Tuesday, 30 September 2014

...of vandalism

From his room in the locanda, Michel could see the window of a glass shop across the way. It was before dawn; he had returned to bathe and rest and wait until it was time to call Lauren. He had told Lauren he would call at her hotel, and he intended to, Jason's return notwithstanding. Watching from his room, he could see a vandal at work in the glass shop at this moment; the fog parted just enough that a face and arm were visible, and the breaking glass. Everything was showered in blue; the sound of the glass was inaudible, so each methodic explosion burst like a silent bubble. On one top shelf was a string of glass heads, angelic and seductive; he could see them clearly even from this distance. He became attached to the glass heads and wondered if the vandal might overlook them. The boy was about sixteen; there was no sign of any pleasure in what he was doing. Michel deliberated, trying to decide if it was a political act, like blowing up a train station.

[Days Between Stations, Erickson, S.]

...of verbal paralysis

Michel watched out the window, his face turned from the other passengers, so they could see only in the reflection of the window and the light over the trees that his face was damp. He wanted to say something to himself to prove he didn't stutter. He might have said something to his travelling companions, asked the time perhaps, but the prospect of failing was too humiliating to risk. Now he remembered quite clearly his first truly incandescent memory since he'd met Lauren, and that was of talking to himself as a child. He talked to himself in his room, walking in circles, and on the stairs to his aunt's and uncle's house, and on the way to and from school, and in the back of the limousine. When he talked to himself he was fully aware that it looked foolish to others, but this was the trade-off: that he never stuttered, that in conversation with himself he was always eloquent and lucid, articulate and impressive in ways he never was in dialogue with anyone else. So now Michel understood that when he forgot who he was that morning in Paris he forgot how to stutter, and now he sat in his seat terrified to make a sound, verbally paralysed, struck dumb. He struggled to take hold of himself. I cannot have come to this, he thought: I've taken so many chances already, I have to take one more. He made himself turn to the banker and his daughter to ask the hour, but they were gone.

[Days Between Stations, Erickson, S.]

... of a port

By early evening the city could be seen on the coast; she could make out the strange round spires and a thundering black human flow between the buildings. On the beaches stood erect huge sails of blue and gold, hovering over the white sand as though to navigate the entire city south; there was the rustling and hubbub of carts on the docks, to which the sea rushed on collision course. Domes of silver and shaded grass shimmered in the twilight, and houses perched precariously on poles, as though impaled above the other rooftops. The people in the streets rushed to the sight of the boats, but no one waved or cried to the marketeers; they watched in silence, without expression. The boats surfaced like a caravan from the ocean bottom, with their agents and brigands, merchants and dark priests in robes and tunics, cloaks and head-dresses and jewellery. The entire city went quiet. As dark fell the lights of the city shifted in colour, first in orchestration and then individually, chaotically, popping and bubbling in different hues: the whole of Tunis seemed to be exploding in concise, hushed detonations. The black flow of the avenues stopped, all the faces turned seaward.

[Days Between Stations, Erickson, S.]

...of a tocsin

As Billy had predicted, they were off the northern coast of Spain within three days. He was stunned to find the beach of San Sebastian stretching far from the city's edge; the sand was covered with townspeople walking up and down in a daze. Lauren and the old man got food in San Sebastian and sailed on. The beaches grew larger and larger until, suddenly, one afternoon past Lisbon, the two found themselves face to face with a new range of cliffs that Billy had never seen. He sat at the front of the boat on an old empty wine crate, the palms of his hands flat on his knees, gazing at everything around him in wonder. After a long, long lifetime of navigating these coasts, everything had become strange. It didn't seem quite fair that after struggling against the regression of old age, everything should now conspire to cheat him of the things he knew well, and upon which he'd come to count. Along the cliffs of Portugal were a row of bells, suspended in erected wooden squares that could be seen framing the sky in a series of blue windows. Within the windows, surrounding the bells, were round iron cages where wild cats were kept and fed by the peasants nearby; when the cats tore at the cages attempting to escape, as they did constantly, the bells rang and could be heard from a far distance. In this way boats would not sail into the new cliffs at night, or in the fog. Though deaf to the bells by this time, the cats were no less sensitive to the thundering rhythms. When Lauren and Billy sailed by, the cats turned to her as they had always done; the sight of her on deck was enough to strike them motionless; it wasn't even necessary that they hear her calling them, it wasn't necessary that she attempt to call them. She sailed past standing silently on deck. The cats held themselves to their cages watching the woman on the passing boat; and for kilometres around, the people noticed the bells had stopped ringing.

