Lydia Davis

Five More Claims to Fame

 

Claim to Fame #2: Karl Marx and My Father

 

My father and Karl Marx both had daughters who grew up to become translators; both translated Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.

 

Claim to Fame #3: June Havoc

 

My parents bought a small house in Connecticut from the actress June Havoc; June Havoc was a talented actress and tap-dancer, even as a tiny child, though she was not as well known as her sister, Gypsy Rose Lee.

 

Claim to Fame #4: Sally Bowles

 

My mother’s second husband, after their divorce, married the nightclub singer and writer Jean Ross, model for Sally Bowles in the musical “Cabaret”; their relationship resulted in a daughter, my half-sister’s half-sister.

 

Claim to Fame #5: Salvador Dali

 

My husband once, on his way into the Museum of Modern Art in New York City via a revolving door, looked up, saw Salvador Dali, who was opposite him on his way out, and stopped the door, deliberately trapping Dali inside it for a few moments; my husband then started the door moving again, ejecting Dali from the museum. He very much disliked the art of Salvador Dali.

 

Claim to Fame #6: Rex Dolmith

 

In Taos, New Mexico, in 1949, my parents in their rental apartment were bothered by the constant noise from the family in the apartment above them; their upstairs neighbors were the family of the Taos painter Rex Dolmith.

Lydia Davis’s most recent collection of stories is Can’t and Won’t (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014). Among other works, she is also the author of the Collected Stories (FSG, 2009), a new translation of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (Viking Penguin, 2010), a chapbook entitled The Cows (Sarabande Press, 2011), and a long narrative poem entitled “Our Village” in Two American Scenes (New Directions, 2013). In 2013 she received the Award of Merit from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Man Booker International Prize for her fiction. She lives in upstate New York.

Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino

excerpt from Suicide by Language
(a flash-fiction novel)

I never knew such elation as the hours leading up to my suicide.

Soloiste! Soloiste!

They point at me and scream, Soloiste! Soloiste!

I scream back at them, Agoniste! Agoniste!

There are no flowers here. There is the dandelion, of course, but no daisy. How does your garden grow, I asked the fox, as she lay on her back with her mouth open pretending to be dead. Just as the Devil lies in wait to trap the unwary, I never run straight ahead, she said, but always follow a tortuous path.

My soul is among lions. I went through fire and through water.

Hath the rain a father?

I took the Vespa, because I want to have her arms around me always.

This is Bobbin. She was named for a mechanical part. If you want to stretch a sweater, sleep in it.

She fell asleep at the writing table. I took her in to bed. I returned to her writing and read, where it began in a letter to Cabala Girl, Angel, when I heard the news I made the sign of the cross for you.

She fell asleep at the writing table. I took her in to bed. I returned to her writing and read, where it began in a letter to Timon, Deliver yourself from revenge, that is your bridge to the highest hope. I have met him and the impression is not good. How does one say, sour breath and rotten teeth. Or, what is the opposite of charming. We read, Psalm 38, and there is no soundness in my flesh, for my loins are filled with a loathsome disease. We’re all looking forward to be meeting again in that great golden cornflake in the sky.

She fell asleep at the writing table. I took her in to bed. I returned to her writing and read, where it began in a letter to Justine, I cannot tell when you are lying. Ask yourself, is this someone you want to have a weekend with?

She fell asleep at the writing table. I took her in to bed. I returned to her writing and read, where it began in a letter to Supergirl, My favorite scene is where you are relaxing. I want to have cigarettes with you.

She fell asleep at the writing table. I took her in to bed. I returned to her writing and read, where it began in a letter to Juliette, There is a night I will never forget, and it is what I will remember you by always. It was not meant to be a sleepover. It was snowing, and it was snowing forever. You walked me to the door and I was about to leave but when I saw the snow I was taken by the most superstitious fear. You did not plan for me to stay over. And in the morning your mother (and her boyfriend—I remember him, he was a student) made waffles.

