He spoke of misbehaving and his beard on my neck sent chills through my skin
As I stood there with the wind -
blowing and him whispering concern in my ear
I told him small town, small places
same night, same faces
When I really wanted to say take me out of here
I stared out at the light reflecting on the empty parking lot across the way
To the road that led to his bed in where I layed
His body weight felt heavy on top of mine as I looked at every picture on the wall aligned
His tongue pierced down my throat while his chain fell cold there on my skin
And he placed his hands up when I felt uncomfortable again
It could've been the drinks or the booze that made me feel sick
As his mouth kissed my breast,
my nipple between his lips
It could've been the thought of how many times had this man won
And how my body wouldn't compare even though I was so young
15 years my senior, wanting what he got
Even though I swore my innocence staring at that parking lot
I sold myself for 2.50
For a fucking beer
Walking away with no number, no plan
Just a mysterious "good girl" who proved she was a whore
Who forgot to shave her legs that night
Yet still went through that bar door
Never to hear from me again
And never wanting nothing more
There’s a film by John Schlesinger called the Go-Between in which the main character, a boy on the cusp of adolescence staying with a school friend on his family’s Norfolk estate, discovers how passion and sex become intertwined with love and desire. As an elderly man he revisits the location of this discovery and the woman, who we learn changed his emotional world forever. At the start of the film we see him on a day of grey cloud and wild wind walking towards the estate cottage where this woman now lives. He glimpses her face at a window – and the film flashes back fifty years to a summer before the First War.
It’s a little like that for me. Only, I’m sitting at a desk early on a spring morning about to step back nearly forty years.
It was a two-hour trip from Boston to Booth Bay. We’d flown from New York on the shuttle and met Larry’s dad at St Vincent’s. We waited in his office as he put away the week with his secretary. He’d been in theatre all afternoon. He kept up a two-sided conversation.
‘You boys have a good week? Did you get to hear Barenboim at the Tully? I heard him as 14-year old play in Paris. He played the Tempest - Mary, let’s fit Mrs K in for Tuesday at 5.0 - I was learning that very Beethoven sonata right then. I couldn’t believe it - that one so young could sound –there’s that myocardial infarction to review early Wednesday. I want Jim and Susan there please - and look so . . . old, not just mature, but old. And now – Gloria and I went to his last Carnegie – he just looks so damn young.’
Down in the basement garage Larry took his dad’s keys and we roared out on to Storow drive heading for the Massachusetts Turnpike. I slept. Too many early mornings copying my teacher’s latest – a concerto for two pianos – all those notes to be placed under the fingers. There was even a third piano in the orchestra. Larry and his Dad talked incessantly. I woke as Dr Benson said ‘The sea at last’. And there we were, the sea a glazed blue shimmering in the July distance. It might be lobster on the beach tonight, Gloria’s clam chowder, the coldest apple juice I’d ever tasted (never tasted apple juice until I came to Maine), settling down to a pile of art books in my bedroom, listening to the bell buoy rocking too and fro in the bay, the beach just below the house, a house over 150 years old, very old they said, in the family all that time.
It was a house full that weekend, 4th of July weekend and there would be fireworks over Booth Bay and lots of what Gloria called necessary visiting. I was in love with Gloria from the moment she shook my hand after that first concert when my little cummings setting got a mention in the NYT. It was called forever is now and God knows where it is – scored for tenor and small ensemble (there was certainly a vibraphone and a double bass – I was in love from afar with a bassist at J.). Oh, this being in love at seventeen. It was so difficult not to be. No English reserve here. People talked to you, were interested in you and what you thought, had heard, had read. You only had to say you’d been looking at a book of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings and you’d be whisked off to some uptown gallery to see his early watercolours. And on the way you’d hear a life story or some intimate details of friend’s affair, or a great slice of family history. Lots of eye contact. Just keep the talk going. But Gloria, well, we would meet in the hallway and she’d grasp my hand and say – ‘You know, Larry says that you work too hard. I want you to do nothing this weekend except get some sun and swim. We can go to Johnson’s for tennis you know. I haven’t forgotten you beat me last time we played!’ I suppose she was mid-thirties, a shirt, shorts and sandals woman, not Larry’s mother but Dr Benson’s third. This was all very new to me.
