PRISM international

Prism international Prism international Apr 30, 1972

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Spring, IQJ2
$'-75  Editor    jacob zilber
Associate Editors    douglas bankson
Managing Editors    w. d. ulrich
Editorial Assistants
Just Like Li Po
Deja Vu
The Ceremonies
Memoirs of a Cross-Country
San Francisco-Hong Kong
Epilogues by Poliakogg
The Judy Travaillo Variations
"White Dwarf Star"
Artist Off to Paint a Landscape
Three Poems
Three Poems
The Coal Mine, 1931
Eli's Poem
Two Poems
Looking at Volunteer Park
Two Poems
Gathering in the Host's Wood
Three Poems
Two Poems
Three Poems
Four Poems
Introduction to Painting:
Two Poems
82 To Open Doors
Butterfly Woman
Cold Coin
Wobbly Song
Four Poems
After the Dream
On Being a
Father 1 Mother /Poet Again
The Cube
Two Poems
Two Poems
Survival Story
Three Poems
The photos for this issue are by Peter Thomas and Fred Herzog, both of
whom are medical photographers in Vancouver and freelancers as well. The
cover and tree photo are Peter Thomas's; the cityscape is Fred Herzog's.
PRISM international, a journal of contemporary writing, is published three
times a year by the Department of Creative Writing at the University of British
Columbia, Vancouver 8, B.C. Annual subscriptions are $5.00, single copies
$1.75, obtainable by writing to the Editors at that address. Microfilm editions
are available from University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and reprints
(vols. 1-5) from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, NYC. Robin Kelsey was born in Alberta in 1949, grew up in British Columbia and
is now a welfare recipient in Toronto. This is his first publication.
Barney coaxed the motor to life with his nimble mechanic's
fingers. The boat and the motor came with the farm, as did the
meadow and the dogs and the river.
We followed the current down past the granite quarry, where a
pillar of ugly smoke hung in the sky. Men working in the pit waved
their arms like distant puppets.
Rachel pointed to the refuse dump, our destination.
I sat behind Olga in the front of the boat, arms draped over her
shoulders. She captivated me with her sweet-smelling golden hair.
At the dump, Rachel scrambled around in her gumboots and
pointed out promising bits of refuse. Barney and I carried them to
the boat.
Olga sat on a log, idle, remote, preoccupied.
Rachel pointed out a cable spool, some rusted iron bars, a pleasing
stone. We put them in the boat.
Olga dreamed of better days.
Rain began to fall in depressing droplets. Olga perched beside me
on the cable spool in the front of the boat.
Barney coaxed the motor to life, with his nimble mechanic's
fingers. We chugged upriver in the rain.
Rachel spoke of chickens. "You can buy them cheap from the
chicken man," she said. "They're used ones."
The granite quarry emitted a pillar of ugly smoke.
Olga rested her lank hair on my shoulder and dreamed of better
days. Fog crept upon us like a disease.
"When they stop laying you can kill them and eat them," Rachel
said. "Or preserve them for future times." The motor died. A vast log boom went by, pulled by a tiny tugboat. The swell wafted us gently shoreward. The tugboat coughed
softly and vanished in the mist.
Men working at the quarry waved their ghostly puppet arms and
called to us. Their words were lost among the raindrops and the
Barney coaxed the motor to life. A dog greeted us at the wharf
with exuberant bounds.
"Barney kills them himself," Rachel said. "That's the best way.
Next we're going to do a pig!"
We lunched on canned chicken and fresh bread and love-apple
(tomato) chutney. Then we sat by the fireplace.
Barney showed me how to sit for Zen Meditation. He learned it
from monks in Japan, when he was a seaman.
I smiled with affection for my gentle bearded friend.
"You're supposed to sit on a special cushion in a full lotus, but for
Westerners a half-lotus will do," he said. "The important thing is to
be centered."
Barney shifted his body about, centering it.
Rachel knit.
Olga read a book by Martin Buber called Between Man and
Man, MacMillan Co., New York, 1948.
"Back straight, head erect, abdomen out and down, chest up,"
Barney said. He resembled some famous cartoon bear, sitting there
on the rug surrounded by dogs.
The fire roared. Fog moaned at the windows.
"Most of the monks were young and clover-faced. One of them
spoke English. I asked him, 'What is Zen?'
"He said, 'Zen is sitting on cushions!' " Barney chuckled with glee.
Rachel smiled with affection for her delighted husband.
"Then he said, 'We Zazen students all have protruding abdomens,' " Barney said.
Olga turned a page, with furrowed brow.
"The eyes are the hard part," Barney said. "Half-closed, unfocused."
Barney half-closed his eyes. I half-closed my eyes and tried to
unfocus them. When I looked at Olga reading, I saw that Rachel's
eyes were half-closed. I focused my eyes and looked at Barney on the
"The hands complete the posture. They too must be centered, cupped just above the navel, unsupported; thumbtips touching in a
perfect circ — "
I smiled with affection for my absent friend, whose bear-like
persona sat half-lotused in the centre of the rug in the centre of the
farm in the centre of the universe.
Rachel knit. I caught Olga's eye, but she failed to relate. Time
passed somehow.
Dogs whimpered and kicked the air, restless in their dreams. One
awoke and licked the nose, eyes, and lips of Barney's bearded
Barney returned and wrestled the dog to the ground. The dog
beat the floor with his tail and uttered gruff cries.
Olga captivated me with her soft alpine beauty and her astonishing legs. "I'm tired," I confided to Barney. "Her big-city ways."
Rachel rubbed Vicks VapoRub into our chests and throats. Barney
heated two woollen socks at the woodstove and tied them around our
It was for the colds that we caught on the river, Olga and I.
Rachel's job is to cook and sew and make pleasing things out of
cable spools, stones, and other refuse.
Barney's job is to fix the truck when it breaks, and to kill chickens.
Soon he must kill a pig!
"One of us will be hurt," I confided, speaking of Olga. "And for
what?" Barney nodded in sympathy.
Rachel made up the guest bed with four immense quilts. We
tripped in there hand-in-hand wearing socks around our necks,
fuming with Vicks VapoRub.
"I know I should end it but I can't," I confided to Barney. But I
was wrong.
Rachel tucked us in and kissed our foreheads and went to bed
with Barney. I blew out the kerosene lamp.
Night sounds, frogs, crickets, wind.
Olga and I committed an act of love, from memory.
Rays of sun came in by the window. A dog woke us with his cold
nose, smiling affably.
Discarded socks lay on the floor in a crumpled heap, like monstrous condoms. Propped on an elbow I saw the river leaving.
Olga captivated me with her tousled morning beauty. "I don't
understand," she said, "I can't relate."
"Don't," I pleaded. "I don't want to hear this." "... fog . . . cable spools . . . pigs ..." she mused, dreaming of
better days.
I went and ate breakfast. Rachel cooked special going-home porridge: oatmeal, wheat germ, cinnamon, slices of apple, fresh cream.
Barney raced to fix the truck with his nimble mechanic's fingers.
Too late. The city beckoned.
Olga dreamed of subways, library cards, street sweepers, city life.
"Goodbye!" we called. "Goodbye!"
"Come again," they waved. Grass rippled underfoot in the tranquil meadow. At the highway clouds loomed.
Olga cocked her hip and waved her thumb at contemptuous cars.
We willed them to stop. None stopped.
Savage rain began to fall. Children pressed their noses to the fleeing windshields, like tiny royal prisoners.
"Love-apple (tomato) chutney?" Olga mused. A sullen silence
embraced us. The city beckoned like a whore.
I dropped my thumb and took shelter behind Olga's robust form.
Her faith never faltered.
A earful of leering youths stopped. Olga's faith faltered, but I
prodded her into the car.
"Aren't you coming?" she shrieked.
"Later," I said. Olga engaged the leering youths in nervous conversation.
Barney killed a pig! He gazed at the blood on his nimble
mechanic's fingers.
Rachel bore children who ran gumbooted and golden in the
Olga searched for better days amid the alien concrete.
I thrust out my abdomen, unfocused my eyes, and walked for
miles in the friendly spring rain, just like Li Po the sage. THE JUDY TRAVAILLO VARIATIONS
for Eugene Wildman
"Of course the other one looks just like her,
but if you really know her, you can tell the
difference even at a distance."
There is always the other one
pushing a cart in the supermarket
or standing on a corner waiting
for you to make the obvious mistake,
begin, that is, a smile and catch
yourself halfway, leaving your face
just that much in disorder, no chance
to recover yourself or turn away.
The problem and the test, knowing her
enough — the eyes, perhaps, certainly
not just the hair which shifts and tangles
or the posture which is put on and primped;
that dress she wore once, the other might
take by stealth or even bargain for,
the one making the other herself briefly
in exchange for certain favors, anonymity,
of course, and possibly her own confusion
somehow relieved, the other wearing it.
And no one, knowing the facts of the case,
would blame you, knowing the disorder
she settles in upon you, the choice
you sometimes make, wanting only choice,
and after all the retreat is expected
(who wouldn't, knowing what you know)
and is judged only when she, the other,
takes your absence as her success. II
For three weeks
among high lucerne,
saw them grazing like
cattle in familiar meadows,
birds bobbing their heads,
prized mostly for their feathers.
Lunch at the Royal Albertinia,
the consomme springing to the spoon,
the tea thick with mint leaves.
On the veranda talk of a trek
north along the coast.
The natives, they say, have
their women in common,
covering their bare bodies
with warm red clay;
all their wives becoming,
as the clay dries to powder,
the one wife they can share.
Whitney says this mission
requires more soap than sermons. Ill
The arms and legs of Chicago —■
fingers that push hair back
from the face, pick clothes
away from wet skin, the face
relaxing as the first air in hours
is drawn in between and expelled,
grit darkening the creases of the neck,
grinding like pumice behind the knees.
Her back to you, swinging with the train,
fine hair clotted with sweat, hand
passing, occasionally, under it.
A cut-out Eskimo in cardboard
spells it out in frost, COOL INSIDE,
icicles hang from every letter.
In the darkness the chill settles
down on your neck like a wet cloth.
If he had an airplane or a car,
could trail white vapor into ice
clouds above the tangled streets
or glide like a landlord through
10 the city toward country-club cocktails
and summer evenings with Lizabeth Scott;
if he had not begun so badly, desiring
so much, not taking it all with boredom,
tossing his cuff-links onto the dresser
from a bedroom chair, dinner jacket
sprawled across the carpeted floor.
It is hot tonight, she says, turning,
offering her zipper to his hands.
Lost again, strayed from the picnic grounds,
they should have tied him to a tree.
Alone, his Indian companion or the dark-
eyed lady from the grocery store
gone back for supplies or help,
breech cloth or lace panties drift
down the sluggish stream; he fishes
it out with a branch, remembering
his devotion and her eyes when they parted.
Michael Anania lives in Chicago and is at work on a long poem about that
city; his first book, The Color of Dust, was published by Swallow Press.
for Samuel R. Delaney:
"energy in nearly every part of the spectrum''
We shall find
in the stellar "desert places":
we shall have
to find our way
Tracking the white dwarf
to his lair, the mass of,
heat of, all that spectral
energy in a small space.
There will be heroes
then too, riding the
nova express, thrusting
their hands in it,
holding the glory, bringing
it all back home.
There are already singers,
and incredible white
sheet music.
Douglas Barbour lives in Edmonton. He is on the editorial board of White
Pelican and has had poems in many periodicals. Two books of his, Land Fall
(Delta, Canada) and A Poem As Long As the Highway (Quarry Press), were
published in 1971.
No frame can hold that rush:
swerve of spokes       streak of smock
Collage With Canvasses And Cap
I write him fast:
biking past to brush
pines and lake
If I take time to color,
he's gone
Ann Jonas is a winner of several poetry awards and a widely-published poet.
She lives in Louisville, Kentucky.
A new vision: the rain in the street,
the sun not quite breaking through,
sandals in the puddles, a dream splashing
everywhere, even on the ducks huddling
on the cold pond of the Commonwealth Institute.
Entering a book store, three whippets on a leash,
a hint of gray perhaps, covertly
disclosing what we knew all along, walking,
kicking at the dampness: that we are
in London today, this day, and that tomorrow
it will rain again.
The library-full of people were sympathetically
dissecting an abominable poem, speculating
about the relationship of the poet and his girl.
The poet sits, bland and disaffected
by the rustling pages, fingering a small beard.
He has a teaching job and likes Wallace Stevens.
At the rear of the room a critic thinks
he's found a good one and sputters away, talking
to backs, interrupted by a lady in a purple hat.
Such a cast. There's a young woman from California
among the British accents determined
to out-intellectualize the weekend intellectuals,
whose headstart is centuries of bluff.
Mimeographed sheets. Comment, comment, quick!
"There was just one little thing that worried me,"
said a woman in a lacy blouse.
That could be her epitaph.
Packing loudspeakers into boxes
at Rola Celestion, Thames Ditton,
we discussed bestiality.
A 30-year-old Briton, divorced,
two children, said,
"They say that in the army,
among the men,
a young sheep used to be a favourite."
"Did it have a name?" I asked.
He didn't know what I meant.
But I mean, did it have a name:
Belinda, Rosalee . . . ?
Fraser Sutherland has completed three book-length works of fiction and had
poems accepted by Fiddlehead and Tamarack Review. He lives in Scotsburn,
Nova Scotia.
Translated from the Italian by Harold Enrico
The sun snatches the city away
You can't see it anymore
Not even the tombs resist much
In ambush
in the entrails
of this rubble
hour after hour
I have dragged
my carcass along
scoured by the mud
like my bootsole
or like the seed
of the hawthorn tree
man of pain
an illusion sufficed
to give you courage
A searchlight
settles the sea
into a fog
the limpid
of immensity
flies high
over the rubble heaps
And the man
over the water
by the sun
he is a shadow
Lulled and
slowly broken
The late Giuseppe Ungaretti was born in Africa and composed his life's work,
Vita di un uomo, under the suns of Brazil and his ancestral home, Italy. These
poems are among his earliest.
17 THE COAL MINE, 1931
There are many ways to sleep.
When I was ten, I slept
deep enough for roots,
far enough for a wind
from infinity to find me.
The wind's time was mine.
The cricket repeated at nightfall
what the katydid rasped
all afternoon on the pile of ties
by the railway siding.
I played under the arc light,
climbed home to the moon.
My mother's hair illuminated her bed.
My father's walk was dark and long
down the incline to the bituminous seams.
In the tangled underbrush
the thrush sang and sang.
The next day,
the mole's domes
redeemed the yellow pine
from the heat at the headwaters
of the Yakima River,
defined what counts —
the coolness of roots. Where I am I dream.
A wind from the peaks
curls up in the hollyhocks.
The energy of a whole afternoon
gathered in one trumpet flower,
bells back a fanfare to the sun.
The late light hangs, a hive from a branch.
A leaf is what the sky needs.
A spider strings a wire from rose to rose,
lies in ambush
like a lion at the edge of a veldt.
One father's as good as another —
earth's or Eden's —
watching the spider
pounce through light.
I cannot see the light.
I wait for the man-trip.
The dark takes me down.
My father kneels in the deepest mine.
I rummage through other tunnels,
explore wider entries
humming with different hoists.
Fossil leaves flicker across my palms.
I dig into old earth
above older rocks.
I listen to buried streams
filling with silt.
19 Black is the color of my father's hands.
Black is for death.
My father is more than that.
I can see in the dark.
My veins carry his blood away
into the same dark
past his roots.
Harold Enrico's book-length essay on Ungaretti is being considered for publication. He lives in Cosmopolis, Washington; his work has appeared here before.
I met a woman from the sea coast,
she took me aside in the bushes
and wrapped me around and said we are alone
as the moon up there is with just two sides.
I did what was to be done and came away with her
Now I am with a crazy woman
who hurts herself with ashes and briars
running in the scrub.   She takes blankets
and stuffs them under her skirt for a child.
She takes out the blanket and croons on it,
washes it, beats it with a stick till it cries
and tears it to pieces.   Her lament
goes down the street on cut feet in the gravel.
She runs in a nightgown thinking she's the police
and charges anyone with ridiculous crimes
like wearing a hat sideways and walking wrong.
The people here know her and smile and say
yes they will come to the court to answer.
She writes everything down in her book.
In bed she's like trying to catch a hare.
She wants to sleep with me all night
till my back breaks, if I doze off
she wakes me crying for love.
21 I married a crazy woman for her brown hair.
At first I thought she was pregnant
but her blood runs, the doctor shakes his head at me.
I tell her your child is in the other country
and will not come here because of your frenzy.
She runs to the church crying she's evil,
the priest holds out his god's battered arms
and says come child everyone's evil.
I cool her with my breath, I cool her with water.
She's insatiable as the river, like winds
she has no place to go and runs
from whatever does not move.   She's holding a wooden knife
and staring it down till it becomes pure menace
and I fear it myself. I sleep with her
because then I control her and know where she is,
but I don't know what runs in her.
Now she is out on the hill wailing
cutting her flesh on the stiff grass
where I go to her lamenting.
Ken Smith is a British poet living in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. Cape published his first book, The Pity; Work, Distances will be published by Swallow
Beyond this holy freshness, beyond this Roman cloister,
The afternoon, trampled by the heavy pace
Of the summer light, burns with invisible flames.
Here the leaves of grass and the flowers of evil
Are watered by the sadness of the sick rose.
Each memory carved a wrinkle on your face
And out of time the sun is the only sand clock.
In this garden the tallest flower is a dead palm tree,
Death held it for so many days, death was its birth,
I too will begin to live on the edge of my last moment.
Then you shall ask the heart of the green days,
You shall ask the sap, the fish and the stones
For a name to give to the after birth time
And the sap, the fish and the stones shall answer:
"Call it death in life or life in death."
