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sweatervest cover


Sweatervest

Fall 2008


Contents Poetry

Nick Spengler: At the Library ........ 3 Miranda Tsang: Coal ........ 5 David Foote: Old People Eating Soup ........ 6 Nick Spengler: Ablutions ........ 11 Dina Magaril: Observations on a Fall Day ........ 20 JP Allen: Cricket Ballad ........ 24 Robert McKay: Reading Old Love Letters ........ 33

Prose

Emily Raymundo: In Life As At a Feast ........ 8 Dean Atyia: Delivery ........ 12 Angela Evancie: Johnson Memorial ........ 13 Chris Wood: H11 ........ 21 JJ Hurvich: Berlin House Party ........ 22 Will Durkin: A River Ain’t Too Much to Love ........ 25

Art

Sarah Halper ........ 4 Waylon D’Mello ........ 7 Waylon D’Mello ........ 10 Angela Evancie ........ 14 Angela Evancie ........ 17 Sam Miller ........ 18 Waylon D’Mello ........ 23 Waylon D’Mello ........ 28 Waylon D’Mello ........ 32


At the Library

Nick Spengler While our mother was out looking for work, Sarah and I labored over Audubon’s “Birds of America.” We were small enough then; we fit easily in the same armchair, tucked in a corner where the librarian could see us. The pages were almost unmanageable, so large their edges scraped our chins as we turned them, but each turning unveiled a fresh creature and scene. The purple grackles gobbled kernels, and a duck’s blood dripped from the duck hawk’s beak. The bald eagle trapped a catfish with its black talons, and on the next page the house wren built her nest in a stovepipe hat. There was a sense of proportions, of the relations between things, a world ready to spring; so much caught in the quiet. At the far end of the reading room a homeless couple argued in charades; he shook apart a newspaper, and she dragged a black thumbnail across her throat. Outside was fall: sparrows ate fermented crabapples from golden branches, and every so often they struck the window behind us, keeping drunken time. Probably we were too young to understand. We would have stayed forever in that chair with Audubon’s birds, touching their smooth wings as if to keep them on the page. 3


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Coal

Miranda Tsang

In Germany, I was arrested on suspicion of loving A German woman. I left because I wasn’t a spy. The countryside was unimpressive, anyway, It was no more or less interesting than The pastures of my childhood The miners with their coal-blackened hands Sweating beneath their caps. One morning, as a child, I watched my mother walk into the bathroom and Pull off her nightgown. Black smears up her legs and Backside, black around her torso, up over her breasts, The nape of her neck. She closed the door behind her And ran the bath. My father never understood my glasses, The way I sat in my desk, elbows supporting the weight of my head. I’m living in London and my German wife Asks why I read so much. We sit at the kitchen table, And I glance over the fresh-printed newspaper. I’m turning the pages, running my finger down columns Distracted, turning the pages, Turning the pages, again.

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Old People Eating Soup

David Foote

The whole face trembles with effort. Mouth shaking open, the spoon starts its stutter steps— dripping brown dutifully soaked by the white tablecloth. The tongue protrudes for just a second before enamel and metal meet. Mottled lips slurp and the saggy face folds close into an upside-down lopsided frown. Repeat.

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In Life As At a Feast

Emily Raymundo

1. Once a month, Nathan takes Peter out to dinner. It is often a somber and glorious affair, it is all small portions and too many courses to remember. Peter eats nervously at these dinners. He rips bread haphazardly, he lets his knife scrape against his plate too loudly. He drinks and talks too much, until his tongue is thick and his lips are numb. Nathan is silent, elegant in the candlelight. He cuts his meat just-so. He never spills. Peter talks and talks and eats and talks, but Nathan says nothing. He sits across the table and folds his hands and looks, and looks, and waits. Peter is never sure what he is waiting for, exactly; he is never sure what is being consumed.

2. The Filipelli family had family dinner, every night at 6:30. Peter’s father presided over the table in suit and

tie, absurdly severe. The cook presented the meals with a confusing mixture of humility and flashiness. She was an old-time Italian; she smelled comfortingly of olive oil. She served them pasta e fagioli, risotto alla piemontese, bagna cauda, food Peter’s father loved, rich and fragrant and filling. Peter’s mother hated it all. She sat with plates of food untouched before her, her face stern and sullen. Her silence saying, I do not love what you love. Saying, I will not sacrifice myself. Peter, too young to know that a war was being fought, ate greedily and got marinara on the cuffs of his sleeves. His mother saw this and called him dirty, foolish; she swiped angrily at his face with a napkin. Peter doesn’t eat Italian food anymore. He still finds the smell of olive oil comforting, however, and is grateful when Nathan comes to his apartment smelling of it, smelling of failing to hold his ground.

