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 m
JUL
international
JULY 1986
J
F  1/1
JV/U international  STEVE NOYES
Poetry Editor
SARA GADDES
Drama Editor
LORI THICKE
Copy Editor
MAIDA PRICE
Managing Editor
STEVE NOYES
Editor-in-Chief
DIANNE MAGUIRE
Business Manager
CHRIS PETTY
Fiction Editor
GEORGE McWHIRTER
Advisory Editor
DON DAVIS
Art Advisor
Editorial Board
LINDA COPMAN-SEBESTA
HART HANSON
WAYNE HUGHES
DIANNE MAGUIRE
1/1
AAJ international
A QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF
CONTEMPORARY WRITING PRISM international, a journal of contemporary writing, is published four times per
year at the Department of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia,
Vancouver, B.C. v6t 1W5. Microfilm editions are available from Xerox University
Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and reprints from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, New York, N.Y.
Contents Copyright © 1986 PRISM international for the authors.
Cover design and artwork: Terry Krysak
One-year individual subscriptions $10.00, two-year subscriptions $16.00. Library
and institution subscriptions $14.00, two-year subscriptions $20.00. Sample copy
$4.00.
All manuscripts should be sent to the Editors at the above address. Manuscripts
must be accompanied by a self-addressed envelope with Canadian stamps or international reply coupons. Manuscripts with insufficient postage will be held for six
months and then discarded.
Payment to contributors is $25.00 per page and a subscription. PRISM international
purchases First N.A. Serial Rights only.
Our gratitude to the Canada Council, Dean Will and the University of British
Columbia.
Also financially assisted by the Government of British Columbia through the British
Columbia Cultural Fund and Lottery Revenues.
Second Class Mail Registration No. 5496. July ig86. CONTENTS
VOLUME TWENTY-FOUR      NUMBER FOUR    SUMMER 1986
Roger Nash
Three Poems
7
Lorna Crozier
Two Poems
11
Libby Scheier
"The Nipple"
i7
Benny Andersen
"Knowledge"
19
Norberto Luis Romero
Three Stories:
The Plan of the Cities
20
Misprints
23
The Stolen House
26
Sandor Weores
Two Poems
3°
Imre Oravecz
Two Poems
32
Robert Eady
Two Prose Poems
35
Dayv James-French
An Act of Violence
37
Robyn Sarah
Three Poems
51
Ralph Gustafson
Two Poems
54
Leona Gom
Two Poems
56
Elizabeth Abraham
Unsuccessful Translations
58
Bill Gaston
Carp
61
Richard Stevenson
"Dwarf Fan Palm"
68
Derek Robinson
"Abalone"
69
Karen Romell
"Death of a Duck Hunter"
7i
Katie Trumpener
Two Poems
73
Barbara Carey
Two Poems
75 PRISM international
POETRY CONTEST WINNERS
First Place-$500
Second Place-$250
Third Place-$100
Translation—$250
Honourable Mentions:
Lorna Crozier
Janice Keefer
Derek Robinson
Robyn Sarah
Libby Scheier
Glen Sorestad
Richard Stevenson
Carol Windley
Roger Nash, "Night Flying" (p. 7)
Lorna Crozier, "Fear of Snakes"
(p. 11)
Libby Scheier, "The Nipple" (p. 17)
Inge Israel, "Knowledge", from the
Danish of Benny Andersen (p. 19)
"Hands" (p. 12)
"Dream"
"Abalone" (p. 69)
"Point of Departure" (p. 53)
"Jacob's Afternoon"
"Aide Memoire"
"Dwarf Fan Palm" (p. 68) and
"Urn Plant"
"Los Alamos: Summer, 1945"
We wish to thank Erin Moure, our preliminary judge, and Al
Purdy, our hnal judge.
TECHNOLOGY IN SOCIETY
Technology's growing impact upon all societies is
profoundly influencing every person's life, thoughts,
and dreams. We invite submissions which explore this
theme. Poetry, fiction, short plays, translations, and
cover art work, in any style or genre, are welcome.
Please clearly note "Technology in Society Special Issue" on each manuscript. Deadline for submissions:
January 31, 1987. Roger Nash/Three Poems
Night Flying
Each night, my grandmother prepared for flying
the piano, forty quick years ago.
Twin barrels were swivelled out
above the keyboard, and loaded with candles.   Sandwiches
and bramble jam scones were stowed
in rows on the gleaming top of the instrument,
with a large reserve teapot, for use
in emergencies.   Then the huge machine stood
poised and flickering in its hangar of firelight,
invisibly shifting weight up
its highly-strung legs, awaiting
the soft sooty clouds that drifted
away with our chimney.
She would take her seat
briskly, without any ceremony, pushing
back black velvet cuffs
to an exact calibration that only she knew of.
The white lace collar was useful
for higher altitudes.   When her fingers kneaded
the keys together, a motor spoke
deep in the mahogany, usually with Liszt's
Hungarian Rhapsodies, and piano, stool,
and my very own grandma rose fearlessly
above the distant fields of our Turkish carpet,
as I saluted stiffly in my sailor-boy
costume, and she floated out of the parlour
window, just clear of the rose
garden, lurching higher with each
crescendo, off behind the lines of every
enemy, as only grandmas can do. She could land again only if I went straight
to bed and dreamed her a flat and sunny
field, with a sailor-suited boy
at the end of it.   Twenty years after her death,
she still comes in to land on occasion,
utterly unabashed at no longer being alive,
tugging down her cuffs and handing me a heaped
dream of hot jam scones. The Robberies
There was a robbery at my rabbi's.   They stole the
footprints
of the children from his yard, and left the mud
ransacked.    They broke the horizon into pieces
by his window, and lost one bit.
They tore the youngest flames right
out of the candlesticks, but left the silver
candlesticks themselves, which to him were worthless.
There was a robbery at my baker's.   They pinched his great
nightshirt, as patched as the prairies, from the line;
the warmth from his oven and his mistress's arms;
even the yeast that made his moustache
ends curl.   They siphoned a year's
aroma of sugared bagels.   But they left
his good name, which to him was worthless.
The day they robbed my girlfriend's, they left
behind the flames from strange candlesticks.
But the flames were surprised, and got away.
They nearly forgot the savour of bagels.
But the smell of her perfumes smashed through the
window,
and they all broke free.    It knocked
the empty street flat on its back.
They carted off the excitement of wind
from her legs, and the thoughts from her diary; but left
the diary itself, which by now was worthless.
They lifted the ceaseless curves of the waves
from her breasts, and the consoling taste of salt
from her tears.   But they left the silver sound
of her laugh, which we had thought was electroplated. The Sound of One Hand
Clapping
The sound of one hand clapping
is a small blue cloud fast
disappearing over the woodlot.
The sound of one hand clapping
came suddenly from just behind
the toilet bowl, and wouldn't stop.
The applause of one hand clapping
fills the forest with enormous peace,
and always brings me to my feet.
The noise of one cloud clapping
beats time to the children's skipping.
Suns hop the rope too.
The tap of one lightbulb clapping
is the first encouragement the suicide hears
as he fails to take his life.
The sound of one smile clapping
was the way her eyes moved my feet
by a very warm gravity.
The sound of one night clapping
is when the sky closes throttle on its star
machine, and glides endlessly.
10 Lorna Crozier/Ttfo Poems
Fear of Snakes
The snake can separate from its shadow,
move on ribbons of light,
taste the air, the morning and the evening,
the darkness at the heart of things.   I remember
when my fear of snakes left for good,
it fell behind me like an old skin.    In Swift Current
the boys found a huge snake by the creek and chased me
down the alleys, Harlan Jordan carrying it like a green torch,
the others yelling Drop it down her back, my terror
of its sliding in the runnel of my spine (Harlan,
the one who touched the inside of my legs on the swing,
an older boy we knew we shouldn't get close to
with our little dresses, our soft skin), my brother
saying Let her go and I crouched behind the caraganas,
watched Harlan nail the snake to a telephone pole.
It twisted on twin points of light, unable to crawl
out of its pain, its mouth opening, the red
tongue tasting its own terror, I loved it then,
that snake.   The boys standing there with their stupid hands
dangling from their wrists, the beautiful green
mouth opening, a terrible dark O
no one could hear.
11 Hands
i
Hands are always travelling.
See the maps on their palms,
forks in the roads,
migratory crossings.
When the lights go out
in the neighbourhood,
they go off in the rain
without an umbrella.
They head into a blizzard
with no weather report,
no survival kit.
So what if their shoes
are full of holes,
they don't need them.
In the middle of the night,
blind and naked,
they go their way.
Where are they going?
To the place where
their lifelines meet.
Will they come back?
If you leave them a skein of wool,
a water basin, a little colour
for their nails when the moons
go out.
12 While you sleep, your hands
build a city, a house,
a church with a steeple.
Inside there is a funeral.
One hand preaches, the other
lies in a pocket.    Inside
there is a wedding.
One holds a ring, the other
weeps in a closed room.
The right never knows
what the left is doing.
In each hand
the sound of the sea,
wind in a hollow
skull, the sound of a
thought beginning.
Cup one to your ear.
It will whisper
what the palm says
to the fortune teller,
what the thumb says
to its family of fingers.
They turn so easily
into animals, into shadows
of animals dancing on a wall.
13 There is a rabbit, a fox
hunting it out, a caribou,
its antlers full of singing birds.
The hands themselves are singing.
Listen: each finger is a choirboy
with a red face, his voice
on the verge of changing.
The left hand is a trickster.
From behind your ear
it plucks coins, roses,
memories of another country,
another age.    It is always
night, the windows shuttered.
The hand walks the street
like a soldier,
broad-shouldered and swaggering,
making you stay inside.
You don't know if this is now
or long ago.
The right hand is a changeling.
You find it by your door
in a willow basket.
Its nails are pink.
Someone has scraped away
its fingerprints.
It is as innocent
as anything
you've ever seen.
14 Two hands.
Open, close,
come together.
Closer to the dead,
the living,
than you are
they cut the birth cord,
they wash the body.
The tie the laces
of your first
your last
pair of shoes.
The sky is full of hands:
the five fingers
the points of a star,
each nail glowing with its own light,
its own small moon
that never rises.
15 10
One hand forms a cock,
the other a vulva.
They bring them together
while you lie sleeping.
One is the devil's, the other
an angel's.   From these
two hands are born.
Each knows exactly
what the other is doing.
16 Libby Scheier
The Nipple
On the bright blue daybed
on the Indian rug
he massages my breasts.
A woman nurses a baby
in the English garden.
We watch the sucking,
the baby's mouth
locked on the breast.
How does she get the mouth
off the nipple
without pain he asks.
I hold up my little finger.
Like this I say and
insert it between his hand
and my nipple and give
a little push. He moves his
hand away from my breast.
The nipple begins to scale up.
It dries and scrolls like parchment.
I lift off the topskin
and toss it out the window.
Then I hold the fresh and moist
nipple, peeled like a kumquat,
in one hand and with the other
cut it off with one clean
slice of the knife.
There's no blood.
17 A new nipple grows
in place of the old one.
There's no pain.
Here I say and give him the
severed cone of breast.
He holds the nipple
in his open hand and it becomes
a bright red scarf with one
brilliant yellow flower.
I tie it to his wrist
and say
this is goodbye, Tom.
18 Benny Andersen
Knowledge
I don't know much about much
what I do know
is already commonplace
imagine being able to know one definite thing
that others haven't stumbled on
for example the relationship
between the spots on a ladybird
I wouldn't hold back my knowledge
on the contrary
now and then I would get up
at meetings and conferences
and tell about the spots
and then sit down without waiting
for any special recognition
but with that uprightness in my back
and firmness in my glance
at being able to point
straight to ladybirds.
Translated from the Danish by Inge Israel
19 Norberto Luis Romero
The Plan of the Cities
Nineveh, Ecbatana, Cyrene, Samarkand—all were cities which disappeared by sinking. Some of them vanished in an abrupt, surprising
way, others slowly. Some, regurgitated, persist as ruins; there are
those who are still awaiting their reappearance.
These submergences do not always happen in the same way; sometimes cities disappear completely in a brief passage of time, others by
zones and by progression. Ecbatana began to sink by peripheral districts and ended with the palaces and temples situated in the heart of
the city. Sodom and Gomorrah is the typical case of a sudden vanishing. Often only a part sinks, and centuries, even millenia, pass before
another part begins to disappear.
Carthage was seven times devoured and seven times regurgitated —
so its successive ruins demonstrate.
Nothing is gained by being alarmed and almost no one is; only fools
and cowards try to flee when rumours of a coming collapse abound:
disappearances—and their modes—are unforeseeable. The sinking of
a house or temple is not an unmistakeable symptom of the sinking of
the entire city.
A legend affirms that sunken cities emerge sooner or later in another part of the globe or even in their original place. A proverb which
says that for every descending motion there is a corresponding opposite one confirms it. The residents have incorporated that refrain
deeply into their common sense and almost no one worries very much.
