PRISM international

Prism international Prism international [1973-07]

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Summer igyj $T-75  Editor-in-Chief    michael bullock
Associate Editors    douglas bankson
Managing Editors    penelope lowenthal
Editorial Assistants    phillip groves
Secretary    lynette pretty
The Girls From Viterbo
The Nights At Munich
Selma Veer
Citizens Of That Country
The Applicant
Jackson, Doing His Rounds
Three Poems
This Love Denied To All
Heavenly Curse
Three Poems
The Chocolate Infection
Two Poems
Three Poems
Two Poems
Two Poems
Three Poems
Five Poems
116 Two Poems douglas barbour i 24
Diving for the Body eugene mc namara i 26
The cover and the reproductions inside are by Joe Rose. Joe Rose was born in
Germany and after the Nazi takeover emigrated to Australia, where he exhibited
widely and won numerous prizes and awards. He now lives in London, England.
notes on contributors appear beside their work
PRISM international, a journal of contemporary writing, is published three
times a year by the Department of Creative Writing at the University of British
Columbia, Vancouver 8, B.C. Annual subscriptions are $5.00, single copies
$1.75, obtainable by writing to the Editors at that address. Microfilm editions
are available from University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and reprints
(vols. 1-5) from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, NYC. PUBLISHER'S NOTES
For eight years Jacob Zilber has presided over the growth and
success of this magazine. Last year, while on a sabbatical leave from
the University of British Columbia, he made his decision to retire
as editor. It would be futile to try to express in full here how much
the magazine, its associate editors, its contributors and its readers
owe him. He was the right person in the right place at the right
time, and without his energies and integrity the magazine's present
strengths and excellences would have been impossible.
Our new editor is Michael Bullock, translator, prose writer, poet
and playwright, who has been acting editor for the past two issues.
He has been associated with magazines in England, notably Expression, and we welcome his experience as writer and editor as well as
his many professional connections with the authors and the literatures of England, Europe, America and the Orient.
From its inception, this magazine has had three basic editorial
policies: it has printed only imaginative writing, eschewing editorials, articles and reviews; it has printed what it thought was excellence without regard for national origin; and it has not printed
work by people on its staff. But times change, and so do magazines.
In 1959 when Prism (not yet international) was created under the
editorship of Jan deBruyn there were no Little Magazines west of
Toronto and very few elsewhere in the country. The mandate set
for it was simple: publish new writers, give them their voices. We
published without grants or other financial help until 1964 when
Earle Birney persuaded the Faculty of Arts of the University of
British Columbia to offer a small yearly grant ($1,500) toward the
publication that then became Prism international. We continued to
publish new writers, but we also began pioneering the publication of
translations in this country, and many European, South American,
African and Oriental writers appeared for the first time in English
in our magazine. Now, nine years later, we don't plan on redirecting these policies, but we are going to re-evaluate our emphases
during the next few issues.
The first change, of course, is the advent of these Publisher's Notes.
We will, from now on, comment on the literary scene here in Canada and elsewhere because we think it important that we begin to speak personally through our pages about what concerns us. For
thirteen years we've been traditionally Canadian in our editorial
stance: anonymous and international. We intend to stay suitably
international. It is culturally vitiating to cultivate just one's own
backyard, as with countries whose basic parochialism is seldom
breached except by commercial provocation or piqued national
pride. We are the least parochial (most cosmopolitan in interests
and outlook) of any people in the western hemisphere, with the
possible exception of Belgium, Switzerland and Monaco, because
we have learned to live by exporting everything including our consciousness, and our national pride has been until recently small
enough to be almost unpiquable. Although we've been overwhelmed
by our friends and our exploiters, there are positive aspects of internationalism to consider. National literatures need roots, fertilizers
and cross-pollination. Witness perhaps the greatest of national literatures, the Russian. Our experience is neither so long nor so diversely
affected, but we might do well to make some comparisons and try
to think and act in the light of them.
The second change is hardly a change at all; rather it is something that needs to be emphasized. We are, despite the international
of our logo, a Canadian magazine whose readers are mostly Canadians, whose writers are more often than not Canadians and whose
support comes in large measure from Canadian taxpayers via the
Canada Council (our grant this year is $5,000, half as much as
some magazines receive and considerably more than others are
awarded). We therefore will continue to publish new writing by
Canadian authors, and further, we will devote more energy than in
the past to finding and encouraging them. Our translations are
valuable, interesting and they support a little known or appreciated
art (we have some very good translators in Canada, and we have
a large group of authors writing in other languages here; for a
translated sampling, read VOLVOX, The Sono Nis Press, 1971).
Our Commonwealth and American authors help provide a standard
against which to measure our own output. But it is from Canadian
fiction writers, poets and dramatists that the final strength of Prism
international will come.
The third change is simply this: from now on we will be reviewing books of poetry, prose and plays which originate in Canada.
This seems to us to have become a necessity on two counts, among
others. Now, in 1973, there are a great many serious Canadian
authors writing and being published in book form, and the more viewpoints that can be expressed about those books the better it
will be for our national literature. And Prism is international; our
readers elsewhere will have the veil of our anonymity further lifted
for them. We will be commissioning some of these reviews, but we
will also publish unsolicited ones which persuade us they should be
printed. Some books may seem important enough to us to be given
double notice in the same or succeeding issues of the magazine. This
change, as you can see, is the most fluid of the three.
These shifts of emphasis are modest enough and, in any other
context, would not be worth the fanfare of an announcement, but
here in British Columbia, where six out of the six editors of our
professional literary magazines are either American or English by
birth or formative experience, our policy re-adjustments are noteworthy. When one is away from one's home territory, 1000% internationalism and/or cosmopolitanism seems almost understandable
if not altogether acceptable to the host country. It is equally true
that when one is living in a place where there is a long-lived and
strong culture then internationalism is not only permissible but often
has to be forced because it is necessary to the cultural health of that
country. But when one is living in a place where the culture is weak,
short and derivative, then the odds against it being overwhelmed
are long indeed, and achieving the necessary mix of local, national
and other material and cultural influence is critical to growth and
r.h. Richard Elbl was born in 1947 in Czechoslovakia and attended the Prague
University in the years 1965-68. In 1968 he left the country for Sweden, Canada
and Peru. After staying in Peru for about two years he returned to Canada,
where he now lives.
When I first came to Lima, I used to live in an expatriate's den.
It was quite unintentional from my part. The same thing is bound
to happen to anybody who is looking for a cheap room in downtown Lima. Today, knowing what I know, I can only laugh at my
former naivity. Downtown—the domain of expatriates, how trivial!
But when I was young and rang the bell, haggled the price,
brought my bags upstairs and became a respectable tenant in a decaying house sheltering, besides me and the landlady, a young
American madwoman (who had regular hysterical fits from 7-9
p.m.), her husband or some sort of mate, and two scholars.
My life there was sad. I used to come home at half past seven,
just in time to hear the better part of the raging of the American
female. When her husband-mate finally managed to soothe her with
affectionate words and karate, the two erudites from the next room
came home full of emotions which they were willing to share with
all the world. They were a weird pair: one old with a goatee, the
other young with enthusiasm and stupid ideas. They were wearing
some strange sort of plus-fours, such as the fashion magazines recommend for travellers in unknown, wild countries. This was their most
striking feature, the description of the rest can be found in most of
the popular travel guides. And these young and old, boyish and
venerable, crazy and prudent gringo erudites discussed every night
everything. They began with their emotional, and as I maliciously
used to think, sexual impressions (having in mind the kind of art
produced by the ancient Peruvians) which they brought with them
from the 'Museo Nacional', and they ended with laborious computations of how much a pound of apples cost when conversion was made from Peruvian to U.S. currency, and they went even so far as
to discuss the congressional elections in which they would not be
able to vote. They had many things to communicate and I had
many sleepless hours.
When I finally fell asleep, I tossed wildly in my bed having such
visions as a sly, old man with a goatee, leaning on a crooked staff,
declaring that John Brown will win the congressional seat for Arkansas which, he said, "I can swear on my name which is Manco
Capac, the first-born of the Sun. You gringo! Hee, hee, hee..."
sounded in his dentured, goatish laugh in the humid night. Still
laughing, he triumphantly let down his plus-fours and showed me
an enormous cock, the exact replica of the one which is so realistically portrayed on a piece of pottery from the fourth century B.C.,
found near Nazca. Then he gradually assumed the same pose as the
man on the earthen original, deliberating his prodigy with the seriousness of an erudite, only to be smashed to pieces as the first sounds
of morning came from the room of the crazy woman. After she finished her daily ration of dishes, I managed to snatch another few
precious minutes of sleep until being definitely brought to senses by
the healthy counting one, two, three, four. That meant that my
golf-clad friends began doing their A-73 morning exercise, recommended for U.S. Marine Corps when stationed in the tropics. I
never discovered how they found out this top military secret.
The days went by and I was going to the University and finally
found a job and made many friends. In the expatriates' den, also
much changed since the early, careless times, the hysterical lady
changed her timetable; the landlady after having her baby became
pregnant again, and the erudites changed the color of their long,
woolen socks from red to green and were discussing the Common
Market instead of the Congress. They also finally computed that
Peruvian sol has an approximate value of two cents and twenty-nine
hundredths of a cent and, therefore, a dozen apples, each for a sol,
cost them actually twenty-seven cents and forty-eight hundredths of
a cent. A price charged only to gringos, I thought with contempt.
And that I know all these important details is a pure chance because I no longer spent lonely evenings listening to the screams of
Psycho and to the meditations of Benjamin Franklin de Asisi and
Thomas Alva Edison Oppenheimer. The only nights when I had a
chance to hear that were when I brought some "morenita" up to
my room, proud of her gold teeth and sunglasses, who believed,
because we were making love in a real bed, that I was some sort of millionaire from the TV who is going to marry her in the church,
with candles, white dress and all the rest.
But such nights were rare. Most of the time I just went with my
friends for a dinner and then, if some of us had any money, to
Munich. It was an extraordinary restaurant. A spot of real human
warmth in that tropical country. Everybody recognized and appreciated it, no matter what color of skin or soul he had. No racial,
social, age or sex barriers existed at Munich, if you had enough
money to pay for your beer, twenty soles a two-pint mug. Only
weeks after we met, my friends took me there, making sure that I
would not spoil the "ambiente." In that fateful day Enrique suggested: "Let's go to Munich." I did not quite know what he meant
but I went, as I always did. When we entered the steamy atmosphere Enrique lifted my hand like that of a victorious prize-fighter
and introduced me: "Sefiores y sefioras (there were no women),
queridos companeros, this is Ricardo, who knows how to sing and,
after three beers, how to dance and after some more will do anything from striptease to a presidential speech."
Surprised how well he knew me after those few weeks, I grabbed
one of the mugs being simultaneously offered to me. As the beer was
effortlessly slipping down my throat, I was descending from the hot
tropics to the midlatitude intemperance climate. After my second
beer I pronounced a major speech: " 'Compadres' (belch), excuse
me, the 'revolucion' is afoot. 'Camaradas,' we must be always on
alert and grab every opportunity which will offer itself to come to
this our revolutionary center to plan our strategy. For now I propose that we, at all times, grip firmly the handles of our mugs and
never let go, even in the times of adversity. Only in such case 'la
revolucion' can win. Viva la revolucion! Viva Munich! And now
let's join our noble throats in a common chant of our 'himno'!"
And we roared to the accompaniment of an old, out of tune
piano. Then we irrigated our hoarse voices from our mugs. In that
moment everybody was happy except the table of the communists
who did not quite approve of our revolutionary fervor. One of the
happy guys came up to me and said: "Look, 'compadre,' I am
'bostoniano' and I would like to tell you a few words in English on
behalf of 'el pueblo estadounidense'."
But he apparently forgot to speak English during the eight years
he spent at the Munich and so he just said in Spanish: "I agree
with you 'compadre' but I would like you to make one thing perfectly clear. Do you mean that we should, at all times, grip firmly the handle of our mug with one hand only or that we should grip
the handles of our mugs with both hands, that is two beers in two
" 'Camarada,' that depends. In the early stages of the revolution
everybody has to grip only one beer but when we have the situation
firmly in our hands we will need every help we can get and then,
most of the comrades will be required to grip beer with any part of
their bodies which will hold it."
At that moment the jolly Bostonian jumped on the wooden table,
slippery with spilled beer, and sang to my honor a wild, Indian
song from the northern sierra, the words of which even the Indians
themselves would not understand.
When I came home from such a meeting my spirits were high
and I forgot all about the screaming whore and the erudite golfers.
I just went straight to the common bathroom and relieved myself to
the bottom of my soul. Then, somewhere midway between the bathroom and my bed, I fell asleep and even the morning A-73 exercise
did not throw me out of balance. When I finally got up, washed
myself and looked to the mirror, I noticed that I was spiritually
growing. I stopped speaking English for good, not that I would be
ashamed of it, only the Munich beer made my tongue too stiff for
that kind of language. And so, when a man in a gringo uniform
would ask me how to get to the street in the middle of which we
were standing, I answered: "No entiendo." And I did not do so out
of malice but because I really could not understand how anybody
could be so foolish. Then I could not refuse myself the pleasure of
listening to the comment that the gringo made for the benefit of his
"These latin guys are all the same; lazy and good-for-nothings.
They will never improve their lives if they go on like that. I would
have given him a quarter if he could tell me where the darn street
In that moment I said: "I don't care for your quarter, you
prick," and the old man turned red and crossed the street, surreptitiously looking around to see if anybody overheard us.
My days at the expatriates' den were numbered. Many times I
spiritually rehearsed the moment when I would pack my four books,
two shirts, some underwear, and a toothbrush and say adios to the
"duefia" whose pregnancy was nearing its victorious end. In the
last days I spent there I looked down on the madwoman and the
two scientists and never spoke to them. Only once was I foolish
10 enough to ask the crazy lady something concerning contraceptives,
on behalf of my girlfriend, totally ignorant of these matters. The
lady threw a movie look at me and said: "Look baby, you don't
have to worry. You just come any time you want and it will be
I just said, "forget it," and was gone, gone for ever.
11 Philip Morris sey was born in Ireland and has been living in Canada for 13
years. He has worked in northern Saskatchewan, the Yukon and British Columbia and has now settled in Vancouver where he is employed by the Liquor
Control Board.
August 14th
About three weeks have passed since we moved into Sussex Gardens and I reckon things couldn't be better. We haven't seen Quick
or heard any movement upstairs. I knocked on the door one morning to see if he wanted any chores done. There was no answer so
I just went ahead. I mowed the grass, cleaned the shed and fixed
the fence. It's a real good feeling to wake up relaxed and be happy
that a new day has begun. Maudie says that I don't cry out at night
or talk in my sleep anymore. She likes it here too. I kidded her along
the other day and she laughed right out. Ain't seen her do that in
I wasn't sure about the house when I first saw it. It was big and
old and kinda run-down. Someone had tried a paint job years back
and had given up halfway through. Now the upper part of the clapboard frontage was an aging green and the lower a furry grey. The
paint had been allowed to run and the house melted and dripped
into the rank weeds. A cardboard sign in the window had said
"Room to Rent, Cheap."
"Whaddya think?" I'd asked.
Maudie wasn't committing herself. She's kinda suspicious. I guess
you can't blame her, having cooked in the camps for nigh on 20
years. Maudie is small and stout and has the eye of an angry robin.
She didn't answer, but having made her decision, she pushed open
the gate and headed for the front door.
"Goin' to view Xanadu," I commented. She looked back at me
sharply. Before the camps and the mills, I'd had a couple of years
at university and she can't quite forgive that. She had never got
past 6th grade and, like I said, is kinda prickly. Most of the time I
12 go along, do what she says and speak her language but occasionally
something slips out like Coleridge. Maybe that's good, like those
headshrinkers used to tell me when I was in that place.
"Let it come, Clem," they'd say. "You've got to face it."
"Face what?" I'd ask. They'd just shake their heads and try to
look professional but I could see they were disappointed. I sure
pitied those guys.
"Clem," Maudie was shaking my arm vigorously. She was just
about to launch into her "daydreaming again" routine when the
door opened. The man was dressed in white; shirt, pants and tennis
shoes. His large blimplike figure seemed to float in the darkened
hall. The pale moon face was difficult to bring into focus and I
sensed rather than saw his unhurried scrutiny.
"The room. We ..." Maudie had spoken.
"Yeah, come on." He glided out of view, leaving me to close the
The kitchen surprised me. It was clean and bright. There was a
large leather armchair with a footstool, a TV and a fine old oak
china cabinet. The landlord subsided into the armchair, the same
fluid movement bringing his feet to rest on the footstool. I guessed
that he spent most of his time in that chair.
"So, you want the room," the man was addressing Maudie.
Vaguely I heard her answer. I saw his lips move but he never once
glanced at me. I watched him, enthralled. He bulged and ballooned
in the centre but his extremities were petite. The tiny feet swelled
into monstrous thighs and the vast body strained at the confines of
the big armchair. His hands were small, well-kept and constantly
"Clem," Maudie was nudging me. I started. The big guy was
watching me "I said, what do you do?" The washed-out eyes were
on me. Panic washed over me, like in those nightmares that I can
never remember. "Hold on, hold on," I thought in desperation but
those eyes were still on me, quiet, colourless, watching. I wanted to
jump from the chair, but I was immobilized. 'Did you notice,
Maudie,' I almost said aloud, 'that he's got no eyebrows or eyelashes?'
My hands were trembling and the corner of my mouth had begun
to twitch. The pale face in front of me remained calm and serene.
Then slowly the lips parted and I could see his toothless gums. He
was smiling. He turned to Maudie and the gums disappeared.
"You can have the room."
13 "Just a minute," Maudie wasn't going to be rushed. "We ain't
even seen it yet, an' what are you chargin'?"
"You'll want it. It's everything you ever dreamed of — real cute.
An' as for rent, forget it. I like company."
He turned to me. I could see his gums.
Maudie and I moved in later that day. We couldn't wait to get
out of the dump we had on Skid Row. Like Mr. Quick, our new
landlord, said, it was real nice and we liked it, that is until last
night when he reappeared.
I was reading the newspaper and Maudie was sewing. I heard
her gasp and looked up. The door was open and the landlord was
standing in the room. My first feeling was wonder that this colossus
could be so silent, then annoyance swept over me. Quick just stood
there, calm and unruffled, poised lightly on his tiny feet. The bile of
vexation rose at the back of my throat. I opened my mouth. He
turned to me expectantly.
"Well, Mr. Quick," I said thickly. "Nice weather we're having."
"I'd like you two to come down for a drink." It was an order
rather than an invitation.
"Well — "I knew that Maudie was going to beg off for both of us.
I was glad because I hadn't had a drink for weeks now and felt
better for it. However, Quick cut her off before she could refuse.
"I want you to meet the wife," he said. I looked at Maudie. Her
mouth was open and she was staring at the landlord in amazement.
I knew we were going for that drink.
We'd been in Quick's place about an hour and were on our third
drink. As yet the landlord's wife hadn't appeared. He sat Buddhalike in his chair and listened while I spoke of my background. He
listened intently and with a flattering interest. I knew that Maudie
was bewildered by my chatter. She knows that I'm not too communicative about my past. It seemed, however, that I had to justify
myself to Quick for some unknown reason.
We were on our fourth drink when Maudie made her move.
"Your wife, Mr. Quick, doesn't she take a drink?"
Quick turned to her. His gums showed.
"Ah, yes, my wife, the darling. Hey, rosebud," he shouted.
Almost immediately the kitchen door opened and a woman entered the room. She was small and frail and dressed in a flower
patterned apron and slippers. Her thin hands were clasped and
dark veins etched the work roughened skin. She stood before Quick.
"These are our new tenants, my dear. Say 'Hello'."
14 Mrs. Quick glanced at us. Her eyes returned to her husband's
face immediately. Her attitude was that of a dutiful child in adult
company. However, there was no hint of the repressed exuberance
of childhood in the landlord's wife. I was sharply conscious of the
tableau before me. Quick, gross, controlled, watchful; Mrs. Quick,
defeated, humiliated; Maudie seething with indignation. At that
moment and for a fraction of a second only, the focus changed and
another tableau appeared, drawn from the depths of my subconscious. I grabbed my drink and gulped it down. My hand shook
and, as I replaced the glass on the table, it rattled a little.
"We'll go now, Clem," Maudie's voice was tight with anger. At
the door she turned. Her eyes were on me but I knew her mind was
on Quick.
"Let's go," she repeated furiously. I stood.
"I got some Johnnie Walker Black. Stay a while," Quick was
God, could I use another drink. I had to have one. I sat again.
The door slammed. Maudie was gone.
September 24th
I've been up to Quick's place every night now for the past couple
of weeks. Maudie is sure soreheaded about it. I really believe that
she hates him. It seems that all she talks about is how rotten he is
to his wife, how fat he is and on, and on, and on. I don't know
how I feel about him. It's funny but often, after a few shots, he'll
say something or look at me in a certain way and I get a jolt from
the subconscious. Sure is funny. I get a lot of nightmares now and
wake up shaking and sweating. Never can remember what they're
about though. Maudie wants to pack up and leave. I keep telling
her that we can't afford it right now. This is true but the real
season is that I feel somehow at home here. I've never had a family
but I've got this strange feeling that I belong here.
Quick knows my whole history now. He seems genuinely interested and wants all the details. I've never confided so much in
anyone, not even Maudie. He knows about the orphanages and all
that. I told him about how I woke up in that hospital, with the
broken jaw, when I was a kid. My memory was gone. The doctors
told me about the automobile accident and about how my folks
were killed. I couldn't remember them and still can't. My jaw was
sure sore that time. It still hurts sometimes. I also told him about
15 the looney-bin they put me in a few years ago. Quick was real
interested in the psychoanalysis bit. He liked the part about when
those crazy doctors tried to make me believe I'd shot my father.
They said it was therapeutic shock treatment. Fine words for a pack
of lies. Know what our wonderful landlord said when I told him
that. He said, "Maybe you did." His gums were really showing. It
seemed like he was daring me. I felt like smashing his head in. Then
he pointed to the bottle and said,
"Pour yourself another."
I did and said "Thanks."
September 26th
I'm down in Quick's again. We've just about killed a bottle of his
J.W. Black. Usually, he doesn't say too much. He just sits and
drinks and asks questions. Tonight is different. I've never felt as
quiet or relaxed. I'm sitting here with the landlord, drinking his
scotch but I'm also ten years old again. I'm not really interested in
his opinions. I'm just peacefully savouring the warm sweet bite of
Quick's scotch.
"What was your father like?" he asks.
"Just like you, Quick."
Up to this moment, I had never remembered my father but now
I saw him clearly, big like Quick, gross like Quick and with Quick's
love of good liquor. I describe my father to him. He watches me
keenly. For some reason, I think of a bug on a pin. Does Quick
see me as a bug? I don't care. I am relaxed and secure. I am outside myself, nothing can touch me.
"And your mother, your mother?" Quick is eager. Suddenly I
am back inside myself again. The balloon has been burst. My eyes
hurt. I rub them. I grip my glass so tightly I think it may shatter.
I hope it does. He has me now. The bug on the pin begins to
struggle. My hands are shaking.
My mother I see clearly now. My poor, dearly-loved mother,
broken on the anvil of my father's will. That frail, helpless unwilling
ghost has returned.
"Just like Mrs. Quick." My eyes are holding Quick's desperately.
I am pleading, without words, that he stop the inquisition. He
laughs soundlessly.
"Just like my idiot rosebud."
I jump from my seat and lunge for the large figure in the arm-
16 chair. His reflexes are amazingly fast however, and he is up and has
sidestepped before I can reach him. He catches me with a backhand blow and my flight is deflected. I stumble, trip and fall. My
head strikes the edge of the brick fireplace. Waves of exquisite
agony overcome me. I lie with my face on the cold tiles. I think
that my jaw is broken.
