PRISM international

Prism international Prism international Apr 30, 1973

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 international  Editor-in-Chief    jacob zilber
Acting Editor-in-Chief    michael bullock
Associate Editors    douglas bankson
Managing Editors    james mcginniss
Editorial Assistants    phillip groves
The Deserter
A Ruler of Mind
The Idaho Jacket
Forget That Grapefruit;
Here Come The Midgets
Along the Red Deer and
the South Saskatchewan
Luke Easter's Home Run,
Dierdre, and I
The True Image
Three Ghostly Anecdotes
Sacrifice on Sunday
To Kill a Child
The Game of Goose
Three Poems
New Year's Eve
How Deep is the Snow?
Three Poems
Two Poems
Two Poems
Three Poems
Two Poems
Half-Way From Here to There
62 Three Poems tulin erbas
Two Poems Joseph Hutchison
Two Poems jagna boraks
Three Poems charles lillard
The cover drawing and those inside are by Ian Robinson, an English writer
and graphic artist, who lectures in Comparative Literature at Kingston Polytechnic, Surrey, and edits the magazine Oasis.
The Editor apologizes for the omission from PRISM 12:2 of the following note,
which   should  have  accompanied  the  translations  by  Patrick  O'Neill  of two
stories by Alfred Doblin:   "From Alfred Doblin, Die Ermordung einer Butter-
blume, copyright Walter Verlag AG 1962."
notes on contributors appear beside their work
PRISM international, a journal of contemporary writing, is published three
times a year by the Department of Creative Writing at the University of British
Columbia, Vancouver 8, B.C. Annual subscriptions are $5.00, single copies
$1.75, obtainable by writing to the Editors at that address. Microfilm editions
are available from University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and reprints
(vols. 1-5) from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, NYC. Agnes Boyer lives and writes in Oakville, Ontario.
The deserter sits at the kitchen table. He eats his cold beef
sandwiches slowly and quietly.
"I only keep the fellows two days," I say.
The deserter looks at me and says nothing. His face is a blank
page and the eyes that return every look I give him give back the
same blank answer.
"I find it works out best that way," I say.
He still says nothing. His face is young-old; his wrists are very
slim. The knuckles on his fingers show white through the thin skin.
He continues eating in the same careful manner, but his eyes now
move from mine to the open door and the green-wet shimmering
beyond. He watches the Uttle poplars flickering in the wind against
the deep blue of the southern Ontario sky. It's very nice here, his
look says.
He looks down at his plate.
"Most of them can't stand me much longer than that, anyway,"
I say, trying for a smile. "My husband is not — "I search for the
word that will not wound too deeply, — "how shall we say? Sympathetic."
The eyes shift and move and come up to my face, then lower
and rest upon my mouth.
"It's not been easy for him," I say. "Here. His life here, I mean.
It wasn't easy for him before either, you know. When he was a
young man, I mean."
His gaze moves just beyond me. His eyes reflect nothing at my
words; it is impossible to know what he is thinking. His silence is
beginning to nettle me. After all, I think, I could tell him what they
instructed me downtown: "Promise one night only. See how it
works out. Then you can extend your invitation if you like."
"And then, too," I say aloud, "it's my son's room, you know. And
he may be trekking home anytime this weekend." I chuckle softly to myself. "One never knows about him, you know. He's that kind of
fellow. A kind of a kook, you know."
His face has formed into a kind of rigid mask. "Would you like
some more coffee?" I ask, jolting the table a little as I start up.
His arms lie inert on the table. I can see that it will not take a
hard word to evict him, not even a frowning glance; he has already
accepted his unacceptance. And yet, somehow, this one is different:
I sense somewhere deep inside him, strong and hard, a person still;
and him carefully maintaining that sure knowledge, even while the
whole external world contrives to make something else of him.
"You got a lot more, then?" he asks, the sentence rising in the
air just before the end, like a question that has changed its mind,
and I hear the mountain highlands of central Pennsylvania in his
deep voice.
"I'm going out for awhile," I say, pouring the coffee. "Do you
think you might like to cut some grass in back?"
"Yeah, sure," he says, softly, drinking noiselessly.
I hover near the table; I am not through with him yet.
"Have you been to Rochdale at all? You should really try to
find a place in Metro, you know. Where there are groups of people
you could get in with; meet, I mean. Others like yourself, I mean."
The deep suntan on his face has already begun to fade. His eyes
are grey, deep-set and penetrating.
"If you would just get one of those underground newspapers," I
continue, trying not to show impatience, "you'd get to learn about
these things — your way around and all."
How docile he is, I think. I sit down again, opposite. I want to
tell him then about how it is with Sherman and how I usually give
fellows like him a place to stay only when Sherm was gone to the
States or the West Coast or someplace like that. I want to tell him
that last winter Sherman made a trip to Japan and I had two
fellows like him living in the downstairs room; but I am afraid
he will answer me with another blank look. I want to tell him he
will have to learn to be tough here, — tougher than ever, because
there is a stigma on him here, not from what he has done, but just
from his origin. I want to tell him how the hatred comes thick here
now, thick and virulent, a superficial amiability hiding an ill-concealed contempt, a hatred spreading now and touching everything
and everyone, in its intensity making no distinctions among comers
from the south; — but he would not hear me now, at any rate, so
very wary has he become. "Have you been to the Hall? They have a great meal down there
on Christmas and Thanksgiving, I've heard." He stares at me. "You
haven't been there? You should, you know. You should look it up.
You could make some good contacts there, you know."
"What's that?" His voice comes out loud, startling me a little.
"The Hall? It's just a place where the American exiles go." He
waits. "I've never been there myself, you understand," I add hurriedly, "I've only heard about it. It's right downtown someplace."
I wave my arm in that direction; as it drops, my fingers brush his
sleeve, and I pull my hand back to me quickly. A faint shadow
crosses his face then, like the shadow of a passing bird's wing, faint
and fleeting; I think I see disgust, or something very close to it, and
I suppress the little points of anger rising up in me. "The lawn
mower's in the garage," I say abruptly.
He smiles to himself then, a tiny smile, hiding his poor teeth. I
leave the room quickly to avoid his eyes. I go upstairs to get my
purse and keys and when I come down he has gone out into the
back and is standing next to the rose garden. Hands in his pockets,
his stance is detached, dreamy.
I am gone for half an hour before I remember another thing the
man downtown had said: "Never leave them alone in the house
when you're not there." I force myself not to hurry, to pace myself
as if it were any other shopping trip, any other day. I visit the
supermarket, the bank, the liquor store. I buy every vegetable I can
ever imagine using, waiting patiently for each weighing. I look at all
the American magazines, glossy and blatant, stacked in the rack
near the check-out counter. I spend a lot of time reading the lists of
all the foreign wines at the LCBO outlet. I finally pick out a
Graves and a Portuguese rose, declining the Puerto Rican rum
because it is just too expensive here. I write out the ticket. I add up
the figures twice, tear up the slip of paper, and start over again. I
don't know why I am so tense. I walk over to the library to return
a book that isn't even due yet. Coming back, I make myself stop
before a gallery window filled with bad portraits of somebody's
children, the kind of thing that usually turns me right off.
When I get back to the house, I leave the car in the driveway and
walk around the side and see that the grass in back has been cut.
I go in the house and start to put away the groceries. The young
man is nowhere about. Presently I am aware of him moving quietly
about in one of the little bedrooms in the back and I am overcome
with a compelling desire to get out of the house again. I wash my hands at the kitchen sink, and taking scissors out of the drawer,
walk out into the front again. I will cut some flowers for the dinner
table, a regular early summer bouquet; Sherman will like that.
I am standing next to the gladioli bed when he comes out of the
house, carrying a large duffel-bag. Scissors in hand, I stare at him.
"I'm shovin' off," he says. The slim face breaks out into a shy,
quick half-smile. "Well, thanks a lot for everything!"
He does not put out his hand and I do not offer mine; we remain
separate and inviolate. Only his long gaze holds us in our fixed
positions, the space between us filled with unspoken words.
"But I said you could stay another night!"
"That's all right," he says. "I was going into Toronto anyway."
He shifts the weight of the duffel bag on his back. Standing away
from me, erect, he seems stronger, as if power has returned to him
with his newly regained ability to refuse. The small smile is pulling
down the corners of his face. "Well, thanks a lot!"
"Good luck." My voice catches and holds me back; he is already
walking away from me.
"Wait! Don't you want a lift to the Queen E?"
"No, that's all right," he says. He is already half-way down the
drive-way; he seems to want to get away from me.
"Good luck," I call. I watch him walk away with the long blue
bag slung over one shoulder until he disappears behind the chestnut
tree on the next property. Then I go back into the house.
I walk through all the rooms, up and down, and then out to the
terrace in back. I sit down and watch the sunlight playing on the
surface of the pool, the pale green moving shimmer reflecting
through the heavy fluidity below.
After awhile, guilt comes out and sits down in the folding chair
beside me. Alan MacKenzie is a student at the University of Prince Edward Island. His
poetry will be appearing in Haiku Highlights and the Kansas Quarterly.
Fred sat hunched over in the corner of the cafeteria, his elbows
on his knees and his chin on the table. He stopped contemplating
the dirty ashtray a foot from his face and followed the young man
descending the steps. His eyes trailed the figure walking toward the
counter. He did not move his head and finally the young man
disappeared from his fine of vision. I know him, he stated silently
with satisfaction.
Moving his jaw, Fred felt his chin rasp on the table. He needed a
shave and his fingernails were dirty. His hair should be washed, too,
he thought; it's awfully dirty and he could feel the weight pressing
down on him.
The person he had been contemplating sat down opposite him.
"Hello Fred," the guy said, sipping his coffee.
"Hello." Fred was staring at the ashtray again. He's a nice guy,
he thought. A bit weird, but okay. Some people were fooled but
they were stupid. He knew the other was weird and it made him
feel good. But he couldn't ask why the other was weird or why he
felt that way. You just don't ask things like that. He shrugged and
reached into his pocket. He took out his last cigarette and lit it with
his last match.
"I'm lighting my last cigarette with my last match."
"That's nice," the other commented. His chair was on two legs as
he leaned backwards. His left leg was on top of the table.
Fred looked at the leg. The other wore a snowboot; it was quite
dirty. Fred didn't mind the boot on the table, but it was quite
muddy, he thought. It must be in one's personality, to be able to do
that. Anyway, it looked sort of game. Leaning back with your foot
on the table, like you didn't care. Real informal. And since it didn't
bother you, it didn't bother anyone else. It was a brown boot. It had
brown mud on it. It looked real dirty, thought Fred. "It looks real dirty," he said.
"What looks dirty?"
"Your boot."
The other laughed. "Well, it's pretty sloppy outside." The other
boot landed on the table.
With his chin still on the table, Fred dragged on his cigarette.
He thought he had been put down pretty neatly. Not everyone
could have done it that way. First of all pretending not to know he
meant the boot, and then taking the question objectively and answering the same way, without any indication of the social implications. Then putting the other boot on the table. Neat. It was
even neater because his foot wasn't in the second one. There was
one filled boot and one empty boot on the table. Fred wondered
why he had taken the boot off.
"Why did you take the boot off?"
"My foot's warm."
Fred would have nodded but his chin was still on the table. He
took a bead and blew smoke at the empty boot and then flicked
ashes at the ashtray. He considered the response. It seemed all right
and quite reasonable. It is a known fact that one foot is larger than
the other, so maybe the size differential caused the warmth. Fred
wondered if the other foot was warm.
"Is your other foot warm?"
Then it must be the difference in sizes. Fred wondered if it was
the smaller foot that caused the warmth.
"Which of your feet is the biggest?"
The other just stared at him. But he took the boot with the foot
in it off the table. Fred pretended not to notice. He exhaled some
more smoke and flicked some more ashes. He was surprised; he
hadn't expected that. He'd figured he'd get another objective
answer. One saying that the right or the left foot was the larger, or,
just a bit differently, that one or the other was the smaller. But the
other had said nothing and the boot with the foot in it was now off
the table. He must be ashamed; yet he shouldn't be. Everyone
knows that a pair of feet are different sizes. With an objective
answer he would have thought nothing of it, especially if he had
kept his foot on the table. If the other had replied "left" or "right"
and had taken his foot away he would have dropped the subject. He
would have seen that the other had responded truthfully yet was
embarrassed. He had enough sense not to pry into personal affairs. "I have enough sense not to pry into personal affairs."
The other looked at him strangely. Fred pretended not to notice.
He sucked on his cigarette and this time exhaled through his nose.
Glancing at the empty boot, he saw that it also was dirty. Mud was
splattered on the toe and the side he could see. Fred wondered
which foot was the muddiest. But he couldn't just ask; that wasn't
proper. And the other would think it was a dig about his feet.
Fred brought his cigarette up and held it in front of his face, his
chin still resting on the table. Now, if he could accidentally drop his
smoke he would be able to tell. But it had to look real or the other
would misinterpret or something, and think he was comparing the
size of his feet. He dropped his cigarette.
"Oops, dropped my cigarette."
Fred bent down and picked it up and again set his chin on the
table. He blew smoke at the empty boot and said, "You're wearing
grey socks." He hadn't noticed that before.
A thoughtful frown appeared over the other's face and he shifted
in his chair. The empty boot disappeared off the table. He bent over
to lace it up.
"Oops, there it goes again."
Fred ducked down to retrieve his cigarette and watched. The eyes
locked momentarily before Fred began to study the boots. They both
came up at the same time. Fred was content that the right boot was
the muddiest and the left foot was the biggest. The other glared at
him; Fred flicked more ashes. He wondered why the boot had been
put back on. It couldn't be because of the socks; they were clean and
he hadn't seen any holes in them. It must be connected with his
shyness over his malformed feet. But he shouldn't feel bad about
that. God, nobody's perfect. And all the other had to worry about
was the difference in his feet — obvious though it was. Fred still
wondered why he had put on the second boot. Why? Why? Why?
There were a lot of whys in this world. It was a good way to rate
people. Knowing a lot of whats and a few whys about a person
would make him a friend. So what about this guy across the table?
He knew some whats, like what he would do in certain situations
and what he wants from certain things. But whys? He didn't really
know any. All he could do would be to speculate. Mind you, the
best of logic was used, but still he couldn't know for sure. Then this
guy wasn't his friend. But he wanted him to be. He wanted friends.
Why did he put the second boot on?
"Why did you put the second boot on?"
10 "Why not?"
For a moment, Fred didn't say anything. He took a last drag
from his last cigarette and butted it.
"I just finished my last cigarette."
The other said nothing.
Fred fiddled with the butt in the ashtray for a while then he
wiped off his fingers. Staring at the ashtray, he said, "Non-friend,
why don't you believe in God?"
"That's a stupid thing to come out with."
Fred could see he was mad. Perhaps just angry. He shouldn't be.
It was an obvious question, but a difficult one for Fred to accept.
After all, to say "Why" and be answered "why not" is definitely
philosophical. "It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man's
mind to atheism. ..." Who said that? Fred thought it was Bacon.
Francis? Roger. Yes, he was pretty sure it was Roger. Anyway, the
other guy was a junior which meant at least two phil courses. Not
very much. Fred was a junior and had two phil courses, too.
"I guess I don't believe in God either." He sighed.
"What's with you, Fred? Why this non-friend?"
"You answered your own question."
Fred thought the other looked fairly confused and very mad. Fred
knew he was blustering. Fred had hoped to get away from the subject of feet but this guy was really bothered by it. It must be horrible
to go through life warped like that. To be pitied and helped.
"You want help? I'll help you." Fred held out his hand.
"What's wrong, Fred? You got problems? You not thinking
Fred shook his head sadly. Poor thing. They say that's how they
react. As for him not thinking straight: yes, he was thinking straight.
Lying in bed nights, all night, thinking straight. Again last night.
Fred smiled warmly. "Look, we can go someplace and talk about
it without fear of interruption. You can get it off your chest about
your ugly misshapen feet." He leaned forward confidentially. "Even
I have — "
"You're crazy, Fred. You actually are." He said it without hardly
opening his mouth.
Fred didn't hear that.
The other stood and walked away.
"No, don't go! Please, I will help you and your grotesque twisted
limbs!" He stood with his arm reaching. Then he sat back and
11 watched the figure retreat through the door. He reset his chin on the
table and gazed at the ashtray.
"I wanted to help. You see, even I have one foot bigger than the
other. It's my — "
He stopped. He shrugged. He wanted to help so very much. Fred
thought it was too damn bad, a crying shame. He shook his head.
He could not remember which of his feet was the biggest. And he
did not want the other to go; he needed a cigarette and a light. He
folded his arms on the table and tried to sleep but he wasn't tired,
so he pushed back his chair and took off his shoes so he would be
certain which foot was which.
Translated from the Portuguese by Eloah F. Giacomelli
Cordelia sows clouds,
gathers forget-me-nots, gramophones.
How peaceful on the world map,
a hurricane in your embrace.
The corset, the diadem
are again fashionable with the trees.
We're dressed in alphabet,
our names we don't know.
White and red horses
chew the world:
look at the earth's shadow,
a gigantic guillotine.
The ghost gallops,
life against life.
The sounds carry the bell.
I've opened the sky's cage,
I've given fife to that cloud.
The waters drink me up.
The organic creations
I've lifted from chaos
rise with me
without the machine's support;
they leave this exile
of water, earth, fire, air.
On the wind's shirt
emerge my beloved's initials.
I've repaired thoughts, galleys .
while the evening placed
the chandelier at my feet.
The monument flies,
arms open
behind the drapes.
Everything returns to the beginning
Out of a car steps a clarion,
out of a boy a harlequin.
The wind's wife gallops,
nobody knows where she goes.
Advertisements fall off rosebushes,
morning raises its breasts.
I follow a woman with my eyes
and I wonder about my name.
A shadow strikes a match.
The tree, majestic and lonely,
insists on the cruel blue.
The cloud has remained
behind the bicycle.
An echo is heard,
sad accordion.
Murilo Mendes (1902- ) is a major contemporary Brazilian poet. His first
collected poems, which appeared in 1930, already showed the poet's debt to
French Surrealism. His poems have been translated into Italian, Spanish, and
French. Eloah F. Giacomelli, a Brazilian, immigrated to Canada in 1969.
She lived in New Brunswick and in Ontario before she came to Vancouver in
1971. She is a lecturer in English at the University of British Columbia. Some
of her poem-translations appeared in Contemporary Literature in Translation;
others will appear in The Malahat Review and in Mundus Artium.
Translated from the Portuguese by Eloah F. Giacomelli
The year's last day
isn't time's last day.
Other days will come,
and other thighs and bellies will give you the warmth of life.
You'll kiss mouths, you'll tear papers,
you'll travel, and with symphonies and chorals
you'll celebrate so many birthdays, graduations, promotions,
glories and sweet deaths
that time will be filled and you won't hear the clamor,
the wolf's irreparable howls in the solitude.
Time's last day
isn't the last day of everything.
There always remains a fringe of life
where two men sit.
A man and his opposite,
a woman and her foot,
a body and its memory,
an eye and its sparkle,
a voice and its echo,
and who knows, maybe even God . ..
Humble, receive this gift from chance.
You've deserved another year of life.
You'd like to live forever and drain the centuries to
the dregs.
Your father is dead, so is your grandfather.
Even within you many things have already expired, others
are peeking at death,
but you're alive. Once more you're alive,
and glass in hand
you wait for dawn.
16 To resort to drunkenness,
to resort to the dance and to the cry,
to resort to the colored balls,
to resort to Kant and to poetry,
to all of them — and none provides a solution.
Rises the morning of a new year.
Things are clean, orderly.
The worn-out body is renewed in the foam.
All the senses, alert, work.
The mouth is eating fife.
The mouth is stopped up with life.
Life oozes out of the mouth,
besmears the hands, the sidewalk.
Life is fat, oily, mortal, surreptitious.
Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902- ) is considered the most important
and influential poet in Brazil today. The poet's first book of poems, Alguma
Poesia (1930), already showed his concern with the anguishes of modern man
in urban society. Some of his other volumes of poetry are Brejo das Almas
(1934), Sentimento do Mundo (1940), A Rosa do Povo (1945), A Vida
Passada a Limpo (1958).
Translated from the Japanese by Allan Safarik
Again and again
From my sickbed I ask
How deep is the snow?
masaoka shiki
This Northern Cold has no respect for walls.
In winter I am at the end of the road: at the
corner of the world.   How deep is the snow?
Can the horse climb the steep trail?   Is the pass
Everyday I write i oo haikus
about the wind &
Soon to die
I am noisier than ever:
I am the bird that has
forgotten to leave.
At my side there is no soft voice to whisper
"How dear to me you are."   I have only
the grave in the snow & a son far away.
How deep is the snow?
There is ice in the tree-
limbs the stream is silent
frozen till spring
warms my numb feet Every
season is so different
Yet the moon goes on
with the same light
The birds
that I painted in my youth
give comfort
but I turn away
I cannot claim the unreal
as real
How deep is the snow?
Even the candle has a cold blue flame
that drips tears without passion
Each night I hear the horse crossing
the ice.   Hear the dull thud of dead
memories crossing the ice.   Hear the
huge cracks spreading in the black ice
Hear myself saying: How deep is the snow?
Okira was an 18th-century Japanese poet and scholar of Chinese literature.
Very little is known of his life. This poem is from Selected Translations from
the Text of Okira, by Allan Safarik, to be published shortly.
Allan Safarik is a 24-year-old undergraduate student in the English Department at Simon Fraser University. He has had his poetry published in numerous
magazines, including Farpoint, Quarry and Antigonish Review. He is the editor
of Blackfish and is also currently editing a Canadian issue for Inscape.
19 Judy McGillivray was born in Saskatchewan and graduated from the University of British Columbia. Her poems, short stories and graphics have appeared
in a number of literary reviews. She lived for some years in France.
What do you think about when i am making love to you like this?
Why do you ask that?
Because you often tell me of the fantasies you have. What do you
think of at time like this?
I don't think much really, mostly i just feel.
What are some of the things you think of?
Just things —
What things, what were you thinking of when i first asked you?
I was just wondering which team Angelo Mosca plays for.
You can't be serious, you don't intend to write this sort of thing!
Yes, i —
Think of your protestant ethics! And your catholic upbringing!
I have, that's why i write this.
I was employed as a receptionist in a tourist resort, the hours of the
morning were mine, to my employer the hours between four and
midnight were due.
West of the playground amusement area, a lost stream passed the
trees looking for a larger existence. Early with only the birds watching, my books and I, with a constant pencil and paper went to the
clearing; a meadow of lavish greens and the blues of the stream.
An old tree weary perhaps from the struggle to remain upright into
old age leaned like a bow above the stream. On the back of the bow
curled up, stretched out, or sitting with legs swinging, I spent the
20 One day I became aware of an old gentleman who had been wandering on the periphery of my mind and the meadow almost unnoticed. He would stop, bend down to study something, slowly
straighten his tall body, then write.
I slipped from the tree, he came to greet me as if he were expecting
me. Above eyes alive with humour, his hair was silvery. His clothing
could be described as old ivy. He carried a magnifying glass, a pen,
and white file cards, some covered with neat script.
He, a retired psychology professor, had come to study the flowers of
the region, a Hfetime hobby. It was he who showed me how a
flower's beauty reveals its meaning beneath a magnifying glass.
Thereafter, we met each day. Our discussions touched every subject
and varied in length, the one on Freud lasted for weeks. On the
theory of penis envy, I asserted my disbelief. How could the possessor of an exquisite female form envy or even want such a wrinkled
appendage? (At that time, I was not really initiated into the limitless
pleasures and intricate joys it perpetuates.) And a girl of not yet five
is supposedly so enthralled that she lives out her life in envy!