Whisper to my skull the secrets of magic,
For I have peered at the oldest magicians.
But here in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
Where Beatro Angelico has joined the eternal painter
I shall breathe the wind of everlasting riddles.
The clear water that dances between you and me
Is the clearest of all clear waters
And our being runs from the deep source of transition
Until the You turns to the perfect I
— The empty shell where your skull sleeps.
When the Lion comes the slowest Zebra
is left behind
When the slowest Zebra
becomes the Lion's friend
The other Zebras
are restless
for men this is the beginning
of morals
Alexandre Amprimoz lives in Windsor, Ontario. His poems and translations
have appeared in Ellipse, Copperfield, Quarry, The University of Windsor Review and many other journals.
The greenhouse glass
shimmers leaves of rain:
a hint of silky Monets;
umbrellas by the doors
of the museum
drop their folded stories.
A shape of Bonnard
prints the floor.
From the Smith Collection
a child with skin
skimmed from a pitcher,
larger than us
pours out, fragile
on a swing. She stares
down, pumps us in
her deepening eyes.
"Remember," someone says,
"now that girl is dead."
A moving picture-lovely-
lady veloured with hat
of floppy black
absorbs my admiration;
timeless, smiles, becomes
a bath of Corot light.
25 Seurat's reflection,
dark Vuillard,
Picasso's blue —
in spite of these
from 17th Century Japanese
I choose one hundred crows
that never had to tfiink
or feel, just screened
a place on yellowed silk
for me to follow.
Out of their black dance
graceless I go, between
the trance of a handsome,
dark-wet, overcoated man
and a chiseled stone
from Persepolis.
Fickle, children run on
and off the backs of camels;
but in the center
of the Black Sun
a boy carves himself;
frozen in Noguchi's space
he knows I want him there
hatching black fire.
Rhea Bark is pursuing a B.F.A. degree in sculpture and writing poetry at the
University of Washington.
26 Vaclav Chvatal was born in Czechoslovakia in 1946, emigrated to Canada in
1968 and became a Quebecois patriot in 1971. He now teaches mathematics at
Stanford University.
Cut around the corner, cut it real sharp and tap a few staccato
syncopes along the way. The Montmartre-like street with pictures
for sale hanging on the walls and a silent sweet black girl sitting there
on the pavement with melancholic eyes from an Evergreen cover.
And five teenage Quebecois beauties hanging around a boutique
speaking their incomprehensible language — I'd never be able to
explain to them that I want and/or need more than a jukebox &
lazy Sunday afternoons on a beach — besides, I am not their type
either, having no honda no leather jacket
and no one wants me anyway — why does no one want me? why
is there no girl for me? — the ratio is five girls to one boy in this city
(according to statistics) which means five first-class beauties for me,
five ravishing beauties in white pullovers, yellow pullovers, pink pullovers, green pullovers, the whole spectrum of pullovers sitting now
at the street cafes not acquainted with the laws of statistics
but there are gangs of them mixed in with the local boys, cafe
gangs promenade gangs discotheque gangs closed in impenetrable
shells like secret medieval societies & no one is going to introduce me
to one of them —
besides, I wonder if I really want the introduction, being fed up
with chasing girls up and down these streets (the big sex supermarket
windows) overflowing with a sudden big rebellious self-esteem feeling at last. Why should I devise one hundred more great opening
lines? Why should I prostitute myself? Why should I offer myself to
ten more girls who are bound to be stupid, boring, empty & non-
appreciative anyway? Count me out, my beauties. I quit the national
game. No more low low prices on my body and no more discounts on
27 my soul. Not me. No no no no no. The sale is over. Stick your Free
Discotheque Masonry Club registration forms up your lovely asses.
To tell you the truth, I would be bored to death after one discotheque week. I am not that type either.
But still...
I want a girl. I want a girl who would be very close to me from the
very first moment. I want a girl who would sneak in my room when
the darkness comes, who would make love to me, whom I would
love, who would love me without worrying about all the definitions
of love, a primitive of sex and intellect (the same for all the ignus,
after all), who would know that life may be a dirty trick but who
would not believe it, never say it aloud, because this is the only way
to play a wonderful one-up undefeatable and in the most genuine
way religious countertrick. Who would not drag me through discotheques every night, who would let me write a great book. Who
would be the same with me and yet not the same, to make the
miracle greater. A Jean Harlow for me, Billy the Kid.
Anyway. Either you get the telepathic shock, the unmistakable
click, and then you just know it — the only thing you can be absolutely sure about, outside the cogito-ergo-sum syllogisms world. Or
you don't and then there is no way to put it into words for you.
Searching for total comprehension you suddenly realize you went
around the world and find yourself on the simple side again.
(Greetings to those who understand and a koan for those who
I wonder if Hegel had this also in mind, talking about his triads.)
However. Back to the story.
There are no such girls. Not anymore. There is no mate for me
and I am the last dinosaurus.
So I cut around the corner & whistle a few blues choruses to the
indigo sky. And I am as lonely as I can be. A great saxophone solo
hanging from the rooftops through this VanGogh street & its yellow
cafe lights, when Charlie Parker died, there was a tiny feather, falling and floating, floating and falling, tenderly and gently, from the
high ceiling of Birdland . . . The Promenade is empty now, this is
the place for picking up girls in the funny sociological setup of this
city with its unwritten laws & rites — what's perfectly normal here is
absurd a couple of blocks away, the end of the promenade is the
fence of the City Mating Area. But as I said, I don't feel like ritual
mating tonight, I cancelled all the discounts. Actually I go there just
for the chance of a girl Claire being there, the girl Claire who speaks
28 almost no English — and I speak almost no French — but whom I
still managed to charm last Saturday by saying Je suis le roi de
Morocco and who seemed to like me (the sweet friendly looks saying
Fuck the language barrier) in spite of her girlfriend obviously hating me — anyway, she was just a teenager for some reason tenderly
nice to me for fifty minutes & that's it, that's all & I don't care, she is
perhaps at home now or with some of her boyfriends, have a nice
time, Claire, I don't care. The promenade is empty & I am lonely,
just with the beat of my heels on the midnight pavement. And the
dark indigo sky. And I see myself as an old bum in New York City,
wrapped in newspapers in the Penn Station night (Penn Station
being one of the first places I wanted to see in New York City, because of Holden Caulfield), Penn Station where I actually arrived
one May night after hitching all the way from Chapel (Pulpit) Hill,
N.C. — in fact, I wanted to stop in Washington to see the White
House etc. but he was going to New York to see his girlfriend, we
talked, clicked, got excited on Virginia highways, finally I decided
to forget about Washington — then I drove the car at a steady 75
which was the absolute limit — the shaky wheel! — (he kept it on
55-60 before, now sleeping quietly as a happy child in the other
seat), with red eyes I zoomed through New Jersey right to the center
of Manhattan — where are you, Dean Moriarty? — and here we
were at last, Penn Station 3 am & about twenty bums wrapped in
newspapers, as I said, and all of a sudden I feel so safe and know I
would be safe everywhere, I wear the International Bum Society
stamp on my soul and we are all innocent babies in this world's soft
arms (although I didn't have exactly the same feeling later on in
L.A.), so I walk through the empty dark avenues to the 42nd to find
more life (beggars, prostitutes & homosexuals, to be more exact) and
at 5 am I finally get robbed of my new pack of Camels.
But now, I am walking up this street, all alone in the indigo,
whistling my improvised blues — riffs sharp as broken bottles —
maybe my brother is with me now, my brother who was born four
years before me during the war and died at the age of six months
and who is with me all the time but it's me who sometimes forgets
about it — and Kerouac is in heaven and Charlie Parker is in
heaven, my brother and Kerouac's brother Gerard are big buddies in
heaven —•
This is Quebec City Blues.
There is a boy standing on the corner, he may be 17, his eyes shin-
29 ing with fever cutting through passing pullovers right to the sweet
round nipples, his Adam's apple jumping up & down, his mind
brooding through the endless pubic hair forests, too high on hormones, too much desperate & too much bound to fail, he will end up
tonight masturbating in his squeaky bed wondering if his parents
ever find out — I should put my arm around his shoulders and say
We are all fellow sufferers martyrs of love hunted by desire
Instead, I cut around the corner again and this is my favorite
refuge, the place with jazz and beer, but crowded as usual, no place
for me to sit, no human place for me to sit down on my human ass &
have a few beers. Then a couple is leaving, I don't question the
reasons for their early departure, 80% of the local girls will sleep
lover-less tonight. Two other beauties sneak in the empty place but
there is still room for me, so I sit with them. But I am going to take
revenge now. That is, I am not even going to try to pick them up.
Which they don't know. On the contrary — like every other beauty
in this city — they know I am going to make a pass at them. Which
they will routinely decline. Which they would decline if I made the
pass. That's the point. I won't even smile at them, I won't even look
at them, I will just ignore them or maybe stare right through them
leaving them in confusion, asking themselves what's wrong.
They are talking in French to each other but I don't look at them.
They don't exist. Instead, I think of the book I am (hopefully) going
to write — yesterday I decided to call it Deja vu, for no particular
reason, I just like that title. Besides, odd things happen here. In Los
Angeles, I used to hear a distant sound of a bell, the railroad crossing
bell from my pillow. But there were no railroad tracks around and
when I took my head away from the pillow, the sound vanished.
Now, I hear the same sound again every night. Only it is the real
sound, coming from the open window of my room. Things disappear and come back again . . . Every day I meet people I know, only
I know it can't be them, they are far away from here now. Yet they
smile at me knowingly, then another one zooms past in a white
sportscar & waves his hand at me ... at any rate, Deja. vu is a great
title for a book.
Then I realize that those two girls have switched to English now.
Which makes me forget for a moment about the whole hard-to-get
game & I turn to them to ask them — just for the sake of curiosity —
what sort of a bilingual couple are they. And they say they are Americans, they talk French to each other just to get more practice — not
exactly true, as I learn later on, they share with me the paranoia
30 that all French Canadians hate all English-speaking people (partly
true, after all — English is a fucking language, a Quebecois in
Montreal told me & meant it). And then again they sit in silence or
perhaps say something unimportant to each other, not for my ears
anyway, but not hidden from me either, no games of ignoring me, no
games of giving me looks, just sitting there, two sweet American
girls lost in a strange city, talking a strange language so that no one
gives them nasty looks. Sweet or non-sweet, it does not matter to me
anyhow, I have switched my male-centers off and given up all hopes
of ending this night other than alone in my lonely bed in my lonely
room in this lonely world
but being anxious to talk to someone I forget about my vow of
silence and ask them where are they from. They say Ann Arbor, one
of the friendliest places which ever greeted me in the middle of February snows — I tell them I talked to Jerry Rubin there and their
faces light up which is unexpected which is good so I tell them they
tell me they tell me I tell them, the band is playing now, I have the
third beer they have their first — no time for thinking, which is good,
too — they know all the books by Kerouac, they tell me all about
Ken Kesey, they like Nina Simone my secret love — but this is no
name-dropping talk —■ Virginia highways, where am I — God has
only negative attributes, no positive ones. Firecrackers behind our
eyes, fuses blowing, safety valves whistling and stars exploding in the
sky. Here comes the girl selling flowers. It is all a big First-shoot-
then-think Bonnie&Clyde movie, the only timing is the perfect timing, as she passes among the tables on her way back, I get up, I get
two roses, I give them to my sisters-ex-machina but
The eyes! The grace! The sweetness! I will go mad!
I gave them the roses for the sake of pure absolute 100% poetry,
nothing else I could do — no explanations — but I did not expect
the eyes. They are beaming & they are happy, the two lovely American apparitions who are just perfect because they are themselves they
are real they are
There are no words (which doesn't bother me at all)
The band is packing up, the band is leaving the apparitions must
leave tomorrow but this is not the way to end it all — for the sake of
absolute 100% poetry, as I already said, and we are going to die
anyway, but this is no carpe diem, it is — there are no words — God
has only negative attributes
I tell them the best solution is not to sleep at all, I tell them I have
3i a bottle of bourbon & a bottle of cognac in my room, I tell them we
are going to get gloriously drunk tonight
They say yes — they can't say anything else ■—■
There is not much sense in hitching and we all three jump into
the back seat of a taxi. They love Elvis singing from the radio —
revolution was born from Elvis' gyrating pelvis & I think of a friend
of mine from the great era of our superb black humour & terrific
dada & big practical jokes at the age of fifteen, my friend who was
getting plenty of girls every Saturday night by just standing there in
the spotlights, plunking his guitar, nodding absent-minded and staring blankly from the stage, maybe singing his crazy home-made
rock'n'roll, too. I never envied him, though, and we were great
And we are great buddies now, all three of us
We are the same species of animals
We are the last dinosauruses
Revolution was born in the back seats of American cars — and as
I tell them this, this tiny sexual lightning makes its appearance for
the first time and flashes through the space — we are all sitting in
the back seat
(If this was a movie, the musical leitmotiv would burst out here.)
We are walking through the silent dark campus each shouting
over the other's voices — cool it baby this aint no chicks residence
But we get to my cell safe. Phil Marlowe! Where are you! One of
them wants the bourbon, I get it from the drawer of my desk.
I am in love with both of them, I am desperate and they are going
to leave tomorrow.
Since we clicked in so many points, I say, we could/should click
in the last (not least) one, too. I am a sex maniac.
If there was just one of you, I would rape you mercilessly. But I
have no idea how to handle both of you.
They look at me and one of them says they have black belts in
karate & at my first attempt to rape them they will shove me through
the screen in my window.
Which brings their attention to the screen and they say they are
going to take it out for me, so that I can barbecue and sunbathe on
the rooftop.
BOTH ! !
Why must this always happen to me? (Dr. Bernie is in heaven,
I tell them they may have their black belts but I was pretty good
at judo when I was thirteen (true) & still remember a lot. So that
there is a sort of balance of forces in this room.
I am in love with them I love them I love them both I love them
This is the sweetest night of all and it is going to be utterly platonic.
They tell me it is hard to be a girl. They cannot go camping,
everyone wants to get them.
I tell them I can imagine it is hard. And it is hard to be a boy in
Quebec City, dying of thirst at the well, the ration five to one and
all. All the idiotic rites & roles, boys supposed to be aggressive, girls
supposed to be defensive, one big commedia dell'arte.
We hold a great international conference — sexual roles in contemporary society.
Can I forget for a while that they are girls?
I tell them why should I? I tell them if they were boys, I would be
happy I met them, I would get gloriously drunk with them, we
would be great buddies. And so on. Which is true. But the fact that
they are girls should make it better. And it does. Now I get into all
my old almost forgotten theories about male-male relationships &
male-female relationships (I don't know too much about the female-
female ones) lecturing on the primeval jungle cry (We be of one
blood, ye and I) & how to add the free bonus of sex on top rather
than spoiling it all — as usual — by all the prestige & jealousy feelings leading inevitably to the betrayal betrayal bitter betrayal bitter
We are not getting gloriously drunk. As a matter of fact, we are
not getting drunk at all.
But the wireless beams are flashing through the room all the time
And we know we always had them
We do not have to talk — we never had to —
Went around the world looking for the total comprehension
We have no past no future we are immune to all the dirty tricks
We are primitives of sex & intellect
It's pretty hot in the room, I take my sweater off & sit there in my
Kerouac-style black and white domino shirt. With holes on my
This is going to be a sentimental story, says one of them. We will
mend his shirts & take care of him. We will take him home in our
33 I tell them I love them. They tell me they love me. We all know it
is true. We all know that this is a great tender magic platonic love
Now, when we have cleared up the sex matters, I say, I will try to
forget that you are girls and we will finally get gloriously drunk.
What more can you tell me about Ken Kesey?
They just give me one big Fuck-Ken-Kesey look.
These two absolutely attractive lovely beautiful sweet strictly
miraculous girls.
I let out a scream of torture and desire like Yossarian in Catch 22.
I know it can't be I know I know
An overdose effect par excellence
O Great Bernie who art in heaven now, Why Must This Always
Happen to Me? Look, says one of them, just try to relax every single
point in your body.
We all laugh, it is always the sexual alchemy, one way or the other.
Shall we give him a massage?
Shall I undress?
Just the shirt, says one of them. A very professional voice.
And they treat me like a bag of meat. You work on the top, I
work on the bottom.
And I lie there on my belly without even knowing who's who &
who is working where. One of them takes off my blue jeans and
Now, I have got you! Oh no, my dear readers, this is not a paperback full of lust & flesh, fresh import from Denmark where pornography is free. This is a tender love story, get it. Give up all hopes.
Of course. Of course, it was a put-on. She takes off just my socks.
And they are working on my top. And they are working on my bottom. Alchemy anyway.
And it's pleasant and it's ticklish and I start reaching for them, I
start grabbing them — not knowing whom & whose what — they
keep getting rid of my hands, they keep working on me, I keep
reaching, they keep working I keep they keep we keep
The light is out & then it is the three of us lying in my bed with
me barechested in the middle & one girl in each arm, two sweet
apparitions who came from nowhere and will disappear at noon.
The ancient method for getting young again. Two girls, one at each
side. Only there must not be any sex going on. Exactly.
Angels at dawn.
34 It's so absurd, says one of them, reading our common mind. Yeah,
it's so absurd (that's me). But it is so absurd! says the third of us.
And a piece of paper on the inner side of my door, the paper on
which I typed the Beatles lyrics.
Treat me
Like it is
The night before
One of them is going to the bathroom and I guard the door. When
I am alone with her, we kiss each other. The other one is going to
the bathroom and I guard the door. When I am alone with her, we
kiss each other.
The time is whirling faster. Isn't there an empty room in the
whole residence? The vision of myself with one of them — just one,
at last — in bed. in bed !
