PRISM international

Prism international Prism international Oct 31, 1968

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Autumn, ig68 $1.25  STAFF
editor-in-chief Jacob Zilber
associate editors Robert Harlow
Douglas Bankson
/. Michael Yates
art editor Clive Cope
PRISM international is a journal of contemporary writing, published three times
a year by the University of British Columbia. Annual subscriptions are $3.50,
single copies $1.25, obtainable by writing to PRISM, c/o Creative Writing,
U.B.C, Vancouver 8, B.C.
MSS should be sent to the Editors at the same address and must be accompanied by a self-addressed envelope and Canadian or unattached U.S. stamps,
or commonwealth or international reply coupons. PRISM
The Mystery of Esala Perahera
The Escape Artist
The Game
The Crow
(translated from the German by
A. P. schroeder)
Two Commentaries
The Voice of the Turtle
The Prisoner
Five Poems
(translated from the Finnish by
The Bell
Not Every Year
Two Poems
The Fleece of the Ram
Three Poems
Two Poems
Two Poems
Two Poems
(translated from the Polish by
john m. gogol)
Poetry in East Africa
Three Poems
The Drums of Destiny
The Beard
Two Poems
Two Poems
Two Poems
The Coup
Two Poems
Three Poems
Sacred Blindness
Two Poems
Two Poems
Two Poems
The Clown
And Birds Are Singing
Two Poems
Something for Supper
Definition of an Indian
We Survive
July, Late Evening,
Newark, New Jersey
Four Poems
Four Poems
(translated from the French
(translated from the Swedish by
(translated from the French
(translated from the Swedish by
Books and Periodicals Received
The photo cover is a drawing by J. E. L. Eldridge, who teaches English and
Art at Ohio University. His painting, illustrations and poems have been printed
and exhibited widely. Rev. Wajiragnana is a young Buddhist priest and an Assistant Lecturer in
Philosophy at the University of Ceylon. At present he is doing post-graduate
research in the philosophy of religion at the University of Lancaster. His fiction
has appeared previously in the Hibbert Journal.
The Mystery of Esala Perahera
Esala Perahera is a very big procession that takes place once a
year in Kandy. Its origin can be traced back to ancient days. So, it
has a deep historical significance. It is valued for its artistic beauty
and historicity. The procession winds its way at night for several
days. The last day witnesses the procession in its full culminating
grandeur. It is attended daily by thousands of spectators.
There is a raging controversy with regard to the Esala Perahera
of the last day, last year. That day a peculiar thing happened. It is
still incredible to many. Yet no one, except a very few, really believes it though many people say many kinds of things about it.
What happened was that although the Perahera really took place,
on the last day no one came to see it. All the people had taken the
day before the last to be the real last day of the Perahera. Therefore
no one came to see the really last one. Usually it takes place at the
very middle of the night. Therefore, even neighbouring folk could
not come because they were in deep sleep. Most of the people who
lived along the streets had heard the sound of the Perahera. But
they had thought that they were dreaming because they had seen it
regularly for the last few days and had vivid memories of it. So they
simply dismissed it and no one came out to see it. When tom-tom beaters and dancers told those at home that they were going for
Perahera, their relatives took it for a joke. Some ignored it because
they were so convinced that they had seen it for the last day the day
before. So, no one came to see it.
But there was the Perahera. It went through the streets and ended
as usual.
The general public say that the Perahera did not really take place
that day. But there is a mass of evidence against this view. All the
dancers and tom-tom beaters swear that they participated in the
procession. Each morning after Perahera the road is cleared of
elephant-dung (about a hundred elephants participate). The morning after this particular Perahera people had seen elephant-dung on
the road. Most people had been shocked to see it because elephant-
dung was taken as the strongest evidence that Perahera had really
taken place the previous night. Though people's memories can be
discounted, the presence of elephant-dung cannot be so easily discounted. Such heaps of dung cannot be artificially so made. Further,
there is no need to do such a thing on the part of anyone. Therefore
some believe that Perahera really took place.
Then they asked: "How can all the people be ignorant of the
Perahera?" In fact there had been a wild rumour which was responsible for their ignorance and the believers in Perahera say it was
the most effective rumour in the history of the Island.
It is said to be the most beautiful Perahera ever staged. The participants say that they performed their parts so well. The absence of
spectators had not affected their performances because in any case
they have been given hereditary lands by ancient kings for their Perahera service. Though there be spectators or no spectators they have
to play their role. They say they could do it better that day because
they had enough space to dance, etc., as there were no spectators.
Also, they could concentrate exclusively on dancing. So, they say
that day Perahera was extraordinarily beautiful.
But as to its beauty, some say that without spectators one cannot
speak of Perahera being beautiful or not. Against this, many aesthe-
ticians state that a thing can be beautiful even though no one sees
it. On the other hand, dancers had seen each other dancing well.
Some lament, saying that people really lost something because
they were not fortunate enough to see the Perahera that day. Others
say that the Perahera was the real loser because it lost spectators.
Still others say that both were losers. But, particularly in this case,
both cannot be losers. Logically it cannot be so. When there are only
two parties, only one loses. Still, the controversy centres mainly round the question of whether
Perahera really took place that day or not. There is no way of settling this question. Memories are known to be fallible. The elephant-
dung heaps made a strong case till the middle of the following day
of the Perahera. They remained so till mid-day. Municipal scavengers did not come to clear them up because they too did not think of
this Perahera. After mid-day many arthritis patients who came to see
this scene carried away lumps of dung (there is a belief among some
Sinhalese people that elephant-dung cures arthritis). Thus disappeared the elephant-dung, the only strong evidence.
To scoop out the available evidence I approached several of those
arthritis patients. Some of them said that memories are not reliable,
particularly theirs. Others said that those days they were severely
suffering from arthritis and therefore were so concerned about their
disease that they had forgotten the day they collected elephant-dung.
It was a hot day. I was coming from the hostel going somewhere.
Everytime I go from the hostel I invariably cross a railway track.
There is an intersection of it near our hostel.
That day the hotness was special. I saw an old man sitting on the
track. He was looking up, at the sky, probably at the sun. I could
not understand why he was looking at the sky on such a day which
was so hot. On such days we usually despise the sky. I thought that
he was trying to read some future happening in terms of something
that was up there. Usually one reads the future with the help of the
stars. Every fool understands that there are no stars in the sky on
such hot days. He might have been trying to read the future with
the help of the sun. But what hellish thing can one predict by the
sun? I wondered. The only thing one can predict by such a glaring
hot sun is that very soon one day the world is going to be burnt up
in a universal conflagration. And he must be trying to fix that date,
I thought.
But my thoughts took another turn when I noticed that he was
looking down at the earth. Later he started inspecting his feet. He
was wearing shoes that were very old. This behaviour put me in a dilemma. My former conjecture could not reconcile this new behaviour with the old. "What can you think or surmise by your feet
or shoes . . . ?"
My thoughts were interrupted when he noticed me staring at
him. He began: "Sir, the whole thing is about my shoes, rather their
soles. The soles are wearing off. Though I was looking up at the sky
the sky was not responsible for all this. Now I understand that it
was the earth that was responsible for it. The earth had been revolving too much on my soles, so the soles started wearing off. They
are worn off enough. Within another few days they will disappear
for good. After that, believe me, the earth will start revolving right
on my flesh!" Five Poems by Katri Vala
Translated from the Finnish by Ronald Bates
The air rings like a glass-bell,
the pine needles tinkle with frost.
Like a congealed steelstream
the road curves under blue shadows.
The houses, noiseless blocks
in icy brilliance as in frosty water.
Human life smoulders
waiting for the sun
wanting to be burned to a living flame
through the gleaming white enchantment
of death, of stiffening with cold.
I look with sleepless eyes into the night,
The window is high and dark.
An invisible moon is shining,
The trees stand like silver columns.
And golden stars flicker low
like lamps in a nocturnal temple.
Tonight death is good.
Tonight I am so tranquil.
Tonight I am not afraid to step across the darkness
with the trembling lantern of a star in my hand. WINTER HAS COME
Winter has come again —
If I were young,
perhaps I would have sung of
the earth's black bowl,
full of the freshness of snowflowers,
perhaps the dew of the stars
would have gleamed in the night-blue meadows of my sons
But the songs of my youth are frozen.
My song is poor and tired,
like a woman
who with gnarled hands blue from cold
collects brushwood
for the fire in her flimsy hut.
I walk the path of my frugal living,
raw as a prison yard.
My thoughts, my senses, are harsh from work.
Winter has come,
the sharpener of distress,
the whip-of-wind tormentor of destitution's child.
But the mountain-ashes blaze
like signal-pyres. SUMMER
The beach is fresh with rain,
the leaves sprinkle their scent,
the silk of water spills
through your sun-drenched heart.
You have listened long enough
to the voice of winter in the dark nights.
You are, being bothered, a tired shadow.
Here is summer's meal
for the hunger and thirst of all your senses.
Eat the bread of the sun,
drink from the brook of light-heartedness,
drift like a waterbird
on the brightness of eternity,
gorge yourself until exhausted
in the drowse of germination
feeling only the seed's choked longing
to grow, to blossom, to bear in autumn
strong fruit.
Have I come to the beach of death?
The sea, the earth and the sky are coal-black.
No sound, no scent.
Your terrible words
have plunged into my heart like daggers.
Emotionless, silent I stare at the dark horizon.
There the red pool of the rising moon spreads out,
like the stream from my pierced heart,
from which a bloody streak carries across the sea.
Over it glides the black ship,
soundless and terrible,
without a single light.
Katri Vala (1901-44) was one of the leading lyric poets in the Finnish group
called "The Torchbearers." Her writing greatly influenced the direction of
modern Finnish verse.
Ronald Bates, whose translations of Edith Sodergran and Peter Sandelin are
also in this issue, is in the English Department at the University of Western
Ontario. His own poetry has appeared in many journals, including Prism
Clouds move gently
I feel them go
leaving a clarity behind
we cannot reach:
not yet
Death or wind
both beckon us
to see why they move
what they tell
us who listen
with our shells of mind
precise as instruments
that can find
and contain sound
Height is light
grown thin and clear
as a bell
faintly tolling,
of a hill top
finally reached
by looking up
never down
looking through death
in a shiver of sound
light itself
transparent beyond
Marguerite Edmonds is a painter as well as a writer, correspondent for the
Geneva magazine Poesie Vivante and an associate editor of Envoi. Poems, reviews, critical articles have appeared frequently in England, where she lives,
and abroad. She has translated two poems by Jean-Jacques Celly for this issue.
12 Bill T. O'Brien is a Vancouver free-lancer. He is also the author of a remarkable novel, Summer of the Black Sun, which is awaiting a final o.k. by Canada's
most perceptive publisher. This is the first of his stories to see print.
The Escape Artist
"Wake up!"
Some people stared at the man who had screamed, others watched
him while eating french fried potatoes, a whole group had missed
his scream because of their radio playing 'A Day in a New Life',
still others slept. Yellowish patches, as if he hadn't urinated for
days, accentuated his red and possessed eyes. He was as thin as a
Buchenwald escapee, thigh bones stretched forward.
A young woman walked toward him. Luscious, spilling out of
her suit, all soft milky flesh and muscled tummy. White, straight,
twenty, impossible. Manicy burning shivers moved up his spine and
centered in the back of his neck; he stood motionless but wanted to
run. Break free where no one can interrupt your insight; your reward for years of loneliness. Then hunger too, smell of frying chips,
vinegar, battered cod, almost overcame his line of thought.
"Wake up," he said to her.
"Hmm?" she smiled.
"Wake up."
"What's wrong?"
"I'm suffering .. . metaphysical vastation."
"My name is Katherine, I'm disgusted with men who try to
create security in a world based on contingency. And I've got a
tilted womb too, which is vaginal vastation, in a manner of speak-
This put him utterly at a loss; here was a woman who was
more direct, irrelevant, and obscurely meaningful than he had ever
13 dreamed of in his wildest dreams. It wasn't fair. Women had more
to go wrong with them. Inherently, they had more meanings by just
walking along: menstrual machinery, milk mammaries, commingled
with hair and teeth and lips. He almost laughed aloud, and whispered, "My whole world has been tilted; I'm beginning to think I
twisted it myself, but now I can't right it. Vertigo of the consciousness I think it's called."
His right shoulder dropped forward, face slowly turning to the
sky with his eyes fixed on the mountains. "The mountains are flipping over." She could only see the whites of his eyes and her arms
went out to catch him. They both fell to the beach.
"EEEeeeyeow!" he screamed, secretly content, thinking, 'Let her
match that.'
"You're the answer to my prayers," she said. "A man who has no
purpose . . . the perfect mate for a capricious woman."
Damn. He hadn't expected that. The last thing in his mind was
that she would like him. He opened his eyes wide and looked right
into her nostrils where he could see the membranes opening and
closing excitedly. She breathed on him; it was like jasmine, he almost swooned.
He had to do something, regain male dominance; get over her
emotionally, physically, literally. He had spent his entire life preparing for this. He sifted each possible attack through his mind. One
of her breasts had jiggled out of the suit and the nipple was touching his side; strength ebbed out of him through that connection. He
knew that something must be done quickly, with the impact of a
karate chop or he would be sucked dry.
"Marry me," he said.
He watched her face closely for any reaction that would mean
he had found a nerve. He indulged a wishful thought: why don't
we live together for a while . . . laugh in the sunshine. Learn each
other's quirks; maybe you have some dreams that we can share.
Katherine widened her eyes. "Why don't we live together for a
while .. . laugh in the sunshine. Maybe I have some dreams that we
can share. We even think similarly."
"I could give you a tiny pink baby ... do you like children?"
"I love them," she answered. "But I have the womb problem."
"We'll have lots of womb in our cottage, hahhaahah. I may be
able to overcome your problem: I smelt like a rooster all through
14 "That's a favourable sign."
"I know, but I was exorcised."
"That's even more agreeable," she interjected. "I despise men
with loose foreskins."
"I've always been quite different. You'd probably have a lizard."
He thought the colour of her face lightened and he continued
immediately: "Everything unnatural happens to me; for example,
the sights on my job as furniture salesman — we hire handicapped
people, especially epileptics: 'Cover me Mister Mann, I feel a fit
coming on' — are so sickening that all my hope is fading. I want to
communicate with other people and feel sharply, clearly; feel my
death waiting on the far side of every minute, trembling and alive,
filled with optimism even if it ends by choking on a bone from a
dish of sweet and sour spareribs."
"You want a kind of permanent orgasm, is that it?"
A thought teetered on the edge of his mind like a marble tipping
into a thumb hole or a milk mustache over a boy's mouth. Omnipresent, but unnoticed. He was alienated 'from the source of power,
meaning, and purpose' just as surely as Katherine was naturally
locked into that source. Slowly, slowly he was losing control of his
plan to be a priest of his own religion, celibate, continent, aesthetic,
ascetic . . . turning average life into a triumph. Far above other religions because his belief was based on experience. But lately his
energy had been drained, perhaps by the knowledge of this inevitable confrontation or, more likely, by the long littleness of everyday
existence: shaving bathing brushing, washing clothes, ironing, cooking meals, washing dishes, drying dishes, until every day was nothing but that, a jillion rigid actions that ate the days until he was at
this point: he must either destroy or procreate. Now ... at once,
on the beach with the tide claiming the vanquished or the excess
sperms. This was it. Existential man versus Humanistic woman.
Everlasting no versus everlasting yes.
He dropped his head to the sand. "Ahh," he said, puffing a little
cloud of dust. "It couldn't work anyway, I have a Henry Miller
syndrome and women are just cunts. Amazing word, sort of transforms women; silk stockings, lipstick, foundation garments, filmy
innuendo ... all fade in face of that one Miller word leaving: a
hairy muff, grinning, perilous, needing to be mastered at all costs."
He thought of choking her; his hands made a shaking involuntary movement at the suggestion, then he looked at her body. The
muscles bespeaking health and beauty that he must overpower, but
he knew it would be nearly impossible. If he could get behind her
15 and put his knee in her back with the fingers gripping her windpipe.
A baby who was tanned almost black came wailing by, "Mwa-
mah .. . Mwamah."
"Bwana . .. John Gunther is here for the Reader's Digest interview."
"Who is more important, Gunther or the natives with ulcers on
their legs?" he asked the native in German and struck another chord
on the organ (bought and transported by his friends to the jungle
outpost), then wrote a note on his composition sheet. Did they think
he changed from music to philosophy to medicine only for personal
glorification? Everlasting no. The reasoning behind all this was so
complex, so profound that only he could unravel its skein. Of course
a clue for a careful biographer might lie in that Christmas when he
received a volume of Kierkegaard, a harmonica, and one of the new
reed stethoscopes. He used to play the harmonica and read Kierkegaard while listening to his heart beat. A scuffling at the doorway
brought his attention away from the music. Katherine! She was
painted weird bright colours and all she wore was some beads and
tiger claws. Her movements were undulative, hypnotic. He struck
the yellowed ivories; the sound blasted out over the jungle .. . thunderous Bach, his hands were rising two feet above the keys and
falling. His eyes fixed on the woman. At first several iguanas, wilde
beestes, and a hyena darted away to escape the racket, then the
sound crescendoed above, bursting eardrums. Monkeys swung frantically from branch to branch, water buffaloes stampeded, gazelles
sprang over them, a sloth fell from a branch and was trampled. The
plains were alive with fleeing beasts. The earth trembled beneath a
sky black with birds.
"What is it?" Katherine screamed, holding the shaking doorjamb
as the animals wheeled in a slow murderous arc toward the hut.
The mad genius played on, unable to stop, caught in his own invented rhythm, as the panting, roaring, screeching horde advanced.
"What is it?"
"What is it?" said the woman. Katherine? What happened to
her, her face, her body? She looked older than the girl he had met
on the beach that morning. Her bathing suit was now one piece,
navy blue, demure, concealing a pendulous heaviness. Molasses covered his thoughts when he attempted to reason . . . where his mind
had flashed from symbol to symbol gathering a pun or an ironic jibe
now there was a dull throbbing resistance, sticky, turgid, suggesting
sleep. Was the day cooling or was that another figment of imagina-
16 tion? Shadows fell across him and his wife where they lay. Who?
People were gathered around them; people who vaguely resembled
one another. Men, women, grandparents, children. He blinked at
one of the children: it was an image of himself, younger, healthier;
a disturbing suggestion of Katherine was in his eyes.
"Father," said the child, trying to catch his attention.
Was that his mother peering curiously? Was she saying, 'This
is all that became of you'? Puzzled child faces looked up at the
old faces, waiting for an explanation. Everlasting . . . everlasting .. .
he tried to remember the formula, but it was as if a great deal of
time had passed and his memory had dimmed. Other words were
sharper: cries of love, his own, Katherine's, strange Christmases
with the accompanying anxiety. His mind suddenly tightened with
the knowledge of what was happening, a gasp escaped his lungs.
"Jesus, Jesus .. . time! I must make a decision."
The boy asked, "Father, what is it? Why do we always come to
the beach? I don't understand. The fellows are playing baseball but
we come to this same spot and you stare at mother."
With an abject gesture he reached into his nose and plucked out
a crust of mucus, flat, trapezoidal, and white at the edges like a
dried flounder; he inspected it with disdain. Nausea swept through
him as if he had swallowed a warm cigar butt. There was too much
to understand; everlasting this versus everlasting that became in the
final analysis, everlasting. He wished decisions could be as simple as
to keep this funny piece of solidified treacle or throw it away or preserve it in bronze and hang it around his neck on a silver chain or
burn it on a funeral pyre or put it back in his nostril and inhale
hard. But he knew now that the truth was more complex than anyone suspected. The woman opposite him would in all likelihood last
forever whereas he was a transitional form, a sort of agonized
shadow that only appeared on sunny days when the sun was in the
correct position. Something as natural as a cloud would end his
"Hear me. The only simple thing on earth is action. I don't want
to hurt anyone. I have my principles. But I want to make some
mark here .. . some mark here, that will change this world for the
better. Pass the flame onward and upward, so to speak."
