All my pretty ones? Did you say all? O hell-kite! All? What! all my pretty chickens and their dam At one fell swoop? .. . I cannot but remember such things were, That were most precious to me.


... the books we need are the kind that act upon us like a misfortune, that make us suffer like the death of someone we love more than ourselves, that make us feel as though we were on the verge of suicide, or lost in a forest remote from all human habitation — a book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.

from a letter of Franz Kafka to Oskar Pollak


For my mother, bom March 1902, died March 1959 and my father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church, refusing the stiff procession to the grave, letting the dead ride alone in the hearse. It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate myself where the sun gutters from the sky, where the sea swings in like an iron gate and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones from the whitehearted water and when we touch we enter touch entirely. No one's alone. Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes in their stone boats. They are more like stone than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.


Father, this year's jinx rides us apart where you followed our mother to her cold slumber;

a second shock boiling its stone to your heart, leaving me here to shuffle and disencumber you from the residence you could not afford: a gold key, your half of a woolen mill, twenty suits from Dunne's, an English Ford, the love and legal verbiage of another will, boxes of pictures of people I do not know. I touch their cardboard faces. They must go.

But the eyes, as thick as wood in this album, hold me. I stop here, where a small boy waits in a ruffled dress for someone to come ... for this soldier who holds his bugle like a toy or for this velvet lady who cannot smile. Is this your father's father, this commodore in a mailman suit? My father, time meanwhile has made it unimportant who you are looking for. I'll never know what these faces are all about. I lock them into their book and throw them out.

This is the yellow scrapbook that you began the year I was born; as crackling now and wrinkly as tobacco leaves: clippings where Hoover outran the Democrats, wiggling his dry finger at me and Prohibition; news where the Hindenburg went down and recent years where you went flush on war. This year, solvent but sick, you meant to marry that pretty widow in a one-month rush. But before you had that second chance, I cried on your fat shoulder. Three days later you died.

These are the snapshots of marriage, stopped in places. Side by side at the rail toward Nassau now; here, with the winner's cup at the speedboat races, here, in tails at the Cotillion, you take a bow, here, by our kennel of dogs with their pink eyes, running like show-bred pigs in their chain-link pen; here, at the horseshow where my sister wins a prize; and here, standing like a duke among groups of men. Now I fold you down, my drunkard, my navigator, my first lost keeper, to love or look at later.

I hold a five-year diary that my mother kept for three years, telling all she does not say of your alcoholic tendency. You overslept, she writes. My God, father, each Christmas Day with your blood, will I drink down your glass of wine? The diary of your hurly-burly years goes to my shelf to wait for my age to pass.

Only in this hoarded span will love persevere.

Whether you are pretty or not, I outlive you, bend down my strange face to yours and forgive you.

0 0

Post a comment