Marni Asplund-Campbell, editor
[p.107]Emanuelle puts carrots through a strainer. The baby’s mouth opens wide. After he eats his bowl of carrots, Emanuelle puts him to her breast. The milk comes out fast. This makes her sleepy and she lies on the couch with Nicky and they both fall asleep.
Emanuelle hears music. While she sleeps, there is a soundtrack … but what she really wants is poetry. The poetry runs hard as sap … she is moving across the bay. She sees water and light and she remembers the verses all wrong … when I think how I used my light … when I think how my light is spent … Nicky stirs and Emanuelle thinks how she should get up and put the chicken in a pan. Nicky doesn’t cry much and Jack isn’t picky about dinner. She will just sprinkle some things on the chicken and stick it in the oven. She might clean the floor.
The line she is searching for does not come. She does not fall asleep.
Emanuelle gets down on the floor and scrubs. Nicky still sleeps. His blood is thick like mine, his mother thinks, thick and slow, he likes to sleep, he has too much phlegm, he was born under Saturn. But these things are not all bad. The house smells like soap and chicken. Nicky is always happy.
“Are you a minimalist?” Jack says when he reads her poetry. Emanuelle does not answer. My blood is thick, I am indecisive, she thinks, I am like Hamlet, my message is one of despair … When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes … she likes to write poetry because it is short. The message is usually one of despair. My blood runs thick, cold, hard as sap, like poems, she thinks. She writes her stuff fast but it comes hard: it boils for a long time and torments her and tears her apart. Then she writes fast. A lot of times she forgets her great lines.
When Jack gets home, he will like the smell of soap and chicken. [p.108]Nicky will arise from his nap and be all warm and soft and sweet, smelling of his mother’s milk.
Those lines on paper, the great ones, are rare, or non-existent.
“This is depressing,” Jack says, “you’re always so depressed.” This is what he says when he reads his wife’s poetry. “But I like it,” he adds.
Jack will quote lines she is unfamiliar with—thou art summoned by sickness, Death’s herald and champion. They are manly lines, I go back to Korea. Do I ever.
“I like your feet a lot,” Jack says, “a lot.” He touches them.
Emanuelle soaks them in water and soap. She rubs them with oil.
“Emanuelle,” Jack says, “where’s this from: It was not a very white jacket, but white enough …”
“Are you asking me because you want to know, or is this a test?”
“Test,” Jack says. They are eating little cups of pudding in bed.
“Melville,” she says. They are living in New York now. Soon they will be living in Boston. Emanuelle feeds Jack spoonfuls of pudding. They are watching t. v. A man is wearing all black and pretending to be German. He is making fun of Germans.
They turn off the set and they hear sirens and people using fireworks. They hear a car stereo. Nicky’s little bed is in the front room and Ellie gets up to feed him.
Emanuelle checks the mirror on her way back to bed. She says prayers. She snuggles up to Jack and falls asleep. Jack gets up early. He never cares how much sleep he gets. Ellie does not like waking up to an empty bed. When Nicky awakens, she puts him in bed with her and feeds him. Then they both fall asleep. Then Emanuelle usually dreams of Jack. When she wakes up, she calls him on the phone. By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him but I found him not, she says to Jack over the phone.
Emanuelle puts in a load of laundry and hangs all the colors out to dry on the fire escape. She takes Nicky to the park. They watch some boys playing basketball. When Nicky was first born, Emanuelle thought she was skinny again. Now she thinks she is fat. She does not like her reflection in the windows. In the park they sit on a bench and drink juice. A woman pinches Nicky’s cheek. “He’s lovely,” she says. “You should try olive oil on that,” she says, pointing to a little rash on Nicky’s cheek. Emanuelle has long hair. She holds it back with her [p.109]hand while she speaks to the woman. She offers the woman her bagel because it seems that she is hungry. Nicky laughs at her and she touches his face again.
“My name is Miriam,” the woman says.
“I am Emanuelle.”
“This is a very nice name,” Miriam says. “Your mother has good taste.”
Miriam eats the bagel. Emanuelle offers her a banana and that is all the food she has with her. Miriam eats the banana. They walk on Broadway to 110th Street. They stop in a shop and have falafel and coffee. Miriam seems sleepy.
At Emanuelle’s apartment, while Miriam sleeps, Emanuelle cleans her oven. Nicky sits in his basket on the floor next to his mother. Miriam is wearing Emanuelle’s nightie. Emanuelle scrubs the bathtub. She does not want Miriam to think she is a bad housekeeper. When the kitchen and bathroom are spotless, she organizes her desk and writes a note to her sister. She turns some very quiet music on the stereo and feeds Nicky. Nicky cries after he eats. His mother changes his diaper and pats his back until he burps. Where did you find that little tear? I found it waiting when I got here. What makes your forehead so smooth and high? A soft hand stroked it as I went by. Nicky and his mother nap on the couch. Emanuelle dreams of the water again, a harbor that is not Boston, a plane headed west, a sun she has never seen in New York.
While Emanuelle sleeps, Miriam is in the kitchen chopping vegetables. When she wakes up, Miriam says, “If you run out for a little meat, I can make something delicious.” So they go down to the butcher’s and pick up some beef. They buy a parsnip at the grocery store at Miriam’s request. When they return, they smell onions cooking. Miriam throws the beef into the pot and adds vegetables and paprika. Emanuelle opens a bottle of wine.
When it was not raining, a low mist moved across the paddies, blending the elements into a single gray element, and the war was cold and pasty and rotten. Jack said this to Emanuelle shortly after they first met. She had not been able to place it. She is too embarrassed to ask Jack where it came from now. Miriam’s goulash simmers in the kitchen. Nicky and Miriam play on the couch. Your father went to work, Miriam sings, he will return. Nicky giggles. Emanuelle has given [p.110]Miriam a sheaf of poems. Miriam reads while she plays with Nicky. Emanuelle holds a book that she is not reading.
“You think it is,” Miriam says, “but your message is essentially not one of despair.” Emanuelle closes her book. “I’m right,” Miriam says, “trust me.”
Jack should be home soon. “It was a bad time,” he once said. And it was. It had been a bad time then. “Who said this?” Jack said once, “The heart does not choose who it loves… .” Emanuelle did not answer. Who chooses? she thought.
Miriam continues to leaf through the poems. Emanuelle stands by the window, waiting for Jack to come out of the subway. It is getting dark early now, and it rains lightly. Emanuelle bounces Nicky on her hip. Miriam reads and reads. Jack does not appear as Emanuelle waits by the window. Saw ye him whom my soul loveth? Nicky falls asleep on his mother’s shoulder … there is a moon out already. The moon in its flight … Emanuelle thinks. She is tired of waiting. As she turns from the window, the moon, evanescent, fades behind a cloud. I’d prefer not to think it was beauty on the wane.