"Sleep, sleep my darling," soothed his wife while stroking his
furrowed brow.
With a final supreme effort he reached out and pulled off Katherine's suit. There was a gasp from the spectators.
"Have you hurt your back?" she asked.
17 He was hunkered over trying to conceal an immense erection:
apocalypse, hunger, erection; the logical cadence of idealism. Covering all but a single eye with his hands he thought, 'I'm six thousand
feet above them where the tintinnabulation deafens one.' He bent
over further like a hunchback.
"Quasimodo is stealing the girl who was about to be punished.
Look! He's swinging away on the bell rope."
"Eeeeee!" She faints and the hunchback of Notre Dame bounds
up the stairs with her.
"Sanctuary! Sanctuary!"
He is glad that she is unconscious because he doesn't wish to
frighten her with his ugliness. A gnarled hand traces the aquiline
features of the girl's face ... he looks around — it continues inside
the blouse. 'They don't keep me up here for nothing,' thought the
nasty, smelly hunchback. "They don't know why I hunker over all
the time either," he ejaculated while feeling the resilient tumescence.
The sly alchemist tried to rush in and claim the girl, but Quasimodo threw him off the parapet shouting: "You can't make gold
from dross!"
The girl awoke. Katherine! He ripped open his shirt revealing a
coiled snake tattooed on his belly. "I recognize that sign . .. that
huge nose. Of course . . . Le grand Charles. I supplicate myself in
your presence."
'She's really asking for it,' thought the hunchback. "I shall reveal
my secret to you: you can't make gold from dross, so relax and let
time flow."
"You can't make gold from dross!" Unused words had to be
pulled out and shaken vigorously to restore their knap. Anthropologist, entomologist. . . ah, he had it; his hideous end.
"Epileptic," he moaned loudly.
He drooped lower, arms curling about himself like an out-of-
control ivy tendril. Froth appeared along the fine of his lips. The
sand had him. He managed a heroic grin which felt pathetic from
the inside. He peered unblinkingly into the sun, until his boy walked
over and kicked sand into his eyes.
A part of me
Stood aside,
Watching the other part
Help you bargain for gulls:
One hundred and forty feet
Of ocean front, a layer of duff,
Kinnikinnick, and huckleberry.
Distracted, walking between
The bushes, I pinched their berries,
Licking my fingers, waving
Away the kids, counting
Gulls, but not rooms.
The real me was there
All right, beside the real
You, the desert ocean
Ebbing, a low fog
Hiding the kids
Under the cliff.
At first, we slept
In the rusted bed,
Behind the curtains
We'd hung for walls.
The storm outside rose in tempo.
The panes of the windows
Bent in and out
With every gust; how far
We saw by the candle's flame
Swaying against the glass.
19 Later we walked
The beach; you in a flimsy,
Rose-colored sleeping gown,
Your shoulders draped.
This was to be our perch,
Having been our summons.
And the wicker chairs
That creaked like harness?
I sat up half the night,
Pushing down and out
With my bare feet.
The windows stared in their frames.
I wanted a wheel in my hands.
If I could steer, I thought,
Bring her round, and make
Her climb the gales ...
Not every morning
Fortuitous with light:
Stirring the doused
Fire inside the grate,
We empty and then
Reset the rusted cans
Around the chimney's corners,
Watching the windows weep,
The deck outside,
Circling the siding,
Planing into the mist;
The gulls strutting
The peak, echoing
The sound the dogs
Make at the cove.
20 Nor every year
A pure migration:
The whales already
In early March swimming
North inside their summer.
But where have the children gone?
My brother writes:
In Copenhagen the moon
This Spring is drawing
His children away and south.
What does it mean?
I answer:
Now and then
Ours begin to relax
And read each other's faces.
Today, after a week
Of rain, they complain
Of being confined.
Their radio blares,
But their games
Develop substance.
That other beach
Beyond the creek,
A narrow spit of rock,
Its razor-back a jam
Of weathered logs
(In rounds, poles, and slabs)
Choked with sand and grass.
This in a surprising August
Of sudden, low barometers
And stiffly falling hail
That caught me cold,
Tired, and hungry,
A mile from home.
21 Depleted,
I waited,
A hut
The kids
Built —
Here are the walls,
The color of weathered stakes.
And here the window,
The color of isinglass;
The door, a dark
Square: no color there.
Down wind, down wind!
Look, look.
(But no one heard.)
The ravens, the ravens!
Fishing the leeward surf,
They cut my line of sight,
Rocking from trough to trough.
One wave, one wave!
They followed but one wave.
We came in the end
To love even the fear
And boredom, that turned
Our meanings inside out:
The monotonous surf
(A permanent blue)
Ditto the milky agates,
The tide pools brown with kelp,
The strong, translucent greys
Of cove, creek, and bar.
22 Only the crows
Are really marginal,
Flying and crying
In every season.
Mutual and endless
The duplication
Of vegetable, mineral,
Bird and fish.
The sea last week
Resembling the one to come;
The one in March
The same as the March before.
John Haislip teaches English and creative writing at the University of Oregon. His poetry appears in a number of magazines, including Northwest Review,
Paris Review, Poetry Northwest. In 1966 he published privately Elegy for Jake,
a long poem, with lithographs by John Rock.
23 Two Poems by Ralph Gustafson
Tossed by the swart bull
these Minoans play.
Death, the sleek coat
twitched and teased, groomed
for his own purpose, hoofs
pared, horns gilt,
is, lust for the belly, the silver
gut, jumped over.
The point is to change
that two ton lift
into parabolas of air.
The fifth time, the perfect
touch, turned-over, hands
to the coarse hair, heels
to sand — you are aware of.
Sweat and the sweat of bull,
you love. Defecation
is clean and death useful.
Than the assault, the danger is
to love the last time.
That peacock crushed in the corner,
Again in blue and deep blue and blue
The folded tail
In swept-up medallion
Studded dusted stars,
Shows hoofwork harbour:
The Virgin there
In the vault,
And Joseph's doubt
In the ribs that come together,
Joiner's glue —
But who? who
Had Mary?
Ah, this is
Peacock program,
Asking who.
Faith does it.
Poor old Joseph
In mosaics like his April darling,
Peacock hidden in the groin.
Divide the two!
Then you have it:
Christ tacked up
And humble Mary
Brought with child.
What! shall peacocks preen
And have their cobs?
Ralph Gustafson is among Canada's best-known poets and editors. He is in
the English Department of Bishop's University.
MEI3    beautiful — A big sheep.
THE ROOT* Abbreviation for Ya-raez-
li-chia, America.
Suppose the key word to be 'antipode' . ..
the river grips virgin rock.
The person who contracted to build my boat
engaged to have it in readiness by the 20th inst.; . ..
set out at 4 oClock PM
under a gentle breeze . . .
a succession of grasses, trees,
marshes teeming with birds . . .
current strong with riffles,
oars scarcely being used.
A dove flew safely through clashing rocks.
The kingfisher hovered over white water,
scolding us, many small birds
as thick as insects, twittering in sedge.
And this medesene man could fortell things . . .
that he had told of our comeing into their country,
and they thought us gods dropped among them:
helmsman, navigator, peacemaker of tribes . . .
these natives have the Stranges language . . .
but I found them much pleased at the Danceing of our men,
the women passionate, fond of caressing . . .
she was so beautiful, that when she entered the tent,
the storyteller could not tell his story . ..
danceing, giving away hir bracelets . ..
the old squaw, half-blind, crouching in a corner of the tent,
had lived more than a 100 winters,
& when she spoke great attention paid to what she said.
The roots of the rock outlive the crown.
And 'my boy Pomp' had his monument.
*The spelling is that of the Lewis and Clark journals.
26 i set of Gold Scales
to weigh the industry of tribes,
their language, traditions, monuments,
the extent and limits of their possessions . . .
Is suicide common among them?
I have done the business. My good Servant, give me some water.
He had shot himself in the head with one pistol
& a little below the breast with the other.
The wind grapples open grasses, rocks, trees . . .
The unknown scenes in which you were engaged .. .
the promise of a city
at the confluence of rivers . . .
or a place near Sea and River
resembling the situation of Alexandria
with respect to the Nile . ..
a root they have, efficacious remedy in cases of the bite of the
To these I have added the horns of an animal
called by the natives the Mountain Ram . . .
Under his hair he is clothed with a very long fur,
shines golden
in the sun.
BETWEEN 1827 AND 1927
The moon pulls great waters.
How articulate the wind is in the leaves,
But it does not want to tell me who I am.
I think I am somewhere between sleep and a stone.
I ask the sun where I have been.
My father mowing grass does not know.
My mother does not want to say.
I taste weeds to understand what a bird sings.
27 I am an Indian all day
Under the plum tree in the backyard.
An old blanket pinned to grape laths
Is my tepee. I am Chief Bear Skin,
Last of the Yakimas to smell free wind.
The wind cannot tell the distance
Between 1827 and 1927,
Nor can I.
A photograph, inked too black, in the newspaper,
Of three Yakimas, a buck and two squaws,
Wears the same scowl. Pennsylvania Avenue in 1901,
Stumps down the middle, watch-fobbed Saxons in front of the hotel,
Was what my mother saw.
You look like an Indian! You look like an Indian!
My mother's black Italian hair,
Tossed over her forehead, dries in the sun
On the back porch.
Ka-e-mox-nith was so beautiful
That when she stepped into the tent
The old men stopped talking. When she left,
Their voices were like the dry scraping of insects
In the yellow pines.
Old and sick, Wah Kukhiah rode up the Yakima Valley
With his daughter to the forest.
At the foot of the mountains
He told her to go home and rode on alone.
In the half-darkness at the edge of a scree,
In a dazzle of light, a stranger sat
On a boulder, looking at him:
"Do not be afraid. Close your eyes,
And you will see."
28 The plum tree in the sunlight
Sways in the last warm wind,
Branch dancing with branch.
With a bow bent from a willow switch,
I shoot an arrow straight across the garden
Into a bed of hollyhocks.
I got him! My tribe will not go hungry.
I know who I am!
MAY, 1927
My forehead bows to the sound of water,
faint through trees.
A warbler in the lilac answers
a warbler in the pine.
May spills over, fluent with leaves,
redundant in the mirror of the pond.
Happy in weeds, I dawdle through trout lilies,
gold on the hillside,
nibbled over by cows and butterflies.
Stooping over corollas,
I own their nuggeted anthers,
and break stem after stem
to bleed against my palm.
With the incense of cottonwoods,
by the hobo dump, wreathed with early smoke,
the river curls, ice in the town's arms,
sleepy with salesmen and women,
haggled out of dreams,
money under every pillow,
under every hill,
wise with the intercourse
of vaginal mines.
29 In the schoolroom's chalked silence,
I perspire, stranger to the fists,
scrawling virgin paper with accusing consonants.
Love your mother's face
bowed over blossoms,
her hands arranging them
for your grandfather's grave.
In the front yard,
two bushes of lilacs,
tall as the house,
one white and one violet,
bloom every year
for Memorial Day . . .
Walt Whitman dead for thirty-seven years,
the Civil War over for sixty-four,
the olive-backed thrush or the hermit
singing in the canyons around the town.
Your grandfather, for whom
Victor Emmanuel meant more than Lincoln,
wrote from the Shoshone to his dying mother in Italy:
Don't despair of Death.
E' una Gran Bella Cosa.
"You'll never make Americans
of these goddam wops,"
the foreman said.
In the cemetery,
a Mediterranean bay of blossoms,
white and violet in coffee-can urns,
billows against the stones.
30 V
"Somewhere deep in every American
heart lies a rebellion against
the old parenthood of Europe."
D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic
American Literature
Don't bullshit me, Mr. Lawrence!
How shall we recognize our own fathers
in caos converso,
their palms bleeding in the fossil damp
while the Johnny Bull boss roars at the end
of the tunnel in the Eocene dark,
and the carbidian flames in the middle of their foreheads
pitch pantomimes of shadows
on the ultimate wall?
How shall we tell the flesh from the shade it throws?
Tu credi che qui sia il Duca d'Atene?
In sheep-grass weather, clear bells found me.
I climbed to hear them while I slept.
Sheep grazed the hill above our house.
I heard them nibbling in my sleep.
Jangling bushes tossed on my pillow.
The walls baaed with the browsing flock,
Yapped with the fox-tailed dogs. I ran toward
Morning, blue above my father's gate.
A dry breeze rattled the dusty pines.
Pack horses, nudging luminous grasses,
Flicked their tails after flies. My ears followed
The oaths of Spanish herders.
31 I raced the hill slope after the easy flock,
Slipped, quick as a lizard, under barbed-wire,
Whipped across an acre through a cloud
Of pollen, gold upon my arms;
Waded through briars, tangling my hips.
A thistle snapped at my thigh. I cleared
A meadow, over the mine of a mole,
Past a lark, warbling to weeds.
A pigeon tilted equal wings
Against the light I made. Wide-awake,
I leaped over the dreaming flock and sank
My fists into the fleece of the ram.
Harold Enrico's poems and translations have been in many journals, including
Prism international.
32 F. Kaufmann is the pseudonym of an author who is alive, living in Canada
and desirous of not being stoned publicly. As far as we can detect, this is F.
Kaufmann's first time in print.
I am able to give him from the first encounter all that he is. When
the door becomes our vortex and he and I become its whirlpool I
invite him in. My magnanimity is complete because I am complete.
I proceed to give him neither this chair nor that one nor that one.
He is at liberty to accept nothing for nothing is proffered and he is
free to give nothing since nothing is required. The encounter is a
kind of double-taking. Our implements are mine because it is my
game and the victory which I invite him now in for is his. Though
he will not comprehend this and I will never tell him.
Playing will begin now I tell him but couch it in images in sounds
of bread and butter do not make the obvious too crystal or the mirror will break. My profession is my livelihood and I am positive in
the worthless virtues which he brings in to me without knowing that
he has brought them in and without knowing that they are worth
nothing. To accept the chair which is not given — although it is my
chair a chair of mine and I could give it — is not so primary a response as he tacitly assures me — though he may speak or may not
speak free to his thinking and free to his volition although he believes deeply that it is my volition and my thought and although he
is mistaken I will never tell him that he is mistaken. Yet he takes the
chair — he takes that chair he chooses between several chairs and
chooses that chair ■— believing fully as he commences that I have
33 given him that chair and that I have chosen which is to be that
chair. So we will begin our game he indicates although we have
been playing already yet he does not understand or taste this. In my
magnanimity I find no place for upmanship and because my livelihood is my profession no requirement of fifty edicts.
"Your room is certainly a pleasant change from out there!" he
says jovially thinking he is speaking out of bravado and nervousness
and that he requires this bravado and nervousness. But it is part of
the gaming to be thought of and I allow him this thinking.
"Did a — what do you call it — architect do it?" And I give him
interior decorator with no malice with no condescension not because
he might want this but because it is my game and I am free to give
or not to give to name or not to name and I will exercise my power.
And then I begin play around the goal though he does not understand that here is the goal or that here are the balls which he has
brought in with him — thinking to have never possessed them or
hoping to have hidden them darkly under some chair outside which
he has chosen though he has not chosen this chair for he is powerless to choose any chair outside — and my playing begins because
it is my game.
I require of him words and he is surprised that the sounds which
were a chorus ago so much similar to words were not words and
that the door and the rug and the complimented colour combinations were better and more than door and rug and paint but were
not so much better and more and were not these.
He dislikes his chair that he believes now to have chosen and he
feels anger in decision and my words are gifts to him but he has not
come here for these words for these nails and he kicks the rug with
his toe but so that I will not see that he is kicking the rug and says
petulantly "Look! I really don't know..." and requires of the
space that it extend itself beyond its space and become beyond the
door that he plays on like a baby dream. But it is no space beyond
a groping and colours retain colour and the rug which is kicked in
an act of not kicking is the rug which is mine and the game which
is mine.
"Why are you kicking your foot so violently, I wonder" I say to
him and his shock which is his shock though it is mine also because
I have elicited although I have not induced it covers his mask like
a face. So that he gropes for the rift in the curtain the crack in the
ceiling and the light cutting under the door but there is no rift or
crack or cut and he begins to feel that this is the game that he has
come for but has not come for. Wanting but not wanting I have
34 taken from him the ability to undecide. But this is my game which
because it is my profession I undertake and follow along with none
of his agonized hiding none of his horrified fleeing.
"Um . . . uh, well. . . well, you see . . . um ..." and the whole
room which he has explored without touching becomes in an instant
just the room that is all along mine and all along the room he is in.
But this is the game bared and requiring which he begins to see as
game. And now he is playing — not as he sat beyond the door believing to be coming to play: as Buddha to my pariah but as Agamemnon in the twisting robe and I am that robe. He is pure with
sweat and I twist the tightening until there is no line at all and in
the emerald darkness beyond swimming beyond drowning he floats
down baitless.
The time is now up and because it is my time I send him out of
my room: Because it is in my power to bracket time and to send
him from this room into it.
A second encounter is beyond all that was the first because the
player who has wanted to play accepts to have needed to play and
yet finds that he will pierce his own heel if he continues to play and
that this game I give is for him a particular death.
But it is my play and my room and my price for I sell him what
he cannot buy at Woolworth's what will never be given in the
Christmas stocking what gods cannot reveal in burning brush. Yet
to sell him this is a kind of immortality a kind of irrevocable morality that if I were to feel it sinful my life would be utterly insufficient
expiation. Sometimes I too much consider this game of mine and
smell there is a thunder in it which I do not fully hear and a limit
so beyond that I may hope it closer and yet I come trembling to
touch that it is farther beyond than even thought of touch. And in
my gaming I see more and more that I do not see one millionth of
the closest length of space farthest from that boundary. And I am
— spaced inside my room awaiting him — an interlude of god.
"Hi! How are you?"
"Fine. How are you?"
"O.K. ...I guess!"
He grins blushingly and sits down having spent the possibility of
35 sound. Curiously and yet not curiously he chooses to re-attend the
same chair which held him in such insidious embrace in our earlier
playing. He makes a pretense of being wombed cumbersomely in a
court of unbuttoning of doffing of picking of flipping of lighting
of exhaling. Yet he knows plainly that this is a kind of preliminary
gaming and that there is no great week's space between bravado
embalmed in propriety's politics and bravado hooting beyond Picasso's panache but this holds for him a particular exigency which
he appreciates and which I am able to appreciate. And so he is
pleased that I have understood what he is so satisfied to have comprehended by himself. But this is no great matter — which he fails
now to appreciate and which sounding like laughter into my inscrutable waiting he attempts to use as evidence of the game's final
score and his own utter victory achieved. But it is first and always
my game and my room and I will give him only and always what
he has come to be given at the price which I have fixed and which
he has come to pay so that I silently say "No" to his pleasure and
yet in response to his pleasure I will answer nothing and of it and
of him I will strangely demand nothing. The room which is mine
becomes in an instant the breath we have inhaled and exhaled and
my room has become him as he has become mine. But he does not
concern himself with this great matter nor does he understand that
it is a great matter and my greatest victory. Yet I do not tell him
this and he does not stretch to wonder. Believing in papal faith that
this game has become his game he encounters puzzles all over my
face and juggling these black and white fragments he blushes and
puzzles why these pieces should be pieces not wholes at all and why
I am answering nothing at all to his infallibility and yet strangely
demanding nothing at all. Waiting for everything and still taking
nothing while he is seeming to be giving so much.
And bracketing his pleasure his curious half-questioning I tell him
to leave my room. And he gets up and leaves my room into time
hoping that time has become our mutual mother yet daring sideways that time is still and ever my instrument and that it is still and
ever my game and that he is still and ever the one who has come to
purchase what no man should dare to sell.
So that in the seeping pablum of his final coming he comes in
only as the greyness from this winter light and the snowing from a
melted gutter. And knowing at last that he is beyond power beyond
36 light he has come to a new chair a different position and yet this
decision is for him no great matter because he has become one who
needs no more the grace of undecision and who needs no longer the
second hope of repeated choice.
