Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sketch 2

By: K. Harvey

There was a spot in the bookstore where four striped chairs faced each other. It was no place to read. No one shared anything but they all read together, telling each other what they read just by holding it in their lap. He wondered what the older people read. Sometimes he sat in the café. An old man, if he could, always sat in the same chair at the same table, facing the same direction and looking down at what he had in front of him on the tiny table. He wore sweatpants and many different plaid shirts. He wore big tinted glasses. His narrow eyes were right there behind the glasses. He must have read so much already. And he wasn't the business type. But he was reading very hard. He never looked up.

Such old men and women made him wonder. It couldn't be that there is always something new to discover. It wasn't that. He sat in one of those four chairs that faced each other and noticed when a very large old man sat down next to him. The old man sat a few books on his knee. The book on top of the stack was big, like an art book, and black. The old man was wearing a suit. But he wasn't the business type, because of the art book. He turned over the cover of the big black book and there wasn't any title. Just the silver embossed Playboy bunny. He started turning the pages one after the other after the other after the other after the other, like that. Like when a woman walks up the stairs on an escalator and its moving beneath her makes a pace that she can't break.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sketch 1

By: K. Harvey

She started talking about shoeing horses. She was always at the center of the table, like the saltandpepper, she had something to add to everything. But she didn't talk too much. No one else had much to say around her. What they had to say was all reminiscing, but she made everybody laugh, and everybody wants to laugh. Around her, they wanted to laugh more than they wanted to talk.

The sun came through the smoke in that way it always does in old movies, when there's just one light on the face in the camera, in black and white. The blinds were baby pink. The table was baby pink. I don't remember what color the walls were. It was like a nursery. There are never any walls in a nursery. And the sun came through the blinds on those faces that must have been something once. But I never asked anything about that, because she was not reminiscing. She was making us laugh. And if we laughed then the story had a moral. And if we didn't laugh, then the story wasn't over yet. To hear her talk anyone would think her children were millionares, she was so pleased with herself. But that was pleasing. She laughed at her own stories because she thought they were funny. Just like that I was taken in in the same way a wasp nest looks like a derby hat.

“Well men was always lockin' up their tool boxes. When we's first dating I'd come over an' his father had this box in the garage that'uz always locked up all the time. So when we was married first thing I did I went to that garage and found that box. And when I found it, you know what, it wasn't even locked anymore. It just opened right up.”

Monday, December 8, 2008

Home Town

By: K. Harvey

Knock with a small sound,
There are things to upturn in this town;
A town of twelve hundred.
Where the hedges will not grow,
Where the trees don't fall,
Where my smaller feet are in the snow
And my hands are on the gate
Holding it shut against the sun
Letting it freeze in the pines
That were a staircase and a fence.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Dream of the Bull Fight

By: K. Jan Harvey

Darker than void, she is more black than non-existing.
She is turning back against the movement of the bull.
A foreign crowd is shouting,
Tongues she doesn't understand,
Sung like chaos ringing in the star-arena.

The bull comes forward in a rush.
No hush moves the crowd,
And she must turn more deeply than The Earth
It seems: to right and left, her chin and breast
Redeem the beauty of theft;
Twists and turns that outmarch rhythm,
Outshine stars with raven bars
As her hair paints black the million crowd
And, blind, they throw their roses at their target
Flirting alone in the dirt of the stadium.

She loves and leaves when the bull is dead.
Loves, and carries off its gory head,
Its body pouring red into the dust and roses.

A Youngster in the Laundry

By: K. Jan Harvey

He has a head on for light people,
Tender-footed biologists
Tip-toeing into the cavity someone left open,
Like the light on the kitchen tile at night
And the smell of cold wafting.
A bold helping in the dark
Where the crowd won't see.
We are hanging by our ears drying.

She was walking in folds,
Stalking distracted in shifting molds
Of pale blue and bloodless red,
And through these wierd uncinched and free balloons
I saw her pretty head.
Her hair was waltzing with the sheets on the line.
I am blind or I blink too slowly,
Close the refridgerator door there's something rotting.
I'll eat the skin of animals
While they still outnumber men.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


By: K. Jan Harvey

On the road is a man with a sword,
On the skipping line is a skipping heart on the highway.
He's at the wheel holding steady time,
She's holding time in her lap, writhing.
A wasp in the window stinging the helmet
A wasp in the window stinging the armor
A wasp bringing the eyes
Away to clean skies,
Lies to clear days.
I can't lift my foot to look
I won't stop to see until I see
It simply simply simply
As it is, as it is loud and small
As it is crawling and proud,
As it is hidden where the mind cannot retrace it's steps.
Where the tire tracks don't show.
In part time goes, and the mail comes.
The letter is not for me,
The word is not for us,
But about us keeping us down the highway,
Or up, to frown at the sword.

An Eden of Bland Repose

By: K. Jan Harvey

“Beloved! amid the earnest woes
That crowd around my earthly path—
(Drear path, alas! where grows
Not even one lonely rose)—
My soul at least a solace hath
In dreams of thee, and therein knows
An Eden of bland repose.”
“To F—” E.A. Poe

He saw the old .22 rifle that was old when the man who carried it now carried it as a young boy with it ready at his hip and his eyes thirsty in the tall field grass. Now he was old and a young boy watched him and the rifle. The boy cut his new eyes on the petite black circle at the end of the slender barrel where the oil-rainbow metal turned in to where the bullet would come out invisible. To play with a weapon and to kill with a toy. That was the .22 rifle, in his eyes. But it carried a grizzled and inhuman power that was caught up in its years of use and those who used it. Every bullet had been different, every distance of every shot, every breath of him who squeezed the butt against his shoulder, the barrel in his hand, the stock on his cheek, the trigger... The same gun. It meant that the world had not begun with this boy, and the world would not end with him. He was a bullet. He thought this because of Sunday School and the talks of Heaven and Hell. There was the end of life, and after that another end. But after that, nothing. Or nothing more, and it made him nervous at times. He had felt this anticipation as he followed the old .22 rifle out into the barn yard.