[Days Between Stations, Erickson, S.]

...of a secret

Lulu looked into the eyes of the baby and tried to decide whether this was Maurice or Adolphe. She called him one or the other, to see which got a reaction; this went on over a year, the women calling the child Maurice or Adolphe depending on their own preference or whichever came most quickly to mind. During this time, they raised the child in the secret room. Number Seventeen had been built some hundred and thirty years before, when unrest in France and particularly Paris was rampant; a room had been added behind what was the study. Revolutionaries hid their from the troops of Louis XVI; later, after Louis' decapitation, when the revolution was devouring itself with frequency, revolutionaries hid there from other revolutionaries. It was a wonder everyone in Paris didn't know about this room. But in fact the room had been forgotten, so that even Monsieur Monsieur didn't know about it when he bought the house; one of the women discovered it on her own. In a moment of truth, the madam of the house had to decide whether to tell Monsieur Monsieur about the room or enter into a conspiracy with the other women; she decided it made sense to have one secret that the master of the house did not share. So the room belonged to the women, and its silence and invisibility belonged to them as well. That was where they kept the child, hurrying him behind the panels in the study when Monsieur Monsieur arrived in the evening with his guests. The child, as though intuitive of secrets in a way deeper and wiser than his young life, almost never cried when in the sanctuary.

[Days Between Stations, Erickson, S.]

...of sand

Michel trudged through the sand in the room and slowly moved the door open, pushing away the sand that had mounted against it. In the hall there was more sand. It was pitch black so he couldn't really see clearly, and he could only discern the forms lying on the ground. He could smell the blood; but what froze the flow of his own veins was that there wasn't a sound at all from the club: not a murmur or a groan or a cry. It was absolutely still: not a stirring or a footstep. Lauren, he said. No one answered. He turned in the doorway and in the moonlight saw the sand fall from the ledges above the corners.
He went to the window. The moon was rising over the dunes and they looked like the waves of the Atlantic, as he had seen them before he returned from France.
He realised then that the sand had piled high against the building so that it wasn't a drop at all from the window. If there had been footprints, they would buried by now.
Disgusted, he turned from the window, went back into the hall and called again. Again, there was no answer. The entire building seemed to be shifting, and a door broke open and swayed. Part of the ceiling gave and the sand fell through; he saw the dark sky beyond the torn ceiling; the wind was dead and the night was clearing.

[Days Between Stations, Erickson, S.]

...of lonesomeness

She loves you, she said.
She doesn't know what she feels, he said. She thinks she loves me.
After a moment Lauren began to shake, pushing the palms of her hands into her eyes to stop it; she cried on through the nigh, and let him hold her. He kicked the suitcase onto the floor and took off her clothes. He had her; but whereas before, always before, she had rested on his chest never wanting to leave him or lose him, this time she blinked at the walls, listening to him sleep, and realised she had come very close to doing it.
He told her the next morning he was leaving again, for Texas this time. Another race.
Another dusk, and from the window she saw one of the kittens in the street, and ran down the stairs to the front door and stood in the long shadow of the block that touched her feet. In the setting sun the windows of the street gleamed like gold teeth, and first in a low din, ascending to something like sirens, she heard all the cats the way she used to in thee fields. She opened her mouth to call them the way she used to; she was so alone she couldn't stand it. She opened her mouth again, closed it again. She said nothing, looking up at the cats watching her. She could see their eyes glimmering between the gold teeth of the buildings; the way they watched her she knew she didn't belong. One flash after another struck her. She stood in the light looking at all the cats far from her. She was terrified that she would call them and none of them would answer. After a while the cats turned from their posts and disappeared, leaving her there in the doorway.

