Keyword
in
Collection
Date
to
Domestic Crude, 1983
File 001
File size: 13.98 MB
Citation
MLA
APA
Chicago/Turabian
Domestic Crude, 1983 - File 001. 1983. University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. December 16, 2018. https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/crude/item/66/show/0.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(1983). Domestic Crude, 1983 - File 001. Domestic Crude. University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/crude/item/66/show/0

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Domestic Crude, 1983 - File 001, 1983, Domestic Crude, University of Houston Libraries, accessed December 16, 2018, https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/crude/item/66/show/0.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

URL
Embed Image
Compound Item Description
Title Domestic Crude, 1983
Contributor
  • Lopate, Phillip
  • McBride, Elizabeth
Publisher Department of English, University of Houston
Date 1983
Language English
Subject
  • Creative writing
  • Poetry
  • Art
  • University of Houston
Place
  • Houston, Texas
Genre
  • periodicals
Type
  • Image
  • Text
Identifier OCLC: 9582873
Collection
  • University of Houston Libraries Special Collections
  • University of Houston Archives
  • Domestic Crude
Rights In Copyright: This item is protected by copyright. Copyright to this resource is held by the creator or current rights holder, and the resource is provided here for educational purposes. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without permission of the copyright owner. Users assume full responsibility for any infringement of copyright or related rights.
Item Description
Title File 001
Transcript -.-1 +:> . • Vl ,..~. -~-·j ~.~ ~\ ~v·fr~ ~ --- ~.. . . . • c- • - c.: \V) ~fu, t? \ - - b~0 \ ~ -- - --- - - - domestic c r u d e 2 Editorial Staff Editor Poetry Editor Prose Editor Art Editor Literary/Art Coordinator Art Director Staff Elizabeth McBride Margaret Tufts Sabine Hilding Jean Dibble Eleanor Totz Jean Dibble Charlotte Berkowitz Sherwood Bishop Patricia Clark Edwin Erwin Cindy Ford Diane Heath Joyce James Pat Kimbrell Sharon Long Arthur Smith Jack Spula Marilyn Stablein Pam Watts Cover Photo Inside Cover Alain Clement John Halaka Editorial Advisor Phillip Lopate Design Concept Guest Layout Designers Layout/Pasteup Rolf Laub Anne Sligar Richard Howard Rolf Laub Jean Dibble $3.00 DOMESTIC CRUDE is printed and published annually at the University of Houston. We wish to acknowledge gratefully that funding for this issue was provided by the University of Houston, Office of the Chancellor and Provost through the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. DOMESTIC CRUDE welcomes submissions and invites members of the UH community to join the staff. For future issues, submissions of poetry, prose, photography and line drawings should be sent with a stamped, self-addressed return envelope to DOMESTIC CRUDE, English Department, University of Houston, Central Campus, Houston, Texas 77004. The magazine may be purchased for $3.00 on campus and locally, or by mail by writing directly to DOMESTIC CRUDE. Copyright 1983 University of Houston. Upon publication, all rights revert to contributors. r <.! I I -3 Prose and Poetry Art 4 Wanda Grossman A Born Listener 9 Alain Clement 8 Paula Webb A Cement Heart 11 Perry House 13 Phillip Lopate The Nipple 19 Karin Broker 14 Vassar Miller Mrs. Lot 20 Chris Plowman 15 Job 23 Richard Thompson 16 Babette Fraser Prophecy 26 Charlie Kubricht 18 Gail Donohue Reading Other People's Mail 29 Mark Coughlin 24 Naomi Shihab Nye Trying to Name What Doesn't Change 32 Glynda Robbins Lena 25 Pablo and I Have Lunch 35 Patricia Gonzalez Hawaiian Punch Prayer, August 39 Chris Plowman 28 Joyce James Penson Roller Pigeons 40 Don Shaw On This Sunday 43 Jeff Delude 29 Margaret Tufts Living in the Cold 44 Night as the Distance to Morning Jim Poag 30 Glenn Blake The Winning 46 Gay Block 37 Arthur Smith Tree Heart 55 Lynn Hurst Tea Rose 58 Beth Secor 38 Jack Spula Change of season : 39 Red squirrel 40 Heidi Renteria The Somnologist 41 Catherine Austin Nothing 42 Paul Graves Aubade 42 Lawrence Broch Hour of Smoke 43 Houdini Meets Cotten Mather in Paradise 45 Jessica Greenbaum Unwritten Legacy 46 Eleanor Totz The Eulogy 48 Pattiann Rogers Waking God at Dawn Little Fugue A Modicum of Decorum Blind Juggler 50 Maureen Brown Requiem for a Foot 52 Patricia Clark At the Trout Farm, North of Wondering 53 A. R. Dryden Wassail Jeff Gustavson Jittery Letter to Jenny Pindar (!or Jenny) 54 Marie Ponsot Foreign Correspondent 56 Patricia Kimbrell Catalogues Marilyn Stablein In India in the Sixties 57 Rabie Harris In Spite of Everything .... 59 Nancy Luton Tynan Ritual for Father and Daughter On the Shortest Day of the Year Dust Storm 60 Charlotte A. Berkowitz You Want to See Me Dance? 3 4 Wanda Grossman The Hospital on the Hudson The Hudson is the Rhine of the New World. Many estates land­ed themselves on the hilly em­bankments overlooking the Hudson; castles, mansions, immense tudors. This one house, it looked like a haunted mansion, was donated to the town along with a great expanse of land, in order to build the new hospital. My father could remem­ber the old hospital. Every time we drove up to the big house I would ask who lives there? I just liked to hear him retell the history and he didn't mind. Then I jumped out of the car and went running down the hill, or rolling down. Then I would roll down the hill again and my father, in his suit pants and sweater, was still locking his stethoscope in the glove compartment, locking the car, and walking down the hill. Every weekend we always had to go walk Honey, our Golden Retriever. My sister and brother had just started being teen­agers and they weren't interested in family walks. We always said that we would come here in the winter sometime and how far could you go on your sled, to that line of trees or down to the dirt road? Maybe Bernie, my brother and the leader of the sled-riders on our street, would want to come along. He would appreciate this new territory. We never did go on our walks during the winter. Then I went under the tree. Its branches touched the ground and it always kept its leaves and I played under there for five or so minutes until my father laughed, "Jean, you there?" I would say, "You've got to see this, come here come here," but he couldn't find his way in although once I got him to step inside, take a look around and say, "Yes, I see, I see, it's great, c'mon, let's get started, we have to be back by six." A BORN A Sterling Silver Ring and My Sister 0 nee, while we were on the road through the woods at the bottom of the hill, my father found a sterling sil­ver ring engraved with some flowers. The ring became our proj­ect and we got home that Sunday and wrote an ad for the newspaper and ran the ad for a week, but no one ever answered. The ring was much too big for me, but sometimes I wore it on my thumb. For two weeks I wore the ring every day and my sister made her favorite ugly face at me whenever she saw my hands. She wouldn't look at me, her eyes slid right past me, but one nostril lifted into a wrinkled, misshapen hole in her pale face . One day she asked me, "Where did you get that ring?" "Dad and I found it at the hospital." I answered her quickly, since I was al ways happy when she talked to me. "It's much too big for you," she said, "Do you want me to take care of it for a while, so you don't lose it?" I felt she was going to look after me, so I gladly took the ring off my finger and handed it over to her. A beautiful, feminine gaze came over her face, not an ugly expression at all. "It fits me perfectly," she said, 'TH give it back to you in a couple of years." In a couple of years I took it back. I wore the ring on my thumb again, sure to have it always, but always taking it off my finger nervously in school. Drop­ping it on the floor in classes. Apologiz­ing to the teacher for the small clatter and retrieving it. Once, I left it in the girls' locker room and that was it, I never had it again, after all those close calls. The Newborn Babies 0 ccasionally, after we had finished our walk, the end of the walk climbing up the hill and out of breath, we would take a trip to the maternity ward. "Jean, you want to go look at the new­borns?" This was my favorite activity when we went to walk the dog at the hospital. In fact, I often suggested, "Dad, you want to go look at the newborns? The newborns today, Dad?" "I don't think so, well no, it's already five-thirty." Sometimes he said, "OK," a little surprised, and I even more sur­prised to see that he hadn't been think­ing about the newborns even though our walk was finished, we were getting into the car, and it was time to see them. LISTENER My Mother and I We made cakes together. She made the vanilla and I made the chocolate and then we swirled my batter through hers with a knife. She did the marbling, but not because I couldn't handle a knife. I liked to mix everything up and she said a cake was not a mud-pie. My father would reach for my mother's hand where she sat next to him at the dining room table, closest to the kitchen door, and say, "You make the most mag­nificent marble cake." She pointed at me, the real baker. He would tell me, too, "You are the world's best marble cake baker." In the back yard, I made salads from weeds, onion grass, and wild mint. My mother washed off the dirt from my sal­ads and told the family I had picked scallions and put them into the real salad we ate for dinner. My father chewed them slowly. She told me to put on long pants, not shorts, when I went on walks outside. During the height of poison ivy season she washed me with brown soap when I came home. She told my father to wear blue jeans. "I can't make a housecall or show up in the emergency room in blue jeans," he would say. "You're walking the dog, who's gonna see you?" 'Tm always running into someone up at the hospital, and you know, if Jean and I go to the maternity ward ... " "That's true," she said. The Sum Total We took our Sunday walks during the newborns' feeding time, that's just how it worked out. Through the side door on the first floor and up a back elevator where test tubes, jingling on a cart, got out at the second floor, and we at the third. Everyone said Hello Doctor, and he had nicknames for everyone ("Mel­My- O ld-B uddy," "Sherry-Lee-Sun­shine"), all the doctors, nurses, and patients who'd found a whole family of familiarity and couldn't stay out of the hospital. Then he swung open the double doors that said No Visitors between 11 and 2, 3 and 6, and so on. It was almost always feeding time for the newborns. I liked to remark on our disregarding the No Vis­itors sign just to hear my father say that We Were Allowed. For a while we just stood in front of the glass. Then my father would point out which ones were new this day, last night, two hours ago, and look at that one being wheeled in right now, straight from Obstetrics. "Just now?" "Sure." "But was it just born now or was it fifteen minutes ago?" "What can I tell you, Jean? The baby is born and they bring it in here." "Five minutes? Did it have to come up in the elevator?" "No, it's right here on this floor. They wash it off, show it to the mother ... " "Oh, that's right, the mother looks at it. So it must be, fifteen minutes, yes?" "About that." Then he smiles and hugs me, "That's right." The nurses are busy, but they have noticed us in front of the glass by now. They wave to my father and they like me too. Once or twice, they have carried a newborn right over to us, to the glass between us. The baby doesn't have its eyes open yet and I stare at it, trying to make it smile back at me. Sometimes, they wave their fists, kick off a corner of the blanket, smile and cry all at once, as if they didn't know how to have one feel­ing at a time. The nurse would look at the baby too and then at me, and then smile at my father. "Is that Patricia's baby?" my father asks the nurse. She reads his lips and understands, no, she points to a crib in the far corner. She puts the baby she is holding back in its crib. She makes signs to show that Patricia's baby is eight pounds and my father shakes his hand from the wrist. Finally, I am torn away. On the way down to the car, I total up the number of kids on my street that my father has delivered. The count includes my best friend Cindy. Years later, when the children in town got married, he would say, "Can you believe I delivered that kid?" and he would shake his hand from the wrist. 5 6 The Sound of Talking M ost of the time we talked while we walked. Ifnot, I climbed rocks and trees and went running after the dog. Ifwe were silent I would ask my father a question, some­times it took three questions, so that he would have to talk on one subject for a while, explaining. I just wanted to keep him talking because I liked the sound of his voice which was easy to daydream to. I would daydream, but understand just enough of what he was saying in order to make the appropriate excla­mations or ask another question if he paused. I developed the ability to skim what he was saying and summarize it as ifl'd been listening astutely while thinking about cowboys and Indians. Then I would go running after Honey. I was the Indian messenger chasing my horse through the forest. My father and I would watch Honey go swimming in a stream, then climb back up to the path silently, and dry off Honey before getting back into the car so that she didn't ruin the rug at home. The Children's Talk Show At the dinner table, waiting for our meal, we would imi­tate an educational chil­dren's talk show called The Smart Akes. My father would ask the questions. "How do you pro­nounce C-H-O/P-H-0/U-S-E?" "Next question, the Santa Maria is one ship in a fleet of which three ships, and who sailed them?" "Niii.a, Pinta, Christopher Columbus," I whispered to my brother who likes to ignore my answers and advice. "Isn't that right?" "No," he says. "Yes it is!" I say urgently. Time is passing quickly. My sister has already answered. My brother looks at me, says firmly, flatly, "'Yes' means 'No' and 'No' means 'No'." My father asks another question. "Name a country on the equator," and suddenly I am alert because my brother and sister are having a difficult time answering this one and even my mother has hesitated in the midst of adjusting the meal in the kitchen. My brother despises mulling over a challenging question, but my father gives us a few more minutes to think. I am thinking as quickly as I can seeing my sister is still unable to answer. This was an opportu­nity for me to make my debut. "Flori­da?" I say because my grandparents live there and it's always hot. I imagine groves of palm trees but cannot come to any conclusion about the name of a steamy land mass situated on the equa­tor. "Equa, equa, Equador," I say. "That's right, look at that," says my father, my brother calls me a cheater and my sister continues to eat in the European fash­ion, showing the back of her fork as she brings choice morsel to mouth, little pre­cocious bites, chewing cleverly. My mother runs into the dining room look­ing frightened that she may have yet another child prodigy on her hands. Finally everyone's nerves are calmed and we begin to eat. During the first half of the meal, my father looks at me too during the various conversations and my mother insists that I be consulted for my opinion. I don't know what cardiology is and I wish they would stop asking me questions, because they're interrupting my thinking. By the second half of the meal, they have stopped including me, what a relief. The Educated Guess B ut my mother never forgot that I had