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^~m~mmmmmmmmmm~~ OCTOBER 1989
Contemporary writing from Canada and around the world $3.50 FICTION
PRISM international
$2000 1st Prize
5 Prizes of $200
plus publication payment
Judge: Aritha van Herk
Deadline: December 1, 1989
For entry form and rules,
please send a SASE (outside
Canada enclose SAE with IRC) to:
Fiction Contest
Prism international
Department of Creative Writing
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1W5
Canada 1/1
AAJ international  1/1
AU international
Debbie Howlett
Executive Editor
Neal Anderson
Fiction Editor
Barbara Parkin
Poetry Editor
Mary Cameron
Advisory Editor
Keith Maillard
Art Advisor
Doug Munday
Editorial Board
Jay Draper
Erica Hendry
Jim King
Leo McKay
Janis McKenzie
Angela Piccini
Brian Preston
Christine Stewart
Pierre Stolte
Catherine Stonehouse
Iona Whishaw 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. V6T1W5. Microfilm editions are available from Xerox University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and reprints from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, New York, NY.
Contents Copyright © 1989 PRISM international for the authors.
Cover artwork and design: Robert Blake and Jackie Ritchie
One-year individual subscriptions $12.00, two-year subscriptions $20.00, Library and institution subscriptions $18.00, two-year subscriptions $24.00, Sample copy $4.00.
All manuscripts should be sent to the Editors at the above address. Manuscripts must be
accompanied by a self-addressed envelope with Canadian stamps or International Reply
Coupons. Manuscripts with insufficient postage will be held for six months and then discarded.
Payment to contributors is $30.00 per page plus a one-year subscription. PRISM international purchases First North American Serial Rights only.
Our gratitude to the Canada Council, the Dean of Arts' Office and the University of British
Also financially assisted by the Government of British Columbia through the British Columbia Cultural Fund and Lottery Revenues.
Second Class Mail Registration No. 5496. October, 1989 Contents
Vol. 28, No. 1    Fall 1989
Fred Haefele
Ruth Krahn
D.C. Reid
Gerald Dawe
Zen Master,
the Abbot Ikkyu
Translated by Graeme Wilson
Translated by Graeme Wilson
Yosa Buson
Translated by Graeme Wilson
Leonardo Sinisgalli
Translated by Rina Ferrarelli
Hilda Kirkwood
Steve Noyes
Henry Graham
Susan Musgrave
Muhammad al-Maghut
Translated by John Asfour
and Alison Burch
wayne keon
George Amabile
Elisabeth Harvor
Peter McGehee
Fall Dogs 10
For Rent 24
A Story About Cars   48
Genesis    7
Happy Families   8
Loyal Sons   9
Visiting the Master   22
Nun   23
In the Winter Woods   23
If A Lizard Stops   28
To Enjoy the View from the Threshing   28
Baku at Night   29
Barber in Bodrum    30
Bathroom   40
Kitchen   41
Desireless: Tom York (1940-1988)   42
To A Tourist   43
Stars and Rain   44
Shade and Sun   47
Joseph   58
hanging on   59
Bridge Riff   61
Secret Orders   65
An Invitation   67 Eugene McNamara
Notes Towards A Descriptive Catalogue
of Immense Paintings   31
Robert Blake Front cover: Drum Mother
Contributors   68 Gerald Dawe
Three Poems from The Bright Hour
The baize tablecloth is velvety with age
and the tassels torn. You stretch on a sofa
watching Tottenham Hotspurs walk all over Sheffield Wednesday.
Whitewash on the backyard peels in scales
and the slack weeps in its makeshift shed.
The rain drip-drops down gutters and drains.
Let there be another Ice Age, a God to speak with Moses,
the skies open up and rivers part—
this is where a young man finds himself,
at half-time making tea by the sink,
below glass-panelled presses that give back a look
of the great-grandfather on his mother's side. Happy Families
They used to say, 'Don't sing before breakfast,
or you'll cry before tea'—great aunts
at mockcrab sandwiches and medium-dry sherry.
In the front room their wisdom astounds me,
recitations and broken marriages,
'Uncle' Oswald vamps on the piano, like a seal
his bald head turns to face them all,
and bright Ethel, lovely Ethel,
smiles like an actress on me. Loyal Sons
We loll about the grass most afternoons.
Then one evening going home
Trevor asked for a light and the man
in the bus queue was you,
obliging, tired after a day's work,
and that was it—
an inconspicuous summer night,
our heads in the clouds.
Lord, I am far gone.
The castle at Carrick dissolved into thin air.
Who's stepping ashore this time-
King Billy's horse munching hay
or a load of guns off some cranky trawler?
There's us, anyway, full as kites,
pissing up against the restored battlements. Fall Dogs
Fred Haefele
// "If Te was out there on the raceway with his head in the fish
food when Henry let him have it with the .375." Ed set
-his glass on the table and sighted down an imaginary rifle.
"Blam!" he said. "Never knew what hit him." He allowed a moment for
dramatic impact. "Never knew what hit him."
Ed was telling Claire about the bear they'd killed the week before. It
wasn't her favourite kind of story, he was aware of that. She hadn't
wanted to hear about the heron they'd shot when it dipped its beak in the
fingerlings, and there was no good reason why she'd want to hear this.
But it was one of those stories that begged to be told.
They were sitting on the deck of the Arctic Bar, on Tongass Avenue,
drinking Bushmill's. It was what they always did Ed's first day back in
Ketchikan. Claire worked for a CPA right up the street, and Ed was a
hand at a salmon hatchery in Yes Bay, a ninety minute boat ride to the
north. He was ten days on and three off, unless something came up—a
generator breakdown or a vibrio epidemic or a supply barge to unload.
Generally, something came up.
But on this bright September day he was right on time. The sun
burned high over the narrows, and to the west they could see the airport
at Gravina Island. To the east they could see the peak of Deer Mountain.
After three solid weeks of rain, it was as if they could see around the
"You know," said Claire. "Every time you come back from that place
you've got a new story about shooting up the fauna. One week it's a
heron, the next week it's a bear. It makes me nervous. It's like you're
working your way up the scale."
"I'm not trying to make you nervous," Ed said easily. "I'm just telling
you about my week: Wednesday we had veal scallopini. Thursday we
shot a bear. Friday we watched Scarface on the VCR."
Up the waterfront, the S.S Universe put in at the municipal dock. Asian
tourists began spilling down the gangways. Claire and Ed sipped their
10 drinks and watched, their feet propped up on the railing. Ed tipped the bill
of his cap up and regarded his knee-high rubber boots. He figured you
could walk around that town in a tuxedo or a clown suit and nobody would
bat an eye, as long as you wore your knee-high rubber boots. And your
baseball cap. The cap served as kind of a worker's ID: loggers wore chain
saw promotional caps. Fishermans' caps bore names of canneries. Ed
wore a cap that said Bio-Diet, which was the brand of fish food the
hatchery used. He was happy as a kid. Three months earlier he'd worked
for an ad firm in Boston. Claire had taught high school in Waltham. On the
year of his fortieth birthday he'd chosen to cut and run, and Claire had
come with him.
"Don't get offended," said Claire. "It's just that they don't seem to
have much point, your stories."
"I'm not offended," said Ed. "The point is, he was a bad apple. We ran
him off with bird shot twice before. You can't run a hatchery with bears
running around, porking down the fish food."
At the moment, there were just the two of them out there. Tugs and
gill-netters plied the waters of the strait and the spray from an outbound
float plane misted around them, sparkling in the glare. There was a
cheerful vitality to the scene, like the picture on an old grade school
reader Ed once had, with the boy and girl, high on a hilltop, looking out
over their bustling little town. Yes! he thought, happily. It was exactly
like that, except for the ninety-proof pot-still whisky they were putting
There was a commotion at the next table and Claire and Ed turned to
watch the arrival of a small wedding party. They were a fortyish couple.
Groom in sport coat and armadillo boots. Bride in dove-grey suit. A little
tight at the waist. Red-faced maid of honour with a polaroid and a randy-
looking best man in shirt sleeves.
"It's such a godawful way to go," said Ed.
"What's that?" said Claire.
"Getting popped like that with your head in the Bio-Diet. His lungs
were all shot away and little bits were dribbling off his tongue. The dogs
were milling around, barking and snapping at him. We tied his feet together and dragged him down to the beach."
Ed finished his drink and continued in a low voice. "Know what we did
then? We towed him out with the skiff, tied on a cinder block and we
deep-sixed him. Nobody wanted to go to the trouble of filing a Fish and
Wildlife report."
Claire blinked. "Is this for real?" she said.
The newlyweds were sitting through a series of snapshots and toasts.
11 They were shamelessly, hopelessly nuts about each other. They were
holding hands so tightly, they appeared lashed together by the thumbs.
"See Claire, the hatchery's the Zionist state. The bears are the mad-
dog Shiites and the fingerlings are, uh, the lost tribes..."
Claire scowled. "Who's this now, Ed?"
"The bear," said Ed. He was growing impatient with her. "See, this
bear—this bear was a tragic figure. He lives in one of the richest bays in
the Panhandle. All around him there's salmon and shellfish, nine kinds of
berries and god knows what and the big slob can't keep his head out of
the fish food."
"Jeez," said Claire. "Ironic or what?" She studied him a moment,
glanced to the next table, back to Ed. She shook her head. "You're never
gonna do it, are you?"
"Stick my head in the fish food?"
"I'm talking about us," she said. "You know what I'm talking about."
He knew what she was talking about. They'd been together more than
three years. In that time span it had occurred to him to propose at least
twice that he could remember: Once when she'd come to visit him in the
hospital after he'd broken his leg, once after he'd screwed around on her
while she was home for Christmas. Of the two occasions, the one in the
hospital seemed the more genuine. He thought of how close he'd been to
asking Claire to marry him and how the moment had passed by, as though
he was trying to step on a moving escalator.
His mind raced to draw abreast of things. "My God, Claire," he said
finally. "There's salmon waiting out there, five, six years to spawn. And
the Kings—the Kings swim all the way to Japan and back."
"Oh Ed," said Claire. "We've been together three years and I'm
wondering what's the plan? I'm wondering things any normal person
would, and all I get from you is this Uncle Remus stuff."
"'Uncle Remus stuff'?" he bristled, although it was the phrase 'any
normal person' that really annoyed him.
Claire stuck out her chin. "Yeah, you know. Lessons from the bears.
Lessons from the fish."
"Where in Uncle Remus do they slip Br'er Bear the cement wedgies?"
Claire huffed, folded her arms and looked away. Her hair caught the
sun. Her eyes were as bright and green as the water. "I was just wondering things any normal person would," she said.
"You've got to stop saying that," said Ed.
Maybe it was too much light. Maybe it was the goddamned wedding
party. Whatever it was, he was thinking back trj that time in the hospital.
Boston. End of March. A month before he turned forty. He'd been skiing
over his head and taken a cartwheel fall. The ski patrol had to sled him
12 out and he was mortified. He was lying in the hospital, hating everything
and everybody: The kindly ER nurse. The genial orthopedist. The past,
present and foreseeable future.
Claire had come to visit him with bonded bourbon, swiss chocolate and
dirty magazines. He'd never been so glad to see anybody in his life.
"How's the leg?" she said.
"It's a clean break."
Claire smiled. "You know what Churchill says—"
"No. What does Churchill say?"
"There's nothing more exhilarating than being shot at and missed.'"
Ed had a suite-mate named Archie, a crazy old man with a teflon knee,
a thing about enemas and a near demoniacal sense of comradery. "Woo-
woo! Getta loada sweetpants!" Archie hooted from the next bed. "Eddy,
you dog. You holdin' out on me or what?"
"Don't call me 'Eddy', Archie. OK?"
"OK, Eddy," said Archie. He seemed hurt. "Why not?"
"Because. I hate that name," said Ed.
Archie returned to his bluster. He demanded an introduction, then demanded, for some reason, to see Ed's watch.
Ed introduced Claire, showed Archie his Seiko, then he and Claire
pulled the curtain around the bed.
"What time is it, Ed?" yelled Archie, from beyond the curtain.
"It's eight o'clock, Archie," Ed yelled back.
