PRISM international

Prism international Prism international Oct 31, 1974

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Autumn igy^j
$1.75  Editor-in-Chief    michael bullock
Associate Editors    douglas bankson
Managing Editor    arlene francis
Editorial Assistants    robert bringhurst
Secretary    susan floer
Two Poems
Four Poems
Two Poems
Two Poems
Six Poems
Four Poems
Two Poems
Two Poems
Three Poems
Prose Poem
Two Poems
Yellow Curtains
The Missing Grey
The Roof
The Bride-to-be
Double Suicide
Destiny is a Forgotten God
Herschel's Prayer
The Spirit of Bonsam
Benno Kaiser, whose drawing is on the cover and eight of whose oil paintings
are reproduced within, was born in Switzerland in 1941. He is largely self-
taught. His work has been exhibited in France and Switzerland and, most
recently, at the Woodstock Gallery, London, England.
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. Irene Friedman was born in the Russian Urals in 1944 and lived in several
countries before coming to Canada at 15. She has lived in Montreal until
recently and is presently in Vancouver, working on a novel. Her work (fiction,
poetry, and criticism) has appeared in various literary publications and over
the C.B.C.
There is nothing unusual about the small, rectangular window
overlooking the street. Indeed, there are three identical windows on
the ground floor of the brownstone building. Yet it is at this particular window, with its yellow fiberglass curtains, that the girl lingers.
She is probably nineteen. Her eyes seem a shade too green somehow,
like those of a cat perhaps, or the waters in parts of British Columbia. She is wearing a dark navy blue cap and carries an old unbrella.
It has stopped raining and the girl leans against a tree and fixes her
eyes on the window.
Almost immediately, a light comes on. Through the window a
man is seen moving about in the kitchenette, preparing dinner.
When he has finished, he leaves the counter and sits eating in front
of the television. The girl watches, leaning against the tree. Now
and then, she detaches herself from the tree as if to go, but almost
at once returns to her former position.
An hour goes by. The man is still watching television. He leaves
it only for a moment to take his plate into the kitchen and draw the
curtains. The girls stares. It begins to rain again. All at once, she
leaves the tree and walks around the coiner, stopping in front of the
entrance. She stands for a moment with her finger poised in front of
the bell, then rings.
The man is still at the television when the bell sounds in his apartment. He answers the buzzer, opens the door. He finds the girl
standing there with her dripping umbrella, eyeing him. He is in his
late twenties, with heavy shoulders and a neat black mustache. He
wears a short-sleeve shirt and cotton-knit pants with mauve print.
Yes? he says.
The girl takes a deep breath. Can I see your apartment? In the back of the room, loud shots are emitted by the television.
A woman shrieks. The man throws a quick look over his shoulder
at the blue screen. Beg your pardon?
Can I see your apartment? the girl repeats.
Oh, he says then, all but ready to close the door, my lease doesn't
expire for another year.
The girl drops her umbrella, takes a step forward. It doesn't
matter, she says. Can I see it anyway?
The man's hand is still on the doorknob. He stares at the girl, his
brow creased. Why would you want to see my apartment?
The girl swallows. I just passed the street one day and saw the
light in your window. Please can I see it?
The man raises his hands in a gesture of helplessness but stands
back to let her pass. He mutters to himself confusedly as she
walks by.
The girl enters without a word and looks around her, not unlike
a potential tenant. She moves slowly, careful not to brush against
anything. After a long moment of observation, she walks over to
the window.
The man closes the door and turns the television off with a sigh.
Did you ever live here? he asks.
The girl's head is hidden behind the curtains. For a long moment
she doesn't answer, then says, somewhat vaguely: No.
Neither of them speaks then. The girl's head remains hidden. All
at once, she says: You know, I saw your yellow curtains one day.
It was funny to see yellow curtains.
The man scratches his head. Why, he asks, what's so funny about
yellow curtains?
Nothing really, the girl says, it's just that they're yellow. It was
funny to see yellow curtains.
She moves closer to the window and suddenly all of her is hidden.
Look! she exclaims.
The man rushes to the window. He too disappears behind the
curtains and finds her pointing to the tree she had been leaning
against. The tree stands beside a street lamp and the light falls
brightly upon its diffuse branches. They are delicate and bare but
covered with countless crystal-like beads glittering in the light.
The man brings his face closer to the window. Look at what?
he asks.
The tree, don't you see?
The man's voice rises. See what, for chrissake, the frozen rain? The girl shrugs. Is that all you see? she asks, turning to look
at him.
The man places his hands in his pockets. He does not answer. The
girl begins to turn away from the window. In a barely audible voice
she says: Well, he always saw the beauty in things.
The man shifts his weight from foot to foot. He, who? he asks.
But the girl has just noticed a small Degas print over in the
corner and stands staring at the ballerina for a long moment. Her
eyes are incredulous. Her finger points to the print. That! she
exclaims. Where did you get that?
The man raises his arms in the familiar gesture of helplessness.
It was here when I came, he answers.
The girl rushes to the wall and removes the print. She turns it in
her hands carefully and inspects the frame. That's the one, she says
with a kind of finality, that's the one. She holds it close to her for
a while, with a distant look in her eyes. The man stands a few feet
away, leaning against the wall. She replaces the print and turns
away. The man watches. She looks around her again with a searching look. The man continues to watch her. He rubs his nose
The girl walks over to a bookcase beside the sofa. You know,
your books would look better over in that corner, she says, pointing
toward the television. And you might get some red bricks instead of
these white ones . . .
The man moves toward her with a quick step. His hands are
stretched out. But why should I, he demands, what's wrong with
them as they are?
The girl bends down by the bookcase. Her head moves slowly
from left to right, left to right, pronouncing the titles in a quick
whisper. She stops and turns to look at him. You don't have Portuguese poetry, do you?
The man scratches his head. Poetry?
The girl nods. Yes, Portuguese poetry. He used to have stacks
of them.
The man rolls his eyes. I don't read poetry. And certainly not ...
His voice trails off. Will you please tell me who he is, he asks
then. What's his name?
The girl's eyes linger on the Degas print. Manuel, she says.
Well, where is he now, this . . . Manu-el?
The girl does not answer. The look in her eyes grows more and more distracted. One night when it was raining, she begins, then
stops and looks at him. Do you like to listen to the rain?
The man is once again leaning against the wall, his hands in his
pockets. He looks at her attentively with a tentative kind of smile.
Yeah, he says, sometimes.
The girl turns away from him, looking once again at the print.
It was raining and the wind wailed and he sat on the sofa right
there and read to me.
Read to you?
Yes, read Portuguese poetry to me. It rained and rained and he
sat all that time and translated it to me .. .
She is suddenly interrupted by the ringing telephone. It is a
chime phone and for the first time a smile appears on the girl's face.
The telephone rings and rings before the man decides to answer:
ding DONG, ding DONG. The smile on the girl's face grows
brighter. The man kneels down by the sofa while speaking at some
length into the receiver. His back is to the girl and her face gradually assumes an intense expression as she stares at his black, curly
head. Very slowly, she comes closer. And, as he replaces the receiver,
she leaps toward him, hides her head against his neck and laughs:
ding DONG, ding DONG! Her voice is that of a delighted child.
Do you remember Christmas night, she goes on, pressing against
him until both of them fall against the sofa. She is still laughing.
Remember how it rang in the middle of the night and I thought
I was dreaming about sleighrides!
The girl's excitement continues to rise. The man remains motionless. His arm is around her, but somehow it has an uncomfortable
look, at though he were anxious to remove it. It turned out to be the
phone — wrong number, remember? She laughs uncontrollably
now. Remember how mad you were, she asks. But I thought it was
so funny: ding DONG, ding DONG in the middle of the night.
For a moment the man says nothing. The surprised expression
on his face gradually grows thoughtful and then, a look of sudden
comprehension appears in his eyes. Yeah, I remember, he says slowly,
looking intently at the girl. Come to think of it, it was funny.
Then both of them are silent. The man keeps glancing at the girl
from the corner of his eye. It's raining again, he says. And, with
new eagerness in his voice: Listen.
The two of them are seated on the floor, their backs to the sofa.
The man's arm is still around the girl, her head on his shoulder,
her eyes on the ballerina across. They listen for some time to the rain beating against the window. The girl hums softly to herself.
Then, with a tentative quality in his voice, the man asks: Do you
remember any of the poems I read you?
The girl smiles. Jose, she says, after a moment's hesitation. I think
I like Jose best.
Do you? the man says in a more confident manner. And who
wrote Jose? I bet you've forgotten.
Carlos Drummond De Andrade! she answers at once.
Right! he says, and the two of them laugh. Jose, she recites, you
knock on a door but there is no door ... Her voice trails off and
she asks: Want to light the candle?
The man reaches over and turns the lamp off, lighting the small,
blue candle. The girl is lying on the carpet, her eyes closed. The
rain is growing heavier.
You know, the girl says, you're a little like Jose. Her eyes are still
closed. The man is stroking her hair. Yes, you're like him, she continues. Sometimes you don't seem to know where you're going or
what you're looking for.
That's true, the man says, continuing to stroke her hair. And do
you think I'll ever find it?
I don't know, she answers. I don't know what you're looking for
I'm hard to get along with, he says.
The girl does not answer.
How about some Rose? he asks then.
Rose! the girl exclaims. You got it especially for me! She throws
her arms around his neck and hugs him. The man kisses her head
with great gendeness. Yes, for you, he says.
He gets up, walks over to the fridge and gets the bottle. The girl
is once again leaning against the sofa with closed eyes. The man
pours some of the sparkling liquid into a glass and puts it to her
lips. The girl drinks, greedily. The man sits beside her, holding his
own glass and watching her face with a smile.
How did you remember I liked Rose? she asks.
I don't know. You told me one night.
Yes, I said: Wouldn't it be nice to be rich and drink it all the
So you did.
And you remembered. You never used to remember that sort
of thing.
They sip from their glasses for a while without speaking. Then,
8 her glass empty, the girl says: Then you are not mad at me anymore for following you that night?
The man strokes his mustache, his forehead creased again. No, he
says after a long moment, I'm not mad at you. But you must promise
not to do it again, he hastens to add.
I promise, the girl says and snuggles against the man. He caresses
her shoulder, tenderly. You have beautiful shoulders, he says. The
girl raises her head and kisses him. Beautiful hair, beautiful eyes,
beautiful lips, he says, his words like an incantation. The girl kisses
him, again and again, kisses his hair, his eyelids, his lips, with great
Will you stay with me then, she asks softly.
Yes, the man says, continuing to stroke her bare arm. I'll stay
with you. From the
Mnt. Hira (dates unknown)
Translated from the Japanese by Allan Safarik
A September morning, I trim my brushes and
prepare the ink. The mist since dawn is
smoke from some distant fire. In green
spring the gulls come west from the sea to
rob the song-birds of their tender young.
The crows & gulls are clear and loud above
the trees, I am glad of the mist to hide
the killing from my sad eyes. The song-birds
my friends, wake me and remind me to light
the lamp. In return I paint them and have
them near even in winter when the trees are
bare and the snow drifts half-way to the eaves.
A hunter passing my shanty beside the path
has a monkey slung from his shoulder. The
arrow trimmed with white and blue feathers
still imbeded in the soft wet body. I put
wood on the fire and listen to his singing
long after he has disappeared into the mist.
In the afternoon washing my clothes on the
smooth stones in the icy creek I stop before
the trail of fresh blood on the spent leaves.
If water could be wrapped I would send you
some from my mountain. Fine weather to greet
the new moon. The frosty wind makes the
bridge at Red Gorge treacherous. The rocks and
white-water in this river far below are the
teeth of Dosojin.
Okira was an 18th century Japanese poet as well as being a scholar of Chinese
literature. There is very little known or substantiated about his life.
J'ai seul la clef de cette parade sauvage.
blind idols
on the vestal stage
toss snowballs at the bleached walls
and catch white butterflies
in nets of black chiffon
at night
heavy smoke
from the burning theater
of their dreams
coats empty sockets with
tears black
as mourning veils
the electric eye of dawn
hurls its brilliant bulb
onto the bleeding alabaster
the kind passerby will muse
about his statues' pure white eyeballs
now smouldering coals
inside their ashen hearths
coals black
as the smoke-stained windows
in the white cathedral
by the burning wings
of white butterflies
in black
grey roses
on winter beds
charcoal lips
the rusted barbed wire stems
the gardener
sharpens his tools
soon he will plant
the falling flakes of rust
his eyes, blue drills
wrapped in the last strands
of nature's hair
open an empty spring
inside the calloused soil
of human flesh
he will deposit the steel harvest
on the corner of the museum of modern life
night sculptures a man
peacocks of the streets
inhabit his eyes
the sphinx his smile
nailed to his shoulder stump
clings a wooden woman
with a mane of straw
on the coiner of the museum of modern life
daybreak melts the black snowman
alone in the coiner
lurks a wooden woman
with a mane of singed straw
inside the splintered hollow of her face
rages the night
ravished by the blazing fire
of the poet's muse
before the leaves unfold in our eyes
let the sea-weed bind and tow you
to my island
let the crater flow its lava tongue
into my mouth
lighting the words of your song
let the earth part
so that heaven may pass
and we shall trace the levels of time
through the veined roots of trees
in the fossil-strung deeps
where lovers once dwelt
on the isle of spring
so engendered
in the dust and the darkness of our search
till the leaves unfold in our eyes
and a garden of sleep
bursts fiery green
from the smoldering pores
of this branded star
Jagna Boraks was born in Poland. She came to Canada as a child, after the
war, took her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of British Columbia, and
has now completed her Master's Thesis in Comparative Literature at the same
university. She is a co-translator of a book of Polish poems by Andrzej Busza,
Astrologer in the Underground (Ohio University Press). Her poems and translations have appeared in Tamarack Review, Expression, Oasis, Mundus Artium,
Prism international, New Orleans Review, Madrona and the anthology Contemporary Poetry of British Columbia (Sono Nis Press).
Translated from the Italian by Ruth Feldman and Brian Swann
Like a quilt
the skin of a newly-killed tuna
looked to me sprinkled with small rhombs
so I saw how far
from what deep warp
a stubborn geometry surfaces
what a cliff unites
coverlet to tuna
the kite to the four
sides of my solitude.
Outside the house
exposed to grave danger
from the first morning on
tracked by thoughts
changing trains trams buses
spellbound you see again
the razor that shines once
many times a day
on the untouched shelf
your disturbed face in the mirror
while your hand
from one step to the other of flight
bound to your wrist
pretends to be sleeping in your pocket
spies on you and never stops
hunting you down.
Ruth Feldman was born in Ohio and now lives in Cambridge, Mass. Her
poems and translations have appeared in many literary periodicals. Her joint
translation with Brian Swann of Selected Poetry of Andrea Zauzolte has been
accepted for publication by Princeton University Press.
Brian Swann was born in England and now lives and teaches in New York
City. His poems and translations have appeared in many literary periodicals. His
joint translation with Ruth Feldman of The Collected Poems of Lucio Piccolo
was published by Princeton University Press in 1972.
Bartolo Cattafi was born in Barcellona (province of Messina), Sicily in 1922.
He lived in Milan for some years but has returned to Sicily to live in the small
town of Terme Vigliatore. Two of his books have won prizes: Le mosche del
meriggio, 1958 and L'osso, I'anima, 1964. These two and the more recent
L'aria secca del fuoco, 1972 were published by Mondadori. Fugitive and Rhombs
are from a small volume published in 1973 by Vanni Scheiwiller.
Each slate breaks
Off the roof
Unshattered we lie in the snow
Ah that a god could be
Spun in straw
A wheel sewn in flesh
This wick not consumed
Night sprinkled in blood
Each star a drop
A shine
A wing in stone
black door
that opens down
whose house
I can't see
your face
your night
a paw crossing
the eyes
your tongues
lapping up
my sleep
I dare
sunken jar
to name you
root of breath
hem unravelling
at the threshold
don't leave me
tears rise
our levels
both drop
Virgin eyes
I forget her
19 unveil
the blue thimbles
one after one
pull the lids aside
beneath each
blind sky
Abyss to abyss
you give
yourself away
you wake
under everyone's
clouds see
themselves taste
their own flesh
each passed through
your circle
All day at the ropes
suns hauled
out of the ground
20 poured into
a black trough
splashed over flanks
I lower
my eyes
I drink
We meet
there's a table
greater than ourselves
I break my old hands
you show me
a center of circles
I see
another face
my deep one
David Cloutier was born in Providence in 1951. He took two degrees from
Brown University this past June. Spirit Spirit, a volume of Siberian, Eskimo and
Northwest Coast Indian shaman songs and incantations was published by Copper
Beech Press late in 1973. The Blue Cloud Quarterly (Marvin, South Dakota)
recently published a pamphlet of other versions entitled Northwest Coast Songs.
He is also editor and in part translator (Reverdy, Follain, Eluard selections) of
The Ear of the Bull: Nine French Poets (Bonewhistle Press, 1974.) His own
poems have appeared in a number of literary magazines.
21 Mesfin Habte-mariam was born in Mojo, Ethiopia, in 1945. He graduated
from the Haile Selassie I University in 1970 with a BA. in Ethiopian Languages
and Literature. He gained an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of
British Columbia in 1974 and now teaches Creative Writing at the Haile
Selassie I University. He has written short stories and poems in Amharic and
started writing in English for the first time while at the University of British
Columbia. He is the joint author, with Christine Price, of The Rich Man and
the Singer: Folk Tales from Ethiopia.
"Are the cattle home? — Are the cattle home?" A question
asked every day. A question answered every day. I mean every evening — at dusk, sometime around six-thirty, winter and summer.
Some days the answer is "Yes." Other days "No". The question
does not stop even after the cattle are home. It is asked in different
forms. "All of them? Are you sure? Did you count them? Really?
. . ." But no questions when one of them, or more, is missing. Instead,
a call — a far off loud call that goes ringing from one hill to the
other. Yes, it is an echo. An echo which is endemic to the tiny
village of Dekebora and its rugged, impenetrable hills. The hills
have taken the echo for years but they have never answered it.
They have only stolen the cows, the oxen, the sheep, the goats and
hidden them in their bosoms. Silent hills! And merciless, too, for
none of these animals have ever been seen again. But the echo,
there it goes again. It never stops. I can hear it right now. Taye
calls. He is a little older than myself and my best friend among the
irenias, who herd cattle. He could be heard a long distance for his
age. Asefa and Wolde, the twin brothers who were always together,
call in one voice. And Alemu, who could whistle louder than any
of us, accompanies them in the search. Nega, the lame one, and
Megersa, the oldest and the toughest irenia — they all call. All had
rifles. I had a spear, not because I was not old enough but because
I could not afford one.
Of all the voices, father's is the loudest. He puts his two hands
around his mouth and calls. He was used to that. He talked loud
at home too. A habit, I suppose. I can see him on the hill, as tiny
as the shrub, a black figure in the twilight. The first two or three
calls, I can't make out. The only thing I hear is a faint sound play-
22 ing in the wind, sometimes rising, sometimes falling. But I can guess
what it is all about. When father called like that, it meant one of
us was in trouble. Either he was in danger of being challenged by
a leopard or by hyenas — in which case I was supposed to call for
help — or I had failed to carry out my task and some stupid cow
had been grazing on someone's farm or was lost in the hills. So the
call. I wave my hands, stretching them as wide as I can, as a sign
that I have not heard him. He calls again. "Ne-ga-sh!" I hear him
now. "Are the cattle home?" I feel he is right beside me. It seems
as though he himself has travelled all that distance through the
wind. And yet, I see him up there, as dark as the trees around him.
I cannot get a clear vision of him, however wide I open my eyes.
But I can imagine him standing, leaning against a tree, his eyes
bulged and the veins in his neck protruding. His prominent adam's
apple moves up and down as he opens his dry, thick lips and the air
rushes out of his throat mechanically. Big call. Loud call. But it is
a shock for me. Already, I have realized what has happened. I
cannot hide it from him. No way. I have to say it. He has to know
it, because he will anyway. "The grey cow is missing!" I reply,
putting my little hands around my mouth. Imitation. But I cannot call loud like he does. So he comes himself. "When? Where?
How?" — precise questions that call for precise answers. He did not
have to say them and I always expected them. His eyes tell me
everything. He is in a hurry. He wants to know how it all happened,
right now. "Quick, quick, quick." That is the expression on his
face. He does not say it though. Because I know it. Because he knows
I know it. But I have no short answer. Not that I do not want to be
precise, but the moment I try to, words come in chains and the story
grows longer without being told. Father does not want to hear it any
longer. He takes his eyes from me. Then I think I see my chance to
watch his eyes but I cannot because he is gazing around him, his
head roving like a movie camera. What has he seen? Has he found
out where she is? I wait eagerly. But when he turns to me, I turn to
the cattle and whistle to fill the gap of silence that would follow.
My face turned away from him. I hear his long drawn-in breath
and the sigh that follows. No time to waste — that is what it means!
We go to the next hill. The cattle are with us. You do not take
them home and come back to look for the missing. It is a rule. The
echo again. Father calls: "Is my grey down there?" Someone
answers from another hill: "No, no, no." "Call", father says. The
man turns his back towards us. Another answer from the third hill.
23 But we do not hear it and we do not know what the answer is until
the man faces us again and bellows. Same thing — "The grey is
not there." Maybe it has gone into the hills to the south. It means
we have to look for it there too. This is a tougher job. Bellowing
alone will not do. The forest is very dense — thick with zigba, warka
and wanza. You have to go into it and look for it yourself if at all
you can see anything more than ten feet away. "Maybe she is there
— damn her. Come, follow me, quick, before it gets dark." I do, at
the same time counting the cattle to make sure they are all there.
Counting, as I usually did, one, two, three — twelve. That's right.
But I feel uncomfortable, because I always counted thirteen. First
fault. The beginning, but certainly not the end. The grey, the grey,
bloody damned grey!
We walk quickly. Father leads, then the cattle, then me. Between
us, a cloud of dust. But I did not have trouble in watching anything
through dust. I was used to it, I guess. Used to all the colours it took
at different times of day and especially its smell, a smell that was
part of me. I always had dust particles over all my body — my
threadbare cloth, the only one I had, was torn in a dozen spots
however hard I tried to stitch it. Dust particles? They were my company ! Especially my face, my hair, my eyelashes were full of them.
I never saw myself in the mirror, except in the pond which we
shared for drinking water with the other village five miles away.
There were rivers but the pond was the nearest and it had the clearest water. When the wind was still, I saw my reflection in it, which
I enjoyed, even though I could only see a face, a hat and the most
rugged cane available. But the dust particles, I always felt them
with my hands. Often, they entered my eyes until they were washed
away by tears. I did not see my eyes getting red, but I felt they were.
I can see father now, even through the dust. His tall figure, his
long hands moving back and forth, his long legs tearing through the
bushes and his big, white hat flopping in the wind. The sky is orange
red, with thin layers of cloud sprinkled over it. The sun, very red
and as tiny as an apple, is about to sink behind the big, camel-
shoulder-shaped mountain which is pink at the top and now and
then glaring as though it were threatened by fire approaching from
behind it. Things are getting dimmer and dimmer all the way to
the north — to my right. Far-away objects are almost on the point
of losing their shape. A pale sight accompanied by sheer silence, for
now we are far from the village and the barking of dogs has died
away in the distance. We move as fast as we can, father with his
24 long strides and I trying to keep up. His one step equalled three of
mine. Long legs. Long feet. But his feet did not have the resistance
of mine when it came to the battle against thorns. He was forty, I
thirteen. He could not take more than three thorns; I could take
God knows how many. When I had one, I sat under a tree and
picked it out with the safety pin I had attached to my pants. But it
happened again and again. So sometimes my feet ached with pain
and I walked on my toes or on the side of my feet. On my way home
in the evening, you could see me hobbling, supported by my cane
which usually I carried over the back of my shoulders with both
arms twisted over it. And my cattle, as though by instinct, seemed
to know my suffering. They, too, walked slowly. The only time they
didn't was when we were closer to home. The cows exchanged calls
with the calves who were tied outside the beret. Then my sister
untied them and both ran towards each other, the calves jumping
up and down with their tails high up in the air and the cows striding towards them, inhaling and exhaling the air wildly. And my
tired, silent eyes watched with pleasure as mother and child met.
What an unforgettable sight!
