Issue 67 — Grace Cavalieri, Kristin N. Faatz
The Magellanic Clouds Of Viet Nam*
“How far we travelled, sweetheart...”
When you came home from
the minutes of war
sick from passion and duty
in the past
and the future
anywhere but here.
You walked in
of desires and
other rites of loss.
"Promise me you’ll
dreams of me," I’d said
but that spoke to a life
had not yet reached
and a time
than your experience.
It took eleven years
for you to reach
the marble names
afraid you’d find yours
on the list
and afraid you wouldn’t.
Fated to be alive
when your friends were dead,
your mournful clothes
and turned toward the Memorial.
I found Buzz Eidsmoe’s name
you called. This is why I was
afraid to come
afraid to see it.
It’s here. I see it.
I can remember their faces
but not all their names.
You talked about perspective,
the marble of memorial.
contained by a sun
shining on black surfaces
Copyright © 2010 by Grace Calavieri.
When we were young and estranged
we met in the hall. He pressed
me against his uniform, my
satin blouse, we fell to the
floor in love—no we did not—
we stood—I wore my chiffon
blouse, distant in the kitchen—
or we walked in the park—no—
it was our wish that we
fell to the floor in a way
like never before but— no—
it must have been some other selves
who should have worn those clothes.
Now he is sailing away.
Copyright © 2010 by Grace Cavalieri.
from the white winters
from the stone letters
after guarding the night
the end of our differences
from the colonized heart
the mournful moral lessons
into the electronic age
the versions of ourselves
in the breeze from the waters
hoarding its memories
Copyright © 2010 by Grace Cavalieri.
Scarred though we are
by what we’ve left,
will we remember it less
our car packed full with hope.
We move toward a place with
but there never were
good people who pulled
praise from our curses
while we sat stupid and crying
that we were still alive.
I have finally let go
of something I never had,
finding the miracle
that there is nothing to forgive.
Now only time is left to greet us,
the life and death parts,
but nicely inclusive.
Then off we go again with the
starting up of it,
our nails ribbed with age and
Should we excuse others
for all we’ve done to them—
before giving in
to the vanishing dark,
the feeling no language can speak,
the open air of our own music,
the sound of the rain on the wall.
Copyright © 1993 by Grace Cavalieri.
There you sit in open the cockpit
I never saw such a smile
Goggles pushed up on your head
Shoulders harnessed with a parachute
To keep you safe
This would be before you were on 9 carriers
Before exile to Viet Nam
Before your children surrounded you like stars
Waiting for your kiss
Before the Autumns of our lives
Before there would be no Autumns
Before I said don’t fly away
Before you would become someone else
Then back again
Before there would be so much sun outside without you
Before the winds were light and variable
Before you’d sit on the front step every time
I went to the store waiting for my return
There you are sitting in a cockpit of an SNJ
Smiling at me for all eternity
In a moment that could not last
Cleared for flight
Everything in the whole blue world
Ahead of you.
Copyright © 2014 by Grace Cavalieri.
Wife, The Return, The Magellanic Clouds of Viet Nam (Navy Wife, Casa Menendez, 2010)
Florida (Poems New& Selected, Vision Library 1993)
1952 ( DC Poet Laureate Dolores Kendrick Website)
Grace Cavalieri is a poet and playwright with 16 books and chapbooks published; and, 26 full-length and short form plays produced. She founded and still produces The Poet and the Poem for public radio celebrating 37 years on-air. The series is now recorded at the Library of Congress for national distribution and has presented more than 2,500 poets to the nation. She holds awards for poetry including the Allen Ginsberg Awards (1993& 2013;) the Bordighera Award, The Paterson Award, plus AWP’s George Garrett Award for Service to Literature, The Columbia Inaugural Award and CPB’s Silver Medal for broadcasting. She was married to the Sculptor Kenneth Flynn until his death in 2013.They have 4 grown daughters and 4 grandchildren. She lives in Annapolis, Maryland.
Kristin N. Faatz
Dan saw the pet shop’s green awning on the far side of the parking lot. To make it through the last stop light, he would have had to bump the old sedan over the curb and plow across the dead yellow grass. He hit the brakes. The cage in the back seat clanged, and a metal-on-metal squeal, loud enough to cut through a nearby truck’s diesel growl, came in through the open windows.
“Damn brakes,” Dan said. Hazy gray cloud cover hid the sun and pressed down on the street like a heavy blanket. The stink of diesel exhaust filled the car. “We just got new pads last summer,” he said.
Marie looked out the passenger’s side window. Dan saw the straight line of her nose and her compressed lips, but not her eyes. She muttered something he couldn’t hear. “What did you say?” he asked.
She didn’t look at him to answer. “Maybe if you didn’t drive with both feet.”
The light turned green. Dan made it as far as the intersection before it went back to yellow. He hit the brakes. In the back seat, the cage jolted again.
Marie’s hand jerked out. Her wedding ring slipped to her knuckle and back as she snatched at the air conditioner’s dial and turned it on full blast. She rolled up her window and dropped her hand on the skinny armrest. Dan heard her chewed-short nails click when she drummed them on the plastic.