Where the hell is — what's her name — Maudie? Yeah, Maudie,
that's it. Guess I must have fallen. This dam jaw of mine hurts like
hell. The big guy is mad. Here he comes. God, he's put the boot
right into my stomach. Sweet suffering Jesus. I'm dying for sure —
never been so sick. Not a good way to go. 'Clem the born loser.'
Put that on the slab. Here he comes again — the 'coup de grace.'
Can't move, close my eyes, tight, tight, tight. Squeeze hard on the
eyelids. Don't think of the belly. That's where it'll... Nothing.
Who's that? The little woman. She fighting him — like a tiger. He
can't throw her off. Seen this all before sometime, someplace. Can't
remember. That little woman's fighting for me — I know she is.
She's fighting for Clem. Quick, yeah, that's the guy's name. Quick's
got the empty bottle in his hand. Oh, dear God, no, don't do it.
Mom, I'm coming. I'll save you.
I'm standing. Kinda bent over but I am standing. The pain in
my gut is killing me but I want it to last forever. Don't ask me why.
This fat guy just said something to me. I look at him.
"She's dead." Guess he means the woman on the floor. She's
bleeding. Her head's a real mess.
"She's dead." He's said it again. Goddam it, I know she's dead.
How often does he have to say it.
"You'll help me get rid of the body. No one will miss her." He's
bending over the body.
They sure served lousy grub in those camps I worked at — not
fit for a dog an' then all that singin' an' dancin' at old Pete's
funeral, an' Margie lyin' on the floor with her eyes open but my
mom liked Maudie all right. They got on real good together. Wonder where Maudie is now. Ain't seen her in years. Can't figure out
why she took off an' left me. This poker is sure heavy. Must be an
antique — belonged to a lord, maybe. Made for the job.
17 I can't find Spot. Spot is my collie dog. Spot and Ginger King
are the best friends I have. Spot is my best friend, Ginger my second
best. Ginger is the best runner in the school. My face is sore. My
dad hit me. He's always hitting me an' I hate him. My mom is nice.
She's the prettiest lady in the world. My dad hits her, too. They're
lying on the floor. They look linda funny that way. Dad's kinda
smilin', like when he beats up on me or mom. He's got no teeth.
Guess I just go to bed and wait for mom to come and tuck me in. THREE POEMS BY REINHARD WALZ
i charlatan of amazon rituals,
stranger to the self,
changer of masks,
masker of changes.
i, an acquaintance
disguised as charlatan
performing rituals on the water,
changing masks, faces, old faces
surfacing behind each wave.
i, dancer to the river's beat.
your palms are facing me,
welcome, it means
in some african language,
but you keep putting them
between you and me,
building a wall.
brick upon brick the wall
grows high, over our heads,
over our hands that see
how high they can reach.
of course i can still see you.
yet, the necessity of words
between us will never pass.
i have travelled, have been
many people
have been more than that
have done more than that —
all this does not matter.
i had turned into ra :
and the desert blossomed.
to be ra again,
i slew falcons
and tried to fit
their emptied heads on mine;
incredibly fast
i closed the lid of a box
but the sun had escaped;
also i skinned asps,
leaves of fall, dead
rustles in the run.    anches
almost daily i try.
anches, osiris reaches for me ..
i had turned into ra .. .
Rein hard Walz was born in Germany and emigrated to the Prairies. He has
travelled widely in South America, Africa and Europe and now lives in Vancouver. He holds M.A. degrees from the Universities of Saskatchewan and British
Columbia. His poems, stories and translations have appeared in many periodicals
and anthologies. His first volume of poems, plans, deeds, assorted papers, will
appear shortly from the Sono Nis Press.
Translated from the French by Dora Pettinella
Over yesterday's world,
Lightning was clear to the stream.
The vine sustained the bee,
The shoulder carried its burden.
Roads lounged, their dust
Flew with the birds,
Stones were added to stones,
Useful hands loving them.
To each hour of pain
an echo at least repeated
slight homage to friends
In ignorant solitude.
Violence was magical
Man often died,
But in the agonizing moment
Its transparency calmed him.
Dora M. Pettinella was born in Boston, Massachusetts of Italian parents and
now lives in New York City. She writes stories and poems in English and Italian
and translates from Spanish, Portuguese and French. Her works have appeared
in numerous publications.
Rene Char was born in Vaucluse, in the Midi of France, in 1903. He lived in
constant community with his birthplace. His first tendencies were surrealistic;
but later he wrote poems with social and more broadly human themes, in the
cause of justice and liberty. His poetry, though excellent, is often extremely
22 Michael Hamburger is a well-known poet, translator and critic. His most
recent publications include Travelling (poems 1963-1968), Fulcrum Press 1969;
the poem sequence Travelling I-V, Agenda Editions 1972; and Ownerless Earth
(new and selected poems 1941-1972), Carcanet Press 1973; the critical books
The Truth of Poetry (London and New York 1969) and Reason and Energy
(new edition 1970, published in the U.S.A. as Contraries); the bilingual anthology East German Poetry, Dutton 1972; and the translation Paul Celan:
Selected Poems, Penguin Books. His translation of Buchner: Leonce and Lena,
Lenz, Woyzeck is published by the University of Chicago Press.
A Radio Play
Translated by Michael Hamburger
GUNTER EICH (1907-1972)
For nearly two decades after the end of the last war the radio
play was a medium cultivated by most of the best imaginative
writers in German. Yet those of Giinter Eich stood out even in that
distinguished company, and he was generally acknowledged to be
the most original and accomplished practitioner of the art. His
radio plays were not only widely performed all over the German-
speaking world and beyond it but collected into volumes and widely
read. The principal collections are Trdume (1953), Stimmen
(1958) and In anderen Sprachen (1964). In Britain and America
Giinter Eich's radio plays have been relatively neglected, mainly
because the medium itself has rarely been taken seriously as literature; but five of them were broadcast in English translation by the
BBC, and two of them appeared in book form (Journeys, translated by Michael Hamburger, Cape Editions, London, 1968).
23 It is no accident that Giinter Eich began and ended as a lyrical
poet. Unlike the stage play, the radio play is an intimate, almost
introspective medium that relies for its effect on language alone,
unaided by gesture, action or scenery. Its freedom, like that of
poetry, is the freedom of suggestiveness: it can mean more than it
says. In Giinter Eich's case it always means more than it says, and
that is the crux of his mastery; of its mystery, too, for these are
inseparable. The language of his radio plays is as plain and commonplace as the language of his poem Inventur (from his volume
of 1948, Abgelegene Gehbfte) that revolutionized post-war German
poetry. The complexities and the mystery are between the lines,
between the passages of ordinary dialogue, in the vibrations set up
between one thing and another. In The Girls from Viterbo, and
several of his best radio plays, these vibrations also arise from parallel plots interwoven in a way that might seem artificial in a stage
play but seems quite natural in the surreal dimension of sound.
After 1965 Giinter Eich concentrated on poems increasingly brief
and condensed, and on very short prose pieces which he called
Maulwurfe (Moles), perhaps because their meaning, too, is not so
much on the surface as underground. Much of his earlier and later
work has not yet been published in English translation.
gabrielle:   Wake up! Wake up!
goldschmidt :  (waking up) What is it? Gabrielle?
gabrielle: (whispering) Footsteps on the stairs!
(They listen)
goldschmidt :   It's nothing. Any number of people go up and down
these stairs. It's nothing to do with us.
gabrielle:  That's what I thought.
goldschmidt:  But you woke me up all the same.
gabrielle : It's better to be awake. Your own words, Grandfather.
goldschmidt:  Yes, it is better.
gabrielle :  I'm always awake. And yet I ought to sleep — at the
tender age of seventeen. Isn't that so?
goldschmidt:  It's advisable to have a good deal of sleep at your
gabrielle :  And at your age, Grandfather?
goldschmidt:  One needs only a little sleep.
24 gabrielle:   Oh, these wise saws!
goldschmidt:  What do you mean?
gabrielle :  All these bits of experience, the rubbish I have to listen
to, day after day. I'd like to sweep it all away.
goldschmidt :   Come now, surely it isn't as bad as that.
gabrielle :  Don't cut potatoes with your knife, and at seventy one
doesn't need much sleep. My dear old wiseacre of a grandfather,
admit that you love sleeping. Not to say, revel in it.
goldschmidt :   I was glad you woke me up.
gabrielle : Only because I didn't want to have this fear all alone.
goldschmidt: When I opened my eyes I thought for a moment
that I was somewhere else.
gabrielle :  You ought to know that striped wall-paper by now.
goldschmidt:   I didn't know it.
gabrielle:  365 stripes; I've counted them. An absurd coincidence,
don't you think?
goldschmidt:   Probably.
gabrielle :  Or else?
goldschmidt :  What else could it be?
gabrielle :  As many stripes as there are days in the year.
goldschmidt:   I understood you the first time. An absurd coincidence, as you say.
gabrielle : I don't believe it. That there are 365 days in the year
is part of the nonsense you go on telling me, you and Frau Winter.
There are 365 stripes in the year.
goldschmidt: (sighing) Yes, yes, of course, if you wish to think so.
gabrielle:   If only you'd contradict me, Grandfather!
goldschmidt:   Oh, Gabrielle.
gabrielle: (aping him) Oh, Gabrielle!
goldschmidt:  When I awoke —
gabrielle :  You were somewhere else. You said that before. Probably you were in the place where we really are.
goldschmidt :  Unfortunately this is the place where we really are.
Berlin, Prinzregentenstrasse —
gabrielle:   October 1943. All very improbable.
goldschmidt :  What do you say?
gabrielle : The address, I mean, the date, the stripes on the wallpaper. I don't believe in them.
goldschmidt:  Just for a moment I had the same feeling.
gabrielle :  When you woke up. But I never believe it. In this place
everything is false. When I look out of the window it seems as
25 though it's raining. You say it's the grey face of the house next
door. But is that an explanation?
goldschmidt :   What do you want me to say?
gabrielle :  A bad dream. Why don't you say it? A man of seventy
and his granddaughter who have to go into hiding, spend three
years in the flat of a noble-minded landlady, can't go out into the
street — old wives' tales, the lot of them, and so badly put together
that not a second of it all could be true! Why don't you say it?
goldschmidt:   Oh, Gabrielle.
gabrielle: (sobbing) I can't bear it any longer. (She pulls herself
together) And when you woke up?
goldschmidt:   I didn't recognize you. I thought you were a girl
called Antonia.
gabrielle :  Antonia?
goldschmidt:  As for me —
gabrielle: Couldn't it be that my name is Antonia? That everything is really different, with a different wall-paper and without
Frau Winter — a completely different life?
goldschmidt:  As for me, I was a schoolmaster. I even remember
my name: Pietro Bottari.
gabrielle:   Pietro?
goldschmidt:  Bottari. We were all from Viterbo.
gabrielle :  And reality was as beautiful as those names.
goldschmidt :   A class from a girls' school. We'd been on an outing
to Rome. Or it could have been Naples.
gabrielle :   Let's wake up, Grandfather, in Naples or Rome.
goldschmidt:   Naples or Rome, that's right. We were in the catacombs and couldn't find the exit.
gabrielle:   (pensively) Why do I know this already?
goldschmidt:   I can tell you.
gabrielle:  Because it's the reality, you mean?
goldschmidt:  Because of the illustrated paper. One of those old
numbers Frau Winter brought us. A report about the catacombs,
gabrielle : (almost in tears) I don't want to remember.
goldschmidt:   It was about a school outing, a group of girls who
lost their way in the passages. Would you prefer that to being here?
gabrielle :   I should prefer it.
goldschmidt :  Yes, of course you would.
gabrielle :   Recollections of the illustrated paper! Is that all?
26 goldschmidt: No, it isn't. For at the same time we were from
Berlin, from this house, this flat.
gabrielle: (furious) Oh, your overflowing imagination! A nice
cheerful story you're telling me!
goldschmidt :  When I was seventeen I saved up my sarcasms.
gabrielle :  What for? I can't make myself more stupid than I am.
Can't you understand that I'd like to forget about us, if only for a
goldschmidt:   I do understand.
gabrielle :  And yet?
goldschmidt:  Did I say yet?
gabrielle :  You meant it, anyway.
goldschmidt:  There's no time left for dreams, Gabrielle.
gabrielle:  No time left, at seventeen?
goldschmidt:  That dream of mine seemed like my last. There
could be no others after that.
gabrielle : (decisively) Tell it to me.
goldschmidt:   It's the flavour of the dream. It lies on my tongue
like a final word. There's very little to tell.
gabrielle:   Was it the catacombs, or Berlin?
goldschmidt :  We'd left Berlin, and were approaching the frontier.
gabrielle:   I don't want to insult your imagination again. It unearths old magazines and settles in dingy flats. And now —
goldschmidt:  And now — it can think of nothing better than
Siegfried Israel Hirschfeld and Edith Sarah Hirschfeld.
gabrielle:   So you dreamed of the Hirschfelds! How could that
leave a pleasant taste in your mouth!
goldschmidt:  We'd reached the frontier.
gabrielle:  We had? Oh dear.
goldschmidt:  And wrote a postcard to a girl called Gabrielle.
gabrielle:   Gabrielle Sarah Goldschmidt.
goldschmidt: And to her grandfather, saying that all had gone
gabrielle :  The postcard the Hirschfelds were going to send us. It
should have arrived by now, incidentally. I expect Frau Winter has
got it in her handbag.
goldschmidt:  But then —
gabrielle : Speak, my ingenious grandparent. Let your ideas come
tumbling out, give free play to your gnome-like fancies. Yesterday's
war communique, perhaps, or Frau Winter's ration card? Why
don't you go on?
27 goldschmidt:  Then there was something I can't quite recall.
gabrielle :  You cried out in your sleep.
goldschmidt:  I think they were looking for us in the catacombs.
gabrielle :  Or in Berlin, or at the frontier?
goldschmidt :  They found us. I don't know whether it was a good
thing or a bad thing that they found us.
gabrielle :   But you cried out.
goldschmidt:  Something bad must have happened at that point.
gabrielle:   Isn't it the worst possible thing anyway, to be found?
goldschmidt:   What was it? I can't remember. Only the bitter
taste has remained.
(A clock strikes far away)
gabrielle :  — five, six.
goldschmidt :  It's getting dark.
gabrielle :  You say that because it's just struck six. Is there anything else but darkness, ever? Different shades of it, at best. You'd
never notice them.
goldschmidt :  Possibly.
gabrielle: Nothing provokes you. No feelings, no needs. I'm
hungry, for instance.
goldschmidt :  Frau Winter will soon be back.
gabrielle :  Because it's six o'clock.
goldschmidt: It isn't altogether a bad thing that I so rarely feel
gabrielle :   Grandfather, Robert Israel Goldschmidt!
goldschmidt :   What?
gabrielle : I hate you for not being more hungry.
goldschmidt :   I know you do.
gabrielle : You don't know anything of the kind. Because it isn't
goldschmidt: Perhaps it is true at times. I'm often afraid of that:
if you lock people up, they get vicious.
gabrielle: If only I knew that I had the time to get vicious. In
that case I'm sure I shouldn't. Well just a little spot or two. Imagine
how virtuous we could be, Grandfather, with half a century ahead
of us!
goldschmidt:  Yes, child.
gabrielle :  Now I'm going to black out the window.
goldschmidt :  That's a good idea.
gabrielle :  It's not a good idea. It's utterly senseless. And I've just
28 noticed that I can no longer do anything without announcing it
first. I think if I were to meet myself I'd find myself intolerable.
goldschmidt :  That would be true of anyone.
gabrielle : Oh, these words of wisdom! Lessons from the school of
life! Take any inane platitude and generalize it, and you're a wiseacre. All's well that ends well. Who said that? Probably someone
who was hanging from the gallows.
(Sirens. Air Raid Warning)
goldschmidt :  The third warning today.
gabrielle:  Three's a lucky number. Don't call any day good before evening. It all fits. Especially for us, when we're asleep in the
day-time and awake at night. I'm going to see whether the fire
buckets have been filled.
goldschmidt :  You can rely on Frau Winter.
gabrielle : And, besides it makes no difference. But I'm going all
the same. These little duties give a rhythm to our lives and maintain our sense of order.
goldschmidt :  Go on, then, and don't chatter so much.
gabrielle :  Am I getting on your nerves at last? Just wait while I
quote old Goethe:  What makes time fly? Activity! Just about as
much imagination as you. He never had an inkling of all the other
possible ways of making extravagant hopes: I'll be back in a minute.
(She leaves the room quietly)
goldschmidt : A few minutes' solitude. Could use them to consider
whether to put on a tie or not, for example. Does one need a tie
when they come to fetch one? Perhaps one does, perhaps it's important. Perhaps everything depends on whether you're wearing one.
Or not wearing one. That's something one ought to think about,
alone and quickly, for it will be today. Today. Not one of those days
between yesterday and tomorrow, but Land's End, the furthest
promontory, Finisterre. From below the taste of salt is blown on to
your lips, the ultimate taste, you know there is no other.
(Gabrielle returns)
gabrielle :  The water buckets are all right.
goldschmidt :  And otherwise?
gabrielle:   Most probably the only thing in the world that is all
29 goldschmidt:  I didn't mean anything so sweeping. Any disturbance in the house?
gabrielle :  Nothing unusual.
(The bell rings)
gabrielle :  Apart from a Uttle visit.
goldschmidt:   (whispering)  The hall porter.  Or the Air Raid
gabrielle:  The hall porter. I know his way of ringing the bell.
He's wondering where Frau Winter has got to.
goldschmidt :   Perhaps he wants to tell her that the raid's a heavy
gabrielle :   I should have turned on the wireless.
goldschmidt:  God forbid, Gabrielle.
gabrielle : Oh yes. I know the rules of our game. Keep the stakes
low, so that you can't lose much.
goldschmidt : Do you hear? He's going down again.
gabrielle :  But every time the bell rings I'm tempted to open the
door. Seriously, Grandfather, that's what I want: to see and to be
seen. Once and for all.
goldschmidt:   Do you know what that would mean?
gabrielle :  Careful does it. Look after the pennies — I know. But
I have a suspicion that even the pennies are fakes, let alone the
goldschmidt:  The world doesn't consist only of counterfeiters.
gabrielle :  Of what else, then?
goldschmidt :  And you're not serious about all this.
gabrielle :   I'm quite serious about my wishes.
goldschmidt :  Keep them a little longer, Gabrielle.
gabrielle :  Till they've dried up. A collection of dried plants, to be
offered up to the Lord with a genuflection. See how virtuous I was,
how thrifty!
(Even during these last words a sound of motors. Anti-aircraft
fire. Distant bomb explosions.)
goldschmidt :  High explosive bombs.
gabrielle :  Frau Hirschfeld said she'd go mad if she had to endure
another raid in this flat. A kind and tactful way of saying good-bye
to us.
goldschmidt:  I've told you before —
3° gabrielle :  We can't use the shelter any more than she could.
goldschmidt :   Frau Hirschfeld's nerves are very bad.
gabrielle :   It doesn't do to have bad nerves when you're trying to
cross into Switzerland in the dead of night.
goldschmidt :  They'll have got over by now.
gabrielle :   And I too have a strong inclination to go mad.
goldschmidt :   Last night, it was.
gabrielle :  But what about us? I'm seventeen. I haven't lived yet.
goldschmidt:  To be in Switzerland. At Schaffhausen. Or already
in Zurich.
gabrielle :  Didn't you dream they'd been found?
goldschmidt :  The girls from Viterbo.
gabrielle :  A form outing, wasn't it? Perhaps girls of my own age.
In the evening they went out with their arms linked, in twos and
threes, through the main street of Viterbo.
goldschmidt :  The previous week there had been a guest tenor at
the town theatre.
gabrielle :   (astonished)  What did you say?
goldschmidt:  They're talking about him and giggling. It's the
evening before their outing to Rome.   The square in front of the
theatre. A fine evening.
gabrielle :  All your own work, Grandfather?
goldschmidt :   One lives and learns.
gabrielle :  You astonish me.
(The aeroplanes are now nearer.)
goldschmidt:   The tenor occurred to me at the same time as my
gabrielle:   (laughs)
goldschmidt :   You know my tie. Blue and red stripes.
gabrielle :   It's quite pretty.
goldschmidt :   I wish I knew whether I should put it on.
gabrielle   (laughing)   Why not?
goldschmidt:   So you think I should. When I was Pietro Bottari
I wore a tie too.
gabrielle : Did you?
goldschmidt :  That's hardly encouraging. I wonder what the girls
feel like now.
gabrielle :  Very much as I do. Or just a little better. At least there
are no bombs over their heads.
3i goldschmidt: Don't listen to them. Think of the catacombs and
the girls from Viterbo.
gabrielle: (pensively) I can picture them very clearly. They've
all put on their best clothes for the outing. Pink, quite a few of
them, some blue, yellow, and one in white. Lovely dresses with
collars and belts, and necklaces which no one now can admire.
(The noises of the air raid suddenly cease.)
bottari :  We must save the candle. Blow it out, Bianca.
bianca :   Won't it last until they find us?
bottari :  Of course it would last, but.. .
bianca :   I'll blow it out.
maria :  They're searching for us already.
lena :  Perhaps it will be some time before they find us. What if we
miss the last train back?
maria :  What would our parents say?
lucia :  That we're coming home tomorrow morning.   (Laughter)
I think it's an interesting experience.
bianca :   I don't. I'm afraid.
bottari:  Afraid? Nonsense.
lucia : You see?
bottari : But I should like to know how such a thing could happen.
I was the last. Who was the first to come in?
maria :   Wasn't it you? Lucia?
lucia :   I was the third or fourth.
bottari :  Who was in front of you?
lucia :   Oh, they kept changing.
bottari: How could we possibly lose sight of the people in front
of us, and of the priest?  (Silence)  Who was in front when we
noticed it?
lucia:  I think we had stopped for a moment and we were all
bottari :  Why had you stopped?
lucia :  Because all of a sudden we couldn't see anyone ahead of us.
bottari :  So none of you was at the front?
bianca :   It's too late to be sure of it now.
bottari :  I see. That means it's my responsibility.
32 bianca:  It certainly wasn't your fault, Signor Bottari. You were
right at the back.
bottari :  Your parents will hardly care whether I was at the front
or the back.
lucia : I shall tell my parents that it wasn't your fault.
bianca: So shall I.
maria : All of us shall. You can count on us, Signor Bottari.
bottari :   It was my idea to visit the catacombs. They will hold that
against me.
antonia:   Why bother to talk about it? What's happened anyway?
We've lost our way, and shall get home a few hours late. That's all.
lena:  Antonia's right.
maria :   What's the time?
bottari :  A quarter to seven.
maria:  In that case they must find us soon. The last train leaves
at eight.
lena :  Quiet! I think I heard someone call.
The words that follow are spoken very softly
lucia:  Antonio!
antonia :   Is it you, Lucia?
lucia :   I want to tell you something.
antonia :  What is it?
lucia :  It was me.
antonia:  What was?
lucia:   I was at the front. I turned into another passage on purpose ; no one noticed it. Do you think that was bad?
antonia : No. But why did you turn off?
lucia:   I don't know. I was bored. I'm bored by everything, the
whole of life. Can you understand that?
antonia: Yes, I can.
lucia:  But now I'm afraid.
antonia :  Nonsense.
lucia :  What if they never find us?
antonia :  Of course they'll find us.
(The following aloud)
bottari : Who's that whispering all the time? Can't you keep quiet?
lena :  What's the time now, Signor Bottari?