Evening was the ideal time when you relaxed in the small, circular, one-room, thatched hut after the hard work which every day
inevitably brought with it. First, supper from a single bowl, round
a glowing fire with aching feet exposed to the heat. Mother would
pour the sauce from the dish still bubbling with steam on the fire
and three hands were dipped into the bowl. Often our hands
touched each other and an occasional faint laughter was heard. The
rats did not start squeaking. They waited until we slept. Not because
they were afraid of the fight — there wasn't enough light for the
hut — but because they wanted us to sleep. Then they could jump
on us easily! However, we often ignored them because we lived with
them on the same earthen floor and they were not as obnoxious as
the devilish bugs and fleas. And the baby, too, did not cry until
after midnight, not even at the howling and laughing of the hyenas
who passed by the hut as we ate. My ten-year-old sister would be
asleep. I could hear her breathing, the quick sleeper who would
wake up early before dawn to milk the cows and step over me as I
slept beside her. Outside, the frogs croaked in the swamps and the
crickets chirped. Around the fire, silence — occasionally broken by
the munching of the tongue and the sucking of the air caused by
berberie, the hot stuff. Father to my left, mother to my right, the
cat over my lap and the dog sitting by the door, ready to grab
25 whatever we threw to him. "Nice supper! Thanks to God! Amen!"
Then we chatted, smiled, laughed, joked. Then the jebena replaced
the dist and we watched it boil, we watched as the steam pushed the
cork up and we watched as mother put salt into it. As we drank the
coffee, we talked on different subjects, usually starting from how we
passed the day and ending on what was going on in the village.
Church news was the most important, and with it those who disobeyed the church by working on holidays were discussed. "They
have sinned. May God forgive them." The rain, the wind, the
storm, the frost, the drought were all discussed. "How did they
affect our lives? How will they affect us? Will God straighten up
things? Certainly it is He alone who can do anything. So expect the
best and be prepared for the worst." It is that simple. But you did
not stop there. Human urge burned in you and inextinguishable as
it is, you could not resist it. So you planned for tomorrow, you
planned for the week, for the next year, for the years to come —.
Ambitions, hopes, goals — all for the survival of the flesh and the
soul. As for the village rumours, they were very few but our hut
never missed any of them. Mother brought them from the market.
Little sister picked them up from anywhere. Father and I came
home from our tiny farm with as many of them as we could remember. Through all means they travelled fast and we collected them
each day. Marriage scandal, tribal scandal, the latest news on
sorcery . . . We talked and talked and talked. But silence would
come again after the third round of coffee was over. It was time to
deal with the thorns of the day — thorns that passed unnoticed,
temporarily screened by the pain of hunger. Father would begin to
grumble and I picked out the thorns for him. "There — that's right
— pick it out — pick them all out — ." Well, I did, and with all
the hurry in the world to finish picking out his and start on mine.
Meanwhile, mother massaged his back as he lay on his stomach and
reminisced about the good old days. "Remember dear . . ."
The southern hills. They look small from far but when you are
nearer to them they get bigger. We are not going to see anything in
there — it is very dense, but we have to try. Father always believed
in trying anything. "Try and fail — it is better than to sit and
lament," he would say. With that motto, he has tried to help most
of our neighbours in their search. But his loud call has never brought
a single animal to the beret. He knows that. I know it too. But whatever, we have to keep on trying — it will ease his sorrow later and
it will give me more time to think of a better explanation. What a
26 bad day! What a cursed day! To think of parting from our dearest
cow, the best among the five we have! She was so healthy and she
had a reputation for giving more milk than any of our neighbours';
three litres a day! She could be somewhere now, at this very minute,
and yet her calf is waiting for her, eager to meet her, eager to hear
the usual call. But this is the first time a cow has been lost under
my care. I remember two years ago three of our bulls and two of our
cows died of a disease which swept half of the village's cattle. That
was nobody's fault. Not God's either. They were only "destined to
die". The other day a cow was killed by a leopard who sucked her
blood right in front of my eyes. I could not save her. My hand
shaking violently, I threw my spear somewhere in his direction and
ran in panic to tell my father — he was at his farm at the time.
And we went, he alertly holding the old family rifle which he always
kept with him while plowing and I feeling high about the fact that
I informed him. But the leopard had disappeared into the woods
leaving behind him another dead animal, a bull. That, too, was not
my fault. It was "fate." But today ... it is different. When something is lost, there must be a loser.
It is getting cold. The autumn wind has started whimpering
through the trees. Soon it will be pitch dark and we might not even
be able to find our way back. Father still leads, holding his hat with
one hand so the wind might not take it away and I trot behind the
cattle. The hyenas are howling. Greedy beasts! They are always
impatient. And the foxes are crying, followed by the gorillas' laughing. They have never hesitated to steal in groups a lamb from every
poor hut.
We are about to climb the hill now. Father stops. "Stay here with
the cattie," he says and strides into the forest. As I watch him go,
I hear his diminishing voice. "I will be back as soon as I can." The
cattle, who are already tired, stand where they are. I sit under a
tree and wait for him, ready to scream and throw my spear at any
beast that might try to attack me or my cattle. I shiver with cold.
It has become bitter and bitter. The noise of the beasts has increased.
I am scared having to stay there alone. If only he could come back
soon. He should. Otherwise, if he doesn't, there would be no cattle.
No Negash either. It is up to him. Why did he take so long? Can it
be that he has gone to the gorge on the other side of the hill? The
big gorge where the king of the devils is said to be living with his
soldiers, his eyes open all the time to magnetize anyone who sees
them? I don't think he would. Nobody has ever been in there, not
27 even my uncle who is a reputed hero of the village. And at such a
time, what could he see? Bang — Bang — the crack of a gun.
Startled, I jump up and look in every direction, trembling all over
and swinging the spear. The cattle are disturbed. Some try to run.
I have a hard time trying to keep them back and to make them
quiet. What has happened? It is my turn to ask. But even father
could not attempt to call in the southern hills; sound would not
travel at the distance of a stone's throw. Shivering with cold and
fear, I lie down on the ground and press my ear against it. Then I
get up and walk back and forth. In a minute I hear footsteps and
the rustling of leaves. I know it is father. But he is too slow. Is he
hurt or what? "What happened? Are you alright?" — I open my
mouth wide but my chattering teeth close it. Only my bulged eyes
wait to see him approaching, aiming ahead without motion, without the slightest wink. In a second I see him wailing, wiping the
blood on his face and rhythmically rotating his swollen eyes which
have turned as white as snow. Each time he rotates them, they turn
green, yellow and red and then back to white. Another second
changes him into a laughing beast with a thousand teeth and a horn
that keeps on growing with the movement he makes. All of a sudden,
he becomes father again, the smiling cheerful father, yet tears and
sweat are visible on his anguish-stricken, pale face. Then he is transformed into a shadow, a bending shadow in the dark, with a back
turned towards me. And he moves.
"I don't believe it, a leopard!" I am excited.
"Yes, look at him!" Father says triumphantly.
I can't see the leopard's skin clearly. But I can see he is medium-
sized, by far smaller than the one my uncle killed the other day.
"Are you alright?" I ask.
He doesn't hear me.
"He jumped at me from the tree but I shot him in mid air," he
says. "I got him on the right spot — his heart."
"And the grey?" I ask, happy that we have a leopard skin but still
worried about my responsibility.
"Damn her — she is lost." He seems to be obsessed by the sight of
the leopard, but regret somehow shows itself in his quivering voice.
"Do you mean she is dead?" I ask.
He does not answer. He is steadily looking at the beast, exclaiming, "Look at him! Look at him!" Why doesn't he say she is dead?
That would make me happier, because I would not get the blame.
It could only be her own destiny that killed her. That is if she
28 had to die. But as long as she is thought to be alive, I am going to
be asked about how it all happened and be beaten up. And I don't
exactly know when and how she was lost. I found out she was missing only after I had come back from where Taye was herding his
cattle. I had left the cattle and gone over to him and we had been
playing the wrestling game as usual and, after that, we had been
eating inkuto (fried peas). The cattle were dispersed but I got them
together somehow and was starting the journey home when I
realized the whole thing and father called simultaneously. I know
what it means to face father while he questions. He does not ask
me now. But that does not mean he will not. I don't need any hint
to know that. He is always quiet at first, hesitant, contemplative,
then furious at the right time and place. That is what bothers me.
But if she is dead, I will have less trouble — at least "destiny"
will take part of the blame.
"Do you think she is dead?" I ask again.
He doesn't hear me.
"We will go to Merony and plead with him," he says. "He will
find her for us."
So he thinks she is still alive, somewhere! We will see. Merony,
the sorcerer's house, is on our way, not far from here.
"We better go now," he says and hands me the rifle. Then he
starts tying the leopard's legs so as to make it easy for him to carry
it over the back of his shoulders.
"Are you sure he is not too heavy?" I ask.
"He is, but I have to take him by any means — at least till we
reach Merony's house."
"Why don't we skin him here?"
"It is dark — don't you see?"
"But you will be hurt, won't you?" I say.
"I don't mind," he says, his hands still busy with the knots.
"How about your rheumatic pains?"
"Don't worry — I can bear any pain today."
"I have an idea."
"Let us have it carried on the back of Dalech."
"I better hurt myself than any of my animals."
"He can carry it, I am sure." I say.
"No, no, no," he says, finishing the knots. "Are you a fool to
think he will not be frightened and run into the woods the moment
we put a leopard on his back?"
29 "But your rheumatic pains . .. ?"
"Shut up and follow me."
I whistle to the cattle and off we go. A leopard skin? It is incredible! The last time we had a leopard's skin was when I was
about eight years old. And we sold it for ten dollars, enough for a
year's expense. Money was rare. Mother did not spend more than
fifty cents when she went to the market, the only open-field market
we had, although she had to travel on foot over ten miles a week
for the journey and back. Ten cents would buy you salt enough for
a week. No sugar. Nobody knew what it was. A twenty-five cent
cooking oil took you a week to finish. Ten cents of kerosene, half a
bottle full, often lasted for two months. We lit the old Kuraz, clock-
sized thread lamp occasionally, and the longest time it burned was,
I remember, for about an hour, the night my brother was born. Fire
wood was free. You picked it up from the forest, but with hard
labour and sometimes with the risk of danger. Cereals were harvested from the farm and ground and baked at home. Others, like
corn, potatoes, cabbage and berberie were planted in the small backyard of the hut. Although their quantity was far less than one would
imagine, they were enough for four souls bound to each other in
faith, loyalty and in prayer. No psychological evil, no distrust, no
greed, no hate. Each of us knew our share and there was not any
emotional disturbance to shake the pillar of love that supported our
tiny hut. A leopard skin is a treasure, I think, although it cannot
replace the worth of a cow, and mother will be delighted—delighted
perhaps more than any of us. After all, shopping is her immediate
responsibility just as farming is father's, milking the cows my sister's
and cattle herding mine.
It is dark but we can see our way somehow. "Watch your step,"
father says, gasping. I cannot see him clearly but I can imagine him
sweating and panting, and the leopard grinning as he lies over the
back of father's shoulders with his whiskers pointed towards me.
"Walk carefully — there is a pit down here." I realize we are no
longer on the same path we came through before. The trees are
sparse around here. It seems the whole area is covered with long
grass. We hear the barking of dogs. Shortly, we reach Merony's
house. We stop at the gate. Father throws down the leopard at his
feet and sighs. "We made it, Negash!" he says. Then we are
admitted by two men with rifles. They are Merony's servants. They
ask father why we have come. He tells them, and they lead us
slowly towards the hut, making sure the dogs will not attempt to
30 attack us. Same routine. We will wait our turn to plead to Merony.
It is the third time I have been there with father, who started consulting the sorcerer long before I was born. Once we went to request
him to save my mother when she was critically ill, then to pay
tribute, one dollar, when she had recovered. The last time we were
there was to ask his suggestion for naming the baby astrologically so
the devils might not attack him. Merony was the richest man in
Dekebora. He had more than a hundred head of cattle. He lived in
a big hut with a big compound. Almost everyone in the village has
consulted him at one time or another, and it was rumoured that
even some of the priests came to him at night, wrapped up in garments so they might not be recognized by the people. Merony was
feared like the church and he was said to be more ruthless when it
came to cursing those who disobeyed him. He had no problem to
find out. He had many informants, not to mention his servants and
irenias. The people believed in both Merony and the church. There
was no difference between him and the priests. They came to him
and he went to them — he was hardly absent from the congregation
each Sunday.
Fire is burning in two big pits and men, women, old and young
are sitting facing the verandah of the hut, which is covered by a red
curtain. The curtain hid someone who would not be seen but heard
throughout the night. Merony. He was the actor who performed
solely by dramatic voice and the audience, who never bothered to
watch the stage, enjoyed it all in verbal communication.
"Praise him! Praise him!" a high thrilling voice shouts, almost
"Yes, praise him," the crowd murmurs, accompanied by the beating of drums. Father and I watch the scene from behind the crowd.
An old woman and two men are standing next to us. I glance at
father now and then. He seems to be concentrating. He crosses his
arms over his chest and I do the same. I see his lips moving. I guess
he has started mumbling some words requesting the return of our
lost cow. "Praise him," the chanting goes on. Now it has become
louder and louder. A man, naked from the waist up, stands at the
end of the curtain, playing the washint, a kind of fife with four holes,
which is hardly audible amid the restless crowd. Some are dancing,
others crying with their hands raised high. Father and I join them
at the signal of a man who stands at the other end of the curtain
with a sword hanging over his hips.
Then all of a sudden, the big voice from inside the curtain roars,
31 followed by a wild laugh that sends a shiver down your spine. Then
it makes a continuous sound of snoring and yawning. Merony is
waking from his sleep, where he had been carried away by his spirits.
The crowd has become quiet. You could only hear the dogs barking
furiously. Everybody is still. The fire in the pits glows more brilliantly
and it is reflected in the red curtain, brighter than ever.
"I sense a leopard has come to my house," Merony says. We bow
and remain bowed until the signal comes from the man with the
"Kadabaros, Mustarados, Zaladabos, the outstanding spirits ...
they have all told me," Merony says. "Is that true?"
"Yes, respected master," father says, without taking his eyes from
the ground.
I lift my eyebrows slowly, but I cannot see Merony. The curtain
is still closed.
"You killed the leopard only a very short time ago, is that right?"
"Right, master."
"And you found him in the southern hills?"
"Right, master."
"You have lost your cow, is that true?"
"True, master."
"And now you have come to tell me about the missing cow?"
"It is absolutely correct, master."
"And the leopard skin, did you bring it for me?" Merony asks.
Father doesn't answer.
The crowd is still quiet.
"You know my spirits like the skin of beasts, especially the leopard's, don't you?" Merony asks.
So what if he and his spirits like leopard skin?
"Yes, I know," father replies, still bowed. His eyes are closed. He
seems to be concentrating.
"Good, my son," Merony says. "You are blessed."
"You are in a hurry to go home," he goes on. " I can feel your
heart beat right now."
"Yes, I am, master," father says.
"The heart is the centre for everything," Merony explains. "It
tells a man what to do and when and why."
"It is true, master," father agrees.
"I know you are in a hurry," Merony says, "and that is why I do
not want to keep you long."
"Thank you, master."
32 "How is your baby?" Merony asks.
"He is alright, master," father replies.
"Did you make him drink the medicine mixed with the red soil
from the hill?"
"Yes, master."
"Kadabaros, Mustarados, Zaledabos — these outstanding spirits
—■ they have all told me. You need not worry. He will be healthy.
And a great hero. He will be your supporter in your old age. I will
give him my blessing."
"Thank you, master."
"And so you have brought the leopard skin for me?" Merony
"Yes," father replies.
I shudder. Merony is a brute! Is he really going to take our treasure? And father simply agrees? I can't believe it!
"What about my cow, master?" father asks.
"She is in the woods," Merony replies. "I will send my spirits to
keep an eye over her."
"Thank you, master."
"But I am afraid she might be killed before the spirits arrive
where she is," Merony says, with a different tone. "You see, the
spirits quarrel with each other all the time. My spirits, too, have
their enemies. So if they arrive later than their counterparts they
cannot save your cow."
Father doesn't say anything. His eyes remain fixed on the ground.
"But don't worry," Merony says. "I will bless her calf and she
will give you more cows than you expect. Now you may go. Your
wife and children are waiting for you."
The washint starts thrilling. The drums beat like thunder, slow at
first, as if in keeping with the melancholy that has struck us, and
faster and faster each time the crowd echoes the chorus: "Praise
him." We bow and leave.
On our way home we are both silent. I want to ask father why
he gave away the leopard skin to Merony. I am afraid, though.
But I cannot resist asking. I am very much disturbed by this distressing, human act. I know he has felt it more than I have. I have seen
his withered face when we left. I could always tell when he was in
agony, and now I imagine the intensity of his sorrow. I even sense
a thousand shocks of regret running in his mind and his heart pounding as a result of the unexpected blow. To come home finally,
empty-handed, after all that toil!
33 "Why did you give the leopard away?" I burst out in a shaky
"What else could I do?" he says. A faint voice which has found
its way from a depressed heart.
"You had the rifle with you, father," I say, unaware of what I
am saying. "You had your rifle!" Tears come to my eyes.
He is silent.
"You had your rifle with you!" I shout again.
"So what?" he says. "Merony's guards, too, had rifles!"
I see what he means, but I still cannot understand why he gave
"Merony is very cruel, isn't he?"
"Yes, I know," and he sighs.
I am encouraged now.
"How could he do that to a man like you?" I say. "How dare he?"
He is silent, but I can guess he approves of what I say.
"He fooled you, father," I say.
"Yes, I know," he says. "But what could I do?"
"Remember his servants asked you questions at the gate?" I start
to explain, "And he was later asking you about the leopard and
the cow?"
"Yes, but what?"
"Well, he found out from them."
"I don't believe you, son," he says. "Merony would not do such
a thing because he knows everything himself."
"Believe me, father," I say. "He heard everything from his
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I am sure they told him. The minute we entered, I saw them
go towards the backyard of the hut. They must have entered through
a secret door and informed him."
"This is very hard to believe, but ..."
"But he fooled you anyway, didn't he?"
"Yes, I know."
"And we have neither a leopard skin nor a cow now."
"So what does Merony do for us?"
"Nothing son," he says, grudgingly. "Nothing."
"You know what I will do when I become a man?"
"I will kill him."
34 "Don't ever say that again, son."
Finally, when we reach home, we see an unexpected thing.
We don't believe our eyes. But it is true. It can't be magic — It is
real. There she is, the grey, the missing grey, in the beret. Mother
tells us she came home immediately before sunset. That was the
time I heard father's call and we set out for the search. Mother had
thought something was wrong when she saw the grey coming home
alone, lowing incessantly as she strode towards the beret. "I thought
you were all attacked by beasts and she was the only one that survived," she says. No wonder, it was the first and only time an animal had come home alone. Mother and sister are so happy we are
back safely they keep asking us how we are. "Are you alright?
Really?" They both say it in one voice. They had been worried since
sunset. They had alarmed our neighbours, Chefike and Beza, who
went to look for us in the hills. Still, they have not returned. Maybe
they have gone to the southern hills. Father and I did not hear their
calls. We must have been in Merony's house when they passed us.
Otherwise we would have met on the way.
Father is very happy. His sorrow has started to fade away, I
think. He smiles. He strokes the cow's chin and speaks to her. "So
you were here and we have been looking for you!" he says. The
cow, of course, doesn't listen, but I do. I don't think I have ever
been happier. And because of the intensity of the relief I feel, words
fail me and I cannot express my delight.
Tired as I am, I enter the hut and sit by the fireside. My sister
and my parents are still in the beret, talking. Then I hear two more
voices. Our neighbours have come back. They are rejoicing out
there. Then everybody is quiet except father. He is telling them
about the leopard, I suppose. I am steadily looking at the flickering
fire, a heap of ash circling it, as it hits the bottom of the dist with
its blue diverging flames. The baby is crying. I get up to make him
quiet. Just then I see mother coming in a hurry, followed by father
and sister, and the four calves who shared our room every night.
Father sits beside me. My sister ties the calves to the wooden pillar
that stands right in the middle of the hut. Mother joins us, the baby
in her arms sucking on her breast.
"What a day!" I sigh.
"God be praised that you are back safely," mother says.
Father is quiet. He is breaking a piece of wood, which he throws
into the fire meditatively.
"You have heard about the leopard, haven't you?" I ask her.
35 "Yes," she says, "Your father told me all about it."
I look at her steadily. There she is, a thirty-five year old woman
who has wrinkled and aged like a woman of fifty through hard
labour, trying to suppress resentment which could clearly be seen
on her face. She stares at the fire, now and then stirring the sauce
in the dist with one hand, and still holding the baby with the other
"It was the wrath of God," she mutters. "And when Merony
wanted it what else could you do but give it to him?" she goes on.
I can see in her eyes that she is more affected by the loss than any
of us.
Father is still silent. What is he thinking? Definitely not about my
fault. The grey is not lost now. The leopard is!
"Mother," I say. "You can't blame God, because he gave us back
our cow."
"I know, dear," she says.
"Yes," I say reassuringly, "God gave us back our cow!"
"And Merony took our leopard's skin!" father explodes, laughing scornfully and staring at the roof as if the whole thing was
written up there.
"But he is powerful, isn't he?" mother says.
"He took our treasure, dear," he says, with a sinister laugh. "He
took our treasure!"
"Merony is a liar!" father bursts out again.
Mother shrugs. I am excited.
"Something is wrong with you today, dear?" she says.
"Yes," he says. "I was fooled, fooled, fooled ... by Merony. That
is what is wrong with me!"
"Are you alright?" she says. "Have you forgotten he hears what
you are saying now?"
"No, he can't," father says. "He doesn't know the truth. He told
me my cow was in the woods and I found her here! Here! Here!
"But the curse . . ."
"Shut up!"
She does.
"Bring me the Bible and I will swear I will never consult him
again," father says.
"I don't believe this," mother says.
"You will believe it when you see it," he says. "Quick — bring
me the Bible!"
36 I almost jump to get it from under the large cow hide where he
kept it for use as a pillow and a guarantee against evil.
"Forgive me, God," he says, staring at the roof. "Forgive your
slave. Forgive your weakest creature."
Mother buries her face in her hands. She is afraid to be a witness
but it is clear she would follow whatever father said.
"In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost .. . ."
He swears, holding with both hands the Bible which he hasn't read
a word from since he inherited it from his father.
He never consulted Merony again, and nothing happened to him
as a result of that.
It was a long and tiresome day for the family. For me it was an
unforgettable day of victory.
500 blasphemies later and I still sit
on the side of a mountain
pierced by discreet sewer-pipes and lawns
waiting for my wrists to become
my lips to be glued together
with salmon-grease:
nothing happens, even the bills
are being paid
bits of paper
pogo-stick from one bank to another
and they haven't put me in jail
the typewriter comes to life, groans
hums    like a bee
with a thorn up its ass
the house has been painted    polished    reborn
for the new year
for the new baby
for the new RELATIONSHIP
contracted somewhere in Greece
or the Sinai desert, somewhere    exotic
where we didn't wear clothes for a month
but drifted around the reeking palms
about getting lost    and water
tasted like the pyramids....
but we didn't get lost    no
we didn't get lost
New York
(yawn & the longshoremen
steal your teeth)
38 Long Island:       the family
the family
the family
the family
Connecticut    visiting a young poet
sentenced to three years at Yale
on Roethke's nervous breakdown, brownbelting
karate because he never
went to medical school)
swallowing the continent   all the mucus
of New Jersey
Ohio    HISTORY made into billboards
then hog country
even Kansas, where we lost
the goddamned highway
while debating the virtues of Mizz Magazine
to put barbed wire in her twat
and Colorado    Grandma
still Saaath Caaalayna, having foregone
for the occasion, and
over the hills over the cows over the ghosts
of Indians
(Willa Cather's secret socks
toward New Mexico)
through the Dakotas, Gali tossing
Winnie the Pooh
at the moon
39 for two million miles: back
to Saskatchewan, where
a customs inspector tried to put our Sabra dog
in prison
because her rabies tag
was printed in Hebrew ("there must be a reg
we lied of course, & escaped
admired dead animals in Saskatoon
the number of bones in a weasel's knee
that have to be memorized
(Barbara O my lover
hiding behind the urine specimens) and
all the maple leaves
dangling from limp flags
bleached by the sun:       look      look
the snow in the mountains, actual trees
and we slept
by a green river    excited
by unimaginable
home again    home again
giggling at the rain, celebrating even
the weeds
(on Burnaby's black mountain the Chairman
offers front teeth
in a smile
like a rat's belch    & me
feeling my face, expecting cheese
all the buttermilk year gone
George and the
40 still sucking each other's strophes
discovering LAWS of art
everything, like ambergris
plucked from the sacred New England nostril
(Banquo's ghost:
"he most honors my style
who learns under it to destroy the teacher")
(and the psychologists
wander through Walt Whitman's pubic hair,
each follicle a piece of the true
X      and the committee
the curriculum
vaginal Trotskys
suburban Lenins
from last month's apocalypse)
foo: these are the pimples of my brain,
let me remember
the warm stretching under the sun,
the rainbow-fish,
the white camel
toward the sea.
Stanley Cooperman's poems, stories and articles have appeared widely in North
American periodicals, including Prism international; his most recent book of
poetry is Cappelbaum's Dance (University of Nebraska Press). He teaches English at Simon Fraser University.
