at a desk and a man walked
me to the viewing area. I stood at the glass window and again looked
through my reflection at her bed in the corner.
Most evenings after sitting the day beside her I would stand a while at
the end of her wing near the big window. I never thought much then, I
was just tired. But last evening I saw some birds up higher than I thought
possible and I watched them a long while, the way they turned in and
among themselves, small as flecks of wheat. I held my breath a moment
as if I was about to understand something. It was in the way they were
going with the sky orange and the trees across the road growing dark.
Then they were gone and there I was, a day older and no wiser for the
feeling.
Next morning I was sure that the kid wouldn't come, but I went into
the kitchen and took down the Bisquick. We had a good little trailer with
pinewood cupboards and red curtains—everything a person could want,
just one step away. I mixed up the batter, standing at the screen door. It
was early, and the air smelled of damp parking lot sand. There were sparrows I'd thrown a little birdseed for. You couldn't see the east for the size
of the hospital, but to the west were some highrises and the last of the
stars. I set out a plate and put a napkin on top, folded in a triangle. Then I
had my Sanka and a grapefruit and sat down to wait.
At seven-ten a knock on the screen gave me a start. He was standing
out there on the asphalt like he was not sure what to do with himself. He
had on pointy boots and this cowboy hat with dangling feathers. The brim
snapped down front and back and made a shadow around his eyes. His
face there looked old and hard, like a white cliff before the sun hits it. I let
him in and he gave me a plastic bag that was all wet.
"What's this?"
"Orange juice," he said.
"Sit down." I told him.
He took a seat at the table. The kid seemed a whole lot smaller behind
the table, without the shed around him. He took out his cagarettes and
the Zippo and set them beside his plate. I thought he'd smoke, but the
cigarettes just sat there.
"Do you want the Sanka?" I asked. "Or the Taster's Choice?" I had arranged them on the table for him to look at.
"Taster's Choice," he said.
He left the hat on.
I put on a pan for water and heated the skillet for pancakes.
54 "I appreciate you inviting me," he said.
"It's nothing," I said.
"I don't know so many people. None that I'd have breakfast with anyways. "
"Well, then what do you do with the time you're not in that shed?"
"Oh, I got cable."
"What about your family? You hear from them?"
"I hope not," he said.
I looked at him.
"They're dead," he explained. "Most of them, anyway. And those that
aren't, aren't worth my time, in my opinion." He looked around. "Nice
little place you got," he said.
"We bought it for our retirement," I told him. "We were going to
travel. Do you want some cream? With your coffee?"
The kid nodded, and I brought him the powder. When the water was
boiling, I filled his mug. He stirred the crystals, then sat there holding the
mug with both hands, like he was cold.
The first pancake came off small and pretty on the spatula—lacy brown
with yellow pocks. I set it on his plate, glad to give it to him.
"Well, go on," I said as he waited, hands on his lap.
"I'm waiting for you."
"I already ate. Now, you go on. I got my coffee."
He ate the pancake, with syrup and oleo. When he finished, I gave him
a second. He ate that too. I made him a third and he ate that. The kid was
hungry. I wondered about his family, but it wasn't my place to ask. When
the sausages were done I set them out. They sizzled in their grease, all
bubbly and hot. He tipped back his hat and jabbed one with his fork.
"Now, don't burn yourself," I said.
The kid looked up and right then I knew I'd said a stupid thing. I went
back to cooking. "That's a fancy hat there," I said. "Yes sir. Is it from
Texas?"
"It sure ain't."
"Well, I never been there," I said. "We talked about going though,
Texas." I picked up the batter bowl and looked into it. There weren't any
lumps. I remembered the quick way she had of mixing the batter so as to
keep the lumps. She always said it was the lumps that made a light pancake.
"No need to feel bad about it," he said.
I set the bowl down. "Don't feel bad?" I said. "Well, as a matter of fact
I do. Every plan we had, every last little thing, it's—"
"I meant about me," he said. He poked at the sausage.
55 I turned off the stove and we both were quiet. It wasn't any use
anymore, us sitting there, and he must have known that too because I
heard him gathering his things. I stared into the batter bowl and saw the
birds again, the ones floating among themselves in the orange sky. The
rescue-copter made its pass thuddering so loudly that the plates rattled in
the cupboards. Then the quiet followed, and I still couldn't look up. There
was a rustling of cellophane, and the small clank of his Zippo.
56 Georgi Belev
Two poems translated from the Bulgarian by Lisa Sapinkopf in
collaboration with the author.
Love Poem
How dark and wonderful we are
across the double bed!
My skin talks, yours listens,
endless, supple, warm...
And how am I to see,
there on the floor, your shoe
planted triumphantly on my now-tamed shirt,
its empty sleeves outstretched?
57 Two Poems About My
Father
I. My Hand
I'm still listening, curled up in the dark,
to the unknown mound breathing
in your bed, rising and gurgling;
I rise with it, hot and dishevelled—
and it presses me back cold against my sheet.
My hand, neither childlike nor filial,
my hand, twelve years old,
lifts the covers and sneaks under them.
Inquisitive, it reaches you
in your dream, Dad, your hidden life.
Women with smooth-shaven calves recline,
pant in your ears, nip them—
you dig into flesh which crumbles sweetly,
step over it, your neck is bronze,
a vein shines blue on your loins.
My hand, a stubborn little tree,
wedges itself into your chest
and greedily sucks you dry,
from your bones to the pleats of your irises..
you wither, my hand withers too.
And already, though only half-grown, bright
poisonous fruits are ripening on it. A child—
my son?—is reaching for them eagerly.
Are you punishing me, Dad, or will you
forgive me and restrain his tiny fingers?