33 bottari:   (after hesitating briefly)  Wasn't it a quarter to seven
when you last asked me?
lena :  Has your watch stopped?
bottari :  Does anyone here know the time?
lena :  No, I don't think anyone does.
bianca :  Perhaps it was later even when we last asked you.
maria :   In that case we shan't catch our train.
bottari :  We shall spend the night in the waiting room. I can think
of worse things.
lucia : Do you think that perhaps we should move on?
antonia : Leave that to Signor Bottari.
maria:   (suddenly bursts into tears)
bottari:   (irritated)  What's the matter? What are you crying for?
bianca :   What's wrong with you? Maria?
lena:   (tittering)  She's hungry.
maria:   I'm not hungry.
bottari :  What is it, then?
maria :   What if they never find us?
bottari :  Don't talk such rubbish.
antonia:  Let's finish the chocolate. And then we'll lie down and
bianca:   I can't lie down in this filth. I'm wearing a white frock.
lena:   Well, stand, then. We shall all get dirty down here.
bianca:  I'm not going to spoil my frock. I got it specially for the
outing. Who would think of lying down here. It's damp and cold,
and there's a draft. Aren't the walls dripping?
bottari :  That's your imagination.
lucia:  Why don't we sing.
lena :  So that we won't be able to hear anything?
lucia :  So that you won't get depressed.
bottari :  No one here is depressed. We're all quite cheerful, aren't
antonia:   (when no one has replied)  Of course we are.
bottari : After all, it's an adventure. And you girls are usually keen
enough on adventures! Just think what stories you'll be able to tell
at home, to your parents and brothers and sisters. All at once you've
become the most interesting girls in Viterbo. Isn't that worth while?
Your names will be in the papers.
maria :  So it's as bad as that.
34 bottari :  Adventures are often uncomfortable.
lena:   (to herself)  I know of some that are very comfortable.
(One of them titters)
bottari :   What are you laughing about?
bianca:  Lena says she knows of some adventures that are very
lena:   (quickly)   In any case this is not one of them. It's pretty
hard where I'm sitting.
lucia :  Now my parents have just come to the station to meet me.
maria : And mine too.
lucia :  And then they'll think that we're coming on the last train.
antonia :  The last train arrives at Viterbo just before midnight. All
our parents will be at the station.
lucia :  They don't yet know that we shan't be on the last one either.
bottari:  Be quiet now.
lucia :   Why did I ever begin it?
bottari:   I'm going to shout. That at least can do no harm,   (he
calls out) Halloh! — Halloh! — Halloh! — (his calls fade out)
gabrielle:   (locking the door) That's that.
goldschmidt:  All clear?
gabrielle :  All things have an end, except —
goldschmidt:  That's enough!
gabrielle:  Or would you rather I said: "What is not yet, can still
goldschmidt :  I had a terrible hope, Gabrielle.
gabrielle :  You're going one better than me, then.
goldschmidt:  That I shall be spared the worry of thinking about
my tie.
gabrielle :   I don't understand that joke.
goldschmidt :  And it's a bad one too.
gabrielle :  That's the reason.
goldschmidt:  The reason is the bad taste that won't leave my
gabrielle:  Your dreams are due to hunger. What's become of
Frau Winter?
goldschmidt :  Held up by the raid.
35 gabrielle:  She could have been here before the raid. What else
are clocks for, clocks that strike six? Not a crumb of bread in the bin.
I suspect her of dawdling on purpose.
goldschmidt:  There's nothing she doesn't do for us.
gabrielle :   Up to now we've paid for it.
goldschmidt: Paid for it? What, for the danger she's incurred?
How much do you reckon that is worth?
gabrielle :  And in saying that, one ought to roll one's eyes and fall
on one's knees. Oh, I hate them for it, and not only Frau Winter.
goldschmidt :  No, your grandfather too.
gabrielle :  Everyone.
goldschmidt :  That's always been the easiest way.
gabrielle :  And myself most of all.
goldschmidt: How pathetic — just as if you were no older than
— than you are.
gabrielle:   (amused)  And my stupidities?
goldschmidt :  Just as though you were still learning to talk.
gabrielle : And yet I feel as if I were seventy! No, a hundred and
seventy! Oh, Grandfather, dear old Grandfather, you're quite right.
goldschmidt:   What about?
gabrielle :  We're almost the same age. Those fifty years make no
difference, since every day spent in this place is like a year.
goldschmidt :   More than that.
gabrielle: And the time before, when they beat Father to death
and took away Mother? Aunt Esther counts too, and the unknown
young man in the flat next to ours who cried out for help. It adds
up to several centuries. Look at me clearly: I'm a shrivelled, ancient
goldschmidt :  But you still have your wishes?
gabrielle :  Transformed into a seventeen-year-old girl, if you like.
But what do my wishes amount to? They're all so vague.
goldschmidt:  To walk in a park at night, perhaps?
gabrielle:   (serious)  And someone beside me who loves me. No
one loves me.
goldschmidt:  You exaggerate.
gabrielle :  Am I plain?
goldschmidt :  No.
gabrielle :  But not particularly pretty. A pity! I'd rather be a celebrated beauty. At the opera people turn their glasses toward my
box. People stare at me in the street: the Goldschmidt girl.
goldschmidt:   Gabrielle Sarah.
36 gabrielle:  Wouldn't  you   think   the  name   attractive   enough?
Beauty would change everything. It would have a completely new
ring: Goldschmidt. And besides —
goldschmidt:   Quiet!
gabrielle :  Footsteps on the stairs?
goldschmidt:   (whispering)  It could be Frau Winter.   (They
(The footsteps halt in front of the door to their room. The door
handle is slowly pressed down, the door opens.)
frau winter : Ah — you're there.
goldschmidt: (laughing) That sounds as though you're surprised.
frau winter: Oh, no, I just said it without thinking. One talks
such a lot of nonsense.
gabrielle :   We should be glad to be somewhere else.
goldschmidt :   Please don't misunderstand Gabrielle.
gabrielle :   I didn't mean it that way, we're most grateful to you,
and so on.
frau winter: (affably) In short, nothing unusual has happened.
gabrielle : Three raids, two rings on the bell. We understand one
goldschmidt :  And what about you, Frau Winter?
frau winter:  About me?
goldschmidt:   Something unusual?
frau winter :  No.
goldschmidt :  You look strained.
gabrielle :   I expect we do, too. There's just been a raid, after all.
frau winter :   Mainly around Lichterfelde, the South End.
gabrielle :  That's a long way off.
goldschmidt :  Near enough for many.
gabrielle:  A pronouncement that should reduce us to solemn
silence. Cheer up, Grandfather, it'll be our turn soon.
frau winter :   I'll go and get the supper.
gabrielle :   While I look for suitable proverbs.
goldschmidt:   It would be better to help Frau Winter.
gabrielle : You know she doesn't want me to. It's too close to the
passage door.
frau winter :  There's cod for supper.
gabrielle:   Well, what do you say to that, Grandfather. My premonitions are better than yours.
goldschmidt:  More tasty, anyhow.
37 frau winter :   (as she leaves the room)  Here you are! The card
from the Hirschfelds.
gabrielle :  Give it to me, Grandfather.
goldschmidt:   (reading)   "Holiday  greeting  from  Richard  and
Clara. We are well."
gabrielle:   (laughs)  Richard and Clara.
goldschmidt :  The pre-arranged words.
gabrielle :  And a lovely little view into the bargain. Something we
didn't pre-arrange. It never rains but it pours.
goldschmidt :  Let me see it.
gabrielle:   "Singen, with a view of the Hohentwiel peak."
goldschmidt :   So they've got as far as Singen.
gabrielle :  Have you ever heard of Singen? A very unlikely name.
And Hohentwiel, with a t and a w. There's no such place.
goldschmidt :  They must have crossed the border by now.
gabrielle :   If only we could find out! You know, Grandfather,
I've been thinking all day that the arrival of the postcard will be
an omen. A sign that we shall come through.
goldschmidt:  Yes.
gabrielle :  Or don't you think so, Grandfather?
goldschmidt :  Why wasn't Frau Winter pleased about the card?
gabrielle :   Wasn't she pleased?
goldschmidt:  My impression was that she wasn't pleased. She
gave it to us last of all. And without any further comment.
gabrielle:   I expect that she wishes that we were in Switzerland
goldschmidt :   I'm sure she does, the kind soul.
gabrielle : Or in Jericho, for that matter. I don't blame the kind
goldschmidt :  Are you starting again, Gabrielle?
gabrielle :  And does it matter in the least whether Frau Winter is
pleased? We are pleased. All is well. The girls from Viterbo will be
goldschmidt :  They were not found.
goldschmidt :  They never returned to the light of day.
gabrielle:   (after hesitating briefly)  I don't believe that anyone
can get lost in the catacombs. A fiction fit only for the readers of
illustrated magazines. No. Grandfather, it all ends as happily as our
story is turning out.
goldschmidt:  Our story?
38 gabrielle :  A red-letter day of the first order.
goldschmidt i Because of the cod, above all.
gabrielle :  Don't be sarcastic.
goldschmidt:  And then the postcard about which Frau Winter is
not pleased.
gabrielle:  As I said, / am pleased. And I had the feeling that I
could save the girls from Viterbo. Today I have the power and the
goldschmidt:  Use it, then, Gabrielle. So they're being searched
gabrielle:  They are.
goldschmidt :  One of the monks —
gabrielle :  No, it should be better than that.
goldschmidt:   In what way?
gabrielle :  To put it precisely, it should make you cry.
goldschmidt:   (laughing)  No monks, then, no fire engines, no
gabrielle :  No, no kind of professional rescue party.
goldschmidt: Love, I suppose?
gabrielle:  That's it.
goldschmidt :  Love will find them, then.
gabrielle :  That's what I'm saying.
goldschmidt :   Even if no one finds them.
gabrielle :  What do you mean?
goldschmidt:   Love has no ropes and no lamps and can pull no
one out of the maze. It is powerless.
gabrielle :  That isn't true. I am making it powerful.
goldschmidt:  Make it lucky.
gabrielle :  Luck is no accident, I've learnt. Listen!
lucia :  Are you asleep, Antonia?
antonia :  Aren't you either, Lucia?
lucia :  I've got so much to think about. What are you thinking?
antonia:  I don't know. I don't know what to do with so much
time. It frightens me.
lucia :   It's my thoughts that frighten me.
antonia :  I don't even know whether I have any thoughts.
lucia:  For  instance  I'm thinking — Are you thinking of your
father, Antonia?
39 antonia :  I'm thinking of my father.
lucia :  And of your mother too?
antonia :  My mother too.
lucia :  And of your sisters?
antonia :   I'm thinking of my sisters too.
lucia:  And who else?
antonia:  Who else?  (after a while, calmly)  Of Pietro Bottari, our
lucia:  Oh!
antonia:  Are you satisfied?
lucia :  And Bottari? Does he know?
antonia :  How could he? I've only known it myself since you asked
lucia :  Are you joking, Antonia?
antonia :  Think what you like.
lucia :   I'd like to be friends with you, Antonia.
antonia :   Is there still time for that?
lucia:   I'd like to be able to talk to you, to tell you everything.
antonia :  Well, tell me, then.
lucia :  If you think of one person more than anyone else —
antonia :   Well?
lucia :  Does that mean you love him?
antonia:  How should I know? You'd have to ask Margarita. She
knows all the boys in Viterbo.
lucia :  That's just why I expect she doesn't know.
antonia :   And you think that we two know better?
lucia:  Don't be flippant. Just tell me: does that mean you love
antonia :   One might suppose so.
lucia:   (triumphant)  In that case I love Emilio Fostino.
antonia:  Oh, yes?
lucia :  You don't seem to be impressed.
antonia :  I don't know him.
lucia:  He's seventeen, apprentice in a joinery, a few houses away
from ours. And we're almost strangers.
antonia :  There's nothing wrong with his age.
lucia:  One day, just in front of our house, a chest of drawers fell
off his cart. I couldn't help laughing.
antonia :  And he was enchanted?
lucia:  He was furious. It worries me now.
antonia :  Yes, I've heard of fury and of laughter. And who could
40 prove that it might not begin with the upsetting of a chest of
lucia :  Do you think so, Antonia?
antonia:   (sighs)
lucia :  Or aren't you listening?
antonia:   (distressed)  Oh yes, I'm listening.
lucia:   What are you thinking?
antonia: I'm not thinking. I'd like to know what Bottari is thinking.
lucia :  He's asleep.
antonia :  Are you so sure?
bottari : A game of billiards with the Lord Mayor, on a weekday,
five in the afternoon. One agrees to meet, one belongs. It is the hour
when Angelica visits Signor Giraldi. One knows and doesn't know,
according to one's convenience. Outside, in the dusty sunshine, the
headmaster is passing by. He waves through the window, and will
be with us in a moment. Mario, an espresso, please.
The weather? Your wife? The halflight in the billiard room is like
the town's respect. 45 years old, a schoolteacher, married, without
children. Done nothing to cause a stir, either in Heaven or on earth.
The balls collide, not many voices, the sounds of darkness. I've always lived in caves. My partner chalks his cue and hopes he will
make a break. The figures add up on the board, the final result is
fixed. Have attained what there was to be attained, a place in the
dark. In billiard rooms, holes and corners, catacombs — hail to you,
my caves, my ultimate home! I have come to you. The deceptions
vanish, chair, match, and clock; there is no gap where they were,
darkness easily fills their place. My knees slightly drawn up, my head
leaning against the stone, a posture for going to sleep, a middling
idyll, just uncomfortable enough to permit some satisfaction.
The red and white balls, the patterns they trace on the glaring green.
Whom is the Lord Mayor playing today? Mario, the bill, please. It
is the moment when Angelica slips into her shoes again. The exercise
books have been corrected, the coffee has been drunk, not a single
head appears in the lamplight. The moment, missed until now, to
die inconspicuously, uncommunicatively above all. Never felt any
need to be conspicuous, and now there is the breathing around me,
41 fifteen-fold. A rustling, a sighing, starched petticoats or sleep. Have
attained what there is to be attained: a place in guilt. Fifteen-fold
guilt, no part of it vanishes, not an empty space for darkness to fill.
Chosen, a billiards champion, with those distinctions which are permitted. Why? I could owe them the price of my coffee, and yet
remain respected as before. Lived as it was most convenient to five,
but who doesn't? Committed the sins of indifference and of melancholy, who knows them? Angelica perhaps, I make an exception of
her. She knows that everyone else has advantages which I lack.
Especially Giraldi, I suppose, my colleague, Giraldi. He will organize
a rescue party for us, he's splendid at organizing, the fool, and he
will succeed too in not finding us. The waiter opens the door. A
draught of fresh air, thy breath, O Lord, that blows me away; I can
feel it clearly. Good evening, Signor Bottari. I have been noticed •—
that in itself is the verdict. I understand it, I am in agreement, I
accept. But only for myself, not for those who are with me.
Put the chairs on the tables, put out the light, — Oh, it isn't quite
as simple as that, Lord Mayor. Or what is your opinion?
lucia:  Come closer, Antonia.
antonia :   Bottari is talking in his sleep.
lucia :   Put your arm around me.
antonia :  That better?
lucia:  Yes. I'm less afraid now. Do you remember what the priest
said: dust?
antonia:   I remember.
lucia :  And the remains of bones, mixed up together.
antonia :  What else could he say?
lucia :  It doesn't upset you?
antonia :   It was a conducted tour, not a prophecy.
lucia:  Or both? Mixed up — like the dust with the bones. Oh I'd
rather have grass, Antonia.
antonia :  Grass? Green fields? I can do without them. This dust is
the very thing for me.
lucia :  For you. How lucky you are!
antonia :   Luckier than you?
lucia :  Only a few steps away from him.
42 antonia:  Further than Viterbo. Distances alter, don't you find?
Your Emilio, for instance —•
lucia:  Yes?
antonia:   Is only incidentally far away-—more easily reached,
really, and closer to happiness —
lucia:  Than Bottari?
antonia: (pensively) It's a kind of physics with quite different
lucia :   Catacomb physics.
antonia: (without paying attention to her) Some sections are
missing entirely. No Heat, no Optics, what a thought! But Magnetism, oh yes, and the Theory of Melancholy -—
lucia : I could contribute a formula to that myself! The suppressed
sigh or the expression "When I'm back in Viterbo."
antonia : Not an easy one to substitute in this equation. And what
sign would it have? plus or minus?
lucia:   (suddenly) Antonia, I'm going to communicate with
antonia: Yes, of course, Lucia. And there's a letter-box up by the
lucia:   What would that be doing in our science? Didn't you say,
different laws? Emilio! Supposing I were to think about him now
with all my strength?
antonia :  Oh dear, what have I started?
lucia :  Couldn't he sense it?
antonia :  Of course. You'll show him the way.
lucia :  And why not?
antonia : Three left, three right. All you need is a crochet pattern.
lucia: All the way to us. It would be an experiment, applied
antonia:  Try it.
lucia: From him to me and from me to him thoughts travel like
waves of sound.
antonia :  You're making me laugh, Lucia.
lucia:  As long as he can hear them he's on his way to us.
antonia :  I hope he knows it too. He's only a beginner, remember.
lucia :  It only takes a matter of minutes to learn this science.
antonia:  How I wish you were right. Then think of Emilio. (sighing)  Meanwhile I shall think of Bottari.
lucia : A lot of nonsense. I know it is.
43 antonia : Sense or nonsense, it's all much the same in our position.
Altogether there's something comic about it.
lucia :  I can't see that.
antonia:  No one outside would see it either, I imagine. But why
shouldn't we? My dear Lucia, you've no idea how silly I think myself. My crush on Bottari! That is, if Bottari isn't a name I've substituted for another.
lucia:  For another?
antonia:  Does that make you curious? And I don't even know
whether there is any other. But there is a Signora Bottari.
lucia :  They say that Signora Bottari —
antonia : There's no end to what people will say.
angelica :  Are we doing all we can?
giraldi: You saw for yourself when we were in Rome. The fire
brigade, police, pioneers, search parties. All organized as efficiently
as could be.
angelica :   I mean us. Are we doing all we can?
giraldi:   What can we do, Angelica? In such cases it's not individuals, it's the public services that have to be mobilized. And that's
the State's responsibility towards its citizens.
angelica :   I'm still speaking about us.
giraldi :   We must be patient, Angelica.
angelica :   In other words —
giraldi: It's now five days since it happened. Let's face the facts.
The most modern appliances have been used, and several hundred
men. You saw them yourself, the serious faces under their helmets
and caps, their determination, their devotion to duty; they know
what's at stake. Didn't you feel that one could completely rely on
angelica: Yes, and if you count in the sun on their helmets, it's
bound to be a success. All the movement orders, the disposition of
commandos and patrols, one can rely on those. But on us, Lorenzo?
giraldi : Let me finish. Even this great effort has been unsuccessful
till now. The catacombs are very intricate, no one knows the full
extent of all the passages, and besides — they have no provisions.
angelica : Are those prospects meant to console me?
giraldi: Of course not. I'm only saying that we ourselves could do
much less, or nothing at all. Even in Rome. You go there —
44 angelica :  And pretend you're doing something.
giraldi :  There's nothing to be done but wait.
angelica:  For what?
giraldi:  For what?
angelica:  Face facts, that's what you said. Well, what are the
facts? Is the sun still flashing on those helmets? What thoughts do
all those watching faces now express?
giraldi:  You mean our relationship?
angelica:  Which is beginning to be the main topic at Viterbo.
Giraldi and Signora Bottari, Signora Bottari and Giraldi — only
that, and endlessly.
giraldi :   Well it's a topic that makes me happy.
angelica:  Facts, please, the facts as they are, without adornment.
All the colours have faded.
giraldi:  So soon?
angelica:  You have the opportunity to visit me undisturbed. A
happy chance that was not to be foreseen. My husband — shall we
say, gone away for an indefinite period. Perhaps for ever. Lorenzo,
what more could we ask for?
giraldi :   (uncertain)  Well?
angelica:   (hoarsely)  But it's this voice I always hear, saying: a
few more days, a few more days, then you'll have some peace, then
you'll be free:  inside, you understand, where there won't be any
more faces and no sun on helmets. Tell me what you're waiting for,
giraldi :  You.
angelica:  That's reasonable, isn't it? A plain fact. As simple as
that. A twist of fate— (more softly) something ordained by God.
giraldi:   We do not know His thoughts. But in so far as we do
know them —
angelica:  They're comforting.
giraldi :  Oh let's stop being metaphysical.
angelica :  And do what?
giraldi :  Forget, five for each other.
angelica :   Is that all?
giraldi :  Try to get over it.
angelica :  That's right. But where?
giraldi :  Here, and nowhere else. Use all this precious time for our
love. Without distractions. Hair, eyebrows, skin, kisses — cataclysms
angelica:  Enough, Lorenzo.
45 giraldi :  What do you mean?
angelica :  Leave me now.
giraldi :   I don't understand you.
angelica :  I want to be left alone.
giraldi :  Are you reproaching me?
angelica :  Myself. I should have stayed in Rome, that was the least
I could do. I left my anxiety to the fire brigade, and to the police.
My tears were crocodile tears. Waiting there, before the catacombs,
was tedious. Oh, I'm properly on my own trail now, I assure you,
and it leads straight through a thicket to a hidden swamp — a few
bubbles of marsh gas still rising, that's all that's left of me.
giraldi :  Angelica you're hurting me.
Angelica :  Hurting you? Is that all?
(A ring on the bell)
giraldi :  A moment longer!
angelica :  No, not a moment longer!
(She leaves the room, through the passage, and opens the door.)
emilio :   May I have a word with you, Signora?
angelica :  Have you any news?
emilio :  No, not news exactly.
angelica :  Then what do you want? Who are you?
emilio:   My name is Emilio Fostini, and I work in Ruggiero's
angelica :   I can't say that I know the name.
emilio:  And it has nothing to do with what I came to see you
angelica:  Well?
emilio:  But I thought that if Signora Bottari comes to the door I
shall simply say it, and she'll understand.
angelica :  Well? What is it?
emilio:  A thousand lire,  (after a pause)  I wanted to ask you to
lend me a thousand lire, so that I can go to Rome.
angelica :  Is there a member of your family among them?
emilio:  Oh no. It's just that I've met one of the girls, casually.
Forgive me, now that it comes to the point, it does seem rather
ridiculous, to me, too.
angelica: You mean now that I've opened the door and you've
seen me
emilio :  No, no, I didn't mean that.
46 angelica :  Wait — wait a minute.
emilio:   (calling after her) You see, it might just have worked —
you looked at me in such a way — you'll get it all back, Signora, as
sure as—■
angelica : (coming back) I'll go with you.
emilio:   (happy)  As sure as we are to find them.
emilio :   When I woke up last night, I knew it — only since last
night — I suddenly knew it, I sat up in bed and there it was!
(breathlessly and as though fading into the distance) And I thought,
too, you can't leave everything to the fire brigade and the police.
lena :  How long? What do you think?
bianca :   Five days.
maria :  Six.
lucia :  Or four.
bottari:  When day and night are the same it's easy to make a
lena:  And not only then,  (more softly)  Teachers especially.
bottari :  One loses one's sense of time. I don't think it's more than
three days at the most.
maria:   If it's easy to make a mistake, it could be eight days too.
lena :   If only we had some light.
antonia :   We still shouldn't know how long.
lena :  We could play cards.
antonia :  If we had any!
lucia :   If, and that's an end of it. Who can still think of something
without an if?
lena:  How long does it take to die of starvation? Without any if.
bianca :  The world record is 45 days.
maria :   In that case we've got plenty of time.
bottari :   Don't talk such wicked nonsense!
lena:   I'm afraid I can think of nothing else any more. Red tomatoes, spaghetti and parmesan. Usually I can't stand parmesan.
bianca :   Maize biscuits and coffee.
antonia:  It makes no difference how long we've been here; we
shall be rescued. And every day brings it nearer.
maria :   I can no longer believe that.
lucia:   Who said that?
maria :  I, Maria. And I shall say it again: I no longer believe it.
47 others : I don't believe it either.
antonia :  But I believe it.
lucia:  So do I.
lena :  Only two?
lucia :   Why don't you speak, Signor Bottari?
bottari :  Because I have to listen, and because it's so hard with all
your chatter.
antonia :  What are you listening for?
lena:  You're always hearing something, Signor Bottari.
bianca:  Signor Bottari has already said, when day and night are
the same it's easy to make a mistake.
