Cyrus Console

from Brief Under Water


When I first saw the need for a study of this kind I was living with my brother just out of sight from the house, in the past; I suppose we were waiting for Black Monday. There were comets in the air. It was beautiful over Libya and beautiful over Chernobyl. In fact it was so beautiful that you had to turn away, violently, sometimes only seconds after liftoff. Our teachers were too stunned by the direction things had taken to be of any use. But none of this meant very much to me or to Mickey. We were taking our meals on a rope, going through butcher paper like there was no tomorrow. We drew planes in profile and bullets in midflight, natural histories that ended with the baluchithere and omitted it in alternation. We were still convinced of a graphical solution. In fact there was no tomorrow.


It is customary to mention smoke in a letter from this place, it is customary to exhibit a curious animal where drink is sold, there to fall the drunkard deeply in his wine, to fell the blackbirds smoothly through their cloud, to flout not nature, character, or usage, no fact, no law, no circumstance, in closing to employ formulaic and complimentary language, in making for the stiller town to extend the thumb of the left hand, but custom I must here offend. I’m so sorry. There seemed no other way. Love, your friend, the five-legged calf, the floating world.


Yet you were rarely home; instead a succession of dogs educated him in loss. In the past, you had me know, there had been a winter to speak of: the ice held down the bay with one blue hand. The snow got old, the wind blew itself all down at heel a-shambling and a-whistling through the alleyways. He himself was compelled to frame his breath into a whistle. Modern times, you see, had heightened everything. Modern times had largely done away with the cold. Yet there remained him a blinding hymeneal expanse, a childhood of snow days idyllic to beggar description.


Like many men I have inflicted my only serious injuries. We remained back of the house. My friend’s Jamaican Pearl was singularly excellent. When I looked through the bay window and into the kitchen, in the warm light that relieved the dusk stealing into our quarter, I saw men and women mouth words of little meaning. When I looked out over the poverty grass waving below the dark band of the sea I felt time slip unaccountably forward, or, it seemed, backward. A tremendous oceanliner stood in the bay. The poverty grass was like green static. It was going to have been a beautiful day.


This, after all, is America, where everyone has been in love two times. A little sadly, we fondle our keepsakes. Here are the little stones the wind and sea carved out of stones, out of bricks and glass: red pebble, clear pebble, bitten and ground. Formal upright style, cascade style, windblown style, formal slanted, clinging-to-rock-style, each shape bespeaks a long acquaintance with the isometric; each endows its occupant with impassive beauty. In music I have always seen figures, the single packing their things in pale sunlight, the twice-loved girls coming home from work. Can we stop for a minute. Wait. Wait.


Space was great. Well, more like ok. The papaya in the hotel restaurant, Widow, savored of must. Elephants swayed on the thoroughfare, their faces sad with the annual rage. At night the mosquitos drank from the corner of my eye. I turned in my hammock, thinking ever of the wife, the heart, the bed, the table, the saddle, the fireside, the country.

There was an infinite amount of it, but not for us. I ran badly aft; the ice shimmered with ether. I was sorry I came. But all this was like a formal gathering on the grass, hundreds of yards beneath, from the wicker of a drifting balloon some summer evening with the wife, the heart, the bed, the table, the saddle, the fireside, the country.


When I first saw the need for a study of this kind we were the last family on our block without color. The city was full of good music. The stars were like tiny points of light in a great void that moved from us in all directions without ever getting farther away. I had two years to live.

The manifold phenomena of light by which the steadily and uniformly illuminated area may be distinguished from others of identical size and shape. For example blue, light green, dark pink. For ‘brilliant’ read ‘light, strong’: the brilliant feather. For ‘deep’ read ‘dark, strong’: the deep whiskey. For ‘pale’ read ‘light, grayish’: the pale cremains. For example Eddie Carmel, brilliant, pale, and deep, whom I can no longer resolve against the drapes, against the lamp, I have stared so long.