Archive

for June, 2009

June 17, 2009

fragment from “the invisible museum”

On the sidewalk by the park, a man stood watching the children play. He required a child of a particular age. Old enough to follow instructions. Too young to be trusted as a witness. And alone. The boy was digging a small pit near the edge of the stone wall. Next to him were piled the sort of sundry treasures a boy keeps, shiny and sharp. It seemed as though the hole in the dirt was his only dominion. The man dropped a heavy coin onto the pile, and then an envelope sealed with wax. He pointed over the wall, across the street. He watched the boy cross over, slip in the door behind an old lady, then emerge again a minute later. When the boy returned the man dropped another coin in the dirt. The boy’s greed over the bright currency consumed him. He had not once looked at the man’s face.

June 14, 2009

fragment from an unfinished short story

They named him Hector, but he didn’t live up to it. So they chopped the name down to a curt and humble syllable: Heck. He was a late and desperately desired child, hard to conceive and harder to raise. His father had been a weak man who succumbed to his foibles while Heck’s mother was still fanning herself on the porch, awaiting deliverance. Alone with her daughters, she settled on this state of affairs as the cause of Heck’s inconsolable wailing, which could go on for hours and often did. His mother rocked him in her arms and sang her sweetest songs. A dull rage would start to tighten between her bony shoulders, and then her prim little daughters took their turns. His screams revved like an engine. Some days there was nothing to do but leave him in the crib and rest their worn nerves outside in the thick wet air, where the hum of the cicadas dulled the pitch of his cries. By the time he could talk, the threat of his tantrums hung over them like a thunderstorm that would not leave. It was the sound, most of all, that kept the tired women under his thumb. His demands crowded them into the corners of the house. By then it took only a dark glance to achieve his aims. They would do almost anything to avoid the exhaustion of appeasing him. When he was sixteen, and they were all wrung dry, his mother sent him to live with her war-hardened brother across town. As if, much too late, that might cure him. The day he left, he turned back from the sidewalk and saw his older sisters glowering at him from the safety of the porch swing like the meek inheriting the earth.

June 7, 2009

postcards from the shore of a foreign lake

Dear Charles,
Longing is desire, constituted by distance. Across an ocean, across a border, across a room. I long for you now, and I long for you as you walk toward me. As we finally touch, what does longing become?
-R

Dear Charles,
You aren’t here and I am lonely. I weep, and the rented villa weeps with rain. I’m afraid that when I see you again, I will still be lonely. One is poetics, the other is pain.
-R

June 3, 2009

fragment from “the invisible museum”

Daniel woke to the sight of his fingers stained with pigments that he had ground by hand the day before, crushed from the same rocks and minerals mixed with the plant dyes that Caravaggio had used long ago. Making paint was kitchen chemistry. He kept a separate mortar and pestle for each color in a metal-topped drawer meant for bread. His porcelain sink was tainted with the brilliant dust. It had marred his sheets and left bright bruises on his own pale skin. He whispered the names like an incantation: verdigris, yellow ocher, vermillion, madder lake.