Showing 241 - 250 of 298 annotations contributed by Aull, Felice
Narrated in the form of journal entries, a mother struggles to cope with a hyperactive child and "its" disruptive effect on her daily life and household. Home and school and the walk between are the microcosm in which the story is set. She fluctuates between distancing herself from her son--he is barely human--"'It' is what races around my room at night, a bat, . . . ", could not even be her own--"I gave birth to someone else's child," and desperate attempts to understand how the world must appear to him, to account for his behavior.
One day she not only walks him to school but accompanies him to his classroom. She sees how the teacher has relegated him to the back of the room "for the special inattention of the aide"; then watches with horror as her son causes a multi-child collision and the children retaliate by stomping on his neck. "Every day they walk on his neck, I see that now, but he will never tell me about it." In this defining moment she sees how, in order to survive, her son allows his spirit to be broken, day after day.
This excerpt from Tim O'Brien's autobiographical fiction about the war in Vietnam is a reverie of memory, dream, and story that resurrects the dead. The dead are fellow soldiers, the enemy dead, and a first love who died in childhood.
Tim, the narrator and writer, was only four days into his tour of duty when his platoon commander ordered an air strike against a village that is the source of sniper fire. When the platoon walked through the destroyed village, they found one old, dead, mutilated villager. Tim's fellow soldiers had developed a ritual of "greeting the dead" in which they pretended the dead person was still alive, was someone to be greeted, spoken to, both in mockery and in respect. They applied this ritual to the enemy dead as well as to their own dead.
Both repelled and fascinated by the ritual, Tim remembered his own method for animating the dead-in childhood-friend, Linda, whom he mourned and continues to mourn. After she died of brain cancer, he intentionally dreamed her alive and held conversations with her, just as his compatriots held conversations with their dead colleagues. Now, years later, he is telling the story of these experiences, these dead, these rituals, "keeping the dead alive," and "trying to save Timmy's [his younger self's] life with a story."
Narrated in the third person, the poem is a telephone conversation between an adult son and his complaining mother. This is the mother's second phone call of the day to her son, who had spent several hours shopping for groceries with her earlier that same day.
She is tired, says the mother, and there is no food in the house worth eating. Replies the son, "Did you take your iron? He wanted to know. / He sincerely wanted to know. Praying daily, / hopelessly, that iron might make a difference." Food is a touchy subject--"it never brought them anything but grief."
Later the mother frets that she is afraid, "afraid of everything. Help me, please." If her son would only help her, then he could go back to "[w]hatever / it was that was so important / I had to take the trouble / to bring you into this world."
In July of 1986, author Andre Dubus was assisting some stranded highway motorists when he was struck by a car. After two painful months of hospitalization, one leg had to be amputated at the knee; the other leg, damaged and immobilized in a cast for many months, became virtually useless, but still painful. Dubus was forced to "accept life in a wheelchair." (106)
In meditating on events and people in his life before and after the accident, Dubus leads us to the interior space of his suffering, fear, moodiness, stoicism, and religious faith. Like the Hemingway character he describes in "A Hemingway Story," he has both gotten over and not gotten over the consequences of his accident.
"Sacraments" interweaves the receiving of religious sacraments with the concentration, care, and love associated with making sandwiches for his two young daughters, the emotional pain of carrying on a love relationship by telephone because of his limited mobility, the received sacraments of learning how to drive his specially equipped car, and of getting a bargain from a swimming pool contractor--"the money itself was sacramental: my being alive to receive it and give it for good work." (95) Concluding with the recollection of his father's death; Dubus notes that "I had not lived enough and lost enough" to recognize the grace that accompanied past pain.
Pain and grace continue to compete for his attention: "The memory of having legs that held me upright at this counter and the image of simply turning from the counter and stepping to the drawer are the demons I must keep at bay . . . So I must try to know the spiritual essence of what I am doing." (89) Similarly, mourning--for what he can no longer do-- and gratitude--for what he once was able to do-- go hand in hand as Dubus remembers the joy of running for miles in the countryside (" A Country Road Song").
The body's memory and the losses suffered figure importantly also in "Liv UIlman in Spring." In this powerful piece, Dubus describes his meeting with the actress, how he was moved to tell her "everything," how, bent low, "her eyes looking at mine" she said, 'You cannot compensate.' " (130) For her honesty and understanding Dubus was enormously grateful.