Tim was Larry’s elder brother, an intern at Felix-Med in NYC. He had a new girl with him that weekend. Anne-Marie was tall, bespectacled, and supposed to be ferociously clever. Gloria said ‘She models herself on Susan Sontag’. I remember asking who Sontag was and was told she was a feminist writer into politics. I wondered if Anne-Marie was a feminist into politics. She certainly did not dress like anyone else I’d seen as part of the Benson circle. It was July yet she wore a long-sleeved shift buttoned up to the collar and a long linen skirt down to her ankles. She was pretty but shapeless, a long straight person with long straight hair, a clip on one side she fiddled with endlessly, purposefully sometimes. She ignored me but for an introductory ‘Good evening’, when everyone else said ‘Hi’.
The next day it was hot. I was about the house very early. The apple juice in the refrigerator came into its own at 6.0 am. The bay was in mist. It was so still the bell buoy stirred only occasionally. I sat on the step with this icy glass of fragrant apple watching the pearls of condensation form and dissolve. I walked the shore, discovering years later that Rachel Carson had walked these paths, combed these beaches. I remember being shocked then at the concern about the environment surfacing in the late sixties. This was a huge country: so much space. The Maine woods – when I first drove up to Quebec – seemed to go on forever.
It was later in the day, after tennis, after trying to lie on the beach, I sought my room and took out my latest score, or what little of it there currently was. It was a piano piece, a still piece, the kind of piece I haven’t written in years, but possibly should. Now it’s all movement and complication. Then, I used to write exactly what I heard, and I’d heard Feldman’s ‘still pieces’ in his Greenwich loft with the white Rauschenbergs on the wall. I had admired his writing desk and thought one day I’ll have a desk like that in an apartment like this with very large empty paintings on the wall. But, I went elsewhere . . .
I lay on the bed and listened to the buoy out in the bay. I thought of a book of my childhood, We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome. There’s a drawing of a Beach End Buoy in that book, and as the buoy I was listening to was too far out to see (sea?) I imagined it as the one Ransome drew from Lowestoft harbour. I dozed I suppose, to be woken suddenly by voices in the room next door. It was Tim and Anne-Marie. I had thought the house empty but for me. They were in Tim’s room next door. There was movement, whispering, almost speech, more movement.
I was curious suddenly. Anne-Marie was an enigma. Tim was a nice guy. Quiet, dedicated (Larry had said), worked hard, read a lot, came to Larry’s concerts, played the cello when he could, Bach was always on his record player. He and Anne-Marie seemed so close, just a wooden wall away. I stood by this wall to listen.
‘Why are we whispering’, said Anne-Marie firmly, ‘For goodness sake no one’s here. Look, you’re a doctor, you know what to do surely.’
‘But people call you Doctor, I’ve heard them.’
‘Oh sure. But I’m not, I’m just a lousy intern.’
‘A lousy intern who doesn’t want to make love to me.’
Then, there was rustling, some heavy movement and Tim saying ‘Oh Anne, you mustn’t. You don’t need to do this.’
‘Yes I do. You’re hard and I’m wet between my legs. I want you all over me and inside me. I wanted you last night so badly I lay on my bed quite naked and masturbated hoping you come to me. But you didn’t. I looked in on you and you were just fast asleep.’
‘You forget I did a 22-hour call on Thursday’.
“And the rest. Don’t you want me? Maybe your brother or that nice English boy next door?’
‘Is he next door? ‘
‘If he is, I don’t care. He looks at me you know. He can’t work me out. I’ve been ignoring him. But maybe I shouldn’t. He’s got beautiful eyes and lovely hands’.
There was almost silence for what seemed a long time. I could hear my own breathing and became very aware of my own body. I was shaking and suddenly cold. I could hear more breathing next door. There was a shaft of intense white sunlight burning across my bed. I imagined Anne-Marie sitting cross-legged on the floor next door, her hand cupping her right breast fingers touching the nipple, waiting. There was a rustle of movement. And the door next door slammed.
