Issue 14 · Fall 2014
A bead is drawn on a group in a crowd at the county fairgrounds. Late
summer. Sunday noon. Sky low, ragged, mean. The bead “assembles”
(one RV, asphalt lot, three lawn chairs, two trees, tent, ice chest, picnic
bench), the group “appoints,” crowd tightens its suddenly slipping grip.
The darkness of the slowly darkening day, sensed as much as seen,
weakens the resolve of the leave-taking, deepens the dismay, taints
the well-wishing, taints the poor departing girl’s felt fate with the image
of a watery grave. It’s bizarre, the whole thing. Laughable. Can’t be
evenly lit: the pockmarks, the throngs, balled fists, the glyphs, the lists.
A face lifts: “Yes?” Everything hinges on the surrey with the fringe
on top, the you in them—the assemblies, appointments, the gloomy
grip—the you with that repeats between the you and the fractious from
a stonecutter’s sense of foreshorten-in-relief blended with a painterly
through-to sense of fore, back and middle; a mesh, a weave, a grain
so old it can’t be evenly split, and that daily taken (as the fict- for -ion,
the fact- for -ure, the love of “program”—a fides full and daily felt)
is a mix so pure that if it counts (front-to-back, side-to-slippery-side)
is an arm, and what it counts is an arm laboring to hide in its hole.
“francis: coming to B., passing hay-fields and hog farms, july 19, break
of day (my returning to you returning)—let’s say hello again, laugh,
kiss, whisper in one another’s ear, let’s meet again on that little garden
path—I want to hear your voice like a ring on every finger—what
honesty! romance! loyalty! what a chameleon! what a ghost!—I’ll never
tire of saying it: we’re two coats cut from the same cloth—remember
when we said let’s say what we say as if spinning a plate on a spindle
playing a game of ‘no regrets’?—you flimpfed it indeedy, muffed it
plain as corn cakes—see? my foot’s in the foreground, in the stream
(I’m kneeling in a bed of reeds, bleeding on a fallen fir), and if you
must know the agenda “inside the box”: the bigger the shoe the better
to kick you with—P.S. we played games, sure as shit (oh you rotten
scoundrel! you rake! you heartless heel!), but no, the claim was never
made through the local office—P.P.S. THE MAJOR isn’t significant,
hardly, he’s a nitwit, a toad, buffoon, a sniveling clown of a sore loser
half-crippled by the paddlings he begs me to beat into his wrinkled old
rump cheeks—how he blushes at the sight of his tawdry little tartlet!
how he shivers like a lost lamb! as sure a cad as ever earned his yoke.”
Unhappy hearts may be plumbed like a plum cut to its stone, night-
ghouls may hound us, but verse always goes hollow deep in its cups.
My deepening disgust: when designed to sound like it hasn’t. We
hardly know our own need. Should I be proud of such intimacies?
The middle of the matter: when end is beginning again. And the matter
is a matter of motive, so be it, but of method and motif too. And thus
the matter is made. But if the reader objects and clamors for the town
to pinch itself awake (“It’s been doused! It’s been flattened and worn
like a sandwich board…its depths dim, ends dead, cupboards bare!”),
if what’s said (the-spindle-and-the-wildly-spinning-plate) is as ready
to bind or subject or limit as it is to loosen and coax free (too deeply
set in its odd and wobbly ways to ever attempt less than both at once),
if it seems like a merry month of sight-seeing was traded for the labors
of a do-it-yerself dig, the wheat for its chaff, the patch for the hole
in its raggedy pants, if every word bristles with doubt, why not presume
the problems have value? (They’re not added—like spokes to a wheel
for show.) But they needn’t be sung like a sacred hymn or recited like
a cycle of North Sea sagas to badger us into believing they have value.