3. Nathan’s wedding cake was six weeks in the choosing and 12 hours in the making. It was a formidable

tower of pastry and frosting, richly decorated, awe-inspiringly beautiful, and matching the general color scheme of the ceremony. Rebecca and Nathan did not smash cake into each other’s faces. They fed each other delicately, sensuously, Rebecca raising her fork, Nathan opening his mouth. Peter was told later that the frosting was as light as clouds, the cake inside sweet and subtle. Lemon juice in the frosting made the mouth sting and water a little; the cream was not added too liberally; it was, in short, a masterpiece. Peter doesn’t remember any of this. He sat at his table, watching Nathan and Rebecca, chewing and swallowing and tasting nothing, nothing at all. 8


4. After dinner, Nathan follows Peter into his apartment.

They fall into bed together, and more often than not it’s a replay of the meal they’ve just eaten: it is dim lights, it is drawn out and slow, it is all salt and sweetness, sting and spice. Peter buries his face in pillows and mumbles, helplessly, a string of unintelligible words but mostly Nathan, mostly yes, mostly please. Sometimes, rarely, Nathan eschews the formalities and arrives uninvited and unannounced. This is usually late at night. Peter is usually asleep and woken only by Nathan’s insistent knocking. These are the sacred, secret times. They are without rules and rituals. Nathan is grasping, desperate; his grip leaves bruises on Peter’s forearms and hips. These times, and these times only, it’s Nathan speaking and Peter silent. Nathan, pressing his mouth against Peter’s and saying mine, mine; Peter drinking these words down like wine.

5. It has been six years.

They met at a fundraiser, a black tie affair, Peter 20 years old and sullen, Nathan up-and-coming, beautiful, a little flushed with alcohol. He had looked at Peter; he had smiled. I know your father, Nathan said. I know your fiancee, Peter said. It was easy after that. The lines had been drawn; they could have this, they could have nothing else. Or it was never easy. Or it has been six years and nothing has changed, neither of them have moved; they are still standing there, smiling at each other across a buffet table, nothing between them but possibility and despair.

6. Nathan finds new restaurants every month, some so busy the reservation had to be made weeks in advance,

some empty and silent and dark. He doesn’t tell Peter where they are going, and never asks for Peter’s opinion. He orders for them both. Peter never complains. He remembers his mother, her silences. He eats heartily, and smiles at Nathan, and is always sure to say yes, to say thank you. What he is trying to say is, I will eat this because you ask me to. What he is trying to say is, This is how I give myself to you.

7. One night, Nathan calls Peter and says he will be late; he says to meet him. He gives an address; he gives a

time. Peter knows what this means. Peter knows he is being abandoned. He envisions himself sitting alone, somewhere off to the side, his plate covered in crumbs, the breadbasket empty, and the napkin between his fingers. He thinks of trying to read the menu, of attempting to order; he thinks of the sudden and terrifying freedom of choice. Peter knows Nathan, and he knows Nathan’s language, knows his slick lawyer’s tongue. He knows meet me means I’m leaving. He knows I’m late means you will always be waiting. 9


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Ablutions

Nick Spengler I. These things I wash away each morning: loose hairs, dead cells, dried semen on the thigh, his smell and mine, wet dreams and nightmares still flashing negatives against the eyelid’s dark mantle. II. Words I repeat with the regularity

of prayer:

that I am a decent lover, writer, son, and brother, that this is not a waste, standing in line at the drug store with beer and chocolate in one hand, a box of condoms in the other. III. Streets I cross, Church and King, cafĂŠs and bay windows in which one must efface oneself to see within; generals and chieftains in Battery Park wear gull droppings like medals, praying for a good rain.

IV. People I love and hate and sing for and cry for: mother threads veins, incantations over evening’s bruised walls, I am neither loved, nor beaten, nor

touched; she finds my hand through the ashes of saints she has martyred, sinners she has forgiven. V. Nights I lose to rented rooms, cables and wires that string up stars like thieves; droplets lick from a cold tap, crystal orbs that catch the moonlight flooding the cups of my hands: white flame on dark waters.

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Delivery

Dean Atyia

The cool air pulled her out of the heat. It wasn’t where she wanted to be, but it welcomed her anyway. Stamps were on the counter colored with flags and the faces of presidents. Her belly pushed up against the edge as she reached for them. The pressure was an unfamiliar comfort. She looked up out the window; the air rippled, and the world continued. Black rubber tires stuck to the ground and made such a sound when rolling up. She looked back down at the letter but couldn’t write with the pen chained to the grey spackle counter. So she pulled gently until the adhesive connecting the base of the chain peeled away, slowly then all of a sudden. The tether bounced free and came to rest next to the parcel. Her purse slipped off her arm, and where the strap had been, a line of sweat darkened her shirt. A push of wind grazed her neck and agitated the loose hairs hanging by her ear. And still she waited, thinking too deeply to write. Something at the edge must have caught her gaze. There was no noise except the hum of the air and the shuffle of feet; parched chit-chat but nothing from outside. So it must have been a change in the light. It was moving so quickly that she could barely read the writing on the door or see the driver’s face. Before her view was replaced by the gas station across the street, she lifted a nervous breath and turned her head to follow. The cars bounced off one another, the noise loud enough to be devoid of any one thing distinct. A glint of mirror struck the window in front of her, causing her to step back and feel her body. She moved as quickly as she could towards the wreckage. Her purse swung at her side; the envelope stuck to the skin of her curled hand.