Frankly, said I, it must have been a put-on by Freud. My friend
laughed and said, One day, my girl, one day you will out-Freud
The summer and my high school years passed. Occasionally, my
friend sent me notes on file cards, he was intrigued at my choosing
psychology as my major. I would write short poems on the margin
of my texts which were usually the worst books in the field, rip out
the pages and send them to him.
Near the end of my first year at the university, I received a long
distance call from an attorney: My friend had died. What he left
me was being delivered by a special messenger. I was to sign as
receiving the parcel. The executor said, I suppose you know how
rich he was, he could buy any thing or service he desired. Coldly, I
expressed no interest in my friend's financial affairs. Then I ended
the call.
After the messenger left, I opened the parcel. I saw the most unusual token anyone ever sent. Or received. A sealed envelope fell
from the wrappings, inside on a small white file card the handwriting of my friend: Please find a suitable resting place for the
21 enclosed: You have now out-Freuded Freud. As I closed the box,
I noticed that it bore the seal of a local taxidermist.
During the evening hours, i roar about the quiet city in my red MG.
As i pass the arena i notice one of the most popular (ice and bedroom) players walking alone with his head bent in a classic pose of
defeat. I pull up alongside the curb, open the door and call out:
What's a guy Like you doing walking alone in this area of town,
don't you know it could be dangerous? Want a ride?
Startled by my direct attack, he accepts and steps down into my low
slung car. As we drive on he asks me if i usually pick up strange
men or if the liberation fronts make it an essential part of a young
lady's repertoire. I tell him it is part of the Dare-to-do game that I
invented in my teens. He wants to know about the game. Simply
dare yourself to do some unusual thing. For instance? he asks. Dare
yourself to meet a stranger, walk up to him throw out your arms
and say; Harry, why didn't you tell me you were coming to town?
Carefully, he explains he is not Harry but Sam or who-ever. This
way he is no longer a stranger that you can't go out with! Well this
time you picked up a stranger, he states suavely. But grins with
superstar satisfaction when I say; Baby, you're no stranger to anyone interested in future hall-of-famers.
He is eager to go to my place to have a drink and see my cartoon
roughs. We hang our coats in my foyer, and i tell him to make
himself at home while i fix a couple of stingers. I have a bit of
trouble with the shaker but eventually i go down the hall with the
I find an ashen superstar gliding into his coat and hear murmurings
about strict bedtimes for players and a door closing. Left with two
potent drinks in my hands, i wonder at his sudden departure, without even seeing the roughs. I wander about my large apartment,
then i see the cause that affected him: the door of my Trophy
Room is ajar, i always keep it closed. Inside the room the token
from my late professor friend is beside its elliptical glass cover.
22 Charles Deemer teaches creative writing at the University of Oregon and
has recently published fiction in The Literary Review and an essay in The
Progressive. He has had four plays produced including "The Profession" and a
television serial "The Library of Our Lives."
Richard, realize one thing: I am beginning to wear the Idaho
jacket comfortably now. Perhaps I'm not wearing it as comfortably
as you would have, had genetics not played its tricks on us all and
given the second son, and not the first, the bulky characteristics of
the father. To Buck, I gather, biology remains so much scientific
claptrap and when he gave you the jacket he did so knowing it was
not your size. But you had asked for the jacket before I was born,
the story goes, and so when you turned twenty-one, Buck gave it
to you. And I have no quarrel with any of this past history, Richard,
not even as I wear the jacket today. Frankly for a long time I did
not understand why you gave me the jacket, particularly with the
gesture by which it became mine. Not understanding, I was unable
to wear the jacket comfortably. I wore it, yes, but rather with the
self-consciousness with which a timid boy will wear a Halloween
costume. That soon may be history, too.
I'm as ignorant about Idaho as I ever was. The memories I have
before Mother took me with her to Los Angeles remain vague, like
those hazy events subsequent to an accident which one experiences
while conscious but later cannot recall. I cannot say whether or not
I thought it was strange to be going on a long trip without you and
Buck. Mother must have answered satisfactorily whatever questions
I asked, for my mind unleashes no ghosts of a home and boyhood
lost in Idaho. To tell the truth, I have no memory of the Idaho
jacket before references to it began to appear in your letters.
When did we begin to correspond? By the time I was a teenager
your letters had become my text, a text wiser than the dull books I
23 was expected to read at school. Well, I shudder to think what Dr.
Jefferson would make of that remark! Mother, God rest her soul,
retained one idiosyncracy which irritated me to the very moment
of her death — her addiction to psychoanalysis. I must have told
you what her last words to me were. "Tell Dr. Jefferson I have no
more repressions." If I didn't know better, I'd think she said that
for my benefit, hoping to get a grin out of me before passing away.
Richard, something is grossly unethical about the way that head-
shrinker catered to Mother's obsession to be "normal." We all know
she was a bit mad — madness was a large part of her charm, wasn't
it? She was very kind. Eccentric and unpredictable, yes, but kind to
the end. Could her last words have been for me after all?
At any rate, your letters have always meant something special to
me. When so much space in them came to anticipate your twenty-
first birthday, the date on which you'd receive Buck's jacket, I
found myself growing excited with you. I was excited even though
none of your reasons for wanting the jacket made sense to me. You
wrote me so many stories about your northern Idaho, the land, and
about something you called "the high lonesome" and how the Idaho
jacket was part of each, but not once did you say that you wanted
the jacket simply because it had belonged to Buck. Reading your
tales, I decided you were an incurable romantic. But my fingers
crossed for you all the same.
Then you mailed me a photograph and in it you were wearing a
green and black plaid jacket several sizes too large for you. Buck's
Idaho jacket, I presumed. I put the photograph in my wallet, often
taking it out to look at it. Do you see a physical resemblance between us? I fail to. Nonetheless the photograph, whatever lack of
family similarity it documented, brought me closer to you. Looking
at it, I began to want more and more to see you, I should say to
meet you, to sit across the room from you, to talk to you, Richard.
To talk to you. I don't know why I felt this way about you but
didn't have the same strong desire to get to know Buck. I'm sure
Dr. Jefferson could come up with something! Well, he wouldn't
necessarily be right. I just know I wanted very much to meet you.
I wanted to know my brother. But although I was fourteen, and
older in many ways, when alone with Mother I couldn't bring
myself to broach the subject of a visit. I don't know why.
I feel foolish admitting this. It should have been easy to visit.
Do you know how far it is to Orofino from Los Angeles? Something
over a thousand miles. Then why did we all wait until Mother died
24 before meeting? We essentially were strangers, you, Buck and I. If
Mother hadn't willed to be buried in Orofino, would we remain
strangers today? What was holding us back from each other?
So Mother died and I took her home to Idaho. What do we
ever know about death, Richard? Or even about dying? So many
questions! The coffin was on the train, fortunately out of my sight,
and I thought a lot about death on the trip north, thought about it
while drinking myself into maudlin reverie. Death happens to each
of us, we decide, but does this even make sense? I doubt that my
young man's theories about this will last out middle age. Well, I'm
not sure I have any theories.
I drank my way to Idaho. And because I was drunk when the
train pulled into Orofino, I can't recall whether you were wearing
the jacket at the station or not. To tell the truth, I have only a
fuzzy recollection of events up to and including the funeral. Too
much happened at once for all of us, I think you would agree.
Mother was dead; we were meeting. Vaguely I recall that you and
Buck shared my anxiety drink for drink. What a sorry lot we must
have been for the relatives, husband and two sons staggering under
liquor instead of under a more dignified grief. I met lots of relatives
at the funeral, didn't I?
I do remember the poker game. It began two or three days after
we buried her, I think, at the instigation of Buck's Indian friend,
Gib Hill. You must realize, Richard, what a city boy I am and that
the trip to bury Mother provided the occasion of my first encounter
with — shall I call it the wilderness? The funeral seems longer ago
than a year, doubtless because so much of its presence was drowned
in sorrow, in liquored mourning for Mother. Yet there may be no
more dignified way to suffer, Richard. There may be no dignified
way to suffer at all.
I'm a city boy and the poker game fits right into the romantic
Idaho landscape. When I set Orofino alongside Los Angeles, I can't
comprehend Buck's complaints that Idaho is getting too "civilized,"
that Idaho isn't the same country in which he grew up, that the hills
have been stripped of timber. To my eye, the hills around Orofino
are covered with more trees than I could find in all of southern
California. And the Clearwater River is getting polluted, Buck
complained, and yet the Clearwater is, yes, the clearest river I've
ever seen. Too many people moving in? Into Orofino! How many
could even find it on the map? For me, Richard, to enter Orofino
was to step into a page from the journal of Lewis and Clark.
25 And as if towering trees, as if foaming rivers and a vast unpopulated landscape weren't enough, you had to show me Indians and
poker games! For a while, cynically, I thought the whole affair was
a sham. Indians, hard-drinking lumberjacks, two day poker games
— it was all part of a skit you had arranged to impress your city boy
of a brother. What is it the cowboys say in the westerns? "Let's pull
one on the dude," or something close.
Endings have a way of defining what passed before them, and of
course I have no doubts about events now, not about those events
I can recall. We were at home, two or three days after the funeral,
drinking coffee at last although it was well into evening. I felt out
of place, the son who was a stranger, who didn't know his father or
his brother. I wanted to know you both, certainly, and had stayed
over in order to get to know you. But so far I remained a stranger
and I was worried, the way things were going, that I'd return to
Los Angeles one.
Then Gib Hill arrived. His appearance was reason enough to
doubt the authenticity of what followed. Los Angeles is the home
of the world's weirdest sects, Richard, and Gib's attire reminded me
of one of the many costumes a native comes to accept as being part
of southern California's natural landscape. Gib, by dressing the way
he did, gave himself away: he was not a "real person." Add
together the black cowboy hat, with a red rose in its band; the dark
glasses, never removed; the fringed jacket, the faded jeans and the
wide black belt with its silver dollar buckle; the black cowboy boots,
winged with red eagles on the sides — add them together and you
have an actor, a ham, a mere surrogate of an "authentic personality" ; a Marlon Brando motorcycle-riding cowboy. This judgment
was Mother's legacy to me: that damned analyst's point of view!
"Poker game is hatching at The Lumberman's," Gib told Buck.
Well, at least The Lumberman's was authentic, I had learned that.
Buck had owned the bar and hotel in the forties and Mother, those
old Idaho stories went, had dealt black jack there. My mother?
The old photographs and stories aside, the woman who raised me
in Los Angeles, the woman who gave what little money she could
spare to an analyst because she wanted to be "normal," this woman
was different from your card-dealer. Yet not as different as I used
to think.
We followed Gib to The Lumberman's, where at a back table the
poker chips already were up for sale. You were wearing the Idaho
jacket, I recall, and its cuffs dropped to your knuckles. The men
26 sitting at the bar were kidding you about the jacket's not fitting as
soon as we entered, and I gathered it was an old joke between
you. As a matter of fact, you did look a little silly in the jacket. It
is one thing for a boy to stomp around the house in his father's
slippers, quite another for an adult to do something very nearly the
same. You must have been 25 then, for I had just turned 21. And
yet our ages seemed to be reversed, Richard, and I acted like the
more mature brother. You answered one old man's kidding by
picking him up and carrying him around the room on your shoulders
while the others laughed and hooted. To be honest, I was embarrassed. Embarrassed for us both, perhaps.
Buck bought into the game and you wanted in, too, but when you
learned that I did not know how to play poker (I still can see your
disbelief), you stayed out, despite my objections, in order to keep
me company. We took a table near the game and began what
turned into a marathon of drinking. Or at least it was a marathon
for some of you.
The poker game intrigued me from the beginning. It was played
so theatrically, like a scene in the lowest grade western, which only
increased my doubts about the authenticity of the entire affair. Talk
about cool characters, the likes of Paul Newman and Steve McQueen! Buck and Gib seemed to be having a contest to see who
could push forward the most chips with the least concern. I
expected to see money change hands, yes, but I did not expect to
see poker pots worth hundreds of dollars. I did not watch in awe
for long: I concluded that the game was a sham, just as I had
suspected. No one except Hollywood actors can bet a hundred
dollars on two pair (I've since played poker myself, Richard)
without a flutter of emotion. At any moment I expected the fraud
to get the best of Buck, Gib and the others, at which time they
would break into hysterics, the joke revealed and on me. I watched
the game silently, waiting for the punch line.
You had warned me that poker games at The Lumberman's had
been known to run for days on end but I doubted this, too, since I
doubted the legitimacy of the game itself. But the game went on,
while the bar filled with boisterous spectators who looked as though
they were willing to wait for the outcome, no matter how long it
took. By the time I drank myself into drowsiness-—it must have
been three in the morning by then — the game's end was nowhere
in sight. Perhaps I then decided that the punch line was more
subtle, that the laughing at me wouldn't begin until morning. You
27 excused yourself to talk to the bartender and returned with a key:
we had rooms upstairs. "You're sleeping in Nellie's old room," you
told me, grinning. "Nellie was the best looking whore on this side
of the Clearwater." Nellie the prostitute, of course. Of course,
Richard. I'm sure I shook my head. You were carrying the joke too
far, making it much too melodramatic.
In the morning the game was still in progress. No one had
dropped out, though it was evident by the distribution of chips
around the table that Buck and Gib were winning. Many spectators
had retired. Buck waved as I entered the room. I went to the
bar, where soon you joined me. We drank "red dogs," beer with
tomato juice in it. After several drinks, you suggested breakfast.
On full stomachs we hiked through the hills behind Orofino.
Once, when we had to crawl through a barbed-wire fence, I warned
that we might be trespassing. You laughed and went on. You led me
to a place with the improbable name of Crazy Man's Gulch, a
hollow to which (the story went) Buck escaped as a young man
whenever the "high lonesome" got the best of him. I listened as
though to a foreign language as you went on to tell me about the
gallon jug of whiskey that accompanied him, about the Idaho
jacket that was his bed, about the young wife (our mother) left
behind. When I suggested that perhaps Buck needed psychiatric
help more than Mother ever did, you said, "Hell, we're all nuts.
Only Buck likes being crazy. Relishes it." I was not prepared to
believe you, Richard. There is no Crazy Man's Gulch in Los Angeles
and gallon jugs are filled with Gallo or Italian Swiss Colony. Young
wives left behind commit adultery.
Returning after the hike, we began drinking again. The poker
game went on, and spectators returned in large numbers, watching
with an enthusiasm more proper to a horse race. Slowly players
began to drop out, as much from exhaustion as from lack of funds,
until only three were left, Buck and Gib included.
Buck was the first of the three to hit a losing streak. After dinner
he asked you, "How much money you got?"
"A hundred. Maybe more."
I looked for the sign that you were kidding. But you weren't, for
soon you passed him the money.
"Give me the jacket," Buck said.
You took it off and handed it to him.
Richard, what was I supposed to make of all this? Although by
then I was beginning to believe that the game was legitimate, only
28 legitimacy being able to sustain itself to the very brink of boredom,
as I watched you take off the jacket I found myself with doubts
all over again. As before, the scene was lifted from the worst
western I could imagine — the passing of the rabbit's foot, the lucky
silver dollar, the magic spur, after which the winning streak would
follow. Buck put on the jacket and kidded Gib, "Watch out, redskin, I'm wearing the luckiest coat in Idaho." Gib said, "Deal."
Was I supposed to believe such dialogue? We don't have similar
melodrama in Los Angeles.
Your own reaction puzzled me. You seemed offended that Buck
wanted to wear the jacket. Was he an Indian-giver, was that it? For
Christ's sake, Richard, enough was enough! That's why I begged
my departure and went upstairs. You were carrying the joke too far.
If you wanted your dude, you were going to have to come upstairs
to catch him.
And later, hearing the knock on the door, I prepared for the
punch line. Finally! You stood in the doorway, carrying a bottle of
whiskey and looking morose.
"Buck dropped out," you told me. "He lost big." Was this the
last parcel of bait? Who was hiding in the hallway?
You came in, sat on the bed, opened the bottle and drank from
it. I turned down a swig. No Hollywood gestures for me.
"How much is losing big?" I asked.
"He lost what cash we had between us. Big enough. He lost in
the jacket, that's what surprises me. He always bragged about never
losing in the jacket."
Who could miss this melodramatic springing of the trap? I waited
silently and soon there was another knock on the door. Buck let
himself in.
"Here's your jacket," he said and tossed the Idaho jacket into
your lap. He stopped just outside the doorway, looking ill at ease.
You handed him the bottle, he drank.
"What's the matter with you two?" he finally asked. "I'm the guy
who lost the silver, I'm the one who should look gloomy. Smile, why
don't you?" He turned and walked away.
"Where's he going?"
You replied with an expression that said, Don't you know? Then
you remembered that Buck and I were strangers.
"He's going down to get drunk. Gib won the game, so Gib buys
the drinks." You stood up, carrying the jacket. "You coming?"
"Downstairs?" I could hear the festivity below.
29 "You don't think Buck came all the way up here just to give me
the jacket, did you? He wants us down there to amuse him so he
doesn't have to think about losing."
I said, "He took Mother's death hard, didn't he?"
You shrugged. "He's got losing to worry about now."
Without further word you tossed me the jacket. I followed you
downstairs, Richard, where we would conclude our last drunk
together, but it wasn't until the next afternoon, while I was packing,
that you explained to me that the gesture of tossing me the Idaho
jacket had meant it was mine.
I'm learning to wear the jacket comfortably. Other coats appear
on campus — letterman's sweaters, Army fatigue coats, leather
jackets — but none rivals the Idaho jacket. It's been in every
whorehouse and drunk tank in northern Idaho, Buck claims. Is it
then too romantic to insist that the jacket is special?
I've changed since wearing the jacket, Richard, that's what I
must make clear. Take today, for example. I stopped on my walk
home from the campus to watch the construction that is going on
down the block. Another highrise apartment building is going up,
something quick to meet the demands of increasing enrollment, and
all day long the clamour and rumble of construction makes studying
impossible. Passing by on the way home, I sometimes stop to watch.
Putting up an apartment building is a rather straightforward
procedure, I think, one without your Idaho melodrama. There is
no mystery about what is going on, even if to a casual observer the
purposes of the workmen appear to be random. There are blueprints
and guidelines and specifications to follow, and everything is figured
out ahead of time on paper.
I'm not sure why I stopped to watch today, or any other day for
that matter. I think the building going up is ugly.
But today as I was watching, a middle-aged man joined me. He
was a businessman by appearance, or perhaps a professor since we
were so close to campus. He watched the men drive nails, a crane
lift boards, workers scan blueprints and then he said, but not really
to me, "Terrible." He seemed embarrassed to have attracted my
attention and, perhaps for this reason, he quickly added, "I'm afraid
I'm old-fashioned. I preferred the old home that used to be here.
But you can't argue with progress, can you?" he laughed. And he
went along his way, whistling.
I don't know, Richard. I get scared. Is it normal to be twenty-
30 two and be scared? Shouldn't I be charging out into the world,
lance confidently poised, eager and willing to carve out my niche of
stability? I graduate this year! Sometimes I wish the Idaho jacket
fitted me like it fits you. I'd hunch myself down into it and hide.
Am I making any sense? I can't think of "sense" without thinking
of Dr. Jefferson and his kind of sense. I abhor it, Richard. I'd
rather be scared. I'd rather be mad! Today, as the man departed
whistling, I turned to the rising building and looked at it as I had
never looked at it before. "Terrible," he had said, but so what?
Who among us had any control of its going up?
But what if I took control? Not by myself really, for I'm quite
sure — I can't explain it rationally — that if I hadn't been wearing
the Idaho jacket, I'd never have done what I did next. Somehow
wearing the jacket justified what followed.
The construction area, of course, is fenced off. A number of
doors provide entrances into the working area but above each of
them is a sign which reads, danger area! closed to public, no
admittance, authorized personnel only. In the evening, after
the workmen go home, children climb the fence and play in the
area but during the day both adults and children heed the warning.
I always have. But today, Richard, I didn't.
I entered one of the plywood doors and began to traverse the
corner of the lot, which would bring me to another door exiting
onto the street near my apartment. I bothered no one and entered
no area where a board might have fallen on my head, or where I
was in any danger whatsoever. I merely walked across the corner
of the lot, where building material was stacked, then exited and
crossed the street to come home.
A workman was shouting at me before I was thirty feet onto the
property, "Hey! This is a Limited area!" Others quickly picked up
the protest, "This area's off limits!" "Get on the other side of the
fence!" "Can't you read the signs?" I walked on my way without
turning around and soon heard a voice behind me, which was
getting closer. It wasn't until I was out of the area and crossing the
street that the workman caught up. He yelled, "What's the big
idea?" I turned, found him standing in the plywood doorway just
behind me, smiled and nodded. Then I went on my way, Richard,
turning up the collar of the Idaho jacket as I left.
Already my imagination is running wild, and this small incident
expands into the following: I was walking across the lot under a
shower of boards and debris, walking under cranes which swung
3i their metal necks menacingly above me, passing by jackhammers
which tore the ground from my feet and steamrollers which tried
to make me a corner of a parking lot, I was walking through it all,
Richard, and I kept walking, walked through it all in the Idaho
jacket, through all the bellowing workmen and protesting machines,
the clamour and rumble, the violated signs screaming danger
area!, I continued home without a glance behind me, without a
remark, I continued nonchalantly on my way.
Do I have the family madness, Richard? Is this the beginning?
Translated from the Romanian by Nicholas Catanoy
The girl who stayed with us saw angels.
But there are no angels!
Who can see angels?
A wax doll!
The priest nodded,
the little black dog barked, barked,
the woman mourned and yelled
and a serious gentleman cried between his hands
as he sawed the wax doll.
White, white, afterwards.
I do not believe in angels.
Do you?
Do you?
The girl who stayed with us talked to the angels.
A little sun, O Lord,
for my soul.
0 Lord, I am a leaf
1 am a walnut
I am a frightened frog
I am a wounded sparrow.
They have stolen my nests.
All the slings have reached me.
O little Lord, set me right
and make me happy
Uke the oxen with innocent horns
Uke the dogs with angelic eyes
like the water-lily
like the friendly stones.
Friend, let's cry:
a tear for the yellow leaf
a tear for the fading rose
a tear for the dead girl
a tear for every man's sorrow.
A tear for each stone
for every tree
for every star
and for the ideal.
Endless are the spirits, the stones.
I am afraid to walk; afraid to step on them.
Eugene Ionesco was born in Romania and wrote in Romanian before his
family moved to France. The foregoing early poems written in Romanian have
never before been translated into English.
Nicholas  Catanoy is a Romanian writer who moved to Canada for political
reasons. He now writes in English and French and spends part of his time in
— for andy phillips
As we sat by fire
on the night you were to leave,
cinders rose through smoke
into the deep
black spaces between stars.
Later    as you slept
beyond the edge of flame
I thought:
when daylight came
I would walk with you
over pathways    to the trail
the coast road    miles beyond.
First the moon —
then bright Arcturus
set    far on the horizon.
All the constellations dimmed
and dawn    brought Mercury
rising through cedars
high up on the knoll.
36 When I woke
you were gone, and I lay
beside cold ashes
covered in dew.
Now I write this poem
as the kitten pads the floor & mews.
And mist rolls thick
from the Pacific
tides across the inlet
as the Tofino fog-horn starts.
Moans in the distance
and moans.
I had meant to come
just this far.
And I stop —
at this place:
where dunes and plantain
meet forest
at the trail's edge.
radar beach
Each valley    desolate
Each river   choked with rock
Logs in jackstraw piles along the banks
As far as the eye can see,    the line recedes
where trees fall   beside the yellow machines.
