Christ for the revolution

Christ for the revolution

Claudette’s friend Patrice was a first generation
American whose parents had done
what so many other French Canadians had done:
come down to work the textile mills.

Patrice spoke French well:
it was her maternal tongue since it was all she ever heard
in her home growing up.
Claudette enjoyed dropping in on her friend’s boutique
and having coffee in the storeroom. When business was slow,
like today, Patrice had no qualms about leaving the floor
and smoking in the back.

Claudette had brought a bag of pastries with her
and said that if we don’t finish these
you should take them home to Jack and les animaux.
These are not for Jack, ma soeur
he is already getting too wide in the middle!
Claudette knew she was right;
Jack had started letting himself go after their second child
Antoinette was born. His looks were still intact
but it was clear to Claudette (and Patrice)
that the old punctiliousness was gone and though Patrice teased
him lovingly about it she found herself looking
more often now at other men.

You should say something to him without the jokes
Claudette observed
but Patrice was sure that he couldn’t go without his meat and potatoes.
He could be French Canadian, I swear
he reminds me more each day of mon papa who gained twice the weight my mother
did and she was the one who delivered seven children!
Patrice lit a cigarette. He doesn’t like
that I smoke, says my breath tastes foul in his mouth
but he still takes a pipe in the evenings
again, like my father.

Still, I should not complain about things like this
since they hardly count, eh?
Claudette nodded.
I learned, Patrice
that you cannot be too picky with the men
but then again who can help it? You should see some of the ones
I met at the rallies. The things they believe
about liberation are admirable
but in other ways they are so conservative to the point it would
bore or disgust you. She made a lewd gesture with her
cigarette and Patrice nearly aspirated her coffee

Revolutionaries everywhere else-
Claudette tried an éclair.
I should not be eating this surtout pendant les fêtes . . .
butin de corps . . . .

I see you have not lost your pique,
Patrice chuckled. How are things with your
daughter now- I know you said she had to be taken
to hospital and was not sleeping.
Claudette blew smoke and watched it
dissipate. I cannot be sure. She says that she is better
but a mother knows things, right?
A friend of mine in the psych department gave me some
articles to read about manic personalities
but they don’t quite explain it

Trouble sleeping, Patrice asked.
She is having nightmares?
Yes, too many cauchemars and I don’t know
why this just started happening. Your kids are still
young enough still so you are now going
through the night terrors, yes?
Patrice nodded. You think this thing with Laura
is like night terrors, Claudette?
She seems too old for something like that.

Ouais, but Laura has always been different.
You should listen to the way she plays the piano;
that passion, like I feel about other things
but which I can link up to something outside.
Une cause, you know? Laura’s passion isn’t the world
out there, it is the world in here
she touched her breast. Sometimes I think the world
is coming through her instead of being out
there to be got to; like what I do with my marching and petitions
and all of that stuff-

She sipped her coffee.

But Claudette, you are just describing the experience
of the artist, that’s all. Laura sounds like she
has an artistic temperament. How does
that explain the intensity of what
she’s been experiencing-

But it does, you see. I know some say
these must be manic episodes of creation taking
their toll, leaving her prone to terror.
But I don’t see mania there.
In some ways she is like a young child. Oscar Wilde’s
innocent artist who remains open
to improbables.

They were both silent a moment.
Claudette put out the butt of her cigarette and removed
her coat from the back of the chair.
It’s funny, chérie but you think that all the passion
in the world is reserved for you in your work
and your body –the things that you do.
How many men did I have to leave because they couldn’t
understand that; thinking that my soul
and body were
their tawdry possessions.

And then there’s the world outside
trop laide and without hope; I realized some time back
that I’d traded Christ for the revolution
only to find that I’d found Christ again in my
child. They poisoned us, our parents,
don’t you know. She put on her coat and brushed
the errant crumbs off her sleeves

Weren’t we supposed to be too smart
for religion? Well, I know that you were born here
and so you’ve got the transplanted church. But I grew up
and watched people shake it off in the streets
and I thought quelle audace! when they started blowing up mailboxes
and saying that we were les nègres du nord
but now it’s all in my daughter,
the Christ-

Patrice wasn’t sure she understood her friend.
Claudette was prone to le drame
but this thing with Laura
was different. It had turned her inward
and that jauntiness,
that ribald side was missing.

When had she ever spoken of the Christ-

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

The bathroom mirror

The bathroom mirror

The only thing Emmie wanted to do
was wash her clothes and find something
suitable to wear that night. Lucky
would be coming and she was hoping
that he would not have given up
on reconciling with her.

