Issue 96, Summer 1985
are all we have. So count them as they pass. They pass too quickly
out of breath. Don’t dwell on the grave which yawns for one and all.
Will you be buried in the yard? Sorry, it’s against the law. you can only
lie in an authorized plot but you won’t be there to know it, so why worry
about it? Here I am at my brother’s house in western New york: I came
here yesterday on the Empire State Express, eight hours of boredom on the train.
A pretty blonde child sat next to me for a while. She had a winning smile,
but I couldn’t talk to her, beyond, “What happened to
your shoes?” “I put them under the seat.” And
so she had. She pressed the button that released the seat back and sank
back like an old woman. Outside, the purple loosestrife bloomed in swathes
that turned the railway ditch and fields into a sunset-reflecting lake
And there was goldenrod and tattered Queen Anne’s lace and the noble Hudson
on which just one sailboat sailed, red, billowing, on a weekday afternoon.
A tug towed some scows. Sandy red earth and cows, the calves like
big dogs. With Fresca and ham and cheese on a roll the eight hours somehow passed.
My sister-in-law met me at the Buffalo Central Station and drove me out to their house.
Hilde is just back from a visit home to Augsburg, where she was born
not too long ago. She taught herself to speak English which she does extremely well.
My mother now lives with them in the house my brother built himself. She’s old: almost eighty-nine
and her sight is failing. She has little to do but sit and listen to the T.V. rumble.
When I came in she said, “I can’t see you but I know your voice.”
“Some corner of a garden where the soul sinks down under its own weight. ... ”
But this isn’t about my family, although I wish it were. My niece Peggy is at
camp in the Adirondacks so I am staying in her room. It’s essence of teenage
girl: soft lilac walls, colored photographs of rock stars, nosegays of artificial flowers,
signs on the door: This Room is a DISASTER AREA, and GARBAGEDUMP.
“Some ash can at the world’s end. . . .” But this is not my family’s story, nor
is it Molly’s: the coon hound pleading silently for table scraps. The temperature
last night dipped into the forties: a record for August 14th. There is a German
down pouff on the bed and I was glad to wriggle under it and sleep the sleep
of the just. Today is a perfection of blue: the leaves go “lisp” in the breeze.
I wish I were a better traveler; I love new places, the arrival in a station
after the ennui of a trip. On the train across the aisle from me there was a young couple.
He read while she stroked the flank of his chest in a circular motion, motherly,
covetous. They kissed. What is lovelier than young love? Will it only lead
to barren years of a sour marriage? They were perfect together. I wish
them well. This coffee is cold. The eighteen-cup pot, like most inventions,
doesn’t work so well. A few days: how to celebrate them? It’s today I want
to memorialize but how can I? What is there to it? Cold coffee and a
ham salad sandwich? A skinny peach tree holds no peaches. Molly howls
at the children who come to the door. What did they want? It’s the wrong
time of year for Girl Scout cookies.