58 II. Last Exit
Water? I can't make out what you want.
You spilled the glass and now you scold me
in a malevolent, childish tongue,
like an infant you raise your wrinkled legs—
a whole nursery is dinning in your throat.
I turn up the radio, but you're too strong.
I've fled into my books, but they've
turned suddenly senseless-
Mother's coming with a tiny bundle.
What's she carrying?—I laugh in horror.
She shuffles like an old woman
and painstakingly unravels the knot.
A watch, a comb, a wallet-
only these have come back home from you.
Year after year I crawl beneath their burden
along the comb's fence-posts,
your sleeves visible behind them.
I start to run, but you keep one step ahead.
Finally a leather gate stops me.
I force your wallet open, I step,
an old man, into my childhood snapshot.
Your watch is crumbling behind me,
your hand brushes away a lock of hair
that sticks to my sweaty brow.
59 Victoria McCabe
Problems of Age
1. Dead Friends
They travel together now, like thieves.
When one of them knocks at your thought
The others follow, they fall on your door,
Banging pans in the hallway, calling you out
Like the woman who sends her children
To the apartment of the lover who threw
Her over, the kids shrieking in the halls:
You are killing our Mother, Come Out,
You Yellow dog, you jerk.
Inside,
He sits with his long hands pressed to his head.
Upstairs the landlady composes her notice
Of Get Out, the neighbours armed with grievances-
What she hasn't thought of!—And his cat!
Still out in the yard, purring in sunset,
Eyes shut against what's next (its sacrificial
Role not yet discovered by the kids...)
That
Is how they are, your old cronies, how they do you,
Ganging up like mobsters. They've compiled
A fat list of your crimes, pooling privileged
Information; pieced together an indictment:
Who do you think you are to keep your skin?
How their bones clatter of betrayal,
How they carp on your failings, your sins
A mound of unification on which they sit.
And like the woman in the story above,
They take out a restraining order on you,
Fix it up all nasty and legal, tying up
Your assets and future, interfering
With your television reception,
60 Speaking through the fuzz of sleep their charges
Of desertion, thoughtlessness, small bouquets,
Your flesh curled up to a stranger's warm bones.
2. How To Smile
You have seen it done with tongs and scissors-
The upper lip lifted at each end,
Blades jabbed beneath the chin,
A thin sparkle of teeth and spittle
Marching thus into the universe.
—But what if you lack an accomplice,
Someone to work the tools? What if he's
Left you, tired of the sour mug and its
History? Is it your fault that you live
In a time of scarce comedians?
3. Conversation
Not of Food, History, Love, Incontinence,
Hell, or Weapons
Not to neighbours, relatives, infants, shopclerks,
Medical personnel, clouds, or the ancient
Not with the Fallen Mouth, grim Eyes, Beggarly hands,
Not with the Twitching-to-Kick Feet,
Mean elbows, Purple skin, and NOT
With the Heavy Sigh of Odours
Not Not Not about the Depressing Dead
Or the Sick Living
Not the disturbed, distressed, debauched, or dangerous
Please remember that a relic
Only indirectly
Answers Questions.
61 4. Lies
Which, to whom,
How many times,
With what variations,
For what gain,
At what price?
Was it caught out?
Or swallowed like a pie?
Was it one of Necessity's jobs?
For the grim-faced lover
Who demanded it in longhand, wrapped
In birthday roses? Or was it one
Of those stinkers
In the category of lark-and-whim,
The fun of putting it over?
Or was the lie in question
Simply one of boredom's babies?
Can you place it? Date it?
Whom did you betray it to? turned over
To which blackmailing monster of the future,
Which naughty clown swearing discretion?
Who got it out of you & with what motive?
Did you—God forbid—embellish it?
Leave it tangled like hair in the drain?
What did you expect?
In any event, be prepared now to greet them.
They return as surely as heirs to the lawyer.
You will know them by their smug complacence
Amid the general snarl of your innards.
62 Peggy Lee in Africa
Patrick Roscoe
At night three children float in bed and listen to their father play
Peggy Lee records in his room at the other end of the new
house. This one is built of grey brick, and has a tin roof; instead
of glass windows, there are wire screens to let in breeze and to keep out
snakes. Her cool voice slips out into the hot darkness, / know a little bit
about a lot of things, silencing crickets, hushing cicadas. For a moment
she is mute: perhaps the father has finally stopped circling his room,
ceased sitting on the edge of his bed, large hands curved over knees,
head bowed. Maybe he has turned off the light to join the children who
now drown in darkness. But then she begins again, over and over encant-
ing the same spell upon a man who is fearful of snakes and who won't ride
roller coasters and who feels faint at the sight of his own blood. The
jungle pours scent down the Mgondo hills, poisoned perfume wraps
around the house.
Sometimes during day, when only the houseboy is home with him,
Donald enters the father's room. On the record covers her face is pale
and smooth beneath short waved hair that is more white than blonde. Her
lips are painted deep red. The last time Donald saw his mother was during a June picnic in the yard behind a relative's house, in Canada. Cousins
and aunts and uncles balance paper plates of cold fried chicken and potato
salad, ride coloured blankets that hover like magic carpets just above the
grass. Look! someone cries, pointing upward. Behind the fenced yard
rises the hill with the hospital on top. A woman in a white robe stands on
a balcony high up there, she waves to the people down below. Donald believes he can see her short blonde hair, her deeply red mouth; it will be
years before he learns how distance can distort or damage vision, transforming any coiled length of rope into an asp. Someone in white comes
from behind the woman and leads her slowly back inside. The people at
the picnic begin to play croquet, they send bright balls spinning across the
lawn, there is the dull hollow sound of wood knocking wood.