But there is, obviously, no empty room in the whole monster, I
keep trying locked doors, locked doors, all I manage is to wake up a
few people who did not lock up their doors before going to sleep &
now they see a barechested lunatic in blue jeans running down the
Those sweet young bodies!
(Let's face it: I may have been a primitive of sex & intellect an
hour ago. But the intellect is gone now.)
And the man downstairs tells me no, I can't get a room for a
friend of mine before 8 am no matter whether he arrives from Montreal at 5 am or not. To the other pavilion, across the grass with
morning dew & shivering in the cold — hopeless everywhere & I
can't drag one of them to a motel, it would be completely out of tune
And so I come back
In despair
It would be nice to be true
I am not responsible for the whole thing anymore, count me out
A bleak gray morning
I come back to my room, but they don't sleep. They are sitting
there & looking at me. I collapse to my chair & flush a glass of cognac
down the toilet-bowl of my throat.
We have come to a decision.
All right, what decision? Don't have pity on me. I am prepared
for the worst.
One of us will go for a walk.
And before I even realize what's going on, she is out. Before I
35 understand it, I am with one of them — oh yes, one, at last — in bed
Let us skip the details, OK? (The funny point is, I am going to
skip them whether you want or not, because it is I who am at the
controls of this story.)
Centuries whistling through our ears, 747 taking off — a fast
flashback on my girlfriend lost a long time ago — gray-haired alchemists bent over their cauldrons witches waving at us merrily
from flames, McClure roaring through San Francisco
We are very peculiar animals
And when the other one comes back, her twin is all dressed again
but I lie there naked — not responsible anymore & besides, maybe
they are going to share me equally and the twin will go for a walk
now — but she does not and stays in the room & we are all sleepy &
we are all in love, I dress and go to sit downstairs (with a new glass
of cognac) so that they can get some sleep now.
A sort of an instant breakfast, this cognac
My brain refuses to work
So let it rest for a while
Those girls don't exist
It is all too incredible
We are going to be life-long buddies
Drinking champagne in a castle in France one day
The birds are singing
Courvoisier for breakfast — keeps you going until lunch
I am almost seven hours old now
There was nothing before last midnight
I have no past
Then I get obsessed with the idea of bringing them breakfast in
bed — having told them I will wake them up at nine — a technicolor vision of two rosebuds opening their eyes to see a tray with
bacon and juice and eggs and all; I see them bathing in the warm
pleasures of the food and bed and the new day's sunrise
So I go to the cafeteria and fetch it all
Vous avez un grand appetit, says the girl at the counter
Right. You bet I do. And the cashier stares at me blankly as I
leave with a matterhorn of plates & glasses, through the morning
cold, across the lawn once more
I tell them we are going to be great movie directors, we are going
to buy a house in North Carolina & sit on the porch in rocking chairs,
36 highballs in our hands, and they are going to mend my shirts. To
which the two sweet rosebuds scream in unison:
bullshit !
The most tender moment of the story. Which kicks me straight up
to the Happiness Peak.
And they get very practical, although they suspect I am going to
say goodbye to them now — we are the same even in our doubts
So I make it explicit I am going to go to the train with them &
kiss them goodbye on the platform
We are all desperately in love; we look at the two roses in the sink
They must pack everything in their room downtown. The perfect
oxygen uppercut outside, we are all balancing on the edge of sleep
and madness, we finally broke through to the endless joy tonight
Full of a sleepy pride, I walk to one of the houses, destroy a tree
in its front lawn & hand them more flowers, we are trying to hitch
and finally get on the downtown bus
I feel alive, that's all that counts (Marianne in Pierrot le Fou)
They have a terrible mess in their room, one more reason to love
them (don't bother me with any reasons or I'll punch your nose) &
they are going to take a shower together, obviously to make me
jealous at the sound of the water splashing on their naked skin, they
say the shower is too small for all three of us
So I sit behind the shower door, listening to the water jinglebells
& occasionally shouting at the top of my lungs: This is a queer joint!
This is a queer joint! just to draw their attention to myself — they
told me to keep quiet and the other room is occupied by a homosexual couple
But when they get out I feel that the climax is over, we have
passed the peak of our adventure and now I am empty & good for
nothing, I can just sit there completely dumb & watch them & bore
them to death. Which is what I tell them & explain that I must leave
now to leave them with nice memories of myself — and I take a
vague step towards the door
However, once God is nice to someone, he is really nice
Therefore they grab me tell me I am crazy & if I am bored with
them they'll give me something to read, and they do
Which is the last straw to make me realize that I could never
think of two copies of myself, so exact as these two, that I could
never design them (besides, I would not think of two of them,
They are packing and I am lying across the bed like a piece of a
37 wet wash, reading aloud from their Freud's Interpretation of
Dreams (millions of girls reading Nurse's Passion and True Love
magazine on trains!)
And we get into some sort of an argument over Mick Jagger being
all lips & is it sexy or not, I start telling them about my (living)
brother who is all lips, they say they would be delighted to meet my
They've finished packing and I keep talking in the sleepy voice of
Robert Desnos composing his great dream poems, now it is the
Egyptian cure once more & we are all in love, that's all that counts,
I kiss them in turn in their bed, they kiss me in turn, all that counts —■
And finally I say I want to make love with the other one this time
Her twin goes for a walk
Two angels again, in the three dollars queer joint, sun exploding,
two kittens purring softly, salt in the mortal wounds of Hollywood
Stop telling me there is something wrong with sex education in
the United States
I feel like shouting from the window through the golden air in the
golden moments of our lives (& I do), I feel like running up and
down the street & she turns to me — we are both beaming — and
says she feels like running up and down the street
Then the twin comes back, overwhelmed with her new experience: I met this man in the park & he was exposing himself! (exposing, she says) she barely closed the door behind her and we ask
her millions of very technical questions, excited
And the exhibitionist serves as a surrealistic counterpoint to our
story (these girls know all about surrealism, back in my room I had
three books & they could tell the author of each picture with just a
quick glance from a distance — flashback on myself always trying to
explain everything about surrealism & psychonanalysis & Beat Generation to all my newly-acquired girlfriends — and they were not
showing off at all, the books just happened to be there, that's all &
they even don't study art)
Now it is the time to go, I grab the two suitcases & down the stairs
of this beat hotel (back in their room I told them I was afraid they
were going to sell me to those homosexuals to be able to pay the rent
— they said if I feel afraid being with them, how should they feel
being with me — shitless scared, I said, it made them laugh)
38 On the street they insist on carrying their suitcases, so that I will
have my arms free to put around their shoulders
Which I do
And the Montmartre street is full of sun
We are all in love
Gold everywhere
Yes, we catapulted ourselves from the reach of x\lphaville gravitation, finally we crushed through the old shells into paradise forever
In this Five-to-One Frustration City everyone envies me for I
have two beautiful prophets of joy messengers of love ambassadors
of paradise in my arms
They tell me everyone envies me
We think the same thoughts as we always did since the beginning
of the world (& the Earth still boiling)
We float through the sunshine to the railway station and we still
have twenty minutes left, 100% synchronized we realize that the
only thing to do is to pay homage to Kerouac, to get a bottle of
cheap red wine, to get drunk in the grass of this old red-brick railway
station with the smell of asphalt wood oil freight trains — only they
don't sell wine in the local epiceries, so I come back with a sixpack of
Molson beer
When I return they tell me they decided they are in love with me
I am in love with them
Saturday noon
And it is a high time to get gloriously drunk at last
(High Noon, Gary Cooper strolling through the dangerous silence
of his mid-west town)
We drink the beer from the cans
Here we come, the crazy triple & they kiss me. And when I say
kiss I mean send a wire to Hollywood, call collect, this is the ultimately last word in the movie world of lust, flesh & passion. The
people on yellow benches staring at us in confusion, trying to
straighten it all up in their minds
We are the most wicked triple in this world
Blessed by a touch of lightning, children of the Night and Edgar
Allan Poe
We are divine
Before you can pry any secrets from us, you must first find the real
us, which one will you pursue?
We will take him home in our luggage
Then one of them takes a long hair from my sweater & says
39 Which of us?
The conductor staring at us utterly confused
Our hearts are breaking, you can hear them crush a mile away
Get on the goddam train, go home, stop it, it is too much
We are stars in the sky, in love forever
And then the train leaves
And I wander through the golden city with my pajama belt
around my neck & two cans of beer in my hands, talking to myself
incoherently, moaning aloud & losing my mind
The sun
Night before
all the green plants
by the window
have been turning away
from the sun/
have been experiencing
their own dark-in/
have avoided the rules
but it doesn't stop
the central game
and the leaves
are grotesquely turning
toward the east
Eventually it will all end here
in front of my typewriter
and I will be taken away
with very little fight (but a lot or
Down the street
someone will be ringing bells
and crossing themselves
and a cropduster will swoop low
over my house
to let some dismal deposit of death fall
down the chimney.
I will be here, grinding it out,
drink in hand, living from hour to hour
in a sort of peaceful ambivalence
with the ocean on one side
and the mountains on the other.
I will shoot the cropduster
from his sky
and shove the bells down a well,
then come back and end my days
that with a slow and greedy excitement,
finds a way to end my days.
Ann Menebroker lives in Wilton, California, just outside Sacramento; her
poems have appeared in Kansas Quarterly, Wormwood Review and Descant
among others.
Things will, I heard him say,
get better. Only yesterday
old Hanley,
who must be wise,
having seen the fall and rise
of various republics and
walked along the differing sands
of all the continents this earth
can offer, even sat at hearth
with those of every race,
Hanley in whose canyoned face
one sees, or thinks he sees, the sage,
Hanley in his ancient age
only yesterday said things
will get better.
Today I go
to claim a friend's cold body from
inevitable war.
I hum
this song walking: Hanley you
you Hanley old fool Hanley you
Hanley you blind old hoping fool.
Doctor Generosity Press in New York published a small volume of Ray Freed's
poems; he lives in Mexico.
They were gathering there
in the host's wood,
breaking fire and filling the
night with news.
To the owl's glen crept
the hunted, covering themselves
with leaves in the dawn settling
over them.
Skuld, the Elf-Queen
parting in the dark,
trailing a small guilt, picked
blood from her hair.
My small friend — I thought
he had left me. Pagan,
his love dripping out of me,
rising on the river-bank
before the feast.
The Queen's heart is a step
to madness. My tongue kisses
the cold kiss of her
mouth, her lips
the borders of constellations.
44 I turn aside.
Down in the dimly lit passage
a simple light bums. It is
the Queen's heart returning
to her cold breast.
Skuld's forest is where the
dead go, silently
between the leaves. We must be careful
not to wake them, treading
frozen foot over
fish-eyes picked clean
by birds.
Cold fog
and the hammers of death. Skuld
willing her cold way into
everything. She
as a toad, and I a squirrel,
embrace in the
royal fire, spitting ash
in memory of a king.
Susan Musgrave's most recent poetry volume is Skuld, from Sceptre Press,
England. Her work has appeared often in Canada and abroad; she lives in
Victoria, British Columbia.
A bird rose
from the sleeper's eye
sewing the lids shut
after its feast ■—
swaying into the dying fire,
sprayed itself with a shower of flames
coarse flesh baked into sand
crumbles to a fine
inner delicacy.
gulls at least, feed.
the stumbling water
hesitates at his edges,
then the feet slowly start swimming
as one charred arm
dreams back and forth
tapping against a can of kerosene.
and now yu are
an avalanche of bones
without an epitaph
46 Snow gloves the untightening hands
and buttons up the throat.
In months to come
the unwrapped skull
will discover coals
of its sockets
for a snowman's eyes
& his wide, unvarying grin.
Tears flow inwardly
the current of herself
thru all possible channels
finding salty corners
to flush into.
She even thinks
fish swim inside her.
Her head is a bird
flying over and over
in the same place.
Touch her, and you flow
into her sources.
The first green reed
already flutters
from her ear.
Myra McFarlane's pamphlet the fat-executioner was published by Very Stone
House with the aid of a Canada Council grant; she lives in Vancouver.
I am exhumed again:
re-named and re-addressed.
The mail
is stamped with surface print:
tidy remarks for another resting place.
But I have other friends ...
I feel them in the depths,
these old inhabitants
of the alluvial layers
I wander.
With us there is no year
seasonally different.
Our changes are always
and in the dark.
Roland Vogt teaches at Simon Fraser University; he has studied at the University of British Columbia.
Saint Elmo's fire on the oak branches
mapping the sky
I knew I'd be moving
from the bones of this house
the lines on my palm
are the pattern on a skull
cracked by wild rain
near the pond
I dream of Saint Elmo his slumped
beheaded body
straining to warn me
a drying pond the bald
man on the road a new
saying follow me
I'm your stranger
a crow drums the air around us,
it has fished the sky for days
far from the places where earth
was a pile of shadows,
in its beak another hair
squirming toward the nest
below, a plant finds itself
in a fissured rock
at midriver
on the farmhouse porch
an axe has red teeth,
the screen door leans
away from that winter when the clouds
stopped moving.
dad burned the beds and the dog
in the stove
to keep from freezing
the crow points
toward the sea, a rock
clasped in its beak
wondering how it feels to drown
we watch the hungry fingers
of neighbor boys in the yard
waiting for the recaging of the sparrows,
the clacking of necks
new dust from the field is a black
worm, twisting
our eyes scan the horizon
for a wild island
bringing itself home
Bill Meissner is studying at the University of Massachusetts. He has published
poems in West Coast Review, The Fiddlehead, and the Beloit Poetry Journal,
among others.
It can become so homely.
If you lift me from the pit,
Don't you see,
I may not be dead enough
To survive.
Not that the body needs to die.
Probing fingers
Strain the tissues
Of inflamed eyes,
Crack the membranes
Of running ears.
The resistance
Burns out.
To make a few good connections
Slide into the mask,
Manipulate a demon or two.
Are they making you create already?
With passive caution
Until the breath wears down.
Then sleep in peace.
Trying not to rush it,
I leaned over the well.
That was the signal
Predetermined in the dream.
My head snapped off
And dropped into the water.
Then — as when a chicken
With its head chopped off
Runs across the barnyard —
My body jerked around
And reached its arms to you,
While a hundred thousand words
The Kingdom of the Father is like one who wishes to kill a powerful
man. He drew the sword in his house and stuck it into the wall, in order
to know whether his hand would carry through; then he slew the powerful man. (the gospel according to thomas 98)
Readiness is our signal
We proceed singing
The Dies Irae in 4/4 time
Devising precision instruments
To shoot the works
Replays dictate
The required revisions
Rehearsed in ecstasy
Until the inevitable
Becomes evident:
Every final countdown
Converts into a prophecy
Of another retake
Exhausts apocalypse
Pat Murphy is taking Religious Studies and Creative Writing at the University
of British Columbia. This is her first publication.
53 Rosellen Brown's first volume of poetry, Some Deaths in the Delta, was published by the University of Massachussets Press; other stories have appeared in
NAR, TriQuarterly, and the Quarterly Review. She currently is writing with
the aid of a grant from the Howard Foundation.
All the ceremonies — shape and feel — all the ceremonies of her
life, until this very minute. E.g.,
In her peasant-blouse; her small shoulders sunbrowned; clean
socks; she even wanted to polish her shoes. But her brother said why,
you're just going to be sitting in the car the next few days and I'm
going to be stepping on them. She came down the front steps with a
sense of her own luck and specialness so rich she held it in her mouth
like a chocolate-cherry that might drip if she opened her lips. She
didn't know anyone who had moved — there were new arrivals at
school in the middle of the semester (one, once, who had gotten to
stay home all of January till the new term started) but that wasn't
so strange. They had stepped from no matter where, onto her
ground. But the ones who drove off into distance, if they didn't fall
off the edge of the world where did they go? She was sorry for her
friends who were staying behind, she was going to California to be
a cowboy princess.
Judy and Janice and Arlene were bunched at the bottom of the
steps. She went down among them with a smile she could feel but
tried to suppress out of kindness, a little pitying. Judy was holding a
scrappy bouquet of whatever had color in it from the backyard:
dandelions, iris, honeysuckle, hollyhocks brown at the edges, and a
few dark pansies like cat's fur. She reached her hand toward them
— royal, she felt the grace and restraint of her movements — and
murmured "Judy! They're beautiful."
But Judy had moved her hand one grudging turn back towards
herself. "They're for my aunt, she's sick, we're going to Wee-
She didn't allow herself to look surprised. Instead she bent to sniff
them dutifully, and hid her face in the scrubby leaves until her eyes
cleared. So she had been happy to walk to the car with barely a
54 goodbye. They were out of her life, already receding before her
father had started the motor. She was going into the blank ahead.
That was the first: a ceremony because it happened, of course,
again and then again. She hurt herself with herself. And she saw
how humiliation was a stronger pain than almost any other, petty
and degrading as it was. But this was the first time. It didn't make
her a solitary or a shaman, that would have demanded vigor, definition, a mastering of aloneness. But she stood at a distance.
In her new schoolyard (they were finished moving, were there,
were in the blank, finally, and she hadn't yet awakened as a cowboy
princess) she stood aside, leaning against the trunk of a fat bent tree
that grew unexpectedly out of a vast crack in the sidewalk. The
tree's roots had heaved the sidewalk up along their length in jagged
hills and the first time she had stumbled hard up against the tree's
firm side. It caught her, almost like a warm body, welcome, and she
found herself going back each recess, to lean with studied carelessness against it. After three days she knew the names of everyone in
her class. No one knew hers. She told herself stories about the place
she had come from but there was never anything about it she
thought worthy of telling them, true or untrue.
