Wednesday, June 20, 2007

on fifth

They exited the club and he stood in the rain under a tree that had just begun to blossom. The leaves were nascent yet and didn’t provide the shelter he would have liked, but he was too tired to move. And anyways he thought there was something cool about just standing in the rain while others unfurled umbrellas and pulled leather jackets over their heads and crowded beneath the wide awning of a dry cleaners. Everyone was smoking and they looked very rock ‘n’ roll in their fifty dollar t shirts and angular haircuts and futuristic sneakers. A thin young woman in a housedress walked toward him, and then past, on her way to hail a cab, or more likely a black car, it being so far out and this hour. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen a housedress, and then immediately he could. R. had bought one, of gray and pink checks with a zipper right up the middle. In the house in Maine. An erotic garment, he’d believed, though until the passage of the girl it had disappeared entirely from his memory. It had been the time when the blueberries were in season and they were practically giving them away in the farmers market on the commons. When he felt he could enjoy the sensuality of a blueberry as something pure, requiring neither adornment nor distraction on the back steps, with the yard finally coming back to life. It seemed impossible to him that he could have been with a girl in a housedress, probably the same age as this girl still standing with imploring raised hand on the wet street. R. with an apron over her housedress when she worked at the Yellow Cup and he’d wait at the picnic table outside, wait to buy vanilla ice cream for the blueberries and then home to count her tips on the kitchen table. The memory of awaiting a waitress was as improbable as the housedress, though it had come back to him many times before and he’d even written of it. In this fashion all that was strange and good in his past had been spoiled.

Only through an accidental trigger could he snatch some joy of his past, some midlife surprise like the housedress and the time she’d let him unbutton it and press her down with her head against the futon, the gray and pink ebbing against the contours of her flesh, an image he knew he would now replay for days. In its first moment, with its startle still fresh, he was heartened. He had thought all those particular bones were long picked clean.

He turned and walked into the street, subconsciously flashing the gold band on his finger as he waved to the girl.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

summertime still reminds me of virginia

I do remember the humid nights, he thinks, those nights and all the other nights of his inheritance layered now onto this one. The air perfumed with wisteria, the opportunistic vines that flourish along the north acres, purple blossoms above the smokehouses and the curing huts with their omnipresent scent of tobacco that seems its own animate force, a presence as inescapable as the sounds of the darkie drums that rumble incessantly on those summer full moon nights with the land all covered in the unearthly white glow and the eternal drum beating its binding blood and sweat tattoo upon the mortal flesh. And they shiver in warm silk, lying up in the manor house, a distant spice rolling through the screens. Tremors in the lady’s face, flickering nerves in her cheeks and jaw. Whether it is the actual sound of the drum or its primordial intimation, the lady cannot say. She knows only that this nightmare menace, the elevation of that unnamed and unspoken dark netherworld to her realm, leaves her unsettled for weeks. The energy of those drums cannot be restrained forever. An axe snatched from the smith, scarlet blood staining the pristine white silks, portended stains that will not wash clean. The failures of the house servants, scrubbing endlessly on the metal washboards, skin silently grated off fingertips, rooms filled with the smell of bleach and sour electric fear.