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   f
UWL
international  JOHN SCHOUTSEN
Editor-in-Chief
STEPHEN BARNETT
Managing Editor
DIANA HAYES
Poetry Editor
WILLIAM KITCHER
Drama Editor
ERNEST HEKKANEN
Fiction Editor
EL JEAN WILSON
Translation & Copy Editor
DAVID FRITH
Publicity Director
GEORGE MCWHIRTER
Advisory Editor
DAVID CORCORAN
Business Manager
Editorial Board
STEPHEN BARNETT
BRIAN BURKE
JOHN SORRELL
RICHARD PAYNE
LARRY GELLER
DAVID FRITH
THERESA KISHKAN
DAVID CORCORAN
SARAH KENNEDY
JOHN ALEXANDER
SUE ALDERSON
Tl
JVaJ 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 © 1982 PRISM international for the authors.
Cover design and artwork: Derrick Clinton Carter.
One year individual subscriptions $12.00, two-year subscriptions $18.00. Libraries and
institution subscriptions $15.00, two-year subscriptions $22.00.
All manuscripts should be sent to the Editors at the above address. Manuscripts must be
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discarded.
Payment to contributors is $10.00 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, and by the Leon and Thea Koerner
Foundation.
Second Class Mail Registration No. 5496. July 1982. CONTENTS
VOLUME TWENTY       NUMBER FOUR       SUMMER 1982
Michael Kenyon
Train
7
Derk Wynand
Poem
14
Eric McCormack
No Country for Old Men
'9
Philip Hughes
Schadenfreude
21
Lawrence Russell
One-Act Play
22
Sean Virgo
Poem
29
W.P. Kinsella
Mother Tucker's Yellow Duck
32
Irving Layton
Two Poems
43
Kamo no Chomei
Poem
46
Martin Anderson
Two Poems
47
Richard Simas
Joaquin Murietta Slept Here
49
John O'Neill
Two Poems
59
A Selection of Writing for Children
Pat Lane
"Cat''a drawing
61
Audrey Thomas
The Princess and the Zucchini
62
John Kelly
Just An Old Boot
67
Susan Musgrave
Five Poems
71
George Bowering
The Clamdigger & the Turtle
74
Dennis Lee
Three Poems
83  Michael Kenyon
Train
Angela, an only child, is en-route by train to X where her father is in
hospital having suffered a number of strokes, the last of which has rendered him bedridden. At this moment she is passing through a sparsely
wooded valley just east of Y. On the north ridge of the valley, visible
from the north-facing train windows, is a bluff which looks south toward
the clattering train. The bluff is intersected by a barbed wire fence
running west to east on which hang Private Property signs. This is the
exact location where, some months before Angela's birth, her parents
say goodbye for the last time.
They meet, as arranged, beside the penguin pit at the zoo, on the
outskirts of Y. From here, they walk to a bluff overlooking the valley and
the town. The bluff is intersected by a barbed wire fence.
The two figures break from an embrace and I lose my balance. I fall
backwards against the barbed wire. The early sun catches the right side
of your face; your eyes are lowered.
You walked down through the trees and followed the tracks to the station
in the village of Y. It is rumoured that he followed her to the station and
that they said their last farewell on the steps, or even on the platform
itself. It is also rumoured that they took their final parting some months
later at the large central station in the city of Z— he had learned she was
to leave that night for a distant part of the country. That, amid porters
and tired children, he tried one last time to convince her of the importance of their staying together, especially now with the baby coming.
Coming out of a dream or moving into a tunnel, he hears a voice.
Seconds pass before he recognizes the soft say-so of the Haida Indian
who pushes his wheelchair through the dead leaves. He's in North
America and it's autumn or early winter. The Haida is saying, You have a good family, three, four members? As he wheels me through the damp woods,
the train begins to wail by. Just before the culminating blast, three faces
pose in the window of the sixteenth car, pale young girls. I try to say
something. It's not hard: my tongue moves, my lips frame the words, the
roar of the train does not drown them.
The three nurses were watching me from the hospital window, two
pretty, and one thin and plain. The former had their arms akimbo, the
other pressed her palms against the plate glass which bulged and shone
in the sunlight. The Indian gardener was burning a pile of leaves; the
right side of his face was flame red. Your eyes watch me struggle with the
barbed wire; a birthmark covers the right hemisphere of your face, the
eyes are bloodshot; it appears you have been crying. I remember we had
been laughing. The thin nurse had pushed me back into my wheelchair
and we were poised for a moment, laughing together. As the barbs dug
deeper, a train whistle is heard and the girl with the birthmark tells me
we must go back inside, it's lunchtime. It so happens that we have said
goodbye. She walks down through the trees, into the valley, past the
hospital where a gardener is burning leaves. I watch until you pass out of
sight and are in my arms again on Platform A I watch until it gets cold
and the nurse again comes to fetch me in. I watch until the smoke hides
the sun, the trestle and the train; hides your face, framed by hands
against the window of the twenty-third car. Yours is the only face for the
whole length of the train: pale and thin, motionless. The late sun catches
the left side of your face. She was watching me close my eyes.
With closed eyes beside the rushing train, he finds time to notice details:
the station dissolves into the wooded valley. (I'm standing on the platform.) He's sitting on a high, sparsely-treed ridge; far below, the trestle
and embankment quake. With wrists behind his back, he is propped
against a barbed wire fence. Two barbs wound his neck arid shoulder.
The other barbs in contact with the back of his corduroy shirt are at too
obtuse an angle to penetrate. He has no wheelchair: his own hands grip
the outer silver wheels which would drive the rubber wheels crackling
over dry leaves on the hard path beside the fence. He can't move. At
every effort, the barbs dig deeper into his neck and shoulder, tearing the
skin a little. Sleep has long been denied him, his eyes are closed, he
cannot waken. He has a cycle of nightmares, a child's dream of a black
train coming out of a tunnel.
They won't give me my teeth; I am waiting for someone I love. I've not
opened my eyes for some time. The nurse says I'm obstinate. Periodically, I'm fed slops and soft fruit by spoon, even the coffee by spoon. Not an appealing sight, I'm sure. I can imagine my folded wheelchair leaning
against the wall, under the window, across from the bed. Other, electric
chairs, hum by. The bed rises and falls. A paper is pressed into my
hand; Fm told it is a letter, but in my hand it's paper. And yet I cry out,
or perhaps just sigh, it's difficult to tell anymore. I suck my gums and
feel large drops of water running down my cheeks. Each day I am
shaved and washed. It's how I recognise a new day.
You've been gone so long that Fve slept into this room with its large
imitation windows; grown used to the various events of the day, subtle
changes of light, I propel myself, or am propelled, from the door to the
windows, from the windows to the door. Sometimes I collide with the
bed. Yesterday I was raped, it came as no surprise, like the rain; it
always rains; it was raining when I first closed my eyes, or first tried to
open them, I forget which. The nurses and doctors chat together. I hear
much talk of flooding. But yesterday is nonsense; I was not raped and it
never rains. All the banter is of somewhere else.
Meanwhile, Fm feeding the unreal penguins on the unreal beach,
dreaming myself as an object far away. You carry part of me, but it's
none of your business. Until you come back Fm lost, but it's nothing to
do with you. I found this room long ago, with its view of buses, railway
ties, moss on trees, flooded fields.
I remember asking you to hurt me. I said, I must be the one to suffer,
since I do it so well. That's a laugh. I said, I will forget about myself and
wait for you and not know how long to wait. I must tell you, the
suffering didn't last long. When I first met Angela, I'd been married for
years; my wife had been dead for years; I even have a grandson.
Angela's much too old to call me Dad. You've got years left, Dad, she
tells me. Makes me smile. Well, perhaps I can live for awhile, even
without my teeth.
It had begun to rain the night before. We ran through puddles with your
luggage up the steps of the central station. In the vast inside, between the
trains and the street, we kissed goodbye. I could've waited with you for
another hour, but you'd made up your mind to leave; prolonging the
goodbye, you said, would be miserable. I felt you had already left. At the
exit, I turned and waved. I should have run back and at least embraced
you again. I thought afterwards that I should've stayed the hour. But
now my eyes open and I can't see the edge, any edge, so it's easy to think
such things. My fingers on the bed railings are weak; not the fingers that
traced light circles around each of your breasts in the cold hotel room that morning while the rain poured outside. We ate honeydew in the
bathtub and turned all the burners up on the gas stove to warm the
room. I went back to bed and sat smoking while you walked around the
room wearing nothing.
I dream about penguins. Only consciously can I constitute your face,
starting with the eyes, lowered. Each added detail brings a memory. I say
to the nurse, A long time ago I stopped trying to forget her, now it's a struggle to
remember her. I say to Angela, You're just like your mother. I remember your eyes.
We are young and Fm waiting for you at the zoo and it's stopped
raining. We are to meet by the penguins. Fm early and only a few people
walk around the cages. A little boy asks if Fve had a good sleep. My eyes
close again against the red sun. When you arrive, we sit together on the
bench beside the cement pit. I say I'm thinking of what it would be like
to live with you; a penguin raises his wings, tilts back bis head, squawks.
I'd get used to your body. A father reads the sign to his daughter—she's
just emptied her popcorn into the pool—Do Not Feed The Penguins. Fd
dream of our child. Penguins have a special diet, he explains, leading
her away.
She comes to visit me from time to time. She feeds me with a spoon and
pushes me around the gardens, trying to make me open my eyes. She
dries my cheeks with the edge of her blouse or a handkerchief, before she
leaves me on the bench just inside the zoo. Sometimes I remain there all
night. In the morning, the keeper finds me and bathes and shaves my
face, raises and lowers the bed, dresses me then lifts me to my wheelchair. Ah, a new day. I sit in the corridor, composing your face and
singing Ich bin die fesche Lola.
I awake prone, my arms and legs spread wide, a rhythmic pain at the
anus. A grunting body thrust furiously on top of me. Opening my eyes,
just a fraction, not struggling, 1 see moss on a tree outside the window.
A train motionless in the station. On Platform A beside a pile of
decaying ties, the Station Master looks at his watch. Three nurses hum
by and a boy in Scout uniform asks if I have slept well. I throw the
thawed herring into the penguin pit and look up. I recognize you even at
this distance. Stuffing your letter back into my pocket, I run to meet
you. The paper blows along the platform and falls over the edge; it lands
between two ties just this side of the rails. Standing beside your luggage,
we embrace; your eyes are lowered; over your shoulder, I see a man
with a brown case, hurrying toward us. You turn as the penguins, one
by one, dive into the water. Outside the hotel room it's raining and your
10 body seems slick in the light through the streaming glass: he's caressing
the inside of your thighs with his lips, now with his heavy body. As I
close my eyes, I'm supine and his weight is the weight of the bed at my
back, the bed is raised and a spoon nudges at my lips.
I do not believe in trains black and rushing beside the ditch into town,
far below the fence against which I have fallen.
The path through the trees where the crows yell gleams in the dawn
light. A mist rises where the train rushes. A breeze chills the skin
through the rent in my corduroy shirt.
Further along, the ditch and the fence stop, and shops and the first
sidewalks appear through the fog. The first pedestrians ignore the train
whistle. In Yeach shop window is lit. A bell rings as I go into the station;
as I go into the station, a boy scout passes me. He closes his mouth after
saying something I do not quite catch.
I near the station, carry a brown suitcase. Later, my body lies cold on
the wood ties, bound with thin cord between the rails. Later still, I
pretend to insert myself where I already am: watching you walking the
tracks, wearing a white tulle dress.
Fm blind. The view from the hospital bed is neither the view from the
bluff, nor the view from the moving train. The girl on the train has been
warned of her father's condition.
The train shakes the texture of white linen, the scuffle of dry leaves, the
clink of a spoon on the cup's rim. The old man is raised up in bed; he
hears water splash in the basin, presently feels warm fingers along his
chin. The young man watches the Haida gardener perform his tasks in
the larger gardens attached to the rich peoples' houses on the outskirts of
Y. The zoo keeper stands on the beach looking for his cages. You are not
tied to the tracks, but I am lashed between the rails. You wear a white
tulle dress with the top buttons undone, I do not wear the corduroy shkt
with a rip in the collar and a larger rip at the shoulder, which I tore when
I fell against the barbed wire fences. Because Fm waiting for the train,
because the train is always present, I didn't feel the cold; your breasts
were exposed and yet still not cold.
The three nurses watched the train pass. They told me they noticed,
though not all at the same moment, the pale face of a young woman in
the fourteenth car. The face pressed to the glass seemed to be silent or sighing. You do not feel the cold of the rails because you are between
them. It's not at all cold, dad. It's quite warm, really. Beautiful outside: the sun's
shining. I feel the grass touch my back where the shirt's torn open; the
wood ties are damp, but I only notice the cold at last, the final
addendum. On the bluff the young man falls against the. Fade.
The barbs dig deeper. Jump.
Angela watches as I open my eyes. Fade.
Beside the bed she grasps her father's hand. A nurse with a birthmark
covering the entire right side of her face enters pushing a silver trolley
which" she places close to the bed. The girl and the nurse exchange the
usual remarks concerning the train journey, the old man, the condition
of his skin, his refusal to see, Ms recurring dream which seems to involve
three nurses, a young and an old man, a young woman, a Haida Indian
gardener, a zoo keeper. His other family never visit, confides the nurse. I try
to tell Angela: The nurse says that I've been singing Marlene Dietrich
songs in the corridor, but that may still be part of the dream. The nurse
kneels at the foot of the bed and adjusts the controls: the silver handle on
her right, four revolutions counterclockwise; the silver handle on her
left, seven revolutions clockwise, then half a turn back.
As the barbs dig deeper, a train whistles and the girl walks down the
slope of the hill to where a gardener is raking leaves just inside a low
garden hedge. He now has a pile four feet high. She stops at his side. He
says he plans to ignite the leaves shortly. They chat about the usual
things: the slow postman, the infrequent buses: not remarkable in a
rural place like Y. The gardener says: You have a good family? Three
members, four members? They are silent as the train begins to wail by.
Angela learned that her father was dying and of his apparent blindness
when a piece of paper unfolded on the kitchen table beside the yellow
handled breadknife with which she slits the envelope neatly open, takes
out the sheet of typewritten paper, smooths it out and, as before, appears
to read the symbols on the page: the hospital crest, the address in the
town of X, the date. Her fingers allow the paper to slip back onto the
table, to rest lightly on the wood surface.
Through the window can be seen a hedge of green leaves, a child's red
tricycle lying on its side.
At the station, she buys a ticket and prepares to board the train; on the
platform, she's harassed by a man carrying a brown suitcase who insists
12 that he knows shell leave, but he's prepared to stand the torture her
departure engenders. Tears stream down his face.
He explains the dimensions of his love and how he will wait for her. She
quickly boards the train. How he has dreamed of the child they will
have. You boarded the train and took a seat beside a window overlooking the platform at the precise point about to be crossed by the man who
explains the dimensions of his love. The platform empties in preparation; you wave goodbye to the single figure; you note the sign Z Central as
the train gathers speed; you pass another station sign, Y. The man is
leaning back against the barbed wire fence.
Angela's face, framed by her hands pressed to the window of the
fourteenth car, is very white.
Fm not on the platform, not in the ward, with closed eyes, not feeling the
spoon nudge at my lips.