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Johnson Memorial

Angela Evancie

He who sweeps up the wide staircase to the front double doors of Middlebury College’s Johnson Building and pushes on the right-side handle will find it locked. After all, it is very late at night. He will retreat, disappointed, and brush shoulders with someone ascending just after him. No time to warn this fellow nightowl, and so he passes without a backward glance. But if he looks, he will see his doorway successor lean gently against the left-hand door and, pushing it across the carpeted entryway, disappear into the glass-encased darkness. The Johnson A. Memorial building is always open.

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In A Walking History of Middlebury, Professor Glenn Andres writes, Designed by the firm of Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott and built in 1968, this handsome structure was the gift of the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation. It demonstrated that a building need not have a cupola to fit in with the Middlebury campus. The architecture is brutalist in style, with raw concrete, cement block walls, and natural wood throughout, but the scale and the limestone exterior permit it to co-exist quietly and naturally with other campus structures... it is now home to departments of Studio Art and History of Art and Architecture. Johnson is the only building with an equal number of light switches and light sources; it is the only building with purple curtains and dark corners. The numbers on its many mysterious doors are not sequential, and one never knows exactly what floor one is on. In the small hours, it becomes a commune for the detached.

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It is 2:30 a.m., and a girl sits on the first-floor bathroom counter with her feet in the sink. She has propped an easel against the dark window that runs perpendicular to the mirror, in which she beholds her reflection, tired and sickly in the florescent light. Her squinting eyes flick between mirror and paper. Turning the easel horizontally in order to frame her slouching profile, she outlines a closed-mouth portrait of herself. Pencil, then eraser, then pastel, she smears flesh tones together with fingers that she has dampened in the faucet at her feet. She concentrates hard on the shadows below her eyes and the deep flush in her cheeks, forcing herself to use every color that she sees in her reflection. When she finishes, she pulls her cramped feet out of the sink and backs away from the easel. She realizes that she has used only green, red, yellow and blue, rendering herself some sort of bemused embodiment of a color-wheel. By the next morning, the smears of color in the sink have been washed away, but faint splatters of purple remain on the white counter. 13


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A crowd of architects and friends gathers in a high-ceilinged lecture hall on the first floor. Ten students have lived for the past two weeks in the bowels of Johnson, and today they defend their theses. They are trying to sit up straight, but their spines still want to parallel the pitch of a drafting board. The curtain that hangs in front of the giant cement wall is drawn; it lacks as much color as the carpet does. A boy presents his plan for a new art museum with controlled flow that leads visitors through gallery spaces rather than let them lead themselves. One critic, a professor from another school, asks him if he has ever heard of Leo Kottke. His friends laugh; has he ever. The critic tells the boy that his plan is teetering on the edge between simple and simplistic, and accuses him of being a control freak and a fascist. His friends laugh again, this time in disbelief. This guy is too good.

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Today Johnson smells like new carpet, the only improvement it has needed in recent years. On other days it smells like sculptures in progress: sawdust, or rubber glue, or wet clay.

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There is a study lounge on the third floor, which is only the second floor if one enters from the front. It is always empty when one wants to watch the rain. The west wall of the lounge is entirely made of glass, but there are no windows to open, and the door to access the small deck on the other side of the glass is locked. On sunny days, the lounge traps so much heat that those who attempt to read at the dark wood tables invariably sleepwalk to the couches and nap until dinner. In her column in the Middlebury Campus, Sage “Sex Sage” Bierster writes about prime locales on campus for adventurous copulation: Second-floor lounge, Johnson Memorial Building: It’s a cool building, always open and relatively deserted at night. The lounge that looks out towards Battell is spacious and comfortable, and there is a big table in the middle of the room (use your imagination).

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A group of beginning art students work through the night on self-portraits, calling in requests to WRMC, Radio Middlebury College, which they play on maximum volume on the old but good speakers. One boy has done a life size charcoal of his naked self, holding a bong in his left hand. He says he is a freshman and tells the girls that he loves Dylan’s earlier stuff. *

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In the summertime, two girls meet by night in the lounge and turn on one small lamp. They are members of different summer language schools, and are breaking their promise not to speak English. As they melt cheap chocolate with their mother tongues, noises from the darkness puncture their conversation. The building is trying to sleep, and pipes deep inside its cement walls stretch and groan. From the high wooden ceiling, water drips into a recycling bin lined with a garbage bag. The girls laugh and pat the cement in consolation.

