Lodestar Quarterly

Lodestar Quarterly
Figure reaching for a star Issue 5 • Spring 2003 • Poetry

Love (fragments)

Melanie Braverman


One small duck is being tossed on the waves. It is safer in the water than on land in this wind. All day we've been waiting for the wind to come, the rain or the snow to begin so we can stop waiting. We wait to be able to stop waiting. All day I've watched the boats come in, their riggings lashed against the wind. The slate is pallid, the slate is slate. I watch the outside stairs swaying like grasses, the wind filling the treads with air. Molly's father came in the night. "She might forget to be happy," he said. Her hands small and sore from work. Her father's worries rising like the wind. Soon we will fill our ears with it, we will eat it for supper, it will make us full. Soon this belly of mine, this cup, this bell, will be full. I have my scissors, my tape, my handiness, but it is difficult to remember how to do things. The wind is up. I have forgotten everything.


Someone left big white X's on the windows, so now it is as if our house has cartoon eyes: dead, out of commission. Someone is supposed to come and replace the windows. Then the eyes of our house will be fresh. The eyes of our house see wind. The eyes of our house face the water world, waves washing up to us at high tide. When the tide is low the waves rush the beach, trying, trying to get back to us. They want to reach us, like a child trying to get home to its mother. But they do not love us. They are compelled in this direction regardless of who we are. Does the world love us? The way it loves a tree or a snake.


Two boys are walking side by side into the wind. There is nothing that either of them have to do, nowhere that they have to go. One has long brown hair, the other is blond. One of them talks, the other sings quietly under his breath. The one who is talking, the blond one, believes something dramatic and fatal about love. The other one is singing a pop song he learned from the radio. Whether he likes the song or not does not occur to him. He knows the song because he has heard it a hundred times and now it feels like part of him, like breathing. His hands are delicate, long, they brush his thighs as he walks lightly brushing the nap of his green corduroy trousers. The one who is talking has a pouty mouth. What is fatal is the marriage of love and ambition. As if we were born to be disappointed. What is dramatic is his rally against disappointment. This will keep the boy well for some time. Do you find the boy who is singing more interesting than the talking one? These boys walk the beach every day dragging sticks behind them in the sand. Because these are American boys they have dogs, nosing along at the dead skates, the horseshoe crabs, prancing ahead as if remembering the horses they may have been meant to be. Everything lives potential in them, as in the boys they follow. I see the day as being overcast, not cold but not too warm either. The blond boy's sweater is Episcopalian, the other boy's jacket is a Jew. The beach follows the town -- no, the town follows the beach -- so the boys will never think about getting lost. They are growing up on this beach, which means they will enter the world confident in their sense of direction. But about this love: most of the houses they pass along the beach are abandoned, not forever but for the season. The empty houses guard the memory of summer. The plywood on the windows, the locked doors, the brown sedge and brittle arms of rose bushes lining the sandy paths. At four o'clock the light turns every angle a golden orange. Clouds the epitome of clouds, but how would the boys know this? These are the only clouds they have ever seen. When they leave this place, one mother feigning disinterest but crying in bed at night before she falls asleep, the other arranging a week's worth of farewell parties inviting every neighbor, all the parents from the boy's school, teachers and whatever family members she can get on the phone -- the boys will understand that home is the ultimate relative, the standard by which every other place is judged, whether you like your home or not, cloud will be deemed cloud only in relation to the clouds the boys see now on this beach while they walk, home is what people call the high water mark, the traces of which can be seen on the sea walls they pass.


I like when the horizon disappears, and when it is defined by the slightest silver line below the morning pastels, pink and blue, boy and girl. Now there are girls on the beach outside, long hair flying like switches in the wind. They are different from the boys; they do not notice the clouds at all because they are fully involved in talking to each other. Like the man today with his metal detector divining the sand for treasure, the girls are pursuing some path in to their own mysteries. Approaching the boys, they slow down. They stop talking. They've been trained, by now, to project their mystery into boys, as if boys were the real mystery, the how-can-I-get-one-how-can-I-keep-one-what-is-one-thinking-what-does-one-have-that-I-need mystery. Think about turning that around: how can I get myself, how can I keep myself, what am I thinking, what do I have that I need. Mothers pay less attention to daughters, at least the not so angry mothers, the mothers who are still married and somewhat sleepy, or worried in some other way. The ones who favor daughters tend to be single, thwarted, though as a rule I don't know, sexy in some way that makes the daughters uncomfortable, hungry for attention, certain that it will not be forthcoming. Why talk of daughters always seems to center on mothers. Boys are favored when mothers are ambitious. Mothers who have lost faith in the generosity of the world favor girls, knowing they will get what they can, not what they will. I know girls who were raised as boys, this is one tactic a parent can take. If I had a girl I would keep her in front of a mirror, not figuratively, there's enough of that, but actually. What do you look like? What are you thinking? What do you want? How talk of girls always turns to mothers, ones own, or being one. As if girls are only mothers. I've been watching more television lately, I've been seeing the stories again, the ones everyone wants to believe and keeps making, and they all involve men fucking girls, or men killing girls, or girls killing men because they have been fucked by them, or have been thrown over for other girls. Older women do other things. They are angry or they are maternal or they are shrill and shriveled or one suspects they are lesbians. Every door opens every other door. Often there are windows, and through them the sky, its silver line giving in to the pink and the blue.

Melanie Braverman is the author of a novel, East Justice (Permanent Press, 1996), and a collection of poems, Red (Perugia Press, 2002). She lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

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