With a feed sack in his hand, he waited for the man to come out of the chicken coop. The feed sack in his hand was empty. It folded against his leg and over one of his shoes.

He came out of the chicken coop with a brown hen under his arm. One of the smaller ones. He held it the way he’d learned to hold them when he was a boy, so they huddled into his side between his rib and his hip and stared and didn’t beat their wings. He carried it out this way. It looked like a small beating heart. It was nervous but it didn’t look around. She just waited for it coming with her eyes open.

He put her on the ground and stepped on her. Now she beat her wings, trying to run with her body, her head pinned down by the edge of the boot and her puffy chest and the two legs that stuck out from it scratching and the wings beating in the dust and on the man’s jeans. The one eye stared at the boot. The black circle came down to it.

He thought ‘an eye for an eye,’ but that was about being fair, and she hadn’t done anything except eat too much, more than the farm could afford. But it was a rule of nature and of animals. ‘An eye for an eye.’ It was a rule about being fair, but people could do more than that. They could be merciful, which was better, or unjust, which was worse. Being fair was in the middle, and the worst of all, he thought. It was the most terrifying. It was getting what one deserved. So he could understand this with the chickens.

The old .22 rifle cracked and it echoed off the barn. She jumped up. The man lifted his boot, but it looked as though she had thrown it off and sprung into the air. She jumped into the clover and the round purple blooms at the bottom of the little hill where the big field began. He looked up into the big field. He saw the intense purple-green plain of crisp alfalfa that cracked under his feet like the sound in your head when you eat cereal, the smell of it as they marched towards the shimmering maples with their coverings of berry bushes and the lightning brightness of the aspen leaves that turned silver-side-up in the wind like winking eyes of fire and the old oak behind it all and greener than the rest. There was the tree fort built back there, but there was the field to cross first. That’s where the talking happened and the wondering about things they didn’t understand like Heaven and Hell and The Quick and The Dead. That was the good part; the getting there and the looking at it. Giving your breath to the vision. But once you were there it was all as it was, and there was only that to do. Going over the field was the real doing, and being distracted by every possible thing. It took a very long time to get there. But they always came to it and sat in the tree fort and tried to see the forest.

More noises were coming from the chicken coop, moving together in circles inside. He came out with another small brown hen. He stepped on her and shot her in the eye the same way. She went down the hill moving like the tiny bubbles in a pot just before it boils. She fell into the deep clover close to the other one. They were concealed by the clover, in little cavities where the purple blooms were not.

He went in again. The boy saw the bright rooster in his arm when he came out the third time. The red on its head and under its beak moved like the parts of him he couldn’t talk about. The rooster struggled, not like the others, not waiting for it coming. The long thin gray and black feathers around its neck puffed out around its twitching head and the yellow eye looked once at each thing and jerked away, so he thought the image in its brain must be like a Picasso painting. It was not as easy for the man to step on the rooster.

His friend, the man’s son, elbowed him and said he thought the rooster would go the farthest. The boy agreed. They waited for it to be shot, and jumped at the crack of the rifle. The rooster sprang up. And it did go the farthest, but only in circles and ended up next to the others in the clover. That was after it sprinted around the yard and turned twice over itself and once came headlong at the boy, but with its head flat and to one side perpendicular to the wet red neck, the head leading it around so it never reached him. The two boys laughed and the man had another one before the rooster had stopped. This one too went into the clover.

The man grew impatient. He was tired. He watched the boys. They laughed and joked, their sacks on the ground, up to their knees in the clover, and their backsides brushing the purple blooms as they pushed the brown and red feathers with sticks. He called them so that they looked up quickly, then trotted back up the hill. He stooped through the door of the chicken coop again.

Then they all cluttered out of the door and the boot came carefully behind them. The man stood with them before him in the yard, brown gray and white too, their eyes jerking in rhythmic staccato and the thin necks bulging and unbulging and fluttering and ceasing to flutter. The heads went up and went down. They moved in a crowd as if giving and taking of each other and receiving and acknowledging and moving on. The man stood in the door pushing bullets into the gun.

The boy lifted his empty sack off the grass. His friend’s eyes were animated and he explained that now they were going to be shot one after another. Willy nilly, he said.

The man aimed the rifle at the first one, with his shoulder and hand and cheek and then the finger of his strong hand squeezing, because he aimed exactly, and the first one fell dead. They didn’t scatter, because the ones on the outside saw open space and turned from it back into the crowd. And the boy could not even see which were killed and which were not; but the man saw down the length of the barrel. The boy was confounded. The man killed them all one after another.

