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Full text of "Mother Earth: The Argotist Online"

Mother Earth 



Adam Fieled 



Argotist Ebooks 



2 



* Cover image by Susan Wallack 



Copyright © Adam Fieled 2011 
All rights reserved 
Argotist Ebooks 



* One Part Paradise © Susan Wallack 



3 



Mother Earth 



4 



#1 

Yes, this is how it must be, high up; 
there is no earth in this pitted wood. 
Stoli, Captain Morgan's, especially; 
all taste clear, brackish, bring sweets. 
Beneath flesh, digested meats; 
she's expecting, wants me to die. 
If I'm dead, I drink to this death. 
If I live, I curse her stomach, too. 
There is little else to do. New York: 
a crust of bread that crumbles, spits. 
When I take her, I take an island: 
all streets split to flush us into it. 
There's a steep price for this shit. 
Our low-down: reverse mountains flake. 



#2 



Listen, now that I've got you alone I need 
to break a few things to you. You think 
this guy is going to make a responsible 
father? Look how shiny these shoes are, 
and you know why? I took the time to 
have them shined. This guy has hands 
that shake, eyes that dart, lips that curl, 
and it's all because he can't take care of 
himself. You think having two kids at 
once is going to be glamorous? Do you 
really have that much of a martyr complex? 
Please, here's another Diet Coke, I know 
this isn't fun for you, especially because you 
have to cab it back to the subway. I'll pay. 



6 



#3 



Look: the boy-child sleeps. Of course, he left 
a cigarette in the ash-tray; sudden death's here. 
I take his sleeping hands, place them on my 
belly, just so he knows, at least somewhere in 
the dense green fog of his existence, what's about 
to happen. My breasts are watermelons, it's sick. 
His hands are limp. I'm damp: I still want this man 
(if he can be called a man, if that bald pate signifies). 
To think, that all he's swallowed in this are lies. 
Of course, tiny streaks of spit mar his pillow. 
I bought them of course, and their blueness works. 
He'll leave me lit too, and wanting a real father. 
Yet, do I take the blame for this hideousness? Yes. 
Two babes are sleeping while I get undressed. 



7 



#4 



Truth is, he's only half-asleep. He left 
the cigarette in the ashtray, hoping the 
place would burn down: he's a terrorist. 
She's the fattest woman he's ever kissed. 
But, as she lies her hefty bones beside him, 
there is tenderness that wells up sofdy. 
If he opens his eyes, he falls deeply, again. 
Outside, slush builds up, brown, grey. 
The blue Hudson signals from beyond. 
Nighttime is not a time to go someplace. 
It's a common human race scenario; 
with a pregnant wife, you do not go. 
Now, she snores, he flips the spit-stained 
pillows, laid stiff like a cadaver, ashamed. 



8 



#5 



Do their dreams coalesce? His dreams are still, blue: 
girls in their youths, pliant limbs, bright eyes, smooth. 
In dreams like this he doesn't have to move, they do it. 
Long languorous lays on beaches, he digs deep for it. 
There is no risk as the spray hits him, here to eternity. 
But crosses dangle mysteriously from blank blue skies — 
each one slightly different to the others, asks repentance. 
So he pumps as her face changes (this one, that one), 
confesses to it as he finishes, reaches for a drink, it ends. 

It's 4 a.m.: if there is a wolf at this hour, it's him. 
In the dim light, her frame repulses him swiftly. 
His mind explodes with exploded possibilities, 
all the how things used to be that never were. 
That spit on the pillow should've been for her. 



9 



#6 



Poor guy that he is, he sits on the toilet, not needing 
to shit. He thinks if he pushes his bowels hard enough 
(especially with all the Heineken in him) something'll come. 
Truth is, he just likes the idea of flushing parts of himself. 
The shit comes from within, so that's less of him exists. 
Yanking up his boxers, he looks in the wall-length mirror. 
A wraith, more or less emaciated, looks back. No one to 
watch over him but many, many to subjugate, withhold, 
deny, supplant, stymie, titillate, vex, disturb, outfox. 
His eyes are his best feature: stark raving mad sapphire. They 
glow in the dark, an old girlfriend used to say, they dazzle. 
He sits on the toilet with the seat up, enjoying being 
pointless (not just pointless but profoundly pointless, that's 
the thing, a beacon of pointlessness, a pointed husk.) 