13 Derk Wynand
FIVE TATTOOS AND ONE SUGGESTED
the new dancer nudge nudge is she part gypsy is she half
Japanese confines her routine to the stage how your mind
begins to wander she cannot she will not pick coins from
your table or dollar bills or cigarettes or rough drafts
of poems on serviettes without bringing hands or fingers
into play which does not mean her routine falls short of
your expectations but the imagination keeps tricking you
you don't feel tricked and if she's heard of stunts with
your glasses with Johnson's baby oil what's left of your
beer she ignores it likely being wet behind the ears not
having travelled abroad at the end of the war not having
seen what others have seen widows dancing for less maybe
cigarettes or small potatoes not underfed she won't bend
over backward is she Japanese certainly not for you when
your wife seems to whisper at your side which is another
fiction entirely the dancer has a kind of decorum is she
Japanese she has a boyfriend of sorts tormented by guilt
who's older who cups his hand over his mouth and reveals
his humiliating weakness to the bartender who hands over
the girlfriend's pay not that she is his slave a hundred
dollars your wife says wide-eyed two red fifties she has
a great eye for such details though she could only guess
H like you if she were guessing what it would take to make
the dancer vary her strict routine once you'd never have
dragged your wife into a beer parlour like this nor into
your poems she's nobody's slave though her eye can prove
helpful you had a certain decorum because of your german
background maybe because of her own but she has a better
vision she has her own devices and life was simpler once
your poems not running on and on less complex less wordy
have it as you will a dancer out of nowhere slipping off
her blouse it's hot beneath the red stage lights turning
the skin nearly flawless only marked for now by a spider
clinging to her breast stunned by the light maybe calmed
by the involuntary not unwilled agitations not biting or
having bitten already the cadence livelier more frenzied
if better now more tarantella than bump and grind though
the woman does not appear alarmed she is inscrutable she
is a gypsy no doubt she's never studied archaic european
nervous disorders but the audience feels short of breath
a collective heart rate increasing is this spider a mark
of slaves a secret number or name disguised made all too
ornate still making you break into a sweat you have seen
what you've seen girls dancing for less don't lapse into
f5 a coma your wife says not overly impressed by the marked
flesh looking glumly at the few bills that remain on the
table you have bought nothing but beer she's hungry life
was simpler once you could take in a performance without
pinpointing spiders on a half-japanese stripper's breast
to incorporate into your poem as justification expiation
or listening for some voice to say ye shall not make any
cuttings in your flesh let my people go your mouth could
go dry for its own reasons a guilt-ridden paramour would
never have played any part not demanding that she follow
him to the tattoo parlour the designs already cut in his
mind her shorts dropping to the floor into the red light
it is too hot you could roll up your sleeves and a cobra
flares its hood along her spine sways back and forth and
back and forth about to strike striking your wife admits
and that is what it is tattow tatau tattaw a knocking or
striking and then she is totally exposed the dancer that
is but for these blue cuttings these marks that make you
so nervous is it your somber mid-european background the
cobra has no tail at all coiling down her spine slipping
deeper into her flesh its hood flaring across her lumbar
region very striking with its counterfeit eyes its fangs
16 truly venemous attractive and repulsive at the same time
wonderful confusion you imagine the double needle fixing
the outline the multiple needle shading it in is it your
background that makes the breath so laboured her passive
skin tortured at the parlour don't lapse into a coma the
tattooist must have said we can finish it later you make
the connections your heart rate increasing the boyfriend
the spider the cobra electric needle buzzing your german
background all make you nervous how much easier to think
of the Japanese art of irezumi and the lovely skins that
hang in the museum of tokyo university paid for when the
human exhibits were walking and bathing were resplendent
maybe dancing less naked and you have bought nothing but
rounds of tuborg beer the dancer inscrutable now bending
over backward the boyfriend's been paid nudge nudge more
gypsy now than german your wife points out to you a tiny
red flower growing on her thigh too small to define with
any precision an amaryllis you assume yes the belladonna
dilating your eye it could be the standard rose from the
tattooist's wall its thorn if not poisonous yet adequate
connection careful your wife says the boyfriend's at the
bar eyeing the bartender each has one small blue swallow marked on his wrist to what secret order can they belong
they are Sweating staring at the two of you reading your
thoughts have you found them out have they found you out
why did she bring your wife into the place can she dance
be careful she says the girl's protected by her venemous
creatures drink up the beer at least is already paid for
it's hot you might roll up your sleeves you have nothing
to hide how well she understands you the spider's asleep
on the dancer's breast she's naked as can be the cobra's
fixed on her back the belladonna is gathering its poison
18 Eric McCormack
No Country for Old Men
It is a Christmas party. An old man conjures up for us the bitterness of
an old war, his mind penetrates the years. He remembers the wisps of
trees in the dawn haze of a dale of passion. He remembers dark, rain-filled
craters, seducing the war-weary to death by drowning. He remembers
the trenches joining together with intricate stitchery fabrics of opposing
weft. He remembers the scattering of corpses in the half-light of no-
man's land, arms still protecting their dead faces. He remembers the
emerging shapes of hillocks of shells, innocent-seeming as heaps of
canned dog-food. He remembers, his eyes hollow, the echoing snap of
the fixing of bayonets at dawn: our soldiers, uniformed in gray mud,
suck on a last cheap cigarette, smell the heavy smell of tobacco wafting
across from the other trenches, where German soldiers puff securely on
huge carved pipes, weighty as Mausers.
— All dead now. All losers in the long run.
He says this without a smile. We listen intently.
— My own life is a miracle. Feel here. Feel the shrapnel? It floats
around in my flesh like bits of broken shell in the white of an egg. Notice
how I stoop to draw breath? Mustard gas, inhaled sixty years ago.
The old man speaks of one regret. We are all ears.
— Of those I killed, I remember clearly only one German soldier, a
boy as young as myself. I was on sentry duty on Christmas day. I woke
from a doze and found him leaning over me in his alien helmet. His
hand was reaching into his kitbag. I stabbed upwards, as I had been
taught, thrusting till I saw the blood appear at his lips. I pulled down.
The blood drained along the bayonet's gutter neatly, as it should. As he
fell, his kitbag spilled out a bottle of wine and a loaf of white bread. Too
late, my comrades came running to tell me there was a Christmas truce
amongst us, no war for the day. We hid the murdered soldier so that
they would not stop bringing the wine and the bread.
That is the old man's regret. Now he means to tell us of a dream. We
listen urgently.
— For the last seven nights I have dreamt of that murder. I see myself
back in the trenches, the German soldier leaning over me. I know what I must do. I jab the bayonet up into his stomach, holding it till I see the
blood at his lips. I pull down, noticing how neatly the blood drains along
the bayonet's gutter.
Then I step back from the body, and I am in my study. I walk to my
desk and open the right-hand drawer. I carefully place the bloody bayonet on top of a sheaf of note-paper, close the drawer, and go back to bed.
I have dreamt this for seven nights. On six of the mornings when I
awoke, I went to the desk drawer to check, just in case. Only the blank
paper confronted me.
But this morning, Christmas morning, something was not the same.
Even after I awoke, I could still feel the chill of the trenches in my bones,
I could remember the weight of the bayonet in my hand. I arose, aware
of the beat of my heart. The light of the first snowfall reflected into my
study. I walked towards the desk: this time I had no doubt I would find
in it the bayonet, on a sheet of blood-stained paper. I gripped the handle
of the drawer firmly and wrenched it open.
I found nothing. Just a sheaf of clean white paper as before. No
miracle had happened. I was the same as other men. I could not cheat a
nightmare, steal a part of it, smuggle it into the waking world. Was I not
foolish to think that I would find in my desk the bayonet from
my dream?
He appeals to us, his face tired, his eyes pleading. We are ready to
forgive anything. Then a grave young man I do not know stands from
amongst the group of listeners. He speaks quietly, his voice compelling.
We make a circle round him.
— Last night I dreamt about a Christmas party. In the dream, one of
the guests, an old man whose face I cannot remember, tells a group of
people (I am one of them) how he murdered a German soldier on a
Christmas day long ago. He says he is haunted by a nightmare in which
he commits the murder over again, and that he has tried to end it by
bringing the weapon out of the nightmare, without success. He begs
for pity.
The party finishes, and in my dream I follow him to his home. It is
snowing. He enters his house. I watch over his shoulder as he bends over
the desk in his study. He slides open the right-hand drawer. There, on a
sheaf of stained paper, lies a black-handled bayonet.
The old man reaches into the drawer and slowly raises the blade, still
red with the blood of the victim, to his own red hps.
After that I awoke.
Now his eyes are burning as he stares at the old man. The old man
lowers his head before us all. He stands still, makes no appeal, for he
knows there is no forgiveness in us.
20 Philip Hughes
Schadenfreude
"Look," Plato commanded the attention of another in chains, also facing
the back wall of the cave: "only shadows, all that we observe flit by so
engagingly. This moment of lucid perception I have arrived at by the
a priori method of induction. Consider: behind us, The Light; before
us, Illusion. Since direct apprehension of this truth is not granted us,
we must perforce exercise our unfettered capacity to reflect and figure—
which, personally speaking, offers consolation even to the point of pride."
"Dark areas you spelunk," mused the man, while casually turning a
hand to shadow mime. "'Rabbit Ears.'.. .1 see. Still, substance appears
lacking. Most noticeable before us always loom our own blurred
adumbrations—'Bird in Plight'—without which: no contrasting notion
of The Light.... 'Crash Landing"'; he gave his wrists a flip. "Only vague
foreshadowings. 'Penumbras of the expressible.'"
"Great gods, you're right!" cried the elder philosopher, on reflection.
Then he sighed. "With one gesture you have snuffed my delight in transcendental inference. Assure me: what pleasure can be said to remain for
us in this our grotty existence?"
" Look: 'Duck Quacking'. .."
21 Lawrence Russell
The Edge of Wherever
Characters:
man: who is trying to photograph a monster
woman: his wife
robed figure:     who claims to have been great looking
locale: in the trees, above an inlet
('man stands contemplating the water, woman sits nearby.)
woman: (peeling an orange) Did you bring the corkscrew? (no reply) Fve
got some of those crackers you like.. .the Irish ones. There's cream
cheese too. (pause) Hope it doesn't rain.. .feels like rain, doesn't it...
I mean, look at that light. . .stormlight, that's what, (pause) Not quite
what you wanted, is it? Still, it's beautiful. Gives the landscape a
neurotic feeling. . .pleasantly neurotic. Beats a sunny day, for instance. I don't much care for sunny days, (pause, man is fixated by something) What're you looking at, darling?
man: (turning.. .eventually) I don't know why you said that, ('woman is
puzzled) You like sunny days. You like going to the beach and removing your clothes. You like going out on the patio and lying down.
Fve even known you to go up on the roof.. .Fd say you were a Sun
Goddess, if anything.
woman: (looks at him... but decides not to challenge his sarcasm) Do you have
the corkscrew? (man looks at her & then takes the corkscrew from his camera
bag & tosses it to her. She starts to open the bottle but. . .)
woman: You know, you'd be much better at this than me. You know I
always break the cork.
Cman comes & takes the bottle & opens it, then drinks from the neck)
man: ( suddenly )Yve been here before, (woman regards him quizzically) It's
just a feeling.
woman: Dejavu.
Cman shrugs, sets up a tripod & mounts a camera with a large telephoto lens.
woman starts to laugh)
22
I woman: I should've known.. .it was so obvious.  I mean, obviously
iyou've been here before. I mean, you didn't lead me here by accident.
The spot is too perfect. You pretended you didn't recognize the
path... but really....
Cman is panning with the camera. Eventually he beckons)
man : Come—take a look, (woman is indifferent. She lies back)
woman: Don't be a slug—come and lie with me.
man: (pause) Don't you want to look?
woman: Well, Fm comfortable where I am. Also, I want to eat. Aren't
you hungry?
man: An orange is not my idea of food.
woman: I told you there're crackers. (pausefWhatfs to see anyway?
man : You've a fear of water, don't you?
woman: (sitting up) Don't be stupid. You know how well I swim.
man: It's been one hellova long time since Fve seen you in the water.
woman: (exasperated) Don't be such an uptight asshole! God you're tense
today, (pause) Just because you want to try and get a picture of a nonexistent monster.
man: (amazingly calm) There's been many sightings on this inlet over the
past decade.. .even the Indians acknowledge the existence of Ogo. ..
the legend has persisted for centuries... ah God, why do we have to
go through this again?
woman: We don't, (pause) Why don't you come and lie with me. You
can watch the water just as weU from here as there, (lies back and stares
upwards, man pans the water with the telephoto) The trees are very tall...
must be hundreds of years old.. .look at the moss... I feel as if Fm
lying at the bottom of a deep pool... 's beautiful, (she dreams for awhile.
man now stands staring over the water, woman sits up quickly)
woman: O Jesus.. .the lousy bugs are crawling over the food! (swats at
them, then makes a discovery)
woman: Hey—look what I found! (she holds up a ring, man comes over) It
was right here, beneath the crackers... looks like it's been here for
some time. Cman sits down beside her. She rubs the ring against her sleeve)
How curious.. .masculine, wouldn't you say? (man looks at the ring
but makes no comment) I mean, the motif of the entwined snake.. .1
wonder if it's gold.
man: Just a cheap bauble.
woman: Oh really? Then I won't give it to you. I was thinking of giving
it to you but since you're such... such as asshole, well....
man: I think you should shut up. I mean, all you do is fucking babble
at times. (Buries his face in his hands) Christ, what's the matter with me?
Fm a mess. I haven't slept a wink these last few nights.. .months,
actually.
woman: (softly) Fve noticed.
?3 man: Fm being tormented by something, (pause) Fve never talked about
it because I don't know if it's real or not... if it's a dream or a memory
or what. . .but it's there, it's such a stxongfeeling.
(Pause)
woman: I think you take things too seriously.
man: (a bitter laugh) Fm not talking about Ogo. (Pause) I think Fve killed
someone, (man lies back, stares upwards) I think you're right about a
storm. The clouds have a sulphurous look about them. . .and it's
muggy.
woman: (placing her hand on his brow) You've got a temperature. You
haven't been getting enough Vitamin C. (Pause) Did you hit someone
with the car?
man: (Sits up, shakes his head) I could feel I was being watched. Every
time I passed the same spot, I knew he was there... it was incredibly
annoying, you know, and I could never truly concentrate on getting
the photograph I wanted. His behaviour was totally insulting.. .he
carried on as if I was a senile old goat who didn't know he was being
parodied.
woman: Who? Who is he?
man: His name? (Shakes his head) He was young. . .not more than a
youth. Quite androgynous—you could've easily taken him for a
coarse young woman... perhaps he painted his face, I don't know. I
only got a good look at him once.. .just as he went over the edge.
(Pause. Gets up & acts out the ritual with the camera) I would stop and look
into the eyepiece. He would slide out from the trees and pantomine
behind me. . .you know, like he was showing off to some hidden
associates. I would turn.. .and he would torn with me, cleverly, very
cleverly, so that I just had a glimpse....
woman: Why'dhedothis?
man: (Shaking his head) Don't really know. I guess he was just a jerk.
(thinks, then — )I couldn't shake him, so I began to spin... (He demonstrates) round... and round... and round... until I felt a heavy blow.
(Stops) I guess I struck him. I just had time to see his piercing green
eyes and his horrible red mouth as he staggered back and dropped
over the edge. (Turns toward woman,) I couldn't look. I couldn't go to
the dropoff and look down. Yet I felt a tremendous relief, like I'd
expelled a demon. But later (Hegrips his brow) I felt remorse.. .and
fear.
woman: (Perplexed) You've made this up.
man: (Angrily) Have you ever known me to lie?
woman: (Pause) If you were a successful liar, I wouldn't know, would I?
(Then, when she realizes man might strike her) Darling, I think you've confused a dream with a reality. Now, if you were to take some Vitamin
B, you'd feel much better. It's all a matter of stress... misplaced
24 obsession. You need to eat more. Here—(she offers him the crackers,
which he accepts & devours hungrily, along with long pulls from the wine
bottle)
woman: And even if this did happen, you don't really know if this man
died.. .just because he disappeared over the edge of wherever...
maybe he was just crippled. . . who knows? (Pause) The way you've
described it, he got what he deserved... I wouldn't lose any sleep over
it. (She has slipped the ring on her finger & is studying the effect) Fd say this
mustve belonged to a weak man... someone who wore it to give himself a sense of power.
man: It fits your finger. (A light laugh from woman) It's just a cheap
bauble.
woman: You know anything about serpent worship?
man: Orthamaphelia? (Pause) No.
woman: No? I'm surprised.. .with your detailed knowledge of monsters . . . Cman sighs & lies back)
man: (Slowly) If I were to get a photograph of Ogo. .. can you imagine
how much money I'd make off it?
woman: Don't tell me you're in this for the money. (Longpause) I think
you brought me here for another reason. (No response from man) You
know, it was in a place like this that I lost my virginity.. .in the
trees, near the water. (No response, man is staring upwards) I remember
the sound of the water... and the way the trees moved... they were
like huge people whispering. (Pause) I don't know what excited me
the most... the act or the fear that we were being watched.
(Pause)
man: I think you're confusing dream with reality.
woman: You're jealous.
(Pause)
man :  I presume you killed the predator afterwards?
woman: It's true that I hated him. We went for a swim... I was much
better than him and led him way out of his depth and I remember
thinking, I should just let the bastard drown. But he got the hold of a
log. When I got back to the beach I took his shoes and dumped them
in a Utter bin. (Gets up) Boring, isn't it? (Goes to the tripod, looks through
the camera) Say—what does a killer whale look like? I mean, does it
have a hump? Cman regards woman warily, woman, still looking) There's
a patch of sunlight over there... wow, look at the water glistening on
its back!