The next morning I read in Jung that the basket is a symbol for the maternal body (for the womb — a basket of fruit may symbolize fertility). A basket may also hide a secret.

To be poetic is everything. The poet’s mechanicity. Fabulosity. How do I love thee? You are my yellow submarine.

Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino’s most recent volume of poetry is The Valise (Dead Academics Press, 2012). He is founding editor of the online poetry journal, Eratio. For more from the novel Suicide by Language, visit suicidebylanguage.blogspot.com.

Eric G. Wilson

Bowl

W.’s wife stole his bowl. She hated the way he chewed his food, so thoroughly it turned liquid. He fled the small wooden house into the middle of a road.

W. saw that no car was going to kill him. The drivers were too skilled. They swerved away from him or stopped before they reached him.

W. took to the forest.

He wandered without food or water for many days, imagining this would be an easier way to go.
He still was not dead when he looked at his hands. An eyeball was embedded in each palm. He found he could see out of these eyes. With them, he studied his face.

He was no longer a man that he knew.

He was something quite different.

Was this how death was?

Maybe the hunger and thirst had worked. He closed his palms and willed his attention to the eyes in his head. If this was the land of the dead, he wanted to look through his old eyes. He noticed nothing different. There were trees, and on the ground, brown leaves. Stones large and small were about.

W. saw a stone the size of a head and remembered, I have a young daughter, and then he thought, I’ve got to go back.

She had lost her bowl.

W. had walked so long, he was lost. He looked at the sky. The sky was gray.

He lowered his head, and there was a small wooden house.

W. fled from the house into a road. He stood in the middle. Cars sped toward him. None touched him.
He rushed into the forest near the road. He walked. Hunger weakened him, and thirst.

W. tripped over a head-sized stone. With his hands, he broke his fall.

There was pain in his hands. His palms were gashed.

W. studied the cuts. Inside each, he glimpsed white. He recalled bones and eyeballs. He imagined seeing his head from his hands.

The head he saw was not the one he remembered.

Pain was in his hands.

He imagined seeing his hands from his head. The gashes were red.

The head W. had felt bigger than the stone he stumbled over.

He had a young daughter, a child, and she had nothing to eat.

He would save her.

How to reach her?

A house appeared, small and wooden.

Through a window W. saw a woman. She was holding a spoon before the face of a girl.

W. rushed onto the porch. He grabbed the door knob. The metal scalded his hand. He jerked it away. He stared at the palm. The shape of a spoon’s oval bowl reddened its center. There was pain there.

W. touched the shape to his lips.

Pain. Tongue, teeth, throat.

W. imagined living inside of the pain, seeing the world from there.

He saw three people before an oven, a man to the left, and a woman to the right, and in the middle, a small girl, who was holding the hand of the man and the hand of the woman. The girl was looking up at the woman. The woman was plump. The man was gaunt.

W. was seeing from the pain. He was starving. He was falling down. A small hand was holding the hand not burned. The hand slipped away and he fell.

From the leafy ground, he saw near his head the head of a woman. Where the woman’s eyes once were, was blood.

W. could drink the blood. He had no bowl.

He struggled to raise himself and flee to this vessel.

Eric G. Wilson has published three books of creative nonfiction, all with Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: Keep it Fake, Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck, and Against Happiness. He has also published a memoir, The Mercy of Eternity (Northwestern University Press). He has recently published fiction in The Collagist, Café Irreal, and Eclectica. His essays have appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Georgia Review, The Oxford American, The Chronicle Review, and Salon. He teaches at Wake Forest University.

Marvin Shackelford

Your Lifeboat, Your Friend

You plainly see the lifeboat, and you’re damp, but the ocean remains out of sight. You’re neither woman nor child, but your friend, beside you on the disappearing deck, was an only child, a mistake with which his parents could not part. All in this world, he likes to say, bows to the random rope and chain of blood. He’s unconcerned, but you believe the line cannot end here. There’s meaning in the knots that link him all together.