A nurse peeked in and gave Ed his percodans. Ed swallowed them and
when she left, took a long drink of bourbon.
"What time is it now, Ed?" Archie hollered.
Claire turned on the little TV. The Wizard of Oz was on and they
snuggled up to watch it. Ed must have seen it a dozen times but that night
it seemed unfamiliar. He took another drink. The Scarecrow was singing:
"If I only had a brain—" The tin man was singing: "If I only had a heart—"
Ed was thunderstruck. It was the greatest thing he'd ever seen.
"What time is it, Ed?" Archie hollered from behind the curtain. "What
time is it now?"
"Eight-o-five! Jesus, Archie!" Ed had started to cry.
Gamely, Claire patted his hand, stroked his head like a dog's.
At that point he would have married Claire on the spot, had not the
sheer melodrama of it all seemed vaguely suspect.
Ed blinked. The barmaid stood in front of him, wearing canvas bush pants
and a Lucky Lager t-shirt. She set a fresh round of drinks on the table and
jerked her head in the direction of the wedding party. "Compliments of
13 the bride and groom and that filthy little geek there with them... "
"That's sweet," said Claire.
"That's what you think," said the barmaid.
Ed and Claire raised their glasses to the wedding party but the wedding party didn't notice. They had their arms slung round each other's
shoulders and were snorting and gasping, their faces beet-red. They
were telling harelip jokes and laughing like they'd gone insane. "We're
'mart," the bride kept saying. "We're 'mart. We're 'mart."
Ed snickered.
Claire narrowed her eyes. "What are you laughing at?"
"I'm not laughing, exactly," he said. "What are we fighting about?"
"We're not fighting," she said fiercely.
There was more commotion at the next table and suddenly the
groom's head snapped back and he laughed a rasping, crow-like laugh.
"Haw, haw, haw! Two hours we been married and already she's callin'
me a 'dipshit'!"
"I know," Claire said wearily. "I know. They're drunk and they're talking stupid, but you know what? They're giving it a shot."
Ed considered this.
The best man got to his feet. He scooped up the bride and bent her
backwards in a Hollywood soul-kiss, working his jaw, gnawing away at
her. There was a blast of ship's horn from up the pier that set the beer-
cans dancing across the table tops. The groom watched his bride and his
best man with glassy-eyed awe. "Jeez," he said, finally. He turned,
whispered something to the maid of honour. She giggled, whispered
something back. It was getting to be every man for himself over there,
Ed could see that.
Back up the pier, the Universe cast off and churned out into the strait.
Ed watched it as it weathercocked in the current, nosed north and made
way for Wrangell, Haines and Juneau. He watched it fade away to a tiny
"Boy," said Claire at last. "Have you ever got the stares."
"The Universe is gone, Claire."
Claire stuck out her lip, wrinkled her face like a child. "Bummer," she
said softly.
He wanted to talk to her then. He had things to tell her. He wanted to
tell her he was crazy about her. He wanted to tell her he'd rather be sitting out there on that deck with her than anyplace in the world. He
wanted to tell her they could stay the winter in Yes Bay, instead of
moving on to Albuquerque as they planned.
He smiled and opened his mouth, but nothing would come out. The
14 Bushmill's was playing tricks on him. It was culling little phrases from the
past and present, sending them echoing across a peat-bog whisky
"This Bushmill's... "he said finally.
"This Bushmill's' what?" said Claire.
"This Bushmill's is trying to do me in," he said.
Ed opened his eyes. High above him, the tip of Deer Mountain glowed
like coal in the arctic twilight. They were sitting on a bench by the float
where the seiners moored. The Viking, Gemini, Souvenir. The Recluse,
Redoubt, Repose—Ed figured he'd talked to every skipper of every one
of them his first few days in town.
"What are we doing down here?" he said.
"Beats me," said Claire. "It was your idea."
"I must be looking for a job," he said. He waited for her to field the
joke, but she wore an expression he didn't quite recognize. One that
troubled him.
"What's wrong?" he said.
"Nothing's wrong."
"Did I pass out on you?"
"Not so you'd notice," said Claire.
They reached a long flight of wooden stairs known as Walter Street,
which led up the hillside to the back of their apartment. Ed hesitated at
the bottom. The steps were tufted with moss and crisscrossed with snail
tracks. Devil's club and brambles grew out from between them. They
seemed to be moving towards him. Claire started up and Ed followed.
Midway, he turned, looked back to the sprawl of waterfront, floodlit and
shining, three miles up the strait. He tried to figure a way to persuade
Claire to stay on through the winter. He would wait 'til they were clearly
having fun again. They would go to the fish ladder on Ketchikan Creek
and he'd point out the dog salmon as they swam in. Look Claire! he'd say.
Fall dogs! Forget about Albuquerque! Move up to Yes Bay with me. We
can mind the holding pens. Live out in the floathouse. Just the two of us.
And forty million fry. Ed frowned. It was a bold plan. An innovative plan.
There wasn't a chance in hell she'd go for it. He thought back to the dogs
he'd seen tail-walking the surface on the skiff ride down that morning.
15 They were big, ragged-looked fish, and while the spawning colours of the
sockeyes and kings ranged from rosy pink to a violent neon red, the dogs
turned a mottled grey-green. It's too bad, he thought, they're not a little
better-looking fish.
Silently they walked the corridor to their apartment. Two rooms, five
hundred a month. Twelve-foot ceilings, four-foot doorways, an enormous
bathtub—the place seemed to have been designed for a race of giants. In
fact, the building was the old city hospital. Their apartment was a wing of
the TB ward.
Ed unlocked the door and the scent of mildew, cigarettes and roach
spray leaked out. He snapped on the light and the room spun at him out of
the blackness—the orange ripstop flysheet they used as a curtain, the
candy striped sofa they had scrounged off the street, the shag rug the
colour of snot. It had been a joke when they moved in, but now the shab-
biness of it depressed him. It made the hatchery bunkhouse look like the
Sheraton Bigshot.
He dropped his sea bag on the floor and sat on it. He didn't want to
come in contact with the furniture. "Claire, he said. "Let's get out of
"Sure," said Claire. She turned to the wall, peeled her sweater up over
her arms and stretched towards the ceiling. She had a terrific back. It
was long, white and supple, with a spray of freckles, like cinnamon. Ed
wondered if she was aware of how good it looked. It was hard to think of
a woman being vain about her back.
He followed her from the nightmare livingroom through the bedroom,
stepping over the clumps of sleeping bags and Seattle papers. He followed her into the bathroom, where Claire stepped out of her jeans and
stood by the tub in scarlet panties he could not recall every seeing. Her
waist had grown taut and slender, her skin was pale as the moon and her
toenails were painted a startling blood-red.
She cranked the taps open and ran a tub.
"The dogs are coming, Claire."
"So what?" she said. She poured a dollop of bubble bath in and the
water turned green and foamy. It smelled of spruce forest.
"We don't have to stay here anymore."
Claire pinned up her hair, stepped from her underwear. "I know," she
said. "We're moving to Albuquerque in ten days." She stepped into the
tub, drew her knees up and exhaled. "Shoo," she said. "That's much better. " She regarded Ed with large, foggy eyes and said, "I'm sorry. You
were saying?"
16 "You could move up to Yes bay with me. We can live in the floathouse
for free. There's crab up there. Halibut, tiger shrimp. Clams and snapper. "
"What would we do when we're not eating?"
"We'd mind the holding pens."
"For the winter?" She scowled. "You want to live up there all winter?"
She sank lower in the tub, 'til the water reached her chin. "Is this for
"Sure it's for real." He watched her, floating there in a cloud of steam.
The sight aroused him.
"Hey. Can I get in there?" he said.
"Why not?"
"I want you to finish this story."
"It's not a story."
"It's not?"
"No," said Ed. "It's a proposition."
Claire was gleeful. "Wow!" she said. "Ed's propositioning me in the
crapper of an old TB ward—you can't tell me romance is dead!"
There was an opening there, of sorts, and Ed lunged for it. "We can
live there for free, Claire. We'll salt away our money and buy one of those
aluminum Munsons—the butch one, with the big motor and the rivets
sticking out. There's thousands of islands up here and we'll hop around
them all. I'll grow a beard and you can put on some weight—it'll be amaz-
"Uh-uh. We came up here for the summer, that was the deal. Now it's
time to leave and you're talking about putting down roots. And how come
you never mentioned the rain?"
"I did mention the rain."
"My God," said Claire. "The rain alone would be enough to drive me
insane. Living where the sun never shines, fifty miles north of nowhere."
She rose suddenly from the water. "YOU go out there and live on the
float with the dead bears and fish fry and all that crap. Maybe they'll make
you an honorary sockeye. Go on, Eddy—"
"Don't call me'Eddy'."
"I'm going to Albuquerque. You hang out here and watch the rain, if
you can stay sober enough to watch anything. It's never been my dream
to go live among the fish."
She was steaming, shiny, tufted with foam. She was the most beautiful
thing he'd ever seen.
"OK," he said.
17 "OK what?"
"OK, we won't go live on the float. Hey, can I get in there?"
Claire was indignant. "You're trying to get your bread buttered, aren't
you? You're selling out your float dream for a hot time in the bathtub.
Don't you have any principles?"
"Really?" she said in a tiny voice.
Ed shook his head. He was beginning to see a pattern to everything.
He perceived it as a line on a roadmap, but slick and ghostly, like snail
tracks. The fact that they were once again in a hospital together, struck
him as hugely significant. This time he would do it, he decided. He would
ask her to marry him. He would ask her to marry him and he would make
big concessions.
"Can I get in there now?" he said.
"Sure," Claire said wearily.
Ed hesitated. He didn't want her to say 'sure'. He wanted her to say
"You bet!" or "hell yes!" Something a little more positive. Outside the
window the hemlocks began to stir. He wondered if it was beginning to
rain. He was prepared to take that as a bad sign.
Suddenly there came a terrific thumping from the other side of the
wall. The plaster seemed to flex and vibrate and bits of grout dropped
into the tub.
"I AM somebody!" a voice bellowed through the sheetrock. "I AM
"Good God," said Ed. "What the hell is that?"
"That's our neighbour," said Claire.
"I've never heard that before—"
"Well, you're never here."
"What's he mean—'I am somebody'?"
"I don't know. But he says it a lot."
"Like every night?"
Claire thought about it. "Maybe not every night."
"You treat me like I'm nobody!" the voice said. "But I AM somebody!"
"I can't stand it," said Ed.
"He settles down after a bit. Generally."
"I want to go, honey," said Ed. "I want to go back to the Arctic. I've
got something I want to tell you."
The deck was filling up, and with the arrival of the women's softball team,
things started to get lively. Ed and Claire were having a round when a
couple of Haida women rambled through. They wore Levi's and running
18 shoes and both of them carried cans of Bud. One of them wore a baseball
cap that said MAGIC KINGDOM. Seats were scarce and they plopped
down at the table with Claire and Ed and introduced themselves. They'd
missed the six p.m. air taxi to Metlakahtla and were waiting for the last
flight out. The one with the hat was Bev. The other one's name was
"Nice to meet you," Claire said. "I'm Claire. And this is Ed."
"Eddy?" said Bev. She turned to Rose with a grin.
Ed shook his head.
"Easy Eddy?" Rose laughed.
He shook his head again and smiled faintly, a gesture which served
only to fuel their merriment.
Bev took hold of Claire's arm. "We've known our share of Eddys," she
"And every damn one of 'em's been easy!" Rose said to Bev. She
winked theatrically and the two women slapped their knees and guffawed.
Claire smiled. "Well if you want to know the truth, this one's kind of
All three women laughed uproariously.
Up the pier, beneath a battery of floodlights, a Filipino freighter was
booming spruce logs into the holds. Ed could hear the cries of the riggers
and cant men, could smell the pungent forest scent.
Claire was talking to one of the native women about someone in Anchorage they both knew. If we go to Neptune, Ed thought, Claire will
bump into a friend from Mars. It was one of the incredible things about
Claire. It used to annoy him. Now he counted on it.
"Hey, Eddy."
Somebody was talking to him. Ed blinked his eyes, focused on Rose.