(They titter.)
bottari :  Quiet!
bottari :   I thought I heard my wife calling me.
lena:  (laughs)
antonia :  What are you laughing for, Lena? Goose!
lena :  Goose yourself, you stuck-up thing!
lucia:   I thought I heard Emilio call.
bianca:  Who's Emilio?
maria :  Emilio!
lena :   There's no accounting for tastes.
maria: (sarcastically)   Let's all listen!   Perhaps  in  that case we
shall all —
bottari :  Quiet!
i( Voices are heard calling very far away.)
bottari :  Can't you hear it?
lena :  No. I can't hear a thing, much as I should like to.
bianca :  Not a thing.
lucia:  But I hear it.
bottari:   (calls out)  Anybody there? (more loudly) Hullo, is anybody there?
angelica: (far away) We're coming.
emilio: (somewhat nearer) We're coming, Signor Bottari!
48 girls :   (set up a confused shrieking)
lucia :   Emilio!
bianca:  Who's Emilio?
lena :  I hope they've brought us some food.
maria :  The monks, you mean?
lena :  They've found us.
antonia : They've found us.
emilio: (even nearer) We're coming — we're coming-
goldschmidt:  Saved.
gabrielle :  Yes.
goldschmidt :  That's nice to hear.
gabrielle :  How do you mean, Grandfather?
goldschmidt :  And saved by whom?
gabrielle :  Wasn't it quite simple?
goldschmidt:  By Emilio, Emilio Fostini.
gabrielle :   (shyly)  That's what I called him.
goldschmidt:  And all very nicely invented. The name, and he's a
joiner's apprentice, the chest of drawers that falls off the cart, the
thousand lire —
gabrielle :   Well? What are you driving at? Saved by whom, you
goldschmidt :   Not by Emilio, Gabrielle. By you.
gabrielle :   (unsure)  Because I invented the story.
goldschmidt:  That's it,  invented.  And well,  too.  So that you
hardly notice the trick. One, two, three, and the rabbit jumps out
of the hat. Three, two, one, and it's vanished down your sleeve. Or
the neck of your frock.
gabrielle:  A rabbit? That would be something, too. But in my
case there was no rabbit.
goldschmidt :  A conjuring trick. But do conjurors tell stories? You
made it easy for yourself.
gabrielle :   It was very hard.
goldschmidt:  True enough, and that's why it was easy. No, this
way it's false, the story.
gabrielle :  I shall leave it as it is.
49 goldschmidt:  I've got the feeling that you'll have to tell it again.
gabrielle :  Have to? Who can compel me?
(Enter Frau Winter.)
frau winter :  There, then, food's ready.
(The table is laid.)
gabrielle :  Fish!
frau winter :  With potatoes and parsley sauce.
goldschmidt :  A special day.
frau winter :   (with meaning)  Better not a special day.
goldschmidt :   I only meant the cod.
frau winter :  Even if you only meant the cod —
gabrielle :  This time it was you, Grandfather.
goldschmidt :  I confess and repent.
gabrielle:  And now a bad joke into the bargain. This isn't one
of your good days, Grandfather.
frau winter :  At it again! Today of all days.
gabrielle:  This time it was me. That brings our score back to
even, back to normal. A day Uke all the rest. Let's eat.
frau winter :  If only I were hungry.
goldschmidt:  Um? You too?
gabrielle :  Don't worry. I'm ravenous.
(They eat.)
gabrielle :   What was it like in the office today?
goldschmidt :   Let Frau Winter eat.
frau winter :  Two hours' shorthand. Seventeen letters. Nothing
gabrielle :  Your table is by the window, and sometimes you look
out, don't you, Frau Winter?
frau winter : Sometimes I do, absentmindedly. Brown uniforms,
grey uniforms, slate-blue ones, black ones — it isn't worth it.
goldschmidt: Cars, mackintoshes — no, windows really aren't
worth while. There are countries where there's a tax on them. Quite
right too. Congratulations, incidentally: the parsley sauce. An inexhaustible topic.
frau winter :  Thank you. A recipe of my mother's.
gabrielle :  One ought to write it down, for later. I'm afraid I shall
never learn to cook.
5° frau winter: (hurriedly) And it isn't important either. There are
restaurants, cooks, and tins.
gabrielle :  Frau Winter, are there trees in your street?
frau winter :  Yes, plane trees, I think.
gabrielle :  And it's autumn now, isn't it?
goldschmidt: The 5th or 6th of October. Silly questions, Gabrielle.
frau winter :  The seventh.
gabrielle :  Autumn.
goldschmidt :  I think we've got that clear.
gabrielle :  And the effect of autumn on plane-trees?
goldschmidt:Is yellow leaves. But in your mind, Gabrielle? Anyone would think —
frau winter : Yes, the leaves are yellow now. That's the prettiest
thing about the street.
gabrielle :  Really? You say they're yellow now?
frau winter:  I assure you —
gabrielle :  You're giving me courage.
goldschmidt :   What are you playing at, Gabrielle?
gabrielle :  The leaves yellow, and what then?
frau winter :  They fall off, of course.
gabrielle :  They do fall off?
frau winter : Not yet. Or only one at a time. But soon they'll all
be falling.
gabrielle :  You're not saying that just to comfort me?
frau winter :  I can't see anything comforting about it.
gabrielle :  It's certain, then, that the leaves turn yellow and fall?
It comes about that way, it happens every year?
goldschmidt :  One can safely affirm it.
gabrielle : Thank God!
frau winter :  Did you doubt it?
gabrielle: I was no longer quite sure whether it really is so, or
whether I merely imagined it. There are many things I'm no longer
sure about, but I'm afraid to ask. Bombs and prisons, those really
exist. But trees? Or an animal called a mole, that lives under the
earth and is nearly blind? Or a country called Switzerland? It could
well be that they're mere fantasies.
(Frau Winter puts down her fork on the plate.)
gabrielle :  What's wrong with you, Frau Winter?
frau winter :  I've had enough to eat.
5i gabrielle : Nobody here finishes a meal. I've had more than anyone.
frau winter :   Moles do exist, by the way, and so does Switzerland.
gabrielle :  Tell me something else.
frau winter :  Nothing of it is good.
gabrielle :  Don't worry, I've learnt that.
frau winter : Suddenly there was the alarm. I was on my way
home and went into the shelter near the zoo. It was dark. No, really
there's nothing to tell you.
gabrielle :  There's the postcard, Frau Winter. Singen, with a view
of Hohentwiel.
frau winter :  I saw it.
gabrielle :   We're glad that the Hirschfelds have got away.
frau winter :  Have you finished, Gabrielle?
gabrielle : Yes. And have you, Frau Winter?
frau winter :  Then I'll clear the table.
gabrielle:  Aren't you glad?
frau winter :  Glad?
gabrielle :  Yes.
frau winter :  I'm not glad.
I talked to someone who saw the Hirschfelds.
gabrielle :   At Singen?
frau winter :   In Berlin.
gabrielle :  Berlin?
frau winter :  The Gestapo prison at Moabit.
gabrielle :  And the postcard?
goldschmidt :  Is meaningless? They didn't get away?
frau winter :  Quiet!
gabrielle :  Footsteps, nothing out of the ordinary. They're passing
FRAU WINTER:    ( sighs )
goldschmidt : I dreamed last night that I was trying to cross the
gabrielle: You were the teacher with those girls from Viterbo.
They were found.
goldschmidt: We were found, and I cried out in my sleep. Although we were found or because we were found? Gabrielle —
52 gabrielle :  What?
goldschmidt :   I know it now.
gabrielle :   What do you know?
goldschmidt: They asked us where we'd been. I gave them our
gabrielle :  Our address?
goldschmidt:   Without thinking. But then I realized, and I cried
out with anguish at the thought that I'd given it away.
gabrielle :  Our address.
frau winter : That's what I've been thinking about the whole day.
gabrielle: Now it's you, Frau Winter! A special day indeed:
dreams, cod, a postcard from Singen, and our address. What else
could there be?
goldschmidt: Perhaps it was a mistake, and it wasn't the Hirschfelds.
frau winter :  Perhaps.
goldschmidt:  And perhaps they won't be asked for our address.
frau winter :  Yes, that could be.
goldschmidt:  And if they are asked, perhaps they'll give a different address.
frau winter :  Yes.
gabrielle:   So many  perhapses,  so  many possibilities,   (after a
pause) And you don't believe in any of them.
goldschmidt : We must leave this house.
frau winter :   Where for?
gabrielle :  Live in the open air. In the forests, for all I care.
frau winter :   Where are your forests?
goldschmidt:  No passports, and no money to buy false ones.
frau winter :  What do passports amount to, anyway? You've seen
how much good they are.
gabrielle: You've been thinking all day long, Frau Winter, the
whole of this special day.
frau winter : A new hiding place for a few days. Till the danger's
goldschmidt :  Leave here without being seen?
frau winter : It's more dangerous to stay. For me too, I think.
gabrielle:   Good-bye cod, food without coupons and illustrated
goldschmidt:  You're insufferable, Gabrielle.
gabrielle :  Lazy above all, my dear Grandfather, grown lazy here.
Frau Winter has spoilt us.
53 frau winter : And I don't suppose it will be comfortable exactly.
gabrielle :  You see!
goldschmidt: But where else could we hide? We don't know of
frau winter :  Nor do I know of anyone yet.
gabrielle: Frau Winter said yet. I always thought she was an
frau winter: (somewhat absent-minded) With me it's only a
question of sleep, of sound sleep for the rest of my life. And I don't
know whether I shall have any success. At eight o'clock — what's
the time?
goldschmidt :  Half past seven.
frau winter: I'm going now. At eight Frau Kallmorgen will be
gabrielle :  So she's called Kallmorgen.
frau winter:  I shall be back between ten and eleven.
goldschmidt :  You will look to see if we're still here.
frau winter :  I think it's unlikely that before midnight —
goldschmidt:  Who knows?
frau winter :  As usual — you don't stir from here, but get ready.
No luggage, only your coats and a bag.
goldschmidt :   Is it a dark night?
frau winter :  Moderately. Waning moon, last quarter.
gabrielle :   Wonderful! A walk by night.
frau winter :   About twenty minutes' walk.
gabrielle :   Is that all!
frau winter : And even that not certain. Perhaps Frau Kallmorgen won't agree. And I can't think of anyone else. You must try
to think of some other way, just in case. And I shall rack my brains
too, on my way there.
goldschmidt :  And perhaps on your way back too.
gabrielle :  Kallmorgen hasn't a bad sound. Rather a hopeful one,
in fact.
frau winter: I'll just quickly do the washing-up, my best ideas
come to me when I'm washing up. No, let me do it by myself,
(Goes out.)
gabrielle : You must think, she said. I should rather have washed
up, and sung praises to the day as I did it. It would have rounded
it off nicely for me.
54 goldschmidt:   Not before midnight.
gabrielle :  Yet it began well, this day.
goldschmidt :  Did it begin weU?
gabrielle : I thought so this morning. One of those days one keeps
ahead of — do you know what I mean, Grandfather? Even when
you put on your shoes a streak of water between you and the shoes,
a radiance.
goldschmidt :  Let's keep ahead of it then.
gabrielle :  That's not difficult, today.
goldschmidt:  But I have a feeling that it would be worthwhile.
gabrielle :   In that case shouldn't we leave now? Quietly open the
door to the passage, carry our shoes in our hands and leave the
washing-up and the illustrated weekly behind?
goldschmidt:  Whereto?
gabrielle :  You don't Uke the idea of my forests. What about the
goldschmidt:  That remains as a last resort.
gabrielle :  You suggest something.
goldschmidt :   What do you say to — our story?
gabrielle: You're clinging to the illustrated papers, Grandfather.
With a game of halma and a duet to follow —
goldschmidt:  No halma and no iUustrated papers. No possibility
of escape, no picture, no report; no, the story itself!
gabrielle:  Story-telling indeed. An hour ago it still made sense;
but now?
goldschmidt:   (hesitantly)  As a matter of fact; only now.
gabrielle :  The girls have been found. What more can we add?
goldschmidt :  We've already admitted the mistake in calculation.
gabrielle :  So they won't be found. That's all right too.
goldschmidt:  I don't know whether they'U be found or not.
gabrielle :  No, we don't know. Only Frau Kallmorgen knows.
goldschmidt: Let's start again. The equation has not been solved.
gabrielle:   We go to a great deal of trouble, and in the end the
answer is nought.
goldschmidt:  Try it.
gabrielle :  You try it. We're both the same age.
goldschmidt :  But your sight is better. I can't see the wood for the
trees any more.
gabrielle :  No friendly wood, no friendly trees, but a child's forest
full of terror, with brigands in the brushwood. The story wants a
contribution from me.
55 goldschmidt:  Perhaps we'll find it. Perhaps there are raspberry
canes hidden in that wood.
gabrielle :   Sloes, Grandfather. But come on, if you want to see for
yourself. Let me take your hand in mine, my aged hand.
lena : Signor Bottari, wouldn't it be better for us to separate?
bottari :  One course is as good as another.
bianca :  Or as bad.
lena :   Perhaps then they'd at least find some of us.
bottari :   Perhaps then they would never find some of us.
maria :   I feel as though we've been here a whole eternity.
antonia : You forget that we've moved five times.
bottari :  True. And which place was better?
lena :   If this place were especially good, they would have found us.
bottari :   Perhaps they're on their way to this place. And if we went
somewhere else we shouldn't be found.
lena :   Or the other way about.
bottari :  That may be too.
bianca :   Leave it to Signor Bottari, Lena; he'll decide.
lena:  But he doesn't decide anything, and we just sit about here.
Shouldn't we at least call out from time to time? (she calls out)
bottari :  Don't do that. Your throat will get dry.
lucia :  And you'll get more thirsty.
bianca :   Leave everything to Signor Bottari, Lena.
lena :   In that case we'll be here till we die of starvation.
bottari :  We're saving up our strength until they find us.
lena:   (mockingly)  Until they find us. But I want to be found
sooner than that. I'm going. Who's coming with me?
maria:  It's as though we were playing "hide and seek."
bianca :  We'll be playing that too before long.
lucia :  I'm staying here.
antonia:  So am I.
several :  I'm going. And so am I. I can't stand it here any longer.
Let's all go!
bianca :  Let Signor Bottari decide.
maria :  What do you say, Signor Bottari?
56 bottari:  I've already said that I consider it wiser to stay here.
lena :  But you don't know any more than we do what course is the
bianca :  Stay here, Lena.
lena:  We're going. Hold hands. Now (further away) lower your
heads — to the right here. The passage gets lower.
bianca :   Lena!
maria : Let her go, Bianca.
bianca:   What about when we get home and Lena and the others
are not with us. Signor Bottari, it will be dreadful.
antonia :  If we get home.
bianca :  Can you still hear them?
maria :   I can't hear anything.
bottari :  Who went off with Lena?
maria :   Margarita, Clara, Ann —
bianca :  Elvira.
maria :  And four others.
bianca :  You shouldn't have let them, Signor Bottari.
bottari :  Oh, do you think so?
antonia :  But Signor Bottari did let them.
bianca :  I know he did, and I can't understand it.
antonia:  I understand it.
bianca :   What do you mean by that?
maria :  Yes, what do you mean by that?
lucia:   (more slowly)  What did you say, Antonia?
antonia :  Excuse me, Lucia, but I didn't say anything.
lucia:   (still slowly) What you meant was, Signor Bottari let them
go because it makes no difference whether we're here or elsewhere.
maria :  What are you getting at, Lucia?
lucia :  Because we're lost in any case.
maria :   Lost!
bianca :  Do you think Signor Bottari has given us up?
maria :  Signor Bottari, say something.
bottari :   I have not given us up.
bianca:  But if you hadn't given us up, Signor Bottari, would you
have let Lena and the others go?
maria :  Did you say something, Signor Bottari?
bottari :  I did not say anything.
57 bianca:  Nothing at all? (silence) But I'm sixteen years old! Surely
it's absurd, almost ludicrous —
bottari : What is?
bianca :  The idea that I shall starve to death here. Just because of
a little outing to Rome, just before the summer hoUdays —
maria :  Do say something at last, Signor Bottari!
bottari:   I'm tired of your chatter.   I can't bear to be asked the
same question every three minutes.
bianca :  What did I say!
bottari :  And to repeat the same answer every time: we shaU not
starve to death, we shall be found.
maria :  That's just what we thought.
bianca:  You no longer believe what you're saying, Signor Bottari.
maria :  One can tell even from your voice.
bottari: All right, then, in that case I've some hope that you'll
give up asking these questions. My answer doesn't grow more convincing by being repeated incessantly. That's the case with all repetitions. That's all I wanted to say.
maria :  So you do still believe —
bottari:   (exasperated) Yes, yes, yes.
bianca :  You know as Uttle about it as we do.
bottari :   I never claimed the contrary.
bianca :  You're just as helpless.
bottari :   My hope is the same as yours.
maria:   If I'd known that I should never have come with you.
Naturally a girl thinks, if we've got him with us —
bianca:   It's your fault, Signor Bottari. You led us astray.
bottari :  So it's come to that, after all.
lucia :   It's not Signor Bottari's fault.
antonia :  Be quiet, Lucia.
lucia:   It's my fault. I was at the front of the Une. I turned off
into another passage on purpose.
bianca :   What did you do?
lucia :  I did it for a joke, that's all.
bianca :  It was you?
lucia :  Yes, me.
maria :  I haven't taken it in yet. Do you mean to say it's because of
you that we're here, Lucia. Because of a joke?
lucia :  Yes.
58 maria :   In that case I'm going to kill you. Do you hear?
bottari:  Nonsense, Maria.
maria :   I've got a fine heavy stone just next to me — that will do.
I'm going to kill you.
antonia:   (laughs)
maria :   (beside herself) Pick up stones, all of you!
bottari :  Hold her back.
lucia:  Leave her. Come on, then, Maria, go ahead and kiU me.
antonia:  Ridiculous. We're all going to die in any case.
bianca :  Who said that?
antonia :  I did, Antonia.
bianca :  It was definite enough, anyway. Not like Signor Bottari —
lucia:   (in despair) You'll never be able to accept it, that I just
turned off like that to die!
maria :  Lucia Torrini, a girl I would never have truck with, a girl
in my form of whom I never took any notice. No, not even fate, but
Lucia,   (with an effort, breathlessly)  As long as I have breath
enough to say it, I shall tell you that it's your fault.
antonia :  You're just being stupid, Maria.
lucia :  Let her say it.
maria :  At least I know now why I'm stiU breathing this dank air,
and what I'm breathing it for; it's your fault, Lucia, it's your fault!
Lucia Torrini, the third desk from the last in the middle row —
lucia :  Forgive me!
bianca:  Useless bickering! I'm going to go and join Lena and the
others, and I don't care whose fault it was.
antonia : Bianca, don't go.
bianca : Even if I have to crawl on all fours: I want to get out of
here, I want to get to the Ught, I want to get back to Viterbo. I
want to live, (she calls out) Lena, Lena!
antonia :  They can't possibly hear you now.
maria:   (more calmly)  You're right, Bianca. Let's go. Even if we
die; at least it won't be with those whose fault it is. Come on! Come
on, all of you!
lucia :  Forgive me first!
bianca :  What difference does it make to you or me? I forgive you.
lucia :  Say that you forgive me, Maria.
maria:  I shall always say that it's your fault. As long as I can speak
at all. (she calls out) Lena, where are you? Bianca, Sofia!
59 (The sound of several footsteps moving away, stumbling, faltering. The calls subside.)
bottari :  Anyone still here?
antonia:  Me, Antonia.
lucia :  Lucia.
bottari :  Anyone else?
lucia:  No one else.
bottari :  All right. Three of us.
lucia :  All right?
bottari :   We've been counted, that's reassuring. Or do you want to
follow them?
antonia :  No.
lucia:  No.
bottari :  That worries me.
antonia:  Why?
bottari:  There's no hope for me, anyway.  But for you?
antonia:  Hope or no hope. If we're going to be found, we don't
know where. So we stay here. The argument is logical.
lucia:   We'U save our strength. You tell him, Antonia. I'm afraid
Signor Bottari no longer knows his own wisdom.
bottari:   It's nice to hear you say that. But I should say cunning,
and I don't know my own cunning well enough. What if we are not
antonia : Then it makes no difference anyway.
lucia :   So we'll stay.
bottari:  Is that still wise? I expected more of you. (hesitantly) In
a situation Uke ours one relies not on one's head, but on one's feet.
antonia :   We have our reasons. Mine are romantic.
lucia :  As for mine, they're obvious.
bottari :  But you haven't yet given up hope, have you?
antonia:  I wish I knew. I don't know my own mind,  (after a
while) Is that how it has to be — hope or despair?
bottari: That's the rule. The rest is beyond my competence as a
antonia :  It is so hard, then, to break with the old syllabus.
lucia:   It's easier for us, because we never even knew it. For us, the
next maths lesson could always be the final revelation.
60 antonia:   (contemptuously) The middle school test to qualify you
for a middling life.
bottari :   Not so arrogant!
antonia :  And what if this were the next lesson? The extraordinary
the utterly ordinary?
bottari :  Not in the syllabus.
antonia : I mean, so that it wouldn't be worth making a great to-
do about it. The period of darkness. Just ordinary. At best: voluntary attendance, afternoon lesson, an empty school building, in
heaven by the evening.
bottari :  Didn't you come last in your class, Antonia?
antonia :   Second from last.
bottari: Then leave me the place behind you. I'm a bad pupil.
My only hope is that indifference will come of itself. Then I could
still catch up with the aims of the class, by doing nothing, by sitting
goldschmidt:  Indifference, Gabrielle?
gabrielle :   Can you suggest anything better?
goldschmidt :  Your Signor Bottari thinks that it comes of itself like
sleep. That's a standpoint on which you can also sit.
gabrielle:   (laughs)  An attitude that comes of my laziness, my
passion for easy chairs.
goldschmidt :  But who's enough of an acrobat to walk to the easy
chair on which he's already sitting?
gabrielle :   (weary) It all depends on your metaphors.
goldschmidt:   Yes, perhaps.
gabrielle : Or on the prospect called Kallmorgen — that doesn't
call for any wise saying. It's nearly ten.
goldschmidt:  "The night advances." The surprise is what I'm
waiting for. Down there in the catacombs.
gabrielle :   They're all asleep. They've managed it.
goldschmidt :   We need something different from sleep.
gabrielle :   What's the use of this game?
goldschmidt: This game? Don't grudge aging people their sleep,
and their bridge and their football.
gabrielle: (close to tears) But I want to grow old. And I shall
grow old. Frau Winter is on her way. She's hurrying, she's walking
hurriedly, she's talking hurriedly, Frau Kallmorgen is listening hurriedly. They'll reach us yet. That's all I know. What do you want?
61 goldschmidt : I want you to find us, before —-before we are found,
gabrielle :  That's more than I know.
goldschmidt :  It certainly is.
gabrielle : Frau Kallmorgen, a lady with white hair, and kindness
itself. Frau Kallmorgen, oh, I'm hanging on to that name as to a
rope. Grandfather! no, not even that now — no form of address, no
relationship. What shall I caU you?
goldschmidt : You see? On the way to becoming what one is. Out-
Unes in invisible ink, a childish game, fire makes them visible. A
house, a face, possibiUties of good fortune.
gabrielle : PossibiUties, outlines. In one word: misfortune, Grandfather.
goldschmidt :  One word is not enough.
gabrielle :  Quiet!
goldschmidt:  Well?
gabrielle : It's nothing. Only our conversation made me listen. I
suddenly thought —
goldschmidt:  Now I can hear it. Footsteps. Frau Winter.
gabrielle:  Frau Kallmorgen. No. There's no such name, she's a
fiction, (she laughs)
goldschmidt :  And it's boots, too, GabrieUe.
gabrielle :   Is it?