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Two years ago, a raucous Halloween party went wrong in the Pit, a column of space that extends upward from the basement with open galleries above that look down upon it. At the party, the drunken charades of a 15


beautiful girl destroyed several pieces of student work, consequently killing the general buzz. Do yoouuu like art and music? She sang with eyes out of focus. IIIIII love art and music! This year, VACA (Vitality of the Arts Community Association) has gained the trust of the Studio Art and History of Art and Architecture professors: the Halloween party returns. Arrivers grope their way through the darkened basement entrance. Thick black plastic makes a tunnel of the long hallway that opens into the first floor of the Pit, where sharp strobes of light illuminate the air-born droplets of beer and saliva sprayed from the pulsating, costumed crowd. Beats pumped from WRMC speakers vibrate from floor to feet to legs. Sweaty faces smeared with glitter and red feathers take turns jumping up to see above the mass of rubbing heads, while white-gloved spectators behold the enclosed chaos from the floor above. Meanwhile, art majors open their lamp-lit studios to minimally costumed friends, who have noticed the crack of orange light and slipped away from the mass in the Pit. They get high and drink whiskey and talk about Motown. Parties are just glorified chilling, they say. We’re doing what we always do, but with loud music.

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The southern staircase climbs only to a door that opens to the roof, and on days when Men are Working, one can sneak out and wander around a lunar landscape. Skylights angle up from the carpet of small stones, exposing mysterious, never seen before classrooms. *

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A boy produces his first album as a part of his senior work for his major in music. He arranges a photo shoot in the first-floor men’s bathroom, which is exactly the same as the first-floor women’s bathroom, except two urinals stand in the place of two stalls. Speakers plugged in to an outlet in the hallway bounce electronic energy off the tiled walls, where the friends assigned to hair, make-up, and wardrobe lean and look at themselves in the giant mirror above the sink. The photographer instructs the boy to stand on the wide counter. Make me look hot, he says. He straddles the sink, stomping one leather boot on either side of the white porcelain, and raises his chin. Ducking out of the mirror’s reflection, the photographer arrives at eye-level with the boots. They fill the frame, and she takes one picture.

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Observations on a Fall Day

Dina Magaril

in winter dead flies piled high on windowsills but all I saw was freckled back curls beg to be pulled thighs beg to differ with long eyelashes standing side by side you are the taller one arms pinning arms leave marks how the mirror made it more exciting one day before the day you were supposed to call the seatbelt made it hard to face you the summer I began noticing cars once with the face paint once in the country once with the orange dress on the back of the tooth is so black you’d have to crawl inside to understand it some bruise easy on the train let us not laugh at marshmallows a red cart in a dark basement is always futile the palm slice orange is mistaken for a heart and we cut thick slices with a borrowed knife

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H11

Chris Wood

Roy always read the obituaries first. They were buried deeper in the newspaper than those unlucky fellows were in the dirt. Obscure numerical headstones marked their site with indifference, D5, F8, H11, pages only he and the occasional misguided thumb would flip to. They were belittled by black-and-white Sears and Roebuck ads that peddled suspenders and tasseled slippers to the people who read H11 looking for their friends. The text was cold, lifeless, void of any enjoyable syntactic cohesion. Occasionally, if the deceased was a doctor or attorney or something, someone deemed important enough by the editor, there’d be a picture to accompany the print, but never more than one per page, and never a flattering picture. Every morning, Roy’s bitter black coffee left a hazy amber halo around the unlucky fellow who was lucky enough to be listed first on H11. He’d waddle to the curb digging the cold out of his eyes and rip dry-rotted rubber bands off the little bundle to flip to the deep recesses of pages hardly expected to see the light of day. He didn’t know what he was looking for, or who he was looking for, or even really why he perused the headlines on A1 last. Headlines were rarely hopeful, after all, and they too often venerated men who deserved little veneration. He’d rather read about the dead, the dead were dead and nothing more. Obituaries kept it simple: who died, when did they die, and where do you send the flowers. It was on one of these rendezvous with the cold morning curb that he came across an obituary that wasn’t so simple. The words weren’t so small, they weren’t so cold, they weren’t so dead. Sprawled across the front page of the morning post was a headline Roy couldn’t just flip by: PRESIDENT SHOT DEAD IN TEXAS. The story that followed was vibrant and alive with accusation and speculation. Alien words destined for infamy met Roy’s apathetic eyes as he slowly followed the glamorous obituary still standing in his tasseled slippers at the curb, DEPOSITORY, KNOLL, OSWALD. The care taken to describe this man’s life and death in scrutinizing detail was unlike anything he’d ever seen on H11. One man’s death had commanded four pages and three gallons of ink while thirteen other men fought for inches of space at the bottom half of a sopping wet H11. Smirking to himself and shaking his head, he scratched his ass, tucked the crumpled paper under his armpit, and staggered inside to fix his coffee.

