Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Excerpts from an Unfinished Novel

for Grace Paley
December 11, 1922 - August 22, 2007

Rain. Street lights change. I pause, look into a cafe window (steamed, wet). A couple sits, elbows to table. Their hands orbit their own faces, slow motion conversation I see but do not hear. I am outside understanding.

The city grows loud at my back--so many rooms, all those rooms, and what inside them? The hurry hurries me. Walking the treadmill of pavement--bottle caps, condoms, bits of foil, mullein and chickory all in their wrong places, loud and busy and loud--walking, getting...somewhere.


A red light, and all stops. Pedestrians cross in their own...sweet...time. But still, the waiting cars are busy. Idling, busy. Inside, singing, fights, the cigarette light, the back seat grocery bag set upright again.

A green, and the cars move, torture the rain with wipers and wheels--go...where? So important--where? Caring, intentional going, it seems. But all is outside me, on the Ferris wheel here, spinning spinning.


Simple: stop on red; go on green--how about that? And get a load of the tides--it's moon talk, you know. A back-and-forth language both understand. Sin and guilt and penance: these are useful constructs. That's where sorry comes in. There's balance afoot. Put a mind to it, you can make it work for you.

Daisies. Have a look at daisies. And maybe the way the sun moves. But people: I never know what to expect of them. Someone said there's a Hitler in all of us, and until we see it, there'll be no peace.

I wanted to cook for you. Show you rose hips, make a sand dial, raise dogs, lavender out back along the sunny path, sign our names, collect our teeth, and now look?


To be adored--what's that? Good for awhile, touching freckles and wrist bones, and oh! the fingers remember, don't they. Either way, it's tragedy, though. I don't believe we're here for joyful. How can it be?

I got all the blessings as a child. St. Blaise even covered my throat. Still, this. Molly and Do. A quietly happy room--anyone would say so, looking in. But underneath: something. Like an undiscovered virus. So organized, in its cell division. Efficient. And full of full of full of full of purpose. Suspended like draperies. The buttons go unnoticed. Folks always finger the cloth, cheek the nap, check the count.

My steps are like this, Moll: deliberate, functional. I've got to be sure of myself.

I can't believe that every man of war was ready for that killing. Someone loved those eyes right before he shot them. But there's the momentum, starts in Basic and builds to the take-aim. Finger on that trigger, what's he gonna do but shoot?

...It's quiet here now. The wind gone, and the creaking. The rain, long over, replaced by a drizzle of crickets. Harmless crickets.

I think I'm going to make it, I think, and then remember feeling the same last night. The darkness: it's such a blessing, how it simplifies. The people, they go inside. And all these trees, why, they could be one kind. I find I don't worry so much about them now, nights. Forgiving, night.

Then morning again.

Then you pull the trigger (ready, aim, fire!). When it ends, it's over, and just calm. Not cataclysmic, just finished.


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