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Cicada by John Blair A youngest brother turns seventeen with a click as good as a roar, finds the door and is gone. You listen for that small sound, hear a memory. The air-raid sirens howled of summer tornadoes, the sound thrown back against the scattered thumbs of grain silos and the open Oklahoma plains like the warning wail of insects. Repudiation is fast like a whirlwind. Only children don't know that all you live is leaving. Yes, the first knowledge that counts is that everything stops. Even in the bible-belt, second comings are promises you never really believed; so you turn and walk into the embrace of the world as you would to a woman, an arrant an orphic movement as shocking as the subtle animal pulse of a flower opening, palm up. We are all so helpless. I can look at my wife's full form now and hope for children, picture her figured by the weight of babies. Only, it's still so much like trying to find something once lost. My brother felt the fullness of his years, the pull in the gut that's almost sickness. His white smooth face is gone into living and fierce illusion, a journey dissolute and as immutable as the whining heat of summer. Soon enough, too soon, momentum just isn't enough. Our tragedy is to live in a world that doesn't invite us back. We slow, find ourselves sitting in a room that shifts so slightly we can only imagine the difference. I want to tell him to listen. I want to tell him what it is to crave darkness, to want to crawl headfirst into a dirt-warm womb to sleep, to wait seventeen years, to emerge again.
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Charlotte Brontë in Leeds Point by Stephen Dunn From her window marshland stretched for miles. If not for egrets and gulls, it reminded her of the moors behind the parsonage, how the fog often hovered and descended as if sheltering some sweet compulsion the age was not ready to see. On clear days the jagged skyline of Atlantic City was visible—Atlantic City, where all compulsions had a home. "Everything's too easy now," she said to her neighbor, "nothing resisted, nothing gained." Once, at eighteen, she dreamed of London's proud salons glowing with brilliant fires and dazzling chandeliers. Already her own person—passionate, assertive— soon she'd create a governess insistent on rights equal to those above her rank. "The dangerous picture of a natural heart," one offended critic carped. She'd failed, he said, to let religion reign over the passions and, worse, she was a woman. Now she was amazed at what women had, doubly amazed at what they didn't. But she hadn't come back to complain or haunt. Her house on the bay was modest, adequate. It need not accommodate brilliant sisters or dissolute brothers, spirits lost or fallen. Feminists would pay homage, praise her honesty and courage. Rarely was she pleased. After all, she was an artist; to speak of honesty in art, she knew, was somewhat beside the point. And she had married, had even learned to respect the weakness in men, those qualities they called their strengths. Whatever the struggle, she wanted men included. Charlotte missed reading chapters to Emily, Emily reading chapters to her. As ever, though, she'd try to convert present into presence, something unsung sung, some uprush of desire frankly acknowledged, even in this, her new excuse for a body.
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Ave Maria by Frank O'Hara Mothers of America let your kids go to the movies! get them out of the house so they won't know what you're up to it's true that fresh air is good for the body but what about the soul that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images and when you grow old as grow old you must they won't hate you they won't criticize you they won't know they'll be in some glamorous country they first saw on a Saturday afternoon or playing hookey they may even be grateful to you for their first sexual experience which only cost you a quarter and didn't upset the peaceful home they will know where candy bars come from and gratuitous bags of popcorn as gratuitous as leaving the movie before it's over with a pleasant stranger whose apartment is in the Heaven on Earth Bldg near the Williamsburg Bridge oh mothers you will have made the little tykes so happy because if nobody does pick them up in the movies they won't know the difference and if somebody does it'll be sheer gravy and they'll have been truly entertained either way instead of hanging around the yard or up in their room hating you prematurely since you won't have done anything horribly mean yet except keeping them from the darker joys it's unforgivable the latter so don't blame me if you won't take this advice and the family breaks up and your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set seeing movies you wouldn't let them see when they were young
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Alice at Seventeen: Like a Blind Child by Darcy Cummings One summer afternoon, I learned my body like a blind child leaving a walled school for the first time, stumbling from cool hallways to a world dense with scent and sound, pines roaring in the sudden wind like a huge chorus of insects. I felt the damp socket of flowers, touched weeds riding the crest of a stony ridge, and the scrubby ground cover on low hills. Haystacks began to burn, smoke rose like sheets of translucent mica. The thick air hummed over the stretched wires of wheat as I lay in the overgrown field listening to the shrieks of small rabbits bounding beneath my skin.
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A Muse by Reginald Shepherd He winds through the party like wind, one of the just who live alone in black and white, bewildered by the eden of his body. (You, you talk like winter rain.) He's the meaning of almost-morning walking home at five A.M., the difference a night makes turning over into day, simple birds staking claims on no sleep. Whatever they call those particular birds. He's the age of sensibility at seventeen, he isn't worth the time of afternoon it takes to write this down. He's the friend that lightning makes, raking the naked tree, thunder that waits for weeks to arrive; he's the certainty of torrents in September, harvest time and powerlines down for miles. He doesn't even know his name. In his body he's one with air, white as a sky rinsed with rain. It's cold there, it's hard to breathe, and drowning is somewhere to be after a month of drought.
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