10 



#7 



He figures he might as well smoke outside. 
My lady, he speaks, doth need no smoke. 
But it's cold and he thinks, who cares? 
Each drag mixes with the final beer buzz 
in a sweet, maudlin, I'm doing this haze. 
Yes, the father smokes, drinks, reveals 
the good Irish taste not to hide these things. 
Succulent, how hazy his mind is in miasma. 
The calendar on the kitchen wall has some 
tart on it, stretching her parts like rubber bands. 
Maybe she's the one from his dream? She may 
as well have been. He's a father, he's past this 
stuff. Still, the old hangman's itch hits him at 
such an angle that it's back to the bathroom. 



11 



#8 



His erection juts, but fades as he vigorously pumps. 
Feeling knavish, he runs to the kitchen, takes the 
calendar off the wall and, in his drunken sense, it 
seems perfect to rub the picture on his crotch. As 
he does, he stands, and the baby's tears and his 
intense drunkenness and his lover's fat ass and the 
tart's large breasts move him so much that when 
he finally finishes it is with such emotion that he 
barely notices a few words coming from the bedroom. 
He finishes, makes a wad of toilet paper to sponge off 
himself, the sink (he used soap this time), the formica 
counter, bits of puddle on the floor, all doused with 
such reckless extravagance that he gets proud all over 
again (she's saying something about coming here, now). 



12 



#9 



Erection just beginning to subside, he glides 
like an ice skater into the bedroom, sheepish. 
He had seen from the bathroom's light all 
the angles and creases of her careworn face. 
What bothered him was facing her breath. 
At this hour, the wrinkles make it like death. 
Please, God, one or the other, not both. 
His stealth has won him nothing, as he kneels 
He rests his elbows on the navy blue sheets. 
There it is: the reek, combined with the ways 
she tries to combat it: Crest, Listerine, floss. 
He is still seeing the calendar girl's sleekness. 
There is richness in having both, until he sees 
that there is really only one he has, and wants. 



13 



#10 



He's getting hard again, and wants to take her, just for 
the hell of it. But she moans about his errant ways, and 
she even knows what he's done with the calendar that 
remains doused near the bathroom sink, laid sideways. 
He is someone who crawls, but he's being babied here. 
She looks at him and sees so much to love, from distances. 
But this right up close angle makes him ten pounds richer 
with white and black and red and blue scum. She's a bitch, 
she knows that but this man carries on (she can't believe 
he's sitting here kneeling as if in a pew, will he just please 
get in bed?) as if the world was pure shoots and ladders. 
She splits her mind into before him and after, and now 
realizes it's just her breath, so makes a slight shift back. 
Still, he won't climb in, though he knows she wants it. 



14 



#11 



He intertwines his fingers behind his head, not having listened. 
Since he doesn't drive, there has to be a set up for water breakage. 
He thinks of waves breaking on beaches under tropical moons. 
He wants to sip pina coladas, or just to dive in the Hudson. 
That time when he was five, his Dad took him on a boat into 
Lake Michigan, there was big blueness all around, he saw spirits. 
He told his Dad and his Mom and his brother but no one believed 
him. Plus, all those songs about water, waves, tides, thunderstorms; 
what if he were to be washed up into a cyclone in the Hudson? 
What if all this were just a dream, and his crying penis was neither 
crying nor a penis but just some puppet from Sesame Street let 
loose into his life to make mischief among big birds, elephants? 
Not that he wasn't completely looking forward to all these 
challenges; just that now that he's thwarted, he can't sleep. 