Soon Lily and MJ are sleeping, Donald can hear them breathing
nearby, he still hears Peggy Lee sending messages through the night. /
63 know a little bit about biology, she confides. She's not here, the father
once replied to Donald, ranning one hand through short black hair,
squinting at the sisal fields in the valley below the brick house. Lily
squirms in her sleep, something is always trying to get her. The father
steps from the kitchen door, flashlight in hand; a weak beam plays upon
the darkness, searches for danger undulating nearer on its belly. Tentative, the man takes several more steps forward, retreats back inside.
Peggy Lee sings on until dawn.
That old snake in the grass, Lily will write Donald twenty years later
from somewhere inside her visions of vipers. Honey, what does Peggy
Lee have to do with anything? he asked me. He still thinks MJ will be
found, he says he's doing everything in his power to make sure his boy is
brought back home. Of course he never mentions you, writes Lily from
the hospital in Canada that Donald pictures poised high upon a hill, with
innumerable balconies from which hosts of mothers and sisters wave to
people playing summer games below. You're smart to refuse to step foot
back down upon our native soil, adds Lily. Don't come back, it's not safe,
venom abounds.
During daylight the father is clear-eyed and energetic. After work he
changes out of his good trousers, white shirt and thin tie; in a pair of old
shorts he throws a basketball at a hoop he's fixed on the side of the
house. The children sit in the shaded doorway and watch his skin darken
to the colour of an African's. He dribbles and dodges past an invisible opposition, scores two more points. How many does that make? he calls.
Inside, the houseboy is fixing dinner; when it's ready, he will set it on the
table and go home to the village for the night. One moment after there is
bright sunlight, it is nearly dark. Supper cools and hardens on the table,
unpacked crates from Canada loom in the dimming rooms. The father
goes for one more layup. The children can no longer see him leaping toward the hoop, dropping back to earth; they no longer see him spinning
something round between his palms.
While the evening is still early, and MJ and Lily are still playing the
Canada game, the father often listens to Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald.
He hums around the house, practises new Swahili words aloud, interrupts the childrens' games to tell stories of when he was a boy. I was the
only boy in town who swam in the Columbia River, he brags, everyone
else was afraid of the currents, the rocks, the undertow. In detail he describes certain especially perilous swims, while the childrens' eyes become heavy in their nodding heads. Later, if they waken to Peggy Lee's
64 voice, they will know that in the morning the father will be silent over his
coffee, with puffy skin beneath eyes which do not turn even toward children who squabble or bicker or cry.
The father is teaching; Lily and MJ are at school in the old nunnery at
the top of the college, where the jungle begins and Colobus monkeys
make the palm fronds sway. Donald becomes weary of following the
silent houseboy from room to room: he walks up the hill, among the buildings of the calm college. The father's voice is suddenly near, clear.
Through a window Donald sees rows of young men and women with dark
skin and white teeth; they gaze raptly at the father, who sits on the edge
of a desk and swings his legs back and forth, then springs down to write
white on the blackboard. If we know what occurred before, we may understand what happens now, the father explains. His eyes travel around
the classroom, across the window; he continues to speak smoothly about
an impersonal past, as though he doesn't see Donald at the window, as
though Donald were not there. The boy crouches down between freshly
watered shrubs and digs his hands into damp dirt. He paints his face
brown with tribal markings, reels at the rich odour of this earth.
One night Lily finds a snake curled in a corner of the children's room.
The father's face pales; he grips the machete, and from a distance of several feet stares at the intruder. You can sleep in my bed, he finally tells
the children, closing the door of their room tightly, leaving the snake undisturbed, alone, coiled around itself for warmth. The children crowd into
the father's big bed; he and the record player have moved into the living
room for the night. / know a little more about psychology, her voice winds
away, charming the snake into lifting its head, extending its length into
the air, swaying in sinuous circles. Peggy Lee performs magic until morning, when the houseboy opens the door of the children's room to find the
snake not there. The father carefully inspects the window screens, fails
to find flaws.
If I could get back to Africa, I'd be OK, Lily writes Donald from the
clinic they won't let her leave. There at least the snakes are real, you can
close the door against them, Peggy Lee makes them vanish in a puff of
smoke. Do you remember the time he suddenly decided we had to learn
to swim, packed us into the white Peugeot, drove all morning until we
reached the ocean? Anyone can learn to swim in the Indian Ocean, he
said, the water's so salty it holds you up even when you don't know how
to float. You couldn't drown even if you tried. He shouted instructions
from shore, he wouldn't even get his toes wet, he already knew how to
65 swim, he said. Float! he called. And we did, didn't we? We floated all afternoon in that water as warm as blood, while on land he turned over
rocks in search of shells. I won't always be around to save you from
drowning, he said when we were allowed out of the water at last, to wobble on legs that had forgotten how to navigate solid ground. I can't always
save you from this or from that, he frowned, holding a shell to his ear,
listening intently. What faint music did he hear? I no longer hear Peggy
Lee in the night. Do you? Does MJ, wherever he is? MJ would get me out
of here if he were still alive. I keep thinking he drowned, though that's
not what really happened, I know. MJ is still with Peggy Lee in Africa, together they disappeared into the jungle, searching for the source of the
river, somewhere at the top of the Mgondo hills, that we could never
find. Missing, is the official word. Not dead. Did you know he's started
collecting stamps since he retired? Honey, I have to have a hobby to keep
me busy now that my babies have left me, he explained when I laughed in
his face. Stay away, little brother. Remain in Spain. The snakes have
briefly vanished, which only means they'll soon be back in greater number. Everything would be all right if I could smell the frangipani by the
river just one more time, writes Lily in another of the letters Donald will
not answer, not wanting his messages to her to be read first by the
people in white with clean pink skin, with cold Canadian eyes.
