Mid-spring and the trees bloom haphazardly—rich, dense, thick—so lush that standing beneath them, we cannot see the sky clanging against the hills. In a blue car, a radio plays; a man's thumb drums a steering wheel; a woman, her legs folded under her in a practiced N, blows her hot breath onto the window, takes her fist and presses the pinky side onto the fog her breath has made. With her index finger, she forms five perfect toes above the fist. A baby's foot—a trick her mother taught her when she was young. She wipes the spot away.
"I've had a shock, George," he said, regarding the other steadily. "I've heard news of my old woman."
"Didn't know you 'ad one," said Mr. Wotton calmly. "Wot's she done?"
"She left me," said Mr. Davis, solemnly—"she left me thirty-five years ago. I went off to sea one fine morning, and that was the last I ever see of 'er."
Lillian calls Roy out of the blue. It had been so long since they'd dated, for him, anyway, that he doesn't recognize the number in his cell phone. But he knows the voice that speaks and is instantly filled with the warm giddiness of promise, the delusional kind in which Lillian has made a terrible mistake and wants him back. He doesn't know if he wants her back, necessarily, but he swings his feet over his bed and pulls on yesterday's socks.
"Roy, I know it's been a long time, but I have a favor to ask you," she says, her voice breaking up as Roy walks around the room, looking for a shirt.
The nurse pulls my legs one way and my arms the other, positioning me to her liking. Her face is beautiful, like a magazine cover, and I lie across the cold metal table like a wounded dog, my side pressed flat against the surface. A long-armed x-ray device hangs over my head. She smiles, and I lose myself in her face, imagine myself wandering into Candy Land; I walk over her gumdrop eyes.
My wife is beautiful too, but she's not here. When I told her I was going for some tests she said, okay—you're fine. She said nothing about my tendency to over dramatize or my need for attention. She didn't ask why she should care or if womanizing could cause cancer.
Bryan Hurt: The historian and literary critic Hayden White has said that all historical narrative (biographies, journals, chronicles, etc.) are forms of fiction, no more or less so than their literary counterparts. For you (a) what are the reasons for, and advantages of, exploring the past through the form of the novel? And (b) why use the past (i.e. "actual people") at all?
T.C. Boyle: I agree most emphatically with Mr. White. Which is part of the fun I'm having with The Women and other historical narratives I've pursued. In the present case, we have actual people doing actual things as reported in newspaper and biographical accounts, but their actions are filtered through the recollections of the book's editor, Tadashi Sato, who responds in footnotes to the rather odd text he's received in translation and amplification from his grandson-in-law, the unpublished Irish-American novelist, Seamus O'Flaherty. Where, one wonders, does the truth reside? Not simply the truth of fiction, but the truth of history.
11 June 2009
It was the dream of the
x-rayed rose, of the
dentist in Seville and his love
for a Flamenco dancer, of how
when he took an x-ray of her jaw
she refused to let go of
the rose she held in her teeth
while she danced.
15 July 2009
A black hand across the landscape, then thousands
rummaging the corn's winter wreckage
They rise and clap, swarm, recede. Black is one
of only three proper colors…
2 August 2009
Poincaré sits in the turning dark
of the stairwell
folded in a thin nightshirt
eating a dry husk of carp, mostly
all huge brass head, eyes
with declining bones like a harp.
An influenza is in the suburbs.
21 August 2009
We placed it on the ground between us.
After it fell again, we rebuilt it.
The wind keeps gusting it into the barbed
fence. Holes are torn roughly, not cleanly
punched. We have to keep this between us…
24 August 2009
It's warm in the frame, under the lamps.
No one speaks because
To speak takes it out of the body.
27 August 2009
30 August 2009
Guided by the memory of light.
Don't forget not to speak of
what should stay on the ground
between us. A heron lifts off the limbs,
tucking its feet beneath it
20 June 2009
to the rain: it rains every night, clockwork
of my undoing,
vital to each iris as it was to my lantern of a self,
belly down in the low-slung fulcrum
of shyness; obdurate and unwieldy and refusing to say…
If it wasn't for the windows, it would all be so different.
The light forced to choose sides, shadows grow different.
A house of glass with wooden gaps wrapped by trees,
gray inside when it rains, at dawn no different.
Porches hold what's too nice for closets. Reminders.
Rackets and bats, balls that you're taught to throw different.
5 June 2009
Would you search for the source
of god, which is the mouth
and possibly many-tongued,
or for the nest of the swan,
which is a large, open bowl,
a grass house & honest?
2 June 2009
Start with a bird—a blue heron
coasting over the reservoir—
and a tree—a loblolly pine,
planted for paper and pulp,
dropping its rusty needles.
What does it take to be awake
in this particular world?
29 June 2009
Now I understand why. Someone turns loose the winds on me
and I'm a fountain of fire, someone tosses me into the sea
and I float in a boat of flames, someone pushes me under
and my lungs implode like hydrogen blimps. Every bronchiole burns…
8 July 2009
The fuckwad has her caged rat-style. He sends babies chute face,
chute face. She chews face, face plowed, baby after baby.
He box checks, he checks box, he slots baby, he plows.
Then cokes. He offers to coke her. She nuzzles
a baby, opens her face.
2 July 2009
Take note and heed. My drab elastic shackle worried the bone
to dart. Poison tipped present day cervix fasting, preparatory.
Ugly Park looms, and I file its gates. Specific access: trees
denied, fur denied, zing and whoosh denied, all water denied.
Dark denied, particle-free oxygens denied, nutrients denied.
Girls, boys, tom-toms, flowers, spoons, ink, porcelain, fruit,
tone, flint, exploration, and tonic fetal compass denied.
5 July 2009
The farmer sends you and your children into the woods to puke
up his property. He says, you're wolf meat, now. You're dead
to meat. Hoof it pinkling mama, if you like, but beyond
that forest lies the forest, and beyond that, a tight shut eye
nothings you flat.
14 August 2009
Spruce trees smell
wicked at night
we lie in lavender
twilight we think
we are so clever with our pale
bodies and sly-tongued minds
It is evening and the dark climbs through the window, sits down beside us on the couch, demands the remote control. We curl our legs together, socks to socks, my hand pressed on your lower belly. "What if you suddenly stopped breathing," I say, imagining your death, the funeral, the useless black shoes. I smile, bury my nose in your dirty dark hair.
Below the ice, frozen air, hibernating frogs. My cheeks alive with the burn, my ears. I wanted to touch air, awaken the frogs from their sleep. A bitter cracking sound. From the bottom of the pond, I called to you.
30 July 2009
Because we stash words
in our temporal lobes
in pairs—best friend with dog,
dog with cat, catatonia with last Friday, fried
eggs with broken plate—
we see associations before we say them: …
27 July 2009
You couldn't talk to me, you said, meaning
you couldn't hear, which was ok since
I'd lost my voice. That was before I started
singing, pushing the vacuum ahead of me
like a seed spreader, tethered to the stereo
by headphones. You were absent enough for me…
26 June 2009
Where you cut your hand upon entering.
Where the affable proprietor warns you away from the saw.
Where the dog and the cat play beneath the table,
between your many legs.
Where the woman has painted her black hair gray.
20 July 2009
I hear her grape-sized heart
& she, tiny love, knows not
milliliters of blood
the unfocused, gray cloud
in the left sliver of her right
iris, a mumbling