Pablo Campues, Saint

by Henry Miles

In Quito, Pablo worked in a match factory, 
made seventy-five centavos a day,
lived in a cave house his own hands

had hollowed in the mountain. 
In his thirties, he learned
that the stone of Daniel 2:44

cut from the mountain without hands,
had begun to roll, would grow like a snowball, 
until it covered the earth.

Pablo got baptized, attended church 
—became inactive. Two Mormon elders 
sweated their way up the mountain,

encouraged him back to the stone. 
Their concern overwhelmed him; 
he knew only friends made that walk.

On Sundays, his red hands placed 
hymnals on warped benches, 
then picked them up again.

Weekdays at dawn in seminary
print on pages took on sounds, then sense.
Pablo tithed, did home teaching, shared the stone.

"Make Pablo a leader in the Sunday School," 
a gringo elder urged Presidente Toro, who said,
"I want to, but Pablo speaks badly, can barely read."

"But," said the elder, "Gringos speak worse,
read worse, and we use them." 
The presidente shook his head.

"With gringos poor Spanish is not a lack of culture.
Would nonmembers return after a meeting led
by a righteous, but barely literate, Indio?" he asked.

Six years after his baptism, Pablo died;
the presidente learned three weeks too late.
Pablo's friends at the factory,

unaware of his new faith, pooled
their pesos, and procured
a mass for Pablo's soul.

Henry Miles, after working more than 30 years in the foreign service, has settled in Provo and enrolled in the English graduate program at BYU.

 

Half Full

by Sam Andrus

The moon strikes half full
as I return, me and the moon.
We talk, just me and him. We
know the other half is there:
dark, away, gone maybe.
Me and him know
it is not really gone:
it goes but not really.
Patience, we will on this night
me and him be full.

Sam Andrus is an English major at BYU. He will graduate in June and continue working at WordPerfect.

Annunciation

by Maryjan Gay Munger

Donna Yeates, my mother's friend, was once 
Mary in the ward Christmas program.
As herself, she had no children, couldn't
even gain weight, which seemed to me 
part of the problem. She sighed
to my mother that though she drank straight 
cream, her face never softened, her arms 
bony as bird legs never grew any rounder. 
The year she was Mary she wore midnight 
blue. Her skin was pure as milk, her hair 
looked blue-black. She carried herself
with the swan look of pregnant women, 
their lovely, weary necks, their big 
buoyant bodies. I thought golden Gabriel
must have streamed through her window in a white 
smock, yoked with two buckets of fresh
cream, saying, "Take, drink, thou highly 
favored. Praised be thy name among women."

MaryJan Gay Munger, a graduate student in English, lives in Springville with her husband, Casey. They are expecting their first child.

Linda

by Pilar Stewart

Texas is hot red dirt
plastered hard
and dry heat rattling.
Linda remembers seeing 
rattlesnakes—ripe poison 
huddled with her
in the storm cellar; it was a choice
between the snake
and the storm.
She talks of Baptist
ministers,
sweat stained collars,
heavy hand on the Bible, 
speaking of damnation. 
In Texas
hell could be believed;
a child would burn
the soles of her feet
walking this land.
You wonder: What
could such a land nurture 
and what would it choose 
to let grow?
In this flat, hard place 
women are soft-drawled, 
demure, plump—
but hard wire behind the eyes. 
Linda rebelled, grew
angular thin
with soft, clear eyes.
You imagine them
sweeping the horizon
creating trees and hills.
And from her hands grew
paintings,
soft exposures of lush blue 
that wash over your eyes and 
satisfy like cold water.
And always she paints angels—
angular angels—
in a lush land
walking barefoot.

Pilar Stewart is an English major from Hamden, Connecticut. Her poetry has previously appeared in Inscape.

I Know Now What I Love You For

by Maryjan Gay Munger

It’s that curve of skin
between your neck and shoulder
that somehow makes me think of
lightly floured bread dough
in a sunny kitchen.

I’m glad to know it’s this
that binds me to you—especially
when I thought it must be
something more elusive, something
like the smooth-grained timbre
of your voice or the sweetness
of your half-smile. I’m glad it’s none
of those. I’m glad the riddle has been
solved, that the answer
can be covered
completely with my hand.

MaryJan Gay Munger, a graduate student in English, lives in Springville with her husband, Casey. They are expecting their first child.

Hero Sings the Blues: Music and Transformation in Black American Literature

by Mike Austin

The blues isn’t about feeling better.
It’s about feeling worse. And makin’ a few
bucks while you’re at it.
—Bleeding Gums, The Simpsons

The blues is an impulse to keep the painful details and episodes of a brutal experience alive in one’s aching con­sciousness to finger its jagged grain, and to transcend it, not by the consolation of philosophy but by squeezing from it a near-tragic, near-comic lyricism. As a form, the blues is an autobiograph­ical chronicle of personal catastrophe expressed lyrically.

Ralph Ellison, Shadow and Act

In his essay “Change the Joke and Slip the Yoke,” Ralph Ellison attempts to answer the question “What are the archetypes of African-American fiction?” Acknowledging the inevitability that “archetypes, like taxes, seem doomed to be with us always,” Ellison criticizes those whose purposeless archetype hunting leads to a “critical game that ignores the specificity of literary works” (Shadow 46). Instead, he attempts to find a larger cultural pattern that both defines and gives meaning to mythological patterns in black fiction. After examining several elements that have been proposed as basic black hero types—such as the blackfaced “darkie” and the “Nigger Jim” figures—and rejecting them as images springing from a white conception of blackness, Ellison turns to music, and more specifically to the blues, as a source of myth and archetype in both black culture and fiction.

Ellison is not alone in seeing the blues as an important literary device. Dozens of major black writers have directly applied blues motifs in their writings, and critics have found less obvious elements of jazz and blues music in hundreds of other works. Some scholars, such as Larry Neal and Houston Baker, see the blues as a context for nearly all black literature written since the Civil War.

This undeniable literary presence is evidence that the blues has adopted a cultural significance that elevates it far beyond the usual station of popular music. Part of the cultural phenomenon comes from a sense of accomplishment: the blues—and its closest relative, jazz—has become not only an important part of our own country’s culture, but the only musical contribution to the world that can really be called “American.” Even more importantly, though, the intense cultural concentration found in blues music makes it both a spiritual phenomenon for those within the black community and a source of redemption for African-Americans who have been alienated from their heritage.

The Genealogy of the Blues

The unique position of blues music in contemporary black culture is chiefly a result of its genealogy: blues is the direct descendent of both the work songs and the spirituals of American Negro slaves, both of which, in turn, descended from the ritual music of ancient African tribes. The first generation of American slaves continued the same rituals—including music—that they had performed in Africa. However, when the slaves began to learn English and when “pagan” rituals were outlawed by Christian slave owners, black music changed to fit the new reality (Jones 62). Yet, the basic ritual component of the music survived translation into American, giving the slaves what Houston Baker has referred to as “ancestrally legitimate instances of an African spirit at work . . . everywhere infused with the quotidian rituals of Afro-American life on New World shores” (158).

As the music and the religion of the slaves adopted increas­ingly American conventions, the old culture was forced deeper beneath the surface; however, it never left entirely. Music became an important transitional element in the Negro’s ability to cope with the changes of the New World. The old ritual songs became work songs and spirituals—songs that accepted the helplessness of slavery and consoled the Negro with the hope of a better life hereafter—a chariot “coming for to carry me home.”

When the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation gave Negro slaves a hope, however slight, of a better life, the blues was born. Though the “better life” offered was usually no more than a token promise, it was enough to create a dream. The blues, then, bridged the gap between this dream and the reality. These early post–Civil War forms gave rise to all con­temporary forms of blues, jazz, dixieland, and ragtime. The cultural weight of this ancestry makes the blues, in Baker’s words, “the singly legitimate expressive form of Afro-American culture. [The blues] are God-given, God-bearing resonances that survived the Middle Passage and provided coherence for Black experience in the New World” (157).

The Blues Is . . . 

Perhaps the only accurate definition of “the blues” is the one Louis Armstrong gave when he was asked what jazz was: “Man, if you gotta ask, it ain’t jazz.” However, with the status now being accorded studies in black literature, scholars and critics have been increasingly concerned with determining what “the blues” means. All agree that blues offers “more than the twelve-bar structure, the three chord progression, the three-line stanza, which are generally termed the ‘traditional blues'” (Oliver 2), but there has been little agreement on a cultural context for the musical experience.