MJ says she's in a hospital, Lily insists she's dead. Who? asks Donald.
Both Lily and MJ say she didn't really have short waved hair that was
more white than blonde. She didn't use deep red lipstick, she didn't sing
the same song over and over until you fell asleep. You can't remember,
they tell Donald. He remembers riding with her on a roller coaster, Lily
and MJ in the car behind, the father watching anxiously from the ground.
Climbing slowly, then falling fast, snaking swiftly all the way to the end.
The children lurch off the ride, join the father on the ground, watch the
mother ride again, without them this time. Her head is thrown back, her
short hair whips; they can hear her laughter above other passengers'
screams. She rides a dozen more times, laughing like she will laugh when
they come to take her away. (Then Donald stays with an aunt during day,
the old house on Aster Drive is quiet at night, the father plays Peggy Lee
and prepares to take the children across the world, away from everything. ) After finally descending from danger, the mother is silent in her
summer dress; her red lips press tightly together as the children and the
father make cotton candy melt in their mouths, throw rings at gaudy
prizes. Lily wins a big stuffed snake she calls Honey.
Nothing grows in the dirt around the grey brick house: it is red and
cracked from lack of water and too much heat, or a field of mud during the
66 rains. It would be a waste of time to start a garden, says the father after
three years, since we're only here temporarily. Now the Peggy Lee records are worn and scratched, there's a constant hissing noise beneath
her voice which threatens to drown her out. Now Donald is more than old
enough for school in the old nunnery up where the butterflies are brilliant;
but even Lily and MJ do not go there anymore. Sometimes the father
gathers the children around the atlas and dictionary for an hour in the
evening; more often he goes into his bedroom right after supper. When
are we going home? MJ asks him once. Why, son, this is our home, the
father replies, kneading his left bicep slowly—then says he has work to
do, shuts his door behind him, makes Peggy Lee sing once more. Slowly,
the children's hair blanches beneath the African sun, until it is more white
than blonde. They follow the river that rushes down through the jungle,
searching for its source somewhere at the top of the Mgondo hills. They
eat green mangos until their stomachs are sore. They file, oldest to
youngest, along a narrow path with grass higher than their heads on either side. When they meet the snake, Lily will be the unlucky one: it will
be too startled by MJ, in front, to bite him; it will already have had its fill
by the time Donald comes along, at the rear. Unlucky Lily, always in the
middle, sees serpents in the clinic. They are always long and thick, tattooed with intricate designs, patterned by the kind of brilliant colours
seen only in the jungle or in dreams. Don't bother, Lily replies to the father's last wish to visit her bare white room. You can't save me from the
poisoned fangs, that never was your strong point.
The father cries for help. The children find him at the kitchen sink, the
knife fallen at his feet, deep red blood flowing from his thumb. He leans
against MJ, Lily runs for bandages and tape, Donald watches the father's
legs tremble. I'm a little gem in geology, boasts Peggy Lee, knowing
nearly everything. I'm bleeding and it won't stop, Lily tells MJ one day, I
don't know what to do. Neither do I, says MJ.
Dear Lily, Donald could write, Peggy Lee is still alive and kicking,
though I've heard she no longer resides in Tanzania. The climate, she
murmurs, stroking her velvet throat, was not good for my voice. Now
the notes are no longer perfectly pitched, now she is old and ill. They
prop her on stage in a blonde wig and dark glasses, she snaps her fingers
through "Fever" for the millionth time. He wrote me that you wouldn't
see him anymore, he said it breaks his heart that he can no longer save
his children from this thing or from the other thing. I always thought
everything would be all right as long as Peggy Lee kept singing. She
could save us from anything, I believed, Donald might write Lily, who
finally coils around herself for warmth: the clinic and Canada are always
67 cold. Sometimes she unwinds her length and flicks her tongue. A slow
hiss is her only language now.
Fireflies float through the screen windows, drift through the children's
bedroom. The colours blink like lights of an airplane searching for a safe
place to return to earth. One day we will fly away from all this, MJ has
told Donald. Lately the children have picked through the father's things;
careful detectives, they leave all the Peggy Lee records exactly as they
are. They hunt for photographs of the mother, find only a letter from an
aunt in Canada. You must do something with those children, read MJ and
Lily—while Donald, who hasn't learned letters, stares at the smooth pale
face, remembers Peggy Lee laughing all afternoon behind her locked
door, in the old house on Aster Drive. She wouldn't open it, finally they
had to break it down, the wood splintered. Before it's too late, adds the
aunt. It's late, fireflies bumble sleepily around the room, Donald hears MJ
ask Lily if she's still awake. I think so, she says. I don't know, she says a
moment later. The father sets the needle back down on the black circle;
it will trace a million revolutions before dawn. But I don't know enough
about you, Peggy Lee finally admits. Her voice is playful, light, certain
that tomorrow she will know everything about the ones who pray to her
at night.
68 The One Time Writer
In-Residence
Bruce Eason
The one time writer-in-residence sits at his desk; he grips a pen; he
is unable to write. The door. He eyes the door. Good God, what
will the next one be like?
There is a knock. The one time writer-in-residence clears his throat
and tells whoever it is to come in. A middle-aged man enters the room.
They shake hands and introduce themselves. The man says, "I'm not
who I say I am. I've been writing a sex novel. I'm using a pseudonym."
"Oh," says the one time writer-in-residence. "Go ahead then, read me
some of what you've been writing?"