15 



#12 



I need a chauffer, please, to help me through this. 
Every time I enter one of these trains, I see one of 
these spic hustlers sticking a needle into my guts. 
Look, it's the fat pregnant lady, everyone, far too 
old to be doing this, but doing it anyway. Hours 
of typing, hours and hours, just for these lawyers. 
It's always briefs that sound more official than 
me and my child. Husband is too strong a word. 
Me and the girls go down to the Midtown Deli, 
and in my head I say, I'll have a Heineken, please. 
Oh, the slush and sleaze of it, Midtown in a buzz. 
Ten years ago this was a playground, with slides. 
Now I'm too concerned with my fermented insides. 
Yes, I'll call for a limo tomorrow, with a wet bar. 



16 



#13 



Could I have finished the degree I started as a kid? 
Clump of dorms, all these guys proving themselves; 
I used to love to use the line about being their friend. 
To watch snow fall from a heated dorm room, as your 
roommate cowers beneath a pleated comforter while 
you fool around with a newfangled theater ace: apogee. 
The taste of him beneath me, exercise of perfected 
strengths, lip muscles, special tender dips, tongue-arts: 
then the sudden rush, the presto sense of having done 
it again, his mouth open, glaze-eyed look, half-hidden 
by this narrow space unlighted, transgression felt every 
which way: I've never been happier or more free. 
I was a swallower of all kinds of swords, including his. 
Then, I'd kick them out, cause I still slept, dopey me. 



17 



#14 



I had nice thoughts about some of these guys. Joey, the 
theater ace, wrote plays, and he babbled to me about 
Ionesco, how what he wrote would be the next logical 
step forward, into a kind of abyss, and that I could help 
him achieve this, just in sucks. He'd read the monologues 
sometimes to us in different rooms and there really were 
gorgeous passages, and I made him promise to keep in 
touch. For a few months he was working in the Lower 
East Side and there was some interest. Now he works in 
real estate, and says that money seems more permanent 
than art. Hank was the resident guitar genius, of course 
I not only blew him but slept with him, and he wrote me 
country rock songs in the manner of the Eagles. His 
studded belt now catches third graders, mortgage bills. 



18 



#15 



I need a limo to take me to the grocery store: 
that would be especially glamorous. Groupie 
in the back seat, long cascades of blonde hair 
with ringlets at the front, midriff shirt, hands 
pressed down my pants, mouth slighdy ajar 
from booze and painkiller combos, so that I'd 
be fiddled with in the few minutes before I'd 
have to enter Shop-Rite for orange juice, pickles, 
chicken tenders, spaghetti, red sauce, milk, all 
because my real bitch, she of the fat ass, thunder 
thighs, sudden whims, might have a midnight 
hankering for Neapolitan, as I myself now have 
more or less three streaks: shit brown, eyeball 
white, strawberry red, so I still change stripes. 



19 



#16 



O, deadbeat me; snug as a bug in a rug, stoned. 
I might eat this Neapolitan all myself, so soft, so 
creamy, so like the life I deserve but do not have. 
How be mad? She both has the kids (we're sure to 
have a bunch, I've got this unbridled potency, she's 
short enough we can do it standing up, maybe in the 
bathroom at Manny's, as they roll out the Al Green 
covers on karaoke night), works, am I a jerk to be 
basking in the privileges of almost father hood? 
At least I'm still — what's the word — continent, at 
least I can wait to jerk off until she's not around. 
We should have parties here with the Manny's girls. 
It would liven up these awful wood-floored rooms. 
It always feels like the first time with Manny's girls. 



20 



#17 



He picks up the shitty guitar, puts his hand where G chord 
is supposed to be, begins to strum. He wants to sing Wonderful 
Tonight to put him in a romantic mood for her return but 
stumbles going from D to C. So he just thrashes away on G, 
improvises words about ex-girlfriends and this one, who (let's 
face it) might as well be. He changes tempo every few bars to 
make things interesting, makes it to D, and voila, he's a rock 
star once again. Backstage, he fends off the usual radio/record 
company folk, tells his guitar tech where he wants his guitars 
kept from now on, gets the road manager to round up his girls 
for a private session in the cramped but impeccably catered 
dressing room (pigs in blankets, cold cut spreads, apple fritters), 
plays food games with the girls, but (oops!) this really is the guy 
from the big magazine, time for an interview, see you later, girls. 