The first ceremony: leaving and arriving and, in between, travelling through the blank of possibility. That rhythm. And seeing herself aloof. They gave her no reasons for it and she didn't need any.
The next. She was fifteen. She was in school every day, reliably,
but she didn't exist there, she lived in her own head and in her notebooks that she kept hidden. She envied her classmates all the things
she didn't really want or like, and disliked herself for all the things
that mattered to her.
There was a boy in her home-room class who used to tease her. He
was squat and mannish-looking, with a large face, and he wore a
wide belt very tight around the top of his dungarees. He teased
everyone. But she was pleased to be included so indifferently among
the other nonentities. He knocked over at least two chairs every
morning in the fifteen minutes they spent assembling in their room
(having their attendance indelibly noted, as if it were an object with
a price on it), waiting for the empty schoolday to begin. The teacher,
a distraught, puffy-faced woman whose mind seemed perpetually
elsewhere, called his name out again and again. If he chose to learn
no lessons, fine; but he would learn what she thought of him.
However improbable it might be, she liked him, and one day she
55 thought of telling him — out of the shapeless intestinal mass of
obedience that lay coiled in her — that if he would only sit still for
five minutes, things, all kinds of things, would come to him. If he
could only turn his energy toward himself. In spite of her own un-
happiness she thought this was advice worth passing on to someone
she liked. Someone else might do it better, make it work. But he
seemed lately to have steadied a bit; his name wasn't heaved at him
like a garbage can lid quite so often any more. So she said nothing
and waited to see what he might become.
One day she overheard the girls in the last row talking before her
English class. They seemed to be saying, very casually, part of the
Tuesday gossip, that this boy, the one who teased her by calling her
"Pokerface" and "Pinch-me-tight," was on his deathbed. His deathbed ! The idea of it didn't alarm her, it seemed too ridiculous. A boy
like that couldn't have a deathbed, he didn't deserve one, he wasn't
serious enough for such a distant, sober, adult achievement. It was
somehow like having a child, no, having a grandchild, or an estate
with servants. That short, sausage-shaped puppy was still overturning the furniture.
The principal's voice blew a few words tentatively into the wheezy
public address system. It came out of nowhere in the middle of a
thought, hers and his, like a short-wave frequency caught, lost, just
caught again on a hairline. Bulgaria's, Tunisia's, Venus's faraway
voice reeled in on a long string. He was greeting them, boys and girls,
your principal. He was asking them to stand for a moment of silence
to pray for the life of the boy on his deathbed whom they all wanted
to see again at his desk (where he had been so careful to spend not
a single moment of his life). She pictured him hopping the steps at
the boys' gym entrance, late as usual, being cheered by all of them
in their lumpy blue gym suits. He would be wearing the pale death
mask she saw as an accessory to an authentic deathbed. Once inside
the door, puffing from the run, he would remove his gloves, his hat,
his mask, and throw it around from one to another with a show of
that effortlessness which had always been important to him. Like a
But he didn't come back. He had been serious, finally. He joined
the others distant as fables in her mind: the boy she had known in
sixth grade, in another school and therefore another life, who had
(she had been told nervously) turned green at the end of a long
withering year with a tumor pinching his spine, and a girl she had
never seen, whose picture  (appropriately misty but otherwise as
56 ordinary as her own) had appeared in the school paper last year
beside a column of sensible unmelancholy writing from a journal she
had kept until the week before she died. She had seemed so admirably composed and un-selfpitying that it had been impossible to
believe she was actually dying. Had died. As for the other early
deaths that had impinged on her consciousness — they had been
genius-children, aberrations of beauty or precociousness who had
seemed to her like magnets, drawing to themselves a kind of retribution, a need to be cancelled by the heavy energy of the average. She
was not among them, not worthy to be.
When the boy from her home-room failed to recover to come
bouncing back up the stairs, she found herself feeling guilty. If he
had only paid attention. Miss Pokerface says pay attention. Nothing
can ambush you if you have eyes in the back of your head, if you
are grim before the fact nothing can surprise you. Or double your
money back.
It was the second ceremony, the one that sealed her helplessness.
One afternoon, thinking about a man she was coming close to,
unable to concentrate, she went to that strangest of museums in
Boston. It was an intensely cold November day; everything looked
bled or bleached, the lime in bricks was showing a dusty, bony white,
the streets were pale as if salted. Snow was massing for its first
She had never been to this museum and she felt vaguely guilty
walking into the warm narrow lobby in broad weekdaylight when
she had things, practical things, to do. Who were all these others
with nothing to do on a Wednesday, slowly unbuttoning their rough
tweed overcoats, folding their scarves, rubbing hands together?
She broke through to the first room; it was large and square and
very light: a courtyard, glassed all around like a greenhouse. Flowers
and flowers and stones and luminous garden light. They gave off
such a moist deep perfume that it dizzied her. The afternoon concert
had begun upstairs and an endless run of Chopin's rose and fell and
breathed and finally became a kind of stroking sound, again and
again the same two notes. She walked up the stairs to the dark wood
rooms of paintings, the roped-off high backed chairs, vases of violets
standing on breakfronts like offerings. Care of the violets must have
been in the benefactor's will — this had been her house — and all
things were as they had been when she arranged them. Someone
57 must change the water. Someone must dust with a soft cloth. Or the
house will fall to others' more competent hands.
The piano was very loud on the top floor, and it echoed like an
organ. She was walking through a shower of sound, crystalline
Scarlatti falling all around in hard bits and chunks. She went quickly
down the marble steps, her feet in the dents, coming down through
the fern trees, very fast, then slowing, parachuting gently to the
bottom, and when she got to the garden she sat lightly on a chalky
bench and stared at the lilies. They were striped and needed warmth,
like tropical fish. They had blood vessels, all the plants, they would
bleed if she tore them, and swellings, buds of flesh, warm and cool
places that she could feel, if she reached out, with one finger. Bodied.
Where did the dead ones go? In a gunmetal can in the alley along
with the wilted violets from the upstairs galleries? They looked as if
they should be cremated. This garden bloomed day in, day out,
hidden, while the city was thinking about snow. A fever dream, the
vision of Rappacini's daughter. . . The museum giver must have
rolled her body in silk sheets against the hard grain of extraordinary
men. She must have tasted of spice and had a tongue made of the
skins of unsayable wishes. When the lights were out and the front
doors bolted, the guards gone home, the flowers must whisper about
her, gossip their memories of another life. Or was it a graveyard,
overgrown with the green and drooping souls of hundreds of lovers
she had planted side by side by side?
She walked carefully to the front desk in the lobby — violets even
there on the coat-check counter — and bought a postcard that had
the museum giver's portrait on it: an ordinary portrait (painted by
her most famous lover) of a pretty woman in a pillar of a gown:
hinting nothing, bland, pleasant.
Back in the garden she wrote to him in heavy unwavering letters:
I am in the first chamber of my heart. It is not snowing here. When you
come home we will walk from one chamber to the other, sail through
the locks that keep the blood back, dropping our clothes behind us like
dry petals. Then for the first time you will be afraid of me and you will
be right.
That was the third ceremony: wherein she learned that there were
answers to unasked questions, and the answers tolled again and
again. She practiced breathing by the side of warmth, the spread
chill all around her.
The fourth ceremony had two parts.
58 The first began when she woke herself from a dream of the death
of her mother. Night after night she dreamed it and woke at the
same point, at the edge of the grave where she tried to wake her
mother. Finally she could not look into her living mother's face, and
knew the death was her own as well. Her mother shared one death
with her, lovingly.
The second was the night she joined the circle of women and saw
her mother's mother with her, and her mother's mother's mother.
The doctor bent in an artisan's silence
her head bound up
a seamstress arranging scissors and needle
(a hundred laughing men were showing
knife-wounds to the orderlies)
the nurse and her shadow
moving in barefoot silence
slowly revolving    smoothing    folding
pale in undersea light
four alone with one body    touching
sighing like mourners
(hard words on the open lips of wounds)
Then one long unnameable vowel.
The circle of women opened
the pain became her daughter
and the circle closed
And the fifth:
She knew a couple who knew a man, called T., who wrote novels.
She had tried many years ago to correct this in herself but she was
still unable: she saw around the faces of people whose words were
very wise a kind of nimbus of wisdom. She knew, herself, how writing was the act of making choices, and of choosing only what you
were sure of, or could guess at. What you didn't know you left alone.
So a sheet of paper was a field mined with gaping holes to be skirted
with desperate care. But she could never reason it down. Anyone
who was good and wise on paper, despite how easy it was to be so,
was himself good and wise.
Then there was the case of T., whose work was a fingertip that
touched her gently just where she gathered her breath and held her
breath there for her. She was delighted to know that her friends
(new friends they were, or less) were close to T., whose last book
was still on her desk, where every page she read sent out disturbed
59 circles that lapped high around her own freshly-typed pages. He was
a man whose facility and more, whose honesty, she envied.
Were close, said the friends together. Not are.
What do you mean, she said. They were very grim.
If we tell you, they answered, you will never finish his book.
But tell me, she said.
They had all been working together in one of the large, more
hopeless cities, organizing (Were some more hopeless than others?
The distinction was a luxury.), ringing doorbells, talking on street
corners, at meetings. Against the war, against the hopelessness and
miasma that hung over the city in the factory clouds and touched
the river banks with murderous rancid water. They had all lived
together in a big crumbling house on a bleak, typical street (whose
trees looked, even in summer, as though deadwinter had ransacked
their branches) and had fought on two fronts at once: fought their
own helplessness with raunchy jokes, painted posters and a good deal
of gentleness in bad moments, a desperate last-ditch closeness. And
fought the fear of beating, arrest, injunction, any of the other kinds
of hobbling they were always subject to at the hands of the authorities. People had come and gone from the group, not casually but
with discouraging regularity, because it was the kind of work that
washed out all but the most dedicated and well-protected. The best
of them held out longer against discouragement and then (often)
crept off to the mountains or onto the road to recuperate and get
their nerves re-strung.
But T. had been there a long steady time and they were grateful.
He was blessedly funny, had good disciplined muscles and a sense of
when to use them, pulled his load in the nasty housekeeping business,
didn't mess over the new women, and the privacy he demanded was
not for goofing off or ploughing new rows of chicks but for his writing, which they (puritanically) respected. He even gave to the house
the royalty checks he'd finally begun receiving. He was a very good
When they were busted — for possession of this, concealment of
that, so on and so forth — it was clear that the word had been given
from somewhere in the midst of their warm huddle. Secrets had
gone out in the smoke from their half-stuffed-up chimney, out in the
garbage with the grapefruit rinds and bashed beer cans, out in the
smashing beat of their music and the ping of the telephone ringing at
odd hours.
T.'s were the only eyes they couldn't find to hold onto in their
60 invisible ring when they were gathered up one foggy morning and
locked up in the choke of a very high bail. T. was not in their cell or
any other. Yet as it turned out — a tribute to his skill at being professionally likeable and beyond reproach in all his (visible) habits
—• people kept on trusting him. They were the most careful and suspicious people, whose every third word named some treachery, but
still he moved from group to group and city to city, from one betrayal to the next, and his name had never caught up with him
decisively enough to finish him. Whoever accused him seemed always
to be himself diminished by the accusation. Writing was undeniably
the least of his arts.
They were correct, of course; she never finished his book.
Where could he have learned what was in it, on every page? The
groping toward wholeness, the minute explorations of motive —
what had he known and then forgotten or suppressed? If you believed the written word, you offered yourself up to it, a victim. Could
words be true and the man's life false?
One night over very good wine in the house of her friends, she
asked randomly what they had thought about the bombing of another bastion, a bank or a draft board, in lower Manhattan. She
didn't see their eyes meet — she had been pouring another glass of
the good wine — but she felt them above her head as if a bolt of
lightning had grazed by without killing her. She heard the wine
trickle palely into her glass, heard the bottle meet the table with a
loud woody thump, heard herself swallow the first prickly mouthful
with the sound of a trap snapping shut.
After sufficient time, her friend said he had finally seen a movie
worth standing on one of those insane lines for, maybe even worth
three bucks.
That was the fifth ceremony: in which she saw herself, saw all of
them, standing absolutely at land's end alone. The object of this
ritual was to feel parts of your body go numb while the other parts
were warm and open and invited touch. The object was to let yourself be loved and love back with your legs clenched tight together
against rape and dismemberment.
The celebrations were all one and they recurred and recurred:
events, accidents, vagrant occurrences, dancing around an immutable center. Every day she picks her head up from its nest in the
pillow she invites another opening of the same, the endless, wound.
The chain breaks off at random. Here in her real life it is today. No
61  * ,-::>:. Leon Rooke is Visiting Lecturer this year at the University of Victoria. LSU
Press published his story collection, Last One Home Sleeps in the Yellow Bed.
Though the days are heavy the nights they are starry-eyed. The
first night at Estalavita Monastery I have terrible dreams which
none of whom come true fortunate to say. In the dream I am like
the beast being stroked after the long and fearful journey over hills,
sweat guzzling off the hide and the hair slicked down, smooth hand
on the rump and the sugar cube in the mouth, a cool voice whispering in the deadness of the ear: "A mangy jackass, him, too bad he
have to carry such a heavy load." The voice in the ear is the talking
in my head, the ear opposite asking what was said. And the talk goes
on. Each minute of the darkness of the night I wake myself leaping
from the bed, crying Where am I? Crying next Margarite, where
are you? Stumbling in the dark to close my arms on air. Falling back
inside the rippling dream to say ahh, here she is! To drift along
under the soft waterfall of her touch along the thighs.
In the sleep Gonzalez is much awake as he will ever be. And
though the days are heavy the nights they are starry-eyed. I go about
Estalavita like a man entombed: working, walking, gnawing on the
thumb. As much walking on my head as I am on the feet, half the
time not knowing where I am while the poison of the body and the
poison of the well and the sweet harmony of the torpedo acid tubes
meet to decide which will make the final claim. Mouth hanging
open, the bowels too weak to turn, myself too blind to tell the difference if they do. Our first day at the Pasadoke Hotel Margarite have
said to the fat grinning man behind the desk, "Where is a good place
to get something to eat and drink?" And reach for the comic book to
64 ask again Donde estd un lugar bueno para ir a comer y tomar algo
... and that question now tumble over in my head to make me sick,
the thought of drink, of food, the thought of Margarite. Flushed face
and changing smile, oh perfect picture then the happy bride! Now a
loss that sickens too. And in the sky a puff of plane exploding the
face of my poor mother everywhere.
"Busy yourself," the good Brother John advise.
I do, I do. I scrub out the pots and pan, plant food in the garden
outside the wall, hoe and rake and sweep the trash, scrub down the
cell and wash the back of the good Brother John and before the door
the apple peel of the bad Brother Sam and look out the way for the
lost crazy man who wander in one day looking he say for the search
of the holy Grail. Oh, there are all sorts here and I make myself
useful to this bunch you bet, never mind the bull, never mind the
banging of the head on the stones of the wall, the mutterings of the
head in the sleeve, the trampling of the feet on nails . .. never mind,
I say to myself, for Gonzalez Manuel he is not so far gone he don't
know a good deal when he see.
"May be," I say to Brother John, "may be I stay on, turn the
spade here, wear me a gown, go barefoot on the soil, grow old and
die unbeknown to the loved ones far away who never give a thought
to me, I help you all for all my life Gonzalez is a hard-working mule.
Gonzalez have found his place in the world, never mind this place
be a tomb and I blow away to dust if ever I come again to fresh air."
"You got it bad," John say, "but I think you'll live."
That much they say and more, these crazy men, and even old
Brother Sam, sorry as bastard ever was born, always kick you when
you scrubbing the wall, punch your nose and starve you naked for
the kindest word, even he will have to say in the end Favor him O
Father the poor miserable halfbreed, the poor mangy wop Gonzalez
Manuel, for in my heart I believe he has atoned for his evil and
cannot help his stupid ways.
I look it, that much to be sure, the mangy lowdown wop who
steal the hubcaps even while the car is moved, who yank from the
mouth the last biscuit of the starving Pariah dog, but who can help
what he look who have been through where I have gone? I smack
the first bastard say it isn't true and may be I smack you just because!
In the meantime I work along with the ways of the time at hand.
Gonzalez Manuel he a man of many moods, be something in this
world his moods if they last more than the second quick. Even in the
dreams sometime I am a burden for the mushness of the heart, cry-
65 ing up forgiveness for the sorry sonofbitch who poison me at the
well, for Margarite who leave me flat, even for the man in the street
I never see .. . for all the bastardmen who hit me everywhich time
I turn and kick me in the teeth when I am begging please — even
him I forgive for a man can afford if he know that somewhere once
in the world is a woman like Margarite who have give her love to
him and may be no doubt would send her best if even now she know
where to send.
0 shit in no time at all I am a man again. The first day after the
sleep I have already become Christian in the concept of the holy
brothers of the monastery. A private ceremony with Brother John
who baptize me from the heathen way and confess my sins, saying
now repeat after me:
1 know Father I have sinned because the heart is a bare and naked
I know Father I am unworthy for my head is like unto a cloud of
Sure, a drunkard he can spit on stone but Gonzalez Manuel on
the safe side will make no fool of God. A man come up slow when
he fall where I have been: he come up with a slow look around and
a sharp eye to the blind spots everywhere. Smart you bet, never no
more the hatrack where the head should be. To the blind spot come
the chop that take the head with it to the frying pan. If not the blind
side then look out straight ahead. It is the man looking you straight
in the eye pretty as you please, saying what a nice day, Gonzalez,
howdeedoo, I be glad to help you any way I can, food, drink of
water from the well, whatever you could want for I am here to serve
— oh you look out for him, I tell you this, for just when you saying
to yourself this one good Joe sure as the day I'm born, just the best
sonofbitch I ever see — why just then the bastard will haul out the
axe and send your head flying halfway up the mountain top.