The man puts a briefcase he has been holding on top of the desk; he
opens it with a key. He lifts out a thick manuscript with a pink ribbon
wrapped around it. He unties the ribbon's bow then sets the briefcase off
to the side. He stuffs the ribbon into his shirt pocket and says, "I haven't
found a title yet." The one time writer-in-residence says, "That's okay.
You might want to think of using a working title though. You can always
change it afterwards, that is, when you think up a better one."
"Sure, a working title," says the man, "I might do that."
"What have you done so far?"
"Here's what I've got so far," says the man. He reads: "Penny came
into the room. She took off her clothes. 'I want you,' Chester said. 'I
want you real bad. I want you sooooo bad. I could kill for you, baby.
You're sooooo lovely. You're too much. You're beautiful! You're the most
beautiful woman in this whole rotten town. I want you sooooo bad, baby.
You're driving me crazy.'
'Oh, I want you too,' Penny said. 'I want you sooooo bad. I'm going
crazy too. Crazy with desire. I want all of you. I want to feel you inside of
me. You're the best, Chester, the very best! Let's do it! Let's do it right
now! Right this very minute in this little office of yours. Clear off the
desk! I want to do it right on the top of the desk!'
'You're crazy, Penny. I love you when you talk so crazy. You get me
sooooo excited when you talk the way you do. You really know how to
69 turn a guy on! Here, help me move these papers out of the way.'"
The dialogue goes on and on and after awhile, the one time writer-in-
residence says, "I think you might as well stop right there. I think I know
what it's all about. There's lots and lots of dialogue. In fact, it's all
dialogue, isn't it? But, I'd like to know more about the characters. For instance, who is Penny? Who is Chester?"
"Who cares who the fuck they are!" says the man, standing up. "It's
sex I'm writing about, not character development. The act! Sex! Penny
and Chester are names, that's all; just phoney names. I'm writing a contemporary, hot and horny sex novel, not some old fashioned, Tale of Two
Cities classic."
"You mean to tell me," says the one time writer-in-residence, "that
your whole manuscript, your whole novel, is one big sex scene with no
character development whatsoever? Or, for that matter, flashbacks? Do
you have any flashbacks?"
"Flashbacks? No. I haven't thought about flashbacks. Maybe in the last
chapter, I might put some in. But I haven't started the last chapter yet. In
the last chapter, I think Penny and Chester might go for a walk in the
park, birds are singing, the sun is setting, Penny and Chester might start
reminiscing about old times, something like that. I'm not sure."
"I see," the one time writer-in-residence says, not really seeing anything at all. "Well, how do you think I might help you?"
"I'm looking for a publisher. American. No Canadian ones. Canadian
publishers wouldn't touch this stuff with a ten foot pole. They're scared of
sex. Mention the word and they want to throw up or faint."
"Pray."
"What?"
"Pray. When they hear the word sex, Canadian publishers kneel in
prayer."
"Haw. Yeah. Very funny, very funny."
"I think you ought to look up the book, Writer's Market. It's here, in
the library, in the reference section."
"Writer's Market. Good. I'll check it out."
The man takes out the ribbon and begins to tie a bow around what
looks like some five hundred double-spaced typed pages. Then, in the
palm of his hand, he balances the heavy manuscript and says, "Three
months work. Three whole months of slugging it out. It's not the easiest
thing in the world to be a writer, is it?"
The one time writer-in-residence smiles weakly; he nods respectfully.
The one time writer-in-residence has a project: a novel, a story about a
young woman living on the prairie. The one time writer-in-residence has
70 been working on the writing of this novel for more than 3 years. He
hopes to have it finished this fall. He hopes no one will come today; he
wants to finish this one chapter, but, as usual, there is a knock on the
door.
A young woman with long red hair enters. She has the longest and
loveliest red hair that the one time writer-in-residence has ever seen.
The young woman says she is a poet and that she has a prose poem with
her. "A long prose poem," she says.
"Read the poem," says the one time writer-in-residence. "Read the
whole poem to me."
"From beginning to end," she says. "The whole poem?"
"Yes, of course," says the one time writer-in-residence, "every
word."
"The Spoiled Man," she says. "That's the title: 'The Spoiled Man.'"
Her voice is soft and smooth and sensual.
Even before the young woman begins to read: elbow on the desk, chin
in hand, the one time writer-in-residence is captivated. He hears:
I know how you feel when you work the earth, I want to take
it too, a handful to rub over and into your skin, fill your pores
and muddy mine as well, darken and know it together, the
fine rich smell, the moist black juice pressed tight with love
and life against us. The animal musk flares nostrils in the hot
wind. I hear you call, The garden. I hear you call out for me:
Something please... And I, like you, burn, sense no rule, no
guilt, on my knees in front of you, where my mouth comes
quick to lick and suck every pore, to tease your veins until
they swell rich and red and blue. What do you call us on that
account? Devils? There is no name. There is nothing there to
call or think to name. I only hear the sounds you make for me.
Oh, what we dare do on the sweet, sweet earth. How hot the
wind. There are no words to suit anything here. This we always knew. See Eros in the flower bed. Thanatos shut out.
Life plows through. Death shrinks, lies with the weeds. What
memories do you have of her now? Nothing? Good. My
thoughts of him are gone too. I love you. Only you. Do play
the game well. Wrap in brand new clothes. Use your name
and title too. Do what you have to do. Soar. The moment to
pull the tie off comes near. The uniform removes. The voice
you make to please disappears. You are you, only you. Hold
tight: Kiss. Again. Kiss. Know our hands. In soft caress, I
love you forever today. Out from the garden, we are open to
71 the sea. Asters on the waves. Distant from the shore, past
the artificial fires, the smoke stacks, the sticky-brown fingers
in the factories dmmming high ideals. Watch us. We rise and
fall, rise and fall with every wave before the storm, with
every bad word we rise. Look skyward. Dissolve a cloud.