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Berlin House Party

JJ Hurvich I come - dressed like somebody’s sweetheart in 1943 – black velvet, gold thread, crimson lips. My pumps click on the white floor; dazzling, underlit – a ghostly runway. In the room, there are a dozen beds. Everything is white – immaculate – empty. A girl is tied up in the middle of the room. Her tits encased in leather – feet tied with yellow rope, a black ball gag lodged between chafed lips. She is totally suspended; a chain binds her wrists to the ceiling. Her body is enormous –her skin folds, glistening - fish mouth hooked and bulbous, no air, no sunlight. Everything is angles; shapeless collision, a nexus composed of movement. There is a pirate, an android, several large felines. A soldier boy stares off toward the doorway, looking lost. Felix emerges, a white line from the white wall. This is all his; his palace, his girls and his beds that they’re tied to. Am I one of Felix’s girls? He notices me, his eyes are cave pools; soft dark industrial moss. He places a finger to his lips, smooth baldhead luminosity, his chest bare save for a crisscrossing of black electrical tape across his nipples. He caresses my hot cheek, moves his finger to my lips; presses into them hard; a pinch of pain and color against my teeth. Felix turns to the soldier boy who is suddenly next to me, and smears a red finger across his lips. “Hey American babies, let’s play a game. Why don’t you pretend, just for tonight, that you are completely different people. For example, you could be him, and he could be you.” And with a flourish, Felix takes out his leather whip and touches the crowns of our heads – dirty godmother. I see the boy. The boy sees me. I leave him and let him wonder. The girl in the middle of the room gets fucked by her doppleganger with a dildo for at least three hours straight. Time is honeydaze; weightless. In a sprawl of white sheets and stocking dangle in the bed I smoke a joint and watch, mesmerized. A stuffed boa constrictor snakes around my leg. Someone comes up behind me and ties a hornbill mask over my face. I lift the joint up; someone takes it from my hand and replaces it with a flute of champagne. In my ear, I feel a tickle followed by sound. “Got a light?” A girl bends over me, I light her cigarette. “Its crazy talking to you with that mask on” she says, touching my beak. The room is gently unhinged. “Umm, you’re not even wearing panties.” I say, as a girl walks by, blindfolded. A man is leading her around the room - whipping her with a riding crop. A row of fat men wearing thongs and spiked collars line the periphery of the room, also blindfolded. They have infinite wax museum hard-ons, getting sucked off by younger boys and girls on purple knees. The American soldier boy smokes in the corner. He gets up so I lay back – seesaw - as he makes his way across the room. He is suspended, gliding around girls writhing on the floor, between the beds harboring ghosts, bodies moving spooky under white sheets. I close my eyes and when I open them, he is standing over me. He sits on the bed and props me up on his lap. As he slips the sleeves of my dress off my shoulders – a white pill materializes between his fingers. He parts my lips and presses the pill onto my tongue. He pulls me toward him with the stuffed boa constrictor staring stupidly up at the ceiling. 22


My limbs are marble and my head a thimble full of mauslin. I feel my dress, my panties, fall like petals– the empty gaze of white eyes; the press of white walls. There is music, or is it bells? The hollow sound of ringing in my ears. The window suddenly swings open, a nascent summer wind that shatters the glass. The pieces scatter like water - a crystal echo cascades over my whole body. Everything, shatters. When it’s over, I drag the back of my hand across my lips, a smear of red I press onto the white sheet. The boy zips up my dress and carefully, so carefully, places the arches of my feet into my shoes, drapes the snake around his own neck and picks me up. My head falls on his shoulder, the smear of red runs lips to lips. He carries me down the sidewalk and I pretend to sleep. We are leaving somewhere and going some place else. There is absence of street noise; bristle on my face as he gently bites my bottom lip, my neck. We are the only people in the whole world. My eyes open just a crack; head back, upside down; pavement is chipped sky and sun clash blue bubble in the drowning water. It is summer. I know it is summer - sunrise 5am and I am very far from home. But somehow, it seems that snow should be falling onto my curls; that everything now is waiting for a blanket of white.

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Cricket Ballad

JP Allen

backstage in some nook a cricket has been lodged/ he drowns monologues, shouting for freedom/ cri cri cri cri cri/ amid imagined rapture actors pause/ outdone briefly by mournful cricket cries/

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A River Ain’t Too Much to Love