Three white ducks make
three shadows
Their black eyes are unblinking
Their quacking is low and companionable
but when I call the horse
the drake answers
I once saw a jade buckle
Two ducks
one neck wound around the other neck
each bill tucked into its own back
Now I see live ducks in the same position
The goose girl
would have been more entertained
by these ducks than by her geese
had she not been obsessed
with servant girls
and kings
In the rain
the ducks squish their feet
and are happy
42 Her first egg lay in the hay
When I went to examine it
she placed her webbed foot over it
and stood straight up
The third duck was sick
and fell on her back
when we went to fetch the ax
she suddenly became
much better
When the water is fresh
they clap in with so great
a delight
it is worth the effort
of fetching the hose
Three white ducks
on green grass
the other
and a million
aspen leaves
in a gold sky
What further?
Rona (Haddon) Dexter is the author of several poetry books, the most recent
of which is Oootischenie, Fiddlehead Publications. Her Selected Poems will be
brought out soon by Sono Nis Press. She is writing, teaching and living in
There is a wave on which you may walk
There is a woman who may never talk
There is a word that is never spoken
There is a man whose word is never broken
There is a stitch that is never sewn
There is a face to alter your own
There is an Argosy to the Golden Fleece
And a Road to Paradise (north of Nice)
for Pier Paolo Pasolini
When he cured the leper,
he cautioned the man,
"Say nothing."
But he said much.
"Why do you eat with sinners?"
they demanded.
He replied, "It is the sinners
I have come to save."
He healed a man
with a withered hand.
They complained:
"You did it on the wrong day."
When they asked him,
"Who are your brethren?"
he looked around
and said: "Behold!"
45 To the young woman
who was fast asleep,
they heard him whisper,
"Talitha cumi."
"Are you Elias,
one of the prophets?
Or John the Baptist,
risen from the dead?"
They spoke
of the traditions.
He spoke
of so many hypocrites.
When they asked him
for a sign from heaven,
he gave them his sign —-
a deep sigh.
46 Here is what
the blind man said:
"I see men as trees,
For his passage
through Galilee,
he travelled
"Better to enter
into the kingdom of God
with one eye
than into hell with two."
They stood in awe
of their immense Temple.
He warned them: "No stone
will stand upon another."
47 "When desolation comes,:
he cautioned,
"pray the time
will not be winter."
He predicted war,
revolution, disaster,
famine and death.
He prophesied:
"There will be
no end of trouble
because there will be
no end."
48 A.M.K.
(An Acrostic)
A wise man builds two words out of one.
B efore one is seventy, everything comes before one's eyes.
R iches are as a baker's shirt, not too long and not too short.
A good lie is sometimes worth gold.
H e who knows has many cares.
A stone lying in one place is soon overgrown with grass.
M en count for more than people.
M uch also becomes exhausted.
0 n the gravestone, all Jews are beautiful
S   ince death has come along, one is not sure of life.
E   yes and ears have also their tongues.
S   ilence may often be eloquent.
K  naves and fools divide the world.
L   ittle speech and much meant.
E   verything has belonged to others and returns to others.
1 t is easier to know ten lands than one man.
N  ight is no man's friend.
Selwyn Gurney Champion's Racial Proverbs (1938)
from a book of proverbs
Angle with a silver hook.
Bring an abbey to a grange.
Fill the mouth with empty spoons.
Go out like a candle in a snuff.
Love at the door and leave at the latch
Mend the Magnificat.
Order without a constable.
Seem and not to be.
Twist a rope of sand.
Take a dagger and drown myself.
from the Roumanian of Marin Sorescu
The sea is a giant compass
with restless fish
always pointing north.
Each fish, naturally,
has its own north:
which it tries to force upon others,
swallowing, when Neptune's not looking,
the smaller norths.
They say the day of the unique,
scientifically calculated north will come,
when all fishes will swim
in one direction,
one behind the other,
heading northward, on their bellies,
then southward, on their backs.
Then no ship will ever
lose its bearings,
or be swallowed up by whirlpools;
with such a compass,
in perfect working order,
the earth will never lose its bearings
on its daily rounds.
In California, where Asia is
Or he took her like an inheritance
Or by now we are half-doomed anyway
Or my trade is chagrin
Or slowly rotting in another man's country
Or Maya Plisetskaya is the part of Pavlova that Fonteyn isn't
Or Albanian for Albania is Shqiperia
Or when he looks there is nothing there
Or twelve including Castro in the Sierra Maestra
Or the night is rather longer than it would be without the rain
Or nor do immortals need to think
Or we — and by this I mean you and me, mostly
Or a touch of Aristotle, a dash of Barnum
Or afternoons Claude Monet visits
Or I live among the mysteries
Or the diameter of the planet is
Or stand in the corner and try not to think of a white bear
Or that one must have hurt
Or why are odd numbers so much harder to add then even
Or but not necessarily in that order
And Wu Tao-tzu the T'ang painter
Wandered into one of his own landscapes
And disappeared
John Robert Colombo, the well-known Toronto poet and editor-at-large, spent
four years compiling Colombo's Canadian Quotations, twenty-five thousand
copies of which were issued by Hurtig Publishers in October of 1974. In the
same month, Peter Martin Associates published two of his books of poetry: The
Sad Truths, a collection of new poems, and Translations from the English, a
collection of found poetry taken from the prose of other men. Under the Eaves
of a Forgotten Village is the title of a forthcoming collection of sixty poems
from contemporary Bulgaria, which he is translating with Nikolai Roussanoff.
Colombo was a guest of the Writers Union of the U.S.S.R. in 1970. Andrei
Voznesensky called his work "serious and profound." Yevgenyi Yevtushenko
asked him: "Why, in Moscow, do you look like a poet and, in Toronto, like
a banker?"
In this direction half-light
or hunger only
Ripeness undigested: Therese
my incompletion
mimes my halfness wholly
mooning on the edge
of even, inclining
at the horizon of skin
Half a head only
in passionate thought
draws a wet gesture from me
The appetite for order
builds eatable fruit
into the disorder of branches
What is building emptily
in the angles of these?
O my half-lit sister
are there no planets
caught in trees?
Brian  Henderson's  work  has  previously appeared  in  The   Wascana Review
The Canadian Forum, Quarry and other periodicals.
for my father and grandfather
ma s'averra ch'io mora
gridera poi per me la morte ancora
As an old man lags on the hill-side, wagging
his stick where the sun burns over Caithness,
seeing the whole coast to Lossiemouth and beyond
the light on the rocks beyond the harbour mouth,
the boats setting out for a night's fishing —
Lilt, Bezaleel, Glad Harvest — their nets drawn dry
from lofts and road-side fences, spread again to the sea
light from eyes lighting to lids downcast
light of table and firescreen    light of the last
pewter candlestick
earth's tapers trailing to rafter
embers of face hand and wings
Dawn has a grey list of cirrus and sky
ma s'averra ch'io mora    if I have to die
even death's mouth would kiss me
even death's mouth would cry
Now burned and buried
lair-earth around you
earth turned and dug under
news let in a grey cirrus sky
light from eyes lighting to lids downcast
light of table and firescreen
this light to the drawstrings and spiked
pewter candlesticks
smoke of fine metalwork and carving
62 earth's tapers trailing to rafter
embers of face hand and wings
Let it draw in you    loose
curling in    let it breathe    sag of water
fly-bodkin bumping at walls and windows
let it speak in you     let it come through
lichen blank and lichen blazing
there as the day went by
stirring dust at her ankles
fish in distant pools
'in this wild a palace of green timber
bound with green birches both under
and above
and a queen to beggar description
wilderness robbed of its wind-drawn
mirth and a perfect hunting    joined
here since men took breath
in her eye
in one word to her people
floors laid with green scharets
and medwarts and flowers
of the founding line'
C3 Dawn has a grey list of cirrus and sky
ma s'averra ch'io mora if I have to die
even death's mouth would kiss me
even day's mouth would cry
and as dark draws in over Spey-fleets,
places of slaughter at the Bawds, at the Knock,
as men that never walked this break for near to thirty years
walk by Ruthven and Letterfourie, by the arches at Craigmin,
and gulls shadow high in off the water;
as burns go by hill-slope and Lintmill barley in the sun's length,
cattle and all stir settle to sleep;
even as a child tries entrance to earth and air
tilth withers wins: new yield plucked from the old
Now burned and buried
lair-earth around you
earth turned and dug under
watch let for a star-spread sky
Alexander Hutchison was born in Scotland in 1943 and has been teaching at
the University of Victoria until this year. He has now embarked upon the completion of a doctoral dissertation. Recent work by him is also appearing in
Stand and Ambit, and Aftermath has been issued on stereo tape by DNA.
64 Matt Hartman was born in New York City in 1941. He took Creative Writing
courses at Queens College of the City University of New York and did graduate
work at Columbia University. He worked for the New York Herald Tribune as
a rewrite man and in the New York Public Library before coming to Vancouver
in 1971. He is now a librarian at the University of British Columbia and a
regular reviewer for the Library Journal, New York.
I reek with compassion, foisted on me by my job. My arms
stretch out to people. No. To children. The ventricles of my heart,
mon coeur, pump out love sufficient to drown, on Saturdays, fifty,
and on crowded Sundays many more. On Sundays the children
glow religiously in their suits and dresses. They parade to the playground suffused in an aura of Christianity, making it more difficult
for me to love. Not worship; just love. There must be no sacraments
to temper my feelings, no scriptures to describe my emotions. Especially no commandments. Love must flow unrestrainedly or it had
better not flow at all.
But on Saturdays, my other working day, I become a willing
disciple. I would not proselytize but you must try it; you must cushion
your knees to receive the blessed weight of childish buttocks. Saturday a week a little girl of five told me in Italian of her unceasing
love, throwing herself into my arms with the abandon of a true
Latin. And I, I wanted to swallow her lollypop-tasting tongue, feeling innocent and purged — sweetly tired and completely above
Come, some Saturday, into my playground and I will point her
out. My job is not difficult and I will have time. I will take the time,
for Renee is someone you must see. She is beautiful, but that is not
why. And she is what they call "ideally mannered" though that, too,
is hardly the reason. I think it is because she is slightly pigeon-toed,
because her smile is a band of silver braces, because she stutters her
name. I think that is why I love her more than the others.
It is difficult not to see her. She is only beginning to realize how
futile are her efforts to blend with her group. Standing on one
turned-in foot she is patiently awaiting her turn at checkers. You
see her for the first time and it is difficult to understand the con-
65 tinuous action of the commonplace; how, so near to such beauty,
the traffic can flow unconcerned along the boulevard. She is totally
familiar with your bedevilled eyes. Her back is to you, yet she
hunches her shoulders at your sudden intake of breath. If you call,
she will turn slowly and fix you with a sweet and sad smile. She
will come — hesitantly — but she will come and listen wisely to
your tongue-tied exclamations. You will tell her she is pretty —
such a pretty Uttle girl, you will say — and she'll lower her lashes,
yet her eyes (you are certain) are for you alone. You watch her,
pink-playsuited, returning to her friends. A miracle.
Today is Saturday and it is raining. As I make my way to the
park house I see the maintenance man, Jim Delaney, just beginning
to run the tattered flag down the pole. It hangs there, suspended, a
patriotic weight guided down by ropes turning grey. Jim is another
you should meet. He is a paradox, carrying the mind of a child
in the body of a man of fifty. This is not to say he is retarded,
though he does show some of the tendencies of a Mongoloid. He
will eye something — focus upon it with a red-rimmed stare, as if
only in this way can he carry the memory of it with him. I have
seen this in children, and when I notice it in Jim I smile. I suppose
he has had a hard life: he seems unwilling to discuss himself, and
when I question him he is silent. Peter, the recreation leader on the
Avenue, told me he had fought in Italy during the Second War —
that he bombed villages near Padua. Peter worked with Jim for
more than a year so I see no reason to doubt his word. I sometimes
think that this would explain, in part of course, Jim's love of children. Is the reason why he will work overtime, without pay, to
dandle Renee on his lap wrapped up somewhere in a smoky,
bombed-out past? Does he see in her an Italian infant, dead eyes
staring at the sky? I would like to ask him these questions — like to
know, not only to satisfy my curiosity, but also because maybe I can
help the man. I have learned long ago that only by appreciating —
savouring if you like ■— our problems can we learn to deal with
them. It is really quite simple. Maybe it is that, through Renee, Jim
is trying to make amends. It is curious to watch them cross the playground; he, carrying the weight of his two hundred pounds, leans
over, slightly stooped, to give the child his hand. His wheaten hair
is miles above her red-ribboned black flax. I think of her as the
leader, of him as the bear chained to the organ of her every whim.
66 They are together constantly. She will enter. "Jim, Jim. Look
what I have." Holding up a fingerpainted dancer or, once, a St.
Christopher medal of dull copper. He will be charmed. As she
approaches he sometimes shudders and continues to shudder until
she has come close enough to be swept up next to his bristling jaw.
He will sniff her hair, nostrils wide and quivering. I can't believe
there is anything wrong in this.
You can see him waiting for her on school days. It is her habit
to bring lunch in a brown paper bag and eat it before going back to
school. At eleven-thirty Jim goes to the front gate and waits, his eyes
scanning the street become wide in expectation. When he sees her,
he dashes madly out, grabs her hand as though his life depended on
it, and leads her back to the park house. Then they will sit and
whisper into each other's ear until it is time for her to go. He will
accompany her down the street and, I am sure, would if able take
her right inside the classroom.
Sometimes I wonder. I keep my eyes upon them and I have taken
it upon myself to be near them as often as I can. It's not that I'm
suspicious. Maybe it's just that I know of very few things of which
the human animal is incapable. If Jim weren't so gentle, so honest,
I doubt that I'd have allowed it to go as far as it has. What is it in
him that attracts her? You'd think it would be me whom Renee
would love so much. I give her games; hold her jump rope. I like
to give her pony rides on my knee. I begin slowly, bumping my foot
on the ground at regular intervals, rhythmically, she holding tightly
to my neck. Gradually I get faster and faster until she squeals a bit,
and her hair becomes all undone and wild. I love that — her long
black hair. If she were mine I'd never let her mother put it up. I
bounce up and down, up and down, and she's screaming now and
screeching into the air. Then slower and slower — easy — until it's
over and our breaths escape in a mutual sigh. Jim never does that
to her. They play checkers, sometimes jacks, and sometimes he
pushes her on the swings at the end of the park. She likes that.
I come toward the park house and the rain suddenly lets up. I
shed my jacket and sign in, then go off toward the handball courts
in search of Jim. He's running the big broom up and down the
out-lines although the courts are clean. Because it is only nine, there
are few children in the playground. Denise and Cindy are in the
sand-box. I can see the mud beginning to congeal on their thighs
67 as they lean over their shapeless castles. I walk up to Jim and he
sees me and grins. "Good morning, Paul."
"Morning," I say. "The man get here yet?" The man is the foreman Gronowski, who makes a daily inspection of all the playgrounds in this area. Once he leaves, we are left pretty much alone,
Jim and I.
"No, not yet," Jim says. He angles the broom, peering at me
over the handle with his grey eyes. When he talks, the natural sandpaper gruffness of his voice blends, at the edges, into something that
approaches gentleness. I think that there is a quality within the air,
or the ear itself, which tempers the voice after it leaves his mouth,
as if he were far away and the sound had time to pick up overtones and nuances before lodging itself within my consciousness.
"I don't think he'll be around today," I say. "He never comes
when it's raining."
Jim nods his head. "Fine. That's fine with me. I won't miss him.
Paul," he says. "There's a bit of fence needs mending. Back of the
basketball courts. Looks like it's been cut — like the fellows went
to town after lock-up last night. You think you can give me a hand?
Maybe just hold the ladder for me when I go up."
"Jim," I say. "Jim, you know I'm not to do that kind of work.
Didn't Gronowski tell you that I'm in charge of recreation?" I
really believe in this business. Suppose I'm holding the ladder and
a little girl needs help and can't find me? Jim doesn't understand.
He's a good worker but he doesn't realize that the children take up
too much of my time for me to be bothered with maintenance.
But I don't want to hurt him. I agree to hold his ladder.
"Thanks," he says. He suddenly raises his head and stares out
toward the gate. I know he is looking for Renee. I smile.
"Your girlfriend here yet today?"
He understands immediately, and I see taking place within him
that change that always appears when he is about to mention even
her name. He blushes; that is the visible part. But there is more.
There is that change which makes him finger-comb his hair in an
unconscious gesture that appeals to me. There is the lightening of
his complexion, within the suffusion of blood, that creates a kind of
glow. He is quaint at such moments; my training makes me look
at him as a child.
"No," he says. "Not yet. She told me yesterday she's going to
her cousin's wedding in Yonkers today. But she'll be in this evening.
You miss her too?"
68 I try to share the image he is in the process of creating. Renee
the maid-of-honour. Renee the flower girl, a vision in pink and
white. I see her through the medium of Jim. The light from the
window shines through her dress; the very outline of her far more
beautiful than any bride.
We turn and go back to the park house for the ladder. Denise
with her lovely long red hair sees me coming and skips up. This
package of eleven has been at a fresh air camp for two weeks. I
keep the card she sent me from Virginia, something about a parrot
that can speak her name. And she signed it "love" and smudged
some cranberry sauce on the envelope because I once told her I
love it. It was Denise who initiated the game I play with the girls.
One morning she climbed up on the table in front of the blue
benches and showed me the dance taught to her in school. Half
way through, perspiring quite freely between the legs, she slipped
and fell, throwing her freckled arms around my neck and wrapping
her bare thighs about my waist. She enjoyed it so much that she
climbed up and did it again. It became a regular with us. After
awhile it was no longer just Denise. Cindy picked it up; and
Barbara, and Debby. I had to set an age limit in order to save my
back. Valerie tried it and we both went down though nothing was
hurt except my pride. I can't let the boys do it. They want to, but
one must set limits.
Denise wants the checkers, or rather Cindy wants them but is too
shy to ask. "But honey," I say. "You remember what happened to
the checkers. They got lost weeks ago and the new supplies haven't
come in yet."
"Then a ball?" she asks, shaking her mane so that pearls of water
fall to the ground. "You have a ball, don't you?"
"Handball?" Jim is looking toward me from the handball court
but I ignore him. He's over fifty; you'd think he'd be able to do
his work himself. If he wouldn't spend so much time with Renee
he'd get a hell of a lot more work done. I get a ball from the closet
and put it behind my back, letting it roll down to where I can
hold it with my thighs. I extend my two hands toward the child.
"Which hand, sweetheart?"
She kind of leans her head to one side, her hair falling all over,
and taps my left wrist. "Again," I say. "Three times and the ball's
yours." Again she guesses. "No," I say. "Try again."
"Then this one." Her tongue has curled up in mystification.
"No, not there either." But she looks so sad that I break down.
69 "It's between my legs," I say. Soon she and Cindy are throwing
the ball up and down the field.
I walk on back to help Jim. The section of mesh fence is by now
almost repaired, though by Wednesday it will certainly again be
down. We have what you might call a gang in here-—good kids
on the whole, but excitable. In the beginning they gave me a bit
of difficulty, teasing the children and creating a disturbance. But,
after all, they themselves are children, no more, no less; part of my
job. So I patrolled a bit more in those early weeks, and I played
football and basketball with them. I am blessed with an excellent
physique and endurance for sports. I discovered that by outdoing
them at their games, by running faster and throwing longer and
shooting fouls better I could control even the worst of them through
gaining their respect. I sometimes buy them beer on Saturday nights
before going home. But they hate fences; something about Ronnie
Nizzi that doesn't like a wall, to paraphrase Frost's poem. In his
back pocket Ronnie carries a wire cutter.
I hold the aluminum ladder and Jim begins to ascend. He is as
clumsy as a thirteen year old. The sun has come out, hard and
strong, and he is perspiring profusely about the neck. I smell him
and he sees me grimace.
"That should do it," he says. "Getting hot, isn't it? Maybe we
should turn on the shower."
I look at my watch. "It's only one. Give it another hour. Not
enough kids here yet anyway." The thought occurs to me that one
day I will see Jim in the pool, running and splashing, looking like
one of those burlesque horses, a costume with two men inside,
neither knowing what the other will do. That is how he moves:
The shower-pool combination is the playground's chief attraction. There is a nozzle, maybe four feet high, standing in the middle
of an inclined area always kept free from litter. When the valves
are turned on, water shoots up to a height of ten or fifteen feet —
a spray — and hits the ground in a radius of twice that distance.
It attracts the children as honey does a swarm of bees. They come
dressed in bathing suits, the youngest content in underpants, and
parade in an elongated circle around the accumulation of water.
The oldest ones love to sit atop the fountain itself, feeling the cold
water run  in streams  along  their  bottoms  and  geyser  upward
70 between their legs. We can have as many as one hundred of them
at any given time, soaked and smiling, looking radiant and deli-
ciously wild.
I love to see Renee in the pool. She goes through a ritual, her
face solemn and beautiful, as though knowing something unique —
something special. In her pink, two-piece suit she glides to the water,
leans over, posturing, and pokes a ripple with her finger. Then she
straightens up and turns completely around. When she sees Jim she
smiles widely and nods her head. He smiles in turn and ambles over
to the perimeter, bends, and imitates her motions. "It's fine, Renee,"
he says. "It's just beautiful, just like a little girl I know. Just right;
you can go in now." Then, with a look that makes me ache, she
pirouettes gracefully, swan-like, and tip-toes in toward the middle
of the pool, Jim's eyes following her, doting on her, loving her.
There's no doubt about it: when she is in the shower she is queen.
The others, boys and girls alike, pay homage to her in the way they
shield her from the needle spray. In early childhood, at least,
chivalry is not dead. Tommy protects her by giving her his towel
when she comes out. Ralph offers his sandals and understands when
she refuses, sweetly, saying something about germs. With her exit,
activity seems to increase, get more frenzied, as though, lacking her
regal presence, the aura of willing restraint disappears. You cannot
convince me that, even at six, she doesn't realize her power over
the others. She sees it, uses it, but does not gloat over it. And so it
increases with each marking of her wet footprint.
We return the ladder to its place and step back outside. Now it
is really warm, fa' caldo as the Italian bocce players would say. I
see Jim sit on top of a table and peer toward the gate. At this
moment I feel a sense of empathy with the man. I hunger with him.
Moving to his side, I clap him on the back. "Soon Jim. If she said
she'll be here she will."
He looks up and stares at me for a moment. The sun has dried
his blond hair and strands fall in soft curves upon his forehead. I
think, now, of what thoughts of a child can do to such a man. It
is almost frightening how youthful Jim looks.
"Paul," he says slowly. "Isn't it funny? I mean how happy just
being with her makes me? I think I'd show up here for nothing if
I could just see her once a day. Even if I couldn't be sure I think
I'd come." He leans back on his elbows and stares up at the sun
and now, I think, now it will come. Now he will tell me what I
want to know. Now I'll learn about Italy and those dead little
7i girls, about his sadness and his fear. But he doesn't. He keeps looking at the sun with eyes half shut, seeing it, perhaps, with his
imagination. After awhile his eyes open and I see a few tears, or
maybe just beads of sweat from his face. He looks again to the gate
and to the street beyond.
In the early evening the rain again begins. It hurtles down in
gray sheets and bounces off the slides and swings like ping-pong
balls gone wild. At seven, two hours before closing, Renee comes
into the playground. Jim sees her first through the open window of
the park house but I will swear that, like me, he sensed her presence as one may sometimes sense beauty before it is first visible.
She comes with the rain, flowing through the door even as he
jumps to his feet, and stands there for a minute — the focal point
of our eyes — puddles forming on the cement floor and running in
streams toward us as if to finish the job of binding us to her.
"Renee," Jim says. "Does your mother know you're out? You're
soaking wet; here, take off your coat." She strips it off with motions
worthy of an ecdysiast and hands it, dripping, to me. I hang it on
the edge of the sink.
"It's raining," she says, and then, as if the opening statement were
the important one and what followed second considerations, "my
mother said I can come but only for a while. Then I have to go
"And the wedding?" Jim asks. "Renee, how was the wedding?"
"My cousin is married and I went to hold the flowers. Did the
showers go on today?"
"No," I say. "It rained all the time. It rained because you
weren't here."
"I wasn't here; I was in the country." Her tongue escapes with
her s's, resulting in a delightful lisp. She is wearing red pedal-
pushers and a black knit sweater. The pants are wet through,
molded to her lithe hips as though the very air between cloth and
flesh is distasteful, something to be avoided. I think I would like to
preserve her exactly as she is now. Preserve her, freeze her solid in
this characteristic attitude. There is something erotic in the way
she puts her finger in her mouth, her pale, wet lips circling about
it as if obeying the instinctual urge to suck. "The showers didn't
go on," she says quietly. "But it was hot. My daddy took off his
shirt in the wedding but mommy told him don't."
72 Jim examines the water drip dripping from her tiny earlobes.
"Did your daddy put it back on?"
