People were telling one another that a newcomer had been seen on the promenade—a lady with a dog. Dmitri Dmitrich Gurov had been a fortnight in Yalta, and was accustomed to its ways, and he, too, had begun to take an interest in fresh arrivals. From his seat in Vernet's outdoor café, he caught sight of a young woman in a toque, passing along the promenade; she was fair and not very tall; after her trotted a white Pomeranian.
Aisha is thirty-one years old and seventeen weeks along. She has brought a copy of Crime and Punishment to the Laundromat with her, but she cannot concentrate on the story, keeps getting lost in the long, unfamiliar names. She sits, watching her clothes spin, the silk arm of her favorite, fading blouse cascading down over a tangle of jeans and underwear. She has just this week had to retire most of her regular pants, which she had long been tugging down to her pelvic bone, for maternity wear. And watching her old clothes in the dryer gives her an overwhelming sense of futility. She thinks she would like to go into labor now. She would like to push the little pink thing out of her body and into the world, even if it were to be born a helpless pound and a half. Moments like these, she thinks it is more likely that the baby could survive in a fluorescent NICU than in her agonized and frustrated body. She feels as if the baby has stretched her, made her skin literally too thin.
It had been raining in the valley of the Sacramento. The North Fork had overflowed its banks and Rattlesnake Creek was impassable. The few boulders that had marked the summer ford at Simpson's Crossing were obliterated by a vast sheet of water stretching to the foothills. The up stage was stopped at Grangers; the last mail had been abandoned in the tules, the rider swimming for his life. "An area," remarked the "Sierra Avalanche," with pensive local pride, "as large as the State of Massachusetts is now under water."
The west-bound train stopped at San Rosario on time at 8:20 A.M. A man with a thick black-leather wallet under his arm left the train and walked rapidly up the main street of the town. There were other passengers who also got off at San Rosario, but they either slouched limberly over to the railroad eating-house or the Silver Dollar saloon, or joined the groups of idlers about the station.
He held the wheel with his knee and reached behind his seat for another beer. The can was cold but the beer was warm. He swished it in his mouth until it was flat and flavorless. Swallowed, swigged, swallowed, swigged. He was getting there. He barely remembered the cat now. The feel of it under the front, then the back tire, like something already dead but not quite flat enough, and when they'd stopped and turned back, it was still breathing. "It's just a barn cat," she'd said. But she saw the collar just like he did, the heart-shaped tag.
Day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray, when the man turned aside from the main Yukon trail and climbed the high earth-bank, where a dim and little-travelled trail led eastward through the fat spruce timberland. It was a steep bank, and he paused for breath at the top, excusing the act to himself by looking at his watch. It was nine o'clock. There was no sun nor hint of sun, though there was not a cloud in the sky. It was a clear day, and yet there seemed an intangible pall over the face of things, a subtle gloom that made the day dark, and that was due to the absence of sun. This fact did not worry the man. He was used to the lack of sun. It had been days since he had seen the sun, and he knew that a few more days must pass before that cheerful orb, due south, would just peep above the sky-line and dip immediately from view.
I set out to make a list of five, but found choosing among the nineteen stories more difficult than I had anticipated. I whittled the list to seven, then, to justify my failure to choose, slipped a cheap play off the year into the title.
These are ten of my favorite poems from 42opus in 2007…
'O Winter! bar thine adamantine doors:
The north is thine; there hast thou built thy dark
Deep-founded habitation. Shake not thy roofs,
Nor bend thy pillars with thine iron car.'
6 December 2007
If I were to catch fire
for any/some thing, burn my love out bright and hot;
I'd be left with ashes, the taste
of ashtray in my mouth as though I'd loved
a smoker. (The bastard!)
181: Wooden hearted and dumb: Clearly he is referencing that terrible translation he loved so much of Valentroika's Russian epic, "Uncle Winter," in which the author melodes that "when my mother's voice grew unheard my heart/became cold as wood/laid in the ground for millennia."
It is well documented that the author obsessed over the untimely sickness of his mother in a manner similar to other pre-debauchist outlawed writers such as E. A. Poe, even going so far as to refer to himself as such.
19 December 2007
The trees planted in
follow me. They
could be a kind of peppertree…
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
Stay yet, my friends, a moment stay—
Stay till the good old year,
So long companion of our way,
Shakes hands, and leaves us here.
Oh stay, oh stay,
One little hour, and then away.