Will Durkin

Duncan put his paddle down across the gunwales of the canoe and let his hands drift in the water. It was a primordial morning on Allagash Lake. A heavy fog lay on the water and muffled everything. Behind him, the small beach where he had loaded his canoe slipped away into the mist. Duncan drifted. Muted bumps echoed out from the boat’s hull and lost themselves in the fog. As if to ask what they were doing, his husky mutt Kobuck looked dubiously up at him from the floor of the canoe, and blinked. After a moment he sighed slowly, rested his chin back down on his paws and stared at Duncan’s feet. Duncan leaned back and closed his eyes. Everything stood still. Duncan was thirty-five and lived in Wayne, Maine – a place he had never heard of until one day his car broke down and he had to walk the last two miles up Route 133 into the town to find a mechanic. The mechanic said that the parts to fix his old Pontiac would take a few days to arrive, so Duncan walked the rest of the way into town with Kobuck and checked into a motel. He had gotten lost on his way to Bangor. In Wayne that night Duncan ate at a restaurant named ‘Jared’s’, and wound up staying at the bar afterwards. He sat and deliberately consumed a glass of bourbon. Afterwards he drank beer and talked with the bartender, Jared. That was seven years ago. Details of his past seemed unimportant to Duncan though, as he floated in the fog. This was his first trip to Allagash Lake. He had paddled all the rivers and lakes in the Wayne area and was now getting up earlier on Saturday mornings to push farther North in search of new water. Duncan took up his paddle again, and after consulting his map started out towards the opposite end of the lake, hugging the coast so as not to lose himself in the fog. Kobuck lay on the duffel in front of him, resting his snout on the wooden rim of the canoe, gazing vacantly into space. Duncan’s stroke: the forward scrape of the paddle on the gunwale, a watery hiccup, the gurgling yawn of the blade pulling sternward, a knocking pry, the next scrape forward; its meter, a metronome for the lake’s own quiet symphony. Duncan still could not see very far through the fog, but the lake was calm, silent and seemed empty. That was the way he liked it. He had always, even as a young teenager on canoe trips in Adirondack State Park with his father, enjoyed the solitude of canoeing, and found he could lose himself for hours in the steady rhythm of paddling. There was a particular satisfaction he found in the simple agenda of canoeing that was unknown to the rest of his life.

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After a lunch of cheese and bread, Duncan decided to head towards the remote southern end of the lake, away from the section that feeds the Allagash River. He paddled until the land on his right came to an abrupt point and ended. Ahead, the lake opened up on all sides. Duncan paused and checked his map. They had just passed the end of a long spit of land and now were left out in the middle of lake, stranded in the fog without a shoreline to follow. He looked over his shoulder at the shore. A verdant wall of pines stared back at him through the shifting gray. Duncan deliberated. He could either follow the coast all the way back around the inside of the bay or continue straight and try to cross the middle. His concern was that out in the center of the lake there would be nothing to orient himself by, and it would be easy to get turned around. Kobuck suddenly picked his head up, listening to something. After a moment Duncan could faintly hear the sound of a small outboard motor. The sound was coming steadily towards them from inside the bay, at an acute angle to their direction. Duncan wondered how the boat could have gotten there without passing them. There hadn’t been any other cars parked where the logging road met the trail, and as far as he knew that was the only access to the lake. Kobuck gazed intently in its direction. Duncan stopped paddling and sat still in his canoe. The outboard drew gradually closer. After a minute it emerged from the fog and passed directly in front of him. Duncan saw an old man at the tiller. The old man was staring straight out into the mist towards the opposite shore and never looked at Duncan. Duncan remained silent with his paddle resting across his knees, watching. The outboard moved steadily onwards and disappeared with its wake chasing after it back into the mist. The whine of its engine was still audible, but the noise dampened as it traveled further away. Like Duncan, it too seemed to be heading towards the southeastern part of the lake. Duncan picked up his paddle and decided to follow it out across the center. Duncan soon lost sight of the shore behind him. He paddled hard to keep within earshot of the engine, but eventually he lost it. Without the sound to guide him, he tried to maintain a sense of direction by keeping the wind on his left. Or so he told himself at least. Nevertheless, after a time Duncan could make out the dark shape of trees in front of him. He rounded a point and found himself in a small bay. It was mid-afternoon now and the wind swirled around him, circling the inlet. The fog was clearing, but the air had gotten colder. The outboard was nowhere to be seen. After paddling further into the bay he found a river flowing calmly into the lake. Duncan paused and considered what to do. He examined his map. By his best judgment, this seemed to be where the outboard had been heading. Though he didn’t want to get caught by nightfall without a campsite, he was intrigued by the river. He could see a spot nearby that seemed suitable though, and he had his canoeing pole. He decided to follow the river. Duncan paddled to the mouth of the river and stood up. He slid his pole out from under the canoe’s thwarts and planted one end in the bottom of the lake. He leaned down heavily on the pole, pushing forward, and climbed hand over hand. When he reached the top, he retrieved the pole in a windmill over his head and over to the other side of the canoe to repeat the action. 26