"No. He told mommy it was too hot. We were in the country."
I turn my eyes to Jim, see and feel him laughing deep inside
himself. On his face is an expression of an awesome joy. I like him
this way; maybe now I am beginning to understand. Renee is his
escape — his way out. Maybe she does appease his conscience and
ease his guilt, but she is also the way through which he can enter
into a new life. In a sense it is pure regression. He takes her shape,
her age, her delight and makes them his own. I am full of admiration. I see that when he follows Renee into the pool he is her peer,
with likes and dislikes the equal of hers. If it is a weakness it is a
pardonable one. Let him have it.
"Renee," I say. "What would you like to do?" She looks from
Jim to me, then back to Jim. She perambulates toward the cubbyhole in back where I keep my stock of equipment. In a few seconds
her head appears around the coiner, wet and tousled, the face
tinged with disappointment.
"There aren't too many things to do, are there?" Back in the
room, her eyes light on the checkerboard-covered table. "Jim," she
says. "Play checkers with me." She knows, as I know, that he will
never refuse her anything. He sits opposite the child, eyes glowing.
I hear the rain letting up outside; I know that soon they will begin
to trickle into the playground. First a few, maybe in two's and
three's, but finally whole mobs of them will deluge the area even as
the rain has been doing in its own steady way. While minutes before
I would have welcomed a change in the weather, now, locked up
here with Jim and Renee, I wish that the rain would continue. I
take up a book and look at them over the top. He's letting her win;
her black eyes shine with excitement.
Maybe it is the ease with which she won the first game; maybe
it is just that her active little body is getting restless in the close
quarters. When the game ends, she suddenly leans over and
whispers something in Jim's ear. He smiles and shakes his head.
"Renee, you've got to ask Paul about that; you know that's his
"But he'll say no. He never turns it on when it's not nice."
So that is it; she wants the shower. She turns to me, knowing
I've overheard, and looks the question at me.
"You want to go into the pool on a day like this?" I say, wanting
a pre-ordained answer to come from her, not from me. But she
73 keeps looking at me with those sexy eyes and I know she wants it,
badly, as only a child of six can want. Of course I refuse, and she
takes her defeat well and I think it will end here.
"Paul knows best," Jim says. He winks at her and she bathes
him with a smile. She looks out toward the pool, then back at Jim.
I want desperately to be included. "Want some cocoa, Renee?"
Jim asks. "Paul, I think she could use something hot. And I'd like
some coffee. Why don't you run out to Lou's and pick some up?"
I think it over; decide to go, feeling myself not needed. I take
his money and go on outside, out into the steady drizzle.
I sit in a bar amidst old men who stare worshipfully up at a television set. As I sip a beer, the rain increases. I leave and stop into
Lou's for the coffee and hot chocolate, then cover my head with a
newspaper and trot back to the playground.
Through the driving rain I can barely make out the two figures,
one large, one small, walking around the pool toward the heavy,
cast-iron door on the ground, beneath which lie the valves to turn
on the shower. I am willing to let Jim take the responsibility for
Renee's enjoyment. It is silly — fantastic — but it is for her. I walk
more slowly, through puddles and fallen leaves. Their voices are
carried in the wind and rain, her high laugh forming a perfect duet
with this low one.
The door is the type that leads into the outside cellar of many
stores. It is old and the hinges are rusty and bent. Jim and I were
given careful instructions to turn on the showers as a team, one
descending while the other positioned himself near the top to keep
back the crowds of inquisitive youngsters.
She has not put on her coat. I think of how much fun we can
have together, tomorrow, when it will be a warm, sunny day. As
I approach the beer suddenly falls in my belly, filling my bladder
with a heavy, somehow exciting feeling. Jim raises the door by the
handle and climbs down into the deep hole. A moment later water
spurts up out of the shower, mixes immediately with the rain, and
becomes a semi-permeable mist, opaque and grey. Jim begins to
ascend, swinging himself up on his brawny arms like a prehistoric
relic. The girl stands eyeing him for a moment, her voice bubbling
a welcome.
When he is at the top they lean together to close the door. I look
at her, glad that she is happy, taking pleasure in the way her body
74 curves backwards toward me. The back of her pants is muddy with
symmetrical stains, as though my wet hands had patted her gently
I don't know why I can't shout out as Jim's hand slips from the
rain-slick handle. He shouts: "Renee. Oh my God, Renee." She is
already too far over, too far committed to Jim or to her own desire.
The iron plate seems to hover in the air for a tantalizing second —
for an hour, a year — before it comes plummeting down. It catches
her as he tries to pull her back, catches her left shoulder and scrapes
away a layer of white skin like a razor cutting through paper. I
see the door resting malevolently on her for that same interminable
length of time, and then she loses her balance and falls. Her scream
comes up strangely, almost monotonously slow, as if from very far
away. I hear her hit the bottom, hear cloth ripping as it tears on
pipe. Then, miraculously, I am there and pushing him aside and
climbing down down the ladder to where a pink mass lies crumpled
in a corner. It is a long way down and she is dead when I reach
the bottom. She has hit her head on one of the valves and it is angled
awkwardly on her thin shoulders. I believe I am picking her up in
my arms; I don't know. I only know the rain and the blood and,
on top, the harsh, choked sobs coming from Jim's throat. My hands
lift something, slide down and down to naked flesh. Blood is running
in a diluted stream from her head, down to her soft buttocks. They
are half bared; the pants had torn on the pipe during the fall. I
am fondling and caressing her, my bloody hands trembling as they
move over her body. And in the rain I can hear myself shout, now,
at last, "I love her, you bastard, I love her!"
Translated from the Polish by Jagna Boraks
End of season: I fell to the ground
no more to be kissed by a sunbeam
no more to be gathered
or trampled by a bird
the dew will ravish my eyes
the winds will stop squabbling behind me —
so many days
I thrived — growing ■—
into the softness of oxygen
into billowing air, into scorching heat
so many days
I absorbed the steep streams of sunlight —
my flat body
strung by the neck
sang hymns —■
so many nights
whispered away with the crickets
talked away with the dew
on wax-green floors —
and now only human fate for me
I lie and I suffer
the pain of memory
not of flesh.
Those whom the night releases bring with them darkness.
They drift from the ruins, like clouds of smoke.
And when they cross the horizon
The day turns its back on them; like man
The tree sweats and trembles before them;
The leaf's slender form blackens from inside;
Dewdrops rush thundering
Into the toadlike skin of the bark
And night enters, bolting the door.
Those whom the night releases, carry with them darkness.
They enter us through secret passages
To cast oblivion over our memories.
To close one's eyes, not counting days
to be blind (the wind's corpulent arm
whisks away ashes above me).
Who owns this bottomless boat
on a deserted sea —
whose is this red and white sail
like a frayed skeleton?
Is there still room inside
for a credible word —
not overheard
one's own?
Pure, without decoy
visa or passport,
naked as a bone.
Don't touch me, I'm full of snakes
Dead soil without air
A cloud shot down by the wind
A river that was and no longer is,
Whose banks have turned to stone. A powerless word.
Don't touch me      I prefer to carry myself
That which fills my dreams to the brim,
Years which prayer cannot undo.
I hide poisonous memories in myself
Vipers of flame and venom of gas.
I live like a mirror, my face towards the past.
Waclaw Iwaniuk is a poet, translator and essayist. He was born in Warsaw,
Poland, where his first books were published. After graduating at the Free University in Warsaw he joined the Polish Foreign Office and was posted to Buenos
Aires. At the outbreak of war he joined the Polish Army in France and served
with the Mountain Brigade and later the First Polish Armoured Division. In
1948 he moved to Canada, and is now employed as an interpreter by Toronto
City Hall and the Ontario Provincial Government. He is the author of seven
volumes of poems including his Collected Poems published in 1964 by Kultura,
Paris. He has been translated into French, German and Italian and has been
awarded several major Polish literary prizes.
his wicker ribcage
an icepick
spouting tattoos
and a concertina
wheezes inside.
Flatbush . .. the kharma
of basketball hoops,
the dead
are dead
or dead
now who dozes
with a fist for a dream
while the monkey
bares piano teeth,
tenement psyche
stitching the torso
of his clock ...
only a hammer.
80 "hey, Irish!"
flop house
death, again
a whistler
on the tracks.
(the stripper mimics
sneakered birds)
will come
the rabbi dawn
by subway ...
and a trolley
pale lovers. NOCTURNE / GREEN
days decaying on the vine
my wine I down in swills
while fog wings strut
on stuttering flames ...
who strings the cat gut streets
to anvil eyes?
nocturne / green
realm of lunar seams
my words diving seaward
lonely birds I swing on hinges,
a hermit's envoy
sent to scuttle mirrors.
all we all
are only this
a stranger
a stammer in a strange land.
I swab a brittle bone
with spittle ...
82 behind my back
a life is growing tails
a child is sprouting rigid fingers
and peddlers ride
the night toward babel.
a bell rattles
in the school of the deaf
a scorpion backbending
ever so
ever so
ever so
asking this question upside down:
"thugs have scribbled hisses
on the tug boat whistle,
can you hear .. . ?"
Charles Koltz has been published in Prism, Quarry, Fiddlehead, Wascana
Review, Poetry of Our Times, Corduroy and others. He is now gardening, writing, and running long distances in Cobble Hill, B.C.
Translated from the Hungarian by Nicholas Kolumban
My parents died; my twin brother
died. My wife's small sister
and her husband as well.
Many people died and when we eat too much
for supper, we suddenly hear in our sleep
how under their graves
the nails grow with a shriek;
their hairs hissingly multiply.
Our lives are pure. We smile an easy smile.
My wife paces about in the room —
her skirt's feeble sound.
She arranges chairs with lustrous eyes.
Already she knows the dogs of the rich
bite and when you die,
they'll scrape you into the earth.
We live without fear; our days are simple
like a piece of paper
or the milk on our table
but also brutal
like the knife beside us
that shimmers with a slow glance.
Miklos Radnoti, one of Hungary's foremost lyric poets, was killed in 1944 by
the Nazis while en route to a concentration camp. His verse is often inventive
and musical. He considered himself a champion of the poor.
Nicholas Kolumban, a native of Hungary, is a naturalized U.S. citizen. His
translations appeared in Granite, West Coast Poetry Review, The Lamp, and
Stinktree. Stinktree Press will publish a book of his German translations this
84 Franz Hohler was born in 1943 in Switzerland where he lives in Vetikon Am
See. He is the author of several volumes of short stories and a number of plays.
He also is a successful cabaret artist appearing in his own one-man shows.
Ingeborg Lloyd is a Graduate Student of Comparative Literature at the University of British Columbia.
Translated from the German by Ingeborg E. Lloyd
For a long time now I've been preoccupied with the notion of
a roof.
This roof would be covering a country house which, towards the
end of the last century, had been constructed in the style of a Scottish castle with granite blocks and Gothic windows. As the roof
would be just as old as the house itself, it would have to be repaired
now and then and a roofer would have to be sent up for this
This roofer, however, and here the story would take a turn
towards the sinister, this roofer would never be seen again. A
search would be made for him, probably the very same evening,
but to no avail. In fact, the second roofer to climb up on the roof
would not come back either and when finally the master roofer
himself climbed up, he, too, would never be seen again. Now nobody
would dare to go up on the roof any more; a plane would be flown
over it, but from above everything would look normal. No one
would be able to account for the disappearance of the three roofers;
the bravest would venture as far as the attic and would not find
anything there either, no hiding place, no refuge; and also round
about the country house not one indication would be found of
someone having fallen down. A part of the equipment which the
first roofer had taken with him, would still be in the attic underneath the sky-light from which he had stepped out onto the roof,
but the rope, to which he had tied himself, would not be visible anywhere on the roof.
Were I to hear of such an event, I would be able to explain it
immediately; I perceive very clearly what happened there.
85 The roofer, who has climbed onto the roof through the sky-light,
first secures himself by attaching to the inside of the sky-light a rope
which he knots around his waist, as it is a very steep part of the
roof which he is to repair. Then he sets out for the damaged spot
which lies obliquely below him, in order to have a closer look at it
before starting his work. But before he gets down there, he feels
a jerk and notices that the rope is already quite tight. That surprises him because he had thought it to be long enough and he
glances back. He then perceives that the rope only got caught, on
a little turret actually, which projects from the roof. He takes two
steps back and loosens the rope from the turret. At this time it
strikes him that he had overlooked the turret before; it looks like a
chimney but is too small to be one; then it's probably one of these
ornamental chimneys which can sometimes be found on this kind
of roof. Strangely enough an oval, slightly convex picture is mounted
on the turret on the side facing the roof; it shows on a brownish
background a brownish man with a moustache and a stand-up
collar, and underneath it in cursive letters the inscription "II Dot-
tore." The roofer has never seen this before, and it isn't surprising
that he stands for a while examining this picture. Then he is seen
shaking his head and can be distinctly heard clearing his throat
before descending again to the damaged spot. Now he has reached
it and looks it over. Altogether eight tiles are missing; they probably
slid down the roof and fell in the garden which can easily happen
in stormy weather. But then he notices that there are still pieces of
the top row — there are two rows of four tiles each — underneath
the tiles just above them, that therefore the top tiles have been
broken off, and that consequently an object must evidently have
fallen onto this part of the roof. He now looks down into the hole
expecting to see in the attic a big stone or some other missile which
would have caused this break. It takes a while for his eyes to get
used to the darkness of the attic; then he sees an apple lying on the
floor and around it some pieces of tile. He peers into every corner
of the loft, but he doesn't see anything but this apple. He can't
imagine that an apple could have such results; it also seems unlikely
to him that someone could have thrown this apple so high up;
besides the apple doesn't appear to be at all bruised. When he
retracts his head from the hole, he hears rustling above him, looks
up and sees something he hasn't noticed before, an apple tree on
the ridge of the roof. Now he is nonplussed. How could he have
missed that? He decides to climb up to the ridge of the roof, where,
86 as soon as he arrives, he immediately feels the trunk of the apple
tree and ascertains that it is a real tree. He also perceives that its
roots disappear in the tiles as if they were earth, and no tile is fractured or shows even a fissure as is known to happen to walls in
which a tree has taken root. The roofer also notices that the tree
has more apples; he reaches for one of them which hangs a little
lower, misses it and slips; he barely manages to hang on to the trunk
shaking it so violently that apples are falling from all the branches
and each apple hitting the roof breaks a hole in the tiles and disappears into the attic. The roofer is scared, he clings to the trunk
with one arm, crouches on the ridge of the roof and looks around
him — now the whole roof is riddled with holes and it's his fault.
He wonders what to do and decides that he will have to notify the
house owner of this incident, but that he will first try and get one
of the apples to see why they have the force to break roof tiles. But
when he is about to climb down to the sky-light, the roof appears
so steep to him as no roof ever before; he sees how his rope hangs
down from the sky-light and notices that his whole body is trembling. He hugs the tree with both arms, goes to sleep in this position and dreams that he is a roofer.
In the evening the second roofer pokes his head through the
same sky-light out of which the first has climbed in the morning.
He finds the rope of the first roofer attached to the inside of the
sky-light, follows the rope with his eyes and sees that its end is lying
by the gutter. He makes sure that the rope is firmly attached, climbs
out onto the roof and, holding the rope, descends to the gutter,
leans over a little and looks down; but there is no broken body lying
anywhere on the ground. He discovers the damaged spot, carefully
pulls himself up to it on the rope, and peers through the hole into
the attic. What he sees now, he has never seen before. His heart
begins to beat faster, he feels a pressure in his head, his cheeks get
flushed, and he perceives that his member is swelling up. He can't
look away, he even wants to go down there, but as he is about to
climb through the hole, he notices that it isn't a hole at all, but
that it is covered with tiles just like the rest of the roof, with the
difference that a little piece in the centre of each tile is actually
glass, and an eye which looks up at him is inserted in this glass.
Now he also notices that he has lost his trousers and is standing
there only in his shirt; he doesn't even have any underwear on. He
tries to draw his shirt between his legs, but it's too short for that;
with his left hand he covers his member which immediately becomes
87 limp again. Now he tries to return to the sky-light as quickly as
possible; only now does it strike him that in almost every tile an
eye is inserted. He keeps looking around for his trousers but can't
discover them. On his return to the sky-light he notices that the rope
he has been holding onto was attached to a candle which has burnt
down very quickly and which, now that he is holding on to the
edge of the sky-light, has reached the point where the rope was tied
around it; the wax melts and the rope drops down into the abyss.
Behind the candle he observes the inquring faces of the house owner
and his wife who cover their eyes with their hands when he appears.
Moaning with rage, the roofer jumps with long and dangerous leaps
across to the main chimney in order to get out of their sight. He
isn't particularly surprised to find behind the chimney a small pond
with some mandarin ducks swimming noiselessly around on it and
with a fisherman standing on the other shore who is casting for goldfish the size of cabin trunks which can be seen gleaming at the
bottom of the pond. He takes off his shirt and wraps it around his
waist like a loin-cloth while the fisherman gives him a friendly nod
and calls across to him: "This evening!" Then he falls asleep at
the foot of a willow and dreams that he is a roofer who is looking
for another roofer.
The master roofer, whose head emerges from the skylight only
after dusk, is surprised by the brightness which still prevails up here
and turns his flashlight off. He sees in front of him a narrow well-
trodden path which leads to a news-stand. He hesitates at first and
then sees no reason why there shouldn't be a news-stand here,
climbs onto the roof and walks to the news-stand down the path
which is covered with fine glass splinters. A woman, whose age is
very hard to determine, is sitting in the news-stand; her bearing
appears senile, but her face is unwrinkled. When the master roofer
speaks to her, she doesn't look up, but keeps on taking small gloves
out of a box placed in front of her and throwing them into a big
pot standing next to her. When the master roofer speaks to her
again, louder this time and with greater determination, she looks
up and gazes at him. "I suppose you want earthighs?" she asks him.
"No," the master roofer replies and is about to continue, however
the woman says: "But I only have earthighs." "What are ear-
thighs?" the master asks, his curiosity aroused. "Don't worry, you'll
find out," answers the woman and again bends down to her gloves.
The master roofer addresses her again and asks about his two
roofers, but the woman doesn't look up any more, not even when the master takes her by the shoulders. The master roofer looks
around and perceives that he is in a mountainous region; rocky
peaks are towering up but are all covered with tiles; further back
he even notices a waterfall. But the path stops here at the newsstand; it doesn't seem possible to travel over the peaks, they don't
have any barbs or snow fences either, and so he tries to address the
woman once more. As he doesn't succeed, he reaches for an illustrated magazine which lies on the counter and leafs through it to
fill in time. It's very old; on one page Kaiser Wilhelm is depicted
visiting Palestine, and other pictures show gold rush towns in
America with some figures loaded down with tools in large huts.
On one of the last pages two men are portrayed who have committed a crime and have now been sentenced to death. Before reading on to find out what the nature of their crime was, the master
recognizes his two roofers in these two men and immediately turns
the page. On the next page, however, there is a picture of the
executioner who will put the two to death, and in the executioner
the master recognizes himself. Hurriedly he closes the magazine and
is about to return it, when he sees that in the meantime the newsstand has been closed; the mountain peaks have become covered
with a layer of ice and the return route is cut off by a wolf-hound
carrying an iron bar in its teeth.
Translated from the Dutch by William Vandelft
But then that also happened that would have happened
had we remained air become
earth or only a lighted statue
or what once was or could have been
for instance
the tree makes a forest
the forest that causes wind
the light that caresses waste
the time that runs parallel to light
and then you think a great deal is squandered a great deal lost
in making, meat is
against blood, page
after page turns, decays, immortalizes itself
momentarily into truth and hardly
rustles any more,
falls completely silent
and it blows again
and while the leaves grow silently
branches contorting unleaf themselves
trees unbranching uproot themselves
houses go elsewhere to live
beds deeper in the ground become softer
you think
if you could translate everything in life
something ought to be made
that lies still for a moment
for instance
the dirty nail scratches open the clean wound
make a photograph of that before
he calls out something and bleeds to death —
This is not nice
this is not unreadable
this is not for children
this is no secret language
this does not elevate the people
this is the inside
of your outside door, surely you know
this: your hand
grows crooked with the latch
on the mat under your feet
the daily the weekly the monthly
the annual review
it snows in the heat
it dies in peace, letters
have eaten everything, nothing
is not true, nothing is past, nothing
is wasted —
Gerrit Kouwenaar was born in 1923 and has published five volumes of poetry.
These are from his latest book entitled Landscape and Other Happenings.
Translated by William Vandelft
by your third year
by the fifth
by seven
the eyes of your mother
by ten
that vacation
by thirteen
is in the history books
by sixteen
the naked ape, the dinosaur, the cell
or was it that evening with his first girl?
by twenty
the stars
by thirty
an optic fraud
by seventy
very far away — in front of you
a headland in the haze
(very freely after Tunikawa Shuntaro)
J. C. Van Schagen was born in 1891. This poem is from his collected works
entitled Fool's Wisdom.
Translated from the Dutch by William Vandelft and Charles Lillard
It was so hot that children like sauna bathers
were intoxicated with whiskey-soaked breadcrusts
that the men coming home from work in the evening
stepped out of their hides
and lip read    stunned.
whole families sat
armed with leaf shades
on the roof.
they took each other's word
at holy communion.
bread went, speaking humbly on each lip,
around the street.
out of a salty guitar
a carpenter drank water.
people danced with their shadows,
contented patriarchs swaddled
their toes with tree roots.
the housegods chirped behind the hearth plate,
the muse had two clearly palpable breasts.
93 but from the high palace
a fanatic arm rose as usual toward the clouds
and in the calm
a powerful broom began to sweep the square.
around the table
standing ready for departure,
the family with coppergreen lips
followed the prayer of the housefather:
they were surrounded again by unexplainable
house-high statues of troopers and horses.
Jacques Hamelink was born in 1939 and is one of the leading Dutch postwar
literary figures to emerge to international significance. His works have been
translated into French, German, Danish, Swedish, and Spanish. The poet and
translator are presently collaborating on the first English translation of his
with your arm in the corral
what the other does not know
grasping in thin air
the heaviness that comes
with its feet tied
what the mouth can do
in any given situation
speaking in a springtime of words
expecting the trees to bare themselves
reach out for a branch
you cannot hear its screams
that are silence
must it speak to you as a trumpet
pushing you back — the space
with your ear cocked to the ground
can you hear the echo
rejoicing in hymns
the ears of old men
hang like wasted jewelry
think of the space
that must be made for them
they are deaf
the space must be made
in them — a vacuum
behind ice eyes
where the echo rebounds.
The cry of help
and what is the return
what is the balance balance
must be paid
paid like any other
in blood blood
answers to blood
make it mine mine.
One reeking in silence
that permeates like a cloud of rain
permeates no smell of spring flowers
no smell of an autumn must.
She communicates the depth of a solstice
be it winter
it is like an echo
of snowdrifts in mountain passes
the depth of it soft like a slow coma
(being but an uncertainty of waking)
and what it takes.
William Vandelft was born in 1949 in Katwijk, Holland. He is presently a
student in the Creative Writing Department at the University of British
96 Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972), winner of the 1968 Nobel Prize for Literature, is noted for themes dealing with human love in interplay with nature. This
story from Novels Held in the Hand (1969) was written in 1940.
Terry Nabata is a graduate of the Creative Writing Department of the University of British Columbia. He is currently furthering his study of Japanese
and Chinese Language and Literature.
Translated from the Japanese by Terry Nabata
"Whoosh," the earth shuddered. The house shook and the window-
glass trembled.
"There it goes!" Sakio shouted and rushed out to the veranda.
From the woods the pheasants cried shrilly.
Summer was beginning with quite a large eruption of Mount
Asama. In the smoke, rising column-like from the mouth, you could
see firework colours. Lightning? Or burning stones?
Sakio's father and mother remained quietly seated on the sofa
in the house watching the eruption of the volcano. They didn't go
to the veranda. There was a good view of Mount Asama through
the window.
In Karizawa one of the criteria of land value is the quality of the
view of the mountain. It is customary for guests who visit the
cottages in the area to say, "I have seen the mountain."
Within human memory, this mountain has been alternately
clothed by cloud or laid bare and since its skin is naked because of
its activity, the mountain's colour varies with the season and changes
with the passage of time.
Sakio's cottage faced south, but the woods on the west side had
been cleared, since that side afforded a view of Mount Asama. Only
a solitary elm stood to block the afternoon sun.
Around the tree, unencumbered by any other growth, the tips of
the branches bent this way or that, growing freely, and because it
stood with nothing for comparison, it seemed larger than the house.
Its delicate leaves would quiver with the slightest of breezes.
During his childhood, with fairytale naivete, Sakio cherished the
elm tree, a green umbrella of happiness. At the foot of its trunk
there was always a rattan chair. While he was held by his mother,
who liked sitting in that chair, he would allow the light which
seeped through the back of the leaves to wash his face in green
97 shadow. A childhood memory. And Sakio also remembered from
his childhood that his parents used to laugh, because every time
Mount Asama erupted, he would run out to the veranda. He himself didn't know why he did it.