Clouds    settle on the mountains.
Rain    sifts thru a layer of ash.
Soil    moves in drifts
always more    down hill.
The Douglas fir
grows to a diameter of 3-6' and
reaches heights of 150-200'
— before harvest.
The foreman said:
"If I don't get good planting    &
good production,
I'll be changing men."
(He laid off five men in three weeks
before getting fired himself,
and that — for burying trees.)
38 The D8 cat grinds on the far hill.
The fog moves in.
Take three steps.    Plant a tree.
(We are how many years behind?)
Without a thought
the mattock bites deep.
Place the roots down straight
— to the crown.
The earth around
tamped firm with the toe.
Take three steps.    Plant a tree.
Each day   six hundred.
the idea of reality
presupposes a conception of the unreal
pseudo-tsuga menziesii
... no fir at all
Gregory Yavorsky was born in Montreal and graduated with a B.A. in
English from McGill University. He is at present finishing his thesis for an
M.A. at McGill while also doing graduate work in Japanese language and
literature at the University of British Columbia.
I lock your crystal silence
In the rotation of galaxies.
In a conquest of blood
The stars ignited in my pulse
Go out, one by one,
As they pass the radiance of your sleep.
I die down from the communion of your voice
On shadows
That snare my approach.
My feet, walking away,
Dissolve in the glowing inertia of your presence.
In this vacuum
There is only an echo,
Without vibration,
One silent chord.
My feet bleed
As they tread each of those twelve tones.
The thirteenth drop will find you,
Baptise you in scarlet.
You disappear into corridors I painted black,
Passageways webbed in my body,
Empty of me until memory cradles your death.
Twisted inward
Your gaze bleeds upon my eyes.
Blood clots on my hands and knees
As, blinded, I crawl the network of your love.
I. Air
Cosmic arrow without form,
I bend
Toward the black sun in your eyes.
I keep falling,
Meteor without planet,
The nocturnal space
Toward crystal stars
Radiant beyond your eye.
Spanning solitary gravity
Between sun and star
I arch,
An endless bridge of desire
That I cannot cross
But upon which I am born.
II. Fire
My face melts
upon the incandescent candles of your fingers.
A bonfire of colors
Spills down my skin:
I am a Christmas tree.
41 The white flame of your eye is my star
Through which I observe
My blood twist rainbows
Around the ashen solitude of my bones.
III.   Earth
A liquid sun
Pours my shadow
Over the soil of your body.
There I grow,
An alabaster leaf
On a broken twig.
Lucia Getsi is a doctoral candidate in the Comparative Literature Programme
at Ohio University. She has published original poems in English as well as
translations from modern German poets in various journals and anthologies.
Her translation of the complete poems of Georg Trakl will be published at the
beginning of 1973.
42 Crad Kilodney lives on Long Island, New York. He studied astronomy at the
University of Michigan. For the past two years he has worked for Exposition
Press, a subsidy publisher. His work has appeared in the National Lampoon,
the Carolina Quarterly and the Houston Post Tempo magazine.
Forget That Grapefruit;
Here Come The Midgets
The preacher's face beams out at his audience from the TV
"... Get those mushrooms out of your tub! Shine those spoons!
Get rid of abstracts! Live a little! Things can't last forever! Procrastination is the slave of time! Fix those shoelaces! Chop that
tree! Sow that corn! Remember that your neighbors are watching!
A rolling stone is the Devil's workshop! So dilute those metaphysics!
Rescind those orders! Take that fish out of your mouth! Use
mustard, not margarine! And clean your ears for a change! The
ears are the spark plugs of the soul! Forget the aviary! Tomorrow
is a day closer to the Armageddon! Throw those keys in the lake!
Kiss your refrigerator! Spread a little love! And tune in tomorrow,
same time, same station .. . Until then, this is the Preacher, reminding you that only the absurd will survive ..." Fade out, switch
to credits. Weird organ music is heard.
The Preacher leaves the studio, brushing past the crew.
"Nice show, Preacher."
"Good show, Preach."
"That's doin' it."
"Socko, Preach."
The Preacher's car speeds up the ramp and enters the freeway
leading out of the city. Like a blood corpuscle in the pulmonary
43 artery, it gasps for air. The Preacher inhales the radiations from a
luminescent dashboard figurine in the shape of a pig. He is satisfied.
The triumph of the ultimate doctrine is proceeding well. The road
signs flash by him, offering a choice of ways in a calibrated existence.
What shall tomorrow's sermon be? Where shall the flock be led this
The Preacher turns on the radio. A dwarf with a tin larynx
speaks: "... arrested Rodriguez last night. Police say the abortionist fed the unborn fetuses to wild boars in his basement.
Rodriguez was charged with violating zoning laws ..." Click. The
Preacher takes a pen and pad from his vest pocket and writes in
jagged rush-hour strokes, "Sermon — recycling, human ecology;
fetuses as fertilizer; agrarian tradition."
Meanwhile, a mile ahead, a truck loaded with bowling balls has
The Preacher's corpuscle reaches the clot on the highway. He
comes to a stop. To his left, another car halts. The elderly passenger
in the front seat glances over at him. Simultaneously, they roll down
their windows. The old man speaks first. "Is this the way to San
"No," replies the Preacher. "This is the way to Anaheim."
"Good. I'm going to Anaheim."
They look at the road ahead for a moment. Police have surrounded the errant truck and are warding off scavengers. The
Preacher smiles. Ah, yes, it all goes well, he thinks.
He and the other man face each other again. "I'm the Preacher.
You may have seen me on TV."
"No, I'm sorry," the other smiles politely. "I am Miklos Rozsa."
"Of course! I thought you sounded familiar."
Miklos leans out the window. "Superman is off the air now.
It's too bad, isn't it?"
The Preacher appears grim. "Superman's dead," he says.
Miklos stops breathing for a second. He leans back against the
car seat again. Dead, he thinks. My biggest fan.
44 The Preacher calls to him. "The best part in Journey To The
Center Of The Earth is where James Mason and Pat Boone do* a
jig in the cave of petrified mushrooms."
Miklos looks at him and smiles again. "Oh, they're still there, I'm
sure," he says, rolling up his window.
The bowling balls are all recovered. The mother ship resumes its
The Preacher rose from the ranks, as is natural. He drew the
balloon in a comic book ad, containing the words, "We don't want
skinny on our team." He at first drew it rectangular. The Archbishop demanded it be oval. After that, the Preacher strapped a
collection of Wayne Newton albums to his back and visited seven
small towns in Pennsylvania, where he checked the length and width
of the white lines in the streets and reported his findings to a
defunct commission. The commission accepted them. He spoke at
a convention of back order clerks in a padded bra factory, urging
them to think about quality. They promised they would. He wrote
a thesis comparing the beaded texture of a lizard's throat to that
of a basketball, developing a system of metaphysics to explain it.
For this he received promotion to the rank of Preacher. His crowning accomplishment was the official Roller Derby prayer, written on
a taco wrapper:
"Lord, keep me safe on the oval track,
Keep those jammers off my back,
Smash those blockers against the rail,
See that our team doesn't fail,
Bless my skates, Lord, keep them spinning,
Bless the crowds that cheer our winning,
And when my final game is through,
I'll go to Heaven and skate with You.
"Darling, I'm home," announces the Preacher from the front
His lovely wife emerges from the kitchen. "Good news, love!
They've named a shopping center after you!"
"Zounds and profuse glee! It's sooner than I expected!" he
responds, embracing her. "Give me a grapefruit."
She opens the refrigerator, which contains exactly fifty grapefruits
and a bottle of chfli sauce. She places one of the former on the
table before him and bisects it with a small axe.
"Your sense of symmetry is sublime," he says.
"I aim to please," she answers. "Don't forget — "
"I know. Save the seeds for surfers." He picks the seeds out with
his spoon and drops them into a pail so designated. "A mere
pittance," he remarks.
His wife walks behind him, separates the curtains, and beholds
a horde of homunculi in bathing suits overrunning the backyard,
chanting top hits of the fifties. She sits on the Preacher's lap and
smiles at him. "Forget the grapefruit, darling. Here come the
46 Rudy Wiebe teaches in the Department of English at the University of Alberta,
Along the Red Deer and
the South Saskatchewan
To the memory of Little Bear and F. W. Spicer
This is long ago. Before whites dared to come into our country,
when they built the Big House they call Edmonton now and then
Little Big House at the edge of our country and barred the doors
and put cannons on the corners and let our people through one
small door one at a time when we came to trade. We were camped
along the Red Deer that winter for the buffalo would go there
under the trees and we followed them. One day that winter Appino-
kommit was gone. We didn't think about that, since he never said
where he was going, or when. He was a very young man who
thought longer than he spoke, and the Old Men sometimes called
him crazy head because he had already led boys his own age in a
good raid and the older warriors hated him because they were
jealous of the coups he brought back. But we, we loved him.
After many days my young brother told me Appino-kommit had
come back and wanted to see me at the Antelope Butte. So I went
there. His face was burned by the wind and his moccasins worn
out; I saw war in his face and I loved him. He told me he had gone
three days down the Great River from the forks where the Red Deer
joins it and he had found a camp of twenty-five lodges. When he
said this he swung his hand flat across his throat, the sign for our
enemies the Plains Cree and I was very happy. He had watched
that camp till the sun went down, but then it began to snow and he
had to leave because they would see his trail in the snow. He had
wanted to watch them one more day, it was foolish for such a small
camp to be there alone but the snow made him come away.
47 "We start this tonight," he said. "I want three hundred young
men to meet me at the Lone Tree Crossing when the moon rises.
Tell them just that, no more, and they are not to talk to me today
because then the chiefs will guess something and tell us not to do it."
I did as he said, and when the moon came up over the Great
Lone Tree the young men started coming out of the darkness, all
quiet; no one knew that anyone but himself had been called. But
when they saw all the faces around them, their faces shone with
happiness for they saw there was much to do. Silently we followed
Appino-kommit and he led us across the white flats and into the
thick trees and willows. There, where we could not be seen, we built
small fires and made our quiet prayers to The Great One, asking
help, and when that was done every one told the others of each
wrong he had done, both great and small, so that if he didn't come
back no man could say, when his deeds were told in the Great
Medicine Lodge, that any shame had been hidden in his heart to
blacken the glory of his death; that he had faced the enemy with
his warcry and his name the last brave sound he would make.
All day we lay under the trees and at night we ran until the line
of light grew so wide in our faces that we had to return to the river
valley for the day shelter of trees. On the sixth night our run was
short. Appino-kommit told us we should sleep till he called us, but
I don't know if anyone slept. Just at dawn he came among us and
said we should put out the fires.
"Eat all you can," he said. "Who can say who will eat again."
The snow was almost to our knees and the sun shone on it like
fire leaping in the cold. Appino-kommit led us through the brush
of the coulee and soon we heard dogs, then horses, and children
laughing, and I think I have never heard so many women sing so
happily or their axes ring as loud as they did that morning, but I
may have forgotten it. But that day I will never forget, and we were
not listening for such happy sounds that day, we were very busy.
The fire of war burned in us, our enemies were there and we
looked at each other and saw war paint. We stripped off our clothes
very fast, everything but breechcloths and moccasins lay on the
snow, a great pile of clothes and my young brother had to stay there
with them. This made him very sad, but Appino-kommit said it was
glory enough for someone so young to be one of a war party as
famous as this one would be, so we left him there smiling. I don't
know what happened to him; I never saw him again.
We were divided into two equal parties, Appino-kommit leading
48 one and Kristo-koom-epoka the other. One party would follow the
coulee to where it spread out into the river valley and the edge of
the camp, the other would go higher, along the edge of the brush
above and then, on a given signal, both would rush into the camp
from opposite directions and meet in the center, as nearly as possible.
Women and children wouldn't be touched if they didn't fight. My
friend, that was the time to see Appino-kommit; you would have
known as we did that he was born to be a warrior. He told every
man what to do, nothing was forgotten. "The Cree make it so easy
for us," he said. "Such a small camp should have scouts out all the
time." We looked at each other and then our swift feet carried us
apart, but I like to remember that little bit of time, to remember us
all together and how I felt the fire of the coming battle jerk my
heart for happiness, remember my sad young brother sitting on the
pile our clothing made and Appino-kommit, our leader, his war
feathers quivering about his proud head in the sunlight so bright
and cold, his eyes finding each one of us down to our very hearts as
we stood around him. Proud and happy.
The last legging had fallen on the pile and my brother was hardly
seated when the word came and we broke into our two parties,
running silently, crouched, to the proper place. I was with Kristo-
koom-epoka on the left, running with my good friends down the
coulee and already I could hear the roar of victory, the brave deeds
being sung again in the Medicine Lodge and I thought of two eyes
shining and soft skin flushed soft red as I told what I had done, I a
warrior with coups at my belt who needed to fear nothing, certainly
not to ask for a girl since everyone knows a warrior needs a wife
to keep his lodge. My heart was pounding so hard with these happy
thoughts my chest ran sweat under those frozen bushes, and we had
hardly reached our place and squatted, peering under branches past
the bottoms of the hills set there like giant grey hoofs when through
the morning air rang the signal. The warcry of Siksika, our People.
As in that instant before a man's hands meet to clap again, there
is silence. It all seems so peaceful, the sound of singing women and
children, horses just hanging there as if not yet quite gone and
everything motionless and so quiet with the sunlight dancing on the
snow, smoke going straight up from lodges against the river hills and
into the blue sky. Then! A roar as three hundred men leap up,
teeth glistening into sunlight, screaming we run, stretched out towards our enemies with our knives and plumes and spears pointing
the way A - a ha he ha, a - ha he ha, I yo ho i yo ho, Ha koc e
49 mat, Spurn o kit, Spurn o kit, I yo ho, i yo ho, our voices thunder in
the joy of it as lodges split themselves before our sharp knives and
the enemy staggers out, snatching at weapons and falling, snatching
and falling and trying to stand zipp! Arrows hiss some of us down
but who sees that, we are forcing them back, they are summer flies,
their clubs and knives just flies brushed aside and crushed I yo ho
the joy of knife thudding in bone and blood spray I yo ho I am here
now! and we hear our brothers' voices bellowing towards us above
the screams and smoke and know we will meet soon to grasp their
bloody hands a-a ha he ha.
But listen! There is a far sound above the roar, the screams, there,
between the lodges, the white dust of snow rising with the thunder
of hooves down the valley, back back! Back! Each desperate voice
cries to each, back! for the open jaws of horses swirl up towards us
through the snow of their running with spears and knives and
warcries of our enemies bristling above them, shout to your brother
that death is running us, back. "All stay together!" Kristo-koom-
epoka cries, and we gain the coulee's shelter fast, and we still feel
there may be hope but we must turn to face those charging horses.
You see, my friend, this is how it was. In the bend of the Great
River below that small camp we attacked, where we could not see
it, was the main Cree camp. So big a thousand warriors could jump
up in a moment. Appino-kommit knew that early in the morning
the horses are always in a camp, and he knew that if we attacked
at that time it would save us the trouble of rounding them up. So
the thousand warriors in that big camp he didn't know about had
to take no more than one running step before they could gallop.
We could tell by the sound of guns, the Cree had six or seven
and we altogether had two, that the others led by Appino-kommit
were also retreating to the coulees of the river hills and we would
have to get together to stand, if possible. I have told you, my friend,
that we wore only breechcloths and moccasins, but that is not true;
I also had a shirt which I'd traded the fall before from the traders
when we got those two guns in the north at Big House. It was
cotton and only reached my belt but it was a great comfort to me
as you will see. Ai he ha, I see it all now, the rush for our lives to
the coulee, we reach it and turn just in time to stop them with
arrows and a desperate charge against those horses' swinging heads
with axes. Ahhh, they are so tight now stabbing around us that
horses can be killed with knives, they jam the coulee so tight in their
rage to trample us into the frozen ground. They charge again, and
5° again, wheel away and charge again, and four times we meet them
on foot, leaping among the foaming horses, smashing their heads,
tearing off riders and gutting horses and smashing knees, smashing
them down, our knives driving between ribs and gulping blood
straight from pounding hearts I yo ho I yo ho I am here now! the
dead piled up in that coulee so high we can't see over them, the
bright sunshine and the red circles on the snow as the Cree whirl
around once more, and charge again. I can taste my own blood
in my mouth here they come again, the fourth charge and I hear
their roar as they hurdle the dead and we meet Ha koc e mat!
and I am among the horses, my enemy's arm lunging a spear past
me and I have that arm, he starts to fall down towards my face and
I step slightly aside, knife straight up and it is gone in him to the
hilt. The horse rears, screaming, and I twist my knife out, up, and
with both hands drive one long red fine down through his white
and bay belly while he is still on his hind legs pawing above me
and his warm curled intestines pour out in one great steaming
puddle about his hoofs in the red snow. That hot smell now! Down,
he is down like a spilled mountain and the club of a friend splatters
his rider's brains in my face and we roar with laughter. They are
gone. Gasping I pull another friend from under a floundered horse.
A voice is behind me, Kristo-koom-epoka has to tell me his name
for my breath roars in my ears and he is unrecognizable, as if poured
over red. "Take cover," he shouts, "they'll come on foot now, with
bows! Cover." And they do that, but we are sheltered by the coulee,
they have to shoot high into the air and the arrows falling down
straight hurt only a few.
"Friends," the voice of Kristo-koom-epoka again, "I don't think
anyone wants to stay here; this place is mostly cold and falling
arrows. We should go back in threes, two strong take one wounded
between them. I'll go first. That way we can get back to the others.
Keep close together, come now."
Like a wounded grizzly we started. In an instant our enemy
answered our warcry and rushed to meet us. That wasn't the kind
of fight a warrior likes to remember, carrying his wounded friend
and trying to cut his way out; no joy, no joy. I only remember that
as soon as we started an arrow killed the wounded friend I was
helping carry and I took his axe in my right hand and my knife in
my left and pushed towards the front to Kristo-koom-epoka. We
stood side by side and I helped him chop our path through Cree.
How long that was I don't know, but at last they drew back with
51 only a few arrows spitting at us. We could see then not far away
our other party slowly retreating and carrying the wounded as we
were. The Cree tried to keep us apart, but up there on the flats they
seemed to have worn off their fierceness against our knives and the
terrible cold; soon we were together with what was left of our
friends. About then some late Cree arrived and put more heart in
the enemy, but now we were prepared for them. Appino-kommit
had sent all the wounded ahead and formed a rear-guard of the
strongest that were left. And on the flat plain there and the one
shallow line of a beginning coulee we fought for a long time, driving
them back again and again until the sun was low. It was the middle
of winter, but it took the sun a long time to get there. Then Appino-
kommit said to me,
"You are a great runner and your legs are still good. Run ahead
of us to the place where we were camped this morning. Tell anyone
you find there we must meet in the tall timber we passed through
last night, down in that bend. Then you go ahead there and build
big fires, the Cree have all our clothing. Run, or many more will
die in this cold."
So I left them and I ran. I passed the wounded ones, giving
them my message. I ran till there was only one track in the snow
and a narrow fine of blood for me to follow.
Soon I saw someone running in front of me, not steadily but as
if drunk and as I overtook him I looked into his face. He was a boy
of fifteen. A shot close in had blown his lower jaw away and his
tongue was frozen on his breast with long icicles of saliva and
blood. I only looked once and said nothing but ran on. I saw what
rode his shoulder, soon he would go slower, and then he would
stop and He down in the snow, and then sleep. Even now sometimes
in a dream I see how he looked at me as I passed him, I running
without wounds, and I could not stop to help. I saw him and the
lives of all depended on me but he did not know that or what I saw
and his look told me that he would feel it even when he couldn't
feel his wounds any more. The heat of battle was gone and we were
retreating; we had to get to fires; we had to tie up the wounded.
As I ran my heart wanted to die because I had to think of all that
faced us. Without clothing, home and safety was five long nights
and days away, and we had no food. Would our wounded need us
after one night of this cold? Of course the Cree would track us, and
get the scalps of those who fell, and they would make sure that no
one survived the cold; they would all be happier if we froze like
52 dogs rather than on their knives with our warcry sounding. Do you
wonder my heart was stretched out?
The sun was cut in half when I reached the grove where the fires
were to be built, and there I found some comfort because four sweat
lodges made of raw buffalo hides stood under the trees. These could
give shelter to some wounded, they would gradually warm if we
built large fires outside them, and the hair could be used to stuff the
mouths of wounds. If any still bled in the terrible cold. After I had
started the first big fire I scrapped hair from one of the robes, tied
my shirt sleeves tight and pulled my belt very tight around the
bottom of my shirt. Then I stuffed hair inside, and I can still feel
the warmth that came over me as I worked hard, doing this. And
soon people began to arrive, the hurt ones first, and among them
Otat-to-ye, the brother of the girl whose shadow I often tried to
follow in my dreams. Any child could see he would not reach home.
Blood oozed from a hole in his chest and froze on his skin; an arrow
had cut through his entrails and its head was buried in his backbone.
Only his great heart had brought him this far ai-ha-ha-ha, our
hearts so heavy.
No one said a word as we worked to staunch running blood, to
tie sticks around crushed limbs. At last Appino-kommit, with the
rear guard. I looked around in the firelight to see who was there,
and nearly half of all those who had run east under these trees so
happily were now lying, somewhere, in the trampled snow. And
of the ones here, over half were badly wounded. But as I looked
around I had more courage; in every face burned fierce resolution
and revenge; o the early summer sun, may these Cree five long
enough to see that! And before dawn our trek had to begin, the
strong helping the weak, and those who had died at night we placed
in a line against trees facing where the enemy would come so that
they could, even in death, glare at those they hated now more than
I and a friend went to Otat-to-ye and lifted him to his feet and,
each of us with an arm about him, held his arm over our shoulder
with the other hand. We had moved this way only a few steps
when he asked us to take him back and place him on the ground
beside the dead fire. We did that. Then he said, "Take half of my
breechcloth and cover my face." I did that; then he said, "Go fast,
the Cree will soon be here, go fast and don't look back."
As we went I heard his voice again, I could barely hear it calling
my name. He said as I stood by him again, "Take the cloth off." I
53 did. "Kiss me," he said then, and I did. His eyes were wide open
and so black I could look through them and through his skull and
see the inside of blackness. "Now put the cloth back, I don't want to
see them." And I walked from him again, and I heard nothing
behind me.
Friend, can you know how I felt? Do you know pain? That was
what made us men, then, such happiness and such pain that could
turn quickly as a hand turning. Our hearts had to know and hold
both, and though we were very young we were the children of this
land and sky and we did not cry out and make women of ourselves
by groaning and cutting ourselves. We were already cut enough;
our hearts could bleed in silence. I see by your face you understand
some of this; the story I would have to tell his sister, that I had left
him alone to wait for their knives because I could not kill him. All
day they ran our flanks like wolf shadows on the snow and happy
the man whom the wolves got before they, our enemy. And as the
sun sank Appino-kommit came and said I would have to run again.
I would have to be the one to go ahead and tell all this to our camp,
and ask that food and clothing be sent.
Now you will understand about a man bringing such a story into
the great camp of our people. When sorrow strikes so swift and hard
sometimes a hand flies up and kills the messenger who has dared to
speak such words; friend or stranger, it doesn't matter, our love for
our own is so strong. As soon as it was dark I started. It was colder
and the snow had begun to drift before a northwest wind and I
had to run against that all night. I rested a little when I could not
twist my strength any tighter, then all next day, taking only a short
sleep by a fire in the middle of the day, then on for three days and
nights. In the evening of the third day I came near our great camp;
I had eaten only rose bush berries as I ran and slept no more than
half a night altogether, watching for what might be following me,
and I could barely walk as I came in, my face frozen and legs cut
by the crusted snow. I moved towards the chief's lodge, for only
there was there safety for me, but children recognised me and ran
through the camp crying that one had come back alone who could
scarcely walk and had gone to the chief's lodge. The whole camp
ran together.