Gone grazin'. You Boch-drunk. Clink of spoons on sunglasses—
Me, girl gone glisterlight. Whitehot malaise in the grasses
Gone soft aspen slantlight that blisters, then passes—
Gone your kisses, O my Clearing! Wildwooded ways in the grasses…
Old papers thrown away,
Old garments cast aside,
The talk of yesterday,
Are things identified;
But time once torn away
No voices can recall:
The eve of New Year's Day
Left the Old Year lost to all.
The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet's cry
Came loud—and hark, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
20 February 2008
Because your water is discovered by clouds
rising into the rapt blue abyss of sky,
now your body is love, on the rise, a mist.
18 February 2008
If anyone asks: did you ever love? Say that
a moth was born from leaves and landed
on your tongue, like fingers plucking the harp strings.
And though it was not pronounced
you knew that an angelic form had come
with dusty wings.
Such Anniversary shall be—
Sometimes—not often—in Eternity—
When farther Parted, than the Common Woe—
Look—feed upon each other's faces—so—
In doubtful meal, if it be possible
Their Banquet's true—
There's a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.
Heavenly hurt it gives us;
6 February 2008
I shall be brief, but frank,
Terse if not curt, aloof, though unswerving—
What little we had amounted to nothing.
2 February 2008
Then came those seasons
That splinter from the seasons.
Then came the ring
That I wore without good reason.
4 February 2008
It's a furnace of the first place, fever of mine.
The mattress can't be trusted. I suture shut my eyelids.
I align my terrors to their predetermined brinks.
But the bed that is my boat, slopes lee side,
The waves, as if they were ashamed, roll up to it tentatively, and just before they reach the shore, they turn back.
On the treadmill, he did not know if he was walking forward or backward. It was the same when he was stopped in traffic and the cars started to move and his car seemed to be drifting backward and he slammed on the breaks.
11 February 2008
The only store in walking distance
is the one for the rich. So many aisles; bright
and convenient as Dinner-Nirvana: Tofu
from Iowa, rice from California, cherries
from Chile. Everything fresh-
frozen in plastic. I can feel The Invisible-Hand-
of-the-Market reaching into my pants.
2 December 2007
I would like to openly tell you what I saw
but 1) somewhere along the road I added two letters to my name,
and this makes me slightly unaccountable.
2) I am also known to propose dances that have only one or two movements in sum.
4 December 2007
What if you were three mad sisters
who lived at home with your mother
who hates you? Oh, you are?
Well, then, no wonder you are pregnant
and homeless on the streets of Minneapolis
with your cold glass globe containing the Mysteries.
21 December 2007
Free to spend the night
In Houston, in Texas, in its odd mystery Texas comes first. Football, women
Adoring wide receivers and tight ends and the average Joe who thirsts after
Both. The quotient, sex or otherwise, is sky-high, like the audience sucking down
Beer or whiskey or cigarettes just to make it past this last day of summer…
18 January 2008
Tyra Banks is a cowboy.
14 January 2008
Bill minced your heart in kindergarten. Bill,
litigious prick, missed the bottom step. Bill
the shih tzu–pomeranian mix. Bill
the vermiculturist. Mechanic Bill…
16 January 2008
Like the capital of Tadzhikistan
I long to be a name I neither know
nor can pronounce, a smeared calligraphy
of membrane and breath, an outpost of bone.
Scallop of the top lip crowned in points, full pout
of the lower lip, teeth even ivories, an aristocratic mouth.
Before alar and DDT and GMO's, she was a red stone
in a cling peach whose stem was an aromatic mouth.
First eyelids and lips are closed, then open. Now, open eyes appear unseeing. A kind of dreaming.
For thousands of years people have carried their faces this way, one by one, only on their heads.
Under these conditions nothing is harder to control than reason. You babble without speaking,
march into the desert without water. We will die tomorrow, the day after at the latest.
We might be fifty, we might be five,
So snug, so compact, so wise are we!
Under the kitchen-table leg
My knee is pressing against his knee.
24 January 2008
A break is a labor
precise as bonework,
a steady dismantling
of dichotomy: …
26 December 2007
28 December 2007
9 January 2008
The animals of this land are beautiful and foreign
They run on two legs, carry small square teeth in the front like beaver and wild mules
I so fucking own them
Papa the steel casings pass so quickly through them
Yet everything that touches us, me and you,
takes us together like a violin's bow,
which draws one voice out of two separate strings.
26 February 2008
In black branches hanging
over the roof, four or five
crab apples, overripe. Even
when no one is looking, walls
exhibit images made by the troubled hands.
24 February 2008
Washed from my hands
a thin film after shelving
jars filled with leeches pond
lilies green stems so when
the time comes to extract
bad blood mixing with the good
I feel nothing…