[Days Between Stations, Erickson, S.]

...of left aghast

"Lauren?" said Martha.
Lauren turned in the hall and went back to the room, and didn't look at Jules or anything around her. She stood before the window and the lights of Columbus Street poured past her to the bay, and she finally took her wallet and put it in her purse and walked out of the room, leaving Jules on the bed. Martha was still in the hall. She asked if Lauren was all right. Lauren said nothing, and Martha looked back to the room. "Do you want me to watch the baby?" she said. Lauren didn't answer.
Forty minutes later Lauren was at the airport. She never remembered later how she got there. She bought a plane ticket. She assumed she was buying a ticket for Kansas. She sat in the lobby waiting for her flight, and as she heard him tell it all again, just as he had on the telephone, a voice cut in announcing her flight. She was in the airplane ten minutes later. And hour and ten minutes later she was in Los Angeles.
She walked out of the terminal, somehow under the impression she was in Kansas. In the taxi she vaguely peered out the window and looked at the tall grass. At Sunset and La Cienega she got out of the taxi and began walking west along the Strip. It was one in the morning. She didn't know the time. In her head, over and over, as in the airport, she heard the things he'd said to her on the telephone; she didn't hear the jangling guitars, or the comments men made as she passed. She wasn't thinking so much about what he had said as simply hearing it again and again; she wasn't mulling over the betrayal of it, or becoming enraged that he should stay for the birth of a child who was illegitimately his when he didn't care enough to be present for the birth of the child he had with his own wife. No. She walked the Strip at one in the morning as though the phone conversation had hurled her into her own time, when it was not one in the morning, or ten in the morning, or ten in the evening, or midnight. She was too brutalised by it to care much for the fine shadings of betrayal or bitterness or especially rage; rather she was somehow set on course toward the most foreign thing she could find, whatever that might be. Walking there on the Strip, with the shop windows passing her and the faces of strange men caught in the glow of their cigarettes, she was only vaguely aware of the danger, and not aggressively running from it or for it; she didn't care. She didn't care. She wanted only to walk away from whatever became too familiar to her too quickly; the moment she passed a shop window, it was as though she had stared into it forever. She wanted to walk away from the men and the stunning glow of cigarettes. The clubs emptied, bottles rolled across the sidewalks, the bars glistened of bourbon. Like a torch, the blonde glided along the Strip under the gaze of a hundred men.

[Days Between Stations, Erickson, S.]

Saturday, 6 September 2014

...of a haunted house

I knew, in that hospital, my mother would shake and scream. All right. Perhaps she would only moan. I tried to tell myself it would be for the best if both my parents were put away. My aunt was yet another fruitcake. The two of us together could not take care of an unopened can of corn. It would be best this way, it would be, and oh, indeed, it was: the house was quiet; empty for most of the day, it stored up silence, and spent it in the evening when I would lie like a length of silk ribbon in the crack of a book, and read the way the famished eat, almost wildly for a while, and then slowly as though the words made up my cud. It was accomplished; they were gone for their good and I was glad; the house was quiet; there was a calm to its objects which involved more than their sitting in their customary situations - which is nearly all they did anyway - because they had to feel their release from the accidents of ill or drunken ownership deep in their braces, slats, and naps, as if the dust they continued to collect was no longer the dust of indifference or of slovenliness, it was silence's sand, and so was suitable to the quiet light which fell now through afternoon windows, and the hush which hung like another drape where their stuff stood as a sentry stands in a watchful place: like my father's things racked in the hall closet, his gangsterism felt hat, his pot, too, stored, his trays, and cane, and chair pushed into a corner, waiting for the day of his death, whence their removal, dispersal, and sale, since, when the sounds of such a sad life went, when the pain, the acrimony, which contrasted with this calm, departed, they didn't go away for a week's vacation, a trip taken for their health; they were sounds doomed, nevermore to be made, as the poet says: no more piss hiss in the pot, or the carpeted tap of my father's cane, his soft groans, I always thought, like rotting fruit, and the small sniffs and elongated sighs my mother emitted like something on low heat, or the radio tuned to Jack Benny or the voice of my father talking back to the news, the special rattle, I remember, of his paper, as he wrestled to refold its pages, the snip of his reading light coming on in the dusk, water running in the kitchen sink, the scuff of my mother's slippers over the linoleum which told me if she was well enough to fix dinner, the click of cards she played, and the sound of their shuffle: when we die what we do dies: good or ill, both lose their patron; when we leave our house, our place of life, however sordid, what we did their leaves, and the rooms we occupied - insulted, misused - breathe, as though in and out a different lung, another atmosphere; yes, I had forgotten that fact, that we then - ma and pa, father, mother, me - when we die what we do dies. What a loss! what a never matter! what a mercy!

