what could have been

How was it possible to miss something you no longer wanted? Blaine needed what she was unable to give and she needed what he was unable to give, and she grieved this, the loss of what could have been.

but there they were

His mother had never cried in front of him before, and until he saw it with his own eyes, he hadn’t even known that Mildred was capable of crying, but there they were weeping in front of him as they said goodbye to each other, both of them understanding that it could be months or years before they would see each other  again, and Ferguson saw it as he stood below them in his five-year-old’s body, looking up at his mother and his aunt, stunned by the excess of emotion pouring out of them, and the image traveled to a place so deep inside him that he never forgot it.

floated away

The old ones and their children weep

for the gossamer mothers

who have floated away.

The children pray

for their mothers to die.

Such a kind and terrible wish.

My sister and I

allow it on the telephone.

We cannot speak it

looking one another in the eye.

is everyone all right?

Sometimes amidst her jungle of gibberish,

Mother says, “Is everyone all right?

Or “Do you need any money?”

Bless her!

Even if it’s just mechanical:

a phonograph needle dropped

into one or two surviving grooves.

what a wonderful mother

For awhile I reminded her what a wonderful mother,

wife and teacher she had been.

“Really?” she said, trying to find that person in the fog.

Now those nouns are meaningless.

So I can only tell her she is beautiful.

Her beauty still matters to her most.

For the first time,

my sister and I are glad that this is so.

become sour

Brian, redundant, would have time to write his novel, the great chronicle novel of the Northern working class. Brian would be forced, by redundancy, to confront the knowledge that time was not what he needed, Brian would turn sour. Already he had become unreasonable: later, he would, like everyone else, become sour.

After you’ve spent

Something to rationalize, to explain, why one would keep returning, like Freud’s grandson with his fort-da game, to the same miserable scenario. But time is what it comes down to. After you’ve spent a certain amount, invested so much of it in one place, your credit rating booms and you feel like breaking the chronological bank. You feel like staying in the place until it pays you back all the time you gave it—even if it never will.

detective stories

I quite enjoy these detective stories. There’s an art in them, you know. (He was defensive.)

of old ladies

From here, at least, nothing more could be heard. Through the trees the car was still visible on the top of the rise, and, to the left, the window with the closed shutters behind which the old woman was dying, motionless in her solitary bed, the sheet which was drawn up to her chin rising and falling with the regular rhythm of that continuous, calm and terrible rattle escaping from her lungs like the monstrous respiration of a giant, some playful mythological creature which had chosen its residence in the frail body of this woman in her death agony, so that these slow and interminable bellows could be heard like the trumpets of the Last Judgement,—dying, diligently dying, concentrated, focussed (solitary, arrogant and terrible) on the action of dying, in the dimness of the room where the summer’s powdery light penetrated only through the slit between the two closed shutters: a T whose crosspiece, shaped like a thin triangle lying base upward, corresponded to the interval between the top of the shutters and the window frame, and which slowly shifted from right to left, somewhat distended toward noon, then again diagonally lengthened again, all between morning and evening: like the initial of the word Time, an impalpable and stubborn letter trailing in the moribund odor, the stale and moribund fragrance hanging in the air: the smell of cheap eau de cologne the nurse bathed her in, and that ineffable, obsolete and ashen odor of faded bouquets which seems to float forever in the rooms of old ladies, around mirrors reflecting their worn faces, like the discreet, fragile, slightly rancid exhalation of faded days…

no longer of this world

José Palacios, his oldest servant, found him floating naked with his eyes open in the purifying waters of his bath and thought he’d drowned. He knew this was one of the many ways the General meditated, but the ecstasy in which he lay drifting seemed that of a man no longer of this world.

only thing wrong with her

The only thing wrong with her as far as he could see was that she was dying.

drifting gently

No coughing or spitting or bleeding or vomiting, just drifting gently down into the higher life.

my time of life

Crouch down! At my time of life! This is lunacy!

passed away

When de long, cold———Oh, I tells you, breddren, when de long cold. . . I sees de light en I sees de word, po sinner! Dey passed away in Egypt, de swingin chariots; de generations passed away. Wus a rich man: whar he now, O breddren? Wus a po man: whar he now, O sistuhn? Oh I tells you, ef you aint got de milk en de dew of de old salvation when de long, cold years roll away!

but the eternal

Her face is wasted away so that the bones draw just under the skin in white lines. Her eyes are like two candles when you watch them gutter down into the sockets of iron candle-sticks. But the eternal and the everlasting salvation and grace is not upon her.

they shared

And this is the other thing they shared, the sadness and clarity of time, time mourned in the music—how the sound, the shaped vibrations made by hammers striking wire strings made them feel an old sorrow not for particular things but for time itself, the material feel of a year or an age, the textures of unmeasured time that were lost to them now, and she turned away, looking past her lifted hand into some transparent thing he thought he could call her life.



one of those times

This is a terrible moment, one of those times when Cotter realizes he has won a struggle he didn’t know was taking place. He has beat his father into surrender, into awful withdrawal.

little failures

He realized he’d forgotten to give his dad two glasses of water to take with the yellow and blue capsule despite the bold-faced reminder on the prescription bottle. These little failures ate away at his confidence even when he knew it was not his father’s fault for not managing his own intake or his mother’s for not being around when she was needed. There were constant little wars of whose fault is it and okay I’m sorry and I wish he’d die and get it over with, all taking place in Richard’s inner mind.

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