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Month: July 2012

Set Free

When my husband caught the trapped hummingbird
and freed it from the screened-in porch,
his big hands, a woven bird’s nest,
a few fingers opened into an escape hatch,

I held my breath as one does before the delicate—
that spot of bird, singular in its journey,
wings like small lead windows.

It seemed strange to see a big man
who could easily crush the body of such a small thing
release to air the hummingbird, who once in flight,
turned as if to say, I’ll remember this.


Your Daily Poem, on-line, 2014

Between Young and Old Time

I am reading a book loaned to me by a very old woman.
Her hands are on the pages and they are slipping into mine;
flesh of a book against my brow as I close my eyes to rest.

What I love best about this book recommended by an old woman,
is how a single strand of silver hair becomes my bookmark—
between two pages, a single strand of hair tells where I left off.

Where I left off is not where I am or where I intend to be.
Further into the book than ever imagined is a story about being
an old woman who reads a book and recognizes herself

in a character. The old woman looks out from the book,
an old woman’s eyes large as an oasis and clear as sunlit sand.
Her hand is a vine of many veins that intertwine and signal something.

Something close and dear as song expresses itself on her lips.
She is sipping lyrics from the air through the straw of a strand of hair.
Her hands are on the pages and they are slipping into mine.

Published In England’s Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual 2014–Finalist



I wish I could tell you more about the man
bent over the drawing of his daughters
Sofi and Sonia, how like Saint Bartholomew
in Rembrandt’s painting, the man becomes so intent
that his pencil is now another finger,

and the man himself leaves, as though absorption
in what one loves calls the being from the body,
and being, the only true state, shapes the careful eyes
and lips of his girls. I would like to tell you the man’s name,
but I am sworn to silence on the prisoners I work with.

Were it possible to portray the man
accurately, his skin sewn in a tight weave
of tattoos, I would start with his eyes,
tell you how I see in them the brown loaves of bread
his mother made, his mouth about to form what he is unable to say.

What we cannot utter must write its meaning elsewhere—
the fragments of language building the innovative.
If there is a heaven of words, or at the very least
a storage place, what goes unspoken must send its roots

into a future we know nothing about.
It’s yard recall, but the man, still absorbed, draws
his daughters, his head so close to the paper
that he could be outlining himself—
the shapes of their lovely mouths,
butterflies with spread wings.

The Butcher’s Apprentice

                     Hawai’i Pacific Review, 2006


First he showed him how to hold the cleaver,
where to make the best cut,
said to keep his eye on the meat’s grain,
hold the blade steady,
and how beautifully the meat opened
on the maple chopping block,
gracious host to its own body,
the apprentice wiping his bloodied hands
across his heavy cotton apron;
his sigh, such finesse,
a sigh a lover might make,
satisfied before ultimate
pleasure—but, no climax here,
only the calm of knowing

one did the other body right,
and can’t you tell
that the one being trained
seeks the best advice to finish meat,
especially since fine butchery is nearly extinct,

for why else
would the Master train
the hand coming back to fingers,
to opening, carefully at first,
the red flesh that was once desire.

The Cornrow Fire

(Published in Red Rock Review, 2007)


The Cornrow Fire

The fire took off as though it were a living thing. Hissing, it danced over the dry grasses and up into the resinous pines. As though it were a strange recital, the blaze tangoed onto the boughs where its dance widened in skirts of flame. Snaps and crackles from falling limbs bruised the air; popping sounds slid through the canyon as the fire grew higher; pine trunks burst, smudges of smoke blemishing the sky.

Firefighters arrived at Roy McCartney’s trailer to advise he promptly leave. They explained that the winds suddenly shifted, and that the fire bent back on itself to switch directions. Better pack up that tin can, get what you absolutely need they warned. Did he know if anyone else lived off these back roads?

Roy pointed south toward a house across the dry field, just barely visible through the foliage, although the porch was easily seen with binoculars and Roy practiced checking on the place. A woman who lived alone needed a man’s keen eye, needed someone to hold safety in check. From a distance his neighbor looked like a small twig, and sometimes when Roy honed his binoculars on her house, he completely missed her. Roy supposed himself an old-fashioned sort.

“That’s my landlady, Emmy Adams, over there,” Roy pointed.

When the fire crew drove off, dust billowing behind them, he tried his telephone to warn Emmy before the firemen got to her place, but the line was dead. It was a silence like his son Lad, the one who never learned to talk despite his coaching, despite all the extra help the school offered poor folks. Even his lightly cuffing his son alongside his head to knock a clear channel straight into his hearing did little good. The lad was entirely clogged, or so it appeared.

“I’d better have myself a look,” Roy concluded. The fire was only an idea until he pegged it onto sight, but he could see puffs of smoke on the horizon, their dreamy impression against the sky, and there was a burnt pine odor in the air. He slugged a wad of chew into the thistle burs, fetched a fresh batch from his pocket, and went back inside to find his field-glasses.

Somehow, the encroaching smoke reminded Roy of Lola, how things level off once they get burnt. He’d slugged through his days, got by on Unemployment, and Emmy his landlady spared him a few rough times by letting him work off the rent. He cleaned out her garage, fixed water pipes that froze up, and replaced two broken windows blown in by heavy winds.

He’d been married until his lay-off from Wilder’s Lumber Yard. This put his luck back some. Lola, his former wife, liked to shoot craps, play poker and all that entertainment dearly cost a man. He hardly noticed Lola’s absence. She’d been out late most nights, and when she was home she’d sit on the front stoop, smoke and look through old film star magazines. Sometimes she’d point out to him, “I look as good as that broad.” Her hair was broom colored and about as stiff as dry wheat from all the peroxide she’d sopped over it, the ends split like forked tongues. Roy called the duration of their marriage a baker’s dozen, thirteen years doing hard labor in kitchen’s trouble.

One day Lola simply lifted off the trailer’s stoop to say she was heading out and that he’d not likely see her again. He did nothing to stop her. He actually sighed from relief. Freedom. Freedom, at last, Roy thought. There hadn’t been much between them since the kids left. Penny worked a casino in Reno. Lad was missing—no one except Roy and one other person knew where, and there’d been several rescue teams scouring the woods for traces of him.

He wasn’t telling anyone what he found by the river. No, that was one hell of a window that looked straight out onto trouble. Some things a man holds close to his chest, needs to honor the secrecy which, like the winter woods, were plum out of light.

“Darn, why did Lola leave her underwear behind?” Underneath the phone table a crumpled pair of panties rested by the phone cord. He reached down and plucked the panties, her silk in his fist. He couldn’t figure that one. Did she think he’d stop by Burger Barn in Doyle where she waitressed on one of his long drives into Reno?

No, he’d best burn all her remaining stuff, take it across the river. He’d already hauled off a goodly amount of her clothes, set fire to them near the same spot where he’d found Lad after the kid went astray two years back. 

*     *

Emmy lingered at her kitchen window, her bobbed hair flat against her neck and so straight across it that she joked to him that only a guillotine was capable of such accuracy. She thought it a little hazy outside but counted herself fortunate that she didn’t live down where those flatlanders were in the San Joaquin Valley. No, the air was bad there with all the crop dusting and chemicals. There were massive amounts of pollution to contend with there that breezed in from Fresno and LA and drifted across the orchards to settle deep underneath the soil itself. Emmy wondered what happened to crops raised from tainted soil, if the resulting food made learning more difficult for youngsters.

Here, in the mountains, you could almost drink the air. It was that pure, that good, and it tasted like an untouched mountain stream, although she was somewhat hesitant to think of streams, especially when a certain memory kicked in. But it hadn’t always been that way. She’d spent many picnics with her classes on nature hunts alongside the riverbanks and paused as she heard the sweet sound of water strum over rocks.

Sometimes when Emmy sat on her front porch to watch dusk fall and charcoal-in the trees, she’d suck in a gulp of early evening air and smack her lips, running her tongue over their chapped surface. She counted her blessings, thanked the Lord for her good fortune that made her home a country home.

Her life wasn’t lonely either, although she did live alone. It was by choice, not by circumstance that she never married. Emmy Adams liked to recall her three proposals after finishing college and her teacher’s training, how she’d quietly turned them down, not that she didn’t care about the men. She just didn’t want to be ruled over. No, a man was best kept from a safe emotional distance. Let one too close and he’d come to think he owned her outright.

As a young girl, sensitive and shy, she looked through the window of marriage by observing some of her relatives quarrel with their partners. No, she didn’t want to hold her will ransom, didn’t want to gnarl her mind with contrary opinions. With her teaching years behind her, she lived exactly the way she’d always intended, simple and without frills. She breakfasted when she wanted; she ran errands when she wanted; she walked her Great Dane, Spike, when she wanted.

The growing smoke irritated her eyes, but not enough to set forth and charge into its origins. What was aging if not reverie? Did she hear sirens? Oh well, she wasn’t entirely sure and not motivated enough to look into what seemed but hints of trouble. No, she’d post her eyes to the trees and their long trunks of bark, the way light silently laddered up them.

The poplars, aspen and pines shimmered in their green. Emmy couldn’t count all the fascinations of the seasons. In March the frogs returned, their songs enchanting the night air. Come May, songbirds returned, and wildflowers grew in the meadows. Nature was her book and she carefully turned its pages.

*     *

           But there was a time when nature didn’t seem so calm, a time when fear riveted through her and she nearly tripped over a bed of rocks on the other side of Gray Eagle River.