One group of blues critics emphasizes the power of the blues as an individual coping device. Critics such as Ralph Ellison, who stress the importance of blues as equipment for living, note the tendency of the blues to make reality bearable by combining lyrics that acknowledge the harsh reality of life with “the kind of marching bass that seems to say, ‘in spite of fate, bad luck, these blues themselves, I’m going on'” (Shaw 45).

Other analysts focus, not on the individual, but on the cultural significance of the blues. These critics note that the blues contains “the whole tragedy of the Negro race” (Oliver 44). Because of this, they say the blues can bind African-Americans together despite the fact that the original culture, Africa, is no longer accessible or desirable. In Blues People, LeRoi Jones, later known as poet and playwright Imamu Amari Baraka, concludes that early blues formed a “psychological correlative that obscured the most extreme ideas of assimilation for most Negroes and made any notion of the complete abandonment of Black culture an unrealizable possibility” (142).

The purpose of my essay is to propose a synthesis between these two main schools of blues criticism—the first seeing blues as an individual coping device and the second seeing blues as a force for cultural adhesion. To do so, I will examine the blues as a method of transcending cultural alienation. The problem of alienation was especially prominent during the latter part of the 20th century when increased opportunities gave individual advancement to African-Americans who were willing to reject their culture. In 1962, Howard University sociologist E. Franklin Frazier analyzed the rising black middle class in his work Black Bourgeoisie. In this controversial study, Frazier con­fronts the bicultural alienation that the black people in this situation often face:

          The black bourgeoisie has been uprooted from its "racial"
          tradi­tion and as a consequence has no cultural roots in either
          the Negro or the white world. In seeking to conform to
          bourgeois ideals and standards of behavior, this class in the
          Negro com­munity has sloughed off the genteel tradition of
          the small upper class which had its roots among the Negroes
          who were free before the Civil War. But more important still,
          the black bourgeoisie has rejected the folk culture of the
          Negro masses. (98)

In contemporary black fiction, the protagonists are often faced with this alienation from both black and white cultures. This dual rejection of culture spawns both the comic odyssey of the narrator in Invisible Man and the tragic killing spree of Bigger Thomas in Native Son, two of the most influential black novels of the century. One of the most poignant examples of bicultural alienation can be found in James Baldwin’s short story “Previous Condition,” in which the black narrator, after having thoroughly rejected first his black heritage and then his white lover, returns to the black community in search of identity:

          I longed for some opening, some sign, something to make me
          a part of the life around me. . . . A white outsider coming in
          would have seen a young Negro drinking in a Negro bar,
          perfectly in his element, in his place, as the saying goes. But
          the people here knew differently, as I did. I didn't seem to
          have a place. (84)

Baldwin’s narrator, like anybody who rejects one culture and fails to assimilate into another, stands temporarily outside of culture looking for a way back in.

In a mythological sense the alienated individual can tran­scend this alienation only by a mystical encounter with enough power to restore the lost cultural ties. In a 1978 interview, Larry Neal suggested that the blues itself can act in the role of deity, proposing the “blues god” as “an attempt to isolate the blues element as . . . the major ancestral force of the Afro-American” (157). By offering a lifeline to the black culture, the blues provides alienated African-Americans with the opportuni­ty to reestablish their cultural ties. Usually, however, cultural regeneration through blues music occurs when the alienated individual comes in contact with the blues musician, a hero figure who forms “the living symbol of alienation from self and the rhythmical link with the mysterious ancestral past” (Williams 145–46). The blues hero is one who has seen the face of the blues god and can translate his experience, not into the idle words of consolation and philosophy, but into the blues.

“Sonny’s Blues”: The Blues as Elixir

“Sonny’s Blues,” James Baldwin’s most famous short work, depicts a core-to-core conflict between two brothers: the narrator, a member of the black middle class, and Sonny, a part-time jazz musician who battles heroin addiction. (For a complete treat­ment of the blues theme in “Sonny’s Blues,” see Williams, Give Birth to Brightness: A Thematic Study in Neo-black Literature). Both the narrator and Sonny have encountered and attempted to answer the central question, “How can a black, inner-city dweller escape the poverty and despair of Harlem without rejecting the culture which gives him purpose?” The first half of the story takes the shape of the narrator’s meditations on Sonny, trying in vain to understand his brother’s lifestyle and the reasons that he has been put in jail. In the course of his meditations, the narrator reveals that both he and Sonny have alienated themselves from their culture by trying to escape the “low ceiling” of inner-city life:

          Some escaped the trap, most didn't. Those who got out always
          left something of themselves behind, as some animals
          am­putate a leg and leave it in the trap. It might be said,
          perhaps, that I had escaped, after all, I was a school teacher; or
          that Sonny had, he hadn't lived in Harlem for years. . . . It
          came to me that what we both were seeking through our
          separate cab windows was that part of ourselves which had
          been left behind. (95)

That which is left behind is a cultural tie—a common bond with one’s own heritage that makes accessible the values and mythologies needed to make sense out of the world.

Sonny is the first of the two to strike out on a quest for the part of himself that was caught in the trap, and he becomes a blues hero by returning with the elixir. By the time that Sonny leaves prison and is introduced into the story’s time frame, he has already undertaken the journey and undergone a type of apotheosis, reintegrating himself into the culture by experiencing the blues at its heart. When Sonny first begins to live with his brother, he attempts to recount part of the journey:

          "Don't worry. I'm all right now and I think I'll be all right. But I 
           can't forget—where I've been. I don't mean just the physical
           place I've been, I mean where I've been. And what I've been. . . .
           I've been something I didn't recognize, didn't know I could
           be. Didn't know anyone could be. . . . I'm not talking about it
           now because I feel guilty or anything like that. . . . Anyway, I
           really can't talk about it. Not to you, not to anybody." (116)

Sonny’s experience with the blues god, like any mythological experience of the same magnitude, cannot be communicated through ordinary means. As a blues hero, Sonny is charged with the elixir that can help his brother regain his cultural ties and find the part of himself left behind in the trap.

Before partaking of Sonny’s elixir, the narrator notes that living with Sonny is like living with a pure, unintelligible sound, “as though Sonny were some sort of god, or monster” (107). Sonny’s sound is unintelligible to the narrator and his family because they are separated from their roots. The narrator has placed such an emphasis on moving up that he cannot see himself, or anything else, in the music that his brother plays. When the narrator first enters the club with his brother, he realizes that Sonny’s music (not merely “sound”) is responsible for the godlike quality that he had seen earlier. “I had never before thought,” he muses, “of how awful the relationship must be between the musician and his instrument. He has to fill it . . . with the breath of life, his own” (120).

Playing the piano, we are told, is essential to Sonny’s very life (107). In inviting the narrator to a blues session, Sonny is extending this will to live to another and helping others to avoid cultural annihilation. The relationship is symbiotic: Sonny must play and his brother must listen, or neither one of them will survive. When the narrator first begins to experience the blues in its own context, he sees Sonny once more as a sort of deity. This time, however, he extends the frame of reference from “a god” to “our god” and acknowledges that his own salvation is at stake in the actions of the blues hero:

          The man who the creates music is hearing something else, is dealing with
          the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. 
          What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it
          has no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumph,
          when he triumphs, is ours. (119)

At this point, Sonny’s brother begins to understand the real nature of the blues, both for the individual and for the culture. Recalling the earlier comment about the “two darknesses,” he understands that in Sonny’s blues lies “the only light we’ve got in all this darkness” (121).

The narrator’s epiphany reintegrates him into his own black culture. He accepts the link between Sonny, himself, and all other members of the culture, noting that Sonny “could help us to be free if we would listen, [and] that he would never be free until we did” (122). The narrator’s use of the word “we” is critical—it is the first time in the story that he recognizes his part in a greater social unit. “Sonny’s brother begins to understand,” writes Sherley Williams, “his past, his history, his traditions and that part of himself which he has in common with Sonny and the long line of people who have gone before him” (122).

The Invisible Man: Incest, Alienation, and the Blues

Though the blues theme is less pronounced in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, it is no less important. The entire novel, in fact, can be seen as set in a blues framework. In the prologue, as the Invisible Man explains that the only reality is invisibility, he begins to contemplate life in the lyrics of Louis Armstrong’s “What Did I Do to Be so Black and Blue.” He states that he loves Armstrong “because he’s made poetry out of being invisible” (8). While listening to the song (and enjoying the influence of a certain illegal, mid-oriental herb), the narrator reports that “I found myself hearing not only in time, but in space as well. I not only entered the music but descended, like Dante, into its depths” (9). Both time and space become relative and the only absolute in the universe is the blues. The rest of the novel, then, becomes an attempt to answer Armstrong’s question, “What did I do to be so blue?”