21 



#18 



She gets home to find him asleep, a tableaux: mouth 
slightly ajar, glasses laid on the night table, still in his 
Yankees cap, to hide the shaming baldness he found 
repels the Manny's girls — they of the pinkish lips, 
truly tight asses, who hang around Staten Island 
as though Manhattan were a distant dream; lays of 
Italian dudes in leisure suits in backs of dusty 
Japanese cars. This, her sort-of husband, is the kind 
of kid she never would've taken seriously when she 
had her looks, when her black bangs melded with 
her face's perfect oval to sear her image onto so many 
groins she thinks she can still see the plaintive glances. 
Ice cream, she thinks, she needs ice cream, dissolutions 
in sugar and cream to give her the rightful death of this. 



22 



#19 



As she spoons the stuff into her mouth, wishing he tasted like this, 
she remembers that musical she was in, in high school: Fiddler on the 
Roof. It's that song Tevya sings that tweaks her: "If I were a Rich 
Man." That's right, Tevya, you and the rest of the world. She thinks 
to herself, Tevya at least got to be the star of the musical, I got 
caught in the chorus. To think of having to get in those cut-cloth 
get-ups to be in all these scenes, just to lurk in the fucking chorus: I 
should 've quit when the cast list went up. "Cast list" intoxicates her 
brain with possibilities, a sense that maybe there will be more cast 
lists somehow in the future: she could start doing theater, maybe 
finally break through with something creative. Moms sometimes 
still do creative things. She builds him into the He-Man he isn't; 
that he can and must be responsible, a mensch behind the wheel, 
a stud in bed, safe as milk for the kids, even chucking their diapers. 



23 



#20 



There was the lunch reverie about college and then this dinner 
reverie about high school: I feel like a crab, going backwards. 
How can I move forward again? In the end, I know it's me and 
the kid alone. It said in the paper today they have a new bill that 
requires everyone to receive Health Insurance. Does that mean I 
can kick his sorry ass out, and not worry that he'll wind up with 
a needle in his arm in Tompkins Square Park? Am I beholden to 
him forever for a few good shots? Here, she pauses to cry, 
thinking of him prowling the East Village, as he was when she 
picked him up for the first time. He was so innocent and so 
charming, throwing in litde quotes from all these love sonnets his 
girls wrote for him. She had convinced herself that stability 
was latent in him. The baby-like white of his bare torso depressed 
her, even if it heralded (she had decided) a noble, creative existence. 



24 



#21 



The thing about Manny's, he thinks, is that it's a tiny 
bar with a tiny mentality but no one here quite realizes 
it: the girls in halter-tops do their hair-flips, the Italian 
guys insist on different key points about the Giants, 
but the girls in halter-tops can't do anything in the 
world but hook-up with these leisure suit guys. That, 
of course, is where I come in, cause it's "fun night," 
so that she sips a Diet Coke, my eyes prowl around, 
there's one with black hair and a solid faked tan as 
if she's spent time in a kiln. He scoots over, leaving 
his very pregnant mistress, and enjoys the sensation 
of moving between discrete worlds, as though he's 
a globe-trotting superstar, too big for entanglements 
to limit his feeling of himself as a Zen arrow. 



25 



#22 



He wasn't expecting to feel a sense of degradation as 
he sat down next to her, her baked skin exuding perfume. 
It's the scent of another world, of sex that happens that 
might as well be shopping: scent of malls, mall vanities. 
It is arousing, he's aroused; her black hair flips in huge 
danger waves towards his crotch. I'm intrepid, he thinks, 
this is pioneering work, and since I can't write poems 
anymore, it's all justified: she wants me to be creative 
again, as if giving her a baby isn't enough. He sets down 
his beer, subjects this girl to one of his long, caressing 
stares, adjusts his Yankees cap to make his eyes visible. 
She pouts and, miraculously, is not surrounded by a group 
of raven-haired hair-flippers. "Can I buy you another 
drink?" She half-nods, looks vaguely towards him, down. 