"Hey, Eddy," she said again. "Are you a fishermaa''"
Ed thought about it. "In a sense," he said.
Rose scowled, turned to Claire. "What's that mean? 'In a sense'?" she
"Eddy's a salmon rancher," said Claire. "That's what it means."
It was something, he thought, the way he was 'Eddy' all of a sudden,
just like that. "I grow the little dudes," he said. "I grow 'em by the millions."
Bev propped her chin in her hands and stared at him. "Is that a fact?"
she said.
"You bet," said Ed. "Anybody can yank 'em out. I'm the guy who puts
'em back." Ed paused and frowned. The term for what he was doing was
19 called "shooting off your mouth", but even as he was thinking this, he
continued to explain his work in visionary terms, in spite of the fact he'd
only taken the job when he couldn't get on a fishing boat.
Suddenly Bev stood up and began rooting through her pockets. She
pulled out a great wad of bills and said, "All right, you guys. You're coming with me. We're all flying to Metlakhatla and I'm paying."
Claire reached over and closed Bev's hand on the money. "You better
hang onto that, Bev," she said. "We're not going anywhere tonight."
"Why's that?" said Bev.
"Because. Eddy just got back."
Bev blinked owlishly. "Back from where?" she said.
Ed placed his head in his hands. BACK FROM WHERE? The Bushmill's thundered. The phrase had stirred up the echo chamber business
again. It was giving him the creeps, but he couldn't seem to shut it off:
Claire and Rose had gone off somewhere. Ed was sitting alone with Bev.
Her MAGIC KINGDOM hat was tipped down over her eyes, which were
nearly closed.
Though he'd only been in Southeast for a summer, there was one thing
Ed knew for sure: If you wanted to make small talk in Alaska, you
couldn't go wrong talking fish. "Hey Bev," he said. "The dogs are com-
"Who gives a shit?" she said. She tipped her hat back and looked at him
as if he'd just sat down. "You guys. You guys are really somethin'. Comin'
up here, stealin' all the fish."
"Bev—I put 'em back. Remember?"
"Steal all our fish. Shoot all our animals."
"We're trying to help the fish, Bev."
"Shoot our animals. Rape our women."
"You rape our women. Then you leave. You leave them behind. Leave
them alone." Bev's voice was soft and musical. Hypnotic. "Alone and
pregnant," she whispered. "Alone and pregnant in winter."
Ed tried to say 'Listen Bev. I didn't do it. It wasn't me, Bev.' But he
couldn't get the words out.
"You take everything you can and then you leave," Bev said sadly.
"You know you do." She wagged a finger at him, as if he was an errant
child. She looked old suddenly. Much older than he'd thought. She
20 watched him for a moment, then pulled her hat back down, as if everything was settled.
A blue and white Beaver taxied in as Claire and Rose reappeared. Bev
looked at Claire. "Here's my plane," she said. "Take care of yourself,
honey. And watch out for this joker," she said, turning to Ed. "So long,
"Happy landings, Bev," said Ed.
They stood on the deck with Rose and watched her board, watched the
plane taxi downwind into the strait.
When they were alone again, Claire said, "What'd she mean, 'watch
out for this joker'?"
"Jesus, Claire. How would I know?"
"What were you talking about?"
"Fish, I guess. Fish and sex."
Suddenly an eerie, keening wail rose from the door of the bar. Ed and
Claire froze, looked to the doorway. Two seiners stood, laughing, wind
burned and stubble-faced, swaying in the entrance, clutching their drinks
like safety lines.
"All right, you bilge rates!" One of them hollered. "It's Party Time! P-
"-R-T-Y!" The other man finished for him, and he tipped his head,
mouth to the ceiling, lips skinned back, and screamed again, as if the life
were being torn from him.
Ed felt a chill seep through him. He turned to Claire, took her by the
shoulders and said, "Let's call it a night, OK, Claire?"
Claire didn't answer.
"OK Claire?" he said.
Her eyes were bleary and strange. She stood facing the water, watching Bev's plane head upwind, lift off and hang, seemingly without motion,
its wing strobe pulsing against the rush of darkness. Her head was
cocked attentively, as though she was listening to a conversation he could
not hear.
21 Zen Master, the Abbot Ikkyu (1394-1481)
Translated from the Japanese by Graeme Wilson
Visiting the Master
If no one calls, I'm glad; and, if they do,
Narked that they blunt the edge of my loneliness,
Of my watching the flowers fade and the slow wind strew
Untrodden pathways red.
What politesse,
What Zen-refinements you had looked to find
To reward your soul for its slog to this awful place.
Well, you got it wrong. My hundred-flowered mind
Blooms for itself behind this fuck-off face.
22 Rengetsu-ni (1790-1875)
Translated from the Japanese by Graeme Wilson
In this lonely mountain-village
It has become my way
To listen only to the voices of trees
So that, today,
I'm lonely only when the wind drops
And the trees have nothing to say.
Yosa Buson (1716-1783)
Translated from the Japanese by Graeme Wilson
In the Winter Woods
In the winter woods
When the axe-blade fell
How unforeseeably,
Green the smell.
23 For Rent
Ruth Krahn
All morning the potential renters come; you watch them through
the big front window, moving across the grass you mowed earlier. An amazing assortment of people—tall ones, skinny ones,
dressed up ones, dumpy ones. Quirky ones you can't figure out. Couples,
singles, people with kids and pets. One guy drives up in a VW van, gets
out with an English spaniel and two Dobermans. You could tell him right
now he's wasting his time showing up with that menagerie. There's a
woman by herself whose husband is in the hospital recovering from a
stroke. She starts to describe the extent of his paralysis but is interrupted by someone else, saying, Excuse me, does this include utilities?
People who do not reveal themselves in any way, others who tell you
their life story. Serious lookers (opening and closing cupboard doors, in
the bathroom checking the water pressure) and the curious, out for a
drive more than anything, dropping their empty pop tins and chip bags on
the driveway. Your wife has the coffee pot on, juice for the kids and a tup-
perware container full of homemade cookies waiting. You have a pile of
application forms on a corner of the kitchen table.
Around noon there is a lull. You grab an apple and are about to walk down
to the dock for a minute when an old Ford pickup pulls in. Doors slam.
You see a couple with two kids and a baby head over to the house, picking
their way across the grass. The kids are bare-footed, the woman wears
thongs. Take a look at this, you call to your wife, but she doesn't hear
you. From far away the man looks around fifty but seated at the table he
removes his hat, an old man's fedora, and you realize he's closer to
thirty. The short brown hair and bullish neck, the way there are no lines
in his face yet. He is deeply tanned, as if he spent a great deal of time outdoors. He is wearing shiny black dress pants, short in the leg, a large
bold maroon and white checkered blazer several sizes too big for him,
and a blue checkered shirt. He looks as if he brought home a bag full of
clothes from the Goodwill and put them all on at once. The woman is
small and dark-haired, delicate, beautiful. She looks very hopeful, very
bright-eyed and anxious. She rocks the baby automatically when it
fusses. The baby is wearing a dirty greyish sleeper. The woman is wear-
24 ing a short-sleeved skimpy summer t-shirt, faded, unraveling on one
sleeve, and a dark stained skirt that looks as if it's made out of old
curtains. It doesn't matter what she wears you want to keep looking at
And the kids are something. Hey, you say to the boy who's about six, I
bet you could take a round out of your sister, eh? How old's your sister
anyway? Your voice is jovial, teasing, but it doesn't work.
Eight, the boy says solemnly, looking around at everything, at every
object, the coffee maker, the pen on the table. His hair is matted, uncombed. He looks as if he hasn't washed or bathed for weeks, as if he just
gets out of bed every day and wanders off, maybe grabbing a piece of
bread on his way through the kitchen. Kitchen, you think, and draw a
Watching, so intense you can almost feel him breathing, the boy stands
perfectly still as his parents talk about the house they wish to rent. He is
so expectant, so stalwart, you would like to pick him up and hug him so
he would relax, but of course he would never allow that.
Although they seem shy and ignorant about how to proceed, the couple
very much wants to rent this house, which is not much of a house—more
of a cottage really—but it does sit on a picturesque piece of land, plenty of
trees, a lake down at the bottom of the hill. In late summer a Bible camp
sets up in the cabins down at the end and the night air is filled with smoke
and the sounds of campfire singing. The view alone makes the place
worth the price and the right people could do wonders with it. There's
even a dock although it's in need of repair. You can imagine the little boy
wandering down there in the mornings, playing by himself or with his
sister, the two of them flat on their stomachs, trailing their hands in the
water. You think of them going out in a canoe after supper some night,
the whole family, when the lake is still and peaceful and the opposite
shore is reflected in the water. A mistake to let yourself think like that.
At the end of the interview and after the man has filled out the application form, you tell them what you've told everyone so far: that you will
call them by suppertime, as you are "interviewing" potential renters until
four o'clock with the idea of choosing the most suitable people. Suitable,
you hear yourself say, sliding over the word.
When he hears this the man takes a deep breath and offers you an extra hundred. Rather than convincing you, this puts you off. You feel that
he might be a little too pushy somehow, too aggressive a tenant, maybe
making unexpected and unrealistic demands of you. Complaining that the
third bedroom with its plywood walls isn't properly insulated or the fridge
doesn't defrost properly, something. You can imagine him stubbornly
refusing to be turfed out even though he hasn't paid his rent for two
months, or refusing to remove old truck bodies he's dragged onto the
25 property. You feel as if you know this guy; you recognize the type. Also,
what's this spare cash floating around? He doesn't look as if he'd have a
spare dime in his pocket.
After they're gone, you say to your wife, It's not extra money we're after. Your voice is strong, determined. We just want someone
trustworthy, reliable.
But your wife is slapping wet rags against the walls, scrubbing them
down with Ajax. Beautiful children, she murmurs, unusually beautiful
children. So sad.
Hey, you say gruffly, reminding her. Remember that last pair we felt
sorry for? Just keep that in mind before you turn into mush. Think of
those cigarette burns we found in the carpet, or that fish rotting in the
fridge. Remember that fish?
What's that got to do with them, says your wife.
Middle of the night they up and took off? I guess you don't remember
Someone's driving up, she says shortly.
Don't kid yourself, you say, pulling on your cap. You want to be in this
business you have to be tough. Here, take a look at this.
Handing her the application form they filled out, the worst one all day,
by far. You aren't without compassion, far from it, but you learned your
lesson. The evidence is all there, they have no money by the looks of it,
no job prospects, nothing. You wouldn't get the second month. You cannot afford to take them, that's what it comes down to. Much as your
heart goes out to them. Especially the kids, the boy, the sturdy little boy.
Beautiful, murmurs your wife once more, stubbornly, behind your
Finally, just before four o'clock the cream of the crop couple arrives. You
know as soon as you see them that this is who you want. Both tall,
blonde, dressed as if they're going on a safari, polite but not in a subservient way. They ask questions, but intelligent questions, questions
that need to be asked, that demonstrate how responsible they would be.
About septic tanks, about lake pollution, neighbours, how many summer
people, how many year round. They go down to the water. You can see
her imagining a rock garden perhaps, her hand indicating the sloped hill.
Here and here...or we could. ..his blonde head nodding in
agreement... the canoe... pointing at the lake now. They move slowly,
reluctantly up the hill. You scrape away at the flaking paint on the
windowsill. They go through the house once more, quickly, as if it
doesn't interest them; they are more interested in the outside, in the
view, tall spruce trees casting shadows on the house now, midway
through the afternoon. They drive off in their Volvo, waving politely.
26 You can hardly wait until they get home so you can phone them. Hello?
you can imagine saying to them, knowing how thrilled they will be to hear
it's you. Joe Bennett here, about the house...
You work until well after midnight getting the place in shape, the final
trim painted, the new locks on the doors. You decide to sleep there, in
the living room, on the old green-patterned sofa some tenant left behind.
Your wife left around ten, tired, out of sorts after a long day of cleaning
and dealing with strangers.
Someone in one of the houses further down is having a party. You can
hear their music thumping. Once you think you hear a tapping sound at
one of the windows but when you go out to investigate you see that a tree
branch is knocking lightly against the window.
It has turned cool and windy in the last few hours and the sky above
you is heavy with clouds. You see a flash of lightning near the horizon.