"Witness" relates the uncanny experience of meeting a woman who had witnessed his accident. Wonderment, fear, depression, inspiration, and writing about this incident were the result. As always, Dubus wrote in order to be led to some further understanding. The essay ends, "Today the light came: I'm here."
A story with several implications for the profession of medicine, this short tale concerns three itinerant surgeons who "thought they knew their art perfectly." Boasting of their surgical/curative skills, they state that they will be able to re-attach their own body parts--hand, heart, and eyes--which they propose to excise. The body parts are entrusted to an innkeeper's servant girl to be saved overnight, but instead they are eaten by a cat.
Unbeknownst to the surgeons, substitutions are made: the hand of a gallows thief, the eyes of a cat, and the heart of a pig. These the surgeons successfully re-attach to themselves. But the organs confer on the transplantees the characteristics of their original owners (thief, cat, pig). Blaming the innkeeper for their problems, they threaten to burn down his inn unless he gives them all the money he can raise. This sum allows them to live comfortably, "but they would rather have had their own rightful organs."
The narrator describes his chronic illness of two or more years duration. He likens his former good health to "an island / going out of sight behind you." His days are filled with visits to the doctor, medicine, and a loss of interest in "wanting to make love . . . . " He describes going through stages: feelings of being punished, which generate "an enormous effort to be good"; anger; fear of death; "a lake of grief"; "neurotic vigilance"; and finally, "only a desire to be done." In the end, he is still en route.
This 22-line poem lacking any punctuation is a breathless narration of an urgent need to escape from the hospital environment. The narrator runs past the bodies "crumpled on every bed" and "the lead apron / of hospital drapes" to emerge outside into the rain. She is immensely relieved to experience the cold wetness of the rain and to feel the pavement against her feet as she runs to her car.
Alicia (Norma Aleandro) lives a comfortable life with her husband Roberto (H?tor Alterio) and her adopted five-year-old daughter, Gaby (Analia Castro). She teaches history in a boy's prep school and is a stickler for rules, insisting that her students confine classroom discussion and essays to events as they are related in textbooks and official documents ("the official story"). She believes only what she reads but her students have been radicalized by political events and defiantly tell her that "history is written by assassins."
When her old friend, Ana (Chunchuna Villafane), returns after living abroad for several years, Alicia learns that Ana had been held prisoner and tortured for more than a month by members of the former regime, as they attempted to extort from her the whereabouts of her husband, a "subversive." From Ana she learns that many others had been held prisoner, tortured, murdered, and that infants had been taken from their mothers.
When Alicia goes to her classes she encounters street demonstrations demanding the return of the "disappeared." Her well ordered life begins to unravel as she wonders about her adopted child's true origins. She questions her husband, who had arranged for the adoption, but he brushes her off, saying that it is of no concern to her. Not satisfied with this response, she searches hospital records and government archives.
At one of these occasions three women who are searching for "disappeared" relatives overhear and approach her. She becomes increasingly convinced that her daughter must have been taken from a murdered political prisoner. She is grief-stricken at the thought that she might have to give her daughter up but at the same time she empathizes with the unknown relatives who have lost the child; she is in despair.
When Sara (Chela Ruiz), one of the three women, presents to her convincing evidence that Gaby is actually her own granddaughter, Alicia confronts her husband in Sara's presence. Alicia has come to believe that Roberto--an admitted rightist--was duplicitous but he ridicules them both and, after Sara leaves, becomes enraged with his wife, brutally attacking and physically injuring her. She leaves him.
The narrator is addressing her image in the mirror. "you . . . got a geography / of your own." The speaker takes pride in that body because it is not easily fathomed: "somebody need directions / to move around you." That body makes itself known. The concluding lines tell the "mister" who has presumed to handle that body that he "got his hands on / some / damn / body!"
In 1994, Lucille Clifton was diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer. This short (12 line) poem, part of the sequence, "From the Cadaver" in this collection, describes an aspect of that experience. The mastectomy scar is an integral part of the narrator’s body, a physical presence that the poet addresses as if it were a person: "we will learn / to live together." At the same time, the scar marks a cataclysmic event in the poet’s life; it is the "edge of before and after." Finally, the scar speaks. " . . . i will not fall off."