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We are all a little less important than we think we are. I think. Im sitting in a high school auditorium where pandemonium ensues. The high school rides the crest of its

suburb, a geography full to the brim with long hedges of rosemary. Rosemary makes me sneeze.

The auditorium is full of predictable chairs with thin worn cushions of beige-white or moss green. Also, to the

right of me, my sister sits in a glimmer of her dazzling pearls and tensely holds my arm. Why everybody has settled on rosemary is beyond me. can smell that heaviness, whole degrees of savory encompassed by a sphere of cloying sweetness, when I step out onto the patio, or budge open a window to let in the night air, or rush to my car in the morning, usually sloshing hot coffee on the tender hand not fumbling the keys. We all breathe the same air screams the rosemary. But at least the houses I

Welcome to the pre-fab jungle.

arent all painted the same color. At least. Not that.

Now in the auditorium, I think my sister must be praying. She sweats a little around her lips and eyebrows.

Such a woman thinks prayer is a parcel to the dome of god. If you believe in it I say. such a manner. But she is my sister and thus the custodian of my history. well. My daughter holds me to a point of history as Babysitting. I love her like. If you kid yourself in

She is elsewhere now.

Love her like sensory intake. At one point I try to write it all down all the best thought and emotion is written on leaves of paper and stored for further use and I end up writing about a bouquet of blossoms I saw in an article on seasonal flower arranging in one of my sisters home decorating magazines. Like I said, I write it out. Just pick up a pen,

roller ball full of smearing blue ink, and scrawl out some words. She could not describe the bouquet by naming the flowers. She did not know their names.

My daughter Cecily as a whole mysterious being, a wonderful shape comprised of many parts that are still blurry in their movement. Parts that grow and change.

But the colors of the flowers, salmon, green-yellow, mulberry-green, peach, stretch through the petals in a clear glass vase, the contour of which accentuates the complete and tussled spillage of the breadth. And even as you monitor the level and freshness of the water, even as you explore with your eyes this gathering of shades changing even within a single blossoms head, you still have no idea how to call this flower, that flower, by its real, appropriate, generous name. I remember staring at the glossy picture in the magazine, admiring beauty but in silence because each assemblage of petal and stem is a mystery. That is how I love my daughter. She is a teenager now.

How she struggles to endure the nature of growth and the artifice of the arrangement of that growth. hoping she will grow up to be a terrific her. can feel it. of chairs. pearls. But heres She will. I

She is my exquisite surface in this roomful This roomful of my sisters strands of oblong

We are less legitimate than we should be. She is fourteen.

I think.

Cecily I mean. Her strong, loved bones are what make

me real.

She is the marrow in me.

The chairs and the

crystalline form of the calcium carbonate in the pearls are reflections of light that tire the eye with their electrical drone. pearls. Someone is speaking. Not the woman with Her name is. Her name is

I mean. My sister isnt speaking.

Fuck her name. Francis.

Shes sweet but frustrates me.

Spelled like a boy F-r-a-n-c-i-s.

Francis Claire

Codrescu Hathaway.

She is named for St. Francis of Assisi

and Poor Claire together in one moniker but she has left the church of saints, penance, transubstantiation and sexual guilt for an establishment of fire and brimstone and now (I gather) her children labor under the misconception that humans and dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time. I am named for my grandmother. Her name was Veronica, but my mother never called me that. So I am simply Nica.

If you want to know what I look like, I look like my sister. That description will have to do. But Im not

exceptional looking by any standards.

I will, however, The

often describe furniture, film, artwork, accessory. world of tactility, of artifact. too.

Until I get tired of that

My sister sits next to me because of some powerful


Like I said.

Biology and shared history.

So I

notice her the most.

Did I say the chairs have cushions?

The chairs, quite blatant, dont wriggle beneath me. Rather I shift side to side, imagining what humans and dinosaurs together might mean perhaps a new species. One has to laugh. Veronicasaurus Rex, who stomps through the valley within the scaliest flesh. chortles and cries of children playing happily. I meant to say when pearls. Are thrown before. Pearls have all sorts of origins and come in all shapes. Francie collects them all: fresh water, salt The latter pleasantly oblong What I meant to say was. The Amongst the

water, spherical, baroque. and bloated in their form.

chairs here are alabaster and bony. unstrung pearl necklace.

Like sitting on an

The sore bones of my ass.