ventured to make this educated guess and she returned to me often, asking for example, my thoughts on my brother and sister's schooling. I had no thoughts on this matter. Often I had to make up an opinion when asked to speak, so that it would appear that my thoughts were in context. This process of spontaneous invention slowed my speech considerably and naturally they all became quite impatient with me. After I finished one ofmy short speeches my brother and sister would huff, puff, and sigh, my father would have glanced at my mother, irritated that she had held up the conversation by calling on me, and my mother would stare at me intensely for a minute, feeling she had made a mistake by attributing the famil­ial intelligence to me also. She was continually trying to make a space for me in the family talks and I continued to refuse the offer. Coming to a Conclusion Finally, I came to this conclu­sion: The faster I tripped up during one ofmy short speech­es, the faster everyone's em­barrassment would be relieved. I managed to make remarks of such extreme abstraction that no one could follow anything I said. I became the wiz­ard of vagueries. This trick worked in the opposite manner as that of a stut­terer, whose speech must be followed closely. Any comment I made could be swatted away like a tiny buzzing mos­quito without any reflective or conscious reaction. A BORN LISTENER A Return to the Hospital 0 ne day, when I too had become a disinterested teenager, my father asked me to come with him to the hospital. We were go- · ing to take Honey for a walk, although I'd stopped accompanying him on these walks. I was very pleased at this return to old times. Then he said, "Your mother wanted us to be alone together so I could talk to you." She had told him that I rarely spoke to her. "I do talk to her, I tell her what I do in school and she pretends she doesn't understand me." "Listen doll," he said, "You've got to give us a chance. You say one or two words, of course we don't understand, and then you go up in smoke, run out of the room!" I wouldn't answer him and he said, "You're not going to talk to me? Oh c'mon, Jeanie," and I kept walking just a little bit faster than him so that he couldn't catch up. We wound around the path through the woods and back up the hill. I stayed just ahead of him although it meant sacrificing running alongside Honey. We got into the car and drove home. In the garage my father said, "I wish you would talk to me sweetheart." I thought, no, and don't ever ask me on a walk to the hospital again. 7 8 A Cement Heart Marriage makes me mean, wrote Con­nie Lou in her goodbye letter to her hus­band Wade. I love you, but a woman like me can't make a man like you happy for long. My music is my only pride. You know this is true. I'm the best damn bass player in southwest Arkansas, and when I sit in Friday nights at the Smokehouse, I feel almost beautiful, like these big hands can do something special, not just be too big and get stuck in fruit jars. I just can't make any more casseroles, Wade. I just can't join the Volunteer Fire­men's Auxiliary and go to those conven­tions in Little Rock, like you want me to. I don't know how to talk to people, espe­cially wives. But when I play, I feel real elegant, only I'm the only one who knows. Playing bass is not like playing guitar. You just can't whip it out and charm people. I'm no showboat. I just do what I do, keep the song on course, the harmony steady. Wade, I love you, but we've been to­gether three years now, and there hasn't been even one week when I haven't seen that look of tired disappointment come across your face. I just can't see that sad face anymore, Wade. You were born to laugh, be a father to a bunch of kids. The whole town lights up when they see you coming down the street. I feel like the bitter shadow in your life. I can't do a thing for you, Wade. You don't need me, and since you'll never leave me, I've got to leave you. I'm sadder than I can ever tell you with words, my darling. Goodbye. Your loving wife, Connie Lou Hollywood. She left the letter propped up against their wedding toaster on the round kitchen table. Wade got in early from work, dis­appointed not to see the camper, since he'd had a good day at the John Deere Company and had sold three new yellow posthole diggers to a statewide outfit out of Magnolia. He wanted to take Connie Lou into town for dinner, maybe run by late and see that new band at the Holiday Inn Rainbow Room. Connie Lou would like that, a little celebration right here in the middle of the week, a little music, no dishes to wash. "Being married to a musician has real advantages," he told all his friends. "When she listens to music, she takes it all apart, hears the guitar, the bass, the voices all separate. Then she puts it back together, plays variations on the table edge, tells me what she hears. I never knew music 'til I met Connie Lou. It don't matter to me she can't cook." " It's a good thing that's how you feel, Wade," said Joe Robert, his best friend . "We 'bout died last Thanksgiving, chok­ing down that yellow squash casserole at your house." When Wade found the letter, he put his head down on the oilcloth and cried. "I love this woman," he said out loud. "But she has never believed it. I should've known this was coming. She's been brit­tle as pine kindling ever since her daddy died." Zack Taylor was a legend in Fayette County. The youngest son of a country Baptist preacher, he learned early on that the Lord's grace might be contrary and that he'd have to take matters into his own hands. He inherited a gift for storytelling from his preaching daddy, but he used Biblical references in only those cases when he felt his audience slipping away. On a hot and sticky summer night on the front porch-the little kids already in thin, cotton pajamas but still wrestling out the day's insults; the older kids and the adults shelling peas into big, white, enamel pans, wishing the little ones would just hush or fall asleep on the floor pallets, or both; the bugs, way too many of them, buzzing and swarming around the mer­cury vapor light by the wellhouse- Zack was always welcome. He could make that heavy heat go away in a minute, all for the price of a tall glass of sugared iced tea. He could make you shiver, wish for a sweater on a muggy August night, telling you a story about duck hunting in the Louisiana swamps some cold, wet November. Zack called himself a trading fool , but there wasn't much foolish about him. He was born to sell and play poker. Cards, he was good at, although he declined to play on Sundays, but at selling he was down­right masterful, seven days a week. He could sell anything, find anything, trade anything, and take pleasure in every turn of the negotiation. He hunted for high risk deals, playing on people's vanity and greed, and while he committed to no spe­cialty, he achieved considerable success turning rusted -out steel into cash. He would find some old, barely working , fishing tool equipment in a new widow's backyard in Amarillo, then sell it in two days to a young and hopeful independ­ent rigger with skin too fair for outdoor work in Hattiesburg. Everybody'd be happy with the deal, especially Zack, Paula Webb who'd go off right away to Houston or New Orleans and buy himself a brand new Buick. He always drove a Buick, claimed they were the best cars on the road, and every­body was mystified how he kept those cars so clean and shining, driving those dusty, red-dirt, Arkansas country roads. He was a big man, stood a whole head above most people, and he always wore a city hat, white straw in the summer, brown felt in the winter. He wore white, half-sleeve shirts ordered special from Battelsteins in Houston, he carried a leath­erette briefcase nobody ever saw him open, and he always knew the latest jokes. Giving advice to his daughter Connie Lou, or anyone else who might be listening, he pushed his hat back on his head with his cigar-smoking hand and said, "Never drink cheap booze, and always do your banking during regular hours, so you can be sure and wave 'hey' to your loan officer." For address purposes, Zack kept a room at the old hotel in Lewisville, but he was rarely there, always on the scent of some hot new deal that would make him rich. When Connie Lou finally decided to marry Wade, she couldn't even find Zack to tell him, but he found out somehow, he always knew everything anyway, and showed up at the very last minute, an armful of camelias for his daughter and a whole case of Jack Daniels for Wade. "She's a good woman," he told Wade, over two shot glasses of bourbon from the bottle he kept in the glove compartment. "But, she's as moody as her mother. The first time I saw her, nearly three weeks old, I regretted my whole life and consid­ered settling down, going to pharmacy school, having my own store, just so's I could be near her. She was the littlest thing I ever saw, born too early, but she had her mama's eyes and my great big hands. I loved her like I loved nothing else in this world, but she wouldn't let me com­fort her, never has. I hoped her body would grow up to her hands, but that didn't work out. Everything about her just continued to grow with a powerful stubbornness to confound scale. By the time she was three, we all had to admit that daintiness was not her destiny, so I figured we might as well say to hell with all that regret, and start concentrating on how special she was. She was, too, special as spring. She loved music, stayed real close to the radio in the kitchen like it was a bonfire on a 10 freezing Halloween night. So for her fifth birthday, I traded 2000 feet of four-inch cable and an old diamond-bit drilling head any Oakie could use with happiness, and got her a Gibson guitar. The music teacher in town said she had a lot of ability, as if we didn't know, but said she got frustrated with all the strings, so I traded the guitar for a four-string Fender bass, and after that everything went fine. I remember coming home, driving all night from Gulf­port the night her mama died, and finding her out by the wellhouse, hugging that bass and playing steady, the tears stream­ing down her face. She looked like the angel she is, but would take no hugging from me for her sorrow. I love that child with all my heart, but with all my traveling, I've never been able to raise any recogni­tion in her. I tell you, Wade, I feared it would be just Connie Lou and her bass and those big, lonesome eyes for all time, until you came along. I'm grateful to you, Wade, for calling out her trust, and I wish you all the happiness and glory there is in this life." Zack couldn't stay for the wedding, a big deal was brewing in Lake Charles that he had to attend to. "This could be the big one," he whispered to his daughter, kiss­ing her quick on the cheek, and then wav­ing goodbye to everyone, honking his horn all the way down the road. Zack Taylor was never one to leave a party quiet. Almost three years later on a rainy December night in Houston, a single sheet of newspaper floated like a threat in the air above the lanes of traffic. Zack Taylor, in his brand new Buick, hurrying to meet a group of young real estate developers, lurched into the fast lane, hoping to beat the odds, and lost. The floating news­paper glided slowly toward the Buick, then dropped quick, stuck to the windshield, hung fast, and got caught in the wiper. Zack was blinded. He braked too short and skidded everywhere, crashing into cars, trucks, the railing. An independent trucker with a load of salvage pipe saw him coming, but could do nothing. The impact of the Buick on the truck's rear end loosened the safety ropes, and the load spilled out over five lanes of heavy traffic. Eleven people were injured, fifteen cars were damaged, 34 wreckers came. Zack Taylor and two others were killed instantly, by the mercy of the Lord. The Buick was totaled. With an irony everyone understood, they held the funeral at Zack Taylor's dad­dy's country church up at Stamps. Wade gave the eulogy and sang "Amazing Grace" in a high, sweet voice. He broke down at the end. People came from every­where to say goodbye to someone they all knew as well as he would let them. "He was as close as kin," they said in low voices. "Sometimes closer." They brought their children and their memories. In their best, Sunday clothes the men sat in the front room before the service, talking softly, shaking hands all around. The women fluttered in the kitchen, unwrapping and arranging covered dish specialties, made from family recipes, and offered on big china platters, received long ago as wed­ding gifts. Corrine Knighton, Joe Robert's wife, stood as family by the kitchen door, receiv­ing the food for the eating before and after, making sure masking tape labels were stuck to the bottoms of the cake pans. After the services, back at Preacher Taylor's old house, Corrine let the kids take off their coats and run off their good manners outside with the dogs. The women joined the men in the front dining room, a fire roaring in the double fireplace, eating a meal worthy of Thanksgiving, sharing their grief, and contradicting one another. "That waddn't the way I heard that story," said Joe Robert. "But come to think on it, I never did hear that son-of-a-bitch tell any story the same way twice." All in all, it was a worthy tribute to the deceased, but Connie Lou participated in none of it. She sat to the side, alone and gray, didn't talk with anybody. "I hate cold chicken," she whispered to Wade, and left her husband to do the gracious thing. "Thank you for coming," he said again and again. "She'll really need you in a few weeks, you know. Your flowers are beautiful. Yes, we'll miss him in the future even more than we can guess now." Connie Lou never cried, anyway not so's anybody ever saw, and everybody was looking. "She's in shock," they said. "It'll hit her in a few days," they said. "Call us if you need us, Wade." "He was a miserable, thieving son-of­a- bitch," Connie Lou screamed on the way home in the car. "A blood-sucking, no account, son-of-a-bitch skunk. He ran some shady deal on almost everyone there and owed them all money or favors. You know, he ran out on my mama. I think he killed her with his fast-talking, dandy ways and celebrated exits, all those prom­ises of the big deal coming. What a load of horse crap that man was. The world is better, rid of that trash." "It was diphtheria that killed you mama, Connie Lou," said Wade, driving slow on the road he knew as well as Connie Lou's variation on Waylon Jennings' "Good Hearted Woman." "Wade, you better get this clear. I hate him, totally and complete. And I'm begin­ning to hate you, too, you and your princely ways. I'm giving you warning: get off my back." With that, she settled down quiet, not speaking another word. She moved as far away from Wade as she could and still be in the same car, looking out the window, wondering why it wasn't raining. "She'll be back. I know she will," Wade told Minnie, the ironing lady who came Tuesdays. "She's just upset, been that way ever since her daddy died. You know this is true. She'll be back in a week or two." " I don't know, Wade," said Minnie. "Looks to me like she really cleaned out. No lady born in Mississippi is planning a real quick return when she takes all her mops. I think you better face it, Wade. That wife of yours is gone." The trouble was, Wade couldn't face any such thing. To face Connie Lou's per­manent leaving was to face defeat, and Wade Hollywood was never one to do that with any grace. He was a good­looking man, played varsity football in high school, leading the local team to the state championships. He went to the business school in Magnolia for two