He chose and yet in this sitting he sees there is nothing to say
strangely nothing to shelter. This silence which had been earlier in
his game so much a lid opens now to an emptied casket and his
silence must sit neither strident nor soothing and the powerless victory which comes will be for him only the gift which I may or may
not choose to give him and which he sits no longer requiring yet
endlessly requiring.
And in the turning now to him I will begin to give him what it
is I am here to give him and to sell him what it is I have studied
for him to purchase and to leave him — far beyond this nowness
that we are too much breathing — as one who has chosen to dare
the playing and to win my game.
37 Three Poems by John Newlove
Until you lie down in the dark again
to see with nightmare this depressed slant
of winter light    a cold sick yellow
clouded    morose    that lies on your eyes
before you sleep    ideas locked
firmly in place    before you sleep
to wake and wash the sleep from your face
with cold water    cupped in your hands
that have curled in nightmare
half the night long    until the fear
clings to the back of your mind only    forgotten
until you lie down in the dark again to see
the white faces floating and the mouths that say
urgently     Listen to me     Listen only to me
the familiar faces like fathers turning
just out of sight of the dreaming eyes    names
almost remembered    mothers of hatred and fear
and cousins to murder    strangers seeking
you for themselves    Remember how real
your waking life seemed    until you lay down
in the dark and pulled a sheet to your head
The sea's sunlight in the mind (a block
away from the real, wetness and slight salt,
floating garbage, gulls, screaming children,
washed-up fish eyeless, rats behind logs)
seems brighter here: but isn't. The eyes won't squint
as they would in that place. The house is filled
with books, children play outside, the air is dry,
garbage bagged, gull cries filter through wood,
fish in the frying pan, mice behind baseboards,
muted light. The radio plays on and on, variations
of the same song. The fish crackles as it cooks,
the mice are quiet. Salt is in the shaker,
ready to be sprinkled on the eyeless dinner fish.
When his mouth of evil opened, it made the air taste
like a postcard. The sun sank in deep regret,
its taxes unpaid. Beyond the limits of truth
or grace, time called to the amoeba. His mouth
of evil opened and the earth was ugly
as a postcard. The sun sank in shame, its debts
unpaid. Beyond the limits of truth or grace,
time opened its amoeba mouth. The moon
sank, ugly as a postcard. The man stood
and his mouth sank without words, alone.
John Newlove's most recent book of poems, Black Night Windows, was published this year by McClelland & Stewart.
39 Two Poems by George McWhirter
The siesta, the people drinking at the fountain,
The steps — are necessary to measure by.
The door closes. Darkness lasts long after the sun.
The bed (another measure )holds him to the air;
With ice in his throat
To the hot exhaust of the sun.
On her marriage bed the Sefiora lies,
Linen sheets her mother gave,
Draped over empty mounds.
Vails, his eyeballs laid in silt,
Tears dried to sulphur in their ducts,
Walks the flats of the river-bed.
The hollow beat of an ass's hoof
Measures the time.
Eduardo prepares.
Like senseless flies
Words clutter his tongue.
In the room where Dolores lies
The belly of a candle flame
Undulates before an ikon of the virgin.
Here the axe has cut the womb from the earth.
Aragon !
Vails saw it often from the Madrid road
40 El Rio Jalon pours by, liquid porcelain
That hardens in the bowels
Like Gorgon's milk.
Aragon —
A widowed land!
Upon the marriage bed —
Madonna — mother —
Dolores Vails —
The cracked earth drained of stubborn immortality -
Mountains of Aragon.
Nothing breaks the cruelty of their line
Against the sky.
Mountains of asses' hair; maggot mountains;
Mountains of powder cement and oxide blood.
Vails exposed to the dazed sky —
From Sarria to the wave-break at the harbour
Barcelona is straddled with light.
Eduardo approaches the door.
Delicately, he places the key
In the metal gland.
Across the room
The flame scatters at his breath.
In the dark
He can barely sense
The bed where they slept.
That winter
The sky caught cold,
Sneezed twice,   showered shivers
Into spines of grass;
Air wheezed in a punctured lung of clay,
Eduardo's lung.
That winter
The air was glassy cold
In the dark throat.   Twice it swallowed,
Raking the moon from the sky.
Then fever burst,
Tormenting brain and blood;
Moaning in the spinning room,
Eduardo's room.
The doctor frowned.
The anarchist riot raved in Eduardo,
Refusing medication.
Delirious freedom
Till the wind coughed at the window,
Rising from its bed between the hills,
Spitting blood into the morning.
Two friends passed in the street;
Two fat familiar words flew from their mouths;
The wind caught and flung them,   feathers fluttering
to the bloody sky.
In a gap between two cannonades of wind
Eduardo went.
He wouldn't have liked this tribute
For he liked neither poetry nor storm;
Only the sun on the Ramblas,
A chance to disagree with all who thought
They knew,
Eduardo !
George McWhirter is a graduate student in creative writing at the University
of British Columbia.
42 Ray Smith will have a collection of his short stories, including this one, published in February by House of Anansi, Toronto. He resides in Toronto.
Colours, colourist, The Colourist.
Colour:  many app. but n.b. esp. sb. II 5. 'A particle of
metallic  gold.'  and  vb.   2.  b.  To  misrepresent.
(S.O.E.D. — used throughout.)
Episodes, episodic, vide infra, II.
The Search.
I. Pillsbury
sombre, rich; q.v.
London (memory of, not locale.)
'Port is the well-spring of anecdote, I always say. A few glasses in
the afternoon. . . .'
Pillsbury told anecdotes. The first concerned a little girl rather
like Alice who dearly loved her pet civet; the second, almost neat
enough to be fiction, was of a chance meeting with a dwarf on a
train; the third, while amusing, was incomprehensible.
'In those days, though, you could expect that sort of thing. .. .'
Pillsbury lived, dwelt in two rooms, alone with his port, his fireplace and his researches. He enjoyed a small fame. On that wet
autumn afternoon the shadows stood stacked in the corners like
magazines or memories. On one wall hung a penny farthing bicycle.
43 'Oh, they're a lot of old fogies.' Pillsbury was a Fellow of some
Royal Society; it was of the other Fellows that he now spoke. 'The
banquets are beastly affairs. Half of them senile and one carries a
whacking great ear-trumpet which keeps getting into the soup.'
Pillsbury heaved and pivoted on one elbow to gaze at Gerard, for
his neck would not turn much.
'After all, I'm only seventy-six meself, don't you see?'
Gerard nodded and sipped his port.
'Ahh,' sighed Pillsbury, 'those were the days. . . .'
The landlady brought in a tea-tray. Pillsbury pointed to the low
table before him and grunted. She put down the tray and shuffled
out again, leaving behind her (or stirring up) an odour of mold
which the tea steam did not entirely dissipate.
T always have my tea,' Pillsbury explained, 'even out here.
There's something to be said for tradition. .. .'
Gerard sipped and nibbled and listened for half an hour to what
could be said for tradition. 'I have a piece in EHR. Can't remember
the number but I'm sure the library could dig it up for you. . ..'
Tea time and Gerard's visit drew to a close. In desperation he
alluded to his purpose in coming.
'Ah yes . .. yes, an enquiry of some sort didn't you say?'
Gerard had written a letter asking for an interview.
'Well, well. Hum hem harmpf ... I'd like to help, but I'm afraid
you've got the wrong man.'
'Wrong man?'
' 'fraid so. I've never been to Tibet. I fancy you're thinking of old
Philbrick the occultist. . . .'
II. Patchouli the Passionate
gaudy, sordid
A genre piece: stage, carnival, etc.
preference of cold cream to Kant.
That night Gerard sat in the dressing room of Patchouli the Passionate at the Club Marrakech and thought about one of the big
questions. Gerard disliked thinking about the big questions; he liked
particular things, like that jar of cold cream. Surely if one considered a particular jar of cold cream one could . . .
Episodes: that was it, that was how Gerard lived.
Episodes. Take an episode and understand it one way or another,
Take It. Belief exists only in action.
44 Episode: interlocutory parts between two choric songs; an incidental narrative or digression in a poem, story, etc., separable from,
but arising naturally out of, the main subject; transf Incidental passage in a person's life, in a history, etc.; Mus. In ordinary fugues,
a certain number of bars allowed to intervene from time to time
before the subject is resumed.
Gerard yawned.
Why should the subject be resumed? If the eposide arises naturally out of the main subject, then the main subject is ... in (let us
say) is in the episode. Or, say, let us examine the pearls one by one
and surely we shall know of the string? Pearls are more interesting
than string.
As for the choric songs, Gerard had sat through ten minutes of
Patchouli's belly-dancing and there were a lot of people around and
Gerard had enjoyed that. After all, one man can't make a crowd
scene, rhythmic or otherwise. So, after Patchouli had read Gerard's
note and agreed to the interview Gerard pushed the chorus (laughter, sweat, smoke, gaping mouths) into the wings and, led by a man
with six fingers, came and sat in her dressing room.
Soon the big question (Appearance and Reality or the General
and the Particular) drifted from his mind, he yawned and Patchouli came in.
'Hi-ya, Sweetie,' she said. 'Like the act?'
Gerard explained that while he had only seen a bit of it and was
no judge of belly-dancing he had thought it rather good.
'Well, you're wrong; I was lousy. I'm not an exotic at all, I'm a
stripper. My agent bungled the bookings.'
No, she wouldn't have a cigarette. Instead she ran a glass of
water and swallowed a tablet for relief from indigestion.
'It's a rough life,' said Patchouli the Passionate.
They talked a while about it being a rough life. Patchouli, her
body hidden behind a screen, changed her costume. 'I mean, hell,
I don't have the costumes to be an exotic'
Gerard noticed that her make-up did not coincide with her features. True, she had two (no more, no less) make-up eyebrows, two
make-up lips (upper and lower), two sets of false eyelashes and so
on, but while her own upper lip was rather level across the top, the
make-up upper lip arched high in the center and down to points at
the corners and while her own eyebrows, even plucked, curved out
and down attractively and naturally, the make-up brows flared up
and out at a vicious angle, etc. Gerard's mind was so little interested
in the big questions that he quite failed to see that two faces of Pat-
45 chouli as a metaphor, which failure, had he known of it, would
have made him happy.
'I mean, how am I supposed to be an exotic in a G-string, you
know what I mean?'
He said he thought he did.
Patchouli issued from behind the screen and sat down to replace
some sequins on her first G-string.
'Now, this matter I came to see you about.. ..'
Patchouli wasn't sure she knew what was the matter so Gerard
had to think of a way of referring to her casual prostitution without
insulting her.
'Yeah, I seen something of a few colonels in my day. Which one
in particular?'
Gerard named one and she said yes she had seen something of
him. 'But that was two years ago. I haven't seen him for two years.
I think he got transferred away somewhere.'
Or died, said Gerard to himself. People were always dying.
'What do you remember of him?' He would hide his particular
question in a chorus of others.
She said the Colonel was something-or-other and Gerard figured
out after a time that she meant he was impotent.
'Did he have any scars or tattoos? Any distinguishing features?'
'He had big ears. I suppose you noticed that. .. .'
No, he hadn't noticed that the colonel had big ears.
'Well, he had big ears.'
Patchouli yawned. Gerard sighed. Patchouli picked at a frayed
tassel. Gerard eased into another cigarette.
'Do you remember off-hand if he had long toe-nails?'
'Long toe-nails?'
'Long toe-nails.'
'Hummmm.. . .'
The man with six fingers rapped upon the door and told Patchouli she had three minutes. 'No rest for the wicked,' she sighed.
Gerard gave her a wry smile as she double checked the hooks and
snaps on her costume, as she reinforced her make-up. At last he had
to cough.
'Oh yeah, you wanted to know if the Colonel had . . .'
'Yeah, long toe-nails. Well. ..'
Six fingers wrapped again and called one minute. When Patchouli stood up her joints cracked. She yawned and stretched and
walked to the door. Gerard followed with his head down. In the
46 dim hallway they paused. People, noted Gerard, rarely sweep right
into the corners.
'Well, I'll tell you, I don't know if he had long toe-nails or not.
I'm sorry.'
She seemed truly sorry. Gerard tried to reassure her: 'Well, ha-
ha, at least I know he had big ears.'
Patchouli considered this. 'You know, I'm not sure now that he
was the one with the big ears. It's been two years now since.. ..'
She had to rush off to her fanfare and her audience. Gerard
walked silent, alone in the other direction, yawning.
III. The Painter
The next morning Gerard climbed two flights of stairs to the studio
of a young painter who had a beard. The painter was painting and
yelled for Gerard to come in:
'Come in!'
Gerard came in.
The painter stood facing the door with his back to the large windows with the blue north light falling in. Gerard could not see what
the painter was painting because the canvas faced away from him.
Other canvases and boards stood facing the wall so that Gerard
could not see what the painter had painted on them either. The
painter stopped painting and offered Gerard a cup of coffee.
'I work pretty steadily,' said the painter, 'but I always like a
break. Only the fanatics can ignore visitors and hunger and such.
They're lucky that way. They do so much that some of it has to be
good. For the rest of us ...' — he made a gesture at the turpentine
and linseed oil and the tubes of paint — 'it's a living.'
They talked a while about painting being a living. The conversation consisted of fourteen syllables and lasted some minutes. They
both seemed glad they got on so well together.
'Well. ..' said Gerard at last. The painter offered him another
cup of coffee and accepted a cigarette in return.
'Do you ever use female models?'
The painter yawned and picked a particle of sleep from the inside
corner of his right eye.
'Not much lately. I've been doing landscapes. A few years ago I
was doing figures more.. ..'
Gerard asked if he remembered a model named Charlene.
47 'That's not her real name; her real name was Virginia but after
a while she decided it was inaccurate so. ...'
'Charlene . ..'
'But really Virginia?'
'Originally Virginia . . . Yes.'
'I'm not sure. Did she have thick ankles? I used a lot of thick-
ankled models a few years ago.'
'It is possible.'
With the coffee cup in his hand the painter went around by the
window and stared at the painting he had been painting. 'Charlene,' he said. 'Humm.' Then, 'Look, do you like games?'
Gerard said he liked games (which made the painter happy) so
the painter explained a game and Gerard said he'd like to play it.
'It helps me to forget things and then I can usually remember. I
play games a lot.'
The painter put on a sport coat and they went down the two
flights of stairs and to a square near the painter's studio. Around
the square were half a dozen bus stops. The painter went and stood
in the queue for the 59A bus and after a few people had fallen in
behind him, Gerard strolled over. Apparently quite on impulse he
stopped beside the painter and shuffled his feet until the painter had
finished talking about the weather with a little old lady with a spray
of artificial violets on her lapel.
'Uhh . . . say, you don't happen to have a .. . pork chop, I suppose?'
The painter considered this a moment.
'Pork chop? . . . Humm . . .' — he felt in various pockets — 'why
yes, I believe I . .. yes .. . yes, I do. Here you are.'
From the inside pocket of his sport coat the painter took a pork
chop wrapped in cellophane. He gave it to Gerard, who put it in
the inside pocket of his sport coat.
'Thank you,' said Gerard.
' 's all right, man. Anytime.'
Gerard strolled on to the queue for the 38 and engaged a mother
with child in a conversation about the weather. Presently the
painter, abstractedly scratching his beard came .. . 'Say, man, do
you. . . .' Etc.
Gerard quickly learned several good fines and tones to use and
they played the game three times around the square. Then the
48 painter sat on a park bench and when his bus had come and gone,
Gerard joined him.
'Fine game,' he said.
'You play like a pro, really. Better than anyone else I've seen.'
'You're not bad yourself.'
After a while this conversation died and a while after that Gerard
had to cough.
'Uh ... oh yeah,' said the painter, 'you wanted to know about
this broad named Charlene . . . but really Virgania?'
'Who had thick ankles?'
'That's right, you did say possibly. You qualified it like that.'
'Well, I've remembered.'
'Have you? Great.'
'Yeah, the game did it all right. Yeah, I can say without fear of
contradiction that I have never used a model named Charlene or
Virginia or both with possibly thick ankles. I'd swear to that.'
'Would you sign a statutory declaration?' Gerard asked cautiously.
Umm . . . I'm not sure. I'm mean I'm sure about the broad
named Charlene, etc., but I'm not sure I'd sign a statutory declaration, not sure at all. . . .'
Gerard wanted to ask for an explanation but he knew the painter
would explain. After a minute the painter did explain.
'See, a painter is a few steps ahead of the law because he travels
light and fast and the law is big — like an elephant — and goes
slowly. This has to be, because the painter is alone and can take
chances on unknown ground and narrow trails while the elephant
has to be careful or he will trample things under foot and wreak
havoc and so on. So painters and the law avoid each other if possible ; they don't get along. It's sad but it's the way it is.'
'So when there's a choice, you know, you usually choose. . . .'
Gerard waved his hand and said that it was all right, the painter
would not have to sign a statutory declaration. They parted on good
terms and Gerard promised to come back some day to play the
game. He did not come back and he never saw any of the paintings
the painter had painted. But he did know that the painter would
swear at least verbally to never having used a model named Charlene and/or Virginia with or without thick ankles. The painter's
49 memory might have been faulty or the girl might have used a different name. But it was reasonably certain and that was something.
It sure made you think.
IV. Asp
a tableau ... a crack appears
Pastels: a jungle.
The highest building in the city was topped by a penthouse. The
penthouse was decorated with taste. The drawing room of the tastefully decorated penthouse was coloured mauve and white and was
softly lit. In this room, in the bay of a window overlooking the city
stood a table of great value and on it stood chess pieces of inestimable value. The players sat facing each other on either side of the
bay. They would have made a pretty picture for Poussin because of
the light, but Poussin was not there; the formalized composition did
not allow for more than two people. They were Gerard and an expensive woman of the world called Aspidistra; by friends, Asp.
Asp had been rescued from the gutter at the age of fifteen by an
aged, gouty and bumbling ambassador. He was a gentle man, a
gentleman. For want of anything better he taught her chess through
the long winter evenings. Her game showed promise. Nervously, his
hand shaking, his eyes averted, moving, accompanied by unfinished
phrases, he gave her wrapped in decorative paper, several books on
the game: Capablanca's Primer, Znosko-Borovsky's little book of
openings, several by Euwe and My System by Nimzovich. She pretended to study them, but in fact slipped out the back way to more
interesting games. The ambassador never found her out for her
game continued to improve. She possessed a cruel and penetrating
tactical sense and never made the same mistake twice.
'Tinkle tinkle,' laughed Asp. 'Tinkle tinkle rasp.' Her ninth move,
.. . N-K5, had opened up numerous variations. Gerard, who had
studied the above mentioned books and others, knew that theoretically the move was unsound. He cast about for its refutation.
'If you were rich, Gerard, I think I could love you.'
'I am not rich, Asp. So do not speak of it.'
'Glum, glum, Gerard. Tinkle, tinkle.'
The chess set of inestimable value had been sculpted for Asp by
a sculptor who had loved her from afar and wished to do so from
50 much closer. It was of ivory with trimmings of gold leaf and had
taken two years to complete. He took it to three independent judges
who assured him it was of inestimable value (Gerard had checked
this) then appeared at Asp's door in the evening (the doorman had
seen him enter the building at 7:23: T was waiting for the duke of
J to take 'is constitutional at 7:25. . ..') with the table of great
value and upon it the exquisite box of mahogany open to show each
piece resting in its individual velvet lined place.
'Why how lovely,' Asp claimed to have cried. 'Would you like a
'Umm-umm-umm. . ..'
People who spend their lives making chess sets of inestimable
value do not have time to learn the game. The sculptor suffered so
brutal a defeat that Asp laughed, 'Rasp,' and spurned him.
'He was so desolated; it was a shattering experience for him. But
then, artists. .. .' and right out of the air she made an epigram.