You go in, making sure all the doors and windows are secured. On the
sofa, half asleep, you find that an image of the tall couple has formed behind your eyelids. They are walking in slow motion up the hill, holding
hands, swinging their arms. You feel obscurely annoyed, even hurt, that
they didn't want the house, that they didn't like it, that's what she said.
What did they expect for five hundred dollars a month, a mansion next to
the premier's? And why criticize the decor which is admittedly tacky, no
reflection of your taste. That's the tenant's job to fix the place up for
crying out-loud! Did they think you chose that plywood paneling because
you liked it? Or the orange shag carpet? She had the gall to mention that
carpet. You'd like to have that telephone conversation with her one more
time, so you could set her straight on a few things.
It means starting over tomorrow, going through the application forms
again, trying to remember who's who, more phone calls.
You are almost asleep when another image forms in your head: the other
earlier family, the family with all the kids. You see her, the dark-eyed
woman with her dark wavy hair and her stained curtain skirt and her
baby; you see the plain stoic face of the man, briefly lit up as he leaned
over to check in his side view mirror before driving off down the gravel
road. You see the whole family looking straight ahead, their heads and
shoulders bouncing around in the dark cab of the pickup as the dust rose
behind them. You remember that they had nothing with which to change
the baby and had to go out to that rust heap and rummage around under
the back seat for a wad of paper towels probably picked off from some
service station restroom; you remember the way the little boy looked
right through you as they were leaving, as if he already knew he would
never lay eyes on you again.
27 Leonardo Sinisgalli
Two Poems Translated from the Italian by Rina Ferrarelli
If A Lizard Stops
The gentle stream smokes
in the heat tonight. I'm without
burdens and without pain,
my heart lying on the warm
straw. My mother swung a flail
on this threshing ground.
To Enjoy the View
from the Threshing
To enjoy the view from the threshing
ground many nights we slept
hands deep in the wheat
sleep-watched by the dogs.
Your feet were meeker
than the pigeons made for fun
with the white cloth of handkerchiefs.
Straw in your hair
you set off a timorous alarm
behind you in the meadow.
28 Hilda Kirkwood
Baku at Night
In the lee of the Caucasus
Prometheus was tied to the rock
here where we break from the sky, settle on the landing field
like the genie breaking from the bottle.
Baku is redolent with oil
and with a thousand and one stories.
In the moonlight the exquisite arches of the summer palace
are black on moon-white walls.
The Khan paces.
Forty-two eunuchs snarl at the gate
the Princess whispers up the steps of the tower
her hands, doves.
The black oil oozes from underground
on the sea
the carpet of the moon carries a tanker
from Azerbaijan to Astrakan.
The Khan is dead these thousand years
the Princess fell from the tower.
Through the hotel window the music of east and west
mingles on the night air
you come into the room shutting the door behind you—
doves flutter in their sleep.
29 Steve Noyes
Barber in Bodrum
The boy gets his chance to shave,
Barefoot, on hair and dry soap,
Behaving, though his blade rests on an
American throat. Unbeliever,
Boy barber. Slender he shaves,
And uses short strokes. We get nervous.
The shaven clears his thoughts to fix on
Resdan, Barbican, any damn
Bottle with an on it, on a
Counter of a motel mirror. And the calm
Has a quality; the corner of a postcard.
With firmness the father says, Ah you have
Big Dollar. Tea?
Suppose you grow up.
You will and you will say what you want.
Like Brylcreem, one stewardess, rajril want razor.
Glass in the sink, terror, any red thirst may
Awaken your friend. He will gulp and grow up
Any time now. When the man and the camels,
Along the white wall, the tangerine's leaves,
Pass from the mirror, the boy will be finished
His throat.
Ins'Allah, Ins'Allah
Boy and god willing.
30 Notes Towards A
Catalogue Of
Immense Paintings
Eugene McNamara
The human imagination, faced with the concept of nothingness, absence and the cessation of existence, erects strategies in defence.
Epic poems, story-telling, dramas. And paintings.
During the Nineteenth Century there was a vogue for big pictures. It
was as if for a time artists thought that their creative powers were commensurate with the vastness of Nature. Not much survives of these
grandiose attempts. Some were simply lost. Others were never finished.
Washington Allston's Unfinished Big Painting.
Benjamin Robert Haydon and The Dwarf.
Keats mentions dining with Haydon in the same letter that he defines
Negative Capability and also speaks of Benjamin West's Death On a Pale
Horse. Haydon lacked Negative Capability and despised West.
Mr. John Whiteway of Fishwick (on the Tergin) bought an immense
Haydon painting and had to remove a large window in the drawing room
in order to get it into the house. Large paintings are hard to handle, move
around, hang and find enough wall space to begin with.
Washington Allston was one of the most popular American painters in
the first half of the Nineteenth Century. He came back from a triumphant
visit to England and the Continent in 1818. He had turned down the opportunity to paint one of the pictures in the Rotunda in the Capitol in
Washington because he was finishing what he thought would be his
greatest—and largest—painting: Belshazzar's Feast. He showed the ail-
but finished work to Gilbert Stuart who was impressed but thought the
31 perspective all wrong. He suggested a shift in the point of view. Allston
began to redo the painting. He spent over twenty years reworking it.
At seven in the evening of July 9, 1843, Allston, having dined with his
family, went back to his studio to work on Belshazzar. He had to climb a
ladder to get to the soothsayer's face. He had to descend to get a proper
perspective on his progress. Then back up again, down the ladder again.
Tiresome work.
He re-entered the house from his studio and spoke to his niece, Miss
Charlotte Dana. His words—to be among his last—counselled intellectual, moral and religious development. He closed with a chaste kiss
on her forehead, saying "God bless you, my child."
Afterwards he complained to his wife of a slight indigestion. Whilst she
prepared a dose of soda, he sat in front of the fire, his head resting on his
hand as if in thought, perhaps about the work that remained to be done on
his giant painting. His wife spoke to him. He did not reply. She touched
his hand. It was limp. Her sister and niece ran to her assistance. They
laid him out on the rug in front of the fireplace and chafed his body. A doctor had been summoned. He came in, his face solemn. He took Allston's
pulse, sighed and shook his head. "He is gone," the doctor said in a
hushed tone.
Allston was buried in Cambridge. Harvard students bearing torches led
the cortege into the graveyard. Overshadowing night clouds opened and
the body of Allston was bourne to the grave in starlight.
Belshazzar's Feast covers twelve by sixteen feet of canvas. The seated
King had been finished but was, in pentimento, covered over with a coat
of dark brown paint. Like a shroud. The prophet, Daniel, eyes fixed terribly on the King, raises his hand to point to the writing on the wall.
Chaldean astrologers stand to Daniel's right. A little back from the foreground is a group of devout Jews. One of them kneels in reverence. Another tries to touch the garment of the prophet. A banqueting table is
laden with rich opulence. Large columns of porphyry support a gallery
filled with awestruck spectators.
Different areas of the painting had been pumiced down. The heads of
many figures were unfinished. The skin colouring was dead. The heads
seemed larger, out of proportion to the figures.
Some chalk outlines:
1. An outline around the toes of the King's left foot. It was obviously to
be lengthened.
2. A depression around the heel of Daniel's left foot. Something to do
with the new point of view.
32 3. In the upper left corner, a green curtain hanging down, covering one
of the pillars, had been pumiced down. The chalk lines extended to a
golden candlestick.
Could one say that the unfinished picture is a monument to Allston's inner
growth in creative imagination? His skill and physical powers could not
keep pace with the accelerated state of his mental and moral faculties?
Allston knew Coleridge. He knew of Haydon's work through
Coleridge. When he finally saw Christ's Entry Into Jerusalem he came out
of the exhibit, his face lit with pure delight. A critic asked him, "Is there
not there this and that defect?"
"0 yes," Allston said. "But the picture has genius and life. It has
glorious parts and one need not see its defects."
Wordsworth knew of Allston through Coleridge's reports of him.
"By the reports of his conversation and corresponding accounts of his
noble qualities of heart and temper," Wordsworth said, "I was led to admire, and with truth I May say, to love Mr. Allston, before I had seen him
or his works."
Once Allston and Coleridge travelled in Italy. They stopped at a decrepit
inn. Allston, bored, took up a book lying about which turned out to be the
veriest lubricious trash. Coleridge came in and glancing over Allston's
shoulder, said "You may be amused. But you had better be doing nothing. You cannot touch pitch without being defiled."
"How vast, how dread, o'erwhelming is the thought
Of space interminable!"
Allston wrote those words in a sonnet on Michaelangelo.
Allston's large painting The Angel Releasing St. Peter is in the chapel of
the Hospital For the Insane in Worcester, Mass.
The essayist William Hazlitt once asked Allston where he found the
models for his heads as he had never seen any like them in London. In
fact, Hazlitt went on, some of them looked rather Asiatic. Allston said
that he didn't paint from models. He made them up out of his own imagination. Hazlitt looked incredulous. He called Allston a liar.
There were other big paintings. In 1801 the bones of a "carnivorous
animal of immense size" were found in New York state. Charles Willson
Peale paid a small army of workers to dig. He painted a record of the find:
33 Exhuming the Mastodon which he hung in his own museum. Actually
there were two skeletons, when sorted out. One was put together and
set up in the museum and the other was sent to London.
Thomas Cole also wrestled with a big painting, left unfinished at his
death. The Cross and the World was full of murky religious symbolism.
Other big paintings by Cole include The Course of Empire and The Voyage
of Life.
The big painting Christ's Entry Into Jerusalem in Charles Willson Peale's
museum is not by Haydon. It is by Henry Sargent. He lived in Boston.
No relation to John Singer Sargent who made a good living doing regular-
sized portraits of society ladies and hobnobbed with Henry James. Sometimes, smaller is better.
Benjamin Robert Haydon would learn that smaller was sometimes more
popular. To his sorrow.
Christ's Triumphant Entry Into Jerusalem.
Benjamin Robert Haydon had a Napoleonic conception of himself. He
often compared his career with Napoleon's. He spoke often of his genius
and attempted immense works of art. In 1820 he exhibited the nineteen
by sixteen foot picture of Christ entering Jerusalem in the Egyptian Hall
in London. He had taken six years to finish the work. He did the head of
Christ six times, trying to combine power and humility. Power ultimately
won. It took three men to carry the painting from his studio to the Hall
where it was framed. The frame weighed six hundred pounds. In front of
the somewhat arrogant Savior, the Samaritan woman and a penitent girl
spread their garments. There was the centurian and there was a mocking
Voltaire, a head bowed Wordsworth, Isaac Newton and Keats, all in the
Eight hundred invitations had been sent out for the private openings.
Foreign ambassadors, society beauties, bishops and members of the literati came. Mrs. Sarah Siddons proclaimed that the figure of Christ was
"completely successful." The Persian ambassador admired an elbow.
The public opening, later, was equally successful.
It was a different story in 1846 when Haydon planned to exhibit his
latest big pictures—Aristides Being Hooted by the Multitude and Nero
Harping While Rome Burned. P.T. Barnum was in town with his midget,
Tom Thumb, also booked in the Egyptian Hall. In the first week, Tom
Thumb was seen by twelve thousand gawkers and only three hundred
34 people came to see Haydon's new work. Haydon had forebodings before
the opening. He took his wife to the station to go down to Brighton. On
the way the horse fell down. So did one of the paintings on the morning of
the private show. Haydon went to work on his next opus, King Alfred
and the First English Jury. It would never be finished. In June, 1846,
Haydon wrote down the "Last Thoughts of B.R. Haydon." As usual,
Napoleon was in his mind. So was Tom Thumb. Haydon put a pistol to his
head. A bad shot. Grasping a razor, he hacked at his throat. He succeeded, splashing blood on King Alfred. Tom Thumb finished his final
week at the Egyptian Hall, singing two songs: Farewell to Albion and
Then You'll Remember Me.
George Cruikshank did two etchings of Haydon and Tom Thumb. One
showed a despondent painter, the other a dwarf lounging in luxury. "Born
a Genius" and "Born a Dwarf."
In that same year John Banvard exhibited his Panorama of the Mississippi in Boston.