Someone drills through that sheen and strings the pearls with fine gold chain. Did I say bone-white? We are all a

little more holy-fucking-holy than we think we are. Im pretty sure about this. Eventually the stars will come out in the outdoor sky and they will be the evenings golden-hair.

But now this misfit of chairs. sisters pearls.

This junket of my

Something very fine she could lose in the

garden one day when the clasp of her earring loosens and the pearl falls out of its fastening. Suddenly thered be wealth among the patch of calendula shed been tending but maybe she wouldnt notice until later so she wouldnt know where to look. Especially

since night has fallen and the night is as black as ink. Searching by flashlight. Dont stop there. Say the atramentous night. Say clean-coal black.

Say coal-black.

Say a dinosaur ate your child and the blood was blackruby, one gradation in the spectrum of black. Of course,

now theres a dead kid so we wear black to the funeral. But here children are dying and Im talking about pearls and chairs. Give me a break though. The sitting bones of Randomly I

my body still feel a certain lack of comfort.

wonder if my sister practices topiary on her houseplants. I pretend shes a stranger with all those sumptuous pearls. I know she doesnt. Practice topiary I mean. But does she think about it? She is. And she does

If she is a builder of mosaics. think about it.

Her stupid necklace is bothering me.

I want to call

it the thousand-pearls necklace and create an entire kungfu film worthy plot around how she climbs the mountain and drinks pure water from the lotus blossom after killing the evil swordsman and suddenly, suddenly, she is magically transported to one of the upper stories of an old teahouse where she is served delicious rice and in one of the rice balls is hidden the manystranded necklace of pearls. About to break her teeth on

such imagined treasure, Francie wipes her hands against her traditional kung-fu warrior style clothing and fishes the splendid finery from her mouth. A small child with aged

eyes walks past her at this moment carrying a cup of lotus blossom tea, if such a tea exists, and the credits roll to the sudden wailing of a contemporary pop ballad (with probably horrendously translated subtitles) about love, loss, grief and rejuvenation through the teachings of Buddha. Seriously. Those pearls are that good. Francies very exacting in a

But about that topiary. nurturing sort of way.

Right now in this stupid room full

of stupid, hard, ass-defying chairs, I am somewhere far away. In-the-land-of-how. To daydream things. My sister

has an abundance of camellia japonica. name. No camellia in Cecilys bouquet.

That I recognize by But a strange and I am not here to

subtle and delicious lack of fragrance. cloy you, these flowers say. green things too.

Francie could tend to smaller

Gilgamesh is homoerotic smut and regular Quite

smut she said the morning I took her to the airport. recently actually.

I love my niece and niece and niece. Its right

Gilgamesh and Enkidu are lovers Francie says. there in the text.

Theyre supposed to touch each other Maybe so I say. But they

the way men touch their wives. do it so well.

Shut up Francie screeches, bumping open the car door. I loathe her stance but I feel quite comfortable (even proud) of the fact that at least when it comes to the subject of homoeroticism, my sister can read the subtext of a book. What I say or dont. They love each other. He wants to

When Enkidu dies Gilgamesh is bereft. conquer death. You know that. I say.

You read the whole damn poem.

I saw the book in your bathroom under an old issue of House Beautiful. end. There was a page dog-eared ten pages from the She

Francie gets her suitcase out of the trunk.

hisses. Show Cecily that prurient shit but leave Lucy and Freddie and Maggie out of it. I mutter under my breath. what, she asks. But she hears me. For

Youre welcome I say for driving you to My sister slams ideas

the airport and corrupting children. not things.

She lets the trunk latch gently. With camellia japonica.

But I was with pearls.

Staring without staring at the hands of my sister while sitting on this uncomfortable chair provided by the school board. Her hands are worn loveliness. And oh her pearls

glow and shine. The stranger next door that is my sister, who does not believe in evolution nor in homosexuality as anything but a perversion of nature, who now sits on a grey-green chair so worn-looking it must have been flattened by a ginormous brontosaurus as it read to a chortling child from the fable of the Book of Genesis, well she would say: something like. At the airport my sister comes back over to the door to talk about Shamhat, the temple sex priestess in Gilgamesh. us. The official monitoring the drop-off zone eyes

Francie says.