The desolated sculptor took the quickest way out of the tastefully
decorated (olive green and blue at that time) penthouse and other
problems (poverty, rotting teeth, etc.): the bay window overlooking
the city. In an investigation out of curiosity and not connected with
his everyday investigations (like this one with Asp) Gerard had
ascertained that the sculptor had hit a borzoi twenty stories directly
below (there had been no wind so a few simple trigonometric calculations had proved this) Asp's window at 8:17 on the evening of
the day the set had been valued as inestimable by the three independent judges. As to whether or not it had been Asp's window
(and not one of those directly below), she did have the set and the
table and the sculptor's love for her had been no secret. The world
had Asp's word on it (and why should she lie?) that the fall had
not been an accident or a murder attempt, but a suicide attempt.
The word 'attempt' is used here because the sculptor had survived,
a featureless blob of gibbering, chess-playing jelly. The borzoi, on
the other hand, died instantly.
The refutation of Asp's 9.. .. N-K5 seemed to be in capturing
the piece: exchanges are favoured by the positional player who
wishes a controlled game which simplifies quietly to one of half a
dozen or so basic endgames.
Gerard took the piece.
'Chomp!' cried Asp in delight. 'Tinkle rasp.'
Nothing disturbed the pastel light. In fact, the reach of a hand
to move a piece was illusion; nothing moved for fear of destroying
5i the composition. Sound was light, mauve furniture was light, the
white rug was fight, the white walls and the mauve walls; the
brandy in the brandy glasses but a glint.
Gerard groaned. Leading from the capture of Asp's knight was a
line for her which he had judged suicidal. He saw now that it was
instead brilliantly sacrificial. Unless Asp blundered, her victory
would be undeniable after ten moves or so. He would not resign
until she grew bored.
'Gerard, you are a darling, you really are.'
'Why so?'
Asp lifted the stopper from the decanter and poured into each
glass (or: certain lights altered). Asp detested explanations.
'A . . . friend, a very good friend who is in the army says life is
much like war: years of training for a few moments of passionate
'That seems possible.'
'Have you ever felt passionate, Gerard?'
He had, but said not. She teased him about this a while, answered
his moves without ostentation and soon changed the subject to
flowers which she also detested.
'... and daffodils. God!'
'I once ate a daffodil,' said Gerard without looking up. 'I ate a
lot of funny things when I was a kid. I suppose everyone eats funny
things when they're kids, even the Queen of Sheba or Columbus or
. . . Z the violinist.'
'As a matter of fact, Z once told me that in his native country at the age of seven he ate an orchestration of Mozart's Symphony No. 40 because . . .'
Because: Gerard was not interested in motives. No. 40 in G
Minor, K. 550, he said to himself. As soon as decently possible he
laid his king upon its side and left.
Asp, fragile light above the chess table, pondered the game a
while. Then she began to brood. Some time after that tears filled
her eyes and the wonderful pieces of inestimable value upon their
table of great value shattered in the tears. She did not know why
she was crying. She was crying because the composition was broken
and would not anymore have made a pretty picture for Poussin. But
then, Poussin preferred outdoor scenes and was long dead.
52 V. Mr. Rufulus
the crisp and the decaying . . . putrescence . . . horror . . .
'Ultima Thule' — called by some 'the White Island'.
The girl at the information desk told Gerard where to find the elevator and what the room number was. He paused at the gift shop
and considered a magazine but decided against it. When a man is
slipping into death he is not interested in magazines. . .. No, that's
not necessarily true. He might. Why shouldn't he? But he didn't
buy one for he didn't know the man's taste in magazines. On the
other hand, perhaps the dying man would just like a magazine, any
one at all. By this time Gerard was half a dozen floors above the
gift shop so he did not bother going back.
That ball was as clean as a new cigarette and for its size contained as much death. The duty nurse pointed out the direction and
Gerard walked until he saw the room number. The door was closed
and a sign saying 'Staff Only' hung from the knob. Gerard considered this a while then took a seat in the little alcove next down
the hall.
On a little table beside his chair, Gerard found a pictorial magazine. Because he liked pictures he leafed through it, looking at the
pictures but not thinking about them much.
Then he came upon a black and white photograph of a man sitting in an alcove in a hospital reading a magazine. The man's head
was bent down so you could not recognize his face. Gerard recognized the hat and the trenchcoat, however. They were his own, or
very good copies. On one finger Gerard wore a ring; the man in the
picture also wore a ring, though it showed indistinctly due to the
modish graininess of the print. Gerard was, it seemed, living inside a rather stale joke. Fortunately he had a rather stale sense of
Here I am looking at myself looking at. . . obviously myself looking at, etc. A fine jest. Now, if I look up at the camera, will he also
look up?
Gerard looked up and saw no camera. Of course, he realized, if
I look up I can't see if the picture man is also looking up.
On the other hand, what if I turn the page? Will he also turn the
page? That is, will he continue to do all the things I do or will the
page go blank until somebody else sits here to look at it? Is it a picture of me, essentially, or of the alcove?
At last he realized that he need only move an arm or leg and see
if the photo-man did it too. The muscles in Gerard's leg had just
53 tensed for the action when he chuckled: no, I shall not do it. This is
either miracle or mundane coincidence. If I let it alone, I can always
believe it was a miracle.
So he closed the magazine and called to a nurse who had just
come out of Mr. Rufulus's room.
'I'd like if I could to see Mr. Rufulus.'
The nurse asked, in a pleasant enough way, if Gerard were a
friend or relative and Gerard explained that he was neither but had
made arrangements to see Mr. Rufulus today on a very important
'Well, Mr. Rufulus is very ill. . . .'
'Yes,' replied Gerard in lower tones. T understand he will probably not live the night. But if at all possible... .'
'I'll ask the doctor '
Gerard felt compelled to tell the truth; he had to play by the
T just wish to ask Mr. Rufulus a question, in person. The answer
he gives is of great importance to me, but I must admit it is of no
importance to him. If I were allowed it would be a great favour to
me. Is Mr. Rufulus conscious?
'At times. He is very sick.'
She went away. Gerard now realized she was quite pretty. He
hoped she was also happy.
Some time later a doctor came and, in an English accent, asked
the same questions the nurse had, adding the same objections more
forcefully. He also picked up the point — which the nurse had
missed — that Gerard required to ask the question in person.
'Well, it's difficult to explain. I am making certain enquiries and
their validity is — without questioning your integrity, Doctor —
called into question when not received directly. Just as you might
doubt a patient with a twitching left arm who, in all sincerity, says
another doctor told him the twitch was caused by myopia.. . .'
The doctor screwed his face into one of those expressions of irony
for which the English are so famous. Gerard glanced up, then back
at his hands, then coughed.
'Yes, I see,' said the Doctor with a glance at his watch. 'I shall
do what I can.'
'Thank you doctor.'
Gerard settled down for a long wait. It would be a near thing.
Near things were best. Finding out that a certain newspaper had
been published on a certain day was too easy; discovering whether
54 or not a certain native in the Congo had eaten a mango from a
certain tree on August the ninth twenty-one years ago was clearly
impossible. Mr. Rufulus was going to be a near thing and that
made Gerard quiver (as much as he ever did) to the challenge.
At last the doctor returned (while Gerard was yawning) and
asked the same questions again. Gerard answered politely and honestly. The doctor put his head in the door of Mr. Rufulus's room
and whispered to someone. He nodded to the unseen speaker, then
to Gerard.
'Thank you Doctor,' Gerard whispered. He was in the presence
of death, he could almost hear the soft swish of the blade as it
moved in hungry practice.
'Don't thank me. Thank the patient for staying alive.'
Gerard considered a pun on patients and patience but decided
against it.
A lamp with an intensity control had been turned low. A nurse
stood aside to whisper to the doctor. Gerard heard, 'Yes, Doctor,'
and such and understood that he had very little time with Mr.
Rufulus. The doctor went out and the nurse closed the door softly.
The room smelt of various things.
Holding his hat by the brim, Gerard tip-toed to the bed and sat
down. Mr. Rufulus consisted of a thin old face on a pillow. His eyes
were closed and his breath came in quick little gasps with long
spaces of silence between. Tubes entered orifices.
'Mr. Rufulus?'
All searches are the same. Utter success and utter failure are both
perfection and perfection is denied man. The tubes gurgled.
'Mr. Rufulus.'
'He is very weak,' the nurse whispered. 'Even if he can hear you
he probably won't be able to answer.'
Gerard waited until she had gone to the other side of the room
before putting his question.
'Mr. Rufulus, my name is Gerard. I wrote you two days ago because I wanted to ask you a question. Now, I know you are very
tired, but I would like very much if you would answer my question
if you could. Can you talk at all? Can you say yes or no?'
The eyelids raised a moment and the lips, dry as dry apples,
'That's all right, Mr. Rufulus, I won't tire you, don't talk if you
don't feel like it. Now, I'm going to ask you a question and if the
answer is yes, open your right eye; if the answer is no, open your
left. If you are undecided, open both and if you refuse to answer,
55 keep them closed. Do you understand? If you understand, open
your right eye, then close it and open your left.'
After a few moments the right eye flickered. Then it flickered,
then held, then closed. Then the left flickered, held and closed.
'Very good, Mr. Rufulus. Now here is the question: in your long
and honourable life, sir' — the nurse was fiddling with a complex
instrument covered with dials and knobs and attached to Mr. Rufulus's orifices' tubes — 'did you like parsnips?'
At first, nothing happened.
'The right eye opens for yes, and the left. . . . '
The lips began to quiver. They moved up and down with involuntary movement at a great rate like a vibrating guitar string.
'Did you hear me, Mr. Rufulus?' Gerard whispered. He spoke
with urgency and his hand went forward as if to clutch the bed
clothes or the tubes. The nurse was not watching.
'Mr. Rufulus, can you hear me?'
Mr. Rufulus had apparently heard. His head lifted from the pillow and his eyes opened and turned on Gerard. They opened wide
in horror and the toothless mouth opened wide. Still no definite yes
or no.
'Just this one thing, Mr. Rufulus. I realize it is of no importance
to you but. . .'
Mr. Rufulus's head jerked up another inch and at last the mouth
managed a sound:
Then the head fell back. The eyes stared into space and the horror was still in them.
'Mr. Rufulus! Mr. Rufulus!' cried the nurse.
Gerard got out of the chair and out of her way before she found
it necessary to hit him. As she called Mr. Rufulus's name and
probed for a pulse, Gerard slipped into the corridor. He would
never know now, not directly, at least. It was not the sort of thing
a man's correspondence would make clear. The widow might remember Mr. Rufulus liking parsnips but that was of little value.
Mr. Rufulus might have been forced during the first month of marriage to say he did and never have had a chance to tell the truth
all these years. More serious receptions exist in every marriage.
The doctor gave Gerard a scowl and ran past. It was too bad.
People, searchers all, have no sympathy with the search of others.
The pattern Gerard was seeking might look quite different from the
Doctor's. But the pattern was there, it was there and it was the
56 truth and all you needed was to look hard enough and long enough
and you could find it.
Gerard walked slowly out of the hospital. The sun was due in a
few hours and Gerard was tired. He wanted sleep because at noon
he was to meet a woman named Culver who might or might not
have had a great-grandfather with the middle name of Jonathan.
Or was it Nasturtium? Or Bicycle? Ah well, the details did not matter. In the end there was only the search and, with luck, the pattern.
It sure made you think. Gerard yawned.
57 Two Poems by William Heyen
A great cherry,
the tallest tree on Long Island,
broke loose in a winter storm.
Its roots snapped from the sand,
the wind blew it across
the Lake Ronkonkoma ice
where, between shores,
it settled like a forest.
The next
was a bell-clear morning.
The sun glittered on its limbs until
green leaves and fruit appeared, magical
and ominous in the winter air.
Eleven Indians were cradled
in its ancient, beckoning arms
when the roof of the lake fell.
That frozen night,
amidst mourning, a song arose
from the lake's still-swirling center.
The gods' words were of battle
beneath the ice.
The moon plunged near
and shook loose shafts of arrows.
That morning was the first spring.
I'd been looking down at the gaslamps.
The asphalt seemed, after the shower,
gems.   I thought, 'a city has its beauties,'
and remembered the frequent dance of moths
under the blue lamps.
Gutmann's uppity virgin daughter was crossing
the street, wearing a white, glossy raincoat
and noisy heels.   She was under the lamp
below my window.   It seemed a shadow moved, part
of the dark, and drew her in.
I was sure what I'd seen but didn't run down
or scream for help.   I thought,
'whatever it was, its shape was dark and beautiful
as a man's.'   The street went on,
sparkling its ruby gems.
William Heyen's poems have been in many American journals, including
Prairie Schooner, American Scholar, Southern Review. In 1966 he won first
prize in the Borestone Mountain Poetry Awards. He lives in Athens, Ohio.
59 Two Poems by Zbigniew Herbert
Translated from the Polish by John M. Gogol
I can't remember
his face
he used to stand over me
with long legs spread apart
I saw
the little golden chain
the ash-gray overcoat
and the lean neck
on which was pinned
the dead necktie
first of all he showed us
the leg of a dead frog
which touched by the needle
violently contracted
he led us
through the golden microscope
into the secret life
of our great grandfathers
the slipper animalcule
he brought
a dark kernel
and said: ergot
encouraged by him
I became a father
at the age of ten
when after tense expectation
the chestnut dipped in water
showed its golden bud
and everything around
60 in the second year of the war
the teacher of biology was killed
by the villains of history
if he made it to heaven —
perhaps he is now strolling
on long rays
in gray stockings
with an immense net
and a green box
merrily swinging on his back
but if he didn't make it up there
when on a wooded path
I meet a beetle
scrambling over a hill of sand
I step closer
and with respect
I say:
— hello professor
allow me to help you —
I lift him over carefully
and look at him for a long time
until he disappears
in the dark faculty room
at the end of the leafy corridor
Good is that which has passed away
good is that which is still to come
and even today
is good
In the nest braided from the body
lived a bird
beat the heart with its wings
most often we called it: restlessness
but sometimes: love
in the evenings
we often wandered along the river of regret
one could be reflected in it
from head to foot
the bird has fallen from the clouds
the river drowns in the sand
helpless as children
experienced as old men
we are simply free
that means ready to leave
At night a nice old man comes
to invite us with a pleasant gesture
— what's your name — we ask uneasily
— Seneca — say those who have graduated
and those who have studied no latin
call me: dead
Zbigniew Herbert is one of Poland's leading poets; he has been translated extensively into other languages but only rarely into English. The Polish writer
Jerzy Rwiatowski describes Herbert's combination of disciplined simplicity and
humanism as "poetry of the balanced scales."
John Gogol studied in the Soviet Union in 1966 and also was at the International Course for Slavists, Universities of Warsaw and Cracow. He is presently Instructor in the Russian and German Departments, Colorado State University.
62 Christoph Meckel is one of Germany's outstanding fiction writers, playwrights and poets. This story represents his first appearance in English translation.
A. P. Schroeder co-edits Contemporary Literature in Translation.
Translated from the German by A. P. Schroeder
I crossed the forests during the summer; dense forests, endless.
And one morning I met a man who stood in the undergrowth
dressed in a torn jacket and dirty boots; he shouted and whistled
through his fingers (it was this which had attracted me) and called
out many names over and over again, into the endless forests full
of murmuring and fluttering, rustling and green silence. As I approached, he gestured that I come closer and said he was looking
for a tiger.
There were no large animals or predators in these forests, but I
didn't waste time with useless questions, for I had enough curiosity
and a lot of time; I had him tell me the names and helped the man
in his search for the tiger.
Through scrub and tall cutting grass I ran, calling the name of
the tiger about in the windless calm, and I heard the man working
his way through the brush some distance away, whistling and shouting; after a long period of fruitless search in the forests I met him
again and he said: Now we must search for a bear; I saw a bear
run across the wooded hills, and that means the tiger has changed
his shape — the tiger exists no more.
We set off again, into the forests, going separate ways, calling all
the names of the bear into the many twilights, and I heard the grop-
63 ing and rustling, wood crackling and heavy footsteps on leaves and
stone, near and distant; when I met the man again in the blackest
middle of the forest he said: I saw a white elephant ambling through
the bushes; the bear exists no more.
We split up and fought our way through forest and more forest,
endless and cool; we called out many names and searched for the
elephant but could not find him. And after many hours of search
the man said: Now we must search for a wolf. And we searched
for the wolf and in the afternoon I found the man sitting exhausted
on a tree-stump and he said: I saw the wolf transformed before my
eyes; we must search for a black fox.
With branches and sticks we prodded the sandpits and tunnels
under the tree roots, the impenetrable underbrush, the swampy
ponds, and I climbed a tree, sat high above the forest floors, gazed
far out across the trees and into the luminous sky, descended again,
crawled over the mosses and through the fields of fern, but I found
no black fox.
What am I to do with the fox if I find him? I asked the man.
You must call me, he said. You must hold him until I arrive. So I
set off into the forests once more, very tired now, and encountered,
toward evening, a man-sized crow, standing motionless in the underbrush. I stopped abruptly and asked: Crow — are you the one we're
looking for?
She nodded and hobbled toward me. Does the man already know-
that you are a crow? I asked. Has he already seen you? No, said the
crow, he is still searching for the black fox.
The crow seemed very exhausted.
I am helping with the search, I said. I presume you know about
that, do you? Yes, I know it, said the crow; I saw you run past me
when I was a bear, taking a short rest behind a heap of stones. You
could easily have torn me to pieces, I said. Yes, said the crow, easily.
But I wasn't much interested. I could hack you to pieces right now,
provided you didn't get ahead of me and rammed your stick into
my beak. But it doesn't much interest me.
I didn't quite know how to cope with this animal; I said: If you
like I won't tell the man anything about it. That I met you in the
form of a crow. You can stay, I'll keep the man away from you.
Actually I don't even really know what is happening here. You can
rest a bit, but stay awake. I will return.
The crow rocked from one foot to the other. What would the
man do if he found you? I asked. What does he have in mind?
Chain me up or put me in a cage, answered the crow. I only sus-
64 pect it however. I don't know for certain; he could also butcher and
eat me. It depends on what will occur to him when he finds me in
the form of a crow.
Does he have any right to you? I asked. I mean, did he build you
a fine cage when you were a tiger; did he feed you? He had hunted
me before I was a tiger, said the crow. He's a great hunter.
I asked the crow: Are you planning to transform yourself again?
She answered: I can do it once more, only once.
Good, I said. I'll let the man search on for the fox then. And I
went through the forests, met the man, hoarse from shouting and
tired, and we decided to continue the search for the black fox. I
have hunted the tiger and all animals before him, said the man. I
have hunted the bear and the elephant; now I am hunting the black
fox. I am a hunter. Of this I exist. And I need the beast; I will possess it. Should it sit on the towers of Peking in the form of a parrot,
I would hunt it down.
What do you plan to do with it? I asked.
What do I plan to do with it?! cried the man impatiently. But
that's of no consequence! I must have it, I must own it; now go
and search for the black fox.
We separated, and while the hunter shouted for the black fox in
the forest, I ran to the crow. By now I was myself possessed of the
desire to own the crow. She was still there, standing on the same
spot. Do you want to come with me? I asked. I like you, you would
no longer be hunted .. .
The crow looked at me and nodded her big head. We walked
along, the crow staggering and sleepy at my side, looking for the
forests' exit; we found it late in the evening as the dusk blackened
the forests and entered the plain. The hunter will not leave the
forest, I said. You can rest here.
The crow lay down in the grass, I laid my head under the crow's
wing and we spent the night on the plain near the forests full of
shouts and growls; next morning we rose and left together.
We ran through the hot day that gleamed over the plain. On the
periphery of the flatland the forests disappeared, small and grey;
sparse grass moving in the wind surrounded us. And after hours of
running through the plain I asked the crow if she would fly up to
ascertain our position.
I can't fly, said the crow.
I begged the crow to at least try. She flapped her wings, flung
herself about, hopped, turned around heavily, pulled in her feet,
dragged her wings across the ground raising dust in clouds, but
65 nothing more was accomplished than a few clumsy jumps. The
crow's breath rattled and her eyes were wild.