The second chapter of the novel presents a second important mythological theme: incest. This chapter tells the story of Jim Trueblood, a poor sharecropper who commits incest with his daughter. Before the crime, Trueblood had represented a part of black culture that the educated blacks, including the narrator, wanted to ignore: the musician. The narrator reports that he and his college-educated friends “were embarrassed by . . . the crude, high, plaintively animal sounds Jim Trueblood made as he led the quartet” (47). Though he is rejected by the black bourgeoisie, Jim Trueblood is a musician-hero within the blues culture and, as such, possesses the equipment necessary to transcend alienation.

The Invisible Man first hears the story of Trueblood’s incest when giving Mr. Norton, a white trustee of the black college, a tour of the black side of town. Mr. Norton takes a bizarre interest in Trueblood’s story and forces the man to relate all of the circumstances behind his act. Trueblood relates that he and his wife and daughter had to sleep in the same bed because of the cold weather and their own abject poverty. One night, Trueblood wakes up from an erotic dream only to see that he is about to violate the most sacred trust of his culture:

          "Then I'm pullin' away and shushing her to be quiet so's not to wake her
          ma, when she grabs holt to me and holds me tight. She didn't want me to
          go then—and to tell the honest-­to-God truth I found out that I didn't
          want to go neither." (60)

The literal incest of Jim Trueblood is significant because, in committing it, he does what he himself considers “the worse thing a man can do in his own family”; however, he never suffers the ostracism that is generally imposed by a culture on those who violate its taboos (Freud 832). Trueblood actually comes out of the experience able to say “I’m better off than I’ve ever been before” (67). The only ones who reject him are the “nigguhs up at the school,” who are themselves alienated from the black culture that Trueblood, as a blues musician, represents.

While incest as an act disappears with the second chapter, incest as a metaphor and central theme surfaces throughout the novel. The most important manifestation of the incest theme comes when Dr. Bledstoe, the black college president, expels the Invisible Man for having taken Mr. Norton to the Golden Day. As the president of the university, Bledstoe is the custo­dian of an important intimate trust, the violation of which constitutes a type of “incest.” In the narrator’s case, Bledstoe’s intimate control is even greater, as the Invisible Man considers Bledstoe “the example of everything I hoped to be” (101).

When the narrator is summoned to the president’s office, however, Bledstoe betrays both his explicit responsibility to be objective and his implicit responsibility to be worthy of imita­tion. During the conversation, Bledstoe calls the narrator “boy” and “nigger,” and tells him that it was foolish of him to be open and honest with Mr. Norton. In this scene, Bledstoe exhibits his true colors as a black who, in order to make it big in a white world, is willing to violate any taboo necessary, inclusive of absolute cultural betrayal:

          "Well, that's the way it is. It's a nasty deal and I don't always like it myself.
          But you listen to me: I didn't make it, and I know I can't change it. But
          I've made my place in it and I'll have every Negro in the country hanging
          on tree limbs by morning if it means staying where I am." (143)

Bledstoe has not rejected his culture in the sense that Sonny’s brother had before his transformation; the president affects cultural affiliation continually, and the black community looks to him as a role model. However, Bledstoe’s treachery violates a cultural taboo by manipulating and prostituting the intimate ties that are necessary for a culture to exist. His treachery is something that “must be punished or expiated by all the members of society lest it harm them all” (Freud 833). Because of the respect and trust people place in Bledstoe, he is able to violate his own culture in a way that closely parallels Trueblood’s incest.

As the victim of an act of incestlike betrayal, the Invisible Man suffers an even greater alienation than the perpetrator. In Totem and Taboo Freud explains that

          a person may become permanently or temporarily taboo without having
          violated any taboos, for the simple reason that he is in a condition which
          has the property of inciting the for­bidden desires of others and of 
          awakening the ambivalent conflict in them. (832)

The narrator’s only crime is making Bledstoe and other members of the black bourgeoisie face the truth of their betrayal through the blues; however, this is enough. Because of his influence within the culture, Bledstoe is able to impose an alienation on the Invisible Man, sending him to New York with fake letters of introduction and making sure that he is separated from the geographical base of the culture.

This imposed alienation produces a disillusionment that causes the narrator to renounce Bledstoe, the South, and, to some extent his own blackness, contributing to his own alienation. In New York, the Invisible Man has several brief encounters with the blues, but he never experiences it in a way that would allow him a much-needed cultural contact. However, he con­tinues to employ a blues-oriented vernacular, even to describe his alienation, and when he realizes the extent of Bledstoe’s betrayal he consoles himself with the blues lyric “O Well They Picked Poor Robin Clean” (193).

Finally, a series of incestlike betrayals causes the Invisible Man to conclude that he can trust no one other than himself. Furthermore, he entirely rejects the idea of basing his identity in any cultural or societal phenomenon, deciding that the only true identity is invisibility. At the end of the novel, the narrator completely escapes other people by living in a hole on the out­skirts of the ghetto. However, the prologue shows us that, in this hole, he begins to discover the true meaning of the blues. At the conclusion of the novel, the Invisible Man manifests himself as a hero in Joseph Campbell’s sense of “the champion of things becoming, not become” (243). Even though the nar­rator can remain isolated from society, he cannot completely withdraw from culture—it is for this reason that he, in his isolated hole, turns to Louis Armstrong and asks, “What did I do to be so black, and so blue?”

Works Cited

Baker, Houston. Afro-American Poetics: Revisions of the Black Aesthetic. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1988.

Baldwin, James. “Sonny’s Blues.” In Going to Meet the Man. New York: Dell, 1948. 93-122.

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1949.

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage, 1947.

___  Shadow and Act. New York: Random House, 1953.

Frazier, E. Franklin. Black Bourgeoisie. London: Collier, 1962. Freud, Sigmund. The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud. New York: Random, 1938.

Jones, LeRoi. Blues People: Negro Music in White America. New York: William Morrow, 1963.

Oliver, Paul. Aspects of the Blues Tradition. New York: Oak Publications, 1968.

Shaw, Arnold. The World of Soul: Black America’s Contribution to the Pop Music Scene. New York: Cowles, 1970.

Williams, Sherley Anne. Give Birth to Brightness: A Thematic Study in Neo-black Literature. New York: Dial, 1972.

Mike Austin, a student in the English graduate program, has been published in both Student Review and Insight.

Yeats as a Book of Mormon Prophet

by Shannon Foster Whiteside

William Butler Yeats, the great Victorian poet, was also responsible for the creation of a unique critical theory known as the “gyre theory.” According to the Norton Anthology, history is

a journey up a spiral staircase; as we grow older we cover the ground we have covered before, only higher up; as we look down the winding stair below us we measure our progress by the number of places where we were but no longer are. The journey is both repetitious and progressive; we go both round and upward. (Abrams 1931)

As we go up the winding staircase, we find ourselves on a landing looking down at where we’ve been and looking up to where we must go. We can see forever, but the experiences we have had since we were on the former landing have altered our outlook and opinions. Time is cyclical, yet also progressive, coiling and spiralling endlessly about the ever-evolving cylinder of linear history. “Life is no series of emancipation from divine reason . . . no orderly descent from level to level, no waterfall but a whirlpool, a gyre” (Yeats 78).

According to Yeats, history can be broken down into repetitive cycles of 2,000 years each; each cycle consists of twenty-eight phases. The philosophical temperament (in terms of unity or diversity) of any one phase can be seen in its literature. However, if we were to analyze an evolution of humankind from one pole to another, we would need a literary text that spans a minimum of a thousand years. For this reason, I will use the Book of Mormon to analyze the development of civilization according to the twenty-eight different gyrical phases.

Each phase is marked by a different hero who stands out as a role model for the others to follow. Within the macroscopic, universal gyre are the microscopic, individual heroes who must confront destiny within their designated phase. Yeats’s heroic figures, as well as those in the Book of Mormon, are powerless against the controlling fates that determine their destiny. The future becomes predictable to the extent that the hero’s general reactions are controlled by the phase to which he belongs (all of the heroes mentioned are male, but the same criteria would apply to female heroes as well). At the same time, the hero is an active participant rather than a passive bystander waiting upon fate’s whim to dictate his life’s path.

Due to limited space and time, I will briefly sketch only the major leaders and their phases, tracing the development of the gyrelike patterns in spiritual as well as literary history.

The Book of Mormon, beginning in 600 B.C., closely follows the phases outlined in Yeats’s Vision, the visionary hero being depicted by the major leaders of each time period.