She’d been out berry picking, her bucket full of plump blackberries, and she’d been humming “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes,” as she headed back to her cozy yellow clapboard home where Spike eagerly awaited release from his pen. Emmy couldn’t pick berries and keep a dog on a leash at the same time. He always tugged at the end of his tether nearly tipping her over, and although she felt bad hearing him whine when she left, she concluded firm footing more important.

“What’s that lying over there? Hey, you taking a nap or what?” she’d called out.

She could see the lengthy torso of someone stretched near the riverbed and she thought rocks a rough spot to catch a nap. Thumping her leg with her hand, the berry pail set on the ground, she snapped her attention wide-eyed awake. Perhaps I stumbled upon this for a reason, she thought.

            “You got a problem not answering me? Are you trying to make an old lady fearful?”

Odd, she noted, not a mumble from the heap. Emmy used branches to hold her footing steady as she roped her way downhill, hands clasping upper branches for support.

The man, she assumed the pile resting there was a man due to the camouflage clothing and sheer size, was on his side facing away from her, his arms jumbled like he’d taken a bad spill, a tear alongside the leg’s cuff. His hands were strangely bent, a few deep gouges around his wrists.

Emmy was fearful to grab his collar to turn him. She heard the river roiling downstream and that gave her strength enough to tug him full round. There was a sour smell to the air, like cider gone rancid. Holding her breath, she rolled him over and let out a gasp.

“Oh, my God. It’s Lad. Hey, Laddy, it’s time to wake up.”

But Emmy knew from the stone-cold face, the bluish hue of skin and the god-awful rolled eyes that it was unlikely Lad would be waking anytime soon. She let go and squatted next to him, lifted his wrist to check for a pulse. Nothing in his veins ran like a river, and his mouth remained ajar like he was ready to poke out a few words.

             I’ve got to rest him back on the rocks, find someone to help me. Roy came to mind. Fetch the boy’s daddy. Yes, she’d head for Roy’s place, but if she ran into that wretch Lola, she’d exchange no pleasantries. There were some people so down under, so done in by life and by what they’d done to themselves that they were not only seedy, but soulless. Emmy never thought of someone as soulless until she’d met Lola who lived on the cusp of life by ignoring things. No regard for the trees into which she snuffed out her cigarettes, no regard for her own children who’d run naked most summers, not for Roy or anyone. Sucking on a fag meant more to that woman than her family.

Emmy parked the berries in a ditch alongside Waverly Road, a dirt road as most were in these Northern California parts, hitched up her corduroy pants, and headed for Roy’s place. She practiced in her head what she’d say to him and how she’d say it. 

Can’t say too much until I ply him away from the trailer. Don’t know if I should extend my sympathies or offer hope that his son might be ok. It could be Lad will rouse himself while I’m off fetching his daddy, but she didn’t really think that possible. No, that was death I saw back there.

She dug her hiking boots into the gravel as she walked, stuffed her hands in her pockets and started to hum, She’ll be driving six white horses when she comes. Tunes never failed to sooth her frayed nerves. It was her way of being a river, something flowing. Rivers, to her, were the earth’s sweetest songs, but after Lad’s demise their melody changed.

Roy was working on his truck’s engine, rags hanging out his jean pockets. He was so far into the engine he was nearly off the ground and tunneled under the hood. Emmy didn’t see Lola’s Camero and sighed relief she wouldn’t have to deal with the woman.

I’ve got to handle this right she thought. Her heart pounded harder as she approached him. “Roy, you got time to talk?” He swung himself down from his truck, eyes squinting in the full blast of sunlight. “Yup,” he said as he fished a rag from his pocket, wiped grease from his face.

     “Well, I think we’ve a problem back there in the woods on the other side of the river.”

     “What kind of stew are we speaking of?”

     “Lad’s not well. I found him by the river all stretched this way and that like broken rubber bands,” she explained, her eyes fastening themselves on the propped hood of the truck.

     “That kid gets himself into more messes. Knowing him he’s napping from taking too much of that pot weed.”

     Emmy thought on that. Lad won’t be getting into any trouble now, but she’d say nothing until Roy took a look. She needed verification of another set of eyes. After all, all those years of grading papers she saw things at a slight eclipse.

     Roy put his things down, and they walked back along the road she’d just tromped over. “We’d better take Sneed’s Bridge across Gray Eagle,” he said. The worn planks of the bridge creaked as they hurried over it. In the distance frogs began singing. Kingfishers dove alongside the river’s little eddies, snagging hatchlings and a few velvety moths.

When Roy came upon Lad, he let out a gasp. He cupped the boy’s head in his hands; softly spoke like a mother would when rousing a baby for feeding. “Son,” he said. “You’re daddy’s here. Now you look up boy and answer your father.” Only silence rang through the woods.

Emmy covered her face with her hands and wept. She’d never seen this tenderness between the two and never believed Roy filled with an abundance of compassion. She’d suspected he might be a feeling man when he shot her dog Pepper after Pepper got mangled in her neighbor’s farm machinery. Roy talked to Pepper, told him he was sorry on account of what he must do. Pepper raised his head as though nodding, “OK, do what you must.”

Roy got down close to his son’s face. “Boy, I’m awfully sorry for what’s happened to you. It was never my intention you’d stumble out here and crack your head open. You should’ve listened to your daddy about taking off on your own. You were never quite right, but I loved you just the same. My only son. My only…”

Roy didn’t finish his sentence, but looked at Emmy and said, “Not a word of this to a soul. You know how those town-folks are about rules and regulations and you can’t bury your kin where you damn well please, only in the village cemetery. Rules. Rules. Rules. Remember how they made me dig up my mama from the garden where I’d put her after she’d died from lung cancer?”

            I’m going back to fetch a shovel. Lad would want to be buried by this river he swam and fished in, and that’s my intention, honor his love of the place. If the boy ever had a mother, it was this here river. You sit with Lad until I return.”

Emmy sat by the boy. Dusk was beginning to fall, and the river seemed to hum louder in the absence of light. Emmy sang lullabies to Lad, the words splashing in the air. Blue jays sat on pine boughs harping for food, but she’d left the only food, the berries, back in the ditch. “Shoo birds,” she hollered at them and picked up twigs and tossed them at the jays.

It didn’t take long for Roy to return and to dig the hole. The man was riveting motion once he got started, and he dug deep too, reaching down with his gloved hand to clear away stones, anything that might make his son’s sleep uncomfortable. His hair hung in damp strings as he worked. Emmy admired his stubborn strength.

She took hold of Lad’s feet while Roy clenched the boy’s under-arms and they guided him into his resting place. Roy took off his bandana and folded it into a pillow for Lad’s head. Out of his pocket he pulled a penny and placed it on Lad’s tongue. “For the ferry-man,” he told Emmy. Quickly, the place returned to its natural state, Roy pulled some twigs, leaves and a few stones and scattered them over his son’s spot in the earth. Afterwards he rinsed his hands in the river, and the two broke for the road before dark locked them out.

           “Don’t say a word to anyone,” he told Emmy as they sauntered back. “They’ll come in here with dogs and a crew to search for my son but say nothing. The coming rains will soon wash out any scent.”

             Emmy promised her word was good and the two parted at the bridge, damp moss emitting a pungent, nutty smell. 

           The tall pines bordering the road guided Emmy home, the place as dark as a gopher’s hole, only a wedge of light left. She tugged her cardigan around her. Yes, Lad was out there by the river, and soon she’d be making for bed, a slice of salted water-melon on the bedside table, her spectacles on the bridge of her nose as she caught up on her mystery novel, a flashlight on the night-stand aimed at the book’s opened pages.

*     *

           By now Roy could see the flames heave and spit at the edge of the forest. It was like a storybook, everything coming to life, animals running for safety as though driven by a giant shepherd. He wondered if the fuel breaks would keep his place safe and if Emmy was ok. His eyes were starting to burn. The flames jumped from treetop to treetop in the form of a crown fire and he heard the growl of tankers overhead. He wished the fire crew had thinned out the forest like they’d promised the community earlier in the year, but he didn’t ponder long.

           It seemed the heat was rising, and he wondered if he should head back for his truck but decided otherwise. 

He wasn’t sure if it was gravel or bark from the trees in his mouth, but his mouth and throat felt clogged, and dang it was hot as a devil’s pot of black beans pitched over a campfire. His clogged throat made him think of Lad, how the boy never spoke a single word.

           Roy reminisced backwards onto Lad and Penny sitting next to the campfire when they camped out at Hog Flat one summer, the reservoir smoother than a griddle cake. He heard Lad laugh at one of Penny’s jokes, both kids roasting marshmallows black as embers. The sky had turned the color of fresh picked apricots and he sank back in his Coleman sling-chair, a Coors’s in the arm-rest pocket, thinking himself a lucky man to have clean country air, no one looking down their backs and enough food to keep them healthy.

           Although Lad never spoke a single distinguishable word, his boy wore a grin that shot straight for the heart, and the kid could laugh as though such laughter were words. Roy wondered if the penny was enough to get Lad from one life to the next. He wondered if the river spoke to his son in his sleep.

Rounding up the Water

(Published in the Red Rock Review, Summer 2001: Honorable Mention for Mark Twain Award for Short Fiction)

The moon pressed into the lake that night—the surface of the water placid as sleep. There were no noisy boats cutting up, only the guttural chorus of frogs, and their ballooning lungs. A lone woman sat in a nylon ribbed lawn chair, her face toward the lake. One gathered she was waiting for someone by the way she shifted her head this way and that, throwing glances over her lovely shoulder. Her longing hung in the moss-quilted trees, draped itself across the lawn. Lights shone on the other side of the lake. Like lanterns, they cast their warm appeal and the night had a golden feel.