Disintegrate a dream. The basket. Take it. Fill it. Take all
you wish to eat. Feast upon the fish and bread. I will tell you
about Him. Dare I mention His name? Tell you that He hit His
thumb and swore, could not plane the wood straight. Quit.
Sulked. Would not eat. Dreamed a better life. Called it home.
Miracles He made. Miracles they were. Miracles of fish lifted
from a hidden place to feed the multitudes. And God was
everything. And He was everything. And He was too much of
everything for everyone. So the wood was planed straight,
and the hammer hit His thumb again and again and much
more. Until He cried, until He could not move at all, until He
knew that His last words were His alone. And in the rising,
and in the glory, and in the blessing of the Lord and the light
everlasting. And with all of that, and with much more. And
even with the devil gone, He found himself broken, arguing
with himself, shouting parables. Shouting: Father in heaven I
want out! Get me out of this one and I'll be good! And then, He
wisely died in His despair."
"Gee!" says the one time writer-in-residence. "That's a good piece of
work."
She breathes a sigh of relief: "Thank you."
"The sensuality pulling away from the work routine, our everyday-
ness, then falling into the humanization of Christ, the secular aspect, yet
offering the reader some kind of solace—good stuff."
"Really?" the young woman says, brushing red hair away from her
eyes. "I just wrote it. I hardly thought about what I was doing. You might
say, Rainer Maria Rilke kind of writing; it all came out in one long burst."
"Rilke? All in one long burst, you say?"
"Yes."
"Yes."
The one time writer-in-residence suggests that the young woman go
up to the third floor to look over the periodicals. "You might find one
you'd like to see your prose in. Don't forget to use a self-addressed
stamped envelope," he warns.
Today the one time writer-in-residence writes: Thelma put the
potatoes on and began to shell the peas. She wondered if her mother
72 would be able to eat tonight. The thought of her mother being as sick as
she was, was always on Thelma's mind. It made her forget things, little
things, like turning the mailbox out towards the road, so the mailman, in
his green jeep, will know her letter needs mailing.
Comes another knock on the door. The one time writer-in-residence
thinks, Now what? Will I ever finish my book? He tries to be polite:
"Please... come in," he says. "Welcome..."
"I've had so many rejection slips," a young fellow cries, "I can
wallpaper my whole living room with rejection slips. I know my stuff is
good, as good as a lot of other poets. I've been writing poetry and sending it out for over a year now and not a single sale. Not a onel They must
only publish the people they know. I haven't got a name, no editor wants
to take a chance on a guy who hasn't made a name for himself. Do you
think that's right?"
"Who do you send your poems to?"
"To The Atlantic."
"Who else?"
"Just The Atlantic."
"You haven't tried any other magazines?"
"No, I figure if I can make The Atlantic, I'm in! A poem in The Atlantic
and a book publisher will want to publish my whole collection, don't you
think?"
"That's hard to say."
"I'm good. I know I'm good. They're just not ready for me, that's all.
What do they know anyway? Poetry is subjective, isn't it? How does anybody judge a good poem from a bad poem anyway? Here, I want you to
listen to this one..." He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a thin slip
of pink paper. The young poet unfolds the paper and reads:
When once the twilight locks no longer
Locked in the long worm of my finger
Nor damned the sea that sped about my fist,
The mouth of time sucked, like a sponge,
The milky acid on each hinge,
And swallowed dry the waters of the breast.
"Whadaya think of that?"
"Well, I don't know what to think of that. It sounds all right, I guess. It
sounds okay."
"Just okay?"
"Well, I mean, there are some good images there. I don't really understand what you're trying to get across but it flows nicely."
"Flows nicely?"
73 "Yeah. Sure. I think your poem has a lot of potential."
"Potential? Potential? Where are you coming from with potential?
You're saying a poem by Dylan Thomas has potential?"
"Dylan Thomas?"
"Yeah, Dylan Thomas. Don't tell me you thought I wrote that piece
myself? That's the opening lines to 'When Once The Twilight Locks No
Longer.'"
"Is it really? Well, I'm sorry," says the one time writer-in-residence,
"I'm not all that familiar with Thomas."
"You don't have to be. That proves it. You guys have no idea what constitutes a good piece of writing!"
The one time writer-in-residence does not argue with him; he doesn't
even care that he has been fooled; he decides to let this fellow rant and
rave, hoping he'll soon get tired of hearing himself and depart. Eventually, this happens, but not before he makes an appointment for the following week.
Today the one time writer-in-residence writes: Thelma gazed out of
the window. The yard hasn't changed much since those days when she
was a little girl, playing with Tom, her only brother. What a wonderful
smile Tom had. But Tom could be nasty too. He liked to scare her with
toads: "Warts! Warts!" he'd yell and she'd scream and Mother would
come out with the broom and soon put a stop to such nonsense, yelling
herself and chasing Tom out of the yard, swinging at him with the broom
and laughing too, for in many ways, Mother's humour was a lot like
Tom's.
This is the day, the one time writer-in-residence finishes the first draft
of his novel.
The one time writer-in-residence is no longer the one time writer-in-
residence. One whole year has gone by. He sent out his novel and it had
been returned. The publisher said that she was very, very sorry but that
they were flooded with stories about the prairies and could not possibly
use another one. The letter went on to say that she really could not explain why there were so many stories about the prairies sent in. Maybe
because, there is no prairie anymore. Whatever that was supposed to
mean?