Nephi, identified as the forerunner, corresponds to the hero of Phase 12. (If the Book of Mormon began 400 years earlier, in 1000 B.C., phases would begin at number one.) He is charac­terized as “always in reaction, . . . driven from one self-conscious pose to another, . . . full of hesitation” (Yeats 127). As Nephi begins the trek from Jerusalem to the New World, he must evolve from a young boy to a prophet, destined at times to be the only one to embrace his philosophical and religious beliefs. He is attacked mentally and physically by his brothers, and even his father at times doubts his son’s power. In his solitude, Nephi turns to God in 2 Nephi 4, known as the Psalm of Nephi. He is “overwhelmed with the thought of his own weakness” (Yeats 129). In verses 17–18 he exclaims, “Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.”

Nephi clings to the image of an almighty God, which would, according to Yeats’s theory, waver “between the concrete and sensuous” (129). Not surprisingly, then, to exemplify his source of strength Nephi states, “My God hath been my support. . . . He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh” (2 Nephi 4:20–21).

As a solitary man, Nephi is forced into a situation in which he must choose the outcome. Again, the Forces control everything, and agency lies only in one’s reactions to fatalistic circumstances; therefore, Nephi cannot control his brothers’ rebellion nor God’s request that his family leave Jerusalem to begin a new civilization in a new world. God chooses his prophets, and they must choose whether or not to follow.

Phases 13 to 19 are hard to delineate in Book of Mormon history because this is the time from Jarom to Mosiah I when little is written. However, the gyrical pattern still clearly exists. During this time (420 B.C. to 130 B.C.), the prophets begin struggling with the decline of righteousness, even among the church leaders. According to Yeats, this is a time of complete sensuality when “there are moments of triumph and moments of defeat, each in its extreme form, for the subjective intellect knows nothing of moderation” (130). Omni explains “we had many seasons of peace; and we had many seasons of serious war and bloodshed” (Omni 1:3). When remaining close to the Lord, the Nephites maintain their freedom, but the moment they forget who gave them that freedom, the Lamanites win the day.

The animosity between the two tribes increases as they retreat from solitude and objectivity. No one great leader guides them; they fight among themselves. They renounce their respon­sibility to God, and “this renunciation becomes an instrument of power” (Yeats 132) to dominate the stronger tribe at that time. The Nephites draw away from God and attempt to control the situation independently, which only leads to their destruction.

King Benjamin breaks the monotony of conglomerated phases in Phase 20. In his discourses, “he no longer seeks to unify what is broken through conviction, by imposing those very convic­tions upon himself and others, but by projecting a dramatisation or many dramatisations” (Yeats 151). King Benjamin convincingly disarms his people by saying,

. . . open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view. I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should fear me, . . . But I am like as yourselves. (Mosiah 2:9–11)

He would not impose his ideals on his subjects, but by devising allegories and examples, he convincingly presents his argument in such a logical manner that they willingly obey his counsel. He “delights in concrete images” to convey his message (Yeats 152). “Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you” (Mosiah 2:25; see also 2:29; 3:5–11, 18–19).

While King Benjamin’s personality appears mild and kind, Yeats claims within that “‘sweet’ and ‘gentle’ ” manner lies a creative passion for devising an imaginary world and “compel[ling] it to seem the real world where our lives are lived” (154). King Benjamin’s people, upon hearing his inspiring speech, react by crying, “O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins” (Mosiah 4:2). A literary example of Christ’s atoning power has been converted into a physical need to cleanse their sins with his blood.

Phase 21 isn’t much different than Phase 20; the hero, in this case Mosiah II, is noble because his circumstances require him to be so. He is described as “walk[ing] in the ways of the Lord” (Mosiah 6:6) like his father. Abinadi, another hero of Phase 21, is one who “strengthens conflict to the utmost by refusing all activity that is [evil]” (Yeats 156). By refusing to deny his testimony, Abinadi begins the conflict between the Nephites and the Lamanites that will end with the conversions of Alma and his followers (Mosiah 18) and the death of King Noah (Mosiah 19).

Alma’s conversion begins the next phase, but not all the con­ditions are met until he is old and decides to come out of semiretirement. Phase 22 represents one of complete balance between one’s thoughts and desires, but it is also a point to which one can return several times until it is surpassed. Yeats explains, “The Will, engaged in its last struggle with external fact . . . must submit, until it sees itself as inseparable from nature perceived as fact” (158). Alma must not only repent of his sins, which he does at the beginning of his conversion (Mosiah 18:1), but also submit himself to God’s will until both wills are in harmony.

Through his efforts to convert and baptize his people and to keep them unified even at times of dissension, Alma is granted eternal life, the ultimate inseparability from God: “Thou art my servant; and I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and go forth in my name, and shalt gather together my sheep” (Mosiah 26:20). The man of Phase 22 has no desire to dominate but rather desires to reach a balance where he rules by an impersonal love and ultimately reaches the level of mere contemplation. He will organize his affairs until his energies are exhausted.

Alma, after receiving the confirmation from God that he will receive eternal life, organizes the impersonal system of excom­munication to better govern the affairs of the Church:

And whosoever repented of their sins . . . he did number among the people of the church; And those that would not . . . repent of their iniquity, … their names were blotted out. (Mosiah 26:35–36)

While Alma continues suffering “all afflictions,” not much else is mentioned after this point. We know he ends his life peacefully, having worn himself out in the service of the Lord.

Alma’s son, Alma the Younger, fits the description of his phase exactly. Before entering into Phase 23, the hero is, according to Yeats, “tyrannical, gloomy and self-absorbed.” The clock must be wound again, and when wound the hero will spring back with “explosive joy” (Yeats 164). Before Alma the Younger’s conversion, he is referred to as “a very wicked and an idolatrous man. And he was a man of many words, . . . he led many of the people to do after the manner of his iniquities” (Mosiah 27:8). His control over the population hindered the progress of the Church and spiritually destroyed many of its followers.

Anyone under the auspices of Phase 23 must undergo some sort of transformation, either religious or aesthetic, to discover his true self. Alma is confronted by an angel who warns him to desist from destroying the Church or else face destruction (Alma 36:8–9). Racked by the “pains of a damned soul” (Alma 36:16), Alma recalls his father’s sermons concerning Christ and His redeeming power and cries out to the Son of God that he once sought to destroy. At that moment his sins are forgiven, and he expresses his joy, saying, “My soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:20). Alma is thus transformed into a believer of Jesus Christ and dedicates his life to teaching redemption to others. He has come to know his true self, a son of God. The events that lead up to Alma’s conversion would be considered startling, in light of Yeats’s theory, because “they elude intellect” (168). Who can logically explain the visitations of angels voiced with thunder?

In Phase 24, the hero, having freed the self, now turns that knowledge into a personal moral code molded by social and historical traditions. Those subscribing to the code have a “great intolerance for all who break or resist the code” (Yeats 170). The code’s purpose is to compel obedience of everyone in society at the dissolution of personal ambition. Society’s members com­pare their past against the code to ascertain if they have been as devout as their fathers. Captain Moroni heads the devotion to the moral code and the Nephites follow it strictly in order to better defend themselves against the Lamanites. In Alma 46:12–18, Moroni pleads his cause, appealing to patriotism—”In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children”—to stir the people to adherence. In response, the Nephites rend their clothes and proceed to fight for freedom, putting to death any Amalickiahite unwilling to accept their cause (Alma 46:35).

Moroni also compares the Nephites to their forefathers in two instances. In Alma 46:23-24 he states,

. . . we are a remnant of the seed of Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren . . . Let us remember to keep the commandments of God, or our garments shall be rent by our brethren . . . let us preserve our liberty as a remnant of Joseph.

In Alma 60:20 he complains to Pahoran, the governor, saying, “Have ye forgotten the commandments of the Lord your God? Yea, have ye forgotten the captivity of our fathers?” Moroni effectively executes the code of conduct he has set up to keep the Nephites from retrogression. (See also Alma 53–58 for the stripling warriors, another group adhering strictly to a moral code.)

Just as society in Phase 24 clings fiercely to a moral code, it adheres just as fiercely to religious beliefs in Phase 25. Nephi and Lehi, the heroes of this period, strive to “make men better, by making it impossible that they should be otherwise, to so arrange prohibitions and habits that men may be naturally good” (Yeats 173). Their goal is to create a social conscience by imposing a spiritual norm to be met by all. And they succeed. In their first efforts as preachers, they “preach unto the Lamanites with . . . great power and authority . . . unto the great astonishment of the Lamanites, to the convincing them” (Helaman 5:18–19).