Standing in front of the bathroom
mirror she watched
as a sudden burst of sunlight lit the mint green
tiles in the shower and shot through her
hair, turning its muted blonde into a ravishing,
luxuriant color. The traces of red Lucky said he could
always find Emmie now saw for herself.

She tossed her head back
feeling her hair fall over her face.
The bright light suddenly fled the room but just as abruptly returned.
Letting her hair fall back into place
she felt two things at work inside of her body

Both of which came together in her face:
there was the brilliant blonde light
in from the window
and there was that other half,
a sequestered darkness held within the upstairs hallway
where every bedroom door
was closed.

Emmie could see in her own reflection
the two hemispheres of her world,
one high and one low,
and said to the mirror Lucky sees this
and placed her index finger on her
brightly lit left cheek which made her smirk.
Pleased, she pushed back over her right temple a becoming
strand of hair, wresting it behind her ear.

In the kitchen she waited
as the brand new dryer her father had purchased at Thanksgiving
finished with her clothes. She leaned back
on the marble countertop
and noticed the bareness of the room.
It was nothing but a series of clean lines
and flat surfaces.
In Lucky’s kitchen there were hutches and shelves
everywhere displaying the myriad multi-colored wine glasses
the family seemed to collect.
Their kitchen also always smelled of something pungent:
Phil smoked Indian cigarettes despite the fact
they made everyone in his house cough.

As she left by the back door
with a bag of freshly packed clothing Emmie felt
pleased that this time
her despondent house had been unable to reach her.
It was refreshing to be stirred at her exit
by the frigid breeze and sharp light
of late morning.

But she knew that it was not the elements
that were responsible. The sun had acted merely as
a magic mirror revealing something
she needed –even deserved-
to see.

Her beauty had saved her this time
and it could again.
Walking with her collar turned up
and her purple toque pulled down over her ears
she felt a flutter of gratitude to her mother
that surprised her.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

For a better 1972

For a better 1972

Laura paused over the sink
and let the bright sunshine bathe her
face. Perhaps the world would be right
after all. For a better 1972
she thought then chuckled thinking that she
now thought like an old person.

The sun was brilliant and gold
and the ice that had coated the trees overnight
shimmered and stirred in the frigid breeze.
Laura opened the sliding glass door
in the dining room and went outside without a coat
letting the Arctic air cover her skin. She could
feel her nostrils begin freezing
from the inside. She was wearing red corduroy slacks
and a white t-shirt saying Listen to the Beatles
her mother had found it in a store
in Montreal when she was there recently for an academic
conference.

How long can I stand this
she thought, feeling invigorated by the bitterness
of the cold, the warmth
(yes, she could call it that) of the sun
and the dancing, scaly shadows that climbed
the white aluminum siding of the house.

She was barefoot but wanted to feel
the rock hard, exposed ground of the yard
so she walked off the flagstones
onto the brown grass that was fitted
tight as a cement block.

The maple tree with its stolid, immobile trunk
stood silently beside her while the spruce
made even a light breeze seem violent: it groaned and bent
and Laura thought it was beautiful, that noise
making a musical instrument of the tree’s body while allowing
it to live. The wind would make for a better 1972,
a new movement in the history of the country
and her town.

A new movement in my own life.

She could feel her ears turn hard
and the chill that had felt novel now started
to bring a touch of pain
to her toes. She hooked her thumbs into her belt
and turned blithely towards the back door.

A flicker of panic spread through her abdomen
when she wondered if the sliding glass
door had locked her out –it had done it before.
Her mother was going to be gone
several hours more, she was sure of that
and Emmie, she did not have a key; she’d be expecting
Laura to let her in.

Feeling her heart suddenly race
Laura grabbed the door handle and pulled.
To her great relief and then delight it opened wide.

For a better 1972.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

Wide Awake

Wide awake

Lou woke up with an uncomfortable
feeling in his stomach.
At first it felt familiar, that caving
he often experienced each morning before
eating. His father said it was a mild case of hypoglycemia
but Lou never was satisfied
by that explanation.

His mother had made a big breakfast.
She wasn’t trying to hide her pleasure
that Marcus had come back in one piece. No matter
what her husband told her she just knew that
a young man like Marcus scarcely
had a place anywhere. She hoped it would be different
with Lou.

Her husband was a different kind of man
with infinite patience and bearing
and brilliance. He didn’t have to prove himself
but he also never doubted that he could
work his body like a piston and remove any obstacle
or stanch the bleeding. It wasn’t that he tended to forget
what had happened to his own father
he just carried on like a force of nature.