It take a time but I have learn: never look a man in the eye.
Look at the sky, look at the shoe, stand a while and shuffle the feet,
and when you ready to go back up and take the long way around.
Once you stare the bastard in the eye he good as have you in the
eye of the fucking storm.
"I know what you mean," say Brother John. "I been that road
"A man my nature," I say to him, "how he to five his days? Dusting the britches of whoever hand him the broom? Shit, now what
you say to that?"
66 The bastard smile and wave his hand: "Some men are born," he
say, "to wave the wand, others to record the magic fact, most to
slave till the magic comes, to push the dirt and hoard up strength
against that time when the dirt pushes them."
He carve the bread and grin, easy to see Gonzalez Manuel is all
of him ears. "You want me to tell you," he say, "what your life has
been, to tell you what death is? Godknows, if all the black holes of
the earth were placed one inside the other and then you were placed
inside the smallest, the blackest of these, then that would be your life
up to now. What travels you've had, Gonzalez, they've all been on
the wings of a darkness formed by all the lives you've left behind.
Leaving life and entering death in your present state, you'd never
know you'd made a turn. The final loneliness distinguishes the living
from the dead and I ask you, one poor motherfucker asking another,
where you think you are now? You're like me, you don't know. Who
the hell does? The body does not immediately yield up all its parts,
neither expect the spirit to enter into all of hers. Have you entered
the room of a dying man? That's what the hush is all about. The
crazy doctors can't fix a proper time of death because they can't
measure the spirit pull. All those fucking ghostly Helens mucking up
the air! Shit, Gonzalez, man is illness personified, how can he know
when he will die? Your life, you turd, has been one long attempt to
come to grips with your own passing from this passing world, you've
wanted it to be simple as signing your X to the dotted line. Put down
the X, you've said, and let the grave be filled. That's why you've
invented this stupid goddam story about some bastard at a well trying to poison you!"
Invent! When I am passed out with fever by the well and seventeen days delirious through the screaming sand, falling on my face a
thousand times before I face up to falling here? Invent! With the
bastard spic buzzards crawling on the head one day and the clothes
all gone where the sorry man at the well have stolen even them!
Naked through the desert crawling every mile! "Shit," I say, "may
be you tell me where the invention end?"
John, he carve off the cheese and drink the wine and lean back to
study me. "Oh, nonsense," he finally say, "Gonzalez, I saw you with
my own eyes: you crawled into these walls like a man crawling out
of a thousand caves. The truth is you like and demand your lowly
state, you've got a craving to be the down-trodden man. I submit —
goddam, with all earnestness I do — I submit that the days you lay
stinking at the well, the days you crawled sick, hungry and burning
67 across those baking hot miles to this place represented your closest
communion with man. If you're honest I believe you'll admit that
those experiences were the most satisfying you've ever known, more
satisfying by far than this wretched love of Margarite you talk so
much about. You shit, you recognized the spirit pull! You hit for
that stage of painlessness beyond the pain! While with Margarite, if
my guess is right, you recognized what life could be with all your
dark boxes gone, with sunlight on your brow. And being the crazy
fucker that you are, you recoiled. You couldn't even consummate
your wedding vows."
How he know? The bastard monks they look you in the eye and
root the sorry secret out. And now he have that much still he root
some more. He stab the knife in the carving board, put down the
cheese, and study my face hard.
"I've been wanting to ask you," he say, "about all this wop business you talk about. Your blue eyes interest me. For instance I've
been wondering, goddam you, how they got that way. In my experience two figs do not make a peach. But we can go into that another
time, I guess: what puzzles me now is why you talk the way you do
— that absurd pigeon-English you fill your mouth with. In your
sleep — hell, in those crazy dreams of yours! — I've seen you talking straight as I'm talking now. Is it because you see yourself a fool?
You refuse to present yourself seriously for fear that seriously you've
nothing to present? Is that it?"
What I say? Once in the city by the river when I am with Margarite she say that very thing to me. You don't fool me, she say, not
one little bit. What I can say except a man his own lifestyle is all he
have. He have more I have her with me now. When a man lose the
style he go looking for the flair. That gone, then he can go looking
for the dotted line, for Mr. X to hold his hand. Shit, seven years I
been to night school, three years I go to Harvard-Yale, shit I am in
good standing with the American Academy of the Poets and read
every word of the encyclopedia job I sell, not to mention the money
I spend to buy the taco stand. All the same a man who never know
where he get off neither do he know where he get on. At the wedding in the church Margarite introduce me saying, "Gonzalez, you
remember Miss Hannah, I'm sure," and who is it in front of me but
a woman I never seen before who smile and say, "O yes! you're that
nice orderly who left Margy the flower in the jar when she was sick!"
and to myself I say, "Me? Where?" Later she take me aside, say,
"Psssst, let's share secrets, let's," and she say sure she remember me
68 good, good to see me again now, got one good girl I have, be good
to Margy and take care — but listen, she say, never breathe a word
to her that I was the one left the flower in the jar, I stole it from
that awful grouch Gladys Beer, the lady with the boils, sure you
remember her, Jesus what a case!
And then she trip off to leave Gonzalez tripping on himself, which
way knowing where to turn? What hospital? When? I never see you
before, Miss Hannah, never see Margarite as a child sick. One time
I work the hospital sure but I am down in the basement blackface
shoveling coal to the boilerroom, keeping close watch the gauge
which the bossman say will blow the whole shebang skyhigh one day.
Sure, and never see these people seeing me, leaving flowers in the
jar, never setting eyes on Margarite you bet, otherwise I marry her
long before.
Who is Gonzalez Manuel is why the way he talk the way he do
but who is he is the question yet. God knows a man on the run, a
man who leave running every place he go, he not have time to sit
back with blowing smoke from the pipe, careful polish of the phrase
or spit shine on the shoe! Who you know can speak like the prince
when inside he know he is being made the clown?
"You can lead the burro to the water hole," I tell that man John,
"but how can he be made to shout Ole?"
"If you are a man who has been led there," he say, "if you are not
a mule then the Ole is every place you look. It's the looking that
brings it there. Take my case now: my mother, as sorry a little water-
hole as ever you saw — my mother took in strangers for the night.
'Straight blow or round-the-world?' That's what she'd say to them:
you think that wasn't hard on me? And Father. Father killed a man
in Richmond, Indiana, another in Bull City, Arkansas, a third in
Montreal, Quebec. These are all they traced. Mother spent her best
years trying to get me sent to him, saying a boy needed a dad and
didn't I need him? I arrived with my bags and a note from her to
him in Sacramento California on the day he was being gassed! He'd
been caught finally but the case was one of mistaken identity. A
friend had used his name while successfully murdering three in a
family of four. The fourth insisted my father was the man who had
sliced the throats of her parents and her brother, aged ten. The same
friend who had accomplished this told me so himself, he bought me
coffee and pie and admitted he would kill me too if I breathed a
word. The surviving girl in the murdered family fell in love with me
and I with her, we were to be married but at two o'clock in the
69 morning on the day the wedding was to take place a TWA jetliner
crashed into the house of the Uncle and Aunt with whom she was
staying, killing 78 persons on board, not to mention the Aunt and
Uncle and the girl herself. This friend of my father found me in the
city of Miami, demanded money from me not because he felt I
owed it to him but because he simply was down on his luck and
didn't know who next to kill. I pitched him out the window of the
ninth floor room of the Sheraton-Plaza hotel but what the police
didn't know was that he was dead before he hit the street. True, I
swear to God! He'd had a heart attack when he realized through
me that death was staring him in the face. A fire in the hotel that
night killed another 36 and I was a hero, single-handedly saving four
people from Idaho trapped in their rooms. A happy story? Listen,
my mother shot herself in desperation one evening when one of the
strangers wanted to drink rum when all she had was gin. He had
dared her to shoot as an example that she cared. I held her head in
a towel while he phoned for the ambulance and fled. That same
night in a period of two hours nine women were raped at knife-point
within a mile of where we then lived. Upwards of a hundred people
witnessed these acts but none stepped forward to halt them and not
one witness agreed as to what the rapist wore. Need I tell you that
man was me? Soon afterwards I placed myself as novice here. And
my past is beautiful compared with the past of most of my brothers
here. Now I write psychoanalytic articles for the learned journals
and use the small payment to support the works of poverty, celibacy,
obedience to our superior grace, and love. Otherwise I pray. I find
you refreshing to talk to, Gonzalez, for you strike me as one vastly
unlike myself: you're a victim as I was but, unlike myself, it isn't
because you've acquired the taint of sin. You can't tell me about
your well because I know the goddam place better than you ever
He stands, taps finger to brow, scrapes crumbs from the jaws: "A
lovely meal. Now come along with me. It's time you met our chief,
Father-Padre, who is double father to all the brothers here. Come.
A man can bleed from the bleeding heart, knowing soon it will
bleed no more. There come a time when he is willing to kiss the foot
of the man who wipe the shoes on the head. If I feel bad then I
don't know yet Gonzalez is a lucky man. The night I make the visit
to the Father-Padre is the same night a sane man flees. The Father
occupy the cell at the end a narrow hall, dark and cold, up high
70 somewhere in the monastery wall. Up high too a single window
which hove in the sun on shiny days, thin beam of light over the bare
stone wall, across the bare stone floor, and the very air it is damp
bare and cold. Father-Padre himself resemble no man Gonzalez
Manuel have ever seen, bleak features in the clouded face which
afterwards I cannot recall to say this is how the Father looked or
even this was how he seem. Tall figure in the white robe, bare red
toes upon the stone, he does not walk he flows, wisp of dank musty
odor moving in the faint darkness of the cell. Down across the brow
and winding down past the cheek a wide purple scar looking fat
upon the sunken skin, the thinnest man in all the world and tall
enough to stoop for doors. Sometime somewhere someone have pull
all the nails from the fingers, all the hair from the head and the skin
have the color purple like a man who have come back from the
grave if ever he have got that far without falling down, in his eyes
are the calm depths of a man who never dream.
It is cold enough to freeze the nuts between the legs.
You feel unloved, Gonzalez Manuel? Estalavita loves you. You
have been ill-used? We will not ill-use you here. God is nothing, man
is less. Are you hungry? In the kitchen there is soup, porridge, bread
and cheese. I myself partake only of bread, a raw egg once each day.
What we have is yours, what you have is ours. As you have come
many have come before. As you leave so will others go. We are one
with you, you are one with us.
Father-Padre he does not speak with words, at the end of the cell
a writing stand which have a camera set behind. Built into the
opposite wall and to the walls of other cells where I work I have
found the green face of the television screen which take closed circuit
his message every wall. The message unroll on the screen like a man
turning the wheel by the hand.
You will have observed I have no crucifix on the wall, no chain
around my neck. Who is God if not me — and you? The soul serves,
as does the floor for my feet without the need of shoes. Assume I
know your thoughts, your trials: each place you have been I have
been before. In this cell for seven years I have stood: it is forbidden
that I take rest by sitting or lying down. Once each month for one
hour I am transported into the courtyard for sun and it has been
noticed that where I tread the grass nevermore will grow. All around
us are dying men, the best of these I attempt to summon here as I
have summoned you. Call upon me when you wish, make no regard
for light or day. If I am here, but gone in a manner you shall under-
7i stand, do not be afraid. Stay for what length you must, share in what
comforts you may find: we are an extension of yourself. In what
other way can your happiness exist? We of this order are bound by
rule and practice the councils of perfection as best we can. There is
no finish, there is no end and while there is corruption anywhere
there can be no perfect man and for this reason Estalavita has latitudes of grace. Our most exacting rule is our confinement to these
walls since in our imperfection we can hurt no one but ourselves.
Howevermany light years we remove ourselves from the common
laws of man these laws remain no less embedded than is manhood
itself embedded within the rock and clay and our mixtures within
the clouds. I do not mean to be obtuse. My whole attention rests not
on you nor even on the difficulties which brought you here. No man
may leave running but something of value is left behind. History is
the truth of this and in the running the place we have run to is not
better nor worse than that place behind. God is wicked, man is no
less. We have passed from darkness into light and into darkness
again and with each passing the shadows have not changed. And
death makes no room for you. Leave nothing behind when you go.
Arriving, nothing will have been there before. You are one with me,
I am one with you. Sisters in light are brothers in darkness before.
The eye of the storm is brainless, it occupies a center and is powerful
beyond reckoning, it goes where it goes.
The screen is blank now, nothing on it shows. The drum rolls
empty inside the screen as the idea flowing outside my head. I am at
peace I think but who can call me satisfied? Despite all the good
intention of Father-Padre, Gonzalez is no nearer to where he was.
Face to the spangled boughs of desert scrubs the crooked sky is fading under the cold flush of the rising moon. At his point in the corner
the Father stands silent, not one eye move or muscle shift, he is
nothing short of dead. Outside the window a flutter of wings, in the
sky a black bird flying for the trees.
And in the corridors of the hall there is the smell of water sweating on the stone, the musky damp of moss around a tomb. I don't
know why I think of death but it is what Gonzalez feel. My own
footsteps slide along the wall and come back to me echoes like the
walk of someone dead. A man in my state is in no hurry to go fast,
no haste to move at all. Black space is at my rear, even blacker is the
space before. If I am not dead myself then Gonzalez have the sense
of the dead following slow behind. It remind me of the time I am a
child alone in the room, alone in the black house waiting for the
72 mother to come, for the day to come when the ghosts are gone. A
man can stop where he is and stare all the way through the black
dark to the childhood days to see himself trembling as he tremble
then and if he is honest he can admit to himself Gonzalez the childhood have followed you each step the way or even plead inside the
heart sonofbitch don't follow me no more.
Housed in the vaults along the corridor walls the dead brothers of
the sect. One above the others for all the distance the candle goes.
Living with the living is not enough now I have also I think to live
with the dead. And all the time I am waiting to run a long shriek is
climbing inside the throat and a busy hand pushing from the rear.
For I know something else to come, one more vault to find, my own.
Gonzalez, the deathman say — are you there? One time may be I
was — but now? In the dark the truth and the lie sleep side by side,
face to face: one day when the dark is black enough may be the He
will turn and run. Gonzalez, are you there? Only Margarite knows I
am. I tell myself now that if she say I have left the flower in the jar
and reveal it dry between the pages of the book who then knows
better? She or me? Sure the darkness the answer knows but will it
tell me?
Oh, the night is a busy one I have. Later on the crazy monk who
search for the holy Grail come awake to say, "Got you now!" The
eyelids roll, a second later he is dead. His body it is prepared for the
vault within the walls, before the light of morning come it is sealed
away behind the stone which read
All-arm'd I ride, whate'er betide,
Until I find the holy Grail.
If he found it, the brothers say, let it go with him.
"Shit," Brother John say, "it takes a crazy man not to know he's
had it all the time. The blood of God is never spilled, ours you'll find
every day."
Sure and I come to find the thing in the bed I have been sleeping
with is none other than myself. Myself that feels the shape I hold,
the shape that will conduct the body over the wall of stones to the
level digging earth which say finally HERE HE LIES. The truth is
that the trouble with Gonzalez have finally brought him low. Meanwhile the God who gives life to the biggest fool will say Carry On.
When the last trumpet sound still will there be music in the ears . . .
if not that then a clanging in the head. A natural death, the deathman say, is all the law allows. Shit the dream is in the sleep but what
73 is in the dream? Sometime between the taking of the porridge and
the chewing of the bread I find myself Gonzalez back at the bridal
rooms of the Pasadoke sending off to the newspaper the classified
have blue eyes, about my height, wearing tight-fit English tweed
high above the knees. Panty-hose neptune blue, no hat and alligator
shoes. Reward offered, write me here, you be glad you did.
Translated from the Danish by Alexander Taylor
I held you tightly
among black umbrellas.
They jammed us in,
struck us in the eyes and cheeks.
We held the line in the archway
in the street of umbrellas.
But soon they got reinforcements.
Up from briefcases
down from stairs
came a flood of black umbrellas.
We turned between their cog-wheels.
Got spiritless tattoos,
ragged ears,
weaponless among the black umbrellas.
One day the sun will shine,
I said,
in an egg of black umbrellas.
But you shouted:
The sun is shining!
They attacked
and carried you off.
I was left standing alone
in the radiant sun.
This is the large city where we live
This is the small street in the large city where we live
This is the old house in the small street in the large city where we live
This is you in the house
yes this is you
and this is me
in the middle of a sentence
in the middle of a TO that stretches in all directions
like a caterpillar at the end of a straw
This is the TO that turns about at the end of something
that won't go further at the moment
like a mast-acrobat I saw as a child
the mast was high and rattled and swayed
eight meters to each side according to my father
I got a devil of a pain in my neck from looking so high
but got off really cheaply in comparison with the masterful daredevil
who later
or was it his predecessor
broke mast and neck
This is the neck which bears the head which remembers the neck
which sooner or later fell down from the swaying mast
and broke against the pavement of the street in the suburb
where I stretched my neck toward the presumptuous
and from this stems my later weakness for climbing
ship masts power poles eventually street lights
76 This is the pupating person
who came from the child beside the mast in the suburb
to the large city where we five
the swinging capitol at the end of the road
which went through my clinging suburb
my neckaching childhood
my trial climbing youth
This is the spine that leads up to the neck
which bears the head which uses the eyes
which saw the acrobat sway at the end of the mast
in the suburb that clings to the large overcrowded city where we live
This is the head that sways on the top of the still erect spine
for your eyes
eight thoughts to every side
These are your eyes that are aimed at the TO
that I got eyes for at the end of the swaying mast
in the childhood I am now climbing up from
to the point where I can go no further
This is the TO
and this is you
yes this is you
Pass me a little finger
Confidently my brother sallied forth into the world,
sang himself away between elbows and dice.