(They listen. A ring on the bell.)
goldschmidt: (calmly) You're right. Frau Kallmorgen is a fiction, she no longer exists. But the catacombs? Quick. What does
Antonia say?
antonia :  Who's calUng me?
bottari :  No one's calling.
antonia :  I heard a signal.
lucia:  Quiet!
bottari:  Nothing.
antonia:  Perhaps it was only for me. Our front door bell, when
there are visitors; the voices of my parents welcoming the visitors.
lucia: Voices, Antonia? That's a bad sign.
antonia :  The moment before they call you in.
lucia : Don't forget that your dreams will leave you. They come as
near as that just before they vanish.
62 antonia :  Yes.
lucia: My ears are less sharp. All I can hear is the silence digging
in its claws.
antonia:   (as though to herself) Rescue. Not water now, not lamps
and not bread. Nor dreams either, nor voices. Only rescue, unalloyed,   (after a pause, more vigorously)  The other side of the
moon, the one we have never seen. That's where I want to Uve.
bottari: (mockingly) Happy landing.
antonia: I should have liked to take you with me, Signor Bottari.
bottari :   Me?
antonia :  You and Lucia and the whole class.
bottari : Oh, thanks very much. But I prefer to depend on my five
senses, on our feeble hopes.
lucia: And I on my anger, which still keeps me warm. The other
side of the moon? No, Antonia, it's no brighter there than here.
antonia: Darker, dark enough at last. It gleams. I feel as though
everything that happened in my life only pointed to this, the school
exercises and the nursery rhymes, as though they all pointed to this
moment, the moment of my acquiescence.
lucia: Don't forget that we're going to die of hunger, Antonia, and
thirst, that we're going to cling to this floor Uke flies to their last wall
— and you too.
antonia :   I've no advantage over you but my courage and, because
of it, a kind of happiness, (after a while) I remember that everybody prayed, as long as there was still hope that we'd be found.
bottari : It was as pointless then as it is now.
antonia:   I think one can only pray when one has ceased to want
anything from God.
bottari:   (angry) Well, pray, then!
antonia :  Yes, God, yes, yes, yes.
(The bell rings.)
goldschmidt :  Before midnight after all.
gabrielle:  Yes.
goldschmidt :  Perhaps they'll go.
gabrielle :  Yes, perhaps.
goldschmidt: And perhaps it's Frau Winter anyway, perhaps she
forgot her latchkey.
63 gabrielle:   (almost gaily) Or Frau Kallmorgen, coming without a
(Picking the lock.)
gabrielle :  Do you hear them?
goldschmidt: (calmly) They're forcing the lock.
gabrielle :  That wasn't the rule till now. A pity that we're exceptions.
goldschmidt :  Don't worry, we're not.
gabrielle:   (mockingly) Not to stir from here, that's what Frau
Winter said.
goldschmidt:  Get ready, Gabrielle.
gabrielle :  Don't worry, I am ready.
(Footsteps drawing closer. The door is flung open.)
goldschmidt :  That's right, we're here.
64 Eight Paintings by Joe Rose
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MECHANICAL PARADOX ORAL VISION PERCEPTIVE REFLECTIONS THE BIRDCAGE Henry Roth's work has appeared in Tri Quarterly, Works in Progress and
Letters. A chapbook of his stories is about to appear from Lillabulero Press.
If by some sort of miracle Selma Veer had been an artist, she
could have hastily sketched her life story by a brief circle—that
circle would waver when she married Gordon Lewis, who abandoned her six months pregnant, then slunk off to die in a West
Virginia mine explosion; the circle would deflate almost collapse as
three months later she and her infant son, Bailey, left the hospital
and moved in with momma and poppa. There was the full circle
again, her story could be finished right then, sixteen years ago.
Nothing much had changed except now Selma had a job. But so
little had happened. She bought a wig five years ago for one dollar
and eighty-five cents, twice a year she bought used but clean clothes
at the thrift shop and she used to attend church socials but Selma
now stayed home Saturday nights.
Selma had never been careful about her appearance, never putting on make-up except Noxzema when she tanned too fast or had
a boil. Her eyes were dull light blue, almost colorless; her nose, unfortunate big bulbous and always a little red; her best feature, well
formed and sensual lips were always dry and she was constantly licking, wetting them, occasionally absentmindedly biting drawing blood
in drifting off times. Her hair was greasy and straight, slashed short
and indifferently, her beloved wig was bright and cheap red and
frizzy like an accidental afro; she cared for that thing, washing and
setting and tending to it more devotedly than any part of her real
Selma deeply loved momma and Bailey and she was still terrified
of poppa. He beat her, twice now Bailey had interfered pushing his
grandfather away, Bailey promised to punch Powell Veer if he
didn't give up his bullying ways but so far Bailey had not struck the
old man. "When you knock me down Bailey," Powell Veer avowed,
73 "then you're the man and out you go. No house can have two masters. Ya hear me now." Poppa said it, half threat, half proud like
he wanted Bailey to be a man even if it made the boy practically an
Thirty years ago momma, and poppa left their bankrupt Mississippi farm and headed north, never staying anywhere but terrible
boarding houses while Powell Veer talked of trying Canada. However in upstate New York they came upon a dying, rotting old river
town that had possessed the aura and smell of other towns they knew
so well so the Veers unpacked and stayed in Copley, New York.
Copley boasted the old peeling courthouse, some colored loafers
lounging near the courthouse steps, even more old and young whites
just lounging around and a boarded up Main Street with stores
gutted by fires and devastated by shopping centers that ringed these
town like marauding Indians. Copley was faded and washed out as
jeans and the Veers were truly at home. "Damn," Powell Veer proclaimed, sucking up a Coke, "This damn town looks like just where
I was born even after all these damn years." And Sally Veer grown
fat as her husband shaped out reed thin, would sigh, "Oh don't I
know it too Powell, I expect to see my dear mother awalkin by."
"By God, then we'd either be in heaven or hell. Which one would
it be sister?" He'd turned to Selma, prodded her with his elbow, but
Selma Veer learned how to elude his nasty jokes most of the time,
and she only answered, "You're right, poppa, you're right."
Church was over, Bailey had gone off with friends, the boy was
rarely home anymore but she couldn't blame him, Bailey wasn't
smart in school but shrewd enough to try and run away as soon as
possible. Selma would miss him terrible but he wasn't running from
her and he actually told her that, but to show how clever Bailey
was, the boy had not invited her with him on his flight. But she
wouldn't have gone anyway. She was happily combing out her wig
aware of how cheaply it had been produced but had survived beautifully because of her lavish attention. Yesterday after supper just at
the usual time she left for the church social a spell had come upon
her, it hadn't happened in a long time and she was surprised and
frightened to have one again. Selma could hardly remember anything. She forgot her son's name and all the people and streets she
saw every day of her Ufe. She could only recall his name, poppa's
name, like one all inclusive letter POWELL ANDREW VEER.
A trick she tried when the spell was not yet deep in her soul was to
shout any word that still had some meaning and Selma screamed
74 VEER, VEER, VEER, the word spilled out along with spittle but
it worked and soon she was recalling everything that had ever happened to her and she lay back on the bed sweaty and still frightened;
for the sake of preserving her sanity she kept whispering past anecdotes, reassuring herself she was Selma Veer who lived in Copley,
worked in the mail room at Sacred Home, had a son named Bailey
and once a husband, Gordon.
But she never really considered herself married and always thought
of herself as Selma Veer; Gordon was some nasty stray that had
come into her life and when he disappeared she sort of expected it
and she wasn't that sad when he fled. Gordon always seeking
trouble, drinking so much, driving so fast, always a chip on his
shoulder; she had not been surprised that Gordon and poppa liked
each other, the two of them loved to taunt her to eternity; now it
was only poppa.
At Sacred Home she worked in the mail room sorting out the few
letters to the orphans and stacks of mail for the staff. Sorting mail
was like playing games from childhood, like being a check out lady
at the supermarket or playing nurse... Then came the thrilling
time when all the mail was delivered, most secretaries smiled, a few
even talked to her — one, Janie Cohen, usually had lunch with
Selma. The male counsellors, amused at her grim seriousness, would
tease and mock flirt asking why she didn't get married again and
Selma would repeat, "Once is enough." One bold man pursued the
teasing, "But that must have been long long ago." Selma agreed and
naively confessed, "But I don't mind." And the man had fallen
down in convulsive laughter. Poppa had never fallen down laughing
but he mocked her just as strong as ever, he tried to bully Bailey
with his mouth, but my son is going to be all right.
Poppa walked into her room as usual without knocking "Sis your
damn wig is more cockeyed than you are. Momma and I are going
to the drive in in the pick up, you wanna come?"
"I do poppa, but not in the pickup, we can take my car."
"Still stuck up about work cars ain't ya, Missy?"
"It's more comfortable in a Chevrolet."
"If Bailey comes back in time we'll go in the Chewy if not, its
the pickup."
She took off her wig, as he left her bedroom door wide open ■—■
"I may be slow," she said, "I may even be forgetful, but I know for
sure he hates me and tried to show it every day of all my years."
Outside Selma's window the sky was glazed cherry pink and the
75 grass looked sick green, the air smelled sweet and made her feel
sticky, "I'm Selma Veer," she reminded herself, "Tomorrow I got
to go to work, there's so much damn mail on Mondays."
But in the morning when she awoke the spell began cruelly riding her, persistent like Gordon Lewis's terrible thing strutting between his legs, forcing her into moans and no pleasure. The speU
whiplashed her, Selma struggled forward to be led from the darkness, she saw her wig lying fresh and ready and the spell receded
and fled down some drain. She was going to be late, she tossed her
wig on like it was a shawl and ran downstairs, no time for breakfast.
As usual she tripped on the last porch step and tumbled to her knees,
someone hooted, she saw the usual crowd of kids waiting for the
school bus — they turned their backs on her and kept right on hooting. "I still don't wish them to be orphans," she said loudly.
Selma shivered as she turned the car key; driving was her last
pleasure now that dancing was done. She drove fast, really too fast,
but obeyed traffic lights and most signs so she never got a ticket except for speeding. The morning sun was dancing all over the sky, it
was a happy morning. This had been the third consecutive dance
she hadn't attended, and Selma refused to give in to momma's pleas
about going again. Soon she was up in the winding hill and there
were the six modest frame buildings housing the children and the
brand new factory-like box building which was for Administration.
Selma worked in that building in a small room next to the boiler
right under the Social Service's main office. But then a funny thing
happened after Selma Veer parked, the spell didn't return but she
was unable to move from behind the wheel. She just sat rigid, staring up toward the distant woods, expecting to see something, then
seeing, forgetting the same instant and staring at the highest trees,
seeing, forgetting, then clearly remembering a scene in the dining
room with Janie Cohen — the table, the food, Janie and the words
locked in her mind and slowly squeezing out, each memory was
painful and Selma was holding back tears. Why couldn't she run
away from these woods and the forest...
When Janie had asked, "How was your weekend?"
"Didn't do much, I'm not going to the socials no more."
"Why, you love them so?"
"I'll never go again."
"Will you tell me why?"
"Jane, I met a man there."
"Oh, that's wonderful."
76 "A nice well dressed gentleman, no smell at all on him, not of
sweat or cologne, just very clean."
Janie nodded, seemed happy as punch.
Selma had continued, "He came to the dances regularly, and he'd
ask me to dance every dance. He held me tight but danced loose
and easy, it was a nice feeling."
"Then I don't understand."
"He wanted to see me, he gave me a note that wrote out everything, he wanted to come see me, wanted to see me during the
week. He plain wanted to come call."
"Selma ..."
"I couldn't, Janie."
"Was he sexually funny, I mean weird?"
"He only spoke funny."
"Spoke funny?"
"A foreigner, he had a terrible accent, I couldn't be alone, really
alone with a man who couldn't even pronounce the easy words."
"He wasn't sexually weird," Janie insisted again.
"Janie, he was a regular person. And I liked him. The last time I
came to the dance, he wore a new suit, but I won't go no more."
"But he liked you," Janie looked like her heart was breaking so
Selma grabbed her arm, "He wasn't a freak, I swear it, it's just I
don't cotton to foreigners."
"Maybe you could help him talk better."
"Look at me, how can I help him?"
Janie was crying a little and Selma was at a loss to understand,
then decided, / must have reminded Janie of a sad story of her own.
Still, Selma Veer was very surprised she could remember in detail
that scene last week, bolstered by her accuracy, she forgot she
couldn't move and was safely out of the car now racing to the mail
room. All the offices were expecting important letters.
Selma shoved her maff loaded shopping cart through the maze of
tunnels in Administration, she dropped off the mail correctly at the
appropriate offices but there had never been so many packets, never
been so many offices ... surely it was supper time, and the one part
of her knew she was in the hallway adjacent Social Service another
fragment clearly saw poppa beating down on momma and Bailey
now striding toward her. Selma Veer wisely ducked.
77 "Selma, Selma," it was Janie. God, has tiny Jewish Janie Cohen
come to my house, God, poppa will have a fit. ..
Janie touched her, "Selma, are you going to lunch?"
Selma nodded, pushed her cart hard against the wall, it careened
forward then toppled to one side, letters spilling out like loose
produce.. .
"Did you take your pills today Selma?"
"Rightly so."
"Are you sure?"
"Honey, I am not sure and that is the truth."
"Some soup, let's get you some soup, we'll sit by ourselves and
have a nice chat."
"Is lunch so soon, Janie?" But Janie was pushing Selma into the
cafeteria not answering and Janie was making funny little squinty
"You want tuna fish salad too?"
"You having that Janie?"
"Yes, I'll get us both soup and salad, but first try and remember
about the pills Selma."
Selma smiled happily, "I just remembered Janie, I flushed them
down the bowl."
"No week ago Tuesday."
Janie looked scared, "You're supposed to take four pills a day,
Dr. Kelly has told you that many times Selma."
"Pills are not magic."
"I'll have to tell him so you can get more."
Selma shook her head. Her head was loose like a bowl full of
scrambled eggs. Janie closely resembled Bailey, scared, ashamed,
and ready to run. Selma only said, "My mother is an angel but my
father bathes in polluted water oh yeah, oh yeah."
"Selma, shall I get someone?"
"I was never happy, never alive. I am dead and no Jews aUowed.
And dance with my man, you Jews take over our socials. And you
are not my friend."
"Oh Selma."
"You killed my Lord, my true father. You want to pray for a
foreigner to be on top of me."
"Yes," Janie said softly, "I want you to be happy, not like this,
I want you to be happy, you should have grabbed at any good time.
You should have taken your pills and now this minute you should
78 try to talk softly and I'll get Dr. Kelly."
"CHRIST KILLER WHORE I'll never give you mail again.
"All right."
"Poppa opens my mail, I never got one letter that he hadn't read
"He shouldn't..."
"Janie, oh Janie, honey, Bailey is going to run away any day now.
You won't tell anyone honey ..."
"Of course not."
"Any day now I'm going to say no to poppa, stand on my own
"Oh good Selma, good."
"But you'll have to enter the fiery furnace of damnation. Janie
will you change, will you accept Him. HUH?"
"I want you to stay right here. I'll get Dr. Kelly to come see you
in here."
Janie held and caressed Selma. Selma had no idea at all that
Janie was so strong or cried so damn much.
Selma whispered to Janie, "I do trust you, I do. Tell me the truth
Janie, don't lie. You promise?"
"I promise."
"AM I really Selma Veer?"
At last Selma started to get very nervous and cry with Janie, she
looked around to surrender and give up the ship. "Oh, Janie, if I
am truly SELMA VEER I am lost, hurry and get Dr. Kelly.
Translated from the Chinese by Shih Shu-nu
I feel you still sitting here as before
An echo-like piece of
Armless and blind emptiness
At OUve Street, my life
Is sorrowful floating backward
Always the hubbub of the city drowned our words
Always the glances of strangers clutch me like eagles
And shoot at your absence
The sparks fly — when your broken arms crack
Make the startled night, the dust, and loneliness flash into gold
If you think of me just as I am longing for you
In the shadowy depth of tears in your blank eyes
There should be a man's face silent like a monk's in meditation
Tomorrow is far from today
While the waiting became a well in a single night
I could only tell my sorrows darkly
To the wind
To the cold emptiness
It is so close to me
And yet so far away
Translated from the Chinese by Shih Shu-nu
If we set off from the center of darkness
Whether there is a heavenly curse or not will make no difference
For if there is a star falling, there is a star rising
Since the last time
I came back from the funeral of the last angel
I have reached this conclusion
When the summer solstice has passed I will wait for the autumn
I will wait until autumn rends me apart with five galloping horses
And the night executes me with the pecking of fowls
A piece of broken superstition
The rainbow is nothing but a rainbow, a bridge to nothing
Under the storm is the best time for wandering
The lightning will record the moment of thunder
Wherever I pass, bloodstains wnl be left
Certainly, I won't be lost
Chou Meng-tieh was born in 1920 in mainland China. He has been a soldier
and a school teacher. He now makes a living by selling secondhand books from
a street stall in Taipeh. His volumes of poetry include: The Realm of Solitude
(1954) and Soul-Returning Grass (1965).
Yu Kuang-chung was born in 1928 in mainland China. He obtained a master's
degree from Iowa University. He now teaches English poetry in the National
Taiwan University. His volumes of poetry include: Stalactite (i960), Hallowe'en
(i960), Associations of the Lotus (1964), A Youth from Wu-ling (1967).
Shih Shu-nu is a graduate of the National Taiwan University, Taipei, and is
now working on her Ph.D. degree in the Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia.
I used to draw
sexy women on the sidewalk
with chalk that wore down
to a nub
a thin moon
& scraped fingertips
They never materiaUzed
In Chicago
a stud whips the back of a girl's thighs
with an unravelled coat-hanger
She was unfaithful
I read this
on Isla Mujeres in Quintana Roo
Above the wilted pages of LIFE
the sky darkens
& the mainland beach glows like a scar
between the obscure
proliferations of jungle and sea
82 I'm sure that men have always loved
what can't be owned
so perfectly the skin it illuminates
the gold hairs on your tanned shoulder
or your eyes
their light of deep water
beautiful beyond permanence or waste
absorbing distance into the here and now
for Wallace Stevens
The others have gone on
over soaked shale
toward the glazed caves & turquoise fissures
hunting original ghosts & dying of abstinence
Here white water blossoms between two stones
Under the hiss of cold steam
continual grounded thunder
carries a buffalo drum god back to the prairies
I dip my hands in the loud froth
and wash my eyes
until the tensions of yesterday's face
and wisp away like stale smoke
Light changes on the mountain
and the poem of the act of the mind
like rinsed wind
from tattered cumulus
into these shaggy firs
whose needles rust in shadow
and ripen through a summer without end
Sunset floods the streets
The silos
grain elevators
and the American Malt factory
into a pastel castle
Small trees in the park at its foot
in a haze of three day leaves
Even the insect casings
of the power plant
like the eyes
of an accomplished metamorphosis
George Amabile teaches writing at the University of Manitoba. His work has
appeared widely in periodicals and anthologies and he is the author of Blood
Ties (The Sono Nis Press 1972).
Days of the ferret, a sweet fever.
Someone is walking through the sun
With my tongue on a leash.
Say "Ahhh." Thank goodness,
It's not diabetes or the BoUvian Rot.
This morning I am a cross
Between lefthandedness
And pointblank rage.
The sun leaks like soft ice.
The infection deepens .. .
My eyes dissolve
In a closet of heat.
I become 4000
Yellow flowers, chirruping.
O the cliche of a trek into the bowels of China.
O the night that zings like a harpsichord factory!
O gorgeous sun limping in the frozen dusk.
O candy wrappers stacked like bricks!
Snow growls on my roof.
The infection deepens . ..
A day on fire
Placing real rabbits
Where my mouth should be.
86 I am several kinds of tigers.
I am a confectionery treat.
The fever fills my sleeves
With pearls of honey drops.
Am I too strange to bleed?
I'm behind myself
With a knife and fork,
Revolving on a skewer.
I am wfld with grief
As greasy children
Reach deep into my fever
To scoop out their revenge
In double-dips . ..
Come off it, kids.
Next week, I'll be raining
On the iron road to Malta
And perfect health, melting
Like sugar in the mouth of the Orinoco.
G. E. Murray graduated from Canisius College and Northeastern University
and also studied Creative Writing at Brown University. From 1968-1971 he
taught writing and literature at Northeastern University and in 1971 he was
appointed Assistant Director of the poetry programme at the Cambridge Center
for Adult Education, Cambridge, Massachusetts. His first book of poems, A Mile
Called Timothy, was published in 1972 by Ironwood Press, Tucson.
Sometimes the noise we don't hear
is Simon Fraser on his river.
He passed quietly, quick
as a skeeter-bug on the pond
passes the dog's nose;
his story was waiting
at saltwater, he had no time
to talk, this man
hurrying into myth,
things were real to him
and he despised those horizons
giving in,
like this river that couldn't
kill him.
And before he reached the end
the return faced him,
Grin at the rapids
they'll pass
like noise following wind
or a first yawn
awakening sleep.
Back at the headwaters
the door was still there
to open, to close;
after a bath and shave
everyone recognized him
except the river
withering south,
now only a reflection of a voyage
going home to tidewater
while we noon behind this island.
After the fire
the animals spend their time
marching from this forest;
their backs salted with fire,
their eyes shot black with infinity.
All day
they arrived without their skins,
formed row upon row
across this charred plain;
these are the ones
who found no stream to wear
as heat blistered the eggs
a bluejay abandoned in her nest,
when the fire's yellow greed loped
between the trees;
first devouring the footprints
then the feet.
Today the moose form their lines.
Perhaps for a long time no one will miss them
in the marshes,
deep in cool water and muddy shade.
Charles Lillard was born in California, raised in S.E. Alaska. Educated in
Canada, the United States and Germany. His first book, Cultus Coulee was
published in 1971; a second book, Drunk on Wood, will be published in the
Spring of 1973.
Translated by Slobodan Stefanovich
All mine dead in this wind,
Four nights already, five nights already,
Window like the whipped eye of a horse,
All mine dead in this wind,
With leaves, with dust, with years,
And my mouth full of blood and tenderness,
My tongue pierced with a golden pin
Which my mother once sought in a dream,
Four nights already, five nights already,
Wind around the house, pure dry flame,
I float on sleeplessness lighter than air,
I pronounce names,
Defend the world I did not create,
I apologize, therefore I am.
In the night, far away, blazes up a fire.  After it another,
Butterflies of flame flying down on the edge of night.
A third fire.   Soon a pure fiery streak,
A ring around a dream.  Finished.  No one will pass.
From chestnut trees in front of the house leaves fall off from fear
And people say: autumn.  Melissa, that is the camp
Of a great dead army, situated on the distant hills.
Alone, I listen for the trumpeter, intensely, breathlessly.
But instead of the brazen echo I hear the first snows
In the deserted woods.  But the fires do not go out.
Somewhere cities crumble when the earth smooths a wrinkle
On its pensive forehead.   But the fires do not go out.
A ring around a dream.  Has anybody heard the trumpeter?
The trumpeter is beyond silence, and silence is stronger.
Our deeds are bounded by the void,
With brittle edges, islands sown on the sea;
How much silence to every weak word,
How much sky to every axised pillar,
How much terrible harmony there is in a ruin!
And what is hope, but a total dream:
Consent of shores, a cry legibly inserted
In a sentence, like a stone in the form of a vault;
And our deeds bounded by the void
Wretchedly imitate the contagious fire of stars;
Who is to bind them into images? Deduce a continuation
From us, from our unhappiness?  In which language
Speaks the sweet mouth from the other side of wisdom?
While in the spherical eye of an angel or a beast
Images are perhaps differently wedded —
Woe to you, city, sand-castle on the shore!
Here a wave ascends and a lace of absurdity rustles
At the edge which dispassionately effaces our signs;
Who is to finish the manuscript, the book through which the void
Leafs with fingers of flame?