Darnell had a friend he’d come up with who had
literary affectations. He called Darnell the “inexorable negro”
and told Clarisse when they met
that none of the tough brothers in their neighborhood
ever tangled with him. It took Clarisse time to figure out why
since she almost never saw her husband
caught in a fit of temper.

Lou is like his father in many ways
she thought as she watched him eat breakfast
and scan the morning papers. They still got the Tribune
but they also were subscribers to the Sunday edition of the Amsterdam News
which had not left the table.
Clarisse laughed every time the postman showed up
with their Sunday subscription.
He never said anything.
He didn’t have to.

Ma, I told you about that party tonight
the one I want to bring Marcus to. Laura said it was alright
but I know I gotta run these things by you.
Clarisse didn’t look at her son. Laura is that Rosella woman’s daughter, right?
Lou said, I think so
he didn’t know the gossip in town.
Clarisse said
That’s fine. Just don’t be too late; he’s got a train day after tomorrow
and I need to see a little more of him before he goes.
She started scrubbing the frying pan
in the sink.

Lou scanned the two newspapers
but was indifferent.
Food was not settling his stomach the way
it usually did. Still, he wouldn’t tell
his mother since she would find a reason
to keep him home tonight.
And if he stayed in Marcus would too
which would please their mother.

Lou knew how she fretted over him,
he had heard her scream in the middle of the night
two days after Marcus was sent to Basic.
She had seen him obliterated by friendly fire,
a bomb gone astray.
He’d listened to the murmur of his father’s soothing
words, picking out a phrase here and there.
But Clarisse was disconsolate that night and kept saying
There’s no place for a boy like Marcus-
until Darnell had grown impatient and left the room
to take a drink of water. He had looked into Lou’s bedroom
on an impulse and had seen him lying there
listening.

Wide awake.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

I would have been lonely

I would have been lonely

The morning of the party
Laura was the first one up which was unusual.
She had enjoyed several nights
of uninterrupted, soothing sleep and so
before daybreak made breakfast
for everyone. The coffee was exquisite her mother
said and even Emmie was sufficiently stirred by its aroma
(and the caffeine) to admit that she would be going
home to pick up some things

Laura turned from the stove
and raised an eyebrow
but Emmie was undeterred. My father
is still not home and I know
because I’ve been back to check for him.

Do you know where he has gone
Claudette asked, which annoyed Emmie
she wondered why Mrs. Rosella thought that it was her business.
She shook her head
Well, Claudette said, I am planning on going out to pick up
some délices so I will drop you off there
and Emmie didn’t feel like arguing.
I am also stopping by a friend’s boutique too, chère
so I will not be home until later.
Laura nodded.

The sweets will keep in the car.

Outside the streets and trees shimmered
with ice. When the wind blew
the branches groaned under a deep frost that had
settled like a fog in the overnight.
This town,
Claudette said, almost to herself
is sometimes more beautiful like this than at any other time.
Emmie nodded.

No one was out but bottles of milk sat
on front porches. This is quaint, yes?
Claudette gestured at the bottles and commented
that even the newsboys had dropped off the morning papers.
I don’t know why people in my generation say the youth
have no work ethic-

When Claudette pulled the car up
to Emmie’s she touched her daughter’s friend’s arm
gently and said You should know that having
you with us over Christmas was something that Laura-
she paused and corrected herself

Something I had hoped for.

Emmie was reluctant to look into Mrs. Rosella’s eyes
suddenly she was afraid of being betrayed.
Sometimes Claudette was the smartest, most perceptive
person that she knew

Which was intimidating.

At other times Emmie wondered
if Laura’s mother had any idea what people said
about her. It wasn’t simply that she
was a Catholic. There were stories about Claudette
and all of the fathers in the town.
Women said those Canucks have lax morals
and it isn’t just because they have too many children.

Emmie only mustered what felt to her
like a feeble response
Well, I would have been lonely not being there.
She thought Claudette would tear up
and the skin on her arms began to itch beneath
her coat; her red wool scarf scratched
at her neck and chin.

But Claudette was very un-French just then
and only smiled faintly.
We will have a true fête tonight-
she lit a cigarette with her car lighter and gave
Emmie’s arm a squeeze before turning back toward the
windshield.

Banish

Banish

Her ash tray, the flakes of ash on graded
papers. And a drop of red wine staining
the fringe of the open agenda.

In the living room
the sliding glass door is coated in ice.
Her smoke lingers beneath a stilled ceiling fan.

She is upstairs now
and is not alone.
I listen though I shouldn’t.

When she comes down and pours herself
orange juice, dripping that clear liquid inside
her house coat is open just far enough

To banish me from the house.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks