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 ContBiporary writing from Canada and around the world
APRIL 1988
Fiction Contest Winners -**H^e~ '*££&*. -^§^~
For the millions who can't read
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Canadian Give the Gift
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The Canadian Give the Gift of Literacy Campaign is
a project of the book and periodical industry of
Canada, in partnership with Telephone Pioneers
of America, Region 1-Canada. 111
international  JvAJ international
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Managing Editor
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Dania Stachiw-Zajcew PRISM international, a magazine of contemporary writing, is published four times per
year at the Department of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1W5. Microfilm editions are available from Xerox University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and reprints from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, New
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Contents Copyright © 1988 PRISM international for the authors.
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Payment to contributors is $25.00 per page plus a one-year subscription. PRISM international purchases First North American Serial Rights only.
Our gratitude to the Canada Council, Dean Will and the University of British Columbia.
Also financially assisted by the Government of British Columbia through the British
Columbia Cultural Fund and Lottery Revenues.
Second Class Mail Registration No. 5496. April, 1988. Contents
Vol. 26, No. 3    Spring 1988
Pat Krause
Dorothy Speak
Michael C. Kenyon
Eunice Scarfe
Webs   14
Opportunities for Youth
Frozen Carp    65
Jokulhlaups   84
Stephen Brockwell
Floating Cow. A Swamp
Experience    8
Daniel David Moses
Ballad of the Drowned Heart   9
The Life Guard Saved from
Eclipse   11
Brenda Mooney
The Belt   12
Giorgio Caproni
Translated by Pasquale Verdicchio
The Hidalgo   24
The Searcher   25
Richard Wagner
Translated by Peter A. Stenberg
question for mandelstam    26
J. L. Kubicek
Leaves, Retrieved   27
Carmen Berenguer
Translated by Lake Sagaris
Plan for Conquest in the Haiti
Cafe   28
Lorna Crozier
Angel of Silence    29
Fathers, Uncles, Old Friends of the
Family    30
How Beautiful thy Feet in
Shoes    32
Spider   34
How to Stop Missing your Friend
who Died   35
Evelyn Lau
LSD, ETC.    36
Beth Everest
Sister   53
Wolf Skull Mozart   55 Jean Tardieu
Translated by Jim Barnes
Donald McGrath
Alexandre L. Amprimoz
Thomas Kretz
Salvatore Cetrano
John Kelly
Martin Mooney
Francine Cunningham
Dieter Weslowski
Ryusei Hasegawa
Translated by Hiroaki Sato
Three Songs   56
Night, Silence and Beyond   59
Bad Memory
The Mug-Up   60
Picasso    62
For the Two Pablos   63
From the Tunnel of Marino    73
Attenzione: Pope Meets Scope    74
Seventh Inning Stretch   75
The Lenin Mausoleum   76
The Good, the Bad and the
Ugly   77
Crows on a Spring Morning   79
Fertilities   80
Inner City    81
A Goyesca in Late September   82
Fine Con Coda   83
Suspension Bridge   91
Contributors   92 PRISM international
1st Place: $1,000.       Eunice Scarfe, Jokulhlaups (p. 84)
2nd Place: $ 500.        Michael C. Kenyon, Frozen Carp (p. 65)
3rd Place: $ 250.        Dorothy Speak, Opportunities for Youth (p. 38)
Honourable Mention: Pat Krause, Webs (p. 14)
Eunice Scarfe was first runner-up in the Autumn, 1987 Descant Novella Competition. She has been published in The Malahat Review, and anthologized in
Double Bond (Fifth House: Saskatoon), My Old Dance (Coteau Books) and
New Press Best Canadian Short Fiction #1 Qohn Metcalfe and Leon Rooke
Michael C. Kenyon has had his work appear in a number of literary
magazines and is a member of the editorial board at the Malahat Review.
Frozen Carp is from a collection called Forget Raskolnikov.
Dorothy Speak grew up in Southern Ontario and now lives in Ottawa. Her
stories have appeared in Queen's Quarterly, Antigonish Review, Grain,
University of Windsor Review, Fiddlehead, Room of One's Own, and other
Pat Krause has had stories appear in the anthologies: Sundogs, Saskatchewan
Gold, 100% Cracked Wheat, More Saskatchewan Gold and The Old Dance. Her
novel, Freshie (Potlatch 1981), won an award. The Webs experiment is based
on one conducted by her father, A.W. Blair, M.D., The Archives of Internal
Medicine (Dec. 1934, Vol. 54). Webs will be included in Best Kept Secrets, a
short story collection to be published in the Fall of 1988 by Coteau Books.
Danuta Gleed, Canada The Mango Tree
Diana Hartog, Canada What She Was Doing
David Krawitz, Canada The Diplomat's Chauffeur
Daniel Moyano, Argentina Lila
translated by H.E. Francis
Norberto Luis Robero, Argentina Secret Siesta
translated by H.E. Francis
Diane Schoemperlen, Canada His People
Sharon Sterling, Canada Memphis
Mildred Tremblay, Canada The Bird Field
We would like to extend a very special thank you to Audrey Thomas, this
year's final judge. Stephen Brockzvell
Floating Cow. A Swamp
A holstein cow floats by the kitchen window.    I'm eating
cornflakes.     The sun is just rising, the sky orange and
grey.    White spots on the cow reflect the orange sunrise.
The cow floats over electric wires, lands on the road.
I run after it on a tubular gravel road;    poplar leaves
shimmer green on both sides.    At the end of the road, I
face the fattest man I've ever seen, the sleeves of his
lumberjack shirt are rolled up, his wrists are white
slugs.    He shows me his house, gives me tea.    Sunlight and
cedar panelling in every room, old bronze guns on the
wall.    He shows me his backyard.    Dozens of silt-pools
cover his lawn, like the pores on a face.    His fat wife
looks at us, peculiar.   We put on thick rubber boots,
rubber jackets.   The boots reach my chin.    He leads me to
the swamp;    he saw the cow float in the water.    I step in
the water, sink to my chin. Daniel David Moses
Two Poems
Ballad of the Drowned
Come on, the older kid laughed.   Come on.    Try
to do it.    He stood unsteadily up
on the raft while you stood already in
to your chin, your heart under the water
already swimming out toward him.    Your head,
held up in the air, still hesitated,
comparing the depths of the older kid's
blue black hair to those of the river.    Out
where the raft rode at anchor, it was not
only deeper but colder.   Did you dare
do what the little boy in you wanted?
And then the older kid teased the young man
in your head, Want them to know you're yellow?
So that young fellow headed out too.   Joy
had only started swimming through your heart
when the older kid pushed and held your head
under.    You struggled and the laughter spread
out from the faces of the other boys.
But you made it back and your head allowed
a wave of laughter to cross your face too.
There is, the young man admitted, slapstick
in water in eyes and up noses.    But the little boy left behind on the mud
bottom frowned.   So where's that stupid heart, you
dead head?   And why do you and so many
envy the languid bodies of the drowned?
10 The Life Guard Saved
from Eclipse
I saw the life guard go down
for the last time with more than
a little satisfaction.
Sleep's not a bad way to drown
though not as good as the way
the moon almost lost her light.
Tonight it was me who kept
watch as she swam through the sky.
The guard was sinking in bed
and hard currents of dream kept
on twisting him round.    The moon
in shadows almost over
her head never looked so calm.
Maybe she recollected
how she'd lost this breath before.
How above it all she was.
The penumbra troubling her
had nothing to do with love.
That dark undertow let her
loose so close to our window
she had to swim in.    The splash
washed the guard up in a wreck
of sheets, washed me off my feet.
She's giving him mouth to mouth
and letting me sink.   The moon
takes too much satisfaction
starting this over again.
11 Brenda Mooney
The Belt
You walk to school and you remember it;
today is gym class.
You remember the silver buckle flashing
in the light from the small kitchen window.
It flashes like dragonflies,
the ones that might sew your lips together
at the swamp.
You remember it sliding through his belt loops as he
takes it off.    It slides with sinuous anger,
brown anger.    It determines landscape suddenly,
like the brown snakes that slip by you at the swamp,
impatiently skirting your intrusion into their
warm drunkenness.
You remember a face of undernourished pleasure,
how the belt speeds currents, spreads air and dust,
slices toward you like the split reeds at the swamp,
does strip-tease not in your vocabulary yet;
you just know today is gym class,
and you cannot undress for the shame of
uncertain trespasses, unsaid wrongs.
You remember the colours blue, purple,
the cold drunkenness that refuses you at home,
your embarrassed dance, your bladder loosening.
You walk towards the school;
from the distance comes shouting.
Today is gym, and your clothes hide
changed places, skin that comes out in
colours, like an invitation.
You hear your classmates call smart names
to each other.
12 You remember the warm wetness of the swamp,
the feeling that slides peacefully up your arms
when you go there.
You remember its invitation to a strange language,
how the tangled lilies look,
how the water moves with inexhorable mystery.
You will not be able to change for gym class today;
your friends will see your shame.
So you go to the swamp,
and you change there.
13 Webs
Pat Krause
It's early May, 1933, one of those hot humid mornings in Tuscaloosa that are sticky as glue, and my father is all dressed up in
his new grey and white seersucker suit. Lily tucks a hibiscus
blossom in his lapel buttonhole; a bright red trumpet, she says, on
account of the occasion. He's on his way to the Druid City Hospital to
get my mother and new baby brother.
Our front porch is a Welcome Home stage. The kitchen band my
father arranged for is tuning-up their pots and pans, glasses and jugs.
The black man wearing a top hat runs wooden spoons up and down
different size washboards.
I sit on the wicker porch swing right where Lily plunked me and
said to stay put or else. I'm not supposed to get a speck of dirt on the
dress Great Aunt Ginger won the Dixieland World Champion Smocking Ribbon for at the Alabama State Fair. The dress is too small for
me now. After Lily helps me out of it, I'll have smock-marks on my
chest, back, and around my upper arms. But Lily wants me to look
sweet as pecan pie and she says it won't do me a bit of good to fret
about it being a mite tight.
Lincoln, the man who does the cleaning at my father's lab, is the
leader of the kitchen band. He tells me I look as pretty as Miss Shirley Temple today. I twist one of the ringlets Lily made with my
mother's curling iron and ask if he'll please get his band to play the
spider song my daddy always whistles.
The band members know the words:
Itty bitty spider
up the water spout.
Down comes a raindrop
to wash the spider out.
Out comes the sunshine
and dries up the rain.
Itty bitty spider's
up the spout again.
14 They harmonize, like everyone does at the revival tent Lily takes me
to sometimes when she says she just has to cut loose and let her
voice fly up to the Lord. Then they sing it in rounds and I join in.
Lily doesn't sing a note. She thrums the wicker behind my back
with her blunt grey fingernails. "Honeychile?" she leans over and
whispers in my ear, "them nasty spider's gone get your daddy one
day, less you be cautious. You juss askin for trouble singin so sweet
bout one."
I shiver and clamp my mouth shut.
I'm afraid of spiders now, dead or alive. Lily knows my secret. She
came along with us last summer when we went up to Canada to stay
at my grandmother's lake cottage. Everyone said it was the driest
year in Saskatchewan history. The uncle who took over my grandfather's farm kept complaining that his wheat wasn't heading-out
worth a goddamn. Mother and Grandma and Lily killed every spider
they could find to bring on rain. Lily was towelling me dry after a
swim when the fat brown spider crawled right up to me. I stamped on
it. The spider squished under the sole of my rubber bathing slipper
like a burnt marshmallow. I jerked my foot up and saw spiderlings
race out of the mush toward dark corners of the veranda like tiny red
sparks from a dead sun. Lily started to sing Didn't It Rain, then she
saw the look on my face. My uncle muttered about cloudbursts that
would rust his bumper crop while he cleaned up the mess with his
cigarette papers. I threw-up on Lily's lap. She remembers.
When we hear the roadster's horn and other car horns honking back
over on University Boulevard, the band plays My Blue Heaven.
"Menfolk an sons!" Lily says, fluffing up the puffed sleeves of my
My father has the baby tucked along one arm like a football and his
other arm around my mother's waist as they dance toward us. My
mother is wearing her georgette wedding dress that she keeps
wrapped in tissue paper for special occasions. Lily likes to try the
dress on and twirl through the house in it when my mother is out. It's
our secret, I promised.
"Hey, lil booger," Lily greets the baby when my father hands him
to her. She cuddles him to her thin body and looks my mother over,
head to toe. "Welcome home, Ma'am," she says. "You lookin mighty
fine, Mizz Vee, though that ole dress doan do nothing to accentuate
it. It juss doan look good on you no more. No Ma'am, it sure nough
Mother does a few steps of the Charleston and the dipping hem
15 swishes around her ankles. "Still fits like a glove, Lily. But it'll be
yours when I can part with it," she says, "I promise."
"Hey, Miss Tuscaloo," my father says, scooping me off the swing
and setting me on his shoulders. "How do you like your new baby
brother? Some handsome little man, isn't he?"
I rest my chin on my father's head and look down at the baby. "Uh-
huh," I say. He looks like my Wetums doll. "Daddy, can I go with
you to see your spiders again?" I ask. "Just you and me?"
My father's lab is painted cream and green and it smells like a hospital. We scrub our hands at the sink and my father gives me a white
lab coat to put on. He rolls up the sleeves for me. I try, but I can't
reach the patch pockets to dig my hands down in them like he does.
There are two long shelves of black widow spiders in oblong jars
for him to show me. Cards with their histories on them are held
upright on the lids. My father has been studying black widow spiders
for as long as I can remember: collecting specimens, trying to breed
them, taking venom from their poison sacs and injecting it into his lab
"Rats and mice die, just like that," he tells me, snapping his fingers. "My guinea pigs get quite ill, but most survive. Rabbits, cats
and dogs aren't seriously affected. I suspect they build up an immunity to the widow's venom."
"Lily says people die if they get bitten."
"No they don't. Hardly ever. Dr. Bogen studied four hundred cases
of documented black widow spider poisoning from 1720 to 1931 and
only twelve of the people died."
Twelve! I started counting: Daddy and me and my mother and Lily
and my baby brother and Great Aunt Ginger, Grandma and all our
kinfolk in Canada like—
"Not that you want to play around asking to be bitten," my father
says. "But a widow's web is easy as pie to recognize. Here's a perfect example. See this?"
I look in the jar he points to.
"See how messy it is? How the threads are all helter-skelter,
crisscrossing at various angles and planes?"
"Uh-huh," I say.
"A widow usually builds her web in a crevice or corner. That's so
she can retreat in a hurry, sometimes through a poorly formed tunnel
of silk, like here." He taps his finger on the glass.
"Oh!" I cry, as the spider darts toward it.
16 My father chuckles. "She's cranky, not used to living in a glass jar
yet. Probably thought I was going to steal some of her web. You
know why, Miss Tuscaloo? Spider silk is considered to be of a much
finer quality than a silkworm's. If I collected enough of it, maybe I
could get a pretty dress made for you out of spider silk."
I don't say anything.
"Black widows spin especially fine silk. It's used for the cross-
sections in telescopic sights. And a single strand of it is as strong as
a steel wire of equivalent thickness. That's why the wicked widow
can weave a death cradle for a victim many times her size. See what
this vicious little lady has trapped in hers? Lincoln swept a mouse
nest out from under the stairs yesterday."
He lifts me up so my eyes are level with a jar on the top shelf. Up
near the lid, a pink baby mouse is suspended in a silk shroud. The
spider is on the mouse's stomach. I shut my eyes, swallow hard.
"She has been having a feast sucking its juices ever since we
dropped it in there. Lincoln didn't think her web would hold it. Don't
worry, the mouse didn't suffer. The first quick nip from that nasty
lady shot in a venom that's fifteen times deadlier than a rattlesnake's."
10:45 A.M., Sunday, November 12, 1933
He gently grasps the black widow spider by its abdomen with a
pair of splinter forceps and places it on the little finger of his left
The spider bites instantly.
Spider Number 111.33 has not been fed for fifteen days. It is an active healthy specimen that he captured in a rock pile at the edge of
the cotton field across from our house on Hackberry Lane. Its bulbous
abdomen is half an inch in length and in width at the posterior, glossy
black, and has on its underside the characteristic adult female marking of a red hourglass.
The subject of the experiment is thirty-two, five feet eleven inches
in height, weighs one hundred and sixty-eight pounds, is athletically
inclined and in excellent health. He played quarterback on a winning
team at McGill University and has recently won the University of Alabama Faculty of Medicine singles tennis cup. His reaction to bee
stings and mosquito bites is normal.
He permits the spider to bite him for ten seconds.
The spider twists its cephalothorax from side to side as though to
sink the claws above its mouth deeper into his flesh. Venom is being
discharged through the tiny openings near the tip of each claw. He re-
17 cords the sensation as being like the prick of a sharp hot needle, accompanied by a localized burning that increases in intensity during
the biting period.
After he removes the spider and replaces it in its jar, a drop of
clear fluid, slightly streaked with brown, remains at the site of the
bite. He leaves this untouched for one minute before wiping it off
with a cotton pledget. No definite marks of skin puncture can be seen
with the naked eye or with low magnification.
The lymphatic absorption of the poison takes fifty minutes. He
makes detailed notes on how the pain spreads and worsens.
An explosive onset of widespread muscular pains and profound
shock occur as the venom begins to circulate in his bloodstream. His
two student assistants take over the record-keeping.
His speech is jerky, respiration rapid and laboured. Sharp, brisk
expirations are followed by loud grunts. His pulse is rapid, uncountable, weak and thready. The heart sounds are slow, his abdomen
rigid, boardlike.
He asks to be taken to the Veterans Hospital where he has arranged for use of the electrocardiograph machine if he needs it.
There is a flushed, trembly feeling in his legs and he is unable to
straighten up or walk. Lincoln appears in the lab doorway and offers
to carry him to the car.
The hospital is three miles from the campus, normally a fifteen
minute drive, but there are Sunday strollers and drivers to dodge.
Lincoln rides on the running board of the car, yelling, "Lordy-Lord!
Clear the path! the good Doc's done got his self bit by a red-spotted
coal-black lady! Lord, we gone save him! We gone do it, Lord willin."
It is torture for him to lie still on his back while two electrocardiograms are made. They do not show any heart damage, but his skin
is cold and clammy, his lips are contracted by pain, causing his mouth
to assume an oval shape. At his request, the assistants run a hot bath
and Lincoln lowers him into it, which, he is able to state, brings him
some relief from the pain.
The attending physician first sees him at this stage of the spider
poisoning and writes his observations in the record: I found the
patient in excruciating pain, gasping for breath, and reclining in a tub
of very warm water. I do not recall having seen more abject pain
manifested in any other medical or surgical condition.
For more than forty-eight hours, the clinical chart of his respiratory
rate, blood pressure and pulse, is a series of jagged lines. Uh-huh, he
remarks when it's shown to him, the widow's web.
On November 15, three days after the bite and thirteen days before
18 his thirty-third birthday, he has almost completely recovered from the
poisoning. Rheumatoid pains in his legs and feet, a feeling of shaki-
ness when he stands or walks, are his chief complaints. The doctor
agrees with his decision to leave the hospital on condition he goes
home by ambulance.
It isn't porch weather for his homecoming. Nobody minds.
My brother is in a brushed cotton bunting with a hood that has rabbit ears on it. I'm cosy as a kitten in my Chesapeake Railroad overalls and a heavy pullover sweater my grandmother up in Canada sent
to me. Lily has my father's Harris tweed jacket on over her long-
sleeved uniform. She holds my brother on her hip and I stand beside
them at the top of the porch steps. Behind us, the men in Lincoln's
kitchen band are keeping warm by taking turns tap-dancing up and
down the length of the porch.
My mother, who says her nice thick Saskatchewan blood has gotten
thin living in Alabama, is all bundled up in what she calls her snow
angel cloak, a long butterfly cape that Great Aunt Ginger knit for her
out of white angora. She's waiting down at the end of the sidewalk
with Lincoln and two news reporters.
When we see the ambulance cross McFarland Avenue on the far
side of the cotton field, Lincoln holds the eggbeater up over his head
and spins the blades to signal the band to start playing. They strike-
up with Didn't It Rain. Lily jiggles my brother on her hip and lets
loose with the words, hums, then sings words I can't understand except for the hallelujahs.
The attendants lift my father out of the ambulance on a stretcher.
He refuses to stay on it. Mother walks on one side of him, holding
his hand, Lincoln on the other side, his big black hand splayed on my
father's arm like a giant spider. Their smiles are watermelon slices.
The reporters walk backwards toward us, squatting and stretching
to take pictures with their cameras, flashbulbs exploding. The band
plays the spiritual faster to match their quickening steps and Lincoln's
swinging eggbeater, which he's using like a baton. The old man who
blows in the jugs makes them sound like trumpets and bugles. They
must be able to hear Lily up in Canada, I think.
My father sits down on one of the plantation rockers. Mother runs
inside for a blanket to tuck over his knees. After the band plays When
The Saints Go Marching In, the reporters ask questions.
Did he know black widow spider venom is fifteen times deadlier
than a rattlesnake's?
Yes, my father says, in equal amounts it's supposed to be. He
19 knew that. And now he believes it's true. He smiles.
Why take such a risk letting one bit you then, Doctor?
That's what I want to know too, but my brother starts to howl and
then Lily grabs my arm and hauls me along with her when she takes
him into the house.
Mother lets me help paste clippings in a scrapbook. She reads the
headlines out loud: Professor lets spider bite him, suffers 3 days agony;
Canadian M.D. submits to agonizing experiment to aid science.
"Beg pardon, Mizz Vee," Lily says, turning from the sink where
she's singeing pin feathers off a chicken with torches made from discarded parts of the newspapers. "Juss seem to me he bin askin for
agony foolin with them red spotted poison spiders stead of devotin his
self to you'all, considerin."
"You read my mind, Lily," Mother says. "But this time the foolish
fly was lured into the spider's parlor and came out a hero. The Tuscaloosa News says he was braver than the Mississippi convicts who
were guinea pigs for the St. Louis physicians trying to find out how
sleeping sickness is transmitted."
"Spect menfolk wantin free got reason nough to let their selves be
guinea pigs. Ain't no reason the Doctor got to go seekin no glory that
way, ask me," Lily says.
"Or me," Mother agrees.
I don't say anything. The Associated Press account of the experiment I'm pasting in the book has lots of pictures of my father and his
spiders. Mother says it was chosen as one of the ten best human interest stories of the year. I can't help thinking it's sort of exciting to
have a father who's famous.
But later, my father hears that he won't be getting a research job
he wanted because he's too famous.
Too much publicity about his work with red spotted coal black ladies, he tells my mother, his research should have been published in
one of the medical journals first. He says the A.M.A. won't support
doctors who do experiments on themselves, they think it's unscientific, if not downright foolish.
Well, my mother says, well.
My father says he's sick of pathology and never having any patients
who can talk back to him. He says he's fed up with watching black
widow spiders eat their mates.
Good, my mother says, get rid of those damn spiders.
He tells her he loves teaching and learning, but that life is too slow
and easy for him in the South, that before long he'll be able to do
20 what he's doing in his sleep and he's afraid he'll get to enjoy that. He
says she knows how easily he can be seduced, then he puts his arms
around her and gives her a kiss.
Well, my mother says, now what?
He wants to use the savings they've banked in Canada to go north
and study surgery, radiology, learn everything he can about the diagnosis and treatment of cancer—seek a new challenge.
They decide to move home, home to Canada.
Home, my father explains to me, isn't necessarily a person's
birthplace. He says my brother and I will always have close ties to
Tuscaloosa, to Alabama. Webs spun by the Deep South around her
sons and daughters, he says, are even stronger than black widow
spider silk.
It's almost midnight, November 13, 1948.
I've come down to a dark corner of our basement to look for my father's black widow spiders in the Tuscaloosa trunk. Underneath the
old Alabama clothes that my mother has saved, there's a large
maroon box full of spiders suspended in glass slides. I discovered
them when I was nine years old soon after we'd moved to Regina.
They wait with hooked claws ready to strike, their mouths open to
suck my body dry if I make a false move or shift my eyes even a fraction while I dig down into the trunk for them. Whenever my parents
stay out late and I'm left in charge, I lie in my bed too scared to
move a muscle while I listen and listen, afraid that the spiders have
come alive, shattered the thin glass slides, and are creeping up the
stairs to get me. Sometimes I've had to force myself to come down
here to make sure the spiders are only specimens trapped on Wratten
M Dry Plate slides and not like the darting spiders my father kept in
the jars in his lab.
I shudder.
Sleet pings on the window pane. The cement floor is an ice floe. I
don't care if I get chilblains and double pneumonia from being down
here in my bare feet and pajamas. There has to be a reason.
My father is dead. He was buried this afternoon, fifteen days before his forty-eighth birthday. Hearing the earth fall on his coffin was
the worst part: the thud of dirt frozen to rocks. But I didn't cry. I
won't cry.
He didn't suffer, my mother says. It was so quick he didn't feel any
pain. She keeps repeating this.
I saw my father have his first heart attack. She must have forgotten
that. He shouted, "Hey!", fell down on the rug all hunched up, and he
21 writhed around, pounding his chest with his fists, grunting, gasping
for breath through a fish-shaped mouth.
By the time the doctor arrived, he was lying on the chesterfield,
the pain almost gone. They decided he'd had a severe attack of indigestion. A year later he had another attack, far worse, and their
diagnosis changed.
The three-month recuperation after his third heart attack was almost over. He was back at the cancer clinic part-time.
A soft wet snow fell on his last morning. He and Mother stood for
a long time at the kitchen window admiring the way the prairie grass
looked with puffs of snow on it. He said it would be easy to mistake
the prairie for a cotton field ready for picking. Mother says he was
whistling the spider song when he went upstairs after lunch for the
prescribed nap he hated taking.
Mother had just started doing the dishes when he called her name.
She ran up to their bedroom, the sopping-wet dish rag still clutched
in her hand. There's a white mark on the bedside table where she
dropped it.
He looked as if he'd fallen asleep just as something surprised him,
Mother says, there was a startled look on his face and his mouth was
open as if he'd just exclaimed, "Oh!". She gave him mouth to mouth
resuscitation, phoned the doctor, the ambulance, a friend who used to
be a nurse.
There was nothing anyone could do. It was too late. Fifteen years
too late!
A newspaper article said his premature death could have resulted
from cardiac damage caused when he allowed a black widow spider to
bite him to test the effects of its venom on the human heart.
"No!" Mother shouted when she read it. "Won't those damn
spiders ever be forgotten!" She crumpled the newspaper and hurled it
across the living room. "That's not why he let that spider bite him.
It's not!"
"Why did he?" I asked her. "Why?" I wanted to scream questions at
her. Did he let it bite him to show how brave he was? Did you want
him to do it so he'd be a hero? Didn't he care if he died? Did he love
those spiders more than us?
"He wanted to know how to diagnose and treat black widow spider
poisoning. He thought one bite might give him immunity to others.
But he said he didn't have the courage to finish the experiment by
letting himself be bitten again to prove it. Courage?" Mother looked
at me. "Well, maybe it was the first time he did it, but it was foolish
22 too. There was something so damn seductive about those bloody little
coal-black widows."
We stared at each other. I had sometimes boasted to my friends
that my father was the famous scientist who had discovered a cure for
black widow spider poisoning. Did she know that?
The smell of camphor begins to burn my nostrils as I get closer to
uncovering the maroon box. I jump and almost scream out loud when
moth balls roll out of my father's old red McGill sweater. The M on
the front is missing. I snipped it off and wore the sweater to school
when I was in Grade 9. It was right in fashion, big and long enough to
let just a fringe of Blackwatch tartan pleats show beneath it. I used to
sneak out of the house in it so no one would know I'd been snooping
in the Tuscaloosa trunk. I put it back in here when the New Look of
Gibson Girl blouses and long ballerina skirts came into style.
My father's seersucker suit is wrapped in whispery tissue paper on
top of the maroon box, the last piece of clothing. Mother gave her
wedding dress to Lily to be married in so it's not in here. I reach
down to lift out the suit. My skin crawls. I swat at a tickle on my
neck. My fingers tingle. I grit my teeth, shut my eyes, and shove the
suit off the box.
Something is watching me. The spider. An enlarged black and
white photograph of it lies face-up on top of the maroon box. It's
labelled in white ink in my father's neat printing: Spider
#111.33—The Culprit!—11/28/33. He took its picture on his thirty-
third birthday. He used red ink on its bloated belly to colour the
I tear the photograph into bits.
I start to cry.
I grab the heavy maroon box out of the trunk, yank off the lid, and
smash the spider slides, one by one, on the cold, grey cement floor.
23 Giorgio Caproni
Two Poems Translated from the Italian by Pasquale Verdicchio
The Hidalgo
Deo optimo maximo
But, I asked (the wine
merchant wiping his mouth
with a thumb), what has happened, I asked,
to that old man (tall
good-looking—a hatter,
I believe) who every night
(they called him the Hidalgo)
would call out "To your health!"
and raise his glass?"
The other, recounting
and recounting the cash
on the counter, oh, Franco,
of course ...    meanwhile I
(meanwhile I) I let my mind wander—
to where the absent-minded
words ended, to the cry
(To your health! he yelled)
already raised by the towtruck
to the slipway?...    I heard
the hours fall heavily.
I paid.
I went out.    And never,
never (a hatter,
of course; good-looking man) never
in the dark of those
yellow water lights, never
had I been so cold
in my overcoat—
the only memory of
my father,
dead that day,
(I called him the Hidalgo)
a day like any other,
to still cover my shoulders.
24 The Searcher
He had placed his lantern
on the ground.
He had opened his arms.   All
that sun.   All those green
sparks of grass through the valley.
He was discouraged.
can it give me light,
he thought.   How
can it break the dark,
in such a flood of light?
He cried,
almost.    He covered his face.
Rubbed his eyes.
He had
completely lost,
with hope, every trace.
25 Richard Wagner
Translated from the German by Peter A. Stenberg
question for mandelstam
we are oil in the gearbox
oh were we but oil on the fire
but we are
oil in the gearbox
ossip brother
if we leave
it will run rougher
but it will run
what should
we do
26 /. L. Kubicek
Leaves, Retrieved
I do not remember the exact title.    On the cover,
Vienna, with a sub-title that said something
about, False Notes In Viennese Waltzes.
The book contained information about those who
had participated in Viennese musical circles
prior to WWII.    I knew that its contents, in view
of her musical profession and background, would be
of interest.    When I saw her again her first words
were, Where did you get that book?    I told her
I did not remember since I had collected a great
number of books that dealt with the Holocaust
period.    She continued, / gave it to my mother
who fled Vienna in 1939 and she cried out every
few pages, "So that is what happened to:   Epsteins
... Marie Stoltz ... Swartzwald's mit der rosa
Pudel;"    and on and on.
27 Carmen Berenguer
Translated from the Spanish by Lake Sagaris
Plan for Conquest in the
Haiti Cafe
The homeland my dear is an open-mouthed wall
where you can paint the outlying zones
undreamt of by any lip unmentioned by
any voice strummed by strings which no one moves
on the inside a fresh blood able to carry on
until it finds an exit through a channel that no
one knows drop by drop scrawling on lips
sweet little mouth of a homeland founded by who knows who
Founding mistress of little feet along the steps
of aquaducts over the grass beloved and
loving your master old fox   sniffer of
peopled outskirts confiscating the muses lady
mistress yesterday strolling down Ahumada your painted
cheeks and two mascara fins your eyes blinking in the heat of a bed of a cheap hotel
plundered lady and being founded again by who knows
In the timid outskirts' grass the unholy desire
lovers sweet lightning of the flora fluorescent
kindling the hills' kindling at the crossroads
a look glints in the brown eyes of the   perfidious one
and eyes over eyes go flaming through new valleys
sir my love madame you are mine where are we    in the
little new world all made of myrrh and sheep's blood
28 Lorna Crozier
Five Poems
Angel of Silence
The angel of silence
walks into the room
(with a sound)
just below
the threshold of your hearing
like snow
falling while you sleep.
You sense her
the way a woman knows
something without words
whispers from the dark
waters of the womb.
That's the angel of silence
too.    The tongues of birds
before dawn, the blue
mouths of horses, their
rising in the cold air,
your sleep,
and your awakening,
the whole world
29 Fathers, Uncles, Old
Friends of the Family
Uncle Peter always told me
to wash my hands before breakfast
because I didn't know where they'd been
in the night   what they'd touched
and his hands
lifted me from the paddling pool,
young seal   all wet and giggly,
his farmer's hands
soft in the towel,
rubbing   my mother's
youngest brother
pulling aside
my swimsuit.
Then there's the father
of my friend
who did it to her
till she ran away from home.
On his seventieth birthday
she visits with the grandchild
he's never seen
and before she can pour their tea,
he reaches out,
grabs her breast,
then cries   says he can't help himself
and she cries too,
what's there to say to him now?
30 One is always
the best friend of the family.
He makes her a fishing rod
from a bamboo pole
and with hooks   with bait,
rows her to the middle of the lake
Shh, shh, I won't hurt you
Years later
your flesh crawling,
you try not to turn away
when someone you love lays a hand on you.
Where did he touch you?
Here    and here,
those places no one ever named.
31 How Beautiful thy Feet in
In his brand new shoes,
fine Italian leather,
soft as chamois on the skin,
he walked his slow gait
to the hospital steps,
his arms and legs
awkward and stiff,
his shoes
with a will of their own.
When parts of the body go,
concentrate on what is left.
The feet are beautiful
when the bones show through.
It is his shoes
I want to remember
like the one I saw
in the open grave in Santiago.
A woman's shoe, a black high heel,
an open toe.
I imagine the woman
kicking it off
in a rush to go somewhere,
to dance in her bare feet,
to love
one more time
with her whole body. As I want to believe he did
before his cells
divided him
into too many parts
to live in.
The shoes
held the narrow bones
of his feet together
as he walked each morning
down the hall and back,
letting go of life,
as a baby lets its hands
fall from the furniture
and almost runs
into that huge space,
the white soles
touching ground
the first time.
The shoes took him there
as if they'd known all along
where he had to go—
one foot following the other,
the simplest movement,
whether he was walking
toward love or death,
his feet moving
from one place,
to the next.
Side by side
(still warm)
under the bed
his shoes,
toes in darkness,
heels rounding
the light.
33 Spider
The spider in the heart
of the rose
is a ventriloquist.
It sings on the rose's tongue.
A bee changes direction,
moves its dusty thighs
toward the garden.
The spider says Sweet release.
It moves the rose's lips and whispers
to the little moths,
lunar and lantern light.
In the circles of its web
it inscribes
the eight names of night.
The rose's silken voice
reads them to the flies,
each word growing softer
so they'll come near.
Inside the heart
the spider sings,
its clever mouth
perfectly still.
34 How to StopMissing your
Friend who Died
The moon over Vancouver Harbour
is full and red.
Through the window
you can see a barge go by.
It is empty, returning
to whatever country sent it out.
You can't see any lights
but someone must be steering,
someone who doesn't know
you are sitting behind a window
that overlooks the sea.
The moonlight makes the barge
more important than it really is.
Then there's a sailboat
and a heron.
Its legs stretch so far behind
when it's flying
it forgets they're there.
35 Evelyn Lau
Someone's finger etches a heart on your back
but you're asleep,
your finger won't return the message.
It's curled up into your hand
a white spider snuggled against webs of hair.
Morning already,
another square on the calendar.
I dare not urge the curtains aside
to confront the blossoming sky—
I'd rather keep watch over that spider
content in its home.
Your pills are rumbling in me again
unhappily trapped
unwilling to dissolve, to stroke
my staring corpse's lids downwards
onto drowsing cheeks.
It's the blotter that's propping my eyes open.
You plucked up that fat purple flower
and laid it on my nicotine-stinging tongue,
enslaving me to its petals
blooming through my bloodstream.
We pointed at the flour-faced passerby
bland, motionless
Unenlightened, we whispered, smug
our words exchanging lips.
Silly passerby:
We reduced them to burping toads,
whores cupping silicone breasts-
Whatever we wanted.
36 There were colours, then crawlings.
The city was scraped away by a sidewalk
infested with pink insects,
studded with cheap glitter.
Even the veins on your face crawled
but I fingered them anyway
seeking secrets I could reveal,
then steal
I didn't mention that child in the video shop, though
his new lily face
unfolding with bewilderment, until I gasped,
I'm all right
through unexpected tears washing down my face
washing him away
You left your pharmacy on the bathroom counter.
Didn't you dream that one night I might tiptoe
away from the critical dawn
and slide some 'ludes down my throat?
Didn't you dream that one night I might hurry
some rainbow-hued capsules and pills
into the leather pouch you tossed in my direction once?
Wherever that was.
Where are your legs?
Crowded with hair, hunched safe beneath
300 years worth of unwashed blankets, you said.
But my eyelids should shut like coffins soon.
Paper stars should burst out of the make-believe night
Someone's finger etches a heart on your back
but you're asleep,
your finger won't return the message.
37 Opportunities for
Dorothy Speak
Around ten in the mornings, we'd hear the hom blast of Nick's
Canteen blaring up through the plant. Then Daisy and I
would leave our adding machines and descend the narrow
metal stairs to the assembly floor. It was a big plant, located just outside of town in the middle of cornfields. The building covered ten
acres, and was filled to its fifty-foot ceiling with the scream of drills
and saws used to machine brake drums. I liked the strong smell of
grease down there and the greenish light from the high tinted
windows. It was a nice break from the bright, quiet office, where I
often felt restless. I took my safety glasses off after we'd passed the
security guard, I thought they made me look ugly.
"You'll get caught doing that some day," Daisy warned me. She left
hers on. She was short and plump and she wore slippery summer
dresses whose gathered skirts rippled eloquently over her broad hips.
My favourite was a sundress with spaghetti straps that showed off her
soft, white arms. It had a little matching jacket that she wore over
top in the office, to be decent, she said. "This town is full of prudes,"
she told me. She was from Montreal. But before we went down into
the plant, she always took the jacket off. She turned plenty of heads
down there. The fellows would drop their tools or set down their
thermoses when we passed by, put their black hands on their hips,
and whistle.
"Daisy!" they'd shout above the roar of the machines. "Oh, Daisy!
That's some dress! Aren't you a little cool in that itty-bitty thing,
Daisy? If you're feeling hot, you could take some more off."
Daisy would just laugh and wave. She'd gone out with some of
them, after her divorce. There was only one I could tell she still
liked, an intelligent-looking black-haired man named D'Arcy, who was
a foreman. He wore a checked tie and carried a clipboard and didn't
have big circles of sweat under his arms, like the other men. I heard
he was engaged to a kindergarten teacher.
38 "Mornin' ladies," he'd grin, teasing. Daisy would scowl at him and
jerk her chin away, but D'Arcy would only laugh at her. "No hard
feelings, eh Daisy?" he'd call after us.
"Thinks he's God's gift," she'd mutter. We'd cross the wide cement
floor, between the hammering machines, to where the Canteen had
been driven through the big doors, right into the plant. Daisy would
pick out a big scone packaged in cellophane and consider it, tempted.
"I said I wasn't going to do this," she'd say, then shrug. "Oh, well.
You only live once. Warm it up for me, will you Nick?"
On the way back through the plant, more whistling. "Daisy! Who's
that pretty little girl with you? Want a date, honey?" and Daisy would
call back, "She's got too much class for you bums!" and they'd all roar
and say, "Aw, c'mon, Daisy!"
I marvelled at Daisy's easy manner with men. They made me nervous. People think that pretty girls have loads of sexual experience,
but the opposite is often true. I was shy, I'd never had a date. What if
I went away and was never asked to a single college dance? I was
terrified of being an old maid.
We ate our scones and drank our coffee at our desks, not in the ladies' lounge, because Daisy said the other women in the office were a
bunch of silly cats. Later, when they'd cleared out of the lounge,
Daisy and I would take our purses and go in there, through the little
sitting room with its torn vinyl couches, into a cramped back room
barely large enough to hold the two of us. There was a toilet in
there, and mops and Dutch Cleanser and rolls of brown hand towels
on shelves, and a cracked mirror over an old tea-stained sink. We'd
freshen our lipstick, and Daisy would reapply her green eyeshadow,
her head tilted back, her lowered eyelids seductive-looking. Then
she'd lean into the mirror. "Look at these!" she'd growl, pulling at the
wrinkles around her eyes. She had china features, a delicate mouth
and a fine nose. Once I said, "You have such a doll's face, Daisy. If
you'd only lose weight."
"I like myself the way I am," she said, in a warning tone.
Daisy would tease up my hair. "You need height," she told me.
She'd been a hairdresser's assistant, way back. She'd washed people's
hair and given perms. "You wouldn't believe how stingy rich women
are," she told me. "They'd come in to have a perm and they wouldn't
pay for a shampoo, and I'd have to perm their filthy hair and feel their
crusty scalps. Rich women are the cheapest people around." Then
she'd squirt her White Shoulders perfume on our necks and wrists,
and we'd go back out and get to work.
Sometimes,   though,   when   we   came   back   upstairs   from   the
39 Canteen, carrying our scones and napkins and steaming coffee cups,
Mr. Tapping, the vice-president, would see me passing his door and
call out, "Connie, come in here, would you?" Daisy would mutter,
"Watch out," and go on without me and eat alone at her desk, leafing
through movie magazines she kept in her drawer. She had told me already about Mr. Tapping. "A bored man is a dangerous man," she'd
said, and Mr. Tapping really did seem bored. His desk was always
bare and often I'd see him just standing in his office, at the window
that overlooked the plant, daydreaming. He was an American, brought
up from North Dakota to run this little plant, and he seemed to have
time to burn. "Come over here," he said the first time he called me
in, and I went and stood beside him at the window.
"Do you know what they do down there? I'll bet you don't. You just
sit at you little adding machine and you don't even know what goes on
here." He had a small, round head, like a gourd, black wavy hair stiff
with Brylcream that preserved the parallel furrows of the comb, and
large yellow teeth. His children went to my highschool. He was about
my father's vintage, which seemed to me ancient.
"I guess I should know," I said guiltily, "but I'm not going to be
here long." I was a summer student hired through a government
youth opportunities program. I had no experience and no skills.
They'd put me in the accounting department, where Daisy had been
given the job of teaching me to use an adding machine. She might as
well have tried to train a cat to fly.
"Don't look at the keys," Daisy insisted. "You have to do it by
feel." I was nervous and couldn't get my fingers to work. Nothing I
added up ever came twice to the same total. I couldn't make anything
balance. Sometimes I fled to the bathroom in tears, fearing daily that
they would fire me, but Daisy always covered for me somehow. Often
she stayed late to correct my work.
I looked down at my scone and coffee. I wanted to get away from
Mr. Tapping and eat them before they got cold.
"This is rude of me!" he said. "Sit right down here and have your
break at my desk. Talk to me." I didn't see what I could possibly
have to talk to him about, but I did what he said. After all, he was my
employer. Then I thought that maybe this was all a plot and he'd
brought me in there under false pretenses, and was getting ready to
gently fire me. I swallowed, and my scone stuck on the way down. I
reached nervously for my coffee. Mr. Tapping sat behind his desk,
swivelling his chair, and watched me eat.
He was known as a joker around the office. I'd seen him pass
through the accounting department and shoot a rubber band at some-
40 one's back, then slip out of the room before they could turn around.
He liked to hang over the typists, making them nervous. Then he'd
crow, "There, I got you! You made a mistake!" and they'd shake their
little bottles of Snowpake at him. You could hear his little weasel
laugh all over the office, from department to department, drifting
above the glass partitions. His delinquence was a sharp contrast to
the dead seriousness of everybody else. It seemed like people
thought they had to be sober to counteract his influence, to keep
things from getting out of control. Everyone shook their heads after
he passed, but what could they say to him? He was the Big Cheese.
I'd heard the women whispering about him in the lounge, saying that
he was oversexed and juvenile, and why did the company always send
the idiots to Canada? They added in sour, slightly crestfallen tones,
that he was a bag of wind, all talk and no action. Daisy said, "They're
all just dying for him to try something, the old cows. He wouldn't
touch any of them with a ten-foot pole." This confused me. Why did
Daisy defend Mr. Tapping one moment and condemn him the next?
I myself knew people like Mr. Tapping. Boys, I mean, junior versions. I figured he would have been a prankster at school, and it was
odd to think that that kind of person—the kind of boy I dreaded and
scorned at school—actually grew up to be nice, employable human
beings, husbands with children who loved them.
To my relief, the last thing Mr. Tapping seemed to want to talk
about was the office. First he asked me how old I was and I said I
was seventeen and I was going to the community college in a nearby
city in the fall to train to be a nurse's assistant.
He raised his eyebrows. "Pretty girl like you doesn't need to work.
You should be thinking of marriage."
"Well, I probably won't work very long," I agreed, too embarrassed
to say I didn't even have a boyfriend. I said I liked babies and he
seemed to approve of this. He asked me what my best subjects were
in school, and I said I didn't have any and he laughed and said I was a
breath of fresh air and I was glad to make him feel good.
Then he got up and walked around his desk, clicking his quarters.
He had a nervous habit of carrying a little stack of quarters around in
one hand, and dropping them absentmindedly, one by one, into the
palm of the other. Click, click, click. He stood beside my chair and
looked at my legs appreciatively. "Don't you think that skirt's a little
long?" he asked ironically. I blushed and wiped my fingers on my napkin and tried to pull my skirt down over my thighs. Unsuccessfully.
"Miniskirts are in this years," I said apologetically.
He laughed. "Yes, I know they are. I'm glad they're in," which
41 made me feel more attractive than ever before. He made me feel
good, I made him feel good. We were friends.
Finally, I said I thought I'd better be getting back to work. I didn't
want him to think I didn't have a conscience. He said, rather pessimistically, "I suppose so," and added when I was at the door,
"Don't forget I'm here. Vice-presidents are lonely people."
I went back to my desk and there was Daisy pounding away harder
than ever at her adding machine. She stopped, took a pencil out of
her mouth and raised an eyebrow at me. "I didn't know you were on
I bit my lip and ducked toward my machine. "I couldn't get away."
She gave me a hard look. "I'd give Mr. Tapping a wide berth, if I
were you," she said. "Don't ever let him corner you in the storage
room. He knows every trick in the book. He uses women like toilet
I thought she was being a little harsh. "He says he's lonely."
"Lonely, my ass!"
Most of the office staff took off at lunch. There wasn't much to do
way out there. Across the highway from the plant were a nursery and
a motel and a cement works. People drove to a diner half a mile
down the highway, or into town, though there was only one place
there to eat lunch, a Chinese restaurant that served a gluey buffet at
noon. Daisy and I didn't have cars. Besides, I had no money for lunches out, I was putting my salary away for school, and Daisy was always saving for wallpaper or new tea towels or sexy underwear.
After we ate our sandwiches, she and I would go outside and
stretch out on the deep front lawn to acquire a tan, Daisy wearing
sunglasses to keep from getting more wrinkles. I'd lie there, listening
to her talk, dizzy from the motion of the clouds floating magically
across the sky. I'd hear the cars whizzing by out on the highway and
think with something like ecstasy that there I was with one foot out
of town already, earning money, with school behind me. I was going
away to train for Real Life, at something I'd be good at. I thought I'd
never been happier or had a better friend than Daisy. Thinking these
things, I felt so light that I was amazed I didn't float right up and join
the clouds. I'd read about people passing into death, their souls rising
like smoke through that atmospheric, buoyant state between ordinary
earth existence and a heavenly career, and I thought maybe I was
there right now, in something like that.
I asked Daisy why she'd left Montreal. I couldn't imagine why anyone would abandon a city with department stores and movie theatres
42 and restaurants. There were prejudices in our town about Montreal,
about the whole province of Quebec, which only made them all the
more foreign and exotic for me.
"Oh, I don't know," she said. "I couldn't speak French, and I
thought I wanted to see the world."
The world! And she'd ended up here? You couldn't find our town on
the map of Canada, it had a longitude and a latitude, that was all. But
Daisy's vagueness made me think there was something dark back
there, a past of some kind. Eventually she told me she left after her
girlfriend tired to kill herself. This girlfriend's boyfriend had jilted
her, so she dined on a bottle of pills and called Daisy to say au
revoir. The words au revoir, so French-sounding, seemed to me
doubly poignant. Daisy ordered an ambulance and met them at the
hospital. She watched them pump her friend's stomach out. Then she
said to her, "You tried to kill yourself? For a man? You must be
nuts!" Daisy's changeable perspective on men —alternately haughty
and enslaved, apathetic and hungry, baffled me. After that I had a
new, more alive picture of Montreal, a city where sirens wailed in
the night and people vomited sleeping pills.
Daisy described what she was doing with her bathroom. New
countertop and new tile and flooring. She was living with an insurance
salesman named Alex. She was mad crazy about this man. I'd seen
him coming after work in his gold convertible to pick her up. He
smoked long cigarettes and had a mane of silver hair, like a movie
producer. When Daisy got into the car she'd land a big smacking kiss
on his mouth, just to make a point to the fellows from the plant,
who'd be heading for their own cars about the same time. They'd roar
at her and wolf-whistle. Then Daisy would give me a wink and tie a
long chiffon kerchief over her hair, winding it twice around her throat
and tucking the ends in at the back. They'd shoot off with a spray of
gravel, just like in the movies.
We were not always alone, out there on the lawn. Once, I heard
muffled laughter from the door of the plant, about twenty feet from
where we lay. I raised my head and saw several of the workers enjoying themselves, gaping at Daisy, whose dress was flapping in the
wind like a banner, showing her bare legs and her red panties.
"Daisy!" I said. "They can see everything!"
She didn't even open her eyes or reach down to control her skirt.
"Let them window shop all they want," she said, comfortably. "The
merchandise is not for sale."
Presently, along came Mr. Tapping, back from lunch, clicking his
43 quarters. "Spectacular view from here, ladies!" he called, and Daisy
whispered, "There's the old scab," but of course she had too much
dignity to cover up now, even for him.
"Connie, come along, I want to give you a lesson in agriculture."
"Don't go," Daisy whispered.
"What should I say?"
"Just tell him to scram."
"Come on, Connie! I won't bite you!"
"He's lying," Daisy said.
Mr. Tapping was laughing and beckoning to me with his hand. My
curiosity got the better of me.
"I have to," I whispered to Daisy, for the first time sensing an undercurrent of something in her voice. Was it jealousy? I jumped up
and ran across the lawn. We stepped companionably off the sidewalk
and crossed the grass in front of the plant, passing long beds of
Mr. Tapping said to me confidentially, "I wouldn't believe everything Daisy tells you."
"Why not?" I said.
"People like Daisy shouldn't throw stones. She's your proverbial
fallen woman."
I wasn't sure what he meant. Was he talking about how her husband, Rocko, had beaten her? Knocked her down on the floor of their
apartment? Hit her with hard bruising objects, possibly the heel of a
shoe? (He managed a shoe store downtown.)
We left the shade of the building. On our right rose a high barbed
wire enclosure where they stored the brake drums ready to be loaded
on the railway that ran behind the building. Mr. Tapping stepped
agilely down a small slope of grass and entered between tall stalks of
corn that measured up to his ear. I threw one last glance at Daisy,
who was getting up now, smoothing her skirt, and going into the
building. I followed Mr. Tapping some distance into the cornfield, the
loose soil spilling into my shoes. It was dry and itchy and cool in
there. The corn blocked the sound of the highway. I couldn't see anything but corn stalks and the azure sky. We could have been in the
middle of nowhere, with the black flies buzzing around our heads.
Finally, he stopped and turned around. "You probably didn't know
this cornfield belonged to the company. Fifty acres. We lease it to an
old farmer, but we can pick what we want. / can, that is. The perks
of being a vice-president," he added sarcastically. He sighed and
looked up at the sky. "Oh, Lord, will I ever get out of this place?" he
said, in a kind of mocking prayer. Then he laughed at himself. He
44 reached up and pulled off a smallish cob of corn. It was only July, I
knew it wouldn't be ripe. He tore back the husk to rows of tiny,
white kernels.
"Pitiful little prick of a thing, isn't it?" he said, and suddenly it did
look rather vulgar to me, scrawny and pale, the yellow tassle hanging
limp and obscene from its tip. "Have you ever seen one that puny?" I
turned crimson and he laughed. "Don't tell your Momma I said that.
Here, try some." He held it out.
"Trust me," he coaxed and watched with satisfaction as I took the
cob and bit into the flavorless corn, chewed it with difficulty and
swallowed. "It's not ready to eat," I told him.
"Not like me," he said, then looked around guardedly, as though
someone might be watching from behind the screen of corn stalks. He
reached down swiftly, fixed his thing in his pants and sighed. He
picked a piece of corn delicately from the corner of my mouth, took
the cob out of my hand and tossed it nonchalantly over his shoulder. I
saw that sweat had broken out on his forehead, from the heat of the
field. There was a sweet smell coming off him, not Aquavelva or Old
Spice, something more sickening, probably his deodorant.
"When it's ripe, we'll pick a dozen for your Momma." He said
Momma in a silly way, as though I was a baby, and I blushed again.
He looked at his wristwatch. "I've got a meeting at one thirty," he
said, and turned me around firmly by the shoulders, as he might a
daughter, as though it had been me holding him there. My heart was
pounding, the way it would if I'd narrowly escaped being hit by a car.
But there was something else happening too. I'd felt a rush of excitement fly up from my stomach, through my chest, as though a dam had
burst inside me when I saw him touch himself.
Now I was in the lead, and I felt Mr. Tapping following hard on my
heels. I imagined his bloodless, neatly manicured hands reaching out,
hovering above my hips, ready to grab me. This made me both nervous and excited, but I kept my head, I took my time getting out of
there. When we were on the grass again, he said "I'll be late for my
meeting," and gave me a little fatherly pat on the rear and ran rather
jauntily on ahead to the door of the plant. I watched him go, thinking
I'd better stay away from him in the future. I stopped to dump the
earth out of my shoes, then followed him inside.
Back in the office, Daisy looked up from her desk. "Well? What did
he do?"
"Nothing," I said. There was a little mysterious mound of excitement inside me that I wanted to keep private, to explore on my own.
45 "He talked to me about corn."
She looked at me closely. "Probably lost his nerve," she said, and
shoved a pile of work orders at me. "Here, add these up."
All afternoon I found it difficult to concentrate. I felt jittery and
restless. My whole body tingled like a silver bell struck with a tiny
hammer. Several times, I went into the washroom and combed my
hair and stared at myself in the mirror and wondered if I looked older
than seventeen. I touched my hand to where Mr. Tapping had picked
the kernel of corn off the corner of my mouth. I put my fingertips to
my nose and imagined I smelled his Brylcream. I thought about him
stripping back the husk on the corn with his square, manicured fingers, and then I closed my eyes and pictured him stripping my
clothes off, peeling back the shoulders of my blouse in the same
calm, gentle, deliberate way, and I had to steady myself on the sink,
just thinking about it.
Back at my desk, I stole looks at Daisy, who was hard at work. It
was Friday and she was cleaning up the books for month-end. Looking at her mauve lips and the loose flesh jiggling under her arm as
she clattered away on her adding machine, it seemed to me that she
had such a ripe, theatrical life, having been beaten by her husband,
and living now with an older, glamourous man, and being lusted after
by all the fellows down in the plant. And I thought, all these circumstances, this rich potential couldn't be merely accident or fate. What
was it that Daisy did to make men want her so violently? Hadn't I
heard the women, talking in the lounge about Rocko beating Daisy
up, say "She probably asked for it."? I spent a good deal of time that
weekend shortening all my skirts by an inch.
It was not so easy to keep clear of Mr. Tapping. All through the
rest of that month and well into August, I was pretty-well forced to
spend my break with him, as he'd always catch me going by. And who
can say now whether I was guilty, once or twice, of talking loudly to
Daisy when we came up from the plant, or laughing incongruously
outside his door, to make sure he knew I was there and available?
What was the harm in it?
"Oh, Connie, there you are!" he'd call out, and I'd whisper to
Daisy, "Oh no, not again!" and she'd say, "Just tell him you're busy.
Learn to say no to a man." But soon she got used to me stopping in
to see Mr. Tapping, she'd go on to her desk, just shaking her head.
"Sit down and tell me your troubles," Mr. Tapping would say, but
it was his problems we talked about. I have said he was old, but the
more I got to know him, the younger he seemed, because he wasn't
in command of his life, as adults are. He told me he didn't love his
46 wife, he never had, he only got married to her because she was pregnant at the time. Pregnant by him, of course, but that was beside the
point. Should he have to suffer his whole life for a little mistake? I
thought about his daughter, Mary, a sober-faced girl who cruised the
school halls in a prefect's blazer with an eye peeled for smokers or
fistfights in the locker area. Mary, begot in the back of a car! Mr.
Tapping said his wife had got lazy and calculating and frigid.
"Oh, life is ironic, Connie. I knocked her up and now I can't touch
her." From Mr. Tapping I learned that life was funny and cruel and
who could take it seriously? He said his wife was forty-five and
seemed to have been going through the menopause for twenty years.
She complained about being in Canada, there was nowhere decent to
shop. He was trapped.
"She doesn't appreciate you. She's taking you for granted," I said
about his wife. I felt I could talk about her this way, she was common
property now, like a memo passed between us.
"You understand me, don't you Connie? Yes, I think you do," he
would say. We might be standing at the plant window at this point
(his door almost closed), and he would give me a little paternal hug,
or rub the hair on my forearm as if to start a little fire there, or pinch
the lobe of my ear, or lift a bit of hair out of my eyes.
One day he pulled a little blue box out of his pocket and I opened it
and found a pearl on a silver chain. He told me he wanted me to wear
it all the time at the office. I said alright.
Daisy saw me putting the necklace on in the washroom and immediately guessed where it had come from. She told me I was leading
Mr. Tapping on, even if I didn't realize it, and I said that was ridiculous, we were friends, no more and no less, even though I fancied
myself in the role of temptress. She told me not to be naive.
"I'd rather be naive than a hypocrite," I said.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Mr. Taping says you're a fallen woman."
She was stung by that, I could see. She told me to suit myself,
turned on her heel and let the door swing shut. I washed my face
even though it didn't need it, and put on more lipstick, and went out
and stood behind her, at her desk.
"I'm sorry Daisy," I said.
"Never mind," she said, her voice light and icy. "I'm used to this
After that, our customary lunch-hours, wherein we had discussed
nylon stockings and decorating tips for under ten dollars, and eye-
wrinkle cream, quickly died out. Daisy began catching a ride into
47 town at noon so that she could go to the wallpaper store and browse
through the catalogues. She had her desk moved away from mine,
saying that the draft from the ceiling fan was giving her a sore throat.
No longer was she willing to fix up my botched work. I began to fall
behind, and one Friday night at month-end I was still at the office at
six o'clock, with a big balance sheet in front of me, on which I had
erased the sums so often that there were holes in the paper. That is
where Mr. Tapping found me, on his way out of the building, clicking
his quarters. He sat on the corner of my desk and I wept and told him
I would never get through this, I would probably be there all
"Oh, Connie, Connie, what are we going to do about you?" he
wagged his head sympathetically. "Leave that, now, I'll speak to
Daisy on Monday morning." Relieved, I wiped my eyes and reached
for my purse, but he wasn't letting me by, he sat there swinging his
"Well, Connie," he said. "Isn't this just like fate? Here we are, all
alone." This, strictly speaking, wasn't true. From the next department we could hear the scrape of the janitor's pail being nudged
across the floor, and the thud of chairs being set up on desks. "What
can we do about it, Connie, what can we do?" he said, in his slightly-
mocking, self-derisive voice, perhaps meant to frighten and puzzle
"Let's go for a walk, Connie, before I take you home." We went
out the back door of the office and down into the plant, the heels of
my sandals clattering on the metal stairs. We crossed the deep cement floor, walking between the big silent machines. It was ghostly
down there, with all the men gone and the whole place quiet, it
chilled me, somehow. Mr. Tapping opened the heavy metal door to
the field behind the plant. I thought he would head for the cornfield
again, but of course they'd been harvesting in there. He might have
been afraid of running into someone or being chopped up by a machine. He walked, instead, toward the railway tracks, which ran some
two hundred feet behind the plant. He took my elbow, in a friendly,
confidential way.
"Connie, oh, Connie," he said sadly. "I know you can't use an adding machine. Did you think I wasn't aware of that? I've known all
summer. I could have fired you. That's what they would have done at
head office. They think students should pull their weight. But I've
never believed in exploiting summer students. No. I believe in developing them. Yes, Connie, I've been saving you for something special.
You know that, don't you, Connie."
48 "Yes," I said. His voice, so moderate and tender, so mature and
custodial and convincing, disturbed me. I felt not excitement, but the
kind of anxiety I used to experience at school before an exam for
which I had crammed but knew I was not equal to.
"Good, Connie, good. We're accomplices in this. We both know
you have other qualities I value. Step down here, now. Careful." He
parted some ragged bushes and nudged me down a steep embankment
into the gully beside the tracks. The soles of my sandals were slippery, I almost fell. I stood on the soft ground and breathed in the
rank smell of earth and weeds and animal excrement.
Mr. Tapping followed me down the slope gracefully, obviously an
expert at negotiating dangerous terrain. He faced me, with his hands
sliding slowly from my shoulders down my bare arms. "I respect you,
Connie, that's the first point. You're a good girl. I don't meet too
many good girls like you. But I fear for you, Connie." His fingers,
trembling slightly in contrast to his calm, syropy voice which was beginning to make me feel sick, were at the buttons of my blouse. "I
fear that all those naked bodies you're going to see at the hospital
will come as quite a shock to you. You need a little practical experience, a sneak preview."
It seemed, though, that it was he who would get the sneak-
preview, for now he was pulling gently at my blouse, easing it out of
my skirt. He observed my slip. "Oh, this will be a nuisance," he said
regretfully, like a surgeon surveying a difficult but challenging task
ahead of him.
I tried not to look at his face, I looked at his paisley tie and at his
shoes, which had mud on the toes. I felt disgust and disbelief and
curiosity and boredom. I stepped back from myself for an instant, and
did not recognize or want to know this girl with the blouse undone
and the pearl at her throat. I felt I'd been tricked, somehow, that this
was not me, nor was this the real Mr. Tapping, who went home at
night and kissed his daughter, Mary, and ate dinner with his wife (a
perfectly normal, pleasant-looking woman I'd seen myself, in the plant
parking lot, wearing short shorts, albeit with purple veins creeping up
her thighs, Mary's mother). This Mr. Tapping of the cornfield, this
gully-Mr. Tapping, was someone he'd invented for our entertainment.
Seeing us then, in the gully, as two fictional characters, I took a
deep breath, believing that if I was patient, this whole scene would
be over soon, and I could go home and forget it all, as I would a
movie, and pack my bags and go to college. I had too much self-
respect to turn and run, and was also tricked by my own silly sense
of fairplay. I felt dull and lumpish inside, like a bowl of cold porridge.
49 Though I thought his quivering hands petty and pathetic and his
brittle, smelly hair suddenly revolting, I would let Mr. Tapping
handle me at his liberty, pick me up and turn me over like a docile
piece of fruit from a grocery store bin, let him pinch and squeeze and
stroke to test my firmness, my adequacy. I had it coming to me, I'd
asked for this. He had a right to do it. I would yield, cooperate, but
not assist.
"Come on, Connie, be a good girl, help me with this." His arms
encircled me, his face was red. He'd got my skirt zipper caught on
my slip, the kind of complication I'd read about in Sweet Valley High
romance novels. It was my best slip, I was afraid he would tear it.
"Why do women have to wear these ridiculous things?" he said impatiently.
The train came from nowhere, clattering out of the blue sky without warning, the wheels on a level with our heads. You might have
thought we would have heard it approaching, but no. Mr. Tapping,
hunched over, the blood rushing and roaring in his head, defeated by
the problem of my zipper and considering options, had forgotten about
the six o'clock passenger train. Now he froze, as he might have, had
a gunshot passed close over his shoulder, and I stood there too,
woodenly, my arms still half-lifted like a puppet, to let him at me. I
gaped as though I saw a UFO and I declare I saw every face at every
window, though I did not think it was possible, with a train travelling
at such a speed. But I did see them, individually, that is, I recognized
them, not so much as strangers, but as a certain kind of people I'd
seen before, or would someday know, in my lifetime. I saw a woman
wearing a green felt hat. A conductor, officious in his blue cap, reaching across the seats, about to lower the blind for a silver-haired
woman with her mouth fallen open. A businessman dropping his
newspaper to his lap, turning, leaning toward the window, adjusting
his glasses, the printed news forgotten, current events being more interesting. A boy, sucking with dull concentration on a soft drink,
rising to his knees in his seat.
What they saw, you can picture. A girl about to be had at. My
nylon slip shining in the orange evening light. Mr. Tapping cowering,
his chin on my shoulder. His yellow teeth frozen in a vice-
presidential smile. Long swampy grass blasted flat around our ankles
by the wind rushing out from under the train's screaming wheels.
What were we to them? Shooting through time and space like a satellite from another planet, they may have seen us only as an amusing
diversion, a bit of local colour, a rural diorama, Life rearing its ironic
head again. The spectacle may even have cheered them up, on a Fri-
50 day night, as a frivolous situation comedy would have, made them
feel lucky and acquitted of their own sins. They may have ordered
drinks and celebrated. Or argued that they did not see such a thing, it
was fantasy, a trick of the sunset light refracted by the clouds.
Only then did I feel shame, to be served up as a cheap and diverting sensation for these travellers who, all their lives, would remember to forget my face, tanned from lying on the grass with Daisy, at
one time innocent as the clouds sailing overhead.
It was easy then, after the train was gone, for me to remove Mr.
Tapping's wrists from my hips, to close my blouse and tuck it in, to
climb the slope with marvellous dignity, to cross the field (with Mr.
Tapping calling behind me to wait, and—is it possible that he said
it?—couldn't I take a joke?) and reach the highway and hitch a ride
downtown. Because I'd been snapped out of the daydream and
dropped down inside myself again, my own skin, from which vantage
point I instantly forgave, or denied, the wayward Connie. That was
my last day at the plant. I told my parents that I was tired and
needed a rest before I went off to college.
At Christmas, when I came home from college, my mother sent me
out to a new fresh fruit store in town to buy three pounds of mixed
nuts in the shell. I pulled on my boots and winter coat and walked out
of our little wartime subdivision with its rows of identical box-houses,
down a hill past the old Victorian hospital, marvelling at how the
streets, sparkling with a fresh fall of snow, were at once familiar and
foreign to me, quaint and harmless, like old clothes in a closet that
you can hardly believe you ever wore or were any part of your life.
It is not a great span in time from an August to a December, not so
long, for instance, as the lightyears that separated Mr. Tapping and
me, frozen in the gully grass, from those spectators on the train, hurtling through space-time. Or the distance in seconds between the passage of the train and the instant in which I was transformed back into
my old self.
Nevertheless, I almost did not know Daisy in the fruit store. She
had a scarf tied over her hair like an immigrant woman, and a fruit-
stained apron stretched across her broad stomach. I had been touring
the aisles, admiring impressive pyramids of grapefruit and oranges
when I came upon her, piling blackened bananas on a quick-sale table.
She saw the surprise on my face, and perhaps an expression of recognition and denial. No, I did not want to remember Daisy. Two days
before, riding the train into town, passing behind the plant, passing
the exact spot in the gully—now filled with snow—where Mr. Tap-
51 ping had jammed my zipper, I had turned away quickly, discreetly, as
though to spare someone embarrassment.
"Oh!" I had to say to Daisy, for I couldn't respectably get around
her without speaking, "What are you doing here?"
She smiled, momentarily embarrassed, then recovered herself.
"Rocko quit the shoe store and started this place up," she said, glancing to the rear of the store, where a man in a white smock stood in a
glassed-in office with his back to us, talking on the phone. "I thought
it was time for a change. I never fit in very well at the plant, anyway."
"What about Alex?" I asked.
She laughed heartlessly. "He kicked me out. Actually, he did me a
favour. I like this work. How's school?" she asked, and started to
pick more bananas out of a cart and arrange them on the table.
I told her that I had a boyfriend now, named Luke, a cadet who
lived in the military barracks near the college. I said that this was the
first time I'd been home since September, and that I didn't intend to
come back very often because the town seemed more hopeless than
ever. I said I went shopping for clothes every Friday afternoon, after
classes. She listened, smiling rather stiffly, and I wondered if she
was thinking what I was thinking: that our roles had been reversed, I
had moved to a city— not so big a one as Montreal, but still, a
city—, it was / who was seeing the world.
Daisy wiped her hands on her apron. "Come to the back. I'll introduce you to Rocko," she said cheerfully, as though she'd never told
me that she hated his guts, that he was a criminal and should be shot.
I wondered. Did he still beat her? Was her skin, beneath her T-shirt,
blackened like the over-ripe bananas? I had no call to believe so. She
looked healthy enough, certainly in that place she would never lack
for Vitamin C. Still, I was uncomfortable about meeting her ex-
husband, about shaking his lethal hand.
"I have to run," I said. "I'm on an errand for my mother. Some
other time." She nodded politely, dubious. I left blindly, almost running out of the store, past bushel baskets at the front filled with
every kind of nut you could ever want. Out on the street, half-way
down the block, I almost turned and went back, through the dazzling
snow, because I suddenly knew that Daisy must have, at one time,
had an affair with Mr. Tapping. I wanted to go back and tell her that
nothing ever happened between him and me. I wanted to say that I
wished we were still friends. But I didn't turn back. I went in search
of another nut store.
52 Beth Everest
It's what we all want, in the end
to be held, merely to be held
-Alden Nowlan -
a man who loved her
or perhaps a passing acquaintance
sent the wood lily , orange & open
its sex protruding in dusty antennae
waving freely to empty air
she accepted it as if she knew
who gave the gift , tho she never said
& i never knew but i teased her
how this might be the first in a series
of silent erotic gestures
from a man living a vicarious sex life .
my comment failed
to amuse her .    no other flowers came
i never knew
her at 13 .    her 13 yr old hands
reaching .    the silence of her
reach to touch anything warm
how she loved the warmth she loves
reaching into the box
where we keep popsicle ( the family hamster )
holds his warmth in her hands
raised to her lips soft secret
press his mouth to her
eyes wink shut how she holds
his warmth in her 13 yr old
hands tight & tighter to melt
squeeze his breath
out .    i know only shock
& her quiet acceptance
53 popsicle buried in the garden
ludicrous irony that popsicle sticks mark his
place .    her
place i never knew
her pain .    how many times
she cried herself to sleep in the garden
& i found her unbearably beautiful
in her position   prostrate
her pale hands with palms open
round some small thing i never knew
or imagined .    i remember
this on her 21st birthday
she picks an armful of indian paintbrushes
& i remind her
that it is the leaftips of the paintbrush
that hold the brilliant scarlet
the flower is in fact the uninteresting stamen , its puffed sex
hidden among sepals
i ask her
is this a gift
to an unwary man
( i am laughing like the wood lily
but later cried
later i cried
in her anger
hurls the paintbrushes to the floor
i never knew
she had wanted to paint with them
the mix of color
( i didn't see )
merging softly
silent as a waterwash
spires of flower
sex / hands
the hidden flower of the paintbrush
air WoirSkulTMozart
Raw arpeggios
red mesmerized rivers
river arpeggios
invisible cattle rivers
Raw invisible
red cattle mesmer
Red cattle singing
Red cattle Mozart
Cattle skull
cattle skull Mozart
Visible wolves
mesmerized cattle
Red cattle Mozart
rivers of mesmer
Cattle grass
mesmerized skulls
wolf skull Mozart
singing visible
arpeggio wolves
sing red cattle mesmer
cattle skulls ...
visible . . .
Raw cattle mesmer
singing grassrivers
grassrivers singing
invisible wolves
Invisible wolf skulls
singing Mozart Jean Tardieu
Three Poems translated from the French by Jim Barnes
Three Songs
I. Song of the Night
One of those who passes passes
one of those who will pass
the one first the other second
the third comes next
the fourth after him
the fifth where are you then?
the sixth already falls
the seventh against a wall
the eighth in the night
the ninth wait for me!
the tenth comes too late
the eleventh is already far away
followed by the twelfth
but the thirteenth stops
(nothing is going nothing is going any more)
next to a useless sign:
"no one waited for me
no one recognized me"
56 II. Song of the Crime
At the locked door
in the depths of an evil silence
a man knocks and goes away
without waiting for the answer.
Another rises from the ground,
his hand hammers with wrath,
this one does not pass on.
Knives glitter and flash
in the corners of the night,
the door gives by jerks
it is held from the inside.
Nobody leaves and nobody returns,
I don't know why these shadows
gather together at this point.
57 III. Song of the Sham Sailor
for Jacques Lemarchand
To save my life
from immobility
I have made great efforts-
covered with the gear
of my fallen sails
I shall reach the port
which I have not left.
Image of myself
cruel bird form
that embarks and returns
in the smell of the sea,
each flap of your wing
crushes me with bonds.
Covered with the gear
of my fallen sails
I shall reach death
which has not left me.
58 Night, Silence and Beyond
A sigh in deep space
Then a voice murmurs:
"Gontran, are you there?
No response
Footsteps pass away like clouds.
Bad Memory
... But what was the whisper in the streets of dawn?
What was the smell of rotting vegetables,
the linen on the dark balcony like a frozen signal?
What were the eyes that watch me still?
But what was but what was in the town
the smoke? and the silence? and all at once
the collisions, the flashes of civil turmoil?
What was the clamour coming up to us?
What was your name what was my look?
What did we do thus one to the other unknown?
Without knowing who I am without knowing who I was
I see again a hand reaching out beneath the storm
a crying face, a closed door.
59 Donald McGrath
Two Poems
The Mug-Up
A leaky thermos tight against my chest
I would make my way down to the Gut with Daddy's mug-up.
After the gloom of the Gut Path,
Thick round the road lights' haze,
The glare of bare bulbs on salt and whitewash
And the soft rush of water in spindly pipes
—suggesting broad vistas—
Lifted me up, thermos an' all, in a bubble.
Buoyed along through a maze
Of tarnished concrete vats sunk in planks
That sloped to a wharf outside, I heard
Lapping liquid tongues of a vast expanse
Uniting the ocean and the star-pocked night
In one continuous beast that hugged
My bright bubble-world like a favorite toy.
The lights outside on the Gut Path came to mind
As generations going back to fade
Fever-red wheelbarrows rolled by, weeping
Under glistening piles of split cod.
Dropped abruptly on their hind legs,
They pulled dry lines through soggy planks.
Plump sky-blue plastic sacks
Exploded against a steady rain of thwacks
Expertly delivered with the sides of shovels.
Strong, hairy, sporting an occasional tatoo,
Arms picked the salt up in scoops
And swished it at the bluebottles in the pickle.
The vats were Dunkirk, and the flies
The little boats of Dunkirk I'd read about
In History. Which brings me to the door
Of my father's office.
60 Marine blues and greens
Gave the place an underwater feel
And it really overflowed.
There were knives, hooks, and jiggers that did
Reasonable imitations of cod and squid.
There were wild beards of oakum, and cork floats
That made perfect hand-guards for cut-throats.
Contained within tinted glass spheres,
Bound by longitudes and latitudes of twine,
Was all the fog produced in the Maritmes
Over the past hundred years.
Curled round a pencil, an old receipt
Evoked curling papers on giant hairs.
Rusty balance weights, retired as paperweights,
Left bloody marks upon important papers.
A side room contained a stove and some bunks.
Rumour had it that here
Originated the wild drunks
Credited to Daddy, the Magistrate, and the Mayor.
61 Picasso
Picasso was amazed his body
Refused to melt in the tub.
Such revelatory anecdotes
Abound around this darling.
The perfect circle of his personality
Has settled all around us,
Like a soap ring.
62 Alexandre L. Amprimoz
For the Two Pablos
for i have been at this
for such a long time
(and do not ask ...)
the air that should strengthen wings
only consumed blood
and gave us mean
demoiselles d'avignon
and saltimbanques
harlequins and minotaurs
you do not talk
to me
the private picasso and the private
neruda so distant
so intimate los versos
del capitan
(these days i only seem to know the sun so
schizophrenic among our dahlias (and not sun
flowers)    i see my wife cut the terminal ones
they nod such mortal heads
like friends i cannot watch in the memory
without fear of camps
and ghettoes)
i must have trained for too austere altitudes
to find myself so alien
to the human heart
63 beneath tartar
beneath opinions
these drawings are blood
ours and las uvas
y el viento
we could remain
yours and gregorian
and shelter ancient
in monasteries
clusters of blue conversations
between smoke and sky
in my formalist years
learning too much to know
shapes were not
nude prostitutes
their heads bobbing
in the laps of benefactors
scenes that blur in vagueness
evoking michelangelo's pieta
(and in the summer of '29
this picasso   the one we are told
durante las horas que siguen
habla con el barbero
took both his wife
and his teen-age mistress
to a beach and there he drew
the young one
as a sitting pile of stones)
what fear of time
could turn such a frail flower
into the massive world of henry moore
how shall we salute such ages of calm contemplation
and pass the ghost of lautrec sur le boulevard
sketching his last triumphant whore
la muerte
humming la cancion desesperada
64 Frozen Carp
Michael C. Kenyon
I am a commuter on the Japanese rail system, and today, as often
on other days, I found myself charmed by the pretty women getting on, getting off, by the buzz of wheels rolling on rails as one
rides away from the city into the gentle and pure winter countryside.
When the train passed my house in the suburbs—my usual stop—I
settled comfortably back. I was fascinated by a poster advertising
something I didn't understand: a group of peculiar symbols with attached prices. A strange dream took me into an encounter with my
wife's friend. We were about to kiss. "Did you feel," she said, "I
mean were you going to do what I was going to do?" My wife was
watching; she would leave, she told us, she would not say where.
She took her anger and jealousy and—I can still see the door closing.
The grain of the wood, so sensual. Now I was all energy, pursuing
my beloved wife (I'm not being funny using beloved!) and at the same
time kissing in a very western manner her friend whom I loved very
Almost at orgasm I believed I could hear the train staff urging me.
"Hurry up, sir, we're nearly at your station!" Gasping out loud at the
projected images of these women, I guessed the trick. I was not to
blame, it had nothing to do with me, this was some new gimmick by
the rail company, another weapon in the long war for customers between the long distance bus company and the train people. They
might have thought my earlier behaviour suggested desire, might
have mistaken my fatigue and longing to be in the country for vague
lust. Still, they could not expect me to take this loss of self-control
calmly. I felt like an anxious teenager. Would they really want me to
feel guilty? That was it. They would assume guilt to be an integral
part of this pleasure. Surely, yes. A moment before the long
anticipated fall, away from myself, I had a glance at another projection, as if shown another room. A traditional room, with tatamis, the
one behind the door my wife had walked through. Inside was a murder, a violent death, bodies jerking in an awful sinking room filling
with water, stains creeping up the paper walls. But as I said, just a
quick look, then I came.
65 Rushed through the swaying train to take my ordinary daily position again, to look at the racing country, the boxed food changing
hands as the caterers at the stop before mine sped through, women
boarding (of less interest now, I was wet), the poster list of prices
that I suddenly understood. My erotic vision would cost me 450 yen,
I would be billed later. The violent dream was more expensive, obviously it had been aimed at someone else, not at me. At any rate if
I'm charged for it I will protest. Of course I didn't think that then, it
occurs to me only now, after I've had a chance to bathe, to put on a
fresh kimono, to telephone my wife to tell her of my safe arrival. And
thinking of the absurdity of being charged for a dream makes me
smile. Standing at the open door looking over this valley filled with
night and moon and orchards of snow, alone in my favourite house, I
feel calm and clear-headed. The house nestles in a grove of plum
trees on the west slope of a hill a few hours east of Sapporo. Highest
in price was a holocaust dream. I had no time to figure out the
others—about three there were—the train was arriving at my
stop.... My dream—which I decided was worth the insignificant
charge —was called Topic Fantasy. Things moving more slowly.... I
felt sticky, uncomfortable, as though everyone was watching.... The
cold air of recent and undisturbed snow swept in to meet me as the
door opened with a whir, and I shivered as I stepped out; the train
quickly pulled away; in the blessed silence I noticed the landscape
beyond the small rural station as a detail, but a detail that in a moment swallowed me.
This morning my wife, my daughter and my sister surprised me.
I had organized my five days rest into units of work divided by
simple meals, walks round the village at the foot of the hill; I'd had
warm thoughts of solitude, of the project I had set myself: to make a
list of birds resident in the area at this season. Still, I was not displeased to see them. My equivocal sister I had not seen for two
years; and my daughter, after spending last winter at University in
Tokyo, had been travelling in Canada and had only returned three
days ago. My wife's placid, down-to-earth face is always satisfying to
see. We laughed a great deal at our reunion. Today has been a precious day, one I feel I will always remember. A completely shadowless day of indoor fires, familial love, easy talk. I showed my usual
impatience to see the gifts they'd brought me. A soapstone seal from
my daughter, my favourite tea from my sister, a new book of poems
from my wife. How they roared when I recounted yesterday's jour-
66 ney; though my wife, after we made love in the afternoon—the others
had taken the skidoo to town to buy cakes— asked me if there was
truth in the dream, did I feel attracted to her friend? I told her of
course it was true, but that there was equal truth in the anxiety I'd
felt at her uncharacteristically abrupt behavior, the violence associated with her retreat from the scene. And together we held our
breaths and looked past the open door, at the blue sky beyond the
breakfast room, the top branches of stark trees.
"How peaceful it is here," she sighed.
And I agreed.
It is night again, and late, but I am no longer a commuter on the
Japanese rail system, nor even a respected ornithologist. I'm deeply
content. A father, brother, husband. Tomorrow I will watch for birds,
but tonight, as the others sleep, I will try to capture this most perfect
day. My desk and room are flooded with light reflected from the
snow—the moon not yet above the trees. The house sighs with life,
with the shifting bodies of three women, so full of the real gift they
brought. For a while this afternoon as the sun set we were all
spellbound, my sister had remembered for us one spring, one blossom time years ago, when we all had been together here. We now
lacked my mother and father, my wife's mother, my son, but they felt
very close.
"Look!" my wife said. "The field of colza flowers!"
We gazed into the valley. We saw the field, I swear. And swallows
diving. So many flowers; the children playing under the matsushima
tree there in the corner.
"Matsushimal" my daughter said.
We all knew exactly what she was seeing. These moments that
pass, I ache to think. Here we are, my family. And though my sister
is coming from nowhere and going nowhere, even she swayed with
the magic. My daughter, excited with travel, proud of her new knowledge, could hardly cease talking. They joked, she and her aunt, as
they dressed for the ride to the village. Threw gloves and scarves at
each other. Outside, the sun bounced off their goggles, they were
like devoted sisters released from their parents' authority. Deer
tracks led into the trees. Our lovemaking was slow, my wife smiling
back at me, telling me this is not a dream, this is not a fantasy. When
the two returned, the women cooked, miso, rice and boiled tofu; I
looked at the books in my room, touching each title to bring its tiny
package of memories. We ate, then my daughter and my wife took
67 turns reading passages from Snow Country. We instantly decided to
spread our kimonos on the thick snow in front of the house tomorrow
if the sun continued to shine.
"We could dress warmly and open the doors and windows," my
daughter said.
"Mmm," my wife and sister said.
"We could build a huge fire," my daughter said.
Before bed, I drank a little saki, they drank beer, and we listened
to Miles Davis, In a Silent Way. I made them aware of the bird songs
Miles Davis imitates in his solos. Black windows. Soft female bodies
under goose down. Love. My face there, a weak reflection across the
table, these hands clasped on the paper. The moon comes. A train in
the distance. I'm a little worried for my sister. Tired in my bones.
When I finally slept I took a disturbed journey of nightmares, each
stop a violent wakening. I had chest pains, this morning I feel
feverish, but I won't mention it to the women; they have held on to
yesterday's mood, and are gay, poking fun at me for sleeping so late.
They were out early, I heard their voices as I tried to rest, they
sounded like geese. By the time I rose they had already laid out the
kimonos on the snow, four weird shapes like crashed festive planes. I
will be careful not to show my own depression. How inattentive and
self-concerned they are! The whole house seems populated with
adolescents; my daughter sets the tone with her mindless babblings.
I'm a trifle embarrassed when I think of my performance yesterday.
We spent a good day, emotional and silly, but I find I acted in an undignified manner, telling my 450 yen fantasy, and now must suffer the
unbridled giddiness I should never have encouraged. I can only try to
overcome my low spirits by getting to work. I ask my daughter to
carry my folding chair and blankets up to the old shrine in the woods;
after eating I will spend the afternoon in the silence I have looked
forward to all winter. They must not interrupt. I forbid them to use
the skidoo or to play music. If they want distraction they can go down
to the village. My wife, it seems, thinks my words harsh, but as I explained to her, I have a project to complete, we had our festival yesterday, after all I did not invite them here, and because of them I
have lost one day.
Nobody has been up here since the summer. Sometimes years ago
the family came to celebrate the new year. We would visit the shrine
and pray; in the cold I'm reminded of those times. I want to stop
thinking of the past because it hurts, it gets between my eyes and the
68 beauty of the place. A fox trotted by a moment ago. Smoke rises from
the village, from individual fires not doubt, though it hangs in a dull
cloud under the sky. I should have let my daughter make a fire in the
brazier beside my chair; she wanted to. So at last I'm alone. The bird
names come unbidden, write themselves on the paper in my lap. The
binoculars nudge at my eyes: the trees slip by. A branch looses its
snow. There are my tracks up, my daughter's up and down. I can't
see the house from here. Sun in a clear sky. The blanket wrapped
round my shoulders. She said I looked like an American Indian. I sip
from the thermos of saki. Warm belly, cold toes, white hills. The
shrine, in sad need of repair, has been forgotten. The neighbouring
family who owns the shrine moved it from the village a long time
ago, an enormous and expensive task. This present generation must
not be interested in its significance, religious or historical. It's not
my position to pass judgement. They only visit a few days each summer, they have been successful in the computer industry. My sister,
married, divorced, moves from city to city, job to job, writing letters
that tear my heart they are so simple, so rigorous in sounding happy.
I can't help her. She will no longer confide in me; our eyes do not
meet. She stays with family members all over Japan. I only stand and
smile, like yesterday, looking at her, and bow, and bow. Return to
my work. I can do this: return to my work and wonder what is it like
to be her, try not to feel afraid. I can't stop the sadness that seems to
me to attend her desperate love of family, desire to escape. I don't
know if she's fragile or strong. She has nowhere to go, she won't
have children, it's too late for that. I remember things from our childhood. The surprise game. Her eyes so good then, so clear. She loved
her nephew from his birth till he was eight. She loves my wife. Like
a chicken I bow and bow, and don't know what it means or what I'm
My pen in falling has made a deep slash in the snow. Water drips
from branches, polishing the decaying ice edges till they gleam, almost transparent beside the brown earth under the surrounding trees.
Enough twigs for a fire, I could use paper from my pad, but have no
matches. Where are the pheasants this season? It requires too much
effort to unzip my camera bag, fit the long lens. Though this in the
past has brought birds, even flocks. Curious magic.
My wife approaches the shrine from the south along one of the overgrown paths. This traditional approach is foolish, it has meant she has
had to cross diagonally in front of me from the house to the trees,
then double back. The hem of her kimono is furred with white, her
69 feet must be wet. She scoops snow from the chozuya, touches it to
her mouth, rubs her hands. I'm happy to see her, but this time will
not show it. She claps her hands and, ignoring me for a moment,
gazes at the shrine.
"Tonight," she tells me, "you must invoke baku to devour your
"Um." So she is aware I slept poorly.
"I am sorry to disturb you. I will wait until you finish." She stands
patiently while I pretend to make a note, while I scan the valley with
my binoculars. A rhythmic tock, like wood blocks, has begun down in
the village.
I put down my pad. Motion her to come under the roof overhang.
"I am concerned about my sister," I say, as if I have summoned my
wife up here to speak of this. "Do you know what she intends to do?"
"Ah. No. She washed yesterday when we arrived. She has not
washed since. Do you want me to ask her?"
This requires no answer. We will let enough silence pass, then she
will tell me what she has come for.
I shut my eyes against the bright sun. The tocking sound echoes
around the valley. Otherwise nothing. I suddenly remember the
bridge over the stream on the village road. The face of my son before
he died. The one-armed monk at the funeral. My face mirrored in the
window last night.
"Our visit is not without a purpose. Your daughter has asked me to
tell you that she has an opportunity to study in Canada."
"Does she want to live in Canada?"
"There is a young man she mentions a great deal."
"You think she has fallen in love?"
"The young man will not come to Japan. He's an engineer. His father is an engineer with a company in Vancouver. She is too young to
"Did she ask you to tell me this?"
"She speaks only of the necessity of learning in an English environment. She has slept with this young man."
"How do you know?"
A cold wind rushes up the hill. Branches freed of their burdens
spring into the air. A thrush lands in the sakaki tree. I'm on a boat
with my daughter in summer, drifting under the hump-back bridge.
My neck is stiff.
"You are shivering," I tell my wife. "Go back. Our daughter cannot
return to Canada now. She must finish her education in Tokyo. In two
years I may consider the matter again. Do you agree?"
70 "Yes."
"Will you say to her that this is what we have decided?"
My wife shakes her head. "I think she will not listen to me. She
knows how much I disapprove of her living away from Japan."
"Give me your hands." Under the blanket her hands are frozen
carp, dug from the ice one very cold winter when I was a child. I
thought they would come back to life next to my skin. I slept with
them all night, a bowl of water on the floor of my room for when they
began to wriggle. In the morning the stink was everywhere, in every
corner of the house. "Send her to me, then."
I smile. So she comes straight up from the house, my daughter. I'm
certain her mother would have advised her to take the southern access if she wanted to have a propitious dialogue with me. I give my
attention to the thrush who has flown several times to other trees,
but always returned to the green sakaki. The bird has not uttered a
note. I do not lower the binoculars when I hear my daughter move
past me to stand at my back.
"I'm waiting for the thrush to sing," I say.
She is breathing hard from the climb. I expect her to immediately
start talking. She doesn't.
"I can tell you are angry. But look around. Listen to this peaceful
place. You have every possibility of a good life. You must not go
away, you must remain. I have given it thought. I assume you will
not have a child. You must take responsibility for your life, show your
gratitude, and choose a path in keeping with the design I have created
for you. Afterward, in a few years, you may listen to your heart. Do
not be like your unfortunate aunt, my unwashed sister, who does not
know how to listen, who will never learn, for whom it is too late."
I have stared so long toward the sun that when I turn she is a silhouette, and only slowly do I recognize my sister, standing just
where my wife has stood.
"I'm sorry," she says. "I'm sorry. I could not speak. I wanted to
give this to you alone." Into my lap she presses a box, which I hold
out in one hand as she runs quickly down the hill. I'm still gripping
the box when she turns away from the house and disappears behind
the camellias lining the road to the village. A megatama, an exquisite
specimen, curved jewel symbolizing love. I shake myself from the
blanket and stamp about the shrine. How could I not have known?
The open box sits on the railing. An indictment. I wash my hands at
the chozuya, eat snow to rinse my mouth. I spoke nothing but the
truth. Soon I have trampled the snow on two sides of the shrine.
71 When I sit again I'm warmed. It looks as though a ceremony has
taken place, a winter ceremony involving many people. I feel nervous, can't concentrate. Again I begin to pace the sacred area. Ever
since my experience on the train two days ago things have been
troublesome. The passage of birds from one side of the valley to the
other seems as pointless as symbolic love. What have I given? What
have I received? It could not be a revelation to my sister that she is
lost. But what would she think on hearing such words from me? She
could have stayed with her husband.
"My unwashed sister."