[The Tunnel, Gass, W. H.]

...of personality

Aunt had no preferences. Aunt was a guest, grateful, without requirements, adaptable, no one to worry over of accommodate - cup in its cupboard, spoon in a drawer - yet she hoped she was sometimes useful, and not always unwanted. Her characteristic response to any suggestion was, It makes no never mind to me. In short, she went along. When she went along. She had no plans, had formed no expectations, none she announced anyway, so no one was supposed to feel bound by what she might have intended, nor did she ever have to seem to sacrifice or bend. However, her secrecy was as limiting as a steel fence, her passivity as daunting as a cliff. How could you move if you didn't know the location of the edge? It drove my dad mad. Aunt spoke less than the grave: never about money, though she paid board and room for Gran and herself, and liked to surprise you with little gifts; never about vacations, though she always had two weeks, and usually went along on our car trips; never about hopes, fears, health, happiness, friends from work, never of dreams about tomorrow or next year; never about special pleasures, hobbies, interests, or concerns. If their were any delights in her life, any anxieties, any loves, they were locked away out of reach like whatever was still in her trunk.

[The Tunnel, Gass, W. H.]

...of a place of one's own

They'd designed our building like a pair of paper mittens, but the left mitten had been limp when we moved in, otherwise we might have been warned; and when its new tenants arrived, we found nothing amiss in the movers' tread or the gruff reality of their voices. The clear scrape of cardboard cartons did not trouble us, or the thump of heavy chests. Besides, it was warm, and the windows were open. We simply had new neighbours. There was a hand now stuffed in the other glove. The noise was natural. Things would settle down. We hoped they would prove to be sympathetic types, maybe even friends. Then a headboard bumped rhythmically against what we'd thought was our most private wall. Their vacuum cleaner approached and receded like a train. Water's were released which gushed and roared and even whistled. Didn't I hear a male voice singing "Lazy Mary" one morning? Whose life could ever be the same?
After that we tiptoed, grew footpads, became stealthy. When we heard their closet hangers jangle like cattle on a hill far away, we shut our doors so silently the latches snicked like a rifle. I had heard his heavy smoker's hack (hollow, deep, and wet as a well), so we took multivitamins to ward off coughs, then syrups to stifle them when colds caught us anyway, and increasingly felt like thieves and assassins.
Our ears were soon as sensitive as a skinless arm, and we spoke in whispers, registered the furtive drip of remote taps. It was like living in front of a mike as you might pose and smirk in front of a mirror. We heard ourselves as others might hear us; we read every sound the way we read the daily paper; and we came to feel as though we were being chased, caught, charged, and humiliatingly arraigned for crimes against the public silence - for making obscene phone sounds at the symphony or crying out loud at the circus.
In the flush of our shame, we wanted no one to know us, so we held our hats in front of our voices, coats over our sinks and drains. We treated even the crudest iron cooking pot as if it were Limoges, slowing our motions as movies had shown us we should defuse explosives. I ceased singing in the shower. We kissed only in distant corners, and as quietly as fish. We gave up our high-spirited games. Martha no longer cried out when she came, and I grew uncertain of her love. Small incidents were absurdly enlarged the way the shine of a mosquito is magnified by an enclosing darkness: a fallen spoon sounded like a broken jar, a shattered glass was a spilled tray, a dropped book a bomb. I exaggerate now, but it's true that as our neighbours sensed our presence the way we had theirs, they sent their sounds to Coventry too, and the house was shortly filled - palpably stuffed - with silence like a stomach's ache.