In the seventh century B.C. a splendid city sank into the desert of
Thar; eleven centuries later a similar city emerged in the Peruvian
Andes. There are researchers and experts knowledgeable about cities
who agree that both are the same city. They claim that Constantinople
had been, four centuries before, in the Caucasian steppes. They claim
that irrefutable proofs exist and that only the ignorant refuse to believe them. But the only possible way to prove such theories would be
through the discovery of a certain book from the library of Ashur-
banipal. Experts also venture to say that museums of history and anthropology are full of evidence: large and small objects clearly demonstrate that they come from a regurgitated city, but such evidence goes
unperceived by most of the world.
20 Great expectation is centered on the announced possible appearance of a city of colossal dimensions, sunken 2400 years ago, whose
ruins have never been found. Herodotus in the fourth book of the History describes it in detail and also mentions, although without giving
very much importance to the fact, the disappearance of some of its
aristocratic houses. Detractors of the Believers in the Plan lean heavily
on the fact that Herodotus confesses to not having witnessed it. Nonetheless, the assertions made by some that that city will appear in this
century are, from any point of view, rash, since the disappearance as
well as the reappearance of cities is completely arbitrary, hazardous,
and unpredictable by ordinary mortals. Other phenomena exist—
although infrequent, no less curious—which make these supposed
predictions impossible: on occasion a city which emerges is not necessarily the original but is formed of parts of two or more cities. Sometimes two or three houses from a city of unique origin are missing; at
other times there are too many. At times what is superfluous is not a
house but a simple object, like a toy, a plate or a comb.
Exactly four years ago a house in the suburbs sank unexpectedly. It
was not long before rumours sprang up, assuring that this was the
beginning of the sinking of the city, and at once there were plenty who
tried to show there had been another sunken house two years before
and in that very neighbourhood. A witness who knew the vanished
house claimed that on a trip he had made to Egypt two years before,
he had seen that very house, solitary and abandoned, on the banks of
the Upper Nile. This isolation and neglect corroborates the hypothesis
that cities when they emerge do not necessarily do so with their inhabitants. These can be interchanged. This theory can easily be demonstrated by the accidental appearance of foreigners or, contrarily, by
the disappearance of entire families or isolated individuals. In any
case, whatever the mechanism of cities sinking and emerging, clearly it
happens in balanced form, almost symmetrically, as the proverb says.
Persons and objects are transferred from one place to another with absolute rigour and by some elaborate plan unknown to men. Often we
are surprised when in a city unknown to us, perhaps because we are
foreigners or mere visitors, we find a house, an object or a person who
is familiar: the existence of the Plan is evident.
The improbability of the continuous, regular existence of a city does
not hinder us from travelling to another, even distant, nor from planning such journeys far in advance. The gears which give motion to
cities' sinkings and reappearances seem to obey laws whose time escapes the dimension of men in all ages.
Governments as well as inhabitants do not seem much affected by
this dynamic: dependent on the perennial although cyclic nature of
the Plan, which defies one group as much as the other, they busy
themselves exclusively with their jobs and mundane needs, trying to
avoid the subject and trying especially not to interfere with the Plan.
21 People say that in ancient times there were sages who succeeded in
discovering—by mathematical deduction—the movements of the Plan
of the Cities. We know now that such knowledge remained hidden for
centuries in the library of Ashurbanipal the Great, but, as is well
known, that library disappeared in 1544 B.C. Therefore, all the
theories have advanced no further. Only one event could reveal the
mysterious mechanism—the reappearance of that library; but it is possible that this is the last of the planned movements, and we do not
know if by chance the treatise may be missing from its shelf.
Translated from the Spanish by H. E. Francis
22 Norberto Luis Romero
Misprints
No one could tell us where the dictionary had come from. My grandmother denied flatly that she was the Adelina whom the dedication
mentioned, and she also insisted she didn't know who that Ashurbanipal was. She admitted—yes, of course—that the book had been in
the house ever since she could remember.
The dedication, in elegant English handwriting, read "For Adelina,
on her saint's day, from her beloved Uncle Ashurbanipal." It was
clearly a Spanish edition, but it lacked the two or three initial pages
where we might have been able to find the publisher and date of printing-
"I never had an uncle with such a name," my grandmother defended herself, now ill-humoured and tired of our jokes. My grandmother was certainly not a person to lie for the sake of it, although I
must admit that in her last years she had gradually lost her prodigious
memory.
My sister and I discovered the Ashurbanipal (because that's what we
baptized the dictionary from the first moment) when we were already
diligent readers in our library at home and also ingenious and tall
enough to be able to reach the last shelf, where it had been forgotten
for years.
Mama assured us that such an old dictionary would be no good to us
and nothing justified its use since we had another, modern and complete, which they had bought especially for us. But we preferred to
browse through the old Ashurbanipal, falling apart and smelling of mildew as it was, because the book seemed to have a personality, to have a
history and tradition, not like that uncomfortable modern encyclopedia bound in plastic with somewhat childish illustrations. Ashurbanipal
seemed to have a life of its own: its fine print promised mysteries; it
held the enigma of a history of an uncle with an unreasonable, absurd
name and a dubiously unknown niece. My sister, Hester, and I wanted
to unravel that history.
On my grandmother's saint's day nothing better came to mind than
buying her a cookbook. She detested cooking. Only goodwill and the
low price of the book prompted us to do it. Naturally the book was
23 tossed from one place to the other and never found a permanent spot.
When it rained or was too cold, we preferred to stay in and look for
something to play at. If we grew tired of reading or games, we turned
to making cake. One day Hester's eyes lit up when I appeared in the
kitchen with the still-unopened cookbook; it was the first cookbook
we'd ever had in the house and we decided to try it for the first time.
We chose a strawberry cake because of the appetizing illustration.
We opened the book to the right page and laid a knife flat on the book
so it wouldn't close. Hester on one side and I on the other, our hands
white with flour, pitched into the task.
"I don't understand," Hester said suddenly, breaking the calm and
the atmosphere we had created. "This must be wrong."
I leaned over and read what she pointed out with a white finger:
"When the batter is smooth, pour the contents in a previously buttered
windowsill." Surely it was a mistake. I assured her that if we kept reading we'd find instructions for putting the cake out to cool on the
windowsill. I was wrong. It said nothing about how to cool the cake.
The anecdote made us laugh and joke the rest of the day.
It wasn't the same a few days later when we discovered the second
misprint: where it should have said "cut the strawberries into slices," it
said "cut the eyes into slices." It was, from any point of view, a misprint
in very bad taste. Hester felt sick and we had to leave the cake half-
made. And she didn't want to use the cookbook again—we had to go
back to our old, made-up recipes.
When we told my grandmother about it, she took it naturally and
told us that such things were common these days in cheap, badly
printed, badly bound books. However you look at it, the comment
seemed to us an indirect slam at our gift. Hester and I exchanged
looks of complicity. Later we decided that we'd be able to make up for
our lack of tact by giving her another book, one more to her taste
though it might be expensive for us. There was a certain look of distrust on her face when we handed her an anthology of English Romantics bound in leather, but immediately she smiled and told us we
were the sweetest things.
It was during one siesta that we found the third misprint. We were
on the portico, napping in the rocking chairs, when a little smothered
cry and a quick thud on the tile startled us. We opened our eyes and
Grandmother was standing beside her rocker; she was covering her
mouth with her hands, shaking her head from side to side. She looked
from one to the other—first at us, then at the book thrown at her feet.
She stammered several times, "What disrespect! What a lack of respect!" Hester and I didn't know what to imagine. When she seemed to
recover her calm and habitual dignity, she said, "Coleridge, Canto
Six," and went into the house, her head very high. Immediately she
stuck her head out and specified "Page twenty-four."
24 We picked up the book, not without anxiety, and read:
Soon a wind blew over me
without sound or movement;
a blasting fart
expelled by the belly through the ass.
We went on reading, surprised to note that this was not the only misprint, that they were all as coarse or in very bad taste.
We said not a word about this inexplicable incident, least of all to
Grandmother, who each time we ran into her threw reproachful
glances that filled us with a groundless guilt.
One night in the parlour, Papa came in indignant at translations
made by amateurs who observe no logic or have no respect for the
original work and spirit of the author. He had a book he'd just bought.
Grandmother played the innocent, gazed at the weaving she was working on, and adjusted her glasses as she mumbled something I couldn't
hear.
"Did you hear what Grandmother's saying?" Hester whispered as
she handed me the book Papa had handed her so that we might see the
stupidities in it.
"I couldn't."
"I read her lips."
"What'd she say?"
"Ashurbanipal," she said.
When we made sure Grandmother was busy in the gallery, we slipped
into the library and took down the book.
"Look up cake pan."
My fingers were all thumbs as I flicked pages.
"Cake makeup ... cake mill... windowsill."
"I'm afraid," Hester murmured, yanking the dictionary from me.
"Let's look up eye. Eyak ... eyas ... strawberry."
Farther on, at the letter C, we found instead of some poems by
Coleridge the definition of a word we'd never heard from anybody's
mouth in this house.
We left the Ashurbanipal on a table. The following day it had disappeared. We looked all over the house and asked everyone about
it. Over and over Grandmother Adelina swears she knows nothing
about it.
Translated from the Spanish by H. E. Francis
25 Norberto Luis Romero
The Stolen House
I don't remember exactly how many days I stayed in that hospital; the
tranquility of that room with great windows which opened onto the
tended and always flowering garden and my friends' almost daily visits
kept me from fretting and counting the days, kept me from desiring to
leave the hospital too soon. I was exempt from all obligation and could
consider my brief internment as an off-season vacation. My health was
better than ever and my supposed illness turned out to be a false
alarm.
I soon had reason to repent for that vacation; when I went home I
found the house completely ransacked. The thieves had had more
than enough time to do a thorough job. Not even when the recently
built house had been handed over to me had it been so empty as it was
now, on my return from the hospital. Reports and accusations made to
the police were useless; they could not come up with a single clue.
It took me a long time to buy new furniture, books, clothes, and all
the objects I had possessed, not to mention things impossible to
restore—keepsakes, gifts, all that constituted my memory; with the
robbery a great part of my past was lost forever.
A bed with all its coverings, a wardrobe, a table and a couple of
chairs were my first acquisitions.
Hours at a time I roamed through the empty rooms, reconstructing
them in all their detail, roamed along a trail which imagined furniture
obliged me to follow. I stopped before the unfaded rectangles on the
wall, where paintings and mirrors had been, and tried to recreate
them in my mind or find my image reflected in a bit of wallpaper. At
dusk, when light poured through the reddish panes which opened
onto the greenhouse, the house itself seemed to acquire extraordinary
dimensions, space was broken into great blocks of colour and my footsteps echoed, hollow an instant in each of the rooms, as if many inhabitants, one in each room, were imitating my roamings.
Night was the saddest time. The empty house seemed to grow immense, the rooms began to stretch high and wide, the walls grew distant as if I were shrinking, as if I had eaten from some of those walls of
Alice's mushrooms. The stolen house was foreign to me then; in that
26 immense void I believed I would find something monstrous. My
friends must also have received that impression since they began to ask
me to meet them in a cafe or at their own houses, which I envied. I
understood them. I couldn't stand to stay home either and preferred
to spend my time wandering through the park and the streets. What
strange nakedness I suffered. What shame these dismantled rooms,
which held only insignificant signs of what had been, caused me. And
those signs were evident only to me; they went unperceived by those
who didn't know the house, who hadn't lived in it—tiny nail holes, a
slight stain on a wall, a discoloration of a certain tile in the hall, a bubble in the paint on one of the doors.
Discovering and observing these vestiges soon became my greatest
pastime; they were my only connections with the past, with what had
once been a house, connections which were acquiring greater dimension and importance—a nailhead protruding a couple of millimetres
from a wall could fill the entire room, fill an entire free afternoon. A
mark left on a wall by the scraping of a piece of furniture took on
many shapes—became a face, a fantastic animal, a plant.
Soon I had a collection of vestiges. I had them in every one of my
rooms, grouped according to shape, meaning, possibilities of being
transformed, size or location. I confess that often I was tempted to
create my own marks—to cut a little hole in a beam, to plant a barely
perceptible stain on a wall, to tear a corner of the wallpaper loose, so
that those new marks might link me if not with my lost objects, at least
with possible future belongings. One such mark, a tiny scratch on the
parquet, brought back the memory of a French desk. Another made
by me anticipated a cedar table.
My interest in those marks had kept me so obsessed that it hindered
my seeing others, until then unrecognized though equally evident, so
evident that they had gone unperceived. They were tiny pencilled jots,
diminutive numbers and letters on walls, floor and even ceilings. /
hadn't made these marks; they were symbols which architects and
builders use, measurements and codes of materials and colours or-
deredly set out, designed so that they could not be seen at first glance.
They made a code whose key I couldn't find. It took time to research
and catalogue them and study their combinations, but it was impossible for me to discover their meaning. I merely managed to forget the
old markings and stop being obsessed by the empty house.