Even when the Nephites regress into iniquity, Nephi does not lose sight of his ideal. He is nostalgic for the time of the first Nephi when people were more easily convinced of the truth and willing to repent of their sins. He exclaims, “Then would my soul have had joy in the righteousness of my brethren” (Helaman 7:8). He struggles with converting the masses and is often successful because his is the only phase in which the hero can incite a social cons­cience within a group of people (Yeats 173).

Phase 26 has no hero. In fact, Yeats himself says this is the hardest phase to find examples for. Society has exhausted its search for morality and belief and now chooses evil simply to prove it can (Yeats 178). The Gadianton robbers fit the description well. Their main purpose is to “murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God” (Helaman 6:23). They band together, not to destroy the land but to defy God because, according to Yeats, living in a religious society tempts humanity to defy that sense of order and to become creators in their own right (178). Hence, as the Gadianton robbers turn away from society, they contrive secret combinations and covenants to satisfy their own sense of creation and divinity.

As the Nephites continue to reject society and God, we enter into phases 24–26, the phases of nothingness. The goal of the 27th Phase hero is to blend in with humanity without making individual decisions and to follow everyone else to a lemminglike destruction. Nephi reminds us how forgetful the Nephites had become directly before the birth of Christ (7 B.c.):

And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men, . . . they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One . . . except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, . . . they will not remember him. (Helaman 12:1–3)

As Yeats explains, “Man does not perceive the truth; God perceives the truth in man” (181). The Nephites lose touch with the source of strength that led them out of spiritual and carnal captivity; they will not return to God’s grace until the gyre ends.

The Nephites spiral even further downward, by depending solely upon their own strength, reaching low ground in the 28th Phase. Here humanity has “no active intelligence, [it] owns nothing of the exterior world but [the] mind and body” (Yeats 182). When Christ is born and the signs are in the heavens, the people give their conversion no more intelligent thought than they had given their iniquity. When the sun went down but no darkness came, the people “fell to the earth and became as if they were dead” (3 Nephi 1:16). Many are automatically converted, making Nephi II’s job much easier, but peace reigns for only two years before they begin regressing again.

Although Yeats begins his new gyre in A.D. 1, I see the 34 years before Christ’s death as a slow melding of Phase 28 into Phase 1 with no specific demarcation between the two. Christ’s presence on the American continent inaugurates Phase 1. The two phases blend well because Phase 1 has no definition other than complete plasticity, i.e., the mindless ability to be molded by another’s whim. The Nephites, upon seeing Christ, let go of any relevant distinctions between thought and inclination, fact and desire. Without any thought as to the consequences of their actions, they come forward to see the prints in his hands and side, and with one voice cry: “Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him” (3 Nephi 11:17).

During Christ’s entire sojourn, the Nephites listen unquestion­ingly to his words. Christ’s presence is overwhelming to the multitude, converting them instantaneously. Yeats explains this phenomenon: “The more perfect be the soul, the more indifferent the mind, the more doughlike the body; and mind and body take whatever shape, accept whatever image is imprinted upon them” (183). This spiritual incarnation causes the mind to become willingly pliable, ready to be impressed and formed by a more intelligent being, in this case, Christ. The Nephites never speak directly to Christ as an equal; rather they sit and “look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them” (3 Nephi 17:5). They passively absorb Christ’s teachings, and only after his ascension do they analyze his words and make personal applications to themselves.

Phases 2 to 9 cover the general material found at the end of 3 Nephi and the entire book of 4 Nephi. For two hundred years the Nephites are innocent, like little children strictly following their father’s counsel. Yeats explains that after a spiritual incarnation humankind no longer gives itself to Nature but to God. This is known as a time of rebirth, of beauty and joy:

And they taught, and did minister one to another; and they had all things common among them, every man dealing justly, one with another. And it came to pass that they did do all things even as Jesus had commanded them. (3 Nephi 26:19–20)

From this point, however, the Nephites begin to deteriorate in a desire for “Ambition” (Phase 3) and a desire for the “Exterior World” (Phase 4). They begin to increase in pride and greed; stratification and dissension in the Church occurs (4 Nephi 1:24–26). Pride causes them to fall from their innocent state, and, like Adam and Eve, they begin again the individual search for success through experience.

In their search they lose sight of God, and Phase 10 finds Mormon in the midst of chaos. He is identified as the “Image Maker” and is the only one who attempts to break away from the mire into which the Nephites have plowed themselves. He creates his own personal code of conduct and because of his circumstances, seeks “to free the creative power from mass emotion, but never wholly succeeds, and so life remains troubled, a conflict between pride and race, and passes from crisis to crisis” (Yeats 123). Mormon tries to convince the Nephites to repent but never succeeds.

Although Mormon wishes to unite with the people in triumph, he must separate himself from their company because of their self-destructive wickedness. At one point he refuses to lead them further, saying, “I, Mormon, did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abomination” (Mormon 3:11). He pours out his heart in prayer to God for their sakes, experiencing, according to Yeats’s theory, “less desire of expression . . . and more desire of action and of command” (123). Their hearts, however, have hardened, and they refuse to repent. Mormon’s death ends his thwarted search for peace and a disturbed rage for justice.

Moroni, Mormon’s son, is the final hero of the Book of Mormon, the Phase 11 hero who, according to Yeats, is half-solitary, forced

to seek happiness in submission to something hard and exterior . . . that would destroy exterior popular sanction, [to make] possi­ble for the first time the solitary conception of God. (126)

Moroni explains that his father and kin have been slain and that
he has no idea when he shall share their same fate (Mormon 8:5). He is alone in his belief in God and in his stand in society. He could deny God and return to his people without fear of being put to death, but he refuses, asserting, “And I, Moroni, will not deny the Christ; wherefore, I wander whithersoever I can for the safety of mine own life” (Moroni 1:3).

Yeats’s theory explains how the conflict in Moroni’s heart is the result of the war between the Nephites and Lamanites, saying,

one divines a quarrel with the thought of his fathers and his kin, forced upon him perhaps almost to the breaking of his heart: no nature without the stroke of fate divides itself in two. (126)

Moroni, alone because of the wickedness of his people, exhorts them nevertheless to return unto Christ. As a Phase 11 hero, he begins again the cycle that began 1000 years earlier at the begin­ning of the Book of Mormon record. Nephi sees the beginning of a civilization; Moroni witnesses its finish, as the gyre, now in motion, continues without end.

Works Cited

Abrams, M. H., ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 2nd ed., vol. 5. New York: Norton, 1986.

Yeats, William Butler. A Vision. London: Macmillan, 1937.

Shannon Foster Whiteside, a former English graduate student, currently lives in California.

Of Quiet

by Cory Fehlberg

Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
Her mind moves upon silence.
—William Butler Yeats

I live in a house where the walls are thin and the floors are thin and I wait for quiet. I wish to fall asleep in the expectation of stillness; to lie for an hour in silence that reveals small aberrations—the end of a record, insects, intermittent rain on leaves; to watch the moths in the porch light, flecks on the screen when the film is over. Outside my window, thought winds darkly through the lattice and flowers undisturbed before I sleep. I wake in the morning to the stillest surface.

When I was younger, there were nights when, as Wallace Stevens says, “the house was quiet and the world was calm” and “the reader became the book.” When I was a child, we had only one stereo in the living room. I remember the fabric of the console and the little diamond-shaped light that came on when the record was playing. It must be a result of my fascination with the light and the records that no other way of playing music moves me as much. Tapes and compact discs seem to be merely utilitarian. But I still remember the covers of the old records—a jewelled egg, a blue and mauve lady with a bouquet of flowers. And the end of a record is still, to me, touching. The point when the music stops and the quiet begins with a faint static reminds me always of rain falling. Every record ending is like evening coming on, like the last of Copeland’s “Appalachian Spring,” where the strings play the quiet dark descending, the leaves stirring, the sharp sweet air.

For many years, there was only my mother’s radio, which was always tuned to a classical station. I don’t remember that it was noisy then. Perhaps in recent years, my concentration has shattered, but the radios have also multiplied. There was Katherine’s radio, and now there is Kristin’s—constant and loud, playing KJQ early in the morning. In my irritable way I ask her to turn it down, to turn if off. We have reached a sort of compromise now. She can listen to KJQ on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings; Tuesday and Thursday mornings are KJQ-free.

Quiet is unequal to the force of noise. The influence of quiet is so small, so easily canceled. Someone sitting in the room upstairs fingering the pages of a book does not disrupt the noise-making downstairs. But one radio fractures the stillness of the upstairs room.