Yes, you certainly can't fly, I said. Never mind it then. And we
continued through the immense heat. After some hours we reached
a small town. There were trees in whose shadows we rested, and we
washed at a water-trough. After I had had my drink, the crow flung
herself into the water, flapped her wings, shook herself, sprayed
water about, sucked water into her beak with great loud gulps.
Many people gathered in the doorways and around the well, pointed
their fingers at the crow and laughed, encircled her carelessly; but
the crow either failed to notice or ignored them. I explained to the
people that I was taking this animal to a zoo in the city; I expected
to receive a lot of money, I said.
Soon after we left the town (the people made way only reluctantly) and I apologized to the crow; I said: I needed an excuse
for the people. I've already understood that, she said. She didn't
seem particularly disconcerted.
We went on across the plain and came across low hills in the
early afternoon. I'd like to make you a suggestion, I said. You still
have another transformation left, haven't you?
Yes, said the crow, why do you want to know?
What kind is it? I continued. Is it a conspicuous one?
Is it absolutely necessary that you know? asked the crow.
You see, I said, here's a suggestion: listen to it. We will be coming through many small towns and occasionally a large city. We will
see many people, a thousand and more on a single day you understand. It would be simpler if you could transform yourself once
more, providing that it would make you less conspicuous.
Why, asked the crow. I am a crow; no one need be ashamed at
being seen with a crow.
That's true, I said. But have you ever seen a real crow?
No, answered the crow. I know very little about crows. I have
learned from you that I am a crow. And that I am called a crow.
You see, that's it, I said. Real crows are small; you are thirty
times, maybe forty times as large as a normal crow. And you are the
only crow that has ever been so large. Therefore you are invalid as
a crow when we find ourselves among people. As a dog, for example, you would hardly be conspicuous; there are hundreds of
kinds of dogs, very large ones, very small ones. But there is only one
type of crow; everyone knows that.
The crow walked along beside me and pondered a long time. I
don't quite understand you, she said. I want to save my last part,
66 you see, because it is the last. Formerly I changed quickly and
thoughtlessly, but now I have to think a long time before giving
anything up. That's the first thing. The second thing is: why
shouldn't I stay the crow that I am? I like being a crow, as I liked
being an elephant for example. And very much disliked changing
from an elephant into a wolf. I'd much rather stay a crow; even in
the cities through which we will pass as you say.
You could be hunted again, I said.
I hadn't thought of that, said the crow.
It would be good to think about it, I said. We passed the night
in a hut close to a river; rain fell during the night and honed the
tin roof gently. In the morning the crow said to me: You must not
misunderstand; I have my pride as a crow as well. I'd like to remain a crow, even if we come to a city where crows of my size aren't
known. I will remain a crow.
All right, I said, you shall remain a crow. If I could force you
into a transformation I would, but I can't. And your pride gives me
a certain satisfaction.
For a few days we passed through grass and plains, downstream.
Later we came to a city; it was early autumn and the nights had
become cool. I led the crow over boulevards and great streets. She
had never been in a city, but didn't seem particularly bewildered;
she walked along beside me with clear calm eyes. On the evening of
the first day, they threw stones at us; the crow winced and staggered. Soon we were completely encircled by a mob of people who
drove us through the streets at a faster and faster pace. I was soon
I don't know this city, Crow, I said as the people closed in. I
don't know where you could crawl to hide.
The crow remained silent, restless and close to me.
Transform yourself now! I said desperately. Do it quickly.
No, said the crow, and I saw her begin to shake. The tips of her
wings twitched, she tried to flap her wings. Many stones were already landing on the crow; her beak stared, opened wide.
Transform yourself for goodness sake! I shouted. Go on, change!
But the crow continued to hop and run clumsily down the street;
the crowd fell back before her as far as they could. More and more
people followed the crow, faster and faster, more and more stones
rattled down onto her back; she swayed and tottered. Suddenly the
crow turned and looked at me. She searched with her small wild
helpless eyes until she found me in the crowd. And she began to
change. It was a slow procedure; she stretched painfully, black
67 crows' feathers scattering over the crowd, which started back in
horror and huddled together into a tight knot. The crow transformed itself silently, expanding, contracting, like uncertain dents.
And then it was done. An enormous black blind cat stood alone
against the crowd, with wet empty eye-sockets and bristling hair full
of crows' feathers. She hissed in loud hoarse spits. Immobile on the
spot; only groping a little around the ground.
I understood the crow a little better then.
The people resumed their throwing of rocks at the cat; more and
more stones. The cat rotated on the spot, hissing, until she collapsed.
Stones and crows' feathers continued to fly. The crowd had released
me long ago, and I ran off through the strange city.
68 poetRy in east afRica
Africa in general and East Africa in particular are suffering from
the results of a major cultural breakdown. In all parts of Africa the
colonial experience caused a form of cultural shock. In East Africa,
where colonization was accompanied by the arrival of large English
and even larger Indian minorities, this shock led to partial amnesia.
The English imposition of European values was absent-minded and
incomplete, but its destruction of the indigenous, though equally
absent-minded, was pretty thorough. As a result traditional African
modes were crippled without anything solid being put in their place.
With the growth of nationalist feelings, the vague notion that
"British is best" was replaced by an equally vague notion that "African is best." This, however, merely raised the question: "What, in
20th-century terms, is African?" There is no possibility of merely
going back to what existed in pre-colonial times. In material terms,
the "African" culture (based on a tribal society, subsistence economy and so on) is being left behind as fast as possible. Yet everything "modern" can be regarded as "un-African." This does not
matter in material terms. Motor cars may have originated in "the
West," but since they are merely useful gadgets, nobody cares. But
art is important — it changes lives and societies, or threatens to do
so. The fact that traditional African art (of which there was less in
East than in West Africa anyway) is meaningless in the 1960's, and
that African poets are operating in a largely "foreign" medium is,
therefore, of major social importance. If the arts contribute fundamentally to the health of a society, the demand for "Africanism" in
art is not merely a demand for the right shade of trimmings.
In East Africa, oddly, enough, this situation has not resulted in a
stultifying self-consciousness, as it might well have done. Though
Ommar Nassar says his ambition is "to become a true African in
69 the cultural sense" and many poets would agree with him, most go
beyond this and sense that to insist too much on Africanness (and
thus difference) is in a way to belittle one's humanity. Walter Be-
goya comments: "I do admit that often I write about my experiences as one of a world of the poor, the hungry and the alienated.
Now the poor are found all over, so are the hungry — hungry for
love, for flavour and hungry for peace — of mind, of the soul, etc."
Somehow a course must be steered which neither develops into
a rootless internationalism, nor clings to the past like a hysterical
mother to a dead baby. Edwin Waiyaki puts the basic problem
"No one writing in East Africa today could ignore the great responsibility that must rest on the shoulders of artists there. It consists
in the battle to preserve our cultural heritage, for though 'our customs are dug up and put aside' we view mere imitation as most repugnant. By the brink of the abyss that divides us from the world
of our ancestors, we may feel helpless. Yet we must struggle to retain a certain colour, a certain identity and character, for loss of
these could in the ultimate mean loss of independence itself."
Though the struggle mentioned by Waiyaki may devolve largely
on Africans, it is not one during which Europeans and Asians (using
the words in their East African sense) need or can stand by. Although the immigrant communities represent only a small proportion of the total population, they represent a high proportion of the
literate population. Culturally they still belong to their separate
backgrounds rather than to their environment. However, just as East
Africa is materially an unformed hotchpotch of "African" and "non-
African," it is also a place of human variety. The immigrant groups
have contributed to making East Africa what it is (for better and
worse) and they will continue to do so in one way or another. Even
the "expatriates" have a role to play.
Poets like Kassam, Theroux and Chaplin thus have a meaningful
part in the East African dialogue, even though an undefined one ■—■
and so do Africans like Rubadiri whose origins are outside East
Africa. In their different ways they are part of the present, and thus
influence the future.
Theoretical problems are not the end of the difficulties which beset East African artists. On a more basic level, they suffer from a
great lack of contact with any form of art, whether "African" or
"foreign." "Westerners" do not realize how much they are surrounded by their own culture. A child growing up in the least
artistically-minded home can always, if it wants to, find books or
70 art galleries (if only occasionally). But most East African children
grow up in areas where there are no books within thirty miles except
Bibles and elementary school primers. Schools are little help, since
in poverty-stricken countries where any sort of secondary education
is a privilege, the syllabus is confined to the "basic" five or six
If a writer has read only a few poems by a few poets, these are
likely to influence his work more obviously than if he had read more
widely. To a greater degree than in Europe, people who obviously
have something to say produce grotesque pastiches of Jacobean or
Victorian styles without any awareness that poetry does not reside
in this. Naturally, the better poets use their influences deliberately.
Rubadiri's "Stanley Meets Mutesa" makes an entirely conscious and
effective use of its models. Okola's echoing of Eliot, though less consistently successful, is equally deliberate. And if Kassam's language
is at times reminiscent, so is that of any but the most major poets
On the credit side, African poets are not constricted by too great
an awareness of what has been done (and thus by fear of being unoriginal) . There is a feeling that everything is possible and a lack of
linguistic self-consciousness which can lead to the splendidly unruly
Sturm und Drang of Ommar Nassar, and equally well to work like
"The Beard," a disconcerting cartoon-caption in poetic form.
To recognize this freshness is not of course to imply that these are
in any way "primitive" or "instinctive" poets. Good, bad or indifferent, they are all conscious artists. But stylistic experimentation and
too much "literariness" does not appeal to them. There is too much
excitement in exploring a world which does not hold still long
enough for them to get bored.
It is impossible to convey the exhilaration of even a rather stuffy
African country like Kenya. Everything is potentiality, even the
worst chaos seems to carry the seeds of creativity. As a result, much
East African poetry may be naive, but it is always alive and purposeful.
7i Three Poems by John Roberts
On October the twentieth, getting on for midnight
I sat, reading, in a room in Nairobi.
The emptiness outside
Rolled on a hundred miles to Kilimanjaro
Broken by nothing but some lions
The petrol pumps of Kajiado
And the Masai minding their own business,
Their endless herds of status-symbols.
"In my land", Wepukhulu told me,
"The people eat termites. They have little traps
made of bent sticks: termites come out with rain,
So many people know a trick to lure them —
A special kind of rhythm with the drums".
Now when I hear thunder
I absent-mindedly cock an ear and wonder.
At a place called Shika Adabu
The dry leaves of the coconut are clattering in the breeze.
Bakari, numbed by a life of yesterdays,
Raises a finger from his fruitstall as the morning passes
Behind his barricades of jack-fruit,
Pineapples, paw-paw and the green husks
of the madafu of just a little while ago.
The woman has nothing graceful and her breasts hang free.
She chews a twig as she goes, water on her head,
Raises a hand to Bakari and passes on
Towards the making of her husband's tea.
John Roberts has recently left Kenya after working there as a journalist. He
is unhappy about being regarded as an "East African" poet, but reconciled because some of his poems are appearing in the East African Publishing House's
anthology, and because any attempt at a definition of an "East African" poet
leaks like a colander anyway. Some of his poetry is definitely "East African" in
any meaningful sense. He is responsible for editing this selection of poems.
Even the quivering hair split,
Like firewood assailed by the axe,
As harsh palms ignite
Your ancestor's spirit.
A fetish, his tone grows lax,
As nature's eyes are anger lit.
Then there is smoke
From the burning eyes.
Dust obscures the star,
A silhouette of the unseen.
Then darkness, then the moon;
And then, from eternity,
Brighter, bigger, flies a meteor.
Fatigued? No.
It peels,
Like thunder treading on the clouds.
The last flesh quivers,
The palms ruthlessly act,
Setting the drum on heat.
It goes,
Heat, flames, light.
Hear how they bear words.
The tongue of laughter,
And of sadness and of joy;
Tongue of truth and of deceit.
Word of the living.
A dream?   Voice of the unseen.
Dark or destructive,
In them tears of expectation.
Valour rules.
See how storms subside,
The thin fat burns,
The drum is on heat.
74 Listen!
The magic voice chants.
It echoes speech.
Meaning of the shadows?
Yes, the faceless,
They speak of tomorrow,
The living and the infinite.
Lo! They consume.
See how stony hearts melt,
How the liquid of bones freezes.
Eyes swell and burst,
When, in their caves,
They're by fear attacked;
When legs pitilessly twist,
Like rubber under cold flesh.
But the drum?
It quivers,
It sings, it laughs, it cries,
Now a friend, now a foe,
Louder, clearer, it sounds.
Tingting, Tingting, it sounds;
Continues, untiringly,
Harsher, harder.
Ommar Nassar was born in the west of Kenya, near Lake Victoria, in 1941.
He went to the Soviet Union in 1963, and studied Fundamentals of International Law and Philology. He has had poems published in Soviet magazines and
recited some on stage. At present he works for the Ministry of Information in
In the pulpit he swayed and turned.
Leaned forward, backward,
To the right: to the left.
His solemn voice echoed;
Lowly the congregation followed.
"Do you love your neighbour?"
Meekly they bow at his keen eye
Now examining a grey head
Heaving under her sobs.
His heart leaped assured —
"Her sins weigh on her!"
So with her he chats outside;
"Weep not child you are pardoned."
"But sir, your beard conjured up
The spirit of my dear goat!"
Proscovia Rwakyala, a Ugandan, is studying English at University College,
76 Two Poems by Paul Theroux
Wishing only to continue the ceremony of crime
the chief drives a nail through the skull of a felon,
and the subjects applaud this ritual carpentry.
Like a high mass this regular ceremony makes each
bystander pure — the regal pounding, the ring of
witnesses: the man watching punishment does not have
to grope for guilt.
The felon falls to his elbows and shrieks a spout
of blood, and this completes the cycle, purifies
all who watched the sacrifice.   So much for this place.
In my country criminals are inconsiderate, break the rules
of crime, slap people around and pinch women's breasts;
and the President's friends keep blood off his hands.
The Sikh winds his turban in the train and
outside men walk in files to work; the train
chuffs along parallel tracks as the Sikh in his seat
binds his head. He knots the cloth and the ritual
passes as the men and train. And I dream of the
love I let pass needlessly into design.
The African says yes and then giggles, and what
one might think is mannerism is belief; all
those scattered yesses have broken most great faiths
77 faster than Arabs or wenches, have shaken
doubt, routed tribes of kneeling Madrassi, stopped
clocks, and whole governments wobble on this giddy assent.
God is free!   and a body barking is awful;
Africa confounds the flesh, then waits;
one man purrs in silence, another dashes
alone, squandering screams, frayed as my parrot
until the skin wakes gauzy, gasping with
the inching of a blade.   The skin's own
hand knows the sullen doubts, the weight
of anger, but the man lost somewhere in his skin
yaps his curses and fills his mouth with the lie of pain.
That man that's scared of fires runs from hens:
it's all the same to him, gas goes with Jews,
death and god with hot days and fresh meat;
up the road he steps across dead shells of snakes:
thoughts of shifting skin, of soil, just as bad;
poison stays and nothing skin can do will change it.
and onward, on to skies, white clouds and grass:
there is rain there, and under rain are snails.
He lugs himself away from friends.   There's always horror.
Prepare for the worst and don't
blame me for blood, my love: we
helped ourselves to prison.
Immortalised, unrecognised in a
bhang-coloured child, the abuse
will be real, and daily the gipsy —
swollen nightmares.   Limp
with worry, sodden with gone lust,
we will discover together the
dense regions that lie beyond blood.
Paul Theroux, who is an American of 25, has been in Africa for more than
three years, first in Malawi and now as a lecturer in English of the Extra-Mural
Department of Makerere. He has published poems in magazines both in and out
of Africa, has a novel appearing in March and another soon after, and has written a book about anarchy called Notes For A Curfew.
79 Two Poems by Walter Begoya
There are no lights
or alleys on my block
there are only coconuts
some light posts
whose bulbs have been broken
and telephone posts
to my wealthy neighbour.
I never hear of razors
or homosexuals
Beatniks or pot.
It is an active street —
the noise of crickets
frogs and other beings.
I am never afraid of gun points
Never write of street numbers
and happenings.
It is quiet here
my mind has no enemies.
I share my brew with flies
and small feces
in the palm grove
revived by the recent rains —
and so in this quiet place
the mind is slowly eaten
and chances of escape pass
and life is a quiet fire
thawing first a cold heart
and then burning hotly.
Had he come as a gazer into our futures
or as a clown juggling his wares
to amuse our children
He'd have collected from our house
a basketful of beans
From our neighbour a bunch of bananas
before he tired of this "dull town"
But he came as a beggar
a thief and a villain.
The naught of our boys fell upon him
the dogs barked
and he had no meat to give them to calm them as he ran.
Stones were thrown at him
and his feet gave in even
under the sure danger.
Thirst drove him to the well
where he left his jiggers —
the next day he lay by the footpath
his head towards the headman's compound —
the end of the beggar's adventure here
and the scandal is still with us.
Walter Begoya is 25 and works for the Tanzanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
in Dar es Salaam. He is a graduate in International Relations and Economics
of the University of Kansas and started writing there because "being so far
from my own country and aware at every turn of my being a stranger gave
birth to a desire to talk to myself."
8l Two Poems by David Rubadiri
Such a time of it they had;
The heat of the day
The chill of the night
And the mosquitoes that followed.
Such was the time and
They bound for a kingdom.
The thin weary line of carriers
With tattered dirty rags to cover their backs;
The battered bulky chests
That kept on falling off their shaven heads.
Their tempers high and hot
The sun fierce and scorching
With it rose their spirits
With its fall their hopes
As each day sweated their bodies dry and
Flies clung in clumps on their sweat-scented backs.
Such was the march
And the hot season just breaking.
Each day a weary pony dropped,
Left for the vultures on the plains;
Each day a human skeleton collapsed,
Left for the Masai on the plains;
But the march trudged on
Its Khaki leader in front
He the hope that inspired.
He the light of hope.
Then came the afternoon of a hungry march,
A hot and hungry march it was;
The Nile and the Nyanza
Lay like two twins
Azure across the green countryside.
82 The march leapt on chaunting
Like young gazelles to a water hole.
Hearts beat faster
Loads felt lighter
As the cool water lapt their sore soft feet.
No more the dread of hungry hyenas
But only tales of valour when
At Mutesa's court fires are lit.
No more the burning heat of the day
But song, laughter and dance.
The village looks on behind banana groves,
Children peer behind reed fences.
Such was the welcome
No singing women to chaunt a welcome
Or drums to greet the white ambassador;
Only a few silent nods from aged faces
And one rumbling drum roll
To summon Mutesa's court to parley
For the country was not sure.
The gate of reeds is flung open,
There is silence
But only a moment's silence —
A silence of assessment.
The tall black king steps forward,
He towers over the thin bearded white man
Then grabbing his lean white hand
Manages to whisper
"Mtu mweupe karibu"
White man you are welcome.
The gate of polished reed closes behind them
And the west is let in.
The Prison farm at Saaka
cradles craggy trunks
old and grey
on which pelicans perch;
Saaka they say
is a crater lake,
bottomless —
ringed with banana homes
the feminine complexity
of prison
and fertility;
It was in this water of life
as the children call it
that one evening
quiet and still
Swooped a troop of crested cranes
Ngaali on the wing,
as we held hands
swirling upwards
crested high
majestically borne
like priests of Osiris
to nest.
David Rubadiri was born in Malawi in 1930. He studied English at Makerere
University College, Kampala, in Uganda. After a period of detention in 1959
when a state of emergency was declared in his home country, he went to England and continued to study English at Cambridge. He is now with the National
Institute of Education attached to Makerere.
Is it not better
that / kill my brother?
Do I not know
each beating of his heart,
and how his mind moves;
what lights, what dulls his eyes?
Is it not better
that / kill my brother:
Rather than a stranger
who loves neither of us?
Jim Chaplin was born in London in 1924. He first visited Africa in 1943 and
has "been in, or thought of, it ever since." He is Inspector of Ancient Monuments in Uganda, and has just finished a thesis on prehistoric art for the University of East Africa.
85 Two Poems by Timothy Wangusa
When with prophetic eyes I look into the future
I see that I shall perish upon this road
Driving men that I do not know.