Cman rises & comes over & has a look. He swears under his breath & starts
popping off shots)
woman: Well? What is it?
man: (Stillphotographing) It's out of season for whales.. . they migrated a
couple of months ago. (Turns, lifting the equipment) I have to get closer.
(Disappears over the edge)
25 woman: (Shouting) That thing is not a monster! 's just a dead-head for
Christ's sake! I was only kidding!
(She watches in disgust for a few moments & then turns to find a robed figure
nearby)
robed figure: You have something belonging to me.
woman: (Recovering) That's not possible. I don't believe we've ever met.
robed figure: That's so. (Pause) Fve been watching you.
woman: How rude!
robed figure: Well, you see, Fve come to think of this spot as mine. I
used to come here often. . . usually with your husband. That's right,
we had a romance.
woman: (A shrill laugh) How mad you are! You're an old woman!
robed figure: I'm younger than you. (Pause) He made me old. (She
pulls back the cloth covering her face & throat for a second) You see? He tried
to strangle me. Cwoman is reeling between disbelief and hatred)
woman: You had an affair?
robed figure: It ended about three years ago.
woman: (Thinks, then — ) I was working in the hospital then. . .(Pause.
Snarls) I knew it! All this crap about not sleeping.. .so the ring is
yours, eh? (Pulls it off) Well it's.. .it's just a cheap bauble. Did he buy
it for you?
robed figure: He bought me many things. Men will do anything when
they're in love.
woman: I don't believe he ever loved you... impossible.
robed figure: Ah you say... but right at this moment, you're not even
sure if he ever loved you. (She is right) Fve had a lot of time to think
and the problem seems to be, how can you love someone and not be
a victim?
(Pause)
woman: Who are you? I mean, do you always go about as if you've
just come from the tomb of a dead poet?
robed figure: I realize you must be bitter. (Pause) If you would just
give me my ring, I'd leave.
woman: (Tightly)Just like that.
robed figure: Won't you give it to me? (Pause) You can't imagine how
often Fve come here and searched for it. You come here once and lo,
you find it. Ironic, isn't it?
woman: Yes. You might even call it destiny. (Pause) He tried to
strangle you?
robed figure: Most would assume it was a case of uncontrolled guilt.
But he had this peculiar idea about me. He thought I was a monster. . .that my female charms were just a camouflage for an inhuman
brute... that I was a Gorgon. (Pause) I thought he was joking until he
tried to kill me. Fm sure he thought he'd succeeded, because he left
me for dead.... (She gestures towards the edge) He cursed me for being
26 ugly when in fact I was beautiful... I aged horribly in the final stages
of our relationship. Now I am disfigured and prematurely aged.
woman: I know he can be an asshole but you... you're an emotional
leper. Obviously you want more out of this than a crummy old ring!
(She glares at robed figure, then shivers)
robed figure: I saw lightning moving along the ridge to the north. . .
you wouldn't want to get caught in the storm.
woman: (Still shivering) What's that horrible perfume you're wearing?
robed figure: You don't have much pity for me, do you? Never mind.
Fm no threat to you now. My only concern is that you might end up
like me.
woman: In all the years we've been together, my husband has never
laid a hand on me.
robed figure: Yes.'■>. .he complained about your passivity often...I'm
sure he misunderstood you, though. He definitely misunderstood me.
(Sighs) Won't you give me back my ring?
woman:  I don't believe any of this. But if it's true, this ring is the only
evidence I have.. .well, I hear him climbing the bank. This should
prove to be an interesting confrontation.
robed figure: An unnecessary one. (She holds forth a vial) Since you
admire my perfume....
woman:  My God, it's powerful — (She falls into a lethargy, robed figure
suddenly moves & with surprising agility, throttles her. woman sinks to the
ground, gasping, robed figure recovers the ring)
robed figure: (Hisses) Win if you can, lose if you must, but always
cheat! (Departs)
Cman returns, agitated)
man: You stupid bitch, you forgot to reload the camera after you'd
finished with it!
(He is alerted by the lingering scent, then notices his wife's discomfort. He kneels
beside her)
man: What's the matter, sweetheart.. .have you had another dizzy
spell?
woman: (Choking) I was attacked....
man: By who?
woman: (Sits up, feels her throat) By a Gorgon. (Pause, man turns away)
man: You've had a bad dream.
woman: Is that what it was? Cman begins loading film into the camera.
woman watches him sadly)
man: You know how it is when you fall asleep in the afternoon... especially on a hard surface. Did you finish the wine? You've never been
good at drinking. (Pause) I don't know what the hell we saw out there
27 but there was no sign of it when I got to the beach. Probably just a
dead-head.
(Pause).
woman:  Have you ever had an affair?
man: (Grunts) What a funny thing to ask. .. now, of all times.
(Pause)
woman : Well—have you?
man : (Irritated) Fve no time for that sort of egotism.
woman: (Pause) You don't believe I was attacked. Cman shrugs) Have I
ever lied to you?
man: Well... if you were a successful liar, I wouldn't know, would I?
woman : My throat hurts.
man: I'm not surprised. The weather is incredibly odd. I was sure it was
going to explode a few minutes ago. It's time we were on our way.
(woman gets up & dusts off her clothes, man picks up camera bag and tripod.
woman starts to cry softly, man comes and kisses her. She eventually calms)
woman: Is the water warm?
man: How should I know? Cwoman starts walking away, man is vexed)
That's not the way! (Catches up to her) Where're you going, for Christ's
sake?
woman: (Turns) I feel like a swim. (Looks at him intently) Coming?
(Fade Out)
28 Sean Virgo
SOLSTICE
The sea is a dark slug
inching away from the land
and its trail is ice upon stones.
The night is famished. A bird
falls briefly into a dream of death
from its frozen bough
and a young star quickens
deep in the world of its eye.
The snow goes up
to the heartland, clrifting
upon the river, no river,
whose flow
is a deep black act
of faith and memory.
No one goes out. The bear
turns in upon herself
while men and beavers
crouch in their misty lodges,
breathing, believing.
And now like russian ghosts
come the sledges
the wolves
sweeping upon the river
The sledges are children's dreams
but the wolves
are real,
flattened upon the snowcrust
circling, famished:
29 For the ravenous, weakened moose
is down, he
breasts through the snow
his eyes detached as the bird's
his antlers decked
with a cruel diadem of stars.
For a moment, perhaps for ever,
the stark tableau of the river
is etched upon night's blind eye:
the antlered majesty
ringed by those tongues of frost
rears at the sky
Then christmas falls on the steppes
like a fireball
and the river burns
The pack fulfills itself
on the ice:
the scattered flames
and black brands
of the sacrifice
smoke in the snow.
Who knows,
as the heart of winter
yields itself,
what passes?
3o At dawn
the flared eye of the moose
communes with the raven's beak
and out of those tidings
the frozen host
track in to the feast:
Fox and coyote,
all of the oudaw roads
lead out on the Skeena River
And a man, a stranger
high on the ridge,
can gather
the final abstract impression
of the year
For your eye turns inwards
where the fish move
unconcerned in their darkness
and the great bull carries
the sun upon his antlers
spurning the snow
as though memory
were a dream.
31 W.P. Kinsella
Mother Tucker's Yellow Duck
In August of 1968 we went to a concert in Vancouver—first panhandling
spare change for the ferry ride and the entrance fee by working our way
along Government Street and through Bastion Square, where the air
was tangy with salt and the tourists clicked over the cobblestones in
bright prints. I wonder if you remember that day, Glorianna, if you ever
talk about it? Probably not. You live like a cat. As long as you're warm,
well-fed, well-loved, you don't remember. You discard your days like
soiled shirts, to be washed clean of the past, and returned to be
used again.
The house is empty, Glorianna. The last bargain-hunter has carried
off the last treasure, and I am alone with my footsteps. Carta insisted
that I sell most of my furniture. It will be cheaper to buy anything we
need after we get settled than to pay to ship that junk from Victoria to
Toronto," is what she said, and when I think of it I realize that I have
sold all my furniture—what was our furniture, Glorianna. It is Caria's
belongings that are being shipped to Toronto: the contents of her apartment, the chrome and glass coffee tables, the acre of waterbed, the
white-pine kitchen table the color of honey, the deep, rust-colored sofa,
soft as a plush-toy. And she is right, Glorianna. What I sold was junk.
But it made me happy to see the young couples carting it away,
exchanging secret smiles, so much in love, so full of hope. But now the
house is empty and my footsteps follow me as if I am walking on a drum.
Somewhere, Glorianna, are you fending off questions? Waving them
away like insects too close to your face. "You must have a past," someone
will say to you, as I said to you so many times. But you'll smile sweetly,
mysteriously, reach across the table for a cigarette, purse your lips as
you exhale, and say nothing at all.
Carla has found us an apartment in Toronto. It is not far from Bloor
Street, within walking distance of the university where I will be
studying. The rent astounds me—parking costs as much as we once paid
to rent this litde house. But then I must remember that Carla earns a
very substantial salary. She is already in Toronto, "Getting things
32 organized," she says. When she phoned to tell me about the apartment,
she mentioned, almost as an after-thought, that the management does
not allow pets.
I've found a home for Hoover Shoats. The Writing Lady is going to
adopt him. I guess you knew Fd look after him or you wouldn't have left
him with me. Hell be happy with the Writing Lady. Carla is really not
fond of cats. I used to wonder why you didn't take him with you. But I
suppose I knew all along. Hoover Shoats is twelve years old, has
rheumatism in one hip, and eats only Tender Vittles. Hoover is here with
me now, alone in the cooling house. Fve left the bathroom window open
a few inches so he can come in and sleep in the bathroom sink the way he
likes. He may be able to do it for most of the summer; the Writing
Lady's husband is going to remodel before he rents the house again.
After the concert it rained, that heavy, solid, stolid Vancouver summer
rain. "Like having pails of water poured over our heads," you said. And
we walked the streets of Gastown, staring in rain-bleary windows, and
ducked into some of the ancient bars along E. Hastings.Street, bars that
smell like wet dogs, ashtrays, and spilled beer. We sat in a corner until a
waiter or bouncer came along and told us to either buy a drink or leave.
I guess I've lost my spirit of adventure, Glorianna, for now, twelve years
later, I wouldn't even think of doing what we did then: travelling off to a
strange city, knowing we had no place to sleep, no money for food,
depending, as they say, on the kindness of strangers. But we were young
and we didn't feel the cold. We slept on one of the hard, polished benches
at the Bus Depot. I remained sitting up all night while you stretched out
and used my lap as a pillow. You slept, scrunching up your eyes against
the bright flourescent lights, jumping once in a while as if you'd been
touched by a live electric wire, saying "No," and "No, I won't," like a
fretful child refusing to take medicine. We were soaked warm with love,
Glorianna: you waking in the morning, your yellow hair smeared across
your face, turning yourself to scratch your nose on my jeans, looking up
at me with a smile so full of love.
"Did I talk?" you asked, as if in sleep you might have broken a promise
or given away a secret of vital importance. What did you have to hide
from me, Glorianna?
Outside in the brilliant sun, beside the dozing taxis, a man with a
briefcase gave us two dollars. 1 wish I had your nerve," he said, while
you smiled your thanks and made the Peace Sign. Behind the taxis a bed
of California poppies bloomed bright as egg yolks. You picked one and
pushed its musky silk against my cheek. Glorianna, the house is
so empty.
It was my aunt who got us this house, though it was much against her
better judgment to recommend us. "You keep it clean and pay the rent
33 on time, Mac," she said to me four or five times. She was so afraid we'd
embarrass her. The Writing Lady was a school friend of hers.
The Writing Lady and her husband have been next door all these
years, in that huge white-frame house with the sunny study upstairs
where she writes her novels. The Writing Lady always knew we weren't
married, did I ever tell you that, Glorianna? "Your aunt mentioned how
happily married you were so many times that I knew immediately you
were probably happy but certainly not married." The Writing Lady
misses you, Glorianna. She told me so. I was a bit afraid of her when we
first moved here — so tall and statuesque, with her telephone-black hair
and eyes —she used to come sweeping down her steps and across the
lawn, her red-lined cape flapping. She reminded me of a Spanish
dancer. And before I knew her well I imagined her playing the villain in
a melodrama. She doesn't like Carla. Oh, she never said so, but I can
tell. I guess it is because Carla doesn't like this house.
The Writing Lady was a little horrified by you, in those early days,
Glorianna—by the way you used to lounge on the front steps smoking,
wearing only a halter and cutoff jeans, and by the way you painted
daisies and black-eyed susans on one panel of the front door. Once,
when I paid the rent she told me to ask you not to do that again. I couldn't
tell you though, just hoped you wouldn't and you didn't.
We were standing in the yard a few days ago, the Writing Lady and I.
Hoover was sitting on the step, paws tucked under him, looking scruffy
as an old boot. The flowers on the door are so faded they look as if
they've been painted over with milk. "Those were happy times weren't
they, Mac," the Writing Lady said as she stared at the flowers. I know
she was trying to tell me something.
Fve spent most of the last few months at Carla's, just stopping here
after classes for a change of clothes and to feed Hoover Shoats. Carla
sniffed when she first came in this house. She didn't like the blankets we
had for wall-hangings, or the hubcaps turning like mobiles in the living
room, or the mattress on the floor in the bedroom. Hoover was asleep in
the bathroom sink and opened one canary-colored eye about halfway
and then closed it again. I wanted her to stay the night with me. "It's so
much cozier at my place, don't you think?' she said, and I agreed
with her.
I met Carla at the Business Management course I was taking when
you left, Glorianna. She's an adult Probation Officer, but has plans to be
a supervisor before long. The move to Toronto was her idea. "People on
the coast have no sense of urgency," she says. She also thinks the university is better in the East, that my degree will carry more prestige and
land me a better job. She says she spotted me right away as someone
with drive and ambition. And she liked me for it. Liked me for wanting
34 toimprove myself. "Aren't you happy?" you used to ask whenever I suggested that I might get a full time job, that we might buy a house, a car,
furniture. "Why?" you always said, your hands loving, your eyes the
perfect blue of a television backdrop.
Remember how, just a few days after we moved into this house, a girl
with daffodils braided into her long chestnut hair brought a box of
kittens into the bar of the Churchill Hotel. I think that is the only thing
you ever asked me for, and you did it in silence, with just a look. I
nodded, and you picked up a kitten, a tiny bleating thing, its eyes
barely open. I named him Hoover Shoats after an evangelist and false
prophet in a novel by Flannery O'Connor. You never questioned where
the name came from. Just held him cupped in the palm of one hand,
only a thin blue workshirt between him and the warmth of your breast.
Later, I went out and bought a small carton of milk, got a clean ashtray
from the bar, and Hoover Shoats stood all wobbly-kneed on the green
terrycloth table top, and lapped milk with his tiny raspberry tongue. He
was surrounded by beer glasses, as if in a magical forest of amber and
crystal trees.
"Do you have a last name?" I asked, after we had been together for
several days. Courtships are usually two separate monologues. I was discovering that ours was one, mine. You were loving and cheerful and
happy, but your talk was only of today.
"Why do I need a last name?" you asked, answering my question with
a question, something I was beginning to notice you did frequently. We
were sitting on a bench in Beacon Hill Park, trellises of roses nearby,
your head on my shoulder, your fingers with their wide, pale nails
exploring my arm.
"What if you wanted to open a bank account?"
"I don't need one."
"What if someone gave you a cheque? You'd have to sign it."
"People I know don't write cheques."
"The hospital," I cried triumphantly. "What if you get really sick?
They won't admit someone without a name."
Td pretend to be unconscious," you said, slumping against me.
"Seriously."
"Seriously. Initial I., Glorianna,'' you said, and smiled maddeningly.
"You can't discard your past as easily as a playing card," I insisted, but
you only looked at me with your languid, half-amused smile, your blue-
ribbon colored eyes.
I never knew how old you were, Glorianna. That day we met on the
street in front of the Cool Aid Hostel, your hair the color of lemon pie,
lying in swathes across your bare shoulders, your faded jeans patched
with squares of red flannel, making you look like a walking semaphore
message, you might have been fourteen or eighteen, or twenty-two. You
35 might have run away from your parents, or from a high school where
you were a cheerleader, or from your own husband and child.
"How old are you?" I asked, when we'd known each other no more
than an hour. But you turned your lower lip out and down and said,
"What is time anyway?" And later you made me take off my wristwatch
and carry it in my pocket, though you wanted me to give it away.
"Push time as far away as you can," you said, holding your hands up
in front of you as if pushing on an invisible wall.
"Who are you and where do you come from?" I insisted.
"Do you like me?" you asked, and turned your face up to be kissed.
And I did kiss you, not noticing then that my questions always went
unanswered.
