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.