Then it was quiet except for the hens dying and bleeding down into the clover. But the rifle was quiet and he saw a white hen huddled to the earth. Her head didn’t jerk but he saw her eye blink. The white lid caught the sun and was much brighter than the eye. Her wings did not move, but enfolded her body. Her legs were not seen sticking out beneath her. She shivered and sat as she would on an egg. The boy didn’t see the rest of them dying because he saw her alive. He saw her white feathers. He saw her fear, the promise of death in the dying around her. But the empty casings of the .22 bullets lay on the ground. The man let the butt of the old rifle, unpolished and polished again by many hands, drop to the ground and he rested the barrel against his thigh. The boy saw her alive, but she was not. It came to her too, as it had come to the rest. The man’s gun no one escaped. Even as he looked her blinking eye closed more slowly and opened less widely. She leaned forward, to fall, her full breast tilting, towards the grass. As she fell, a surge of blood, purple-red and thick from deep organs, poured from a wound between the feathers covering her breasts, just as spoiled milk is wasted from a pitcher into the grass outside the kitchen door. She rolled once onto her head and spasmed once and then joined completely the others. The boy took his sack as his friend was doing and went about collecting the dead chickens from the clover. The man watched them and felt satisfied. He could see that they saw what was coming with different eyes.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wisconsin Farm

By: K. Jan Harvey

Between the black earth and the sky,
Where the eye is fixed by the barbs of pines
Like a cricket chirping, still, upon a pin;
The northern spring is born and dies again,
And whispers to her fields in tones
Of gentle, dreadful, honest moans,
‘I gave you birth in these vicious moans,
Yet ere you cried I clothed my breasts,
For you were born too old,
Too old to see my nakedness.’
The whispers disappear in stalks of corn,
Brown before the kernel shells were born
Upon the wind.
The northern spring, it dies again
In a single sway among the sticky boughs
And the wind brings frost on the window-pane.
The world is opaque.
The world is opaque. like a vein.

In the barn another litter purrs,
In hay, where six or seven bodies lay,
And fertile Taffy, dressed in furs of calico and summer heat,
Reclines to flaunt her naked teats.
But we, with wiser industry,
Knowing the limit of our care,
Killed them all; I was there.
Here is the black earth beneath the nothing sky
Where we shot them; the stiff shots slowly die
On that northern wind.
But where is the blood those kittens spilt?
A thimble full, a glass of milk upset?
We do not know.
It mingles with the calico.
What color is the dingy barn?
‘I come from a Wisconsin farm.
I think our flag is blue, I think, or are there two?
One blue, yes, but also white that winter night,
When it hung below the moon, above our dead.
Blue and white, but nothing here is red.’

We learned a long, long time ago,
What is the meaning of calico.
Our soil rich, our snow a skull,
And autumn orange to rip apart the leaves
And stitch them into something whole, and in between—
Nothing here is really green.
Not even the evergreens.
And the cat, that queen in furs,
The northern dynasty of purrs,
She’s pregnant again, and bleeds upon the hay
In the heat in the barn, where she used to lay
With the large male cat, obscure and gray.
She’ll show you sure, she has no shame,
The blood, the meat, it’s all the same
To a cat, but we are wiser.
We are good.
The world is opaque. like a period.

Here she eats her cereal
With too much milk, the fertile box
Half empties over the chipp’d bowl,
As if she should have been a son.
Her calico distracts the sun from working in the field,
And autumn comes with purrs from where
It started in her hair.
She’s pregnant now, so like the bowl,
So hungry to be something whole.

In the barn another burden lows,
A child of the northern snows,
We had such hopes for this one, though,
It would never be a bull.
What color is the dingy barn?
A red the wind has turned to wool,
Brown, between the blood and flowers
Which are yellow in the summer hours.
What color is the barn? ‘I don’t recall,
I don’t remember spring at all.
We castrated it.’ The world is tall,
Like the legs of the calf that walks like a doll
Into the pasture, out of the stall.

We knew it all, and what it means,
The labor pains, the lusty screams of calico
Cats in heat behind the barn,
I come from a Wisconsin farm.
But what lies in the stall, still warm?
It isn’t red, as we would guess,
But purple,
The color of the dynasty, and white
The color of her skin, which means our flesh
Is something in between—
‘I did not I did not do
What I may easily say was you.
If you were a man, I would be too.
I’m good. I’m good.
And so are you.’
And that is why the northern spring,
Remains obscure but to the eye
That yells, so pinned by evergreens,
Of what it saw, and what it means,
And what it means to say,
Preserved like a casket in the snow
Where feral cats will go to be alone—and doubt.
They lay there in the hay as it walked out
Into the pasture, gray,
Between the black earth and the sky.
And then we followed, you and I,
And took our first breath—
The world is opaque.The world is opaque. like death.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

To the Entomologist

By: K. Jan Harvey

You gave me your peculiarities,
Your ether and jar,
And I see they have gotten you pretty far.
I dreamed of held back tears
And wasted years
And fears confronted to the noise of cheers.
The ethered cotton balls are in my ears.
A spike passed through my back;
But to you it was only a pin put beneath the fingernail
Which claws the limp earth forward through the solar system.
Wisdom says you'll soon forget me,
But it echoes, I'll remember thee
And your peculiarities.