Ivan V. Lalic was born in Belgrade in 1931 where he still lives. He has written poetry and radio dramas and made translations of the poems of Pierre Jean
Jouve, several of which have appeared in an Anthology of Modern French Lyric
Poetry, published in Yugoslavia.
Slobodan Stefanovich was born in Yugoslavia in 1943 and came to Canada
in 1966. He majored in Russian language and literature at the University of
British Columbia, where he is currently studying Comparative Literature.
92 Ted Dobb states that he was educated by thirty-five temporary jobs before becoming a librarian in 1964. He now works at the Simon Fraser University. This
is his third published story.
"Don't you ever write to them," she asked, continuing her polite
"Sometimes," he said. "But I move a lot, so they're never sure
where I am."
"Why do you bother? To write, I mean."
"Oh, they still get pretty upset if they don't hear from me."
"I thought you wanted to be free?"
"I am free. I'm weaning them that's all. ..."
"Sounds like you've got it all figured out."
"That's right." He rested his hand on her leg.
"You're terrible," she said, with a hint of intimacy.
Earlier, he had moved his hands gracefully for her benefit while
talking to some people who were already paired off. Then he sought
an introduction, and made a point of looking at her directly and
speaking softly. He was small and dark. His hair hung in thick
waves below his ears; as they talked, he teased a few strands with
his thin brown fingers. His lips were full, and, he knew, almost too
delicately shaped — like a woman's.
She pressed his hand and stood up. "Have to be going. I can drop
you somewhere if you like."
"Good idea. This seems to be petering out anyway."
"You're sure now? I wouldn't want to drag you away from all
these young girls."
"No, that's fine. I'm ready to go. They won't miss me; besides, I
have to be up early to look for a new place." He stepped close beside
her and gripped her lightly above the elbow.
Outside, the streetlights sparkled on the snow which squeaked as
they walked to the curb. The windshield was encrusted with frost
93 and immediately fogged-up when they got inside. She rubbed it
vigorously with her forearm. The engine settled down and began to
send weak puffs of warm air against their legs.
"Do you mind if we drive around a bit," she asked. "I can't go
home in this condition, and I'd like someone to talk to while I'm
sobering up."
"What's at home that's so frightening?"
"Just two grown kids and a husband who works past midnight."
Looking at him, she added, "But it's not as bad as it sounds. He
doesn't care so much where I've been, but he worries if I come
home with liquor on my breath."
"Well, you don't want to get into any trouble... I didn't think
you had that much of a family."
"Don't worry about it. With any luck they'll all be asleep." She
smiled and put the car in gear. "In the meantime, we can talk
about finding you a place to stay."
Turning around at the edge of town, she got temporarily stuck
in a snowbank and stalled the engine. "It's flooded, we'll have to
wait a few minutes," she said, pulling open her coat and leaning
back against the door. She smoked while they talked.
Surprisingly, she wore black net stockings. His mother never wore
stockings like that, although she'd be just a few years older. He
could see the small triangles of pale skin running up to where the
skirt was bunched around her hips. He moved toward her as if
adjusting himself on the seat for comfort. She made no move to
pull down her skirt or close her legs. They talked briefly about the
party. Then she wanted to know more about his family and what
he hoped for the future. But he wasn't happy with either subject,
so he pretended to be drunker than he was, occasionally resting his
forehead on the back of the seat with a sigh. She had started the
engine again.
"You're tired," she said, stroking the back of his head.
"No, not really. I'm all right. It's just warm in here, makes me
She kept her hand on him. In spite of the heat he began to
shiver uncontrollably. She took his head in both arms and held him
close. He could feel her breath penetrating his hair as she made soft
comforting sounds. He let his hand fall, fingers loosely curled, onto
her thigh. She made a slight convulsive movement. He opened his
hand and moved it slowly under her skirt.
"Do you miss your mother," she asked in a whisper.
94 Eyes closed, he moved his head from side to side then found her
open mouth as she slid under him.
"You can stay here if you don't mind fixing it up," she said,
stepping into the basement room. "I'll supply the paint."
He patted the cold wall. "You're sure it's all right?"
"Of course. We don't use it for anything." She stood close to him
and tentatively raised a hand in his direction. "There's just one
thing," she continued, "I'll have to charge you something — just a
Uttle, you know — so there won't be any questions."
"Sure, I wouldn't want it any other way. Like a monk's cell isn't
it?" He was straining to see out the single narrow window, but the
snow was too high.
"How about five dollars a week? Would that be too much?. . .
I'd expect you to eat with us."
"You're heaping coals of fire on my head. It really isn't enough,
and you know it. But maybe I can do more painting or something
around the place." He touched her lightly on the waist as he passed
to examine the rest of the basement. "What's over here?" He had
found another room — fitted out Uke an office.
"That's where he works when he comes home. He's secretary for
so many organizations. ..."
"He won't mind me being so close?"
"Why should he, silly?" She giggled like a schoolgirl and tickled
him on the ribs.
He jumped away and spotted an outside door hidden in the
shadows. "Even got a private entrance," he said, yanking it open
to the untrodden steps.
She wrapped her arms around him and rested her chin on his
He looked up at fingers of snow drooping from the black maples,
at the soUd grey sky and the dull backsides of houses across the
lane. "Brrrr, it's cold out there." He dragged her forward as he
closed the door and secured the lock. She held onto him. "I think I
hear someone upstairs," he said, "shshsh."
She stepped away quickly and they both stood, heads cocked,
"Oh, you...." she said, grabbing for him, "you just said that."
But he was gone with a laugh, and already half-way upstairs.
95 "You're terrible," he heard her say to his heels, and again to his
face, after she had climbed the stairs.
*    *    *
"Because I like to know where you are," she said. "I like to think
about you doing things. ... You don't mind, do you?" She pulled
herself closer and reached for a kiss.
Casually, he stretched out of range. He could feel her slack thighs
pressing against him. They were warm now and no longer smooth.
"I don't mind," he said.
"You don't sound very convinced."
"No, really, I don't mind."
"Then give me a kiss to prove it." She turned his face and
pressed her lips against his mouth.
He made an impulsive kick at the blankets, uncovering them
IShe looked startled, but quickly pulled up the sheet. Then
propped on one elbow, she stared down at him.
"I was too hot," he said. "I get like that, after."
"You'd like to get up now, wouldn't you?"
"... Maybe I should. It's almost time for work."
"Do you still have time to do what you said?"
"What was... ? Oh, sure, it won't take long." He swung his
legs out and sat contemplating the high window. The light was
beginning to turn grey after a bright afternoon on the melting snow.
She stood up behind him and high-stepped her way to the end
of the springing bed and onto the concrete floor. "You need a rug
in here," she said, sitting down quickly, giving a little shudder and
arching her raised feet. "I think I have one upstairs you can use."
"You'll have the whole house down here if you're not careful."
"Don't be silly. I get pleasure out of making you comfortable.
Besides, they won't miss it." She ventured onto the floor again and
dressed with brief perfunctory movements while he watched. "I've
got to get supper started." She wrapped the skirt around her hips.
"You can leave the time-table down here. I'll get it later." She
stood beside him for a moment, fingering his mussed hair. "You'll
be late ... if you don't hurry."
Still, he sat until he could hear her walking above his head. Then
he went to the window, but couldn't see the sky even by sighting
from the bottom of the frame. Without bothering to dress, he found
96 a piece of paper and a pencil, and began to draw boxes for days of
the week and hours of the day. In a way he was pleased that she
wanted to think about him being in particular places; but the cold
room soon made him shiver and grow irritable, so he fined the boxes
with hasty printing and rushed for his clothes.
*    *    ■#
"You weren't where you were supposed to be," she said, reproachfully. She was bent over the laundry tub, working vigorously, and
didn't look up.
He could see the taut white backs of her legs. "What do you
mean? When wasn't I where?" He made his voice sound sleepy and
She leaned, stiff-armed, on the edge of the tub and turned to him.
High knuckles of foam slid down her fingers. "I waited for you at
8 o'clock. You didn't show up, so at 9 I came home. They wanted
to know where I'd been, too. I was so disappointed I could hardly
think of an excuse." She turned back to the tub.
"There was a change ..." he said, walking barefoot toward her,
his hands in the dressing-gown pockets holding his erection close to
his stomach, "... a new foreman. Anyway, I couldn't have stopped
to talk." He leaned against the washing machine behind her.
"I know. I just wanted to see you. . .. Then I thought you had
made a mistake. ..."
"Not likely. I know it by heart."
"... or deUberately put down the wrong times. I hated to think
you'd done that."
"Good God; I agreed to give you the time-table, didn't I?"
"But you could have put anything down. How would I tell the
difference, even now?" She raised a dripping article of lingerie to
the light, then looked at him briefly before diving it back into the
water. The hem of her skirt rode high on her stretched thighs as she
thrashed up and down in the soapy water.
"Frankly, I didn't think of it... or I might have."
"Oh, you . . . you don't mean that, do you?"
"Sure . . . Why not?"
She scooped around the bottom of the tub, then pulled the plug.
"You're not nice today. I wish I hadn't told you."
He stepped behind her and raised her skirt. He pushed his cock
97 between her legs and sUd it back and forth along the smooth crotch
of her panties. "I was only kidding, you know that."
"You were not," she said, without straightening.
"Sure I was, honest. Why should I mind if you know where I am
all the time?"
She eased herself free, slowly, and faced him. "You don't like
your parents to know."
"That's different."
"Am I supposed to take that as a compliment?"
"If you like."
"What are you grinning about?"
"Nothing." He lifted her skirt and rubbed himself against her.
Then he kissed her on the mouth. Her hands on the back of his
neck were still warm and soft from the water. He drove hard at her
making them lose balance and stumble apart.
She looked down and saw him, bobbing erect. "You're terrible,"
she said, laughing now.
"Come on." He pushed against her.
"Do you really want to? I've got to rinse these things sometime
today, you know." She nestled her face under his ear. In a few
moments, she said, "Let's then."
She made little girl sounds as she skipped into his room and
quickly undressed.
His dressing-gown flapped briefly, then settled lazily when they
both came — she, with apparent surprise.
"Ooh, that was so nice," she said, holding him tightly and wriggling her hips. "Is that what it's like for you every time?"
"I guess so," he said, annoyed that he had answered such a
meaningless question. Her legs had already lost the cool porcelain
smoothness that excited him so much. Worse, his own were hot and
perspiring. He felt a growing irritation at the combined discomfort.
Freeing himself, he lay on his back with one leg exposed to the cool
She patted her stomach, took a couple of deep breaths, and
stretched first one leg then the other. She took another deep breath.
Finally, she said, "Maybe you'll start thinking about me like that."
"Like what?"
"Like your parents, not wanting them to know where you are."
"Why would I do that?"
"I don't know. You might though . . . don't you think?"
"... You worry too much."
98 She didn't speak then, and made no other movement except to
inch closer to him.
After a while, when they didn't talk, she excused herself, and left
in her bare feet after grabbing her clothes up in a ball.
"What are these," he asked, tilting the dish of amber pills. It was
mid-morning. She sat across from him at the kitchen table, but he
hadn't been looking at her.
"Halibut liver oil. No one leaves this house in the morning without taking one. Keeps the colds down around here. I've chased them
to the front door with that dish more than once." She smiled, obviously amused. "Why don't you have one?"
"No, I won't bother," he said, smiling too in spite of himself, and
catching briefly the ardent look in her eyes. "I just wondered, that's
aU. I hadn't noticed them before." He looked over her shoulder to
the window and thought he might make some comment on the
warm weather before excusing himself; but when he saw that she
was about to speak, he said, "Looks like you've got them well
"Oh really? Do you think so? They seem to do pretty much as
they like, if you ask me. I only herd them together for meals and
keep their clothes clean. .. . But that's all right, I've got lots of
energy — don't you think?"
He pretended not to catch what she meant. "Actually, I wasn't
just thinking about the pills. I saw those boxes you've got in the
basement — you know, with the labels? So-and-so's summer clothes,
so-and-so's winter clothes — and aU that."
"You're so funny. Something has to be done with them. And it
just makes them easier to get at; when I need them, I know exactly
where they are — so there."
"I suppose they're all dry-cleaned, folded and moth-balled."
"That's right, my sweet," she said, getting up and moving
around the table. She wrapped her arms around him while he
remained slouched over his elbows. Her tongue flicked along the
rim of his ear. "Now, why don't I. .. put on your favourite record
. . . and you . . . you stop picking on me?"
"I'm not picking on you, and I don't want..."
"It'll make you feel better," she said, giving him a parting
99 squeeze. She went into the living room and fussed quietly with the
record player.
"Don't bother," he yelled, hearing his own stridency. "I'm going
in a minute anyway, so don't bother." But he sat looking out the
window, and didn't move.
She returned with the first bars of music. "There, isn't that
better," she said, going to the window. "Snow's almost gone, know
that?" She had to stretch over the sink to see the ground below.
"You never listen," he said.
"I said you never listen, not really."
She had turned back to the table. "What do you mean, I never
listen? Of course I do. I always listen to you, anyway."
He didn't answer.
"Look, are you upset with me about something? Because if you
are, I wish you'd tell me . . . Are you?"
He wanted to say something with weight, some hard accusation;
but instead he said, "No, I'm not upset: it's just that. .. well, I
don't know what you want from me any more . . . guess I'm beginning to feel a bit claustrophobic."
She stiffened a little, but her voice had a jauntiness in it. "I
suppose you're working up to leaving us then, eh? On to make your
"Well, not exactly that, but..." He felt relieved, bouyant even,
now that the subject was almost in the open. And she didn't look
annoyed. For the first time, he wanted to confide in her. "I know
you won't mind if I say this, but it's like ..."
She began running water into the sink full of dishes, talking over
the noise. "Like when you were at home . . . You'll have at least
two of us then," she said, squirting pink soap from a white plastic
bottle shaped like a torso.
"You mean famiUes, to hide from," he asked, confident now that
he was going to get away without any trouble.
"No, not that so much. You can handle that part of it all right,
I'm sure. But that's not all of it." She stopped the tap and lifted the
dish brush off its hook. "I mean, I don't plan on moving, and I
don't suppose your parents do either. So now there'll be two of us
you won't be able to forget. Right?" She held a towel out to him.
"Want to help me with these?" There was no warmth in her eyes,
and she dropped the towel on the table before he could take it from
ioo He couldn't find an answer, so he stood dumbly at her side,
drying. Whenever he looked in her direction, she seemed totaUy
occupied with the dishes.
"Well, that's that," she said, when the sink was cleared; then
politely, "Excuse me, will you? I've got some other things to do."
He heard the click when she turned off the record player, and
imagined her bent over, thighs stretched, replacing the record in its
vertical slot and carefully closing the cabinet without smudging the
polished wood. Then she was in the dining room adjusting the
high-back chairs and kicking a throw-rug flat with the side of her
foot. She would have stopped once to glance at herself in the mirror
above the side-board, to briefly press her right palm — not her
fingers — against some imagined unruliness in her still luxuriant
hair. Finished there, she walked up the front hall to collect the mail.
She would brace herself because the doors always stuck when the
air was damp. On time, he heard it shuddering free, then the tin
squeak of the mail-box Ud. Now, she would be standing, "letting in
some air," and flicking through the letters with great efficiency,
filing each one deftly in its place between her outstretched fingers.
everyone knows
(if the sun rises,
it rises yellow on
the ones that kill;
it comes up orange
on those that build .. .)
a bird house;
it's yellow/orange
standing above the roses.
I could see water
for trees yesterday;
it was different
standing on the
opposite bank
where strawberries
look like apples.
the path was easy;
now I've grown fat,
and love the orchard.
James Wyatt, Jr. was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and raised in Baltimore,
Maryland. He holds an MA. in Creative Writing from the University of British
Columbia. He is currently working on a novel that has been provisionally accepted by McGraw-Hill of New York.
Why have they left me standing
chained to my own parts?
My three trunks lean awry,
my limbs are all cut off.
Twelve forks have I
that do not even remember the weight of my leaves.
I will never lie down
till the wood crumbles.
The fungus like a yellow curd forming,
feeding, spreading,
The fungus like a yellow brain
sleeps at my heart.
Will you renew your life?
Bite it open.
What do you wish to know of death?
The answer is inside.
Where my bark is stripped away
I am white as milk.
I am smooth as bone
but without bone's brittleness.
Twelve horned heads were my twenty-four branches
And what are these black chains
that will not let me fall?
Who is that, dancing on your tired head?
Your face collapses under the weight.
Your huge nose spreads like wax.
Already your eyes are haunted: dogs' eyes.
She flutters a red mantle.
The dance sinks hollows under your cheekbones.
Sad faces turning in the wind
can sway you no more.
You remember the summer of your first love,
brought to flower in a windmill's shadow.
Your face caves, a horse looks out of one eye.
She's put a death's head in the other
with one thrust of her iron foot.
Pale voices keening on the wind
can sway you no more.
You remember the summer of your first love,
brought to flower in a windmill's shadow.
Robyn Sarah was born in New York in 1949 and grew up in Montreal, where
she now lives. She is a graduate of McGill University and the Quebec Conservatory of Music. She now teaches at a junior college. These are her first
published poems.
My special madness
A green window
The smell of boxwood, of the lion's den
The smell of ether, the bite of quicksilver in the lungs
The green-house overgrown, the floor a river of glass
No secrets but silence
Spores fall
The sound of moss spreading.
The agony of meat caught in the lion's jaw
Today I send my own police of rats
To do their terrible justice to my heart
Stagnating beneath the fat of a day's lies
There is a crystal center
That spins deep within the living shell
Fed by my blood, distant
My hallucinating planet
Hungry for fresh meat, blue copper.
Refracting light, teethed images
A forest and a sea— cruel and deep beyod recovery
But pulsating
My hallucinating planet my hungry center
Where languages are muddled
Where words are clawed to death
The moon is stretched out across the sky as on a wheel and beaten.
Not far from my heart there is a forest
Sprung from some dark and secret center
Few trees have survived the winter
Scarred bridges across stone.
The sky is brown the water silent
On the bank men with rifles
Smile down at the dead girl
I am breaking
A desert fading by day
Bleeding by night —
A forest drowning.
You played my voice back to me
I found it lacking in substance
White bread in water.
My face a worn road map
Too many numbers and too many names
My body eclipsed by the street
Rikki (Erica Ducornet) is a poet, fiction writer and graphic artist from Hamilton, Ontario. She has illustrated many books and her work has been exhibited
in Algiers, Prague, New York, Berlin, Amsterdam and Toronto. She is at present living in France.
108 Douglas Monk is a student in the Creative Writing Department, University of
British Columbia. "The Applicant" is his first published story and forms part of
a collection of short fictions tentatively entitled Arcane Celebrations.
The applicant is either tall and dark or short and fair. He wears
an immaculately tailored suit. His hair is of medium length, probably brown, and today there are sideburns, ending at the earlobes:
the applicant looks correct. Under his arm, an attache case of soft
leather contains the degrees. That is to say, the applicant is qualified, but of course this fact is worn casually, as though it were
merely a sartorial accoutrement, positioned just inside the breast
pocket, or partially hidden behind the rhomboid of contrasting tie.
Altogether it is clear from his clothing, from his physical deportment, that the appUcant moves.
Moving, then with the consummate assurance he has studied in
the Great Style Manuals, ("There are few ways of stopping a man
in a suit."), the applicant enters the elevator on the main floor, and
leaves at the twenty-sixth. It must be less certain of its route of
Beside the door to the Head Office of the Central Agency there
is a finely polished brass fire-hose box. Here the applicant pauses
briefly to adjust certain facets of his appearance: the handkerchief,
the knot, a button. Presently he opens the door to the Head Office,
which rattles, since the ribbed opaque glass is set too slack within its
oak frame. This would be an old building if it were not the twenty-
sixth floor of a new one. The applicant's grip on the door knob is
both firm and cordial. In fact, since the fire-hose box, his entire
aspect radiates firm cordiality, for the applicant is fully qualified in
the means of presentation.
The receptionist at the head office of the Central Agency, a
striking brunette, moves from one filing cabinet to the next, filing
various forms, removing buff coloured folders. A small mole is
noticeable just by the collar line of her blouse. On another day she
might be found sitting behind the large desk of brown veneer,
109 removing the black jars of india ink from one drawer, and setting
them on the desk surface, before placing them back in the drawer.
But today she is on her feet, and moves about filing and removing
the requisite folders. At her fingertips the doors of the grey cabinets
glide and click to and fro in accord with the needs of the central
The applicant, A, has entered the office by one of two doors, but
not by the second door located behind the desk of the receptionist.
That would be the door which opens into the inner sanctum. A
stands presently before the desk, and as one assured of his purpose,
places his feet only slightly apart, and holds the supple leather of
the attache pouch between thumb and forefinger of the right hand.
A: "Good morning, my name is A, and I understand that there
is an opening. I would like to apply for it."
R: "Yes. If you will just take a seat at one of those tables by the
window, I will bring you the forms."
The receptionist glides smoothly toward a drawer.
A: "Oh yes, the forms. Ah, would it not be possible to be interviewed directly? That is, may I see one of the interviewers in
The receptionist pauses. There is a slight flicker in the snule she
R: "I am sorry, sir, but personal interviews are reserved only for
special job categories. Please understand that it is not efficient to
give a personal interview to each applicant. The classifications of
individuals have been necessarily broadened into types found to be
more or less suitable for the work, and these can be easily detected
through the regular forms, which will take into account your education, your job experience, the hobbies and sports you enjoy. Let me
assure you that your particular merit as expressed on the forms will
receive ample consideration from my superiors."
A looks at the second door opening off the office, framed and
firmly closed behind the receptionist's desk. Inside, A knows, are
the offices, like those everywhere, in which men of every conceivable
talent and persuasion perform those functions integral to the human
continuance. A relishes those functions and holds in a kind of sacred
esteem the decisions made between the "in" trays and the "out"
trays of that world. He, too, wants to create and organize, to join
the men who strive to maintain their corner of the corporate reality.
Or at worst, to support the corporate fantasy, which A believes
equally necessary lest the world shatter like so much opaque glass.
no In any case, A yearns to be one of the integral ones, with an "in-
out" tray of his own, and the decisions to make that are important
to all.
R: "Mr. A, would you care to fill in the application now or after
we exchange brief smiles?"
The folder she presents him contains forms of yellow, blue and
antique cream.
A: "Dare I risk using one of your pens?"
R: "I must warn you: they leak."
A fills in the blanks as accurately and honestly as possible, knowing that somewhere within the inner sanctum, there is probably an
office containing a desk bearing no name on its arborite plate. A's
grip on the ball point is firm but cordial as he engraves his name
on the last form with a masterful flourish. The receptionist, in her
turn, smiles briefly, the small mole now just peeking over the collar
edge of her blouse. She gestures that he may proceed, and A would
appear to float as he makes his way between the banks of fiUng
cabinets and the brown desk, to the second door. The grey cabinets,
for their part, with their frontal configuration of lock, button and
handle, would appear to smile gently a sort of metalUc Mona Lisa
smile at A's passage. A's face prickles, and the back of his neck.
There is an obstruction in his throat, and A's legs would prefer to
hesitate, but A's hand is preformed to the shape of the knob.
The door to the inner sanctum is either tall and dark, or wide
and blonde. It sports an immaculate doorknob, and the hinges
today are of a medium size, probably copper. Altogether it is clear
to the applicant from the nobility of the deep dark wood, from the
door's shape, and from the smell, a rich smell as of files and cabinets, that this portal opens onto his future. A opens and enters.