It is simpler to preserve space than it is to preserve quiet, easier to find an empty room than a quiet room. Walls and doors guarantee some choice of vision, some solitude. I can shut the door, close the blinds, and to some degree ensure privacy. No matter what clutter hangs on the other side of the wall, this side can be bare. But I cannot preserve silence. Even now the Top Forty station in the next room bores through the wall. It makes all barriers, all solitudes, insubstantial.

Once in France I walked through a forest, followed paths under light, arching branches. I felt that I was entering a place of infinite green, that the forest went on without disruption, stiller and more still until near the center the smallest sounds would become audible; birds and insects and grass would be magnified in the silence. But down the slope, the forest ran into a chain link fence and a highway of cars passing.

In my garden, hidden behind the iris, I have the sense that I am surrounded by leaves, a privacy deepened when the grape vines grow thick along the back fence. When I am kneeling among the green stocks, I might be in a field of flowers, acres of hollyhocks and poppies. But the neighbors’ radio is the end of the illusion.

I must go far, very far away, for absolute quiet. Even then I may hear, in some primeval space, under aspens that barely alter the air, the grinding of gears and someone’s car stereo.

Even natural sounds can be irritating. Wind and rain continue sometimes with maddening incessance. But in time the wind stops and the rain is no more than a quiet dripping from the eaves. Human sounds (voices in the living room, the slamming of the screen door) subside. Everyone has to sleep. Most mechanical noises—lawn mowers and drills and chain saws—finally cease. But radio and television do not cease. Once in a while a tube may go out; once in a while one may quit. But in any ordinary house, there is another radio, another television. The cheapness of manufacturing them means that they can be everywhere. They are omnipresent by mere multiplication. And they can be on all the time. While people dream and snore and turn over in their sleep, the radio in the next room plays on. And while they mutter their last words and expire, the radio in the next room plays on. Even when it is unplugged in the next room, the radio will be playing in the car, in the grocery store half-a-mile away.

I used to look over at my neighbors’ house, where in the master bedroom the blue light of the television stayed on all night. Perhaps they slept with it on or comforted themselves during hours of insomnia. Perpetual torment, I thought, to never rest. The fuzzy striations on the television screen, the blank buzz that used to come on some radio and TV stations late at night are, in comparison, 4 positive relief.

When my mother was young, her family had one radio and there were only two classical programs-the Carnegie Hall Broadcast on Sundays and a program from 8:00 to 3:00 on weekdays, whose theme song was Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. (It was not until years later that my mother knew the name of the piece.) During the school year, she could not listen to the weekday program. But in the summer, she planned her whole life around it. I think of the young girl in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, roaming the streets on summer nights to the houses that played Mozart and Beethoven, lying in the dark bushes, saving the beautiful fragments in her mind, waiting ever after that to hear the music again. When my mother graduated from junior high, she was given a 45-speed record player. The first record she bought was “The Nutcracker Suite” conducted by Toscanini, not because she wanted it so much then, but because she had heard it as a child on “Fantasia” and had promised herself all her life that it would be her first record. I can imagine my mother lifting the needle, turning the record over to hear the end. My mother’s memory is from a time that seems to me almost virginal now when my youngest sister plays The Cure CD at near full volume.

If radio and television were human, they would tire. But they are not human. Though they are made of living sounds, they are not alive. They lack the characteristics of natural sound, the fluctuations and arrests. Classical radio stations may retain some signs of life: noticeable variations, ranges in tempo and volume, passages of quiet. Occasionally the announcer falters. But most stations are characterized by uniformity, a repetition of sound in which inflections and pauses are lost. Human voices jammed into an electrical circuit, programmed to go on without cessation. They could conceivably go on forever, blotting out all lighter sounds, filling all future silences.

To hear leaves moving together and insects humming, quiet is essential. Without quiet, I cannot hear the soprano’s aria. I imagine her voice as a line with great variance: here it drops and tapers, here it ascends, all against transparent space. Then an alto enters, and the two voices trace together a pattern on a white ground. The sounds of evening filter through the open work. But they are obliterated by mechanized noise—entire bars, great rectangles blocked out. Even a symphony cannot triumph over Top Forty played back to back.

It is not so much a question of pitch as it is of rhythmic frequency—repetition so insistent, intervals so compressed, that they black out existing space. There is no hedging against mechanical noise. It penetrates ordinary barriers, it levels walls by sheer rhythmic persistence. By sheer rhythmic persistence it establishes a density that obstructs other sounds. The only sound with mass enough to obliterate mechanized noise is a louder mechanized noise.

Listening to it is like riding in an old car down a bad road. The head bumps against the door with a frequency that becomes offensive. The neck aches. The view outside becomes meaningless from monotonous, repetitive jolting. Space and thought are broken by the rhythm, fragments ground to dust.

Houses and gardens are intended as places of seclusion. Their physical barriers provide a refuge for quiet. And quiet is itself a refuge, a sanctuary for rest and thought and solitude. To admit continual noise is to rupture the structure of quiet, to fracture the intervals of stillness necessary for rest and thought. It is impossible to keep up the illusion of solitude when somewhere else a radio is playing. The sound distracts all the senses. Radio and television have a far greater potential than other mechanized noises for disrupting quiet because they are part of the twentieth-century interior, part of the house and garden.

For some, quiet is nothingness. For them, radio and television are the sounds of life. They cover the surface of the void. They fill the absence. But their noise is an illusion. They create, by constant rhythm, the appearance of something permanent something solid and present. But it is only the solidity of dense, obliterating lines.

It is in quiet that life emerges, irregular and beautiful. Voices rise and fall in the kitchen. Katherine laughs. Someone runs water for a bath. The piano comes out unexpectedly upon the evening. Sounds are scattered, in the still lengths of early morning, unpredictable, errant.

Though quiet appears void, its emptiness is the emptiness of a cathedral. Its nothingness is a dome, vaulted by the resonance of voices singing four hundred years ago. Against the mass of this century’s noise, quiet is insubstantial, yet in my mind it has the form of something enduring, something centuries old. I think of sitting on smooth steps in the evening. I think of a stone balcony, of the sounds that emerge when louder sounds subside, the fall of water in motionless pools. Quiet cannot impose. Yet it remains. It endures. Like a stone, it is soundless and immense.

When finally the last motors are shut off and the perpetual agitations cease, the receding quiet will cover the earth. On its clear surface Yeats’s fly will rest, and the stillness will vibrate with sounds of living things.

Cory Fehlberg recently finished her master’s degree in English at BYU. She lives in Orem.

The Company of Lovers

by Lorraine Paterson 

When Lucy Shipley was nine years old, she once followed a woman for four long blocks because the woman had seemed so incredibly lucky. The lucky woman had short bobbed blonde hair and she was wearing a long light green raincoat, and as she walked along the sidewalk Lucy followed.

For Lucy, being connected in life was some­how connected with being lucky, and she simply couldn’t divide the two. They were elusive. It was nothing tangible about the woman, not the tilt of her head or the way she walked. Nothing solid that nine-year-old Lucy could say, “Here, here I have it,” but it was there. In the tilt of her head and in the way that she walked. Undeniable and unquestionable luck.

When Lucy was twenty-nine she no longer followed lucky people on the street. She was too old and too wise to believe that luck and connectedness could be learned and emulated by following lucky people on the street. Instead, Lucy decided to take a hand in her own fate. She began by visiting “Molly’s Reliable Adoption Agency.”

“I would like to be adopted,” she told the clerk at the front desk.

“But surely you can support yourself?” the clerk said. “Surely you are self-sufficient. You must be how old? Thirty perhaps.”

“I’m not talking about financial support. I would just like to be connected. Did you ever play ‘Connect’ as a child?” Lucy asked.

“No,” said the secretary.

“Well, this works on exactly the same principle. The game has pieces with blue and black and red lines on them and they all have to be connected. Age is completely irrelevant.”

“Nobody wants older children these days,” the secretary said firmly.

 

After the “Molly Agency” disappointment, it wasn’t until Lucy met Gerald and Sarah that a definite plot began to form in her head.

Lucy had tried various sexual ideas before, but sex and luck and connectiveness just didn’t fit together for her. She couldn’t touch a lover’s chest. Her palms naturally splayed out. Her previous lovers had thought her aloof and unfriendly. One of them once complained, “I just don’t feel like we are friends.”

“Friends,” said Lucy, “now there’s a new possibility.”