[The Tunnel, Gass, W. H.]

...of consciousness

When I hear the bursting of the rockets, my hearing makes no noise; when I see the sky, my seeing's silent; consciousness, just like the dead, is also quiet. So quiet. Am I any less indifferent and a coward if the voice I failed - the moan I ran from - was a phantom... was my own? My brick passed through that window like a ghost. I never heard it land. I was simply never fated to break glass. That's why, Lou, I couldn't continue us. And that's why windows are important to me.

[The Tunnel, Gass, W. H.]

...of the end of the day

How quiet. The lights have left the building - as I should leave - and the corridors will echo with me. Rug-smothered stairs are also silent. I open my door and listen in the hallway. Brick, glass, plaster... the tunnel's unbreathing. I hold my own to hear its heart thud. When large sounds are gone the smaller ones swell up. Like those undernourished girls, so sweetly bunned. My blotter is also a cushion. Fanless air and cunts are quiet. Through pipes someplace a vein of water must be moving. On the window... nada... thickly brushed. Like coffee steaming from its cup, light streams from the punctured ceiling while I hang on for dear life, riding a spider who's suspended down-side up. I've closed the case on my typewriter; there are no children noisily dreaming; my wife floats wildly in her anger somewhere like a slowly exploding pillow. The fog's hush is mostly propaganda, but drapes do muffle. There's soft wool and pewter, blood flooding my penis, swans swimming on eraser rubber, ashes and velvet. Stuffed chairs are quieter than skinny ones, and books dampen sound like the ground in a drizzle. My head expands and I hear my own voices, for when large cocks are absent, the small ones will cack-a-daddle.

[The Tunnel, Gass, W. H.]

...of last respects

Nevertheless, whatever posterity might say, the fact was that Tabor had no friends, and that I had not been bidden to his doomsday doorway as if I were one. I had come on my own account to pay my last respects to what was left of the composer of history's hymnal, the singer of history's lays. What was left to respect proved to be his accusatory eyes. Which roved when I did.
I had actually come to say goodbye in a sincere and simple way, if I could find one. But I could not wish good luck or bid Godspeed - hey, I hope you get to heaven, I think you've got a chance, I really do - and I could not utter the cliches which embarrassment sent to my lips; in fact, I could not say anything to someone unable or forbidden to reply, who could only tremble as if in fear, cower under the covers in shame of his situation, with his eyes glowing like an animal caught in a cave, alone, the last of his species, no longer enraged and ready to retaliate, no longer even brave.
Could I hold out my hand and hope to sync its shaking with his? could I break off a smile like a crust of beggar's bread? speak my mind? die quickly, my friend, let's get to death without the dance. There was no way to say: you leave one pupil, Professor, among all those who flocked (yes, like sheep) to hear you, who gave you their one minute of admiration at the end of every holy hour; from them you earned, possibly gained, certainly obtained a single disciple; and you will die now - we both hope, soon - before your solitary follower can disallow you, before he can go back on your word, and besmirch your reputation with the tarnish which will surely darken his own. There is some strange justice in all this. The blot upon his honour, furthermore, will be your gift to him: a set of disturbingly honest and repulsively accurate ideas. For these, he comes to your deathbed now to thank you - for simultaneously giving value to, and ruining, his life.

[The Tunnel, Gass, W. H.]