Inside, a vaulted corridor filled with receptionists and brown
desks. The massive hall is brightly lit and the receptionists are all
strikingly attractive, sitting in the long rows of desks which extend
to an unseen end of the hall. It pleases A to think that he may soon
be working for such a large and tasteful organization. The receptionists too seem pleased, the size of their smiles diminishing only
with the distance, until A can no longer distinguish the features of
the last visible receptionists from those of the grey filing cabinets
which line the opposite wall. A smiles briefly at the first who smiles
brightly back at him.
iMoving, then, with the measured knowledge gleaned from the
manuals, the applicant proceeds from one desk to the next, smiling
111 briefly as he explains that he seeks an opening with the firm; asserts
in turn his degrees and qualifications, his experience in that line of
work, and the quality of the neighborhood of his childhood, the
hobbies and sports he enjoys, and prints with consummate assurance the current places of residence of his parents, his siblings, from
oldest to youngest, and the religion of his ancestors. He fills out the
forms accurately and honestly, completes the tests, and makes
fingerprints for the files. The accrual of such weighty files, he reasons, can portend nothing but the fullest employment.
Nevertheless, there are times as A moves down the long row of
attractive desks,. . . but, no, — there are no times at all when the
applicant feels a loss of assurance, as though assurance were something that might trickle out through a hole in his breast pocket.
Every once in a while, moving as he does along the receptional
corridors, the applicant thinks to discern an outline of that next
door, — there, just short of the point where the apposing rows of
receptionists and filing cabinets appear to be one. There, a slight
gap, or disclosure between the pink and the grey. Anticipation
grows like a hot ball of wax in his throat.
Perhaps it is night, perhaps autumn, when A finds the door
where the pink becomes grey. He enters a cabinet furnished in
doors. Numerous other applicants are folded up along one wall
awaiting the smile of the receptionist. Obviously this position is
worth competing for. The brown desk sports an impeccable surface
of cream-coloured style manuals. Contrasting files glide and click
between the fingers of the striking brunette. Moving briefly, the
applicants wait, assured of the future, though few move on. Questions hang with their curved backs and separate feet from strings
under the overhead lighting. Soft leather educations glide single file
between the black jars of india ink, and grasp firmly at ball-points
which swing on chains beneath the folding tables. Moving briefly,
the applicants wait, assured of the future, though few move on.
Moving briefly, they stuff blouses into the shoulders and biceps of
their immaculate clothing, while inside the applicants, their schooling, the hobbies and sports they enjoy seethe like buff coloured
fingertips yearning for openings. Through all this A somehow proceeds, maintaining his assurance, his motivation, much as one clings
to one's appendix or tonsils. Finally the door.
Enters a buff coloured office cloaked in red pouches. Receptionists, bright and pink, gleam through countless narrow doors, asking
"Your pen or mine?" A small mole is visible just at the base of their
112 attractive desks. The forms they present are opaque, rounded, and
endless, unrolling heavily from their respective drawers in the brown
desks like lengths of paper fire-hose. A contemplates with envy the
impeccable rhomboids he thinks must be working in the soft cream
of the interior executive offices. The receptionists know better. They
question even the existence of executive offices. There are receptionists, a given. There are perhaps interviewers, probably very few,
but as for executives, their existence remains speculative.
Doorknobs, friendly and convenient, suspend themselves from
folders stapled to the ceiling. The applicant speaks, struggling to
punctuate his words with pauses of assurance, of motivation. Black
bottles of India Ink are thrown at him by their respective drawers,
and pummel him about the stomach, close to the home of his
hobbies and favourite sport. The applicant begins to rattle like the
opaque glass in an oak door. The receptionists rasp their pink nails
with files while leaning demurely on the Great Style Manuals.
A: "I have come to apply for the opening." The words sUde
from A's mouth, click to a stop, and turn grey.
R: "Have you filled out an application before?" the multiple
voices of the receptionists inquire from behind their ten-times
multiple nails, trim and pink. A detects a brief smile in these voices,
not cordial so much as leathery. "I believe you will find them in
order Mr. A. If you would step to one of the folding tables please.
Do you have a pen?"
A wrestles the forms to the table like a fireman fighting a nest of
boa constrictors. He sits down, but gets stuck between the chair and
the table surface. Neither will give and he is squeezed like a pouch
between the two furnishings. The white forms proceed, slipping
over the applicant's shoes, coiling snuggly around his ankles, growing larger, thicker, becoming one monster form. A's pen leaks on his
immaculate suit cuff, and his arms swing to and fro like fire hose
doors. Composure pops from his suit like so many polished brass
buttons, his attache case weighs as much as an elevator stuck between thumb and forefinger. Under the table, the form, patterned
oddly in small boxes with black dotted lines running the length of
its back, coils slowly about the applicant's knees, his thighs, squeezing him tightly as between the jaws of a folder. Hairs of medium
length, brown and white separate themselves from A's head and
glide past his earlobes Uke a receptionist's snicker.
A whitish foam surrounds the applicant's mouth. A will sever his
interlude with an empty horizon. Snarls spring from his suit pocket
"3 and singe the air like a burning of manuals. Enraged at last, A
grasps the form by its ears where its head has coiled round his neck.
X-ing it right in the eyes, he crumples its head to the size of a doorknob. He bites and shreds the neck with his teeth, enscorcherizes
the stomach with matches. Dig, dig, dig, he pulls the guts out like
a sneeze. White scales clutter the air in a storm, he has it by the
stubby legs, and a foot is broken, he shoves pens under the toenails,
the form squeals, its body aflame. Receptionists applaud, admiring
from a dozen doorways. A is up, he is unstuck from the table, stabs
the form by its marital status and recent physical disabilities. The
form is down, shredded and carbonized, and A, smiling, keen as a
madman has cut off its tail and holds it on high, exhorting the
receptionists with words a la Susan Sontag:
The modern contribution of the Christian sensibility has been to discover the making of works of art and the venture of sexual love as the
two most exquisite sources of suffering. It is to this that we add the
experience of the applicant.
Finally breaking free of all doors, clearing his mouth of the
leaky past, A opens the second door of the office and enters the
inner sanctum. Two strong filing cabinets try to attach themselves
to his shoes, but A kicks lethal dents in their Mona Lisas. New and
grim intentions slather the normally composed lines of his face. The
receptionist of the inner sanctum, a striking brunette, gropes for the
right smile. But A is not smiling. Nor is A waiting for the forms.
Quickly he is on top of her, he has dashed out the length of his
experience, and has her pinned on the desk, as one might tape a
vine to the wall. A is about to enter her form with a masterful
flourish and R struggles wildly, tries to type him, tries to lock him
with keys, tries to glide out from under, and smile him back into
form, but she succeeds only in unfolding herself more favourably
upon the veneered surface of her attractive brown desk. A thrusts
forward, his attractive ballpoint held firmly and full of cordial, but
misses first to the left, penetrating the thin veneer of the desk instead. R writhes desperately, tries to staple his suit back on, tries to
dampen his ardour with paper clips, tells him to come back later,
tries to tie him off with a bow knot of typewriter ribbon. But A is
unreasonably concentrated in his purpose, and reapplies himself,
trying, alas, to enter between the first door and the second. R
screams a bright, punctual scream, which floats, an immaculate
rhomboid, out of the office, passing the open door of the fire hose
114 box, which glints thickly of brass under a red light in the corridor.
R fears A's experience, which has grown larger and thicker with
life, but not with direction. A on the other hand, is oblivious, his
hobbies and the sport he enjoys clawing their way out through the
coarse weave of his flesh. A's face prickles, his body is as hot as the
overhead light. R's body on the other hand, shrivels up or fleshes
out on alternate days. How can one tell which way she will go? A
is ready to proceed though R's legs would prefer to hesitate. But A
has discovered at last that he can count on no help from the great
style manuals. The body of the world is neither square and metalic,
nor formal, nor certain. He is somewhat blunt and impetuous in
the questionable knowledge that the world, a receiver, is rounded,
warm and all yielding to the man who knows when to take his suit
Suddenly, his feet splayed indefinitely, his breath whining Uke an
ascending elevator, the applicant staples himself to the receptionist,
entering the one and only door, entering the inner sanctum, that
place where all the business of the world is authorized, and pushing
the style manuals in several directions at once, A breaks the glass
on the fire hose door. Has shucked his immaculate suit, his lapels,
her blouse, has spilled the black jar, and burrows like an ecstatic
mole into a long corridor lined with Letraset futures and folding
"in-out" trays.
you seize my wrist
and in the mad leap of our eyes
is that silence
the air buoying our words
is heavy with silence
spaces of silence before and after
the breathed words
as the spaces between heartbeats
between the frail creatures of our nerves
strung like a second skeleton
through the body
this morning on the riverbank, high
above the choppy river
a man was shouting into space
into a sky of cold blue layers
a man shouting at a child or a dog
or at no one
and after the last fury of sound
came his stunned silence
when words gave out
116 I could not move away
but felt how we were one
strangers in that instant of silence
exhausted with noise
we must fall silent, as exhausted
with love we lie back separate
but the silence buoys us up
the spaces where we cannot lie
buoy us up, undrowned
when the love-shouts fade into spaces
when the breathing-spaces fade
into spaces
if one rises to stare out a window
the other feels the tugging, the draft of air
if one shuts his eyes
the other feels the leap of a half-vision
that does not take hold
between them a few miles
the chopped-up ridges of a city
others' dreams that whine
like nighttime sirens
this is what they wanted
this is what the legends promised them
and if one telephones the other, the ringing
will anger the night and then subside
to nothing: they will both listen then to nothing
because this is what they wanted
and this is what they got
Erthe upon erthe is wonderly wrought
Erthe upon erthe hath worship of nought. . .
— medieval poem
* No choice.
* A slow circling parade, shuffling
of miscellaneous feet. Imperfect anatomies
to mock some perfect destiny.
They keep glancing from side to side,
in envy.
* Each time the camera advanced
smiles appeared.
On Fridays the Discount Foods is open 'til 9.
Like the decks of a sickened ship
the aisles are awash with shapes —
crates half-unpacked,
pyramids of cans,
women pushing shopping carts
balky as wire animals.
Children run free, freely in the aisles,
"9 * Someone's dog begins to bark.
A mile away, another dog barks.
Out of wild weedy ditches the wild dogs
stammer and howl.
Ice forms between their toes.
On a distant city street another dog
Ufts its muzzle to wail.
We wake at the same moment
in the same bed.
* It looked like a mountain,
it even had jagged peaks.
But by June it began to thaw.
By August, even the rivulets in our back yards
had dried.
We did not drown.
We do not miss the drama
of the jagged peaks.
Out of a rain-green field
I approached you
you saw nothing
you felt fear
Out of a boy-sized dream
I walked head-on
into your embrace
your agitation was all body
the dream steepened
and you died
The time you left home
to spend a few weeks alone
in a shanty so cold you couldn't undress
but lay in sleep-stale clothes
it was I outside the rustled screen
a foot from your head
it was I drawing a fingernail
across the screen, lightly,
to wake you in terror
Though now you never sleep alone
though your wife is warm, curled
against you
the sudden tension of her sleep
the quickened breathing
shows how I liquify inside her
beat by beat
filling out inside her
with her consent
There is always a little girl
in the waiting room.  Wait.
She comes in at a quarter to six,
her gaze meek and hard as concrete.
She's a city girl.  She
has walked all the sidewalks of
the city preparing
for this.
Dreaming of
a numberless heaven
let me implant in its flesh
these heelworn children
and their wornout fetuses.
A tired lechery in me rises
to wrath.
She speaks softly —
What?  Louder.
We go through the squares
as if playing Monopoly.
I know all the tricks of the dice.
They come here so burdened
They always weep
Use the refrain Doctor all they can.
122 We fool over figures, I with a pad.
Weeks and days        the various ways
of a body's betrayal.
Before you cry, dear,
I say to her tears, let's make sure.
Do this.    Go here.    Write it down —
aren't you writing? —
Do this and go here and do this.
They'll tell you in four days.
Aren't you writing?
Their flesh is always brilliant
with scrubbing for the doctor.
It is a mute revenge
upon doctorness.    — Aren't you writing?
They glide on their eroded heels
and disappear.
Set out for clinic and lab
and disappear:    no surprise.
I deliver fetuses to blankets that are
newspapers, beds that smell
like ditches.  They appear, and then
they disappear.
Joyce Carol Oates, best known as the author of Them, was born in up-state
New York and now teaches English at the University of Windsor. Her most recent book of poems was Angel Fire, which includes some poems originally published in Prism.   Her next book will be a novel, Do With Me What You Will.
It is an inner landscape
outering.   Scintillant the branches
whitely tilt against a grey
grey sky, the mulled red of
dull buildings there behind them.
An air, a breath emerging
across the field is white,
diaphanous, a scarf.
And needles on the firs are
less than green, the mist
of colour dimmed.
There is no one on the quad
and in my mind i walk
forever in this haze of open
days, the open ways before me.
Why not? Noting only that the sun
refuses earth its gaze
and grey white air inhabits
every dream.   Why not?
the upper berth: it is
too hot, except at the wall
a cold touch of metal
unless a blanket intervenes
there are no windows: a mirror
only, on the bleak wall.   Sharon
beside me as I sweat
the night away, her legs
wet where they lie against mine.
All night I lie
facing the mirror with my eyes
All night: watching the mask
with eyelids down
staring blindly out at
me, and seeing
Douglas Barbour lives in Edmonton where he is an editor of White Pelican.
His latest books are: White (Fiddleheadbooks, 1972) and songbook (talonbooks,
there was my mothers
fathers farm near a canal
(divers went in after
a car night driven drunk
into the green deep)
1938    down there walking
through cattail insect
noise saw a snake make an
s on the water
1940    new phone line in
side plumbing no more
walk to squeak rust pump
no more outhouse jokes
i960    sold
now home for disturbed
antisocial children or
nuclear power plant
something i forget
not mine anymore
it never was
(found the car
never found
the body)
126 II
"i am sleepy and the oozy weeds about me twist"
the canal soothes gentle
moves on secret towards
the rivers towards the
larger waters giving up
its patient dead its mined
earth its secrets
the children who live in the sea
their hair rising among tendrils
of seaweed curving curled
in the currents spend their days
turning in the deep among curious
fish sleeping on the current
dreaming of other lives on shore
ocean is full of bodies
some sit in their sunken
boats crusted with coral
playing final game of statue
in the green twilight
others are lately come
they are the restless ones
bumping and rising in the
slow light they tumble
over the sandy floor
resting awhile on the
mossy rocks not caring
that the fish now prod
at them darting to their
eyes and then their hands
waving impatient at first
then final accepting
127 Ill
i wait for resurrection
for the sea to give up its
dead children    plunged seaward
there is no promised rising
the secret sea holds us fast
in watery arms the children
sing in their long sleep
coral crusts thicker on the
seated men rocking in their
patient boats     time slows
down the blood slows seeping
so we named the waters
traced them on maps saying
here it began and there it
falls and enters as if we
could hold them safe and sure
probing at the rivers mouth
i find the lost channel
choked with algae bedsprings
a junked truck on its side
door gaping in amazement
pushing through!    passage
must be found through the
choking weeds the persistent
128 all down pulling green feeling
mesh reluctant final letting
go and up the canal back to
where it started the shoal
water all clotted dank debris
silted over the clean bones
of indians and animals who
were dredged up put down again
to rest and now grinning at
me as i pass but i do not stop
i pass day and night i will
rise in a tall shower of waking
water now surface broken taken
high in the new air the water
falling back falling silver
shivering to lie quiet again
and rising i see earths scar
healed and i cry out there is
Eugene McNamara teaches in the Department of English at the University of
Windsor. He is the author of Dillinger Poems (Black Moss Press, 1971), Hard
Words (Fiddlehead, 1972), Passages and Other Poems (Sono Nis Press, 1972).
His poems and short stories have appeared in numerous periodicals in Canada
and the United States.
129 James Ross teaches at the Niagara College of Applied Arts and Technology,
Welland, Ontario. He is Editor-in-Chief of a series of high school anthologies
spoken on CBC Ideas and has had stories in The Canadian Forum and Dialog.
In the late morning, when the sun had warmed the air and was
slanted that certain way that is high enough so that it does not
bother the eyes and is low enough so that it is not blocked by the
buildings, Lionel and I would spend one or two hours sitting at a
table in the outdoor cafe in the square. Later in the day, an hour or
so after lunch when the air was hotter and more oppressive, we
would find a spot in the shade, usually under one of the beautiful
trees in the park. In the evenings, we found it best to stroll along
the quai or by the docks, taking the cool air. Shortly after dark, we
would say good evening and go to our separate apartments.
What surprised me most, in those first few months after I finally
gave up my job, was the sheer volume of Ufe on the streets during
the summer. Because I had worked in an office for so long, I had
gradually come to believe that everyone else must also be inside for
the greater part of the day, and that if a person were to sneak out
of his office onto the streets, he would find them almost empty save
for deUverymen, postmen, policemen, messengers, and the Uke. My
friend Lionel, who was more experienced than I, had told me that
there was a lot going on all day, but of course, I had to learn it for
myself. At first it confused me (I think this was a natural reaction),
and I spent a good amount of time wondering what these people
who crowded the streets did for their livings. One after all had to
make a living, and to do this, one had to work, and to work, one
had to be inside a building, or on some specific errand or at some
definite location. Or, one had to be isolated, the way a fisherman, a
farmer, or a logger was. But of course I had always been wrong.
130 As I said, my friend Lionel and I sat in the cafe for most of the
morning. Normally, we read the newspapers, sometimes books or
magazines, sipped at coffee or tall iced drinks, and said very little to
each other. I found it strange at first, that we did not talk, but
eventually realized that unless people share the same job and are
aware of office politics and personaUties, crises and plans, and all
the rest, they will have little in common to talk about. While Lionel
had little in common with me, and I with him, this was not the
reason we did not talk much. We did not talk much because after a
while it became apparent that there was not much that needed to
be said. We would greet each other cordially enough, pass a few
moments of small talk or information about some event that had
taken place, and that would be that.
Every morning we would nod at the proprietor as we sat down,
and would say hello when he brought our coffee to the table. Every
morning, we would wave at the cop on the beat, then the postman,
then the deliveryman who visited the shops that ran in a row alongside the mall. Occasionally we would nod to other customers. We
had been living pleasantly in this way for several months, and I
had become accustomed to the absence of what I had always
thought of as events. Nothing ever happened. Nothing ever needed
to happen. Gradually I learned that routine is central to a comfortable existence, and that most events are meaningless intrusions.
A life made up of events, as my daily life had been before this,
would be intolerable for me now. I thought things had become
eventless. But that was before we knew of Jackson. Every morning
a small man about thirty-five, dressed in a Tee shirt, a sport coat
out at the elbows, and dirty running shoes, would walk to the cafe.
I could see him turn the corner at the end of the block, and would
watch him walk purposefully to the cafe where he would have a
cup of coffee. While he was drinking it, he looked around nervously,
jiggling his small feet up and down, keeping time to some imaginary
and rapid tune. His left hand, which he rested on his knee, bounced
up and down with the rhythm. Then he would rise suddenly, drop
a coin on the table, and disappear. He had a strange, nervous walk;
he seemed to jiggle disjointedly all the time.
I noticed him every day. One day, I asked Lionel about him. But
Lionel didn't know. I asked the proprietor, but he didn't know.
One day about the middle of the summer, he came over to our
table, his coffee in his hand. I wondered how he kept from spilling
it. "Mind if I join you, gents?" he asked.
131 Lionel looked up and waved his arm, indicating that the man
should sit, then returned to his newspaper. I shrugged my shoulders
and smiled. "Sure," I said. "Why not?"
He sat. "You've been watchin' me," he said. "I've seen you."
"Yes I have," I said. "I guess I've been curious. You come, you
stay a little while, you go."
"You're here all the time," he said. "I guess I could get a little
curious about you, if I wanted."
"I guess you could," I said. "But you are curious, aren't you?
You came over here."
"Could be. But maybe I came so's you could satisfy your
"That's a possibility," I said. Nothing was said for a few
moments, then he spoke.
"Doin' my rounds."
I waited for him to explain.
"Do 'em every day," he said. "Pretty important. I stop here
every day on my coffee break."
"What business you in, Mr. uh," I asked.
"Jackson," he said. "Just call me Jackson. Everybody does."
"Jackson," I said.
He jumped up from the table, dropping a dime and a nickel on
the table. The coins rapped sharply against the plastic top, rolled a
few inches, then fell over flat. "That's for my coffee," he said. "You
tell him I paid."
"I will."
"Got to go," he said, and turning abruptly, he started off.
"Strange," I said to Lionel.
"Uh," he answered, absorbed in his paper.
"Wonder what business he's in?"
"Who knows. What'd he say? I wasn't listening."
"Doing his rounds," I said. "Said he was doing his rounds."
"Seem to think it was important?"
"Seemed awfully nervous," I said.
"Uh," Lionel said.
"I'd like to, you know, find out more."
"What for?"
"Curious," I said. "I guess I'm just curious."
"Doesn't matter much, does it?" he said, turning to a new page
of the paper, rattling it, then folding it again. "In the long run."
"I suppose not," I said.
132 Introduction to Jackson. Just so. Some days he would sit with us
for coffee, and pass a few remarks about the weather, or about some
local personality. Other days, he would pass our table and say
something like "Gotta hurry, I'm a little late today," or "Got a big
day, pretty busy," then go.
One afternoon when it was too cool to sit in the park and play
chess as we usually did, Lionel and I decided to go for a walk. We
saw Jackson once that afternoon and he waved to us.
One day late in the summer, it was almost fall, in fact, two men
came into the cafe just a few minutes after Jackson had left. They
were dressed in black suits, and one of them, the taller one, carried
an attache case. They talked to the proprietor for a few moments,
and when he pointed at our table, they came and sat down. I was
annoyed that they hadn't bothered to ask, but Lionel hardly noticed,
as he was deeply involved in reading a magazine.
"The owner there says you know Jackson," the tall one said.
"Nope," Lionel said.
"Not really," I said.
"He sits with you all the time, I understand," the short one
"Oh, that," I said. "Once in a while. But he never says anything,
and he never stays more than a few minutes. He's pretty busy."
"But he does come here, to this cafe, I mean?" the short one said.
"Every day. Regular as clockwork," Lionel said.
"Why do you want to know?" I asked.
"Oh, we're supposed to follow him," the talkative man (the
shorter one) said.
I was surprised. "What's he done?"
"Are you police?" Lionel asked.
Both men were quiet. Finally, the short one said, "We're just
supposed to follow him, that's all."
"Pretty easy," Lionel said. "He does his rounds. Every day,
regular as clockwork."
For the next few weeks, everything was the same, except that the
men arrived a minute or so after Jackson had gone, sat down and
drank a coffee quickly, then left again. It was almost like an old
melodrama. Jackson would exit stage left, and leave the stage clear
for the two men in black suits, who would enter seconds later. They
always sat down. One man would put the attache case on the table,
open it, look inside, then snap it shut. They would each have a
quick coffee, then go.
133 1 asked Jackson one day if he knew he was being followed.
"Sure," he said. "Same as always."
"Always?" I asked.
"Sure. They used to follow me over on the West side when I did
my rounds. I thought I'd lost them when I moved over here, but I
guess I didn't. Well," he said, jumping up, "Got a busy day."
"See you around, Jackson," I said as he left.
The next morning the two men came to the cafe before Jackson,
and without asking, came to our table and sat down. "Jackson been
by yet?" the short one said.
"Not this morning," I answered.
"Good," he said. "We're supposed to wait for him."
"I was afraid he might have been around early," the taU man
said. It was the first time I had heard him speak.
"Not Ukely," Lionel said, looking up from his paper. "He's regular as clockwork, you know."
The tall man was looking around all the time. He seemed excited
about something. "It's just about time, isn't it? Where are they?"
"Don't worry. They'll be here. Look there's the truck now."
"Good," the tall man said. "That means everything's all right."