years at night, working days at the John Deere Company with his daddy and uncles, like he had in high school. " It's my pride to have him as a son," his mama said, and the whole town agreed that there wasn't a thing that could come up that Wade Hollywood could disappoint a person about. The men liked him, and the women hoped for him. He had a lot of chances to marry early, but he waited out all the gardenia-smelling overtures and somehow never hurt any­body's real feelings. But, it was all over one Saturday morn­ing in February when Wade saw Connie Lou at the drugstore. His throat got dry at the back, he felt his heart rac ing, a tin­gling low down. All he could do was grin, and the pharmacist, Mr. Clyde Billingsley, who was witness to it all, said he'd never seen Wade look so hot and cold at the same time, or act so foolish. The whole town watched the courting, which lasted a good while, and when Connie Lou finally relented and said, "Yes," everyone re­joiced in Wade's contentment. "She's the prettiest thing I ever saw," Wade told Joe Robert. "She's got eyes ten miles deep, as green as the river, and the blue-blackest hair I ever hope to see. She's quiet, you know, most of the time, but that goes with her music, and I tell you, I feel like some kind of hero when I can get her to laugh." Wade was known for his tender ways, but nobody ever saw anything like the way he carried on about Connie Lou. " I tell you, I feel a good bit of personal relief at this union," Joe Robert told Connie Lou at the wedding. "Wade just about ruined duck hunting for me this fall, going on and on like he does about your virtues. I wel- Perry House 11 12 come you as a sister, Mrs. Hollywood, and look forward to many more happy times." They liked her okay, although she really was a quiet one, and most everybody gave up trying to draw her out. She was pretty, everyone said, and a damn hot bass player, although she about ruined Wade's Saturday morning productivity, keeping him up late on Friday nights after her playing. She had come into their lives highly recommended, the love of Wade Hollywood's life and the only child of Storytelling Zack Taylor, the best supper visitor anyone could ever think of. When she left Wade, the whole town grieved, not for her so much, since they never really knew her, but for the trouble her life had been, the losing of her daddy in so tragic a manner, the cloud of disappoint­ment around the two of them when she lost their baby, born two months before its time. But she was gone. There was no doubt about that, and everyone felt it was about time Wade took to getting over his grief and getting on with his life. The trou­ble was, while the whole town passed around Wade's shame and sorrow, Wade Hollywood wouldn't have a thing to do with any of it. "She'll be back. I know she will. Connie Lou's not like anybody else in this world, and she just has to make her path through her own pain in her own way. She'll be back, I tell you, just any day." "That plumb makes me sick, Wade," said Joe Robert. "She's been gone 'bout six months now, and you just keep hold­ing on, waiting by the mailbox for a Valen­tine that ain't ever coming. She's gone, Wade, cleared out. Left nothing but an old sweater under the bed to torture your memory, which she more than likely just forgot, since she never was much of a housekeeper in my opinion. My cousin Roxanne from Texarkana has expressed an interest in your welfare, and you're a damn fool if you don't study on her invita­tion and do something for yourself. I'm afraid you're gonna go crazy if you keep on like you do, just pretending nothing real 's happened." "My own true fear is that he won't go crazy," said Joe Robert's wife Corrine. "Wade's life's been just about the way he wanted it all his days, 'ti! Connie Lou left him. He don't know nothing about crazy, and most of us figure it's about time he learned, what with this opportunity and all. Everybody thinks Wade got left, but I'm of the mind that Connie Lou left him, and I'm most concerned about her griev­ing. Remember how she got Wade to finally go to bed late Friday nights, so she could sit on the front porch alone with only the memory of her playing? If you were on the road early, you could almost always see the front porch light on at their house at dawn, that little Connie Lou in her flan­nel nightgown on the porch swing, push­ing one foot and playing that bass real low." In September, finally, a letter came, but it wasn't the Valentine Wade was hoping for. Dear Wade, she began. I grieve that I have caused you a good deal of sorrow, since I've got to tell you, you're the kindest man I've ever known and deserve the contented life you want so much. I hope you can now understand why I had to do what I did. It was for me mostly, and I am shamed at my selfishness. But, it was for us too, and what we could never be. It has been a good while now since I've been gone from you, and I'm playing reg­ular with a band I like pretty much. I joined up with them in Waco, and we've been traveling all over Texas and New Mexico for the past few months, playing in seedy little joints where they don't always listen and confuse us with the jukebox. Still, I'm playing real good and learning a lot about music and myself. I think of my daddy sometimes and realize how lonesome he must've been a lot of nights in strange towns. When you're just passing through, you take what comfort you need from strangers and try talking yourself into the lie that they're really your friends. It's true I've missed you many times, but I can't see us ever being able to reconcile our different ways. It's time we talked, Wade, about the legal ending of all of this. I want you to get on with your happiness. We're playing two weeks in north Houston, a greasy little dive called The Memories Lounge. The irony of my current life is, the place is not two miles from where my daddy had his final accident. Strangely, I feel his presence with me, and at night I dream the stories he used to tell. Try to meet me here as soon as you can, if you're able to get away. I look forward to seeing how you're getting along and what your plans might be. All my best wishes, Connie Lou Hollywood. Wade had been checking the mailbox by the road twice a day for months, and although this wasn't the kind of letter he'd been hoping for, any news at this point was like a dream come true. Everybody in town knew the letter had come, since the postman, Mr. Lewis Kirksey, had never been able to keep a private thing still. When Wade roared into town that after­noon in the truck, weaving like a drunk Indian, and rented a jackhammer from Joe Robert's daddy's concrete company, the whole town figured he's snapped clean out of his composure. "You'd best go see about him, Joe Robert," Corrine telephoned her husband. "He was all wild-eyed and almost hysteri­cal. I would've thought he was drunk right here in the middle of the day, had I not been sure he wasn't no drinking man. Still, you know, I sure wish he'd get flat out drunk, just one time, to purge himself of all this foolishness. " By the time Joe Robert got out to Wade's place, Wade had worked up a real good sweat and most of the drive­way. "What in the sam hell is going on here?" yelled Joe Robert, over the loud fury of the jackhammer. "Help me with this part right here, Joe Robert. I got a pretty woman to see in Houston, and I ain't got a minute to talk." Joe Robert shook his head, then rolled up his sleeves, and pitched in with the work. There wasn't a damn thing a man could do for a best friend who'd gone crazy, except to get right into the crazi­ness with him. They worked together for as long as it took, which was a pretty good while, and when it was over, Joe Robert thought he would've killed for a cold beer and a sit-down on the front porch. But Wade was still moving real fast, and Joe Robert just figured he couldn't voice any suggestion that would get him any ear, so he just sat down in the shade and tried to remember what his normal breathing was like. "Now pick this end up here, Joe Robert, real careful like, and help me get it into the flatbed," said Wade, breathing heavy. "Slow up, Wade, you miserable fool," said Joe Robert. "You're going to give us both a goddamned heart attack." "That's exactly what's happening, Joe Robert. I'm having a goddamn, five-star heart attack." And he jumped off the flatbed and ran into the house. "Wade, you sure you know what you're doing?" Joe Robert called out to Wade through the shower curtain. "I do admit, I admire your plan, but I'm worried about you, boy. You've always had the luck and leaning for winning, but your attitude these past few months has been downright peculiar to most folks. You sure you want to do this? What if she says 'no'?" "I guess she could say that, Joe Robert. She might have to, for herself and her own plans, and she might even be right about us. But I love her more than I can ever say, and I just can't roll over and die cause things haven't worked out the way I'd hoped. The trouble with me is, you know, I get real worked up about my own hopes and forget to check with people to see if they're going along. Connie Lou's got her own mind about most things, but I gotta try and tell her how I feel clean through, all the way to my heart. Living with that woman is all I want to do, and I ain't gonna accept anything different 'til I'm convinced that's how the cards really lay." "You romantic dog," laughed Joe Robert, and punched his friend hard on the arm. "The best of luck to you, cause I think you're gonna need it, you son-of-a­bitch." Wade took off in the truck fast, throwing shell and bits of concrete, waving wild out of the cab window. Joe Robert waved back, laughing and yelling, "Just get back home in time for duck hunting." Wade kept on waving and grinning to himself 'til he couldn't see Joe Robert clear anymore. When Wade and Connie Lou moved into the new house their first happy year together, they put in a new driveway. Joe Robert, and Joe Robert's daddy, and Wade's cousin J.T. from Hot Springs all came out to help and did a real good job. Later, Corrine came over with a picnic supper, and they all sat outside until the mosquitoes got too bad and had a fine time. Connie Lou strummed a little on the bass, and J.T. played banjo. They all sang songs in lousy harmony and laughed at themselves until it got late. When everybody had gone home and Connie Lou was getting ready for bed, Wade called her to come outside. The moon had just come up, and the light was still that pretty deep-violet the night holds onto sometimes in the spring before it releases the day and goes all black. With long switches Wade cut from the china­berry tree, they drew a big heart in the still wet cement and wrote their names. Wade Keith and Connie Lou Hollywood, In Love for Now and Forever. They sealed the vow for all time with prints of their hands and feet, then made love under the chinaberry tree while the light changed, at its own pacing and theirs, from deep-violet, to deep-blue, to silky black. "Hot damn," yelled Wade, driving south toward Houston. "Double rainbows at twi­light, and I was counting on my own good luck." He drove straight through them, taking all of nature's blessings, while the cement heart rode steady in the flatbed. The Nipple Mother, you told me when I was born the air raid sirens and blackouts made all the babies scream. I alone was quiet. I'd found your breast. In that hospital you were happy, a woman who loved to conceive. Your favorite time was nursing, confident your large breasts would never run out. You used to speak pityingly of women who didn't lactate. And when I read of wetnurses in books, I thought you had missed your calling. Instead you went off to factory work, miserable and making us miserable. We kids raised ourselves, like urchins running through the rubble of empty lots. And ever since, I've been looking for your breasts in the avenues, on women I pass, on city trees in vest-pocket parks triangling to a dead end, or even on the Woolworth Building's Egyptian friezes of bearded pharoahs with plump chests. The kind, indifferent pillow of granite which is New York, I imagine your bosom. This love I feel from the surrounding streets I will never hug, make personal, take home with me, but the yearning keeps me a writer, remembering Whitman's disappointed rapture. Mother, now that I've made you into the world, how do I scale down from your beckoning, rejecting plenitude to reach the one I could allow to cradle me in her breasts? (Smaller than yours, Mom, that has to be.) Must I finish with you first, bruise or embrace you once and for all, before I can become a father? As though you even had to be forgiven! Once, I'll admit, I thought it was your fault for loving me so erratic after so pure a start. Silly of me. You who gave me the nipple must take it away, leave me to figure it out. Phillip Lopate 13 Vassar Miller 14 There has to be something good said for Lot's wife, for looking back, not moving on, for, in other words, nostalgia, that onetwo threefourfivesixseveneightnine-letter dirty word, when even the Bible, which condemns her says to remember Lot's wife, and why else if it doesn't mean what it says (of course, Jesus said it, and He always liked women, unlike Paul, who didn't like them much)-maybe because he knew they were apt to cling to their homes, not having in those days much else to cling to-and what if they clung-like Lot's poor old wife whose name we don't even know to recall, she having to pull up stakes and get out just because some men liked other men, that being none of her affair, besides which she'd never liked Uncle Abraham's loose foot she swore he was born with, and so she has long gazed back on her past which she couldn't put back any more than a pulled tooth, for which crime she stands changed to a briny pillar, still turned toward her yesterdays and her God who surrounds her on all sides-right, left, front, and back-her sad but salty stare. Job, down in the dumps, sat on a dump, groaning and cursing his birthday and every single candle sprouting like thorns on his birthday cake when God shouted down to him, "Where were you, Job, when I created the stars from the stuff of light and scattered mudballs of matter everywhere?" and Job answered, "Not here, that's certain!" "Yes, and where were you," God asked, "when I made the hippopotamus and the crocodile and the horse and the wild ass?" "Not here, but getting there," Job sighed, "if you know what I mean." "Where were you," God went on, "when I made the rain and the snow and the hail?" "Not here," said Job, scooting his sore rump over an inch or two-until God kept on peeling Job down to the nub of his nothingness and poor Job cried out, "I will lay my hand upon my mouth!" when, so the writer tells us, God gave Job more than he had before, but the writer had switched to prose in writing this, and we know only poetry can tell the truth. 