I had just stepped onto the front porch of the cottage and was about to take my place in a chair by the lake, but upon approaching where the Silent Woman sat, caution warned me. From the shadows, there was no certainty I had seen her before. New, I surmised, to these parts. Her fingers quilted pleats in her shirt. She had a bun at the back of her head. A schoolmistress perhaps. An air about her made me renege on returning up the cottage steps to put myself back to bed. My parents expected I was fast asleep. Instead, I tiptoed closer, hid behind lilac bushes. I was the Nancy Drew of mystery and my dream was to solve the unexplained. At twelve, this was my consuming desire.

The New England air was sweet—rich in the right mix of hemlock, birch, pine and damp earth. In looking back, I should have bottled that smell, kept it handy so that I could pull it out whenever my life needed sprucing up. For a very long time, I watched her from my grandmother’s summer place. Some of the vacationers that yearly summered at the lake had no beachfront so my grandmother allowed them to use the property adjoining hers. This must explain the Silent Woman’s presence.

She had something I needed to know. My legs became wood. For the first time, as I stood there watching her, I was quite certain I had grown from the ground like the birch, my skin white as bark on its trunk and branches.

The Silent Woman put something down. Was it a journal and pen? Was she the pastor’s wife, the one we heard suffered terrible bouts of delirium? There was nothing terribly unusual about her, just a silence that cloaked her. She removed her shoes, slowly made her way into the lake. Only the slippery sound of water issued forth as she cautiously stepped over the rocks.

Was she going to give herself to the water? Horrid thought I almost said aloud. What perverse jackal sat at my heart wanting to see how far she would go? The Silent Woman took off her shirt, threw it casually onto the beach; bangles on her arms clinked against each other. She next removed her bra and tossed it too. This woman made lovelier by moonlight, bent to cup her piano player hands, splashing water onto her face, under her arms. It was as though she were rounding up the water, holding it to her nose to breathe memory back.

I parted the bushes so I could see her. She seemed to care little whether her rolled-up-jeans were wet. Perhaps a lover was quietly whispering in her ear, his lips brushing aside wisps of hair. I imagined secrets between them. The water she stood in was full with the fierce attenuation of the moon.

What could I, at my age, have known a grown woman to think as she stood knee deep in the water? No, she could not possibly be the pastor’s wife. She was too graceful for that. We heard his wife was crazier than a loon. She threw a frosted cake at the judge’s face and then proceeded to husk down every inch of clothing in public and pranced about on the lawn of the Elks. This woman was not in the least like what I had heard of the poor pastor’s wife. She was softer, and quieter.

The Silent Woman inched several feet further into the water. I held my breath. She stopped right at the spot where the drop-off abruptly bent into its darkened delirium. She must be well versed in the lay of this place, I thought, or she would have most certainly stepped into a sharp descent. I could almost see her arms, oars fighting their way up to the heavens, and the terrible whirl of water that would issue forth as she sank. However, she did not.

Her memory seemed stoked by the moon, and she carried her memory in her entire body. I had seen that before in aunts who barely spoke because memory and grief so filled them—each finger of their hands, a departed family member. I could hear the lives of others living in her. I strongly suspected she had sisters. She looked like a woman wrapped in the arms of siblings. She was familiar with her womanhood—the ease of its grace moved within her. This clued me she was most certainly from a family of daughters; sisters making sisters, participating in the creative art of being.

Oh woman of the water what do you think as you head back to your chair? Do you know that I, dressed in my twelve-year-old-eyes, have been watching you as you watched whatever you saw out on that lake? The woman lifted the towel and patted her underarms, tilted her head to dry her face. She then reached behind her head, undid the bun; a windfall of hair fell over her shoulders.

I imagined her sisters like mine, tall and willowy. That’s it I thought. She has lost her sisters to the water. Several years back there was a terrible boating accident. The man at the helm of the motor boat was drunk and he made a sharp turn, catapulting the occupants, himself included, all of whom drowned. No way would I swim in the lake after that. I imagined their hair tying up my feet, their hands like wet powder puffs brushing against my legs. For nights, after hearing my relatives speak of this, I got no sleep. From the depths of the water, I saw their watery lives; the way dance would be a constant state of being as they moved with the current. So far as I knew not one body ever surfaced from the lake’s depths. I imagined that if one had it would look much as a cookie soaked in tea.

The loons on the other side of the lake rendered the night more memorable, their plaintive calls thick as mystery. Loons had always been my favorite. ”You’re a reclusive child,” my aunts would say, ”Just like the loons across the lake.“

What is this? The Silent Woman is putting a note in a bottle, capping it with a cork. Again, she’s wading out past the dock. Swinging her arm she tosses the bottle, but not too far. I hear it splash down. Returning to the shore she folds her chair, her towel hung around her neck. The Silent Woman leaves. She simply vanishes into the night and is no more.

Curious. I am curious. With my flashlight in hand, I edge into the water. The stones seem to move under my flashlight and they look more vivid than in daylight. The frame of the dark world enhances them to the point they seem alive. Fish the size of my little finger fan out from my trespassing. I do not venture far into the water. There is a point beyond which nothing prompts me further. Remember, I am afraid of the drowned, that they might reach up and touch me with their death. I catch sight of the bottle. Waves let me pass. Holding back my hair with the ring of my forefinger and thumb, I reach down; retrieve the bottle the Silent Woman tossed.

Back on the beach, I wiggle myself into the accommodating sand. I hurry to remove the cork, take hold of one corner of the note, and slip it free from the bottle. I am spying on someone else’s life. I know this. The water placid as sleep, and the moon, like a saucer, simply floated. With my hand, I smoothed out the note—my flashlight studious. What is this? What does it say? For a moment, I held my breath, as those lost to the water must have done.


To the One Who Watched me From the Shadows:

I saw you spying on me from the bushes. The hot coals of your eyes warned me of your presence. I was, like you, once a child in the land of the moon coming down the mountains. I also watched a woman as you have watched me. My sisters and I picked Indian PaintBrushes and the illusive Ladyslippers, illegal to pick, but irresistible nonetheless. This was our favorite childhood place. The world was a circle then, and we were the center of that circle. Now my eyes fill with the labor of loss, forever searching for what has gone. My sisters will not return. Enjoy what you have. Time is a slow memory moving out—it is the boat disappearing in the fog.

In the way of care,


It has been years since I spied on the Silent Woman. I kept her note and the bottle. She is probably dead, or, at the least, very old. I often go back to the lake of my childhood. My sisters are still alive. On moonlit nights, nights of the moon coming down the mountain, I make a wreath of my arms and wrap myself in them. I often wonder if the Silent Woman’s sisters are still in the lake, if they blow bubbles with their soft mouths.


by Dianna Henning      (First published in The Iowa Source)

It’s precisely the way Miguel Flores irons his shirt, the thin run of each crease down the front’s two sections, the exactness of the press from shoulder to cuff on the blue chambray that’s intriguing. He wears his shirt over the whitest of white T-shirts, tails of the chambray untucked the same way other wards at Juvenile Hall wear theirs: his blue-jeans baggy like the other Mexicans, and lightly bleached from the Clorox he and his buddies smuggled from laundry. Miguel looks so scrubbed, so fine, he has become art.

     He tells me how his grandparents moved back to Mexico. “Too much trouble in this country,” he says. “They prefer the old ways.” His grandmother Nina ran her hand through his hair while she read him folk tales in Spanish. She called him “my dark one,” because he occasionally broods over the simplest things. Nina must have known what I now see—the slightest rebuke causes Miguel’s face to cloud until he looks as though he’s pondering a dilemma so deep, so wide there’s no way to bridge a route back to him. This gives him a depth beyond his years, a depth he’s totally unaware of.

     “Can you unlock the art room?” Miguel asks me. That’s where we keep the iron used for papermaking although he sometimes uses it for his shirt. Each morning and evening I check the shadow-boards where the paintbrushes, scissors and T-square are hung. After inventorying them I initial a security sheet that will later be cross-checked by an officer.  My Art Therapy cupboard has several kinds of paper, watercolors, art books and acrylics. For the wards of the state this art room is a sanctuary, a place to get away from all the gang brouhaha on the fenced-in exercise yard. The Border Brothers have been at it again—a kid shanked while eating in the chow-hall just as he was about to shovel spaghetti into his mouth.

     Miguel spits on his finger, tests the flat of the iron to assure himself it has cooled. His hair is so dark it is ink. He waters it down throughout the day and slicks it with both hands moving from his forehead back, the small residue of water picking up sequins of light. His blue chambray hangs on a peg to save it from wrinkling and paint spatters. Throughout his hours in my art therapy program, I watch him the way a parent would. He returns the iron to its cubby-hole, his large shoulders crescent shaped as he hangs his chit back on its clip. Chits indicate a ward’s state number and if something comes up missing it can be traced, traced the same way memory is tracked, one thing becoming a clue to another.

     His mother adores him. He tells me that and more. He’s her favorite, always has been according to his sisters. “Miguel, I’m counting on you my little man,” his mother Maria would say as she folded him into her arms. His sisters, in their pretty taffeta dresses, behind their mother would make faces at him, their hair cupped softly around their silky necks. They silently mouthed their mother’s words while they fanned out her skirt as a shield to hide behind.