"You see, I told you not to worry. The Director knows his
I looked at the truck. It was one of those medium sized panel
trucks, painted a bright red and blue. On the side, in large letters,
and underneath them, "Verite. Realite" Two men got out first,
carrying shoulder held portable cameras. They were followed by
three assistants, who moved quickly about the cafe, taking measurements, Ught metre readings, setting up boom mikes and sound
equipment. In only a few minutes, one of them went to a man
dressed in casual European looking clothes (he had, for instance, a
beret). This man came over to our table. "Everything ready?" he
"I'm all set," the tall man said.
"Good," the man said. "It's important to stick to the schedule,
you know." He walked away and stationed himself by the truck.
"The Director," the short man explained.
I nodded. The tall man opened his attache case and removed a
breakaway gun, a sten gun, I think it was, although my knowledge
of firearms is limited. He assembled it with a few quick snapping
noises. "Any minute now," he said.
!34 I started to get up, but the shorter man held my arm with his
hand. He had an extremely strong grip. "Please," he said. "Sit
down and be as quiet as you can. We can't afford to ruin this take."
I sat back quietly.
"Here he is now," the tall man said, putting the closed attache
case on the pavement and pointing the gun to his right. Jackson
walked to the counter, picked up a coffee, and turned to come
towards our table. His face registered surprise, and he stopped in
his tracks. The machine gun barked six or eight times. Jackson
jerked about, his coffee cup was flung into the air, the coffee
splashed several people at tables near him, and then he fell. One of
the cameramen moved in close, kneeUng, to get a shot of the thin
line of blood trickUng across the pavement. It sparkled in the bright
"Cut!" the Director said. "That was wonderful."
The two men at our table stood up and smiled at Lionel and me.
"You've been most helpful," the shorter one said. "You must come
and see the movie. I'm sure you'll enjoy it." The tall one was silent
as he dismantled his gun and replaced it in the attache case. "The
Director is a brilUant man," the short one said. "Absolutely
And they left. Simultaneously, the crews packed up their equipment and moved away. I sat, looking at Jackson lying on the pavement, and when the ambulance came, sirens screaming, I went to
the stretcher and felt his pulse. There was almost none. "That's
really strange," I said to Lionel. "That was very realistic."
He agreed. "Actors are funny," he said.
We did not see Jackson again until the middle of the winter,
when we went to the movies one afternoon. Jackson seemed to be
the star, although he spoke no lines. The movie followed him on his
rounds, and had many close ups of his set of nervous gestures.
Otherwise, it was a typical, third rate gangster picture with little to
recommend it.
When the shooting scene in the cafe came on the screen I was
surprised to find that the camera had been concentrated on my face
the whole time, except for a few very brief shots of Jackson and the
other two men. I was pleased with the way I registered shock and
When we left the movie house, Lionel said, "Maybe you should
consider an acting acreer."
"I could, almost, couldn't I? I suppose I could find that director's
135 name in the phone book, or something." I thought for a moment.
"But I don't know, Lionel. It's a pretty hectic life."
"You're right," Lionel said. "There's no sense in it at all. But
still, you were pretty good in that scene, I thought."
"Thank you. I thought so myself," I said, "but I didn't want to
be the one to say so first."
"Well you were. Absolutely first rate," he said. "Perhaps we'll go
and see it again, although the rest of it wasn't up to much."
"It wouldn't be a bad idea," I said. "Especially if the weather
stays this miserable. The cafe scene, you know, it's funny, but it
reminded me of how much more pleasant things are in the summer
when we could relax outdoors."
Lionel didn't answer right away. But after we had walked for a
while, he stopped suddenly and grabbed my arm. "Listen," he said,
"I'm damn glad you decided against that movie star business. It's
a silly way to live, and I would have been disappointed in you if
you had decided in favour of it." He paused for a moment. "I
mean, look at Jackson. How nervous and jumpy he was. You
wouldn't want that, would you?"
I didn't even have to think about it. "Of course not."
Lionel smiled and patted me on the shoulder. Although I had
known him for such a long time, today was almost the first time he
had touched me and he had done it twice in just a few minutes.
"Well, there you are, then," he said.
I felt as if I had passed some kind of a test, and I was relieved
and very proud.
136 Book Reviews
One evening in early April this year, Dawn Aspinall, a Canadian
Literature specialist at U.B.C, and poets Anne Marriott, Pat
Lowther and Charles Lillard sat together for an hour and discussed Dorothy Livesay's Collected Poems, The Two Seasons, put
out in 1972 by McGraw-Hill Ryerson (368 pp). The discussion
was recorded and condensed for presentation here as a review.
dawn aspinall : Having this book with a lot of previously unpublished work in it, plus her whole career gave me a view of Dorothy
Livesay technically and in terms of her themes and what she's like
as a human being that I've never had before. The book's an autobiography in its own way and I think we ought to discuss that.
charles lillard: That and the value of a collection that doesn't
let the general reader know which poems she thought good enough
to publish in the beginning and which ones she included in this
collection for the first time.
pat lowther: Has it always been a matter of choice? In the beginning there isn't the receptivity for work that there is later.
anne Marriott: We can see which ones were in her earlier books
because she has the book titles, but one can't tell about all of them
without a good deal of research.
d.a. : My impression was that it was the poetry of the 40's and 50's
that she said came from the lean years of getting published. She
tells us of an almost existential despair she felt in the 50's, and
that's the part of her poetry that remained most unpublished.
p.l. : But the 50's just wasn't a time for publishing poetry in Canada. It wasn't a time for anything creative, it was a time of strict
ch.l. : So then an unspecified number of these poems are footnotes
to the poems she did publish.
p.l. : I find that difficult to understand.
!37 ch.l. : Footnotes in the sense that they're steppingstones —
p.l. : Well, if you consider editors' judgments infallible. No, I don't
think she would here publish anything she thought just a stepping-
d.a. : I've wondered about that too. Earlier this year I listened to
her read some of these poems. I believe "Catalonia" was previously
unpublished and yet when she read it, she read it with a great deal
of passion. It was obviously an important poem to her. Here she's
been able to fill in the gaps that the exigencies of the publishing
industry before had not allowed her to do.
a.m. : Still, to me the book's a bit top-heavy. There's too much of
the really early work.
d.a. : Amy Lowell, imagistic —
a.m. : Yes, and Emily Dickinson's influence —
d.a. : But I was fascinated to start on page one and then see how
the reverie and nostalgia and imagism got all-of-a-sudden fused
when she got to "Night and Day" and "Outrider". Then it's very
obvious what all this is preparation for.
p.l. : I think the book is in a way like the poems, like the style in
her poetry. There is an organic structure in each of her poems and
in the book itself.
d.a. : Yes. When I read the whole book it does have a cohesiveness
that is the cohesiveness of a life and a technique.
'I no longer dance
with myself
we are two
not one
the dance
JThe .
Dance is
Dancing V^/l 1<0      F.R.ScOtt
McClelland & Stewart/The Canadian Publishers
AT GOOD BOOKSTORES EVERYWHERE   $5.95 cloth   $2.95 paper
I38 ch.l. : I have to admit I don't go along with you on that, because
I don't see — in at least 50 per cent of her poems from the early
ones on — any technical development, and overall there's not
emotional development. At the end of the book she does begin to
distinguish between love and sex.
p.l. : Well, some people never do separate those —
ch.l. : No. In the early poems it's almost as if she were camouflaging what she's talking about, and then in the final poems — The
Unquiet Bed and on — because of what's happened to public
morals in the 50's and 6o's, she's able to talk about it more honestly.
But the emotion is stiU the same, whether she's talking about love or
sex. A light-hearted McCall's women's poetry in the final poems
almost as in the early ones. There's nothing I can grab hold of and
say, Yeah I really believe her now.
p.l. : Really? I think her love poems are extremely successful.
d.a. : She talks about The Unquiet Bed as "Music, dance rhythm,
speech rhythm and in tone a sense of isolation leading to a game of
wry wit." She writes: "The woman I am / is not what you see /
I'm not just bones / and crockery." Dance and song rhythms are
important to her. They made a connect for her between the private
self and the social, political. Later on she began applying those
kinds of ironic and self-ironic rhythms to little verses about herself,
which can't be so objectionable; after all, T. S. Eliot does it.
ch.l. : But you never find Eliot writing poems with the sentimentality these have. The language is soft. The emotion is soft. This
woman has lived through every major poetic movement in the 20th
century and almost none of them have touched her.
a.m. : They've affected her stylistically.
ch.l. : In some ways, but what she's doing in the 50's and 6o's was
done in the 20's and 30's.
a.m. : You mean what she's saying?
ch.l: No. Stylistically. Take the poem for Jack Spicer on page 280
called "Making the poem". In the first section she sets up a very
nice movement, but by the third section the images are soft, and so
weak: "Breaking through / outwards / splashing the shore / the
swimmer heaves himself upwards / onto a rock".
139 d.a. : But on the other hand what about the "Disaster of the Sun"
cycle where she uses almost metaphysical Donne imagery. "O you
old / gold garnered / incredible sun sink through my skin / into the
barren bone / if I'm real / I'm totem-carved / with your splayed /
scalpel." There's nothing soft about that imagery.
ch.l. : The alliteration weakens it, as it does in the third section of
the poem to Jack Spicer. "Splayed Scalpel", that's something you
can't get away with any more.
a.m. : Why not?
ch.l. : They killed it off in the 20's. Livesay's poetry just isn't coming up to the highest level of Canadian poetry, or English or American. Many of the images just don't say anything, don't grab hold of
you. "Gold-garnered incredible sun." I mean, that's Bliss Carman.
Almost every major poem she's ruined by things like that.
p.l.: Well, listen to this: "Our thought still as the tundra stones
awaiting footprints." That's really very tactile, very concrete.
ch.l. : We have to ask ourselves whether one or two lines make a
p.l. : Not at all. It's the total structure. I'm always aware that
there's an internal and very tough symmetry that holds her work
together, and I think that's the most important stylistic device she
uses. A lot of things that she says might fall into sentimentaUy if it
weren't for that structure.
d.a. : And there's always the feeling in many of her poems that
whatever voice is being followed another voice or another rhythm
can undercut it or come in. There's always that flexibility of
ch.l. : I can't see it. For me, there's too much of this book that's
light verse.
a.m. : I don't think so. For me, the later poems often have a surface
lightness but the meaning and the emotions conveyed aren't light by
any means. It seems to me she's carefully pared the sentimentality
out in later years.
p.l. : There's a sort of mysticism that comes up occasionally and
that's something she finds it hard to deal with. I know those are the
poems I have difficulty with.
140 d.a. : There's a tendency to criticize her for her lack of precision
and sentimentality because we don't agree with her world view. In
talking about herself and Herbert Read, she says, "We are optimists, Blakeian believers in the New Jerusalem. We cannot see
man's role as tragic, but rather as Divine Comedy. Laughter heals,
the dance captures, the song echoes forth from treetop to treetop".
I suppose there has to be a certain amount of sentiment, or perhaps
faith, mysticism that must go behind a belief like that.
p.l. : Which could bring you back to the love poems. There's a kind
of renewal in them, being healed and being born, giving birth and
making something new. Those are the experiences of love.
d.a. : So, in sum for me, this is an important book because it expresses a life that has joy and energy, but a kind of joy and energy
that always holds its opposites: death, alienation and despair in
some sort of subtle juxtaposition. And I think that what I get in
reading this volume are all the sights and sounds and events and
people and places of a life I can identify with on a certain level,
and I think that for me it's an important revaluation of the totality
of Dorothy Livesay's life.
ch.l. : I find it an important historical document simply because
she is one of the major female voices in the twentieth century in
Canada. I find it a very interesting autobiography in the sense that
each page is a reflection of the turnings of a woman's life. I find it
as a book of poems second rate.
a.m.: To me the most interesting thing about the book is her
development from a poet who was writing verse that was written
much the same by a lot of other people, but the other people stayed
where they were and Dorothy has steadily progressed. I don't think
she was wise to put in so many of the earlier poems, but I find it
very satisfying and encouraging that one doesn't necessarily write
oneself out in the early years but can go on doing better and better.
p.l. : I agree with Anne that it's interesting to see someone continually progress and write better and better poetry, but I think the
great strength is that there's such a strong flavour here. There's no
doubt that it's the same person writing "Disasters of the Sun" as
wrote the very earliest of the poems. She keeps talking about being
a tree, and that's what the book is like — an organic thing that
grows and flowers, and there are all sorts of interesting things
among the branches too. I like it very much.
141 Dialogue and Dialectic: a Canadian anthology of short plays, edited
by Alive Theatre Workshop. Guelph:  Alive Press, n.d.  (1973)
PP- 199-
More Dead Than Alive
In an age of economic setbacks, unemployment and all manner of
retrenchment, it is a surprising fact that there is something of a
boom in Canadian drama. Centennial celebrations meant that
1967 yielded a harvest of new Canadian plays, many of them
specially commissioned. But the years 1972 and 1973 will be far
more prolific; if David French's Leaving Home and David Freeman's Creeps are not mere flashes in the pan, these years will be
memorable also for their promise of a new generation offering
Canadian plays of real power and more than parochial appeal.
Publishers have been more active in the field of Canadian drama
than ever before. In less than two years of operation the Playwright's Co-op of Toronto has published enough serviceable cheap
editions of plays by a large and healthily incongruous assortment of
writers to fill two catalogues. In Toronto alone during 1972 there
were performed more than fifty new Canadian plays. A lively
theatre and its drama are struggling to emerge. One hopes they will
flourish. In this situation it is very vital that each new production
and each new publication of a play be done with care and respect
for high standards of taste. Mere activity is neither encouraging nor
good enough any more.
cWaiting for
Tom Wayman
'Wayman is waiting for Wayman.
He seems very late.
'I think,' he says,
'I should write a poem about this.' '
Waiting for Wayman
McClelland & Stewart/The Canadian Publishers
142 'Whether a Canadian Drama Bandwagon is rumbling along I do
not know; but Alive Theatre Workshop seems to be trying to thumb
a ride on it. Opening Dialogue and Dialectic, the reader expects to
be surprised. Marxist terminology in the title and introduction? Can
these really be Canadian plays? Are the unheroic North, the small
town, the problems of well-fed adolescents being abandoned for a
Canuck pinkpolitik, class warfare and the urban guerrilla? Have
English speaking Canadians started to write under the spell of
French speaking compatriots? On the contrary, it is merely that
Alive Press has hit upon using the word "dialectic" as part of the
title for an anthology of middling to weak plays and one tedious
mime, using the feeble excuse that
... it is Alive's function to provide people with the chance to have
their writing published and criticized. In these anthologies we will
entertain any position except outright fascism or racism.
One wishes they had added "totalitarianism, capitalist or communist" to their political dislikes. In Parliament such attitudes might
be useful. In the editor's office they are naive and irrelevant; there
the first task is to determine whether a work is well-written or badly
done. The unsuspecting public, and people who hope for a vigorous
drama in Canada, should not have to contend with such a shoddy
product. Bad books are litter. We must protect ourselves from boredom and the death of the forest. Compare a growing tree with the
vulgar red and blue cover of this book and you will know what I
This anthology, first in a series of four devoted to drama, short
stories, poetry and a miscellany of forms, contains short plays by
seven Canadians and landed immigrants (Michael Bullock, Dorothy
Farmiloe, S. Reid Gilbert, Carol Libman, Leonard Pluta, Lawrence
Russell, Jerzy Szablowski) and one mime by Philip Spensley. There
is also a play by an American, Charlie Leeds, whose work, we are
told, has been ignored in the States but has been published in
Canada. After reading his play, The Love Song of Rotten John
Calabrese, I am surprised it has not found a market in America,
but I am distressed that it has found its way into print at all. It
reads like the fevered jottings of a first year undergraduate who,
faced by an exam on Eliot, Dickens and Auden, has decided to
avoid the issue by writing a "play" in the hope that the examiner
might think him clever. The work consists of inept and foolishly
impossible stage directions (hundreds of dogs of all sizes and breeds
143 must come on the stage and march around on hind legs before eating the two actors), scraps of literary reference, a parody of "Buddy,
Can You Spare a Dime?", the shooting of rich Rotten John by the
Artful Dodger, and the Dodger's suicide. The dialogue is clumsy
and boring, developing no characterization, no relationships, no
human situation, no conflict of significance, no interest in what is
going on. This play must be the nadir of the Absurdist style; it is as
dated and useless in practical terms as a punched out bus ticket.
A common failing among poor writers is the kind of pretentiousness which offers us a trifle as if it were something very profound.
Mr. Spensley's mime does this by means of many vague directions
about people running and moving about on the stage. There is no
situation or set of actions developed which would offer good mimes
the chance to show the intricacies and delights of their art, an art
which, at its best, can make a world out of gesture and show us
infinity in the palm of a human hand.
Scraping the bottom of the barrel is depressing, and hard on the
nails and finger tips. To criticize each of these plays would in any
case be too tedious and unfair to readers of this review. Having
indicated the worst in this barrel, I shall make for the surface again,
noticing in passing Michael Bullock's bit of semantic fun, Not to
Hong Kong, which has nothing to do with the Orient, was performed on the Fun Art Bus during the 1972 Festival of London
after its German radio and stage versions had been done, and would
make an amusing little play for teachers wanting a script for children of about twelve to fifteen. The play is unpretentious and
smoothly done.
The most ambitious plays in the anthology are Lawrence Russell's
Penetration and Leonard Pluta's Little Guy Napoleon. The latter is
introduced rather misleadingly in the notes which are presented in
an ugly little cluster, curiously placed at the front of the book rather
than before each play or together at the end of the volume. We are
told that Mr. Pluta's play was first performed at the Royal Court
Theatre on March 27, 1966. This sounds as if the play had a regular production. But in fact it was given only as a Sunday night
Production Without Decor in a double bill with Heathcote Williams' The Local Stigmatic. The system is that little experimental
works are given a brief airing at minimum cost in the hope of discovering good new talent and enabling writers to try things out
without the expense and commitment of a full production and a
commercial run. The Times reviewer (March 28, 1966) was sur-
144 prised that the play had been done at all. No doubt Little Guy
Napoleon has been revised since its London airing; it has some
good moments, but as a whole it is disappointing and at best could
be called "promising." It is set in rural Poland, 1944, and tackles
the largest theme of any of the plays in the volume: the burdens of
guilt for the violent horrors of world war and complicity with the
Nazis. The opening and closing scenes provide a frame of desperate
interrogation which surrounds the action of the play. But the questioner is not a specialist in torture. She is a schoolteacher and
mother badgering her son in a deserted school. In the first scene the
son, Augustin, is merely slow-witted; by the last scene, he is insane.
This frame raises the whole question of guilt, the responsibility of
Hitler, and the larger historical mess. The colossal international
crime of warfare contains an inner action concerning the pettier
but locally important issue of horse-stealing. Ironically, the punctilious schoolmarm reported four young men to the Germans for this
theft, and they were hanged. Revenge is achieved by placing the
guilt for a number of slaughtered horses on the dim Augustin and
making a maniac of him. The ironies and parallels are obvious.
Penetration, first performed in the Phoenix Theatre, University
of Victoria, in 1969, again uses a rural setting; in this case it is the
kitchen of a farmhouse which belongs to Ed, a hard-working farmer,
and his brother and helper, Harry, a college drop-out and a
dreamer. But the setting is not used to provide a distinctively Canadian background. Instead, working together with the characterization, it serves to achieve a universality which some might call archetypal. The two brothers are distinct as personalities, but the roles
also represent two aspects of humanity, the worker and the dreamer,
the ascetic and the sensualist. Their guest, the nameless Woman,
bears stigmata, and is clearly their last hope of salvation. Her
sexual offer, simply and directly put as it is, works as a metaphor of
salvation. The brothers do not understand, and at the end of the
play her silent departure with the sack containing the snake leaves
them both alone to face the red alert and presumably an atomic
holocaust which means the end of the world. This apocalyptic
theme emerges not so much from action as from images such as the
farm and the snake, the torture of Christ, the uneasy partnership of
brothers, the devil seen in comic strip terms through Harry's fable
of the Evil One. The play draws on realistic and symbolic elements
to suggest the metaphysical dimension of the human condition. AU
is neatly woven together. It is a fabric of dialogue rather than the
145 dense texture of life which is presented. But there is one unusual
and effective theatrical moment in which Ed, during his monologue
about harvesting (p. 84), performs a sort of ritual, punctuating his
words with the mimed actions of a man wielding a scythe "hissing
between his teeth with each stroke" until the speech becomes a
symbolic and almost physical attack on Harry, as if the brothers
had suddenly become Cain and Abel.
It is a pity that these two plays have to rub shoulders with the
ineptness and even the semi-literate offerings to be found in this
book; it is more to be regretted that Michael Bullock's name and
play are here. They are clearly out of place in such a volume.
What, if any, was the rationale of this bran tub of an anthology?
The scant introduction by Alive Theatre Workshop might tell us.
Whether it is the work of a single writer representing the group, of
the whole group, or a committee chosen democratically or otherwise from the group, we are not certain, for it is anonymous. What
is certain is the curiously high-handed tone in which Canadian
publishing today is first castigated and yet connived at:
Much of what is both financed and produced in Canada is dependent
upon  the Canadian capitalist  class  and  foreign  imperialists for its
ideas. Seldom does Canadian literature today reflect the real interests
and concerns of the Canadian people.
This book of plays is not an exception.
Well, why is this book not an exception? Why publish works which
the author/s of the introduction so accurately describe as sometimes
"getting lost in a wave of metaphysics" and not particularly revolu-
and Lesser/Men
and lesser men
have gone on and on.
Irving Layton ' n°te°n|v
0        ' what happens.
McClelland & Stewart/The Canadian Publishers
AT GOOD BOOKSTORES EVERYWHERE   $5.95 cloth   $2.95 paper
146 tionary, not forerunners of some future "progressive Canadian
theatre"? And what are the real interests and concerns of Canadians? We are not told. Despite the admission of distaste and disappointment with the plays, the Alive Committee, or Alive group,
or Alive editor decides to make the best of a bad job; it is noted
that some of the works, in contrast to their metaphysically oriented
companions "do attempt to portray various aspects of Canadian life
to one degree or another." Thus there is discovered a "contradiction between the two styles of plays." A commonplace distinction
between the more-or-less realistic and the non-realistic is sloppily
whipped up by the twin paddles of a Hegel-Marx hand whisk and
seasoned with Canadian consciousness to produce an insipid, death-
pale Alive Rationale: the anthology reflects
the dialectical relationship that exists in the world of Canadian
theatre. This dialectic takes the form of a struggle between realism and
idealism, between those who feel that Canadian theatre should portray
the concrete experiences of the Canadian people, and those who feel
that playwrights should concentrate on developing the aesthetics of
their art.
This is not a dialectic but merely a contrast; a true dialectic moves
through conflict to a fresh synthesis. The contrast between realistic
and non-realistic drama is not a dialectic but a fact of drama history. About a hundred years ago realistic plays began to establish a
set of conventions so strong that the fourth wall illusion has ever
since its avant-garde struggles co-existed with and for a brief period
almost swamped non-realistic conventions. There is nothing Canadian about this. Just as naive is the false assumption that realism is
somehow opposed to a writer's study of his craft and aesthetics.
Realistic conventions can be used to build a dramatic world which
reflects the real world and yet encounters the metaphysical and
explores the possibilities of dramatic form. Non-realistic pre-occu-
pations do not necessarily confine the playwright to an aestheticism
which ignores the issues of a specific society. The Alive theorist,
however, seems to have smelled out his own half-baked ideas, for he
ineptly discounts them in the next paragraph: "nothing, especially
at this time in Canada, is so uncomplicated that it can be stated in
such simple terms." The editor/s is/are confused and muddled. The
word rationale must be abandoned. We are left with the conviction
that the real reason this volume went to press is that Alive Theatre
Workshop despise what they sneeringly call "the sacred temple of
147 the printed page" and wish to desecrate it. Their anthology certainly succeeds in doing that. The problem with modern publishing
is not that too few get into print, but that too many do.
University of British Columbia
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151 The Canadian Fiction
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