This evening, the one time writer-in-residence is at home in a soft
chair watching TV. Near the end of the movie, the telephone rings. "Hi!"
says a male voice. "You probably don't remember me, but I'm the guy
who wrote that sex novel and came to see you about it in the library. I
was looking for a place to market my book, remember?"
74 "I remember," says the one time writer-in-residence, taking a sip of
his brandy. "You had your manuscript all wrapped up in a pink ribbon,
didn't you?"
"Yeah. Right. That's me! Well, I just thought I'd give you a call to let
you know that they're going to publish my book."
"Who? Who's going to publish your book?" says the one time writer-in-
residence.
"The states, the states, a publisher in the states. What do you think of
that? Isn't that great news?"
"Great news all right," says the one time writer-in-residence.
"And what about you?" asks the voice, high with emotion. "You were
working on something weren't you?"
"Yes, I was, but it's not finished yet."
"Gee, it's been quite some time since you had a book out, hasn't it?"
"Quite some time," says the one time writer-in-residence.
"Well, I just thought I'd phone you up and tell you my good news."
"That certainly is good news," says the one time writer-in-residence
and pours more brandy.
"It's all about sex," says the man. "I didn't change a damn thing, not a
single line, didn't even put in a flashback!"
"Not even one flashback, eh? Good for you," says the one time writer-
in-residence taking another sip of his brandy and clicking the TV channels
around.
"You gotta get some sex into your stuff," says the voice. "That's
where it's at these days. Sex. Balling. People can't get enough of it."
"Balling?" says the one time writer-in-residence giving up on listening.
"Yeah, you know, the old animal instinct: poontang!"
"Poontang?" says the one time writer-in-residence, gulping his
brandy, fighting with himself not to slam the receiver down and saying, "I
guess, I just write, write what I think I'm familiar with. I guess that's
what I do."
"Like your last book, Prairie Stories?"
"Yeah, that's it, Prairie Stories, good old fashioned Prairie Stories—"
"Well, you might be surprised to hear this, Mac, but there is no prairie
anymore."
"I know. There is no prairie anymore. I've heard that. Whatever the
hell it means? But, I don't care, I'll keep on writing about the prairie anyway. " The bottle is almost finished and he knows he's not himself. He
stands up and sings into the phone: "I got the prairie in my bones, see. I
got the grass growing between my toes. I got the wind watering my
eyes. I even own a cowboy hat and cowboy boots too. So, I'll say, Sooooo
long for now, friend. Sooooo long, sooooo long little doggies. You keep up
the good work though, you hear me? You keep cranking out those horny
75 books. Make a million bucks, will ya. In the meantime, I've got to go. I've
got to crank out another five thousand words about life on the prairie. It's
going to be a long chapter with lots and lots of flashbacks. I can't wait to
start, not another minute can I wait."
"I understand," says the voice on the other end. "I know what you
mean. I know what it feels like. I'm on my second book right now. I've
been granted a nice big fat advance to finish it."
"An advance? Wonderful news. It's so refreshing to hear wonderful
news like that. An advance, eh? A nice big fat advance, you say." He
drains the last of the brandy into his glass. The voice on the other end of
the line is talking dollars and cents now. "Too much," says the one time
writer-in-residence, "tooooo.. .too much for me to fathom. Good night,
my friend. Goooood night—."
76 Contributors
Georgi Belev was born in 1945 and has published five books of verse, a play, criticism,
and translations. His poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Paris
Review, Boston Review, Partisan Review, Agni, and Translation. He has also spent a
semester as visiting writer in Iowa's International Writing Programme. He now lives in
Boston, Massachusetts.
Kelly Cherry is the author of nine books, including The Exiled Heart, an inquiry into the
meaning of love and justice. She is Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-
Madison.
Barry Dempster's most recent book is The Unavoidable Man, published by Quarry
Press. He is the poetry editor of Poetry Canada Review.
Tamas V. Dobozy is a graduate of the University of Victoria, in British Columbia. He is
currently lost in Montreal, Quebec.
Bruce Eason lives and writes in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His work has appeared in a variety
of publications, including The Fiddlehead, Grain, Antigonish Review, and Canadian Fiction
Magazine. His first book of short stories, Black Tulips, (Turnstone Press), was released in
the fall of '91.
Marya Fiamengo has published four books of poetry, and her work has been anthologized
in a variety of collections. She is also a nationalist, and a moderate feminist. As a nationalist,
she leans toward the Red Tory position which allows for both change and continuity. As a
moderate feminist, she admits that men, while much corrupted by power and privilege, are,
nonetheless, a necessary part of creation capable of moral evolution, if worked upon by
grace and skilful strategies. Her latest book of poems is Patience After Compline published
by Mosaic Press.
John Landretti lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where he is a writer and cab driver. He is
currently a graduate student at Cornell and is at work on a collection of personal essays.
Victoria McCabe teaches part-time at several Colorado colleges. Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Hollins Critic, Shenandoah, The New York Quarterly, and
many others. New work is forthcoming in Poetry, The University Bookman, and The
Fiddlehead.
Maria Veronica Montes was born in San Francisco in 1967. She graduated from San
Francisco State University with a degree in English Literature and doesn't regret it. She is
thankful for her new husband Andrew, who inspires her to finish what she starts.
Mark Miller is a teacher who lives in Shoalhaven Heads, Australia. His first volume of
poetry, Conversing With Stones, won the Anne Elder Award for the best first book of
poetry, published in Australia in 1989.
77 Sharon Olinka's poems have recently appeared in Poetry Australia, and Washington
Review. She reviews books of poetry for Contact II Magazine, and is planning a trip to Indonesia.
