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The myths he made he found, in himself, as shapes, stacked canvases in banks his cinema. You
hear a story and are lulled, because you're hearing a story. Blood on the Dining-Room Floor is like
the images in a detective story put down unfinished, a summer's clues in permanent solution.
The mystery at best isn't how it ends at all. The waves lap, obliterate the Slavic emigré, but
Harriet has his razor, and has taken photographs, advancing barefooted on sand like a heron.
Any novel, once it's published, is a picaresque novel, because it goes about the world having adventures,
is read, by all kinds of people, or not read, used as we are for purposes we didn't imagine.
It's all accident. I had one piece of dry toast, then brandy and wine and brandy, on my
birthday, next day in the parade held one end of the Biddy McGraw banner, boxed in by kilts,
ending in Arby's parking lot, ate lunch there later, so had no Guinness on St. Patrick's. Still,
it felt a holiday, in my black-tie tux, a green silk handkerchief half covert behind black repp lapel.
I'm shown more justice than mercy in my conversation, and go on, always corrected, standing corrected.
Scott shows me a poem he likes by Frank O'Hara I wouldn't even have looked at, precipitate
four-stress lines having as expectation the whole next line at the end of each, reminding me
of Twenty Four Gnomic Poems, how it felt writing beyond my competence level and IQ,
and I'm read penciled prose, so different from my sentences it's a nice test, that work as legend, say
I give myself impossible jobs to do, so in a way must . . . and am stopped, seepage contained.
Proximate results spread like decay, color my thinking, near to truth like a vinyl twin in denim, or nude.
The wax museum is full of poets and murderers, famous suicides, her head in the . . . I forbear, capsules
really Vitamin B, not poisonous, tablets like old saccharine Bryonia, one left, sliding, soundless, in a brown bottle.
Not adventures but experiences.
The animal stopped by a stream. It extended its neck and drank. You could see muscles move
in its throat and cheek, and there was surprisingly little sound. Around it birches adopted postures.
The grass was quite short, not a tangle, and extended to the edge of the stream.
By the animal's left foot, bent at the toes so the sole showed, were five mushrooms, a faint
yellowish-purple, their caps cylindrical and slightly flattened, like first digits of fingers. She rose,
on her palms, water dripped from her mouth, which opened to inhale as she looked across
the stream and around on her side. Nothing stirred, under ferns or in branches. Weight of
her body on her hands, she drew her legs under her and extended one heel to touch the cool
water, then the other, the backs of her calves nearly in the water but not quite. Exhaling,
her brown abdomen compressing under ribs, she let herself stretch further over the water.
Her feet, pointed forward, sank to the ankles. The heels felt cool rather than cold, pleasant
after warm air, and pulled back as her toes angled farther forward, as far forward as they could, and
lowered feet and legs into the stream, then pushed until her whole body was over the water,
and let herself descend, her palms more angled outward on the bank, shoulders above the water,
dry beyond the sheen of perspiration from her walk. Her head tilting back, the jaw continuing
the line of neck, eyes half shut, she felt the water, outline of her body outlined in water,
gravel and twigs under her calves and thighs, sand, flicker-touch of a minnow, peaceful air
on her breasts, then farther forward so they too were half submerged. She moved her legs
apart, then together, bending the left knee till it was clear of water, and her foot flat
on the stream bed, and stretching it out again shoved out until the back of her head was wet,
let go the bank and felt with her palms the sand and stones. Around a bend in the stream
a few rushes, very few, grew, which used to be called syrinx. There is no illusion in
the illusion of a faint sound of piping, produced by warm air and cool animal.
Such wet and calm are possible to goddesses and humans, parceled among each.
Stains from a strain in sand color palms. Minnows nibble toes. Crayfish and waterbugs rejoice
in perception and digestion, the world a metaphor for something to do with water, gnats, shadow.
At times sound is peripheral, transient as water in cupped hands, a foot lifted out of water
drying to be drying. Out of the stream she kneels on the grass, lies back, evaporates, asleep.
The last drops on her breasts and pelvis collect late afternoon sun, little prisms.


Copyright Gerald Burns 1995-1997

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