26 



#23 



She's doing a crosswords puzzle while he does this, which, he 
knows, means he's being humored, a willful kid at an arcade, 
who forces his Mommy to wait. He notices this girl's pink 
sweatpants and zip-up sweatshirt with a hood, and decides 
that football is a safe topic. She agrees, and the conversation 
begins and does many strange somersaults as they both realize 
what the situation is, that she can make an interception here. 
He's got the hangman's erection yet, but there remains an 
insurmountable problem; wifey's got the car keys. If there is 
to be a hook-up, it has to happen here. Luckily, it's not that 
cold and he has half a joint in his wallet. They take a hike into 
fresh air to get stoned. Once out there, they look at the stars, 
he thinks of arrows going through space, and then he is, for 
real (for once) up against her, seriously, and likes the feeling. 



27 



#24 



Sandra, she says her name is, tipping her 
blackened head onto his chest, wracked as 
it is by coughs. He introduces himself as 
Ronnie, who lives on the island with his 
big sister. She happens to be pregnant and 
is humoring him here at Manny's. Heads 
leaned close, she tells him she's got a boy 
friend, but they happen to be fighting, she's 
out on her own (an errant lamb, in his mind). 
Exquisite tensions force his hands to smooth 
down her back, anchors sinking to plant 
themselves someplace solid. Sandra doesn't 
want to kneel, touch, kiss; just this little 
grab in autumn's wasted chill is enough. 



28 



#25 



Ronnie is nearing the end of his rope. As he lays 
in bed with Jess, he aches to hold Sandra ever so 
much closer. Would conceiving another child (as 
Jess's remains unborn) be against any laws? Jess, 
of course, not only knows what Ronnie thinks 
(she had snuck behind the dumpster to monitor 
his progress, Diet Coke still in hand, as though 
watching a particularly juicy brawl in which her 
big male antagonist was getting throttled), she 
knows there will be Sandra, then another, then 
another, but until the man learns to earn his 
own living he will come home to roost with 
her. There: a vicious thought he deserves. 
All she vetoes is an exchange with sperm. 



29 



#26 



Jess's ascension; she rises, both quick and dead, over this many times 
(and many ways) bespattered bed, into a scene of youth; utopic suburbs, 
bikes with bells, how trees looked in May with not much school left. 
Succession of images; diasporas of life, miniaturized, in many directions. 
She liked church, then; thrills of new words, "benediction," "annunciation," 
"absolution," and in her streams upwards she responds to a whim that 
God is more preoccupied with minutiae than many think. God in candy 
hearts, suck-rings, bags of midnight-snuck potato chips, and she hears 
what God thinks of this (perverse humor of an imp?), hears herself hearing 
(thirty years later) and passes swift, merciful judgment on all things 
unborn, liminal, or born. Pregnant women, she has heard, are plugged into 
the universe; a cascade of white/blue lights descends. Jess flies, over 
putrid stagnant Hudson, absence of twin towers, corrugated Chrysler 
building, and this is deep, permanent, blessed with air and fire scars. 



30 



#27 



Then appeared the angel: not delicate and feline, but raw, rough, determined. 
She presents familiar scenes to Jess, demands answers. Jess is in a weatherless 
place, sparked with stars. She starts thus: I know the lies that ride high and 
roughshod over my existence. That I have looked at many surfaces while motives 
remained hidden, and believed them; that I have willfully lied to create, maintain, 
and retrospectively preserve appearances; that I have contrived to fix things not 
meant to be fixed in eternal patterns; all this I know. But this is all held 
within the confines of a dream; I will wake up unawares, carrying a circular 
burden, determined to efface (without being conscious) these lessons. I want to 
know how these things may be carried across; why I am subjected to the torment 
of deep truth and abasement. Here, the scene changes; another panorama; Jess 
tosses within a sense of flailing over Fifth Ave., vacated and loosed from concrete 
forms. Now she is wrapped, uncomfortably swaddled; now she jerks up in bed to 
hear Ronnie's snores, comfortably folded back into short wheezes. What's next? 