     It’s the little stories people tell on themselves that endear us to them—we continually breathe in the oxygen of other people’s lives until they become part of us, our skin threaded with their stories. By the end of our lives, we must inhabit many bodies. This makes me particularly glad because I’m assured of my dear one’s presence in my last hours.

     In his yard at home Miguel had a lemon tree planted by his grandparents to celebrate his birth. When he grew older, he picked lemons in the spring, each one plunking down into the sweet-grass basket sent to his family by an aunt. He remembers the cookies his aunt packed in their Christmas basket: molasses cookies made with lard, and persimmon cookies glazed with a light snowfall of sugar. When he gathered enough lemons, he’d leave them in the basket on the front porch.

     “Lemon cookies,” he called the fresh picked fruit as he ran back into the house to fetch a spray bottle and a washcloth fresh from his mother’s laundry basket. He’d put both into his back pocket. As Miguel traveled door to door selling his lemons, each one was first showered before he handed it over to his customer. “Lemons for a quarter, five for a dollar,” he’d say. His pockets bulged with change at day’s end.

     Even then he must have had big shoulders. He carries his shoulders as though something important was about to be asked of him. After his return from his business ventures, his mother would cup his cheeks in her hands, kiss him lightly on the forehead. He swears those kisses burned through his forehead, that they gave him another eye. I believe this, for I sense something in him that sees beyond the ordinary.

     Miguel tells me his shoulders were so wide that the doctor used forceps at his birth. The forceps looked like stainless-steel tongs his mother said. The terrible wrenching to extract him from the boat of her body rocked her back and forth until she thought she would drown from motion sickness on the delivery table. The lights of the hospital room dimmed, and she didn’t know if she was slipping away, or if the world itself was vanishing. He tells me this story several times because he likes the thought of his life being so clearly earned. It’s a sign he’ll one day do something significant. This is the belief from the lore of his family which goes back many generations.

     His grandfather Pedro, as was predicted, wrote a history book on Mexico when he worked at the University in the States. This brought many blessings upon the family and enabled his grandmother and grandfather to return to Mexico. They never really fit in in this country, he adds, and wanted the quiet and familiarity of the old country.

     Last year he slipped up bad, hit a 7-Eleven one midnight in November. Miguel said he did it because his dad skipped town and they didn’t have a clue where he went. His mom had just been diagnosed with cancer and couldn’t be seen at the out-patient clinic until she had a co-payment in hand. They had insurance, although minimal, what he called ghost insurance because it was almost non-existent. During her convalescence he saw first-hand how circumstances could snatch up a person’s home and everything gets auctioned off so fast one’s life seems a mirage.

     On his midnight rendezvous with the store the cops nabbed him. I swear it was his shiny hair, the way it picks up light that tipped them off. He’d parked his mother’s VW Bug at the back of the 7-Eleven. It was late and Miguel thought it would be easy. He’d simply ask the attendant to tilt the cash register and empty it into his bag. This particular 7-Eleven was jinxed from the start. The cops heard about a hit via an informant, so they planted two plain clothes cops in the parking lot.

     Miguel used one of his mother’s nylon stockings to distort his face. “When I pulled it over my head, I looked like Frankenstein,” he tells me.” Even you would have been afraid.” He held the bag open, ordered the man at the register to empty the till or he’d blast him away, although he had no gun, never owned one. The man sweat, his bald head glistened, the ring of outer hair dotted with sweat beads.

     ”His head was a large bird’s nest minus the birds,” Miguel comments. Just as the man at the register started to dish out the cash, the cops came up behind Miguel. One of them stuck his finger in Miguel’s back and the other one cuffed him. That’s how he arrived at the detention hall and finally Juvenile Hall. That’s how I got him in my Art Therapy class. You can’t make trouble while you paint. In classification the staff concluded he was “salvageable” which means some effort and money will be spent to rehabilitate him.


     Yesterday, Miguel came ambling into my office, speech already written on his face, his eyes rapidly surveying a spot to sit. He cleared a stack of art books off the extra swivel chair and sat down. He knows how to navigate his world, claims it as though it’s every person’s right to make comfort in the midst of chaos.

     “Do you think people can change?” he asks.

     No answers come and moments swim in the air between us. I like to look at him, as I said earlier, to see who he is on the inside.

     In such moments I recall an earlier story he told me.

     Why, momma, does the bird fly and not us?” he’d asked his mother.

     ” Well, my darling, “she answered,” We are not gods and the birds are. “He looked up at her amazed and began to flap his child arms as though they were wings as he darted between the Joshua trees in their back yard. Now his wings have been clipped he tells me.     Miguel is still seated on the swivel chair in my office. His eyes are so clear they are luminous. In their brown globes I see infinity. Before I answer his question, he’s gone on to the next.

     ” You know the passage in the story you asked me to read on free time? What I liked best in this story by Tim O’Brien is this: “The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it hoping that others might then dream along with you and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head.”     For a moment he holds onto his words as though savoring them, then eagerly, as though about to burst, he adds:” I know about spirits. I’ve seen friends shot up really bad in drive-byes. At night their spirits come to my bedside and tell me how to kick butt in heaven. “

     This is the last thing I want for Miguel, and I shudder at the thought of his friends being hunted down, their young lives spattered like some abstract painting. Oddly enough the excerpt from Tim O’Brien’s book that Miguel quoted is also my favorite. Since I believe him already near angel, he has no problem in sniffing out the purest parts of language.

     “Do you like to travel?” he asks.

     “Yes, although I’ve not done nearly enough of it. But now I can afford to go places.”

     “I went to college for a year,” he says. “Pulled good grades. Now I’ve royally f——ed that up. I liked learning. Can you believe that?”

     I can. I listen and do not deny his messing up, although I know human nature is capable of great change, given the opportunity, that life specializes in reinventing itself. I suggest that he return to school after he paroles. The only problem is he has no place to parole to with his mother in hospice and they haven’t a clue where his father is. Both his sisters have been farmed out to relatives who have no room for Miguel.

     “We have a spare bedroom,” I say to Ivan my husband, but he won’t have anything to do with an ex-felon paroling to our house, and besides that’s not what I really want. It’s from the distance grandparents have that a wider range of influence can cause a positive outcome. Ivan knows this and responds to my wistful thinking: “Now that Edward’s grown up you want another kid around?” There’s irony in his tone as well as disbelief.

     “You’re a die-hard romantic,” he tells me. “You think these guys will be good, will curb their old ways. Well, I’ve seen enough and know differently.”

     Since Ivan is a self-made man, he thinks he has the mark of truth blazed into his chest. “There’s so little we can do for the suffering masses,” he pontificates, then clouds himself behind The Times.

     I talk about Miguel all the time. Who can blame Ivan? Behind his certainty there’s an element of truth. It’s up to the individual to make of his life what he will. Much will fall upon Miguel’s shoulders when he gets out. His shoulders are wide because of what will be asked of him.

     “Colleges want bright young men like you,” I tell him. “You won’t have any trouble getting a scholarship.” Ivan clips some newspaper information on minorities applying to schools and says to pass it on to Miguel. Silently, and together, Ivan and I are working towards Miguel’s future, although Ivan would never admit any part in it.


     My grandmother Nellie would have taken Miguel in. She would have said society’s shot to hell. She would have fed him tea and doughnuts and told him about the magical people who lived in the woods and who are so tiny a mushroom could house their entire village.

Nellie might have gone on to tell Miguel about Ottis who lived at the edge of Summerville, and how he became blind. It was as though drapes had been drawn across Ottis, she said. Yet, despite this handicap he took his daily jaunt into the village, his cane pecking sparks of light from the sidewalk. Ottis paused at all the spring flowers in the neighboring yards and cupped them in his hands. He could name plants by feel or smell. From this alone he knew what ailed various species and he’d engage gardeners in remedies for blight and other garden problems.

     “To be blind and know where you’re going, that’s courage,” Nellie would say. She would have told Miguel stories to empower him. He would have listened because of the earnestness with which she spoke. Despite his youth he is wise in ways that could sadden one. He’s seen more than he should have for his years. It is written in his eyes. Eyes so large you can almost walk in them. Sometimes when I look at him, I see a wise sage, and other times a reckless adventurer lurking beneath his expression. How could it be otherwise?

     Miguel picks up the pencil he’s been tapping and the light glints off his hair. His hair is as dark as the blackberries I picked with Nellie as a child. He smells of lemons, of little suns. He has so many stories inside him that he’s already become a book. The first chapter might have had some disturbing moments, but I see future chapters of his life unfolding in accordance with who he is—a young man whose pain is brought into wisdom.

     This is how I’ll remember him: he’s walking up the hill to my house, a son’s hand clasped in his. He wears casual clothes and holds a forthright look in his face, a look that is steady. He will introduce me to his son. I will get down on my knees, look his boy in the eyes and see his father. Miguel will tell me school wasn’t that bad, that he graduated with honors and is now in Graduate School.

     I will know this before he tells me. I will have seen it in a dream. We will have tea and cookies. He will smell of lemon.