15 16 Prophecy Babette Fraser The phone call is from my mother's friend, Ella Jamison, who knows every­thing. She tells me she saw the photo­graph in an antique shop on Ferndale Street. I like that street and walk along it frequently for exercise I don't find boring. That's because of its houses. They con­tinue to look like houses, but are instead galleries, restaurants, a nursery school, and several shops like the one Ella men­tions. Their former and present selves sur­vive together. Even flourish. And that com­forts me. "Go and see for yourself," Ella Jamison says. "I could be wrong." It's too hot to walk on July mornings like this one, but I do it anyway. The heat doesn't bother me and, walking, I see things drivers miss. Bird migrations. The flowering of plants. Repairs and new con­struction. Changes that walking slows down. As I enter the shop, I notice a lovely yellow and blue quilt at the rear. I am a nut about old cotton quilts with their soft col­ors and smooth, cool textures. This one, in a double wedding ring design, par­ticu larly attracts me, but halfway to it I see my destination. A wedding photograph from around 1930. Four attendants flank a bride whose fluted gown and marcelled hair say the date better than any label could have. They are, as Ella guessed, my aunt, my mother, their older sister and two friends. Right there on the wall of this store. It's odd to see your family that way, as a stranger would, when that's not what you're supposed to be at all. I also see that in the collapsed time of the photo­graph, they are beautiful. It is a surprise I don't enjoy. By my theory, generations should progress, if only to justify life. I should be smarter, prettier, more sane than the people who came before me. Because of science, maybe. Vitamins and so forth. But the photograph denies this. Well, I tell myself, at least it works as decoration. A stranger might choose it for the wall of his country inn or theme restau­rant. I've seen similar pictures in the rest­rooms of such places, or possibly in upstairs hallways where the light is dim. Borrowed forebears. Pictures that say more than the innkeeper expects. Maybe I should buy it, I think, but imme­diately that seems a peculiar idea. Almost as peculiar as selling a family photograph. Or asking a dealer to sell it for you. I lift the picture off the wall and turn it over. On the back is scrawled "Norris," the name of the oldest sister, who died last year. There is no price. "Is it for sale?" I ask the proprietor. "Oh, yes," he replies, looking encouraged. But I'm more interested in the beautiful quilt, I decide, although I don't buy that, either. In the weeks that follow, I can't get that picture off my mind. Not just for the wrongness of it to be where it is, but for all it suggests of the way our family was and isn't any more. It rises before me in the car on my way to buy new underwear for my forthcoming trip. I see it at the stoplight two blocks from the kennel where I'm leav­ing the dogs. The faces of the sisters at such times are hopeful. In the picture they can be judged only by what they show: fine bones, good posture and attire. Their faces expect a happy future, full of love and money. I think of my mother, too, the way she is now. Fighting age and illness. I would rather think about the photograph. I would rather see the face she wore then. The next day I go to Dalhart. That's where the bride in the picture moved fifty years ago with the groom who wasn't photographed. I've planned the trip for months. I like to visit my Panhandle rela­tives: my aunt Therese, my cousins Liz and Steven and their respective broods. Getting to know each other all over again once or twice a decade. That lets me see their children growing in stages. So they are new people every time with faces that remember how they were, but vaguely. I have no children of my own. It's especially important to see Liz. Of all the cousins, she's the closest to me in age. But, naturally, it is more than that. On the fi rst night after I arrive, I am standing in her kitchen. She has put me to work dredging chicken pieces in flour while she chops vegetables for salad. We are talking about my mother. "Seventy is the cracking point," says Liz, bringing the blade of her knife a little too crisply into the meat of the board. Her mother turns seventy this fall and precedent has Liz worried. The women of our family tend toward robust health. Then, at seventy, come cataracts, arthritis, bad hearts, burst aneurysisms. As though invitations had been sent. This was true of our great aunt and grandmother; of Eugenie, the sister who died. "It's hard to watch the people you love get old and sick," I say, thinking of the girls in the photograph. And for a moment they seem more alive to me than my mother did the day before, when I told her goodbye. I want to talk to Liz about the picture, but I don't know what I want to say. The meal we sit down to is served on are using her monogrammed silver in the intricate old pattern she loved. And her crystal. I think it is her crystal, as I lift my goblet toward the chandelier. The red Bordeaux it contains pools and intensifies the light like stained glass. This, too, is as I recall from my grandmother's house where growing up was measured by where you sat and how much water they put in your wine. Some things are missing, of course. Particularly, the clatter of French people speaking English. The conversations step­ping on one another with words that could only be inserted sideways, where they are thinnest. But the talk at Liz's table isn't so differ­ent, really. Like me, she and Steve speak quickly. Too rapidly for most people we know to appreciate. Tante Therese, across from me, speaks just as fast. And all this talk bristles with energy and opinion. What others would call argument, we have always called discussion. I'm more at home here than anywhere. Later, as we are clearing away dessert, I ask Liz whether she th inks our family has changed much over the years. "Do you feel any sense of loss?" She looks at me with my grandmother's eyes. When they look at you directly, you know you're being seen. "No," she replies, gently. "Not loss." "I was thinking about the extended fam­ily situation," I explained, "where every­body gets together and socializes. Where the fami ly are each other's best friends, no matter what they say to one another." "We do that," she says, moving two wine glasses to the sideboard. And she's right, of course. We've been doing it all evening. With her parents living across the street, and Steve raising his children one block over, they've recreated in Dal­hart the family life I knew, following a pattern they weren't a part of, living so far away. I tell her then about the picture. "I remember that photograph," Liz says. " It was hanging in Eugenie's study when I came down for the funeral. I thought it was odd." "What do you mean?" "Just that it was a picture of my mother's wedding and I'd never seen it before. I've never seen Mother's, assuming she has one." "Assuming they all had one," I add, wondering about my mother. "Do you sometimes feel our family is unusually secretive?" I am balancing three dessert plates, with forks, in my left hand. Liz smiles. "Absolutely." "Do you have any idea why?" I put down the dishes. I want to concentrate on porcelain dishes, passed across one of her answer. my grandmother's tablecloths. The lace She hesitates. "No. It probably comes one I remember from holiday dinners. We out of their childhood, which they con- sider perfect and won't discuss." She is still smiling, as though she accepts the situation. "I guess so," I say, but I don't like it. Here's another secret, I think. When I get back to Houston, I go to see the picture again. I've travelled in blue jeans, which my mother deplores but I prefer, so I don't even stop to change. The late afternoon air is heavy and damp on the skin and, as I climb the porch steps, I notice the shop's windows are nearly opaque with condensation. Going in, I head straight for the photograph. I'm determined to learn something from these faces. Some idea of myself I've missed. There must be a clue here, where the forces that shaped me are present under glass. I study the picture carefully. The expressions in the sisters' eyes aren't guarded, as they are in life. There isn't the opportunity for movement, either, to dis­tract them from thoughts they don't like. Here, as in death, no movement is possi­ble. The proprietor approaches, looking hopeful. "How much?" I ask. "Fifty dol­lars," he replies, but I shake my head. That night I tell my mother about the picture. I am having dinner with her as I do twice a week which she considers min­imal, hoping for more. She still lives in the home where I was raised, although now a lady comes at nightfall to cook and keep her company. Tonight she has let her companion go home early. This means she wants to talk business. She enjoys discussing finance, the stock market, that sort of thing. My father ran a lumberyard which she kept going for several years after he died and then sold for a good price. So she's no slouch where money is concerned. But this is different. Tonight she's talking bankruptcy. Her own immi­nent bankruptcy. What's going on? I won­der. "Honey," I say, leaning forward in my chair and taking her hand. It looks like my hand, now it is thin. The skin on the back is smooth, unblemished. "There's no way you can go bankrupt. You get the state­ments. You see the dividends. You're OK. Better than OK, even." "Do you really think so?" She turns her dark eyes toward me. My grandmother's eyes again. Too large for ordinary faces. "Yes, I really think so," I say, as firmly as I can say anything. "I hope you're right," she sighs, but I can see she isn't convinced. "Is there something more to it?" I ask. "Is it something you can tell me about?" My heart beats faster. I am offering what I have offered before without success. My mother doesn't like to confide in me, but will occasionally, if I don't act interested. I have to be careful. This time she is weaker than usual. She may give something away. She looks at me, measuring advantages. "Oh, it's nothing, really," she begins, her gaze drifting off into the air around her dressing table. "Something a fortune teller told me once, a long time ago." That surprises me. She's always dis­missed fortune tellers as frivolous. "You don't believe in that stuff, do you?" I ask. Then I remember how she won't let any­body put a hat on a bed. Ever. So that to this day I whisk hats off beds, in my own or anyone's home. I contain myself. I know better than to ask what the fortune teller said. "Was it a crystal ball or tarot cards or what? It makes a difference, I think." "It happened before you were born. She read my palm." "But palm reading is so obscure. All those little lines and you make up junk to fit them. Who was she? Was she a pro­fessional?" I am sure she's holding back the most significant detail. "Just a woman at a party." Her eyes slide away again. "Well, who? Please tell me. It might help." " It was nobody," she says, but her voice is stronger. She is becoming annoyed with me. "Can't you see I don't want to talk about it?" And it is later, as I'm leaving, that I tell her about the photograph. It just pops out. There's a picture of my father that I love, but which has faded badly, so Mother turned its face to the wall for protection. I see it standing there like it is being pun­ished, and I remember the photograph of my aunt's wedding. So I tell her and she hits the ceiling, like I thought she would. She more or less collapses onto the chaise tongue, gasping for breath. "How could they?" she says. She feels betrayed. That much is clear. "Maybe it's an accident," I say, trying to calm her. "Settling an estate isn't always as tidy as a person might like." But Mother isn't listening. She's muttering about how strangers are looking at, even handling, this portion of her life. "Someone might buy it," she says in a constricted voice. After a minute, she whispers, "Sarah's responsible." Sarah is Eugenie's oldest daughter. They've never gotten along, competing as they did for Eugenie's attention. Mother goes silent, then, and as I monitor her breathing, I notice a funny thing. It may be true of any old person, lying down, especially if they're thin when they weren't for a while. Gravity seems to smooth the facial skin that time has stretched. So, as I watch her lying there with her skin resting closer to the bone than it has in years, I can see the girl she was in the photograph showing through the person she has become. I can see both people in her at once for the first time and also myself, the way I will look and possibly be at her age. It isn't a pleasant sensation, feel ing time just rush away beneath you like that, in both directions. "What do you want me to do?" I ask, finally, but she doesn't answer and a few minutes later I leave. The next night I am invited to a party. That's unusual around here in August, since so many people are out of town, escapin.g the heat. But it's the hostess' fortieth birthday and she said the signifi­cance wouldn't be the same if she waited until September. "It's now I need distrac­tion," she told me. So I go. Without a date. Dates are hard to come by at any time, but especially in this season. I don't really mind. Having a date doesn't make that much difference at a party anyway. I mean, if it can't be someone you care about. Either way, parties are usually lonely for me and this one is no exception. I steel myself. Walk up to a group of peo­ple standing inside the door. I know the women from my weekly exercise class. " Hi," I say, smiling intently. " Hi, Mary." It's Joan who greets me. They're discussing her new car. An Audi. "Why can't they make American cars handle that well?" a man asks. He is nice looking. Two lines connect the ends of his mouth with the sides of his nostrils. Oth­erwise he seems a contented person. "But don't the new ones?" I interject, wanting to be part of the group. "The ones with front wheel drive?" The man continues as though I'm not there. "I drove a rent car in Dallas the other day and it handled like a cheap boat." "Speaking of boats," says the other woman, Betty is her name, "didn't you get a new ketch, recently?" She's addressing the man who made the comparison. "What is the difference between a ketch and a yawl?" asks Joan, with a pretty smile. " I've always wanted to know." At that point I leave them. I need a drink, I think. I need to examine the book­shelf. If I'm lucky, I might find something to read. Hear voices more interesting than the live ones so far encountered. Or someone equally spare might talk to me, for the short time I'll stay. As I'm getting ready for bed a few hours afterward, the phone rings. It's Liz, calling long distance. "I hope I didn't wake you," she says. "Oh, no," I reply, glad to hear her. I'm surprised how glad. "I just had an interesting talk with Daddy and I wanted to tell you." "Sure. Go ahead." I sit on the side of the bed. " It's about that photograph. I've kept 17 18 wondering about it. I mean, why wouldn't Mother have shown me such a beautiful picture? You'd think she'd have been proud of it. I know I can't ask her, so I asked Daddy." She pauses. I hear her exhale. "He was reluctant to talk at first, but gave in when I swore not to mention it to Mother. He didn't say I couldn't tell you." "I won't say anything, either. Go on." "Well, he said there had been trouble at the wedding having to do with one of the friends in the picture. Apparently, one of them said something at a party the night before the wedding that upset your mother terribly. Daddy wouldn't tell me what. I'm not sure he knows. But your mother fainted and they had to call a doc­tor. Daddy said the photograph makes everyone unhappy and it's best left alone." "It didn't make Eugenie unhappy," I say. "What?" " It couldn't have made Eugenie unhappy if she had it in her study." "Yes, I guess that's so," says Liz. "It is odd, isn't it?" "What's new?" I say. "But thank you for telling me. I've been trying to decide what to do about it." "Yes, well, a propos of that, there's something else. I think I know how you feel , and I don't want to interfere, but there are some things a person can never know about another person. And maybe shouldn't try too hard to learn." "OK," I say. "Thanks for the advice." And when I hang up, I realize I'm angry. Maybe I've been angry all along. Needing answers and getting lies, or