Monday, 1 September 2014

...of illness

I knew that the last weeks of Tabor's life were his last weeks when Tabor fell silent. The phrase, in this case, was not a cliche. I saw him fall. And his eyes would fix on some nothing beside me and seem to glaze. One hand on my arm, he would suddenly peer into emptiness like Rilke's panther, the hand gripping me as if he wanted to take me along. I can't see the past, he told me. I'm blind. When he did speak he spoke slowly, mechanically, wearily turning a crank. My one -ruth, he said, I -un -uth. Hissreee -ass -ree -ages, -ree. And very slowly he would pull one finger away from the rest, and then another, until he held three. A chancre, I made out he said, a sore, the source of the event. This was followed by a pause, a false calm. Then that sore or irritation would break out everywhere. Quibbles, quarrels, strikes, riots. This second stage was divided from the third as the first was: by an interval of peace. Then the disturbance which had been on the surface would sink inside the situation, and the nation would begin to come apart from within. And I would watch him shake and his eyes dim. That extraordinary seeing was gone.

[The Tunnel, Gass, W. H.]

...of a rapt audience

Magus Tabor. Mad Meg. He holds up a ghostly bucket. Full of them, he says - facts which we've seen him gather - little one's like pebbles, snails. Or like beads or buttons or bottle caps. Coins. He rattles them around in the pail while we listen. Little lives, he says. Small deaths. Like marbles or match covers. Prizes in Cracker Jack. A soup├žon of souls. Paper clips, knucklebones, candy corn, nails. Left over from the Franco-Prussian War. Jean Andre Veau, for instance. Heinrich Klein. Are they historical? Tabor is menacing. He waits, hands on hips, as if about to exercise. The little lives, their deaths - impatiently he taps with the toe of his shoe as he ticks them off: a, b, c, d, e, f, endlessly, g, h,  i, j - are they historical? Lives lost at Cannae? or a man who might have died in Paris Sunday of the itch? And before this question, as before the others, we remain silent, watchful... silent.
Tabor's on to something. It's lightly verdigrised, vast and reticular, yet he envelops it. The next one is craven; the next one is blue; the next one is badly barbered. He discovers more; he captures another; it's long and thin - so thin and long he reels it to his thumb as though he'd cast it fishing. Like a magician pulling a silver dollar from an ear, he locates them behind curtains, under chairs, in thin air. He pretends, like a Mud Man, to fart a few. He hugs them all, gathering every kind together, while we sit mute... mesmerised. Why didn't we laugh? why didn't we howl and shake and topple from our seats? No one in anger cried clown. He might have been Oedipus after his eyes, or Antigone mourning her brother... when he measured and he counted for us: k, l, m...

[The Tunnel, Gass, W. H.]

...of students

...The students are weary of my cheerless aphorisms, my Culpagrams. These pithy sayings got written down in the old days, they were guides for the good conduct of life, mottoes hung up in the head,
BLESS THIS HAPPY HOLE
but now their bored fingers fiddle with those cheap felt-tipped pens, and the eyes, which once ran hands excitedly along a tablet's laddered courses as if heading up a thigh, look on in puzzled wonder while I rant. Highlight me, dammit. Run yellow lines over my voice. To those students a paperback book is a disposable rag. It gives them a hanky to honk their heads in. The subject, students, is the aphorism, or the quarrel between form and content. When sentences are sufficiently condensed the sweetness gets squeezed out, I tell them. I ask if they know any cheerful ones. Aphorisms, I mean. Silence greets that. At least one dumbo out of this herd ought to offer me a proverb. What does Culp call them? His slobwebs. "Little by little small things don't get large." Silence greets that. The slogan is also short, I say, but in the slogan's case it is the thought that gets trimmed. And set aside. You know. Like fat. Silence greets that. Brief entreaties are common, terse petitions frequent. The subject, students, appears to be brevity. Brevity is not the soul of wit, of course, but its body. Prayerful outcries are curt because they neglect to stipulate the grounds for their request. Whines without whys. No response. They couldn't take a shit without consulting a pony. God Bless This Happy Home, for instance. JESUS SAVES is a slogan, okay? How about WORK IS SALVATION? whereas "Never underestimate your insignificance in the eyes of others" is an aphorism. The students were expecting a mini-lecture on Wolfgang Kapp's abortive Putsch and the governments failure to disband the Freikorps. Not that they are disappointed. Since it is nearly impossible to interest them, it is also nearly impossible to disappoint them. They study the initials carved in the paddle-like right arms of their chairs. Lefties may use their laps. Lefties must use their laps. The students are diligent. They darken the designs with pencil points. They lay up in little abysses like boats in a bayou. Playing with words is a sign of an infantile imagination; it is worse than playing with your tiddlywiddler, it displays a gruesome... what was it? it demonstrates a disagreeable... deplorable... no - it argues a... a loathsome mind. Sometimes I modestly attribute my own smart remarks to Benjamin Franklin or Aaron Burr. The students are still and their silence continues. They are confident. They are silent. They are still. They know nothing. It comforts them. It promotes peace. Their heads are as empty as the hole the anvil did an Alice in for forty nights some days ago only to light in a lake of fire on whose ordered surface like a gas drill the shadows of the acid-shitting birds are sharply defined, and upon whose verge the tourists stand, shading their shutters. Just as well, for if the students knew what I know (and won't teach them), they would run amok with their felt pens and bobbies, defacing bystanders and marking up other innocents. Life will get you bastards yet...