An approximation to this key, I obtained by chance one afternoon
when I was in the garden observing an ant carting a leaf several times
its own size and weight. It was an ordinary, everyday feat, but I
watched the ant, trying to decipher its apparently absurd course. It advanced along the sidewalk tiles surrounding the house; it zigzagged,
stopped before an obstacle, dodged other apparent ones, then climbed
a wall, withdrawing before an invisible enemy. Suddenly I saw it ad-
27 vancing in a straight line as if headed for a concrete object, stop, and
clean its antennae. It stood out against the white wall in full sunlight.
The leaf it carried projected a broad shade. Just where the shadows
ended I could see with absolute clarity a minuscule number 22 written
in red.
In no time I discovered other numbers and marks on the outside
walls of the house. I deduced that all these signs must be measurements, codes to colours and materials used in its construction. During
my stay in the hospital, the house had been raised, measured inch by
inch, and they had taken samples of its materials. The very ones who
had stolen from me had done that; for some reason that I did not
know, they undertook an exhaustive re-elevation, and I had reason to
think that perhaps they had drawn up plans with intent to construct
another like it—a copied house which they would have filled with my
furniture, my clothes, and all my things.
Only a rigourous previous organization could carry out so precise a
task. Incisions, letters, numbers and small geometric figures now allowed them to know the house better than I myself did. They could
make plans and construct its double. The idea of a duplicate house disturbed me. I wanted to get away from it, not think about all those signs
again. At times I went off for hours, took any bus for a long excursion
with no particular destination. But at heart I was seeking something;
without intending to, I was studying the houses along the street as if I
wanted to find the image of my own. I got off the bus as soon as I saw
one under construction, looked over the layout of the rooms, seeking
similar ones, measured the width of the cement, the height of the
walls.
It was on the return from one of these outings that I encountered
the surprise. I cannot define the feelings it stirred in me—more anxiety, I think, than joy. There were all my belongings, set out exactly
where they had always been, not a single object having suffered the
least change.
I thought reporting the reappearance of my possessions (as I had reported their robbery) would be useless, that it would only cause me
problems with the authorities. How would I make them understand
that the thieves were duplicating my house? The very act of returning
my furniture was a proof against me: Why would they want to duplicate my house if they no longer had anything to put in it? That was a
contradiction—but only apparently. My capacity for finding marks
and deciphering them set me on the trail of what must constitute the
thieves' master plan—to duplicate my furniture and my objects too.
And sure enough, all my things were covered with measurements
and symbols used by carpenters and cabinetmakers.
Despite having all my belongings back and recovering my memories, knowing that somewhere a copy of my house might exist, fur-
28 nished similarly, filled with the same objects, brought back my old
fears—now the furniture acquired enormous dimensions in what
seemed like a dollhouse.
Unconsciously I had begun a search but lacked clues offering me the
flimsiest point of reference. The city is big and, besides, nothing assured me that the duplicated house would be in this city and not in another, or even in the heart of a desert. Without a base to start from, my
work would be preposterous and endless even if I set precise aims and
rigourous plans.
I went all out in seeking a second clue among the signs left on the
house and furniture, an interpretation which might lead me to the
heart of the matter. I spent days and nights studying, I filled notebooks with calculations, but I got no further than suppositions. There
was not a single clue, or rather the clue was so secretly and finely
worked out that I could not discover it. I lost my way among false
leads, among apparent solutions which led to new and more complicated labyrinths.
Throughout the search I was neglecting my health, I ate at strange
hours, ate the wrong foods, I slept almost not at all. My friends noticed
it and naturally were concerned and gave me advice. Soon, seeing that
I paid no attention, they took my health into their own hands—I
couldn't dissuade them from their good intentions, still less convince
them of the importance of my work. They did not want to accept,
much less understand, the decisive evidence of the marks and symbols
or how much they meant to me. In their selfish desire to help me, all
they did was stand in the way of my work.
I must admit that those marks no longer obsess me, that here, surrounded by these gardens and these birds, I enjoy myself and have
managed to put them out of my head; the room is comfortable and I
have the company of charming people who care for and respect me,
who are always attentive to my requests, but who listen without understanding my new anxieties; this routine they have proposed for me annoys me, this measuring me and taking samples from all over my body,
leaving my skin imperceptibly marked with numbers and letters.
Translated from the Spanish by H. E. Francis
29 Sandor Wedres/Two Poems
Branch
Leaning out
from a deeper green —
a branch in the twilight.
Here is what is seen,
and I am also there
among the leaves.
Fused in a single moment
within and without—
and the space between.
30 Existence
Elusive, suspended, like light in crystal —
the melody of bells above the field
entangles itself in the flight of wild geese —
everything moves, and gives a constant message
on the run.    By the time I think of this
I am already thinking of something else.
Translated from the Hungarian by Michael Warren
31 Imre Oravecz/Two Poems
Nine A.M.
Nine o'clock, the radios in the building have shut
up, the racket's died down, the doors stopped
slamming, the tramping's gone off, nothing's left to
be overheard, I sit beside the gasheater, opposite
the window in an armchair I always wanted to
have recovered because I hated its colour, but it
doesn't matter anymore, the sun's glaring through
the pane, raising the temperature a lot inside, my
neck hurts, probably premature calcification, I lean
back, cross my right leg over my left, lay two
hands lightly along the armrests, shift around till I
find what's comfortable, I had a bad night, I saw a
living, transparent wall in my sleep, it was full of
veins and it was festering, I float in the light,
resting, trying to forget it, a shadow falling on me
now and then by the vapour floating up outside
from the vent, as though a cloudy veil crossed the
bright sky, behind me the bed unmade, breakfast
accessories, saucer cup knife spoon, on the folding
tray, letters, vase, calendar, lamp, medicaments,
paper, pictures of my son, on another armchair
coat cap sweater socks gloves scarf and whatever
clothes, on the carpet a pile of newspapers,
briefcase on the couch, watch, whiskbroom, belt,
handkerchief, scissors, string, glue, ignition key,
32 shoes in a corner, skiboots, kitty-corner in the
background books I'll never read on bookshelves, I
dragged myself to this room because of the cold, to
cut the cost of heating, I don't use the others, they
don't exist for me, except for the toilet, this is foyer,
bed-, living-room, and study too, I sleep here, eat
dress undress work, everything I need dumped in
these few square feet, utensils thoughts feelings
memories, I'd prefer not moving away from here,
I'd put in days and nights here, making a virtue
out of necessity here, and so getting used to what's
waiting for me, retreat, dwindling, disappearing,
because this is absolutely what old age without you
will be like, so shrunken, tight, pragmatic, so
prosaic.
33 By Then You'd Dressed
By then you'd dressed and come out of the toilet
where you were hiding from me and from yourself,
you stood there by the bed in the room, by that bed,
you were undeniably there, without makeup, in the
same oppressive space in which I was present too,
into which, when it became obvious the king was
naked, I was finally admitted, you stood around
helpless, at arms' length yet immensely far from me,
as I paced to and fro, upset, burdened by a sense of
futility and pointlessness, and was about to step
over to you to help you because you couldn't help
me, when surprisingly he spoke up, the bed's owner,
whom I hadn't forgotten but who, naturally enough,
was kept beyond the reach of my consciousness,
asking me if I'd like a glass of wine, yes, that's what
he asked, no doubt embarrassed, not for himself but
by the fib with which you'd denied his presence, and
I'd've been ashamed too were I in my shorts where
he was, but, for him to ask that when he could have
offered me whatever, a nail, some of the afterglow, a
stove or cupboard, but not simply a glass of wine,
because anything would have been more apt than
the liquid symbol of hospitality by which in that
situation he was not merely mocking hospitality but
demeaning its symbol too, and, though not caring to
comment on the proceedings in that bed before I
showed up, I could sense the symbolism in his
degradation of the symbol.
Translated from the Hungarian by Jascha Kessler
with Maria Kbrbsy
34 Robert Eady/Two Prose Poems
The Emperor Becomes a God
High in his palace room, the emperor nimbly steps outside his body;
slowly, a sergeant major inspecting a lance corporal, he walks around
the thing.
The back of his head is what his subjects see in the polished breastplates of soldiers. His back and ribs, if thumped, would make no magnificent sound.
But his eyes are terrible. A faint greyness is emitted from them, the
light to be found in jars of warm water where flowers have wilted and
died.
When he looks into his eyes, the emperor understands why the busts
of the Caesars stare in imperial vacuousness. A strange joy seizes his
heart. He jumps back into his body and sings absurd songs. He hugs
his precious shoulders and vigourously dances around.
35 News of the Void
On any autumn day, football games are played with imperfect referees. Strong, cheap emotions change to blackbirds, disappear into
abandoned ant holes.
On Sundays mock altars sizzle with steaks, ribs and chops. Bibles
flap like snared hawks in the fists of evangelists.
II
Once a hole appeared at night beside the child's bed. A stuffed animal
was tossed in and the child leapt into the mother's arms.
Now in dreams, the man longs to hear a faint, echoing splash.
Ill
Someone begins to speak with conviction of heaven on earth. Words
spin out of hearing as the sucking maelstrom comes near.
Suddenly the body feels as though it's been dipped in alcohol, hung
in a brisk wind to dry.
36 Dayv James-French
An Act of Violence
Tony is killing time. He wanders through the stores in the shopping
complex of the building that, above ground, houses Evelyn's doctor.
Upstairs, on the seventh floor, she is having examined a small growth
on her knee, just where the skin dimples under the smooth curve of
bone. Right at this moment, she's doing that.
"I'm sure it's nothing," he told her, a week earlier, wanting to laugh
at the picture she made, nude and supine on the bed, the reading lamp
pulled close to the edge of the night table to angle the light over her
leg as she pointed out this flaw to him. It was a tiny mark, barely raised
and only slightly discoloured, a weak-tea reddish brown. "Maybe it's a
bug bite or something?"
"Bug? What bug? No," she shook her head, burrowing a snug nest
into the pillow beneath. "It's a rare type of cancer. I know it."
Tony was about to suggest it might be a wart, but he stopped himself, knowing she'd rather have the cancer—her rare type would be, of
course, easily treated—than a malady suggesting dirty little boys, or
the ruined skin on a wino's nose. Witches had warts, not young women
with promising careers in real estate. And it would not be, unequivocally, cancer of any sort. That had only been mentioned supersti-
tiously. Evelyn takes these chances, second-guessing a greater power,
assuming she will be rewarded with a lighter burden if she anticipates
the worst. Tony worries that these chances, gambled and won, erode
the odds in some unspecified future deal. There are no known rules
by which to play this game. Mercy is an unmediated kindness; this is
not predictable.
A display has been set up in the wide centre mall of the underground
complex. Cut logs are propped vertically into a fort-like fence, and
over this is a large banner: Doug and Angie's Petting Zoo.
There are animals inside the pen: a small pig; a Shetland pony;
some large birds like turkeys (one of these might be a pea-hen, dull
and clueless, abject); and a llama, its coat already heavily dandruffed
with the sawdust spread over the floor of the confined area. In one
corner, with its back to the walls, is a beast about the height of Tony's
37 chest. Barrel-shaped, with a fluffy auburn coat, the animal has a
strong, square face. There are two tiny horns, the colour of cheese
parings, in front of its ears. The animal looks neither happy nor sad,
content nor trapped, merely out of place. It needs to be somewhere
other than here, and the choices may be too great.
"Hey," Tony calls to a woman who is saddling the Shetland. "Are
you," he glances up at the banner, "Angie?"
"I am," the woman answers, without changing expression, her
hands continuing their work with the saddle. "Want your picture
taken on a pony?"
"Not today," Tony says. "This." He points. "Is this a buffalo?"
"That? No. That's a Scottish Highlander calf."
"Oh." Tony is curious about his own disappointment. He thinks —
he would have thought—domestication was superior to even the most
benign captivity. Yet, momentarily, he has no pleasure in the known
boundaries of a controlled destiny; the calf s future depresses him,
although it lacks the natural threats of another environment. "Well,
thanks then."
He turns away and continues his wandering, ending up in a kitchen
boutique, the kind of shop that specializes in appliances for persons
like himself, those with a constant supply of small sums of money, a
little left over after each month's expenses. Tony has heard this—having disposable income, more money than he actually needs—described
as 'upscale' and rejected the word: 'middle class' seems to him a sufficient accomplishment. He even, sometimes, feels the urge to press an
inventory on total strangers. "This," he would say, "this and this.
These things are mine." He resists the urge; his pride is in achievement, not possession.
After much deliberation, tempted by a sleek pasta maker until he
discovered the price of it—the decimal one point too far to the right-
Tony settles on an electric coffee grinder. He's seen similar machines,
but never one with such a vibrant plastic base, such an understated,
clear grey acrylic top. This top doubles as a coffee measure and Tony,
charmed, considers the appliance a fixture in his life. This new life, as
he sees it, is composed entirely of Sunday mornings, drinking fine, expensive French roasts and working, in pen, the crossword from an out-
of-town newspaper. Pleased, he ransoms his car from the underground lot and circles the block, to be at the front of the building when
Evelyn steps through the doors and onto the sidewalk.