The veranda of his house ran along the south and around the
west side facing the volcano. The elm tree was in the west, but
slightly south of the mountain.
An evening moon was up when Sakio rushed out.
It was clear to the far horizon in this moonlight and the smoke
lifted its head in the deep quiet sky. It was as though gigantic
masses of jet black rock were spilling over one another. The earth
had flexed its mighty biceps.
Immediately after the explosion, the smoke looked as if some
terrifying force had fused it into a solid body. But after a while, it
would ascend to a height of several thousand metres and the ashes
would spread for miles around. All this force released from the
cannon mouth of the earth. Nothing else could demonstrate power
like this. Different from a typhoon or a tidal wave, a volcano was
a sudden block of power.
Those photographers attempting to take pictures of eruptions of
Mount Asama would compete to catch the exact moment or the
one immediately after the eruption, and Sakio was the same. If the
smoke had risen to its limit, or spread out, or trailed off to the side
he did not feel as though he had seen the real eruption.
In this case, the tension was already slackening, and the fascination diminishing. The lightning-like sparks in the smoke had disappeared. At the moment of the explosion, overcome by a shock of
excitement, you forget fear, but by the time the smoke comes invading the sky overhead, only the fear remains. When confronted by
the great power of nature, it is possible to react with power, but
in the end, perhaps all that's left is weakness.
Because Sakio rushed out with the first sound of the explosion he
expected to see the ideal eruption.
He still had the feeling of massive rocklike smoke heavy in the
evening sky.
Since it was still evening, of course many people were watching,
but an intense loneliness closed in on Sakio as if no-one else but
himself were watching.
In a desolate uninhabited world, the earth erupts. Then suddenly,
the silence of a snowfield.
Sakio had put his arm around the wooden post of the veranda
98 and was studying the volcano. The jet of smoke twisted and braided
itself. The smoke appeared to be moving sluggishly but actually it
was ascending at twenty metres per second. In one minute that was
more than a thousand metres.
Fortunately, since there was no wind, it went up in a straight
cloud. Its head was opening up like an umbrella or mushroom, starting to spread across the sky. It began to creep into the sky over
Sakio's head.
Since the moon was in the east, the smoke drifting from the west
met twilight like a sash of mist.
The thick column of smoke crumbled. Sakio felt something fearful descending from the clouds of dim light. At exactly that moment
Hiroko's hand lightly brushed Sakio's shoulder. Sakio was so
absorbed in watching the volcano that he mistook her scent for that
of the eruption.
He was startled, feeling that Hiroko's scent was overpowering
him. His shoulders trembled.
Hiroko said, "It's frightening," and she quietly came close enough
to touch his thoughts.
"Huh. It's not frightening." Sakio felt a false note in his voice
and looked down.
The earth was dark although the moonlight spilled faintly
through the thick broad-leaved thickets into the surrounding woods
where the pheasants cried out shrilly.
Again Sakio looked at the sky.
"Isn't it frightening?" Hiroko whispered again.
The cloud of black smoke obstructed the moonlight, starting to
hang down like a curtain of ill omen.
"It's not frightening," Sakio answered brusquely.
"Really?" she said. "I've been told that you like volcanic
"It's not exactly that I like them."
"Well, just now your mother said so. She laughed and said,
'Flying out like that, such a strange boy'." Hiroko spoke in the manner of a child. Or perhaps it was a lover's tone of voice.
Hiroko was startled by the eruption. A fear that she wasn't even
aware of made her particularly feminine.
Sakio remained silent.
The girlish sweetness of Hiroko's voice touched him. It made
him sad. Something from his childhood, some remembrance was
conjured up in his mind.
99 Hiroko put her finger on Sakio's shoulder as if to give a sign and
said, "Let's go inside."
"Well," Sakio said but did not move.
"How long are you going to look at this? It's a kind of obsession
isn't it?" But then, Hiroko had also lapsed into immobility,
"Your mother is a bit unconventional," she said smiling a little.
"I thought that your mother was watching me for a while when
she said, 'You got suntanned' as if in admiration. 'If your mother
were around, I guess she wouldn't let you do a thing like tennis,'
she said. She was talking about my mother. That's why I came out
to the veranda. I was startled as though something wrong had been
said . . . but it was wrong of me to have come out and left her there.
It's embarrassing, so let's go in together."
"When did your mother die?"
"Mother?" she answered with her finger on his shoulder. "In my
seventh year. The year I entered primary school. Because I was
born before April."
Sakio felt the softness of Hiroko's finger. It burned his shoulder.
Because Sakio was only wearing a light summer shirt, he felt
Hiroko's finger was touching his bones and he blushed.
"I wonder if your mother and father find my story so surprising?"
she continued.
Sakio didn't answer. He couldn't answer. He had to shake off
his boyish shyness.
"They seemed quite surprised. Maybe I should have come and
talked to them."
Again Sakio was silent. He felt a rising resentment toward
Hiroko. Then they heard the sounds of stones falling on the roof. It
was like hailstones only hollower.
"Oh my." Hiroko clutched Sakio's shoulder. "Oh that's terrible."
The sound came faster. Small stones tumbled over the roof and
pelted the broad leaves of the trees.
"It's dangerous, Sakio," she said trying to draw back, though
Sakio resisted, saying:
"No, it's OK. Just coarse volcanic ash."
"Ash? No, not ash, but rocks."
"No. This size is still called volcanic ash. Up to three millimetres
it is called ash."
"Not really . . ." Hiroko was exasperated.
There was a growing threat on the roof and in the woods.
ioo Because they were irregular, the sounds of falling were all the more
ominous. She cowered and became tense.
"Sakio! Sakio!" his mother's voice was heard calling.
"Sakio!" Hiroko said, almost shouting, putting her other arm
on his shoulders, almost pushing him down, "Really, it's dangerous."
"It's OK," he said, forcefully shaking himself loose.
"My! You're strange," she staggered and moving a little, looked
at Sakio's face. "Sakio, you're crying. Why?"
As she spoke, Sakio blinked and he couldn't hold back his tears.
They flowed down his cheek.
Hiroko reached for his shoulder again.
"Why? I'm sorry, have I done something wrong?"
"It's not that."
"What's making you sad, then?"
"I'm not sad."
"Why then?"
He didn't even know himself why he was crying. The moment he
heard the stones fall, some kind of support was suddenly removed.
This was totally unexpected to Hiroko. Some purity in the boy
came through, but she also felt that this stemmed from the unpleasant selfishness of a boy of fourteen or fifteen. Feeling it burdensome, she stood close to Sakio.
"Ashes fell," Sakio said.
Leaves started to fall with a pattering sound.
The sound of the small stones was already infrequent.
"Yes, ashes fell, but it's OK now."
"And what about you, you're OK?"
Without answering and looking at the sky, "They probably fell
a long way, didn't they?"
Muddied with a heavy ash coloured mist, the moonlight night
had a tiring gloom. The two people stopped hearing the sound of
ash falling in the woods.
"The rustling sound is nice, isn't it?" Hiroko said in a small voice
and while studying Sakio's face. "So, I'll be going. You've stopped
Sakio was silent.
Hiroko, from outside the window, waved goodbye to Sakio's
The mother came out to the veranda trying to prevent her from
leaving till the ashes had stopped falling.
IOI "Mother, the umbrella," Sakio said.
"Oh, yes," and the mother called the maid, asking her to fetch
the umbrella.
"Mother, here's one for you."
"No, Sakio you see her home, please."
"No no, I'm fine, it's OK," Hiroko said as she entered the shrub
garden and went down the hill.
Sakio followed her.
At the sound of footsteps, she waited under a large walnut tree.
"Thanks. As far as the town?" she asked, as she covered Sakio
with the umbrella. "It seems we don't need the umbrella."
"I'll hold it."
"It's OK."
"I'll hold it."
"All right."
She passed Sakio the umbrella.
"Last summer when there was a large eruption I put this umbrella
upside down and left it in the garden."
"Did it collect volcanic ash?"
"Yes. It amounted to about a third of a bucket."
While walking and talking, Hiroko again put her arm around
Sakio's shoulder.
With only one umbrella this way of walking was the best, but
Sakio fell completely silent.
Hiroko said gently, "What's the matter? Are you sad again?"
When they crossed a bridge from the path in the woods, rays
from the hazy moon were falling on the wide road.
"Hiroko, why are you going to get married?" said Sakio in a
Hiroko was startled but starting a light laugh replied, "Well, is
it so strange for me to get married?"
"I mean, it's someone you don't know," Sakio said and in a
trembling voice continued, "although there are so many people
who like you ... I know them."
"To a person I don't know well?" Hiroko said to herself as if
singing, and parroting his words. "That's the way it goes."
"I can't stand this. It's strange to me," he said as if in anger,
shrugging his shoulders. He shook off her hand.
He thought it was not permissible for the bride-to-be to casually
put her arm around his shoulders.
102 Tetsuo Ando was born in 1929 and graduated with a B.A. from Hirosaki University in 1954. After being a high school English teacher, he is now an assistant
professor at Hachinohe Technical College, Hachinohe, Japan.
Translated from the Japanese by Tetsuo Ando
She received a letter from her husband. Two years before, having tired of her, he had disappeared from their home. The letter
bore the postmark of a distant place and said:
"Do not let our child play handball. The sound of the ball beats
upon my ears and strikes against my heart."
So she took the ball away from her nine-year-old daughter.
Soon another letter came, bearing the postmark of a different
place. It said:
"Do not let our child wear shoes to school. The sound of them
bothers my ears and jolts my heart." So the daughter was told she
must wear soft sandals now instead of shoes, but she cried bitterly
and refused to go to school any more.
A month later a third letter came. This time the handwriting
showed some evidence of the writer's sudden senile deterioration.
Again the letter admonished:
"Do not let our child eat from a china rice-bowl. The sound
grates on my ears and will tear my heart to pieces."
So the mother fed her daughter with her own chopsticks, making
no noise and treating her like a very small child. It reminded her
of those happy years when the parents and their child of three lived
together in harmony.
But the girl took her rice-bowl out of the cupboard, without her
mother's permission. Seeing this, the mother snatched the bowl, and
hurled it fiercely against the garden-stone. The sound was like the
bursting of her husband's heart. The mother, suddenly arching her
eyebrows, flung her own bowl to the ground. Was this also the
sound of her husband's heart being torn to pieces? She then pushed
the dining table violently out into the garden. That horrible sound
103 — what was it? She flung herself at the wall, striking it with her
fists. Then she hurled herself at the sliding door like a spear, and
tumbled down on the other side. What was that sound?
The daughter, alarmed by this, gave a wild cry of "Mother,
mother!" and clung to her mother's body only to receive a resounding slap on the face. Oh, the sound!
Like an echo of this slap, another letter came from yet another
faraway place, different from any of the previous ones. It said:
"You two are to make no sound at all; stop the sound of the
doors and even the sound of your breathing. Stop the ticking of the
wall clock, I tell you!"
"You two, you two!" she muttered to herself with tears falling
in large drops. Then she no longer made a sound. Even the slightest
sound was forever stilled in the house — both mother and daughter
were dead!
But the strangest thing of all was that her husband was found
dead beside them!
What I leave behind follows
so closely my shadow has two heads;
crawls in my shoes/climbs my legs;
The leaves bend as if a weight
had passed, the night's black robes
rustle, a sound like glass mice
moving their small feet
What are you
a face like sunrise
a name carved on the wind
a burnt heart branding me
If I could lie on my back,
a handprint on the grass,
fingers of gravity pressing me;
watch earth move/ sky turning,
perhaps then it would leave;
but this hump on my back,
the mind's blind camel,
even when I lie flat it lifts me
from the ground
thinking the sky is its desert
Susan Policoff graduated from the State University of New York at Albany
in 1967 and is currently living on a farm in Michigan. Her work has appeared
in a number of literary magazines.
as if the lost land could matter, bear heed, or fruit, or better yet,
those amber chains, silencing my heart, my song wildly fertile
in this stone creeping rage. ... as if lost land could shelter, ease
a violet trembling down waters, shaking all vengence to a cloud,
pale enough at afternoon, remembering only the rain, fog bending
my will, willow chute and this other one left in scorn, this other
solace bent out of shape, reaching a threshold of pain no one
has ever endured. . . . captured in waves, beach dirt seeming so
pure, amber hearted stalks, and a mint growing beside the house,
known fertile whisperings of land locking in the swift rapids, the
sheltering igloo another has built, stolen from wastes he has
seen mirrors, tines, bells without tone, records, disks of burnished
metal, a host of pigeons gathering crumbs, ground meat papers
in wind, hollow out my vengence, hollow away sound, sight,
miracle ice deluding all cousins to partake: as if the land lost has
vengence. as if heart and field, as if this metering night has
another twine, another disk to burnish curious hope, to shelter
a thread without whispering others, a dark clear shape, born under
rock gravely sown, under cannibal tone, lingering by the
swift new shades.
as if these chains bend meat, know a juice so fragrant, no man
has borne a basket, ambling fruit along the dust, searching only
a grain another man leaving from fields' wild darkness, stoops a
quartz grain for child, a quartz new grain washed in a thousand
rains, a thousand lurking ways of whispering dirt ... as if new
rains have those pines sheltered, darkly remembered in my
youth cove, in my startling whisper, cherished a tine before rumble
has made it cream, before another host has whispered there, leaving
trails, songs, beings of another name, a trace, a trail leading
land aching my soul has diith, a dirt bearing my wings
to tarnished earth.
106 as if these chains sun streaming from my wings, hollow another
nest, another search along the country, valley echoing my only stop,
the time when youth had blanket fever, dirt gathering a shining
comb, cock crowing at the seepage vein, road falling, faltering
a mine of growing wisdom all along the way . .. pines, lilies
out of sight and this starkness greets a barren road, a stone
bending form to crystal flame another night, another day
no man has ever seen.
Andrea Moorhead is editor of Osiris, an international journal. She is the
author of two volumes of poetry: Iris (1970) and Morganstall (1971) (Fiddle-
head Poetry Books). Her poems have appeared in numerous North American
and French reviews. She is currently working on a series of essays on modern
French poetry.
The fire rages and rages in my ears.
My eyes see the tangled weeping of men and animals
Cover the sparse sacred tree.
Stones ache in my palms. Birds strain in the sky of my chest.
I hear the prayers and songs men have invented —
See the roads paved from town to scattered town —
While I strive, day after day, to draw the perfect message on water,
Or spend nights in the absence of imperfect words.
I hear The Voice rise from my own heart;
And I play at locating demons in the bowels of lambs.
Men who come to me for warnings or answers
Would do best to rip open my stomach.
There lies my murderer, whom I have long acknowledged.
It is his singing of my destruction, of the knife at my throat,
That causes me to scream these trance-like lies.
It is time to understand our misunderstanding.
St-John Simmons was born in Vancouver in 1947. He is a graduate of the
Creative Writing Department, University of British Columbia. He is presently
teaching Creative Writing and Modern Poetry. His work has been published in
magazines in Canada, England, Australia and the U.S.A. and in Contemporary
Poetry of British Columbia. It has been broadcast on C.B.C. "Anthology".
108 Guillermo Meneses is a Venezuelan who has been writing since 1930. He is
the author of novels, including La misa de Arlequin, and of numerous stories.
"Destiny is a Forgotten God" is drawn from the collection Diez Cuentos (1968),
which spans his career. As "El destino es un dios olvidado," the story was published in 1958.
Charles M. Sphar is a graduate student in English at New Mexico State
University. He writes fiction of his own and has been working at translation
from Spanish for some time.
Translated from the Spanish by Charles M. Sphar
Sprawled on a matting of delicate fibers, quiet between the sheets
that the servant Bravo brought him, the Indian, Vencido, reviews
his memories, collects himself in the stages of his own existence,
hides in the corners of his childhood and youth.
The images of the gods are with him in absolute clarity, as if he
still listened to the words of the old men who guided his first steps
over the earth, as if he looked at the gestures of the priests, the
hand dyed in blood from his sacrifices laid out near the sacred
figures: feathers of the wind, blue stone of water, red tongue of
fire, restless and fervent emerald of the ancestral lizard.
All those signs come back to him clear and intact, as if he never
had forgotten them, as if they had been a permanent kernel of life
and not an ornament of thought, a line invented by the echo of
respected voices.
He hasn't been able to sleep for a long time, although neither
can he affirm that he is awake. Occasionally they have given him
herb juices to drink which lie pooled in the hollows of his eyes and
in the back of his head. The pain that the torture has left him
makes the relief of activity impossible, and so he has passed many
days dozing, nevertheless ready to observe closely the shadows
approaching from the dark world where his steps fall.
Some weeks ago Bravo came, the servant who was always a
dependable guardian, friend, sometimes brother, son of the slave
109 woman who liked to adorn herself with feathers, she who knew how
to cook ointments and prepare delicate dishes; she who — at times
— was called to share the father's bed.
Bravo came to wash his body, to care for him. He brought
clothes, water, a small jar full of broth from the herbs his mother
had boiled and poultices to close the wounds and prevent the putrefaction of a man's flesh: the remedy that makes the suffering skin
clean and healthy.
Bravo washed him with great care while speaking words of rage
and assured him of a quick return to the exercise of his power, to
the right to pronounce the words they both believed true. He
encouraged him, saying that nobody orders a prisoner washed only
to give him later to death, that one doesn't make a body clean and
fresh if one wants to break it and hand it over to the forces of night,
to the wings and claws that engender the shadow.
He wanted to dispute these ideas, to say that neither he nor
Bravo knew anything of the customs of the conquerors and that it
was not contradictory for them to believe it necessary to cleanse a
body of its filth and even adorn it with the colours and shines of
diverse clays, of feathers and several metals, with the intention of
offering so luxurious a victim to that absurd god formed by two
crossed pieces of wood.
So he wanted to say, but the effort necessary to form the words
was lacking. He was limited to smiling and complaining a little,
when Bravo, passing the moist cloth over his flesh, accidentally
grazed the edges of the inflamed wound, with its yellow flower of
pus over the red cleft where the blood had dried.
A painful burning sprang from the torn place (a little below his
left nipple, as if it would open the way for the red fountain) and
he had to bite his tongue so as not to cry for mercy or scream the
incoherencies that men usually let out when their poisoned flesh
is punished.
Bravo said:
— Scream. It's all right. It's your servant and your only friend
who hears you. I swear to you your enemies will pay for everything.
The one who mistreated you yesterday — the one dressed the colour
of tobacco, who seems to be custodian of the god made of crossed
poles — I'm going to tear out his heart and burn it before the
Great Lizard. But first he's going to suffer splinters of gold under
his fingernails, and thistles in the edge of his eyes. He's going to
walk over live coals before his spine is broken. He's going to cry.
no To Vencido, Bravo's ideas seemed trivial. He could give no
significance to those words of honest strength that savored vengeance
and death between the fangs.
Refreshed by the touch of the damp cloths, he spoke to Bravo
with distracted affection: he told him they were all at the mercy of
the conquering enemies and that one could only wait to see whether
anger or compassion would direct the acts of the foreigners who
occupied the city.
Vencido said:
— Remember the Song of the Wind and the Rain. Talk to Fino,
the potter who made me the clay figure adorned with blue stones.
He knows that what is happening is inevitable. For a long time the
priests have said that those who come from the direction of the
dawn will be victorious. The foreigners are the colour of morning,
when the clouds conceal the sun.
Bravo was furious; he said, dry, respectful, and sad:
— The old songs only have force when men have lost their will.
When the heart weakens, thought invents songs.
Bravo restrained his fury and bowed in farewell.
Vencido — wounded leader and prisoner — stayed in the half-
light of the cell, between the damp, lukewarm rags. He feels the
heat as if it were a blanket over his skin. He is fatigued and serene
as if his spirit were barely retained by the limit of his flesh, by the
thin, dark material that covers his muscles. Under his pale and
sallow fingernails, a certain cold indecision.
He thinks he is going to die. The idea of Death doesn't trouble
him. He is sure now that he will die serenely and that his people
will remember for generations the words and gestures that are to
compose his moments of agony. The dark-skinned people will add
those moments to the sacred legends. They will recite the story of
his farewell as a part of the poems narrating the birth of the nation
and the creation of the city. The words he says while the birds of
Death and the flames of Life struggle in his bones will be similar
to those relating the deeds of the ancient gods and the encounter
with the Great Lizard.
The prisoner Vencido thinks he is going to die and prepares
himself. He invents the sound of his farewell; the final, definitive
gestures. They rise over his death like a web suspended in the afternoon breeze, between the fires of dusk.
He wishes to consider the many forms they could give to his
death. If the pale enemies reasoned like the dark-skinned people in
m these matters, his death would be that so often ordered for conquered leaders in war. The priest (in this case, the one in the tobacco-
coloured robe) would slash open a noble door, take his heart, and
burn it in honour of the Great Lizard, who has feather and scale,
anger and agile feet, erect tongue and vigilant eye. For today's conquered people, God would be — nothing more — the two sticks of
wood — a terrible and dark little god in his insignificance.
But something different could happen. There are people who
use their cruelty to design violent rites, games of blood and torture,
people for whom Death must be painful and degrading, full of
redness and black anxiety; people for whom Death is the Great
Prostitute, who asks the price of a man and awaits — dry, hard,
inimical, smiling •— her victory over the desires, the evidence of
sacrifice spilled over her bright belly, joyfully untouched and
Perhaps the conquerors would offer their weary soldiers a spectacle, a festival, a great game, a ritual ceremony. Perhaps they
would present the vanquished as a victim, heat a lance over coals
in the temple, and sink it very gently into his side.
Some time ago events began to resemble his fantasy.
Still living, Vencido nurses his wound, red like a thistle fruit
marking the place where the blood wells up. When the lance neared
his heart, the anguished flesh opened to suck that terrible spasm of
pain and loathing. He believes that he maintained a look of serene
arrogance, revealing his contempt for those who caused him such
ignoble pain. Surely it's true. If he hadn't acted as a leader deserving respect, Bravo wouldn't have come to care for him and to
demonstrate his rage, as is only done between friends.
(The foreigners discussed, it seems, the method of torture applicable to a conquered leader. They didn't continue the method of
the lance. Vencido didn't know if they considered that system
execrable, or too little charged with pain, or incompatible with the
status of a warrior and magistrate. He felt he understood the
foreigners' belief that they had made one of their own gods suffer
the torment of the lance before death: he thought he understood
that god to be the same one whose symbol is the two pieces of
Vencido, prisoner, reflects on various final phrases appropriate to
the different possible forms of his death.
He thinks he will know how to die. And he doubts that he has
lived in an exemplary manner. He would hope for his works of
112 government — the city's aqueduct, the organization of the ceramic
workshop, the statues made by those who work the stone, the collection of the old songs and the ordering of the figures of the gods and
the forefathers, the setting of the prices in the markets and fairs —
to be respected equally with his last voice.
He is tranquil and tired.
After Bravo's ministrations the images that passed from the certainty of dream to the uncertain shadow of a half-vigil have gone:
the blue stone of the water, the tongues of fire, the feathers of the
wind, the scale of the Lizard painted with mud, have ended their
journey in Vencido's thoughts.
Those hairy figures of monkeys that played with charred sticks
and made a sliver of stone dance between their long black fingers
have vanished too; the laughing monkeys that demonstrated,
balanced on the point of a thread, a crystal candlestick filled with
light, like the marketplace in daylight, like the lake in the afternoon, like the sky in the gold of the sun, like a drop of water on
the edge of a leaf, like a live coal, like any crystal.
Vencido is tired, almost happy at times. He would happily chant
some of the old songs, but the words escape from his mouth and he
only says wind, water, rock, sand, while thinking of the primitive
city, the one his forebears founded beside the lagoon, in the place
where the green lizards congregated around the great emerald of
the ancestral lizard.
When Bravo came to wash his wounds in the prison, he spoke to
him of vengeance and triumph. His somnolent rest was clarifying
the figures of the gods, of the restless demons of the fever, of the
dancing monkeys that played with the lights of the world and were
mockery and pain inside his own ruined body.
Vencido didn't know how much time had passed during the
half-light of the dream while his flesh was closing over the lance
Every night a raving flower of cries arose from his weariness, a
burning arrow-wound of uproar.
It seemed that in some remote district (in his opinion, where the
merchants from the South reunite, those who sell feathers and fangs
of wild beasts and the green stones from which are carved the
lizards of the priests' necklaces; those who offer snake venoms and
various oils and herbs that cure or sicken) a great festival had been
initiated, an intense reunion of those who excite the people, dressed
in colours like a bird, like a ceramic plate, like a mound of fruit,
"3 like a rain of stars, like a flaming stone fallen in the waters of the
Vencido had the impression that a great festival had begun and
that, probably, the tumultuous joy of the sellers had degenerated
into quarreling and clamour. (The men from the South usually
cause disagreeable scenes of drunkenness and disorder when they
come to the city to sell their mysteries and to carry away the memory
of a night. The southerners argue and talk; they don't understand
the seriousness of the city people; they don't know how to remove
the knife in silence or wound without speaking.)