This metallic monster that now I dictate,
This docile elaborate horse
That in silence seems to simmer and strain,
Shall surely revolt some tempting day.
Thus I shall die, not that I care
For any man's journey,
Nor for proprietor's gain,
Nor yet for love of my own.
Not for these do I attempt the forbidden limits,
For these defy the traffic-man and the cold cell,
Risking everything for the little little more.
They shall say, I know, who pick up my bones,
"Poor chap, another victim to the machine."
But in my blood, not the metal, lies the cause.
Slowly our sundered chains mend,
And our hands tied behind us.
Diseased is the air,
Distorted the framework,
And confused the way.
Our sun sets at dawn,
Night broils knife-edge plots,
And brother turns monster
Upon the ascent to the mountain top,
Amid unheeded sighs.
Our portion dwindles and shrivels,
And like those punished by Love
For apostate songs to idols,
Past the scenes of the festivity
That marked the day of our triumph,
Perplexed and gagged,
Back we creep into our dark cells
Will there be another release?
Timothy Wangusa is a student of English at Makerere University College.
87 Three Poems by Edwin Waiyaki
Rain breaking on roof thatch
Is opiate harbinger of harvest
Faintly bleeding
The heart of the same sorrow
As sight of lovers clinging
At farewell time .. .
And in the hut
The drowsy children
Dangle shaved heads
Around the steaming pot. . ..
And the blood of the mother
Ripples to the soothing throb
Of water striking straw.
To these whom this rain-music
Lulls to sleep,
calm dreams:
Perhaps at festival
Bare-breasted dancers loom
To exotic drums
And frenzied plead
Of spasmodic flutes.
At start of day
Rays streaming
From the womb of heaven
Through cracks,
Peer at peaceful faces
And pounded food —
Caking unkissed away —
On rounded cheeks.
88 And I would each day love this drone
Of music muffled
To drug me to sleep.
Rain falling
On iron sheet or brick
Rattles like grit
Prattling menaces	
A portly father tells
Of spurting guns and blood
To a blue-eyed mother
And a toddling trio.
And in depth of night
A fat, sweating soldier
Firing from a trench
Wakens to the yelling of a child
Frozen by the muzzle of a bully's toy.
And when at last light
Dreamers ushers back
To busy yesterday,
A trembling child
Is hiding in his sheets!
But I would from the outset
Loathe to feel
My tinglish nerves,
Unhinged by raucous rain,
Run riot against my bones.
The woman I married
Is an outright bone-shaker.
For a full decade
She had banged a typewriter
And now in substitution
Rattles the crockery
Until my house sounds like a factory.
The noise keeps her sane,
They say.
I have heard the leaves fall
From the trees with the soft patter
Of rats' feet on bare boards.
The tiring mourners
Lift gaunt hands skywards
In sad supplication.
They pray,
The stripped skeletons pray
To the season-god to return their summer.
90 And the god gives his answer
Of the hissing wind,
Chilling to the bone.
Oh I have heard the leaves fall
From the trees like the soft tread
Of my beloved's sandals on bare boards.
And I,
Lone watcher in the woods,
Lost in midst of evening twilight
Turn misted eyes to heaven
And I pray
To Him of autumn and of the howling wind:
I pray,
I stripped skeleton pray
Would she could wake —
Still, ashen figure in long robe of white;
I pray,
I stooped skeleton pray
Would she could rise,
Serene stricken figure in long robe of white.
But God gives his answer
In the scourging wind . . .
Stinging to the bone.
Edwin Waiyaki was born in Kenya in 1942. He grew up in a revolutionary
time when creative writers did not exist. He now lives in Paris where he is
taking a course in diplomacy.
I have seen the flattened noses
of girls who have fallen a thousand times,
always face-downwards as if praying
to Mother Earth for fertility.
And the boys fall on their backs
looking up to the sun
as their ancestors did
even before Cupid was born
Like Tiresias
I have been through it all,
have smelled the sickening perfumes
and the odours of filthy sweat in dark alleys.
I have seen two figures
Silhouetted against a mudstained wall
in a nameless street,
or behind some scrap of a car in Grogan Road
And like the Theban seer
I have remained unmoved;
a blind spectator
in a game that has no beginning
and needs no end.
92 I have turned away in disgust
at the writing on the walls
in public conveniences
where frustration and animal instinct
embrace in happy symbiosis,
and have wondered to myself
if the walls next door
are also besmirched with pictures
which call for no comment;
and then I have closed my eyes in shame
and prayed for a Cassandra
whose word would be heeded.
In a deserted Nairobi church
I have raised a diffident voice
in protest at a wedding ceremony,
and have laughed in pain
at skeleton faces peeping out
of dirty curtains to watch the procession.
I have heard the strangled cry
of a baby at birth, forcing its way
into a dying world, and disproving
the old law that one and one is two.
Leonard Okola, after studying literature at the University of East Africa, has
taken up a post with the East African Publishing House, the only purely local
publishers in the area. He has been involved in the first anthology of East African verse, published in the New Year.
93 Two Poems by K. A. Kassam
Once when birds of season
Circled the lemon-blind sky
I caught a solitary bird
Mid-flight in my desperate eye.
It cried: "Here have strangers brought
Their nightmarish dreams with them,
Passionate bloodhound thoughts
And a masquerade for name.
"Here by the desolate shore
Of a wild and wind-tossed sea
They heard drums begin to strike
And the devil to shake the tree".
Another that dipped its wings
Stirred the water into rings,
Rose upon the wind and flew,
Proclaiming with eye-lids of dew:
"Here with a raging thirst
They turned their pale wind-swept
Faces, and turning grieved with
The tides;   naked, they wept.
"Now the silver-mirroring-sea
Is cold between their knees
Where, through the everlasting night
The fantastic desire sleeps."
"Yet!" exclaimed a third
Close to the tapering west,
"Look, how perfect the stars knit
Patterns in the night's fabric!"
Were I some velvet wind
In dawn's elemental pursuit, I would
My way tonight wing a sad and secret flight.
Ghost-like, amidst
Strange wooden years and
The spontaneous drift of leaves;   I would
The palm-tree dispute and calling upon the sea
That mirrors
A broken moon, I would
Were I some velvet wind, quest all
Knowledge of time and place, for the image that
Became Man.
K. A. Kassam, who is 22, is studying Literature and Economics at the University College, Nairobi. He was born and brought up in Mombasa, and says: "My
childhood and youth near the sea has had, I think, a considerable effect on my
Put a drop in a pool
Put light in darkness
Make noise in solitude
Do an act in society
And observe the waves
Moving in circles on top
to reach some solid and back
Then all is ready for another.
All disturbances resound
And all are mortal
Affecting the surface for a time
Leaving the depths untouched;
Then why mind disturbances
The depths are well safeguarded.
Joe Mutioa was born in Kenya in 1940, has worked with the Kenya Government as an Administrative Officer and is now with Nelson Publishers in Nairobi.
96 Peter Knowles has had poems in Trace and Contemporary Literature. He is
in the graduate writing program at the University of British Columbia.
Two Commentaries
One evening in January of this year I was discussing the layers of
reality in Cervantes with my wife, and the problems of the creation
of an atemporal realm of fantasy, particularly considering the work
done by Tolkien, Sartre and of course Robbe-Grillet. A fiction of
Borges came to mind, "El Inmortal." I did not have the story at
hand and we pondered some of those collected in Ficciones, particularly the concepts proffered in "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius", and
the immensity of the implications of the Encyclopedia of Tlon, compared with the semi-teasing, semi-satisfying account that Borges
himself gives. But my mind turned continuously to the Homer of
"El Inmortal" and I resolved to bring it to bear on our discussion.
For the next couple of weeks I searched the libraries and book
shops for a volume containing the narrative, but could not lay hands
on one. Then in a dusty corner of a second-hand book-dealer I came
across a beautifully leather-bound printing of "El Aleph." It proved
to be Number 27 of the fifty specially bound editions of the book,
printed in September, 1957, by Emece Editores, S.A. in Buenos
Aires. It was in good condition and contained an envelope of some
bulk under the back cover. I purchased it and, pleased with my fortune, took it home. At home I reread "El Inmortal" satisfying myself that this Homeric Quixote had traversed centuries, moralities
and disciplines much as the Sorrowful Knight had crossed the barriers of time in his own travellings. Then I turned to some of the
other stories, thumbing pages to gather something of the tone of the
collection. As I did so the envelope slipped out and I glanced at the
97 postmark and address. It was marked as mailed in a Paris suburb,
dated October 31, 19,61, and was addressed to the Director de La
Biblioteca Nacional, Buenos Aires, Jorge Luis Borges.
Uncertain of the meaning of this discovery I shook the contents
of the envelope onto the table and separated the resulting papers
into two letters. Both were in French, one typed and the other handwritten, the former a carbon-copy addressed to M. Alain Robbe-
Grillet and with the typed signature of Borges appended to the body,
leaving space for the signature on the original, and the latter addressed to Borges and signed by Robbe-Grillet. Flushed with surprise and excitement I ignored all considerations of privacy and
read first Borges' letter and then the other. I then typed out copies,
and translations, and enclosed both letters and envelope in a second
envelope with a third letter of explanation and mailed them to the
National Library in Buenos Aires.
Here is an account of the most interesting parts of each of these
letters, translated to the best of my ability and edited only with a
view to brevity and some regard for the privacy of these two gentlemen. I will, of course, expect that these go no further. While publication might be of great interest, consideration must be made for
personal confidences (to say nothing of the laws of copyright).
My Dear M. Robbe-Grillet,
After reading your recently published book, In the Labyrinth, I
determined to impose upon your time with certain questions and
comments provoked by this remarkable book. In it, and to a lesser
extent in your earlier work, Jealousy, I detect for the first time in
literature an attempt to create a labyrinth of the kind described in
an earlier narrative of mine — "The Garden of the Forking Paths".
The riddle inscribed by Ts'ui Pen into his book and his ivory is such
as you have framed in your etching. That Stephen Albert was murdered before he could publish his elucidating version of the book
was perhaps part of the riddle; that you should write In the Labyrinth is, in some sense, directed to the glory of Ts'ui Pen; this too,
no doubt, was foreseen.*
You have evolved a world of blacks and whites, of muted greys
and browns, far different from the pastels and blossom tones that
would have coloured Ts'ui Pen's Garden, yet oddly appropriate to
the ivory labyrinth that Albert kept in his study. For in such a creation what is more striking than the initial effect of contrast, only to
*This last phrase ironically echoes the last sentence of Borges' story, "Theme
of the Traitor and Hero".
98 be replaced, upon closer examination, by wonder at not only the
intricacy of the craftsmanship, but the play of light, diffusing and
re-engaging in the invisible inner passages and corners. The passageways are beyond ken but exist as an inseparable part of the whole;
the shadings of light and dark reveal this and hide it. Where colour
might distract per ipse, shades of all colour and none intensify. And
just as, if a gleam of colour were to lance from within some crevice,
it would be irrelevant and subservient to the total structure, so the
red diamond-shaped plate bearing the regimental numbers on the
soldier's coat glitters insignificantly in his life and his death. Such
sparks of colour are initially conspicuous in their solitude, but lapse
quickly into the perspective of their oblique and ever-twisting surroundings.
Where Joyce has painted the myriad reflected lights of a city in
the calm waters of its harbour, you have given meaning to the darkness of the interstices, the blacks and greys between. Few enough
writers have considered the problem of concurrent time, and even
fewer philosophers, Bergsonian time being little advanced on that of
Newton and Schopenhauer, and Einstein's quadratics holding little
interest for our modern seekers of wisdom, they remaining bound in
existential paradoxes, or grasping for meaning in linguistic analysis.
As Heidegger is perhaps the last philosopher, perhaps Sartre is the
first 'philosophe' to work time anew. The Irish, Joyce and Yeats, in
their work, returned 'viricordo cordovico' to the cyclic theories of
elder days, but Sartre touched new ground in La Nausee with his
vision of past, present and future in the steps of the "Vieille cloporte!
Je suppose qu'elle va tourner a droite dans le boulevard Noir. Ca lui
fait une centaine de metres a parcourir; du train dont elle va, elle
y mettra bien dix minutes, dix minutes pendant lesquelles je resterai
comme ga, a la regarder, le front colle contre la vitre. Elle va s'ar-
reter vingt fois, repartir, s'arreter. .. .
Je vois Favenir. II est la., pose dans la rue, a. peine plus pale que
le present. Qu'a-t-il besoin de se realiser? Qu'est-ce que ca lui don-
nera de plus?"
Did Sartre know in 1938 what he was doing? Whether he did or
not is immaterial. Others knew and have gone where "le grand lit-
terasophe" feared to tread.* Eliot of course was saying the same
thing in 'Burnt Norton' but sans panache; Pound was playing literary soccer with historic-poetic time in the Cantos. But perhaps it
is the film that has sparked an awareness of time that had lain dormant since the Greeks, buried perhaps with the loss of the work
*This sentence Borges write in English as it appears here.
99 referred to by Aristotle entitled The Four Points of Time. This, by
the way, is a work which I am having some luck tracing in the
monastic library of Halerbicon, near Athens, and if I learn more
about it, I shall certainly make my findings public.
Returning to words in time, I find that the French have continued to pursue the elusive problem of moments most diligently,
and after considerable effort being expended by Camus, Gide and
Mandiargues in verbalizing the camera tricks of extended, foreshortened and unsequential time, your books now exist in the world
of time asequential. The labyrinth is entered and, if it is constructed
true to principle, we may wander there for all eternity.
But so far your worlds are isolated, symptomatically universal but
generically self-delineated. Why have you thus far limited the universe to starkness? Your mode demands expansion but you have
made it self-sufficient. Indeed I look to the day when we can venture into the deepest labyrinth of totality, immersed in the human
quantum, unrestricted by experiential habit and unfettered by the
limits of a situation. The labyrinth of Ts'ui Pen must be of a form
that consumes itself like the pelican and resurrects like the phoenix.
The wanderer must be a Homer, a Shakespeare, an Everyman, an
Arthur, a Quixote. Ts-ui Pen is Alain Robbe-Grillet is Jorge Borges
is all men. He must do this thing, Alain.
In the ivory walls,
J. L. Borges
My dear M. Borges,
Many thanks for your kind note. I have of course, known your
work for some years. But while I believe, as a writer in the 20th
century, in the work of James Joyce, and Andre Breton, I do not
totally believe in the world of Jorge Borges. Your books bear your
name, yet are you not Ts'ui Pen, writing of a book that you have
not written? Is Otto Dietrich zur Linde / David Jerusalem not perhaps an acronym for the man (or woman or child) that is writing
these fictions. The confessional entitled "Deutches Requiem" seems
to be the biography of a man who indeed "era el prototipo del judio
sefardi, si bien pertenecia a los depravados y aborrecidos Ashkena-
zim. Tu eres aquel hombre." You have admitted your complicity in
existence, my learned friend, You have absolved your blood-stained
hands by descriptions of the blood.
**Here Borges explains his findings up to the moment of writing and this, I
feel, should remain private until such time as he decides otherwise.
IOO Ts'ui Pen has indeed included my labyrinthine efforts in his mammoth Garden, and has foreseen my choices of the Forking Paths,
just as he has foreseen yours. He has created you for the position of
Amanuensis or Biographer. You have been limited in his plan to
writing of the creations of people whom Ts'ui Pen has already included. If you have been in one chapter my mentor, in a later, or
earlier chapter you are my stumbling block.
I have recently completed a screenplay entitled Last Year At
Marienbad in which a young man pursues a woman whom he may
or may not have known previously. The evidence strongly suggests
that she promised a year before to go away with him, deserting her
husband, but she now denies it, although he insists and eventually
conquers, perhaps. But this you must have observed in the Aleph,
that source of all light and darkness. Its transparency would demand inclusion of such an experience although perhaps you did not
notice this triangle, ignorant as you were of its meaning. Forgetful-
ness is indeed a blessing, as you commented at the time; but a blessing profoundly questioned by the young lady of my film.
You mention the techniques of camera that have influenced my
writing, correctly, of course, but you stopped short. The New Novel
and the New Film have learned much from the restrictive eye of the
camera, an eye that makes the universal a particular. No longer can
the differences in points of view be used to justify the individual.
The camera constructs universal co-ordinates. From wherever one
sees the screen one sees the same single view. The individuality must
therefore appear within. The variations must be created for the eye
as they are no longer inherent in the value-loaded co-ordinates of
the viewer. The universal optic must parade the particular deviation.
Reality is now at once more and less than three dimensional. Optically it is less, but factually it is more. The free schematic of time,
place and events demands a fourth dimension and this is the dimension I try for in my film.
It is also the dimension that is now free for experiment in literature. Our stories are no longer restricted to the realities of things
as Balzac saw them. Our labyrinths are now defined by a fourth
dimension that is related to the creation of choices and suppositions.
A chair is a chair is perhaps a chair is most definitely a chair.
But whereas in "Deutches Requiem" "Tu eres aquel hombre",
there is no such analogy, nor any at all in my creations. The facts
stand for themselves in a material reality.* Allegory and analogy I
leave to the followers of Chretien de Troyes; I believe in what is
* 'realite en substance'
101 and what is not — nebulous as these may be. They are my loves and
my material. With them, working outside the temporal-spacial continuum, I construct lonely men in the oblique dwellings of oblique
cities. The rectangular lines of the plantation and its mansion in
Jealousy; the geometric streets and buildings of the Paris of my soldier's labyrinth. Man has composed his own Symphonie en Ligne
Majeur, but has discovered it to be unsympathetic to his non-lineal
concepts of space and time in this century. The 'new novel' or 'new
film' is demanded by an advanced psyche, and the labyrinth is the
obvious answer. That a labyrinth prevents anything from happening
inside is self-evident. You have complained that my labyrinths are
self-contained and self-limiting. Ts'ui Pen would have left his Garden open at the sides. Perhaps so, but the form must dictate the
content to some extent. Last Year at Marienbad leaves the labyrinth
open at one end, at least, and demonstrates the possibility of such
flexibility. How much more freedom can be utilized will depend on
how many walls can be erased before the structure disappears. Rubber acts as both a supplemental construction material and as an
eraser, both positive and negative in its attributes.
That you or I or a voice from the dead will discern this open
labyrinth is to be profoundly wished. Until then,
I salute you,
Alain Robbe-Grillet
Some weeks after my discovery of these letters, I received a note
from Toronto, dated February 18, 1968. It was from Borges who
had been spending some months in that city when my envelope was
forwarded to him. He wrote as follows, this time in idiomatic English:
Dear Mr. Knowles,
I have just received your kind note and the enclosed letters. I was
most interested to see them again and learn something more of their
history. They contain a strange piece of correspondence, about the
origin of which I am as yet uncertain. I know these letters, of course,
but not as you might imagine.
I first received copies of them from a gentleman in Great Britain
in late October of 1957. At that time a great deal of their meaning
was lost to me, as many of the writings mentioned had been neither
penned nor published. I took them as a joke, and thought that I
had forgotten them when M. Robbe-Grillet's novel, In the Labyrinth, startled me into remembrance. I had never heard of the classi-
102 cal work, The Four Points of Time, but have since researched the
monastery mentioned and have indeed found references and several
extensive quotations from this work. Future travels will see me in
Alexandria, following up some of the leads.
Another note came to my attention in 1961 from Japan, where
a learned scholar had come across an ivory labyrinth initialled Ts'ui
Pen, and wished to inform me of it. I have seen it and it appears
to be genuinely fifty or sixty years old.
Your envelope contained the original of one of the letters and a
copy of the other; the original may some day appear. They have
indeed crossed the world in their travellings, but neither M. Robbe-
Grillet nor myself had a hand in their writing, or perhaps one or the
other of us did. Or perhaps it was you, yourself, that created these
letters. They are now a part of their own labyrinth and someday
one of us will discover the Aleph at the heart. For the Aleph must
exist at the emanating point of the great Labyrinth, the eye of the
imagination's cyclone.