Shards of Childhood Memory

Shards of Childhood Memory, a study on Elizabeth Bishop

Critical Essay: A Study of Elizabeth Bishop-Published in Pembroke Magazine, Pembroke University,

North Carolina – 1990

“…we cover the universe with drawings we have lived.” (12) The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard

“Bishop’s practice offered Lowell a model of how to take intensely imaged shards of childhood memory and assemble them in both prose and poetry.’ (421) Helen McNeil, Voices and Visions, Edited by Helen Vendler

Loss and memory earmark much of Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry and prose with a particular poignancy that transcends the personal. Spurred by a heartfelt longing for home, for loved ones, for roots she was deprived of through separation from her parents at an early age, Bishop takes both herself and the reader on board a train that travels the span of her life—the geography of her observations. And because she never wallows in self pity or generates work out of an elaborate display of emotion, her subtlety of tone gives the work a refined finish. For Bishop, childhood itself is loss, is separation. The child is catapulted into a larger world, thereby leaving that which was safe and familiar behind. Bishop recreates those early experiences that so indelibly mark her work with their shards of memory.

As though restraint shields her from too much intimacy, too much intensity, Bishop shares her world with quiet reserve in The Collected Prose. Here she paints a vivid portrait of her grandparents:

From where I lay, across the room, stretching my tiny bones on what they called a sofa, I peered at them in dumb wonder as they reclined, head-to-foot, in their dramatically lit, mysterious, dark-green-curtained niche. I can look back on them now, many years and train trips later, and clearly see them looking like a Bernini fountain, or a Cellini saltcellar: a powerful but aging Poseidon with a small, elderly, curly Nereid. But that night I was dazed, almost scandalized. I had never seen either of them en deshabille before, not even in bed. In fact, I scarcely knew them (14).

What is interesting to note is Bishop’s sense of removal. She longingly looks upon what can only be recreated in more ideal terms through her art. It is as though she were dwarfed in her “tiny bones” by those people to whom she refers as “them” and “they”. She scarcely knew them as a child, and knew them no better as an adult. Many trips later she claims to see them clearly, although she never portrays their inner beings to any depth, but rather paints their exteriors in the likeness of “a Bernini fountain, or a Cellini saltcellar”. Perhaps, as a perpetual outsider, Bishop has no way to enter the other, for that would entail too many dangers: the biggest danger being the loss of her perspective as an observer.

Grandparents often crop up often in Bishop’s work—they, and other relatives, were her caretakers, yet seldom is there a display of affection for them or from them. In “The Moose” she hears her “grandparents talking (171). She lets the reader in on their conversation, which is so plausible as to be real. It is Bishop’s strength as a writer that returns the familiar to us:

He took to drink. Yes, She went to the bad.
When Amos began to pray
even in the store and
finally the family had
to put him away. (169)

This putting away of Amos is also a haunting reference to her mother who was committed to a sanatorium after the early death of Bishop’s father in 1911. Bishop was keenly familiar with long absences. Hospitalized on several occasions, Bishop’s mother was finally committed to a hospital for life and the five-year-old Bishop saw her for the last time.

Elizabeth Bishop lived from 1914 to 1917 in the coastal town of Great Village in Nova Scotia. After that she was pulled by grandparents back to the place of her father’s birth in Worcester. “The front of the house looked fairly familiar, very much the same kind of white clapboards and green shutters that I was accustomed to, only this house was on a much larger scale, twice as large, with two windows for each of the Nova Scotia ones and a higher roof” (17). She was uprooted and allowed to spend only her summers in Nova Scotia until she was thirteen.

Despite the upheaval of place, David Kalstone says in Five Temperaments: “She sees with such rooted, piercing vision, so realistically, because she has never taken our presence in the world as totally real” (26). Memory was the only constant for Bishop in the unpredictability of changing events and circumstances—the sanctuary to which she returns time and again for solace and creative source. Out of the remains of the past, the artist is forced into creating herself/himself. From the anvil of longing, she forged an artistic identity that was truly unique.

Brought to Worcester “against her wishes with a surprising extra set of grandparents” the young Bishop was plummeted into a “strange and unpredictable future” (17). The house in this new land seemed ominous to her, and something foreboding hung in the air. Bachelard says: “If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace” (6). After that move Bishop became a wanderer in search of home. Both imagination and memory eventually became her home. “There exists for each one of us an oneiric house, a house of dream-memory” (15). If the house, as Bachelard suggests, is our first world, our first real universe, then how difficult those formative years must have been for Bishop as she was shifted from one household to the next. In her new home “the cats were ugly, orange and white; they lived in the barn and ran away from me—not like my black nanny in Nova Scotia” (19). How unsettling this new place must have seemed; the foundation of her world had been wrenched from her. She longed for the more pastoral setting of Nova Scotia.

To sustain her stay with this “new set of grandparents” she re-images Nova Scotia throughout “The Country Mouse.” There, even “The soldiers, some of whom I actually knew, wore beautiful tam-o-shanters” (28). Intense longing must arise when one is propelled into a place that does not meet with one’s previous experiences—it is from this longing that imaginative seeding can sometimes take root. As Helen McNeil notes: “Bishop used the circumstances of her life as the occasion of her poems; her lyric ‘I’ is usually autobiographical. Yet, while it is possible to see moments in Bishop’s life in her poems, it is not appropriate to attempt to derive an intimate biography from them. Bishop’s interest was not in her self but in the human knowledge gained from the self’s experience” (415). Her past informs both her prose and her poetry, becoming the impetus behind many of her images.

In Worcester her loneliness grew when Agnes, the maid (one of her few friends) leaves for Sweden to marry. For Bishop this was another goodbye in a long chain of farewells. With this new trauma she underwent a series of health problems: “First came constipation, then eczema again, and finally asthma. I felt myself aging, even dying. I was bored and lonely with Grandma, my silent grandpa, the dinners alone…at night I lay blinking my flashlight off and on, and crying.” Helen McNeil states, “Elizabeth got eczema, asthma, and bronchitis—illnesses of the lost child” (417). To re-imagine her past was the only alternative for the “lost child”. “In the Waiting Room” evokes this sense of being uprooted:

Suddenly, from inside,
came an oh! of pain
—Aunt Consuelo’s voice—
not very loud or long.
I wasn’t at all surprised;
even then I knew she was
a foolish, timid woman.
I might have been embarrassed,
but wasn’t. What took me
completely by surprise
was that it was me;
my voice, in my mouth.
Without thinking at all
I was my foolish aunt,
I—we—were falling, falling,
our eyes glued to the cover
of the National Geographic,
February, 1918.

I said to myself: three days
and you’ll be seven years old.
I was saying it to stop
the sensation of falling off
the round, turning world
into cold, blue-black space.
But I felt: you are an I,
you are an Elizabeth,
you are one of them.
Why should you be one, too?

I scarcely dared to look
to see what it was I was.
I gave a sidelong glance
—I couldn’t look any higher—
at shadowy gray knees,
trousers and skirts and boots
and different pairs of hands
lying under the lamps.
I knew nothing stranger
had ever happened, that nothing
stranger could ever happen (160).

Details become the land upon which Bishop stands, and the form of this poem spills as though it too were “falling, falling”. What anchors both poem and its writer are the vivid details: “…Naked women with necks/wound round and round with wire/like the necks of light bulbs” (159). Near, the end of the poem there’s a greater sense of identification and recognition of what’s around her:

What similarities—
boots, hands, the family voice
I felt in my throat, or even
the National Geographic
and those awful hanging breasts—
held us all together
or made us just one? (161)

The familiarity of everyday things: boots, hands, the National Geographic holds Bishop’s world together. The poem is about forging an identity—creating, in fact, Bishop’s very own identity. This becomes evident is the questioning self: “I scarcely dared to look/to see what it was I was…/why should I be my aunt/or me, or anyone?” (159) Although these questions seems to negate the importance of a self, that questing is implicit in the very questioning. And again, near the end of the poem, the same quizzical turn: “How had I come to be here, /like them, and overhear/a cry of pain that could have/got loud or worse but hadn’t?” (161) These lines are reminiscent of the scream that hangs over “The Village.” Perhaps Bishop’s questions are the most compelling moments in the poem.

Still, the picture is bleak because “In The Waiting Room” she “was sliding/beneath a big black wave/another, and another” (161). Even looking into the outer world brings no relief— having left an internal world where the self is tossed about, only to step outside where “the war is on” and everything is “night and slush and cold” (161), is little consolation. There seems no solace in either the external or internal world. Nothing, finally, seems completely knowable. Yet, because Bishop has communicated this experience, there is an indication there is some grounding found in language itself. Exorcised by the poem, she is able to surface.

A similar questing for identity is found near the end of “The Country Mouse.” Here Bishop says: “You are you…how strange you are, inside looking out. You are not Beppo [the family dog] or the chestnut tree, or Emma, [the maid] you are you and you are going to be you forever” (33). It is interesting to note the removal of self—Bishop does not say “I am me and I am going to be me forever.” No, in her eight uses of “you” she places herself outside herself. Even though she claims “you” as meaning herself, she is on the outside looking in. Such distancing speaks of the urgency this recall claimed, and Bishop compares this awareness to “coasting downhill”. She is left with a tantalizing question at the end of this childhood portrait: “Why was I a human being?” (33)

There are no answers to such questions in Bishop’s work, except perhaps in the
geography of things and even here one’s grasp is illusive because everything passes,
changes into something else, as can be seen in “Crusoe in England,” where islands spawn islands, “like frogs’ eggs turning into polliwogs/of islands” (165). It is this notation of illusive life around her that prevents her from developing a completely nihilistic viewpoint.

Even with these inner tensions at play, Bishop the artist never loses her empathetic eye or wallows in self pity. Looking at Beppo she notices: “He jumped nervously at imaginary dangers, and barked another high hysterical bark. His hyper-thyroid eyes glistened, and begged for sympathy and understanding” (21). In her “At Home With Loss” Joanne Feit Diehl says: “Experience of loss can yield to mastery” (179). It can also yield to an emphatic eye—to the quiet acquiescence attributed mostly to masters of a spiritual discipline. Bishop’s mastery was gained through the tutelage of those early losses. She transformed her sense of homelessness into a form of knowledge which found its expression in her poetry.