Shamhat is a prostitute she says of the

woman who introduces the wild man Enkidu to the arts of love. And in so doing civilizes him I say. Im waiting

for the official to walk over to us and give us the nudge. My sister appears to be struggling with her suitcase. There is no Babylonian word for prostitute I say. dedicated to the goddess of love. Youll miss your flight. Now her kung fu robes are turquoise blue and flowing. Pearls are slippery and look wet. pearls in my mouth. I want to feel those Go. Go. Shes

I think.

To shine a light in the light of my

daughter with the pearl and spelunk into her teenage epidemic of mystery. We are all a little bit kung fu. I think.

All wearing beneath our lightweight sweaters some flowing turquoise blue robes underlain with pale jasmine. Definitely absolutely. Francie Hathaway. Crouching

Cashmere, Hidden Lotus Blossom. even figure into it.

Veronicasaurus Rex doesnt

Francie just defeats the evil warrior

but leaves the blue tip of the book encasing the ancient story of Gilgamesh to peek out from beneath the shiny magazine. When Francie reads the good book a cloud of rain

becomes homoerotic and happy dinosaurs tease mercilessly the children who are no longer chortling. Who after all

really need their red ball back, from where they have kicked it into the dinosaurs yard, if they want to finish the game. I cannot attest to this vagrancy. Cannot blush

before the very scent of prayer Francie smells in her bible. I just am not hectic about the idea of god.

Instead I want to accompany you to this gallery of fine furniture and deliver to you a chair to ponder for the ages. (Remember what I said about tactility?) So here we are. Any town. Anywhere.

Any town, that is, with hedges of rosemary and houses the mirror images of each other. Garages attached,

hovering near well-manicured front paths, but shuffled to the left or right of the accompanying front doors. variety. Fucking symmetry. Fucking

The houses have small yards

and line cul-de-sacs.

Every so often, a Jacuzzi.

But back to the chair. Sit in this chair and eat rice. People of all manner

think in these brinks of structure and cloth and frame and upholstery. What you stuff a chair with is its character.

Sits in this chair and blows a little upon the hot tea. My sister is about to say something stupid. About

faith. About the nature of protecting our children. Smote

the lord upon your sinful faggots who endeavor to destroy us by engaging in stable relationships and by doing lewd things like adopting unfortunate children or gasp having sex or way more double gasp, just sharing house, chores, that dog rescued from the pound. Oh this insanity! Oh

this malfeasance against god is so great the oceans are rising and our natural resources the polar bears are drowning in the Arctic sea. It is our sex that is killing the planet. Once again I am comforted by my sisters sensibilities. Obviously she believes in climate change.

It is her disturbing lack of organization that concerns me. One day she believes the Bible is just a text. Something happens. Suddenly belief is law and stone. Maybe you always love your oldest best. a different way. You say. Not best. In

We did this for the first time together.

Like that. Insists Earning some

Someone wants the teacher to be fired. obstreperously. Cecily I love you I think.

cash for movies and for clothes.

I could talk to you about


We could make tea in the white porcelain china pot

with the thin brown lines around the lid and near the top, where the lip of the vessel slopes gently inward from the seriously fat middle. At the table stained walnut and We are not as demonstrative Cecily I love I

those modified shaker chairs. as we could be. you I think.

Our children dont know us.

Lucy and Freddie and Maggie I love you.

want you to read Gilgamesh, what Rilke called the epic of the fear of death. How Gilgamesh seeks immortality after

the death of Enkidu but cannot, does not find it. But I was with pearls and in chairs. summerhouse of my sister. In the

Before she sold her structure

pool, custom wallpaper and all. Screaming at the top of my lungs. for. Later when Im less ashamed. The meeting isnt going very well. Some people have But Ill save that

brought handmade signs to picket, which is odd considering anyone may speak if they raise their hand. Then the young man passes them the microphone. And you speak. If no one drowns you out while youre In

collecting your speech towards the verge of continuum. this house of fine furniture.

The meeting isnt going very well. I do. She is so elegant in her state.

I love my sister. Her chairs are

marvelous and her hair is auburn-white and her mosaics are florid red collections of some flower against a paler blossom. And grout. So is this canvas apron

Grout is part of the poetry.

she wears when she steps under the skylight in her studio in the garage and smashes. Shatters the red-blush, rubiate, cherry-red, lobsterred, beet-red, scarlet, wine-red tiles into shards and pieces. Bends and wields a hammer. Enkidu and Shamhat make love again and again. The mosaic depicts a great unspoken

leaf partitioned by needle-thin space in the mind of my sister, in the eye of the observer who is fathomless by nature. Drawn apart. When Francie finishes the series of

reds she turns to anxious, insistent browns. Chestnut, bay-colored, roan, cocoa-brown, rustscorched, tawny. Fawn-brown, nut-brown, mouse-brown,

copper-brown. Shamhat touches herself in order to arouse Enkidu. Diagonal-smeared brown, directional-brown, dun-

olive, coffee-brown, copper-brown. My polite husband is polite to my sister. He is good

to her.