Gladly he accepted the world's conditions
which for him were the whirling maelstrom.
He was tossed up on various coasts.
Bit by bit, by different detours,
he was drawn back to the family farm.
Here he first put himself together —
what a meeting! — he merged with his defeat,
which father came out and kissed.
O Father, had you only waited one day, one hour!
Btu nothing but the fatted calf would do
to feast such a welcome defeat.
Have I myself chosen the small victories,
whose meat long ago has been chewed white and dry?
Have I myself rationed your love,
this small treacherous love-ration?
Harmless for others certainly.
Like throwing snowballs at a tree,
like boys spitting against the wind.
78 Thy will be done, my Father.
My bundle is tied, in it a fat, white thigh,
a three day's love-ration.
Then I'll get lost
between mountains and springs.
Thus will I flee from the smoke of my offering,
which was never beaten to earth,
but stood up stiffly like a pillar of shame.
Years will pass, Father,
years without love,
years without fatted calves.
And then when I have saved
a pocketful of defeat,
when my clothes are smeared with grime,
then I will approach you
with fierce tired steps:
Then you will have to love me!
The spruce casually saws away at the horizon
while the dunes cautiously
peep out from behind one another's shoulders.
Low tide. The scowling black stones
rise up and lick their lips
with tongues of seaweed.
Pale and bitter, the lighthouse stares
at the gloating jaws of the boats.
What foreign coasts have they tasted —
Where can a more beautiful place than this be found?
A dried up starfish
pointing in all directions.
Benny Andersen is a young Danish writer; his poems, short stories and children's books have earned him a considerable reputation since his first volume
appeared in 1960.
Alexander Taylor, poet and translator, teaches in Storrs, Connecticut; other
of his Andersen versions have appeared in Modern Poetry in Translation and
Draw and spread ink:
swiftly stroke a tiger's repose,
in three inches show a mountain.
A man travels slowly;
stopping to rest, his forehead,
eyebrow and cheek, enclose a flame.
After this, temples, carriages,
the birds and fish.
The lonely cliff is so luxuriant,
the empty spaces all are clouds.
Kenneth Fifer edits Anon, the literary magazine published in Ann Arbor.
This poem is from a manuscript which received the 1971 Major Hopwood
Award for Poetry at the University of Michigan.
Father of Concord, the war comes!
Beautiful blue children call in the eastern field.
Bird-songs?    wave after wave?    and forever?
If the world could be like him and sing,
if I could build my naked fear into that ecstasy
as Henry once could do and sigh,
or walk among the sad Waldens of the west
where love evolves that sweet face
called The Seasons. . . . All men must lie.
Like inborn gentleness they find
humiliation and then art.
A real life? A pond of simple reasons?
The smile changing to taste the dark?
The deep lake within the ordinary woman you lost?
If Henry sang like this to sing,
all rising from his loneliness to spring,
then no more excuses. The brave dream on.
The sleeping soldier smiles in the rain,
"a good death, a good death. ..."
The world was born four billion years before.
That elm,
the cloud
that sweetens it,
the sky
looking after,
the wind
giving life
to all,
it is
a perfect
loving sight:
ages and ages.
Milton Kessler is in the English Department at SUNY in Bingham ton, N.Y.,
but is teaching in Israel this year. He is a widely-published poet.
Translated from the French by D. M. Pettinella
light congeals
over the head of the years
death intrudes
on the gold of fields
these are puerile things
wind scorns at its feet
daughters of captive flutes
have meaningless roots
daughters of ambushed crystals
daughters enslaved in their blood
daughters of flame flashes
daughters of enchanted snows
I dreamt of a warm room
where storm-swollen flesh
renews the sensation
of perfumed light
but the yoke of the word
still weighs on thought
the impassive plough
distorts the dawn
water dwells on this past
where terror wanes
for the land and its oxen
its birds and fishes
senseless doors of laughter
open their shutters to the world
dawn nails the faithful outburst
on the cross of passion
Tristan Tzara, who died in 1963, founded the Dada movement in Zurich and
influenced Parisian literary circles with his poetry, essays and criticism.
D. M. Pettinella's translations have appeared in scores of journals. She lives in
New York City.
Sunday has come
carried on the smudged spine of a sermon.
Too many elements, today.
Litmus paper. The acids and alkalis
rotate through the knitted eyelids of a passer-by.
The sea breeze has given up,
it sits on a bolted bench
its encrusted feet on cleaved shells;
between just that bench
and just this bench
a stuffed seagull
nailed on the frayed gravestone
the holiday strolls towards tomorrow
after yesterday,
accompanying it
soon, it might be a time
for clenched fists
or rain games.
Ian Stavely's poems have appeared in Salt, Blackfish and Fiddlehead. He lives
in Vancouver.
Translated from the Japanese by Gregory Campbell
I held her hand
as we walked down the cold night road.
Her hand was very cold so
I let her put it in my trouser pocket to warm it.
Then accidentally her narrow fingertips
touched a sensitive area deep in the pocket.
The sensitive area soon began to show its existence.
Her face in profile was full of mischief.
"Oh, there's a fish!" and innocently she began to dig at it.
"Stop," I said but she didn't.
She focused her attention on her fingertips
and poked her head in my pocket.
Finally she slipt into the pocket,
bit out a hole in the bottom and
immediately began to play with it.
Unable to put up with this,
with the woman in my pocket,
I entered a small hotel we were passing.
Entering the room
the woman jumped out of my pocket still clutching it.
She pulled and yanked on it stretching it out.
The round expanded end she held like something from a
cosmetic kit.
With the transparent gumminess oozing out
she began industriously to smear it on her face.
"I'm going to change with your power . . . Watch me now .
This she said with an innocent laugh
while shining her face with the liquid.
86 And when she had finished smearing her face
she stripped off her clothes
and began to smear the gumminess in every nook and cranny
of her body.
My most sensitive area
touched the tips of her breasts and her body hair in massage
and my body began to tingle and tremble.
the transparent gumminess like the white of an egg
began to form a long narrow thread.
She wrapped the thread all around her body
forming a torso-shaped cocoon in which she disappeared.
Picking up the huge cocoon shining faintly pink
I carefully carried her back to the house.
The next day, when I awoke
she had broken the cocoon and wiggled out and
with shining colorful wings on her back
was preparing breakfast.
Each time she laughed or spoke to me
her fantastic wings would flutter like fans
scattering light and fragrance all through the room.
Absurdly I begem to feel happy
and to the reborn butterfly woman
I wanted to give as much nectar as there was.
Hideki Isomura is a contemporary poet of erotic themes. In 1963 he received
the Muro Saisei Poetry Prize, perhaps Japan's most significant poetry award.
Gregory Campbell, who lived in Japan for a number of years, is now a student
in the Religious Studies Department at the University of British Columbia.
Translated from the Japanese by Gregory Campbell
He started singing in a drunken way:
"She'd even pour water on a drowning man,
she was an evil woman ..."
It was a blues song that went like that.
Adding my voice to his chocolate-colored bass,
several times I felt I was about to bring the wine
and hors d'oeuvres up out of my stomach.
I became disgusted with my own slippery sense
of racial equality.
Even at that he shook my hand
before leaving.
And no matter how I look at it
his hands were too fat.
The backs of his hands and the palms of his hands —■
disturbingly different colors.
And his heart and face were reversed in exactly
the same way.
After he'd turned off into the darkness beneath
the neon towers
I remembered. That young poetess I know.
Since she'd been having an affair with some Negro
her poems published in those skimpy magazines
have improved to where you had to gasp.
I was secretly jealous!
That is, even if I slept with a black woman or
a white woman
my poetry would probably not get better or worse.
But that young female poet sleeps with a Negro
and all her poems get really good.
I find that like a round fat pole my own sex
is hateful.
Hitoshi Anzai has published several poetry volumes, studies and appreciations
of both modern and classical Japanese poetry. For a critical analysis of his work
and a number of his better-known poems in English translation see the 1970
January-March issue of Japan Quarterly.
Cold coin rattles
On the table top, spins,
Drops off. The shadows
Cross themselves.
Hours loom
With sudden hands,
Slapping our cheeks awake:
Look to the embryo, growing.
Lips that kissed closed
Tombs gather heirlooms
In careful fingers,
Recall lost articles,
And leave.
There is no time.
Messages arrive.
That is the way
The world works. There
Is its machinery.
Thomas F. Pawlick is a Detroit newspaperman.
Let me start with my boots, that keep me away from the earth.
What shoes. They stand back on their heels and regard
— through the laces — a toe, stiff with safety.
No longer a hint of the work that went in them:
raising the animal, butchering, smell of the tanners'.
Instead, my boots are blackened: two hundred hours
demolition and nailing. Then, they were laid off.
Sitting inside or just walking around in the rain
they became philosophical. Some of the gold
— their original color — now arrives through the grime.
They think of their predecessors, dead at the job.
They think of the boards headed toward them.
Let me go on to my socks. To my jeans: Levi Strauss, with
cloth to be made from the cotton, dyed, cut, hemmed, looped,
sewn, zippered, pocketed. Noise of machines. Folded and packed.
None of this is to say sold, the floor manager with an earache,
the customer with tattered underwear who finally would rather
not. . .
And my own underwear. My shirt.
An incredible groaning surrounds me. A wealth of alarm clocks.
Bedsprings. An army of kettles and toast.
How many automobiles and handkerchiefs. Whole lives. Overtime.
A cry of delight. Forest of kisses. Erections. And cigarettes.
9° And my body itself: those toilers
my mother in pain and sweat, formulas, physicians, hamburger
and the newest detergents, my father
immersing himself in strange laboratories.
All this so the growers of corn, those shippers and trainmen
and package designers, the manufacturer of timecards
and the boy who attaches the handles of coffins
can put all their labor, their product,
their sunlight and steamwhistles, in me.
What agony of pay envelopes. Lumber yards. How many movies,
coffees, Saturdays
let me grow like a plant:
build a water tower, renovate the employees' cafeteria,
install a production line to open next week.
This poem is from Waiting for Wayman, a first book-length collection, to be
published by McClelland & Stewart in 1973. Tom Wayman lives in Vancouver.
"Who, if I cried, would hear me among the angelic orders?" —rilke
Somewhere out there
you sit
ears flat against the sky
taking in every word
every twitch and gesture
sometimes an eagle
or a truth
will circle far below
and you will laugh at distance
your matter anti-matter
whatever gas surrounds
your version of a mouth
curling back with such a sneer
that astronomers rave madly
about stellar explosions
and confident future-tellers
scurry to their charts
but this happens rarely —
the eagle's back broken
too many times
the truth good only
for a spinning piece of rock
with a few million years to live
so mostly you are silent
content with hands
on light-year bellies
to be worshipped denied sullied
by the piteous guttural exclamations
we choose to call prayers
(for pauline pfieffer hemingway)
I have heard
you died in 1951
aged fifty-six
and yet around this table
you are alive
hair bobbed short
long v-necked blouse
the cleft hidden
by a wine glass
on your left
is the man himself
with his first wife
betrayed as you
would later be
you do not look catholic
the rock ledges underwater drop away
to sandy floors
then to a thick blue
I cannot believe is empty
chasing small fish
seeking to kill them
I imagine grey shadows
(though I am told
they are only in the south)
myself limbless
in that blue
and no one
to assess the poetry
(screamed perhaps
and without oxygen)
in final bubbles
you were
2500 years ago
down past
william the conqueror
even athens' greatness
and yet
you too look back
at homer
perhaps a garden
in mesopotamia
someone said
is what we make
from death
he was
a philosopher (18th cent.)
from a place
you would not know
I say
forget about time
the purest mathematics
the finest tomb
we are together
In a circle
where no one communicates
I find it difficult
to communicate
like an old photograph
I look out from
moments lost
(this one of d.h. lawrence:
his boyhood
this one of myself:
does not exist)
why do we exchange
so readily an eye
for an eye
hold so literally
in sweating palms
the tooth and nail
why when cornered
or not cornered
do we snarl
and embracing the paradox
build fires
around our bodies
to keep away the night
if we are killers
and victims both
we cancel out our lives
if we are inheritors
and ancestors then
our deaths too
are cancelled out
95 my friends
listen closely
it is not light
that left the stars
a million years ago
but laughter
J. A. Wainwright has edited Notes for A Native Land and Soundings; Moving
Outward, his first volume of poems, was published by New Press in 1970.
When ice melted
And leaves scattered
And earth broke open.
Sun and wind and sapling
Stood trial for high treason.
They whispered:
Every coffin can be a scabbard.
Michael Finlay's poems, fiction and translations have appeared in several
North American journals and The Sono Nis Press has recently published a
volume of poems, The Harpo Scrolls. He is studying for an MA. from the
Creative Writing Department at the University of B.C.
This morning the creatures are astir
Routing out a meal at primes.
An oppossum slides along the light
Like a rubbing finger, a crow calls,
Dawn slips coldly
Over the still mansards of fear
Like an ultimate thing with claws.
Caught dreaming by this chilled glass,
Ear tuned for hearing, heart for belief,
I listen to my garden grow.
It cracks and roars, yields seed — a new grammar
Beyond the pale meridian of fence —
At this moment all activity redeems
The heart and I feel a kinship
With the soft underneath of things,
The creatures and the sudden crocus
Which blesses me, as I bless it —
Above is below and we are close.
Dark shapes the light, the world wakes
And we are where we have to go.
Stanley Radhuber's poems have been in many journals, including Prism international. He teaches English at Portland State University in Oregon.
97 C. J. Newman, who teaches at Sir George Williams University, has finished his
second novel, A Russian Novel, and is at work on The Longest Undefended
Border in the World.
San Francisco - Hong Kong
One sees very clearly where it all is going but it is as if one had
been forbidden to tell. Perfect freedom (if that is really a part of it)
requires a perfect silence. On the one hand there is the prospect of
the annihilation of the race. On the other hand, it is possible that the
race may pull through; but for what? Is it possible, or even desirable,
to conceive of a chastened mankind?
Either prospect, annihilation or survival, seems to call for a gesture, but the ones that we have been rehearsing look suspiciously like
those that were tried before and that always failed us in the past. Of
course we continue to throw things out, sometimes without even
using them, sometimes still in their handsome packages; but new
things come into the house all the time. Sense verges into nonsense.
Indeed, one appears to include the other. "These days," a noted
psychiatrist, a devotee of madness, writes, "few books are forgive-
able." He is himself the author of many, nearly impenetrable books.
If he had written, instead, "These days, few lives are forgiveable"
— or "few truths," or "few assertions about few realities" — one
would still have to allege against him, as against so many of us, that
he had claimed too little or too much.
Everyone advertises his imminent silence. Every word that we
speak is either a dogma or a profession that we are skating on a thin
balloon over a network of stretched, luminous fibres. Or it is both of
these at once.
The local paper (we still get it every day, and read in it; and on
Sundays get The New York Times, a copy of which is always reserved for us) records that
98 an hours-old baby was found yesterday in a restroom wastebasket of an
airliner at Honolulu. . . .
A clean-up crew found the baby, cold but alive, in a plastic bag inside
a wastebasket on TWA Flight 743 from San Francisco.
The story is datelined Hong Kong, so one supposes that that was
the eventual destination of the flight. The mother, however, "was
taken off a TWA flight in Guam" (the writer does not indicate
whether this was at her own request or whether signs of breakdown
had appeared, alerting a stewardess or other official that here was a
passenger in distress; and he refers to it as a flight, not the flight)
"and she is in hospital there." That is, in Guam. At this point in the
story — three short paragraphs in all — many confusions seem to
Why is the story datelined Hong Kong if the baby was discovered
in Honolulu and the mother is in hospital in Guam? Is she being
held there? Are there charges to be laid — in Honolulu? in San
Francisco? in Hong Kong or Guam? Have attempts been made to
reach any members of her family? Did the mother change planes in
Honolulu? If not, if she continued on the same plane as far as Guam,
did not the crew of that plane, after the baby was discovered, question the passengers who remained?
Or did they hope to spare them embarrassment?
And how did the mother conceal the signs of her distress until she
got to Guam?
Is she a young woman? Was she returning home, or abandoning
it; or did she take that flight expressly for the purpose of abandoning
the baby? Would not a shorter, less expensive domestic flight have
served that purpose just as well?
What nationality is she? Of what ethnic stock? I ask this because,
for some reason, I imagine her to be Chinese: a young woman, short,
slender, Chinese. Is that because of the terminal points of the flight,
in San Francisco and Hong Kong, or is it because I still hold to a
stereotype, acquired when I was growing up, of Orientals who hold
life cheap? "China is Near" is the name of a recent film depicting
the revolutionary activities and Maoist philosophy of certain disaffected young Italians today. China, the China of our disordered
imaginations of many years ago and of our newly disordered imaginations, is not only near, it is part of the heart of darkness in each of
us today.
But that is, no doubt, much too literary.
And why after all is the story considered worthy of being reported
99 when we know these days that babies are being abandoned all the
time? Babies are being abandoned and the atmosphere polluted, not
least of all by rhetoric and sentiments that few of us can explain or
understand. Apocalypse is popular and in danger of being overexposed. Even the end of the world has a limited entertainment
Airline officials in Hong Kong said that the mother was in good condition and probably would be released in a few days.
She was told the baby was alive and in good health, they said, and she
immediately pressed
(the word "pressed" comes at the beginning of the line, which leads
one to suppose that there was a typo and that the word was intended
to read "expressed." Or did she actually "press," and did one of
those anonymous airline officials give vent to an uncharacteristic
passion to bear witness, in reporting on her behaviour?)
. . . she immediately pressed her desire to return to Honolulu to take
custody of him.