In the water, black and foggy, rolls a joke a hundred years old. One produced again and again on film, struck into books and whispered through genealogies, but not a part of life in this age. You see the point of your murderer in the distance. You expected, at worst, pirates, their machine guns and pillage. Even that was far off this course. You were afraid to fly and quickly have learned to feel silly, God bless you. You’d imagined a Puritan’s vacation, a reversed exploration.

“Filling fast,” your friend says. “Everything. And these were assigned. We’ll be swimming, soon.”

“You should get in.”

“What about another one? Later?”

You have no answer. But only so much is about you, about your lifeboat, your friend. You force him into escape, shove him into the mix. His balding head peaks up from a gaggle of women. He’s surprised when they lower, patient and steady, into the water. He goes on without you. Your last glimpse of him is a future long delayed, fruit of the line secured. You know you’ve done the right thing.

Later, a small man in a sailor’s cap says it’s surprising how dressing the part has made him feel. He asks if you’re holding up well. He offers you a cigarette. Overhead a flare rises, and you think of your friend shepherding, shepherded by, his new little seaborne flock to safety. Where they land is the last surprise. You imagine something vastly more Pacific, leis and luaus and a woman on each arm. The finest wish you have for him is, finally, tropical.

There’s little of the ship left above water. You feel the tilt and slide. Your lifeboat, the dressed sailor informs you, is being prepared as you speak, at last, and for the first time you doubt his authority. You ratchet up some faith. Around you men begin songs of children gone, children yet born. They speak with their fists of climbing higher. Across the water you see the circling specks of other lifeboats, the fortunate and timely. You think of all preserved there, and you prepare to dive.

Marvin Shackelford is the author of a poetry collection, Endless Building (Urban Farmhouse Press). His stories and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Epiphany, NANO Fiction, Southern Humanities Review, FiveChapters, Folio, and elsewhere. He resides in the Texas Panhandle with his wife, Shea, and earns a living in agriculture.

Anthony Schneider


She Was Not

She was not to stare, not even at helicopters or albinos. She was not to yawn in public or cough loudly or chew a chicken bone or break a pencil with her teeth.

She saw a car on fire at the side of the road. She could tell it had not been burning long. There was no smell. A few people watched the blaze. She rode away on her bicycle, and the explosion that she expected did not come.

She was not to smile with any teeth showing. She was not to drop anything, she was not to turn on a light switch without holding her breath to the count of three. She was not to turn off a light switch without first untying a shoe, then immediately afterwards stepping through a doorway and retying the same shoe, or if she was wearing a slip-on, taking the shoe off and then putting it back on. She was not to wear miniskirts or plunging necklines or flip-flops. She was not to show her toes.

She was not to use the word nice. Or hate. She was not to eat rice and broccoli, not even rice pudding, in the same seating.

She was not to cry in public, or remember things that might make her cry, not in the company of others. She was not to talk about the mess we’re in or how bad things had gotten, or divulge when last she spoke to her father. She wondered what she had to learn from whales, trees, small children. She wondered what she wanted. And whether she would recognize change.

She was not to be the loudest, or the last to leave, or the first to speak. She was not to point, she was not to linger, she was not to eat with her mouth open, or burp or fart audibly or sneeze more than twice in a row. She was not to drive over railroad tracks without both feet raised, even when she was driving. She was not to be visibly sweaty, she was not to be dirty or have newspaper ink on her fingers.

She kissed a boy. He bit her tongue. She made an excuse the next time he asked her out.

She spoke to her father on the phone. But when he came to town she said she hadn’t been feeling well and suggested she visit him instead, the next month maybe, or the month after that.

She was not to ask too many questions. She was not to look at anyone askance, especially not men. She was not to braid her hair. Or sing in the shower. There were no roads leading home. There would be no Armageddon.

She was to talk to him, to be civil. She was to comport herself if she saw him. She was not to set fire to anything, no matter how small. She was not to let herself wonder, even for an instant, if she might be better off if she had stabbed him with a steak knife, rather than let those things happen. She was not to bite her fingernails until they bled.