He understands that the blood shared between my

sister and I should always be thicker than the spewing red agony of the children eaten by dinosaurs, even when I forget. See. You thought that tall green one over there My husband is a father to

was a plant-eater but it wasnt.

my daughter and taught her how to swim the butterfly when she was nine. Humanity above biology. This time.

His one arm around me lightly. shoulder.

Fingers dancing on my But he turns

The protesters dont faze him. Then he asks me.

around to look. In an aside.

Who is Cecily babysitting for? The McNaughtons I say. afterwards? home. No I whisper. Do we need to pick her up They promised to drive her

Cool he says.

Mark knows all about my obsession with child-devouring dinosaurs. What the dinosaurs have to do with Gilgamesh.

My fervent sister and her laces of soft flesh she smoothed against her clothing below her hood in the rainfall those months she lived in Hamburg, in the grey north of Germany, without an umbrella. Nica. God I do love her clothes. Veronicasaurus Rex.

Mark pokes me suddenly.

The protesters have left their annex in the back of

the room and are marching to the stage waving their signs decrying smut at the high school. The signs are posterboard and boast big bubble letters filled in with marker. I think of Cecily in an imaginary

safe world watching Finding Nemo with two young children and a bowl of microwave popcorn. Mark pokes me again. Seriously,

Thats when I see the man carrying the cross. seriously, seriously.

To calm my momentary panic I imagine a starving, bedraggled polar bear catching a seal and thus momentarily replenishing his nutritional stores. Then I imagine a

starving, bedraggled polar bear crossing the tundra to where the brown bears live and the brown bears teaching their northern cousin that blubber is not the only way to survive. Look at all these mouth-watering berries the brown bear says. Youre an omnivore. Start acting like one.

Then I imagine the polar bear traveling back to his starving, bedraggled brethren to transmit his new knowledge to the other polar bears, thus ensuring survival of the species. Spectacularly, within months the World Wildlife

Foundation must retract its barren statement that Time is running outfor the polar bears, and campaign spokesperson

Noah Wyle is fired.

Cecily and I watch excitedly as ex-WWF

spokesperson Noah Wyle tells Jay on the Tonight Show that he has never been so glad to lose a job! paying attention again. This is possibly a mistake. My sister seems uncomfortable. No doubt she adheres Calmed, I start

to their beliefs but certainly not to their tactics. She prefers hissing at the airport in the drop-off zone. Camellia japonica. should be. railing. Above my sisters limestone patio. of disuse, of a foot, long ago. Some quality, glinting in sunlight. when the sun fell. If I could find even one wild pearl. Is not Mark the wild pearl? She says. And my Could not darken The brushed look We are all less gracious than we

Other small plants in terra cotta aboard a

Is not Cecily?

sister with whom I grew up and who is the custodian of my history? I had opened myself to this idea not from a My apple-cheeked

central core but from the periphery. surprise daughter. welcomed.

A girl unplanned for put nonetheless This meeting

A daughter of roses, of larkspur.

was supposed to be a forum to refute the demands of some

stupid people to teach alternative theories to evolution. Alternative just used to mean you listened to Sinead OConnor and R.E.M. and wore black lace-up boots. meeting was supposed to be. But then I thought I could teach Gilgamesh at the high school. Gilgamesh, who weeps an entire night for Enkidu Teach the poem to the senior AP English Francie. This

when he dies. class.

Instinctively my sister.

Instinctively my torn-up sister places one hand on my forearm. How the pearls drip on thin golden strings from She is writing her own script now.

the lobes of her ears.