The pain comes fast. Knocks me to the slush. I pull the chair
close, manage to heave myself into it. What about my life, does no
one care what happens to me? Must I decide for everyone? The smell
of the carp, violence of separation, eroticism of the bleached wood of
the shrine. The snow itself is defiled. I know my daughter will be
next, up from the house, and I will try to guess which way she'll
come. What she will bring. What I will send her away with. Oh I do
not want us to cut at one another, I want my daughter to take me in
her arms and carry me down, I want my wife to bathe me, my sister
to dress me in the cold kimono, and the three to build that great fire
so that all the village will see our family and know that we persist in
love. I sit upright against the sun. It has moved barely an hour in the
sky since I arrived. As white as a single knuckle. Water drips from
my cuffs. Will no one understand I can't let go of what I love? If I'm
to die now I must prepare. Matsushima. In a Silent Way. But the
dream of violence, for which I will not pay, is as close and bright as
the jewel on the railing. "0 baku!" Wind rolls the smoke across the
valley, the wood-block sound stops and the thrush begins to sing.
72 Thomas Kretz
From the Tunnel of
Pacing the roof of the papal palace tile,
Rome down the left, million halos of light
With scarce vision for heavenly bodies;
Lago Albano below to the right,
Black as lava even under mooning;
Clomping through evening examination:
Did I wield peace or sword, snarl or smile?
Marching the roof of the papal palace,
Trying to heat coldness with discipline,
Waiting the local train, symbolic gold,
Another day in another's service,
Tracers, empty cars cutting through the night,
FS sucking teeth, the sound of a cane
On picket fence back decades in Pittsburgh;
The daily rite of renewal, bootstraps,
Steeler coach trying to turn it around
For one more Superbowl, ring for the thumb.
Running the roof off the papal palace,
Unlike the train, not quite making the grade.
Beads of yellow fingered from the tunnel
Send me racing with stars towards the outback
Of the cosmos to try a new planet.
73 Sal Cetrano
Two Poems
Attenzione: Pope Meets
A curious sight, for sure, this brief yellowed clip
of film, full of salt-and-pepper glitches:    starchy
Pius XII, Shepherd stunned sheepish before harsh
irreverent lights, pressing spectacle to telescope,
Galileo's soul a gravy boat for the matinee faithful.
Paris worth a mass, thinks II Papa, but what price
these mock indulgences:    the newsreel's inquisitional
clack, silence a reliquary, even Etna's purgatorial
steps—an old man's frailty pointless—not spared,
lest his simple skyward glance lack ceremonied awe.
This will prove faith's death, the bitter pontiff
broods; still, his hands flower beneficent questions
as gaze meets lens, his eyes cosmic in adoration.
The paparazzi never notice the dense clouds overhead.
All the next day, rain will fall on St. Peters'.
74 Seventh Inning Stretch
The shadows creep in another twenty feet
between innings five and six, just as they've
done each day all the hot, cloudless summer.
Swallowing home plate like a marshmallow,
darkness fields the ballpark's sacrifice
and hands the first unlucky batter 3-D glasses.
A bleacher bookie's luck—one run down, runners
at the corners, and God plays spin-the-planet!
Light towers extend their spindly latticework:
the home dugout sprouts a charcoal beanstalk.
A fat coach visits the mound, playing for time,
one game of inches crawling inside another.
The pitcher, standing in sun like a prophet
on a mountainside, tosses fireballs which,
like parables, lose their light at the last
instant.    Fifty feet of brilliance turn
to ten of swift eclipse.    Batters chop at air.
The home crowd rises.   The shadows march on.
75 John Kelly
Three Poems
The Lenin Mausoleum
Were this the clean, green morgue
of the Erne Hospital, Enniskillen,
or a prayerful candled bedroom
in a curtained council house,
I'd touch his head and bless myself
and hope he was in heaven.
I'd shake hands with the family
and wait with solemn men
in a hallway he'd papered just
the week before—hard on the wife,
looks well doesn't he?   That week
in Bundoran done him the world of good..
In Moscow, I pass on through, respectful,
check the hands for rosary beads,
alert in case he moves.    And out
the back, I offer my condolences
with the only words I know:
Vodka. Sputnik. Kalashnikov.
76 The Good, the Bad and
the Ugly
1. II Bueno
With every stop
the hush of sea in blackness—
the sight of full white dresses
barbed on bushes, drying.
I stick my neck out here
for the love of dark ones waving
e pericoloso sporgersi
curling down Italia's leg
from San Remo
till I fall asleep
I breathe the wind and sea—
cicale purring in my ears.
2. II Cattivo
A French nun,
a punk from Genoa
and me —
asleep under my hat
77 till outside Rome
some one of them, all sweat,
reaches for my rucksack—
cheekbones gleam
music-box chime
I go for my guns
(full orchestra)
plug the bastard
right between the eyes
and back to sleep,
Bravo! squeals the nun
and prodding me, she giggles-
Irlandais! Irlandais!
Bang! Bang!
3. II Brutto
For the first mad scramble
in Arch Stanton's grave
you know I'd cut your throat
quick as look at you,
and here in this arena,
though I shiver for the Christians,
I swear I'd fill you full of bullets
for the price of another ice-cream.
78 Crows on a Spring
Their ragged nests already lodged
in tops of trees, thrown up
in x-rays on the hill, as blasted lungs,
the crows all build with beakfuls
as cops will pick for bullets,
stepping dark and stooping
in lines across the field.
79 Martin Mooney
The last weeks of the rainy season overgrew
the farmhouse walls: today, they're
up to their eyes, like a careful sniper,
in a gloss foliage the like of which
would have amazed me, had I not seen
that slowest helicopter shed its camouflage,
and flower against the mountain
like the year's first orchid.
An American boy, cheeks plump
as an October squirrel's, stared up at the sky,
as if hurt that it had let him down.
It hummed to be forgiven, a blue mirror
held to his mouth.    The forest's blackened insects
swarmed, came forth, and multiplied.
80 Francine Cunningham
Inner City
My head hurts.
Somewhere in the city
a man is gaping,
his walnut brain
cracked open.
I feel a need for the surreal—
the sharp sensual shock
as I bite through the easy
flesh of an over-ripe strawberry
on a dank Belfast street.
81 Dieter Weslowski
Three Poems
A Goyesca in Late
For Christ's sake, mercy!
Enough of your guitar
adding to the rain,
that firing squad.
And the wind—
I don't even want to think
about the wind.
May as well pick up
those yellow spades of the catalpa,
and start digging.
82 Fine Con Coda
Love, I have given the pink slip
to 37 roses, pinned it
beneath your photograph.
So much for our history:
a thorn's delirium,
and what a chrysanthemum
once whispered to me in the cold
of an old year's dying.
A wind without angels,
we can begin with that.
Broomstraw for later.
We'll make gifts of mesquite,
rosewood and juniper berries
for the least star of the Solstice;
and when everybody arrives, each
heavy with their animal,
we'll all lie down
in a sleep supernal.
83 Jokulhlaups
Eunice Scarfe
When I wake up I pretend.
I pretend I'm at home in my own bed and that my father
has come back in the night. I pretend my mother isn't
standing on the balcony staring towards the skyscrapers of Shinjuku,
and I pretend she isn't listening for sirens, her hands pressed into the
concrete, waiting to feel the first tremor.
If I open my eyes I will see my mother standing paralyzed, watching intently for signs. I keep my eyes tightly closed and pretend my
mother is sleeping calmly in her bed.
When the earthquake comes, my mother will see the signs first.
She knows them all. She analyzes cloud formations, and watches for
red locusts. A barking dog paralyzes her. If we had catfish she'd be
watching them too. She scrutinizes the moon as if she was reading a
palm. A sudden stillness fills her with dread. Unnatural light in the
sky makes her tremble.
My mother says an earthquake is not a matter of whether but
when. The Izu Peninsula is shaking like a leaf. It hasn't trembled so
much since all of Tokyo fell down in 1923. Every 60 years, people
say, an earthquake comes. This year, people say, there will be a big
one. When some people say this, they smile.
Last week we received a brochure from the Earthquake Institute. If
an earthquake is coming, the brochure said, the Institute will inform
the Prime Minister and he will convene a committee. "A committee!"
my mother shouted. "What good would that do?"
Every day now we feel the earth trembling. The first time I wanted
it to last forever. I was rocked gently in my bed while my wardrobe
door banged against the wall. I wasn't afraid but my mother was.
"Get under the table," she cried in the dark. By the time I got there,
the rocking had stopped. We watched the overhead light swing back
and forth more and more slowly and listened to crows shrieking in
the treetops just outside our windows.
"I wish they'd crow before it happens," my mother said.
That morning she dismantled my top bunk and left it outside in the
84 Every night my mother leaves one of her shoes in the opening of
our apartment door. "We don't want it jammed shut," she says. "We
can't jump from the sixth floor."
We haven't cooked anything since my father left. She has turned
the gas off. "More people die from fire than from falling objects," she
says, quoting from the Earthquake Institute brochure.
Every night she sends me to buy supper from the fast food counter.
"Just point," she says. "It doesn't matter if you can't speak Japanese."
It does matter. I don't want to eat food if I don't know its name. I buy
only yakatori, tempura and noodles.
In our apartment are helmets, both kinds. Yellow hard hats for falling objects and silver quilted hoods for fire. We sleep with the hoods
under our pillows and the helmets on the floor beside our beds. My
mother fills the tea kettle every night. If there is an earthquake, she
says, we'd have to have a supply of fresh water.
I miss my father. He uses instruments to measure things, not
clouds or catfish and locusts. He speaks Japanese and has scientists
who are his friends. He knows the names of things. But he has flown
to Iceland to see a glacier which is melting fast. Geologists from all
over the world have come to watch. He is travelling in a helicopter,
beyond roads or even a map. He said he'd call as soon as he could.
My mother won't leave the apartment until he does. "I want to talk to
him," she says. "Don't you understand?"
I do. She won't leave the apartment because she is terrified. Her
skin is cold, even though every day the temperature reaches 40 degrees before noon. She hasn't changed her clothes since the tremors
began. Out on the balcony she'll be wearing a black tank top, white
wide-bottomed shorts, no bra and no shoes. She even sleeps in those
clothes. "In case we have to evacuate," she says. She doesn't wash
or comb her hair and she smells of sweat. I have stopped changing
my clothes at night too. I sleep in shorts and a shirt just like she
does. When we evacuate I want to be ready.
"Couldn't we go to the baths?" I have asked her. "Just for a while?"
In the baths she would stop watching for signs.
In the baths we have learned to wash according to the rules: to
squat on low stools which face the long wall of faucets and mirrors.
To rub long cloths back and forth across our backs. To scrub between
our toes and shampoo our hair until it squeaks.
In the baths we watch other women in the steamed glass: grannies
and mothers and toddlers whose hands reach for every nipple they
see. Their bodies, like ours, are moist and warm, soft and clean. We
do it just right. No one even watches us anymore. No one guards the
edges of the room-size bath to make sure we don't get in before
85 scrubbing every bit of our bodies. They know we'll remember to
wear plastic slippers and to replace the wooden buckets in stacks by
the door. They know we won't splash in the bath, or try to swim.
They watch us lower ourselves inch by inch into the water until just
our chins show, nodding approval. We relax quietly, at least for a moment, in the hot scalding water. They smile at our discomfort and
would prevent us if we tried to add any cold water.
Sitting in the baths my mother's head does not tower above the
others. Our hair could be black under the thick plastic caps. In the
baths no one talks. We forget we can't understand Japanese.
In the baths we belong.
"Please come to the baths," I say to my mother. Doesn't she know
I'm frightened too?
But she won't leave the apartment. My father might call. The
sirens might ring. The earth might open.
If we were home in Canada we could hike up Mill Creek Ravine
today or go swimming in Queen Elizabeth Park. Perhaps Aunt Helen
would come for tea and I would fix tea and serve it with milk in thin
china cups. We would sit on the porch and I would refill the pot, and
listen, and everything would be as it should be—or as it was before
we came to Tokyo.
Every day my mother sends me for the English papers, the minute I
wake up, all the way to Hiroo station. "It's the only way we'll know
he's safe," she says. "No news is good news, you know."
The first day we read that all of Tokyo had practiced an earthquake
drill the day before. "What do they mean?" my mother said. "All of
Tokyo? All of Japanese Tokyo. Do they think an earthquake won't affect foreigners? Why didn't anyone tell us?"
In the drill, subway trains and traffic had slowed down, children
had worn helmets, and buildings were rated for safety. Fire fighting
equipment was tested. In every ward sirens practiced their warning
"And we didn't know what was happening," my mother said. "We
didn't know a damn thing."
She wouldn't say 'damn' in front of the Japanese. She says we are
visitors here, by invitation, and we must follow their rules. "Does
that mean I have to bow?" I ask.
"No," she hesitates. "Just nod your head. You'd never get the
bowing right."
I have to cycle almost a mile for the papers. I buy the Japan Times
86 and the Asahi Press. "Go easy," she says. "But hurry. Remember
you can't ride your bike in the street, no matter how crowded the
sidewalks are. Remember an accident is more serious if a gaijin'
causes it. Carry your alien card, just in case. Don't act like a pushy
American. Say gomenasai when you ring your bell and arigato when
you pass. Walk your bike at food stalls and at the intersections. Can
you remember all that?" Of course I can. I know all the rules as well
as she does.
We live in a lodge for foreign guests of the government of Japan.
Almost everyone is on home leave, however. It's too hot for westerners in the summer but we can't leave until my father gets back.
Yesterday we went down to the lobby. The man at the desk is supposed to be able to speak English. My mother says never expect anyone to speak English. Why should they speak English if we don't
speak Japanese? Do you want them to think you're an ugly American?"
"They know we're Canadians," I say, but she just looks at me
crossly. The man says 'hello' and smiles widely. "Naito," my mother
says loudly. "Are we safe on the sixth floor? What if the earthquake
comes? Should we go under the table or down to the basement?"
"Good question," Naito says. "Very good question. What do you
want to know?"
"Naito," she repeats, louder. "What do we do when the earthquake
"Table is safe," he says. "Basement is safe." His mouth is smiling
but his eyes are not. "Outside is not so safe."
"I think it's only safe in Canada," my mother says to me.
"Yes," Naito says, eagerly. "There's no place like home."
She looks at him and starts to cry.
"Thank you, Naito," I say. "Arigato" I don't know if I'm supposed
to say 'Mr. Naito'. I don't know if Naito is his last name or first. I
don't know if I should bow. I nod. If my mother bowed her breasts
would show, hanging loose beneath her shirt.
Standing in the lobby is a man, a foreigner like us. "There is nothing you can do," he says. "When nature wants to move, she will. An
earthquake is like war or making love—" his voice has gone very
low, "a necessary purge." My mother does not answer or even look
at him. I nod and then pretend I didn't. We walk up the six flights of
stairs. The elevator is out of order again. Even a tiny tremor makes
it jam.
On Monday when I go the Sukinokea for our supper there is a special table of emergency supplies in front of the shop: flashlights and
87 bottled water and helmets and charcoal grills and first aid kits. No
one is buying any. On the street is a small van with its side removed.
Every 15 minutes it begins shaking violently and shows you what to
do when the earthquake comes. Children beg to be in the van when
the demonstration begins. They laugh as they try to stay on their
feet. The man shows them how to huddle on the floor, like they were
bowing to god, their head between their knees. Hardly anyone stops
to watch. The attendant motions to me but I shake my head.
I buy my mother some roses. They are selling bunches by the
dozen for as little as we'd pay for pussy willows back home. I buy
two bottles of Fuji water and push my bike slowly up the hill. People
shuffle past me in a continuous wave. None of them look worried.