She glances into the back seat before letting herself into the car, a habit
Tony knows had been drilled into her by her mother when Evelyn first
started to drive. She is looking for rapists, he supposes, but why she
should do this when he is in the car is not something he understands.
Nor is it anything he questions: everyone is looking for something.
38 "What did you buy?" Evelyn asks. "Something nice?"
"Coffee grinder," Tony says, putting the car into gear and checking
the mirror before easing back into the road. The traffic is dense, even
at this late hour. "Doesn't anyone work anymore?"
"Never mind," she says.
He turns to her, "How about you?"
"Well, it's not cancer. I guess we both knew that, didn't we?" She
waits for him to assent to this. "What I have is something called, I
think, dermatosis fibrosis. Something like that. I have it written
down."
"Sounds serious." Tony lifts his foot from the accelerator.
"It isn't," she shakes her head. Then she laughs. "In fact, the doctor
has three of them, these little bumps. He showed me. A perfect triangle."
Tony lets the car reach the speed limit before he turns back to her,
his eyebrows raised. "And where on your doctor are these little
bumps?"
"Don't be like that," she says, putting her cool hand on the back of
his neck.
"I saw a buffalo this afternoon. In the shopping centre."
"You did? I don't think I've ever seen one, not in real life."
"It wasn't really a buffalo," Tony confesses. "It was some kind of
Scottish calf."
"A Scottish calf is okay," she says. "It's no buffalo, to be sure, but it's
okay."
"It did look like a buffalo," Tony says. Ahead is the turn-off, the
street that will take them diagonally across the city to their apartment.
He drops his hand to the indicator, then returns it to the wheel. "We
could just keep going, west, and see a herd on the hoof."
"Like pioneers?" she asks. "Or an early summer vacation?"
"God, I hope not like that," Tony says. There had been a morning
when he and his brother Ken had been awakened at first light to move
through their own house like thieves. While their father loaded the
car, their mother made breakfast for the boys. "Finish the milk," she
told them. "We can't take it with us." Ken pushed his chair away from
the table and stood with his back to the stove, watching his mother.
"Are you done? Then go and tell your father his family is ready."
Tony reached for the waxed carton of milk, filled his glass, swallowed
and swallowed.
Outside the city, where the road had been blasted through rock,
sheer stone walls rose on either side of the car. At impossible locations,
where no man could reach, dark blue paint spelled out messages in
giant print: / am the Way and the Life and Ravens 56. Tony, just out of
first grade, moved his mouth over these words, unable to pose a question that would come close to asking what he needed to know. The last
39 that he read, before the ground levelled and the roadside was merely
forest, stated The Kingdom is Near, muting him completely.
Even Ken, eleven that year, was quiet in the car during the long ride
to the cabin. Their father, white-knuckled at the wheel, had repeatedly glanced at them through the rear-view mirror, saying, "This is
going to be fun," in a disinterested, rhetorical tone, the voice that
would ask, "Have you done your homework?" and "Why don't you
share with your brother?"
"There'll be swimming and fishing," their mother said, turning back
from the front seat, holding her hair flat against the drafts and breezes
of the car's ventilation system. She was wearing excitement like a new
pair of shoes; maintaining her pleasure required she step carefully.
"Just look at that scenery."
"It's pretty," Tony said. The spring had been filled with whispers;
their parents planning this, planning something. Framed by the car
window, above the brown dust raised from the dirt road, leafy trees
dissolved themselves into a solid block of shades of green, an expanse
like the sky, wrongly coloured. He pushed his head back into the car's
upholstery, dizzied by the car fumes, by the relentless vibration that
blurred his vision. Even with his eyes closed, images jerked in and out
of focus. "Fun."
The cabin was at the bottom of a narrow trail. Tony stood at the top,
beside the parked car, a rolled air mattress on either side of him. His
shadow on the ground in front of him looked like the shadow of three
people. His father, lifting a cardboard box of kitchen utensils from the
trunk of the car, suddenly fell forward, flinging the box away from his
body. He stood, brushed at the knees of his slacks, then touched his
chin where the skin was split, a thick bubble of blood swelling there.
His hand was trembling. Around him, in an eccentric, static orbit, the
earth was littered with gleaming metals: knives, forks, spoons.
"Already? Already?" Tony's mother hissed, white with rage.
"No, I tripped on something. A root or a stone. I swear it's only that.
People can trip, can't they?"
Tony's mother walked over to examine the ground. Tony hoisted
the air mattresses to his shoulders, they were no burden at all, and
started down the trail, careful and hesitant. At the bottom of the cabin
steps, his brother was sitting on his heels, using a twig to turn over
stones set in the musty earth. Whatever he was seeing required all his
concentration; his mouth was open with the effort, his lower lip glassy
with spit.
Then, later, Tony was running down the wooden planking, arcing
through the air to be caught and dipped into the lake by his father,
who stood at the edge of the dock, his black nylon trunks ballooned
above the water's level at the top of his thighs.
"Be careful," Tony's mother called. She was sitting in the shade, on a
40 plastic webbing chair, her legs propped in front of her on a styrofoam
cooler. A glossy magazine was open in her lap to a full page advertisement of a woman in hat and gloves, high heels, and a long dress with a
full, billowing skirt.
"I'm catching him," his father said, lifting Tony back up on to the
dock. "Come on, get a good running start this time." He turned and
cupped one hand to splash a transparent crescent of water over Ken,
who stood close to shore, knee-deep and immobile in the lake. "Let's
show her how to have fun."
Tony propelled himself forward. The dock was warm and rough
under his feet. He leapt and was unsupported until his father's hands,
still strong, clamped to his rib cage. Tony faced into the land, trying to
pick out his mother in the blur of colours, light and dark. In less than a
year she would be gone. Sometimes, trying to remember her at this
moment, he would picture instead the woman in the magazine, all
dressed up and surrounded by empty white space.
On the way home, Tony picks up Guatamalan, Columbian, Mocha-
Java, and Angolan Black coffee beans. In the kitchen, he grinds a little
of each of these, separately, for a taste test, while Evelyn fills out the
warranty card in her generous, angular handwriting.
"I never thought of this," Tony says, looking at the packages of
beans, each white bag labelled with black grease pencil. "It's like a list
of repressive Third World regimes. Do you suppose we grow coffee
here?"
"Those countries need to export," Evelyn says. "Or their economies
would collapse."
"Don't tell me that," Tony says. "I don't need the responsibility."
"Nice," he says, later, his hand cupped over her knee. "That there's
nothing wrong."
"I want it removed," Evelyn says, shifting her weight from his side.
"A little imperfection?" he grins. "It's more interesting."
"Don't be like that."
"Like what?" Tony sits up, pushing the pillow between his neck and
the headboard. "You said your doctor has three. Why didn't he have
his removed?"
"That's different."
"A doctor doesn't take unnecessary surgery lightly?"
"It's not surgery." Evelyn makes a face. "It's a simple procedure."
"That couldn't be done in a g.p.'s office?" Tony suggests. "It doesn't
sound so simple."
"Okay, so I have to go to a plastics man." She raises her foot, pointing her toes in a graceful, balletic curve. "I know it's there and I don't
want it to be."
Tony keeps silent for a moment, trying to gauge her mood. Then,
41 moving quickly, he seizes her wrists and pushes her down on the mattress.
"Confess, woman," he leers, "your doctor's bumps are where only
his best friends would see them. Yes, yes?"
"Would you please let me up?" Evelyn lies under him like a stone.
Tony, profoundly embarrassed, releases her. She crosses the room
to the bathroom, turning back at the door to add, "You're a crazy person." Tony hears water running into the tub then, with a clanging of
the aged pipes, diverted to hiss from the shower head before he says,
"Am not." He pictures her white skin, now pink against the real white
of the bathroom tiles. Then he adds, "If it's not broken, don't fix it."
When Tony was very young, one of the neighbourhood ladies, a Mrs.
Audrey Darlington, achieved local celebrity by painting fish on her
bathroom wall. "She just picked up a brush and painted fish right on
the wall," his mother informed the family at dinner, her tone somewhere between astonished approval and a smug reproachment; she
would never paint fish on her wall. But it was a measure of Mrs.
Audrey Darlington's new status that the fish were mentioned to the
husbands and children at all. Left to their own devices, it was entirely
possible they might never have noticed; or, noticing, might have
refrained from comment. What the women did was women's business,
short of childbirth which occasioned a reluctant celebration, the excitement over the newborn vaguely clouded by the actual process of
birth; rather a messy business, that, best to keep it from the men, protect the children.
Tony, precocious with new learning, pictured the fish as cartoons,
similar to the decals only recently wire-brushed off his own bedroom
furniture. He imagined a type of exotic carp, all silky dorsal fins and
rubbery, pursed lips. Possibly heavily lashed, coy eyes. Orange, most
likely, or a decorator's pink.
Playing with Nick Darlington one afternoon in the Darlington's
yard, and needing to pee, Tony walked through their house and up to
the second floor bathroom. Any house but his own was hushed and
private—a museum—and even carefully aiming a yellow line at the
side of the bowl Tony was properly diffident, silent. Finished, and zipping his jeans, he looked around to make sure his presence hadn't disturbed the room. There, on the wall directly over the guest towels,
were the fish. Not at all the expected cartoons, these were two flat,
grey perch, both facing the same direction. Each had a gaping, twisted
mouth; each had one smooth, round eye, clouding with exposure to
the air.
Mrs. Audrey Darlington had painted two dead fish on her bathroom
wall.
"They made me weak, those fish," Tony tells his brother. They have
42 come from the Cineplex to Little Eden, for a drink after seeing A
Woman Under the Influence. (Earlier Tony had been amazed to discover
Ken had never seen this before. "Man calls himself a psychologist," he
said, "and he's never seen the best film about mental illness in the history of the world.") Now Tony is pontifical with insights, luminous
with the possibilities in the story of his own life. "I felt like I'd been
confronted with the very nature of women, and that I would always be
outside their world. They had their own symbols, their secrets and
creations. That's what I thought at the time. I remember."
"I don't even remember being told about them," Ken says. "It's interesting you would."
"You were older when Mom left," Tony points out. "It was only one
of a greater number of episodes for you. Anyway, what I wanted to tell
you was that later I thought I was wrong about being excluded. I decided that the fish were symbols all right, but symbols of the massive
boredom of the suburban housewife."
"A modern interpretation," Ken nods. "What can I say? You're an
Eighties kind of guy."
"I'm not, don't say that," Tony insists. He lowers his voice to make
his point, speaking in a near-normal voice through the noise around
them. "I think changing my mind was wrong. An Eighties adjustment,
like you said. Those two fish were meant to be—what is the word I
want? —estranging. They were there to beat Mr. Darlington over the
head, and Mrs. Darlington wouldn't have to lay a glove on him. It was
a cold war." He leans away from the small table between them, unsuccessfully trying to cross his legs in the limited space. "What do you
think?"
"Idiot savant," Ken says. "The boy who understood women. How
often have you seen this movie?"
Before Tony can respond, a man squeezing his way through the bar
bumps their table. Tony's beer slopes to a high angle in its mug, but
doesn't spill over. He looks up at the man, preparing to murmur "No
harm done" when an apology is delivered. But the man, instead, stops
and looks back and forth from Tony to Ken, then to Tony again. His
face, round and flushed, splits into a damp grin. Below this, his shirt
collar is unbuttoned, his tie yanked loose, still knotted. The man is in
his fifties, middle-management in a small firm, maybe retail
sales—carpets or cars; not cameras or stereo equipment—or insurance. He's been here since work, say an hour after the stores closed,
and he'll drive home, rather than take a cab or bus. This assessment
comes easily to Tony, what Ken would call a 'value judgement.' But
Tony has no feeling of superiority or malice; his observation is merely
a short-cut that leaves his mind open to process anything beyond appearance. If he left himself always receptive, allowing everything to
happen for the first time, he would be no better, he thinks, than an
animal or a child, burned, who makes no association between stove and
43 hot. Or, and he's said this about the cataloging system used at the
library where he works, "If we don't keep it simple, we'll all overload
and die."
"You're brothers, right?" the man says. "I could tell that a mile off,
you being related." He starts to laugh. "A couple of white guys."
"We are pretty pale," Ken says in a reasonable tone.
Tony can hardly disagree. He and his brother have inherited hair
the colour of rye flour, not blonde but beige, and skin that makes them
look like they were, in Tony's phrase, 'carved from a bar of soap.' The
man continues to stand in front of them, hilarious as if there is some
amusement they are sharing. Tony rolls his eyes at Ken, but his
brother is looking up at the man, a non-committal but pleasant expression on his face.
"I think that's enough," Tony says coldly. "It's not like we're albinos
or anything."