The Precipice

By: K. Jan Harvey

I stood at the edge of the precipice,
Or what it has become;
Filled with nothing, redeemable, harvested, had.
The stutter of a rushed voice
Corrupted that moment of quiet at the last of a breath.
I held my breath to hear,
It suddenly was clear,
There was laughter, much rejoicing
At a joke.
'We outdid them!' It cascaded,
And it toppled down the hillside with the laugher.
Then together we turned to the cliff
And set about rigging a clever elevator on its face,
But I began digging.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Lines

By: K. Jan Harvey

She read to me the poetry
Of she-roses who can't refuse their lovers.
But I said, 'I'm not a bee.'
'I'm the animal that supersedes his brothers;
Stung and angry.' She looked away
And at the map of Spain I'd hang upon my wall.
"If this were all, I'd take it all and nothing more."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Wayward Shot

By: K. Jan Harvey

The day he bought the rifle he took it into the woods to the stand by the creek between Lester Judie’s land and ours. That’s where the trees were cut when Lester lost his property. But we didn’t cut that oak, or the poplars around it, and there’s some nails left in it where the stand used to be. Iron nails grown into the tree, and still visible and unnatural. But the creek dried up. Like he dried up.

He used to say that the stand had been there a hundred years before any man in Fortune knew about it. I don’t know why he thought that, or how he would have known. He came here long after the town was founded. But we all thought we might as well believe him. He used to say a hunter once shot a minister from that stand, because he wouldn’t tell him it was justified to lust for a woman if he did not touch her. These are the lengths of atheism, he would say. So the hunter shot the minister and every year after that his ghost appeared to him as a giant white doe, a symbol of the purity and promise of a woman I suppose, and never let itself get hit by that hunter’s gun. So the hunter went mad and hung himself from the stand. He used to say the white doe saw it happen. And he said when they found his body, bullets were all around in the snow and metallic in the sun, and that there were thirty of them. Thirty bullets. He used to tell us that, and that no one ever climbed down from the stand afterwards without having killed a deer. But never that white doe. He said the stand was blessed, and that the white doe blessed it, because that white doe was holy.

That’s why he took the new rifle up there, to kill that old white holy deer. I think he felt that white doe staring him down. You see, he wasn’t an atheist, and he believed the story. That’s why he did it. Because he wouldn’t have hung himself. But also I think he wanted the same thing we all do. So he climbed up and waited for the white doe. He was watching out over what was then Lester Judie’s land, Lester Sr., because that’s where the young minister had been killed, on his way to a baptism in the creek, he told us. So he waited the rest of the day and on through the bitter night and the morning came on and his hands were cold on the pretty metal barrel of the brand new rifle and his toes numb inside his stiff frozen leather boots and his stomach empty and growling. He said he ate bark to shut it up, and then he began to think and imagine as he chewed and warmed his mind. He felt that if he killed that white doe, then from that day forward, he would never miss. He believed in that. And he’d bring the frost white ear of that deer to his girl in Fortune, as a sign of his provision, and they’d serve that white doe at their wedding supper and dance as the snow fell just before Christmas. It was all a good joke. That’s how he told it.

And of course he did marry Grandma, his girl in Fortune, but it wasn’t quite that way. As he waited out there it started to snow and then it became really cold. The dawn was coming and it was the coldest time of night because all that heat goes out and gets ready to come up all at once with the sun. In that true northern winter cold he felt his eyelids chill each other as they touched when he blinked and he couldn’t even shiver because he was so tired. So he just blinked to keep his eyeballs warm, they were all he would need until the white doe appeared. He wiggled his toes in his boots and straightened his back and felt like a mountain in that tree, stiff and aching. He inhaled the motionless air, he said like drowning in perfectly still water, and he felt it on the hairs in his nose making a tiny popping noise, and he said that’s what that old white holy doe heard to make her head snap up in the falling snow and her ears tip forward and that’s what he saw through the snow from the stand. Only he said it was not a doe at all, but a young fork buck, white as a lamb and bigger than anything in the woods, even at that distance and in all that falling snow. He could see the long muscled neck and the two forks as clear as the lines you draw with your finger on a frosty car window, and he couldn’t see the shape of a face so he knew it was staring right at him in his stand. Staring at him, as he was staring back. And then as he looked he could see that unnatural curving horizontal line that in the woods is only the body of a deer. He said it looked like a ghost in all that snow. And he said he didn’t remember being cold, but he was shivering all right, and the muscles even in his fingers felt tired and hot and they wouldn’t grip. He always said it’s the deer’s life in your hands that makes you feel that way. The deer’s life in the summer under the sun and bounding through tall grass on hidden hills that no man has ever seen and a heat of life that no man in this place has ever known and you hold that for a moment before you decide. Then it goes out of you. It goes out altogether. And you don’t feel sorry, but just one less thing.

He lifted the rifle as a leaf straightens when a bee flies off. He was a good hunter. He had heard that pastor who was killed preach once when he was a boy, when he went with Lester to church. The pastor had preached on Jeremiah, the twelfth chapter, and about a roaring lion in the forest. Now it seemed to him that words and phrases of that sermon started bounding in his mind as he aimed, and the deer didn’t move, but just stared at him, in that calm and awake way that deer look sometimes, through the snow. He ignored all that in his mind and instead thought of dancing on his wedding day with his stomach full. ‘Let me be a lion. No, I will be a lion. I will be a lion in the forest.’

And that’s when it came down. The whole stand came down. He didn’t hear it break, but he was on the ground in the snow. The whole bough had given way, like it was cut off at once with an axe, and he came down with the stand into the snow and broken sticks and the new rifle came down with him. He didn’t have time to let it go in the air and it fell against his finger and fired into the night with a noise so loud, he said, it made the snow stop altogether and the bullet went far off into the woods, without hitting a tree, and dropped beneath all that snow and nothingness and frozen dead meaninglessness of winter. Then his leg hurt and it was broken and even though they waited until spring, he still couldn’t dance at the wedding and she danced instead with Lester Judie and the others that were there. But on that night when the stand fell, he bit his lip as he used to do in his last days when he’d get up out of a chair, and he stood up on that broken leg out of the shattered branches and saw the buck was still there, like nothing he’d ever seen, white like breath and as warm and calm, like a pearly lily dried and pressed in a book, he used to say. And it stared at him.