But with Gerald and Sarah it was different. A different angle on sex. A nonparticipating angle. From the first time she saw Sarah, Lucy thought, “There is a woman who doesn’t want to have children.” There was something in the way that she held her neck erect and postured. Lucy knew because she watched them every time they came into the library where she worked. Sarah’s long brown hair fell slightly over Gerald’s shoulder as she leaned on him when they read poetry together. They looked well fed, the pair of them. Bright eyed. Well dressed. Definitely without any connections but themselves.

One day they were standing at the book checkout. Lucy stamped “Plants of the Middle East” and “New Techniques on Sheet Wallpapering” and then said, “Here are your options: either you can adopt me or I’ll have children for you.”

“We don’t want children,” said Gerald cautiously.

“Well, I can fit into your domestic arrangements any way you want. Child. Cousin. Sister. Aunt. Whatever you want.”

 

Lucy moved in with Gerald and Sarah the following week. She paid them rent, but they gave her a discount because she was a relative. They lived in a small red brick house that seemed rather sprawling and badly furnished to Lucy. Sarah tie-dyed sheets and hung them on the walls. Sparsely.

Lucy rotated relationships. The intention was one month child, the next month sister, the next cousin. She started off in the child cycle, which presented some problems simply because Sarah was only five years older than Lucy. But they all tried the best they could. One Saturday afternoon, the three of them made brightly colored mobiles out of crepe paper and hung them all over Lucy’s room. It was the baby’s room, after all, and somehow they needed to create a nursery atmosphere to make up for the fact that Lucy Shipley was twenty-nine years old.

At first it was fun. When Gerald and Sarah picked her up from work, they would sit in the car and examine their watches crossly and Sarah would say, “What a girl for dillydallying she is. It’s terrible. She certainly didn’t get it from me.”

And they would make her wrap up warmly and not stay out late and tuck her into bed. But it wore thin. Gerald and Sarah did not have any children of their own because they raised their voices too often, weren’t patient enough, and despised dependent things. They didn’t like having a child and everyone was relieved when they unanimously voted to go on to the sister cycle after only two-and-a-half weeks.

 

As Lucy and Sarah lay on the Navajo rug in the front room, Sarah said, “Sometimes I just think about Mother so much that I don’t think I can stand it anymore. I hate to think of her being in a rest home.”

“She was a liability,” said Lucy. “On that bicycle she was hell careening around the neighborhood. When she ran over Timothy Webster and gave him thirty stitches, I knew something had to give.”

“But you know she hated homes. I always remember when we were young, she told us, ‘People should never be in homes. It just isn’t right,’ and the way she said ‘isn’t right’ gave me chills,” said Sarah.

“Six bottles of vodka a week,” Lucy said. “It just kills me to think of it, six bottles a week. We should never have drunk it with her.”

“It’s in the genes,” said Sarah.

“Let me show you Mother,” Lucy said, “all I have left. All I brought with me of her.”

Lucy brought out an old and battered handbag. It was lizard skin and grotesque.

“Driver’s license, lipstick, small bottle of rum, bicycle clips,” Lucy said.

“How old she looks,” Sarah said as she touched the license lightly. “I have her eyes.”

Sarah unwound the lipstick: “Magnolia Passion.” She smeared it on her lips and rubbed them together. She went to the mirror.

“Mother’s color,” she said.

The license had a large “Revoked” stamped on it. “Drinking,” said Lucy.

“I wish Mother and I hadn’t drifted apart,” sighed Sarah. “If only she had liked Gerald more, things would have worked out so differently.”

Sarah and Lucy tried not to refer to the “rift” too often. It was painful for Sarah to discuss.

“Mother didn’t want to go to the home because of Aunt Agatha,” Lucy said. “I wish Mother didn’t feel so bothered by it. The time that Aunt Agatha bit the head off Theresa’s scuba diving doll. I mean, it was one of the happiest days of my whole life.”

 

There were parties each weekend and lots of drinking and laughing. Gerald and Sarah had a little group of friends they always invited over.

Gerald played the piano and he would sing, “Sisters . . . did you ever see such sweet sisters?” to a tune Lucy suspected he had composed himself. And Lucy and Sarah would sway together.

Sarah said, “That dark brown hair of Lucy’s is a throwback to Grandma. Mother always liked her hair better than mine. Brushed hers fifty times a night and mine only thirty. These small things have an effect, you know. It’s the small things that matter.”

When Lucy became really drunk she would pretend to be her mother on her bicycle on the driveway, lolling over to one side. Sarah saw her mother’s hair flowing out to the side and the pastel scarfs she would wear.

“Oh, Lucy,” she would say, “to be able to capture her so brilliantly and beautifully. It’s practically a gift. It’s Mother. It’s Mother. I get choked up.”

“It was art,” Gerald would later tell her, “sheer and utter art.”

And at the parties Sarah and Gerald would lie beside each other on the couch and say, “Now, who can we find as a lover for our dear Lucy?”

“Blood calls to blood,” Sarah would say. “I just can’t let her live alone. I would prefer to cut off my right arm than leave her alone.” She always accompanied her words with a movement, a soft chop on her arm, “Cut it right off.”

Lucy lived in the small atticlike room at the top of their house. It became infused with her own personality, different from the rest of the house.

“Droll,” Sarah would say and lie on the bed with her light brown hair lying out in all directions. “Damned droll up here.” Downstairs was a sheer confusion of art and design and artistic people’s temperaments.

Sarah and Gerald made love noisily and at night. As Lucy lay in bed trying to sleep, she could hear them.

Gerald was a freelance writer and he worked in a small room downstairs in the house and he wrote loudly. Lucy found him slightly distasteful at times with his dark eyes and sallow skin. There was something nervy about him, Lucy thought. He talked too quickly and pulled his fingers along the stubble on his chin as he talked. It didn’t seem quite right to Lucy.

“Christine, Sarah, Theresa, and Lucy,” he would say, “the Shipley sisters. I always thought you four were like the Bronte sisters or something Chekhov would write about. Sometimes when I called up I would say, ‘Are any of the Shipley sisters free tonight ?’ and I would just take whoever was free. That’s why, Lucy, I sometimes took you out.”

Sometimes when friends came over in the afternoon to hear Gerald’s new poem or admire Sarah’s new splashed wall hanging they would ask, “Now where exactly did you find Lucy?” and they would go through the long rigmarole of how they found her and took her in and how she belonged.

One day Sarah dyed her hair dark brown and came home with a large Indian scarf wrapped around her head. Gerald and Lucy were sitting at the dining room table playing Scrabble when Sarah came in. She pulled the scarf off with a flourish, like a conjuring trick.

“Mother always preferred your hair color,” Sarah said, “and I thought, oh what the hell, I’ll be like you and Grandma.”

At Sunday dinners Lucy and Sarah showed Gerald what hap­pened when their Uncle Peter came over to visit.

“That was in the days long before I met you,” Sarah said and leaned over to rub Gerald’s arm.

“Uncle Peter was an explorer. He was always dressed in the same red shirt and blue jeans and wore mountaineering equip­ment wherever he went because he was on a crusade to find faulty parts. And the only way he could find out was to con­stantly wear the equipment,” said Lucy.

“He was a savior,” said Sarah. “He saved lives by wearing his equipment.”

“Once he even climbed Everest,” said Lucy.

“Oh, don’t be so gullible,” said Sarah. “That’s just the kind of thing we wanted to believe when we were children. Lucy, you know perfectly well that Uncle Peter never climbed Everest. We just wanted to think he had.”

Sarah and Lucy demonstrated the ceremonial and feverish swapping of kitchen utensils that Mother and Uncle Peter did “while drinking small glasses of vodka that we constantly had to refill,” said Sarah.

Lucy and Sarah did it in the kitchen. Pulling out the cutlery drawer and laying all the knives, forks and spoons out, they exchanged them in a haphazard, bizarre fashion.

“But I don’t understand,” said Gerald. “Why on earth did they want to swap kitchen utensils?”

Lucy and Sarah began to laugh and laugh together. Holding on to each other’s sleeves like clowns, they had convulsions as they shook with raucous laughter.

Lorraine Paterson teaches English in Thailand. This story won first place in the Inscape fiction contest.

The Presence of Fact

by Alex Faletti

John’s up to his shoulders in the fireplace. He drops ashes on the floor. They hit in a rush and puff out. “This will do,” he says.

“Keeping it in the house?” Hatly says.

“No. Shoveling it out,” he says, “keeping the flue clean.” John rests the shovel against the mantle. He pulls his shirt over his stomach, and slaps the dust from his hands.

“Lunch?” Hatly says. She washes her hands at the kitchen sink. Chives and oregano grow in terra-cotta pots above the double basin.