blanks where explanations ought to be. So I've never understood the actions of people. The connections or gaps between what they say and do. My family has abandoned me to this confusing world without directions. That's why I have to buy the picture. There's an answer there, if I look hard enough. There's an answer in the way it affects the people of my mother's genera­tion, who are disappearing so fast. If I can take that picture to my mother, maybe it will force her to reveal why everything changed. Why the family get-togethers stopped-long before Eugenie died. Why she and I are so isolated here in this city of our birth. So the next morning I go the store, but the photograph isn't there. In its place hangs a caricature by Spy. I can see the proprietor at the back of the store behind the glass partition, talking on the phone. I tap gently on the glass. He nods. " I've come about the photograph," tell him when he comes out. "You remem­ber the one I've been looking at. It was hanging there." I point to the Spy car­toon. "Oh, yes, I remember," he says. He has a round pinkish face that appears to be smiling even when it isn't. "There was an elderly lady in about it yesterday after­noon. I took it down so she could see it more clearly." He glances around him, a small frown beginning to dent the smooth curve of his forehead. "I thought I put it right here," he says, staring at the bare top of an English lowboy. "The old lady," I say. "She didn't buy it?" "No. I had to go into the office to take a call and when I came out, she'd gone. There were several people in the store at the time so I didn't notice at first. My assistant must have hung the cartoon this morning." "Maybe she took it," I offer. "Oh, I rather doubt that. She didn't look the type. Well-heeled, you know." He looks at me, his natural cheerfulness rising again. "I say, I am sorry. It may turn up. Perhaps it's only been tucked away in a drawer. I'll have a look myself and ring you, shall I? If you'll leave your name." So I do. I write my name, phone num­ber and address on the back of one of his cards. I even smile. And slowly I go out, again, into the heat that is always a sur­prise. The noise of cicadas crowds me. I look for reassurance to the house across the street. One of my favorites, with its dark grey shingle siding and white trim like Nantucket houses. But it has become unfamiliar. Its lawn is as tidy as Astroturf, . the color artificial, too blue-green for grass in summer. I sit down on a porch step. The house looks silly, I think. After all, this isn't Nantucket. And the house is a home for objects, not people. I am sitting on the front porch of one shop, looking at another across a street that has only survived by changing everything that is true about its nature. Of course, I continue to think about the photograph and its disappearance. I would like to see it. To have it on my wall, for instruction, if nothing more. And I may someday, if my notion is correct. That my mother took the picture, as I believe. But the important thing is I've decided not to pursue the issue. Liz was right, on the phone that night. There's so little Mother can tell me, even if she wanted to, about any of the things that matter. Just the details of sad old stories, keeping the sadness alive into another generation, when we have enough of our own. Reading Other People's Mail The Gold Coast Tuesday Dearest, and then more dear, Sarah, Hottest news is that Peter and I have decided to become Feminists and stop being so campy and self-denigrating!! Don't you love it?? Daddy says I cannot be Vice-President of the Corporation until I get a wife on my resume. Meanwhile I open the mail and get coffee for the secretaries. Mumso keeps saying, "Why don't you ask that nice girl with the Preppie boobs?" She means you of course swee'pea, but what can she mean by that?? I have been Trying not to Pressure you but I just took a Diet pill and I can't Help myself!! WHEN will you see the merits of my proposed contract, you little silly?? I mean Our contract. My Gail Donohue 20 attorney (a terribly cute number) is writing in an escalating clause for Inflation. Should you accept today (PLEASE, my little Croissant) you would get $15,000 a year plus expenses and charge accounts at Bloomingdale's and Lord & Taylor. Tiffany and Gucci if you're good, when you're fifty. Do you KNOW what happened to me last Sat. at Bloomie's? While I was buying silk pajamas? The silly cash register broke and the cashier (a real Miss CandyTw*t) freaked and shrieked, "This always happens on Saturdays when you boys come to this store! " Now what did she mean by that? I took a Diet pill because there have been so many won-der-ful FABULOUS dinner parties that we are all stuffed like Strasbourg geese. I am waiting to be pateed ! ! It doesn't work out when I go to the Y to work out because I always get sidetracked by a (censored! !) in the Snooze Room. Friday night Peter and I had one of our own notorious dinner parties-we popped out of a giant Baked Alaska and danced for the guests, including Olga the Amazing Ambassadress from Luxembourg; we did Isadora Duncan and Twyla Tharp for hours, knocking over drinks, plants, guests, and removing CLOTHES! ! Sorry you missed it. And Peter says if we have to marry somebody it might just as well be you, although he can't remember if you have Preppie Chris Plowman boobs or not. You have Got to come back and help me manage him- he has become a screaming Fuddy-Duddy! ! I had to go up on the sun-roof to work on my tan and he informed me that a tan was something one shouldn't have to work on, that it was IMMATURE!? What the? But do you realize that it is impossible to tell someone Older than you that he is the one who is immature?? Take my word for it, it does not work. Also, his Byronic poses are becoming Tedious. All my other news could be summed up in a word if I could think of one. Toadies, Schatz, Alfred. P.S. You must come back and rescue me from becoming just another pretty Stereotype!!!!!! !!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!! From my existential capsule to yours Dear Uncle: What should I do? Alfred presses me to become his Corpo­rate Wife. I don't want to BE married, I just want to GET married. What I mean is I want the big wedding with lots of presents and to be the center of attention for a day. And a big wedding cake, mostly I'm in it for the cake. Fifteen frosted layers with a bride and two grooms on top. And afterwards life would go on as before only I would be settled and would have to go to insur­ance conventions and other company picnics with Alfred in my mink. I mean I would be in my mink, although the Freudian slip is possible too. Write me! Write me! Send me your business card in an old envelope. Your affectionate niece, Sarah PS. There is another boy I like, but he is still in school. Sarah, my friend, Boodles, Dolt, Bertie, and Smith TGIF There is no time so satisfying as one in extremis. One revels in adversity when it points direct ly to final things. But can you really be thinking of contracting this bizarre marriage with Alfred? His attorney sidled up to me at a Bar Association dinner the other night and whispered to me between speeches by the Twits. With the rest of Mother Nature's creatures, I too spent the spring longing for a mate. However, my nutritionist loves me because I stick to my diet and show the world that the Museum of Science and Industry display on a balanced diet is accurate. My hairdresser does very contemporary things and I'm learn­ing to wear make-up. Reading the ladies' magazines one receives the impression that most of our sisters are floundering. Hardly a comfort, but one does feel less singular. I am going to be a federal judge and retire after my heart attack at 45. Marry Alfred? I already have an index card typed out for you in my Blackmail Box. Your friend in anxiety, Martha The University Club Sarah, Sarah, Sarah: Attach yourself to Alfred or not; only do not delude yourself, illude, allude to changing him. Unfortunately, I've this week decided that all evidence overwhelmingly confirms my gloomy theory that people don't change very much at all and that we all constantly repeat everything, mostly our errors. Squash is what's brought me to this conclusion; when I go to my Club, to my vast surprise I find that the same people are there and that all their strategies and skills are exactly the same. The games people play in squash are very distinctive; I'd have thought that every­one would have progressed, but it's not true. I also have the same game and the same philosophies. but lack the ability to make shots and move around the court as I should, which is very frustrating. Examining my whole life, of course. provides overabundant evidence for this theory, since I've not done anything different for twenty years. but I'd always thought that was my problem and didn't apply to others. Alas; I find that. on closer examina­tion. everybody does about the same stuff all the time. has the same weaknesses. and doesn't do anything at all about them. So, if you decide to jump over the proverbial broomstick, as it were, and don't care for it, you might consider jumping back over it the other way. But do nothing 'til you hear from me. What have you been doing? P.S. Who is this boy you like who is still in school? You are 35. Uncle Dear Uncle: I know I am 35. I have just turned it. When I was 34½, Aunt Maxine sent me a sympathy card for having passed marriageable age. Not a tragedy, she said, because who would have married me anyway? Your pear-shaped, graying, wrinkled niece, Sarah University of Illinois September 9 (36) see footnote Dear Sarah: Today my Doctoral Committee shook my hand and informed me that I too am a Doctor of Philosophy. A ten year undertaking, and now, regrettably, I am forced to learn a trade and have enlisted in Library School. Please continue to wait for me. In addition, I am library student intern at the Urbana Public Library. My primary duty is wiping book jackets clean of soot from a fire when the boiler exploded. No one was here except the gerbils in the Children's Room, who were saved when the firemen put them in their pockets. A marvelous deistic meta­phor. If only a large and capable hand would lift us from our smoky cages and carry us in its metaphysical pocket to safety! Perhaps I could have ghostwritten sermons for John Donne. I don't really want to go to Library School-maybe in Tahiti, when I'm fifty, should there still be libraries then. The world is going to explode and we deserve it, we decided recently at a tea in the Rare Book Room. I have a new hobby: taking highly magnified (31 00x) photo­graphs of collagen fiber bundles of hot dog casings through an electron microscope. I am going to make Christmas cards from them. All I really want from you is that you make an index for my dissertation which has to be published or perish. I can't bear to ever look at the Thing again. As ever. Spurgeon P.S. Footnote: Those little numbers after the date come from Sweden. where they refer to the year in terms of weeks, rather than months. I understand from my reading, that, elsewhere, business corporations sometimes see the year in such terms. I prefer to think of it as Swedish, and I plan to spend my life propagating its benefits. The Gold Coast Sara. Sweetums ... Talk about STEREOTYPE CASTING .. . we all flew out for the Fateful Night at the Oscars. Wh~re is Hollywood GOING? But our lives remain unchanged: all that was always certain still is; all that was unsure remains in limbo and the dance continues. Kick, Shuffle, Step, "Higher, Girls!" If you were here as you ought to be, I would have dinner ready for you: flounder rol l-ups with fresh-cooked spinach, homemade popovers, onion soup with melted mozzarella, saffron rice, a lovely white wine. tossed salad of Boston lettuce and escarole and cherry tomatoes. with the simplest of vinaigrettes. The napkins are blue and white, from Bloomingdale's; the plates are clear glass; through the glass plates one can see the table, insuring the stability of the undertaking!? I have been THINKING of you; I mean to say I have been thinking of your CLOTHES! Do come for a shopping trip and go home ENGAGED! All your clothes should be the kind that look like they need to be ironed rather than ugh, that tacke perma­nent press. and all must have POCKETS. Colors such as charcoal, dark red, black, dark navy. No jewelry save some thin bracelets and a good watch. Plain black shoes, perhaps some Belgian flats. The Look is QUIET. conservative, with a bit of Flair in, say, the watchband. No make-up and stand upright. Of course good boots and dress length always below the knee. Tights under the dresses and above the flats. And a SMART winter coat, all-wool, dark grey. Here is my favorite, ABSOLUTELY. line from Trash-Holly Woodl9-wn is having an affair with her sister. and Joe D. says to her, "How could you ***** your own SISTER?" to which the irrepressible Miss Woodlawn replies. "Well if you'll do it with strangers, why not with your own family?" So if all those nasty heterosexuals are getting married to each other. why shouldn't WE???????????????????? Dear Uncle. Kiss Kiss, Alfred P.S. I forgot to thank you for your incisive comments on Immutability. I myself hope to survive existentialism by living on platitudes, like the one about the cup half-full instead of half­empty, and don't count your blessings before they hatch. Quite impulsively I bought a raffle ticket that said, "Need Not be Present to Win" and won a quilt made out of Salada tea bags, the ones with the sayings on them. What have I been doing? You and I might both ask. Winter makes me capricious and perverse; I am afraid I am going to do something untoward. Sarah, my poor friend: Nervously, Your niece Boodles, Dolt, Bertie, and Smith Today You simply must do something about Alfred or do something to relieve me of my duties as your substitute. I thoroughly misrepresent myself, unbecoming in a future federal judge, to say the least. as Alfred 's intended, i.e .. you. Alfred and I were forced by his parents to join their Arts Club Bowling League. 21 22 The bowling etiquette is most rigid, the scorekeeping complex; each box is bowled as ceremoniously as if it were a coronation. A strike entitles its bowler to a chaste kiss from each teammate of the opposite sex; I keep kissing the members of the oppos­ing team and Alfred forgets where he is and kisses the men. Alfred's mother bowls in her mink. I confess I am fascinated to see how the other half bowls, but it is hard not to want the other ladies' jewelry. How do they handle balls with all those rings? Please come back and assume some sort of responsibility before I am compelled to steal, which would be unbecoming in a future federal judge. Why do I have to be your substitute? Why do you have to marry Alfred? Why not be independent like me, and become a federal judge? I acquire a new strategy for the state of single blessedness daily, the way others assimilate new words into their wretched vocabularies. Today, for example, I learned how to change a tire, at Stewie's Tire Sales. I bought the tire, put it on myself, and paid Stewie's a dollar for the edifying lesson. Can Alfred change a tire? Do you think Alfred would change a tire for you? If he would, let me know and I will pay a dollar to watch. Dear Sarah: God Help Us All, Martha University of Illinois 46 Thank you for making my dissertation index and for sending me a copy, which I am returning without corrections. As I have neither a copy of the typed ms. in its final form nor the printed page proof, I soon found that it was useless to try to check against my copy of the text. Since only the text is being indexed, and since the table of contents refers to them, I suppose it would be inconsistent to refer to, in the index, with inclusive pages, the bibliographical essay and the two appendixes. The only corrections I have noted are: 1. Dieresis for Kohlrube: Kohlri..ibe, Wolfgang, 54-55. 