[The Tunnel, Gass, W. H.]

...of a town

The town I was born in was made by a crossing of tracks. A rare and momentous event, this intersection, for those two tracks had passed over mile after mile of prairie as if the earth they lay on were space through which they were falling - two lives, two histories, two kinds of loneliness - with no idea they were converging, and must cross; yet in the moment of their meeting, they were silent, for what did they compose then but an illiterate's X? So my town did not have the shape of a string stretched briefly beside a track as so many did, in imitation of their makers; it was little and round, swelling slowly in the arms of its X, filling out a pie already cut in four pieces; and the portion with the trees was served with economic ceremony to the rich. The town called itself Grand - not Grand Crossing or Grand Junction, not Grand Union or Grand Meeting or Grand Chance - simply Grand, and the grand trees there, also an accident, shaded the roofs of the mighty. The citizens put in a few, of course, and over the years some grew respectably large, but mostly the wind blew, and the sun fell - molten - to run in the streets. One lived all summer through the burning of Pompeii, and during the dust bowl years that substance billowed like ash through the town, sliding beside fences in loose coils, streaming along walls, and drifting onto porches, into stables, exposed shops.

Night. Joked no one. Sat silent at the dinner table, forking
in rage, not pie or potatoes; the children marshalled round me;
Carl's lip swelling where I'd struck him; my wife, for a change,
like a smiling Buddha. Wrong. 'Tis below you. 'Tis bad habit.
No more of it.

Atoms, motion and the void, Democritus has written, are the three imperishable things.

[The Tunnel, Gass, W. H.]

...of the page

in, among, amid people


                    each like a wind, each wanting you face to  face its way, and with the wind's
                    ineluctable  reach  compelling  you  -  invisibly  -  as  might  oh - so - many
                    helpful  steering  palms  at  your  helpless  elbow:  wife  and  lover,  full of
                    silent  entreaty:  parents,  friends,  bringing  to  bear  what  once  one
                    could call "the                                                                            very breath of
                    their being":                                                                               students, crit-
                    ics, colleagues,                                                                           puffing from
                    every point like                                                                          those cherubs
                    of the wind                                                                                 till their urging,
                    your yielding,                                                                             flood the whole
                    compass . . .                                                                               except perhaps
                    here, on this                                                                                little windless
                    page,  where  I'm  beseeched  by  no  one,  heard  by  no  one  -  unaffected,
                    unaffecting  -  and  can  point  my  own  direction  if  I  any  longer  have
                    one;  live  as  though  I  have  (and had)  a  life;  let  this  vacant  paper  win -
dow frame a world


[The Tunnel, Gass, W. H.]