Karen Petersen has been published in over 24 Canadian magazines, and has been
anthologized 5 times. But, for all that, she can't get a collection published!
Patrick Roscoe was born on the Spanish island of Formentera in 1962. He is the author of
two collections of stories, Beneath the Western Slopes and Birthmarks, as well as the novel
God's Peculiar Care (Viking 1991). A fourth book, Love is Starving For Itself, will appear in
1992. His widely published fiction has received the 1984 Western Magazine Award, the
1985 Canadian Fiction Magazine Annual Contributors' Prize, a 1987 Okanagan Fiction
Award, and First Prize for Story in the 1989 CBC Literary Competitions. He lives in North
Africa, where he is completing a fifth book, The Lost Oasis.
Lisa Sapinkopf's translations of poetry and fiction from several languages have been published by Paris Review, Poetry, Partisan Review, Boston Review, Boulevard, Ploughshares,
Agni, Southern Review, and over a dozen other journals. Her anthology, Clay and Star -
Contemporary Bulgarian Poets (translated in collaboration with Georgi Belev) will be published by Milkweed Editions in the summer of '92. Her translations have won the American
Translators Association Prize, the Columbia Translation Centre Award and the Robert
Fitzgerald Translation Prize, and she has read her work at the United Nations. She lives in
Boston.
E.M. Schorb is the author of two books of poetry, The Poor boy and other Poems,
(Dragon's Teeth Press) and 50 Poems, (Hill House, New York). His poems have appeared
in the Wascana Review, The Dalhousie Review, and The Fiddlehead Review in Canada: The
Yale Review, The Southern Review, The Southern Humanities Review, and The Southwest
Review, among others, in the States; and in Gallery Outpost, Envoi, and others in England.
Richard Tetrault is a Vancouver born artist known for his expressionistic interpretations
of the urban landscape. Having studied art in both New York and Vancouver, Tetrault's
work has been collected throughout Canada and the United States, and is in collections from
Australia to Europe.
Charles Tidier lives in Victoria, BC. Since the premiere of his award-winning one act play
Blind Dancers in 1979, he has had thirty-five plays professionally produced. He teaches
playwriting at the University of Victoria.
Laurie Anne Whitt has had work published in various journals, including the Malahat
Review, PRISM international, Hawaii Review, Poetry Canada Review, and The Fiddlehead.
She is currently living on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Upper Michigan.
78 Creative Writing M.F.A.
The University of British Columbia offers a Master
of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. Students
choose three genres to work in from a wide range of
courses, including: Poetry, Novel/Novella, Short
Fiction, Stage Plays, <vScreen & TV Plays,  Radio
format or tutorial.  ®^^" The thesis con
sists of imaginative writing. The Department of Creative Writing also offers a Diploma Programme in
Applied Creative Non-Fiction.
Faculty: Sue Ann Alderson
Hart Hanson
George McWhirter
Keith Maillard
Jerry Newman
Linda Svendsen
Bryan Wade
For further information, please write
Department of Creative Writing
University of British Columbia
Buchanan E462 - 1866 Main Mall
Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z1 Winners!
Event's Fourth Creative Non-Fiction Contest
Ven Begamudre, Regina, for 'Death Calls'
Ann Diamond, Montreal, for 'Roads to Freedom'
Claudia Gahlinger, Halifax, for The Luck of Baba'
Honourable mention: Paddy Fahrni, Vancouver, for 'Le Sixieme'
Publication in Event 20/3
$500
will be offered to each of three winners in Event's next
Creative Non-Fiction Contest.
Publication in Event 21/3. Other manuscripts may be published.
Preliminary judging by the editors of Event.
Final Judge: Andreas Schroeder. author of eleven books including
The Mennonites: A Pictorial History of Their Lives in Canada: Dustship
Glory; and Shaking it Rough. He lives in Mission , B.C.
Writers are invited to submit manuscripts that explore the creative
non-fiction form: narrative essays, personal essays, fictional essays,
journals, memoirs, creative documentary, third-person narratives.
See Event 17/2. 18/3, 19/3 and 20/3 for previous winners, with
comments byjudgesMyrnaKostash, Howard White, EleanorWachtel
and Susan Crean.
Note: Previously published material cannot be considered. Maximum
length for submission is 5000 words, typed, double-spaced. Please
include a self-addressed stamped envelope and a telephone number.
Entry fee: Each submission must include a $14 entry fee (includes
GST). All entrants will receive a one year subscription (three issues)
with each entry. Those already subscribing will receive a one year
extension.
Brief comments on manuscripts will be supplied, if requested.
DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES: Postmarked no later than April 15,
1992.
cJougloi
college
Event
The Douglas College Review
Creative Non-Fiction Contest #5
P.O. Box 2503, New Westminster, B.C.
Canada V3L 5B2 Is Paris burning? Did Ms. Leary's Ox kick over a
lantern? No darkness with Unmuzzled Ox! Have
fun with poetry & art & prose in Unmuzzled Ox;
take in the grandeur of the past (c. 1953) with
Paris Review. Hot Damn! send the money before
the rates go up to Unmuzzled Ox,
105 Hudson Street, New York 1001 3
Name	
Address..
$20.00 for 10 issues
- :^s
»
M   A  G  A   Z
N   E
unmu2i€D 1
W Poetry
Kelly Cherry
Barry Dempster
Tamas V. Dobozy
Marya Fiamengo
Victoria McCabe
Mark Miller
Sharon Olinka
Karen Petersen
E.M. Schorb
Laurie Anne Whitt
Fiction
Bruce Eason
John Landretti
Maria Veronica Montes
Patrick Roscoe
Drama
Charles Tidier
In Translation
Georgi Belev
ISSN 0032.8790

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