Glorianna, I wish that I might shed my skin like a snake, leave it
crinkling in the sun, and never think of it again. But my past clings to
me, like crawly things drawn to me for my warmth.
"Our past is tied to us, like tin cans and old shoes to a wedding car," I
said to you once. "It rattles and bumps behind us in a rag-tag tangle of
uselessness.
"Not mine," you replied, with your slow-curving, innocent smile.
Charlie Barber's Cool Aid Hostel is still there, Glorianna, though it is a
quiet place now: late at night the police drop off old winos at the front
door. The hostel caters to derelicts now, or to young couples with huge
back-packs, and cheque-books, wearing $200 boots. Not like when we
met. Not like that sweet-smelling spring when the streets of Victoria
were inch deep in cherry blossoms. Not like that wondrous, ephemeral
summer when, like animals that migrate every so many years, young
people poured out across the land, owning only their clothes; with a
turned out thumb, and a smile and the phrase "spare change" lighting
their way. They flooded forth thousands strong to the beat of soft music,
surrounded by an aura of love.
That first day, as we sat in the sun and talked, you emptied your
pockets of half a book of matches, and a ratty pink comb with many
teeth missing.
"That's all?" I asked increduously.
"Fm here. Why do I need to bring anything with me?" you said.
I showed you my wallet, full of photos and identification pieces,
thought of the $10 stashed in my boot.
Even Charlie Barber wears a suit now, Glorianna. I suppose you
disapprove of the changes in his life as much as you disapprove of the
changes in mine. Cool Aid was his child and he fought for it like a
mother bird defending her nest. Charlie: slim, denimed, bearded, with
flint-like eyes and the ability to conjure and cajole money, food, blankets,
or medical supplies, all seemingly out of empty pavement.
Remember how we used to hang around the back door of that Italian
36 restaurant, Glorianna? And how they saved the uneaten slices of pizza
for us, put them into a green plastic bag, and we'd trip back to Cool Aid,
holding hands and swinging the bag between us as parents might swing a
child. Then we'd sit around and feast. And Charlie would praise us.
Charlie wears a suit and tie and sits in the legislature. He still defends
the poor and still loses more than he wins, for the province is governed
by car dealers who stymie the social programs Charlie and his party try
to introduce.
The band we went to see in Vancouver was Mother Tucker's Yellow
Duck. I remember them mainly because of their name, not their music.
We sat on the cool soft grass on a sidehill 50 yards from the bandshell.
And we openly smoked-up. Almost everyone did, feeling very daring
and rebellious. You were barefoot, Glorianna, and you picked
dandelions and put one between each of your toes....
I saw one of the band members a few weeks ago, walking across Bastion
Square, where the tourists still flutter through like flags. There are only
tourists and business people now, but I could still see the shadows of the
ragged, denimed kids of the late sixties who so genially panhandled. Our
ghosts were there, Glorianna, like black and white photographs. Sometimes I wish I were with you, wherever you are, wish that I hadn't turned
in my credentials, whatever they were. But I look at myself: Carla has
bought me Pierre Car din shirts and stylish corduroy slacks. "I want you
to make a good impression at university," she says. "You never know
wholl be able to help you with your career later on." And I let her do and
say these things.... Are you in your sleeping bag on someone's floor this
morning, Glorianna, your jeans and red-checkered shirt sprawled
nearby?
The band member was swathed in a $400 business suit, his neck
constricted by a silk tie; his hair was immaculately styled, an inch or two
longer than the colleagues who accompanied him. His concession to the
past. He was probably a lawyer, stockbroker, or accountant. But I
remember him in that sun-warmed park, slamming out his music like a
power-hitter belting home runs, shirtless, glistening with sweat, wild-
eyed, his hair a fuzzy halo around his gaunt face.
After we settled into the house, I worked for a while for that leather
shop downstairs in Bastion Suare, called Golden Apples of the Sun, and the
mouthwatering odors of tanned leather used to cling to my clothes.
Those days, Glorianna, you would sit around in Bastion Square, lounge
near the old anchor which is whitewashed to the pearly color of doves,
play a few notes on your guitar, lay a square silk handkerchief, patterned
with a wondrous mandala, on the cobblestones, weighing down each
corner with a tiny, polished rock, and watch the cache of quarters grow
as the easygoing tourists emptied their pockets.
37 "Oh, you smell like a swatch of buckskin," you'd say to me when I
came out to join you at lunch hour, and you'd rub your nose against my
chest. "You must be an Indian," you'd go on. "I bet you could be an
Indian. See how dark your arms are. Your profile is Indian too, your
nose is straight and your brow high and noble," and you'd kiss me and
press your belly up against mine, and not care who was watching, your
hair smelling tangy as the crisp ocean breeze that tousled it.
Carla's house here in Victoria is sold. As soon as we get organized in
Toronto, she wants to buy an acre or two in the country and build an A-
frame. Carla is used to earning good money. She owned a house in
Toronto, one she came away with when she divorced her husband. She
sold it when she came to Victoria and put a large down payment on a
newly, renovated house, close to downtown but still in a residential area.
She lived alone. One bedroom was a sewing room, another a study.
When I first knew her I suggested she should rent those rooms to university students. "You could share the kitchen with them," I said. Carla
looked at me as if I were a child. It would help with the mortgage
payments," I went on.
"Mac, if you have a good job you don't need help with your mortgage
payments," she replied.
I realized then that though I was 30 years old, Fd never earned $5000
in a year.
Carla has a microwave oven. Her house, despite the sharp angles of
the chrome lamp poles, was pleasant but organized: plants hung in
macrame slings, the rooms were decorated with dishes Carla had made
herself. At this moment, all these possessions are on their way to
Toronto, cushioned like eggs in a rectangular orange semitrailer.
One evening Glorianna, on the spur of the moment, I took my only
photo of you: one in which you are wearing jeans and a lemon-colored
sweater and smiling mysteriously, pushing your breasts toward the
camera in response to some joke I had made, and I went to Bastion
Square. I walked down the long, steep flight of beery-smelling stairs to
the Churchill Hotel Bar. It is now called the Bastion Inn, but the change
of name has never taken place in my head. The freaks still hang out
there, Glorianna, the few that are left. There were perhaps ten tables of
long-haired, denimed youngsters, sprawled with their feet deliberately
blocking the aisles, or sitting up straight, earnestly arguing, their faces
sincere and urgent. They looked like we did when we met, Glorianna,
and I felt so old. I walked from table to table showing your picture,
asking if they'd seen you. I got virtually no response and I realized as I
was leaving, trudging back up the gritty steps, that it was because of the
way I looked. My hair was too short, too well-styled, my shirt and shoes
too expensive, my jeans too new. And the watch Carla had given me sat
38 on my wrist glowing like a square inch of chrome. There was actually
hostility in some of the faces that dismissed me. They may have even
thought I was a cop, or a wristwatch hippie. . . I wonder if they still use
that term. But there was something else, Glorianna, a meanness, a hardness that wasn't there in our time, and I wonder if you have been able to
fit back in to that kind of life.
Until that evening I really thought of going into the dope-and-denim
bars in Victoria and Vancouver and seriously searching for you, or a
shadow of you. I thought of settling for someone like you, someone
street-wise, but happy, easy, loving. But as I stared at those hard young
faces I realized that it is almost impossible to live in more than one
generation at a time. I think of Carla and vibrate with the anticipation of
accomplishing something.
Glorianna, do you remember how, in the mornings, the cats used to
sit in the sun on the big, east-facing doorstep of the Writing Lady's
house? Do you remember the way they sat, paws tucked under them,
sunning themselves like old men swathed in blankets: Nixon, the Writing Lady's cat, and our Hoover Shoats. Nixon died of old age a few
months ago: that scruffy old thug of a cat with his frost-bitten ears and
fight-scarred face. When he got too sick, the Writing Lady carried him
off to the vet's, carried him in an apple box, and him all wrapped up like
a doll. "The vet put him to sleep," the Writing Lady said.
We just rolled along, Glorianna. What we had was good enough for
you, always. But there were fears that walked in my blood—I felt that
one day I'd wake up, old as Nixon and Hoover Shoats, and find that I
had spent my life sunning myself.
"You worry too much," you said. "Well always get by." And we did. I
showed you how I made belts and watchbands, and you said, "I can do
that too," and you did. "Why go out every day when you can stay
home?" you said, and I set up the workbench in that tiny basement, and
we discovered that with only a few hours work a week we could earn
enough to exist. Existing has always been enough for you.
"What are we going to do when we're 50?" I demanded of you once.
"Why?" was all you could say in reply. Then after a pause, "I don't
think about it. Why can't you just let life happen to you?"
But I couldn't, could I, Glorianna? And I could never adequately
explain why I began taking courses, or why I continued. The first one was
just curiosity, to see if I could really do work at the college level. But I
found it easy—I rolled over the other students like a professional halfback
in a high school game. I read ten times what was required for every
course I took. The other students were so lazy, so careless, so unmotivated. Desire for learning fell on me like a disease: I was ravenous
for knowledge.
39 "Why worry about tomorrow?" you said. "What do you see in the
mirror that I don't?"
"What if the Writing Lady sells this house? They're talking about retiring, you know. Where would we live?"
"We could go back on the street for a while. There's always someplace
to crash," you said. But I always feel sad when I see those aging hippies,
in bars or sitting on park benches, dressed and looking just as they did a
decade earlier except for the lines of age on their faces and hands.
"But what about Hoover?" I said, realizing the instant I said it how
ridiculous it sounded.
"Well beg.spare change to buy him cat food. Fll teach him to pick a
few notes on my guitar. I'll dress him up in doll clothes, the old ladies
will love it."
"I see the age in my eyes," I said.
Then, Glorianna, you smiled with your wondrous red lips, and
though remaining perfecdy still, moved another step away from me. I
could have stopped you anytime. Why didn't I? Why did I insist on you
meeting Carla, on us visiting her home. Watching you drift away was
like staring at a glistening cast-iron pump handle on a frosty morning —
knowing that sticking my tongue on it would bring me pain but being
unable to resist.
Glorianna, Fm like a guerilla soldier who's been living in the jungle
for years not knowing the war is over. I emerge, thin, ragged and
uncomprehending. My comrades have won the war and are all generals
and ambassadors doing all the things we fought to destroy. I learn that
there is already a small, new, group of insurgents in the hills plotting
another overthrow of another government. As I look around I know I
would be better off to seek out the insurgents. But I don't. I turn my gun
in for a briefcase, my ragged uniform for a business suit, my integrity
for an indexed pension plan.
It was Carla's energy that attracted me to her. She was taking an
accounting course for the sheer joy of learning. Carla is always moving,
nervous, watchful, like a penned animal, pacing back and form endlessly, never tiring.
When I came to sell the household goods I realized that they were all
mine alone, or things we had acquired together, Glorianna. There was
nothing of yours. You left nothing behind you. Yet you took nothing
with you. You might never have existed.
Carla is real. She has parents: her father a lawyer in Ottawa, her
mother a wilted flower who uses religion as a rubber crutch to get from
psychiatrist to psychiatrist. She has a sister who lost a hand in a car
accident, and a brother with a mysterious disease that requires him to
ingest large quantities of cortisone. In her house, Carla had her high
40 school yearbooks, all her ex-husband's love letters, and a copy of a letter
she wrote her parents on her 21st birthday, thanking and praising them
for the way they had raised her.
Yet I think of the way we loved, Glorianna. "Move slowly," you said,
and your tongue would move like a butterfly inside my mouth. "Pretend
we're water and in a while we'll be all mixed together so warm and
so wet... ."
I didn't know how to react when you told me you were leaving. I could
see that things were going to get worse between us. But anyone else
would have stayed. . . longer.
"It's what you really want," you said. "It will only be a tragedy if you
make it one." And then you smiled sadly. "I think you'll change your
mind in a while," you added.
"Then what?" I said.
"Then you'll have to look around for someone more like me."
"Carla and I are only friends," I protested. And it was true. But I
suppose I had used her as an example, thrown her name out, like a dart,
too many times.
"Then neither of us have anything to feel bad about," you said.
"You're not meant to be closed in, Mac," and you pointed your
enigmatic smile at me again. "Melmac, ceramic, macrame, microwave,"
you intoned, the smile never leaving your face.
The Writing Lady is going to adopt Hoover Shoats. He's practically
been living with her these past few months and she likes it, she says. He
sleeps in the sun, on a cushion on a rocking chair in that big, warm room
upstairs where she writes her novels. It will be a great place for him to
spend his old age.
I check the basement before I leave for good; it is hollow down here
too, nothing left but the flyspecked fluorescent tubes above where the
workbench used to be. I look all around to be certain Fve forgotten
nothing, am about to leave when a minute movement catches my eye,
and I notice hanging high above the workbench, samples of our art.
There are a half-dozen watchbands dangling from a plumbing pipe,
various lengths of tooled leather, each strap coming to a point like a
spoke, each suspended in midair by a frail thread. The bands are spaced
at about six inch intervals and look like pieces of a mobile. Something,
probably my displacing the air currents, causes one of them to spin
lazily, catching my eye. I realize that I don't own one of my own watch
straps. As a concession to you, Glorianna, I haven't worn a watch in
years, until Carla gave me this one: a thin silver wafer with lights that
blink, and alarms that squawk demandingly, attached to my wrist by a
lustrous silver bracelet, fine as a shaving head.
I am standing directly below the row of watch bands, neck bent back,
my breath has started them all moving, twisting and turning slowly as
4i corpses. These six little lengths of leather are all that is left of our lives
together, Glorianna. You and I, Mother Tucker's Yellow Duck, Charlie
Barber, Hoover Shoats, the Writing Lady, all twisting helplessly in
midair.
I reach up, grab one and pull, but it is tenacious and the waxy thread
cuts into my fingers. As I release it, it bucks and twirls wildly. I take out
my pocket knife and one by one, like cutting flowers for a bouquet, sever
the threads and lay the bands side by side on the flat of my hand, the
limp strings dangling.
42 Irving Layton/ Two Poems
THE SWAMP
After the great man's reading at Harbourfront
they walked the quieted streets
where warehouses and condominiums
suddenly parcelled out the night for them.
The stars glittered in the sky.
Did they or the introspective trees they passed
hear him say: 'Leave me, Fm a man possessed.
My fury and wisdom are not for your lenient pulse'?
What purpose in reason or foreknowledge when love
bends the will as if it were wet straw?
When appetite, hardening the member, makes butter
of the mind? His being sagged in her embrace.
The incoherent words the stars made him speak
punctuated the darkness like the streetlamps
that moved towards them: prehistoric giants
holding torches high above their heads.
Folly or fate now tipped his words with flame.
His own mouth became the foundry for bolts
that rivetted him fast to inexpugnable shame.
Heavy with them he sank at last into the widening swamp.
43 THE GARDEN
Insects display their different shapes
on sunglasses, on table and book;
not one that isn't the slime of time
or doesn't ask from me a wise look.
the butterfly's flutter on a tall stalk
is my heart's beat in space, O gende
and steady as my best morning thoughts.
I'd paint them or birds were I Chagall.
Give them yarmulkas to fly to
and sobbing music from the shtetl;
they would flap their crazy wings with joy
and make their certain way to Zion.
How easily, it seems, I might dissolve
into my chair or surrounding air;
become the dirt my feet walk upon,
grow bright flowerets instead of hands.
No more than a dog's bark are we all;
leaf fall or cat's momentary fright
on the retina: here, only to
disappear into the endless night.
The grass is waiting to cover me
like a warm overcoat, green with age;
the bough's luxuriant leaves are sleeves
ready to embrace or hold me down.
44 Nature conspires with and against
me, brief shuttie between womb and tomb;
a centimetre on which is notched
immense vistas of anguish and gloom.
Confidently I sit here and write
though dark shadows gather near the house
and the birds have left off their singing.
The fly's cry is trapped in the neat web.
One day, my head full of summer noise
or an etude by Frederic Chopin,
the wind lifting me up by the elbows
will husde me out of the garden.
Other insects shall come, other leaves grow.
This garden will never be empty;
my wraith will be that white butterfly.
Return a thousand years from now and see.
Niagara-on-the-Lake,
July 18,1981.