Her turquoise-lilac-kung-fu-master-lotus-blossom robes flutter in the mountain wind. The evil swordsman looms on

the horizon, who said as one would plea for rice: I would prefer that you rice-eating villagers would not believe in god, but if you must, could you at least not let god interfere with the curriculum? and she, the kung fu master whose sword is etched finely with scenes from the Garden of Eden and imbued with the belief that every species was created independently of one another at or about the same time and named by Adam, and who believes that books about Buddhism belong not at the top of the mountain near the shrine of the lotus blossom but in the

self-help section of the bookstore. She must look in a mirror of blue glass hanging in one of the rice-preparing villagers huts and watch over her turquoise-lilac clad shoulder as the evil swordsman approaches from beyond the snowy ridge and she realizes this ominous presence of chaos and evil-thinking is her sister. What Cecily and those kids are watching right now. I have never seen Finding Nemo. Something about a The mirth of Like a

little clownfish separated from his father. that orange and white explosion of color. tangerine-vanilla flavored ice-pop.

Here I sit as a nuclear tide embraces my daughter. she is slowly enveloped by adulthood. And now this roomful of chairs. When Francie and I went to the gallery of fine furniture together and I wanted the club chair dressed in pale brown tweed. Not to my taste my sister says but she Were easy sometimes.


laughs so were easy.

When we talk about our children.

Or the tablescape at

the department store when we passed through the home department on the way to buy eye cream. A table set in blue-cream with white candles and a

pewter pitcher with white-cream roses in a pewter bowl and clear glasses for water with white napkins of linen. When we talk about how much we should like our table to resemble this setting before the onslaught of appetite. Mark says you have to make a place at the table for beef stew but Francie says: no! away. Never eat this beauty

A photograph on the wall above the table in her A white tree with black leaves.

dining room.

Mark is supposed to tease Francie and may take Lucy to the pool on Thursday evening for a bit of stroke clinic on the butterfly. the rhythm yet. Lucy has power and speed but doesnt have The secret of the butterfly is rhythm.

Butterfly-lotus blossom-Veronicasaurus Rex-self help Buddha-kung fu marathon this Saturday at my place. But last time Mark took Lucy and Maggie out he took them on a rogue mission to the library at the university so Lucy could research her science project on solar energy. Which isnt a rogue mission because maybe then we could save those polar bears and my sister does love polar bears. The rogue mission happens when bored Maggie starts poking about in a book about fossils and Mark tells her about his childhood of fossil-hunting trips with his father and how they found those lovely frayed stone imprints of

ferns now lining the windowsill in our kitchen. Then he stops in and fixes the dishwasher when he drops them off but it turns out he only needs to reach back and clear the drain. And then. Then he comes home asking

if intellectual deprivation could be considered a form of child abuse. Your sister is insane. His word. He

Shes completely wrapped up. stops.

In this world of.

He doesnt have the right words.

Mark tries again.

Shows me the book with the glossy pictures of fossils he checked out for Maggie that Francie wont allow in the house. Big surprise. Maggie is eight. everything. Shes praying for you Mark says then and kisses me. And sends her love. words. Now she has one hand on my shoulder so maybe she is praying for me in this auditorium too. path and just get up and say Im sorry. Im sorry the dinosaur wasnt a plant-eater and your child couldnt tell the difference, which, by the way, might be a sort of natural selection at work. To find the right Despite this Gilgamesh debacle. Her She wants to show her mother

Im sorry the grief of Gilgamesh is so beautiful, so unworn by time, that I wanted your children to experience his loss and the nature of his loss and the rare (common) way he sought to assuage his loss. fears death. Sorry I wanted your children to understand the hopeless futility of that particular assuagement. That we are human and cannot achieve immortality. Equally sorry about the square mirror of blue glass rimmed in black, etched within its frame with a second frame, a large circle cut into the glass. to me by my sister as a wedding present. A mirror given That the mirror Gilgamesh, who now

hangs in our front room opposite the sofa and has been known, upon occasion (but only when the muslin blinds are shrugged shut along their vines and Cecily is out of town at Marks mothers) to be sexually explicit. Sorry literature is purely human instead of pure chastity. That Goethe writes about venereal disease, Joyce about feces. Sorry about a lot of things. But I dont get up. Not yet. Once when my sister

lived in Hamburg and rode the S-Bahn everyday and watched rain cover each and every surface she told me she wanted to

feel the whole world in her body. ago.