31 



#28 



When I woke the next morning, something had changed. I looked at Ronnie, 
as he dragged his sorry ass out of bed; sunken-in chest, bald head, baseball 
cap worn (out of vanity) even to breakfast, slumped shoulders that express 
raw needs, cast out onto me like damp nets; and I realized I could see a 
path of purity, running out like a lane at a tangent to this. The problem is 
the mercy I cast out onto others. I'm a fish, born St. Patrick's Day; my 
parts flake off. I've always encouraged others to pick flakes off of my 
body. I'm middle-aged; my spirit isn't robust. So I have a fish-maze to 
work through, that I might expunge this minutely voracious predator, 
and bear a child, to/ for myself. The cost, for Ronnie, is not less than 
everything: he will be sent spinning like a plastic top in search of a sick- 
bed. He will again be at the mercy of parents who force black veils over 
his mouth, crotch. It will have been me to spin the threads of the veil. 
Meanwhile, the eggs are fried, the bacon ready, orange juice, coffee. 



32 



#29 



Here's how Jess does penance: she doesn't just kick him out on his ass (in her mind), 
she throws his belongings into the Hudson, and him along with them. She's moving, 
she thinks, not only towards parturition but towards departure (from this, from him, 
into a sacred two-person space, mother and child). But look: he's there on the couch, 
watching the late cartoons, rolling another bomber she (inadvertently) purchased. 
She digs down deep for a spine, and there's something there (is there something there?) 
No more flights backwards: the situation has achieved maximum density. "Hey look, all 
the little guys in this are fluorescent," he says. "Isn't it a little early to be lighting up?" 
He clears his throat, ignores her question; laughs at cartoon antics. Outside, a car screeches 
to a halt. There is some kind of argument, neither is interested enough to look. Twin 
diffidence relaxes into obliviousness. But Jess has felt an inkling of something, holds 
onto it. You can't take a vision away from a dreamer, she thinks, but there are (she 
knows) options still available to her. The first is to cut off his allowance, so that 
the first tang of Hudson might sully his lips. She begins to prepare a speech. 



33 



#30 



Ladies and gentlemen, you are here today to witness the reverse of a benediction. This boy, 
this man-child at best, has willingly fertilized my body. If I curse him, it is with the caveat 
enjoined that my will has been (and remains) compromised. But the curse must be planted, 
a bad seed with good consequences, and it is three-fold: against his body, a scrawny, pale, 
hairless contrivance, which festers in every conceivable vice, funded (in my frailty) by me; 
his soul, lost in dreams of easy fame, self-expressed in facile, mediocre verse; and his mind, 
balanced like slow-to-melt snow on brittle branches, worn down by too many dry seasons. 
I hailed this convocation of angels because I am building, building. The crescendo must be 
this man's expulsion, orchestrated to resolve in a minor key for him, major key for me. At 
this, Jess's head snaps up, and she realizes she's been dreaming. Yet the dreams are closing 
in. Ronnie's asleep too; its five o'clock in the afternoon. The newscaster says, "in other news 
today, temperatures are down all over Manhattan. The weather is coming up next when we 
return to News at Five." For once, Jess sneaks a bit off of Ronnie's spliff. Nothing left to do 
but work. And it's a long sleepless slog to the next rest stop along the winding way. 



34 



#31 



She just did it. I woke up and she said, "Look outside the apartment door. You got 
a package." It was all my belongings — a trunk and two big leather bags. "The guitar's 
mine," she said, though I begged. So here I am on a bus to take a plane, to take a 
car, back to cheese-land. I can't even get high; I have to work to stay awake. I 
know that when I look back on this, I'll say "All those Staten Island nights. That's 
when I had it made the most. I had it all." What am I supposed to say? I can't 
face a life of work, I have a hobo's soul, I'm meant to drift through aimless days. 