They are going into restaurants, choosing rice, riding cycles, bowing
to each other, waiting for the bus, chattering outside the coffee shop.
If only my mother would come outside. She would see no one else is
frightened. "Of course they're not frightened," she has said. "They're
Buddhists. They have a different attitude to death."
Over the temple wall just below our lodge I see a priest disappearing through a door and see a man ringing the bell before he bows his
head. Could I pray in their temple too?
The tinkle of a bicycle bell rings on the street. I open my eyes and
squint at the sun bouncing off the concrete balcony wall. White washing is flapping on the roof across the street. The sky is so blue I
think it has been dipped in dye, stripped of the clouds that covered it
at sunset last night.
Last night. I lie there and remember.
The foreign man had stopped with two bottles of Suntory beer,
cold, and had drunk them with my mother on our balcony. "The
danger's over," he said. "The tremors are shifting to Nagano. Tokyo
is out of danger now."
"How do you know?" my mother had asked. She had reached out and
actually touched his hand. He was from the Earthquake Institute he
said, and had been flown from Poland just to help monitor and analyze
the data. "The scientists are playing hop scotch," my mother had
said. "My husband's off in Iceland monitoring glaciers." And then she
had laughed, the first time I had heard her laugh since my father went
away. She sent me out for yakatori, all I wanted, and more beer.
"This is the last time you'll have to go alone," she said. "Tomorrow
I'll come out with you."
"To the baths?" I asked. "Please."
88 "Why not? What a good idea."
When I got back she had showered, had shaved her legs and put on
perfume and her nails were painted pink. She kept taking deep
breaths and smiling and saying how silly she had been. She put clean
sheets on our beds and rubbed her feet and elbows with cream. I was
glad for her. I couldn't tell her then.
Tell her what? I sit up in bed and hug myself hard. Against the
white wall of my bedroom I can see the black print of the newspaper
headline. "Flash floods in Iceland: hundreds feared dead." The story
gave no details, only that sudden glacier melting had unleashed tidal-
wave torrents of water.
Yesterday I told my mother the Japan Times was sold out. It was a
lie. I threw it out before I reached the lodge.
I see my father standing on the shale, gazing at the blue glacier
when an avalanche of water rushes at him. Has he been swept
downstream? Buried under debris? Drowned? Frozen in glacial ice?
Or is he now safely on a plane flying first to Moscow and then to us?
I reach out my hand to my father, pull him out of the torrents of
water, away from the shards of ice, far from the tons of gravel.
My hand comes away cold and empty.
I get up and walk slowly to the balcony door. My feet are as heavy
as an elephant's. The air is already humid and intense. At the other
end of the balcony the glass doors of her room are open wide. Will
she be awake, like I have often seen her, looking at the ceiling, eyes
wide open, her body paralyzed?
She is sitting up, her back a wall of white to me, her hair like soft
hands resting on her shoulders. I cannot see his face, but I can hear
his voice, low, speaking words I can't understand. His hands are wide
around her hips. She is as still and smooth as a wall of ice. Then
something like a tremor shakes her body and I hear her laugh: deep
and soft and slow.
"Out of my way, get out of my way, all you Japs, you black-haired
Japs" I shout as I careen down our hill, fast, my bicycle a sword cutting through the sidewalk crowds. I say 'out of like an American:
outa, outa, outa. Blue business suits and children's sun hats and white
kimono aprons and bent grandmothers shuffle swiftly to one side. I
can hear gaijin, gaijin, gaijin echo down the street as if they are playing pass the parcel.
I don't walk my bike when I pass the vegetable lady's stall: her
boxes of onions and oranges and apple pears go tipping over. I don't
89 slow down a bit. I ring my bell constantly. "You blinkered Buddhists.
You little people. You foreigners—you can't even speak English." I
head straight into the busy street at the bottom of the hill. Cars
screech to a halt. Just let them hit me. Let them hit a foreigner. Let
them touch a Canadian. They'll have hell to pay. I pull up in front of
the baths, leave my bike slanting against a tree and push through the
curtain. I ignore the plastic sandals, holler, "pay ya later," to the attendant, and burst into the women's room.
Sun is slanting through steamed windows. The eyes of women sitting up to their necks in water open in surprise. I toss off my clothes,
leave them in a heap, and slide into the bath, sweaty, dirty and unwashed. It is scorching hot. I grab a wooden bucket and scoop water
from my corner of the bath. For every bucket emptied I fill a bucket
with cold water and slosh it in. All the women and children slide
away from my corner. They huddle at the far end. They are talking
non-stop; so am I. "You don't know the earth is opening up?" I shout.
"You think you can just sit in the bath and relax? You think it matters
if you're clean before you die? You think just because you can take
the water this hot that I can? You think I'm going to?"
I hear gaijin, gaijin, gaijin echo in the bath chamber. They sound
like crows after an earthquake. "Earthquake. That's what I said. It's
starting. A big one. Tokyo is going to be swallowed. We are going to
slip into the center of the earth, dirty and clean, we the gaijin and
you the Japanese. All of us. Dead. When nature wants to move, she
I am shouting when I finish. I bow my head, buried up to my neck
in swirling water, shaking, trembling. They can't see my tears. They
can't see the signs. But I can feel the earth heaving, shifting, rumbling, soon going to break apart, soon going to crack, angrily tensing
its body, ready to throw all of us over.
90 Ryusei Hasegazva
Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato
Suspension Bridge
I have never crossed
the suspension bridge.
Nor reached what's ahead that hangs like a puzzle
in the expanse of the deep chest
of a black sculpted image.
Nor the other end chiseled in the brow of a clown's mask
someone has forgotten,
the reverse side of the eyes of the noisy crowd.
I have never crossed
the suspension bridge.
The other's coast and forest
afloat for some time, hushed,
in the dark of a keyhole.
The land with a friend's voice.
Children's bushes with the smell of sun and sprouting grass.
If you go on crossing
the suspension bridge,
you're trapped, you'll be cut down.
Since knowing this fact,
I've never tried to cross
the suspension bridge.
I always turn back,
stand frozen, spit poison,
and end up falling with curses and hatred.
Someday it will appear—
a miraculous, self-fixed suspension bridge at the end of life,
its first curve.
Its last pliancy.
The first crossing in a hurry,
the moment you've finished crossing, you turn around
and hack it asunder with the ax of all your might to make it
91 Contributors
Alexandre L. Amprimoz is Professor of Romance Studies at Brock University. His
latest book in English is a collection of stories:Hard Confessions (Winnipeg: Turnstone
Press, 1987).
Carmen Berenguer (Santiago de Chile, 1946) has had two books of poems published;
Bobby Sands desfallece en el muro (Stgo 83) and Huellas del Siglo (Stgo 86). Her third
book, from which these poems are taken, is currently at press.
Ted Bergen is a Vancouver artist. He likes to take personal images like animals and
plants or remembered and imagined scenes and cast them on a wider field of universal
archetypes such as angels and demons or fire and water. His work has been exhibited
in B.C. and Alberta.
Stephen Brockwell's work has appeared in Anthos, The Antigonish Review, Event,
The Fiddlehead, Quarry, Rubicon and Zymergy. He is currently working for Statistics
Canada and editing The Rideau Review.
Georgio Caproni is one of the leading poets of his generation. Winner of the
Viareggio Prize for poetry in 1952 and 1959, as well as other important literary prizes.
His poetry collections include Like an Allegory (1932-1935); Eneas Passage
(1943-55); The Frank Hunter (1973-82); and The Wall of the Earth (1964-75) from
which these translations are taken. He has translated Proust, Char, Genet, Appolinaire
and others into Italian. He lives in Rome.
Salvatore Cetrano's work is currently appearing or shortly forthcoming in Poetry
Nottingham, Kansas Quarterly, California Quarterly, Outposts Poetry Quarterly, Plains
Poetry Journal, The Dalhousie Review and Roanoke Review.
Lorna Crozier's poetry has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies,
including The New Canadian Poets, edited by Dennis Lee. She has published six books
of poetry; the latest, The Garden Going On Without Us is in its third printing and was
nominated for the Governor General's award in 1985. A sequence of her poems won
the CBC National Poetry Competition in 1988.
Francine Cunningham was born in Strabane, County Fermanagh. She graduated
from Queen's University in 1987 in English and Philosophy. Her work has appeared in
various journals and in The Female Line (The Northern Irish Women's Rights
Movement, 1985)
Beth Everest was bom in Jasper and considers the mountains home. She is presently
living in Calgary teaching, writing, playing student and sneaking out for regular visits
to her home turf.
Ryusei Hasegawa is the founder of Creation 21, a cultural retreat for artists and
poets on Noto Island in Japan.
John Kelly was bom in Enniskillen in 1965. He graduated in law from Queen's
University, Belfast. He has worked as a broadcaster for the BBC in Northern Ireland.
His poetry and short fiction have been published in North, The Belfast Review, The
Gown Literary Supplement at the Irish Press.
92 Michael C. Kenyon has had his work appear in a number of literary magazines and is
a member of the  editorial  board  at  the Malahat Review.   Frozen  Carp  is  from a
collection called Forget Raskolnikov.
Pat Krause has had stories appear in the anthologies: Sundogs, Saskatchewan Gold,
100% Cracked Wheat, More Saskatchewan Gold and The Old Dance. Her novel, Freshie
(Potlatch 1981), won an award. The Webs experiment is based on one conducted by her
father. A.W. Blair, M.D., The Archives of Internal Medicine (Dec. 1934, Vol. 54). Webs
will be included in Best Kept Secrets, a short story collection to be published in the Fall
of 1988 by Coteau Books.
Thomas Kretz' most recent book of poetry is entitled Call of the Goddess (Gregorian
University Press, Rome, 1986). Presently he is the business manager of the Jesuit
Historical Institute in Rome and writing a two-volume history of Jesuit Brothers.
J.L. Kubicek's poems have appeared in Ariel,  Colorado North Review, St. Andrews
Review, Thalia and the Amherst Review. He also has one chapbook, Flemish Light.
Evelyn Lau is a sixteen-year-old Vancouver writer who has been published in the
New Quarterly,  White Wall Review and other literary magazines. Her journal, Small
Lives (about surviving on the street), is currently being considered by McLelland and
Donald McGrath grew up in an outport on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland. He
attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design during the early Seventies when
conceptual art was big. He flirted with a variety of media until realizing that writing
would be more suitable for treating the things that concerned him. Most of his work so
far deals with outport experience.  Published mostly in the Maritimes,  he lives in
Montreal, where he works as a translator.
Brenda Mooney is a Nova Scotian-bom Toronto writer. Her work has appeared in
University of Toronto Review and Poetry Canada Review. She is the winner of the 1986
Hard House Literary Contest at The University of Toronto and is currently working on
her first collection of short stories.
Martin Mooney was born in Belfast in 1964 and grew up in Newtonwards, County
Down. He returned to Belfast in 1982 to study of Queen's University, graduating in
1986 with a first class honours degree in English and Philosophy. He is presently a
graduate student and teaching assistant there. His work was recently featured in Trio 5
(Blackbent Press). He is co-editor of Map-maker's Colours; New Poets of Northern
Daniel David Moses is a poet, playwright and short story writer. He is a Delaware
from the Six Nations Lands along the Grand River in Southern Ontario. A Founding
member of the  Committee to  Re-Establish the  Trickster,  a Toronto-based Native
Writer's group, he asks Indian, Inuit and Metis writers to submit their new work to
The Magazine to Re-establish THE TRICKSTER,   Suite 204,  9 St. Joseph Street,
Toronto, Ontario, M4Y 1J6.
Hiroaki  Sato  has  published  more  than ten books of Japanese  poetry  in  English
translation. One of them, From the Country of Eight Islands, which he translated and
edited with Burton Watson, won the P.E.N, translation prize for 1982 and has recently
been re-issued by Columbia University Press. His latest book is his first in Japanese.
Entitled Eigo Haiku, it describes haiku, haibun and renga written in English.
Eunice Scarfe was first runner-up in the Autumn, 1987 Descant Novella Competition.
She has been published in The Malahat Review, and anthologized in Double Bond (Fifth
House: Saskatoon), My Old Dance (Coteau Books) and New Press Best Canadian Short
93 Fiction #1 Qohn Metcalfe and Leon Rooke editors). Jokulhlaups is Icelandic for a
sudden breakup of a dam made of glacier ice.
Sig lives in a big house in the middle of Boulder, Colorado where he is currently
working on a novel about paralysis. Wolf Skull Mozart is his first published poem. It is
part of a series called Poems for the Dead, which he plans to publish himself.
Dorothy Speak grew up in Southern Ontario and now lives in Ottawa. Her stories
have appeared in Queen's Quarterly, Antigonish Review, Grain, University of Windsor
Review, Fiddlehead, Room of One's Own, and other journals.
Peter Stenberg is Associate Professor of German at UBC, and has had translations,
poetry and non-fiction appear in many North American and European journals.
Richard Wagner has published a number of works in German in his native Rumania,
including Hotel California I, II, from which question for mandelstam is taken. He has
recently left his home city of Temeswar to settle in West Germany.
Dieter Weslowski earns his keep as a psychiatric hospital orderly in Pittsburgh, PA.
His first book of poetry, entitled The Bird Who Steals Everything Shining, which won
the coveted John Gardner Poetry Prize, was published by Mss Press (S.U.N.Y at
Binghampton, NY) in February, 1988.
Pasquale Verdicchio's translations include the work of Antonio Porta, Pier Paolo
Pasolini, and Valerio Magrelli. He is currently translating Quebecois poet Francois
Charron. His own poetry includes Ipsissima verba (Parentheses Writing Series) and the
upcoming Nomadic Trajectory (Guernica Editions, Montreal). He is editor-at-large for
the Raddle Moon Review, and now teaches literature and writing at the University of
California at San Diego.
Subscriptions are available at $15.00 per year (4 issues) or at $40.00 for 3
years. Please write to The Malahat Review, University of Victoria, Victoria,
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Canadian contributors include: Margaret Atwood, Earle Birney,
Roo Borson, George Bowering, Marilyn Bowering, Marlene Cookshaw,
Lorna Crozier, Christopher Dewdney, David Donnell, Mary di Michele,
Trevor Ferguson, Keath Fraser, Greg Hollingshead, Gail Harris, Diana
Hartog, David Helwig, Cynthia Holz, Hugh Hood, Noel Hudson,
Paulette Jiles, George Johnston, Janice Kulyk Keefer, Michael Kenyon,
Patrick Lane, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Jay Macpherson, David McFadden,
Daphne Marlatt, John Metcalf, Rohinton Mistry, Alice Munro, Susan
Musgrave, Erin Moure, John Newlove, b.p. Nichol, Michael Ondaatje,
P. K. Page, Al Purdy, Patrick Roscoe, Robin Skelton, Linda Spalding,
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L_. Fiction
Michael C. Kenyon
Pat Krause
Eunice Scarfe
Dorothy Speak
Alexandre L. Amprimoz
Stephen Brockwell
Salvatore Cetrano
Lorna Crozier
Francine Cunningham
Beth Everest
John Kelly
Thomas Kretz
J. L. Kubicek
Evelyn Lau
Donald McGrath
Brenda Mooney
Martin Mooney
Daniel David Moses
Dieter Weslowski
In Translation
Carmen Berenguer
Giorgio Caproni
Ryusei Hasegawa
Jean Tardieu
Richard Wagner
ISSN 0032.8790


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