With Kobuck now excited, standing like a figurehead on the prow of his canoe, Duncan made good headway upstream. There was no fog on the river or in the woods surrounding it. The current was strong but manageable, and the smooth stones that covered the bottom made good anchors for his pole to push off. As he snaked around bends shaded by thick overgrown scrub brush and trees half sloughed into the water, the river grew shallower and shallower. The bottom changed into sand. Duncan smelled smoke as he went around another turn, each one by now seeming like it had to be the last. Through the trees he saw what looked like an ancient, abandoned hunting lodge. A few large hemlocks and maples towered around it like sentinels. As he rounded the bend he could see it more clearly. The building looked as if it was slowly becoming part of the landscape: brush and fern had woven itself in and out of the beams, tree roots were welled up around the frame, tangled in the crumbling stone foundation. As he got closer, Duncan saw that a central portion of the roof had collapsed, and that a massive birch tree was growing out of the house like sprout emerging from a seed. Once outside, the white trunk had expanded vastly into its newfound freedom, swelling into great swathes of green. On the river was the aluminum outboard tied to a dock. Duncan approached the shore and noticed a thin trail of smoke floating out of the lodge’s chimney. Unsure of what to do, he stood in his canoe, resting on his pole. An impatient Kobuck, standing again with front paws on the bow, barked twice at the edifice. After a moment the front door swung open, and a man with a full head of wild white hair and a gray beard stepped out. “Hey theah,” he called in a thick northern Maine accent as he walked down a well-worn path to the river. “Fah ways up the riva you made it in that there canoe.” When he spoke vowels echoed deeply around inside of his mouth, swallowing the small spurts of consonants that punctuated his words. With a final push, Duncan beached the canoe and stepped ashore. Kobuck jumped out, and with a quick, appraising sniff at the man’s pant leg ran off around the side of the house. “Duncan Lowe,” Duncan said as he reached out to shake the man’s hand, “I saw you out on the lake and came up here to have a look around.” The man held onto Duncan’s hand, and with a furrowed brow examined face. “Jeremiah,” he said after a moment, letting go with a final shake. “Didn’t know anyone was on the lake then. Don’t usually like people seein me come up heah. Must be gettin old. But,” he added, “this riva aint private property, and I got no problem with you an your dog. ’Fact, I can show ya around a bit if ya’d like.” Duncan glanced at the graying sky and the lengthening shadows, then at the old man. It was difficult to tell what his age was, but Duncan guessed he had to be at least sixty or seventy. His hands were roughly calloused and his eyes crinkled as he grinned at Duncan. He wore both suspenders and a belt. “Do you live here?” Duncan asked as they walked towards the lodge. “Sure do.” “That tree, is it growing through the roof?” “Yahp, it was theah when I found the place. The back wall had come down a bit and the tree was already startin to grow out through the hole in the roof. Couldn’t take it down without it fallin on the lodge, so I rebuilt around it.” 27


28


As the two neared the building Duncan saw that it wasn’t so much being overrun by nature as living in a partnership with it. The whole structure was caving inwards and resting against the enormous birch. Tree roots had crawled up the building’s dark, sagging boards and seemed to be holding the walls upright. Bushes filled up a broken window tightly. A layer of moss and ferns covered the roof like a wool hat. “She’s strong enough,” Jeremiah added, resting his hand on the lodge, “She’ll outlast me.” “Are you here all year round?” Duncan asked. “Oh sure. It can get pretty cold in the winta, but I got a stove. I stay warm enough.” As if anticipating Duncan’s next question, Jeremiah said, “’Sides, I gotta watch things up heah. I take care of the riva. I’ll show ya.” As they walked on a trail past the house and into the woods, Kobuck ran out from under a bush to join them. The trail wound through the woods for about half a mile before coming to a small clearing. Among a few saplings was a stack of buckets, a coil of black hose and an old type of metal pump. In the middle of the clearing, rising about two feet off of the ground, was what appeared to be the remnants of a well. Water filled the stone circle and poured continuously out of a gap like a spigot. Jeremiah gazed reverently at it. “That there’s Bessie. She’s a spring as natural as they come and the true source of the whole Allagash watershed. Her riva, that you and I came up on, feeds Allagash Lake, and that feeds the Allagash River, and that feeds the St. John and a million otha things all over the Northern Country. There’re otha rivas round here, but they come an go. Bessie’s what keeps the lake full when nothin else is.” “You see…” Jeremiah continued, but then stopped. His attention was suddenly elsewhere. He glanced sideways out into the darkening forest and whet his lips. Kobuck sniffed the stream flowing out of the well and started drinking. Jeremiah smiled and took a copper ladle hanging off a nearby tree. “Best water in the world I say. A man could live forever drinkin it.” He handed the ladle to Duncan, who peered down into the water as far as he could. As he dipped the ladle into the water it glinted, catching refracted light in its cup. Duncan raised it to his lips and drank deeply. When they got back to the lodge Jeremiah looked up at the darkening sky. “It’s late,” he said, “ya welcome to stay around here if ya’d like.” They cooked dinner over a fire pit in front of the lodge. Sitting on stumps, they watched the river as they ate. “Don’t see many people up heah,” Jeremiah said. “I can imagine,” Duncan said. “Why’d you decide to live here?” “It’s a matta of principle, I guess. It’s just what I do. I have ta keep an eye on things or might nobody else will. The Park Service knows I’m heah an they give me money now an then. Once in a while I go get supplies like I did today. So, I manage.” He took another bite. “What do you do, Duncan? Besides canoein, that is.” “Not much. I work as a bartender at a restaurant in Wayne.” 29