45
J Kamo no Chomei
A VIEW FROM MY HUT
Ceaseless flow   the river moving   with water
never the same    and in the eddies   flecks of
foam    gather here   or vanish there   as with
people   dwellings   life is but once   although
our capital's bejewelled   where our ridgepoles
in a line contend    with rich and poor    vainly
arraying pert roofs    but let us ask truly   of
houses past   how many remain   a few   and with
most   oh it burned   last year   or that great
mansion's   just a shack   today   and the folks
there fared no better   out of twenty or maybe
thirty    you might find one possibly two   like
a puddle of water    stagnant    a moment    dies
tomorrow    and was born   yesterday    and has
no way to know   do we   where well go   or
when   nor is it clear   to what   loose end
we've got to   pain our hearts   or brighten
our eyes   in this middle of nowhere   with
dwellings    and those who think   they own
them    uncertain antagonists   jumbled all
together   into the same   unenduring hoopla
all of it   as fleet   as quick   asdewdrops
on a petal   on a morning glory petal    and
let the sun shine    let the drops sizzle
there's still the petal   though the petal
won't see   tomorrow's sun rising   or say
the petal withers   say the withering petal
may still sport   dew   do you   think the
dew will greet    this evening   then you
may see    what forty odd years    of springs
of autumn colours   of people    of things
of it all   has done   to baffle   this heart.
Translated from the Chinese by William Marsh
46 Martin Anderson/ Two Poems
GIRL WITH BOUND FEET
She smiles
her toes snapped
down into her
sole   and strapped
Her arch
is inches off
the ground   In
air the bone
bends and
becomes accustomed to
this deforming
for the eyes'
sake   At night
the whole foot
shut up tight
as a fan
opens   Like grass
beneath a stone
the white instep
crushes and writhes
disgorging a worm
47 TO MY BLIND STUDENT READING
You move
your hand over
a frost of
paper   and
touch the
pimpled letters
they rise below
your fingers   arid
slowly moii th themselves
Their pressed out
meanings   where
your eyes
can't go
are glimmered in
the fall of words
that slowly   softly
in your mind
are settling
like fresh
foot prints
over the snow
48 Richard Simas
Joaquin Murietta Slept Here
Something always leads me back to the yellow kitchen. There are two
curious objects sitting on the shelf. One is a pestle and mortar of granite,
heavy and slightly grey with dust. The other is a handful of deformed
purple glass tinted by sunlight passing through it for so many years.
How it secretively changes colors with time, what it holds inside, fix me
immobile.
My foolish aunt tells me, late at night when we are supposed to be
asleep, that it is the melted glass from the burned ranchero Grandmother lived in when she was young. That after the adobe walls had
fallen, and all the wooden joists and casements had finished smoldering,
long after the men standing in shirtsleeves had gone home in groups of
twos and threes, Maria, my grandmother, sneaked from the neighbour's
home that had given them shelter, and walked through the eucalyptus
grove. In the rubble she discovered the glass and brought it home with
her. She has kept it ever since.
"Now don't go listening to her crazy tales," I hear later after making
the mistake of retelling part of the story at the dinner table. But I see it
always and want to touch it so I will understand how it all happened.
No one ever says, but I can't help thinking, from what Fve heard of
Joaquin Murietta, that he had something to do with the burning house.
It happens unexpectedly: an afternoon when Mother picks me up
from school and says, "Fm taking you to see someone." She guides the
car along the odd route to Grandmother's: down an alley, past the courthouse and the baseball park. We are there, and I wait to hear his dry,
accented voice from beneath the bottle-brush moustache.
His name is Fernando, rumoured to be my great-uncle, but the great
part confuses me, and I see him so rarely that I can't consider him as
anything more than an odd, happy man who knows card tricks, bird
calls, can remove his right thumb from his hand then replace it again,
and has tried on every occasion that Fve seen him to hypnotize me. He's
49 the only man Fve known outside of movies and books who wears double-
breasted suits with vests that match, a fob stretched across his stomach
like a golden grin. He addresses my grandmother as Maria, and her
habitual sullenness seems to leave her during his visits.
He wears me out though my mother doesn't see how it's possible. His
disappearing tricks, the curious noises that slip from his teeth, and
finally the swinging gold pocket watch, leave me dizzy. Later Mother
finds me in the next room making sounds with my lips and attempting
the finger trick. When I go to say goodbye I hear, "Maria this," and
"Maria that," in the kitchen. He stands next to her as though his
presence will spice her soup. I can tell in her eyes that Mother admires
him. I say goodbye, and we're gone. Grandmother hardly notices.
"He and Grandmother are the only ones left out of twenty-three
children." My aunt's voice arrives from another one of those sleepless
nights when she keeps me awake with her rambling. I lie at the foot of
her bed in a sleeping bag with ducks and geese printed on the inside quilting.
"They had to witness each of them passing away. Can you imagine?
All the names are in the Bible. You should read them."
I can't imagine, having never been dead nor ever even seen a corpse,
but I shut my eyes tightly anyway thinking, "O.K., this is death. How is
it?" But I don't feel like anything. I see a field with massacred tv Indians
and cowboys, and World War II soldiers lying on a French beach as
though they're asleep. All is cast in the squirrel-grey tv light. I open my
eyes and hear her voice.
"She's the youngest, Fernando the next. I don't know why your
mother never told you any of this. Honestly! After the fire there were
legal problems because the place was originally a Spanish land grant.
They had to split up, there were so many of them. It was impossible to
rebuild. Some moved into town, and Mother went there with her
parents. That's when she began to learn English.
Into the room my aunt whispers, "She had a name like a flower:
Maria Carellaga Reinosa. Imagine! A name Joaquin Murietta would
murmer as he fled at dawn on dusty roads."
The air turns around me and there she leaves me, in the eucalyptus
grove that I don't even know watching Joaquin Murietta's roan horse
whirl him away. Out of the dream I whisper her name, then hiss,
"Auntie, yoo-hoo, wake up," but she refuses to answer. The next day she
sits for hours at the dining room table with my mother and drinks tea.
Stories sift in about Joaquin Murietta, and 1 mull each one over carefully; I know better than to ask anyone. On a shelf over my parents' bed
is a book called Early California History. It says that Murietta was "a ruthless marauder and threat to the growing communities in the early days of
50 the state. On at least one occasion he was singly responsible for the
destruction of an entire town, murdering its sheriff and deputy, then
terrorizing the townspeople while burning one building after another."
Under the rough pen sketch of a sharp-featured man poised on a horse is
written the following: "Murietta was reputed to retreat to the rocky
bluffs in the Central Coast region of California after striking. There, he
seemed to disappear though armed groups of vigilantes and even professional killers who were chasing the high bounty on his head always
returned after coming close to capturing the bandit, vowing never to
ride into the bluffs again. 'He is like a lizard,' they reported, 'a snake
monster who can crawl into a stone and vanish. He lives for weeks
on nothing.'"
Another time I read a report prepared by my brother. "The
flamboyant Spanish-Californian villain, Joaquin Murietta, endeared
himself to various ranchero families. They provided him with food,
shelter, and love. They never spoke of the particulars of his visits—that
seems to be a mystery—but said with pride, 'Joaquin Murietta slept
here.' It is difficult to say whether they did it out of fear or genuine submission to his Robin-Hood charm. He had elegant manners and a flair
for romance, leaving, whenever he felt trouble at hand, a red rose for the
woman who had kept him."
Upheaval at school. The phone rings during dinner and a firm voice
asks whether Murietta is seen as a villain or a hero in our home. A brief
inquisition at bedtime. My brother sits on the edge of his bed in his
pajamas, feet dangling. I fake sleep on my side of the room. The report
on Joaquin Murietta is tossed into the fireplace on a rainy November
night.
On the same night, I leave a window open wishing the outlaw would
tie his horse to the water spigot outside my window and climb in. Rain
falls like spangles out of a dream. I smell sage on his clothes and hear the
tinkling rattle of his spurs while his horse tests the tied reins outside and
settles in for the night. I offer him a pillow, food in the morning, and tell
him which is the shortest way to the rocky wastelands.
I awaken to the real confusion of school-dawn. Father walking
through the house cinching up his pajama bottoms and hacking into the
toilet, lost socks and wax in my hair. Then Fm under a grid of floures-
cent lights and a nun in black and brown is pacing back and forth in
front of the class. Behind her is a map of America. The pointer is broken
on the tip, a reminder of how important it is to sit still after lunch and
tackle whatever words fall from her mouth.
"The Country was named," she says, "after Americus Vespucci, an
Italian navigator and naval astronomer who made claims of discovering
our country before Columbus. It's possible that...." She pokes the country in Nebraska and sweeps from New York to
California with a flick of her wrist. I imagine it's how a plane goes and
am ready to blurt out all the state capitols that we had to memorize.
The pointer rests on California. "Sacramento," I think, staring at the
bent-finger shape the color of mauve or lilac. The pointer rests on the
tint of Grandmother's glass; and the nun's puffy face, the sticky desk
seat, drift away. ..
. .. standing on the narrow strip of driveway grass at Grandmother's
Fm looking at the lump of melted window from outside in. My arms
rest on the crossbar of the lawn-mower. She was too old years ago to
mow the lawn, but if I don't come when Fm supposed to I'm not surprised
to see her frail weight and crooked legs bent against the stubborn machine. In her dim-lit garage I search for oil to lubricate the mower. The
garage, a hazard of make-shift shelves poking me in the dark, holds
gallon after gallon of saved rainwater which she uses to wash her hair
and underwear. When it rains she scatters buckets and pans through the
yard to collect the water, then transfers it to glass gallon bottles, caps
them, and lines them on the shelf with the date marked in grease pen. I
find root-beer colored bottles with POISON written on them, a skull and
cross-bones drawn in her hand; buckets of nails and screws, balls of
string, old Christmas wrapping and bows,, little tools either antique or
toy, I'm not sure which; potting soil, a chest full of Vogue magazines
from the twenties, and a corset with wooden stays that could only have
belonged to a fat Uncle Alfred or Grandmother's friend, Lily. Finally I
find the grease can and pour liquid over every metallic surface of the
mower. It spills onto the floor and somehow I manage to get it onto the
handle so that I can hardly grip it. The circling blades sound like an
aviary. The guava tree whirls, and I run to keep up.
On the kitchen table I find two dollars and a glass of juice. Past procedure dictates that I can drink the juice, take the money, and leave if
she's not in the front room, but something this time sends me wandering
in her small house. I hear a kind of whispering behind her closed bedroom door. Sometimes she prays there, but it doesn't sound like praying.
I walk into the room where she keeps the African Violets. It's always cool
there, cool and dusk-like. She keeps the curtains pulled because she says
the flowers need soft light. I have always known I shouldn't touch the
hairy stems and leaves. She said once, "You can't touch them because
they bruise, and you can't smell them because they don't smell like anything." They sit on the other side of the room like foreigners.
I examine the plants on the table. They look pale like her "off-days,"
though buds are just starting at the base of the stems, and I think the
reason she is in the room is because Fernando, the last of her family
alive, has left and she's alone again in the house. She depends on the
52 violets, on Fernando. I depend on her purple glass. Suddenly I want to
touch the plants. Instead I dash out the back door to the garage, find the
brown bottle marked FERTILIZER, mix it with water, and give it to
Grandmother's violets.
I hope the flowers will grow huge, purple in January, arched leaves
furry like a cat's back, and Grandmother's sombre face will look back
down a dusty road as she rides off on Murietta's horse. When I leave die
house Fm happy. The lawn looks like spilled forest, slick like oil....
Time passes. Days and weeks. Everything becomes confused. Afternoons in class become mornings on a ranchero. I forget capitols, I paint
adobe walls with father's shave cream, cut my face, and the wall bleeds
roses. My grandmother collects them in gallon buckets and carries them
to the bluffs on a yoke hung on her bent old shoulders. They aren't
dreams but secrets spinning from the glass each time I gaze into its purple
shape. Americus Vespucci is charting star maps to lead a rowdy group of
townsmen after Joaquin Murietta. By following the constellations they
come to a barren mesa and find only the dry sheath of a snake's skin and
spherical traces in the sand. They are the only things which will tell
Joaquin's story. The men kick the rocks with their boots and peer into a
cloudless sky.
My aunt parts her lips in a darkened room. I wait nervously in my
sleeping bag, listening. ..
"Once mother told me about the death watch and how it seemed like
she and Fernando were the only ones around to take care of the
funerals."
"A death watch?" I ask, thinking of a huge clock that knows when you
will die and is counting off each minute.
"Yes, it's like waiting, sort of. After they emblam the body they put it
in a room with flowers, and you stay up all night. It's like the last time
you see them before they're buried."
"Do you really see where they're buried? The hole and everything?"
"They cover it with rugs and flowers. Pretty as the front yard. You
hardly notice that part. Mother said that halfway through the night
Fernando would always fall asleep, even when she had given him coffee.
He would doze right off and there she'd be stock with the dead body. I
think it's what turned her hair white, poor dear. Oh, it's a horrible
thing," she says. "I hope you never have to do it since you're the youngest." She lets silence enter the room.
"Alfonse, Marguerite, Andres, Jesus, and Raphael.... Here," she
says snapping on the light.- "They were all such stern looking Spaniards."
While my head reels from the sudden light, she thrusts a large, slick
photo in front of me. There they are, the whole brood standing in a
courtyard with a fountain in front. They pose like children in class. They
53 are all adults except for a beautiful girl at the far side of the photo. She
wears a shapeless white gown tied at the waist with a dark sash. Her hair
is gathered tightly in the back. She stares off the photo somewhere. After
blinking I can look clearly at the picture and see it's Grandmother.
"This was taken before the place was burned. Look here, they had
Chinese cooks and gardeners who are in the pictures. Look at the pony
tails. She sighs dreamily, and snaps off the light. I feel the picture taken
from my hand.
"I want to talk about something else," I say.
"Don't be silly," she answers. "If you ask me, the whole trouble arose
from the fact that she wouldn't leave with him when he asked," she
groans. "Of course they would have had to run away, and neither you
nor I would be here today, but of all the thousands of miles he'd ridden
and all the women he knew, he wanted her, imagine! You don't tell a
Spanish man no, let me tell you!"
"Who, Auntie, who?" I demand, though I already know who and rock
my head back and forth mouthing, "No, no, no."
Fm in the alley behind the house saying, "No, no, no." Inside, Mother
is visiting Grandmother. Before I slipped out the back door I heard her
tell Mother that all the African Violets are turning yellow. She can't
imagine what it is.
The plank in the fence is held only by its upper nails. It swings out
into the alley and sets me free. I gallop like a horse, stop, dismount, and
begin climbing up the lattice of the garden house. The diamond cross-
hatch is perfect for my feet, and in minutes Fm on the flat roof peering
down into the alley. This is the deathwatch. Fm poised and ready to
pounce, hidden from view by the wild branches of a bougainvillaea.
They tickle my neck, but I can't move. I want to be a tree the way
Indians can be trees, and I know the merest blink of an eye will ruin the
camouflage.
It seems the watch takes hours before Murietta approaches on his
great roan. As he nears I see the edge of his coat is charred. There are
white flecks of ash in his river-black hair. He sobs as the horse picks its
way through the rocks like a goat.
Fm Murietta's captor, the man who will put a bullet through the
bandit's head and return to town with the body draped like saddle bags
across my horse's flanks. I spring from the roof of the garden house, my
arm cocked, and then Fm falling, falling, it seems like forever, turning
so my legs are no longer the first things heading downward. Hard dirt
alley hits me at once. I lie there dazed, wondering how Murietta
disappeared.
"Good lord, child," my mother screams and runs toward me in the
alley. Her blue jersey skirt is like a sail Fm waiting to see unfurl. Grand-
54 mother is peeking through a hole in the fence shaking her head. I limp to
the car. Nothing is broken. Later I hear, "Now stay off that roof. Grandmother's in no mood for jokes."
Murietta's escape magnifies his proportions. I think of very little else;
my rubber balls, games, and saint statues are abandoned. Trivial, they
are unworthy of my attention. The death watch goes on day and night.
"You could never trust her with anything. She was always like that,"
Mother says into the phone. "I dunk she's in another world half the time.
Fm ragged by the time her visits are over. He adores her though, you
know. Poor dung, I really do feel sorry."
It's my aunt and her stories they are talking about, and it's true, I am
confused after she leaves. "No, no, no," is my song as I roam the territory around the house and neighbor's yard. Mother keeps me away from
Grandmother for some reason.
One day I set an elaborate trap in the side yard for the bandit. It consists of a noose set in the path, its end tied to a tree trunk, a pile of
broken sticks arranged in a low hanging overhead branch with a string
attached which dangles at eye level. The sticks are heavy enough to
knock anyone out who pulls on the irresistible trap. I pour a half cup of
Grandmother's poison into a chipped coffee cup and place it on the sidewalk. With chalk I write, "DRINK THIS" on the sidewalk. I crouch in
the jasmine bush and wait with the stiff vine that has become my sword.