I entered the lodge and seated myself under the Medicine, and I
will tell you what that means, my friend, for you will not know it.
The door of a lodge is always towards the rising sun and the
chief's bed is always exactly opposite the door, that is, against the
54 back side of the lodge equal distance from the door if you go either
to the right or the left when you enter, and the head of the bed is always to the north so that when the chief sits during the day his face
is always east towards his own fire in the centre of his lodge and the
rising sun. There are reasons for this. At the head of the bed on his
left is a tripod, his robe rests on one side of this and under the
tripod he keeps his war bonnet, his tobacco, and the other sacred
things, and over this, but outside the lodge, hangs his Medicine. Now
whoever comes in and sits down on his left before the tripod also sits
under the Medicine, and even if he is an enemy, if he gets to the
middle of the camp where the chief's lodge is and gets inside and
gains that place, he is safe as long as he remains there. Once out
of that place anyone may kill him, provided he hasn't convinced
them otherwise. So I got in, and got under the Medicine, sitting
there in the warm, safest place of my people with my head hanging
to my knees, and I couldn't say anything as the people ran together
For a long time the chief sat with his head bowed. He had not
said a word when I jerked open his lodge door so naked and bloody,
and he said nothing while the sounds of people outside grew and
one by one the councillors came in silently and looked at me and
seated themselves on my left. At last the chief reached behind him
for his tobacco board and prepared a pipe of tobacco and slowly
filled his great pipe. He passed the pipe to one councillor, who
placed the stem in his mouth, turning the bowl towards another
and that one took a live coal from the fire and placed it on the
tobacco. When it was lit, the councillor passed the pipe back to the
chief. He pointed the smoking stem toward the rising sun and
prayed to The Great God, to the sun, stars and moon, to earth and
sky and water, that they have pity on his people. Then he passed the
pipe to me; he bid me smoke, and called his women to prepare
food. When I had smoked and eaten in silence the chief took my
hand and said,
"Do any live?"
He repeated my answer to the people.
"Are they in danger?"
"Yes, from starvation and wounds."
"How far are they?"
"In two days they should be here, those still alive."
55 Again he cried this out to the people, and orders were given that
warriors take food and robes to them.
And then began the hardest of all. The people began to ask about
their loved ones. One would enter the lodge and call a name and I
would make the sign for living; then rejoicing would echo in the warm
lodge and all around it from those outside, but perhaps at the next
name called I, I would have to make the sign of death, or wounded,
and the sounds of mourning began and soon there was nothing but
that sound surrounding me. I could not lift my head under it and
I heard my mother's voice asking about her youngest son, three
times she asked and I couldn't answer, I had no power left to lift
my hand, there was nothing left in me hearing her voice for my
father was dead and she was already bent under sorrow. But I made
that sign too. And the wails grew and still I made the dreaded sign
and still I had not heard that one voice, the one I loved and so
dreadful now and on and on until my heart gave way. I sprang to
my feet, shouting, "Don't ask me for Otat-to-ey, don't ask! How
can I say his last word beside the dead fire!" And when I had said
that I heard a low cry in front of me and the world turned black.
When I knew something again two days later they told me fifty
young men had been brought back. The relief party reached them
just in time, or not ten would have returned. Fifty out of three
It is late, my friend, and time to sleep. That was our life then,
that was what made us men, such happiness and glory and pain
that could turn quickly as a hand turning. When the Old Men still
taught us and we Uved with the great buffalo and the rivers on this
land which had been given to our fathers before us and we had the
strength to breathe and run wherever our eye moved across the
land under this sky. Yes, we wailed that winter in the cold valleys
of the Red Deer, and the Cree, ai he ha, the Cree that summer!
You see, white traders finally dared come to us and we piled our
robes up against their guns and the longest of them could kill farther
than any gun I ever saw. No, he was too young, it was Ok-ki-kit-
sip-pe-me-o-tas the war chief who led us. And how the Crees wailed
that summer along the Great River, ahhh, how they wailed.
Translated from the Italian by Dora Pettinella
This frail evening light
Flashing above the oak trees
Is still ours. The fire
In the room sputters (a subtle
Murmur escapes your vigilance)
and hardly touching you it scorched
Your dress; zealously
Defending you from the flame like the evergreen
Leaf. You tremble
Now that the northwind
Devastates the orchards
And the indolent passion flower grieves
Behind angry windowpanes.
The cold autumn night grips me
in its numbed elbow.
Desolate, it runs over the leaves,
waking me at every thrust
of chestnut boughs. Perhaps,
all the good in me lies
in this definite hour of calm,
turning where the waters
swell as the slope narrows.
When the gentle break subsides
all things ruin in greater haste
and the breath of shadow that congeals
my brow brings me no pain.
From the open bridge wind overwhelms me
as I bend over the little parapet.
We have slept so many nights
high above the threshing floor,
hands buried in wheat,
dogs watching our sleep.
Your feet were gentler
than the white doves
of our folded handkerchiefs.
Threads of straw were in your hair:
and to a trembling sound of bells
you moved the meadow behind you.
Leonardo Sinsigalli was born in Montemurro, Basilicata, Italy in 1908. He
completed his studies in engineering in Rome where he worked with Olivetti,
later with Pirelli, and Eni. For several years he was editor of the Italian
Magazine Civilta delle Macchine, the counterpart of the American magazine
Fortune. He is the author of Furor Matematicus, a collection of essays on
painting, printing, mathematics and architecture. Dora M. Pettinella was
born in Boston, Massachusetts of Italian parents and now lives in New York
City. She writes stories and poems in English and Italian and translates from
Spanish, Portuguese and French. Her works have appeared in numerous
Milkweed, the bunched fists
of Queen Anne's Lace, break my sleep.
Winter is coming.
First leaves of yellow
blotchy with age, their veins show
the maps of the old
lost world of August.
Reds in the cells' divisions
bite through the body.
The floors fall away
in abandoned barns, lichens
have scalded the stones
and the crow's jeering
follows me out of the wood
of gathering birds.
The moon is riding
a trail of cloud called ribbon,
called white handkerchief
of goodbye, my feet
lose their sound on this highway.
So farewell chimney,
big trudging people
who called in the smokey field,
I'm leaving I'm gone.
Where can I go now
but home, taking the dead leaf
in for questioning.
For news of the ice.
For the hiding place of love.
For the vanished.
Neighbour on one side
is a keeper of the dead.
So I think of him,
an old shrinking man
who builds vaults, his eyes full of
water and his skin
slack like water.
He keeps an owl on his gatepost,
the dead's watching-bird.
I don't know if he's
ready among his flowers,
the Blackeyed Susans.
But he keeps bending
to the earth as if asking
and calls through the fence
to come look to come
see what the rain has grown now
on the bending tree.
Ken Smith is at present visiting writer at Clark and Holy Cross in Worcester,
Mass. He has published two books: The Pity (Jonathan Cape) and Work,
Distances/poems (Swallow Press).
(a surrealist accusation)
Translated from the French by Magda Pavitt
The flame melted the glimmer of its rays
It stretched like a stringless bow and whistling fell across
the way of hurried children
Thus began the night of February 25
The pale yellow trees with dying leaves bent under the brutally
livid fire
And the flagstones meshed in the strange chessboard of days
ransacked by the steaming undertow of the past
A few hoarse persons were passing — hair pomaded by snowflakes
nostrils that exhaled the cold and the
smell of asiatic nomads
With their bloodied hands which had broken through the fleeing
and were striking with fierce movement
To their savage cries rumbling above the depths of the deaf pines and
penetrating the unfastened windows
The blood of their victims was gushing in the gutters cutting off
their way home
Since that time when the last man fell as if cut down
Trampled so quickly like the shock which turned into a drop of ice
and mingled with the steaming breath of
the tyrants
The calendar gave forewarning of spring
But the cold earth began to yield only malice, distrust and fear
Engulfed country —
slowly massacred: its streams are covered over with drinking-troughs,
its slopes have smothered the Mongolian steppe,
its brain digests the fever of false confessions
All of its wheels turn uselessly (and they were good wheels!)
62 the stage has become dark — the old voices resound again
streets made for children's games fill up with heaps of rubbish
Beaten country
with ceilings stinking of oil and rancour
cut to shreds (but the photos tell a different story)
encircled by tunnels and bridges that lead nowhere,
its shadow is fading away
and in its tired breath it holds its voice, perhaps for ever
We move always in circles with fists clenched as if by a suitcase
which hinders flight
we scratch our souls on the darkness on which the snow has fallen
and there is nothing left to do but sleep and dream, dream and sleep
in a large shaken house
encircled by stones that bleed
Perhaps there is only one meaning — and it is our slow stiffness
with eyes staring at gnawed bones to eat
scarred brains adjusted to darkness and to assailed leaves
Like the poet for whom colours go out
like a branchy tree at the bottom of the shallow glass of water
we drown liquified hopes in the transparent waters
and we meditate — thirsting for the essence which escapes us
again and again
forehead foamy and reddened eyes
we hide in the palms of our hands, where nobody can help us
(The stones are falling again, again....)
63 Morning is a reeling hope
frenzied with achievement, empty and evil
as the bonds which stretch out into the night
— it is in its lair —
it is a bird that scatters promises of stars on the fissures of fear
And somewhere, like a lattice forcing itself to become human,
we swim in our memories on sage
which smells sweet (so often) in our cups in the morning
On first waking we think only with guile
and all our torments pass from darkness to indifference
and with their claws drawn-in we lose our illusions
For the sake of a great carrousel distorted by our infallibility
We are crushed to dust by the machinery of the cruelties of our
Now most of our people have been dead for a long time
they walk and their bodies have not yet been nourished by the spirit
the effort of breathing exercises is for them the barometer whose
graded scale has been snatched away by time
They stop listening — their ears are smothered with frost
their eyes serve as easels for an anguished contemplation
their pulse multiplies the moans of the age (even when we doubt
we do not have to go on living)
They say that the way of the poet is paved with pools of blood
that shed blood ferments again in his poems
and that their smell — like the smell of submarine stars —
will choke with wrath
and will rise higher and higher .. .
But the past glory of man is still a notable monument to them
64 The weak moment of the dimmed voice
and the diminishing lament
and bent shadow
and a whole row of chairs forever empty
If I am as obscure as the waterfall
and if I sing through the lament of noisy crowds,
the cluttered dike of conscience is the first spring
from which flows happiness
The undercurrent of discarded baskets, thick as a slack twilight
The ferryman on the moulding of the night
clings with his emaciated fingers,
and the withered flowers
spoil on the sand grown warm
The premonition of night and oblivion
is an abyss containing a large dead fish
Rocked in a steel coffin with five naked corners
whose edges flame in flashes of bleeding diamonds
we are merged into the dying and sinuous blue of the most
precious dew
The walls of the coffin, solid and hollow
contain broken veins under the sole pretence of freeing ideas
and the screwed lids gnawed by termites, choked by carnivorous
At times — the coffin sways
turns or starts to rumble with streaming brief fires
lets a weak moan escape
65 causing a flutter of ceaseless discomfort to stir the edges of tired
The years race by caring nothing for the cracks in the sky,
hunched up, escaping the unclenched fists of time and with timid
feel the pulse of the frozen walls of space
Then the coffin is covered over with dense grass, green moss or lichen
the walls rot and from their rusty wounds emerge men
oh completely dead already
dried foam around their lips
severed wrists
empty eyes
and shoulders burnt by swords of fire
.. . and yet so beautiful
Fear has feet covered with green wheat
crowned with burning ice,
frozen breath, hazy with licorice
murmurs like the hearts of butterflies
Fear is the vermilion red dreamt of by Leontine de Sade,
imprisoned as if in the deserts of T. S. Eliot
it is the dreadful aridity left by the imprint of the vampire's teeth —
the rails of planes that never reached their goal
the promises outlined against the high mountains that touch the sky
drowned by despair, inundated by the brilliance of feverish eyes
The landscape loses its shape under the mud of Caesar's soles
The opening between the needles
The baroque illuminations of the sidewalks among the fields
66 You, Rimbaud, the seer, you are always someone else!
and the explosive smell of ether and cocaine
is absorbed in the capillaries of set eras
through which fear always infiltrates and flows back
My brother is a shapeless suitcase
hurrying towards the orbits of my impatient death
I drag him along everywhere I go
and I always leave him behind with someone
whose breath is fathomless like his sin
When the chain of penance broke
calm thoughts floated in the street,
I went out in front of his house and from his hands and from
his arms
I drove away the troublesome ants
and his oval skull broke under the blows of my thoughtless breath
His gold teeth were thrown in the swamps
The sun casts brilliant reflections on them
and I — as always
I walk with my brother or with his remains
in the middle of the sunlit boulevard
The echoes of your gestures (how I love the thickets of your lips)
like the vibrating blade of the Japanese woodcutter,
go towards the memory where only one spark penetrates;
the spark of the echo of your languishing traces
They are the ones which resound by the creaking of down-at-heel
boots on the ray of light,
turn in the gap of the teeth of morning
which has climbed on the cobweb of the colourless palette;
67 they are perhaps the strokes of Duchamp or Michelangelo
whose snares of shadow stagger
The flames lick my gaze,
its stride swarms with horsetails which intertwine like octopuses
and on the illuminated backs of trembling arcades
the hawthorn buds in its scales and the roses waken
The wardrobe is the resting place of a lover
its smell — so pressing — unleashes the conviction that midnight
sounds wrong
that its tinklings dulled by candour
are sage buried in dew
Arnost Budik was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia. He was director of the Czech
surrealist review Styx until 1969, when he left Czechoslovakia and settled in
Brussels, where he co-edits the review Gradiva. These translations are extracts
from his long poem a mi-chemin d'ici a Id (accusation surrealiste) published by
Fagne, Brussels, 1971. Magda Pavitt was born in Cairo and took degrees at the
American University in Cairo, McGill and the University of British Columbia.
She is at present taking courses in Comparative Literature and in Translation
at the University of British Columbia while working on literary translations
from and into French.
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....  .   ....   t..    Ronald  Shelton  lives  in  Seattle and will  shortly be  moving  to  Tucson,
Luke Easter's Home Run,
Dierdre, and I
According to dierdre, the most difficult tongue twister in English
is "The sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep's sick." She has yet to convince
me that there are not more difficult things to say.
I came across the following in some notes lying in an old shoe
box — The Blue Room?
The Green Room?
The Blue-Green Room? I can't remember what story it was
to be for, or if the story was ever finished, or ever started, or
if it was the title of a story I had read and did not want to forget.
If the latter, I have forgotten it. If the former I have forgotten it
A story was constructed by me in Daytona Beach where I went
to speak with the women who lay on the beach like inflatable toys
roasting to a greasy brown on the sand, watching the small plane
flying back and forth above the waves dragging a sign that said
Dance Tonite 7PM at Macs
and on the other side
Stop Pain with Solarcaine.
Dierdre, an inflatable woman from Cincinnati, told me stories of
Ohio on the beach. She offered that the most difficult tongue twister
in any language was the Czech for "Stick a finger in the throat"
though she could not remember how to say it in Czech.
I added dancing bears as I have in the past. Nothing.
77 I manufactured a naked woman and a breathtaking chase, with
no results.
I struck every bit of metaphor from the record and slipped in its
place a man with a gun.
I greased my own body with Hershey butter and sprawled on the
sands beside the women, watching cars drive by on the wet sand
and the plastic flying saucers slowly pass above our heads.
From an old truck decorated with pinwheels and flags I bought a
cup of colored ice and a hot dog with chili, and returned to the
women. An observation booth ran smoothly up a tower like a
doughnut around a greased pole. On the pier was a dance hall.
When asked if I was going to the dance that night I replied that I
did not know a dance was scheduled and until that moment had
been unaware that dance halls still existed on piers. Dierdre looked
incredulous that she had been trapped in a conversation with someone who was thus ignorant.
The chili did not set well with me and the green lime ice gave
me a headache.
"Only a few days ago you were so funny," Dierdre told me, "you
jumped in the air and did stunts. You've changed. You laughed
at the people on the beach, and now you won't even pose with the
"I have a headache now," I said.
"That's no excuse, you must be stronger than that."
"Leave me alone," I pleaded, my head pulsating like a soft egg.
They got up to leave, complaining that I was no fun anymore.
Before leaving Florida I discovered three more things about the
Blue, Green, or Blue-Green Room, lying in my trunk scrawled on
scraps of paper.
—■ man jumps off tall building
— he was a sky man, and you don't
meet many sky men anymore
— Me Tarzan You Jane has been running
continuously in an Egyptian movie
house for over twenty years
Pleased with the progress though unable to interpret the data, I
struck out in search of more evidence.
78 I flew to Louisville, Kentucky and stayed in the Standiford Motor
Inn near the airport. My room had lush carpets and a color television, and I walked around barefoot while the television played.
Some nights I walked to the Executive Inn which had several
restaurants and a pool being fed by a spitting statue. The halls were
lined with fur and soft music came out of them.
The skies were overcast and none of the rooms were blue, and
so I flew to Charleston, West Virginia.
In a doughnut shop next to the ballpark in Charleston a grounds-
keeper told me this story:
"You want a story? I've got one for you that can be verified by
over a thousand people because that's how many were in the park
that day. Luke Easter played with the Red Wings one year and
when they were in town one Sunday afternoon playing the Charlies
he hit a ball over the clock in right field that landed on a train in a
half full box car. The god damn thing ended up in Ohio somewhere."
"The B and O fine?"
"This is the truth."
We walked out to the ballpark which was being scrubbed of a
winter's soot deposit for the coming season, the box seats were
being painted red, new pennants being hung, and I verified at least
that train tracks ran right behind right field and surmised that
though it would be a well hit ball indeed, it was possible to hit a
ball onto a passing train. That, I told him, was encouraging.
"It is the truth," he told me.
I talked to some old men at the railroad yard and they too said
Luke Easter had once hit a ball to Ohio, though they doubted the
ball had ever been recovered.
I flew to Rochester, New York, home of the Red Wings.
No one there knew anything about it though they had a story
of their own.
"A few years ago Luke hit a foul ball over Seneca Lanes."
"That is hard to believe," I said, judging the distance visually to
the light green stucco bowling alley across the parking lot, "but I
don't think it's as difficult as hitting a ball to Ohio."
"It's a matter of opinion," they told me.
79 I drove East across upstate New York through the duck preserves
on the edge of Lake Ontario. Clouds blew around threatening to
rain, yet this news of Luke Easter had cheered me immensely and
I wondered if the railroad cars could have been so switched that
the ball was still traveling around the country.
A night in the Syracuse Hotel was spent with a first grade schoolteacher. I asked her if she had ever heard of Luke Easter. She said
she had not, but she had visited Ohio several times and the whole
thing sounded plausible to her. She also told me the population of
Ohio was nearly ten million.
When we awoke it was nearly eleven in the morning, sheets and
blankets were scattered all over the room, the wine bottle was
empty, and written on the mirror in lipstick, unmistakably in my
handwriting were the words
"It's been playing continuously in an Egyptian movie house for
over twenty years," I told her.
"Whatever for?"
I handed her her underclothes.
"It's ten o'clock," I said, "don't you have to be at school this
"No. It's summer."
I had forgotten. Sat sat up on the bed and rubbed her forehead
while focusing her eyes on me now in the light of day. Her hair
needed combing, she lit a cigaret and looked at the stretch marks
on her belly, squinting up at me through the smoke that irritated
her eyes.
"So you're a writer."
I nodded.
"Make me a character in one of your stories."
"If you like."
"Only don't use my real name, it could cost me a teaching job."
Yes yes, I assured her, walking around the room sloppily gathering my things, repacking my shaving bag.
The last thing I want to do is cost someone their job.
At the Wfllard Hotel in Toledo was a convention of the Jig Saw
Puzzlers of America. A variety of people were in attendance — fat
80 men smoking pipes, middle aged housewives, college students with
beards, even children not more than twelve years of age.
A poster mounted on an easel announced speakers of the convention.
6 PM How to do Borders
by Mr. F. LMepage
7 PM Covered Bridges and Leaping Tarpon
by Mrs. Arlin Whiteside
8 PM Sky
by Dr. Wilfred Fong
In the lobby on a special table was the largest jig saw puzzle I'd
ever seen; it had been provided for the conventioners and was intended to give them a chance to display their abilities as they
wandered through the lobby. And, as planned, not a conventioner
passed through the lobby without stopping to fix a piece or two
in its proper place. Nearly ten thousand pieces sat on the table free
of any key picture to show what the completed puzzle would look
I passed by an open door to the lounge where speakers were
talking, and the sky man was giving his speech.
I stepped inside the door to listen.
"... you must look quickly and carefully at cloud types, distinguish between them and thus eliminate wasted motions, also looking
closely at birds in flight which can be an invaluable aid in putting
sky together. Never neglect slight changes in bluish tones, no sky
is one shade of blue but the sum total of a thousand slightly different
The audience was enraptured, even these experts had no idea
there was so much involved. I felt I was sharing something with this
man, an inexplicable notion that he would understand the legendary
Easter home runs. I too was enraptured.
A description ensued of particularly odd sky problems and how
he had solved them, carefully building to his own fist of thematic
phyla, implying strongly that no puzzler worth his salt would fail
instandy to recognize the differences in each. He referred to the
Seascape Theme, The Desert Sunset Theme (with sub-phyla of
accompanying foreground material —■ mission bells, saguaro, Indian
weaving), the Mountain Lake Theme, the Classical Period of jig
8i saw design, the Neo-Classic, and with some disdain, the Modernes.
He divided skies into a dozen major categories and subdivided
that again. He talked at length about the color blue, listing pigments
on a blackboard so they could be committed to memory.
He listed:
Lapis Lazuli
Prussian Blue
Thalo Blue
Cerulean Blue
Cobalt Blue
Manganese Blue
I wrote them down and added them to whatever notes I had.
Later in the lobby I noticed this same man standing near the big
puzzle. It was past midnight and few people were still in the lobby.
He was staring listlessly down at the table, puffing gently on a
curved pipe. It looked as if this giant puzzle was confusing him
although he made no attempt to solve it. Feeling comradery with
the man and anxious to tell him how much I'd enjoyed his speech,
I walked straight up to him and introduced myself.
He was delighted that I'd taken the time to speak with him, and
in no time was off in a long digression about difficult cases he'd
solved but hadn't time to mention in his speech. Finally I interrupted to ask what he thought of the giant puzzle lying pardy completed before us.
"Oh this?" He said looking down at its fragmented structure, a
hunk of some sort of building visible on one edge, the border
finished, a few stray recognizable images scattered about, a truck in
the foreground, a man walking.
"This is a rather simple one."
He reached down and picked up a piece, held it for my scrutiny
though it looked like any other piece to me, and immediately set it
in place. I was astonished. He then picked up and properly placed
at least two dozen more pieces almost without hesitation until a
section of sky began to take shape. He smiled.
I picked up a piece and made a fraudulent attempt to hook it
into another, nearly ripping off a small prong of cardboard in the
process. He placed several more where they belonged. A blue patch
was emerging.
"That's enough," I said.
82 Enlightened by the demonstration I left an early call for the
He was a sky man, and you don't meet many sky men anymore.
On July Fourth in Chicago's deserted O'Hare Airport, I called
Dierdre in Cincinnati.