Jeremiah nodded appreciatively. Duncan dropped his fork on his plate and sighed. “What did you do before you came here?” Jeremiah ignored his question. “Do you like what you do?” he asked. “Bartending?” “Sure.” “It’s…” Duncan started. He thought for a moment. “Well, it pays the rent I guess.” The river droned on in the background, its rhythm filling the silence. “So what did you say you did before this?” Duncan tried again. The river murmured. “When I first found this place,” Jeremiah finally said, “it was by chance – like you today – but this was back when no one eva came heah. Some trappers maybe, but that was it. Theah was a man, a man far olda than I will ever be, who lived in this heah lodge. He lived heah and took care of the riva. He showed me the spring and he told me all about the water that came from the earth, that fed the earth, that loved the earth. He had been living heah longa than he could remember, or so he told me. He said he loved this water. And I could see that the water loved him. That night I camped heah, and in the dark I heard him sing to the riva. He repeated this one verse ova and ova.” Duncan opened his mouth to ask something, but then didn’t. Jeremiah sucked absent-mindedly on a piece of meat stuck in his teeth. “Back then,” he said, “I was workin for the government as a surveya. I was supposed to be measurin this land for their topographical maps, but I stopped doing that pretty soon after I came heah.” “Why’s that?” “I wasn’t happy with what I was doin, slicin up land inta acres and judgin it. The people I worked for claimed they was protectin the land, but I say what’s the point of protectin something when you’ve stopped actually carin about it? They didn’t care about the water, they were only concerned with how it was ‘utilized.’” Jeremiah punctuated this last word with hand quotes and spat on the ground. “When I woke up the next mornin the old man was gone, and so was his canoe. I figured he’d just gone somewhere for the day, so I got in my boat and left. When I got back to the lake, I saw his canoe floatin out in the middle. I went over, but there was just his paddle sittin in the bottom. I towed the canoe back to the mouth of the riva and tied it to a tree, thinkin that it must have gotten loose durin the night and that the old man was probably looking for it.” 30


Jeremiah paused and wet his lips. Duncan held his plate and watched the river. “I neva did see that old man again,” Jeremiah said. “I came back ta Allagash Lake a few years layda an his canoe was still where I had tied it up. The canvas had all rotted outta the bottom.” After a time Jeremiah glanced up at Duncan, and then turned his gaze out over the river, letting it rest there. “Well,” he said. The two didn’t talk much after that. They sat quietly and then the old man took Duncan’s plate, bid him good evening and walked back to the lodge. Duncan got his things from his canoe. It was a clear night and he decided to sleep outside. A pale moon rose. Saturated yellows and oranges melted into the western horizon, giving way to a darker palate. The wind and the trees whispered back and forth. The ancient building slumbered, its open door listing back and forth in the breeze. As he slept that night, Duncan dreamt of the spring: a shadowy eye blindly giving and giving, heedless of the dark. He saw the water gathering patiently in pools below it, trickling through mossy contours and becoming a stream. The stream traveled. Tributaries confluenced, and the water surged as its pace grew deeper. Waiting in the middle of its path was the old man. He smiled and gave himself too, joining the river. Of a single mind, he and the waters flowed swift and strong in their sense of purpose. Onshore, Duncan opened his eyes. Moonlight shone through the silhouetted treetops. Kobuck lay in the pine needles at his feet, breathing softly through his nose. Duncan closed his eyes and listened to the river sing.

31


32


Reading old love letters

Robert McKay

Before dawn, I’m awake and reading. Folders bloom across the screen; black tea unfolds inside the skull: the hurried blossoms of a man-made morning. Gray light rises, like water, till it spills in all the windows. Your letters on the screen: the dead year’s epitaphs in pixel-flicker. Hardly cut in stone. Gray histories that vanish on command, but stay, unseen in a mute and massive memory, like God’s stored files on how to judge a soul, send flood, or how to make the spring. * I read them in the morning, and feel, facing the screen’s unblinking, undecaying eye the body’s sweet forgetfullness, in which your letters are inked, not waterproof, on the pressed bodies of trees. They are the blown detritus, of winter’s pelting night, are leaf-mould settled now, layer upon layer, beneath the persistent birdcalls and the spring rain. 33


Sweatervest Fall 2009 Editors

Emily Temple Philippe Bronchtein

Art Editor Waylon D’Mello

Layout Emily Raymundo Reading Board

Dean Atyia Philippe Bronchtein Bri Cavallaro Jarret Dury-Agri Emily Feldman David Foote Rachael Jennings Justine Katzenbach Emily Raymundo Jessica Stevens Emily Temple David Wrangham

Faculty Advisor Robert Cohen


Submit to Sweatervest Spring 2009 pbroncht@middlebury.edu

Fall 2008  

semi-incomplete (no cover, oops!) but generally representative of what sweatervest's all about.

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