Banvard's Panorama of the Mississippi Painted on Three Miles
of Canvas Exhibiting a View of Country Twelve Hundred Miles
in Length.
It was painted on three miles of canvas, stored on giant spools. The
spools unwound, the painting moved. Banvard lectured as it unwound,
recited poems, told jokes. A pianoforte played. The panorama was a
great success. Congress passed special resolutions praising Banvard for
his "boldness, originality and indefatigable perseverance." Banvard took
the panorama to England. His Command Performance in St. Georges
Hall, Windsor, was a sellout. Some big paintings are successful, others
not. In 1848 John Rowson Smith did a four mile panorama of the Mississippi. It too had its moment. Banvard's painting was ultimately cut into
panels and sold to theatres to be used as stage curtains. Some of the
theatres became nickelodeons and then movie theatres and then, in time,
were torn down. Some of these theatres were in: Columbia, Missouri;
Macomb, Illinois; Berwyn, Illinois; Evansville, Indiana and River Falls,
Wisconsin. Nobody knows what has happened to the Banvard canvases.
Other theatres reputed to have part of the Banvard panorama:
Pullman, Washington and La Grande, Oregon. The theatre in Berwyn, Illinois was the Ritz.
Description of the curtain in the Ritz Theatre, Berwyn, Illinois: A levee
with a steamboat departing. Sweat-shiny black men stripped to the waist
are rolling barrels up a plank towards a wagon. Two women stand off to
35 the right, looking at the steamboat. Their faces are hidden by the
parasols they are carrying. Twin trails of smoke from the steamboat
traverse the sky.
In the same year that Christ's Triumphant Entry Into Jerusalem was successfully exhibited, Rembrandt Peale unveiled his own big painting in Baltimore. The Court of Death showed a young man struck down at the feet
of Death. Old Age was supported by Virtue. There were the figures of
Want, Desolation, Dread, Gout, Dropsy, Hypochondria and Intemperance. Peale's allegory was plain: death was brought on by man's
own foibles—ignorance and impulses towards self-destruction. The painting was a sensation wherever it was exhibited. In Albany, New York, a
senator dropped dead as he entered the exhibition hall. This added to the
frisson. Over thirty thousand people paid a total of nine thousand dollars
to see it. Over one hundred thousand coloured engravings of it were sold
at a dollar each.
Haydon's wife was going down to Brighton. Her nerves would not stand
the strain of the exhibit, the crowds, the last frantic minutes. On the
morning of the opening they set out for Victoria Station. The streets
were still wet from the night rain. The cab horse's hooves slid on the uneven cobbles and the horse went down. The cab's shaft cracked like a
pistol shot. There was a hullabaloo of cabmen and shouting
costermongers. Haydon remembered that the same thing had happened
to Napoleon just before Waterloo. Haydon sat in the unmoving cab feeling
the dread of omen creep up from his feet.
Haydon hated Tom Thumb. He hated his little fingers and his tiny feet.
There was something in the miniature that Haydon feared. He dreamed
small dreams and saw himself shrinking in an inexorable slide towards
Haydon had always been convinced of his own genius. In 1804 when he
first arrived in London he was just eighteen. He knelt and prayed to God
to make him a great painter. He would revive historical painting, found a
national school and raise the low level of English art. He found patrons.
Wordsworth addressed a sonnet to him.
He was plagued by poor eyesight. When painting he wore thick eyeglasses. His method was to see his model and picture from a great distance, and then to take off the glasses and go to the canvas. Then on with
the glasses and stepping far back. Then he would examine the result,
using a mirror and two pair of eyeglasses. The method sometimes resulted in grotesque disproportion. Many of his heroic figures had ab-
36 surdly short legs. He noted this sometimes but did not bother to correct.
He was too convinced of his own genius.
He espoused good causes: schools of design, government sponsored
frescoes in public buildings, monuments (government commissioned) to
public figures. His own abrasive personality did these causes more harm
than good.
The sound of a church bell, solemn, hollow, round. Iron reverberating. There was no answering in Haydon. A chill hung in the air. He
stared at the catastrophe ahead of him, the horse struggling to gain
purchase on the wet cobbles, the men shouting. Haydon knew that the
Queen had received a visit from the dwarf and had given him a gift.
She lived in the past. No modern queen had a personal dwarf. It was
an unfashionable desire, harking back to less democratic times. Now
this Yankee midget. Haydon gritted his teeth as he imagined Tom
Thumb strutting in the palace, the petted darling of the Royal children.
Haydon felt the sting of injured merit.
He was about to be separated from his beloved wife. However, life must
have been anxious for her. They slept in separate bedrooms for about a
year after each new baby arrived. They arrived every eighteen months
or so. At table, his behaviour was erratic. His head was crowded with visions of ancient heroes, of Biblical spectacles, principles of ancient art,
humorous subjects, deductions, sarcastic attacks on the Academy, pictures of his beloved children—
"I paint," he wrote. "I converse, write and fall asleep, start up
refreshed, eat my lunch with the fierceness of a Polyphemus, walk, dine,
read the paper, return to my study to contemplate what I have been
doing, or muse until dusk, then to bed lamenting my mortality of being
fatigued. I never rest. I talk all night in my sleep, start up—I scarce know
whether I shall relish ruin—
The head of Christ had given him a lot of trouble. Dark eyes and a fierce
brow made the Savior look too human, too given to passions. Haydon did
it over at least six times. It became in turn bland, too pure, too serene,
sublime, compassionate, insipid. Mrs. Siddons, however, found it supernatural.
Nobody bought it. The show was a great success for Haydon's creditors. Haydon moved the painting to Edinburgh and Glasgow. It was a
success. Nobody bought it. A critic said of the donkey in the painting that
it was almost worthy to rank with that in Tintoretto's Flight Into Egypt.
37 Keats, Wordsworth and Elizabeth Bartlett wrote poems about him. In
1808 he saw the Elgin Marbles in shabby circumstances—in a dank shed
behind Lord Elgin's Park Lane house. Haydon felt the future. He was set
on fire. It seemed to him that a divine truth blazed inside of him. He
planned big subjects:
Milton Playing on His Organ
Adam Reconciling Eve After Her Dream
Samson Pulling Down the Philistines
A Woman Contemplating the Body of a Man She Has Just Murdered
The Spirit of Caesar Appearing to Brutus
A Mother Dashing Down a Precipice With Her Child
A Scene in a Madhouse
None of these were attempted.
Now, the memory of his big success when Mrs. Siddons announced it
and the Persian ambassador admired a soldier's arm rankled and
festered. "Awoke at three," he wrote. "In very great agony of mind and
lay awake 'til long after five... There lay Aristides and Nero, unasked
for, unfelt for, rolled up... "
"I sat from two 'til five," he wrote later. "Staring at my picture like an
idiot. My brain pressed down by anxiety and thoughts of my dear Mary
and children... I dined, after having raised money on our silver... "
He kept the shutters half closed in his studio. He preferred to work in
semidarkness. A cupboard with volumes of poetry in different languages
hung over a writing table. An open Bible lay on the table. Passages of
special consolation had markers set in so that they could be turned to
quickly. From Edgware Road came the sound of wheels and horse's
It had been very warm for days. He was despondent over his debts,
the disdain of the Academy and the indignity of Tom Thumb's public success. He dined with a friend at Hampstead. Flushed and haggard, he
spoke of suicide.
He bought a pair of pistols at a gun maker's shop in Oxford Street. At
10:45 his wife and daughter heard a shot. They supposed it to be caused
by troops mustering in the Park. Five minutes later there was a heavy
thud in the studio. They supposed it was one of the big canvases being
moved. Mrs. Haydon left for Brixton. Her daughter went a little way with
her and then returned to see if she could console her father.
The door to the studio was not locked. In the dim light the room
seemed empty. Her father's watch lay next to the Bible, ticking loudly.
Then she saw him lying at the base of the painting. Thinking he had
thrown himself down to study the foreground of the painting, she went up
38 to him and bent to touch his shoulder. She slipped in what she thought
was paint. She was standing in her father's blood.
The next day a great thunderstorm all over England broke the fierce
On his tombstone: He devoted 42 years to the improvement of the Taste
of the English People in high art and died brokenhearted from pecuniary
Keats knew another side of Haydon: vanity, grandiloquence, a tendency
to swarming about and the cold habit of borrowing and not paying back
An early work, The Judgment of Solomon, was twelve by ten feet. Tom
Taylor edited Haydon's Autobiography. Taylor was also the author of a
play, Our American Cousin. Lincoln was watching this play when he was
Haydon on the Elgin Marbles:
"I sketched the marbles ten, fourteen and fifteen hours at a time; staying
often 'til twelve at night holding a candle and my board in one hand and
drawing with the other... I have drank my tea at one in the morning...
and looked at my picture and dwelt on my drawings, and pondered on the
change of empires and thought that I had been contemplating what
Socrates looked at and Plato saw... "
So there we have it. The vogue for big pictures has passed. There are
three figures lying before them: Allston falling before his fire; Haydon
self-immolated before his last, unfinished big painting; a New York state
senator in the midst of Peale's exhibit. As if all were struck down by the
over-reaching. The Greeks had a word for it.
This is an age for dwarfs.
39 Henry Graham
Two Poems
This morning early I got up
to attend the usual offices.
In the scenery of spring
there is neither short nor long,
the branches just simply grow,
everything is green.
My heavy earthen body runs to seed
and I am sinning by omission, on my
head be it, atone damn you, compromise
I say. Your eyes wet and clean.
In the bathroom the iguanodons
petrify the leaping fish, while
far away in some unsung recess
of summer, you are selling marmalade.
When I pull the chain the sky
empties of light. A cloud
with just a touch of angostura,
satin bags, a drop or two of blood
on porcelain concave surfaces.
A band of bright gold
tight about the duodenum.
My hand held under the tap
makes the water warm.
40 Kitchen
The sounds of everyday life
like a tomato being sliced
move into the large
areas of white cloth.
The callisthenics of a
gaunt cripple, lips parted
in a flense of wind, moves
like a bird through the tall grass.
Today I am going to communicate
with my feet and use the eye
of the bird to see over
the cliff of the table.
When the cut red edges are laid
under a sky that is always
rushing towards a vague
perspiring lasciviousness,
tea consists of a laughing
dove attempting to mate
with a human hand.
41 Susan Musgrave
Desireless: Tom York
I had said there would be no more poetry
for friends dead, or friends dying
I had said that but when the call came
and I heard your name, and said your name
back again over the impossible long distance,
my ear pressed hard against the black receiver,
I knew poetry would come back. It had
to. Because, Tom, I see you driving alive
down that dark Arkansas road the moment before
your old car is accordioned into something else
impossible, the radio still playing
a tune you could tap your foot to
as you drive. And in your eyes
for the moment something glorious
comes through. Even in that moment, Tom,
something glorious comes.
42 Muhammad al-Maghut
Three Poems Translated from the Arabic by
John Asfour and Alison Burch
To A Tourist
My childhood's as far away
as my old age;
my country, as distant
as my exile.
Say, tourist, give me your binoculars
and let me see if, in all this universe
a hand or a handkerchief is waving to me.
Take my picture while I am crying
or picking my teeth before the hotel door,
and write on the back of the photograph:
"A poet from the East."
Place your white scarf on the sidewalk,
sit beside me in this soft rain
and I'll tell you a dangerous secret.
Ignore guides and maps.
Into the mud or fire with all you've written
by way of verses and impressions.
Any old peasant
rolling his cigarette before his tent
will tell you in two quatrains of a folksong
the history of the East.
43 Stars and Rain
In my mouth, another mouth;
behind my teeth, more teeth.
My folks, my people:
you who've sent me out into the world like a bullet
while hunger, fetus-like, beats in my gut
and I feed on the insides of my cheeks:
What I write in the morning
disgusts me in the evening;
whomever I shake hands with at nine
I wish to kill at ten.
I hanker after a huge flower, the size of a face,
and a great hole between the shoulders
for all my memories to stream out of.
My fingers bore each other
and my eyebrows are two confronting enemies.
I want my body to vibrate like a wire
in some distant cemetery,
or fall down a well
stocked with beasts, mothers, and bracelets.