This acquiescent consent to life is most evident in the villanelle “One Art.” Here Bishop looses everything—keys, a watch, houses, cities, rivers, a continent, and finally a mysterious “you,” who is someone significant to her:

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster (178).

There is a sense of forcing herself to say “write it” that makes one suspect that particular loss, that mysterious “you,” was a disaster, and that word loudly echoes by the end of the poem. Also, it is interesting to note how loss in this poem begins with domestic items and moves into a more universal collection of losses before swinging back.

A magical and incantatory effect can be found in the villanelle—the very qualities of childhood itself as is evidenced in nursery rhymes and their memorable appeal. And perhaps it is finally the simplicity of the poem’s tone that makes “One Art” so believable and seamless: “Lose something every day. Accept the fluster” (178). There is an element of understatement here and obvious control—as though such a matter-of-fact acceptance endowed one with power, or possibly released one from remorse. As Diehl says in “At Home With Loss”: “In her late poem ‘One Art’ (whose title conveys the implicit suggestion that the mastery sought over loss in love is intimately related to the control she maintains in her poetry), Bishop articulates the tension between discipline in life and the force of circumstance” (178). Clearly Bishop plays the role of the survivor in this poem—strip everything away and she will “miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.” It is through restraint that events do not become a “disaster”. Having relinquished much in childhood, the habit of loss becomes Bishop’s method of creating a personal vision.

There is a sense of acquiescence to the inevitable in Bishop’s poems. This acquiescence in turn graces life because “…so many things seem filled with the intent/ to be lost that their loss is no disaster” (178). If things have their own intention, then Bishop implies that they are beyond human control; there is no other way to be in the world, except to surrender. Losses, renunciation, “the art of losing,” are all variations of the same theme. Perhaps loss, like the emptying of self, occurs because “Life and the memory of it so compresses/they’ve turned into each other” (177), as Bishop says in the “Poem” printed just before “One Art.” Everywhere present in this writer’s work is the mutability of things. What appears as one thing quickly dissolves into another, and given her history, she lived those alternations in her work. As Bachelard says “…we cover the universe with the drawings we have lived” (12).Bishop’s friend, Robert Lowell, said of Bishop in Elizabeth Bishop and Her Art: “I am sure no living poet is as curious as Miss Bishop. What cuts so deeply is that each poem is inspired by her own tone, a tone of large, grave tenderness and a sorrowing amusement…when we read her, we enter the classical serenity of a new country” (206). Not only is Lowell’s reference evident in her poetry, but it is also visible in her prose as well. And a great “sorrowing amusement” is readily felt “In the Village,” as well as tenderness.

Here the landscape echoes form anvil to bell to the sea, and finally to her mother’s scream remembered in Bishop’s childhood. Nonchalant, nearly unobtrusive, her mother’s scream “hangs…in the past, in the present, and these years between. It was not even loud to begin with, perhaps” (251). Yet, this scream so permeates the atmosphere that all one has to do is “flick the lightning rod on top of the church steeple with your fingernail and you will hear it” (251).

The scream itself is unobtrusive in the work because of Bishop’s subtlety. Never does the fear of that scream intercede between reader and experience. She employs understatement to convey memory. There is a tenuous quality to the “perhaps” as she speculates that it might not have been loud to begin with—only grew louder in recollection. In order to distance herself, Bishop weaves this portrait in the third person—again she’s become the spectator looking through the train-window of her past. Similarly, in “In the Village,” Bishop’s mother’s “dressmaker was crawling around and around on her knees eating pins as Nebuchadnezzar had crawled eating grass. The wallpaper glinted and the elm trees outside hung heavy and green, and the straw matting smelled like the ghost of hay” (252). But in this seemingly domestic scene the “clang” from the blacksmith’s shop transmutes into a scream; each becoming the other, suffusing this story. Where innocence reigns, terror lurks: “The dress was all wrong. She screamed” (253).

To Bishop’s credit, the child never allows the scream to consume her, because she never fails to keep an outward gaze upon the world. Her writing has a celebratory quality because of this: “Outside, along the matted eaves, painstakingly, sweetly, wasps go over and over a honeysuckle vine” (253). Only an eye that credits the world with a certain endearment reads the minute details of something as small as wasps. Bishop does this over and over again in her work.

Octavio Paz remarked of Bishop’s work: “The poetry of Elizabeth Bishop has the lightness of a game and the gravity of a decision” (212). There is a similarity between this statement and Lowell’s observation of her “sorrowing amusement.” What appears done in the light-heartedness of a game actually carries the weight of a powerful and conscious decision: to portray her past with economy of language and emotion. Bishop’s is the writing of reticence, as Octavio Paz says. Even though Bishop has her own sorrow, she does not fail to sometimes see the suffering of others: “My grandmother is sitting in the kitchen stirring potato mash for tomorrow’s bread and crying into it. She gives me a spoonful and it tastes wonderful but wrong. In it I think I taste my grandmother’s tears; then I kiss her and taste them on her cheek” (259). This is a time where a sign of affection is shown by the child—it is as though the display of too much emotion might upset the balance of the speaker.

In the background, the family is in perpetual wait for a “scream.” “But it is not screamed again, and the red sun sets in silence” (260). Here, the use of “it” has an ominous quality. It is as though that sound emanated from far beyond the earth’s atmosphere; as though any fear were so vast, its origins must stem from elsewhere, perhaps even beyond the scope of human understanding. Yet, counterbalancing this seriousness is a child-like perception: “She has a bosom full of needles with threads ready to pull out and make nests with. She sleeps in her thimble” (258). This portrayal of Miss Gurley the dressmaker has a child’s playful point of view. This child’s vision of the world, one that sees little differentiation between things, (or the unity and inter-connectedness of all things) can also be felt in Bishop’s view of the animal world. In tow with Nelly (the family’s cow) on the way to pick mint, Bishop says: “We both take drinks…her [Nelly’s] nose is blue and shiny as something in the rain. At such close distance my feelings for her are mixed…she gives my bare arm a lick, scratchy and powerful, too, almost upsetting me into the brook” (265). What a lighthearted moment this is.

Yet, the scream from childhood never fails to break through the atmosphere, always bearing with it a certain solemnity. As though in anticipation of its arrival, Bishop says: “But neither of us is really listening to what he is saying; we are listening for sounds from upstairs, [Her mother stayed in a bedroom upstairs.] but everything is quiet” (271). It is her mother they are listening for, but the mother has been committed to a mental hospital. The young child feels shame about her mother’s confinement: “Every Monday afternoon I go past the blacksmith’s shop with the package [food, clothing, books—things the grandmother has prepared for Bishop’s mother] under my arm, hiding the address of the sanatorium with my arm and my other hand” (273).

A sense of nervous anticipation permeates the air so that by the end of this childhood sketch the reader is returned to the sound which opened the speaker’s memory. In the beginning of “In The Village” Bishop’s lines read: “A scream, the echo of a scream, hangs over the Nova Scotian Village” (251). By the end of this portrait she asks: “Oh, beautiful sound, strike again!” (274). Even though she is referring to the blacksmith’s “clang,” both that sound and her mother’s scream have become so intertwined they are interchangeable. Even the sea bespeaks that sound. So indelibly pressed within her, the memory will not disappear. And since she says “Oh beautiful sound” Bishop has recognized the inextricable twinning of sorrow with its parallel, beauty.

In her eerie “Sestina,” a child is frozen in rhyme; as though this stance of form could arrest time, its perpetual flux that ensues with its passing. But as Helen McNeil notes: “Bishop is not a poet of the self [though her work generates from self] and self-representation like Theodore Roethke, Sylvia Plath or the later Lowell; the autobiographical in Bishop tends to be submerged or displaced until late in her career” (397). In this poem we don’t even know the sex of the child, as though that removed Bishop from too close a biographical identification, although one can conclude the child is a girl from the visual objects that the child notices in the poem: the little Marvel Stove, buttons like tears, and the flower bed in front of the house that the child drew. This distancing enables Bishop to keep the reader from suspecting she is the subject of the poem; a sign of that “reticence” Paz attributes to her. It is interesting to note the stove’s name, Marvel, for that is the quality of childhood itself; a state where wonder and amazement freely exist.

The “almanac” in this poem becomes a guide as it disperses information. Perhaps, for Bishop it even becomes the lost father: “It was to be, says the Marvel Stove./ know what I know, says the almanac” (123). This sounds like a stern father addressing one of his offspring: I simply know what I know and that’s that, the almanac seems to be saying. “Time to plant tears” (124), says the almanac” in the last stanza. This too is a directive statement. When rain beats on the roof of the house, it becomes symbolic of an inner struggle. Willard Spiegelman states: “We don’t normally think of Bishop as a poet of struggle; the tension in her poems is mostly internalized, and confrontations, when they occur, are between the self, traveling, moving, or simply seeing” (169).

In “Sestina” tea becomes tears, rain becomes tears, buttons become tears, and “the house feels chilly,” and there’s nowhere to turn except toward the imagination. In order to compensate and to survive her own tears as well as her grandmother’s, the child draws a “rigid” house and a winding path leading to it—as though rigidity could become form, or possibly become one’s home. An unbending house will at least contain her after the arduous task of getting there has been accomplished:

Time to plant tears, says the almanac.

