From "Pony Car"
by Pinckney Benedict
Joyriding in Uncle Rowdy’s tricked-out pony car: ’70 Dodge Challenger, four-hundred-forty cubic inch hemi, Hurst shifter, Cragar rims all the way around, shaker hood with chrome hold-down pins. The river on one side of the road, C&O tracks on the other. Uncle Rowdy telling a story. So the Angel of the Lord appears to the farmer. Looming over Esau in the front seat, Esau young at the time, nine or ten. The skin of Uncle Rowdy’s fine-featured face tight and bloodless with fury. Esau keenly aware that this story was in some way about his father, Esau’s father, Rowdy’s older brother, and listening close.
The Angel of the Lord appears in all his blazing glory, and he says to the farmer, he says, Whatever you ask of me, I’ll give that thing to you. Was Uncle Rowdy’s wife, was Astrid in the car with them? Sitting pert in the back seat, quiet as always, attentive, dark eyes glittering as the countryside whipped by outside the car. Esau can’t remember exactly, but he thinks that probably she was. Astrid never far from Uncle Rowdy, unsmiling, watchful. But listen to me, says the Angel: Whatever I give to you, twice that will I give to your neighbor.
Uncle Rowdy not seeming to pay any attention to where they’re going, forearm laid casually along the top of the steering wheel, all his concentration on the story he’s telling Esau, the powerful pony wandering all over the road, engine howling. Esau knew that his father was the farmer in the story, that was plain to see. But who was Uncle Rowdy? Was he the angel? The neighbor? Was Esau in the story? Probably not. Esau was never in the story. It was always Uncle Rowdy and his brother in the story.
So the farmer thinks, and he thinks. And finally he says to the Angel of the Lord, he says, All right then, Angel, do this for me: Put out one of my
by William Heyen
The line of WWI veterans,
my mother’s father among them,
stood at attention on a Bremerhaven dock.
Gusts of brine wind lapped
at the Fuhrer’s black leather coat,
but he took his time,
took each man’s hands in his own,
thanked each for his sacrifice.
He of the luminous wounded blue eyes,
seeing my grandfather’s
prisoner-of-war medal, asked where,
& how long. "Russia, two years,"
my grandfather answered,
then added, "I escaped."
In moments of blue flame,
his beloved Fuhrer embraced him.
Behind them, Das Reich,
their new battleship, loomed.
From Marion Ettlinger Portfolio
Edmund White, New York City, 2000
Robert Stone, Westport, Connecticut, 1996