by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
When I was a young woman I had a secret passion. At first I didn’t quite grasp that it was a genuine passion. I was married and thought I already had what I wanted. This other thing, I thought, was just fascination and fondness. Also he was too old and a little ugly. But as time passed I recognized it for what it was.
It was his size, first of all. Very large. Imposing. When he got up out of a chair I could see the air shifting deferentially to make room for him, as if the very air at his proximity undulated in its yielding, like fabric or flesh. He was infused with gravity, like a rooted tree or a large piece of machinery, and walked with deliberation, as if he drew strength from the ground and was reluctant to lose touch with it. And his darkness. His skin was leathery, his hair so black and smooth it looked like metal. And his voice. Deep, as if it snaked up from someplace near his groin. Deep and a trifle harsh, almost with a sneering edge. Yet full of kindness. A kindly sneer, if such a thing is possible. And courteous, safe, gray eyes.
He came to our house, sometimes with his wife. He sat in the big armchair, a golden drink in his hand, his feet rooted to the floor, his arms resting on the armrests like Lincoln in his stone chair in his monument. He spoke in his deep, pebbly, sneering, warm voice and smoked cigarettes, wrinkling his brow with each puff, holding the ends facing inward so I wondered how his palm didn't get burned. He befriended my young, boyish husband, took him under his wing in their shared line of work. He was kind. And I wanted to be near him and hear his voice.
He felt it too. He looked at me with appreciation and desire, the kind of desire that is civilized and tamed when it would be out of the question to let it run free. The kind of desire that in a man of his age grows wry and ironic and mellow, yet doesn’t shrivel or seep away. He made gallant, civilized remarks of the kind that older men are—or were—permitted to make to younger women, meant only half-seriously, tinged with rue, the erotic seasoning of his aging. I wanted to let him know that I did take them seriously, that I felt the same even though he was so much older. I didn’t think of him as fatherly. No. I wanted to make him happy. I wanted to see how pleasure would make him look. I wanted precisely the wry, rueful, and, I imagined, heated gratitude he would offer in return. I wanted to whisper in his ear that I wanted him, and to see his melancholy surprise—for he was melancholic, he had had disappointments—and then to take off his clothes and make love to him as if he were a stony monument I was bringing to life with my hands….
Saul Steinberg, “Images of the New World: Memories of an Old”
"March-April," 1965, watercolor, 22 x 15"
Letter to Henrietta Danson, 25 August 1941
From Memoir of the Hawk
by James Tate
In the Ring or on the Field, Igor Hummed
Although Stravinsky’s fame rests entirely
on his musical compositions, he was also a form-
idable boxer with a lifetime record of one hundred-
and-three wins and only one loss, and that to the
brutal Harry S. Truman. But he also loved base-
ball and pitched in the minor leagues for some
years. His fastball was clocked at 105 mph and
he could throw a sinker that left the best batters
wondering if the ball had been sucked into the
earth by a demon. He composed Patrouchka while
on the road with the Kansas City Blues, his team-
mates often helped out with difficult passages.
While drinking a couple of beers on the bus,
he’d hum out loud, and one of the players would
say, “No, Igor, like this, fortissimo.”
Just to Feel Human
A single apple grew on our tree, which
was some kind of miracle because it was a
pear tree. We walked around it scratching
our heads. “You want to eat it?” I asked
my wife. “I’d die first,” she replied. We
went back into the house. I stood by the
kitchen window and stared at it. I thought
of Adam and Eve, but I didn’t believe in Adam
and Eve. My wife said, “If you don’t stop
staring at that stupid apple I’m going to go
out there and eat it.” “So go,” I said, “but
take your clothes off first, go naked.” She
looked at me as if I were insane, and then
she started to undress, and so did I.
by Stephen C. Behrendt
As her car left the curving rise in the road
at a hundred miles an hour—radio
piercing the night like a cry from a dream—
and rolled slowly to the right in midair,
the foal slipped from the little black mare
struggling in her stall in the dark,
unattended, this tough birth come a week early,
the other mares nickering comfort
from stalls beyond the tack-shed.
As her father’s Lexus clipped the sturdy fence
and she broke through the windshield,
blue eyes expanded wide
as the soundless circle of her mouth,
the soft skin scored by the shattering glass,
the owner rose from the shallow sleep
in which he heard what he could not hear:
the shuffle of hooves, the thin voice,
the gentle onset on the barn’s steel roof
of the rain perfuming the dusty July field-grass.
As the car nestled down atop her,
pressing out the final breath of life,
chassis thrust rudely toward the clouds—
the only sounds the soft hiss of rain on hot metal
and the slow spinning of one crooked wheel—
he turned his lantern on the quivering wet foal
prodded alive by the tired mare’s tongue,
while miles to the south her parents shifted gently
in dreams devoid of rain or dark, of all foreboding,
without presage of the shrilling phone
that would sear their night in an hour.