"I didn't mean anything," the man says, his contrition as rapid and,
perhaps, as sincere as his humour had been.
"Yeah, sure. Why don't you just leave?"
The man shuffles off with some awkwardness, having to push his
way through the people standing between the table and the centre bar.
His shirttail has escaped his slacks at the back, and hangs below his suit
jacket, a white revelation like the quarter moon.
"Christ," Tony says. "I really hate a friendly drunk."
"You might have let him have his moment," Ken says quietly.
"There are a lot of lonely people in the world."
"So why don't they talk to each other? They don't have to go around
making me feel like a target."
Evelyn made a killing a few months earlier, and unloaded a huge, unsaleable house, very nearly a mansion that while on the market had
been divided into four or five apartments. The buyer, according to
Evelyn, has spared no expense in re-converting the place into a single
residence; knocking down walls, ripping out superfluous kitchens, soliciting advice from no less than six architects on bathroom designs.
Now the house is finished, and Tony and Evelyn are invited to the
housewarming party.
"You must have heard of her," Evelyn insists. "Alicia Keating. She's
practically revolutionized the cosmetics world. She has a new line of facial masques coming out in the fall, she told me."
"How would I have heard of her?" Tony asks. They are dressing in
the bedroom, an activity that usually co-ordinates effortlessly. But
tonight, for some reason, he seems to be in Evelyn's way; she continually turns away from him, stepping to one side when he crosses the
room to pull a clean shirt from the closet. Taking his cue from her
mid-length, Laura Ashley skirt and blouse—her 'school-marm' outfit
44 —he has decided on pleated wool trousers in a muted, autumnal
weave, white shirt and tie, tweed jacket. "Are we going to have to try
the masques?"
"That might be fun." Evelyn laughs. "Just think of it, numbers of
people walking around with this orange stuff on their faces. The ultimate anonymity. I'd better make sure I can remember what you're
wearing, so I don't leave with someone else." She steps back and exaggerates an appraisal of him, head to toe. "Humn."
"Remember that make-up seminar thing you went to? When you
came home looking like a Shanghai whore?"
"A Shanghai whore! I did not," Evelyn protests. "I looked just fine,
it was only the light in here." She raises her arm to indicate the brass
ceiling fixture. The move lifts her skirt over the tops of her boots. At
the base of her knee, where the skin cups down to the shin, there is a
white gauze pad, held in place by a large equal sign of pink adhesive
tape.
"So." Tony sits carefully on the edge of the bed. "Did it hurt?"
"No." Evelyn turns away from him, towards the dresser mirror. She
pats at her hair, ruining the effect of several minutes' careful brushing. "Everything is just fine."
"I wish you had been able to tell me," Tony says. "I wish you hadn't
done it like this."
"You'd have worried, or carried on. Besides, it was no big deal."
"Letting someone cut you, no big deal?" Tony looks away. "What'll
you have now, a scar? That'll be better?"
"Just a little one," Evelyn admits. "This is something I'm responsible
for, okay? And, yes, that's better."
Tony sits with his hands open and empty in his lap, looking down.
Mensal, heart, hepatic and brain—these are the lines of the palm, corresponding to destiny, longevity, health and profession. Ken would
tell him that palmistry is naive and superstitious. Tony thinks the craft
fits neatly into the tenets of psychology: you are born; you struggle,
fail or succeed, against influences beyond your control, your fate; then
you die.
"Don't you see the similarity?" Tony's asked. "You just give people
longer—what, the first five years of life?—to be irrevocably shaped."
Ken disagreed, of course, "What I teach, not give, is the knowledge of
personal control. The shaping you mention is a dynamic process."
Tony had raised his hands to cover his ears. "Stop it. Don't tell me it
just goes on and on. That's the same as having everything happen all at
once."
The lines of imagination and generation are revealed on the percussion, or striking edge, when the hand is made into a fist. With some effort, Tony does not fold his fingers down, does not turn his wrist.
45 On Alicia Keating's verandah Tony and Evelyn stand side by side like
the figures on a wedding cake, rigid and silent. The door is pulled
open from the inside by a young woman who remains behind the oak
and stained-glass panels as another woman turns to the door, crying,
"Evelyn, honey, usually I'm the one who under-dresses for parties!" It
must be Alicia: the vivid woman surrounded by the wide expanse of
foyer is quite possibly the most beautiful Tony has ever seen; creating
her own cosmetics would be an instinct. Tony puts his hand on the
small of Evelyn's back, for support, and she turns to him briefly with a
look he can't decipher before stepping down to greet her hostess.
"Alicia, already I can tell that it's a masterpiece. And to think no one
else even imagined the possibilities."
"Oh," Alicia is airily dismissive. "It takes a special eye. One must
have a vision."
"Yes, yes," Tony agrees too quickly, trying not to stare at the
woman. He touches the knot of his tie, anticipating the evening ahead
of him.
Introductions are hardly necessary: the architects are youngish,
new-school professionals in cleaned-and-pressed corduroy; the subcontractor is slightly shorter, slightly heavier than the contractor; the
escrow lawyer—a woman named Barb something—might have been
unexpected had she not been so obviously dressed-for-success in a
navy blue suit, white blouse and flat-heeled shoes. With the exception
of a few neighbours (who must have been incredibly inconvenienced
during the renovations, yet now appear benignly tolerant) everyone
has some connection to the house, or to a person with that connection.
Obedient to this connection, they move together in a roughly-shaped
mass.
Tony lets himself drop to the back of the group, joining the others
who are 'with' someone ("And this is Tony," he'd been introduced.
"He's with Evelyn, who found this when it was a pile of trash. Just
trash.") as they climb the stairs, stand in the hall outside of rooms. Always a room behind Alicia's commentary, Tony leans against door
frames, appraising the details to which attention is not called. There
are no pictures to break up the expanses of wall; no ashtrays or books
clutter the tabletops. The rooms are uniformly white, as sterile as a
dentist's office, if not so well lighted. Tony scrubs his front teeth with a
forefinger, then rubs his palms against his thighs. He counts five telephones and three televisions before he discovers any reading material
and at that, charitably, he is giving credit to a slick Italian magazine of
hairdressing designs. He rejoins the group outside the bathroom.
Phrases are passed to him in quick, exclamatory gasps: "Wall-to-wall,"
and "entirely mirrored," and "hand-painted, real bone."
Human,Tony thinks, No doubt the bone is human.
46 The group of people reverses itself, and Tony is leading as they enter the dining room. He takes a seat at the far end of the table. The
same woman who had let him into the house is now bringing the meal
in from the kitchen. There is no seat for her at the table, and Tony is
uncomfortable being served this way. He keeps his eyes averted,
watching the others. From the corner, with his back to the wall, his
view is unobstructed. He grips his wine glass in his hand, ready to
cover the lower half of his face, already flushed by what he considers
an embarrassment of food.
"Kiwis," the lawyer coos. "Craig's lamb," one of the architects offers.
And this is the table talk; most of the company too busy discussing the
food to eat. Only the sub-contractor, his plate arranged in neat quadrants, devotes his attention to the task at hand with an enviable recreation of manners; his isolation is a pleasure to watch. Tony chews
slowly, not wanting to clear his plate prematurely, but the lamb fat
congeals like soft frost on the china and he leaves as much as the man
on his left, the women on his right. By the time Alicia suggests they
move to the living room for coffee, the table has a decided air of erstwhile massacre.
"There's a place here," the lawyer says, patting the cushion beside
her on the loveseat. She waits for Tony to sit, then holds out her hand,
"I'm Barb."
"Tony," Tony says, briefly taking then releasing her hand. "I'm with
Evelyn."
"Evelyn? Oh, yes. The real estate lady. Do you have children?"
"I'm sorry?" Tony tilts his head, trying to understand the question.
Then, "No. We don't even have a cat." Her expression remains the
same, and he qualifies, "We're not married?" to encourage her. After a
silence, he asks, "And you?"
"Me? No, I'm a lawyer."
Tony glances wildly around the room until he spots Evelyn, bent
forward to hear something the contractor is saying. He stares at the
back of her head, willing her to look up and signal to him that it is time
to leave. But an hour passes, more than an hour, before they are in the
foyer, saying good-bye. Tony stands with his hands clasped behind his
back while Evelyn makes the correct social noises. "A real treat," she
says. "Usually the sales just disappear into the ether. It's nice to keep in
touch."
"Listen," Alicia says. "I was glad for the dry run. I'm giving a party
for my friends next month, and I wasn't sure everyone would fit."
Tony amends the thought he had earlier: At least the bone is
human.
Safely home, Tony stretches out on the bed and yawns hugely. "I'm
47 bagged," he says. "I feel like I've been assaulted."
"Assaulted, what are you talking about?" Evelyn lets her skirt slide to
the floor, bends over to pick it up. She crosses to the closet in her boots
and nothing else, hangs the skirt from little loops inside the waistband,
then sits on the edge of the bed to pull off her boots. "What assault?"
"The whole evening. Didn't you feel a little abused? In the most
hospitable manner, of course."
"She's a very successful woman," Evelyn says. She lets her boot drop
to the floor, rolls down her kneesock.
"And success is another country?" Tony asks. "The rules are different there?"
"No, of course not," Evelyn shakes her head.
"I can't say I thought much of that house as a place to come home
to."
"But she must have worked very hard to get what she has. She deserves to enjoy it." She raises her knee, peers at the bandage there,
picks at one corner of the adhesive tape. "I could learn to enjoy what
she has."
"Don't mess with that," Tony cautions. "You'll make it worse."
"You know what?" Evelyn stretches out on the bed, pushing herself
up with her palms to lie beside him. "I think I'm going to have to sleep
on my back. And you know what they say."
"What do they say?" Tony lifts his weight up on his elbows. His underarms are damp.
"They say a change is as good as a rest." She shows him a wicked grin
and adds, "Take your mind off feeling assaulted."
"Yes," Tony says. "Really, my whole body feels like it's been beaten
with a stick. Beaten with chic." He moves closer to her, to narrow the
range of his vision, allowing himself this distraction yet sure he will
look back at himself with an imagination of motives, a familiar suspicion that control is being lent to him as a manipulation.
Twelve days later, when the bandage is removed and the stitches are
taken out, Evelyn has a small, shiny mark, like a flattened and sideways
S under an umlaut. Despite the finality of marked tissue, the permanence, a scar is no achievement. It is not a conclusion. A scar is one half
of a conversation, the probing questions asked by a stranger sharing
the confinement of a travelling space, a bus or airplane: What past life
is revealed by this? Who are you, to have been thus afflicted? How
have you survived? Scarring, like physical perfection, invites
prurience.
Tony is silenced by those two little white dots, where a sharp point
pierced the skin. He's a man on the outside and he feels only a dutiful
paternalism. The obligation defeats him—this is not his responsibility
—and he hears his father saying, "I won't be blamed. You and your
brother walk around the house with those eyes, like two owls on a
48 branch." Tony shook his head, the movement imperceptible in the
dimly-lit living room, not wanting to hear this, not wanting to be seen
hearing this. His father's voice was thick, each word a sullen, forced,
sound, with a tremor that mimicked the palsy of his hands, the ineffectual grasping and releasing of the slack grey flannel of his trousered
lap, as if something under the fabric was eluding his hold. "What do
you think I could have done, to hold her? You can't imagine what
hatred she had for me, for ruining the future she'd planned. So she
just left and started over. She didn't even leave me alone, to my own
life. Well, go try to find her, if being her son is a job you want to take
on. I don't need you to worry about me."
Tony leaned forward, into the cone of light from the lamp beside
him, preparing a protest, but his father added, "It's not that I ever
wanted children at all. No, I never wanted them at all."
Ken had warned Tony about these declarations; the clutching at
autonomy was as symptomatic as the disease's progression, the slurred
speech, the lack of balance, the unco-ordinated motor control. Tony
would not believe, or even discuss, his brother's diagnosis. The man
was recovering from a stroke, no more or less. He was not young.
Two years later, refusing permission for an autopsy, Tony says, "I
didn't listen to you then, and I'm not listening to you now." They are
in the parking lot of the hospital. Tony will not enter the building.
Ken's face is rouged by the Emergency sign, as if lit from within the way
it would be if he stretched his mouth over the lens of a flashlight, a
thing Tony remembers doing when he was a child, many years ago.
"You want proof? Then what? I've done my research on this, Ken.
The best we get is a fifty-fifty chance of not developing what you think
he had." Tony does not name the disease; he will not allow it that
relevance. "You think someone is going to come along and give you
some kind of signed guarantee?"
"No, that's not the point." Ken puts his hands into his pockets and
leans against the hood of Tony's car. "The stroke may have masked
the symptoms. The diagnosis might be wrong. It's confirmation we're
after, knowing what our own chances are."
"That's fifty percent each, Ken, not one of us or the other. We'd still
wait it out alone. The laws of mathematics aren't about justice. Even
randomness is predictable in its own way. No autopsy is going to certify you're entitled to your three-score-and-ten."