“A Coke,” he says.

“We’re out,” she says, watching a hawk ride thermals above the canyon facing the house. A ripple of heat scatters the color, and the manzanita and sage look brown.

“Anything else?” he asks.

“Only cream soda,” she says. “I’ll go to town.” She dries her hands and helps a black and white cat onto the couch with her foot, but it jumps back down.

“Don’t bother,” John says. “I can wait.”

“No, I’ll go. I want to.”

“Fine,” he says, “but put Coke on your list.”

“It is,” she says.

Flatly plays The Cure. The Jeep’s parked on a hill and she starts it without using the key, only coasting. It’s eight miles from Davenport to Felton, and the first three are dirt. A plume of dust kicks up behind her and settles after she’s two turns down the road.

Hatly drives Main through Felton. The sun warms the street and dries the pine needles lying thick on either side of the road. Redwoods push up dense and the sun browns the ferns and mule ears at the base of the trees.

In Donnell’s General Store, Hatly moves her cart slowly through the aisles.

“You need some help?” Greg says from behind the counter.

“I’d love some help,” she says from the end of an aisle. She moves down the next aisle, talking over the top.

“How about a sun hat? They’re straw,” Greg says. He pulls a hat from a stack and hands it to Hatly.

Hatly pulls her hair over one shoulder. It drapes across her chest to the belt. She adjusts the hat in three or four directions, watching herself in a silver mirror. “I look like a grandmother,” she says.

“You’d be the youngest one I’ve met,” Greg says. “Try this one.” He hands her one with a blue ribbon.

“This is cute. I like it.” She tilts the brim up and walks toward the meats. A white cooler holds fresh fish, beef, and boneless pork chops. She lifts a package of shark from the ice. It smells of kelp and reminds her of the pier in Santa Cruz where fishermen hoist sharks with block and tackle. “Oh yes, we need a smoke detector. It’s for the house.”

“Makes sense in a drought,” Greg says. “I got a ticket last week. Hosed off my porch.” He walks over an aisle. “They’re over here, in the hardware.”

“They’re water Nazis,” Hatly says. She comes into view from behind the aisle. “And paint. I need a can of paint,” she says. “Black enamel.”

Greg leaves the aisle and walks to the back wall. “Plenty of paint back here,” he says. He pulls a can from a steel cabinet.

“I don’t suppose you have any Haagen-Dazs? Vanilla on a stick, coffee chips, dark chocolate?”

“What’s that?” Greg says.

“Decadence. The best ice cream made.”

“No. Just popsicles up here. Never heard of Hogging Days. Must be rich.”

“It’s okay. I’ll get them in the city. I’ll get a box,” Hatly says, making her arms wide to show the box’s size.

“Sounds like cabin fever,” he says.

“Just work, and commuting to San Jose,” she says. She stops pushing the cart and puts her hat next to a can of oysters.

“You’ve bought a nice place,” Greg says from the back of the store. “One of the few that still has full growth timber.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Hatly says.

A one quart can of paint rises from behind an aisle and then falls. It reappears farther down the aisle where Greg throws it over his head again. “Here it is,” he says.

She takes it and a brush, pays for her goods, and walks to the Jeep. Greg lugs the bags and thanks her.

By the shed, John cuts four feet from the end of a four-by­six. It’s rough-cut redwood and a splinter jabs his hand.

“Damn,” he says, and pulls at it with his teeth. The sliver swells under the skin, but he keeps cutting, gives a hard cut down and then lightly lifts the saw up. His gold chain bounces against his chest, in rhythm with the saw, and he hears Hatly coming up the road, the Jeep in low gear.

She sprays dust and dried pine needles, parks between a pile of shingles and a neat stack of lumber. “Hey carpenter,” she says.

John keeps after the post. He has about an inch to go but stops. “Redwood’s a bitch,” he says.

“No, I’m a bitch,” she says. She slips her sunglasses to her head and spits from the Jeep.

“You’re funny,” he says and walks to her.

“And you’re no carpenter,” she says. “You belong in the city with a car phone. But I’ll kiss you anyway.”

“Then I’ll court you,” he says, stooping like a chimp and skipping around her. He flexes so his biceps show their veins. “And I do math.”

“My renaissance man,” Hatly says. She kisses him on the forehead and walks to the house, kicking up dust with each step. “Ook, ook,” she tells him.

“Ook, ook,” he says, picking up his gloves and the Coke Hatly left him.

Hatly carries two bags up fourteen steps. The deck squeaks under her, and she notes it. Another thing to fix.

John yells after her. “Bring an old paint can, please!” She tries to nod, but the groceries shift and she yells “Okay” into a bag.

John cuts the last of the four-by-six and sets the four-foot piece on sawhorses. Hatly brings the can and they take turns painting the bottom end with one brush.

Hatly stops John’s hand in midmotion, holds it until he looks at her. She has both his hand and the brush in one hand. “I’ve had enough,” she says.

“Enough?” he says. He kisses her and she steps back. The smell of creosote burns her eyes.

“Enough fixing. Let’s do dinner, a nice dinner, in Los Gatos?” she says.

He lifts the post and sets the oiled side down. It drips small drops in the dust. “Sounds good. Maybe after the traffic dies down. We’re pretty much done for the day,” he says. “I’ll call Tim, and we’ll bury the post. We’ll do it right,” he says. John pours the creosote in its can and taps it shut.

He wipes the can clean, and the rag sticks to his hand. So he peels the rag away, but it sticks to his other hand. “Here,” he chucks the rag to Hatly. His nails are hand-rubbed walnut. “Put it by the hose in the back,” he says.

“I’ll wet it before I toss it,” she says.

“Do the woodpile too,” he says. “Tim and I’ll do a dump run tomorrow, get them out of the yard.”

Hatly throws the rag at the base of the shingles and sprays a fan of water from the hose with her thumb. Steam rises from where the shingles lie in the sun, and evaporating rivers run from under the pile.

Tim meets them at the gate, a quarter mile from the house. He parks his truck next to the jeep, just off the road. “Today’s the day,” he says.

“Today we do it,” John says.

Tim leaves the road, walks a yard or two and finds the hole. “That will do,” he says. John slides the post from the Jeep and cradles it across the road. Tim and Hatly wait on the far side.

“Watch out,” John says.

The post drops with a thud, vibrates the earth below them. It rests at an angle. John straightens it while Tim wedges rocks be­tween the post and the hole. Hatly and John take turns hammering rocks deeper with a steel bar until the post stands on its own.

“Let’s point it in the right direction while it’s still moveable,” Tim says. Tim and John wiggle and twist the post while Hatly directs them. They aim one side toward the road.

“A little more,” she says, “just a little more.”

Hatly steps back while John and Tim set the post with rocks and clay and steel.

“It’s supposed to be over a hundred tomorrow,” Tim says, driving a rock deeper.

“We’ll load the shingles this evening when it’s cool,” John says. “We can drive out early, before it gets hot.”

“That should do it,” John says. He says a word or two between each thrust and then stabs the bar into the ground a few feet from the hole.

“Get the sign,” Hatly says.

“Let’s see it,” John says.

Tim carries it from the truck. Eighteen inches cut from a two-by-twelve. Eight letters carve the surface in V-shaped grooves. The letters show Tim’s handiwork, his router’s blade. “The Walls,” it says.

Tim drills two holes in the sign and then the post. He joins them with two bolts and a socket wrench. Backing away from the sign on his knees, he reads it aloud. “The Walls,” he says. “Looks good. You’re official.”

“The Walls,” they say, and smile.

Hatly backs the Jeep down the road. She turns on the lights and drives backward. The sun has set, but the headlights show the road.

“You can’t really see it against the tree,” she says over the sound of the motor.

“It will be fine with some paint,” Tim says. He stands back and imagines the letters in black. “Black’s not going to catch it. You’ll need yellow, or white, I think. You can’t see the letters well.”

“We can paint it at the house,” John says. “We’ve got lights in the garage now.” He walks toward the Jeep.

“Sounds good,” Tim says. He loosens the bolts on the sign and takes it down. “We can do the swamp cooler, too.”

“Hold on a bit,” John says. “Put it back up for a second. I want to see it.” John squeezes next to Hatly in the Jeep and closes the door, but it won’t latch shut. He puts his arm on the seat above her shoulders. They press together. The bucket seat holds them together, and John clicks the high beams.

“What do you think?” she says. Their faces are close, almost touching, and John answers her quietly. “White will do it. White will make it perfect.”

Alex Faletti, after getting a B.S. in math and an M.A. in English, is currently a ski instructor at a local resort.