She did not remember me at first, only when I said "Strch prst
skrz krk," Czech for "stick a finger in the throat."
I told her all that had happened to me, I postulated to her my
feelings about the importance of verifying Luke Easter's fabled
home run, I told her about the furry hallways at the motel in
She said, "Individually those are some very nice things, but there
is no one big thing to sustain it."
I argued that there never was.
The smoothness of the flight to Winnipeg, Canada, the amiability
of the stewardesses, even the color stripes painted on the airplane
cheered me. I passed through customs quickly and checked into a
downtown hotel.
A cold wind was blowing street trees and I realized I was not
dressed warm enough. I put on an extra sweater and overcoat and
looked through the material in my room. Matches sat in every clean
ash tray on every table and desk, the top drawer was filled with
envelopes but no paper, a postcard with a picture of the hotel, a ball
point pen that didn't work, a booklet called This Week in Winnipeg
that was five months old.
Bundled up I went out into the streets to see the city. I couldn't
look at the sky without seeing a million tiny pieces interlocked,
hundreds of blues and grays that I could not identify, even a border.
I walked into newsstands that sold tobacco and paperback books,
systematically moving along each row until I had seen every cover,
familiar with the printed comments from reviewers and publishers.
.... ribald ....
.... promising....
.... delightful....
.... a story of today ....
83 I knew them all. Each was a tour de force.
I paused longest in front of the last group of books, cellophane
wrapped magazines with naked people whose genitals were covered
with plastic black spots like blackstrips over eyes in police photographs to conceal identity. Somewhere someone's job was to carefully place black spots on the covers.
In a restaurant I ordered prime rib and it is served to me bloody
red. I convince myself that is the way I like it but it does not taste
good. It hardly tastes done. Half way through the meal I push it
aside and order a dish of vanilla ice cream for dessert, thinking
something sweet will remove the taste. Canadian ice cream has a
higher cream content than that in the United States, and its sweetness nearly gags me. My coffee remained untouched and I left the
It was still cold outside and the wind blew through my heavy
clothing until it stirred the red meat and ice cream in my stomach.
Down the street the theater marquees fit up and lines began to
form at the windows. To escape the cold I got in the first line I
came to, my collar pulled up around my neck and my hands in
my pockets, I did not know what movie I was in line to see.
Inside the lobby I found momentary refuge from the cold and
was greeted by swirling purple rugs and the smell of popcorn. I
hurried into the theater and found a seat.
A war movie comes on and a lush musical score plus a long list of
credits helped the red meat and ice cream to settle in my stomach.
The movie was set in North Africa and was about Rommel,
but I recognized the ocatilla and cholla as plants from Arizona
and I'm sure I caught a glimpse of the Catalina Mountains near
Tucson. That did not matter, in fact I was relieved to know the
panzer divisions were staying at nice Phoenix motels with thick
For two hours I was a captive of the movie, and not until it was
over did I realize I was sweating, that my insides were churning
over and over and my head swirled with pain.
I shakily rose from my seat and left the theater, out into the
windy street. The cold struck me in the face and I reeled inside my
overcoat. It was ten o'clock on a Friday evening and the streets were
crowded with people. Dozens of busses, bumper to bumper, rushed
and stopped up and down Portage Street, each lit brightly like an
operating room.
Numb, nauseous, I stood dumbly on the sidewalk deciding which
84 direction my hotel was. A block away two fire trucks and a police
car pulled up in front of the city's tallest building, a forty storey
concrete tower lit by small orange lights and random spotlights. I
staggered toward this scene. A square rescue truck arrived as I did
and pulled onto the sidewalk, a policeman was quickly stopping
traffic and sending pedestrians to the opposite side of the street.
"What's going on?" I asked a woman watching the proceedings.
"I don't know," she said.
We were all looking up at the building.
"Just a minute," she said, grabbing me by the shoulder, "is that
a man standing on a ledge?"
She pointed.
"Right up there, the third yellow light from the top."
I looked closely. It was difficult to tell whether it was a man or
not. The shadows were not all the same degree of darkness, some
were nearly black, some shaded by orange lights, some were not
shadows at all but ledges of concrete, some were tinted glass.
Yes, the woman could have been right, perhaps one was a man
about to jump. We discussed the strange shape.
We decided it was a shadow after all.
Across the street some firemen with rope entered the ground floor
of the building.
If he were to jump there could be no net to catch him, the
building was too high. If he landed on a train, however, he could
end up in Ohio with the ball Luke Easter hit.
It has been pointed out that there are perceptions and juxtapositions which ultimately prove meaningless, no matter how fine
they look. I cannot accept this.
There were more sirens.
I entered a giant department store and without wasted motion
went directly to the paint department. From a special table displaying thousands of colors that could be mixed I carefully selected
Sea Blue and handed the card to a clerk. I bought two gallons, a
paint roller, a pan, a small brush, and some masking tape.
Sea Blue was as close as I could come.
I talked very Little to the clerk, my head ached and chills ran
through my body. I listed reasons for being sick.
85 i — The meat was not cooked enough.
2 —■ The ice cream was too sweet.
3 — I had caught a chill in the wind.
4 — Air sickness from the flight remained.
5 — I did not like Canada.
6 — Meaningless perceptions.
I thought at first I could not make it back to the hotel without
vomitting, but managed to stumble along close to the buildings until
I fell into the lobby and staggered into the men's room where I
threw up in a stand-up urinal.
That felt some better.
In my room I carefully laid out the painting materials, covering
the bed and tables with newspaper to protect them. I opened the
windows and let the icy wind inside to air out the room.
Then with utmost care and precision I began painting the room
which until that moment had been the color of old peaches. The
windows I masked off so they would have neat edges, the curtains
I pulled down so as not to get paint on them.
The red meat and ice cream were still there, the iced wind
circled the room and my fever rose.
The smell of Sea Blue paint did not help.
This is all very funny I explain to the desk clerk.
Luke Easter's home run has been found in Carbondale, Illinois.
So it was not in Ohio after all.
I do not understand this need for an article of sustainment and
transition. I do not know what they look like. I could not recognize
them if they presented themselves.
I have called Dierdre and asked her to explain. She explained
that she had done extensive research since we last spoke and had
discovered that perhaps the most difficult utterance in the world
is the Suto for "The skunk rolled down and ruptured its larynx,"
which is spoken thus:
Iqaqa laziqikaqika kwaze
kwaqhawaka uqhoqhoqha.
The last word contains three clicks.
I informed her of my latest tales, of the news I had received
about Luke Easter's home run, the blue paint, the mountains of
86 Arizona standing nobly on the deserts of North Africa. She was
impressed a bit more than in the past and she seemed to think
there was some direction forming. Sustainment, transition, direction.
Horrified, I asked her to explain.
She could not.
Non-chronology prevails. Word-orders sometimes difficult to pronounce prevail. Unrelated events of great beauty prevail. Meaningless perceptions prevail.
What is so difficult to understand?
87 Jacob Zipper is a Yiddish novelist, story-writer and poet living in Montreal.
The following story first appeared in the Yiddish journal Die goldene Kayt,
vol. 36 (i960), when it won the I. Friedlander Prize for Short Stories. Sacvan
Bercovitch is a professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in the City of New York.
Translated from the Yiddish by Sacvan Bercovitch
(A tale from the days of World War I)
For several days the priest Koznitzky had not stepped out of
doors, nor actually seen the light of day. When chaos had first
erupted and the town had fallen prey to the plundering bands of
soldiers, he pulled shut the window-shades. He had kept them
lowered even after the shooting stopped. Now, oblivious to everything around him, stunned, turned in upon himself, he lay on the
floor near his desk, staring vacandy at the Christ-statue fastened to
the weiII.
The statue — pale white, wrought from transparent, luminous
crystal — showed Jesus nailed to the cross; His pointed beard leaned
lightly against His breast, and His tousled, fluttering hair conveyed
a certain arrogance, recast His features in an aura of muted stubbornness: Yet I will not submit.
Koznitzky had admired the statue from the moment he saw it.
He had searched far and wide for the sculptor's name, to express
his gratitude to him, his amazement that he should have captured
the Redeemer's true image. Exactly as this statue portrayed Him,
Christ must have felt in His last moments: he had sensed it in the
odd crease of the brow, in the faintly perceptible sneer lurking
about the stiffening lips. One thing only had disturbed him; he
couldn't bear the blood-drops on the breast and on the mangled
hands and feet. The longer he had thought about it, the more
certain he'd been that the blood marred the integrity of the work —
weakened the obdurate defiance throbbing in the taut veins.
88 Even as a seminary-student, he could not endure to hear Jesus
described as a weakling and a pushover. He envisioned the Lord
a proud man, confronting adversity with indomitable will; so he
imagined Him whipping the moneychangers from the temple or
instructing His disciples at the last supper. As he grew older his
vision of Jesus became clearer and more assured. At first he considered this a temptation, heresy perhaps, since wherever he looked
he saw holiness convulsed in pain. The saints' despairing faces, their
eyes dark under the shadow of death, overwhelmed him with
futility; the renderings of Jesus treading the road to Golgotha moved
him to a profound pity. But he couldn't assent to the helplessness
that cried out from them. Can that be God's Son? Was He so
craven when He took upon Himself the sufferings of mankind?
The thought gnawed within him, relentlessly, tormentingly. He
felt the ground slipping from under his feet and tried to save himself
by confessing to the bishop. The way to salvation was shown him,
but he found no comfort in it. "My son, pictures are no more than
a dim reflection of the great event. Only he who is worthy sees the
true image, though he can never reproduce it."
He left the seminary soon afterwards to become a priest of his
home-town church. But his thought pursued and haunted him still,
pressed even tighter upon him. Doubts multiplied. Night after night
he sat on the veranda of his white cottage; he just couldn't understand. Could such impotence overcome Rome, defeat Seneca and
Cicero? With such humility, could they have infiltrated heathen
lands and conquered them? Unquestionably, a terrible error had
been made. The secret of the man-God, the Savior of the world, was
completely misconstrued.
Not daring to make his conviction public, he secluded himself
more than ever and burrowed in ancient documents, testing Latin
texts against the Greek and even the Slavonic. Somewhere here,
surely, he thought, fighting off the dread of some strange apostasy,
lies the key to the mystery, a hint of the truth. Nothing helped. The
crumbling parchments only blurred and dimmed the image he
sought. And more: they made him wary of any image. At times
his brain seemed to dissolve in tongues of flame. Why torment yourself and deceive others? Get down from your ivory tower and live a
little — seize the day, like other people. The Lord Himself, don't
you see, got lost in His last moments and —
He was in a bad way. Rumors buzzed through town; he overheard his parishioners whispering:  "He's taking too much upon
89 himself," "He isn't all there." They shook their heads when he
passed by. "Nobody gives him any trouble here. He could shepherd
the flock quietly enough. Why does he have to mix in problems
above his head?" They were frightened, he knew, and were hoping
for a miracle; and the miracle came in the form of a letter from the
bishop. This time he found the bishop's message easier to grasp:
"The image is ourselves, created in flesh and blood; we must cherish
it as a living thing, and seek it in our fives. And life, my son, takes
many forms."
Secure in his idea at last, he not only discarded his fear of heresy,
but took courage to live by his faith. He conceived it his sacred duty
to make the image manifest, to clothe it in his flesh and blood.
Cautiously at first, then more explicitly and elaborately, he proclaimed his mission from the pulpit. In the astonished eyes of his
listeners, he felt the world accepting his view. He grew tranquil,
satisfied. One day Jan Skdjinsky, a member of the secret Organization to Free the Fatherland, took him aside and said:
"You know, father, your sermons are helping our cause. Life is
complex, father, and full of contradictions."
He didn't quite see the connection, but was glad that the younger
generation had adopted his image of Jesus.
It was an especially happy occasion for him when he received
the statue. A former fellow-student at the seminary sent it, one who
had later broken the vow and been defrocked. In sheer joy at seeing
an image of the real Jesus, he forgot to thank his benefactor or
inquire about the sculptor. He hung the statue over his desk to have
it always in sight. This new image of Jesus was a fine beginning; in
time artists would do away with the desecrating drops of blood.
Or if not, they would so transform them, infuse them with such
radiance and power, as to make each drop of blood capable of
shaking the very foundation of the earth. That transformation
would be a victory indeed for the martyr.
Whenever he glanced at the statue his heart swelled with pride.
He fancied the martyr beset by a yelping pack of pursuers — beaten
and bowed down, but every twist of His bowed body expressed His
contempt. To be sure, sorrow clouded His face, anguish disfigured
it, yet a smile glinted from His lips (a slight, subtle smile) that
laughed to scorn every one of His tormentors. The rabble raged, and
He — why, He half-closed one eye in a scoffing wink, His gaze fixed
on a reality transcending the turmoil around him. His lips murmured, but not the servile words recorded in scripture — not words
90 at all, but sounds: melodic tones that rose tremulously, like a distant
symphony, then distended in an infinite regression of echoing chords
until they reverberated from the uttermost ends of the earth.
Many a time he thought he caught the chords. With heart
beating wildly he strained to decipher their meaning: the Savior's
actual, proud words. Each time the music broke off, the image
faded. There remained a gray wooden cross, and hung upon it, a
grotesque figure shimmering in the swirling dark with a terrible
Now, as he lay on the floor near his desk, stunned, enclosed in
his fantasies and faint with hunger, Koznitzky's imagination surged
with apocalyptic visions. Pagan gods straggled alongside misshapen
icon-saints; alabaster-beings from Olympus writhed and contorted
their bodies, until they dangled from withered crosses; their wounds
gaped, festering. The echo of a pistol-shot outside fused in his
delirium with the thunder that resounded through that lambent
evening when God's Son, solitary, twisted in pain, watched the
shadows sink upon the hunched hills. From within the enveloping
dusk, His pointed blond beard fluttered suddenly, as though to ward
off some evil thing.
The priest woke with a start, and tried to take hold of himself.
The spectres vanished. Nothingness thickened around him. He
turned for comfort to the statue across the room, and couldn't make
out where he was or what was happening. In the far recesses of
his memory, fragmented phrases — his own, or someone else's —
began to toll like church-bells: my son . .. obscured is . .. the true
image . . . we see only . .. replicas . .. veiled and confused . . . an
illusion. .. . With the phrases there came phantoms. Warped figures
hovered in the room, weirdly deformed, wasted, with tattered beards
and gaping, foul-smelling mouths. Their wailing seemed to summon
him somewhere, to something. Then a ravaged face flashed across
his mind; on its lips a subtle smile mocked the passing miseries of
The priest closed his eyes. Immediately the face drew near, and
he recognized it: the face of Jesus. It must be Jesus ... or . . .
Chaim David, the tailor of Tanners-Row who was tortured by the
marauders just after they'd arrived in town.
Yes, he remembered now. When chaos first spread through town
and screams from the Jews' houses rent the night, he had set forth
9i cross in hand into the Jewish streets. Before him lamentation, at his
back the sotted raillery of marauders and Polish legionnaires. He'd
run about in cassock and surplice like one possessed, beseeching
them for Christ's sake not to kill. They had roared with laughter.
In front of the watermill a few drunks had grabbed his cross and
whipped him.
Yes, and in his terror he'd forgotten his grand notions about being
contemptuous and defiant. He had merely cowered — perhaps even
begged; and in his heart he had repeated the plaintive words set
down in scripture: "Eli, Eli, lama sabakhtani? My God, my God,
why hast Thou forsaken me?"
Then, raising himself from the dirt where he'd been flung and
lashed, he caught sight of Chaim David the tailor, a small Jew with
sharp eyes and a blond beard. The tailor had stood encircled by a
gang of marauders, his mouth running blood, his measuring-tape
tied in a noose about his neck. He had trembled, pleaded, but with
one still-open eye he gazed above their heads and the flames that
consumed the mill, gazed confidently, insolently, as though he'd seen
something more essential and more real than what was going on
around him.
Yes, it was as clear as day: not Jesus but Chaim David the
tailor. Battered, bowed over, he had affirmed in his every twist and
turn an obstinate self-assurance. Outwardly, he had begged for
mercy, with bloodied lips kissed the hands of his assailants. But
through it all the priest could hear him speaking in a different voice,
uttering different words, an incantation — one that he, Koznitzky
himself, had heard sweeping the whole night long through the
Jewish streets: "Shma Yisroel — Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our
God! The Lord is One! — Adonoi Eloheinu, Adonoi Ekhod." The
tailor had not aimed the incantation against the murderers; his
still-open eye had winked it, as it were, to the Jewish quarters in the
surrounding towns and villages, across the seas, to... .
A hurried knock interrupted the priest's flow of thought. He
didn't get up. Let them knock, let them break the door down. He
had come home determined never again to set foot outside. How
could he face the world after that night? How could he lift the cross
to bless his flock? He'd even smashed the one mirror he owned; how
could he face himself?
Two days and two nights he had lain on the floor amid shattered
92 glass and stared into the void. Occasionally he'd glimpse the statue
glowing in the dark. Without knowing if he was dreaming or not, he
would cringe from drunken scum holding the cross over him while
they whipped him and guffawed. Jesus Mary, Jesus Mary.
The priest closed one eye, then narrowed the other. His glance,
Like a fine dagger, cut through the drawn window-shades; in his
mind's eye he scanned the Jewish streets, and suddenly running up
against the blond beard of Chaim David, he seized the tailor, returned to his room, and nailed the little Jew to the statue over his
Koznitzky opened both eyes wide and peered into the blackness.
A new apocalyptic vision emerged. The Jewish streets sprang to life;
pointed roofs grimaced at the gentile suburbs; the little houses,
wobbling on decayed foundations, asserted through their slants and
cracks an uncanny self-assurance. We will prevail. And amid the
roof-tops there floated a head, slightly bowed, with a blond beard
and one eye half-opened, its gaze fixed at a point somewhere beyond
the entire scene, above the burning watermill, behind the blazing
sun, over the lamentation that ascended from the sloping walls and
mouldering wood.
"To whom, Lord? Where to?" the priest howled in a voice he
didn't recognize.
The door opened. A streak of light forced its way into the room
and swallowed up the shadows. Fragments of glass glittered and
crackled underfoot.
"Have mercy, father, they want to kill us all!"
Koznitzky rose abruptly. He muttered garbled phrases, like a man
talking in his sleep, tore the statue from the wall, and lifted it to
his shoulders. The three Jews followed him out, stumbling after
him, stammering as they described how the legionnaires had herded
all the Jews in town into the market-place and set up machine-guns
for the massacre.
His torpor left him the moment he stepped outside. All his senses
revived. Instinctively he tried to catch the Jews' eyes, but couldn't;
he was aware as they went only of their chattering teeth and the
trembling flutter of their beards.
Their panic infected him. His blood froze and boiled, boiled and
froze. Yet like them he could not run, but hobbled frantically, as
though lame. Like them he kept his ears open for signs that the
massacre had already begun.
As they passed the church, close to the town market-place, a
93 strange figure leaped out, clutching a broken fiddle in one hand and
in the other an image of the holy Mary.
"Dear reverend sir!" He spoke in short gasps. "Are you going
there too? God is with the suffering...."
The priest hurried on without answering. His heart was heavy,
his mind clouded. What should he do? He could barely think.
Apparitions swarmed up from his imagination, hurtied across his
path and jumped aside; words like polished diamonds wrenched
themselves from his lips, only to crawl back through his ears and
chime with his clattering teeth; his mouth filled with rare and
curious expressions for which he could find no utterance.
Directly ahead danced the bishop's golden mantilla. Obscured
is the true image; only he who is worthy sees its real form.
Meanwhile, the ragged stranger at his side kept insisting: "If
only the church-bells would start ringing, your honor, sir, they'd
get scared, those devils, so help me God."
The priest hardly heard him, but the words somehow sank into
his soul and entwined there with the bishop's golden mantilla.
He who is worthy sees... .
He slowed his pace, and turned dazedly from the statue to the
Jews, to the intruder at his side: he looked familiar. Where had he
seen him before? Wasn't he a messenger of some kind? Koznitsky
wanted to question him; maybe he had the answer. But the man
was far too impassioned, too agitated, to wait.
"That's not at all how I imagined it, your worship; devils disguised as Poles." All at once, he shrilled in falsetto the well-known
patriotic lyrics from Mickiewicz: "Chemna v'shendzieh, glochoh
v'shendzieh; Darkness everywhere, silence everywhere" — and
plucked the strings of his fiddle — "Who knows what will be; Tzoh
toh bendzieh."
Only then did Koznitzky recognize him. It was that lunatic Jan
Skdjinsky, the landowner who had carried on with the secret group
of freedom-fighters and praised him for coming to the aid of the
fatherland. Not long ago he'd returned from somewhere or other,
completely bedraggled, deranged; ever since he'd strayed about,
plucking away on his broken fiddle and croaking some tune he'd
made up, with verses from Mickiewicz and from the Psalms.
The priest had tried to avoid him. Whenever he'd seen him
wandering alone on the hills behind the church and fiddling in that
madcap way, he had seemed to him the living symbol of a great
tragedy. Once Jan had entered his house. He'd gazed awhile at the
94 holy images, then strolled out into the orchard, fiddling more
lonesomely than ever. When Koznitzky had asked what he wanted,
he rasped: "I thought you would know when the Day of Judgement
is coming."
Still, their present meeting put things in a new light. For the
moment it slipped the priest's mind that this was Skdjinsky the
landowner; he saw him only as the vagrant outcast who roamed
the hills by day and slept in the belfry. And hearing him sing those
lucid, familiar words — almost the very words he himself had so
taken to heart — Koznitzky again felt the urge to question him. He
would know something. That sombre, desultory tune, the gratings
of the broken fiddle, enthralled the priest, lured him in unearthly
"And what will happen if they do ring the church-bells?" he
finally managed to utter.
The madman stopped short in his tracks and replied in the same
declamatory falsetto, addressing the world at large: "Demons torture the innocent children of the fatherland. Again our rivers run
with blood; therefore the bells must ring. The day of shame has
The priest couldn't hear him clearly because at that instant a
series of high wails burst from the market-place and flew across the
meadows like a flock of wounded birds. He made the sign of the
cross; the three Jews began to sob in fits and starts, and mumbled
incoherently. To Koznitzky though their voices took wing, joined
the lamentations, and together the disembodied sound fled across
the woods and lake. In his mind he soared alongside them, hastening airy and fight, guided in his flight by the bishop's mysterious
smile. He who is worthy sees the true image.
They stumbled into the market-place just when the legionnaires
were separating the men from the throng of women and children.
Cries of pain mingled with the soldiers' raucous bellows and the
neighing of horses. At one side, on the raised platform in front of
the town-hall, a legionnaire beat frenziedly upon a huge drum;
nearby a full company of legionnaires readied the machine-guns.
Bewildered, the priest peered about him, as though groping in
the dark. He saw at one glance the horseman's whips crackling, the
Jews' contorted faces, the hooting marauders. Wave upon wave of
grief and mourning converged with sweat, dust, savage commands,
and horses' neighing, until he was engulfed in horror. But he didn't
know it — did not feel his knees giving way, the pounding in his
95 brain, the quicksilver rushes of blood that drove him every which
way. He whimpered, yowled, shook his fist, scurried from one group
to another, threw himself imploringly at anyone that seemed in
authority. He came to a halt, breathless, in the midst of an awful
"Men! what are you doing?" With surprise he realized that it was
his own voice quavering in the still air.
He heard nothing further; but he saw the legionnaires glaring at
the Christ-statue, obtuse, dazed. Then a roar of outrage exploded:
"Death to the enemies of Poland!"
At that moment, like a far echo, the tolling of church-bells carried across the town, softly, then more vehemently, more shrilly.
The priest fell to his knees, moaning, and cried with a loud voice:
"So many Cains! Dear Jesus, see who really bears your cross!" He
rose quickly and turned toward the frightened faces of the Jews.
"It's for you, my tortured brothers, that the bells are tolling. Take
me among you; the Lord is with you; you are eternal." He bowed
and knelt before them as before a holy image.
No-one spoke; but of itself the knot of Jews uncoiled, and he
was swept into its center.
"May the Lord repay you," he murmured in an odd rasp.
The drum began to beat again, but it couldn't be heard above
the toiling bells and soon fell silent.
"Death to the enemies of Christ!" someone called out. And the
legionnaires, their whips flying, rifles and swords raised high, let
loose in a fury at the crowd of Jews.
Arms outstretched, the priest held out the Christ-statue before the
onrush. "First kill me with Him!"
The sharp glitter of a sword dazzled his eyes; as he fell to the
ground his outcry reverberated through the market-place. Hastily
the drum-beats began again. The tolling bells seemed strangely
adrift, forlorn, like distant thunder.
Koznitzky the priest lay trampled among the murdered Jews in
the middle of the market-place, one eye half-open and bemused, the
other sealed with mud. Near him, in a puddle of blood, the Christ-
statue sparkled in the sun.
96 Krishna Baldev Vaid's stories have previously appeared in Encounter, Botteghe
Oscure, Almanacco Letterario Bompiani, Contemporary Literature in Translation and a few other little magazines. His latest publication is Silence and
Other Stories from Writers Workshop, Calcutta, India. He has translated
Waiting for Godot and Endgame into Hindi.
Three Ghostly Anecdotes
Translated from the Hindi by the author
it is a stone silent noon    the wind seems paralyzed    the sun is white
and red and hot
I am squatting in the verandah of a locked-up
house on the corner of a dead street trying to forget an ugly family
my eyes are tingling    my cheeks are stiff with dry tears    my
chest heaves up with sobs every few seconds
perhaps I should run
away from my horrible home like Chambeli who has done it
a number of times but each time her husband manages to lure her
had she been here today I would have heard her humming
inside this house
I am in secret love with Chambeli she kissed me
once on the lips    she is a lusty woman
had I been a bit bigger she
might have eloped with me
she elopes with a different man every
time   she is a whore Chambeli
I saw her absolutely naked once
she caught me peeping   since then she winks at me whenever our
eyes meet   she is a whore
97 I like whores she will not return this
time there is a rumor she has warned her husband she will have
him murdered if he pursues her this time
she is quite cruel Chambeli    her husband dotes on her    he is a crazy bastard
had she been
here today she might have let me in I want to curl up in her lap
and cry Chambeli should have been my mother I want to sleep
next to her every night
I hate my mother
in the stinking vacant lot in
front of me a donkey flaps his ears
the lot is used as an open air
latrine by women and children morning and evening hot stuffy
odor hangs in the heavy air
far above in the sky I can see a black
bird    a vulture perhaps or a crow
I wait for its scream    it is too
high    my eyes get misty
at a little distance from me there is a mangy
mongrel chewing his hide had there been a stone within reach I
would have cast it at the poor beast
Chambeli has been away for I
don't know how many days this time
I hate this dog
once I saw her
absolutely naked she knows I did had she been here today she
might have let me in    she is a whore
my eyes get heavy with the
drone of hornets hovering above the open sewer in the middle of the
I hate this lane
Chambeli will return no more
had I been a bit
older she might have agreed to elope with me once I saw her
absolutely naked had she not turned around all of a sudden and
started smiling shamelessly I would have continued to gaze at her
beautiful breasts she had just had a dip in the dirty pond it was
a hot and humid day
I ran away as soon as she turned around and
saw me.
98 she will return no more there is a rumor she has warned
her husband she will have him murdered if he pursues her this
there is a rumor    her husband is impotent    I know what this
word means
by the time I grow big Chambeli too will have grown old and ugly
like my mother
I imagine her hobbling about    a staff in her hand
this old hag had her husband murdered when she was young    I
will recall
once when I was very young I saw her absolutely naked
as she came out of a dirty pond
once she kissed me    on the lips
I imagine her husband being butchered by her
I see a bright dagger in
her hands
I shudder
I hate old age
far above in the sky I can see that
black bird
the air is still and heavy
it  seems  everybody  but  me  is
had she been here today I would have ordered her to dance
before me naked    in the middle of this lane
it seems everybody but
me is dead
I hate my home
perhaps I am going out of my mind like
her husband    it is all her fault she turns her lovers into loonies
my father told me a story about a loony
I am beginning to forget
the stories my father told me I am beginning to be scared of
had I been a bit bigger I would have left my home    I hate my
home    I hate my mother    I hate this town
I shudder
and then at the
other end of that vacant lot I spot Chambeli    a dazzling figure in
99 the dustiaden sun I narrow my eyes I look around and pray that
no one else should appear until she disappears into her house I
want to protect her against her enemies
she is heading toward this
house    her house
she looks like a golden bride    the whore    I have
seen her naked body once
her husband is a few steps behind    straining under a heavy trunk    like a donkey
I stand up    I am too small
for her
she did not have him murdered after all    there is no one
else around
her husband is impotent
next time maybe she will elope
with me
I shall wink back if she winks at me today
perhaps I will see
her body again someday    naked near that pond
my feet are bare
my knees are dirty    my shorts smell    I sit down
she is standing by
me now smiling I have seen her body once I shudder when
she winks at me
her eyes are full of evil I want to ask her why she
did not have her husband murdered I want to tell her of the
I wish I were bigger
I am startled by the sound of her laughter    she bends down and kisses me    on the lips    I am near tears
wish she were my mother I wish she were my mother so that I
could have slept next to her every night
I hate my mother
I feel frightened
her husband is turning the key in the lock clumsily as he pants
under the heavy trunk
she is very cruel some day I will ask her why
she did not have him murdered I will ask her why she returned
this time    will she ever elope with me
ioo I don't think she will stay long
with her husband
as she shuts the door she winks at me again    a
shudder shakes my body
far above in the sky that black bird is still
and now whenever I hear or create an anecdote about any
woman's infidelity or am involved in it as victim or beneficiary I
can hear a scream from the jungle of my early memories.
his father used to disappear every now and then and his mother
was nicknamed Mumtaz Shanti number two
Mumtaz Shanti number
one was once upon a time a celebrated whore and the collective
beloved of our town and every one knew several juicy anecdotes
and songs and jokes about her and her numerous love affairs
time the boys learnt of his father's disappearance they made his life
Tilkoo's father has again run away
his father is a beastly
he is as good as a ghost    here today gone tomorrow
bastard doesn't have to worry about fathers as long as his mother
is around
all of us could have been his fathers
if only we were bigger
mother welcomes both big and small with open legs
she keeps opening them every hour on the hour these days
long live  Mumtaz  Shanti number
long live the Limp lover of Mumtaz Shanti number two
this  last
jibe referred to me
101 I was known to be fond of Tilkoo's mother
I hated
my own mother
whenever Tilkoo's mother gave me a motherly hug
or kiss I was moved to tears
I was very sympathetic to poor Tilkoo
never joined the others' ragging of him
I used to think about Tilkoo's
strange and sad father and ask him about his habit of disappearing
every now and then
Tilkoo used to go red at my question
but  one  day
he took me into his confidence
not before he had pledged me to total
then he took me to his home his father was rumored to
have disappeared only a few days before and he was being tormented
mercilessly by all the other boys
the front door of his house was bolted
from inside but Tilkoo knew how to maneuver it open
inside it was
cool and dark and still
Tilkoo kept warning me to be careful and
quiet as he guided me toward a closed door
Tilkoo pushed my face to
a crack in the door
and I saw his father lying in a loose string bed
the bed was a dim hurricane lamp
his   eyes  were  wide  open   and
empty like those of a man freshly dead
then I heard the hot whispers
of Tilkoo's mother in the only other room in that house
started dragging me to the front door
that day later Tilkoo did explain to me how his father never went anywhere when he disappeared but he didn't tell me who it was with his mother in that
other room
and I never asked him
102 after that day I stopped loving
Tilkoo's mother and often pictured his father lying almost dead in
that room while his mother made music in the other
and these days
whenever I disappear and lock myself up in this my only room I
don't find it funny even though I am all alone here and nobody is
even aware of my absence.
sometimes my father in an effort to improve the awful atmosphere
of our home used to tell me a story in which a father used to collect
all his sons around his deathbed and tell them several little parables
in a very soft voice before breathing his peaceful last and his sons
after having lived their lives according to the teachings of their
father collected all their sons around their deathbeds and told them
several little parables in a very soft voice before breathing their
peaceful last and then their sons after having lived their lives according to their teachings collected all their sons around their deathbeds . . . and my father kept this story going until he or I fell
and these days whenever I am wandering in the jungle of my
old memories I doze off sometimes thinking of that father in my
father's story and of his sons' sons' sons' sons' . . . and then I see that
I am dying and around my deathbed are all of my sons waiting to
hear the story my father used to tell me but I can't utter a sound
and the terror-stricken silence of the ghosts sitting around my bed
wakes me up.
Translated from the Turkish by Tom Brosnahan
On a naked branch, an early bird
The season did not keep its word
Red which can't give birth to green
A fish, child of moss, strikes the shore.
Rain, in the embrace of the sun
Cracked earth amidst the cactus's fullness.
An empty bottle hid by the foam
A lost pocketbook, looked for in the settling pool.
The welder who greets the flame
Five too many signatures in the Union
The reporter in the back of the ambulance
The first boat to pass to the other side.
In the old age home, hearing the first birdsong,
A guilty white-beard's explanation:
Last letter of the third marriage
The honeymoon in the mountain house, in the bird's song
On the graceful bridges' pediments, the smoke of laden ships,
The oil in the belly sloshes about, too !
At the edge of the sky the happy insects, the corn cob's crying child!
The naked one entering Buddha's house, the hot statue that kowtows!
The twenty-two stories which ignore the cracks in the walls!
We'll share the daylight's rays with you, moonflowers
Yours is the fruitfulness
In the way you will return
But don't close up early
There's still some time left
Before us is an autumn
We'll flay the trees of their henna'd leaves
And an icy winter, in the aging legend
Tooth and lip, and you between.
The old cloud is gold on Can-Lu's fields of rice
A sign of good luck on the summit of Padog
Fruitfulness in the Philippines
Poured on a naked hill to bring grass.
The old cloud is the squaw's awaited child
A night spot in Manitoba
A subject for study in Guelph University
The morning's rain in Sarnia.
Tulin Erbas lives in Sarnia, Ontario, and is Canadian correspondent for the
Turkish newspaper Hurriyet and the literary monthlies Varlik and Hisar. Her
first book, Winds from Canada, was published in Turkey in 1970. Her poems
appeared in the anthology Volvox (The Sono Nis Press, 1971). Tom Brosnahan
spent four years in Turkey with the Peace Corps. He has translated several
Turkish literary works into English and is the author of Turkey on $5 a Day.
He is now doing graduate studies at Tufts University.
for W. B. Yeats
Here are your words, thin
hands hanging from
ironed sleeves. They come
with smiles, teeth tiny as pins;
rising through throats stiff
as bronzed rose-stems your
voice sews a Limpid sore
to the air: the great "as if";
and suddenly the words
drop like garments, and you are
fragrant light, acutely heard:
and I shed blood, dust and days,
rise, and thread my gaze
through the eyelets of the stars.
for Jill
Stones are buried fists, the worms
inch toward the confessional of ribs.
In the earth is a kind of light, flooding
out from roots. The cold is
catholic, arrives with ritual, fingering
rosaries of newts and slugs. Blind
mouths strain to mumble, the stones
shiver, trying to open. She touches
me: her hands
sprout like white seeds shot
from the pod of the moon.
Joe Hutchison's poems have appeared, or will appear, in Abraxas, New:
American and Canadian Poetry, Lamp In The Spine, Concerning Poetry and
Edge. He lives in Vancouver where he is working toward an M.F.A. degree in
Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia.
And David went up from thence,
and dwelt in strongholds at En-gedi
i samuel, 23
all time flows
through the arteries of earth
twisting into one knot ■—
the Ein Gedi
all water falls
into a steady stream
thudding against
the ancient mount
of Ein Gedi
in the silver eye
of a shepherd's spring
by the leaves' opal fire
lovers entwine on a marble rock
of Ein Gedi
it was then I knew
how a moment of love
can induce the whisper of God
to dissolve matter and fill
a life's hollow —
with nature's heart
Ein Gedi —
beating above
the fleshy ark of the world
dumb gray room
I sit cemented
inside this sanctuary
bricks splitting in my throat
only a pigeon's cry
the deaf courtyard
of my mind
an echo
of time hurtling into space
confirms the nothingness of being
an icicle
from the far away Tatras
melts on my face
June 3 1970 London
Jagna Boraks was born in Poland and came to Canada as a child. She is the
co-translator from the Polish of a volume of poems by Andrzej Busza, Astrologer
in the Underground (Ohio University Press). Her own poems have appeared
in various periodicals. She took a B.A. in Russian at the University of British
Columbia and is now completing her thesis in Comparative Literature at the
same university.
109 Jacques Hamelink was born in 1939 in the Dutch province of Zeeland, close
to the Belgian border. His first collection of stories, from which "Delayed
Thunder" is taken, appeared in 1964. Since then he has written three books of
poetry, two more story collections and Ranunculus, a first novel which was
praised by Dutch critics as the major literary event of 1969. Martha Veerman
is a graduate in French at the University of British Columbia, where she was
also a student in the Translation Programme of the Creative Writing Department. She now teaches French at a high school in West Vancouver.
Translated from the Dutch by Martha Veerman
It happened in august 1951. The second week of that month
we went out camping with the village church's youth club. I still
have a photograph that shows us washing dishes outside our tent;
it was taken by the leader of our group without our being aware
of it. In the picture Nigger is sitting on his haunches and giving
instructions, the Pox is scouring an aluminum saucepan, Derek is
manipulating a dish towel, Moon is stirring in the dishpan into
which I had secretly slipped a handful of sand, Reu Maes is standing
in the tent opening with his head bent, looking at the camera,
squinting because of the sun.
Reu was more suspicious than we were, more easily frightened,
and not without reason: we would often play tricks on him. Sometimes, as if we had fixed it up beforehand, we would get hold of him
and take off his clothes and cover his private parts with some gooey
stuff and hold him till the insects made for it. He was forever being
harassed, until finally he started crying hysterically — but he always
came back and was tolerated by us once more until the next
Why we behaved that way towards him has never become quite
clear to me. Maybe we, the others, were too much each other's
match, maybe we were afraid of each other with that deep, wild
fear of children who are still driven by the feelings inside their belly.
We could have chosen Moon, too, and once we did. I got him
to use the side-board of an oldfashioned farm wagon as a raft on the
no manure pit. I had tried out the board, it was too narrow and too
unsteady on the dirty green dung water of the pit. When he came
to the middle he got scared and started to wave his arms. Afterwards, when he got out, the stinking water still dripping out of his
ears, he lay crying and clawing wildly in the sand which he brought
to his mouth and seemed to want to eat. Something probably kept
us from going too far with him.
But Reu was different from us: a liar and a traitor who took girls
into the wheatfields and who kept a lot to himself. Besides, unlike
us, he did not live with his parents but with his grandmother, a
whitehaired, very fat old woman, looking like a toadstool with a
black bonnet. Every day she walked through the area lugging a
heavy suitcase full of trinkets. "Mother New Year," we called her.
She was from Belgium and spoke a dialect which was hard for us
to understand. And when she warned us to leave her windows alone,
which somehow often broke when she was away, she would tell us
in her funny language that you'd better watch out or she'd go to
the police, laddie. It was said that in her small, packed room she
read cards and gazed in a crystal ball. (We had never set foot in
the room: whenever we picked up Reu he would come outside right
away and never ask us in; his grandmother wouldn't have it, he
Her children were all living in Belgium and her husband had run
away with someone else many years ago. Reu was the illegitimate
son of her daughter Irene, who lived in Antwerp. That was all we
knew, even Reu himself didn't seem to know more about it. He
never wondered much about anything. Sometimes he was in a crazy
mood and walked through the village in the rain, singing and barefoot. He would sing strange songs which he had made up himself,
like "Rain, rain, rain, and we won't go home again."
He was stupid. We took advantage of him, made him undertake
all sorts of dare-devilry in order to earn our friendship. He tried his
best to win our esteem. Broke a window at the storekeeper's, stole
nuts for us and threw chestnut shells through our classroom windows
during school. Reu himself went to the Roman Catholic school in
the neighbouring town; when we went to school in the morning he
had already left on his bicycle. While we were still doing geography,
arithmetic and history in the sweaty classroom, he would have raced
No matter what he did, it wasn't any use. He was never fully
one of us, but remained an outsider. We tolerated him, harassed
111 him till he went away, and then attracted him again. It made him
fickle and unreliable. Sometimes he seemed contemptuous of us,
calmly and contentedly keeping to himself. He could play alone for
days on end. One day we saw him aiming his catapult at the street-
lamps. After school we got our own catapults, and after wolfing
down a hasty snack we started to move through the village
together, shooting, quarreling, betting who could hit this or that
target in one shot. Fed up with his boastful lies about his marksmanship or his sexual successes at school, we would finally push him
into a ditch, or set a dog against him, or attack him together.
"Rotters, dirty heretics," he would call from a safe distance,
answering our taunts and jeers.
Although he should not really be a member of the boys' club,
which was an offshoot of the Reformed Church, he had joined all
the same. The leader, tired of his continual hanging around the
school during meetings, had asked us to bring him along some time.
He had become a member right away.
"Do you think your grandmother will approve?" the leader had
"Why not," Reu had answered gruffly. He attended more or less
faithfully from then on, and paid his fees on time. It seemed as if
deep in his heart he was proud to belong to our club. Maybe that's
what he had been out for in the first place while he was roaming
around the school loudly calling our names, and generally trying to
attract our attention in all sorts of ways. The first time Reu joined
us, the leader taught us an African tribal song:
"Owa owa owawah
Tching tchang tchallewallewatzang. Boombakay."
The classroom windows were open. It sounded great, we were
shouting at the top of our voices, stamping out the rhythm with our
feet. Reu, who had always scoffed at our activities, the games, the
songs, the stories the leader told us, yelled along with us as loudly as
he could.
And afterwards, when the leader told an exciting story about a
murder and stolen jewels, we started to feel sleepy and lethargic.
The Pox was listening wide-eyed. Moon was biting his nails with
excitement and I yelled "Boombakay!" when the story was finished.
And then we all shouted together and pummeled each other
during prayers and ran out of school like madmen, across the
112 square with the chestnut trees which were so green they seemed
There was still a balance then, which was soon to be broken.
It was tangible in the warm summer evening, it made our small
hardy bodies itchy, it disturbed our furtive games which always
demanded a victim.
As I was walking home with the Pox, he mused: "It should be
just like in the Bible, the fights with the Philistines. If we get into
danger we make a sacrifice. The smoke rises away up in the sky,
where God is. Then He will make us invulnerable."
I kicked a tin can, stepped aside and passed it to him. He forcefully kicked the thing back against my shin. Kicking and shouting
we took it along.
"A sacrifice?" I thought.
For a few days we had been camped with a dozen boys in some
old American army tents on a fenced-off meadow that belonged to
a dilapidated little farm, right behind the dunes. There were more
tents, and a light green trailer was standing on the dam connecting
the campground with the narrow asphalt road which skirted the
dunes, threatened by overhanging shrubs and trees.
The leader had ordered us to pitch our tents at the very back
of the field. They were larger and more faded than the others which
we secretly preferred — orange, sea-green, or blue.
The grass on the campground was worn out, trampled by many
feet. It looked withered. Behind the high dunes, which were covered
with rampant growth, the murmuring of the sea was audible by
night. A monotonous, sleepy sound.
By day we drowned out that sound, as we climbed down to the
sea by a path that went into the dunes, just past the farm. The
sun stood plumb over the sea, making it glitter so that your eyes
hurt if you looked at it too long. It seemed as if the sea was trying
to push itself off against the beach, wave after wave, trying to
recede ever further. The sand lay motionless, sucking up the heat.
At night the stars hung just above the dunetops. The tide was
in, and the powerful noise of the water sweeping ashore echoed
against the walls of dunes.
A vague haze was hanging in the deep sand-basins. The ground
was steaming.
The sea was a large shining animal, a fish with inert tail breathing
vaguely, but alert, ready.
"3 And then low tide. Footsteps in the wet sand, the fear of being
treacherously carried off to the depths where the water turned
Later, deep in the dunes, we met a man, we brushed past him,
he did not say anything, did not even look up.
When on the second day after our arrival we hiked through the
dunes to Knocke (Reu had volunteered to stay behind to look
after the tents) we heard from the guard by an improvised border
post along a high wire fence — which separated Dutch from Belgian
territory — that there was still a lot of war material all over the
place. A dangerous area, a no-man's land of low, broad dunes with
leaning concrete bunkers. The leader and some of the other boys
were walking ahead. Nigger, the Pox and I pretended sore feet and
tiredness. We tried to pump the watchman as to where we could
find things.
He looked at us with his sly weathered face and chewed the points
of his dirty grey mustache. An old farmer, a shepherd without a
flock. He shoved his cap aside and looked at the sky.
We sauntered back in the direction of the dunes we had just
passed. Nothing to be found there. There was a sign somewhere:
"No Trespassing Projectiles."
"Maybe there are still some mines around," the Pox said. He
kicked into the loose almost fluid sand.
There were no more footsteps visible in the sand. It seemed
untrodden territory. Sweating, we climbed a slope on the seaside
of which stood a sagging bunker.
When we were standing on top of the platform from which rusty
iron rods were sticking out, Nigger lifted his arms to the sky and
called "Woohoo" to the sea which here seemed bluer and stiller and
more secret than elsewhere.
Only a few people were walking on the sand. Sometimes they
stooped to pick up something. Shell collectors? Slowly they went on.
Inside the bunker it was suddenly almost dark. It smelled dank,
like concrete and stale earth. A chilly, un-summerlike smell.
Nigger lit a match. The little flame curled hesitantly around the
matchstick, then went out.
On the stone floor we could make out all kinds of rubbish. The
Pox picked up something. He whistled softly between his teeth, as
adults do when they are surprised but don't want to let on.
Something was crawling up my leg. A spider. I shook it off and
we walked outside. The daylight beat down on us with a white
114 violence. The Pox showed us what he had found. A rusty cartridge-
case, the bullet still in it.
"Hey," Nigger said, he snatched it away from the Pox and looked
at it eagerly.
We entered the bunker again and groped along the floor in the
semi-darkness. I picked up the bandolier, filled all the way with
live cartridges. The bandolier was rusty and had lost its pliancy.
When we pulled it straight it broke in two places. We took the
bullets from the holders and divided them up.
When we came out of the dunes and, barefoot, sauntered back
through the purplish brown heather-fields, full of shallow puddles
in which both the sky and the ground were visible, as on a film,
the guard by the gate yelled something to us from afar which we
could not understand. He waved his arm, as if he wanted us to
come back. We did not even quicken our pace.
At the crossing, Nigger put a cartridge, point down, between a
couple of stones, he went back one step and threw another piece
of stone right on top of the percussion-cap.
A bang, not really very loud, a thin cloud of smoke, something
bust away, then the strong smell of caps: gunpowder.
A girl came down the dune, towards the beach. She was wearing
green sunglasses and moved her feet carefully so as not to slip in the
loose sand that completely covered the wooden stairs, or maybe she
was barefoot like us and tried to avoid sharp things, glass, twigs.