So he lifted the rifle and fired again. And he always swore there was dirt in the barrel, or snow, because he never missed. But he saw that bullet break a scar in a tree to the left of that white deer’s simple shape. And then it was gone and no one’s ever seen that white stag again and no one rebuilt the stand because of course it wasn’t blessed anymore.

He never let up on telling that story. It was precious to him, but I think it bothered him too. And he always insisted it was absolutely true. And it is true, because the rifle came down to me. It never shot straight and still never will, but it always shoots just to the left, no matter how careful you aim. Not once has it shot straight, except maybe once, when a wayward shot might have hit what I aimed it at.


Her name was Emily Ulalume Judie. She was Lester’s youngest daughter by his second wife and my mother always said she was simple and the boys at school all said she was stupid. She didn’t go to school, but the boys told stories. Some said they’d seen her in the soybean field taking off her clothes and dancing and that her father ran them off with his World War II machine gun and then started beating her. But that was a lie, because those boys said a lot of things. Also I knew that Mr. Judie loved Emily Ulalume, very dearly.

Of course the boys made fun of her name, but I always thought it was perfect. And Mr. Judie’s second wife, Beth, kept her maiden name with a hyphen, Judie-Azelle. It just made her name ugly. But the girl’s. Emily Ulalume Judie-Azelle. And she was beautiful. Like the young bride of Solomon.

All this occurred to me later. At the time I was just a boy. I was young and very much afraid of what other people said. Of course, you never really grow out of that, but when you’re young you don’t think about hiding it at all. You just try and try not to be small.

It happened on the day before I moved away, so it wouldn’t have mattered if I had been small. But of course it did. Three years before, I had been given the rifle as a present and I had made good use of it since then. The first thing I shot was a possum, which I figured wouldn’t be blasphemy. Of course, I didn’t believe in all that that my grandpa had said, but since I’d heard his story and saw my mother look over her shoulder from the stove as he told it, I thought it would make me feel better about the whole thing to kill a possum and set the rifle right again. And it did.

I killed lots of things with that rifle, and even two deer. I learned to shoot it well, aiming the crosshairs in the old scratched scope just enough to the right, depending on the distance, to put the bullet where I wanted. I was a very good hunter.

There were four of us that evening. Edgar, Frank, Allan, and myself. They all knew about my rifle and they always wanted me to let them shoot it, but I never did. Of course I didn’t. We were hunting rabbits that evening. It was getting near dusk when we should have been going home and Edgar started talking about ghosts. He was the oldest, and he was often cruel. I didn’t believe in ghosts, but I think Frank and Allan were getting scared. He told us about the ghost of an old, old man that lived in shadows and in snow and beneath floorboards, because that’s where he’d been buried, not underground, and he bit off the feet of people who stepped on him so they’d fall and then he’d whisper evil things in their ears until they went crazy.

“No way.” Frank said. “What do you know? Ghosts can’t bite they don’t have any teeth.”

“Yes they do too. Teeth is all they have.” Edgar said. He was walking just behind Frank as the sun started down behind the trees. “That’s how they i.d. dead people. By their teeth. My uncle’s a cop and he told me. And if you mean that they can’t bite things that are physical because they aren’t physical, then how come we can see them?”

“I’ve never seen one.” Frank said.

“I have.” Edgar said.

“No way. No you haven’t. You’re making that up.” Frank said.

Then Edgar stumbled and he yelled, a short sudden burst of noise into the dusk. Frank’s body jerked rigid and he jumped a few steps forward quickly, weaving like a rabbit runs. But he stopped and turned around when he heard Edgar laughing on the ground.

“It’s saying something to me.” Edgar said. Laughing. “It’s saying—it’s saying Frank’s mom’s a whore.”

Frank went over to him and kicked him hard. I had to break them up because Allan just stood there quiet, but first I put the rifle on the ground. It took a while to break them up too, because Edgar’s glasses had come off and he was mad about that. They weren’t broken, but he said they were cold from the snow. When I looked up I saw Allan hadn’t even been watching. He was looking out across the field towards where the stand used to be, where the big oak is in a clump of poplars. The sun was just behind the horizon now, and it was that time in the early night when you can watch it getting darker and darker, but you always miss when it goes black.

“Quiet.” Allan said. He pointed. His shoulders shook a little.

We all looked and Edgar pushed his glasses on. Across the field on top of a small rise in the ground and outlined against the black trees was a white shape, moving. It was not moving one way or another, unless it was coming towards us, because it only seemed to sway back and forth slightly. It was small and indistinct. Just a shape, but unnatural against the trees.

“It’s a ghost.” Allan said. I watched the breath come out of his mouth as he whispered. He was really afraid. Not the fear of being embarrassed by someone older than you, but real fear. I’d never seen it before. He started shaking, more than you would from being cold. Then I was afraid because he was, like you would be if a faithful dog curled up under the bed while a robber took your life away.

“It’s not a ghost, jerk, it’s better than that. It’s that old white buck.” Edgar said. He had heard the story. Everybody had. “Look, see, that’s where the stand was. In the oak. Only it’s your land now—” he touched my shoulder with the back of his hand and he said my name, “—you can shoot it.”