2. Omit Magen and put page reference under Mahren, Gerhard, 72, 76. The Magen in the text, page 72, should be changed to Mahren .. I find no "Magen" in my ms. or in my typed copy; the reference is evidently to the legend by Stevens on the Appendix map to the contributions of Weil and Moren. I used the spelling Moren because that is Stevens' spelling, but I had corrected it to "Mahren" in my typed copy and evidently in some typing the "h" was misread "g." I am chagrined that I did not catch the error in the proof or galley. There is no Magen, and Stevens' reference to Gerhard Moren's map in the legend is clearly a reference to Gerhard Mahren's survey. That the "h" is the correct spelling is proved by a holograph copy of the map that I came across in the Public Record Office after giving my disser­tation defense and found in my notes later: PR.O., C.0 .6, 1956 (M.P.G. 734 (3)): "A map of the Province ... compiled from actual surveys, the latest maps and other information. A.O. 1771 Per G. Mahren" (3'4.6 x 2'5.7). I am sending a copy of this letter to the university press with the request and hope that the "Magen" be changed in the text to "Mahren" (Moren is possible if the addition of "h" would cause difficulty in resetting: then " Mohren" in the Index could be followed by Moren to indicate that the spellings referred to the same person). As ever, Spurgeon Dear Uncle, Thank you for the 3-month membership at the weight-lifting studio. You are right that it is a good place to meet boys, but all these boys do is talk about mag wheels and when a Corvette goes by they drop their barbells and run to the window. Don't mind me, I'm just bitter this morning. I have just come back from a visit to Alfred, who choreo­graphed a trousseau expedition. He tore an ad for Geoffrey Beene pants out of The New Yorker and off we went to Lord & Taylor to tear them off the mannequin. Not an easy thing to do, as mannequins these days are in psychodrama poses, like people. Alfred also sprayed me with some kind of expensive perfume that I can't get off and that makes me smell like lettuce. Your distraught niece, Sarah Cupcake, Iowa Dear Sarah, dear, What is it you are going to do that your Uncle won't tell me about? This birthday card will reach you late but I did not want to wish you Happy Birthday until I knew what it was. Which I still don't. It's a regular birthday card because I did not want to send you one of those belated ones. Anyhow, you think your birthday has come and gone and of course it has, but I think it is nice to have another about a month later-don't you? Espe­cially when no one is expecting it. Have enjoyed your notes! Nice to be appreciated even tho' it is not expected. No doubt you and everyone else are wondering, "Whatever happened to Auntie Maxine?" Well I am still alive and kicking, but never seem to get to the things I want to do and should do because by the time I get the things done I have to do I am too darn tired to do anything else. How do you like that? Well I bet by now you have given up on me, well I am still around. I just made my yearly donation to the hospital, this time it was my gallbladder, there is nothing left to donate now so next time it will be for an autopsy I guess. I am feeling just fine, don't you worry about me. Your Uncle is so sweet. While I was in the hospital he sent me a dozen roses with a sweet note to eat the rose petals because they contain Vitamin C. I have been busy, busy. You know how busy I am with the house and making sure your Uncle doesn't get sick. I only hope I get the housecleaning done before I die. I have been doing Spring housecleaning in the Summer, and Fall housecleaning in the Winter. It was long overdue. You should come and help me have a garage sale. If you don't I might sell just the very thing you treasured. Glad we didn't have one this weekend because we are having a tornado right now, and of course everything would blow around. The weatherman on the radio is so excited he is stuttering! Your Uncle wants me to come down in the cellar but this is the only time I can get to write your birthday note. Besides, I want to be on top of the rubble. Must say bye for now. Uncle has been scolding me for not getting enough rest. I am flirting with a cold. You know how my poor body is booby-trapped. Love, Auntie Maxine P.S. Happy Birthday dear. - Ri. ch ard Thompson ·~ -------bac 23 + t • I ,- i I r t -+ Naomi Shih ab Nye + + -+ Charlie Kubricht 28 Part I I understand why you keep the pigeons. They are the books you write, scholar's achievements, leatherbound. And the flights with them are like the medieval monk's in a hilltop monastery: His flock was carefully edged, rowed and intermingled with fleur-de-lis on delicate pages of manuscript in renaissance colors, red, blue and gold. On the other hand, you fly real birds upon water-marked skies. The flock-a sphere, full of Japanese umbrellas-becomes luminous purple, yellow, buff and grey. You know each bird that will soar and twirl, roll head over tail as if shot in formation. The performing space gathers to a center and you return them to a coop-pets to be praised with a handful of grain. Part II You know about praise, held back too long-the sunlight in your mother's eye. You were her young dancing partner she pressed like a wildflower in a heavy book. "Classical," she'd say of your writing and your teaching, snatching a poem from your notebook for her owR. So with age: The black roller hens have become buff, teetering on weathered perches, wobbly as young pullets. Your imagination cannot pull you from the pigeons, tumbling like spools of thread on a string. On This Sunday He moves around his friend's dead body like prairie women tidying up on Sunday. Searching for being and unable to find anyone he knows, he turns away, his back to the winds, a dust cloud following. He tells me the great plains whipped life, and mourns his dead friend, uncontainable as the weather that stormed against West Texas homesteads. The wind of the plains, straight and magnetic, pulls through grain and grasses. The women learned from the wind. They dust the furniture moving quickly across the room waving a gestured hand as though pushing bothersome hair out of their faces. Tomorrow: more dust on top of dust. The wind blows in this open-air parlor; outside the cottonwood leaves rattle; particles settle on Sabbath clocks. Tom Ryan, 1913-1977 Their wings flutter and are reflected in your eyes­a near perfect image spins and spills off, freed. Joyce James ' a ~ -- -:::=:::,:_:;;::::::=-~ L -- I (_____.---, / ? Margaret Tufts Living in the Cold I remember how the window pane felt cold against my face On the day you called to tell me he had died. And how I leaned with the phone up to my ear Toward the outside. The ground was blank with snow. And bodies bent into the solitary cold Checked their steps across the icy walks. All around, the air held that long blunt Isolation that winters linger in. Later, my forehead still pressed against the pane, I watched the charred shell of the house next door Being taken apart from the inside. The ice house left by firehoses Falling with its ashes into snow. Those brittle noises hanging in the air Like the ring of the phone. And thinking they would go like cold, I tried to stomp them from my bones. But deep into the night I could hear the chain saws Buzzing in the cavity, breaking the icicles So that they fell away like long knives from the eaves. I felt their wounds in my throat And my words leaked out dwindling and unpronounced, Having no sentences left to contain them as they were. --~ From Where I lie I can see the door, Ajar for the insects' ease, And the peeling, shredded screen. The night moves across rocks, A river over my body. The dark becomes hot summer Hanging as thick and heavy As wet wool around the halls. I am held in by rumpled sheets, Your arm close around me. The air is blue, black and Full of the echoes of my last conversation. They grow louder as I listen. Your easy monotonous breathing Moves in and widens the river. The boatman refuses to let me across. I have only a leg-aching impatience for morning And I know this is not enough. The night entices me, full Of the round promises of sleep. And sleep flits in and out the door Romancing the insects, Until I want to scream For it to lie with me. Upstairs there is water running, Not in drips but a ticking stream. I see it coming through the ceiling. It is either sweat or tears. I can no longer tell the difference. The heat is fusing our skin But what is close becomes too distant, Like sleep and the morning. 29 30 The Winning WE were playing the Chambers course, the seventh hole, a five par. We had started early that morning, and there was still dew all over the greens so that it was hard to putt. I was up. I teed up my shot, took th ree practice swings, and then hit it about a hundred yards. All my drives are pretty shitty like that. They don't go very far, and they don't get very high, but they usually always stay in the fairway. It was Stu's shot. He stuck his tee in the ground and gave me a mini-lecture on what I was doing wrong: not teeing my ball up high enough. He took a practice swing and then sliced it about a hundred yards into the woods. I didn't say a word. I was standing there watching him, pinching my side just above the belt to keep from smiling. He was looking at almost the exact spot where the ball entered the woods, looking forlorn as if something had just eaten one of his pets. He reached into his pocket and pulled out another ball and took an illegal Mulligan. "Sure, go ahead," I said, as if it mat­tered. He very carefully placed his ball on the tee, slowly addressed the ball, took a practice swing , and then hit it like a center-fielder. The ball hit a pine tree about fifty feet out to the right. It rolled back in our direction, back on the tee box, pretty close to where his tee was. He reached down and picked up the ball and inspected it like maybe it was defective. I was standing there biting an inch out of the inside of my cheek. I was trying to concentrate on the trees at the far end of the fairway, trying to act as if I didn't see him muff it. I could barely see the pin, the red flag hanging straight down. There wasn't a breeze. I could remember playing in the woods not too far from there, before we moved to the city, playing Houdini, the magician. I was always Houdini. Stu said it was a big honor. Some days, Mamma would drive into Beaumont shopping with Mrs. Fischer, and Stu would have to babysit me. We would wake up real early on those mornings, and Stu and BubbaFullerwould take me way out in the woods to their clubhouse and tie me to this chair. Then they'd tell me that I was Harry Houdini, the greatest magician that ever lived, and that if I concentrated real hard, I could untie myself and escape. They usually came back for me sometime in the afternoon about the time Mamma would be getting home, arguing the whole time between them who was going to be Houdini next. What they didn't know is that after the first couple years, I learned how to untie myself and fol lowed them all over the neighborhood and spied on them, found all their secret hide-outs. Then I'd run back when they'd start coming for me and tie myself up again. STU was finally ready. He carefully placed the ball on the tee, assumed the proper stance (without his club}, shouted "Fore," swooped down with his right hand and grabbed the ball like a th ird baseman barehanding a grounder, and threw it about as far as my drive. I didn't say anything. Stu's my older brother. Sometimes. he gets pretty pissed. HE was usually a good golfer, but that day he got hexed early. It usually hap­pened to one of us. When you're as good at golf as we are, you don't want to start off the first couple of holes playing too well because we've decided that God gets pissed at you and starts screwing you up, puts a hex on you. Any golfer will tell you. You start playing great on the first two or three holes, and then you start trying to concentrate on what you're doing right, and then it gets to the point that you can't even hit the ball. That day it was Stu's turn. The first hole was a four par. He parred it. The second hole was a difficult four par with a hard dogleg to the right. He had a great drive and a super great approach shot that landed about fifteen feet from the hole. He could two-putt it, and he'd have an­other par. He one-putted it. He got a bird­ie. When he pulled his ball out of the hole, he looked at me kind of sorry that he'd made such a good putt, shook his head and said , "Well, I'm fucked to the gills now.'' Stu was in a good mood. He was always in a good mood as long as he was winning. "Yeah," I said . "You'd better just go back over and sit in the car for the rest of the day. God's not even gonna let you hit another ball in the fairway." The third hole was a five par. He got a twelve. On the next hole he had to take a penalty stroke for hitting his ball out of bounds. It was a four par, and he got an eight. It was already the fifth hole, and he was already pissed, saying things like, "This is a wasted goddamned day," and "Next time, don't call me! I don't care anything about playing this game again. Don't call me! O.K.?" Stu usually said all that kind of stuff to hurt my feel ings or to make me start Glenn Blake screwing up too. Sometimes, he could get pretty nasty. "It's the clubs," I told him. There was a lot on his mind. It was his birthday. He had just turned thirty, and that was bugging him. But I knew there was something else. For his birthday, Beck gave him a new set of clubs. Beck and I got together, and she gave him the clubs, and I gave him two boxes of balls. When I came over that morning, he gave me his old set. " It's the clubs," I told him. We were walking with pull carts. It was already hot as a son of a bitch and quiet. All you could hear were the cicadas and an occasional golf ball bouncing off a tree. "Here," I said . "You want to use your old clubs?" "No," he said. "Aw, come on! You can use 'em if you want." "What?" he said. His mind was far off on something else. Something was eat­ing on him. I could tell, and I was pretty sure I knew what it was. "Sure you don't want to? Use your old clubs? Sure?" He stopped walking. He turned around and looked me in the eye and said , "No! Now would you just shut upl Just shut the fuck up, and I might be able to play! " If you work on some people and get them pissed off enough, they won't even be able to curse right. He turned and started walking again for the fifth tee. He had a pretty blue and silver golf bag that the old man had given him. I had his old reject. "Jeeesus!" I said. " I'm sorry. I just thought you might have better luck playing with your old clubs, but I'll shut up " I had never beaten him at golf. Come to think of it, I had never beaten him at any game that meant a lot to him. Except chess. He taught me how to play when I was in kindergarten (anyway, that's what Mamma tells everyone). I only remember that I was real young and that he would fool 's mate me about every game. I can still see him sliding his queen slowly across the board and knocking my king from the table. He'd grin and say, "Checkmate Scrote! What you need is a lot of practice. A lot of practice." He'd laugh, get up from the table, kick the screen door open, and go outside while I'd sit there, pick my king up from the floor, and practice. One Christmas. some thirteen