"It's better to know," Ken says quietly.
"Is it? Always? Nobody can own the future." Tony looks away, to
where a small park is visible between the brick hospital buildings.
There is enough natural light in the air to silhouette a low wooden
bench and the frame of a swing set, the chains unseen from this distance. He adds, bitterly, "This certificate is non-transferable."
On Sunday morning, Tony wakes early and pads quietly, barefoot,
49 into the kitchen. At first he thinks the weak light is to blame, is blurring his vision, then he can tell that the coffee grinder is badly
scratched. The inside of the cap, formerly smooth and shiny and clear,
is now cloudy and rough, ridged with sloppy, non-concentric circles as
if it had been clumsily sanded. He knows, even before the proof
reaches his nose, almost as if he has been waiting for this information,
that Evelyn has used the appliance to mince cloves. He stares at the
grinder—worthless junk now, as far as he's concerned—not at all the
sleek machine that had pleased him so much. He opens his mouth to
call Evelyn and confront her with this, then leaves his jaw slack, remaining mute. The plastic is smooth in his hand; the violated interior
is not evident to his touch. If he had less than his five full senses, this
moment would pass without notice, exactly as would all the moments
of the rest of his life. Such ease is, must be, false.
He must plan his escape, he decides, although he loses this conviction almost instantly, in the choice between to and from. A brief image
of the gentle swell and trough of the Pacific Ocean fades from his
mind and he returns to standing, barefoot, on his own kitchen tiles. In
the intensity of his silence he becomes aware that the refrigerator has
kicked into a low purring, the motor responding efficiently to task. His
arm arcs back and swings strongly forward. The coffee grinder hits
the side of the fridge with a disappointing sound of chipping plastic,
no great explosive crack. Still, the pieces on the floor are obviously
beyond repair. Tony cannot quite manage a smile, his breathing is too
wild, but he nods his satisfaction. He may not be home free but he is,
for now, in control and very much at home.
50 Robyn Sarah/Three Poems
The Distance
At mid-day the chill
deserts the air, the
turning trees and the late
roses are bathed
in a warm, a dreamy
sunlight.   This will last
for a little longer
if we are lucky, as
some things do last, as
even habit sometimes
glows with a warm glow.
Yet in the end the distance
is all; the colours are
contained in it, but they are
locked there, they will
never fly out like birds
or bubbles to gladden air.
Only, we can
watch them, as through glass,
in their circling.    We can
name them, as we name
such stars as the city night
will show us.    Is this
what we came for, then?    To look
but not to touch, to leave
the prints of our fingers
singing
on a thin clear globe?
51 The Thread
Diminutions
of autumn.   The light
makes no apology, falling
aslant the bare arms
of the trees.   They have let
slide their holdings; only a
rare branch still flames
toward sundown, caught
at the right angle.   The
afternoon is private, the sun
visits each window, warm
with the last warmth of October, the
screens tick in their metal
frames, mesh hazy with
last summer's dust, they ping
where a late fly, all buzz
and bluster, hurls himself
again and again.   Now he has crawled
down between the screen
and outer pane, the sun
is moving on, touching the last
crescent of screen, a few
dust-motes hover there and gleam,
pearl-like, before they move
out of the light: and see,
a single thread of spider-silk,
anchored where faintest air
stirs it, gleams
and disappears, and gleams
again.
52 Point of Departure
The days
folding out of each other
like paper flowers.   Nothing
takes your place, that's finally
understood.    I kick
through leaves my stride
churns into a sound
like surf.
There are many
beautiful days, one after another, I lose
count of them, why count them?
Strange reaches of light
across the park, a wind,
unseasonably warm, that gets
under shirts, balloons them.
It is deceptive, this wind.
I recognize you from a long way off,
turning the corner, shouldering
your empty bag.    Hours
I've wasted.   Weeks.    How long
before snow?
The trees expose
their nests, their
perfect geometry.
53 Ralph Gustafson/Two Poems
Late May
Four magnolia blossoms showed
Beyond the edge of the house,
The green hedge behind them,
White and suffused pink the petals
About to fall so well open
Were they—the awkward sun made use of
Though this was north.   The wheelbarrow
Stood empty beside the tree, the shovel
Fallen to the ground.    It did not matter much,
The moment was best left to nature.
The usual hummingbird was returned
To the lilac though it was not out,
Just the lilac leaves.
It was an ambiguous,
Ambitious moment, nothing much
But the green grass between the slates
Of the pathway.    What you expect
Is better.    Another month is better.
54 Beethoven as an Example of
the Unconditional
The absolutes are out of favour:
Beethoven who couldn't hear a vocable
Though his successive trumpets grew
In size, kazoo to bamboozle,
Heaven-heard, the questions asked him
Written down, the notebooks blank
Of answers whose music was the answer.
Plug.   Plug.   Rock against Easter.
What is to the heart and ear
And touchings true, closed off,
The crafty natural out of favour,
The apostrophic round and fateful
Overtone, blown: flat.
55 Leona Gom/Two Poems
Sarah, Emily
there must be no wrinkles,
things must be kept neat.
Sarah smoothes the sheets over
and over herself,   her body
in the bed barely shows,
it is how she has always lived,
learning to sink
into the background,
the others were the ones
who made decisions.
she calls her daughter
by the name of her oldest sister,
long dead now, asks about
horses, have they been fed.
Emily says, yes,
yes, it's all right,
when it's not,
Sarah is dying.
her fingers pick at
something in the air.
Emily reaches up,
closes her mother's hands
inside hers, like a locket.
it's all right, she says again,
all the machinery of language
gearing down to those words
of love, of departure.
56 How They
get old on you, sneaking
it past you slowly,
you see your father holding
the mirror over his head,
sighing at his thinning hair,
your mother rubbing oil on
the lines starting to dig
between her brows,
and it seems very funny,
they are your parents, it
is how they should look,
young is for you.
only when it is years
between your seeing them
can you read on their
loosening skins the long
story of their leaving.
57 Elizabeth Abraham
Unsuccessful Translations
Italo Calvino is dead. He had a stroke and lapsed into a coma and
died. He was reading a newspaper when it happened.
I just glanced over my husband's shoulder and spotted Calvino's
name among others in boldface. Then I saw the block letters between
two thick horizontal lines on the top of the left column: OBITUARIES.
He was reading a newspaper in the garden of his villa in Siena. All I
know of Siena is from the two things I readjust yesterday. One was a
chapter in a novel by Edith Wharton, the first scene of a honeymoon in
Siena. He thinks it's romantic and luxurious, she thinks it's dusty and
intolerably hot. I wanted to take her place. Then there was a piece
from a collection of Italian short stories, about a consumptive young
girl whose father makes her sleep with his acquaintances for booze
money. She dies.
"Sixty-two," my husband reads aloud. I imagine that he, too,
measures his age against that of someone who has just died. We are
both past halfway. "Sorry, babe," he says. I am also thinking that we've
never been to Siena—or Italy, for that matter—and probably never
will. During our one European vacation we passed up the tour of Italy
for one more week on the beaches of Costa del Sol, in Malaga, where
the combination of off-season seclusion and unseasonal weather was
too luxurious to leave. "We'll come back," we said. But that was seven,
eight years ago, and since then it seems as though a great wall of circumstance has erected itself along the length of the Atlantic and keeps
us here in North America, where people in comfortable homes start
their mornings with a home-delivered newspaper and read about the
deaths of geniuses, and other people, in other parts of the world.
I took a year of classical voice lessons in college. At the master class,
before singing the aria or recitative we'd prepared for that week, each
student would have to recite the libretto as if it were a poem. We'd
have to memorize the English translation so that when we read the
Italian lines we would know what we were saying. Except for the untranslatable idioms (there was at least one in every piece), the meaning
of each phrase would be drilled into our heads, and, consequently, the
libretto. Certain phrases are still with me; I know enough Italian to
58 woo a young girl. My pretty one/Do not doubt my love for you . . .
Open my bosom/And you will see your name/Inscribed upon my
heart... In my heart the flames that burn me/All my soul does so en-
ravish . . . And tears are in vain . ..
There is no verb in the first sentence of an obituary. For example, it
reads, "Italo Calvino, one of Italy's greatest post-war writers, in Siena,
Italy, two weeks after suffering a stroke." I read it several times, annoyed. Why be so vague? Must everything be sugar-coated in order to
protect the comfortable? Italo Calvino died. Italo Calvino is dead.
I put on my robe and leave the bedroom to catch the last of the late
morning sun through the living room windows. It lands right on the
couch and heats the dark blue corduroy to a cozy degree. I am reading
the end of a long short story by Calvino, one I started last week but
never had a chance to finish. I've been reading a lot of translations
lately, hoping they will open doors for me to other cultures and,
ultimately, bring me closer to the authors. But words are poor enough
conductors of thought and emotion, and having been filtered through
a translator, the words I read are missing something essential, I know
it. I feel it. Dead, alive, it doesn't matter. Calvino's mind is light years
away from mine, and no translator, not William Weaver or anyone,
can close the gap between my living room in peaceable Victoria and
the garden of his villa in Siena. Even if I did get to Italy somehow,
even if my bus tour stopped at Calvino's villa and they let us get out
and take pictures, the distance would remain the same. Yet we will visit
the cathedrals and eat in restaurants whose menus have English subtitles, and we'll be puzzled when we see scrawled in red chalk on the
white wall outside our four-star hotel, "YANKEES GO HOME FROM
AMERICA!"
My husband comes in from the bedroom with the Business section,
which he tosses on the coffee table in front of me. He is wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt; casual wear for the weekend. I prefer to stay in my
bathrobe, if circumstances permit. It's half-past eleven and we haven't
eaten anything. We often miss the morning meal on the weekends. He
asks me, on his way to the kitchen, if I want more coffee. I listen to the
familiar sounds of him filling the kettle with water, grinding the beans,
putting the filter and funnel on top of the carafe. My husband never
waits until the kettle whistles; he's too impatient. Because of this the
second cup isn't as hot as it should be.
He comes into the living room with two cups in one hand and the
half-filled carafe of coffee in the other. He sits next to me, pours the
coffee and hands me one of the cups. I take it from him and he
touches the centre of my chest, where the robe doesn't cover. The skin
is hot from the sun and his fingers feel cold against it. He takes them
away. "Burning," he says. I smile.
"What are you reading?"
59 "Calvino." Or is it Weaver? Calvino-Weaver. Calvino-Weaver-Me.
"I'm sorry you feel bad, love." He takes a Player's cigarette from the
package on the table, offers it to me, but I shake my head. I should
think after reading Calvino's obituary he could hold off for a while. I
go to the windows and crank open the centre one. Can our sun be the
same, I wonder.
We just started smoking again a few weeks ago. We go on and off,
every few months, every few years. We worry about fertility, then we
decide we're not ready for a baby. But it's getting late for me. "I've
been thinking," I say, "maybe we should cut the cigs altogether, once
and for all. It's just not healthy."
"You're probably right, we should," he says sincerely, but his eyes
don't rise from the page, not for a second.
If Italo Calvino wrote a story about us, it would start something like
this:
Before astronomer Harlow Shapley studied the pulses of varying
luminosity of two stars in the Andromeda Nebula, this and other spiral
nebulae like it were considered to be comparatively small and close celestial
bodies within our own Milky Way Galaxy. In 1917, however, by comparing the pulse rates to the stars' apparent luminosities, Shapley determined
the distances of these stars to be 1,700,000 light years from earth, a distance far greater than the estimated diameter of the Milky Way. Further
studies proved the Andromeda to be, in fact, a galaxy in itself. We now
know the Andromeda Galaxy to be a sister of our own, larger, galaxy, part
of the two dozen or so galaxies which make up The Local Group.
It was no surprise to me—Qwfwq recalled—simply a case of history
repeating itself. When Copernicus disproved Aristotle's theory of
geocentricity, the reaction was the same. We always want to think
we're in the centre and everything either revolves around us or is a
part of us. Of course, you can understand the general feeling of
shock when people heard this nebulous ball of stars we'd taken for
granted was actually a galaxy only slightly smaller than our own!
As it turned out, the Milky Way and the Andromeda are related in
that we're in the same cluster of galaxies, but for so long the distance was completely misunderstood.
60 Bill Gaston
Carp
"Jhana," Max Betts said to his daughter, "I've just quit smoking, my
head's a mess. I've had too many beers today jus' like your mother said.
But my life is going to change. From now on it's going to be Japanese.
Clean damn Japanese."
Clean Japanese. Even when drunk, perhaps especially when drunk,
Max Betts had a way with words that made a ten-year-old girl sit up
and take notice, if not quite understand. He sat sprawled in his shredding chair, his dirty T-shirt riding up his paunch, his head twisting
and nodding radically as he spoke. Because his daughter was blind, he
didn't have to care about how he looked. In this regard at least, Jhana's
mother—his estranged wife—couldn't berate him for setting a bad
example.