The grandmother sings to the marvelous stove

and the child draws another inscrutable house. (124)

In the end, truth remains enigmatic. But it is “time to plant tears” and that is resolution, however a tenuous a conclusion it may seem.

Transmutable as Bishop’s seeing is, even the visible testimony of poems could become tears, could become home. “The house we are born in is physically inscribed in us…it is a group of habits” Bachelard says (14). Bishop’s “Sestina” is full of the habits of her childhood experiences: the repetition, the poem’s sense of control is nearly rigid, as though that might stabilize the flux of change in the outer world. Her pain and her joy can then become the reader’s own lament for what is lost in childhood. The tercet ending this poem seems to be saying, time to get on: “Time to plant tears.”

Perhaps a sorrowing amazement would better describe Bishop’s poetry than Lowell’s “sorrowing amusement.” Everywhere prevailing, everywhere suffusing her work, is the awe, the wonder that belongs to childhood. This perhaps arises from an acute sense of isolation, from what was lost in Bishop’s past. Robert Pinsky; says in E.B. & Her Art:

“She wrote so well about people and places because she had a powerful motive, embattled; that motive, in nearly all the poems, is to define oneself away from two opposing nightmares: the pain of isolation, and the loss of identity in the mass of the visible world.” (156)

Sensing that much is worn away with time, she is perhaps urged by an inner need to capture the ephemeral moment: “He has scraped the scales, the principal beauty/from unnumbered fish with that old black knife,/the blade of which is almost worn away” (65). This is where Bishop finds roots. She must have the anchoring of an individual vision, because as she later says in the same poem: “…me a believer in total immersion” (65). One who dares go under needs such grounding.

Separation is law in the continuum of life; the suffering resulting from it can lead to transcendence. Elizabeth Bishop knows renunciation. It is implicit in the history of her life which has been recorded in her prose. With acquiescence she accepts loss, not as something that will entangle her, but that puzzles and then finally informs her. Here she speaks of the ephemeral:

All those other things—clothes, crumbling postcards, broken china; things damaged and lost, sickened or destroyed; even the frail almost-lost scream—are they too frail for us to hear their voices long, too mortal? (274)

Perhaps those early losses made Bishop yearn to cast words into form; perhaps her poetry and prose re-parented her orphaned past. Having left what was safe and familiar behind, Bishop retrieves the shards of her childhood memories and gives them a final home in the geography of her art.

Works Cited:

Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics Of Space. Boston, Beacon Press. 1964.

Bishop, Elizabeth, The Complete Poems/1927-1979. New York, Farrar. Straus.Giroux,1983.

Bishop, Elizabeth, The Collected Prose. New York, Farrar, Straus. Giroux, 1983.

Diehl, Joanne Feit. Modern Critical Views/Elisabeth Bishop. B. Harold Bloom, New York,

Chelsea House Publishers, 1985.

Kalstone, David, ed. Five Temperaments. New York, Oxford University Press, 1977.

McNeil, Helen. Voices & Vision/The Poet In America. Ed. Helen Wadies. New York, Random House. 395-425, 1987.

Once There Was Light

Once There Was Light, A study on Jane Kenyon ONCE THERE WAS LIGHT

(Published in Poetry Now, October 2005, Vol.11, No. 10)

Like Russia’s Anna Akhmatova, whom Jane Kenyon translated in 1985 with Vera Sandomirsky
Dunham, Jane Kenyon employs images that create emotional pressure, that are told with such
accuracy that the reader becomes witness to what Kenyon herself has observed. Jane Kenyon
writes about ordinary life with a fierce clarity. She is a poet of pictorial precision, of
deliberate control, and writes much in the same vein as her forerunners Anna Akhmatova and
Elizabeth Bishop. Never does she “prettify” her work with the superfluous, for she finds
the magic in ordinary situations, and she takes those moments and turns them into quiet

Kenyon says in her introduction to Twenty Poems/Anna Akhmatova, “I love the sudden twists
these poems take, often in the last line.” This can also be said of Jane Kenyon, as is
evidenced in “Man Waking.” Kenyon starts the poem with a commonplace observation: “The
room was already light when he awoke,” but as he draws his knees to his forehead, the
covers now pulled completely over him, she expands the poem into larger implications: “Not
dark enough, /not the utter darkness he desired.” Her timing is perfect. She has saved the
poem’s dramatic moment for the end, and has built up to that moment with keen timing. The
man in the poem is an hour late for work but he lets that pass. The smell of his skin
offends him. Underneath the covers he sees his hand in the light that tunnels through his
blankets, and finally it is not dark enough, not the complete darkness he desires. The
speaker in “Man Waking,” through empathetic capability, becomes the man desiring the
absolute quiet of darkness.

With uncompromising resolve, she writes in “Prognosis” of the owl that settles down and,
“The bough did not sway.” The speaker in this poem is out for an early morning walk. There
is a chill in the air as there is in the poem. Her mind lurches forward as though about to
tumble over some precipice, but what pulls her back is evidenced in the natural world.
When an owl passes it becomes an symbol of death. As her feet grope for place, so too does
her mind, and she makes a seemingly simple childlike assertion, “The owl in not/like a
crow.” A crow would make a raspy caw as it flies by, but the owl, like death itself, flies
away before the speaker in the poem actually hears it, and when it lands it does so with
absolute resolve. Using only five stanzas, written in couplets—each word unit a magnet to
the preceding one—she uses enjambment to wrap the continuation of one sentence to the
next. Kenyon has written a disturbing meditation on death. She has gone from the undefined
“gray shape” to the owl with alarming speed. The last five lines of the poem are free of
stops, as though words too were hastening towards a terrible finality.

As Kenyon sits by her father who is dying, “Whose tumors briskly appropriated what was
left of him,” she writes that birth is perhaps the real abyss, for why else would the
dying choose to keep their hands free or the young howl at birth. She goes on to say that
we must honor the dying person’s desire. “Reading Aloud To My Father” begins, “I chose the
book haphazard,” and it ends with an assertion: “…. and you must honor that desire, / and
let them pull it {their hand} free.” She quotes Nabokov in the first stanza, “The cradle
rocks above an abyss,” and then comes back to it in the third stanza to assert, “Nabokov
had it wrong…,” and here Kenyon expands the poem into a philosophical moment: “That’s why
babies howl at birth,/and why the dying so often reach/for something only they can
comprehend.” By the last stanza the speaker in the poem achieves realization: “At the end
they don’t want their hands/to be under the covers, and if you should put/your hand on
theirs in a tentative gesture/of solidarity, they’ll pull the hand free;/and you must
honor that desire,/and let them pull it free.” For Kenyon, the poem frees her hand—she
will not pull the departed back.

Kenyon’s poems often lead to a quiet discovery. She attains this through what can best be
described as “Acmeism,” a Russian aesthetic, which holds to the principle that poems
reflect perfection of form, that they embody concision, and that they speak with clarity.
Acmeism rose to popularity in 1912 during Anna Akhmatova’s time, and Kenyon, like her
predecessor, relies on the image to carry the emotional weight of the poem.

In “How Like the Sound,” the similarity between laughing and crying is noted. The poem
begins with sound and progresses into the visual observation of a man in his mother’s
tattered chair, “….head back, throat/open like a hound,” as he howls. This is a man
preparing for loss. He has added “call realtor” to his list of daily chores. This loss is
more than the loss of a house; it is the loss of a loved one. It is as though Kenyon were
looking through the eyes of the man seated in his mother’s chair. His anguished red face
vanishes behind the morning paper with a chilling finality. There is a hard edged resolve
here—knowledge that life continues. The man in the poem returns from his howling to the
daily ritual of reading his morning paper which is what saves him from being consumed by
grief. In a sense the speaker in this poem has become mother to the man: “Of course the
howling/had to stop.” One is reminded here of Elizabeth Bishop, particularly the stories
of Nova Scotia and her poem “In the Waiting Room,”: “I said to myself: three days/and
you’ll be seven years old./I was saying it to stop/the sensation of falling off/the round,
turning world/into cold, blue-black space.” Words give Kenyon, as they do Bishop, as sense
of stability. They prevent her from falling “into cold, blue-black space.”

In Kenyon’s poem “The Way Things Are In Franklin,” she asserts in the first line, “Even
the undertaker is going out of business.” Her eye roves the town with awareness of the
transitory nature of life. The poem then becomes a record of her community. Stores are
closed and one can no longer buy “gingham smocks/for keeping Church Fair pie off the
ample/fronts of the strong, garrulous wives/of pipe fitters and road agents.” Everything
is disappearing. In the first stanza there is no personal “I,” and it’s not until the
second stanza that the speaker regains herself by noticing ordinary items which give her a
foothold. “Yesterday,/a Sunday, I saw the proprietors breaking/up shop, the woman
struggling with half/a dozen bicycle tires on each arm,/like bangle bracelets, the man
balancing/boxes filled with Teflon pans.” “Yesterday,” takes a single line and is
justified to the right of the page to enhance the sense of things breaking up. This poem
notes the falling away of the familiar, similar to Elizabeth Bishop’s “In the Waiting
Room.” “The windows have been soaped to frustrate curiosity,” Kenyon says, whereas in
Bishop’s poem everything “is night and slush and cold” outside. There is no easy access to
comfort here.