Anthony Schneider has been published in McSweeney’s, BoldType, Driftwood Press, Details, The Believer and other magazines as well as several fiction anthologies. His novel, Repercussions, is published by Penguin South Africa and Permanent Press in the US. He divides his time between New York and London.

Robert Garner McBrearty

The Story of Your Life

The fellow sitting next to me at the bar said, “I went through some rough times. You ought to write the story of my life.”

“I will, John,” I said, ‘I’ll do it right now.”

In those days, I always carried pen and paper with me, and as John told me his story, I wrote: John Springer was born in a small town in Ohio. His father passed away when he was fifteen, and his mother shortly after, and nobody figured out that John was living in the old house alone. He ate what was left in the fridge, and then he turned to cannibalism. He first took down his neighbor, Joe, across the street…

John leaned in. “What do you got so far?”

I read what I’d written and his eyes widened. “This is all wrong. I wasn’t born in Ohio. A cannibal!”

“It’s interpretive, John. This is the descent part. You need the descent before the redemption.”

“You son of a bitch! You’ve made a mockery of my life!” He threw his drink in my face and struck me. We grappled at the bar as I tried to ward him off. The bartenders forced us out on the street. He went off howling down the block. “You’ve ruined my life!” he shouted.

“Come back, John,” I cried. “I love you. I love your life!”

But he went on, bellowing in outrage. Since then, I can’t stand to be alone. I want to tell your story.

Robert Garner McBrearty’s short stories have been published in The Pushcart Prize, Missouri Review, North American Review, New England Review, and many other places, including flash fictions in Opium, Eclectica, Flashfiction.net, and Lowestoft Chronicle. As well, Robert has published three collections of short stories and most recently a novel, The Western Lonesome Society. He’s worked at many different jobs, from dishwasher to college teacher. For more information about Robert’s writing, please see www.robertgamermcbrearty.com.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 9)

 

Welcome to Posit 9!

We love this first issue of 2016, which makes us think, in a number of different ways, about the expansive potential of artistic innovation. First, there is the incorporation and re-appropriation managed by the procedural poetry of Carlo Matos and Travis Macdonald, offering glimpses of the erased and remixed words of writers like Simone Muench, Mark Lamoureux, and Paul Killibrew. In addition, there is the implicit dialogue between new and previous work by returning contributors — in this issue: Darren C. Demaree, Howie Good, and Travis Macdonald. All of which reminds us of the extent to which art is, by definition, about incorporation and re-imagination, whether it is Anis Shivani’s Great Wall, Howie Good’s tornado, Robert McBrearty life story, Eileen Tabios’s litany of wonders and horrors, or the alchemical transformation of source material aced by every artist (visual as well as literary) featured in this exciting issue. So, it is with great pleasure that we invite you to peruse:

Darren C. Demaree’s spare, suggestive, “quiet, lowered /. . . roaring/ . . .& ecstatic” probings of identity, intimacy, and the quest for grace;

Samantha Duncan’s smart, tightly-wound, vivid constructions tracking a paradoxical “graduation from the gradient” via “veins that listen” to her extremely telling “curl/ of words;”

Raymond Farr’s wistful prosody, revealing “the sublime the ironic like a 5 o’clock shadow” where “love is a man ruled by the sun & not the itch in his bones” and “even this sad yellow paint has seven shades of itself;”

Howie Good’s somber prose poems populated by “a new god seated on a throne of razor wire,” “gray gulls, their shrieks like symptoms of dementia,” and “words, some bandaged, others still bleeding” mercifully leavened by irony, imagination, and even love;

Maja Lukic’s quietly intense evocations of cityscapes furnished with “gutted wind” and a sky which “promises to rain / money bags and emoji,” or offers snow like “cracked glitter, paw imprints in new dustings, / effigies of our old breath, frozen in the air;”