Thirty seconds later Tim was striding across the garden and on to the beach and into the sea . . .
There was probably a naked young woman sitting on the floor next door I thought. Reading perhaps. I stayed quite still imagining she would get up, open her door and peek into my room. So I moved away from the wall and sat on the bed trying hard to look like a composer working on a score. And she did . . . but she had clothes on, though not her glasses or her hair clip, and she wore a bright smile – lovely teeth I recall.
‘Good afternoon’, she said. ‘You heard all that I suppose.’
I smiled my nicest English smile and said nothing.
‘Tell me about your girlfriend in England.’
She sat on the bed, cross-legged. I was suddenly overcome by her scent, something complex and earthy.
‘My girlfriend in England is called Anne’.
‘Really! Is she pretty? ‘
I didn’t answer, but looked at my hands, and her feet, her uncovered calves and knees. I could see the shape of her slight breasts beneath her shirt, now partly unbuttoned. I felt very uncomfortable.
‘Tell me. Have you been with this Anne in England?’
‘No.’ I said, ‘I ‘d like to, but she’s very shy.’
‘OK. I’m an Anne who’s not shy.’
‘I’ve yet to meet a shy American.’
‘They exist. I could find you a nice shy girl you could get to know.’
‘I’d quite like to know you, but you’re a good bit older than me.’
‘Oh that doesn’t matter. You’re quite a mature guy I think. I’d go out with you.’
‘Oh I doubt that.’
‘Would you go out with me?’
‘You’re interesting. Gloria says you’re a bit like Susan Sontag. Yes, I would.’
‘Wow! did she really? Ok then, that’s a deal. You better read some Simone de Beauvoir pretty quick,’ and she bounced off the bed.
After supper - lobster on the beach - Gloria cornered me and said. ‘I gather you heard all this afternoon.’
I remembered mumbling a ‘yes’.
‘It’s OK,’ she said, ‘Anne-Marie told me all. Girls do this you know – talk about what goes on in other people’s bedrooms. What could you do? I would have done the same. Tim’s not ready for an Anne-Marie just yet, and I’m not sure you are either. Not my business of course, but gentle advice from one who’s been there. ‘
‘Been with someone older and supposedly wiser. And remembering that wondering-what-to-do-about-those-feelings-around-sex and all that. There’s a right time and you’ll know it when it comes. ‘
She kissed me very lightly on my right ear, then got up and walked across the beach back to the house.
On this day,
get lost or get
get treading or
on this day,
get crying or
get saving or
is the liar's limbo, the
minds the voiceless
tongues the love
without limbs sobbing
over some jerk's Hollywood
half-assed production of
that idiotic sequel
to some vague kiss, this is
let down of your
little brother that
safe sex vomit of
half aborted embryos
good god kid get lying or
lick your elbow or
lick your nipple
On this day,
just to wade
in the sea
with the fearlessness
Your lovely face
yielding my mirror;
two bluish eyes,
Waiting for my kiss
Your elegant neck,
framed within soft hair.
Your unpainted lips,
responsive to my breathe
You’re bursting breasts,
sinfully for an embrace
each nipple thirsting
to my loving touch.
By Williamsji Maveli
the vacant eye of a birdhouse.
a tiny black plate
that in a dream
you cannot pinch. the mute
in your belly’s
lack wink. a dry
at the pursed
of mouth. your thumb
your mother’s. dark foods
as the shadows
by water. your father’s
from the tilt
of a baby swing. the peasant
of a mannequin
lip. the paw print dice.
the negro nurse
her long teeth
in the shirt pockets
to watch the fire I make my way to a hay bale.
a certain misshapen bale I first called
this is the kind of time I have.
my sister believes her left eye doesn’t exist.
that it is the shadow of her right.
because of her many beliefs,
my father has placed himself
where he curses like a censored linguist
made to collect
in my dreams I am charged with a notch of black tape
and the sloth
of a woman’s
I pass a finished tree with some color left in its leaves
and recall my uncle swallowing his ribbons
from the heyday of flame
at the height of what mother called