As if in secret correspondence with the noise from outside, the
prison is full of movements and whispers and the clash of irons.
The festival (Vencido's heart was happy for the first time in a long
time and his resolve was hardened) was in reality combat, and the
foreign conquerors were restless with fear and anxiety. He heard the
cry of their arms; the guards ran from side to side responding to
different orders. The warrior with the face of a red-haired monkey
stopped before the door of the cell and said to Vencido:
— Look at me well. So you know me and can say that I never
caused you harm.
Voices and lights interrupted the world for a long time. There
were fires (a flame winked even in the shadow of the cell) and the
shout grew and scattered only to rise again in distant places. A long
time passed as a great fire of heat and noise crumbled into isolated
fires. Toward daybreak, there was only a small flame that burned
here and there among the ashes of the stillness.
With the first light of day, quietness. A silence so intense that it
contained — in a minimum of its enormous quiet — the fall of a
drop of water. It made him thirsty.
Soon armed men could be heard approaching. The invaders
shouted again, but there was no clash nor combat; merely, from
time to time, a sigh of pain, a moan restrained by willpower. In his
anxiety Vencido swells with pride that his people can curb the edge
of their rage until time to thrust it into the enemy. A voice barely
louder than a conversation between friends says that a foreigner
has died. Vencido sharpens his hearing for a murmur from outside,
as he strains his eyes to catch the weak light that is the echo of
morning between the walls of his jail.
The enemy soldiers returned to the prison. Two men forcibly
entered Vencido's cell. A little later the voice of Fino — the artisan
who makes the jars of red earth — painted his figure in memory.
114 Fino said:
— We are conquered.
It was natural for a man like Fino to affirm so evident a truth,
a truth that someone else would try to deny. The one who replied
must have been a boy engaged in his first games of war:
— He who accepts his defeat is the conquered one.
Fino insisted tranquilly:
-—■ I say conquered. Not dead.
Fino knows how to speak; for a while he recites the ancient poems
while his fingers give form to the clay jars and plates, reddening
with eternal designs: with the signs of the gods.
Before the door, illuminated by a big flame, paused the enemy
who looks like a red monkey. With his right hand he touched his
forehead, his chest, his left shoulder, his right shoulder, as if covered
with the absurd image of that object they worship: the two crossed
poles. He looked deep inside, scrutinizing the cell where the three
shadows sprawled on the floor could barely be distinguished. The
new prisoners smelled of bloody sorrow, of sweaty pain. The red
monkey spat; he uttered some insult between the bars. The three
betrayed shadows kept still.
— What has happened? — asked Vencido.
Fino understood who was asking the question.
— It happened, Sefior. We forget for an instant that we are
conquered slaves.
—■ I am a warrior — said the other shadow — and I will die in
combat for the right to vanish in the sunlight. But why do you
say "sefior"?
Fino replied:
— Because he is our only Sefior, our only God.
A great sadness filled the darkness of the cell. The hearts of the
wounded coincided with the distant drop of water in the stillness
of the jail, in the silence of the city.
— Pardon me, pardon me. I didn't know — said the warrior.
— There is no god — said Vencido.
— Not everyone thinks the same — insisted the young voice.
It was the bitterest reproach. The boy didn't accept that Vencido
denied himself and sought to abdicate his position. When Vencido
asked about Bravo, the young voice answered with displeasure:
—He was fighting, like everybody. Ready to die, like everybody.
For believing that there is a God.
— I am wounded and a prisoner — said Vencido.
"5 — Bravo is dead. But he was our leader for an hour and in that
hour the victory was ours, and Bravo had time to offer the Great
Lizard the heart of the foreign God's guardian, who dared to insult
you. He carried the little brown-robed man to the altar of the Lizard.
Now, Bravo is dead and his body sustains the birds that thrive on
putrid flesh. They have hanged him in the middle of the plaza.
Fino interrupted:
— These men are strange. They don't celebrate sacrifices. They
smash, destroy, shame, and expose the corpses in the plaza.
— We are alone. The friendly cities have been conquered.
— We need a leader. A true leader. The one who knew how to
conquer from the shore of Death.
Vencido conceded:
—■ My will is broken by anguish and uncertainty.
— Name a successor.
— I don't know which of my brothers is alive. I would have to
consult with the elders.
Finally light entered the cell. Vencido greeted Fino, who answered
him wearily with a fixed smile, a red wound near his mouth. The
artisan was working something between his fingers. At his side was
the young warrior, apparently asleep, with many bloodstains and
bruises and a bloody line on his forehead.
—■ What are you making, Fino? — asked Vencido.
— I'm making a figure with earth and saliva and a little blood:
the Great Lizard.
— What is the young one's name?
— I'm called Pajaro — said the false sleeper — and when I die
in combat, I will vanish in the sunlight with Bravo, my leader.
My Sefior.
Bravo is dead. Fino and Pajaro and the others — whose names
don't exist — have been buried in the earth or in the dark niches
of the prisons or in useless work that allows no revolts nor cries.
Vencido, however, has been moved to the luxurious apartments
of the palace, which he may continue to occupy as his own. He has
returned to direct the official ceremonies and judge the matters
and disputes as he did before the arrival of the foreigners: but,
when he acts and decides, one of the conquering leaders is
present, and it is necessary to communicate in his language a summary of the matter tried and of the decision. The foreigner can
reverse him if he considers the sentence unjust.
In fact, the representative of the invaders seldom has exercised
116 that right. He is a curious observer of how the customs of the dark-
skinned people differ from his own.
Vencido and the witness of the conquerors understand each other
well; it is rare that the observer questions a text from the translators who announce the results of the deliberations. Vencido is merely
an interpreter more respected than the others. He has the right to
a little reverence.
There are moments for the respected interpreter in which shame
burns his ears and he feels as if his blood were stopped. The assurance of being alive bothers him, of eating, of sleeping, of having to
ask a woman for her nights.
(He has believed himself powerful in the moment of love,
possessor of the dark moments of his occasional companion —
capable, she too, of another dark power in the common comedy of
deceitful tenderness. The two are deceived by the pretense of giving,
one to the other, as if they were free.)
He is alive. He feels disgust for himself because he is alive. Yesterday he was surprised by his own laughter on hearing a joke from
the captain of the foreign guards — the one with a monkey's red
hair — and felt shameful, sickened by having laughed.
He knows that Death — one of those many deaths that he could
imagine as a lesson, an example, or a legend of his people — would
be the only gesture that would redeem the insignificant existence he
has accepted. But he knows too that he won't be able to make his
choice of deaths.
He has been slothful and cowardly.
Still, in rare moments of hope, he wishes to believe that he will
know how to choose the hour of his solemn disappearance. When a
man despises himself, an ephemeral encounter with a form of hope
is the delusion that permits him to endure a little more, always a
little more.
A few days ago the idea came to him that the woman they
granted him as a companion — one of those who served in the
palace and fell into prostitution with the foreign soldiers, bitter and
smiling with rancor because they have struck her like a stray dog
— she could become pregnant with a dark son for whom life would
be nothing but hatred and contempt.
Almost intolerable, that terrible possibility.
Nevertheless, although besieged by all the phantoms of shame and
sorrow, Vencido delays the instant of his voluntary death.  He
defends himself, saying that he must die only when he has examined
117 the events that produced his spectacular fall from a position of
power to the dirty reality of defeat.
He has obtained a poisoned arrow and he keeps it always in
reach of his hand like an indispensable support, like a sign of rank.
When he sends away the bitter prostitute whose enjoyment they
grant him, he puts the arrow to his side. There he holds the arrow,
a very thin wife with a load of dreams in her sharp head. As if
pointed at the centre of his anxiety, the sting nears the mark adorning Vencido's side, the already closed door to his heart. It is a
sacred claw dyed in blood, like the gesture of the priests who used
to point to the sacred figures: feather of the wind, blue stone of
water, living tongue of fire, restless emerald of the ancestral lizard.
Sprawled on the matting, Vencido reviews his memories, collects
himself in the stages of his own existence. Like the rest of his forgotten gods, his glorious destiny signifies no more than a stone
decoration. The true form of life is an obligatory and shameful
foreign word.
Paris ig^8
On a careful chain,
between her bosom and her crepe,
he hangs,
and when she walks
he swings —
just out of step.
His hand can touch her flesh
but not the chain.
One could say,
beneath her dress, he is a man.
Ann J. West was the Managing Editor of VOLVOX: Poetry from the Unofficial Languages of Canada in English Translation. She has had 2 poems accepted
for Young Poems for Young Canadians and 3 for an anthology of North American poets to be translated and published in Germany. Other work has appeared
in various magazines.
she whispers in the dark
about the waving grain
he is lost in
his hand parts the ocean
as in miracles
her breasts bob
where gulls have landed
he queries her with busy streets
and skyscrapers
she cries "look at the river
see how the canoe is lost"
they stumble onto land
and kiss each other quietly
trains drag his corpse
around the edge of billboards
through places of instruction
past children in the uniform of shadow
his eyes fall into stones
there is an odour of shame
in the grey of the buildings he passes
when the wind lifts his cloak
he looks like the ship of Charon
and their eyes of slate
hang from every window
like drapes over Lenten statues
dogs howl dirges and urinate a path
for the train to follow
with some silence
O Victory you have rationed stillness
to dusk, and to the hearts of warriors
who have no more bones to show
you leave only weapons
to be planted in rows
Terese Svoboda has worked as a professional disc jockey, accountant and rare
manuscript curator of McGill University, and has studied at several universities
in the United States, England and Canada. She was a student in the Arts
Faculty at the University of British Columbia and is now studying Creative
Writing at Columbia University.
121 Walter Rimler was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., grew up in Los Angeles and now
lives in San Francisco. He has had stories in WRIT (University of Toronto),
The Florida Quarterly and The Falcon (Mansfield State College, Pennsylvania). He is the editor of the Patooti Book Club News.
If i could be sure that no one would hear me, Father, I would
speak aloud because my spoken voice is deeper than the voice in
my head. My spoken words are strong; dozens of shadowy mental
words circle them like moons. But the voice in my head is a woman's
voice ■— shrill enough to hurt my ears. All day long she blabbers on
and on and I can't get rid of her any more than I can get rid of
the man in my throat.
Maybe that's why Ellen left me.
"Herschel, what's that?"
"What's what?"
"There's a woman's voice in your head, Herschel!"
"Shut up!"
"A woman's voice!"
"I know. Shutttf!"
"You've got to see a doctor. He'll give you hormones or something."
"Well," says the doctor, "hormones are probably the answer to
After the shots I come calling for her, my arms dangling to the
pavement, my voice rattling train tracks, saying, "Here I am. I've
taken hormones."
She rushes into my arms and eats my beard like cotton candy. We
go to the beach and, after making sure that no one can see, I pull
out a little plastic sack that has in it a thick green liquid like pickle
"Hormones, Ellen!"
"I don't know if I should."
"Go ahead."
122 She puts the bag up to her mouth, squeezes a bit and swallows.
We both wait
"Do you feel it coming on?" I say.
"Not yet."
Meanwhile, my beard is coiling around the steering column like
ivy. Her breasts are filling up the car!
O' Lord God, you reach greedily for any mask I hand you. I
can believe you are a clown or a clock or a big dumb sidekick in
my head. I can doubt anything about you but your existence. I
have proof. When I was ten years old I realized, after eating a plum,
that it was far better than it had to be. I knew that I had stumbled
onto a proof of God. Peaches, watermelon, grapes — they were all
further evidence. I did, however, come to a problem, a theological
crisis, with nectarines, but that was easily resolved once I saw that
they are proof of the marriage of humans to the Lord.
How you must have enjoyed yourself:
"And now — the tomato!"
"And now — the cucumber!"
Newton — the apple fell and what did you discover? Gravity!
What about the apple, Newton?
So, Father, I know that you exist. But what are you like? If I
try to know by using my brain I am lost. I can never be sure that
I have all the information or that the information I do have is
If I try to know you on the basis of my heart, I fail too, for my
heart generates you only in times of crisis. I was sick, I didn't know
how I might turn in bed to ease the discomfort. Remember looking
at the pink wall with sunlight on it and thinking that the daylight
was pink too? Tears came and I prayed to you to ease the pain and
the pain lifted. But, at the same time, I could not help associating
you with the ugly pink of the wall. If I wait for my heart to conjure
you, O'Lord, then I must wait for the next illness or crisis and I
fear that I will forever associate you with bad times.
But sometimes I do know you. Sometimes I see you with a
woman's hands. Long-fingered, long-nailed, cupping and caressing
anything, even if it's only air. Hands that look like they were made
to caress the quicks of men. Some mouths, mouths with pillowy
123 lips, look like they want desperately to have you in them. They
open and close all the time, like fish mouths, opening-closing, they
seem to be saying: I want I want I want, opening-closing. I want
to drink from you.
"Would you mind if I do something?" she said.
"If you want to," I said.
And with that, Ellen was down on me. My first time — her first
time. Oh, there are so many virginities to lose. Mozart virginity
(when it's really happened and, just like the music appreciation
teacher you hated, you love Mozart). Housing virginity (when you
see why your friends point out houses with gables and mysterious
attics). Plant virginity (when you begin to collect house plants,
enjoy gardens, plants in the park, wild plants). Tea virginity (when
you know that you will never lower another tea bag into a mug
and cover it with water that has boiled in an open pan). There is
one virginity to lose with your first woman and another, more
astounding one to lose when you first make love. And, I believe
that I have not yet lost my virginity with the Lord God.
Oh God, please tell me what to do with these memories, these
scenes which haunt me. There is a scenesmith in me who grabs each
moment hot from my oven and pounds it into a fine sharp pin
which proceeds to stick me again and again in the head. Why was
it so sad all the time with her? Calling me up crying, saying, "I
wasn't going to call you — I wanted to spend tonight by myself."
Toward the end she always called me out of sadness and when we
were together it was because we'd be a little less sad about it together
than we were apart. I'll love no more sad women. I'll love only a
woman who can match my inner joy which, I suspect, is considerable. I'm not a sad person. I used to sing myself to sleep every night
— at the top of my voice. It's a family legend. My mother will tell
it to you even now. Someday, before I die, I'm going to sing myself
to sleep again — and not with songs from the radio. With my own
songs. Oh, to look into someone's eyes and see them saying, in
astonishment, "Do you know that too?" "I know that too." That's
all I ever want to say. That's the most I ever can say: I know that
But these moments, Father, what do you want me to do with
them? Ellen was in her kitchen cooking. The smell of liver and
onions was in my nostrils as I sat in her living room reading. What
124 do I do with that now? It's still intact. It still has boundaries. It's
bounded on one side by the moment before (putting on the record)
and on the other side by the moment after (the meal). I don't
know if it's bounded on four sides or not. That's a job for Einstein.
"This is a job for Einstein!" The muscle-bound bistro bouncer
races to a nearby alley where he rips off his clothes, puts spectacles
on his nose and hobbles to his secret blackboard.
What do I do with her living room and the smell of liver and
onions? Maybe I should condense them into a bullion cube. I could
take it out of my pocket every once in a while and sniff it or rub
it against another cube — perhaps one of a day at the beach.
Moments are definitely raw material. You have to do something
with them.
O' Lord, bless nothing that is sinister. Bless, instead, my little
orange mint which overnight has grown a long new stem. I wonder
how the decision to grow the stem was made. The closest we come to
that is the ability to grow hair. But, unlike plants, we are inhibited
by time. It's frightening to think of the time stored inside a year's
growth of hair. Years are monsters and enemies. Every calendar
year has a personality and the years in a lifetime are stars.
"Mr. 21, Sir, can I have your autograph?"
"Certainly. 'To Herschel: Best wishes from 21.'"
All seventy of them have personalities and though a few are
lovable,  the majority are laughable or outright bad guys.   Oh,
orange mint with your purple leaves (you seem to have blood in
your veins), I would like to lie in the sunlight too, naked, planning
a new root or stem. And if the sun dried me out I would decay
nicely, the way things do in the country.
"Hello, is this Ellen?"
"Yes it is."
"This is Dr. Ed of County Hospital. Herschel just died."
"Oh no! How?"
"He put his head in the oven. It was a slow death, Ellen — he
took about as long as a 3/2 pound roast."
What would we do without death? It would be like playing baseball on hot asphalt without a drinking fountain nearby. These days
it's nothing to me. It's like a friendly little pup following me around.
!25 A thousand things would upset me more: an insult or the flu or a
bee sting. But when I am happy again, death will be blinding,
impossible to look at, like the sun.
Oh Lord, it is final, isn't it? It's not that I don't believe in life
after death. It's just that those words don't have any meaning. Life
after death vs. death is not an even fight as is, say NBC vs. CBS.
Remember all those? Chevrolet vs. Ford. Arden Milk vs. Adohr.
Hershey's Chocolate vs. Nestle's. Sheriff John vs. Engineer Bill.
Steve Allen vs. Ed Sullivan. The Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones.
O' Lord, Dear God. I'm so tired. Remember in the worst of it in
the worst worst worst, that first night when I had calmed a little,
when the numbness began and I got into bed knowing that in a
few moments what had happened would hit me all over again and
knowing that it would hit me much harder when I woke the next
morning — remember that night, in the midst of that good numbness how I put myself to sleep by saying over and over again, "I am
Stardust, I was there when the stars were created." Then I could
sleep and when I awoke the sledgehammer did come — but with
this unexpected addition: that birds were singing outside the window and it was a clear dawn sky, cold and fresh and, even though
it should all have seemed useless (those birds would be singing no
matter what horrors were happening indoors), they lifted my sagging bean bag heart onto their shoulders.
Dear God, sometimes I wonder if I have enough blood. There
always seems to be something lacking, something that wants to
surge out of me and splash against the walls of buildings as I walk
along streets, lonely — not lonely for her, or for anyone else — but
lonely for my full self. "Oh, you're not all here today. Herschel,"
that soft voice tinkles in my head. "Just a little bit of you came."
And it's true. There is a greyness in me and many mornings I leave
most of my color behind in bed. I love you O'Lord, Father, God,
but I cannot say it without a smirk in my heart. I cannot say it
loud enough so that all of me throbs with it, with the real sound of
it so that someone happening upon me would hear my blood shouting, would come as close as he could and then put his fingers in his
ears because my heart would be deafening. I want to be that way
with you, O' Lord.
126 When I was a kid, a child, or whatever I was when I was little,
I had friends in heaven. I don't remember who they were but one
could easily have been Gabriel, walking about up there, fingers
tapping idly on his horn. I could close my eyes then and Gabriel
and others would be there -— a Robin Hood's band of them. Each
night Gabriel would be there, familiar in his clothes and the way he
patiently talked to me. I came back to him and the others every
night just as I now come back each day to work, to the coffee room,
the metal sink and the jar of Hills Brothers Coffee with my initials
on the lid.
There was a boy, maybe six months old (it's hard to tell the ages
of infants unless you've had one). He was cradled happily in his
mother's arms and I was sitting opposite, watching. He looked at
me with a sly grin which unmistakably said: Look at the set-up
I've got. I laughed out loud. "You're gonna get weaned, you little
jerk," I thought, but didn't have the heart to tell him.
But I can't forget that satisfied expression on his face. Maybe
there is something magic about children. Am I a child? I was happy
to be known as a child but I'm not yet comfortable being known as
an adult. Grownup is a better word. I've always wanted to see it
used as a title, the same as Mr.
"Herschel, I'd like to introduce you to Grownup Bill Potatatat."
"Hi, Grownup Bill."
Father, forgive me but ■— are you a Great Tuna in the sky?
"What'll you have?" the obese waitress stands against my table,
a few of her prodigal pubic hairs touching the edge.
"I'll have tuna pie!"
"There is no such thing as tuna pie."
"Well, then, how about a tuna milkshake?"
"Are you crazy?"
"Well, how about a handful of tuna, just a handful — you
must have that. And some coffee to dunk it in."
"You want just a handful of tuna?"
"That's right, Miss, just some tuna. Could you do that for me?"
"We have tuna salad."
"That's okay. That's great. But I don't have the time to pick the
tuna off the lettuce. So how about just the tuna. And coffee. How
about it, huh? Give a guy a break."
"I'm going to call the manager."
127 "Why? What's the manager for?"
"Mr. Truckstop!"
"Yes, Mary."
"Would you handle this customer for me?"
"Hi, Mr. Truckstop. I want some tuna. Just some tuna. Can
you do that for me?"
Truckstop throws me out, chair and all. People see me on the
sidewalk sprawled over. They sidestep me — the way frightened old
ladies who've daringly left their homes, their lips red and puckered,
a violent dab of rouge on their cheeks, sidestep drunks. They are
always expecting an assault. Why not give it to them?
I creep up behind one. "I believe you've been waiting for me."
"Yes, I've been expecting you."
"I'm Ogre Herschel."
"Let me see your ogre card."
"I have it right here."
Let me see you! All hokum aside, all the 'you are me' aside, let
me see you with angel wings — a roman candle in my head.
I'm so tired. If I don't go to sleep I'll be looking up her new
number in the phone book but if I go to sleep I'll wake up after
dark feeling sweaty, my heart thumping wildly. When that happens
the best thing to do is to take a walk. Acclimate yourself to the night.
How fresh the night seems when it's come suddenly. Then you walk
around getting used to it — seeing headlights instead of cars, neon
signs instead of buildings, lampposts instead of sidewalks. That it is
nighttime is so obvious, why don't the people on the streets mention it? You never hear anyone say, 'Look! It's black all around
us.' I bet you would hear it if everyone took afternoon naps and
woke up in the dark.
Laughter is a second proof of God. I hear Danny Thomas in my
head. "Yes, folks, a comic stands up here and makes a fool of himself. He works eighteen hours a day, his sweat as thick as soup. Why
does he do it? Because laughter — laughter is a proof of God."
But it's true anyway. Just like plums, laughter is much more than
it has to be. All the laughing I've done. I've gone through one
laughing partner after another. If they were lovers too, that was
only incidental. Remember walking cross campus with Ello, tossing
128 back and forth a salami — why we were carrying a salami, I can't
remember — on our way to Ellen's, daring each other to put the
salami in our pants. Oh, what wild laughter! Right up to the door
we were sticking the salami in each other's pants. What a great
moment it would have been if either of us had had the nerve.
Sitting on the sofa, discreetly unzipping, the salami creeps out.
It's all been a series of laughing partners. I can name them in
succession like the kings of England. A good title for my autobiography: Laughing Partners. In fact, the best autobiography for
me would be a series of titles. The Discovery of the Plum. Tuna!
Herschel Breaks His Oboe. Herschel in Hepatitis Land. Goodby
Ellen. Herschel Looks Out a Window and Can't Get Back Inside.
Hopelessness is real, hope is a mirage, I know it! I know it! If I
must face the worst again, the worst, I will have nothing to rely
on. If I ever learn to generate you it will be with feebleness. You
may come to ease the pain, as you did that morning with the pink
light, but I will never know you. I want to make you greater than
myself, O' Lord. And I can't. And, if I can't make you greater than
me I must find you and I can only find you in things lesser than
myself — in plums and in laughter.
Who will help me when I begin screaming? I should have the
numbers handy on my telephone: The Salvation Army, Community
Switchboard, Starkist Tuna. Who will help me to sit peacefully,
filled with truth when the truth is rancid? I have lost all my laughing partners, one by one. Perhaps I'll have a hundred more before
I die, then to finally find You, the last and greatest Laughing
Partner. O' Lord, all this is to say I'm scared. Keep in touch? Well,
okay, for a few weeks every year. The rest of the time — I don't
And music! I forgot music. Plums, laughter and music. I knew
there had to be three.
Kitty got
the woodpecker
this morning
That damn cat
would stalk
an eagle
Jody came in holding
the woodpecker
his tail
fanned out
against her jeans
He looked enormous
in her arms
We put him
in the workshop
and after school
we let him free
All day
the image
of Jody holding
the woodpecker
came back to me
He's not a woodpecker
He's been returning
to our house for years
What if Kitty had eaten him
What if he'd died
Each year Joe says
Well the woodpecker's back
Jody holding the bird
me saying
as though he were a myth
and what was he doing
130 being real there in her arms
and wounded
He said
You've been writing alot lately
Yeah I said
I've been writing alot about sunflowers
like this
he said
you put a sunflower
in a soundproof room
for a long time
you have the tape recorder going
you play it back
slow speed
you hear
Beth Jan kola has had one volume of poetry published, The Way I See It, and
has given numerous poetry readings, including CBC's "Anthology." She lives in
Burnaby, B.C. and her next collection of poetry, Jody Said, will be published
the fear
of dying near a garden
where bold African oaks
mated and a Professor of botany
lectured on the Esterhazy taste for exotic ferns
They brought your letter
it was covered with spiders
Reading it through their mandibles
my eyes made a jagged line of black
stitches around a notice of death
You think I have sold the garden
of our existence together
settling on this 18th century Hungarian Eden
or a general topic of vulvas?