Yours in hope,
J. L. Borges
103 Two Poems by David A. Giffin
Air has no meaning anymore.
Time has no relevance.
The world is water, and its weight.
The world is everywhere, and now.
Birds circle idly in air
That is blue, or is gray,
Or is heavy with fog, or perhaps
In a sky with a rainbow
They scratch at the water
And quickly return.
But the drowner has stopped
Looking upward; stopped caring
Except for the light all around him,
Exploding him downward;
Into the purest, most beautiful
World he has ever experienced,
Or ever shall, where all meaning
Is ultimate drifting and sinking;
Where fathoms and fathoms down,
The light itself goes black, and drowns.
Amidst the public acclamation of banality,
distraction from distraction tending
to obliteration of the senses;
all values questioned, none defined;
how long before the crystal mind
is left in fragments, seeking consolation
in the last and only refuge — silence?
What of the lonely man or woman, somewhere,
in a lonely room, waiting
for the letters never written, never sent;
the calls that didn't come;
what of this human being and his 'situation'
that society assures us will be met
with the 'appropriate response'?
The iron benediction of the drug
that falls, most dubious of thorny crowns,
upon his head, and a dirty bed,
oblivion without rest, and nothing,
nothing, left behind.
No matter — remembering that the attitudes
of 'those who care' can exercise
no slightest influence upon this act
of madness or despair.
David A. Giffin is in the Chemistry Department of Dalhousie University.
105 Two Poems by Jean-Jacques Celly
Translated from the French by Marguerite Edmonds
Each shadow has its face,
Each mirror its scar,
Each calyx its flower,
Every idiot its place.
But I have nothing: a desert of fear
I have lain empty for many a year.
Each lock has its peeper,
Every corpse its grave-digger,
Each falcon its prey,
Every route its sanctuary.
But I have nothing: I am clear,
I die modestly, a death hardly there.
Each brew has its old one,
The smallest rope its cold one,
Even the young raven
Finds some fruit forbidden.
I have nothing: I am for all.
God the Father I am called.
I want to light the cross-roads of night
For this footpath from which all track of prints has gone,
And for the traveller suddenly alone.
I know your houses, padlocked towns;
Your ringed eyes terrify the dazed birds
Who have no shelter but their own wings.
I want to be the inn, open and ready
For the hour when love is judged and weighed
And the true balance made.
I think of you, Lord, who in our night
Were the impulse guiding those without sight.
I think of you, Lord, dying
The same death each day:
The time has come to justify your thorns.
Jean-Jacques Celly teaches English at a lycee in Marseilles. He is Directeur
de Publication, in collaboration with Rosemary Wells-Marie, of the Poesie Vivante series of bilingual Cahiers. A Prix Valery winner, he has published five
books of poems.
Say that the clown became more broken-hearted
Than he should and yet held on until the laughter
ended —
To the happiest man self-righteously departed
The best things and the right thing can happen
He leaves his victim mangled in the tent,
His emotions do not need that figurehead upon their
The great white light, the open sea, lie full ahead.
How good it is to leave the working-shop of laughter
To one so versed in what it is to be deserted.
And yet the voyage keeps harking to the nest
His body makes, like a ship that dreads its skeleton
Lying somewhere breached upon the Islands of the Blest.
We would go back to the clown if we were bolder
Before he quite upravels his blood-buttons to the bone
And, shy as a nascent Pierrot, peer from his shoulder,
Figure our love, a little prow in his behalf,
Whispering as he lies dying and exhausted there,
Our sailor's chastened joy if he would rise and make us
Charles Edward Eaton is the author of five volumes of poetry, including On
the Edge of the Knife, to be published soon by Abelard-Schuman. He lives in
108 Clyde Barnebey's first published story was in our 6:3. He lives in Fairbanks,
The Uoice of the Turtle
"It used to live under the cot," he said.
"What?" I said.
The waitress had handed me the phone. I was leaning against the
wall with a cup of coffee. She looked at me and shook her head
from side to side.
"Buckwell?" he said.
"Yes," I said.
"I know that if you come up it'll go away."
The voice was faintly familiar, yet for a minute I couldn't remember where I had heard it before. Without being regional, the
vowels were drawled unevenly.
"Is this Frank?"
I turned away from the counter and waited for the waitress' steps.
Through the window, the day was clear, blue, and cloudless, while
well down the road, which seemed to arch with my anticipation, the
mountains rose in sharp, glaciated peaks.
"Frank, you've lost me."
"You know that if it gave me any peace at all now, I wouldn't be
calling. You know that don't you?"
"What give you any peace, Frank?"
Caked with mud, a cabover tandem rolled in and parked next to
mine. The driver climbed down, kicked a few tires, and stretched,
raising his face to the sky. It was as though he too, for the first sig-
109 nificant time, had realized that the sun now owned some heat. He
cocked his hat and knocked on the glass as he went by. Behind me,
at the other end of the counter, a cup was mated to saucer, and the
man came in and sat, wondering to the waitress why everyone kept
a different time than he did. She was laughing. Apparently the calendar had been fixed to read March thirty-second, an appropriately
dropped stitch to smooth the texture of days.
"Frank, is this a joke?"
"What, then?"
"It's a furry thing that used to live back under the cot."
"Used to?"
"That's right."
"I'm not a dentist, Frank."
"What? Oh of course, sure."
He considered for a moment. In the background, a typist's fingers
patrolled a keyboard with such ruthless jogtrot that, as far as I was
concerned, she was forced to stand dunce in a corner, now a denatured teletype, and spell out, on a long scroll that fell to the floor,
the alphabet of current hot, political soup. Frank hated politics also.
"Where are you, Frank?"
"Radio station."
"Radio station?"
"You're really in town?"
"I guess so."
"Why, Frank?"
"I know that if you come back up with me then I'll take off, so
I came to get you."
"That's the longest monosyllabic line I've heard recently."
"You ought to widen your acquaintances."
There was no humor in his voice and it shamed me. I wanted,
as in all our previous conversation, to attempt at least a semblance
stab toward humor, for I had lost friends to their own afterthoughts.
Frank, however, was older and must, I realized, have learned to live
with himself as might a man with one bad leg. I wanted to ask him
what he thought of me, the old muttonhead, and was I so horrible,
really, that I could frighten off something which even he couldn't?
I didn't know quite how to take this, Frank, and I'd been insulted
by all walks of people between the lips of a smile. And Frank, I
didn't want to have to be the one breaking this to you, but you
didn't win the swimsuit competition, you tin tortoise.
no "I've been holding my feet up in the air for three days now. My
stomach muscles are about to give out."
"Can't you drive it back under the cot, Frank?"
"Buckwell, I'm afraid."
I thought of Frank the summer before, when I had worked at the
hot springs and met him for the first time, then remembered him, at
the hottest part of the day, moving through his rows of hives without shirt, smoker, or bee veil, a chrome-plated hive tool tucked in
the back of his pants. I had wanted to meet this man whose actions,
at all times, were slow and deliberate, as though geared to be moving through hives, and suffered numerous mild rebuttals to do so.
Eventually, one day when I was watching, he explained, with an
abrupt smile, that a hive tool was chrome-plated to keep it from
getting lost in the grass, for across my face, in a bright diagonal, he
discovered the tool's reflection. This was the man who was afraid.
"Buckwell, you know animals. Do you know how it is with a bee
and her brain?"
"You told me, Frank."
"How is it?"
"If decapitated, she can continue to walk; if her abdomen is cut
away, she can still suck nectar."
"Buckwell, you have to come back up with me."
The road seemed to arch toward the mountains, which were
sharp and clear. All winter I had been without a job and then, with
a chance to go to work, to pay off part of a large, impending debt,
a hole opened in the sky and I could feel heat again and seemingly
see forever. I had no great love for trucks and actually, though I
never admitted it publicly, detested the easy peacock talk, over coffee, of tire sizes, rear-end ratios, and the lure of the off-highway
haul. I was interested only in the money which would buy freedom
from them and, had I still been without a job, the road would have
been flat, the mountains, if even noticed, uninteresting.
"I can't, Frank. I'm working."
"Can't you get off?"
"I'm hardly on, Frank."
"Who for?"
"Yeben and Rab. I start today."
Frank exhaled with disgust that, even though I felt I deserved it,
and would have claimed proudly, was reserved for the company.
"Yebenrab Freight Lines. One of the nicest fellows you could
meet and the other an utter bastard. Buckwell, that's the worst in
workable relations."
in "I know that, Frank."
Though thirty years older than myself, Frank had never given me,
until then, the advice a father might offer a son, despite the fact
that, having left home and formal education at fifteen, I often
thought that sometime I might need it, much as a cripple must picture in his mind, when feeling the chosen leg unusually weak, the
rudimentary, stay-at-home brace. I was suddenly ashamed of having
felt that I needed it, and knew, once Frank had spoken, that I did
not, feeling almost a twinge of disappointment in the discovery.
"Why didn't you lock the door, Frank?"
"Buckwell, things like that don't come through doors."
He wasn't going to make it any easier for me and would not, try
as I might, allow any element of humor, like an old man speaking
of his imminent death. Esteeming his friendship highly, especially
the talks we had had at the hot springs, I wished the telephone line
would go dead, for today was the wrong day. In the back of my
mind, debt was a high tower from which, through castellated sides,
a man could gaze down on his creditors, until, with embarrassment
and youthful ignorance, he consolidated, then found, hovering with
a smile over his battlements, the face of a sour giant.
"I can't today. I have to go, Frank."
"Oh, forget it."
We both hung up. Shamefaced, I promised myself that I would
see Frank as soon as possible and sat at the counter. But why, why
of all people he knew, from the carefully upstanding to the predominantly prone resident sots of numerous alleys, Frank should call me,
coming to town to do so, was puzzling. I had never known him particularly well, especially on the official side which included date of
birth, the technical cause of his wife's death, or just why, with a six-
inch knife and determination, his son had taken his own life. The
Frank I knew, unlike most of the other people acquainted with him,
was exclusively the man who lived at the hot springs, managing to
sustain himself on vegetables, moose, and lean government checks
for the cruel and inhuman treatment which, someone had concluded, he received at the hands of the enemy in the last war when,
after falling asleep in the middle of the battle, he had been captured, then treated, he admitted once with quiet bewilderment, like
a prospective king.
To me, though he never played apprentice sphinx, wrestled with
112 the public shadows, or seemed capable of electing a thirty-eight
caliber end, Frank always appeared just short, lacking perhaps only
inches, of focusing a consuming grief, which would leave him quaking with the rampant idiocy of an impossible grin. In the meantime,
it seemed, he consoled himself with bees, the noise of which, in comfort, was a portable landlocked ocean, with days so blue and expansive one felt, for fear of plunging, behooved to hold onto a willow
when staring overhead, and with hoarding the compound names of
wild plants, like coltsfoot, lambsquarter, and goosetongue, whose
sound and color got a whistle from the artist and a poacher's furtive
gleam from his independent eye. Above all else, though, unlike the
common artist or vulgarian, Frank prided himself on his ability to
remember truthfully things as they were, to hold, against the ravages of time, an essential memory intact and unaltered without, like
the construction men I had worked with that summer, making of
his high school days the adventures of an insatiate satyr, or casting
his mother to the role of walk-on joke so stale and prolonged you
wondered if it might not be the weather. His past, flipped in the
crudest metaphor, was a coin collection perused by a man of experience who, finding his oldest few pieces, the gold ones, tarnished,
would not polish them for fear of dulling the imprint, and who,
when forced into the everyday business of trading, would swap the
recent alloys and not the proof or uncirculated coins which, sealed
in cellophane, still retained even their original atmosphere. At eighty,
lacking air and companionship, Frank would be the kind of man
who could toss off, in one swift violation before the end, five impeccable books of poems, back-to-back, that would leave you waiting
for your breath and, perhaps for the first time, old age.
At the hot springs, where he had lived for a year before I met
him, Frank had cared little for his appearance. I could hardly believe, watching him with his hives, that this was the judge who
came to work, the last several months of his term in town, dressed
as a railroad brakeman, police chief, cartoon caricature, with high
top hat, that no one could quite recollect, grim pirate, outfitted in
newsprint hat and wooden sword, whose patch was a slingshot
pouch made from the leather tongue of an oxford, forest ranger,
heavy-duty mechanic with a new box of three-quarter-inch drive
tools and an electric impact wrench, Indian scout, refrigerator repairman, admiral, smokejumper, tortoise with a washtub shell, befuddled polevaulter dragging a twelve-foot Philadelphia rod, and
several others that, for the sake of credibility, I'm forced to overlook.
When, before moving to the hot springs, Frank had straddled two
"3 worlds, he must, I imagined, have steadfastly refused to fall into the
convenient saddle, and ride, with brush or typewriter, his rebellious
imagination to death for the sake of a dilettante's entertainment or
the beggar's cup, spit in by every fifth person, of monetary gain;
and I, twenty-five years old with nothing to believe in, who saw,
like many others I knew, the widening crack in the establishment's
facade, the cold blue shadow under the extended, philanthropic
hand that could chase down even first avenue undetected and
blacken a life altogether, admired him for it, this man who lived
dogless in a ghost town whose midwinter population was one, separated by many miles of unmaintained road and an airstrip which
he only rarely, with a luxurious, independent yawn, shoveled out.
"A nice road, that, from here on down, for rearranging your
teeth," the driver pointed, leaning on the counter with a bright
I considered an answer. A furry thing, Frank said it was, and I
could picture the animal, hiding under the cot: black, bristly, a sort
of biological first cousin to the household lavatory brush that lay on
its stomach, seemingly without legs or any form of locomotion other
than the bristles, pouting, through flared sucker's mouth that resembled the drawn bell of a trumpet, a clear, cold note of horror.
Abruptly, I could see Frank's stricken face and knew, as he must
have, that this small gentleman, who had no visible eyes, devoured
gold and silver in outlandish quantities and would stop at nothing,
sucking out even gold inlays as though once indentured to salt water
taffy. At the crucial moment, I had failed Frank and remained inexorably slick, choosing to be endeared, once again, after a winter
spent in reading, to a social structure that had, it often seemed to
me, a soul of skin and mind of iron pyrite.
"Is there any snow in the pass?" I asked.
The driver nodded. He came down the counter and stood beside
me. I was glad to see him come. If I felt like it, I wanted to be able
to talk. He had a lively face and a sincere handshake.
"My name's Bill. You working for these robbers too?"
"Buckwell. Yeah I am."
"You must not be too smart."
"You know, Bill, that's one of the problems I have. But you ought
to see the other chimpanzees that work for them."
"Is that a fact?"
We went out together. The waitress gathered up the money first.
Bill was on the last lap of his return run and I was just beginning.
I liked him. He had a jolly face that didn't need bother flex the
114 ritual smile to show a jokester's intention, and was another one of
those people, friends I had collected over the past few years, that I,
after striking it off well with and the promise of solid friendship,
chose to avoid as much as possible, leaving them as potential, unexplored refuges across the countryside.
Trucks, I hated them, those rubber-wheeled boxcars that rolled
blind through the night on a margin of dark asphalt, cornering like
winos on the lurch of a wet, mossy slope: disliked the monsters
driven, day after day, by those who yearned for the whip handle of
self-sufficiency, who wished to be solely intrusted with something
other than a number two shovel, without dreaming that all they
could do, if rather gloriously, was beat themselves to death; or disrelished the whales manned by drivers who abhored age and the
passing of time so much, the least they could accomplish, to loosen
the rope, was draw their lives across a thin space populated by several billion telephone poles, while the lines rowed restfully beside
them; and loathed those things owned and managed by men, in my
short experience, who smiled to themselves in public mirrors and
never quite passed through the tunnel, watered down by a sprinkling can, of sandbox years. I wished Frank hadn't called.
The ground refused to lie flat around me. After spending, in an
old, condemned hotel destined to be levelled the following spring, a
winter completely my own, without, for once, a furnace to stoke as
part of the compulsory bargain, or a friend's mother who managed
to alienate me with the best of possible intentions, I felt a little dizzy,
for any action, especially if a quick one, seemed unnatural, almost
a violation of the peace I had accustomed myself to while reading.
Often I wondered about the hotel, which was to go out in the glory
of a controlled burn; wondered if that aspect of me, too, would
have to come down blazing the following year, if I would ever bring
myself to have, like most of the other drivers, a wife and one small,
ambivalent son.
I climbed up into the cab and pulled onto the highway, where a
child disappeared under the radiator. In the side mirrors Bill was
running. Whether a boy or a girl, I hadn't had time to notice. In
the side mirrors Bill was running. A hundred faces, straight from
national safety campaigns, came at me, dragging crumpled bicycles
and words that wouldn't yet form in their mouths. It had happened
so quickly, with the boy or girl, too short to notice in hiding, dashing from behind a parked car. I slipped and fell getting out, then
began running before my feet were under me. I took another spill
and was up again. There was no one behind the trailer, but Bill,
"5 who probably hadn't sprinted for several years, chased joyously,
across the parking lot toward a young mother with outstretched
arms and a pingpong paddle, one six- or seven-year-old girl who
drifted magnificently, head back, like a doe, and I allowed myself,
for the first time, to remember that I hadn't felt a wheel hit anything.
The waitress, without a word, had opened the door to the bar. I
poured myself a drink and waited for Bill and a controllable shaking. I thought of Frank and what a shock it had been to me, who
considered him so independent. Trapped, as Frank had been, between two worlds, I had thought that I would eventually have to
do what he did, but until then, he would serve an opportune post,
which could also be leaned on, that helped hold a barrier against
the night. Having two reference points, choosing not to live in only
one world, I would, by the pain bred in the overlap, be prepared
for the first cousin who grew there, and he could then be picked up
and played, through his flared mouth, with a voice as sweet as a
I called the airport to ask about Frank. They had, they told me,
just put him on a plane going up to the hot springs, that crazyman.
The company hoped he wouldn't kill himself on one of their planes.
Did I know what he said to them, was I kin? No, I told them, I
wasn't kin, but I knew what he said, thanks just the same. It was
the Egyptians who first used honey as an embalming fluid.
Sitting, I watched for my hands to quiet. Never, before this day,
would I have been able to imagine myself, after all that had happened, going back out to drive as I would in a few moments instead
of following Frank, climbing almost blind south into the mountains,
where the highest point, the pass, was now gripped in snow, but
would, in a matter of time, melt, and the streams, there, at first sluggishly, would begin to flow in two directions again, one north and
the other south. Bill was beside me.
"Get a hold of yourself, man," he laughed. "Hey, not too tight.
There, try the drink now, that ought to do it."
Translated from the Swedish by Ronald Bates
Crowned with laurel wreaths
pale Masters of Arts trudge
to church one day in May
while the year 1713
tumbles out from some head
and down the church steps
followed by another . ..
15 . . . 1574?
what was it then?
and 30 before Christ?
bits of knowledge trickle
down behind the laurel-crowned
while two people
who love each other
suddenly coincidentally
meet in the park
(which is growing green in the neighborhood)
with the help of intuition
(which is always growing green)
: of the highest knowledge,
the only wisdom . . .
and the birds are singing above those lovers
with tidings clearer than the clocks of all the churches,
all sermons, all new old texts.
Peter Sandelin is a young Swedish-Finnish poet.
117 Two Poems by Lloyd Abbey
it was maddening to hear that pattering sound
on the beams of the attic floor
so we went up one night to see what it was
clapped him inside a cigar box
and let him starve to death
as the feted neighborhood pet
after he died we buried him
with the rabbits whom I had hugged to death
the ducklings and several puppies
who had died under neighborhood cars
it takes a lot of sacrifice
to raise a human baby
my crib was lined
with the skins of ignorant creatures
This Santa Claus goes everywhere.
His sack has room for millions.
He picks up the kids in India
whose bones outgrew their skin.
On Christmas Eve you can hear him moan
as he passes over the rooftops.
The white child finds a bone child in his stocking.
Lloyd Abbey's poems have appeared in several Canadian journals and A Canadian Anthology (Fiddlehead). He lives in Ontario.