The story ends.
Perhaps because there are so few details mentioned, one's imagination insists on inventing some. There is, for instance, the matter of
the clean-up crew. The merest mention is made of them, there is no
indication of their ages, names, or of their reaction when they discovered the baby. But I seem to see their coveralls, which are white,
a kind of institutional, chalky white and of a stiffish, coarse material
that stands away from the body. A rounded crease, smart when they
put those coveralls on but blunt a moment later, runs down the
length of their legs. To one side of the halter (which is at the periphery of my vision) there is, perhaps, an insignia in blue and red and
some words: the name of the airport or, possibly, "Sanitation Crew."
One of the men stands next to the wastebasket and bends over. Does
he begin to tip the basket first or does he immediately see the baby
— and call out to his mate? His voice, it is possible, expresses a certain pleasure of relief from the monotony of the job, the kind of
relief — at once delighted, cynical, and mildly horrified — of those
who are condemned always to look on at a scene more vivid than
their own; a scene towards which they feel both superior and somewhat envious.
When they look at the baby, what do they see? Perhaps the man
who has discovered it finds himself wishing that, instead of a plastic
bag, the mother had wrapped the baby in a blanket, something
ioo quilted or of one of those woven synthetics that are supposed to be as
warm as wool. Perhaps he thinks, almost in the same moment, that
the wish is irrelevant, evasive, sentimental. In future years, assuming
there is to be a future, it is possible that he will remember that
moment of discovery — of glancing routinely into a receptacle filled
with the debris of a trans-Pacific flight and finding a baby there —
or his wife will remember it, or some friend to whom he relates the
incident; and he or she will wonder whether the race is meant to
survive. Human history will seem a rich and perilous adventure, but
one that is undershot with chance and occasional great shoddiness.
The baby, of course, knows nothing. It is human, of course: in
some, possibly in most, senses of the word; but, in at least one sense,
not human at all: it doesn't know. It has been abandoned. It was
cold. Now it is in process of being recovered. Soon, it will be warm
again and on its way back to its mother. Or she will be on her way
back to it, alone and frightened. But it doesn't know.
Being a father again
I figured writing about poetry
somehow missed the point
But remembering self-love
in a room of comfortable mirrors
that you can sometimes see yourself
by accident
I thought this poem might come
as naturally as mother's milk
You see? it turns out corny
Balance founders in fatherhood
And Maggie's new true tale of bears
does nothing to help
Lost once in a zoo
she watched a maddened prisoner
knock his cage bars bloody
while his mate groaned baby bears alive
Wild but manacled and clumsy
jealous of a pain not mine
drenched in tiny nipple sprays
not meant for me
how long has it been since I was fucked
or fed
or free?
Maybe I have waited here forever
gasping for whatever soft shape
could fill me
It's certain anyway that words
can't do this trick
No poem is enough
Mike Estok teaches at the University of Waterloo and has published poems in
Fiddlehead and Canadian Forum.
a man is put into a cube
so he'll know what it feels like.
he feels space closing in all around him.
he feels the air grow tight then slowly loosen,
a man breathing deep, having eaten.
he feels the white floor grow black as he walks it.
he feels his hand shaking beside him.
he can see his hand shaking, reflected
in the narrow mirrors by the entrance.
he is sure that his hand shakes.
there can be no doubting now, he tells himself.
yes, his hand must leave him.
he curses the doors in the sidewalk
he curses the mudpies that run them.
he curses the little girl who chases flowers.
he curses the gardeners who plant them.
he curses the women who love the gardeners
and who give birth to the gardeners who plant them.
he curses the woman who put him there.
as time goes by, he begins to notice more and more
the resemblances between women, not just
some women, he realizes, but all women:
short women,   fat women,   tall women,   thin women.
women who look like his mother and women who don't.
he begins to take note of the gloves on a woman's hands.
Rochelle Ratner's first book, A Birthday of Waters, has been published by
New Rivers Press.
103 TOAD
Everyone knows how the toad
Loves beautiful things,
How he will hop for a mile
To lie on a red scarf of silk,
His frissons of pleasure
When he sees golden balls
Falling and falling, into a well,
And how he will hop in
To get it, regardless of grub worms,
Or spiders, or tarantulas,
Or trolls. As we know from Minute
And Monde, his own home
Has walls solid with gold,
Ebony floors, ceilings of jewels —
No gingerbread castles for him!
Great crystal chandeliers
Cast prisms and unicorn horns
On the floor,
And he has tapestries of princesses,
Dancing, and tapestries of boars,
Fleeing, and no seat
Less intricately carved than a throne.
O any animal in the wood
Would feel it an honor
To be invited into the pictures
Of Minute and Monde.
Of course, a place of such splendor
Is hard to keep up,
So toad has turned himself into
104 The litterbag of the globe,
No job is too small for him,
He will go down sinks and drains,
And gutters and spouts,
You will hear him at night
Rattling trash cans and lids
You can see him through windows
In a light purplish-blue
Drawing blood out of bodies
Gone blue from the cold,
Painting on smiles.
You can find him sewing back arms,
Stamping approved
On rubber elbows and knees
And it is he whom you call
To identify the fillings and rings
Left in the chars.
It is his voice that you hear
In the sirens of cars,
And, of course, in the foghorn's dull croak.
Morning always finds him
Tucked tight in his bed
Under covers of silk
And the sun strikes his tea things
Like small silver bells.
The toad
Is the true capitalist of the globe.
Susan Fromberg Schaeffer teaches at Brooklyn College and has had books
published by Seven Woods Press and Byron Press.
Today glass dogs
knock on your roof
you don't know
what they want
how could you
you think
oh, what has man
done now
There's not
a prophet in sight
Your arm is a knife
it lifts your body
onto the table
You have my voice
you need it
Feet are marching
without the body
footprints lead
to the moon
The white teeth
of rain
laugh at us
they laugh because
we are dry
As a matter of fact,
it lives my life.
It is a knot
of all my years.
The muscle tries on a body.
It tries on bones
and walks off like a man.
Tonight it aches
with love.
It wants to leap into my weakness
like a young wife.
I call it the brawn
of my world.
It likes to bask
under the sun,ready
to flex at my swarm of words.
The muscle
dreams inside my arm,
inside my shadow,
inside my dreams.
It teaches me its warm
unthinkable strength.
David Bissonette, who has published three books privately, is a twenty-year-old
poet living at Niagara University in upstate New York.
Translated from the Slovak by James St. Clair-Sobell
My return is towering to the skies and the departure is a devastated
The land of Orava, my flame was not extinguished by the morning
I love the rocky, mountain ridge of the brown, wrinkled land
beaten by the hot wind in the green shadow of the fern
I would give everything for the sky-high return
to the land where before the eyes of the people the greenwood
of Gecel disappears and the dream, a ship pulled forward by
wrinkles on the tough muscles, leaves on the foreheads of
unknown women these pearls of memory.
My return is towering to the skies and the departure is a devastated
In the destroyed field the blue nest of the rivers will not quiver
and the nets of the people will not be caught by the roots of the trees
Under the gloomy sky it is very hard to make out the faces of
dear ones. Oh, where are the bloody dawns, where is the
twittering of swallows and the noise of horses?
Slovak life is a hard granite. Bad people draw lots and
people go around in shirts only. No one defends them, neither
does the priest give blessing.
Oh, my own ones, look on my beloved home with disgust
at this togetherness.
for this weed
a lot of anger,
metal from heaven!
Theo Florin, considered by many to be Czechoslovakia's leading poet, published
his first collection in 1936, and followed this with many other works. James St.
Clair-Sobell, Professor of Comparative Philology at the University of British
Columbia, had other translations of Florin in a previous issue of Prism international.
Tonight I sleep
with no stiletto knife under my pillow
for from hot guns which spill blood I am safe.
I walk the world armed with intelligences
that others do not possess
and have been educated towards success.
I travel and am widely respected.
My friends are similarly marked
and together we eat and drink
while others claw for bread and water.
My children are bright as tristars
and read literature late into the night.
This house is mine,
it came with smiles and handshakes
which is the civilized way
On this earth I am assured of long life
and am welcomed in banks and insurance palaces.
Three thousand years ago
I would have been expert with flint
and an organizer of wood collections
for the big fire at the cave's mouth.
Wild beasts would have run
from the glare of my defences.
I would have taken three, four wives
and my sons grown rosy on pig-fat.
I 10 We would have hunted snake where the swamps start.
By my summer sea-cave I would have
speared the stupid fish,
and slept each night where the earth
was moulded to the shape of my body.
There would have been no bone knife
under my pillow of lamb's skin.
I would have lived long in a wild land
and been mentioned in epic poems.
as then,
reports reach me of plans to review my status.
Also there are rumours of death.
But still I am secure.
Nothing has changed.
Wes Magee's poems were included in Faber's Poetry Introduction: 2; he teaches
in Wiltshire.
Two million chickens
defecate each day
around four.
Then, flapping their wings
in an Easterly (our) direction,
the essence of chicken philosophy
drifts over the wire
like mustard gas at Ypres.
About what you'd expect
from birds who can't fly.
down at the cigar store
a wooden white man
stands at the door
with reservations
Geronimo waits inside
behind Arizona boulders
found floating on oil
the Titanic excreted
from frightened sphincters
112 he is not red
but brown
gold in the desert is
piss in the foothills
of his memory
ink on the pages of
Farmer's Daily
what will happen if
the white man refuses
to buy his memoirs?
Rushing home and writing
in superb Dostoevskian anguish —
her 132 page suicide note
in which the climax
became anti...
Thereupon emulating a fourth
avenue Italian pseudo quite
zonked on Experience and Religion,
she placed one end of an
eight foot strand of spaghetti
into her mouth and sucked ...
flogging herself to death in the process.
Norm Poole lives in Abbotsford, B.C. This is his first publication.
"3 Henry H. Roth's stories have been in many journals, including Prism international. "Epilogues by Poliakogg" is from a novel; other recent stories have
appeared in December, Minnesota Review and Works in Progress.
Epilogues by Poliakogg
And God created a great whale. — genesis
For an immediate and climactic showdown with Stella, Poliakogg
chooses Guido's Trattoria, a tiny, elitist storefront in an Italian
ghetto. There are only six tables and you must possess a confirmed
reservation, even if there are empty tables. A stickler for fascist control, Guido will not tolerate much noise. He has been known to order
customers to shut up and will not permit any smoking. Requesting
an ash tray is tantamount to seeking an exit visa into Mulberry
Street. Guido remembers Poliakogg, who visits at least six or seven
times a year, which is plenty for the fat gourmet relishing good cigars
with his meals. Poliakogg brings his diary listing facts and fears; he's
willing to take Stella back without penalty only if he can challenge
her before she attempts blackmail. He appreciates cunning, he really
does; and he admires the kid for trying.
"Poliakogg, why aren't you excited?"
He grabs a heavily-seeded breadstick. "I exist on the very edge of
excitement, you know that."
"Oh, I mean really excited. Our Vietnam problem is solved."
"Hey, don't frown, I appreciate most of what you're doing, really.
Getting our hacks to split the loot and share scripts was a Solomon
stroke. Really, I should have thought it. I can pay off no higher
She leans over, wet kisses him. "Oh, I know, I know, but I've
been so busy and useful, Pops."
114 Poliakogg clutches the diary; his fistula is dead but he has a
sudden, clear instinct, now almost a vision, he doesn't toss the indictment on the table — like a blind man his remaining senses have
suddenly been sharpened. There is no menu. A waiter brings a
platter of swollen appetizers, plenty of nice color and even better
odors. Poliakogg recapitulates, he knows a few things, he is in a
restaurant listening to a new guru. Wisely he eats slowly. Stella is
busting a gut to say something but first she's laying on the appetizers.
Table is cleared and next course is a homemade chunky pasta in
butter and garlic sauce. Poliakogg gobbles all his pasta, then dips his
bread into the plate. Stella eats only half her pasta, she's not so
proud as punch — a little uneasy even .. . He seizes her plate, gloms
the contents, and gives her half a glare. Poliakogg takes to heart
Stella's nervousness and he is still a man with a sure bully instinct.
"Poliakogg, don't get mad, I overstepped myself a little."
"How little?"
"Poliakogg, I've been to see Jerry Kaye! Twice! And spoke to
him a couple of times on the phone."
He doesn't fake surprise.
"I couldn't tell you till now. But don't be mad. Everything is fixed,
"Shit, I wish I could smoke in this place!"
"Don't, he'll throw even you out! Look, Mr. Kaye called once to
ask about Vietnam scripts. I went over. You were at Brentano's I
"I'm always at Brentano's," Poliakogg smirks.
"Mr. Kaye was very different this time. This time he didn't look
like he wanted to lay me. This was business. I told him a little about
"Stella, how little is little?"
"I threw him one of your looks, I said the film was really going to
be something else. And so far we hadn't decided on a distributor."
Poliakogg is glad the ossi bucco hasn't arrived, he didn't have
complete strength to gnaw meaty bones. He encourages Stella to
"Kaye asked me if you were involved. I said you were helping out
in your spare time."
Polikogg grins. God, he could use a cigar!
"By the next time I came to his office, you had agreed the two
writers should pool Vietnam. Kaye loved that idea, he really loves
you, Poliakogg."
"5 "I know, I know. I have no enemies. And Cantos?'
"He brought it up. He said Prism was going to reach out for
quality, King still had a name, and if you were in favour, Prism
would handle distribution."
Perfect timing for the ossi bucco and zucchini to show.
"It's perfect. You must have done more."
"Oh, I did! I tried to remember how much you stole. And I
added plenty to that for approximate advertising costs." She sounded
like an accountant executive. Eliza Doolittle with balls, she is Nixon
in drag, wallowing in all life's solid defeats, suddenly leader of a
country. She has staked out her new frontier. Stella has saved the
day and his neck. And she doesn't need any gratuitous thanks.
Once he licks the shank bones clean he does say thanks a couple of
times. He also confesses this would be the happiest night of all time
if his fistula would make even a guest shot appearance . . .
Stella tosses away her triumph like an old bra and is a nervous
Nellie woman. "Poliakogg, your fistula isn't bothering you. How
Over key lime pie he relates how long it has flown the coop. She
commiserates and is worried. He promises to see an internist.
She finally confesses she has not arranged a definite time for Poliakogg to meet Kaye and sign forms for the advertising cash.
"How about right after espresso?" Poliakogg squeezes her frail
wrist. She's only a girl but what a woman! And she giggles.
Stella's triumphant glow completely vanishes, she is merely a
secretary in love with her boss. It happens all the time.
However, Poliakogg says, "Stella, nobody ever did anything for
me before. I believe it, I believe it, but tell me the whole story again
and slower this time." He is almost childlike, listening to a mommy;
the espresso pot is around three times before the narrative finishes
and he is sated, a little . ..
Galliano is on the house. Finally Guido escorts them to the door.
If Guido were a barber there would be only one chair, a golden
chair, in the shop and of course, no ash trays. Guido wears a sacklike double-breasted, pin-stripe, left over from the Forties, now practically mod. He grunts Ciao, while Poliakogg and Stella run off into
the night.
116 II
It's become increasingly tough to talk about Cantos, and, of course, I'll
never stop thinking about it... — diary of samuel poliakogg
Lawson King is far less uptight than Guido, but to be polite, Poliakogg asks anyway, "You mind if I smoke, Pal?"
"Of course not, but why such big cigars Poliakogg?"
"Tinier the self-image, the bigger the shimmelaus. And I never
share 'em."
King's lips and body are so parchment crinkly, a floating spark
could immolate the man. Only King's perverse willpower keeps those
little legs propelling. But as per usual, nothing is predictable. King
insists on leaving his room, leaving the lobby and entering the park.
"But your doc."
"My doc is a sandpiper who gets near the water but once a wave
breaks, runs away. He doesn't want to see or hear about me again.
He'll permit a nurse to sign my death certificate."
"We should stay in the lobby."
"I should have made a dozen more movies, you should have
turned down Cantos, let's not deal in should-haves."
"It's a nice day, but you should wear a sweater."
"Relax. My memory is gone. Are we really home free?"
"Be careful."
"I will but there's no reason. Prism has sacks of money to handle
advertising and will distribute us nationally and in Europe. Jessup is
euphoric, you ever see a euphoric producer before first reviews are
"Be careful Poliakogg."
Poliakogg looks away.
"You're not home free. You need me dead, admit it."
"It would be nice if you made it to the premiere."
The director leans on him.
"No, dead is best."
"Everything is paid off," Poliakogg mutters.
Why is it only King understands perfectly. Poliakogg drags the
withering stalk of a man to a bench. He seems to be in one of those
happy nightmares again. King is shuddering. Poliakogg is not
frightened; not one bit.
Only the little director's eyes are alive. This is the last meeting.
Again perfect timing. King knows it and Poliakogg senses this is not
wishful thinking. Life is becoming a baby puzzle with large, easy-to-
117 fit pieces and clues everywhere. Poliakogg finally kisses off all memory of the marvelous fistula and admits he blames Lawson King for
what has happened. This admission affords the fat man final release
and he is even kinder, more loving to the dying man. Poliakogg
gently reveals all advertising plans once King is dead. King nods and
nods, seems to be humming as Poliakogg gently sings. King is definitely humming.
Sharing a common thread of madness they rise, walk on the grass
holding hands; they resemble in the graceful and effortless way they
stroll a commercial of lovers racing towards each other, slow motion
with the proper mouth wash and body odor stifler. Both men stop
loping and begin monkey chattering, telling childhood memories,
humiliations, victories, defeats, real secrets; they almost bust under
the load of so many secrets. Poliakogg is loosey goosey, King stands
erect and has stopped coughing and shaking. The day and all voices
hold still — it is an Indian summertime, a hint of fall coolness, fall
plus a blast of summer heat. Zoo animals are laughing, birds chirp
on . . . Paradise for a second; King has enormous strength and artistic vision and Samuel Poliakogg has a friend . . .