The scent of the little white flowers drugs me. Only the gas man who has
come to read the meter steps into the noose, and I lunge from the bush
screaming, "Wait!" He jumps, letting out a gasp, and drops his pad. Half
falling to avoid the noose, he kicks over the poison and turns to give me
hell, but I dash past him down the street, yelling, "There, he's gone to the
cliffs." Later that afternoon I return to find the noose kicked off into the
bushes, the sticks in a pile on the walkway, and a brown stain where the
poison spilled. I go to sleep that night convinced I'll have to play dirty
with Murietta, that he is more of the devil than I took him for.
The watch's crystal swings back and forth, reflecting a fight behind my
head the way Grandmother's glass seems to hold a growing light inside
its shape. Fernando's wrinkled fingers don't move, so it's a mystery how
the whole dung swings. He murmurs phrases in which the words don't
matter. This time he may really have me. The face of the watch is a white
speck I follow back and forth. It happens. It is like all the movies—my
eyes feel so heavy they just finally close, and I no longer have any sense
of control though I hear Fernando's voice and have an image of his wild
white eyebrows. Then, I can't believe what Fm seeing: the window
melting out of its frame in the burning ranchero, the men leaving then-
buckets at the well because it's useless. At dawn I see Maria standing
near a table in the courtyard of the ranchero. The warmth is drying
moisture from a botde-brush. Joaquin Murietta is seated at the table.
55 He is a handsome man whose rogue nattiness only makes him more
attractive. He takes bread and cheese and chews it slowly, moving it
over and over in his mouth as though hell never swallow. From the
silence of the courtyard it seems that no one else is awake yet, but from a
window looking down into the yard Fernando watches his sister and the
bandit. The night before, Murietta handed Fernando's father two bags
of money and said to take care of anyone around who needed help. He
said he wouldn't see them again.
Now he drops the crust of bread and reaches for Maria's head. She has
already said she must not leave with him and wishes she had not
wakened to say goodbye. Murietta lets his forehead fall on his hip. She
pulls away and stands with her back to him, her plaited black hair like a
vine down her back. He shoves the chair from the table and is gone.
Then Fernando is holding Maria in the courtyard, saying, "No, no, no,"
and the day has already broken, the others are stirring.
"No, no, no," Grandmother cries in the middle of the night. I have
given up my bed, my room, my closet. She has come to stay with us because her brother, Fernando is dead. They buried him last week in
another town. After all his tricks, dying just seems like another sleight of
hand. It doesn't touch me. However, Grandmother says she can't stay in
her house, so she has come to be with us, and I am sleeping on the
couch. Though she takes sleeping pills, she can't sleep, and I keep
getting wakened in the middle of the night by her grieving. It starts with
low moans like cats in heat, then like babies, and finally she's saying
things. I can hear the bed squeak and her fumbling in the dark. A bathroom light goes on, and Mother is there to comfort her. I can't sleep a
wink on the cold couch. I have become a troll. My clothes are strewn
around the house, my homework is a mess. I'd swear there were bags
under my eyes. I no longer sleep near the window listening for Murietta.
I hear instead all of Mother and Father's late night conversations which I
would just as soon skip. It makes me a holy terror. Even my brother, a
born aggravator, stays clear of me. I know it won't end until the
Murietta business is settled.
Sleeplessness dulls me. Grandmother is still here, though Fm told she's
going home soon. The word is that "shell adjust." I feel as though Fve
been riding after Murietta for years. Father somehow manages to stay
removed from it all. He listens to Mother, smiles when he can, and says
very little. He plays cribbage with Grandmother. I hear their counting
in the other room. He takes afternoon naps in their room when everyone
is out, and it is into his sleep that I wander one day when I just haven't
the heart for bounty hunting. Besides, something Fve seen the day
before disturbs me. I crawl into the bed with him.
"Dad," I say, waking him up. "How did the animal prints in the sidewalk get there?"
56 He gives me a confused look, wakes up, thinks for a minute, then answers. "There used to be wild animals roaming around here, and one of
them must have stepped into the cement before it dried."
"Oh," I say. My eyes are huge. "Animals? Honest?"
"Wolves, bobcats, panthers," he says calmly.
"Joaquin Murietta?" I ask.
He looks at me suspiciously, laughs. "Joaquin Murietta never
slept here."
"Where Grandmother lived when she was young, how did it burn?"
"Oh, who knows," he says. "Probably someone smoking in bed."
He gives me a pat and rolls over to sleep, yanking me up on the pillow
with him.
"Why does Mother always get her way?"
"You never say no to a Spanish woman, son," he says.
On an ash-colored day in February I enter the cool room where
Grandmother keeps the violets. I have just finished with her lawns. The
wheels of the mower left furrows in the grass because the ground is soft
after three days of rain. She has won gallons of rainwater from the
storm. Now she stands at the table framed by the window that opens to
the side yard. She is holding up each pot of withered violets then
dumping the soil and dead flowers into a box. I think the room looks
much nicer with the drapes open, though as I enter I'm sorry about the
violets. I don't mention them, and stand patiendy nearby until she
notices me.
We talk about crocus and jonquil bulbs, about the old mower she said
a neighbour left for the trashman when he moved and how it sat on the
sidewalk for days before she wheeled it home very late one night because
she didn't want anyone to see. She says she's kept African Violets all her
life and never had one die on her. A kind of wry laugh slips from the
corner of her old mouth. I ask her to say something in Spanish, and she
says she speaks only English now.
"Did Joaquin Murietta speak English?"
"Who?"
"Joaquin Murietta, the bandit."
"He was a Spaniard," she says. I look in her eyes for some kind of
light. "I was very young then," she adds.
"How did your house burn, Grandmother?" The question falls from
my mouth like her half-smile.
She thinks for a minute, turning from the window to me, then grabbing another violet, says, "I think it burned because someone left a fire
all night. There were so many of us."
"I'm sorry about Fernando," I say looking into her black eyes.
57 A fire burns in the center of Grandmother's purple glass, an oracle's
voice that calls me each time Fm in that room. I know now that no storm
will extinguish it.
Nuns file before me, point to chalkboards and define the laws of
mathematics. Days and years whirl like the guava tree in the center of
her backyard. I listen to discussions at the dinner table; late nights at the
foot of my aunt's bed yield different stories.. .as if she knows too. I call
off the hunt for Murietta's head, let his old tale lie, and I leave the
window near my bed open, waiting to hear the clatter of his roan horse
returning to spirit me away to the bluffs.
58 John O'Neill/ Two Poems
ORPHAN
reared from the rift valley
anaesthetized and ether-eyed
spinning on a sun dial
my god she says the lake
is a mother of men
we hold hands in the metropolis
squeeze hands beneath foliage
measure and meticulously slice
child eyes into serpents
between the stars and our
worn shoes
slumber
in acquiescence,
questions are whispered
made palatable for sleep
while never do we hammer
the earth's grin of cliffs
we are sea anemone
in blind Cassiopeia
no one watches she says
she says our eyes
face the wild like changelings
dependent on the indifferent but
cushioning air
and the light of day
provides vision.
59 ITS HARD TO IMAGINE LEWIS CARROLL
We are hard pressed to remember
A wide-eyed logician in bed,
Nestled with quilted children in patchwork caprice,
Lying on pillowy syllogisms,
Tweedledummed and Tweedledeed
In reason's clockwork escapement
Mind-out-of-time without a navy of drowning mice
Or a white rabbit running into white mindholes.
It's hard to imagine
Charles Dodgson greeting Lewis on
A fine July morning,
Sailing together, light-drunk
In the word-shedding sun
Both nodding off to sleep with
"K-K-Kittens c-c-curled at our feet,
W-W-Whisk-k-kers c-c-cool in the p-p-pool of years."
It's difficult to recall
A young Charles penning his
"Who-dreamed-it" dream,
A bloomsprung boy in the hopeless arms of spring
Awaking to the Liddell eyes of the checkered sky
And the unquiet dreams which passed before his sight.
Still, it's easy to feel
The haunt of a wonderland
In the swift stammer of middling life,
IU-remembered time, eternally returning time,
O curious, illogical time...
Forced to imagine.
60 A Selection
of Writing
for Children
61 Audrey Thomas
The Princess and the Zucchini
(A Grim Fairy Tale)
This is the way it happened:
There had been a long, hot summer and the Royal Garden was full to
overflowing. The gardeners were hot and grumpy and said they could
not keep up with all the picking. Everybody was hot and grumpy, even
the King, even the Queen and especially Princess Zona who stood now,
in her long white nightdress, gazing down at the garden below her,
glowing silver in the moonlight. She hadn't been able to sleep at all,
because of the heat, and wished with all her heart for a thunderstorm
and a downpour to break the pressure of the night. It had not rained in
weeks and except for the garden, which was watered carefully every
evening as soon as the sun had left it, the rest of the royal estate was
parched and brown.
The garden looked inviting; she wanted to walk in the garden with
bare feet. She opened the door quietly and tiptoed past the bedroom of
her sleeping parents, tiptoed to the royal staircase and went quietly and
carefully down, down, down, then along corridors and passages, the
moonlight streaming in through leaded windows, until she reached the
kitchen, then the pantry, then the back door. The door creaked a little
when she opened it and she heard a mouse jump in one of the cupboards. Then she was out, running across the dry lawn, which tickled
her feet, and through the white gate into the garden. The paths were
cool and moist; the air was fragrant; her long blonde hair glittered and
gleamed in the moonlight. It was very still.
"I could sleep out here," she thought. "I could get one of the gardeners
to sling me up a hammock. I wish Fd thought of it sooner." She didn't
want to go back up to her hot stuffy fitde room, pretty as it was. She
wished, at least, that she had brought something to sit on.
And then, because she wasn't really paying attention, she tripped and
stubbed her toe on a large zucchini.
"Thank God," a deep voice said. The Princess froze in fear.
"Who's there?" she whispered, trembling. "What do you want?"
"Here," the voice said. It came from beside her and below.
62 "Where?" She thought of all the old stories of dwarves and elves and
gnomes. There must be a dwarf hiding in the vines. Her curiosity got
the better of her fear.
"Come out where I can see you," she said. "It's all so overgrown in
here I can't really see you at all."
"You're looking right at me," the deep voice said.
"I'm sorry. I may be 'looking right at' you but I still can't see you. Are
you invisible or something?"
There was a deep, green, groan.
"Would that it were that simple," the voice sighed. "I'm the zucchini
you just stubbed your toe against."
"Don't be ridiculous."
•It's true."
"Fm not in the mood for jokes," she said, and drawing herself up to her
full height of four feet eleven inches and mustering all the dignity she
could muster, standing there in her summer nightie, she demanded:
"Come out of there right now!"
"I wish I could," said the voice. "If you would kiss me, then I could."
"How can I kiss you when I don't know where you are?"
"I told you, Tm the zucchini."
"Are you a ventriloquist?" she said. "Are you a shape-shifter?"
"Neither of those," said the voice. "I'm a handsome young prince who
has been cast under a wicked, wicked spell."
The Princess laughed merrily; the laugh sounded like the tinkle of
crystal chandeliers. She clapped her hands.
"I understand it all now. This is just one of those crazy dreams I have
sometimes. Like the time I dreamt I had a conversation with my horse.
Or the time I dreamt I was a mermaid living underneath the sea. When
I wake up tomorrow Fll tell Mother. She always asks about my dreams."
"If you think this is a dream why don't you try and wake yourself up?"
That's true. I usually can, when I realize Fm dreaming." She shut her
eyes tight and willed herself awake.
"It won't work, will it?" said the zucchini.
It wouldn't work. When she opened her eyes she was not lying in her
own little brass bed but standing upright in the midnight garden.
There's some mistake. This has to be a dream."
"A nightmare for me, maybe," said the voice, "but not a dream
for you."
"Whoever heard of a prince being turned into a zucchini! A bear, yes;
a swan, certainly; even a frog, although personally I find that one a little
hard to swallow. But a vegetable! That's utterly ridiculous. Somebody's
pulling my leg."
"Nobody's pulling your leg. I was standing in this garden one night,
very late, gazing up at the light in your little window, trying to get up
63 enough nerve to sing you a song I'd composed about your beauty when
all of a sudden I felt very strange, as though I'd faint if I didn't lie down,
so I did that and the next dung I knew I was a tiny zucchini."
The Princess laughed and laughed.
"You're not tiny now!"
"No. I grow bigger and bigger every day. It's all this watering and
sunlight. Fm afraid I may burst."
"What makes you so sure that if I kiss you you'll turn back into
a prince?"
"Isn't your name Zona?"
"Yes it is. But I didn't choose it. It's a family name. All the women in
our family have always been called Zona, God knows why. I don't like it.
As soon as Fm of age Fm going to change it to Suzanne."
"I think it's a lovely name," the zucchini said. "I come from a land far
away across the sea and I heard your name, fell in love with your name,
long before I ever saw your portrait. I travelled for a year and a day to
get here, saying your name softly to myself as I went, weary and
wind-lashed, 'Zona, Zona, Zona,' to keep my courage up."
"But why does that convince you that I can save you? Love doesn't
really conquer all and even if it did Fm not in love with you, it's the other
way around."
"Don't you see? Fve been changed into something beginning with the
letter Z. Your name begins with Z. It must be a sign. Fm sure that only
someone whose name begins with Z can save me."
"And if it's me and if my kiss can save you, what then?"
"What then! You know what then. "Happily ever after.'"
"I don't think I could stand the idea of kissing a zucchini—it's so
bizarre. What if somebody saw me!"
Think about it for a while, but hurry."
"Fm thinking about it; the idea repulses me." Then she added, "I have
to go in now, Fm getting sleepy."
"Oh please Zona," the zucchini cried. "Just one litde kiss."
"Til think about it. Anyway Fll come see you tomorrow night."
"I may have burst by then," he said sadly.
"Oh, I don't think so. And if you do, it will prove you're not really a
prince, won't it."
"Howcruel you are!" he murmured.
"Just practical," she replied, and ran back the way she had come.
The next morning it all seemed like a very silly dream. Nevertheless
she went out right after breakfast and stuck a litde hand-lettered sign in
front of the zucchini. "PLEASE DONT PICK THIS ZUCCHINI" it
said. "BY ORDER OF H.R.H. PRINCESS ZONA." She had lessons
to do so she didn't stop to chat, just stuck a broken bean pole through the
64
I sign and pushed it into the moist earth near the vine. "Fll come back
tonight," she whispered, hoping none of the gardeners would overhear her.
It wasn't a dream. The zucchini really had talked to her, really had told
her his sad tale of woe. Every evening, close to midnight, the young
princess walked up and down between the bean rows, the ripe tomatoes,
the broccoli and -cucumbers until she reached the back of the garden
where the zucchinis grew. There she sat on a cushion and listened to
stories of life in the distant land from which the prince—if he were a
prince—had come. He had a deep, thrilling, voice and she came to look
forward eagerly to his accounts of his adventures.
But she would not kiss him; she absolutely refused.
"Have you no pity," he cried. "Have you no heart?"
"I don't quite understand it myself," she admitted. "Something keeps
holding me back. At the risk of sounding offensive I dunk it really does
have something to do with the fact that you are a zucchini. What kind of
a spell is that? There's something not quite noble about it somehow."
He laughed bitterly. "Do you think the Frog Prince found it 'noble' to
be a frog?"
"I suppose he didn't. But that's another story and another princess; it's
nothing to do with me." She sighed. "Since you had to go through all
this —and I still don't understand who could have done it to you—why
couldn't you have been changed into an eagle, or a swan, or a chestnut stallion!"
"Well I wasn't. I was standing in a vegetable garden and I was changed
into a garden vegetable. That's just the way it was."
"Well it's too bad you weren't standing by the peacocks or at the
stable door."
"Ha ha." He paused. "Sometimes you're not very nice to me, you
know. I suffer horribly."
"How can I be nice to you when 'you' is only a voice. I must admit,
however, that the voice is very beautiful."
"Doesn't it make you want to see the rest?"
"Yes, no, oh—I don't know! Don't rush me."
"I can't get much bigger, Zona. I feel that if you don't release me then
Fll die."
Tell me again about the 'Happily ever after.'"
The rains had still not come and everyone seemed to exist in a kind of
terrible tension. The King snapped at the Queen, the Queen snapped at
Zona, Zona snapped at everybody. One night she sat at her dressing
table brushing her long golden hair and thinkings She tried to imagine
65 the young prince before he had been changed into a zucchini. She tried
to imagine the two of them riding off together on a white horse. She tried
to imagine happily ever after.
"98—99—100," she said, and put down her hairbrush. She stared at
herself in the mirror. The zucchini had told her she was the most
beautiful girl he had ever seen. Her mother and father told her she was
beautiful. Her mirror said the same thing.