He boards a flight to Chicago, his Mom will be there at Midway to meet him. She'll 
be in clod-hoppers, glasses, inquiring after his health, unaware that a grandchild is on the 
way. That's me, she thinks, always oblivious because I need to be. Ronnie sleeps on the 
plane, having snuck a valium in his sneaker. Somehow (he wasn't expecting) it missed 
detection. Somehow he also managed to miss detection. He'll have a kid, his cheese-land 
friends won't know. Between children and poems, he will leave a legacy to the world. 
Thoughts he leans on amid the lightoing-storm turbulence, unsteady as random shots. 



35 



#32 



The gossip goes round: Jess kicked her house-boy out. He's back to the farm. Who will wait 
for Jess's water to break? Who assembles the crib? The office and the old crowd are abuzz, 
as Jess knows. So what? She has two or three friends in her back pocket that have lasted, 
will last. She's too old to fly blind, even if she's forced to hover near the ground (as she is). 
You should've seen us at Manny's, she tells them. All the baked-skin beauties went for my 
little man-child. Yet there is an edge of regret in her voice, for what age does to a human 
heart. Degradations never end — she has never weighed more, and the spies (she thinks) 
on the train (God help her if her water breaks) laugh at her jerky movements, appalled 
lurches. But I've got my back up, she thinks, because I passed this test: to get rid of the 
pest (who is, her friends note with half-smiles, the father of her child). Oddly, Jess often 
feels like a litde girl; her mind bounces around, just like the child within her (who could 
be either: no ultrasound). She sees the future through her child's eyes. There are joys, 
panics, outbursts, setbacks, but all impelled by a clear sense of forward motion. 
The chorus of her song falls a full step back, and juts a step up again. 



36 



#33 



It's a girl. Jess names her Marissa; she is given Jess's last name. Her friends get her to and 
from the hospital. When she returns with Marissa, the apartment (a studio with a bedroom 
for the child) is stripped of all Ronnie's traces — calendars, pictures of bands, shots of stars. 
Jess accepts the fate of a single mother — every night sleepless, every day harried. At least 
the office allows a substantial maternity leave. Sometimes, as the child naps, Jess watches 
the sun set over unlovely Staten Island and finds it beautiful as Paris. It isn't just that beauty 
is in the eye of the beholder, she thinks; it's something buried that can be dug up. One thing 
Jess likes to dig up are her old journals, especially the teenage ones. She always comes back 
to the same entry: the day she lost her virginity. April 7, 1987: O my God, I did it! That's it, 
that's the whole entry. She feels the same way right now. Memories drift back: she was big 
into Peter Gabriel in those days; she was playing in the chorus of "Pajama Game"; the boy 
that did the deed was (of course) one of the leads. It all happened because he got stuck 
needing a ride after rehearsal. She was the driver, as she is now. Virginity is a state of mind. 
Jess feels twenty-three years of filth have been effaced. 



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#34 



Post-script: visions of Staten Island through a child's eyes. Row after row of duplexes; 
apartment complexes (different color bricks, red, white, brown), places for food, clothes, 
everything she needs. There is only one deep fulcrum of activity: Mommy. She, also 
a kind of brick with changes, revealing different things: moments of calm, of strife, of 
bursts into silliness, a wheel spinning. When Jess pushes the carriage around (a mall, say), 
the brown, baked girls thank their lucky stars they don't have kids. Yet, they suppress 
jealousy: something there so rested, composed, steady. Down at Manny's, Ronnie's flame 
works on new guys. Ronnie reclines on a Wisconsin farm, where he works, unaware that 
Marissa, when she plays, soon finds out what a "Daddy" is. On the nights when Jess can 
sleep, she sees wide vistas, open spaces, but with a sense that the angels hold her back. 
There is work unfinished; somewhere on the horizon, something looms. Awake, she knows 
as Marissa grows, as her body changes, aches will come that cannot be assuaged. All the 
questions she has found answers to will be asked again; all the old contrivances will be 
explored, from new angles. Marissa's blue eyes stick; auburn hair. What sticks is mystery. 



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Credits 



Mipoesias/Miporadio — #s 2/ 3 

Pirene's Fountain — #12 
Turntable/Bluelight— #s 24/26 



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