years later, after a lot of practice, I came home from college, and we played a game that lasted over two hours, and I beat him. I didn't jump up and down on the table, and I didn't knock his king from the board. I just sat there and looked him in the eye and said, "You lose." We never played chess again. THE fifth hole was the kind of hole that golfers have nightmares about. It was a three par with a water hazard in front that formed a horseshoe around the green. If I had a dollar for every ball in that hazard, I'd be a rich man. There was no doubt in my mind, that of all the holes of the Cham­bers course, the fifth was God's favorite. I had never seen a human clear that water. Stu and I had a standing bet on which of us could get closer to the green with our first shot. It was usually ten dollars. Both of us usually brought along a ten dollar bill and a special ball, an old gnarled one, one we didn't mind losing. The best strategy that I had ever seen used on this hole was teeing the ball close to the ground, closing your eyes, and swinging. There was no strategy that worked. Stu usually landed closer to the green in the water than I did. And because he was usually the one who won the bet, he was usually the one who brought it up. That day, considering the way he was playing, I knew that I could get closer. And I knew that he knew it. It would be interesting to see if he would bring up the bet. If he didn't, it meant that he was afraid of losing. "O.K. Scrote," he said. (That was my nickname. That's short for "Scrotum." That was Stu's favorite. His old school friends used to call me that when I was little, along with "Asshole" and "Shithead." But "Scrote" was their favorite. That was my informal name. My real name is Richard so that when I was in public, it was a more formal , "Hey Dick! How's it hanging?" A lot of thought always went in with the crea­tion of those names. Back then, I had a few for him too that I'd use when I wanted to get the dog shit beat out of me. Big brothers are wonderful. Everyone should have about a hundred of them.) "O.K. Scrote," he said. "What's the bet? Ten big ones? You're up." I pulled a seven iron out of my bag. "All right," I said. "This is your idea now. If you lose, don't go screaming at me all after-go get those ducks out of the water? I'd hate for you to kill one of them." I was concentrating on the cliffs of Dover. I was standing on the shore at Dunkirk. It was just a nice, simple seven iron over the channel. I took a practice swing. Stu said, "Hey Scrotum! I just saw an S.PC.A. van pull up. The driver's got some binos on you. He said he's gonna sue your asshole if you get anywhere near one of those baby duckies." I was listening to every single quack of the ducks. I was hoping the mother would somehow raise one of her wings and say, "Shhh babies! That man over there is about to swing. Let's be real quiet!" But she didn't. Stu was over there leaning up against a magnolia tree going, "Quack, quack­quack." I had a great idea. I pretended that Stu was real little, that he was buried up to his neck, and that the ball was his little head saying, "Quack-quack, quack-quack." I swung as hard as I could. The ball headed directly for the water like a line drive, but when it got there, it skipped twice on the surface and landed on the fringe of the green. Stu said, "You lucky little bastard." I wanted to jump up and down and shout like a kid, but I didn't. Stu pulled a club out of his bag. He was just looking at me and shaking his head. He was ready to hit. "By the way," he said. "You are coming tonight, aren't you?" "Yeah, I'm coming," I said. "I thought I might bring a date if that's all right with you." "A date?" he said. "A date?! That's fine with me, little brother, if you think you can handle her, but I don't want you getting a hard-on right in the middle of my birthday party." He laughed. "You want to double that bet?" I said. He stopped laughing. "Or are you a chickenshit?" "You got it," he said. The ducks were going wild. They were really quacking it up, trying to get out of the water. They had realized that they were in the line of fire. Stu drew back and hit a beautiful shot noon." that landed almost exactly in the center of "Come on, little brother," he said. the water hazard. "Which of us is 'the loser'?" "Fuck you," I said . "Don't nut up now! Don't hit it in the water! " I was concentrating on the green. No, I was concentrating about fifty or a hundred yards past the green. There were some ducks in the hazard. They were swimming around, quacking. Stu said, "Hey Scrote! You want me to It's enough to make you wonder some­times if there's not a special kind of water in those hazards. I was about to let out a good laugh that we could both share when he kicked a large divot out of the ground and shouted, "Son of a bitch!" Then I said something I didn't think before saying but I said it to make him feel better which it didn't. I said, "Come on, Stu. It's just a game." "No!" he shouted in reply. He spun around and pointed his finger at me. "No! No it's not just a goddamn game! And the sooner you realize that, the better off you'll be." "Well," I said. "I just don't see you let­ting it ruin your day." And he said, "You don't see it because you don't understand. You never have had and never will have what it takes to be a winner." "Let's just get nasty," I told him. "That's what it takes sometimes," he said. "It takes getting nasty. And if I don't teach you anything else, I want you to learn how important it is to come out on top." FOR Stu, it had always been too impor­tant. He was the kind of guy who loved to win. I don't doubt that that's why he didn't have any friends. He used to love to go play tennis with some of his high school friends and stomp the shit out of them. He got off to that. Of course, nobody played with him more than once. And as one by one his friends left him, I was getting old enough to be his patsy. Stu never bragged. I'm not saying that. But he could play you, and he could look you in the eye and still stomp you at damn near any sport you could name. It was totally because of this that I loved to beat him. Sure, there were times when I was younger when I'd run to Mamma after he'd beaten me, but those times passed, and I decided that no matter how long it took me, no matter how much I had to suffer, that of the two of us, one day, he would have to admit to himself that I was "the winner." ONE day we were jousting, and he split my head open. We were playing knights of the Round Table, and he was Arthur (he was always Arthur), and I was Lancelot. Of course, whoever got dubs on being Arthur was guaranteed victory. Arthur always won. He had Excalibur. Almost always. We didn't have steeds or armor so we used bicycles. Bicycles were the steeds, and because you couldn't hold both lance and shield and steer your steed, you needed a squire. The squire steered and ducked his head to keep clear of the action and pedaled like a fiend. Both of you sat on the banana seat. The squire sat in front. For shields, we used garbage can lids. For lances, commode plungers. We followed normal jousting ru les. Both squires took the steeds to the opposite ends of the street. Then each knight raised his lance high in the air and screamed. The squires started pedaling, building up speed, and the knights lowered their 31 Glynda Robbins 32 33 34 lances, preparing for the attack. As in regulation jousting, you tried to stick your lance to your opponent's shield and then pull it away from him. Then on the next pass, you could poke him or his squire in the head with your lance and knock them off their steed. On that particular pass, Stu stuck his lance to my shield, but as it happened, I pulled it free from his grip. So as the squires turned for another pass, Stewart had only a shield. I told my squire I wanted a fast pass. I threw down my shield , grabbed the squire around the neck with my free arm, and shouted, "Let's go!" I got my lance ready. (That was another good thing about those plungers. You could swing them like a battle ax if you wanted. That was in the rules.) I was going to behead Stu or his squire. When we met, I was preparing to hit his squire in the throat when Stu crashed his shield into the side of my head. I spent something like a week in the hospital. STU was quiet for the rest of the nine. I didn't want him quiet. When he got quiet, he quit trying. I didn't want him to quit trying. As we walked to the sixth hole, the ducks were regrouping, recuperating from the shelling. I told him the story about the judge and the geese. There was this judge from Georgia or Virginia or somewhere who was playing a game with his doctor friend. They were betting something like a hun­dred dollars a hole, and it all came down to the eighteenth. They were even. That hole had a water hazard with a lot of geese in it. Anyway, the judge was putting, and one of the geese slipped up and pecked him on the ass. I think he screwed up his putt pretty bad, knocked it off the green and into the water. Then, he said, they all started laughing at him, the geese I mean, kind of honking, so he hauled off with this putter and kil led about six of them. I think he's in prison now. AND so on the seventh hole Stu was throwing it. I told him that I'd read some­where that the world record for throwing the ball for eighteen holes was ninety­three. "Jeeesus!" I told him. "We ought to both start throwing it." When we got to the greens, he got down on his knees and shot the ball like a marble. He got a ten and a nine on the seventh and eighth holes. As I was walking up to the ninth tee, he said in almost a whisper, "Let's just go home, O.K.?" "What?" I said. I was beating him for once. "You don't want to play the back nine?" "No," he said. "No, let's just go to the house. Now. If you don't mind." "All right," I said. "Sure. You don't want to finish this hole?" "No." "You're not sick are you?" I said. "Why? What's the matter?" "No," he said. "Let's just go home." I put my driver back in the bag and started walking for the car. About halfway down the fairway, he said, clear out of the blue, "Richard, prom­ise me you'll never get married." "What?!" I said. He said, "Promise me." "Sure," I said. "I hadn't planned on it. Why?" "Because it doesn't work," he said. "I don't know. You see all those T.V. shows where everyone's happily married. Well, it's all a lot of bullshit. Don't ever buy that bullshit that it works, O.K.? Because it doesn't." "I won't," I told him. "Trouble at home? You and Beck having some problems?" "No," he said. "Yeah, sort of. Nothing I can't handle though. Nothing I can't handle." On the next fairway, normal people were playing golf. THAT night I picked Connie up at eight. We had been dating about two months. Nothing serious, just a nice, slow, no obli­gations relationship. I don't care much for her. She's a nice girl and all, a blonde, on a good day she's probably a five on a scale of one to ten. She's not a barker. Don't get me wrong. Let's just say she's "sweet" looking. Personally, I prefer bru­nettes. I sort of howl at the moon when I'm around one. But Connie doesn't give me any bullshit. That's what I like about her. She hardly says anything. I like that. So I'm sticking with her for the time being. Connie had seen Stu over at my place once, but she had never met Beck. I told her that Beck's real name was Rebecca, and that she'd probably better call her Rebecca at first. I told her that Beck taught at the high school; she was the girls' gym coach, and she was probably the most beautiful brunette I had ever seen. Connie asked me to stay close and not run off and leave her around people she didn't know very well. I told her I would. She made me promise. When I turned onto Stu's street, I told her that that was the street I grew up on when we moved to the city, and that Stu's house was just two houses down from where Mamma still lives. I told her how the old man died the week before I was to graduate from college and how, about six months later, Stu had bought his house to keep an eye on Mamma. I pulled into Mamma's driveway and parked and told Connie that she'd better wait in the car until I saw if Mamma was feeling O.K. Mamma got "sick" just about every day and couldn't get to the phone so that it was good that Stu lived so close and could check in on her. If she was feeling like it, I was going to take her down to Stu's for some cake. It was just about dark. The gas light hadn't worked since the old man died. I picked up the two morning papers from the lawn and got the mail from the box. Sometimes, I liked to check to see if any of the mail was still for me. It wasn't. The T.V. was blaring so loud that I could hear every word before I opened the front door. Mam ma was sprawled out on the couch with her mouth open, snoring. I turned the T.V. off. "Mamma," I said. "Mamma?" She didn't move. There was a cigarette still burning on the lip of the ashtray about to fall off onto the carpet. I spread her Afghan over her feet. I wanted to look at my old room before I left. It was at the end of the hall, next to Stu's old room. There was the fist hole at about eye level in my door. I hated com­ing back to that old room. I don't know what I expected, maybe for things to return to the way they had been before Stu moved out, before the old man died, before Mamma got sick. It was empty. I had moved everything out when I left home, and Mamma had taken down everything else, all the pic­tures, the posters. She had even taken the drapes down. All that was left were three ceramic chess pieces on the far wall. There were only three of them, the king, the queen, and a knight, maybe there had been more of them at one time. I looked through the window and saw a young boy with a B.B. gun walking through the back yard. It was time to go. Without thinking , I said, "Good-bye Mamma." And she said, "You going?" I turned around and said, "Yes ma'am. I didn't mean to wake you." Her eyes were closed again, and she was snoring. I turned the T.V. on again and walked out through the garage. It was empty. Stu had moved all the old man's tools down to his garage, the table saws, the drill presses. He set them up exactly like the old man had them. He had his garage arranged exactly like the old man's used to be, a couple of houses down. He even had the old man's sign, "Stewart Morrison," nailed up over his workbench in just the right spot. In a way, I think that Stu was trying to recapture the old man. I can see the old man in him. And sometimes, I'll drive up in his driveway, and the garage door will be ,;. open, and he'll be slumped over his work­bench, hammering or sawing on some­thing, and for an instant, I'll think that he is Daddy and that I'd better hurry up and get in there and help him. I turned off the garage light, closed and locked the door, and walked to the car. I told Connie, "Maybe you can meet her some other time." "Is she sick?" Connie said. "In a way," I said. WHEN we got to Stu's house, the garage light was on, and he was in there sawing. I knew that if he cared anything about seeing us he could have been inside. Besides, I wanted to see Beck first and see what was going on so we walked up the sidewalk to the front door. I opened the door and said, "Knock, knock! " Beck was in the kitchen. "Come on in," she said . " I'll be in there in a second." She walked around the bar, carrying the cake, and set it on the dining room table. She had different shades of icing on the sleeves of her pullover. She looked delicious. "Hello gorgeous," I said and gave her a shortened hug because of Connie. "Beck, this is Connie. Connie, this is Beck." And before they could say their "Nice to meet yous," " I've heard so much