Very quickly now they crawl back to the Ritz. King's vision is
limited to glass fragments cutting in on him at all angles. Each fragment only hurts a little and draws just a little blood. But no piece of
glass misses its mark. King then comes upon a gigantic door which
his burly companion opens . . . pebbles, rocks and boulders attack in
wave after wave; once again there is very little pain. Poliakogg has
shut the door but King hears doors far away being slammed again
and again. He smiles at Poliakogg, be of good cheer, Poliakogg, a
happy ending.
Poliakogg unbuttons Lawson King's shirt, fingers stumble toward
the director's heart and find no beat; reaches back for a pulse that is
also not working. He likes to think Stella would be proud and understanding, even aid in making the necessary calls . . . the fat man
finds some Ritz stationery and writes in an erratic sliding style. . .
tell everyone at "Cantos" how proud I am of what we accomplished.
He forces the note into King's rigid right hand, forcing a look at
his face (Lawson is relaxed, really smiling and his rosy color better
than in Central Park). Poliakogg checks the heart one more time.
He takes out a hanky, blows his nose loudly, then pats King's head a
118 couple of times as if it was a rabbit's foot. Poliakogg calls the Times
movie reviewer, asks to be connected to the obit department, then
the news desk. He also calls the Post and News and does not forget
Life and Look. He makes no other moves until the Times people
arrive. He then calls the hotel doctor and finally King's specialist
and Lawson was right, the man is on vacation. The Look entourage
is the last to show but they are as avid for copy as the rest. Poliakogg
is alive, happy and getting very hungry! Just for the hell of it he
swipes at his ass.
And the movie is done, all done . . . well done. Instead of throwing
penalty flags all the referees of the world applaud. Why no fucking
trouble ... — ibid by poliakogg
A Poliakogg is allowed only preludes to crisis. God, do I have and
have I had comrades? When the lifeguard toots his daily whistle a
thousand voices claim me as good buddy. Ten thousand busy, agile
fingers scoop away potential miscues like mother dogs lick away their
puppies' waste. My friends could never tolerate total dilemma —
too much soul searching sours any soul! Finally, in this skirmish, I
did lose an extra ass hole, it literally closed up and vanished. My
internist assured me I'll never have any more trouble. There's a man
with a problem in semantics.
Look, Stella rescued me, for once (only) Lawson King set up an
orderly film, his cast and technicians became involved in their own
epic poem and finally King has to leave a deathbed letter that out-
cliches my fake note. And still I absorb all the credit and in turn am
gently absorbed. The Life reporter said, "Poliakogg, I don't care
how obvious this set-up is, that's one helluva letter you wrote and
we'll print it." I couldn't believe how swiftly everyone just accepted
all I finagled. Did some even suspect and secretly approve that I
possibly had murdered Lawson King?
Certainly if cornered I'd slickly defend my action in the hotel
suite but there was no trouble; indeed, the PR Oscar was handed to
me in a no contest vote. It still scares me. No wonder America is in
such sad shape. To win, to win is the only plateau. How you get there
is completely unimportant. My complete success is dizzying and a
bad thing. No matter who's the prez, we'll never get out of Southeast Asia or Latin America or South America and J. Edgar Hoover
will never die . .. in another tableau I might well be a provocateur.
"9 Cantos debuts tonight at the Bronx Orpheum, scant dozen blocks
from our studio warehouse of sainted memory. And, like the Ritz,
our Orpheum is a freak of Stanford White decadence not yet
shunted off to the supermarket pasture. Many important people are
flying in from all directions. However, regular Monday night admission price of two dollars for adults and seventy-five cents for Kinder
(yep, we got our GP rating) is retained. No row of seats is being
roped off, you come early, get a seat and sit; for all is ever equal in
the Bronx. And furthermore, a movie is a movie is a movie, at least
to me that means you fumble in the dark to secure a sagging seat,
open your candy wrapper while the credits are flashed on and then
you stare dumbly at the images and what they say and mean; then
you love, hate or don't care about the film but if you love it you feel
better leaving the theatre womb coming into the dark, the dark and
back to the bed you've made. And sometimes you make a fortune.
Jerry Kaye and Jessup, great people at the Orpheum box office,
the two jerks follow customers and wait with them while an attendant stubs tickets. They practically lead people into the lobby, into
their seats. They're so slap happy I could order them to butter and
salt the popcorn and hand out Ju-ju's. "Maestro," Jerry sings out.
Jessup fag-waves. Jerry rumbles over, "I know you're the boss of
bosses but let's do one full page ad in the Sunday Times. This Sunday, O.K.?" He's on his knees kissing my fingers, waiting for my
blessing which I give. "O.K., O.K., a full page ad." Walk on past
true Bronx faces and then come upon men I thought had died or
been killed years ago; a few had gone out of their way to screw
King, all here to pay homage. I wink at them, they smile back
bravely, already applauding.
Ah, Mr. and Mrs. Firstnighter, there is Rodman and his wife
what's-her-name. Maganimously I yell, "Nice see ya, glad you
came." Wow, they both slouch like a single shadow. She should get
a gift subscription to every women's lib offering, even Broadsides.
"Hello Paul baby, nice of you to fly in. How's the series?" Ah, the
damn actor follows me, wanting to be reassured about his contribution to Cantos. The fool gave a performance he's not capable of ever
remembering or repeating with Aladdin's lamp. Get lost Bonart,
jump back into the second banana role in a crap series with the
built-in laugh track and cheers. There people, all my friends, a cast
that would impress DeMille keep shaking my hand, wish to share my
power, see what new crudity I can inflict on my fellow man. Even
120 Paul mentions the letter and congratulates me with a weak left-
handed shake.
A poke in the ribs. And a face I'm glad to see and then a second
face. The Schlossbergs already deeply tanned with Hollywood sloth
written across their sweet pusses. I kiss 'em both. What the hell, it's
what I really want to do and I can't ever be wrong. See, they both
kiss back.
"You look good, Samuel, very good. You've gained back plenty of
I nod, "You see King's letter?"
"I saw. Very good, my friend. You got our silent majority curious
. .. even drive-ins will take Cantos."
"Deborah, you think I wrote that. . . ?"
She giggles.
First of all it wasn't the greatest letter, it was dedicated to all who
worked on the picture, even mentioned me (that's the beauty line
other swindlers have told me) and then it just rambles on in junky
praise of the magic of the filming. I almost fainted when the newsboy
discovered it and everyone in the hotel room winked. King had seen
his future, glimpsed mine, and cushioned us all. But I still lost this
time and I think it was a warning for I might have garroted King if
he tarried much longer. My potential crisis still waiting in the wings
but my saviours never sleep.
Deborah is off to buy candy and reserve seats. Benedict hangs
around. He looks mad or at least perplexed.
"O.K., what is it with Cantos? I never saw so many sidemen at a
premiere. Even the grips are here."
"Was complete anarchy my friend. Not the bomb throwing cycle,
but an occasion where all were privates and nobody wanted to be a
general. Look, I'll speak no more about Cantos or Lawson King, I
want to forget too. I've other movies, other games."
Schlossberg wouldn't let go. "You believe what you just said?"
Schlossberg was a little mad, he was Ronald Reagan already.
"Benedict Schlossberg, it was an inspired bullshit time. Is that
"Should we save you a seat?"
"Me and Miss Stella."
Frankly Stella and I had arrived much earlier in the day (about
half past three); like the parents of the bride to check out the site.
We ate in a corner deli, sat around in the lobby till Stella disappeared
121 into the bowels of the ladies lounge and just now makes her reappearance.
"Poliakogg, I read your diary last week."
"I left it around for you to read. I want you to know exactly who
I am. Nobody else will listen."
"I always knew."
"So tell me."
"A nice fat man, I've told you plenty of times."
"You read the whole diary?"
"Poliakogg, you were right to worry about blackmail. And you
were right what you did with King once he died."
"Maybe I better re-read the diary."
"We all know who you are. You never change, you're..." She
searched for the word and tugged on her breasts.
I shudder sometimes when she reaches for an important phrase,
the answer is unsettling if true.
"You're exceptional."
"Not bad."
"You approve then?"
"You flipped air into Cantos, you made it fly. I approve of everything and ..."
"I'm sorry about your fistula closing."
I knee her knees.
And I alone am escaped alone to tell thee. —-job
By the time lights fizz out there are few empty seats. I'm in the
last row with Stella, the Schlossbergs and some neighborhood kids. I
can't remember a similar audience in hundreds of past premieres;
there's not one cough or sneeze and very few munching sounds. I'm
not crazy or fantasizing everyone is ready for excellence and here it
comes. Cantos cracks out like a sadist's whip, voices drift out of the
film into everyone's consciousness; characters are bigger than life,
then they become life; there is spontaneous applause for two scenes,
much laughter for Schlossberg's sequence .. . Schlossberg leans over
and kisses Deborah and Stella (nice touch). And when the lights go
back on and we have to leave, there is a standing ovation. Schlossberg is willing to smile, Stella, of course, is crying while Deborah
feeds her Kleenex.
122 Jerry Kaye grips both my hands and sobs "I'm never going to forget this evening Poliakogg!" Let him remember for the both of us. A
few wise-guys ask for my autograph.
Tables staffed by seedy ushers and usherettes block every exit door.
Preview cards are handed out along with pencils stamped Prism
international, Producer of Cantos, directed by Lawson King. There
are twenty multiple choice questions to be graded by a fixed new
computer. I take a card and ponder my replies. The Schlossbergs
see me huddle over a test question and are grinning like goblins.
Schlossberg says loudly, "What a fixer, here Sam, give us a few
Farewell the Bronx! Some lackey is sent out to find the drivers for
the rented cars. We're returning to Manhattan. It's a funny night.
Not, of course, as funny as the past months. But still a funny night,
cool and very light. The cars are coming; like a funeral procession
slowly, slowly they come into view. The first car is mine. I hear
Kaye's loud voice and can smell his brutish cologne. But I shut my
eyes. The Schlossbergs nestle by my side. They look suddenly very
old. Stella is at the curb signalling. The first car listens. Stella opens
the door and gallantly I dive in first. And settle back for maximum
comfort while Benedict, Deborah and Stella follow. We sit real close
to one another and it's not too comfortable. It's still so damn light
out. The driver asks if I'm ready. Stella answers yes. We are leaving.
"Oh, Poliakogg, I wish Mr. King was here." She has to say it. To
me it's like returning from a funeral but I don't say it.
Benedict is humming. Music is halted for a news bulletin. Then
music floats in again. We are approaching an entrance to the West
Side Highway. I begin my dirge telling many bad secrets. My friends
refuse to hear and I refuse to say it out loud. Deborah is knitting
furiously, Schlossberg is rocking back and forth in agitated prayer,
Stella gives me a wonderful grin. Our car slows down for a light.
Behind us are a few other cars. No one is blowing their horn, this
isn't traffic after a high school football game or a wedding. The light
Stella sighs, "It's over, Poliakogg, isn't it?"
"Sure. Right, I say. Isn't it a good feeling. Cantos is over. Isn't it
a marvy feeling?" Then we are stuck in a traffic jam and all of us
peer out and get involved.
ted Allan and Sydney Gordon, The Scalpel, the Sword: the story of Doctor
Norman Bethune, McClelland & Stewart, 1971, 319 pps., $2.95.
robert allen, Valhalla at the OK, Ithaca House, 1971, poetry, 53 pps., $2.95.
The Diamond Anthology, A. S. Barnes & Co. Inc.,  1971, poetry anthology,
323 pps., $6.95.
bill bissett, Nobody Owns Th Earth, 1971.
victor borsa, A Search for the Wild, Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1971, 57 pps.
george bowering, Touch, selected poems 1960-/070, McClelland & Stewart,
1971, 128 pps., $4.95.
george bowering, Geneve, The Coach House Press, poetry, 1971, paperback
$3.00, cloth bound $6.00, signed copy $10.00.
Austin clark, When He Was Free and Young and He Used To Wear Silks,
House of Anansi Press, 1971, $2.75.
glenn clever, Age of the Astronauts, Bytown Press, Ottawa, 1971, poetry, 60
pps., $2.75.
matt cohen, Johnny Crackle Sings, McClelland & Stewart, 1971, novel, 108
pps., paperback $2.95, clothbound $6.96.
mel dagg, Songs for my Owl, The Laughing Rooster Press, 807- 1st St. S.E.,
Calgary 21. Graphics by John Hodges. Poetry, 56 pps., $2.00.
Raymond federman, Double or Nothing, Swallow Press, 1972, concrete novel,
202 pps., $6.00.
gerry goldberg, george wright (eds), J am A Sensation, poetry and illustrations, 158 pps., $3.95-
Herbert goldstone, irving cummings, tom Churchill (eds), Points of
Departure, A Collection of Short Fiction, Prentice-Hall English Literature
Series, 1971, 512 pps.
george grant, TIME as History, CBC Massey Lectures, 1959, CBC Learning
Systems, 1971, 52 pps., $1.50.
john haislip, Not Every Year, University of Washington Press, 1971, poetry,
67 pps., $4.95.
karen hanson, Spine, Ithaca House, 1971, poetry, 69 pps., $2.95.
Annette hayn, Rapunzel, Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1971.
bill howell, The Red Fox, McClelland & Stewart, 1971, poetry, 96 pps., $4.95.
robert hunter, The Storming of the Mind, McClelland & Stewart, 1971,
essays, 233 pps., $3.95.
greg kuzma, Song for Someone going Away, Ithaca House, 1971, poetry, 58
pps., $2.95.
tim lander, Except that you're here, Tree Frog, 9555 - 92nd St., Edmonton,
1971, poetry.
124 john linthicum, Wrestling with the Angel, Maya Press, 1971, poetry, 56 pps.
joe macinnis, Underwater Images, McClelland & Stewart, 1971, poetry and
illustrations, $3.95.
Brian moore, The Revolution Script, McClelland & Stewart, 1971, 261 pps.,
bp nichol, The Other Side of the Room, Weed Flower Press, 1971, poetry, 58
pps., $3.00.
joe nickell, The Changing Air, Weed Flower Press, 1971, poetry, $1.25.
linda pastan, A Perfect Circle of Sun, Swallow Press, 1972, poetry, 56 pps.,
rob patton, Thirty-Seven Poems: One Night Stanzas, Ithaca House, 1971,
poetry, 51 pps., $2.95.
Fernando pessoa, Selected Poems by Fernando Pessoa, translated by Edwin
Honig, with an introduction by Octavio Paz. Bi-lingual edition, Swallow
Press, 1971, 170 pps., $8.00.
don polson, Wakening, Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1971.
robin skelton (ed), Introductions from an Island, work from the students in
the Creative Writing Programme at the University of Victoria, 53 pps., $0.50.
Gordon skitch, Needle Points, 36 pps.
A foundation dedicated to the recognition of creative achievement,
Literary Discoveries is publishing under its imprint, DRAGON'S
TEETH PRESS, new or relatively unknown poets whose work
deserves wider recognition. The following titles are now available
in the
First Series
1. ALL THINGS ARE HOLY by Gustav Davidson
2. THE LOOKOUT'S LETTER by Cornel Lengyel
3. SONNETS IN A NEW FORM by Madeline Mason
4. THE ANGEL IN THE ROCK by Bernard Grebanier
5. LOVE IS RECOGNITION by Evelyn Eaton
6. MANDALA 25 by Vasanti
Collector's items in limited paperbound editions, uniform in format
and containing the poet's own choice of representative selections
from the entire body of his work, the volumes in this series may be
ordered, at $2.50 per copy, from:
EI Dorado National Forest, Georgetown, Calif. 95634
125 frank tierney, The Birch, The Bytown Press, Ottawa, 1971, poetry, 64 pps.,
Lionel tiger and robin fox, The Imperial Animal, McClelland & Stewart,
1971, 308 pps., $7.95.
dennis trudell, The Guest, Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1971, 16 pps.
M. vaughn-james, The Projector, Coach House Press, 1971, visual novel, 122
pps., $7.50.
:i. b. worley, The Wonderful World of W. A. C. Bennett, McClelland &
Stewart, 290 pps., $10.00.
National Film Board, A Time to Dream, McClelland & Stewart, 1971, 167 pps.,
Borestone Mountain Poetry Awards, Best Poems of 1970, Pacific Books,   126
pps., $4.50.
Enter, Tree Frog Beer Co., poetry, illustrated.
Event, ed. David Evanier, English Department, Douglas College, New Westminster, B.C., three times a year, $3.50, single copies, $1.25. Poetry, fiction,
Tuatara, ed. Mike Doyle, 759 Helvetia Crescent, Victoria, B.C. Quarterly, $3.50,
single copies, $i.oo. Poetry, fiction, photography, book reviews.
Mainline, eds. Dorothy Farmiloe, Richard Hornsey, Eugene McNamara, Box 61,
Sandwich P.O., Windsor, Ontario, three times a year, $2.00, single copies
$0.75. Poetry.
In our last issue, Lazar Sarna^ name was misspelled. We
apologize to Mr. Sarna.
126 OKS
(or almost every taste
and purpose can be found,
easily, at
919 Robson
670 Seymour
4560 W. 10th Avenue
1032 W. Hastings
CA 4-7012
University of British Columbia
Hours: Weekdays 8:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
127 The Capilano Review
The first issue of The Capilano Review will appear in Spring 1972
contributors include
plus a feature on visual poetry with
Contributions are welcomed. Manuscripts submitted must be
accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
Send all correspondence to
The Capilano Review,


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