I've forgotten the shape of spoons and taste of salt,
moonlight and the smell of children.
My stomach bulges with cold coffee and bad water,
my throat's jammed with paper scraps and slabs of snow.
How I crave the water that we once knew.
With collars stiff to the chin,
sticky lips and button-nipped wrists
we stop to eat or yearn,
batting at blackflies with poems and scarves
to see a tree or bird pass by.
With tiny, merciless feet
we stoop
and kick the ribs of the countryside from street to street.
44 Clean as cotton, shiny as myrtle leaves,
up and down like a killer's dagger
I would climb a hundred flights of spiral stairs
in the shoes of fame or hatred,
hanging my misery by nails on the wall,
planting my eyes on distant balconies
and on rivers returning from captivity.
Then would I see them all under the yellow sky-
the peaceable rich, the bestial poor-
millions of teeth clashing in the street;
stern faces
casting down their eyes before the thunder.
I'd see hasty funerals
and bridles afire on wild horses in the street;
see workers falling from heights
duly buried with their tobacco,
clothes and lunch boxes
under the rain.
Nothing in the desert would revolt.
Only the wind would whistle in the pasture
and little graves, like dew
descend on hats and raincoats.
I'd see the breezes packaged
and newsprint bleared in the rain,
drink filthy water,
lick butter spoiled with breast blood,
and entertain no doubts
about this land that sleeps like a child,
this land twisted like a butcher.
But through the windows, swarms
of stars, bodies, triggers,
I'd be searching for a fatal blow on the face;
for some small sea to walk on;
for delicacies to sling about my wrist like a veil.
45 Long staircases and victory halls tire me.
I'd rather pop corn at sunset
and munch on stones and pebbles.
I want to hold some far-off thing to my chest:
a wild flower
or muddy shoe the size of an eagle.
I want to eat, drink, die
and sleep at the same instant;
on and on I run
like a cloud stricken with scabies
or a single wave pursued by the sea.
46 Shade and Sun
All the fields in the world
oppose a small pair of lips;
all the streets of history
envelop two bare feet.
Darling, they travel
while we wait.
They have the nooses:
we, the necks
They number their pearls:
we number our freckles and warts.
Theirs is the night, dawn, dusk and day
and ours the skin and bones.
We sow in the midday heat of the sun
while they eat in the shade.
Their teeth are white as rice
and ours, frightening as forests;
their chests, soft as silk
and ours, dusty as martyrs' squares—
and we the kings of the world!
Their houses are covered with budding leaves;
ours with yellow ones.
In their pockets are the addresses
of traitors and thieves; in ours, addresses
of rivers, and the thunder.
They own the windows, ships and medals
and we the wind, waves and mud.
They have fences and balconies.
We have ropes and daggers.
Sleep with me on the sidewalk now, my love.
47 A Story About Cars
D.C. Reid
Cal stands in the doorway in his shorts and socks. He draws his
hands through his hair, all the way down his neck, so slow I get
trembly. He's so sure of himself, so good-looking. It's like he's
totally in his own world and maybe, if you're lucky, he'll let you inside.
But he doesn't know I'm even here. I'm just Jamie's little sister to him. I
get so afraid he'll catch me staring sometimes.
"How's the sprout?" Cal doesn't even bother looking up.
"I don't know," I mumble. Jamie comes in bouncing a basketball. The
two of them circle me, bouncing it all around, throwing it in my face. I try
and bend away but they're all around me, shouting and sweaty. Everywhere I turn, Cal is close and hot, making fun of me. It's like he knows
what I'm feeling, that I dream about him all the time. I dream he's
streaming through traffic, long legs hard in his jeans, face all icy. He's on
his way up to me, only just as he gets to me, I wake in the dark aching so
much and shaking.
I run over to Dad, hang around his neck and scream.
"Cut it out, Jamie," Dad says so he can read his paper in peace. He
leans into it, voice quiet and scary, so hard you worry something'll snap.
Jamie gets down on his knees and puts his hands together like he's praying for mercy. Slitty eyed, Dad ignores him. Jamie thumbs his nose and
ducks out with Cal. They call Dad the Sleeping Bear behind his back.
"I love you Daddy," I say and hug him harder than he can stand. He
tries to be angry and pull away but he loves me really. He always complains about being kissed mushylike by his girls, meaning Mom and me.
He wipes his lips and makes a face like we've grossed him out or something. Only it's a funny face he does so we'll hug him all the harder. That's
what he really likes, though he'd never say so.
It's Jamie that upsets Dad, not me. Mom's a pushover and it makes
you sick. Whenever he wants something he's so nice to her. He looks
down into her eyes and drapes his arm around her shoulder and squeezes
her close.
"What now?" she'll say. She knows his come-ons and sort of fakes pull-
48 ing away while he hangs over her. You can feel her crumbling. She always
gives in and it makes you sick because it's over and over and she never
"How about an advance on my allowance, Mom? Dearest Mom."
"Nice try."
"Hey, how am I supposed to fill your car with gas if you won't lend me
the money to put in it?"
"Oh, come on, you use it all."
"Well," he says and scrunches his face like he's subhuman, "there
wouldn't be no point putting it in otherwise, would there? Huh, huh?"
Jamie claws his head with a crumpled-up hand to get her laughing and
this is what gets her, she just melts. The real reason he needs money is
so he and Cal will have enough for booze, which they always, always buy
before the gas goes in. He's sickening, he can get anything he wants and
he's so mean about everything else. Dad's exasperated when Mom gets
conned. The house gets so heavy you can't hardly get through the stuff.
From somewhere far away, Mom always says to him, "It's always discipline with you. Isn't it?"
Dad doesn't have an answer for that. He never argues real mean with
her. It's like he's made a pact with himself. He calms down in the garden
and doesn't know I'm hiding behind the curtain spying on him. He never
hurries or swears or gets mad. He looks at the sky and the clouds, leans
on his shovel. Sometimes he even talks to himself. But he's always there
and he's always the same. I don't know, I can't say what I mean. Sometimes we watch TV for hours without saying anything and both have a
really good time.
It's Mom I really talk to though. I try and explain how I feel, how I almost can't see I want so much to be older. "I hope so much all the time I
don't know what I even mean sometimes."
I'm so mixed-up, both Mom and I laugh. She says I'm going through
the change and not to worry. I always thought it'd be like reaching the top
of a hill and seeing everything fall into place for the first time. But it's not
and I feel awful. I lie awake almost throwing up and Jamie thumps the wall
for me to be quiet.
The next day, Mom and I sit in my bedroom. It's all quiet, like a Sunday afternoon, and dust turns here and there in the sun. I'm home from
school and Mom's taken a day off work. There's just the two of us alone
in the house, like there's no one else in the whole world. I'm so squeamy
I don't know what to do and Mom holds me to her. She sings a little song,
the one she always does. Her own made up one, soft and low. She sings
with her eyes closed, legs folded in my blankets. I'm all heavy and sorry
49 for myself. She rests her chin on my head and dreams out the window as
she holds me close and soft and sure. There's only the sound of her singing. Just her small song and the two of us rocking in our little holiday.
I always tell Mom everything and it's important to me. I can't somehow
with Dad, no matter how much I love him.
"Do I have to go through this every month?" I ask and Mom doesn't
answer right away. She looks at me like she's got three or four things on
her mind and can't decide what to say. She gives me a teaspoon of water
and sugar with an aspirin in the middle.
"You're growing up on me." Mom holds my hands very, very gently
and smoothes my skin with her fingers. Her hair hangs down so I see
only one of her eyes and half her face. She shakes her head at something
she's thinking. "When you were a baby, I always wondered how I'd feel
when a day like this arrived. It seemed so far away it could never happen."
I must be looking at her funny because she adds, "Strange, like for you
trying to think of Dad and me before we were parents."
"Very strange. Bizarre."
"Well, no, it's wonderful, in its own way," she says and continues
stroking my hand, "and, yes, you have to go through this every month."
I feel awful, like there are strings inside me and someone's pulling
down, ripping me, then I'm bleeding everywhere. I'm embarrassed when
Mom shows me those little plugs and so uncomfortable. I think everyone
can tell. My fingers swell so much I can't believe they're mine. All I hear
out of Jamie is, "Joey's on the ra-ag. Joey's on the ra-ag." He doesn't
know how that hurts me.
I keep dreaming about Cal too, how he's going to see me one day,
really see me for the first time. He stretches by the waiting traffic,
reaches the corner exactly as the light changes and shoots across before
anyone even blinks. He's coming closer, closer, pointing his finger at me
so everyone sees. He's so alone, so sure of himself. I'd hang on small and
Everyone is nuts about Cal. Marce is always coming over hoping to
see him. We hang around on the back steps.
"I'm going to dye my hair orange. What do you think? Crazy, eh?
Really, what do you think?" Marce says. I don't really know what to say
and smile like it'll be nice but I'm somewhere else, all fuzzy and not
caring. Marce is always talking and usually I listen, so we get along. She's
got on long red underwear, red sunglasses with furry arms and spikey
hair all pushed over to one side. I'm ordinary beside her, always trying to
catch up. Other times I worry what the other kids think.
When Cal comes by and ruffles our hair we make like we're seals and
50 clap our hands. We both say art, arf at exactly the same time and break
up, it's too funny. Pretty soon we're helpless and push each other back
and forth so hard we fall off the steps and roll around stamping our feet.
Blue sky swings by and we roll and roll in the new-cut grass.
Afterwards, I'm embarrassed. "I feel pulled every which way and can't
seem to feel the same anymore. You ever feel like that?"
Marce looks at me like I'm losing my marbles. It's an angry, hurt look
too and I can't understand why. I don't know if it's me or what. I can't
seem to understand anything anymore. Jamie's a mystery too, why he
never lets up, why he hates Mom all the time.
"What a total waste case you are Mom," Jamie shouts one day as he
rummages through the dirty laundry.
Way above it all, Cal stands there in his gear, a rugby ball in his arm.
The hair on his legs is just gorgeous and he isn't trying or anything. It's
like a halo that grows longer and darker the higher it goes up. I have to
tear myself away so he won't catch me drooling. I'm small and clumsy, so
nothing, when he's here. Vibrations come off him and I like lose it and
float around like fluff he could pick out of the air. I don't even hear people
talk to me.
"I told you time and time again," Jamie says real cutting like. He
weaves in and out of range like a boxer and slaps her face. "When I put
them in the wash, I need them the next day."
He slams the counter so hard it could break, towers over her, tall and
big shouldered, his neck all fanned out. The muscles on his chest are tight
as anything. He's so good at sports, all the girls are dying over him too.
He hangs there like a dream, his long, soft hands bending in on them. I'm
supposed to feel lucky to be his sister.
"Can't you just wear something else?" Mom begins to say.
"No, I cannot just do that," Jamie yells back. Mom slumps away not
knowing quite what to do. She can't get mad because he's drawn up high
as can be, so hard, so on the edge. Anger burns out of his eyes.
"Well, I'll do them now, if you'd like?" she says trying to calm him. She
really is scared. I look over at Cal like I'm enjoying the show. Then I
freeze. He's been looking at me. Not innocent like either because I saw
him. He's been looking at my legs, I'm sure he has. I turn bright red, and
get so wobbly I can't hardly stand. Cal raises an eyebrow and I get
tangled in his eyes. He holds me helpless then winks and laughs at me.
"You better stop that right now," Dad warns from the living room.
There's trouble in his voice, his words all ground up and spat out. Jamie
laughs and throws a finger his way.
"Well, Joey, what do you think about the Waste Case and the Sleeping
Bear? Aren't they the world's biggest fucking joke? One's too dumb to
51 think and the other's too fat to care." Jamie's shaking, going way too far
and mother puts her hand on his arm real concerned like. Jamie slaps it
aside just as Dad comes in the room. He grabs Jamie by the arm and
squeezes until his knuckles go white. He lifts Jamie off the ground,
dangles him without saying a word. Jamie begins to smile and Dad gets
furious. He belts Jamie as hard as he can, something he's never ever
done before. There's dead silence and Jamie backs out of the room
defiant as he can get away with. Afterward, Dad sinks down and shakes
his head. He tries to speak but nothing comes out. I've never seen before
that he could be shocked by something he's done.