about you," "You have such a pretty house," I said, "What's old Stu doing in the garage?" Beck smiled at Connie and then looked at me and said, "He's on a little tirade. But it's his birthday." She looked at Connie. "He's entitled to it." "Sure," Connie said. Beck pointed to the cake and shook her head. "Look what he did to my little golfer." The cake was white with a putting green centered on the top of it. There was even a blue water hazard to the left of the green. On the green was a little man that looked like he was putting. "That's absolutely adorable!" Connie said. " I did it all by myself," Beck said. "But Patricia Gonzalez look what he did." I looked closer. "I had to special order that little golfer from Houston," she said. "And a little while ago Stu walked through here with a pair of scissors or something and cut the guy's little putter off." I could see the little guy on the green, but he didn't look much like a golfer. He looked more like one of those little plastic army men I had when I was a kid, the one with the mine detector. This little guy was just standing there, holding something. "I threw the little thing away," Beck said. "I thought it looked kind of disgusting." "Well I'll tell you what it looks like now," I said. I looked at Beck then at Connie. " It looks like that little fellow's standing right out in the open, in front of God and every­body and taking a piss right there on Stewart's birthday cake." "Richard!" Beck said. Connie just bit her lip and shook her head. I got a good chuckle out of it and said, 35 36 "I'll go out and cheer up old Stubert." "Good!" Beck said. "I'll go out and tell him some guy's in here taking a leak on his birthday cake." I gave Beck a big grin. She turned her head away from Connie and winked at me. Stu was at the workbench with his back to me. He was using a hacksaw. "Here's the birthday boy," I said. "Hey not so big brother, Mamma said to tell you she was sorry she couldn't ... " "Go back inside," he said. "I don't feel like talking to anybody." He had his golf bag leaned up against the workbench. He had something in the vise, and he was sawing. "Why?" I said. "What are you working ... What are you doing? What in the hell are you doing?!" He had one of his new clubs, an iron, in the vice lengthwise, and he was sawing it in half. I looked in the trash can, and he had already done two or three. "Have you lost your fucking mind?" I said. "What's going on?" "This is a symbol," he said. The handle part of the club he was working on fell to the floor. He loosened the vise and gave me the other end. It was the seven iron. He pulled the six out of his bag and clamped it into the vise. He said, "This is a symbol of what I think of Beck's little affair." "What?" I said. I tried to sound sur-prised. "Yeah! She's sleeping with somebody." "How do you know?" I said. He stopped sawing. He turned around and looked at me. " I know!" he said. "I don't know who it is yet, but I know she's doing it. You know, when we first got mar­ried, she told me that if I was to ever kiss another woman, I mean rea//ykiss another woman, that she'd be able to tell. Well, that works both ways, sport. It works both ways." "Aw, come on, Stu," I said. "Beck wouldn't do that to you." He started sawing again. "Yes she would," he said. "You see, she hates me in a way. Just like you hate me, Richard." "Well, let's just feel sorry for ourselves," I told him. "Listen!" he said. " If you're going to give me any of your bullshit, I don't want you out here I" "O.K." I said. "Sure. I get the picture." I opened the door. "Hey Scrotum!" he said. He still had his back to me. "I had a bad round today, and you beat me. You beat me on what has been maybe the worst day of my life. Now when you get home tonight, you be sure and celebrate." I closed the door behind me. I could hear the girls talking. I listened. They were talking about school. Connie was study­ing to be a school teacher, and Beck was telling her about our school district. I put a smile on my face and walked into the dining room where they were drinking some of the birthday punch. Beck stopped what she was saying and asked me, "Did you cheer him up?" "Sort of," I said. I couldn't tell her. I knew there would be fireworks as soon as we left. I didn't particularly want to be around Beck and Connie in the same room so I asked her, "Where's little Stu?" "In his room," Beck said. "Don't get him all worked up." The hallway was dark, and I could see the light on beneath his door. I knocked once, and the light went off in the room. "It's open," a voice said from inside. I opened the door and stepped in. "Close it behind you," the voice said. I closed it. I was trying to locate him by the sound of his voice. A flashlight was shined in my face, and the voice said, "Password." "Talleywacker," I said. "Uncle Ricki" the voice said. "I didn't know it was you." "Bullshit!" I said. "Now where are the lights?" "Behind you," he said. I found the switch in the dark and flipped it. He turned the flashlight off. He was on the top bunk of Stu's old bunk bed. He had a football helmet on, a flash­light in one hand, and some kind of ray gun in the other. "My god!" I said. "It looks like you're ready for an attack." "I am!" he said. I looked around the room to see if I could find any of my old toys and stepped carefully over the things on the floor. "You know, Stewart, you really ought to clean this place up," I told him. "One of these days you're gonna get lost in here, and your mother's not going to be able to find you. Where are they?" "I already set them up," he said. "Good! Where's the gun?" " I'll get it," he said. "Get that and get the tape." He brought the tape and the B.B. gun that looked like a Winchester, and I started taping the flashlight to the left side of the gun barrel while he was opening the drapes and opening the window. "You go first, " he said and turned out the lights. He had already taken the screen off when he had crawled out the first time. The windows in his room were full length so that we had to get on our bellies to shoot. I cocked the Winchester and turned prepared to attack the Morrison house­hold. The way we played is that each of us took turns shooting, and whoever killed the most out of twelve won that round. I located each soldier and shot the one closest to the house, a hand grenade thrower, perhaps the most potentially dangerous. I handed him the gun. "You know, Geek, you did a real ly fine job setting up those men," I told him. "Now take that damn helmet off so you can see , what you're doing!" "You're the geekl" he said. "You even smell like a geek." "Shut up and shoot," I told him. WE played for about half an hour until I saw it was around nine and time for us to go. I helped him get the screen back on and closed the window. It had been a close game, and he had won, or he, at least, thought he had won. I told him good night, closed his door, and walked back into the dining room. The girls were still talking, and they had already started on the cake. I asked Beck, "Stu didn't blow out the candles?" "Ha, ha," she said. "I thought we'd bet­ter go ahead without him. Besides, you don't ask a dragon to blow out candles." I looked at Connie and said, "We'd bet­ter be going." And Beck said, "You don't have to run off." I looked at her, pointed in the direction of the sawing, and nodded my head. "O.K." she said. She looked at Connie. "You'll have to come back and see us. Hang on, and you can take some of this cake." She walked around the bar and brought back two paper plates. She cut the cake and placed the pieces on the plates like a pro. She wrapped them and handed them to Connie. "Thank you," Connie said. We walked to the door. "It was nice to meet you, Connie," Beck said. "It was nice to meet you, too," Connie said. She had a plate in each hand. Outside, I said, "I'll go say bye to Stu." Beck said, "Good night." Connie said, "Good night." I walked around to the side garage door. He was up to the woods now. He was on the three wood. I stepped inside and said, "Happy birthday, big brother." "Yeah! Happy birthday," was all he said. I walked back around front. Connie was on the flashlight and surveyed the back yard. There were a dozen six inch plastic army men situated at strategic places it!" already sitting in the car with her door open. I waved at her and pointed to the front door. I wanted to tell Beck about Stewart. I wanted to warn her. I opened the door and leaned in and said, "Enjoyed Tree Heart In my wondering I circle it, back-curled From the trunk of an oak, one of many Stalled, as every living thing is stalled, Between the earth and sun. The heart is shaped As we are fond of thinking of a heart, More and more round, and cleft, and wounded With desire, the words that are desire adding Little to the present, nothing to the past. It isn't much. What can be sensed, perhaps, And what is sought is something of the spirit Of the loved that is tangible, something more Than this alphabet of longing-the need To state the need, at least once, clearly, In terms that might last only slightly longer. Arthur Smith Tea Rose If it grows at all, it grows in early March Alone, by a field, stubble And partly plowed, The sadness of its salmon-colored buds Apparent in perspective. From the other side, Looking back, toward what soon will be remembered As her life-the gardens, walks, The screened porch Where one summer the piled-up Santa Rosa plums Sweetened the air for days- The rose is central. It is hardly dawn. I've been up and troubled, Torn by what she suffered and Survived, by what Dies, and what lives on. Slick and clustered, Magenta, the leaves turn, And turn again With the wind, like fish wallowed in a current. I hadn't thought that time Could show the loss I feared the most, in all its waste, as something Less than final, though now I find it focused At the end of winter in a tea rose, so single-minded In its mindlessness that pain Follows in its course. New growth, I think, and I'm empty and at ease. And now the leaves roll pale, And that too passes. 37 38 Change of season : High-water-time : a new mark set. In the Hydrosphere, silt-rain : oxides, silicates how the valleys (ranks of slate-clefts, pre-Cambrian shoulders dismantled) fill in particle by particle. Creekside : temperas draining from root-buttresses burl-caves opened to Otter's snout. All over spring-flats, still-tethered rosettes (plantain, curly dock) are flushed to their downhill-sides, twining & gathering their leaf-stem streamers as do dead squid their legs. Site cleared 1793 (toepaths having grown to wheel­roads : Senecas exiled to Cattaraugus, Erie, the Wind-Lands)-lst survey, rod-&-chain mindless of freshets; gullies that defied climbing conquered by the maps ... Seth & Elizabeth Radder, then lately of Massachusetts, lived here to 1809, the year when typhus pecked at the settlers like a crow at a cob ... Their 1st-born lies in this cemetery- stone face-up to the weather, read with difficulty-an occasional verse runs down chalky to abundant wild violets, barbarea . .. Parents laid nearby. The other children, unnamed but numbered here in their mother's strict biography, somehow have escaped the annals of this little town-Italy, NY, County of Yates. Who'll taste? feel? Duck-nests flooded : I've seen eggs carried off, seen them swelled to foggy-glass chambers in the mud-saucer of a gar-hole, then gone. Culverts overrun : on the asphalt, feelers like worms migrating to drained soil that can breathe thru them-but this time what's striping the road is too slick to be clipped or crushed into half- or double-selves. All's past before the alert is believed. In the gravelyard by the town barns where trucks have firmed things, where salt-leachate from gray dunes brings to mind a wet down-cluster plucked from a bigger myth, many shifting prongs of water are soon gone too-no lure works. Jack Spula (I come to strangers' graves because the loved speak from theirs shamelessly, but not for attribution.) Likewise the squatters : all it takes is summer or one night & the nests are gone anyhow & squalls come to nothing. D Chris Plowman Red squirrel in the cabin. Suppose so. Whole winter. Well damn good part of it. No hassle getting in (under warp of the rafters? gnaw-vent in the east peak?) but hell getting out. Or, offered Out, thought No Way! Later reconsidered. Tried window-frames: had only incisors for breaking & exiting. No luck: on the bright side chip by chip thru hardwood but glass proved more than a mouthful. Provided a view tho. Showed what snow can do for exteriors (wealth of detail & movement whited over) but no route to same. Passed awhile on a stash in the walls (so suppose) then on a diet of railings chair-backs -arms. Then took off. Or holed up. Or was snatched up. If last true one lousy meal of fur sawdust bone. But for who? Can hardly think more. Only found the signs not the signer. Would indulge theories. Send a good one. Your smartest. Hold it. Wise up. Send your most private. Jack Spula 39 40 The Somnologist Heidi Renterfa We met in a Bolivian airport. She ap­peared to be dozing and didn't speak when I sat down, but when we were sti ll waiting there in the morning, I offered to share my crackers and cheese, she gave me one of her oranges, and we began to tell each other our stories. She traveled, she said, for only one reason: to sleep in different countries. Nightly, whether fed a five-course meal (salad after meat, sherbet in between) or dried fish and bread (no butter), whether bathed in a six-foot tub brimming with hot bubblebath or sponged with cold water stinking of sulfur, whether bedded under embroidered sheets or in a hammock (the special hooks implanted in two walls of the room), she slept and, sleeping, stud­ied the qualities of sleep in that particular place. Oh certainly, she played the tourist in the daytime, admiring the craftsmanship of the stonework, the strangeness of the vegetation (the pines of Tierra del Fuego, the giant ferns of New Guinea), the sun­sets after a hurricane in the islands, the dust-reddened moonrises in the deserts . But her days were secondary to her real researches, which began when her eye­lids closed. Life being short and the world large and various, she was limited in the length of time she could spend in any one place, and she felt that seeing the con­ventional tourist sights of a region was one way to prepare for her serious study, that these traditional routines had evolved (she mentioned natural selection) just because they are, on the whole, the most satisfactory means of encompassing the diurnal aspect of an unfamiliar location. And after all, didn't the local inhabitants also have parts to be played while the light lasted? "But," I asked, "do you then dream about where you are?" That missed the point, apparently. Dreams, though fascinating , were but a peripheral part of the study, like the flut­tering fringe.of an elaborate shawl. "No, the infinitely intricate texture of sleep becomes most compelling toward its center, where it grows finer, more sub­tle, more radiantly beautiful," she told me. "And is sleep so different in other coun­tries?" I asked. "Oh absolutely. In its coming, in its being with one, in the way it departs. In its weight, most assuredly. In the expansion of one's body, and in the tone of one's sighs. In the depth of the waters one swims through, and under. In the gold or blue color of the light. In the height at which one floats, or flies. In the distance from which the sounds come, the herd-bells, the thunder, the treefrogs, the voices." She said that in some countries the sleeping wasn't completed by morning, and that to finish her work required put­ting in extra
File Name pdf_uhlib_9582873_1983_ac.pdf