Travis Macdonald’s compelling remixes of poems by Killibrew and Lamoureux, demonstrating “how all true/going is taking” and raising intriguing questions about the relationship between vocabulary and voice;

Carlo Matos’ haunting erasures of Simone Muench’s Wolf Cantos (themselves reconfigurations of other poetic texts), troubling our assumptions about center vs periphery, absence vs presence, and the loud voice of the unsaid, “when tenderness/nestles down/with her she-mask” — “sans teeth, sans/you;”

Robert Garner McBrearty’s impossibly compressed microfiction, in which the task of writing his companion’s life story deteriorates to stunning effect;

Cindy Savett’s intriguing invitation to follow her on “a trip where the babies lie flat/ tracing resistance with their fingertips” leading us careening “down the middle in an instant of delight,” only to stand speechless wondering “how do I sing of white lilacs and pine?”

Anis Shivani’s virtuosic bricolage of allusive musicality and aphoristic insights nailing “art, the fleabite to time,” transforming “partial manuscripts signed/ by the angels of detritus” into “experimental gardens . . . [imbued with] the nuance of musicality;”

Eileen R. Tabios’ masterful litany of all that could never again be forgotten, once she “composed this song that would turn you into ice, so that you will know with my next note what it means to shatter into tiny pieces the universe will ignore;”

and Leah Umansky’s inspired revelations of the “satisfaction in seeing the day as something clear for landing or for sending off” where “once, there was the falling of night and I was alone with its steepness, and . . . felt I was a pooling of light; a door-sliver and golden beam.”

Thank you, as ever, for reading.

Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann

positInkSpash131210.small

And welcome to the visual art of Posit 9!

Keren Kroul’s complex and beautiful paintings evoke maps of imaginary countries or the pathways of the brain. The individual sections stand strongly on their own, but conjoined in the large grids presented here, they make a statement that is simultaneously bold and intimate. The sum is as beautiful as the parts.

The mixed media sculptures of Sydney Ewerth turn our expectations about space and materials topsy-turvy. Her play with the object and its painted shadows confounds our expectations even while her materials and colors delight the eye. Her aesthetic is clear and the work masterful.

Don Porcaro choreographs an elegant dance between the two- and three-dimensional pieces presented here. It is evident how his work in one medium reverberates into another. His colorful and almost playful forms belie the serious artistic concerns that underlie this evocative body of work.

The lyrical paintings of Sarah Slavick are reminiscent of the movement of water, wind and sand. The rhythm and dynamism of her patterns are mesmerizing, with light and color moving through and around them, underscoring their complexity.

Mariah Karson presents a fascinating vision of landscape, whether it be the interior landscapes of abandoned school buildings or the poetics of isolated buildings in desolate settings. The solitude in her photographs is profound, and perhaps a little lonely. However, she frames this vision with a clarity that is elegant and precise.

Cheers!
Melissa Stern

Zeke Jarvis

Las Vegas

The bum approaching the businessman is covered with grime. He’s wearing an awful lot of clothes for this heat, but everyone knows that bums like to layer. The bum smells terrible. It could be sweat or puke or garbage, knowing the bums here. The businessman that the bum’s approaching looks towards this wretch with his eyes only, keeping his face turned towards the other side of the intersection. The bum mumbles something about spare change, and the businessman shoots back, “Get a job!”

The bum straightens himself. “Look Buddy, I’m a Viet Nam vet. I fought for my country and now they fucking spit on me. You all fucking spit on me! Spit on me and shit on me and leave me to die.” The bum whirls around, pointing at nobody in particular. “I can’t get a job, they won’t let me get myself together. What am I supposed to do?” His voice breaks and he falls to the ground.

There’s silence. Then the businessman laughs and a family a little way down the sidewalk applauds. “Shit is a word you shouldn’t say,” the mother says to her son, but she smiles and gives his shoulder a little squeeze.

The bum rises, smiling, and bows to the family. The businessman hands the bum some money and the family sends their child over with a dollar for him. The bum thanks them both and wobbles a little bit for the child. He belches, softly, and the boy laughs.