"But who is the T who is so beautiful," she thought. "Who is she??*
"I will be fifteen next month," she thought. That's a lot of ever after."
She sat in her nightdress, with her hands in her lap, long after her
candle had sputtered and gone out. She sat like that, in the darkness, far
into the night.
It had finally rained and the King and Queen and Princess were
smiling as they dined en famille and listened to the blessed sound of the
rain on the castle roof. It was the cook's day off and Zona had begged her
mother to let her prepare the evening meal.
"Absolutely delicious,'' said the King, wiping his bowl with a piece of
bread. "What did you say it was again?"
"Ratatouille," Zona said. 1 found the recipe in The Joy of Cooking."
"It really is very very good, dear," said the Queen. "Well have to have
it again." '
The King and Queen smiled at one another tenderly.
"Our little girl is growing up," said the King.
"It won't be long," said the Queen, "before she'll be having
boyfriends."
Zona smiled at them both and offered the dish around a second time.
66 John Kelly
Just An Old Boot
In the tall grass on the edge of the school yard just down the road from
our house there is an old boot. It seems to smile through its wrinkles and
I believe it smiles because of the secret it kept for many years. Until now,
I was the only person who knew the secret.
It started on an early morning when darkness was leaving and a new
day was about to be born. Birds were tidying up their nests before going
in search of food, and rivers and lakes were waiting for the sun to sparkle
their waves. I was sitting outside when I heard a step coming down
the road.
"Hi step," I said.
"Hi John," said the step.
"And tell me," I said, "How come you're stepping down the road all
alone at this early hour of the morning without a foot on you?"
"Oh," said the step, "It's a long sad story. Anytime you see a step
without a foot on the early morning roadway, it has to be a sad story. I
don't think you'd want to hear it."
"But you're quite wrong there," I said. "Fd love to hear your story."
"Oh, all right then," said the step, making itself comfortable at
my feet.
"As you know," it said, "there are many kinds of steps—laddersteps,
stonesteps, rubbersteps and ropesteps. I am a footstep, and I started
life on the foot of a woodsman. He was a good man and always wore big
strong boots that never squeezed me. Every morning we stepped out
into the forest to cut and split wood. It was a good life until one day we
had an accident. His great axe glanced off a piece of hardwood and cut
me off his foot. The woodsman limped home and I was left alone in the
woods. I waited there for two long weeks but he never returned, so I
decided to move along.
I stepped for two hours through the tall trees and then I reached a
highway. There I found some children waiting for the school bus, so I
slipped amongst their feet and got on the bus when it came by. I chatted
with the steps on the children's feet as we went. They were all young
67 steps, of course. The bus took us to the city and I got off there. It was
terribly warm and the air was heavy with the smell of gasoline. The
pavement was hot and very hard, and already I was homesick for the
great silent trees, the gende shafts of sunlight coming through, and the
soft dark green to walk on. I sat in the shade of a garbage can and cried,
and cried. I stayed there until the garbage man took the can away.
I felt better after my rest and stepped slowly along the pavements. I
talked to steps on the feet of shoppers and business people and told them
my story, but none of them knew of a foot looking for a step. I knew that
people could go to an agency to seek work, but they said there was no
such agency for steps.
Several hot days went by and still I tried to get work. Then one day I
was under a table in a restaurant at lunchtime. While talking to the steps
of diners there I noticed the lady serving them was quite lame on one
foot, so I spoke to that step and learned that it was just tired out and
needed a good rest. I told the step I would be glad to take over for it. It
was delighted. It said it had never been to the park and wanted to spend
a week or two there. Apparendy the lady it worked for never went
further than the local store, the restaurant and the little room she lived
in. So off went the step to the park and I had my first job in the city.
I worked there for two weeks. The other waitresses kept telling the
lady how well she looked, and how fast she was now serving the
customers, but I found it a boring job and was glad to see the other step
come back at the end of two weeks. It, by now, was well rested, very
lively, and anxious to take up its job again.
I stayed around the restaurant for several days as I had now become
friends with the steps of the steady customers. One evening two soldiers
came in for coffee and I heard them discussing Private Partridge, one of
their comrades up at the parade square. It seemed that Private Partridge
was having trouble marching along with the others. One of the soldiers
said he thought Private Partridge must have two left feet, and they both
laughed. When they left I followed them back to the barracks where all
the soldiers lived, and I slept there that night. In the morning a great
bugle sound awakened me and already I could hear the steps of the
soldiers rushing down stairs and along corridors and out to the great
concrete parade square. They had a man there called the sergeant who
shouted orders in a tremendous voice, and all morning he had the men
march up and down, around, and across that great square. And all
morning he was having trouble with Private Partridge, who could not
seem to do anything right. I knew it was the step on his left foot that was
giving him trouble, so at recess when they all took off their boots to cool
their feet, I had a chat with his left step and offered to take over. The step
was only too happy to get away. It was a very young step anyway; much
too young for the army.
68 It felt good to be in a big boot again after my two weeks in the
restaurant where the waitress wore only very light slippers. Every day
we marched and drilled. The sergeant could not believe how Private
Partridge had improved! Private Partridge himself could not believe it!
He could do nothing wrong.
I made a lot of good friends amongst the army steps, but after Private
Partridge had worn out four pairs of those great big boots, I quit the
army and once again stepped out on my own.
After many enquiries I found the park where the restaurant step had
its vacation and I rested there for a few days. It was good to see green
grass again, and there was a small pool to cool off in. After three days I
stepped back to town, again looking for work. Things seemed to be
picking up a bit, for my enquiries got me several part-time jobs. I did a
couple of weeks with a sawmill worker—afternoon shift—and did some
night work with a policeman, and I found I could get odd jobs outside
the hospital helping patients in from the ambulance. I worked one
Saturday afternoon with a soccer player—and I never want to do that
again. Then one very warm day my luck changed, and indeed my whole
life changed.
On this very warm day I was downtown on a busy street amongst all
the feet and trying not to get stepped on myself. The sidewalk was so hot
I was looking for a shady place to rest a while, when I found the cool,
dark entrance to a theatre and stepped in. There was a great stage inside
with bright lights all round it and an orchestra was playing the beautiful
music of the ballet. On stage were several dancers in rehearsal. Here
were steps like I had never imagined. I was immediately in love with
dancing and stayed all afternoon. I came back the next day and every
day for a week. Eager young steps were being introduced to the dance
every day, but at last it came my turn. I was chosen to dance with a
beautiful young ballerina. It was hard work at first but I did my very
best. The ballerina seemed very pleased and the director was very happy
with her. He said she would be the greatest ballerina of all.
At last the weeks of rehearsal were over and on opening night the
theatre was filled with people. It was the greatest night of my life. The
audience enjoyed every moment of it and when I danced with my ballerina they all stood up and clapped. I had never stepped so lighdy in all
my years.
We danced every night for a week in that city and then went on to
another great city. And on we went. We danced before kings and
queens, lords, ladies, and presidents. Dancing was now my only love
and as the years went by I saw all the great countries of the world
and our dancing brought joy and happiness to young and old. But
at last....
69 At last it was time for the ballerina to retire. One night she hung up
her ballet slippers and never danced again. Since then I have been
stepping around alone."
Well, that is the story the step told me, so I asked if it would like to go
back in the woods again, or perhaps with some soldier or policeman, and
the step replied sadly:
"No, I could not do it. Dancing was my life and my love. All I wanted
was to dance but I am too old to start again with another ballerina."
"Well, you did have a good life, didn't you?" I asked.
"O yes, I did," said the step. "I had a wonderful life, much more
exciting than most steps have, but often in far-off crowded cities I would
think back to the pleasant days of my youth in the woodsman's boot."
By this time the sun was up and the step became drowsy. It was almost
asleep when the sound of children's voices filled the air. The children
were singing and dancing along the roadway going to school. Suddenly
the step came awake and was filled with joy and excitement. It joined
their steps and away they went.
Now, if you ever come by our school, please stop and see how the
children sing and dance. And if you go to the edge of the schoolyard you
will find amongst the tall grasses a wrinkled old boot that seems to smile.
It is a boot such as men wore in the great forests many years ago. I
know, because I got it from a very old woodsman who had only one
footstep, and who placed the boot there.
And it's not just any old boot. It's the boot in which the step now lives
when it's not out helping the children with their dancing.
70 Susan Musgrave/FMtt Poems
From: Kestrel and Leonardo
Leonardo lives in the sky.
He has a good view from up there.
Sometimes he takes tea and sandwiches
to the cemetery.
His wings are big and bright, also.
There are plenty of clouds in the sky
and small stars that make
the simple shapes of animals.
Oh, the smiling fields!
Oh, the faces of angels!
Kestrel flies over the jungle.
She flutters above the phantom elephants,
the haunted tigers.
She flies over a construction site
where men with bulldozers are ravaging a
field of goldenrod.
She flies into the windflowers
dreaming of sleep.
She rises out of a dead city
into the enormous heart of the universe.
She will line her nest with bones
and her own crushed feathers. Leonardo is feeding the jungle.
The jungle is rumble-hungry, full of
lost children.
They eat anything.
They eat fish-gloat and penguin-glut.
They eat toad-frogs and greasy-pig,
oily-snake and beetle-grunt.
They eat one another.
They eat wolf-sly and chicken-slaughter.
They eat everyone.
They eat tourist-fingers and camera-icing,
money-gizzard and aeroplane-lick.
Lost children with teeth for tearing meat.
Litde children who gobble their own mothers.
Lost litde children chewing loud and hard and fast.
Greedy litde creatures!
The horribles!
72 Leonardo sleeps
in the Great Bear's belly.
It is warm and hairy in there
and smells like a big
department store.
Leonardo dreams of toys,
of chocolate bars and comics.
He dreams of chewing gum and
licorice sticks,
of racing cars and tobacco.
The Great Bear smacks his
bear-chops
dreaming of Leonardo.
Leonardo between two slices
of thin dry toast.
Leonardo served simply
with salad.
Kestrel sleeps wrapped up in a polar bear.
Leonardo sleeps wrapped in his best newspaper.
Kestrel chews pieces of driftwood.
Leonardo eats shirt pockets and old buttonholes.
Kestrel dives like a fighter bomber,
Leonardo sings lullabies.
Kestrel lays golden eggs under the stars.
Leonardo embroiders them with tiny silver moons.
73 George Bowering
The Clam Digger
& The Turtle
Needless to say, Woodruff was surprised to be spoken to so suddenly on
the empty early morning beach, especially by a turtle. Or was it a tortoise? He could never remember which was which. In any case, this was
the kind that lives in the ocean & on the shore beside the ocean. Anyway,
he preferred to call it a turtle, at least in his mind, because turtle is easier
to say than tortoise.
"Pardon me, what did you say?" he asked, feeling a litde foolish. He
was awfully glad there was nobody else on the beach.
"I said what are you doing out on the beach so early in the morning,"
repeated the turtle, looking at Woodruff unblinkingly.
"Fm looking for clams. Fm a clam digger by trade. In the summer,
anyway."
"Do you make much money—digging clams?" asked the turtle, not
seeming to realize that that kind of question can embarrass a man.
"Well, uh, no," said Woodruff, digging in the cool sand with his bare
big toe. "But it's all I know how to do. And, uh, Fve got a monopoly
here, on account of nobody else wants to dig them. There arent an awful
lot of clams along this part of the coast."
"Well," said the turtle, beginning to scuff his toe in the sand too. "Well,
there are a lot of things a man can do, but most of them dont make him
much money. Do you have dreams?"
"You mean at night?" said Woodruff. "Sure, I dream about falling a
lot, & sometimes about clams, hundreds & thousands of clams half sunk
in the sand, & me coming along with a truck & piling it foil of clams.
Things like that."
"I mean dreams like daydreams, impossible aspirations. Owning
empires or living in style in a fancy Paris hotel. That kind of dream,"
said the turtle.
"Oh,   yeah,   sure,"   said   Woodruff,   unaccountably   embarrassed.
74 "Everyone has dreams like that. Impossible dreams. I always wanted to
be the king of some litde island in the East Indies. Impossible, though."
"Not impossible," said the turtle, & then yawned, as only a turtle can
yawn, as only a turtle with a head proportioned to a shell six feet from tip
to tail can yawn.
"Impossible," said Woodruff, getting a litde bored, his eyes scanning
the length of sand for likely places where clams could be buried.
"Not impossible, not impossible," said the turtle. There are men who
are kings of tropical islands, & others who run gambling casinos on the
coasts of the Mediterranean. Men so rich, with houses so luxurious they
would blind you with their gold & ivory."
"Impossible for clam diggers, then," Woodruff persisted.
"Once more, not impossible," said the turtle, with a new note of caution in his vaguely serpentine voice.
"Aw, come on."
"I can make you a prince in the strongest & richest & most beautiful
kingdom imaginable," said the turtle.
"Where?"
"Under the ocean. In the so-called dark deeps. Right out there below
the Pacific's placid surface."
"Oh yeah, & I can dig clams with golden shells," said Woodruff, sarcastically, now that the novelty of a talking turtle was done with.
That is an impossible dream," said the turtle. "But what I can offer,
what I do offer, is to make you a happy prince at the ocean floor."
"Well, Fve got news for you, turtle. I cant breathe underwater, even if
I could go to your little kingdom."
"It's hardly a little kingdom. It covers two-thirds of the world. Furthermore, I dont think you should be so gosh-all-fired sure what's possible &
what's impossible, anyway. Do you think an English-speaking turtle is
possible, for example?"
Technically, no," said Woodruff, losing some of his gosh-all-fired
certainty.
Then if a talking turtle tells you you can breathe under the ocean,
you'd be just as well off to believe him. That's only logical, for Pete's
sake," said the turtle, turning slowly around to face the water.
"Okay, just to keep things going, I believe you."
"Right. Okay, are you coming? Hop on."
"Wait a minute. What about everything here? What about my
business? What about my friends?"
"Can you become a prince in your business?"
"Not likely."
"How many friends do you have?*
"Well, lots. Quite a few. Well, not so much friends so much as people
75 I like to see every day, & say hello to. Some of them, anyway. Not so
many, really, just a few. Though they arent really friends or acquaintances. Fm not the town's most honored citizen, by any rate. Just that
you get used to seeing the same buildings & trees & so on. You could do
that anywhere, I suppose, but —well, when you come right down to it, I
guess I havent got any what you would call friends. Nor enemies, either,
mind you. Just people you see, even if you never do find out their names."
"Right. No friends," said the turtle, his short pointy tail switching
back & forth, making a fan shape in the sand.
"Well, you dont have to put it just that way."
"Okay, no special friends. So what's keeping you here?"
"I guess you're right," said Woodruff, & looked uncertainly out to sea.
"So hop on," said the turtle.
"Okay," said Woodruff, & climbed up on the high shell.
"Grip tight with your knees. We really get going once I get into the
water," said the turtle over his sloping shoulder.
Then, just as they started the slow turtle-paced trip to the edge of the
sea, a cracked voice cried out, "Wait!"
They stopped, turning to see an unbelievably old man hobbling
toward them, with a shiny black cane in his hand. The old man finally
reached them, but it appeared that he couldnt have gone much farther.
Sitting on the turtle, Woodruff was keenly aware that any conversation
the feeble old man had in mind would be very awkward. He waited.
"Dont go," the old man croaked, his watery eyes looking up at
Woodruff.
"Oh, for Pete's sake!" said the turtle. "If we dont get started well never
go anywhere." He recommenced his slow wriggle to the sea.
"What a strange old man. Wonder what was on his mind," said
Woodruff.
"Who can tell with these nutty old codgers?" replied the turtle. "Okay,
hang on tight, here we go."
Down, down, down, they went in the water, & after holding his
breath for as long as he could, Woodruff was surprised, despite what the
turtle had said, to find that his lungs didnt burst. It wasnt that he could
breathe underwater, it was just that he didnt have to. He was also surprised to find out that after half an hour he didnt feel wet anymore. The
water felt as natural to him as the air had felt all his life. Down they
went, & all the time they descended the colours around them changed
like the changling blues & oranges & greens of an old-fashioned jukebox.
All the time the turtle swam at an amazing speed, his sharp nose
pointed down at a forty-five degree angle, his strong nippers plying the
water. Woodruff was so fascinated that he lost all sense of time—they
could have been in the water for ten hours or ten minutes. Then, as they
76 were rounding an underwater volcano, the turtle said over his shoulder,
"See that shaft of purple light? We follow that for a minute ft well be
there. Home."