She did not look at us.
"Hey, Reu," Nigger called shrilly. She stood still, and peered at
us for a moment, protecting her eyes with her hand.
We knew that her name was Fia and that she lived in the trailer
with her parents and her brother, a fat red little monster. Sometimes
we spied on her through the window. Once she had stood there
naked, putting suntan oil all over her.
Reu hadn't been able to stop talking about it.
"Goddam, if you could only lie in the tent with that," he said.
"Look who's talking," jerred the Pox, whose scaly face made him
unacceptable to girls.
I had said nothing. The girl walked on down the path and
disappeared halfway, hesitating, looking back at us who were lying
in the broom bushes which spilled over on the path. She was
wearing shorts and a loose white blouse.
The Pox whistled again, a low whistle like the wind makes in a
metal pipe or a bottle neck.
"5 "Maybe she's going to take a pee," I said.
The others weren't even listening.
Nigger was playing with one of his live cartridges, a rusty piece
of soil, a deformed lumpy twig.
"Wouldn't mind putting this kind of thing into it," he said, "and
then pfft."
He gesticulated as if he was going to strike it with a heavy object.
We grinned half-heartedly.
"We'll follow her," the Pox said excitedly, "we'll go and look."
Rolled together, they were lying in the bushes, pressed against
each other. I heard the other two friends' breathing. It was hot and
humid, as if it were going to rain. Something was stuck in my
throat, it was moving upwards. I almost choked, and moved.
"Quiet," Nigger breathed almost inaudibly into my neck.
She was not wearing her sunglasses anymore.
He took off her shorts and was fingering between her legs. She
turned on her back and spread her thighs. It seemed as if she wasn't
really with it, was just letting him go ahead, as if she didn't understand, and really had expected something else.
With one hand she pushed a blonde strand of hair out of her eyes.
Then, without moving, her hands spread out, she lay looking up at
the sky, as if nailed down.
He lay down on her and moved with short fierce jerks. She had
now put her arms around him. It went on.
Then he was lying beside her, doubled up. Took her hand and
put it on his belly, inside his pants. She played with him. He showed
her how the skin moved over the red top. She sat up and blew on
it and all of a sudden he was lying with his head pressed against
her abdomen and remained like that.
From beyond the dune a sharp woman's voice called "Fia,
We slid back noiselessly and on the path we punched each other
in the stomach and belly and in the dangerous place.
"I'll break you to pieces," said Nigger, and pressed both his
hands around my throat but I broke away and bewildered we ran
down the dune, toward the tents.
The mother was standing beside the trailer, her hands cupped in
front of her mouth like a speaking-trumpet.
116 When we had  passed  her Nigger turned  around  and  cried
through his hands "Fiiaaah."
It didn't make us laugh.
The Pox had told Moon, Derek, Nigger and me that there was
to be a meeting. Reu was staying behind with the others, his face
had been inscrutable.
When after supper the leader wasn't watching we disappeared
quickly, one by one. The other boys who had walked all the way to
Knocke, dog-tired, were boasting about their endurance and about
what they had seen. Nothing.
I had stashed the cartridges in my suitcase. One I had kept in my
pocket, pressing it against my thigh with my hand.
Past the campsite a second row of dunes started next to the higher
ones. These dunes were lower and more overgrown. Nobody was
permitted to go there because it was a breeding place for birds.
There were no discarded paperbags. Nobody there to be seen.
We entered the dunes in single file. With the giants behind us,
and in front of us the lower ridges beyond which the sea exploded in
yellow and black scales, we ensconced ourselves against the ledge
of a deep dune-cup without much growth, in which there were
many rabbit droppings and tracks.
We were sitting in a row, elbows on our knees, head in hands.
The sun was standing low, red as blood. There was a black discomfort, a blind spot in my head.
"He has done it with her," said the Pox.
"Wouldn't you if you got a chance," said Derek.
Because I remembered what the Pox had said about a sacrifice,
I said: "We have to sacrifice him to the God of the sea."
A strange silence fell over us.
Derek stirred in the sand with a little twig, and then lay down on
his stomach to look at the minuscule grains close up, as if there was
something special about them.
"In the Bible people got killed if they did anything like that," the
Pox said. He was silent and looked at Derek who pretended not to
be involved in the meeting.
"You are crazy," was all he said, in a drawling, teasing voice.
"We have the bullets," said Nigger.
He was carrying them divided among all his pockets. They were
a secret means of power. "You can kill someone with those," he
had said when I had proposed to put them in my suitcase with my
117 own. Didn't he trust me? Derek and Moon had not shared in the
"We could torture him," I said.
"Then you've got to give me some of those bullets," Derek said
"Me, too," said Moon. There was greed in the way they asked
for them.
We did not really have any plans, but the atmosphere of ap*
proaching adventure and danger, the unpredictability of what could
happen, overwhelmed us.
Nigger took four cartridges out of his pants pockets, scratched
them with his nails, and gave two to each boy. The Pox and I
were to give him back one each from our own share.
Was it because of these rusty crusts of metal filled with gunpowder that our imagination was running away with us? You never
The dunes seemed to heave in the breeze. A flock of seagulls were
flying over, low, revolving and screeching they turned around and
disappeared seaward. Apparently there was no carrion to be found.
The dune turned into a wild mountainous landscape.
We squatted together and stuck our knives in the sand in front
of us. Derek's toppled and fell. He made a little sandhill and stuck
it in, so that it remained erect.
"This demands vengeance," said the Pox. Astonished and serious,
we listened to his solemn words. The sea made our eyes and mouths
briny and grey.
"Howgh," called Derek, and seized his knife.
Something was going to happen. We didn't know what, but we
were being ineluctably steered towards it, — resisting, curious little
animals who want to find out.
Nigger seized Moon by the neck and made as if he were about
to slit his throat.
"The shit of Golgotha," Moon yelled insanely. Was he getting
one of his attacks? It looked like it. His face turned red, his teeth
were grinding.
"Death and destruction."
I recognized this cry: he had read it in one of the books in the
school library.
A brown bird flew up from the broom.
Then we solemnly swore that we would not draw back, and
would not betray each other, even if we were tortured.
118 It had to happen quickly and carefully. (What? I kept on asking
myself, What?)
In single file we sneaked back to the tents, the knives hidden
under our clothes.
Around us the earth had become without form and void. We had
taken on the protective colouring of the sea. Shadows grew and
turned into the fantastic shapes of animals. The dune was now lying
behind us like a lion, a dragon, clawing at the sea which was
becoming ever more grey.
On our knees we went through the barbed wire that formed the
enclosure of the meadow across from the dune-path, so that we
would not have to go the long way around. Maybe, too, we didn't
feel like going past the green trailer at the entrance of the campground.
Moon's khaki shirt got stuck in a barb.
"Wait," Nigger said, and then "you're loose now."
Moon pulled himself forward and tore the entire back of his
shirt. Through it you could see his bare white skin. He did not like
sunbathing, would often hang around the campsite or doze on the
beach with his clothes on. Sometimes he would play soccer with
us, driving past us with mad cries and totally unpredictable leg
movements. He didn't really know how to play soccer, he didn't
know how to do anything. At school he had failed every grade. We
tolerated him because of his sometimes useful madness.
Nigger grinned at us. Moon didn't notice the evil intent, the
quick movement of the fingers.
"Dammit," he said, touching his back.
In front of the tent the leader and one of the other boys, Erte,
were playing a game. The rest looked on, smoking.
Between the leader and the boy, both seated on the ground,
was an old chair-leg they had probably found among the rubbish
behind the farm. Both were holding on to the s-shaped leg with two
hands, the soles of their feet pressed together. They pulled, first
carefully, then harder, Erte was jerking it. They looked into each
others' eyes to read the other person's intentions.
Erte clenched his teeth. The leader's face remained even, the
chair-leg broke with a dry snap that reminded us of that of the
cartridge in the dune.
We joined the others, trying to act normal. It didn't work very
"9 "What have you guys been up to?" Reu wanted to know.
"Went on a hike," Nigger said loudly, so that everybody heard.
"Found a nest with eggs this size in it, bright green." His hands
showed something the size of a coconut.
The leader grimaced.
"Impossible," said Reu, who himself always lied till he was black
in the face, unmoved, looking straight at you with his steel-blue
"We've seen it," I said, "the Pox and I."
From the way we were talking he sensed danger, at least he was
that smart, and when a little later we ambled across the meadow
between the tents, kicking blades of grass that were slicking up, he
followed us.
We talked together for a while.
"Dynamite," said the Pox, "it comes in round greenish little bars.
We set one off this afternoon. You should've heard the noise it
made, the stones flew up really high."
"Didn't hear anything," Reu said.
"It was quite far from here," I said.
His eagerness for the mysterious explosive made him hesitate.
"Take me along to that place."
"It's a secret," whispered the Pox, "you have to come right away,
or else you won't get any of it."
Goddammit, I thought, things are going wrong, Reu is smart
enough to suspect the trap we set. But he didn't.
"O.K.," he said, businesslike, "but we'll divide them up fair
and square."
"O.K.," I said.
"O.K.," said the Pox. He disappeared into the tent and a little
later he quickly walked away from the campsite, carrying something
in his hands.
The leader was calling us. We were going to take an evening
walk along the beach, to where friends of his had a cabin. We'd
stop there for a drink. On Sundays we were not allowed to buy
any beer or lemonade or anything else. The leader was quite strict
about this. But Nigger took the green bottle with the red lettered
label out of his rucksack and put it under his shirt. We had shared
in the cost of the gin, planning to drink it in the dunes with our
little group, and possibly with some girls. A dangerous harmful
luxury, colourless and smelling like methyl alcohol.
We walked behind the leader, who was wearing shorts which
120 came down to his knees. With each even step he took, his bare legs,
covered with black hair, quivered somewhat.
He was a housepainter, a bachelor who devoted himself with
enthusiasm to the youth movement of our village. I don't believe
he was as much of a Christian as the grownups, especially, seemed
to think. Once he told us he had eaten human flesh, in a concentration camp.
"Female flesh, I suppose," my father had said when I told him
about it. I already knew what he meant then.
"He'd better shut up about that war," my father said.
He pointed at the blood red sky.
"That's why in the East they call this continent the Land of the
Setting Sun," he said. The Land of the Setting Sun, I thought.
Nigger ran up the dune, waving his arms, stumbling. We followed, the leader last now.
For a moment there was some hesitation, confusion, then, with
a howl, Nigger thrust himself into the veils of broom. Reu, Moon
and Derek knew what was up and quickly went after him. I was
"Boys, hey, Anton," called the leader. And he kept calling:
"Nigger, Moon, Derek, come here!" as if he were calling back
some dogs. It stopped and a few minutes later I heard him walking
away with the rest of the boys, singing in a forced sort of a way:
"Oh, Susannah."
We found each other back in the same dark dip of the dunes
where we had been that afternoon. The Pox was already waiting;
our footsteps were still visible. The flat little hill in which Derek had
planted his knife looked like a small cenotaph for a beetle, a ladybug,
which out of boredom we had buried under little handfuls of sand.
Nigger pulled the bottle from under his shirt which had a wide
elastic waistband. He took off the red seal and the cork, held the
palm of his hand flat against the opening, shook the bottle for a
moment and took a sip. He coughed.
"Good strong stuff," he said with a grimace.
We took turns drinking. The stuff slid down my throat like a
stinging fire. It burned and fermented in my stomach.
Reu didn't like the taste. Spat out a mouthful.
"You have to learn how to drink it," I said, "you'll acquire a
taste for it."
We all took another sip and Nigger hid the bottle under his
shirt again.
121 Then we made our way to the dynamite place.
There were faint human voices in the dunes, and along the
breaking sea small black forms were moving, looking like piles
when they stood still.
From then on I only remember broken fragments of what took
The way in which the Pox looked at me, the smile on his hard,
crystal eyes. The whirling feeling in my stomach, growing stronger
and stronger. The cry of seagulls, or of the sea, grey in darker grey.
We walked up and down the gigantic flights of stairs. A faint
white light was regularly sweeping along the horizon, once every
few seconds.
"Dammit," shouted Moon, his shirt now held together with a pin.
Loudly chattering birds standing in the water on their high legs.
The tide coming in, imperceptibly narrowing the beach, making the
sounds more audible, more nocturnal.
I want to be buried in a dune, I thought, and listen forever to the
rustle of sand and wind and sea and night. Somewhere deep in the
dune was a deep sandpit.
The sand that was dug out by children was piled high along the
edges. We looked into it. On the bottom was a round tin can. The
label had come off.
"There it is," the Pox pointed out to Reu, who suddenly stumbled
into the pit, tried to grasp the collapsing sandwalls but landed on
the bottom with a thud. As if we had planned it in advance we
pushed more sand into the pit. Reu was calling something. When
only his head stuck out of the sand — he cried and looked red
and his mouth was half-open with sand in it — we stamped everything securely up to his neck, and Nigger and Derek and I went out
to get some pieces of wood we had seen lying around. There was
also a hollow log which seemed dry and decayed. We dragged the
wood towards the pit and the Pox got the Kerosene can from the
bushes where he had hidden it while Reu and we had been looking
at the game with the chair-leg.
The Pox sprinkled the log and the other pieces of wood. It took
too long and I snatched the can away from him. The wood absorbed the smelly liquid right away. I emptied the can and then put
it upside down over Reu's head. He was crying noiselessly, his face
all sand and tears.
122 "I'll put a handkerchief in your head if you don't stop bawling,"
Nigger said.
There was a second judicial hearing. We squatted in a circle
around the head that emerged from the sand, wet, smelling of
kerosene, and we talked in a hushed voice.
"He deserves death," said the Pox.
"First he should cross himself," said Moon.
"And what if they find out?" said Derek.
"Hah," I said.
We dug him out to the waist. He made some movements but
Nigger pushed him down again. His arms were free now, they were
covered with the wet sticky sand. He had become a creature made
of sand, a noiseless sand animal turning into slime.
"Cross yourself," said Moon.
"Hurry," said the Pox.
He didn't budge. When he suddenly howled, way down in his
throat like a wild animal, Nigger put his hands over his mouth
from behind.
Moon had howled just like that when he had gotten out of that
manure-pit, with reddened eyes, his face swollen like a choking
Derek was holding Reu's arms but he was scared and didn't do it
right, and I went to help him.
Then he was quiet again.
"Cross yourself," said Moon, "if you do we'll let you go."
It wasn't true, and Reu must have known it, as we all knew
it. Nothing could be changed anymore.
"The kerosene is evaporating," I said.
And then he made a quick gesture with the right hand over head
and breast. We hadn't expected it, it heightened the tension, it
seemed as if he had made a sign that made his fate inevitable. He
was bringing it on himself. I can't explain it. If he hadn't done that,
we might have taken him out of the pit, beaten him up, filled him
with gin to see him drunk and to hear him talking nonsense, to see
him tottering like the chickens at Moon's place when he had fed
them breadcrusts soaked in liquor. We would have laughed, and the
next day he would have boasted about his drunkenness in the tent,
stinking of gin, sick and telling lies.
"You have to say a prayer," said the Pox.
123 He prayed quickly and unintelligibly the words we had never
men,andblessedisthefruitofthywomb Jesus."
"The shit of Golgotha," bellowed Moon. He was insane but at
that moment he came close to the crux.
"The bottle," Nigger said to me, and I snatched the cool smooth
object from under his shirt and poured the colourless liquid into
Reu's mouth.
Reu shook his head wildly to escape it — but in the moonlit
night an image of that afternoon came back to me: how he had
laid his head on her belly, and before that: how she had blown
on him.
I crammed the bottle into his mouth against and between his
teeth, and tilted it. He swallowed, the gin streamed over his face like
water. He was turning purple.
Then we took a drink ourselves. Nigger sucked hurriedly from the
bottle, holding it with one hand. Then he threw it away behind
him. A trickle of liquid flowed out and disappeared into the sand.
Gin doesn't leave stains I had heard somebody (my father?) say.
The Pox and I were holding him. Nigger pulled his shirt open
and wound the spare guy-rope around his bare body. There were
many coils. The rope had hardly been used, it was white and
Derek was looking at the sea. There was nothing to be seen.
Moon's jaws were slowly grinding. Was something becoming
clear to him, to all of us? It was approaching, flapping its wings,
it surrounded us in a sudden storm on the eardrums. It was happening outside of us, we were acting, obeying, all of us bewildered.
Only Derek was afraid. He was looking at the grey sea which was
flowing in ever higher under the moon's command.
His arms were tied to his back. Again there was that fierce
animal-like cry which nobody understood and which seemed to be
uttered not by his mouth, but by the earth itself. Nigger stuffed a
handkerchief in Reu's mouth. The rope went over that, was tied
into a knot, pulled tight, tied into another knot. Suddenly Derek
stood before us.
"I am not going to do it," he stuttered, and stupidly he walked
124 away, into the dunes. We saw him standing there, black against the
dim sky, springing from the bushes, a goblin, small, powerless.
We pulled him out of the sand and shackled his feet. He was
kicking violently, blindly. But the Pox threw himself across him
and we wound the seemingly endless rope around him and pulled
it tight, then tied the knots.
Moon set fire to the wood. At first it didn't work. He was lying
on his knees and blew, a little flame wavered. It grew, there was
some smoke. I coughed. The wood started to crackle, the flame
grew larger.
Nigger carefully put some small objects in several places in the
fire. I thought of my suitcase in the tent, suddenly unattainable.
We drew our knives and the four of us dragged him toward the
hollow log which was turning into a reddish bed of fire. A bizarre
coffin, a stake. The flames were snapping at his clothes, vividly
illuminating our faces. There was a wide circle of light on the
seemingly unreal moist sand. Bewildered, we found ourselves in a
robbers' den without any walls. Something exploded in the fire,
then again and again. Short, dry cracks of bullets.
On the dune Derek was nowhere to be seen. It was dark, the
moon was drifting away behind gigantic swollen clouds, bags of
hidden light. A forest fire blew through the air. The fire glowed,
erupted, ate into the dry wood. The high tide made us wilder and
wilder. The night. The flame. The grey voices everywhere around
our small circle. The desolate dead dune behind us.
And then there was the leader, a spirit; he broke our ecstatic
circle, and stooped over the writhing flames, took the rigid sparking
form into his arms. The head hung backward as if it didn't belong
to the body. He left us, deathly cold and loathing crawling over
our bodies, and ran, with Reu in his arms, straight across his chest
like a plank, toward the incoming water. Plunged it under, roiled it
over and over, and laid it on the sand over which small glasslike
waves were already lapping.
We did not flee, we did not look at each other. The Pox started
to cry, his shoulders moving convulsively, and he repeated automatically :
"It's not my fault, it's not my fault."
Nigger, defeated, his arms alongside his body, stood looking into
125 the distance and Moon, uncomprehending, not able to think, was
staring from one to the other.
I threw my knife into the fire which was only burning inside the
log now, a diminishing reddish glow of satanic teeth in a black
dead mouth. The Pox followed my example and then Nigger. He
threw the bottie into the half filled sandpit. We were doing senseless
things, as if we could still make it all right, as if it were not our
The leader came back and put out the fire with his feet. Derek
was there again, and we said nothing to him and he said nothing
to us.
Fia, I thought, suffocating, Fia. Why did he do it? And I didn't
even know her.
"Ifs not my fault," the Pox said stupidly. The water was lapping
around our feet now and extinguished the last sparks in the black
And the leader walked back to the motionless black body, now
washed by the sea which was still moving up, claiming its sacrifice,
knowing no mercy, a sea more cruel, more lonely and incomprehensible in its solitary cruelty than we were.
"Help me put him in the dune," the leader told me.
His voice did not betray any emotion, neither grief nor rage. He
was more powerless than we, who were familiar with destruction.
"It is still Sunday," he said then.
Nobody said anything.
The Pox began to say again that he . ..
I swallowed a name, swallowed it way down to my belly where
my heart seemed to be, beating as if it wanted to get out.
"Ifs my fault," I said.
"Yes," said the leader, "now help me."
We carried the cold wet body into the dunes and laid it carefully
in the sand which was loose and dry and fragrant like fresh sheets,
and almost as white.
"That's not all," I said.
"Yes" said the leader.
"7 wanted to, because Fia ..."
He did not ask who she was, as if he had known all this for a
long time, and no explanation would ever be sufficient. As if I had
crossed a boundary beyond which words became insignificant,
empty as blades of straw.
"Yes" said the leader and, squatting, kept on looking at the boy
126 who was now moaning softly and turning his head in the uneven
pillow of sand. He put his handkerchief under it. Some fluid was
trickling out of the open mouth. The hair was scorched away on one
side and his face was red and raw like a fruit.
The others were standing by the pit and the charred remains of
the fire.
I was sitting on my knees beside the leader and did not dare to
look any more and closed my eyes.
Then he laid his hand on my shoulder for a moment.
"I know," he said, "we ask for it. We don't know any better.
We'll keep praying that you may be forgiven — you and the others,
but especially you."
The boy in the sand was uttering some sounds. The leader bent
over him. The tide had already gone past its high-water mark then.
127 Stig Dagerman (born 1923), one of the leading postwar Swedish writers,
committed suicide in 1954. His works include Tysk Host, Nattens Lekar and
Brbllopsbesviir. Peter Stenberg's translations have appeared in Contemporary
Literature in Translation. He has also had poems in Prism international and
New Voices, and articles in various North American and European journals.
He teaches in the German Department at the University of British Columbia.
This translation is printed with the permission of AB P. A. Norstedt & Soner,
Publishers, Stockholm.
Translated from the Swedish by Peter Stenberg
It is a bright day and the sun is slanting across the plain. Soon
the church bells will ring out, for it is Sunday. Two boys have found
a path through some oat fields, which they have never followed
before, and the windows in the three villages of the plain shine
brightly. Men shave before mirrors on kitchen tables and women
contentedly slice bread for the coffee and children sit on the floor
and button up their shirts.
It is the happy morning to a bad day, for in the third village a
child shall be killed by a happy man on this day. The child is still
sitting on the floor buttoning his shirt and the man before the mirror
is saying that they will take a trip down the river in the rowboat and
the woman is humming and placing the freshly cut bread on a blue
No shadow falls across the kitchen and yet the man who is going
to kill the child is standing at a red gas pump in the first village.
He is a happy man, who is looking at a small blue car in the view-
finder of his camera and a young girl next to the car, who is
laughing. While the girl is laughing and the man is taking the pretty
picture, the gas station attendant screws on the gas cap and says
they will have a fine day. The girl sits down in the car and the man
who will kill a child takes out his wallet and says that they wilL
drive to the sea and they will rent a boat at the sea and row far far
out. The girl sitting in the front seat hears what he is saying through
the rolled down window, she closes her eyes and when she closes
them she sees the sea and the man beside her in the boat. This is
not a bad man, he is full of joy and happiness, and before he gets
128 into the car he stops for a moment before the radiator glistening in
the sun and revels in the splendor and the smell of the gas and the
berry bushes. No shadow falls across the car and the white bumper
is not dented nor red with blood.
But at the same time that the man in the car in the first village
slams the left door behind him and starts up the engine, the woman
in the kitchen in the third village opens the cupboard and finds
no sugar. The child, who has buttoned up his shirt and tied his
shoes, is kneeling on the sofa looking at the river as it winds through
the alders and the black boat draws up on the grass. The man, who
will lose his child, is done shaving and has just clapped the mirror
together. On the table are the coffee cups, the bread, the cream
and the flies. Only the sugar is missing and the mother tells the
child to run over to Larssons and borrow a few pieces. And as the
child opens the door, the man calls after him to hurry up, for the
boat is waiting at the riverside and they will row further today than
they have ever rowed before. As the child runs through the yard,
he is thinking only about the river and the rippling fish, and noone
whispers to him that he has only eight minutes left to live and that
the boat will remain where it is lying today and for many more days.