“That was good,” says the businessman. “Were you really in Viet Nam?”

The bum folds up the money and stuffs it into a pocket of his innermost shirt. “Nah, it was a little before my time, but I did have an uncle who fought there. Terrible business.”

The businessman nods. “You pulled it off well. Do you have any cards?”

“Cards?”

Just then, the mother from the family interrupts. “Excuse me. Do you think our son could get his picture taken with you?”

“Sure,” the bum says, smiling. “Do you want me to look defeated or menacing?”

“I have to go,” says the businessman, “but I enjoyed your work. If you had a card… or a website, even, I could hook you up with some clients or coworkers who are in town at conventions.”

The man smiles again. “Vegas is a wonderful town for that. I don’t have a card, but I generally work around this casino.”

The businessman nods. “Good luck.”

“Thank you, Sir. Now was that menacing or defeated?”

“Oh,” says the mother, “menacing, please.”

The bum leans in over the child and glowers. The child begins to moan and whimper. The bum relaxes a bit. He points to his shoes, from which his big toes stick out. He wiggles the toes and the child smiles. “Sorry,” says the mother, “We’re from Wisconsin; he’s not used to this.”

“That’s fine,” says the bum, looking now only slightly threatening as the mother takes the picture. “That’s just fine.”

Zeke Jarvis is an Associate Professor at Eureka College. His work has appeared in 4 Chambers, Petrichor Machine and Moon City Review, among other places. His books, So Anyway… and In A Family Way were published by Robocup Press and Fomite Press.

Ian Patrick Miller

Andĕl on Praha

We leave at night, follow down the hill of houses, cross the Vltava, and on the other side of the bridge find a mass of angels, or what appear to be a mass of angels, fallen from a great height, and in agony are heaped, quills snapped, eyes blinded, long sinewy arms reaching up for whatever has tossed them down. They’re covered in lime, drippings, in the aging of nickel and stone. It’s snowing, a wet mass, and at the axis a man, an appellant or minor statesman, dressed in a penny coat, a vest, he’s bald, and his eyes burn furiously as if in prescience, as if privy, but to what? We do not like the appellant. Then we do. Or feel like we have to. The statue in the snow and the dark and we are silent. Later, following away from the river, up another hill of houses, we shout in tongues—in lilt of being, lightness of breath. And though we return, we never see it the same. The angels, yes, still fallen. Or maybe something else falling onto them. And they do what they can, spreading out the shattered wings of their parts (marrow, appendage) in what is always, either way, the futility of defense.

Parallax

My wife calls from Kona. She is sick. And immediately I see her fever as a hived, winged thing, not unlike a heart if a heart could slap either side of itself in applause or thunder or rain.

The basin had been a volcano the way words had once been animals, and my daughter goes to sleep inside her lips, the mouth of secrets, where word of her life has not yet been made into word, but breath breathing bluely on the monitor beside the bed.

Her face ghosted, a white gauze. The lens of each eye folded, closed. And I wonder when she’ll wake, stare back blackly, orbs refracted across distance unmeasured, the beginning or end to a world nobody has lived long enough to know.

Raptures

My friend writes to say he is leaving and his absence . . . Well, to be honest, we’re not all that close, but still. He’s leaving and I’m staying and that says as much about my life as anything could.

My father raised me to believe in the rapture. I know how that sounds. My wife thinks it’s crazy, too. I’m not saying we’ll be yanked into space, momentarily suspended as if dropped through the floors of a gallows, or wake to find our lovers missing in a ring of ash, children taken from their beds, the good people of, say, Ohio befuddled because so many were sure they were the ones.

But like today, after my flight was canceled by weather in Chicago, and I was left to wander emptily my house, the wife and daughter away for a wedding I can’t attend because my attendance is moneyed elsewhere, the day vulgarly blue and cold like a pearl. I sat upstairs, on the daybed, watched the playoffs, then went for a jog and saw almost no one except three or four dogs leashed to people.