“No.” I said. “We can’t even see it.”

“Yes we can. I can.” Edgar said. “C’mon and shoot it. Quick, before it goes.”

“No.” I said.

“Let’s just go back, guys, it’s getting dark.” Frank said.

“No, pussy, we can’t let it go. Shoot it.” Edgar said. His glasses were foggy from his breath. He took them off and wiped them and he said my name again in a loud whisper in my ear.

“My dad says you shouldn’t shoot at something you don’t know what it is.” Frank said.

“Shut up.” Edgar said. He hit the back of Frank’s knit hat. Then he leaned very close to me and he whispered in my ear, so Frank and Allan couldn’t hear him.

“It’s staring,” he said, “isn’t it—” he said my name again, “—staring right at you, just like he said. It’s staring you down. You have to shoot it now. Do it. Don’t be stupid.”

So I knelt down and ran the bolt in the chamber and heard the bullet come up into the rifle. I saw Allan was still shaking, staring. He was still afraid. I tried not to be. Then Frank started to panic.

“No, don’t do it. We’ll get in trouble.” Frank said. “Edgar stop, we have to get back. Please, let’s go. You don’t even know what it is. It could be anything. Let’s go. What if it’s—”

“It’s that deer.” Edgar said. “That white deer.” He whispered. “That buck that no one could kill and it’s staring you down. I’ll tell everyone you couldn’t. That you had the chance and didn’t do it. Or here, why don’t you just let me?” He said.

He touched the rifle and I pulled away. I put it to my shoulder, forcing his hand away with my elbow. I aimed. I put the crosshairs exactly on the white shape. I didn’t want to shoot it, so I aimed right at it. Edgar was kneeling next to me like a father would teach his son how to shoot. Frank was lingering over us making a lot of noise. I put the crosshairs exactly on it.

“Shoot.” He whispered. “Shoot.” I aimed exactly precisely on the shape.

Then Allan sobbed. It was an enormous sound in the silence. A great inhalation of freezing cold air, unnatural and sharp, catching and rasping somewhere in his throat and building towards a hot bubble of tears from his eyes and nose that never came. But the sound just took in all that silence and it was like nothing you’d hear in the woods in winter and in all that snow, and the rifle fired.

I had seen the shape in the crosshairs then. In that moment, I had recognized it. In the heat of my mind I figured it out and knew what it was. It was her. It was Emily Ulalume Judie. A little girl in winter clothes. Emily Ulalume. And I had seen her in the crosshairs of the rifle. She was smiling, like she always smiled because she was simple. Smiling, but not at me. Not at anything. Just smiling, as if from inside.

But when I lowered the rifle from my cheek, feeling it unstick and feeling the extra cold on my cheek where it had been, I couldn’t see the shape anymore. There was no movement, no white shape above the snow, nothing but the black poplars and the big black oak and the black black black northern sky.

I heard Allan stop crying. He probably felt like I did. Deaf and breathless from the noise of the gun and shaking everywhere inside but stiff on the outside and feeling too much cold on our faces. Edgar stood.

“You missed.” Edgar said. “You missed like everyone else. I saw it run back into the trees when you shot. That old white buck got away again.” He turned and started walking away. We all followed him, but my knees felt like they were melting in my snow pants and Edgar got far ahead of us. He kept laughing in the darkness like a ghost might laugh, to scare us. But we just walked like children walk when they’re going to be punished. That’s the length of a person.

But I know I didn’t shoot her. I know now it’s okay. She may have run off behind the rise in the ground or into the trees like Edgar said. I don’t know. I didn’t see. But the rifle always misses and she was exactly in the sight. The rifle always missed, since that day he fell from the stand. I know it missed. Of course I don’t know, because I didn’t see. And I never went back. But some things are unnatural, like heavy weights that somehow don’t sink in the snow. And I think I saw her once, much later, with her father, in Minneapolis.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


She drapes the fence flaunting neck and legs in that graceful roundness of muscle. Just as a neurotic would coddle an old, dying habit. It is not an embrace, but a grudging leniency, with the back and ribs showing through, and her head twists backwards and behind the arch of her shape, all arranged by nature and gravity and the right amount of time. I see, but I don’t look closely and I keep the rhythm of my steps, with a purpose to sit and begin the book on the bench in the back of the cemetery. My footsteps, which are muted, or exaggerated, by leaves, reverberate on the headstones near the path and my sound returns to me and I begin to feel that someone follows behind. I find the bench and sit. The book is bent from my pocket and the spine has become a ragged arch where the color chips away into the leaves, showing string and flesh-colored glue. The Old Man and the Sea.

Twice Told Books
8 Pearl St.
Fortune, WI -----
is stamped on the first page. I remember the silly painted sign of the used books store. Someone has already told me how the book ends, but I thought I would read it anyway. She had said I should, even after she told me how it ended. Then she arranged the flowers that I had given her, which she would keep, dried, forever with the others.

The bench is cold in autumn. Marble is colder than concrete. Even when the sun seems to be just behind the clouds like a face is behind make-up. I remember how she is very pretty, though perhaps her eyes are too large for her head, but something in her face makes this okay. She always sees the looks I give her, like when she told me how the story ended.

“Everybody knows how it ends. I can’t believe you didn’t read it in high school.” But by then I was looking at her smile, her laugh, staring back at it, looking it in the face.