Mom looks real serious at Dad and they clam up because I'm there.
Another evening when they think I'm not listening, Mom says something
to Dad and he answers real low, "What am I supposed to do? Sit there
and watch him get worse?"
"I don't know, Dear, but hitting him won't work. He'll just hate you."
They're sitting in the TV room watching TV. Dad's in his recliner and
holds Mom's hand. She's curled-up on the couch beside his chair and he
keeps changing the channels and keeping the channel changer away from
her. "He's as big as you now. He'll get even one day and you don't want
"What about all the other things? The taking the car in the night, the
drinking, the stuff he stole from school? Should I forget all that too?"
"I know, Dear, and I agree with you. But you can't try and pound it into
him. It won't work. We've got to do the right thing for him because he
can't see it yet."
"I hate how he treats you."
"He really scares me," Mom agrees. "I don't know what to do when he
starts on me. He gets so out of control. But you've got to bite your
tongue right then and talk to him later." Dad's face is so stony you know
how hard he thinks it's going to be.
"That Cal's not a good influence either, is he?" she says and Dad nods.
At this, I can't keep quiet any longer. "If you really knew him, you'd
know he'd never do anything wild. It's all Jamie. Can't you see that? You
don't know anything about kids."
They both look at me wide-eyed and burst out laughing. Them laughing
at me. I tell Marce about it one day when we're trying on Mom's clothes
and makeup.
"Don't worry," Marce says, "you can't tell them anything. Like have
you ever tried to teach them to dance? Impossible!" We fall back laughing
it's so ridiculous. The blanket and comforter are soft and warm all around
us. I squirm my shoulders and hips. They feel so good, like I'm floating in
some beautiful, faraway place. I sink in, roll my head, my hair all around
52 in the warm coverings, the pillows smelling of Mom's perfume. I've such
a lump in my throat and I'm so happy. Something is happening, rising
right out of the inside of me. I'm coming alive all around me by magic.
"How does it feel, Joey?" Marce says being real shy. "Say you won't
laugh at me. Promise? What's it like to wear a bra?"
Marce never asks me anything and I'm really embarrassed. She looks
sideways at me and away like maybe I'm not really her friend and she
shouldn't trust me. I want to say, it's you who always knows the answers, not me, but I can't. I get her to take off her shirt and put on one of
Mom's bras. We're so scared of getting caught. I take off my blouse and
we look in the mirror, not quite in one another's eyes. I laugh at how big
she looks but Marce is real serious and biting her lip. She's shivering and
round shouldered in the afternoon light. She reaches into the drawer for a
slip and brings out a bunch of those rubber things I can't ever pronounce.
"They can't really still do it. Ughh," she says thinking it over. All of a
sudden something breaks between us, something that was wonderful and
was about to happen. She's jealous of me. I want to tell her I'm changing
into someone else, that I can't help it and I'm scared. But she doesn't
know what I mean and I'm so alone. I'm scared I won't be pretty, or I'll be
fat. I'm scared the boys will pick on me and I won't have anyone to talk
to. I need to know how I'll turn out, if things will be all right. Marce looks
down and silence lengthens out between us. I reach out my hand but it
hangs there going wrong. I'm hurt to have the advantage. I take my hand
out of the air but can't find any place to put it. I want to shout, why aren't
you here to help me?
Jamie's no better. He treats me like a little kid and it makes me real
mad. All summer long, his favourite nickname has been Bean Bag. He
stopped calling me Raggie when Mom told him not to. The other day I'm
watching videos and he jumps into the doorway and fakes playing a guitar.
He dances over, picks me up in one hand and shakes me until stuff falls
out of my pockets. Then he drops me in a heap on the couch, grabs the
channel changer and clicks through the channels.
"I was watching that," I say but he doesn't pay any attention. "You're a
bully. That's what you are."
Jamie plants his foot in my back and squashes my face into the
cushions. I writhe and twist all over the place. I'm furious, wild as an
animal, but it's useless. He's too strong. Then I see we're not alone. Cal
lounges in the doorway, bouncing an orange off his arm. He's perfect
without even watching. Again and again the orange jumps into his hand.
"That's what Mom thinks too," I say starting to cry. I'm destroyed,
"So who cares what that nit-wit thinks," Jamie says and lets go of me.
53 He grabs some knitting needles and drums in time to the video, eyes
closed, wrapped in music, the beat going through his body until you can
feel music come right out of him. You can see why girls go crazy over
him. It's a gift or something real special for him to rise out of his haze for
them. He looks at them like something he'd like to eat.
"You should," I say. "She's the one who's on your side around here."
"I'm not dumb. I know what's going down." Jamie zeros in on me
deadly serious. "I'm on a tidal wave, right? I'm riding the edge of it, and if
I don't I might as well be dead. Don't you understand? Don't any of you
"She keeps Dad from beating you up," I say. Jamie's cornered, beat,
barely holding his rage. He kicks the garbage can hard as he can, scattering garbage everywhere, staggers around holding his head as if it'll explode. Arms and fists rigid, he struggles to be still. Then, without a word,
he goes and picks everything up.
"Look at me," Jamie says all quiet and spooky. He puts his finger to his
head, looks inside me until there's nothing he can't see and pulls the trigger of an imaginary gun. Real slow he says, "Think of the blood and
brains splattering all over the place. The little pieces of bone with hairs
still attached." Then his face breaks into horrible laughter.
"You're awful." I jump up to kick him but Cal reaches out for me. His
long arm seems to come all the way across the room and wrap me up.
"You think that was bad? Watch this," Jamie says, sitting down. He
gets some matches and spreads his legs. Cal loops around my waist and
lifts my arms. As his hands come up, they pass over my breasts. He's
touched them and held them. I'm sure he has. My shirt rides up, and I
can't believe this is happening. He's right behind me, touching me all the
way, locking my arms above my head. I feel him there. He's whispering
in my ear.
"Watch this," Jamie says but I can't hardly understand what's happening. Suddenly, a flame jumps from his pants. "Wasn't that gross? God, I
can't believe myself sometimes."
Then I see what he's doing. He's lighting farts on fire between his legs.
He does it again and again just to bug me. Cal lets me down slow but I just
stay here sobbing, softening, feeling his long arms. I'd stay in here forever.
"I can't believe I'm so gross," James says real cutting like. His face
looms all ugly, ruining everything.
I stick with Dad for days, safe and careful watching TV. He's tired from
work, changed into his paint-spattered, old pants that bulge in the knees
and bum. When I least expect it, he puts a hand on one of mine and won't
let go. When I try and peel his hand off, he piles his other one on top until
54 we're madly piling on hands and completely silly. He hugs me and I want
to tell him so much I love him. I even open my mouth and he brightens up
making ears out of his hands. He raises his eyebrows like he's kind of
dumb and it's a real effort to focus on me. It's a put-on he's done long as I
can remember. I see now I love him for always being there for me, for
being solid, unshakeable, someone I can count on.
I want to tell him how I feel but I keep getting pulled back so far even
shouting won't get through. He's the one rooted corner of the family that
keeps the rest of us on the ground and no one ever gives him credit for
that. He's always, always the same and, even if you know exactly what
he's going to say and maybe that makes you mad, you know, if it weren't
for him, everything else would fall apart. That's what Jamie doesn't see.
It makes me frightened and then so glad, then it's driving me crazy because I never felt like this before and maybe I really am going crazy.
"I love you," I blurt out finally.
"Aren't you cute," he says, not taking me seriously.
"Daddy! You always make fun of me," I cry and feel so ashamed.
Sometimes he makes me want to scream. All he ever does is sit there in
his stupid, yellow armchair like a lump of fat, picking his teeth with dirty
fingers, watching all the junk on TV. Everytime I turn around there's another apple core all brown and slimy on the arm of his chair, or a plate of
smelly toenails. He picks his nosehairs when he thinks I'm not watching
and flicks them on the floor.
"I hate you," I yell and stomp out of the room. He just sits there surprised as anything. He doesn't have a clue what I'm talking about. I don't
know how people ever get like that, how they change into squares.
What's wrong with them? Why do they stop trying?
It'll never happen to me or anyone I know. I mean, look at us. Cal actually says he'll go into the vendors for Marce and me sometime. He's so
cool he really means it and takes his parents' car the next time they're out
of town. He and Jamie wear sunglasses and bang on the dash to the music. The car is all white and leather and smells so rich. Marce and I are
shaking to bits. The roof's down and the speakers are right by our heads
where we lay in the back seat watching stars. Wind musses our hair and
ruffles my skirt. The music's so loud we feel it inside. The stars are way
up so high, so cold we can't believe them. Everything is alive, the light all
silvery on my skin. Streetlights are streaks in my eyes.
"What if they catch us?" Marce says.
"Relax." Cal waves her fears away.
"Oh God, there's the cops," Marce says.
"Unweight Marce." Cal snaps his fingers. "Look normal and they
won't think a thing."
55 "Get off the floor Marce," I say. She's scrunched down on the mats
giggling like an idiot. I draw away really, really dissatisfied. I want her to
see. When Cal returns, he throws a kiss toward the cops.
"Cal, dahhhling. We could get in trouble," I sing in a high voice. Cal
turns around and just laughs at me for trying to be cool.
"You just keep on trying, kiddo," he says and puts his hand on my
knee, his fingers slipping up my bare leg. I touch his hand and hold it
there to show I'm not afraid of anything. Neither Jamie or Marce suspect
a thing.
"Get off the floor Marce," I repeat. I swirl away in Cal's beautiful back
seat in the wind and stars. Something is opening in me, bursting, carrying
me along. I'm pins and needles all over. I breath in and in and in.
I think I really am going crazy. I can't stop thinking about Cal. Every
night I dream so much I'm nuts. Cal stretches through the traffic, passing
everyone by, on the prowl, knowing where he's going, on his way up to
me, my open arms ready to close around him. The moment he touches
me, we disappear forever. One night the dream comes up inside me,
paralysing me with the most beautiful feelings I have ever felt. I hold on
as the pulses come up inside the most inside part of me, bigger and bigger, until stars are going off and I don't know what's happening.
Then my hips drop on the bed and my hands fall away. I'm beautiful, so
totally gorgeous. I think I know what's happened. I'm a woman now. I've
finally, finally made it. I draw my blanket into a ball, pull up my knees, feel
the sheets on my skin. I'm small and perfect in my little bed. Nothing can
ever change again.
After awhile, I hear voices in the kitchen. It's Jamie and he's crying,
something he never does. I listen real close and he's saying, "We went
around the big turn out there and I couldn't keep up. His car hit the curb
and flew over and over. There was nothing I could do." Jamie breaks off
crying and I run to the kitchen. They're all white as anything.
"I feel so sorry for his parents," Mom says to Dad and he nods grimly.
All of a sudden, I see how very hard it is on them the way Jamie and Cal
carry on, how they're holding their breath hoping Jamie comes through in
one piece.
"Do you see what Mom and I have been trying to say?" Dad says
gently. "You've got to take more care, son, be more responsible. Everyone has to sooner or later."
Dad makes a high-sign to Mom to see if he's saying the right kind of
things to get through to Jamie. She makes like for him to lighten up even
further. Jamie slumps at the kitchen table so shaken you can tell he'll
never do anything wrong again.
"What's wrong?" I ask and pull Mom's arm.
56 "It's Cal," Mom says softly and turns back to Jamie.
"It can't be," I say but from Jamie's face I know it must be true. The
kitchen goes way down a tunnel. I can't see them, hear them, then
Jamie's face zooms up. His tears crowd into my eyes.
No one knows about Cal and me and I have to keep from crying. Nobody would believe he was taking me seriously. But he was and I'd have
given myself to him too. But I can't tell anybody. Not this time.
Do you think he'll get any better? Mom mouths silently to Dad. Real
worried, Dad shrugs his shoulders and mouths back, Who knows?
