January 6, 2010

Arthur, Spring, 2009

We crept along the rocks, and how gallant we were, and how brave, through petrified forests of pilings and finally an upturned boat. Rubbish to one soured by too much ambition and too little time, but for us a magnificently sordid chapel, in which we placed, with reverence, the treasures delivered to us by the sea. Clouded from their tumbled journey, bits of glass and shells, none of the blushing citron of the encyclopedic illustrations, but subtle, pale violet and silver, chalky white along the edges, smooth mother of pearl within.  There was a tide-pool, home to hermit crabs and the fossil of a sand dollar, round like a small pancake, but smooth and hard as bone. Behind us climbed the rocks, mingling with the pasture-grasses above until, tickled by the sour Bermuda buttercup, they tumbled back down to the beach.
            The tide was in, and there were no crabs to pluck up by their shells, watching them dance in the air until they’d pinch our fingers. The waves lapped at the edge of our stronghold, so we removed our boots and our thick woolen socks, tucking them as far back into the dry boat as we could. Our trousers and shirts we dealt with likewise. Then, wearing only our white underpants, our skin goose-bumped, we waded out into the sea. The green water, breath of the Pacific, was bitingly cold and as it rose up our legs we shrieked with the numbness and dived. Keller was the tallest and the water had little more than reached his knees, “Wait for me!” he cried, collapsing after us, Sanders, Dana and me, into the next wave. And we four splashed and leapt and grabbed one another around the ankle. Past the black mud, churned up by our kicking and through the eelgrass, “I felt something alive, I did!” and soon we were beyond our little cove.

Moon Jelly, Spring, 2009

In the middle of a morning thick with gulls, the old woman passed. Her bed had been moved onto the sun porch where a lethargic wasp buzzed idly in a corner. Beyond the large panes of glass a low fog rose slowly from the bay, seamless, then pixilated into thousands of swooping birds. At the time of her last breath, slow as it was, deliberate, she was alone, and it was upon this solitude that she closed her eyes.
Presently, her niece returned to the house. She was accustomed to finding her old great-aunt asleep, cheek squished into the pillows, bulging to the sides like a pear fallen upon flagstone. Marie hung her key on a nail by the door and went straight through to the kitchen. At the cranberry-painted table she set aside a seed catalogue and a magazine put out by the Sierra Club. She opened a padded, official- looking envelope addressed to her aunt. It bore no stamp and no postmark. Inside was a stack of bills, crisp and new. She counted, ten thousand, five hundred dollars. As always, she considered simply tucking the money into her bag and driving forever, but leaning so that she could see in the living room the mound of her aunt in the fading light, comfortable and safe, convinced her otherwise. Habitually, Marie set aside the thousand that would buy their groceries and other expenses, and with the rest, went out into the garden.
A warm southern wind blew her graying hair about her face and the chimes hanging from the corner of the house clanged wildly. The sunflowers along the fence swayed piously like a row of old monks. They were beginning to mold and a raven lurched jerkily around in the dirt, picking at the seeds. Marie slid aside the wooden latch that barred the door of the garden shed and stepped inside. The light was dim, old, and ivy crept in from the one, high window. At the back of the shed, Marie crouched down and felt around for the tin. Her fingernails scraped against the cold aluminum and she drew it toward her. A flaking Christmas wreath was painted onto the lid. She added the larger portion of bills to the growing pile within. Then she replaced the lid, and slid the box back under the potting bench. Outside, she re-bolted the shed door and stared out at the bay. She would send a portion to the orphanage in Bolivia, sufficient to merit the thank yous cherished by her righteous aunt, a bushel of crude paper cards, drawn on by the orphans. Every surface in the house was already cluttered with decades of them, the images changing over the years, flowers, rainbows, racecars.

December 17, 2009

March, Spring, 2009

The wide stone steps underscore the front of the cathedral, stressing its presence. It looms gray, a cloud cathedral under a cloudy sky. Down below, below the sandy cliffs a row of sea shells sits along the beach, along the dark wet shadow of the tide. They were not left there at random. There is a certain deliberation, a nod to the great steeple above. Along the shore and up the cliff a parade of animals marches. There is a tortuous in a push-cart being pulled by a dog. There is a fox and a camel. There are two llamas. A falcon soars overhead, circling back, shrieking, his call echoing over the water. There are others too, hopping, plodding, padding along. Each animal wears a wreath about its neck, not of holly on this day when snow drifts rise high in the village and bells carol but of aster and cockscomb nestled in vines and in the muted light of early winter each is like one last summer nymph, stubborn and proud. At the top of the bluff they stop, facing the steps. A small girl sits on her father’s shoulders. She pulls his hair and kicks her feet in pleasure as the animals appear. They begin to climb the steps, the camel with knobby knees lumbering up behind a shy looking she-calf. Then there is the reindeer. He is small and the color of summer dust. His strong antlers grow from his head like the silhouettes of winter trees against a lit wall. The child squirms, pushing herself up to see. She is delighted. Her father grasps her stockinged ankles in his hands and shuffles his feet in the snow. In turn, each animal enters the church. The last to vanish into the darkness is a snake, thick and green as a sapling. The father lets his daughter down onto the ground. They walk toward the open door feet crunching in the sandy snow. They look inside but the church is deserted. The air is icy but the smell of incense hangs in the stillness. They turn to go and follow a trail of broken leaves quickly browning in the rising dusk.

The Goose with the Blue Ribbon, Spring, 2009

Placing a row of seashells along the bottom of a cliff and walking away. This is full. This is where I go when clocks chime and when bows are tied. This is how I render myself weak in the knees and full of grace and immune to the fancy of memory beyond modernity. The now exists only as it is in purest star child, the moment of conception it becomes the past, wisps of vapor all at once longed for and neglected; projected and exiled. I cannot wander as though forgotten, adrift on a wide sea of mirth for the sake of mirth and nothing more. Tell me; what is there to laugh about?
She opens the small leaded window above my potting bench. The light of late spring, having escaped the confines of stained antiquity falls with a creamy density on the upturned pots and dried soil littering its worn pine surface. Through the window I see the rough lane, on the right the meadow, a sanctuary for the birds and butterflies lacking in our little museum, sloping down to the wood and on the left a short row of houses, joined at the hip, the only differentiating feature their colors; rose, canary, butter cream, robin’s egg, like four buxom ladies dancing down the road. Our house sits at the end of the lane, alone beneath the umbrella tree, the great canopy of which provides shade during the hot days of summer and shelter from the tempests of the winter months.
Coming up the lane we see two small figures, the sun glancing off of their hair, they shine like knights. It is a man and a child and they stop, the man stooping to adjust something that the child is carrying. As they approach we see that the man is tall, with pale, reddish hair and similar skin. The boy has his father’s hair, though it still has the downy softness of childhood. He is wearing glasses. In his arms I see that he is carrying a goose. The Goose is wearing a blue ribbon about its neck and does not struggle.