This Living Hand

This living hand, now warm and capable

Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold

And in the icy silence of the tomb,

So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights

That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood

So in my veins red life might stream again, And thou be conscience-calmed—see here it is — I hold it towards you.

TARTINE, FOR ALL HER BULK Tartine, for all her bulk outsweep —pumpkin hips and rump — pivots and revolves with burly grace across the several acres of yard, dashing from one garden corner to the next amid the gush of wit and loquacious repartee with Thom and myself. Two donkeys and one calf, on separate ropes, get tangled in the pair of hoses, strategically set, placed to hit most key targets of her sprawled vegetable and fruit gardens, evenly: the calf keeps trying to munch the colorful leafage from young papaya and christophene plants, her prize crops, while a burro starts zigzagging, his rope crisscrossing the hoses, so we can hardly tell where any rope, hose or thick vine starts or stops. But she unravels the loose flux of knots, saves the tender shoots and battens down all free-floating livestock like so many sails or tarps in a gale at sea, with no loss of her verbal pizzazz.

Steepest grades of garden, here and there, must be traversed if she's to keep one jump ahead of the hemp and rubber entanglements, those hooved prancers grooved to outwit her, to do her one better —they lose! She wields her fulsome girth, brawny and agile to spare, over those abrupt dips and ascents, perhaps two house stories' elevation at the loftiest plateau, where one hose —

propped on a forked limb — splits its geyser into three or four streams aimed toward lowest fringes of her many crops. My eye cannot discern the measure of her amplest haunch or loin, what with ballooning skirts, pleated ruffles billowing in and out — those immensities veiled as she whirls about her garden. She waves her lavish satin guilt hems with a gypsy dancer's flourish, parading her costume flash with as much deviltry as the carriage she half conceals, half divulges: oversize clothes, she croons (picking up my gasps and dazzlement at the very sashaying of her skirt flounces), have frequently been a sideline and avocation of hers . . .

In Britain, she'd travelled for some years as saleslady clothier and agent, modelling —from door to door —

those prodigious garments she offered at slashed warehouse prices to corpulent sad-faced buyers. Tartine made a Royal Killing of her walkup/

walkaway business, soonest won top honors for best sales on her twenty-square-miles route, three years running.

She kept the most capacious outsize smocks and slacks, pleated cape jackets and horsy riding britches, in High Fashion by adorning their inflated hulks with her rotund-but agile-charms.

Chunky allure, she terms it. Wherever she sojourned, on holiday, she could garner quick pin money by peddling a ready-to-wear stack of eye-fetching ruffly blouses, or expansive gowns. Oddshaped folks, in City or Province, often too submissive and shy about their disproportioned limbs to shop in the marketplace, thus paying dear prices to local seamstress or tailor for radical alterations of drab fabrics, jumped at the chance to embrace puffy shapes and offbeat sizes on their very doorstoop, while Tartine endowed many an article she wore with raw earthly glamours into the bargain, her sales pitch the Latin dance trot she varied to make each outfit shine forth with proper flare.

None haggled over price, so cheered they were to be lifted from a hopeless morass: hunts to clothes marts that catered, only, to midrange norms . . . Today, since her return to Montserrat in nineteen eighty, she can hardly find true fit duds for herself, much less a sales career which pays half so well — hard pressed for Overseas Mail

Order garb from America or Britain: I can't be sewin' up tentsizedparachutes for me own glum bloody stay-at-home backside!

— Laurence Lieberman

Notebook LEVEL ONE

1. Revise the drafts of poems in your "Work in Progress" file and improve your stanzas according to precepts learned in this chapter:

• Formal stanzas'. For poems using the same number of lines in each stanza, to give a structured appearance.

• Freestyle stanzas: For poems in which content calls for stanzas at irregular intervals.

• Many stanzas: For poems using long sentences; conveying many facts, ideas or images; or utilizing scene or time shifts.

• No stanzas: For poems whose content seems too intense or fragile.

• End-stopped stanzas: For poems whose content is enhanced by pauses or hesitations.

• Run-on stanzas: For poems whose content is enhanced by white space but not by long pauses or hesitations.

• Midline stanzas: For poems whose content contains or implies conversation and/or whose truths are enhanced or clarified by breaks.

• Stanza patterns: For poems in which the author desires greater control over how the audience reads a work and who wants to make the work appeal visually on the page.

2. Choose three ideas from your "Idea File" —one directly related to memory, one to emotional release, and another to a fragile moment. Before you write, determine the voice and line length for each idea according to lessons learned in previous chapters. Now compose a draft of (a) the memory idea using only a few irregular and end-stopped stanzas, (b) the emotional release idea using at least ten uniform run-on and end-stopped stanzas, and (c) the fragile moment idea using only run-on lines with no stanza break.

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