I walk through the clean towel of your eyes
into this garden
every morning
and pick it in a terrycloth hamper
and put it upon your table
When I try freedom my temples
pound like chunky Icelandic ponies
across my room
and I wake up an unhealed blue scar
I'm on the surface here
The garden is sleeping below me
I sway
And under the garden you hold me
as always
Closer than I to the fear I feel
Frederic Will is editor of Micromegas, a poetry magazine now in its ninth
year. He teaches Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts.
132 James Wyatt lives in Vancouver, B.C. "The Spirit of Bonsam" is the title for
Book Two of Bonsam, a novel in progress. Book One, "When She Leaves Me,"
was published in the Summer '72 issue of Prism international. The novel has
three books. The last book is titled Bonsam's Vignettes and Journal.
"To be thirty and unmarried is the way to live if you want social
life," Rosa thinks. She puts the dishes on the table and returns to a
small adequate kitchen for some more things — the salads with
lettuce and sliced tomatoes; the olives and the silver candle holders.
"But if you want children," she thinks as she hums, "it's a drag.
They really don't have to be my children, but they damn sure are not
going to be some other woman's children who he used to love. He
better not have ..." She finishes setting the table. "If we adopt
some children that won't be too hard on me. Maybe two. He might
want his own children, but I'm not so sure that I am willing to
serve anytime suffering the balloon-belly. Some women seem to
have babies almost as fast as I can prepare and serve a meal....
He doesn't even have a steady job. Come to think of it I don't know
him. How long have I really known him? A year, maybe two. He's
nothing like Wane. He's practically a stranger, but spiritually something a lot more. He's really been with me a long time. We've
known each other for a long, long time." She stands in front of the
mirror sipping wine, takes off the apron and now sits in front of the
mirror crossing her legs. Irresistible. "This is ridiculous," she thinks.
"I'm thirty years old. He's not the first man I've slept with and
won't be the last. You have to be a fool to want ..." She answers
the ring at the door. "On time I see. Did you bring the cigarettes?"
Warren makes himself at home.
"Yeah, baby. You look really fine. Mind if I get a kiss from the
only woman who's been able to make me run errands? What's for
133 "Wait and see. Here's your drink."
"Think I might have a job, Rosa."
"Good. Where?"
"Red's Discotheque."
"Starts this weekend if I can get a drummer. Let me hold some
money to live on."
"You can stay here. Here's some. That's all I can spare."
"Let me have twenty-five if you can spare it; that'll be enough
to hold me over 'til I get paid at the club."
"Have you paid the . . ."
"When do we eat? We can talk later. I wrote a tune I'd like for
you to hear."
After finishing their dinner, they dance; she moves from wine
motivation, mixing her body around the room from hallway to low
sofa; here and then her sweet ass is over there. Warren swears to
himself she is everywhere. He stands in the living room moving his
knees and toes. He needs his saxophone and keeps poppin' his
fingers and moving his head to present his profile image. The dance
is anatomusical — they seem to exchange legs and arms; appendages leave their bodies altogether and they lean to support each other,
her head against his. Rosa dances before him in his mind while he
holds her hand. She leads him to the bedroom, undressing him and
herself on the way. Memories of her dancing causes Warren to
freeze and become a lawn statue while she begins to dance again;
he sees giant brown oyster eggs. Rosa kicks, then rolls her hips and
moves to the music's memory — the record player stops. She pants
awhile and starts deep breathing exercises; her body is sweating and
her legs splat together when she moves across the floor; she claps
her hands whenever the spirit grabs her (Butch and company is the
last thing on her mind); shakes so her breasts flop against her chest;
her body is wet. Everytime Warren reaches out to hold her, Rosa
slips away and says something like "Oh, no you don't!" then he
knows for sure it's her. He stands nude, gazing at his bitch, making
like a direction sign with his hard-on. When Rosa becomes tired,
she moves slowly; he wraps a towel around her and they lie in bed.
Butch is in bed dreaming the most fantastic bullshit. That mother,
I swear .. . Anyway, Rosa Jackson is supposed to meet with Butch
and his parents tomorrow. Butch will undoubtedly meet her before
J34 that since tomorrow is Saturday and Butch is dreaming about
unloading the entire men's wear department along with a few items
from the sporting department — guns, rifles, bullets, etc.
No doubt Rosa is with slicker Warren, the frustrated pimp. Well
she just doesn't know what this spiritual motivation can do; as
Butch would say, "it can make the calluses on your baby toes
tinkle." (Laughter.) I have an idea what's probably goin' on. I'll lay
it on you, while my friend from the ghetto dreams. The informative
information was picked up by eavesdropping. The prose style you
may recognize as having the economy of expression associated with
the works of James Henry.
Rosa lights the candles and turns off the lights. He watches her
glide across the room first to the light switch next to the door and
then towards the table in the middle of the room to light the candles.
She moves for him and because of him, enjoying the way he excites
every fibre of her body, letting his eyes roll recklessly over her body
and tenderly across her face as she takes her place at the table and
looks girlishly to the side (one arm propping her head) and says,
"Well, anytime you're ready!" He remains standing for a brief
instant which seems timeless because he loves the way she teases
him. He starts daydreaming about the time he was a kid in high
school while Rosa proceeds to tell him for the hundredth time about
Butch. How tragic. He's uncomfortable as he remembers the time
when in high school he was watching Miss Leigh's legs showing
very well from under her desk; and how he knew Miss Leigh was
a virgin by the way she sat. It was spring and everybody except
Miss Leigh was acting as if it was the middle of November. Miss
Leigh felt the eyes of her student on her legs and thighs. She let
him look for awhile. The class was silent save for an occasional
snigger because everyone was copying their home assignment out of
the textbook. He knew he could make it with his teacher even
though she was six years older, and got more anxious sitting there
in the beginning of June two weeks before school was to let out.
"She's a virgin," he thought, as he watched his teacher. "I know
she knows I'm looking, so she must like it." A snigger is heard again.
The teacher looked up from her book.
"Let's have it quiet? . .. Was that you?"
"No, ma'am."
"Why don't you come up to the blackboard and show us how to
do the first problem?"
"Yes, Miss Leigh."
135 Timelessness acquires duration and becomes a period of time in
the scheme of two lives even though the timeless suspension remains
that way within itself. He makes his way to the table when Rosa
says for the second or third time. "Any time you're ready! ... Any
time you're ready, honey!"
After finishing their dinner, they dance — he moving with the
rhythm sometimes, and improvising around the beat as if he was
playing a solo; and she dancing, recalling modern dance movements
to mix with traditional dance steps as she glides across the wooden
floor, giving the impression of a stiff and sometimes very emotional
dancer. His legs do not seem to belong to the rest of his body as he
moves to the left and right creating the impression of unpredictability and spontaneity while popping his fingers. Her stiff nature is
largely due to the small and narrow heeled shoes she wears. When
he goes to pour them both another drink she kicks off her shoes
revealing the strong feet of a woman who once danced a great deal.
The music starts again as he approaches her from the small bar at
the far end of the room and watches Rosa dancing off tempo to a
rhythm and blues tune. She has a serene look on her face and her
eyes refuse to recognize the drink put in front of her as she raises
her arms slowly above her head. He puts down the two drinks feeling good and seeing that she is far gone, turns off the lights and
watches the silhouette of Rosa do a dance creation that seems to
be African. Her straightened hair (she wears an Afro wig) begins
to cover one eye and she takes advantage of the opportunity and
looks even more sexy — the uncovered eye is half closed, the bottom
lip is moistened and put in an almost pouting position as she rises
slowly from the floor staring into his eyes. The next record is the
right tempo. Warren says the drummer is not listening to the musicians he is playing with —he's playing for himself; but every beat
seems to get a response from Rosa's body. She takes off the top part
of her evening dress; and begins to move again; slowly at first;
sweat drips from her forehead and perspiration floods her underarms showing on her white blouse as she dances, not moving her
feet so much as her arms, hands, head, and hips. The music stops.
He stands up in front of her, as she reaches for what she thinks is
her drink, and he touches her hand, holding it for an instant, and
then puts the drink in it. She takes a sip and they sit listening to the
music. The silhouette of Rosa dances before him as he holds her hand
gently in the dark. After awhile they go into her bedroom. Their
souls are flying high as he undresses her while she lays limp as an
136 ebony baby in bed. The suggestive movements of her dance flash
into his mind as she begins to dance with her hips, holding him
tightly — he sees her kick off the shoes and take off the blue jacket
to her dress, the white blouse is beginning to come loose from the
skirt as she begins to move her hips slowly to the tune.
Saturday noon finds him in bed. There is a note lying on his pants
as he begins to put his clothes on; ("Had to go downtown early.
You'll find money in the kitchen cabinet. Leave some for me. Love,
Rosa.") it falls to the floor and he does not see it until after he
takes a shower. After a breakfast of toast and orange juice he picks
up his coat and hat and is down into the street ready to start the
day when he discovers that the afternoon breeze feels cool — he has
forgotten his underclothes and socks. He rushes back up to Rosa's
apartment. The door is locked; he decides to try living without
underwear for an afternoon. The bus seat is cold and the jog to
catch it was slower than usual. His collar is open casually, the
camel-coloured suede coat goes well with the black beaver skin cap,
mohair slacks and bare ankles as he sits waiting for his stop.
Saturday noon finds him still there. There is a note pinned to his
pants which he sees after his shower. "Give a nigger a mile and
he'll take an inch. Money is in the kitchen cabinet.") After a breakfast of toast and orange juice, he picks up his coat, and is down on
the street ready to start the day when he discovers that the afternoon breeze feels cool. Rosa burned his underwear! She is always
too intellectual after she sobers. A choice between food or underwear.
"Most dudes I know can't handle more than an inch," he thinks.
"If he can go a mile, I say right on, brother. If Rosa is together
tonight like she was last night, talk about a mellow time." The bus
seat is cold. It's only a few blocks. "I mean the bitch was into something. She was. She definitely was. Got to .. . got to have it." He
gets off a couple of stops before 12 th. Goes into a men's shop. He
tells the saleslady he only wants one out of the pack of B.V.D.'s.
"They don't come that way," she said. "Yeah. They come any
fuckin' way you want them to come. How in the hell you 'spect me
to wear three pairs of B.V.D.'s? Draws!" "Would you like to talk
to the manager?" "Shit! Manager who? Look I know what I want,
baby, if I can't get it here, I'll get it some other damn place." "Well,
137 brother . .." "Bitch! I ain't your fuckin' brother." He stomps out
the door. "Damn!" He thinks, "Rosa has fucked my mind up. Who
in the hell, Rosa thinks she is? If I want to cuss I'll cuss." He talks
to Wane, his bass man. Wane is standin' on the corner moonlightin'
with some coke. "She could dance. Lawd, could she dance. Tonight.
Again tonight. Woo, Lawd. How you hangin', my man? Got some
good shit. OK. Doing OK. What's goin' on? Yeah. I'll take some
of that. I bet you been mellow since sunrise?" "Rosa's toes are
tiny," he thinks. "How in the hell you gonna be on the police
force with feet like that. She kept dancin'." "No profanity, honey,"
she said. "I don't see where you can see anything, but yourself, you
bastard." She danced over to him shaking her arms and hips.
"Anway, I don't see where feet got anything to do with it," she
said. They didn't talk anymore because she went into a damn fever
dance around the bedroom. "Crazy! You're crazy!" Warren
shouted. Everybody knows to be on the police force you got to be
able to stomp and kick somethin' terrible.
"Who's crazy?" Wane said.
They stand talking about the gig coming up that night — the
drummer, Monroe, is new. Wane was over at his pad last night.
Monroe's staying in a condemned area; he has a four-by-four place
too small for a mattress; skins all over the place; said he worked in
a music store once and was pawning the stuff until he was caught
groovin' in the bathroom; he said everybody smoked except the
manager's wife who is a sack of ugly potatoes; from her he only
wanted the damn five dollar tips he got gettin' her lunch. She loves
musicians; claimed she slept with Dolphy.
"Rosa's that way. Damn. I might marry her someday."
"She's a cop man. She'll put you away."
"Naw. Can't think of a better way to beat the pigs than infil-
"Yeah. 'Cept they already infiltrated and organized the
"You've been talkin' to Rosa."
"Yeah. I was up to see Rosa," Wane said looking over his shoulder.
"Don't play with me."
A couple of police come down the street both ways. Wane looks
down the sidewalk and says he thinks he sees some pig in an upstairs
window. They go into a short-order grill where Wane passes the bag
over the counter. The waiter gives them a cup of coffee as the cops
walk in and stand behind them; the other two remain outside.
138 In Green's Department Store a woman about five-foot-three
wearing dark sunglasses, an expensive dark green leather coat and
carrying a small handbag, which she casually puts down every now
and then to look at some jewelry or clothes, spots a possible victim
■— a young adolescent male of fifteen who is probably just starting
out. She sees every move made by the boy dressed for sand-lot football. Everytime the boy puts his hands on something she looks at
him while pretending to be looking at lingerie in another direction.
She follows the boy from section to section on the first floor noticing
first the holes in his back pocket which seem to hold everything he
puts in them (cuff links, soap-erasers, plastic cigar tips), generating
the impression of innocence and poverty; and the way his pants are
close fitting. Maybe she should buy him a pair? Not on her salary.
"Chances are there are holes in his front pockets too," she thinks as
she holds up a pair of red laced panties, size six. "Not quite my
size," she mumbles.
Butch is picking up a pair of socks and looks both ways as if he
is going to quickly stash the goods in an invisible topcoat or somewhere under his armpit. In the sport department, he picks up two
golf balls and gets the idea to wrap the socks around them.
"Now is the time to close in on him if I want to give him motherly
advice," Rosa thinks while trying to look like a serious potential
buyer of hardware, picking up a plane and examining the blade
while she keeps an eye on Butch. (I am trying to warn Butch in
my own fashion, but he doesn't listen.) "If I wait much longer, he's
going to try to make it out the door," she thinks. "But if I stop him
now, he might be so afraid that he'll never do it again. If he didn't
know me, I could pose as a clerk. (Batch's premeditated replies to
any person wanting to talk to him are "How much are your black
socks?" "Where can I pay for these?" which are supposed to follow
"May I help you?") "Not only does he know me," Rosa thinks,
"but he has two hours to make our appointment on time." She
picks up a flashlight and tests the different colour reflectors. "Either
my sunglasses are very good or this damn department store is trying
to cheat people." Butch walks towards her. "Should be a law against
people opening big stores as traps for delinquents." The front of
Butch's clothes looks as if he's been lying on his stomach in a coal
mine (hence the poem below inspired by Butch's underground
experience), and he smells so bad that when Rosa gets within five
139 feet of him she begins to hate Butch's mother for letting him roam
the streets; another shadow.
by november
the swans turn to snow.
bones are covered,
old is mixed with new
captured and erased.
tracks in snow and mud
are seen while sleeping:
someone made them before
ocean spray turn to rain,
blowing snow
to caress the shadow
of the man
wearing his property
no holes in his underwear.
the way potatoes bake
under a fire,
some wrapped in aluminum
others with clay,
dressed in the latest fashion,
is how the swans fell
to hide a mirror in his mind;
and covered the farmhouse
the windows and doors save
cracks around them,
liberating thoughts
while he waited
slept and dreamed
bones of felt,
another petrified
that hit the ground
woke him leaving
nothing visible
in the dark searching
for his face and eyes,
action being the design.
"Excuse me, ma'am, where do I pay for this?"
"At the front next to the hardware section."
140 "Thank-you, ma'am."
"You're welcome."
Rosa sways lightly as she remembers last night, glows and pinches
"Crime is not beautiful, baby," she whispers to Butch. "Caught
you again, honey." Butch takes the cuff links from under his armpits. "You can have those cuff links if you can tell me where the
manager is."
"You see, baby . .." She hooks his elbow behind him so that he
bends over towards the door as they walk out. "You see, baby, you
got to learn who the prime mover is and how much it costs."
"She's crazy," Butch thinks.
That's the way Warren talks — he always says, "You got to know
the prime mover." Rosa never learned it that way in law enforcement school. Warren said he learned everything from reading the
back of cereal boxes — the dominant colours are red, white and
blue; mixed together that makes green; the prime mover carries
very little green; he's worth his weight in gold and is never seen.
"Butch what kind of cereal do you eat?"
"You think I'm crazy don't you?" Rosa says. "Why in the world
do you want a police record at your age?" She waves for Phil Jones,
her partner, who is eating lunch; he is parked in the alley adjacent
to the main entrance. Phil steps on the gas and is edging his way
into the traffic; the siren is going full blast. Everybody on the entire
block stops to look.
"Butch, I'll give you another chance." Rosa puts the handcuffs
on him while she fumbles in her purse and shows Butch the cuff
links. "You stole these cuff links."
"You stole those cuff links," shouted Butch.
"I'll give you one more chance. Answer and you can have the
"I don't want the fffuc .. . cuff links!"
"What? What did you say?"
"I'm going to sue you for false arrest. I know my rights. I'll have
your badge!" said Butch.
"OK. That's not bad. You do that, baby. In the meantime, just
for fun, tell me what cereal you had for breakfast this mornin'?"
Phil is caught between two taxis; he hears bullet shots and believes
that he sees a man fall over by the bank; he jumps out of the car,
and runs down the block. Rosa handcuffs Butch to the inside of
141 the police car. He looks like he's about to cry. She reprimands him.
There are some more shots. Butch hides behind the front seat. Rosa
cuts the siren off and runs after Phil.
It doesn't seem like keeping a journal is work, but it is, especially
when your objective and reason for writing it is to be honest and
sincere. Honesty and sincerity are a basis for trust. Understanding is
not as easy as it sounds. It would be simple if understanding meant
thinking linear or singular (maybe horizontal or vertical); however,
shit, understanding means talking on a plane while you listen on
several others. How in the hell are you going to give answers to
difficult questions asked at the same time? Maybe that's the reason
to avoid the logical since you can logically answer one question at
a time, or maybe two or three; but by that time another series of
questions are given. Even if you try to analyze the process, you feel
that you are only discussing history which wouldn't be langsyne if
each question could be presented in a disjunctive proposition and
answered simultaneously.
My plans for today (while understanding that questions and
impressions will be phantasmagoric) were to retrace steps, listen and
feel. When in doubt it seems that one should do nothing sometimes,
or act on some impression which is often the first. The only basis
for choice in reference to the last statement seems to be intuitional.
My main interests were to be questions and answers in their relation
to action developing because of things said. I'm thinking that every
statement is an answer to some question and vice versa. The plan
was to waste un peu d'action — rien ne se perd.
There are two levels of reality generally speaking. On the one hand
you have a reality as far removed from the objective world as the
imagination can carry and defend. This is because the world of
experience is both objective and subjective — it is both in and of
the world. The degree that it is involved on a communicable level
depends on the precision of dialogue which is unsaid in addition
to dialogue in the form of discourse. Until one has a foundation in
that field of experience, he has to more or less go with the wind; and
in doing so there's a form of positive development. The other level
of reality, however, is more scientific. It has to do with objects and
their relation to each other in as ideal a situation as possible; that is,
for example, the relation of my pen to my journal.
142 / had hoped that Butch would get away free. I've lost the entire
day's work on a gamble; and I'll probably do it again sometime,
but not again soon. The way I see it when you hope for something
badly enough you almost never get it. I know about the shit that's
going on, but as of yet feel no reason why I should persuade Butch
to act in a negative way. My faith in human nature is confirmed.
Butch is a living example. Somehow I'm still together, though. I still
have my optimistic view which is sustained mainly because I don't
understand how anyone will take a chance on screwing Butch since
they must understand that underneath his intention is noble and
open-minded. I'll try another imaginative leap to figure out how
Phil got into the alley since he and Rosa never double downtown
on weekends.
My first impression is that Rosa really needs her sunglasses this
morning because when she got the phone call from her working
partner, Phil Jones, asking her to fill in for him on the patrol until
noon, Rosa felt like something between a female chauvinist and a
killer. She'd have scratched plain-clothes man No. 84's contact
lenses from his brown eyes, and knocked every one of his shiny well
placed teeth down his black throat if he had knocked at the door and
said what he said on the phone — "Hello, No. 26. How you doing,
sugar? Listen, will you fill in for me 'til noon? Something urgent has
come up. Thanks. Meet you at Greens'." The only reason she answered the phone is because of this habit she has — everytime the
phone rings her hand picks up the receiver and she speaks into it automatically, more rapidly than she can think to do it or ever think to
stop. (Butch has somewhat the same habit as Rosa when he passes
a refrigerator door — the hand is quicker than the chicken leg.)
Part of the reason for her habit results from high school practice
when she could descend eleven stairs, after waking from a cold
sleep, fast enough to catch the phone on the second ring. (I ring
her phone sometimes — three rings, two rings, three rings. It's one
of the few tricks I'm allowed to do.) In fact, Rosa could sprint fast
enough to catch her wind before the phone rang the second time.
She improved her physical condition through practice, and because
of her love for the Mitchell twins. Neither of them called often
enough. She was eager to talk with either of them. But that was
long ago when they were kids.
At twelve o'clock Rosa spots No. 84 up on the second floor balcony peeping at her from behind some suitcases through some field
glasses standing below a sign reading "Are You Ready For The
143 Summer, Winter, Spring, Vacations Abroad?" A large feather hangs
from his felt cap. He gives Rosa the signal, the V-sign with a shrug
of the mouth, chin and slight nod of the red feather. She acknowledges by moving her lips while clenching some red material.
Through the field glasses he can see reasons for staying up on the
Wane is standing to the far right of the men's wear department
while this is going on. He is a tall man with big strong hands, long
hair sitting high on his head and cut short around the sides. He tries
on a shirt that he likes by simply going into the dressing room and
exchanging his shirt for the other one. He always keeps aware of
where Butch is, his young friend who wants to know everything
there is to know from a mother just as crazy. Wane teaches Butch
music and how to survive. They are even starting to look alike. He
told Butch to get some socks. I don't know who the hell the golf
balls were for. About the same time as Butch meets Rosa, Wane is
trying on a hundred dollar sports coat; he hangs his old one up
allowing the good side to show for the customers and pins the tag
saying "Italian Import" onto his old coat. He is just about to try
on a hat for his partner, who suddenly moves towards the front
door and meets none other than ooj Rosa. In case of an emergency,
Wane told Butch to say his friend has the money. Wane was to
come up and pay or tell Butch about how he already has golf balls
at home. What's the matter with Butch? "The dude is acting dizzy,"
thinks Wane. (N.B.: equal positive and negative forces can mean
unconscious suspension.) A young clerk, who has not had a customer this morning, prepares herself for Rosa who spits fire, throws
the leather gloves down and walks out of the store with Butch.
Wane strolls away from the men's section and makes a smooth dash
for the door allowing Rosa to exit first, eyeing her figure as she
leaves through the revolving door.
There is a hat store next to the bank — the store manager's alarm
alerts the guards at the bank. Phil arrives on the scene quickly; he
knocks people over, saying excuse me to little old ladies and reaching for his gun; he can't help himself. Rosa does things to him.
The dude who stole the hat has hazel eyes and a blonde Afro.
Phil didn't see his face, but he tells Rosa later that every dude with
a blonde Afro has hazel eyes. "That dude's got everything," he
144 mumbles to her before he shouts "Halt, in the name of the law!" as
he watches the blonde Afro and bell bottom pants hide behind a
trash can and then make it over the hood of an unloading truck,
holding the new wide-brim Stetson. Phil fires two shots in the air.
The movers put a mattress in the way. Rosa arrives.
"Damn, Phil, this ain't the movies!"
"That mother's got everything," said Phil. He looks kind of
puzzled after Rosa pinches his ass; then he takes off down the alley
telling the two guards from the bank to go in the opposite directions
around the bank. Rosa goes back to Butch. At this point everything
seems to stop, no one seems to be doing anything but everyone is
still present.
At this point super-nigger himself takes over. I'd like to take this
opportunity to express a few words. I'm getting fairly good at it.
Humans have bodies. We have the vibes. Remember that. All you
hippie-minded individuals want to be like us. But let me tell you,
baby, you want the marble ain't gonna blue knees — in other words,
digging the vibes is nothing like you think; it's nothing like you think
because your mind isn't oriented right. Butch's mind is oriented
somewhat in the right direction; it's mainly because he has astigmatism — the left eye considers time to be willy-nilly; the right eye
is more in the present. It has to do with what is known by some as
stream-of-consciousness. Time is a creative force — this was established by Bergson. Time, timelessness and timing work simultaneously to give a cinematographic impression resulting in an
impact which blows your mind. There's nothing wrong with being
a member of a different class just so long as you know; every member of a certain class considers members of other classes to be members of lower classes. I wrote a doggerel about class. You will permit
me as Rosa crosses her legs.