Into the light they went, & in one minute they swam out into the most
beautiful place Woodruff had ever seen. Tall wriggly white casdes like
the ones in goldfish bowls, but a thousand times as big, stood in uneven
rows as far as the eye could see. Fernlike trees stood & wavered slighdy
all over the place, & under them, between them, on top of them, people
stood or sat in groups. Not people, exactly, but not fish either, &
certainly not mermaids or mermen. But they were all beautiful, dressed
in flowing cloth arranged loosely about their bodies, playing soft music on
instruments that looked like soft pulpy guitars, talking & laughing musically, holding hands, or something like hands, & looking at one another,
collecting brilliantly colored flowers from the wispy trees.
Woodruff was so struck by the sight that he wanted to get off the turtle
right away & go & sit with the people & listen to the music & singing, &
eat some of the delicious looking food they were giving one another. But
the turtle kept swimming, more luxuriously now, toward the largest
casde, the only pink castle in sight. They didnt even stop at the castle
door. They kept right on, the turtle swimming in thru the door & along a
great corridor made entirely of coral & gold. At the end of the corridor
they swam into the largest room Woodruff had ever seen. The room was
hung with drapes that stretched upward out of sight, hung with starfish,
pearls, gold nuggets, old anchors, all glittering in the light that shone in
varying colors, red, yellow, mauve, like an old-fashioned jukebox. At
one end of the room was a giant gold throne with a person sitting on it &
a dozen pretty girls sitting around, playing music & reading from filmy
white books. In front of the throne was a long table piled high with
food—buttered clams, oysters, shrimp, lobster, salmon—all the things
Woodruff liked best. He suddenly noticed that he was tremendously
hungry.
But they passed the table & came to a stop in front of the white-
bearded old man on the throne. The turtle floated out from under
Woodruff.
"Dont try to walk. Just float," said the turtle, & floated beside him,
facing the old man.
"Is this him?" asked the old man in a bubbly voice.
This is him," said the turtle.
"What's your name, young fellow?" asked the old man.
"Woodruff."
"Well, you're Prince Woodruff now. Did he tell you about that?" the
old man asked, gesturing vaguely toward the turtle.
"Yes, sort of. But Fm not clear on what Fm prince of."
"You're the prince of the whole works, the whole shebang," replied the
77 old man, floating off the throne. "So climb up here, & we'll get you fed &
then fix you up with all the accessories & necessities—wardrobe, wife,
cooks, tailor, buder, etcetera."
Woodruff was in a daze thru the meal. He had never tasted such
delicious seafood, & after a while he lost track of how much he had
eaten. He just consumed course after course, the best food in the
world—or under the sea. He was in such an ecstacy that he wondered if
the food had been drugged.
Then after the meal, which must have taken three hours, or whatever
was used to measure time under the ocean, Woodruff mounted the
throne, put on the coral & pearl crown the old man had given him, &
watched as the clothes & jewels, tapestries & ornaments were paraded in
front of him & along the endless walls.
For a week he sat on the throne & chose hundreds of the brightly
colored flowing garments, dozens of servants, his squadron of turtles for
transportation, millions of dollars worth of things, though no one here
ever mentioned dollars, or any other kind of money. No one ever told
him he should limit his selections. Prince Woodruff could have whatever
he wanted, as much as he wanted. Once in a while, as he signed for
another six turtles or five servants, he had feelings of guilt. He wasnt
used to getting anything without working long hours for it. Sometimes
he had dug clams for two days to buy a dozen apples.
"What are my duties here?" he once asked the old man.
"Duties? You have no duties here. You're the prince," said the old
man, as if Woodruff had asked a stupid question.
At the end of the week it was time to choose a wife to be his princess.
The plan was that he would sit on the throne, & the most eligible ladies
of the kingdom would be presented to him, one by one. The whole thing
made him nervous, & he bit his fingernails as he waited on the throne,
first sitting up straight & princely, then slouching casually against one
side of the throne, then sitting up again. As a clam digger back on the
Pacific Coast he had had no time for meeting girls, & he would have
been afraid to talk to one anyway, being just a poor clam digger. He was
very shy.
"Miss Oona," announced the old man, floating up to the throne with
the first young woman.
She wore a flowing white garment that trailed off behind her in the
water & became indistinguishable from the shifting light that came thru
a window high in the castle wall. Her hair was a light color, something
between red & blonde, the color of fresh carrots pulled out of the ground
a little early. Her face was too lovely to describe.
The food," said the old man, & a servant brought a covered dish to
Woodruff. The servant took the cover off & floated the dish in front
of him.
78 "Squab," remarked mistaken Woodruff, & tasted it. "It's the best thing
Fve ever eaten," he said as the servant took away the empty dish.
Oona dropped her eyes, though a happy smile turned the corners of
her coral pink lips.
The music," said the old man, & the servant handed Oona one of the
stringed instruments all girls played outside the castle walls. She played
on the strings, her head bowed over them.
That's the nicest thing Fve ever heard," said Woodruff, when she
had finished.
"Good," said the old man. "Now we will bring you the second applicant." He floated away with Oona, whose light hair waved behind her.
"No," said Woodruff, & stood up.
"But we have a hundred applicants to show you this afternoon."
"No. I want to marry Miss Oona," said Woodruff. His cheeks went
red. He was shocked at his own impulsiveness. "I mean, if she will have
me," he added.
"Of course she will have you," said the old man. He was right.
Woodruff could tell that from the way she was looking at him.
So they were married.
So they lived happily ever after.
Or at least for quite a while. In fact time was so uncertain there that it
was impossible to tell how long they had been married. The only guide
to measurement was the children, four of them, all as beautiful as their
mother, all of them able to make their father deliriously happy. Except
once in a while after the fourth child had grown to the height of a hand
held down to pat her soft-haired head.
It wasnt that Prince Woodruff was unhappy with his kingdom & his
princess & his four children. But he had ever-fading memories of his life
before he had become a prince, of an airy place above water, where he
had been the clam digger, Woodruff. At first he never told Oona or
anyone else about his thoughts, but when they became more frequent he
had to tell someone. He told Oona first, & she cried, which made it
worse, so he didnt mention it for a long time. But the hankering would
not go away, & once more, after quite along time, he mentioned it again.
"But you will never come back here if you go above," she cried.
"Yes, I will, I just want to have one last look. Then Fll come right
back. After all, I have a kingdom & a family to look after," he answered.
But Oona made no reply. So a few days later he mentioned it to the
old man, who looked the same as he had the first day Woodruff had
come to the kingdom.
"Hmmm. I was wondering when you were going to get around to
that," said the old man. "Well, we cant stop you, you know. You're the
prince. If you want to take a visit to your former place, all you have to do
is summon your turtle. It's completely your own decision."
79 Knowing that, Woodruff began to think about bis trip to the upper
world more & more. Until one day he told his wife he was going to be
away for a few days.
"You are going up to the old place you lived in before you came to us,"
she said accusingly, sadly.
"Yes, I want to have one last look," he said softly, trying not to
frighten her.
"You will never come back," she said.
"Yes I will," he said. There is nothing for me there. All my life is
down here, with you. This is the only place where I can be happy."
So he tried for a long time to comfort her, but she lapsed into a strange
silence, & even the children sensed that there was something the matter,
& they looked at him with strange eyes. But he knew he would be back,
so he did not feel badly. He would make them all happy again when he
returned. He had to take one final look at his old Pacific Coast.
He summoned his long-distance turtle & was almost ready to mount,
when he saw the old man floating toward him, carrying a small metal
case in his hand.
"You're ready to go, are you, my prince?" asked the old man.
"Yes. Fll be back in a couple days."
"Well, I have something for you to take with you."
"What is it?" asked Woodruff, taking the metal case in his hand.
"It's a watch-case," said the old man. "It's from a sunken Canadian
ship. You have to take it with you when you go above. But you must not
open it. Time means nothing to us here, & you have no use for a watch.
Remember, you have to bring it back to me when you return, & you
must not open it when you are out of your kingdom."
"Seems kind of funny to me, but I guess you know what you're talking
about," said Woodruff, holding the watch-case in the palm of his closed
hand.
"It's well. Have a good trip," said the old man.
Thank you, I will, & Fll see you in a few days," said Woodruff,
mounting his turtle.
Out of the castle they floated & out thru the shaft of light, up thru
layers of changing colors like the lights on old-fashioned jukeboxes. It
was only half-familiar to Woodruff, this reverse of his adventurous
descent of how long ago. It got lighter the higher they went, & soon
Woodruff was struck by a fierce blow of bright sunlight. They were at
the surface of the ocean, & moving quickly to an old familiar landmass.
For a moment Woodruff had a fear that he wouldnt be able to breathe in
the free air, but he found himself breathing easily, as if he were letting
out the deep breath he had taken when he had first clipped under water.
"Here we are," said the turtle, clumsily pulling himself out of the water
& onto the wet sand of the beach.
80 Woodruff stood up on the sand, a litde unsteady on his feet at first, &
looked around. It was the same beach on which he had first met the
talking turtle.
"Fm going to take a walk into town & have a look around," he said to
his turtle. "Ill be back in one hour."
"You will, eh?" said the turtle, quite disrespectfully. Woodruff began
walking along a path he had used many times before. How long had it
been? Six years? Seven? How would he be able to explain things to the
people he would meet in the town?
Then he was walking down the main street with its white stores. It was
noon, & a lot of people were out on the sidewalks. Woodruff scanned the
faces of people as he passed among them, but he didnt seem to know
anyone. It must be that a man's mind begins to forget things when he has
been away six years, he thought. After all, he had never been away from
the town before in his life. But he walked up & down the street for half an
hour, & he didnt recognize anyone. Sometimes there was a face that was
vaguely familiar, but no one he could remember certainly.
Finally he decided to make a test. He went into old man Webster's
barber shop. There were two barbers cutting hair, & two customers
waiting. The two barbers were middle-aged men, unknown to Woodruff.
He went up to the nearest chair & asked, "Is Mister Webster around?"
"Sure, he's around," said the man, without stopping his scissors. "He's
buried back of the church, along with the rest of the Webster family,
where he's been for the last fifty or sixty years."
Woodruff went back out onto the sidewalk & watched the people going
by for a while. He grew more & more nervous as more & more strangers
went by. The last fifty or sixty years, he thought. Nervously his fingers
played with the object in his hand. It was the metal watch-case, & his
fingers had partly opened it, just cracked the lid open a slice.
He wanted to look inside.
But he wasnt supposed to open it.
But he was nervous, & curious, & wanted to look inside a lot.
He opened it.
A puff of green smoke broke out of the watch-case & made a little
cloud in the air in front of his eyes. Then it seemed to rise slowly. His
body was suddenly cramped in pain. He turned around & looked at his
reflection in the glass window of the barber shop.
He was an old old man, an unbelievably old bent-up man with long
dirty white beard & thousands of wrinkles in his gray face. He took a
step, & pains went thru his brittle bones.
"I have to get back to the beach," he thought. He started moving, each
step sending greater pain over his whole body. With agony he made his
way back to die beach, not as quickly as he wanted to, just as slowly as
81 his body allowed. He knew that if he could get back into the water, on
the turtle's back, he would be safe. Oona had said he would not return.
Even the turtle had hinted that he would not.
He made it to the beach, but he felt as if his old bones had splintered
into dry shards. He walked, hobbled, along the sand as fast as he could.
As he reached the top of a dune, he looked down & saw the turtle
talking to a young man in poor clothes. Immediately he began stumbling
down the slope toward them, yelling in his cracked voice.
"Dont go! Dont go!" he bellowed, & watched as the turtle & the young
man turned their heads toward him. They watched as he hobbled up to
them. When he got there the young man was on the turtle's back.
"Dont go," he said, looking up with watery eyes at the young man.
"Come on, let's go," he heard the turtle say.
He lay on the sand, watching them inch toward the water's edge. After
they had disappeared under the water he lay there. Just before the. sun
went down behind the ocean he saw a clam half out of the sand.
82 Dennis Lee/ Three Poems
MRS MURPHY AND MRS MURPHY'S KIDS
Mrs Murphy,
If you please,
Kept her kids
In a can of peas.
The kids got bigger
And the can filled up,
So she moved them into
A measuring cup.
But the kids got bigger
And the cup got crammed,
So she poured them into
A frying pan.
But the kids grew bigger
And the pan began to stink,
So she pitched them all
In the kitchen sink.
But the kids kept growing
And the sink went kaplooey,
So she dumped them on their ears
In a crate of chop suey.
But the kids kept growing
And the crate got stuck,
So she carted them away
In a ten-ton truck.
And she said, "Thank goodness
I remembered that truck,
Or my poor litde children
Would be out of luck!"
83 But the darn kids grew
Till the truck wouldn't fit,
And she had to haul them off
To a gravel pit.
But the kids kept growing
Till the pit was too small,
So she bedded them down
In a shopping mall.
But the kids grew enormous
And the mall wouldn't do,
So she herded them together
In an empty zoo.
But the kids grew gigantic
And the fence went pop!
So she towed them away
To a mountain top.
But the kids just grew
And the mountain broke apart,
And she said, "Darned kids,
They were pesky from the start!"
So she waited for a year,
And she waited for another,
And the kids grew up
And had babies like their mother.
And Mrs Murphy's kids—
You can think what you please—
Kept all their kids
In a can of peas.
84 THE DOUGHNUT HOLE
A doughnut hole was shining,
Shining,
Shining,
A doughnut hole was shining
Above a boat of gravy.
And three white mice came riding,
Riding,
Riding,
Three white mice came riding
Towards the boat of gravy.
They parked their cars by the goal-post,
Goal-post,
Goal-post,
They parked their cars by the goal-post
Beside the boat of gravy.
They pulled out sub-machine-guns,
Machine-guns,
Machine-guns,
They pulled out sub-machine-guns
Beside the boat of gravy.
They shot the hole from the doughnut,
The doughnut,
The doughnut,
They shot the hole from the doughnut
All over the boat of gravy.
But the doughnut hole kept saining,
Shining,
Shining,
The doughnut hole kept shining
Above the boat of gravy.
85 SILVERLY
Silverly,
Silverly,
Over the
Trees
The moon drifts
By on a
Runaway
Breeze.
Dozily,
Dozily,
Deep in her
Bed,
A litde girl
Dreams with the
Moon in her
Head.
86 NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
Martin Anderson lives in Hong Kong.
George Bowering's novel, Burning Water, will soon be published in French by Les
Quinze, Montreal.
Derrick Carter is a Vancouver-based Art Director/Graphic Designer. The cover for this
issue is the last of three which he has prepared for PRISM during the past year.
Kamo no Chomei (1155-1216) lived through the chaotic era in which the Genji family
slowly lost its grip on Japan's imperial house.
Philip Hughes is a sometime professor, salesman, and janitor who lives in Brookline,
Massachusetts.
John Kelly is a playwright and construction worker who emigrated from Ireland to
Canada in 1954. He lives with his family on a small farm in Westbridge, B.C.
Michael Ken yon lives in Victoria, B.C.
W.P. Kinsella recently won a Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship Award for his
novel, Shoeless Joe.
Irving Layton was born in Rumania in 1912 and has lived in Canada, mainly Montreal
since he was one year old. A volume of his selected poems entitled A Wild Peculiar Joy
(McClelland & Stewart) will appear in September, 1982.
Dennis Lee's books for children include Alligator Pie (Macmillan, 1974) and Garbage Delight (Macmillan, 1977,).
Eric McCormack lives and teaches in Waterloo, Ontario.
Susan Musgrave's latest book is Tarts and Muggers (McClelland & Stewart, 1982), a collection of new and selected poems.
87 William Marsh is a translator, poet, and fiction writer who lives in Minneapolis, Minne-
John O'Neill is a twenty-three year old student at the University of Toronto.
Lawrence Russell has published two volumes of plays and is currendy working on a
novel.
Richard Simas lives in Montreal where he makes a living as a clown/mime.
Audrey Thomas's most recent book is Two in the Bush and Other Stories (New Canadian
Library, 1982).
Sean Virgo was born in Malta in 1940 and emigrated to Canada in 1966. He now lives on
Saltspring Island in B.C. and teaches at the University of Victoria.
Derk Wynand is author of the book One Cook, Once Dreaming.
The Canada Council has announced that Ray Ellenwood is recipient
of the Council's 1981 Translation Prize for Entrails (Coach House
Press), Ellen wood's translation into English of 26 dramatic pieces by
Quebec writer Claude Gauvreau. Two of these pieces, Tetrouchka",
and "The Shadow on the Hoop" appeared in PRISM 20:3.
88  I—,_
$3.25
M
ISSN 0032-8790

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