“I guess we just read other things.”

“Like what?”

“Nobody really reads anything in high school anyway.”

“We did. We had to. Mr. Aldson was so strict. I did really well in his class, though. Anyway, you’re in my way.” She saw my look. “Don’t get mad, I just have to do this now.”

So I sit on the bench in the back of the cemetery, and she is cleaning under the couch with the couch pushed all the way against the wall and the cushions stacked on the chair in the corner and the dishwasher running in her spotless kitchen. I finish the book and set it beside me on the marble. On Polly Flawson’s grave. In Loving Memory, 18-- to 19--. The dedication on the bench reads the same: In Loving Memory. In cursive. But she must have been Ms. Polly Flawson, because her tombstone rests alone in the back of the graveyard with the little bench beside it, between two cedars. We thought of it as having always been there. It was our bench, just a name and a loving memory, but kept secret for us, and Polly too was keeping the secret for us. She likes it in the graveyard. We walked through it, reading the names and talking about ourselves, until it got too cold, and then we would drive and park the car and kiss. Once we parked the car in the back and I read her Portrait of a Lady. It was my favorite poem. I recited as much as I could, then I had to read the rest from the page.

“I love it! That’s so good. What do you think it means?” And I looked at her eyes before looking back at the page. ...the scene arrange itself, as it will seem to do.

“I don’t know. I think he’s cheating with her, but not really, just in conversation. Like ‘carefully caught regrets,’ like they’re cheating only in mind, but still cheating. But I think he’s not committed, obviously. He doesn’t really try to understand her.” She nodded because she wanted to impress me, to look deep. She saw that I was passionate, saw my look. But she looked dishonest. And every time I read the poem I was impressed. Though I’ve forgotten most of the lines now.

“Oh, and my dad pointed out the opening line to me. The line, or lines I guess, from Marlowe. ‘And besides, the wench is dead.’ So she’s dead. It’s not a real relationship. She’s not a real woman.”

“Yeah. I get it.” Then something true from her, “Does he really love her? Do you think he really loves her?”

I could not have responded. So I said, “Well yeah, I think so. But he loves the cheating more, I think. The unreality, I guess. The exchanged fantasies.”

She nodded again. “Yeah, I think he adorns her—adores her I mean.”

I remember we laughed about that. She was usually so careful to saw what she wanted. But then I thought people can wear each other, to impress the world, or themselves. And people can wear each other out. So it made sense, what she said. She knew exactly what she wanted her grave to look like, exactly what it would say about her. She wants a bench, like Polly, but she hates the prosaic cursive and she doesn’t like marble. She wants a concrete bench and she said I should clean it every week and I think she likes lilies though she claims to hate flowers. I never asked her what tree she wanted next to her. I have an image of her enveloped in the twists of roots, which curve in slow and winding lines with her hair in disarray beneath the soil where gravity will not matter and the dirt rests silent on her face as under her eyes when she swims or when it rains on the blush that still rises just beneath the surface of her cheek and neck. I thought of this as I gazed up at the clouds, just covering the light which rose and fell with their rolling and I think of the sea and forget the old man. I remember watching movies with her. We watched them because we liked the scenery in them. I am not ready to return, but I stand. The Old Man and the Sea looks nice on the little bench, so I leave it and walk slowly, my shoes putting jarring life into the leaves. They shuffle through the cemetery—the leaves—but even in summer never go, like the graves and dates and names that begin to sound like poetry. Poems of the graveyard and of history. Which never was because it always is and never ends. And now someone does follow behind, and I am ready to leave.

There is a man who volunteers to manage the cemetery. He walks through the place, along every path, and once a week he disposes of the dead flowers. That’s his job. It can’t be enough for him, or a family. It’s strange that a man works for his family, but is taken away from them by his work, but he must have his family. Every day he returns, or what is he? Perhaps it is better in the graveyard, where a man can’t leave. Then he learns to live, and not to fish by himself for fish that are too big. Today the grave cleaner will have to dispose of a dead deer, and he will follow me to where she died on the fence. Adorning the fence. I see her again, draping it in a leap arrested by the wrought-iron pyramid prongs. These stand in black and staggered order and precision, half rise half fall in unison around the place where the graves are scattered like leaves along every path. And each leaf, like the deer, finds the fence.

The white on her tail is hidden, but when I approach and lean over the sharp wrought-iron prongs, I see the white blot on her neck. It stretches so the hairs separate and are yellow where the under-fur shows through, and her tongue shoves out through her teeth, as if she would just lick the grass on the other side.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Critique of the Bat

The limbs of king crabs bathed in salts
Cannot pretend at the command
Of leather-winged somersaults.
Of twisting from a silouette.
Of squirming in a dirty coat.
They are all so peasant poor in furs
And faults and sins beyond all doubt of conscience.
Wicked and romantic; these are dreams.
They order eyes to follow,
And command the innocent view,
And the tongue to moisten on the hollow of the listening lip.
Supreme of every earthern ghost,
Of every emerald hue,
And putting them to sleep.
Weep for the loss the morning shows
When the husband finds what has been taken--
Or rather finds it not--, when he awakens.

Drown your loves and feed them to the crabs.
They will not touch the salt in water, but in blood.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I am seen once in the light of fire
As the choir of thoughts persists on a note breaking glass,
Shaping conclusions towards the obvious.
Again I am seen to burn away
In bursts of lessening light until I am not understood.

The match strikes on love,
The abrasion of sacrifice; I am more when I burn.