57 wayne keon
Two Poems
(hinmaton yalatkit)
of the
high water
down thru
the mountain
to me while
the sun sleeps
clouds meet
getting it all
in the late
nite wind dance
but i
swear all i
could hear was thunder
rolling in
the mountains
58 hanging on
i'm hangin on
to yer
sparklin star nd
astral moon
orange flame
kissin the
betrayed just as judas
felt the
fingers wrapped
around his
tryina make it out
to where yer
eyes struck the snow
nd all the blood
everywhere nd old man
winter hittin
nd again nd again
like some
59 addict nd me
reelin nd
like the last
dance was
kind of a crazy shuffle
down the street
nd all of
all of a sudden who
appears but
down at good old Paris
my favourite
clothes fallin off
in front of the
nd her wrappin
her arms
wrapped them all around
my naked
her blonde hair
blowin in my
nd blowin in
my eyes
up all tang
led in my face
60 George Amabile
Bridge Riff
It's almost new
this metal railing
wet after hard
rain. I set my elbows
down into cold sweat
and look upriver.
A breeze I can't feel yet fans out
from its nesting place among fresh leaves
tlirumming a stretch of dull water
raising a hatch of small gold wings
and the first cars
spotless after their Sunday bath
begin to nose out of the side streets
their sealed beams brisk
and unnecessary
under the brightening sky
which has already washed
faint cloud shadows
over those the still-burning street-
lamps make
out of boughs, birds
and me
and there is this
61 as though the soft gates of the body
had begun to exchange personal history
with the slow beat of river time
like the sudden fit of matched guitars
the raw voice of a harp
words pulled out of memory muscle and sweat
firelight on the hardwood floor
Kimberly's big eyes fluttering shut
her slender legs curled in a sleeping bag
the delicate snore that flared her nostrils
almost in four four time
like the crickets
like the rain that shook the windows
like the fridge in the kitchen
kicking in, like the embers
ticking, under a crust
of ash...
On the river
tiny wings dissolve
into a watercolour:
violet-edged skyline
dotted with bright green
impressionist trees.
My fingertips burn
on the strings. The music
starts again. The wine
got crisper as it chilled
in its wash of melting ice
then there was brandy
and smoke wasting away
in the air, its buzz
62 already fading from the blood
which cleans itself
incessantly like a cat...
When I hit the street
for the long walk back
it was night. Now
it's morning. The bridge
trembles under my feet
as traffic rumbles over the Red
into a trapped stampede.
... always
after lots of nothing much
there is this unpredictable
lightness, like the breeze
that starts again and blows
our urban renaissance
apart like a scattered puzzle
only stillness has the heart
to heal
and I can't tell
whether we sang better
on brandy or wine
or water cold from the tap
and I don't know why I think
of Patrick in Swift Current
the stone he brought
home like a lost pet
and the stone's lichen
exactly the colour of gladal till
63 but white at the edges
like a drying lake
seen from the top of a mountain
the sprinkle of rain
he shook from his own hands four times
a year, and the way
he'd sometimes watch it
patiently open-minded
as the sky
and yes, it's dangerous
to indulge in these
unprofitable pastimes
while the living
we should be making starves
and the banks
of the river fail
into little whirlpools
as the city smokes and breaks
new ground.
It's Monday but the moon is thin—
a memory trace
over the brawling world.
64 Elisabeth Harvor
Secret Orders
(Saint John, New Brunswick,
September, 1944)
Describe a woman,
her hand held up to stop
traffic, but she
sits in the privacy of her own bedroom
and the hand's fingers are splayed
inside a sheer stocking
as she holds it
up to the light. It could be
wartime—why not?—a time to cry
over a boy who's not coming back,
last night a destroyer docked
down in the harbour, she could
be a nurse, she could be
spending her mornings squiring men
wearing white mufflers
with their pyjamas and dressing-gowns
up and down the wet lawns of a sanitarium
close to the ocean. She could go out with a sailor,
they could go to a movie and sit
huddled down in the dark while up on the screen
a woman whose mouth has been lipsticked
into a black heart snaps open her pocketbook
to lift out a gun or a powder puff.
Or they might go dancing and make polite
conversation while their bodies move
to their own secret orders
down below so that the hand held up
to stop traffic back in the bedroom
65 now sleeps like a dreamer on a uniformed shoulder
and the eyes that in the mirror looked
into the evening's far horizon
now see nothing, know nothing,
but are cast down forever
because something big could be
at stake here. Someone has a car
or maybe they decide to walk,
their arms wrapped around each other,
back to the house, and there's only the sound
of the bewitched ocean, reminding itself
more and more of something or other
down on the beach.
Upstairs, people have given every kind
of permission by being asleep.
The house could be a house in England or France.
Knowing this makes everything seem universal,
possible, as if the two words must mean
the same thing. They lie down
in the hammock and kiss each other
into a dutiful fever under the stars.
66 Peter McGehee
An Invitation
Because of the way he kisses me, his laundered shirts discarded on the
chair, starched like he's still in them.
Because of the way he sleeps, his back against me in the night.
Because of the time we've spent together, feet gently bound by rope.
He never wanted a lover-
Yet these are the wings I clipped.
He wakes up coughing. Short of breath. The doctor says: don't worry.
Come back in two weeks. We'll do some tests.
My grandmother believed everyone's time was marked, regardless of
how you died, the when of it was preordained.
I used to believe that myself. Now I wake up screaming: Fix it!
My crazy aunt just thinks I haven't met the right woman. That one will
eventually come along to bring out the man.
You are not a man with a penis in your mouth, up your butt, or in your
hand. You are not a man when you dream of steam and the old days when
a thousand caressing hands lured you into cubbyholes of flesh. You are
not a man when your primary relationship is with an eight-inch piece of
rubber and the rest you find in a magazine.
Anyone'll tell you passion dies—
But love has a life of its own.
It's our tenth anniversary next June.
Please come.
67 Contributors
Muhammad al-Maghut is a Syrian playwright and poet distinctive for his use of humour
and irony in presenting the plight of the common man in the Arab world. He was born in
George Amabile lives and writes poetry in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His poetry first appeared
in Prism international 8:1.
John Asfour is a Lebanese-born poet and translator. He received his Ph.D. from McGill
University. He has published two poetry books in English and most recently translated
When the Words Bum: An Anthology of Modern Arabic Poetry. He resides in Montreal.
Robert Blake studied photography with Aaron Siskand and Harry Callahan at the Rhode
Island School of Design. His work has been exhibited in New York and Los Angeles. Drum
Mother is from an infrared portfolio titled Crowds.
Alison Burch grew up on the prairies. She now lives and teaches Adult Education at
McGill University.
Yosa Buson was one of the greatest haikai poets. He was also a painter. He lived most of
his life in Kyoto.
Gerald Dawe is a Belfast-bom poet and critic. His publications include Sheltering Places,
The Lundys Letter, The Younger Irish Poets and, with Edna Longley, Across A Roaring Hill:
The Protestant Imagination in Modern Ireland. He currently lives in Galway and teaches at
Trinity College.
Rina Ferrarelli is a poet and translator who immigrated from Italy to the United States at
the age of fifteen, but whose grandfather worked and died in Fernie, British Columbia. She
received an NEA grant for translation in 1984, and in 1988 was awarded the Italo Calvino
Prize. Light Without Motion, her first book-length translation, is just out from Owl Creek
Henry Graham is a lecturer in the History of the Arts at Liverpool Polytechnic. He has
published nine books of poetry, and has been included in many anthologies world wide. He
is the poetry editor of the literary magazine Ambit (London).
Fred Haefele is a lones Lecturer at Stanford University. His stories have appeared in
Epoch, Cutback and Missouri Review. He is currently at work on a novel.
Elisabeth Harvor's two story collections are Women and Children (Oberon) and If Only
We Could Drive Like This Forever (Penguin). She has just completed a novel, The Land of
Dizziness, and is now working on a book of poems. She teaches creative writing at York
68 Zen Master, the Abbot Ikkyu was a Zen monk known for his eccentric behaviour.
wayne keon is an ojibway man, a business administration graduate, a painter, a financial
analyst and a majik man. His poetry credits include Canadian Forum, Canadian Literature,
Fiddlehead, Mainline, Malahat Review, Quarry, Waves and Whetstone. He is the co-author
oiSweetgrass, a modern anthology of Indian poetry, with his father and brother. He lives in
Algoma County in the town of Eliot Lake.
Hilda Kirkwood's work has appeared in various Canadian periodicals including Canadian
Forum, Women & Words (Vancouver), and more recently New Quarterly. "Baku at Night"
is from part of a collection of poetry to be published by Williams/Wallace in 1990.
Ruth Krahn is a short story writer from Edmonton, Alberta.
Peter McGehee is the author of Beyond Happiness (Stubblejumper Press), the musical
revue The Quinlan Sisters, and the a cappella jazz duo The Fabulous Sirs, in which he also
performs. He has had numerous short stories published in a wide variety of North American
periodicals and recently been included in several international anthologies.
Eugene McNamara's most recent short stories appeared in Ontario Review and Witness.
His last collection was Spectral Evidence (Black Moss, 1985).
Susan Musgrave was born in 1951. She has published ten books of poetry—the most recent being Cocktails at the Mausoleum (McClelland & Stewart, 1985)—two children's books
and two novels, The Charcoal Burners (McClelland & Stewart, 1980) and The Dancing
Chicken (Methuen, 1987). Great Musgrave, a book of non-fiction, including newspaper
columns written for the Toronto Star and Vancouver Sun will be published in the fall of 1989
by Prentice Hall.
Steve Noyes is working on a novel in Victoria, British Columbia.
D.C. Reid's poems and stories have been published in Dandelion, Matrix, Antigonish
Review, Quarry, Prairie Fire, Capilano Review, Fiddlehead, Canadian Author and Bookman and Queen's Quarterly. His work is included in recent anthologies from Quarry, Aya
Press and Polestar.
Rengetsu-ni was a lapanese poet.
Leonardo Sinisgalli (1908-1981) was born in the province of Lucania in southern Italy,
but worked as an engineer in Rome and Milan. "If A Lizard Stops" and "To Enjoy the View
from the Threshing" are from his collection Vidi Le Muse, one of several.
Graeme Wilson has published many translations of Far Eastern poetry throughout the
English-reading world. His versions of the modern lapanese poetry of Hagiwara Sakutaro,
Face at the Bottom of the World, appeared in 1969; and the three volumes of Natsume
Soseki's massive satire, I Am A Cat, in 1972, 1979 and 1986.
69 (flip
a newsletter of feminist innovative writing
Editors: Angela Hryniuk, Jeannie Lochrie & Erica Hendry
Contributing Editors:  Leila Sujir, Alberta; EH Brandt,
Manitoba & Saskatchewan; Candis Graham, Ontario; Lucille
Nelson, Quebec; Roberta Buchanan, Atlantic Provinces
(f.)Lip: political and playful. (f.),feminine gender + Lip, a
metaphor for ecriture feminine = (f.)Lip. (/JLippant, nonsensical, "disrespectful; a flip attitude", "to have a strong reaction" (when she hears this, she'll flip). Texts that talk back, that
"overwhelm with delight".'
Our desire with (f.)Lip is to provide publication space for
innovative (experimental & visionary, language & content)
work, and to exchange ideas and information. Each issue will
feature the work of four writers, mini-essays, and announcements of conferences, readings, workshops and publications.
We are a quarterly, published on quality paper with laser type.
(f.)Lip is available by subscription only; individuals $13.00 institutions $20.00. Sample copy $4.00. In addition to a subscription, if you are committed to supporting the development of
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MARGARET ATWOOD: 77*e Malahat Review is a literary journal of
international quality. I'm proud that my work has appeared in its pages
since its inception. Long may it flourish.
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have had to read all the quarterlies. The Malahat Review stands head and
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CITY & PROV.      POSTAL CODE . P |m 15 jfl international
Featuring Sound
FEBRUARY 1, 1990
PRISM international
VANCOUVER, B.C.   V6T 1W5 Fiction
Fred Haefele
Ruth Krahn
D.C. Reid
George Amabile
Gerald Dawe
Henry Graham
Elisabeth Harvor
Wayne Keon
Hilda Kirkwood
Peter McGehee
Susan Musgrave
Steve Noyes
Eugene McNamara
In Translation
Muhammad al-Maghut
Yosa Buson
Zen Master, the Abbot Ikkyu
Leonardo Sinisgalli
ISSN 0032.8790


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