His talk is philosophy
His love is sex
His stomach empty
His eyes sad
Dark eyes that lost their sun somewhere in history
He is a reed fixed in the river of time
He allows the animals to browse on him
He has cut the spirit clean from the body
He can worship and shoot Gandhi
He is the despair of Indian writers
And a trap for the tourist with a pen.
Iqbal Ahmad was born in India, became a Pakistani in i960 and a Canadian
landed immigrant in 1963. Currently he lectures in English at the University
of Waterloo. His previous publications have been in Canadian Forum.
Now late sunlight
draws smooth
as old leather
and locusts whine
away what's left
of the summer.   In
a few minutes there'll
be nothing to do
but go inside
and cook a piece
of an animal even
slower than I.
Carroll Arnett has had two poetry books published by the Elizabeth Press.
He lives in Oklahoma City.
Commandments stormed:
typhoon spouts pillared the ocean.
"Love's dead," I muttered, my lips sore,
and one word a balm, said with a fool's devotion.
Lightning laid a whale track.
My bull-necked brother cried, "We'll track
blood of slaughter back,
back to the Book-bound church,
and there, to even the score,
we'll nail gold suns to the Gothic door."
Dawn came burning to engrave
lost laws on the wave.
I startled: "Whale!"
"Leviathan!" my brother raved.
In his weaponless hands
harpoon thoughts quivered, lusting still.
He shipped no ark, cargoed no grail.
120 How could he command me more?
"Gold sun dances," I warned, "and death stands
unmoved."  "The sun stands," he howled,
"by my will — mine!"
I saw a wreathed black body flail
just beyond the disc
of torture and shining.
On we rushed, unblessed by
course, or magnanimity of design.
I felt delirium flesh loud bells.
Shores called, and sounding shells
moaned, and their emptiness lived on high.
Ill sons of joy, Jonahs, we lived on, saved
for a leap to land.   Alien power
sank from view as, strengthless, we braved
wilful help of salvaging hands.
Alas, what peace — under a spire-gored sky!
Sam Bradley is among the most-frequently-published poets in the United States.
He teaches at Saint Augustine's College, Raleigh, North Carolina.
In an air-conditioned comb without honey
Designed by Mies Van der Rohe,
Whom I have never met but whose cold forms
I have now come intimately to know,
I read the private death of a public man,
Reach for my wallet to count my money,
And catch at the sting in death's undertow.
I have felt it before in Ann Arbor.
At a house numbered three thirteen
Death raged through the rusty screen,
Roared over the hardwood floor,
Down the dusty, ragged carpet steps,
And then once more took the night.
I felt it surge through the door
Long after I had put out the light.
Now it's timid.   Just like a buddy,
It gives me a playful tug to join a game
I've always wanted to play but never dared;
The ending is, as always, the same.
I invent other games because I'm scared —
Maybe — of shopworn notions
Remembered from childhood like old brand names
Of unguents, ointments and oily lotions,
Medicines that never really cured anything,
But soothed the skin till the burning was over.
Now only burning stops the sting;
Instead of death I take pain, as a lover
Takes another woman when he's hot for it
And his real love wants an eternal vow.
James Camp's poems have been in a number of magazines and anthologies in
the United States. He is co-editor of Burning Deck, New York.
122 This story won the 1967-68 Macmillan Prize as the best fiction written by a
student at the University of British Columbia. It is Lynn Thome's first publication.
CIk Prisoner
The prisoner was still yelling, "L'effet c'est moi!" "L'effet c'est
moi!" just as he had done before ripping the tunic off the Mountie.
The Mountie looked at the prisoner's identification. The prisoner,
who was now chanting in some other strange lingo and translating
each time ("The ass arrived, beautiful and most brave, The ass
arrived, beautiful and most brave"), was aged twenty-four, a university student, and evidently a resident of this hole.
It was not a big town, no more than twenty-five thousand and a
good third of this created distant little suburbs that were not his
patrol, but the policeman would not travel alone again. The back
of his head still felt wet where the prisoner rolled it in the slush and
he might still be half-submerged had not the prisoner suddenly
stood up, grinning hazily, and said, "Let's go."
The prisoner wasn't surprised to find the cell empty, but wondered how he could place some original ideas in his head. He acknowledged the cell for its cubism, and the light bulb's penumbra
which provided a tiny grey circle. It was a glow of soft wetness almost like milk, and he watched. Waiting for the focal point to hurt,
to force his eyelids, to cause a little fear, fear before pain. There was
heat to follow the light and the grey circle pulsed slightly. He wasn't
sure if his brain pulsed or the light, and there was no way of telling.
123 No way of provoking the light as he had the cop. No way of tricking it. Finally the prisoner dropped his lids, but stayed awake with
the fresh warmth on his face.
He would like to leave the police-station and he thought this
would be simplest. There could be no destruction of ideas and he
wouldn't trip over obstacles or stare too long, or be involved in conversation. The street drove along in a pure black gut for three
blocks. Trailing down, the prisoner rubbed each parking violation
with his free hand, more or less as a way to simulate progress. The
blocks were worn clear of slush, and a vividness of sound came from
The Hill. It was not a hill, but a smelter, a labyrinth of physical ingenuity tying together all the economic value of earth, air, fire and
water. They never shut it down and the prisoner pictured the variegated men, the two thousand men on graveyard, the alkis, the
homos, the moralists and the cuckolds who now presided over its
productive furies. He ignored a red light and began to climb, taking
the stairs slowly, with a pause at each plateau to look further and
further into the dead city. A well-lit police station wall diminished
among other tints as the prisoner moved in on the gargantuan
His feet shuddered on black ash but the harmony hadn't changed.
Interpreting the steel maze expertly he walked very small past
smokestacks, then into a concrete hall. A polished bench located the
hall's open end and the prisoner sat down, feeling good in the night.
Extreme heat passed with the burden of a crane. Sucking deeply on
its short warmth, he listened to high squeals and waited patiently in
the black hall. It was too loud to hear the furnacemen and temporarily too dark, but he knew they were acting wordlessly, efficiently,
obeying the subtle religion. The crane's outline became visible in
the eye of a furnace spout as two men pushed its cover aside.
Gas-masked and cool, they worked behind face-shields, reflecting a
twenty-ton cascade of slag. It pinkened the hall until the prisoner
saw them ticking huge bars into a basaltic skin now frozen on the
spout. He preceded the crane's exit and followed himself a little
more to the route used by ore trains; one tracing a rim of the smelter; one that stood above the river.
Gushes of smelter water lining flumes in long dark bars, and then
the explosion of spray leaving the flume, and then quiet union with
something easy and settled; the river. Pacified chemicals, dust
breathed in the air in the throats, dust that slowly broke through
the guts, dust that shaded smeltermen in a kind of permanent
osmosis. All this the prisoner knew, the huge thickness of Garnet
124 waste, Galena waste, the waste of ores right down to trace elements,
dust used to the last decimal, valueless and burned out, down the
river indistinctly sheathing gills of sick trout threading river slime,
rebounding off moulded bedrock for ten miles, twenty miles and
more. The prisoner remembered black shore sands of coarse beaches,
uninhabited and sulphurous.
He was at the first half of an idea. In fact the cell, its grey circle,
the pulse and the safety of distance told him. Returning always to
work in a place uncrowded with ideas, this place that had no
energies like frustration and fear; the things he cursed away to come
out of his summers strong and used, re-adjusted to a kind of symmetry. But the prisoner wasn't sure it was love.
A universal story, one that every smelterman knew by heart. The
story called Newton's hole. As the prisoner's father had told it there
was a small pile of coal dust which grew each day to a height of one
foot until Mosey Joe the track cleaner as part of his job shovelled
this pile away. The pile grew unnoticed every day for thirty years
except by Joe who tended it so faithfully. Old Mosey never questioned the hole in the pipe above his head; made no connection
between pipe and pile.
Robust and bowlegged, the smelterman, the kind who bellows at
baseball games, had waited by the little pile. The coast was clear,
when as stolidly as a boy screwing in a light bulb, he thrust his index into the hole. Removing his hand to discover the horrendous
absence of one finger, this unfortunate ran screaming to the safety
There was a silent screw which tined its way through the pipe,
pushing coal dust to the furnaces, and the welder sent to patch the
hole looked up at the fatal spot wondering how anybody could be
so stupid. It may have been a minute or two and the welder may
have taken a drag on his cigarette, or rubbed his belly, or thoughtfully scratched his large behind, but it is smelter history that the
welder lost his right thumb.
Confusion and rage developed in the safety office after this second
encounter, and Julius Newton, smelter safety boss, moved so fast
toward the trouble spot and with such violence that no one chose to
follow. He did however dispatch a man with the purpose of shutting off the screw. Those watching Newton jack-rabbit in the distance, bounding from right foot to left around the pile, and huffing
great cloudy oaths, were never able to decide if this was before or
after, whether he howled in rage or anguish, but it is true fact that
Julius donated one lonely pinkie to the hot fires.
125 The prisoner laughed as a boy when he heard the story, and now
was tempted to yell, "Adventavit Asinus Pulcher Et Fortissimus" —
"The ass arrived, beautiful and most brave." But it would only wake
the Mountie, and besides he did not really want to joke.
He knew there was a problem for every man draping his psyche
in the menagerie of objects; that most men spent a lifetime six feet
above their graves, struggling in a molecule, so to speak.
The prisoner opened his eyes, and waited for the grey circle to
spread; and morning.
126 Four Poems by Jacques Godbout
Translated from the French by John Robert Colombo
Very much would I like to wear
a black and shabby hat
I would even place it on my head
when I go out on long evenings
of waiting in the rain
With this big and gloomy hat
just a little bit too low
I would magnify my shadow
on the ground about my feet
in this way I would trust I think
my waiting in the rain
A stone wall would be my support
one foot over the other in a pool of water
to my right a height a light
staged to give a good appearance
to my wait in the rain
With my shabby hat I would be there
and would not even try to protect myself
my face wet but dry around my neck
a good collar turned up and very warm
but this reminds me that in an hour
there will be my wait in the rain
They will come and take me by the armpits
as if I were about to faint
and me why I only think of her
whom I murdered to die to die
sweet woman it is all over
our wait in the rain
127 POEM
I win all the battles
said the Admiral with the jaw
of a corvette
who was no Englishman however
I save souls
said the Provincial of the Jesuits
with the jaw of a Jesuit
A bird listened to them
a wonderful old parrot
who began to laugh
and he laughed
and he laughed
and he laughed
and he choked himself
so much did he laugh
But the Admiral
with the brow of an aircraft carrier
did not understand
the Provincial
of the Jesuits
with no more of a capital J
than the word JUICE
spelled gravy
understood no more than he
Only the bird who laughed
the parrot
in his cage
he knew
128 POEM
I opened a door
which slammed shut by itself
to the tinkle of bells
like those wired
once upon a time
to horses
once upon a time in fables
to the horses in the streets
in the streets of Versailles
in the streets between the pyramids
where each man
opened a door
which immediately slammed shut by itself
to the tinkle of bells
All of fife
in little harbours
waiting for the train
and the boat
waiting until the shriek
of steam
gets through the whistle
waiting for coolies whose sweat
keeps them going
waiting under a date-tree for
the fruit and the shade
Jacques Godbout is the Montreal filmmaker and author whose novel Salut
Galarneau won the Governor-General's Award in 1967.
John  Robert  Colombo's Abracadabra,  a poetry volume, was published by
McClelland & Stewart in 1967. He edits Tamarack Review.
The one
And only memory
That may be cast aside
First and final exposure
To an element
Fatally poisonous
Death which is
The measurement
Of beauty
Incense fumes
Whose filaments
Entwine, ascending
Of wisdom
Encasement of creation
Innocent in eggshell,
Bearing us again
Divine voice                                          The soul shining
Justifying self                                         Through obscurity
With no apparent mediation              Of flesh and bone
Playing God
By ear
To perfection
The attainable end
And just wages
Of the day
Holding invisible
Agents of decay
Burns from the middle
The wound Music in air,
The sun makes, But more important
Gash between the darkness In each other element
A. E. Dudley's work has appeared variously, including Prism international. He
teaches and lives in England, where a booklet of his poems was published this
131 Four Poems by Edith Sodergran
Translated from the Swedish by Ronald Bates
We are all homeless wanderers
and we are all brothers.
We go bare in rags with our knapsacks,
but what do princes own set side by side with us?
Riches stream to us through the air
which cannot be measured with the weight of gold.
The older we become, of course,
the more we know we are brothers.
We have nothing else to do with the rest of creation
than to give it our soul.
If I had a great garden
I would invite all my brothers there.
Every one would bring one great treasure with him.
Not having a homeland we could become a people.
We will build a trellis around our garden
so that no sound from the outer world comes to us.
From out of our silent garden
We will give a new life to the world.
For my small ways,
the amusingly complaining, the evening-reddened,
the spring presented me with the egg of a water bird.
I asked my love to paint my portrait on the thick shell.
He painted a young bulb in brown mould —
and on the other side a round soft mound of sand.
My body is a mystery.
As long as these fragile things live
You will feel its power.
I shall save the world.
Therefore Eros' blood darts in my lips
and Eros' gold in my weary locks.
I need only see,
weary or dull: the earth is mine.
When I lie weary on my bed,
I know: in these tired hands is the world's fate.
It is the power which trembles in my shoe,
it is the power which stirs in the folds of my dress,
it is the power standing before you for which no gulf exists.
We women, we are so near the brown earth.
We ask the cuckoo, what he expects of spring,
we throw our arms around the bare pine,
we search in the sunset for signs and for advice.
Once I loved a man, he believed in nothing ...
He came one cold day with empty eyes,
he went one heavy day with oblivion over his brow.
If my child does not live, it is his . . .
Edith Sodergran (1892-1923) was one of the most important figures in the
Swedish-Finnish "Modernist" movement, which powerfully influenced modern
Swedish poetry. She and Katri Vala are parallel figures in the poetry of their
New Brunswick Chapbook, ed. Nancy Bauer, University of New Brunswick,
Vol. I, The Road from Here, Robert Gibbs.
Vol. 2, Friday Night, Fredericton, Robert Cockburn.
Vol. 3, Hard Explanations, Kent Thompson.
Vol. 4, Cornet Music for Plupy Shute, William Bauer.
Collections of poetry, about 30 pages each.
Award Winning Poems, Irvine Manuscript Day, 1968, The Writing Centre, Department of English and Comparative Literature, University of California,
Irvine. 23 pp.
bumpus, jerry, Anaconda. Illustrated by Lee Wallek. december magazine,
1967. Novel, 153 pp. $2.00.
cohen, Leonard, Selected poems 1956-68, McClelland & Stewart. 245 pp.
Hard cover $5.95, paper cover $2.50.
fainlight, ruth, Cages, Dufour. Poetry collection, 42 pp. $3.75.
maroudas, n. g., Water is Fire, Breakthru Publications, Sussex, 1965. Poetry,
24 pp.
nielson, hans-jorgen, Eksempler en Generationsantologi, Borgens Billigboger
86, 1968. Poetry, prose, 182 pp.
purdy, al, Poems for all the Annettes, House of Anansi, Toronto, 1968. Poetry,
101 pp. $2.50.
Rosenblatt, joe, Winter of the Lunar Moth, House of Anansi, Toronto, 1968.
Poetry, 78 pp. $2.50.
russell, bertrand, The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell 1914-1944, McClelland & Stewart. $8.95.
skinner, knute, A Close Sky over Killaspuglonane, Poetry Ireland Editions,
Dolman Press. Poetry. $1.95.
Assay, ed. Lois Lindblad, Dept. of English, University of Washington, Seattle.
Poetry, fiction.
december, eds. Curt Johnson, Robert Wilson, P.O. Box 274, Western Springs,
Illinois 60558. 4 copies per year. Movies, fiction, poetry. Sub. $5.00, $1.50
per copy.
Expression, ed. Michael Bullock, 56 Carlton Ave., Kenton, Harrow, Middlesex,
England. Poetry. 6off per copy.
Forum, eds. Merrill and Frances M. Rippy, Ball State University. Essays, poems.
4 times per year. Sub. $3.00, $1.00 per copy.
The Greensboro Review, ed. David Ackley, University of North Carolina at
Greensboro, Box 96, Mclver Building, UNC-G, Greensboro, N.C. Fiction and
poetry. Twice a year. Sub. $2.00.
Hyphid, ed Nelson Ball, Weed/Flower Press, Toronto, Canada. Poetry. 4 times
a year. Sub. $2.25 to individuals, $3.25 to institutions. 75^ per copy.
134 Iota, ed. John Madsen, English Dept. and Student Senate of Idaho State University. Poetry, fiction and articles.
Isinglass Review, eds. Fred Bonnie and Gene Yarrington, 199 Prospect Street,
Cambridge, Mass. 02139. Poetry, fiction and photography. 25^ per copy.
Jeopardy, ed. Ted Shields, Western Washington State College, Bellingham,
Wash. Poetry, art, short stories, articles.
Katalyst, eds. Raphael Barreo-Rivera, Michael Cummings, Michael Gervers,
Elizabeth Greene, Douglas Mantz, Carol Roscoe, University of Toronto.
Poetry, fiction. 50^ per copy.
Mainline, eds. Dorothy Farmiloe, Len Gasparini, Eugene McNamara. Poetry.
3 times a year. 50^ per copy.
Prospetti, eds. Attilio Baldi, Romeo Lucchese, Adele Marziale, Mario Petruc-
ciani, Jole Tognelli, Luigi Tundo, 00185 Rome, via Palestro, 11. Poetry,
articles, reviews, photos.
The Southern Review, eds. L. Simpson, D. Stanford, Louisiana State University.
Essays, fiction, poetry, reviews. 4 times a year. $1.25 per copy.
the literary magazine of
sir george williams university
a new bi-annual student-edited review:
including poetry, short fiction, interviews
and art portfolios, emphasis on
writers under 30.
contributions of poetry and short fiction
are invited; no restrictions, submissions
should adhere to general manuscript
for further information, write:
students association,
sir george williams university,
montreal 25, quebec.
for almost every
taste and purpose
can be found,
easily, at
514 Hornby
670 Seymour
Also 4560 W. 10th Avenue
MUtual 4-4496
MUtual 5-3627
CAstle 4-7012
University of British Columbia
Hours: Weekdays 8:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  PRISM
and poetry
fiction, essays,
plays and poems
by Rev. Wajiragnana, Christoph Meckel, Clyde
Barnebey, Bill T. O'Brien, F. Kaufmann, Peter
Knowles, Lynn Thorne, Ralph Gustafson, Jean-
Jacques Celly, Jacques Godbout, Sam Bradley,
Katri Vala, John Newlove, John Haislip and
many more, plus a special selection of East
African poetry edited and introduced by John
by Jorge Luis Borges, Georg Britting, Gunter
Grass, Paul Valery, Jack Matthews, Earle Birney, Irving Layton, Al Purdy, Margaret Laurence, Malcolm Lowry, Ernst Barlach, Raymond
Queneau, Maria Kuncewicz, Cesare Pavese, Alden Nowlan, Attila Jozsef, Margaret Atwood,
Walter Bauer, Eric Lindegren, Dom Moraes,
Gaston Bart-Williams, Ugo Betti, Michael Bullock and many more.
by St.-John Perse, Eugenio Montale, Stanley
Cooperman, Richard Braun, Warren Carrier,
Yvan Goll, Fred Candelaria, Peter Weibel, Jean
Chatard, George Jonas, Attila Jozsef, Louis Aragon, Hagiwara Sakutaro, Czeslaw Milosz, a special selection of Polish poetry and more.
PRISM international press offers as the first in a series the critically-
acclaimed The Price of Morning: Selected Poems by Walter Bauer. This
bilingual edition, in the German of Walter Bauer and with brilliant English
translations by Henry Beissel, is being distributed by the publishers. For a
copy, send $4.75 to PRISM international press, UBC, Vancouver, Canada.
For a one-year subscription to PRISM international magazine, send $3.50
to the editors at the same address. PRISM international and The Price of
Morning make fine Christmas gifts.


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