"Know what I mean, Jhana?" he said, got no answer, then let his
head loll back. He spoke to the ceiling. "I need some clean lines, some
clean black and white lines. Porcelain, some cold porcelain. Some fish
in clear water. Do you remember seeing any Japanese art, Jhana?
Straight lines. Japanese. My head's a mess, darling. Your father's
head's a mess tonight." He paused for a moment, staring now at his
daughter. "Can your mother bring you over again next week, dear?"
"I don't know, Dad. She didn't say."
Jhana's tone of voice wasn't lost on Max, drunk as he was. For the
voice betrayed a secrecy, and an allegiance that had been shifting for
two years now. Losing a wife had been quick, clean, violent, a gash that
healed; losing a daughter was the hard part, for the knife was tortuously slow in its work.
Jhana's mother appeared from the kitchen, her face red and her
hands swollen.
"Okay, Jhana," she said. Putting on her coat, not looking at her husband, she added, "I should congratulate you Max. The kitchen, again,
was unbelievable. Anyway, two hours worth. My roof shakes have been
delivered. When can you come? Before it rains, I hope."
Their arrangement was such that, during visits with a shared daughter, she would clean his house and he would fix hers.
Mother and daughter left and Max was sad, as usual. But glad too,
61 as usual, for now he could break out a bottle. He drank greedily. He
had new purpose. In the hour of half-clarity left to him, he decided
where in the room the Japanese prints would go, and where he would
put the aquarium.
It was New Year's Eve. Tomorrow would be 1960.
The growing dissatisfaction had been gradual, but by 1959 Max discovered that he profoundly hated his life. He had just turned thirty-
five. The past two years had seen his daughter go blind, his marriage
break up. He had been fired for drunkenness on the job. He had been
rehired, but even that seemed like more bad luck. Longshoreman's
work was usually easy, but the men pretended it was always hard, if
only to have an excuse to go nightly to the bar.
But the marriage, Jhana, the job—those were the obvious horrors.
They felt like symptoms of a life's disintegration in general. What Max
abhorred most was the quality of his plodding days, the shit-awful
hangovers, the packs of numbing cigarettes, the coming home from
work filthy with ship rust and sawdust, home to find rooms filthier
than he was. So easy, so necessary, to drink; so easy and necessary to
shower and meet his friends at the bar where he could eat hotdogs and
peanuts for dinner and drink such a life away. But 1959 was becoming
1960. New years were times to resolve; new decades that much better.
He had been leafing through a magazine in a gas station bathroom,
an arty magazine from New York. There was a pictorial on Beatniks, a
cultural oddity that had begun to make quaint sense to the rich and
idle in the east. Max was stricken by the pictures. He'd seen nothing
like them. One showed an artist's studio, the high walls of which were
bright white and unornamented. There were skylights. The only furnishings were two black cushions on the floor and an aquarium, holding two fish. The wood floor gleamed. Max, on the toilet, was dreadfully hungover.
The article spoke of the recent influx of Japanese art and style,
spawned largely by these Beatniks. There were pictures of Japanese
prints: stark clean suns over simple geometric landscapes. A simple
twig on which rested a severe black bird. A huge bare canvas of white
with but two black slashes, representing leaves, in its upper right
corner. Max was surprised by these pictures, by the mode of thought
they advertised. He felt suddenly energetic, as if the bathroom stall
had received a blast of oxygen.
There were no Beatniks in Deep Cove, and none that he knew of in
Vancouver. Max searched out the art shops and galleries, found little
of interest, little that hinted at oxygen, but through these shops he
placed orders to Toronto and to New York City itself.
It was February of a new decade, and Max had some friends over after
62 the bar closed. They were stumbling drunk and wild, the kind of Monday night they hadn't seen much of since Male had gone back to England; Male, the mad Brit who claimed to write though no one cared,
who in any case had no job to go to in the morning and so was the instigator of many impromptu parties. One summer Max and Male had
decided to bury three years' worth of bottles in the backyard—the
quantity of bottles hadn't been great, really, but because they'd stolen a
backhoe to do the digging, the bottle burial story took on mythic
proportions.
So it was a Monday night of old. Max, though, was acting strangely.
Though very drunk himself he seemed wary of a stack of boxes in the
room's corner. He guided reeling friends away from them if they
strayed too close. There's an aquarium in there, he said. And at one
point in the party he ripped open a box, withdrew from it two black
cushions, and suggested they take turns sitting on them. Just try it, he
yelled, and no one could tell if he was making a joke, or slipping off
into one of his occasional but lately more frequent bouts of weirdness.
In the wee hours the party was on the verge of winding down but Max
wound it down for good when he donned a long, navy blue kimono,
stood facing a wall, held his head tight with his hands and moaned
loudly to himself.
The carp were beautiful. A rare and expensive breed, midnight black,
about five inches long, and they graced the confines of their three-foot
home by hanging perfectly motionless. At times, to Max's delight, they
would dart this way and that for no apparent reason; surprising
bursts, he liked to think, of glee. He did not name them.
He had set the aquarium against the front room's largest wall, in the
centre. The wall he'd painted bright white, but he'd run out of paint
and the remaining three walls remained beige. In a fit of spontaneity
Max took up a small brush and on the wall painted a black ring, eight
feet in diameter, to frame the fish. At first he'd tried a small ceramic
pagoda in the aquarium's right back corner. Its edges were too
rounded, cartoonish; it looked tacky. In its place he planted a lone
vermilion weed.
He fed the carp leftovers. The man at the fish importer's (he'd been
Japanese!) had said, "They'll eat anything, they're like goats." Max had
felt vague disappointment at hearing this. Sometimes he fed them bits
of steak, other times nightcrawlers he bought at the gas station where
he'd found the magazine.
While Max's wife was off somewhere scrubbing, Jhana was made to sit
stiffly erect on a cushion across from her father. She didn't seem to
mind. Max went great lengths describing the carp to her. Jhana
seemed pleased. She told Max she'd gotten an 'A' in braille.
63 "Well that's just great dear," Max said. "Now I'll brag too. You
notice how clean it is in here. The air I mean?"
"Yes. You've quit smoking. I'm glad, Dad."
Jhana's mother came in from her hour of work. She'd managed to
finish only the kitchen. Removing rubber gloves, she surveyed the
front room. All the furniture had been removed and stored in Jhana's
old bedroom. In its bareness the room seemed huge. Max hoped his
wife was noticing how much the room, shot with diagonal sunbeams
that were filled with radiant floating dust, looked like one of Emily
Carr's cedar forests.
"Well this is a switch," Jhana's mother said. "It looks like you're
taking care of one room at least."
"It's a start," he said. "It's a style for the mind."
Max picked a piece of lint from the shoulder of his kimono. He felt
content. In fact he found himself fighting smugness. His wife was
eyeing him oddly. No doubt she thought he had a new woman, and
this was her work. That was fine, he'd let her think that.
"My life's changing," he said to them at the door, after kissing his
daughter. He smiled at his wife and then shrugged, as if in humility, as
if to say that the change was now out of his hands.
Max was going to the bar less. As a consequence he ate more at home,
something he'd done rarely since the separation. In order to keep the
front room perfect he'd moved the eating table to the kitchen where
he'd been taking his meals until he decided it was ridiculously
cramped. So the table came back to the front room. A minor flaw, he
told himself. He tried hard to remember to always clear his dirty dishes off the table, and though he often forgot to do so he decided that
he'd use dirty dishes as a sign that his life was, or was not, progressing
as it should.
Another flaw in perfection arose. The carp ate a lot, and so shit a lot.
That was fine, Max thought. That was life, that was order. But the
water, though he sometimes did manage to change it on schedule,
grew quickly murky. When he phoned the fish importer he was told to
purchase a placaustamus, a filtering fish (a "shit-eater," as the Japanese
man put it, which made Max no longer like him). That day at a local
pet shop he pronounced the name of the fish carefully, and was shown
to a tank of dull brown, lethargic creatures clinging to the rocks and
glass walls with obscene sucker-like mouths. Fat, soulless and stupid.
Max knew he could never allow such a shit-eater in with his carp. He
bought the best electric filter the shop had in stock.
Once home, though, the filter proved noisy. He tried muffling the
tinny whine with wads of cotton and electrician's tape, which only succeeded in changing the tone, not the volume. And the filter looked so
awful with its dials, tubes and wires, clinging to the glass wall of art like
64 technology's metallic turd. He threw it out. He'd let the water take its
course, going brown as the carp made it so. Then clean again, when he
changed it. One into the other, a cycle like the tides, like day and night,
perfectly natural.
Max had ordered a book on Japanese philosophy and when it arrived
he read some of it, closing it only when he saw there was indeed much
to ponder. It spoke of the new style, the new way of thinking. He
closed the book and gazed through the murk at his carp. Sleek, they
hung like streaks of blackest ink. They mouthed the water so calmly, a
slow rhythm of Os. Sometimes a tiniest bubble would appear on a lip,
and the next closing of mouth would trip the bubble on its tiny way to
the surface. So sharp, and yet so calm. Max decided they were mouthing the word Ohm.
He woke sweating and shocked by the horrible dream. He got up to
survey his front room and aquarium to ease himself before he tried to
sleep again. The dream had been this: He was at his table, drunk and
eating a steak dinner. He became angry at something, and tossed all
his dishes and silverware into the air. Then he went to the bar, but
none of his friends knew him. Later, it was days later, he saw that one
of the carp was half-dead, with ribbons of flesh and guts trailing from
its body. Before he could do anything, the other carp was eating the
wounded one, greedily, stupidly, like a goat. He quickly began to
change the water. By the time he got it drained only a skeleton remained of the first carp. It flipped pathetically on the sand. The other
carp lay on the sand too—it was bloated fat and white and filled the
entire aquarium. In the back corner, wedged in against the ceramic
pagoda, Max's steak knife stood point-up; it was against this the dead
carp had first impaled itself.
When he woke in the morning, Max moved the eating table back to
the kitchen, cleaning the front room of his nightmare and making it
perfect again.
The catalogue from which he'd ordered two striking, oxygen-emitting
prints also had a section on Japanese erotic art. Max had seen nothing
wrong in sending for a selection of them as well. They arrived individually wrapped in tissue and were oddly beautiful. The contorted
positions, the grossly enlarged genitalia replete with crimson membranes, blue veins and delicately etched hairs might be taken for
pornography by some, but Max understood that it depended on the
artistic eye of the beholder. Sex could be simple and clean; it was a
question of purity of mind. In fact, Max had deemed it necessary to introduce sex into his new lifestyle. It wasn't natural that he'd been without a woman for months. The book had said nothing about celibacy
65 being part of the stark Japanese way, and these pictures were a colourful hint that sex was indeed to be included.
So one night Max brought a woman home from the bar. He had
controlled himself, wasn't too drunk, and he wished she'd done the
same. She was blonde and giddy-loud, and had small eyes and a big
Germanic chin. He came out of the bathroom naked under his
kimono. You're fast, she said, and giggled. He led her over to the
aquarium. She couldn't see them for the murk, so Max brought a
flashlight. In the beam they looked too grey and large, and huddled in
the back.
"Tell me what they're saying," Max said.
She giggled and said he was crazy. But Max insisted. He was drinking whiskey now.
"I know," she said at last, pleased with herself, "it's 'Oops'."
Max spread a blanket. She asked why not the bedroom, and Max
told her it had to be here. He brought out the pictures of Japanese
erotic art and showed them to her. You're filthy, she said, but she
giggled, shyly and excitedly.
It was April, and Max had friends over. All were drunk, and Max especially so. He'd quit smoking again, it had gone a week this time, and
tonight he'd thought it only right that since he denied himself tobacco
he would let himself drink as much as he wanted. He'd become quickly
drunk and by midnight was halfway through a pack of borrowed cigarettes. At first he felt guilty, and then not.
For he wore his kimono, and stayed properly silent. Let his friends
act like fools, he thought, let them yell and laugh like so many barfing
dogs. He would keep his thoughts orderly and clean, and speak only
when necessary. His friends were having a good time, he wouldn't stop
them. Several women had followed them from the bar, and Max had
moved the stereo back into the front room for dancing. He brought
two chairs out to stand in front of the aquarium so no one would bump
it. He hoped the fish wouldn't be scared by the music and laughter. As
Max squeezed half the contents of a beef and bean burrito into the
water for the fish to eat, he slopped some sauce down his kimono
front.
He was proud that he'd decided to clean the stain immediately. Dabbing at himself with a soapy cloth over the kitchen sink, Max saw how
dirty he'd let the garment get. He said to himself: I'm slipping. But
tomorrow meant a fresh start. Tomorrow he would buy some white
paint and do the rest of the front room. He would polish the floor and
hang the prints on the wall opposite the aquarium. But first of all he
would change the water, which of late was so murky he would see the
carp only rarely, when they came forward out of the miasma, gliding
black ghosts, to nose the glass.