That was a long time

Now she has created a surface of mosaic tiling she

can expunge of any innate grammar with one good thwack! Now the railway of Hamburg whines in the rain without her. In fact I dont get up. I just slouch down in my

shitty, plastic, thinly-cushioned, dinosaur-crushed seat provided by the school board and let my head rest in my hands. Some of the parents have brought their children but

Im glad Cecily is earning some cash money so she can go to the store and buy the latest ripped jeans. Gilgamesh is ripped. The heart of

Her heart is so pure and so whole

because despite some newfound awkwardness she remains purely and wholly herself. The theory of how we evolve

my pristine girl (shes poetry) who swears because she is angry and got her mouth washed out with soap once when I was so pissed she was ten and said you cunt. Sometimes my sister and I talk about how much we love the secrets of our trade, which is a white brick wall on the summer porch from childhood that we loved to draw upon with crayons. In the days when I said fear this and she

said vanquish like a saint charging a smoke-spewing dragon. The white wall of our childhood became an

imaginary wall in the mind. She called me once from Hamburg (when I was living in Munich, learning to drive stick) and said: the white wall. Do you remember it? I said: how could I forget? she wanted to know. bricks. right. The mortar or the brick,

I have a feeling we just remember the

So I had to be honest and admit that she was She bought the turquoise sweater in Hamburg. It still fits. The

one shes wearing now.

Mark laughs now so I start paying attention again. Apparently the protesters cant decide if they are here to insist upon the teaching of alternative theories to evolution (a subject which has already been scuttled on numerous occasion) or to challenge the exposure of the AP English class to smut in the epic of Gilgamesh. reality is. The

Some of these protesters arrived late and

missed half the conversation. Oh Lucy oh Freddie oh Maggie. To be so shielded from To be

the deep feelings of our age and from our biology.

cousins of the chimpanzee and to never really know it! Eventually I am going to be asked to speak. I have

prepared some remarks. Francie is here because she thinks this is a big moment in my career. She thinks I am going to get the sack

and maybe if she sits next to me with a hand on my forearm gently, gently I will recant my illusory notion that I know whats best for the amalgamating minds of thirty-three seventeen year olds given to my care for forty-five minutes a day five days a week. Francie doesnt even have her kids at this school, which makes her global warming homoerotic Gilgamesh commentary even more bizarre. (Although Lucy does swim on

a club team with some of the students here and will enter the high school next year.) who loves polar bears. We were both taken aback in our ninth year when tragedy struck the local zoo in the form of an overzealous male by the name of Julius who mauled the pillowy white Countess Snowflake during a carefully staged mating No, Francie is a home-schooler

session. Bit her by the scruff of her neck and severed an artery. Just like that. Another blow to the species. Of

course the newspaper didnt say when he came. during copulation.


Like I said. remarks.

Before I came.

I prepared some

Dearly beloved.

Gathered here today. A lot of a roomful of chairs and

A lot of threading. a roomful of pearls.

A lot of us are more certain, less

open, more apt to close a door. I dont know how to talk to my sister. seven devils. Cast out your Leave

Let the faggots into your heart.

dinosaurs to the dinosaurs and the children to their red ball. Gilgamesh is the opposite of House Beautiful. The

space in the epic feels lived in, preoccupied with the underside. And yet both concern themselves with an effort

to find shelter. My daughter is innocent of the current status of the nonsense of this evening. Currently she lives in a box of

my good intentions but how long can I protect her from this blockade of knowledge? what is filthy. pearl. A lot of debasement of the sacred. We must hope for it. evidence. But not yet. Evolve. The Evolve. From our conception of filth. Of

She is a fair pulchritudinous pearl, my

Calculate the evidence.

Mark removes his arm from about my shoulder and takes my hand. We live in a world that does not always

comprehend us. Strangely, Mark stacks the pillows in such a way that I could swear he reads shelter magazines. bottom one square under the smaller top one. The world comprehends us as an afterthought and then the whole effect is ruined when the third pillow falls to the floor. Or that is part of the order, this planned The larger

chaos, part of the comprehension. Whom I love as one assemblage in a room bedecked with some perfect unknowable flowers of some variegated, barely describable color and how I hold them to me. How I remember the white brick wall on the summer porch with the crayon drawings of princesses, horses, fire trucks, citadels. And my daughters freckles, how her grin is a spoon of light. And of the wild love of Gilgamesh for Enkidu and the more modulated love of an organism for its ancestor and of the six knees of my three throbbing nieces and of Mark. Mark is smiling at me. Like he wants to whisper

something utterly drastic and clich like go get em

tiger so that I can smile back and say I will get them, tiger. Albeit with nerves pulsing. To defend the study

of loss and fear. Our bed is a four-poster bed. I think. Which holds me even now

Our bed is a four-poster bed.