It's not far to Larssons, it's right across the street and as the child
is crossing the street, the little blue car is already entering the second
village. It is a small village with little red houses and sleepy people,
who are sitting in their kitchens with raised coffee cups and see the
car roar by on the far side of the hedge trailing great clouds of
dust. It is moving very fast and the man in the car sees the poplars
and the freshly tarred telegraph poles flash by like grey shadows.
Summer streams in through the windshield, they race out of the
village, they ride sure and certain down the middle of the road
and they are alone on the road — so far. It is fine to travel all
alone on a soft, broad road and out on the flat stretch it will be even
better. The man is happy and strong, and with his right elbow he
can feel the body of the woman. He is not a bad man. He is in a
hurry to reach the sea. He couldn't hurt a flea, but nevertheless he
will kill a child in a very short time. As they race away towards the
third village, the girl closes her eyes again and makes believe she
won't open them until the sea is in view and she dreams of the
rhythm of the soft purring motor, about how bright it will lie there.
For the fabric of life is woven so pitilessly that a happy man who
will kill a child is still happy one minute before, and a woman who
will scream in horror can shut her eyes and dream of the sea one
129 minute before and the parents of the child can sit in the kitchen
waiting for suger and talk about the child's white teeth and a boat
trip in his last minute, and the child himself can close a garden gate
and begin to cross the street with some pieces of sugar wrapped in
white paper in his right hand, and see nothing but a long, bright
river with big fish and a broad rowboat with silent oars.
Afterwards everything is too late. Afterwards a blue car stands
diagonally across the road and a screaming woman takes her hand
from her mouth and the hand is bleeding. Afterwards a man opens
the car door and attempts to stand on his legs though he has a pit of
horror in his insides. Afterwards some pieces of sugar lie strewn
meaninglessly in the blood and the gravel and a child Lies with his
face pressed hard against the road. Afterwards come two pale people,
who have not yet drunk their coffee, racing out through a garden
gate and seeing something on the road which they will never forget.
For it is not true that time heals all wounds. Time does not heal
a dead child's and it heals very poorly the pain in a mother who
forgot to buy sugar and sent her child across the road to borrow
some, and it heals just as poorly the horror in a formerly happy
man, who killed him.
For he who has killed a child does not drive to the sea. He who
has killed a child drives slowly home, silently, and next to him sits
a dumb woman with a bound up hand and in all the villages
through which they pass they don't see a single happy face. All the
shadows are very dark, and when they part it is still in silence, and
the man who has killed the child knows that this silence is his enemy
and that it will take years of his life before he will conquer it by
screaming it was not his fault. But he knows it is a lie and in the
dreams of his nights he will wish instead that he could have back
a single minute of his life, so he could relive this single minute
But life is so pitiless with him who has killed a child, that everything afterwards is too late.
Emily Carr, 1872-1945
Men will walk into this painting.
They will not see this pride
Of one spared tree.
For you grew clear of us
Touching a forest
We sometimes see;
Our eyes green,
Yours ripe to bursting .
At your death we thought you old.
We were wrong. Time was short
And you were bent,
The weight of what might be said
We thought age.
Today we are the oldest ones here;
The verb of wind in your colours,
Your ear to the soul of wood.
Now, simply to speak,
We must return to you.
Each by each we will find
Particles of that great weight
You hid within your death,
Knowing that we'd be along
Until we too stood
Helplessly at the edge
Almost ready to speak.
This morning we found him
mumbling and eating bushes
so we tied him to a tree.
He didn't even notice us
sitting there watching him;
his mind was elsewhere
and you can be damn sure
it wasn't raining there
and the no-see-ums don't thump
as they land on his hard hat.
In the late afternoon the Otter
dropped down through the overhead.
He was calm as piss in a bowl
as we loaded him aboard the plane,
he even asked us to "Drop a line."
That was almost two months ago.
Here on a log, writing this
I know he's cured, that he's
back with his family
and looking for work.
Knowing this doesn't help
doesn't alter that final moment
when he asked for "some bushes",
"something to chew, I've got
a long way to go, boys."
And there he sits, next
to the pilot, his arms full
of bushes, his eyes moving
from nowhere to nowhere across
our faces that lonely stunned look.
Drunk on wood.
With both feet in my condition
I stand,
Drunker for enjoying
This wood,
Waiting for others
Who have, in their time,
Tasted wood.
What an imagination.
This is no smothering grove;
No room here for torch,
Singing girls — rites
Hidden from the sun.
For, absolute as this drunkenness,
Others will join us;
Old men who did crumple
In their day.
Dawn. Hour of the longest watch.
Groping for shape,
An approaching wanderer
Staggers into this chill :
Ritual of fugative greetings
In the recesses of wood,
Crows rise wearily through
This first light.
Charles Lillard was born in California, raised in S.E. Alaska. Educated in
Canada, the United States and Germany. His first book, Cultus Coulee was
published in 1971; a second book, Drunk on Wood, will be published in the
Spring of 1973.
133 Edoardo Sanguineti was born in Genoa in 1930. He is a prolific poet, novelist,
essayist and critic, and an expert on Dante. His collected poems have been
published by Feltrinelli under the title Triperuno. The following translations
are Sections I-XII of his novel 77 Giuoco dell'Oca (Feltrinelli, Milan,  1967).
Marcia Nori was born in Sault Saint Marie and attended the University of
Toronto and the University of British Columbia. She is now a student at the
University of Perugia. Her translations and original work have appeared in
various Canadian periodicals.
Translated from the Italian by Marcia Nori
In the meantime I'm here. I'm inside my big coffin. I'm closed
up in the dark. The voices that I hear from outside, that come this
far, that are speaking about me, are the voices of the visitors. With
my face turned completely to one side, with a great effort, I
see one of the visitors from a crack in the wood between two boards
in the wall — he passes in front and stops. Then someone even puts
his eyes in the crack and discovers he can't see anything. There are
characters and everything in the coffin. They're made out of wood
like at target practise. There are characters hanging from the ceiling
by their heads. But there are also characters that are there whole,
as large as life, and nude. They're like shadows two inches thick.
They're in a row with their dorsal spines stuck to the walls, their
bodies moving, in profile. If I stretch out my fingers I can leaf
through the closest ones as though they were the pages of a book.
I recognize them by touching them. For example I'm touching that
pink girl right there. She turns over to my side. She's with the baby
ballerina, holding her hand. Then she tells the child to go away,
to go for a walk, to go and play outside in the corridor. I hear the
child's footsteps disappear in the corridor, skipping. Then the pink
girl comes up to me slowly on tip-toe. She sits down beside me
crying. And crying she sings Mir lauft ein Schauer, one of her old
songs. In the meantime the child is playing with the ball outside.
The strokes of the ball reach me from the corridor. I can hear it
134 hitting the walls of the coffin — the ball falls and bounces. Then
I hear the child scream. I seem to turn my whole face and look
through the crack. I see the child, the ball, and the visitors passing.
I also see the gardens down there with their avenues of trees and
then tents. I touch the wooden child with my fingers as though
I were touching a doll. Then I touch the pink wooden girl. I feel
her hard tears like wooden knots sticking out there.
There are eight or nine photographs. They're stuck to the walls
with many little nails. They're newspaper pages with photographs.
There's a girl that's a swimmer photographed while she's putting on
a heavy sweater. She's doing this because she's finished swimming.
Her hands are still in her sleeves raised above her head. Her face
is already out staring at us. The swimmer is in a newspaper clipping
filled with words. One can only read it's in large letters at the top.
But one reads this it's in another clipping. Then the clipping is
torn. In another photograph one reads these words: "is not a
sin..." They are words someone said to the swimmer, with
quotation marks at the end. The quotation marks fall on a woman's
hand, she's seated at a table in a bar with a glass on the table
and an ice cream in the glass. The three dots fall on her wrist. Her
hand is a bit raised. Beside IT'S to the left, is written TWO
WOMEN AT THE. And then there are other words on another
line. But the swimmer covers the words. She also covers a piece of
the icecream woman's face. I put the sentence which begins with
two women with the icecream woman. That way she's a woman.
But for me the other woman who is completely covered becomes
the swimmer on the walls. Then over the icecream woman there's
a soccer team night-training in a lighted stadium. There are four
balls flying through the air. One of the balls is the real ball. The
three balls that are flying through the air are three stadium lights
a bit out of focus. There's another ball after all that flying very high
above the players, above the stadium, above the words. But that
ball is just the head of a small nail.
We must reflect: we can see what we should not see because of the
colours that we can see. Then one should see now, because it's
135 night, because the scene is dark. But things like "bz, bzz, bzzz,"
are coining out of my mouth, or things like "bla, bla, bla," according to the moment. Anyway these are the things one sees well
because they are written in capital letters in a sort of a cloud. The
cloud is white. For a while the cloud runs to the right in the darkness parallel to the ground as though blown up in a second. Then it
rises up, swells and makes waves. It acts like a real cloud. Its base
is dark blue which becomes violet — a black which winds around
everything. The cloud has a sort of halo like the kind we see
at sunset, burning red. But my face is completely grey — like a
printed grey of dense dots like the pores of the skin magnified.
Everything around seems to be made of wood. It seems to be
wood varnished by hand in irregular brush strokes. The background
is marked by vertical lines with mixed dirty colours. The floor is
even dirtier. The lines cross here on the floor as though to make a
trapezium or a rhomb. They're black lines. Then came other colours
that did not respect the lines. Then came other imperfect twisted
shapes that mixed with the first shapes. One lives then, if this is a
life, as though in a forgotten tomb, in darkness.
She looks like Marilyn. She's at a swimming pool sitting on the
ground. She's about to jump naked into the water; There's the
number 23 underneath. I'm like a film director here with my dark
glasses. I make a signal and walk towards Marilyn and say a few
words. But there on the left I'm almost lost. There's only a crack
left in the ground. There's a small palm tree growing there in that
crack. As for Marilyn they've put her in a box to float. Without a
head. The box is closed at the top and open at the sides. There are
dotted lines on the top. They run crazily here and there all over
the box. There are even two pairs of vertical lips. There's a shallow
hatch like a shadow where the two sides of the box join. They're
like hairs. In the bottom there's a trampoline and an armchair.
Then there's the date, 1962. The water in the swimming pool is
filled with reflections. It's frothy. One can capture the moment
Marilyn jumped into the pool. That's enough of following the
dotted lines. There's a tired line that outlines a pair of lips, that
cuts around them deeply. It falls off the box onto one of Marilyn's
thighs, across everything. So one takes a compass. One traces the
line with the compass, even if it's a tired line. One traces the curve
136 of the line, always forward. One re-enters the box of necessity. One
comes under the protection of the other thigh on an inside wall in
the box. One returns to the water, to the reflections. Now the
reflections beside Marilyn are a mixed white. She has already
jumped down into the reflections. They quickly become a broken
mirror. They are dancing fragments, splinters.
It's in the centre, placed diagonally. It's on the first floor, in the
proscenium. It's very rough. It's a large grey wooden house. On
top in the same letters are the same words. These are the words:
fragile, up. There are also the numbers 2, 58, 133. And I can see
the two glasses drawn on the walls. I also see the name of a firm
international transportation with head offices in rome. Then
there's a half-open door. There's something written there that I
read aloud, side to open is what is written. There's also a huge f
with a period. This f is the title of the coffin, if a coffin can have a
title. Now I take the lower wall. The 2 is up there on the dome.
Over the 58 is the letter b. Over the 8 is the letter 1. Under the 58
which is made with the 5 and the 8, there's another 2 lower down.
The 133 is written on the side, to the left, crooked, fragile starts
from the last 2. It covers the right side and falls down towards the
ground making a very soft curve. If I take the larger wall I find
that this very soft curve of fragile is completely repeated. The
end of fragile which is the le falls on the top of the door. The
l of the le of fragile in particular falls on top of the lower hinge
of side to open. One must stop a while to visit the monument.
We've reached the bridge-house. We're watching the dead from the
bridge that faces the river. We recognize all of them, the two of
us, these dead that are here in the river. We call them by name
with our hands cupped to our mouths, the dead, screaming in the
tubes of our hands. But the dead, you see, do not answer at all.
They're in the frozen water, white, between the white pieces of ice
that run over the surface of the water, lightly. They're like fish
in a fish pond in the winter when one throws them food down from
the river bank. They come to the surface in a pack, trembling with
fear, with cold, hugging each other. I'm looking into the river with
137 the dead. I'm there in the river with my arms and legs wide and my
mouth open. I'm spinning like a wheel in the water in the middle
of a larger wheel with my eyes skyward, towards the bridge. I'm
watching the bridge with my elbows resting on the railings. In the
meantime we're having a spitting game. We're drawn back kneeling
down on the bridge with our knees bent tense, as though ready to
run a race. We make a loud noise with our throats, the two of us,
while we get ready like this. Then there's our release forward, lively,
like a sort of jump. We throw ourselves against the railings with all
our strength, with our cheeks puffed out. Then we spit. Then we're
undecided, uncertain, with our tongues hanging out. Our hands
dangle down in the air. It's as though we're cut in two by the
bridge's railings. We're like two rugs that have been washed and
that are over the railings to dry in the sun and wind. Then we
draw back again. Then we repeat the whole thing again. The first
one to spit on me, there in the river, who hits the mark in my
mouth, carries off the prize.
The people are hanging by their hair from the branches of the tree.
They look like fruit, those people, fastened there like that. The five
bodies facing me now are all the bodies of women. I can't tell about
the other two. There's also a head all alone in a tree over there, a
woman's head that looks like a sun. Branches and leaves make rays
around it. But the head is in the shade. All the leaves of the tree
in the part where the head is, that part is in the shade. But if you
go down around the trunk, it's the exact opposite. It's that part of
the trunk that faces the head, in fact it's that part that is lit up by
the sun. The sun is still that head. And then down there is the sea. It's
in the direction of the sea that the trunk is in shadow. Four bodies,
three women and one indistinguishable, are caught in the leaves of
the tree. Three bodies that are two women and one indistinguishable
are hanging above the sky, above the sea. At the foot of the tree there
are flowers and bushes. There are five strawberry bushes in front of
this. And at the foot of the tree there are birds with their wings
spread. There's a bird with a woman's head and a bird with a bird's
head. The bird with the bird's head has its head in profile with a
long beak like a dagger. It has only one wing. It appears behind a
rock. But the bird with the woman's head is another sun. But now
138 it's a sun that isn't a sun but just a bird. It has a slender body, its
legs in a bush, the tresses.
It's a customs paper. First there's a car that falls into space in the
background from a great cliff with one door open, the wheels still
spinning, in the background. But she's plunged down already. She's
dressed as wonder woman. She's jumped from the open door on
the right. Now she's fallen with her arms in front, her hands together
and her legs spread out. Then she climbs up again swimming. But
the part where she's climbing back up is another section of the
paper. She's wearing a costume decorated with some stars and she
has a veil around her waist, wonder woman wears a pair of strange
boots with two little wings in front. You can count seven stars on
the costume. You can even count an extra point on a star. There
are air-bubbles, two fish, a sea-weed. Then there's another scene in
another part, wonder woman was lifting the car from the bottom,
her arms in the air, still swimming. She gives a push with her legs
and lifts the car to the surface. You can only see the two wheels
of the car. But now there are two fish. The veil that is stretching
seems to be a fish. There are air bubbles in the water. There's no
more sea-weed, wonder woman is saying: "thank aphrodite."
The opening that is used is on the side we can see now. It's closed
by a heavy curtain. There are two outlines cut out and the heavy
curtain in the background. They're Like two unfinished windows in
an unfinished room. They are two windows outlined and attached
to the coffin by hinges. They're the outlines of a man and a woman
in full-figure, life-size. They're two nude outlines seen in profile
that could even look at themselves if they wanted to. But they don't
look at themselves because they don't want to. She's facing him
and he's barely touching one of her knees with one of his knees,
if he's touching it at all. Everyone says she's Paula Pythagoras. But
I'm him.
I'm there again in front of his outline which is my outline, and
I'm naked, standing up, in profile. And then someone there with
eyeglasses tells me to be good and stay still for a minute, that he
wants to take a coloured photograph. And in fact he does take his
139 photograph. He takes the two photographs like this — my profile
and the profile of the person outlined. My profile even shows up
twice there in the photograph. Once it's my real profile and another
time it's my profile in wood. Then in the end we both go into
room LIX talking, the man with the eye glasses and myself.
We act out the whole scene called "Strasse" with some small cuts.
We cut out from "Da die etc." up to "keine Gewalt." Then we cut
from "Und soil sie sehn etc." up to "noch zu friih." The rest is
alright. I play one of the parts in the scene that's a male part. We
act the whole thing in the atrium while the public is still coming
in. The atrium with its columns, its armchairs and its mirrors makes
the stage. We're in the middle of the public mixing with the others,
walking and smoking as one walks and smokes in an atrium or in
a street. We're waiting for a short silent interval, the first that
occurs. But the one who is really waiting for this empty space is me.
And when this interval occurs I begin immediately all of a sudden
with "Mein schones etc," in a loud voice, almost screaming. I
address myself of course to a girl who answers me coldly with a few
verses, up to "nach Hause gehn." Then the girl escapes running,
a bit upset. She isn't seen again in the atrium. She seems to be
going home. But when she calls Hans Liederlich or when someone
recites the verse "Du Sprichst etc.," all the bells in the theatre ring
and all the lights go out. It begins in the dark.
Over a tree are many people dressed in style. There are men and
women in three rows. At the bottom all the branches are cut. Now
all the people can't climb down anymore. The highest branches and
the leaves remain. The tree at the top is like a huge basket full
of eggs. The eggs are these people that we see there above the tree.
In the first row there are five people sitting above the branches and
the leaves, and there's also a nude figure which is the last one in
her row, to the right, a figure of a woman, and there's a dog. In
the top row on the other hand, there are eight people. They have
special striped clothes on. They have capes over their shoulders and
hoods on their heads. One of the priests, who is the fifth in his row
on the left, is a Pope. There are seven people in the middle row.
140 All together there are twenty people. A couple of animals that are
a bit strange are gnawing at the trunk of the tree with their teeth.
Then there's a skeleton. It's standing beside the tree with its legs
crossed walking with a bow and arrow with the slits in its eyes
smiling and its jaw broken. It takes aim. You can tell it wants to
hit a lady up there in the tree. The whole scene is filled with
fluttering ornaments. While the skeleton takes aim with the bones of
its right hand the skeleton is holding a scroll. It's a small scroll.
DEMUM is written on it. There are also other words written on it
that we can't read.
We go on like this from bridge to bridge laughing a bit to ourselves
together watching the girl swim. The day is cold. We're in the area
of the gasometer, where the river bends, where there's the fishermen's cafe. We're halfway across the second bridge. The fishermen
are there under us. They're there, on the right, in front of the cafe,
on the riverbank with their nets. Then the garden begins immediately after the cafe. The girl is swimming between one net and
the next, close to the fishermen. Then the current pushes her off,
carries her and leaves her under the bridge. The girl does the
back-stroke for a while. When she arrives under the bridge she's
floating on her back. We're there ready with our nets. We lower
our great nets with the pulley and with that long rope that holds
the net. We catch the girl at exactly the right moment. She was
already almost disappearing there under the bridge between two
pillars with the current. We pull her up. The girl sways in the air,
in the net, like this. And we announce that we've caught our
mermaid. The girl struggles in the net. She really seems to be half-
woman, half-fish. When the girl is brought to us we stop the
decorations and tie the rope to the bridge. We pull our mermaid
out of the net shaking. We lay her down on top of the bridge. We
seize her by the tail to catch her.
amprimoz, Alexandre, Initiation a Menke Katz, 1972, Poetry, paperback.
amprimoz, Alexandre, RE And Other Poems, 1972, Poetry, hardback, 90 pps.,
birney, earle, The Cow Jumped Over The Moon, 1972, The Writing and
Reading of Poetry, Holt, Rinehart and Winston of Canada, Limited, 112 pps.
blicker, seymour, Schmucks, 1972, Fiction, 128 pps., $5.95.
cohen, Leonard, The Energy of Slaves, 1972, McClelland and Stewart Limited,
Poetry,  126 pps., $2.98.
Friedman, B. h., Whispers, ig72, Ithaca House Book, Fiction, 154 pps., paperback.
Howard, blanche, The Manipulator, 1972, McClelland and Stewart Limited,
Fiction, 300 pps., $7.95.
kahn, Joyce, Cataklasma, 1972, Oasis Books, London, Poetry, 34 pps.
layton, irving, Engagements, 1972, McClelland and Stewart Limited, Fiction,
336 pps., $12.50.
morgan, robin, Monster,  1972, Random House, New York, Poetry, 86 pps.,
newlove, john, Lies, 1972, Poetry, 96 pps., $4.95.
Phillips, louis, In Charge, 1972, Poetry, 36 pps.
sitwell,  sacheverell,  Tropicalia,   1972,  The Ramsay Head  Press,  Poetry,
64 pps., $2.25.
"k", The Sensuous President, 1972, A New Rivers Press Publication, Poetry,
66 pps.
Chelsea, 30/31, June 1972, published by Chelsea Associates Inc., $2.00 per copy.
Event, 1972, Morriss Printing Company Ltd., Volume 2/2, 88 pps., single copies
$1.50, subscriptions $4.00.
Lotus, A National Literary Journal published semi-annually, Vol. 1, Number 3,
Spring 1972, 64 pps., $1.00.
New: American and Canadian Poetry,   # 19,   1972, 60 pps., published three
times yearly, single copies $1.00, subscriptions $2.75.
New Orleans Review,  1972, published by Loyola University, New Orleans, A
Journal of Literature and Culture, $1.25 per copy, subscriptions $5.00.
Oasis 7, ed.  Ian Robinson,   12 Stevenage Road, London SW6 6ES, England,
1972,  Poetry,  fiction,  illustrations,  three times  a year,  susbcriptions  $5.00,
single copies $1.50.
Poetry Australia, # 43 and # 44, 1972, South Head Press, New South Wales,
64 pps., $1.50 per copy, $6.00 per year.
Quarry, A Quarterly Magazine published in Canada, Vol. 21, #3, Summer
1972,  70 pps.
The Little Magazine, 1972, Volume Six, Numbers Two and Three, Summer-
Fall, single copies $2.00, subscriptions $4.00, 28 pps.
The Malahat Review, # 24, October 1972, An International Quarterly of Life
and Letters, 186 pps., $1.25 per copy.
142 University of British Columbia
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143 rhe Canadian Fiction
Editor: R. W. Stedingh
Fiction   Essays   Photos   Manifestoes   Reviews   Graphics
The Canadian Fiction Magazine is a journal of contemporary Canadian fiction. The editor invites manuscripts from writers residing in
Canada and/or Canadians writing in other countries. It is published
four times per year by the editor.
Past issues have included work by Eugene McNamara, Leon Rooke,
Michael Bullock, Lawrence Russell, J. Michael Yates, Ceorge Payerle,
Andreas Schroeder, George McWhirter, Glenn Clever and many others.
Future issues will include a complete novella by Linda Wikene Johnson
and fiction by such promising writers as Michael Mirolla, Don Thompson, Charles Lillard and Don Bailey.
The editor invites your support for this CANADIAN literary magazine.
Please send all donations, subscriptions, and manuscripts to:
The Canadian Fiction Magazine
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