Classes will come.
Don't say big deal
Since you react
Classes only come
When you think,
When you immerse
Yourself in the sit-u-a-tion.
Butch is suffering from what I call delayed action in relation to
his ego. The delayed action is caused by me, understand? Butch,
145 who is me also to a degree, does not understand. Butch is me in
proportion to the degree his mind is co-opted by another. In this
case, Rosa is attempting co-optation. She is sitting by the patrol car
talking to Butch.
"You been on weed since I been gone, punk." Butch stands in
a daze.
"Rosa, sweet Rosa."
"Yes ma'am."
"Warren sure would be mellow in one of those hats," Rosa thinks.
"Some superfly. Can't even afford a car. Gonna get my man a
Continental though. If he's good to me, I'm gonna take that mother
for everything he's got." A few more shots are fired from the direction of the alley. A crowd has blocked the entrance. "Crazy, Phil!
Damn." She starts running back towards the bank, and looks over
her shoulder to see what Butch is doing. Some local shoeshine boys
have surrounded the car; they begin beating Butch and kicking the
back car door. Rosa turns around and runs back to the car.
"That's gonna cost you, Butch, honey," Rosa shouts.
"I ain't no damn, honey. My name is Dwight Johnson."
"Still gonna cost you, baby." She uncuffs Butch from the backdoor of the car. The gang moves to the other side of the car. Butch
starts to run; she trips him.
"I'm just goin' to piss," Butch shouts.
"Do what?" Rosa screams.
"Relieve myself."
"OK. Try any funny business and I'll send you to Bellingham,"
Rosa shouts. Rosa is wearing hot pants; she took off her max skirt
when she ran back to the car. Some local pedestrians urged on by
the gang still taunting Butch think that what they see is a delinquent attacking a lady. A dude grabs Butch from behind in a full
nelson. Two members of the gang wearing orange berets each stand
on one of Butch's feet. Another calls Butch "the last of the Toms"
and spits on him. Rosa manages to break it up without much effort
and sends Butch to the washroom at a near-by gas station. She backs
the partol car into the alley and stretches out on the back seat and
moans contentedly. A laugh is heard but no one seems to notice
Rosa or the car in the alley. Rosa opens her legs and sighs again
the way a beer drinker sighs.
"That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs."
She is back to normal in no time. Butch comes out of the wash-
146 room smiling. A motorcycle freak is standing by his chopper getting
gas and listening to his transistor radio. He turns the volume up
while he rolls a joint.
Be-en the way I fe-el
Be-ing the way I fe-el
Satis-fied/ Satisfied
Be-en the way I fe-el
Be-ing what I am
Satisfied/ Satis-fied
147 Charles Lillard lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Victoria.
He is the author of Coultus Coulee, Drunk on Wood and the forthcoming
Ikons of a Coast.
Selected Poems, Ralph Gustafson, McClelland and Stewart Ltd.,
Toronto, 1972. $5.95
Blood Ties, George Amabile, Sono Nis, Port Clements, 1972. $5.95
Waiting For Wayman, Tom Wayman, McClelland and Stewart
Ltd., Toronto, 1973. $4.95
In one sense this review is already out of date. None of the three
books under scrutiny were published this year; Amabile and Gustafson belong to 1972, Wayman was published in 1973. Since then
Gustafson and Wayman have each published another volume of
poetry. These earlier books are being reviewed today for two reasons. No matter when they were published they are still worth our
time; and not one of the three has yet received the magazine space
it deserves.
Earlier this year Ralph Gustafson gave a reading at the University of British Columbia. The department which sponsored the reading advertised it so well that approximately fifteen people showed
up. To butter the toast, he was given a room next to U.B.C.'s bell
tower. As a consequence Gustafson had to read against the bell, a
competition that lasted the better part of half an hour. Any other
man would have laughed at the assembly and left. Not Mr. Gustafson ; he's a decent man — a gentleman, so he stayed. And he gave
one of the best readings which I've attended during my seven years
in and around the University of British Columbia.
When I say "one of the best readings," I am not concerned strictly
with the poet's reading ability; atmosphere, I'm sure, is as important
as the voice reading the work. All too frequently the poet forgets
that the listener may not be familiar with his work; moreover, the
man in the audience may not be used to listening to poetry. The
ear listening cannot accept material as fast and as accurately as the
eye reading. There is a time-lag; the poet/reader must accept this.
148 Poets like Gustafson use this lag to their advantage. Gustafson talked
briefly about each poem; he didn't explain it away: he simply
made it available to his audience. Mr. Gustafson was not always
serious that afternoon. I am sure he was having fun at our expense.
But in return he did give us atmosphere: a space in which to
accept the poetry and time to become part of it.
It struck me that afternoon that this was one of the qualifications
of poetry: does it swallow the reader? I was surprised that Gustaf-
son's work "swallowed" me as it did. The material wasn't all that
fresh, most of it I'd seen elsewhere. But up to this point I had
admired the poetry for technical reasons, and because, book by book,
the poet was gaining strength.
Prior to the reading, the material had always seemed to have
about it the chill and severity of Crane and Stevens on those
days when they couldn't forget they were modern, and had
read Mallarme and Valery in the original. But as Mr. Gustafson
read, all my initial impressions changed. And, as the reading drew
to a close, it became apparent that the poet was a classical poet; a
human and cultured writer, modern in all the best sense of the word.
During the half year that has gone by since that reading, I've read
and reread a lot of Canadian poetry. In all the material I've read, I
have only managed to find two poets who seem to share Gustafson's
concern for man, mankind and the majority of things that most of
us would admit make up our daily lives. These two poets are George
Amabile and Tom Wayman. Since they are both much younger
than Gustafson, there will be discrepancies in my analogy; but given
ten years of the direction that they are now travelling, and they
can be called fellow-travellers, etc.
I would like to take the time at this point to paraphrase a line by
Auden. In his introduction to A Poet's Tongue, Auden maintains
that the best definition of poetry is "memorable language." All poets
from Sappho to Catullus, Ovid to Wordsworth, from Milton to
Frost, have had two things in common: their concern for the
human condition, and the ability to express this concern in language
which clings to the ear. If this is the case, then language is the
second reason to consider Amabile, Gustafson and Wayman as poets
working in the classical tradition.
It would be difficult for even the most biased reviewer to deny
Gustafson's Selected Poems its place as one of the most powerful
volumes of Canadian poetry published during the past twenty-five
years. One element which makes the book even stronger is that we
149 know, having seen later poems and publications, Gustafson has outgrown this volume. The new poetry is solving new problems, defining fresh boundaries. What a difference from the usual Canadian
tactic of publishing by pattern: i.e. as long as it works, use it.
If the Selected Poems is as conscientiously put together and edited
is it seems to be (something else rare among Canadian "selected"
volumes) then the opening poem, "Prefatory", and it opening lines:
Where a poem departs from the truth it is a bad
clues us in for all that is to come.
Returning to this poem after having read the book, we realize
truth, to Gustafson, is not honesty, that bootlicker approach to
reality. There is no Black Mountaineering here. Gustafson's truth is
emotional honesty. And "emotional honesty" is not reporting, it is
letting things settle in until one day they are poems, each a work
of art. As a work of art, each is independent of origin; each stands
by itself, either to be honoured or loathed.
The second factor separating Gustafson from his fellow poets is
theme. The majority of these poems are not Canadian poems. The
titles speak for themselves: "The Philosophy of the Parthenon";
"On the Top of Milan Cathedral"; "Assisi"; "Agamemnon's Mask:
Archeological Museum, Athens"; "At Franz Liszt's Grave" and
"The Vieux Marche: Rouen". In none of these poems do we catch
the tone of another poet: Gustafson is a poet approaching each
scene, artifact and memory with his own poetic consciousness, his
own eye. This is not a Canadian meditating over the grave of Liszt;
it is a poet, a man mit Kultur. When he writes:
Nor that he lies here
The foursquare hedge
And periwinkle
Enclosing the stone
Less in width and length
Than the Wagner's —
Not all this mortal gossip:
he assumes that his readers will know enough to follow without
stumbling. And what a relief to hear/read a graveside poem which
doesn't echo Auden or Crane.
Occasionally Gustafson manages to be playful in a way which
must infuriate numerous Canadian poets, since so few of them show
150 any evidence that they could enjoy this sort of fun. These light
moments are spread throughout the SELECTED; one of the most
obvious and most successful, would appear to be lines twenty-one
through twenty-six of "Casa Guidi: Firenze":
except (to speak of poems)
that other Robert,
old crackerbarrel who fooled them all,
and Ezra, of course, Uncle Ez
who got his lever under the world
and Yanked.
This is a tongue-in-cheek playfulness, a light-heartedness which owes
much to the three men implied in the above quote: Browning,
Frost and Pound. It is his refusal, as it was theirs, not to make the
poem a vehicle for a crusade, a sermon or an excuse for suicide.
Even when Gustafson returns to Canadian scenery, whether it be
a Quebec night scene or a camp in the Rocky Mountains, there is
always the cultured man's vision/knowledge of place. In "At
Moraine Lake" the poet can confess that Canada is "a country
without myths." Then he adds, "We need none." The reader soon
realizes why: everything is in the poet's mind; why does he need
anything else when he has Hybla, Babel, Circe, Odysseus, Philomela
and the Plantagenets buzzing in his head?
From all reports and obvious sources, Gustafson has a growing
appeal among the younger poets of Canada. It is intriguing that a
man who can claim he doesn't need a Canadian mythos, can appeal
to so many of the younger poets who are actively searching for a
homegrown mythology.
It is obviously Gustafson's emotional honesty which attracts many
writers to his work. One element of this honesty can be found in
"A Ceremony". In this poem the poet admits:
Two men had courtesy,
Browning of the poems, and Yeats.
they knew, having "looked upon the sky and earth" that "grace/
Altered all men, not knowledge" and that "All is in ceremony."
Ultimately the poem is the ceremony — for every honest poet.
For Gustafson, one integral part of the ceremony is language.
Who else could have written:
I think old, but two? — years — another
At this Carrara — the first chalk how long
Ago? he standing on his platform nude — naked —
151 Until I'd finished what I'd not begun,
Whose baptistry now somewhat sticks in my nostrils —
Are enough.
This is not a sophomore performance, it is poetry. The language
and the movement of the language are part of a ceremony that
Gustafson uses to lure the reader into the poem.
Certainly George Amabile's Blood Ties was one of the finer Canadian books published in 1972. The power in this book lies in the
emotional honesty and the courtesy AND the ability to make the
poem a ceremony. The ceremony can, in Amabile's case, be likened
to the Catholic mass. Not the mass as so many North Americans
know it, but the European mass; let's say a Christmas mass at Notre
Dame. Everyone becomes part of the ceremony. Again: the poem
must accept the reader. Certainly these poems, once one familiarizes
himself with the personae of Blood Ties, swallow the reader.
There is yet another reason for the mass analogy. Unlike Gustafson, where one line after another sticks in the reader's memory, there
are few gutsy lines in Blood Ties. The same can be said for the
poems; only a few take the reader out on a limb, and shake him
up and down. Where the power of Gustafson is mired by the punch
of literally dozens of poems, Blood Ties stands out, like the mass,
larger and stronger than any of its components.
The basis for this, it seems, is that Amabile is an observer; he
sees and he reports, all in due time. When he does speak it is
through his eyes; there is no confusion of imagery, no warped syntax
to force the elements into newer and stronger shapes. The poet
expects us to be interested; such as "The Small Town":
with dangling cigarettes
lounge against the war memorial
between the courthouse & the church
making up tanned starlets in tight shorts
which is not an interesting poem until we reach the last line. Lines
such as this are the beginning of the ceremony. We find this in the
opening poem "Accidental Death"; a boy has been killed in a
traffic accident — something we take part in, just as we overhear
the survivor admit: "He's dead I'm glad / it wasn't me." For the
reader the ceremony is wrapped up by the seventh and last section
of the poem:
I52 All day I could not touch his death
but saw him waking
in some other dazzling afternoon
brushing off grass
a stranger
armed with airy lightness and a grin
But when I touched the sculpted heap
of crossed hands in his coffin
vision drained off into the ground
There are definitely two moods at work in this collection. And it
is the cross-current created by these moods which is the most difficult element within Blood Ties. One mood stems from "The Small
Town"; the mood is simply an extension, and a very logical one, of
the louts "making up tanned starlets in tight shorts." This mood, or
persona, can be found repeatedly in such poems as "Earlie in the
Mornin", "Adultery", "Period" and the two long poems "Generation Gap" and "Inner Space: The Light Culture." The mood is
tough-guy-as-poet; a skin so thick nothing will or can touch him;
thick as a black leather jacket, circa 1955.
The opposing mood is first one of loss, such as in "Analysis: The
Psychology of Dust":
I study an enlarged photograph
at my desk in bright light
What turned us off?
I try to revive the lapsed sentence
that released silt shadows into the future
Why did those long talks make us grim
and sullen?
which concludes on a secondary note: memory:
My body aches
for a fall of glossy hair
to swing lightly into its tree of blood
It is the loss of women and the unsatisfactory memories one must
five with, that sometimes bothers Amabile, sometimes annoys him.
Yet, now and again, it is the loss of time that's on his mind. In the
opening stanza of "Cemetery":
Who knows
how many thoughts
out of the dark last night
like single gloves
153 These opposing forces make Blood Ties a powerful book, one to
remember. It is worth noticing that when these elements come
together: punk and poet, creator and wrecking agent, and are
forced not only to co-exist, but to work, we find the best poems in
the book. Things begin to work in "Synchronicity" and "The
Eclipse". This is not to say that the remainder are not successful
poems; they are, each in its own way.
When the moods really jell for the first time it's in "Generation
Gap"; this is ceremony and it's in high range, highballing. All the
personae are there, all are working, and, as a consequence, the poem
exceeds its own limitations.
I wanted to punch the pain out of your head
I wanted to talk
but there were green smells
& the withered folds of your throat were disastrous
Your scratched voice blew off in the wind
Tom Wayman's Waiting for Wayman is, in its own minor way,
a tour de force. It is also the type of book that drives the reviewer
"around the bend." Who is this Wayman, where did he come from
and where's he going are questions that continue to pop up at each
turn and grade of the book. The reviewer searches desperately for
the poem which will stand still long enough to be counted. There
aren't many. It's a busy book.
Unlike Amabile's Blood Ties which remains in memory as a unity,
Wayman's Waiting for Wayman lingers, as does Gustafson's
Selected, as a collection of poems. Again and again the book is
blurred by poems; poems such as "Life on the Land Grant Review"
which reads in part:
Mad gnome of an assistant editor
Wayman gloats in Colorado
before the mass of manuscripts now his,
his to edit.
Wayman remembers the mounds of his own mail
marked:  "Are you kidding?"
"What is this grunt?" and
"Do us a favor and stick this up your ass?"
Certainly these are lines which belong in no lexicon of great poetry,
but, within the context of the complete poem they do stick to the
mind. These are ham and egg poems.
One of the obvious reasons for the reader liking these poems is
154 the curiosity and love that Wayman has for the Wayman of the
poems — the big I. There is Wayman playing at being Snyder and
Rexroth "On the Interstates", there is Wayman "Waiting for Way-
man", Wayman with "The Dow Recruiter", Wayman "Getting
Fired", Wayman "Flying" and Wayman working and in love. It is
rather like a baby exploring its own body; and, like the parent or
bystander watching, we cannot help but become part of the process. The poems swallow us.
We usually find Wayman tongue in cheek and it's hard not to
laugh or chuckle along with him as he mocks Wayman and the
world Wayman moves through. No matter where we find Wayman,
we find him being honest. In "Waiting or Wayman" we find the
core and the reason for better than two-thirds of the book:
Wayman is waiting for Wayman.
He seems very late.
"I think," he says,
"I should write a poem about this."
Even though we can "laugh or chuckle" with Wayman at his own
discoveries and antics, there is a growing feeling as one moves
through the book a second time that much of the material exists
due to the author's urge to "write a poem about this." It is this
urge that places poems such as "Poets Fucking by Moonlight," "The
Garbage Man," "Poem Composed in Rogue River Park" and a
number of others in a collection which is otherwise exceptionally
strong. These poems take the reader away from Wayman and away
from his book, and it is regrettable.
I am not arguing with the urge to write such poems, or the
obvious fun the author is having; the problem here is one of emptiness. Wayman just is not in these particular poems. In another time,
and perhaps with another author, we could say these particular
poems are hollow spiritually. What they are, of course, is the end
product of a style of writing that is almost too successful elsewhere
in the book.
It seems to me that the poems that work, and work exceptionally
well (once we've moved away from Wayman as Satirist) are those
seemingly written late at night when all the fun had bubbled away.
Poems written when Wayman the Man was alone with Wayman
the Poet. "There's a Kind of Hush" and "Despair" are the first two
poems in the book where one meets Wayman Naked. In "There's
a Kind of Hush," listen while Wayman marks papers and meditates:
155 Words written slowly at the desks
in the dormitories, nervous because
they are late, because they will not please.
Hunted out on the typewriter
between supper and math
or a date. Worried later.
Sweated. Alone. Ashamed.
This is Wayman the Poet; it is our first good look at the man outside his own skin.
It is not often that Wayman steps beyond his skin. Too often he
steps out in other disguises; in "On the Interstates," which carries
the epitaph "after Snyder and Rexroth" he masks Wayman. In
doing so he writes an incredibly bad poem. Since Snyder is hardly
more than a 25^ caricature of Rexroth, and Rexroth is one of the
few American poets who has spent the last forty years developing a
squeak instead of a voice, Wayman is travelling on soft ground
when he tries to write in their manner. He can't. The reason is very
simple: Wayman is a poet. There are other poems in which Way-
man appears as various American and Canadian poets. In none of
them is Wayman a success.
Even though this book is a forceful one and, to the best of my
knowledge, one of the finest published in Canada in 1973 there is
a cancer gnawing at it. There are two directions for the poet: Way-
man the Joker or Wayman the Poet. In this book he is both Poet
and Joker and most of the weight is on the "joker" side. It can only
be hoped that in the next book Wayman will opt out for poetry.
The personal approach, unless used differently and with a freshness,
has gone far enough; any further and Wayman will be waiting for
Boundary 2, Winter 1974, A Journal of Postmodern Literature, published State
University of New York at Binghamton, subscriptions $5.00 per year, $2.00
per copy.
The Canadian Fiction Magazine, Number 12, Winter 1974, A Journal of Contemporary Canadian Fiction, subscriptions $4.40 per year, $1.50 per copy,
160 pp.
Canadian Literature Nos. 59 & 60, Winter and Spring 1974, A Quarterly of
Criticism and Review, subscriptions $5.50 per year, $2.00 per copy, 128 pp.
The Capilano Review, No. 4, Fall/Winter 1973, poetry /fiction, published from
Capilano College, North Vancouver, B.C., subscriptions $3.25 per year, $1.25
per copy, 66 pp.
Chicago Review, 1974, Volume 24, No. 2 and Vol. 25, No. 4, subscriptions $5.00
per year, $1.50 per copy, 190 pp.
Epoch, Winter 1974 and Spring 1974, published by Cornell University, Ithaca,
New York, subscriptions $4.00 per year, $1.50 per copy, 100 pp.
Fiddlehead,  Winter   1974,  published  Fredericton,  New  Brunswick,  $1.00  per
copy, 11 o pp.
Inscape, Spring  1974, Vol. XI, No.   1, Department of English, University of
Ottawa, $1.25 per copy, no pp.
The International Fiction Review, Vol.  1, No.  1, January 1974, subscriptions
$6.00 per year, $16.00 for 3 years, 80 pp.
^\V|fc>   *
parabolic fictions
"Bullock's fables bear witness to one of the most wildly
imaginative minds ever to reach the printed page" —
Wendy Jeffries, Hamilton Spectator
for almost every taste
and purpose can be found,
easily, at
919 Robson
670 Seymour
4560 W. 10th Avenue
1032 W. Hastings
CA 4-7012
University of British Columbia
Hours: Weekdays 8:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
158 Journal of Popular Culture, 1973, VII: 2, published Bowling Green University,
Ohio, subscriptions $10.00 per year, $3.00 per copy, 300 pp.
Juggler,  Spring  1974, Vol.  28, No.  2, a semi-annual magazine published by
Notre Dame St. Mary's community; subscriptions $1.00 per year,  75<( per
copy, 48 pp.
Madrona 7, published quarterly from Seattle, Washington by the Gemini Press,
subscription $4.00 per year, $1.25 per copy.
New: 22 & 23, Fall/Winter 1973/74, The Crossing Press, Trumansburg, New
York, poetry and views, subscriptions $2.75 per year, $1.50 per copy, 96 pp.
New Directions 27, 1974, An International Anthology of Prose & Poetry, Ed. J.
Laughlin, $2.95, 186 pp.
The New Orleans Review, Vol. 4, No. 1, published by Loyola University, New
Orleans, A Journal of Literature & Culture, subscriptions $6.00 per year,
$1.50 per copy, 96 pp.
The Paris Review, Spring  1974, Interviews, Prose, Poetry, Art, single copies
$1.95, 210 pp.
Partisan Review, Nos. 1 & 2, Winter 1973, published Rutgers University, New
Brunswick, New Jersey, subscriptions $5.50 per year, $1.50 per copy, 160 pp.
The Southern  Review,  Spring,   1974, published quarterly at Louisiana  State
University, subscriptions $5.00 per year, $1.50 per copy, 300 pp.
Tri Quarterly 28, Russian Literature and Culture in the West:   1922-1972, Vol.
2, No. 28, Fall  1973, subscriptions $7.00 per year, $2.50 per copy, 244 pp.
West Coast Poetry Review, Fall 1973, Issue 9, Vol. 3, No. 1, subscriptions $5.00
per year, $1.50 per copy, 84 pp.
West Coast Review, April 1974, A Quarterly Magazine of the Arts, published
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C., subscriptions $6.00 per year, $1.50
per copy.
Western Humanities Review, Winter  1974, published quarterly University of
Utah, subscriptions $4.00 per year, $1.00 per copy, 100 pp.
America A  Prophecy,  ed.  George  Quasha  and  Jerome  Rothenberg,  A  New
Reading  of American  Poetry  from  Pre-Columbian  Times  to  the  Present;
Vintage Books, 604 pp., $3.95.
eerton, pierre, The National Dream and The Last Spike,  1974, McClelland
and Stewart Limited, 512 pp., $4.95.
Best Poems of  1972, Borestone Mountain Poetry Awards  1973.  Twenty-fifth
annual volume published in the Borestone Mountain Poetry Awards series,
published Pacific Books, California, 132 pp., $4.95.
bowering,  george,  In  The  Flesh,   1974,  McClelland  and  Stewart  Limited,
poetry, 112 pp., $2.95.
bullock,   michael,   World   Without   Beginning   Amen,   1973,   Oasis   Books,
London, and Beamur International Ltd., Vancouver and Hong Kong, poetry,
56 pp., $1.50.
Canada, National Film Board of Canada, in collaboration with Clarke, Irwin
and Company Ltd., 1973 photographs and poems, $19.95.
chase-riboud, Barbara, From Memphis & Peking, 1974, Random House, New
York, poetry, 112 pp., $5.00.
fowler, sandra, In The Shape of Sun, 1973, Shalom Publications, Tel-Aviv,
Israel, poetry, $1.25, 36 pp.
J59 gotlieb, phyllis, Doctor  Umlaut's Earthly Kingdom,   1974, Calliope Press,
Ontario, poetry, 106 pp.
gutteridge, don, 1974, Nairn Publishing House, Ontario, fiction, 174 pp. $3.50.
kogawa, joy, A  Choice of Dreams,  1974, McClelland and Stewart Limited,
poetry, 96 pp., $2.95.
mcneil, Florence, The Rim of the Park, Sono Nis Press, poetry, 62 pp.
millar, will, Children of the Unicorn, 1974, McClelland and Stewart Limited,
The Story of the Irish Rovers, 160 pp., $5.95.
moss, john, Patterns of Isolation in English Canadian Fiction, 1974, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 254 pp., $4.95.
purdy, al, In Search of Owen Roblin, 1974, McClelland and Stewart Limited,
poetry and photographs (Bob Waller), $12.95.
schuyler,  james, Hymn to Life,  1974, Random House, New York, poetry,
140 pp., $1.95.
skelton, robin   (ed.), Introductions from an Island,  1974, New writing by
students  in  the  Creative  Writing  Program  of  the  University  of  Victoria,
Victoria, B.C. 50^.
smith,  ray,  Lord Nelson  Tavern,   1974,  McClelland  and  Stewart  Limited,
fiction, 156 pp., $6.95.
rikki, From the Star Chamber, 1974, Fiddlehead Poetry Books, poetry, 44 pp.,


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