So I stand up. The bed has an ebony finish with rails across the top. White cotton sateen sheeting. up the bed. The first thing I do is make To fold

Gilgamesh: there is death everywhere.

the white top of the sheet over the quilted silken coverlet, a color somewhere between eggshell and beige. Then I fold the sham. I can smell the coffee perking as I

follow the scent along the hallway to the kitchen. Having turned off the bedroom light, the dark now is even darker than before. dark. Slowly, seeing shapes in the

Can hear Mark in the shower.

The great German poet Rainer Maria Rilke I begin. Some of the AP English students are translating one of his shorter Duino Elegies in my German IV class as we speak. He called Gilgamesh the epic of the fear of death. I dont stop there. I keep talking for a while. One

of the pillowcases matches the sham, one the set of sheets. The third, chaotic, pillow is simply white with a single

stripe of grey foliage. say. Not quite like that.

Your children are safe with me I

Im not trying to titillate them. Nor to disturb them. To frustrate them or tease them or entice them to have sex. Not that. I dont want them to leave my class focused only on sex but I want them to know that sex is part of life. can make us human. There is so much more at stake when we are human. The theme of the class is love. The great love humans It

share for one another and how this is expressed in our culture and our literature. How love can be the root of fear. assuage fear. There is sex in the bible I say. There is sex in this epic I say. love. Im not trying to lead your children off a path but rather further along the path they are already on. To And great violence. And violence. And How love can

challenge them a little. I want something inside of them to spark. I dont say anything like this.

I say. I say.


I do say the part about the Bible.

This is meant to be a college level course.

Censorship is inappropriate. We will read texts and background information. Instead of paint or wallpaper, Mark and I hung up fabric in our bedroom and tacked it to the walls. nubby seeded through with blue. Grey

One woman raises her hand

and says she is Shawn Jones mother and that I am his favorite teacher and she trusts I will handle the material respectfully. I think it is really nice of her to say this because the entire time I was speaking the protestors were chanting smut! smut! which I failed to mention because I was concentrating and several times I had to be interrupted by the head of the school board who threatened to throw the protestors out if they continued to remain disruptive. People, we have a process she says. My sister wiggles in her uncomfortable chair. Mark gets his mouth out from behind his face and grins at me in such a way that I know that, even if I get canned, even if I turn into the evil, sexuality-peddling dinosaur Veronicasaurus Rex and crush the white bones of some of these stupid people waving their stupid signs at me into

white powder that I will then use as bone meal for roses in the garden, I am pretty sure that we are going to have sex. Tonight. I should find the red lace panties I think.

I should walk across the slanted wood slats of the living room floor, across the white-beige area rug with the imprint of grey-black leaves and the edging of faded green, sage perhaps, and stand in front of the mirror of blue glass and look into the face of my sister, almost identical save for her one half-green eye and ask myself my robes are pale peach underlain with red, with white whether or not the two super kung fu sword masters can just quietly spread their robes about them as they sit on either side of a low table upon some rush mats in the hut of one of the rice-preparing villagers whether or not they could share the rice and the tea that is brought to the low table by the villager below the eaves of his house. The embroidery on the third chaotic pillow of our four-poster bed is steel grey wool thread pulled through again and again. The third pillow isnt chaos but cause The cause of Francie.

and effect, provision and reality. The provision of Francie.

Pale pink white blossoms growing, impossibly, in snow.

And I drink the tea and she drinks the tea. And I bring some of the rice grains to my lips and she does the same. perfectly. The grains of rice are cooked, but not

We are all not as vigilant as we should be.

Mark: no way do I want Cecily going to Homecoming with a senior. Gilgamesh is going over with the students way better than a lead balloon, which is possible, according to Mythbusters. Why stop teaching it now?

Stupid people make me angry. The grains of rice scatter in clumps as the dish is swept aside by a voluminous sleeve. stupid. stupidly. I correct myself. I think my sister is

I think my sister is acting

I dont know whose sleeve for sure causes the

upheaval but I feel the wind of the sleeve so forcefully that particular agency doesnt matter. The meeting is over. Veronicasaurus Rex wins the day. She is going home to

participate in natural selection, to prepare the next lesson on Gilgamesh, to have sex with her husband, and to talk with her kid. Even to hang her sword in its scabbard She will take it up

on the wall above the glass mirror.

again tomorrow, but first to succor and to sleep.

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