Turn, turn, turn the fist on the bellows,
Pounding down man locked in earth in space.
Give me the grace to live and burn.
I love a girl, a pearl,
But we could not dare to be above ourselves:
Flee once and the earth may fold away,
Breathe once out, and the chest collapses in,
Begin to doubt that we love at all--
Or that we live.

But the match strikes on love, we live!
See the glow as the wind blows.
It knows the will of ancient shells shaped as fine jewelry.
The choir of hidden exhalations burst in squares;
They tear away the smooth of heirloom bark.
It's dark--too dark--but breathe the scent
Of cedars bent and broken in the writhing, rent,
And brightest pattern of intention on a weaker will;
Love shatters to reveal not pearls,
But shells to grow them in.

I will be known to cast gray pearls that shone
Once when I alone existed as a child
Into the brighter noble tender chaos;
That fire without fuel or heat,
But sweet aromas on these stones
That crack and split and moan and sigh
And exhale as they purify.

And that match struck on love.
And the gritty feathers of a shapeless dove.
And what comes from above is higher than we are.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Memoir: Of Things That Never Occurred

By: K. Jan Harvey

"I recall--Central Park in fall--you tore your dress, what a mess--" somewhat eased or squeezed out from undersized but confident vocal chords under a shampoo mohawk in the shower. It's a vivid memory--Central Park is. That dress, a shade brighter than the morbid leaves, looking like vague examples of German Expressionism on their invisible branches. And the leg made visible at the knee, the fabric torn away on the arm of a wrought-iron bench, still suspended there as if the bench were bleeding. What a mess. We went home to Kentucky and I never saw you again.

I went out tonight to find that song. Ella Fitzgerald sings it. That was evening. Two hours and this is night. I have only a "best of" collection of The Drifters and a compliment on my rare taste.

"Yeah man, you don't see many people our age who are into vintage soul."

Vintage soul. The ability to create from the depth of one's own being; to create something that was not there before, that never was. Or perhaps it's only reconstruction. Are our vintage souls "best of" compilations?

My last stop; one last bookstore open late. Another modern bookstore, in which "classic literature" commands a single shelf, all published by one company. Melville, Faulkner, Dostoevsky, Poe, all vintage literature, remotely nostalgic and not without charm, giving rise to expressions that everyone recalls and no one has ever used, except in sophmore year college research papers. No "Donke Schoen" in the Ella section of the Jazz cd's. Only a pear-shape slouching through the open door of a Roadmaster wagon in the parking lot. His white hair looks classic in the humid blue sunset, along with his long white socks and three to four inches of white shin under indiscernable shorts. There are hundreds of these men in the city; they are as numerous as youths. I approach softly, trying my best to appear unthreatening, friendly, and even weak. Still a sort of death-face with bifocals leered from the passenger seat under a wig of powder blue cottonballs. I wonder if he knows it's in the car, waiting for him, to take him under.

He speaks first. He does know it's there. "I know it's there. Waiting, with my name on a parchment or something like that, or maybe just a photograph, or even a number. It's been there for a very long time, so don't worry about me. I'll no doubt make it home tonight. I'll go that way, anyway. We all must. At some point ahead, the light must turn red."

"Yes sir, " I say, leaning my hand on the open car door like in the movies as he exhales heavily down into the driver's seat, "but are you certain, sir? Do you want me to follow you or something? I can, you know, I have time."

"Oh, you will, " he says, "you will, " and closes the door lightly, and not all the way so that a red bead appears on the dashboard when he starts the car.

I remember a friend in college who had a Roadmaster. He called it "the womb," which I laughed at, because it looked like a funeral car. It was over-wide and round on top and it swayed uncertainly but never, never would tip. Like a womb after all. It's quite a joke if you have a sense of humor. But few of us do, that's pride--or fear. Either way, it doesn't know what's coming, and panics. That's nostalgia. That's a vintage soul.

When I start the car, "The Boxer" comes on too loud on the radio. I pay my respects: I turn down the radio and let the Roadmaster pass behind me before I back out. Of course I never approached the man. I barely even saw him. But memory is not collected from experience. That's why it's romantic, attrative like selfishness, and dear.

Driving home, I rolled down the windows for "I Think We're Alone Now." I want people to know I dig Tommy James. We are alone if we're not careful. Creating memories, who needs to make them? But the smell like brats through the open windows briefly. Someone jumps in a white tank-top. I make myself think I'm alone, but even my fish is getting better. The fin rot is clearing up, and every traffic light I see ahead is red, but as I approach, before I can slow down, it blinks green again. Blue-green, like that humid sunset in the city lights, and nothing is morbid.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Passing Bitterness in the Cafe

By: K. Jan Harvey

And who was she?
Asking me about my clothes,
She layed the muffins out in rows
And fingered each,
A cotton cloth to teach the counters clean;
She was not hungry, yet she made a scene
About the muffins
In their rows, and me in mine,
Where I could see the counter shine,
And she could dare
To wonder what I wear.
And she could look
To see which one I took.

A Walk Home, When She Must Be Sleeping

By: K. Jan Harvey

The brown leaves conceal the street
Like hair on a flannel shirt.

The town leaves the cats at night to play,
But I hear the leaves they tantilize
And toy with those thoughts.

The brown leaves smell like she was sleeping
After eating apples;
As the fall follows me home.
Still, there is time for you and I sharing apples
When the cats with hairless eyes
Make footsteps out of caskets
And I pause my walking to let them.