Having decided all this, and feeling better, Max again decided that
66 tonight he would drink and smoke as much as he wanted.
Ben Klaus had followed him into the kitchen. Ben seemed on a kind
of mission, for on the edge of his thoughts Max had heard others in
the front room urging Ben on. Go on, Ben, do it, he'd heard.
"Hey Max boy," said Ben now, not smiling. Their shop steward at
work, Ben was plump and red, and though he wasn't bright he was
courageous in the bar, in fights, with women and on the job. Ben
paused now, turned redder, smiled, then asked loudly and quickly:
"Hey. Boy, you're actin sort of goof-off lately. So what the hell's the
deal? Eh Maxie?"
Max regarded him coolly, said nothing. Ben began to fidget, and his
smile went stiff and quivered.
"Prob'ly wife and kid stuff, eh? Well that's tough, that really is.
Prob'ly no one's business but your own, and that's for sure. But, hey
Max, you got some friends here...."
Max stared at him. In truth he didn't know what to say, or how to
say it. Things were wrong, but always had been. But now they were
getting better. Was it his fault the man couldn't see that? So he just
stared. Silence is the mind's cleanliness, he'd read, and believed. He
took a large gulp from his whiskey bottle, winced, and now ignored
Ben Klaus altogether.
"Right then." Ben turned and left the kitchen, red now with quick
anger.
Max scanned the empty beer bottles on his counter, heard the thudding music. He thought of running and apologizing to Ben, to all of
his friends, but decided not to. For he saw that, like dirt, his words
would cloud the front room with cheap sentiment. He recalled with
fondness his old pal Male, himself a master of silence. Though Male
wrote page upon page by day, by night he knew how to drink and
leave things perfectly unsaid.
Growing suddenly drunker, Max watched the party disperse, at
Ben's urging. Curious murmurs. Angry murmurs. Twenty minutes
later the last were out the door, one the blonde German woman with
her bra in her hand.
Max reeled to the door, opened it and supported himself against the
frame. Cars idled out on the dark street, and friends whispered about
him from window to window. Overhead, stars swirled, hissed.
Max screamed at all of it: "I'm inscrutable, like a chink!"
In the morning Max was badly hungover. But he felt good about starting a day afresh. He snuffed out his cigarette, realizing he hadn't been
aware of lighting one. He stood in front of the aquarium now. On a
whim and smiling, he bowed to it. He began the job of changing the
water, which was opaque, almost black. It had been weeks and weeks.
Max was shocked to see how much the carp had grown.
67 Richard Stevenson
Dwarf Fan Palm
(Chamaerops humilus)
Ask me! Ask me! the leaves
seem to shout—as though these
mad fronds were green hands waving
for the favour of the botanist teacher's
nod.   Yes, Chamaerops, tell us about
the pleasures of being green.   Tell us
what it means to be shot out of the
cannon of a Chinese thousand-year-old-egg
burial urn.    To find yourselves like flares
exploding—all fingers and palms —
in Al Jolson gestures just before the end
of your phylum's cracked curtain call.
To come up green, leaves sharply creased,
and wilt, drip grief like the letters
of some spray-bombed line of graffiti
on a subway or broken barrio wall.
Tell the women—knees crossed on the Hepplewhite,
drinking tea.    The men feeding papyrus
back into the historical grin of a leather
briefcase.   Tell us what the Chinese meant
when they invented fireworks.   How ontogeny fails
to duplicate the implosion of grace that
gutters on its own green stem.   Then swallow
this glass of water.   Wave goodbye to the sun
that drags its bleeding stump across the polished tiles.
68 Derek Robinson
AB ALONE
One side of the shell's dull earth
Rugged as mammoth-skin,
The inside's polished ice-light
Tints of purple, cruel blue
Under salt glaze.   You hear nothing
Of the sea's profound iridescence
Who tilt the shell to your ear
But the eyes dwell on its
Rink of lucent rainbow
For hours, until the mollusc
Scooped out long ago by a gull
Or dissolved by decay
Begins to breathe again
Its strange life of immersion
In the quaking tide.
You wonder, How old is it?
What ocean did it come from?
Could it have grown much larger?
The shifting pink green map
Of mother-of-pearl
Dreams the toppled thunder
Of hissing waves—
The polar heart of the whirlpool
Massing its hammers
For a blow on the rock
Where the shellfish clings
In stubborn tenacity,
A blob of albumen
Under a hat of bone.
69 (Slowly, it crept
Along a barnacled crevice
Under writhing
Trees of kelp
To spend the night alone
In a black sea-cave with an eel
Or—who knows?—with Triton himself.)
So much the eye,
Sliding down the shell's
Lacquered coasts of oil,
Deciphers of it.
70 Karen Romell
Death of a Duck Hunter
You were surprised
when the storm blew up and took
your body-heat, your
punt
and oars, and spat
its rude hisses of chill
and oblivion.
This is how life tilts
over the earth's soft edge:
your limp legs
bandaged in galoshes
caught you up in the muck
and the brine, the too-crude
marsh
with its stinking
pits, its decays
sucked up
like a fish,
what could you do?
All warmth was gone, the heat
in your thin skin
flew up and out like mist
you were lost without it and flailed
your canvas hat,
your gun.
71 Now in the dark
night's eye, the mud
abyss, you think peace
is whatever unfairness
plucked you from knowing
your nature, the innocent
heart of you
to stray with the rest of them,
undone
with the grasses and reeds and the clean
calamity of rain
till your white face
bloats like a cloud, and you rise
to take your place with the eyes
of stupefied birds,
monotony of tides
and beating wings.
72 Katie Trumpener/Two Poems
Getting into Shape
In the dream I could paint
the dead, even their voices.
Under the sink the next day
I found an old box of watercolours,
sat down at the kitchen table
to paint what I saw: apples, apricots,
the calendar on the window sill.
The room was full of more and more things,
the peach grown out around its intricate pit,
the smell of the peppers, matches
standing in the matchbook in neat white lines.
My patchwork coat was hung on a chair, crooked shapes
of many colors, the sharp glare of pins, long uncut satin
threads
hanging down.
Slivers of broken glass glinted up
from the road to the swimming pool.
My bicycle spokes cut a path through the air.
My body, too,
was becoming someone else's, inside the familiar
bathing suit, all lines and planes, legs scissoring,
arcing, closing behind me, hands reaching ahead
to part the invisible,
underneath the water where the light is always changing.
73 Small Song
Under my hands
you slowly become real,
with each minute more distinct,
a man emerging from water:
the surface breaks and gradually your body
comes clear
Slowly my hands define you
till I cannot be sure
whether you are changing shape
or if it is just my fingers
suddenly able to feel
74 Barbara Carey/Two Poems
Electricity
No light could be left
burning but you
switched it off,
filament ticking softly
like a meter as it dimmed
I would go
from room to room
setting the house ablaze
with wastefulness
while you trailed,
hushing the lamps
as if they were children,
and afraid
the respect you bore
for the bare fact
of a bulb, its blameless
shine and my
decided opposite —
a calibration
or what could be saved
by darkness, or merely find
a hiding place
75 One Explanation of the Universe
scientists now suspect
an exotic object
is agitating at the centre
of the Milky Way
once my mother, exploring
under my brother's bed
discovered an exotic object
from the back
pages of Penthouse
a system of ropes
and pulleys working
on the same principle
of silken friction
and curiosity
at the heart of every
agitation there is
probably an exotic object
zeroing
in on us
like the needle
of a Geiger counter,
making us lonely
for what we can't explain
76 NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
Elizabeth Abraham lives in Victoria where she is completing a degree in Creative
Writing at the University of Victoria. This is her first publication.
Benny Andersen is a popular Danish poet and songwriter; "Knowledge" is from his
book The Inner Bowler Hat.
Barbara Carey lives in Toronto.
Lorna Crozier is well-known to readers of Canadian poetry. "Fear of Snakes" won
second prize in PRISM's poetry contest. Her latest book is The Garden Going On
Without Us (M&S, 1986).
Robert Eady's collection of prose poems, The Blame Business, was published by
Ouroborous Press in 1985. He is working on another collection entitled The Delegation From Hell.
H. E. Francis is a professor of English at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
His stories have appeared in the 0. Henry, Best American, and Pushcart Prize anthologies.
Bill Gaston's "Carp" is part of his collection Deep Cove Stories, as was "Gold", which
appeared in PRISM 23:4; other stories from the series have appeared in Fiddlehead,
Malahat Review, and Canadian Fiction Magazine.
Leona Gom is the author of six books, the most recent of which are a novel, House-
broken (NeWest, 1986), and a collection of poems, Appropriate Behaviour (Sono Nis,
1986).
Ralph Gustafson's selected poems, The Moment Is All, have recently been published
by M&S. Twelve Landscapes, a limited edition of his poems, was published by Shaw
Street Press in 1985.
Inge Israel has published two collections of her poetry in France and contributes
regularly to several Canadian literary magazines. Her translation of Benny Andersen's poem "Knowledge" from the Danish won the translation prize in PRISM's
poetry contest.
Dayv James-French, when not writing, "hosts amusing cocktail parties to which
others are sometimes invited". Three of his stories are forthcoming in the Oberon
Press anthology Coming Attractions Four.
Jascha Kessler's translations and fiction have appeared in PRISM many times
before. He has recently completed a major translation project: The Face of Creation:
25 Contemporary Hungarian Poets.
Maria Korosy collaborated with Jascha Kessler on The Face of Creation. She is a
native of Budapest, Hungary.
Terry Krysak studied at the Alberta College of Art in Calgary. Primarily a water-
colourist, he now lives in Vancouver.
77 Roger Nash won first prize for "Night Flying" in PRISM's poetry contest. His
second collection of poems, Psalms for the Suburbs, will be published by Quarry Press
in 1986.
Imre Oravecz is a young Hungarian poet with several books to his credit.
Derek Robinson has published two chapbooks and is now working on another
collection. "Abalone" recieved an honourable mention in PRISM's poetry contest.
Karen Romell is a Vancouver poet whose work has appeared in Descant and Women
and Words Anthology.
Norberto Luis Romero is a young Argentinian writer whose book Transgresiones
won the Noega Prize for short fiction in Madrid, Spain.
Robyn Sarah's "Point of Departure" received an honourable mention in PRISM's
poetry contest. Her latest book is Anyone Skating On That Middle Ground (Vehicule,
1984).
Libby Scheier won third prize in PRISM's poetry contest for "The Nipple". Her
second book of poems, Second Nature is forthcoming from Coach House Press in
1986.
Richard Stevenson's "Dwarf Fan Palm" was another honourable mention in
PRISM's poetry contest. Stevenson is the author of two poetry collections: Driving
Offensively (Sono Nis, 1985) and Suiting Up (Third Eye, forthcoming).
Katie Trumpener is working towards a PhD in Comparative Literature at Stanford
University. Her poems have appeared in NeWest Review, Malahat Review, and other
journals.
Michael Warren's poetry has been published in several English and Canadian
journals. He has also won prizes awarded by Poetry Toronto, Origins, and Cross-Canada
Writer's Quarterly.
Sandor Weores, now in his seventies, is one of Hungary's finest poets. Other translations of his poems appeared in PRISM 23:3.
78  PRISM international
Deadline
Dec 1,1986
SHORT
$IOOO      IstPRIZE
$500   2ndPRIZE
$250    3rdPRIZE
+ publication payment
For entry form and
rules,please send a S.A.S.E.
to      FICTION CONTEST
PRISM International
Departmentof Creative Writing
University of British Columbia
E466-1866MainMall
Vancouver B.C.
V6T1W5
All entries must be accompanied by $5.00 for each story
submitted, plus a $10.00 entry fee. ALL ENTRANTS WILL
RECEIVE A ONE-YEAR SUBSCRIPTION (4 issues) to
PRISM international. CURRENT SUBSCRIBERS WILL
RECEIVE A ONE-YEAR EXTENSION TO THEIR SUBSCRIPTION. There is no limit to the number of stories entered; the entry fee is paid only once. Works of translation
are eligible.
Judging will be done by the PRISM editorial board with an
established short fiction writer as final judge. Results will be
announced early in 1987. A winner's list will be supplied
upon request; please enclose a separate SASE.
DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES: DECEMBER 1, 1986
This competition is made possible by the continued support
of The Canada Council.
80  IN THIS ISSUE
Winners of our poetry contest: Roger Nash, Linda Crozier,
Libby Scheier, Benny Andersen and Inge Israel. . .
Poems by: Robyn Sarah, Leona Gom, Ralph Gustafson. ..
Fiction by: Dayv fames-French, Elizabeth Abraham, Bill Gaston.
In Translation: Norberto Luis Romero, Imre Oravecz, Sdndor
Webres.
IN OUR NEXT ISSUE
More of the best in national and international contemporary
writing.
BACK ISSUES
Tennessee Williams  19:3; Contemporary West African  Writing
22:4; A Selection of Writing from the Prairies 24:3.
$3.50 ISSN OO32.879O

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