It’s both difficult and too easy to say. I felt forlorn upon myself, dismayed by my continued presence as if I had failed to read right the cues of the sky, the instruments on the great metaphysical barometer.

I didn’t learn anything else today except that when people disappear in Ciudad Juárez they do not return, not even as one of the dead.

Ian Patrick Miller’s writing has appeared in Devil’s Lake, Ghost Town, Confrontation, War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities, and The Massachusetts Review, among others. His work has been recognized with fellowships awarded by the Summer Literary Seminars, residences at the Banff Centre, and a scholarship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Assistant Professor of English at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Ian’s life is severed between Doha and the Pacific Northwest.

Robert Vivian

My Neighbor St. Therese

I am the mouth of the little thing, little way, so small it often goes unnoticed, unseen, and when I speak it is like the miracle of a dust mote lit up by sunlight so bright it becomes brightness itself and no room for darkness, not even the clipped apostrophe of a shadow and lighting the air to float and little thing precious but forgotten thing, jewel box spider dead in a day and hollow wisp of straw that sings what it can of brightness, the least part or veined leaf blowing across a rail yard and the smell of creosote, weeds, or lump of coal, anything left behind or discarded and the love that got away to end up nowhere that is somehow still clings to a button, a piece of torn paper, a note card with a recipe on it or a penny shining in the gutter for the little thing and little way is what mows the grass and takes out the trash and makes sure the dishes are put away along with the forks and spoons, little helpmate, little worker bee, little necessary beggar and cripple with pleading eyes and little thing and little way are not seen or advertised, no cameras or mirrors to strut their stuff in front of, little fish, little minnow and the wake it makes is but a breath beat of water and tendril of water beckoning you to some unseen current and I speak of you now at the edge of a whisper that is almost afraid to speak for little thing, little way, little speck of being how close you are to silence and nothingness, how close to broken slat of windmill who gave its life to gust and breeze and little thing, little way, a hand reaching for a door or a hand lifting a teacup or a diaper with careful fingers the petal of you is a tiny, tiny rose that will never be famous, never be sought after as the love you bear and suffer is so small only the stars believe it though others say oblivion, oblivion, but I know your mouth is my mouth and your voice my voice as together we take care of what we can however brokenly and imperfectly, cleaning a kitchen floor on our hands and knees using our tears for water, the smallest cry in the mouth of the smallest thing, offering even the little we are because there’s nothing left of us to give, not even a flower.

When The Stones Abandoned The World

All at once the stones picked themselves up in the barren field and started walking toward the horizon, silent, solemn march of going elsewhere and rose the thrust and the warbler and the startled robin and I could see that the stones were naked but unashamed and wanted to be washed again and rose the wind and the dust and where was the earth going but to another place not of its keening and to watch the stones I felt abandoned and I did not ask the stones why I was being left behind in a land without them and rose the other birds and still others, rooks and crows and turkey vultures and smoke from a distant fire and if you could see the stones moving, if you could see them turning away you would wonder with me if home was a dream we tell ourselves to keep from dying though death is with us always in the smallest things, a moth on the windowsill with its paper wings full of dust, old, faded pictures of loved ones long since gone into the ground or wind, but the stones wouldn’t say anything as they were moving for they had lain prostrate long enough and the whole earth seemed to tremble and shimmer in the wake of the their passing and it was not without its startling shock of beauty—I mean the way the ground burned after them in variegated fire, I mean the heart and quake of it that had its equivalent somewhere inside me as I knew I was being left behind by the most elemental of forces and there was nothing I could do, nothing, nothing, but watch the stones leaving on their steadfast journey and vault of sky above them, changing itself with every drifting cloud to show them how it was done.

Robert Vivian is the author of The Tall Grass Trilogy, Water And Abandon, and two collections of meditative essays, Cold Snap As Yearning and The Least Cricket Of Evening. He’s currently working on a collection of dervish essays called Mystery My Country.