Dan kept his window open and reached for the knob to turn the radio on. “For Christ’s sake, don’t,” Marie said.
The light turned green again. The brakes scraped, but Dan got through the intersection, turned into the parking lot and found a space in front of the pet store’s awning. Before he could cut the ignition, Marie unclipped her seatbelt and threw it aside. She got out of the car and slammed the door, but it shut on her seatbelt buckle and she had to reach in and throw the buckle back against the seat. The belt hung there, slack. She slammed the door again and went up onto the sidewalk.
Dan opened the back door and hoisted the cage out. He had dragged it into the driveway and hosed it down right before he and Marie left the house. It had been water-cold when he wedged it into the car, but now the metal bars cut lines of heat into his palms.
Jake had filled up this cage. Dan remembered the click of the big mutt’s nails on the metal floor as he turned around, trying to get comfortable. Long drives were hard on him because he couldn’t stretch out on his side. He would crouch and whine, and when the whine swelled into a long, low-pitched howl, Marie would turn around in her seat. “It’s okay, boy.” She would reach her fingertips through the bars to touch his fur. “We’ll be there soon.”
Dan lowered the cage onto the pavement. Marie stood on the sidewalk with her arms folded, looking past the cars at something away in the distance.
The night Jake died, it had taken both of them to get the cage into the car. The old dog hadn’t seemed so bad at first, still going to his water bowl at least, and besides, the vet’s office had already closed. “We’ll take him in first thing in the morning,” Dan told Marie. “You should go to bed.” But even when he dragged the covers over his head, Dan could still hear the hoarse whining from downstairs and the click of Jake’s thick nails on the linoleum tile as he stumbled from his bowl to the door and back. Finally Marie threw the bed covers back and jumped up. “I can’t stand this anymore.”
She looked up the ER vet’s address in the phone book while Dan lugged the cage out of the garage into the house. Jake had slumped down by the front door and lay still, not even whining now, with his eyes shut and his shaggy side heaving up and down. Dan took the top and sides off the cage, hoisted the dog up by his front end and half-dragged him onto the metal floor. He put the walls back together around him and he and Marie hauled the cage, painfully slowly, down the porch steps to the car.
Now the pet shop door swung behind Marie with a jingle of bells. Dan caught it with his foot before it closed. He levered it back open with the cage in his arms.
The store smelled of floor cleaner, meal and dogs. Marie was already at the counter, talking to a twenty-something girl with a long yellow ponytail and glasses. Dan set the cage on the streaked white floor.
Marie said, “I filled out the paperwork for the lab mix puppy.” Dan heard her nails clicking on the counter. “I was told I could pick him up today.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the girl said. “Let me get your file.”
She left the counter and went to a side office. Dan stood by the cage.
They had found Jake at the pound ten years ago. Both of them had fallen for the gangly, half-grown puppy, and they filled out adoption papers for him that same afternoon. The only problem was the car. Marie thought they could spread a sheet on the back seat, but Dan insisted on the cage to minimize the mess, even though she pointed out that the fur would get through the bars anyway.
He touched the top of it now. The bars were still hot.
The girl came back with a manila folder. She spread it open on the counter. “I just need a couple more signatures. Is that your husband?”
Dan stepped forward. “That’s right.”
“I’d like both of you to sign, please.”
“I’m the one doing the adoption.” Marie’s tone turned sharp. “Why does he have to sign?”
“Both of you will be the owners, right? We like to have all the information on file.”
“I’ll be the owner. This is my responsibility.”
The girl glanced back and forth between Dan and Marie. “Yes, ma’am, I understand. We like to have all the information.”
Marie’s fingernails rapped the counter. “The dog is mine. You need to understand, my husband can barely drive a car, his precious car. He’s worn the brakes out twice in a year.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the girl said. “I’m just following our rules.”
Dan said, “Marie, let’s sign the papers. It’s okay.”
For the first time, she looked at him. “You’re going to tell me it’s okay? Jake died in that goddamn cage.”
Dan wanted to say, “Fine, we’ll leave it here.” He wanted to say, “The dog can ride in the back seat.” He wanted, insanely, to take the cage outside and put it in front of the car and gun the engine.
The girl squared her shoulders. “Ma’am, if you want you can talk to the manager. He’s not here now, but he’ll be in tomorrow morning.”
“Tomorrow.” The word fell, flat, from Marie’s lips. “No. I don’t want to wait till tomorrow.”
For one second, Dan thought she would sign the papers and pass them to him. The girl must have thought so too, because she held out a ballpoint pen.
Instead Marie stepped away from the counter. Her shoulders sagged and her curled hair looked wilted and tired. She walked past Dan in silence.
“Ma’am?” the girl said.
The shop bells jingled again. Dan watched Marie’s small shape move away in the heat haze. The empty cage stood by the door.
Copyright © 2014 by Kristin N. Faatz.
Kris Faatz is a Baltimore-area pianist and teacher. She studied music and engineering at Swarthmore College and later received an MA in piano performance from the Peabody Institute. Her short fiction has appeared in Umbrella Factory Magazine, The Kenyon Review’s online edition, Potomac Review and The Monarch Review. Much of her writing takes inspiration from the music world, and explores connections between musical and verbal storytelling.