Wherever Jane Kenyon is, I imagine her with Anna Akhmatova, and that from wherever they
reside in death they “…..see the Paradise where together, /blissful and innocent, we once
lived.” They are “On the Road,” in a land not quite their own. Akhmatova says: “Though
this land is not my own/I will never forget it, /or the waters of its ocean, /fresh and
delicately icy.” Perhaps they are discussing “Happiness,” or Jane is saying,”There’s just
no accounting for happiness, /or the way it turns up like a prodigal/who comes back to the
dust at your feet.” One is faintly reminded of Whitman’s invitation to the reader: “I
bequeath myself to the dirt to grow/from the grass I love, /If you want me again look for
me under your boot-soles.”

Kenyon might then go on to relate to Akhmatova “Once There Was Light,” and “I was floating
with the whole/human family. We were all colors—those/who are living now, those who have
died, /those who are not yet born. For a few/moments I floated, completely calm, /and I no
longer hated having to exist.” Then they might quietly stroll into the thinning distance,
these lines of Anna’s singing through them: “Late sun lays bare/the rosy limbs of the pine
trees. /And the sun goes down in waves of ether/in such a way that I can’t tell/if the day
is ending, or the world, /or if the secret of secrets is within me again.”

Quotes from Anna Akhmatova from Twenty Poems/Anna Akhmatova, 1985. Translated by Jane
Kenyon with Vera Sandomirsky Dunham. Eighties Press & Alley Press, and from Elizabeth
Bishop/The Complete Poems, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Musical Strings

Musical Strings: Essay on Yeats, By Dianna Henning

Published in Psychological Perspectives, issue Thirty-One, 1995, (under a different title of : A Sudden Flaming Word)


            In an unpublished lecture on “Modern Ireland,” Yeats wrote: “And style, whether of life or literature, comes, I think, from excess, from something over and above utility which wrings the heart.” Yeast’s proclivity for writing poetry was derived from his obsessive concern with time, with how quickly it catapults one into old age. In “The Old Men Admiring Themselves in the Water,” he says: “I heard the old, old men say, /Everything alters, /And one by one we drop away. /They had hands like claws, and their knees/Were twisted like the old thorn-trees/By the waters. /I heard the old, old men say, /All that’s beautiful drifts away/Like the waters.”

            In “Lamentation of the Old Pensioner” Yeats shows a similar concern: “My contemplations are of Time/That has transfigured me…/I spit into the face of Time/That has transfigured me.” Here he has capitalized time, thereby giving it significance. This keen sense of time’s passage leads the poet into what this writer calls a temporary stay against life’s closure.

            With this sense of fleeting time, Yeats wrote “Hearts are not had as a gift/ but hearts are earned.” In his introduction to Yeats, Rosenthal says: “Byzantium became for Yeats the purest embodiment of the union and subsequent transfiguration through art of the fleshly condition and the ideal of holiness.” Work like “Sailing to Byzantium” achieves its symbolic scope, first by Yeats’s quest for earthly knowledge, then by his quest for signs of soul. In the city of Byzantium, once the center of European civilization, Yeats searches for his much sought-after Unity of Being. He knows that without it: “An aged man is but a paltry thing, /A tattered coat upon a stick, unless/Soul clap its hands and sing.” The flame within Yeats becomes the great illuminator of the pen.

            “When composing a poem in a manuscript book, Yeats often established a center, so to speak, and then worked out in both directions,” wrote Bradford. This method defies logic, but logic is poor measure of the artistic process. What is important to note in the previous quote is that Yeats established a center which perhaps arose from his desire for unity within himself. The center is where everything else revolves. It is a place of concentrated activity, the porthole of focus. Out of need for a central point in his own life, Yeats worked from the center outward, aware that the circumference of possibility was larger by doing so. From the middle all directions become options.

            Yeats knew that poetry demands that one feel intensely and employ discipline as though it were his governing hand. In his 1909 diary Yeats reveals how he gained entry into such moments: “Every note must come as a casual thought, then it will be my life.” Once that took place, the work, as musical notation, played its notes through him.

            His seventh entry in the same diary reads: “It seemed to me that true love is a discipline, and it needs so much wisdom that the love of Solomon and Sheba must have lasted, for all the silence of the Scriptures. Each divines the secret self in the other, and refusing to believe in the mere daily self, creates a mirror where the lover and the beloved sees an image to copy in life.”

            Northrop Frye says in Fables of Identity: “In the highest phases love is a spiritual education and a discipline of the soul, which leads the lover upward from the sensible to the eternal world.” We, the readers, seek our own center and a way into that eternal world from such documentation as Yeats wrote of the human soul. Allen Tate says in his essay: “The lesser poets invite the pride of the critic to its own affirmation: the greater poets—and Yeats is among them—ask us to understand not only their minds but our own.”  To address others from the “foul rag-and-bone shop” of one’s heart is a powerful example of ardent devotion resulting from a life lived with emotional intensity.” Every emotion begins to be related to every other just as musical notes are related. It is as though we touched a musical string that set other strings vibrating,” Yeats wrote in his Vision. Clearly, emotions are the music the body plays—art, the furthering of that music.

            “More than most poets, he continually worked his association with particular men and women and his personal problems and predicaments directly into his poetry,” writes M.L. Rosenthal in his introduction to his book on Yeats. That kind of daring sets off vibrations that stir others.

            What is truly admirable in Yeats is that he shared his journey as an artist, daring to reveal the early juvenilia poems. Because of that we have the documentary of a soul’s progress through his diaries, poetry, worksheets and letters. It takes strength to strip in public—to leave behind the worksheets, the embarrassment of one’s struggles. This requires not only an adventurous nature, but also trust that what one reveals will not be used against one. That type of trust eventually leads to a greater ability to pare away all extraneous material—for trust acts as a psychic opening, revealing more and more to the poet. Bradford says in Yeats at Work: “Part of the greatness of Yeats’s later poetry comes from his paring away of everything that can be pared away, revealing by that paring the stark, inevitable outline.”

            Yeats rewrote his poetry throughout his life and was satisfied with only a small number of poems—thus the dilemma of the mature eye looking back and desiring perfection. In his introduction to the collected essays, John Unterecker says: “Yeats’s idea of craft was a very old-fashioned one of technique that in final draft conceals itself in the appearance of effortless, casual speech.” Enduring art takes the temperature of life with such accuracy that artifice never comes between the page and the reader.

            A writer can sometimes inspire others to engage in their own acts of courage. Writing that corresponds to the reader’s experience becomes another rung in the ladder of transcendence. When this happens, words gain a sacred and magical quality, for the magical is the sacred as yet unrecognized. The artist not only converses with angels, but also frequents the disruptions of the underworld. Dipping into the underworld requires strength and determination. Devotion alone drives the poet on. In Latin devo means: to vow, to pledge, to give one’s life to a particular end. “Turning and turning in the widening gyre/The falcon cannot hear the falconer. /Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” What held the center for Yeats was poetry and his foothold in the sacred.

            For Yeats the poet was an amalgamation of everything, a strange hodgepodge of conflicting paradoxes which made for the argument within himself. It is from such conflict that he sought harmony. In “Vacillation” he says: “Between extremities/Man runs his course.” To maintain equilibrium in the midst of duality over a long period of time is no simple feat. In “A Dialogue of Self and Soul” there is a clue to what kept Yeats in balance; life lived with a sense of being blessed by all and life lived to the “pitch.”


                                                “What matter if the ditches are impure?

                                                What matter if I live it all once more?


                                                I am content to live it all again

                                                And yet again, if it be life to pitch . . .


                                                I am content to follow to its source

                                                Every event in action or in thought;


                                                . . . We must laugh and we must sing,

                                                We are blest by everything,

                                                Everything we look upon is blest.”


            Yeats was well read in sacred texts as well as in philosophical texts. This quote in his notes at the back of his collected work might very well say more about Yeats than he himself knew: “Has not Plotinus written: ‘Let every soul recall, then, at the outset the truth that the soul is the author of all living things . . .. itself formed and ordered the vast heaven and conducts all that rhythmic motion.”

            Even Yeats’s lesser poems bear witness to the strident steps he took towards maturation of his art. Soul lives in a house of heart and Yeats furnished his rooms with courage, steadfastness and a great adoring love. All of which speaks of a fine arrangement indeed! If sound is a magical equivalent that sets off heavenly movements, then surely Yeats was a master of such evocation. Just as the sun conducts the rhythmic motion of the universe, so too does good singing.

            His life was no more or less tragic than any other human life, for all feel pangs of love and loss, all are eventually visited by death. Any kind of suffering is just more evident in an artist’s life because there lingers documentation. And life in choosing us at this moment in time, cares neither whether we choose it or art, but in choosing both simultaneously, one can enable one’s self and perhaps others a glimpse of transcendence. Because Yeats approached his life with courage, discipline and a willingness to feel, others too, by his example, can climb steep mountains.

            The soul is not a mere chapter, nor even a single book, but it is entire volumes bound by heaven’s breadth, instructing us towards higher realms of being. If the earth herself is a sudden flaming word, how great the song within the vast universe as it pulsates with the breath of carefully wrought gifts from those who said: “It is as though we touched a musical string that set other strings vibrating.”




Yeats at Work by Curtis B. Bradford

Fables of Identity, Studies In Poetic Mythology by Northrop Frye

A Vision by W.B. Yeats

Yeats, a Collection of Critical Essays, Edited by John Unterecker

The Collected Poems by W.B. Yeats

The Autobiography of William Butler Yeats

Selected Poems and Two Plays of William Butler Yeats

            Edited and Introduced by M.L. Rosenthal