By Catherine Dupree
It was Clover alone this time. Next to her the black box: this menacing marker of that inevitable forward-march but also the backwards slip that modernity promises and requires: to be removed, hidden behind the looming smirk of machine voiding any human contact, replaced with the hum and buzz of technology, this same backwardness manifesting itself in the sudden explosion of human voice into Clovers car: Fries with that? Garbled but somehow decipherable through the webs and crackles of wires and static. Fries with that? And Clovers answer: words spoken and recorded on the other unseen end by the push of a button, these same words recorded again only differently now, not as words but as the fries themselves: calories, lard, complex carbohydrates, monounsaturated linseed oil, grease (pooling and sinking into the dimpled yellow sad limp fry) recorded not on paper but on flesh. No longer a fry but clumps of cellulite and folds of fat and dimpled wobbly flabborn from the grease that feeds (has always fed) generations of those eleven stalwart states and amounts to the curse plaguing all Southern women, discouraging (but not forbidding) them from their tube tops and halter tops and fringed half-shirts. And if not the fry, then another animal by-product which in its digested form clings to the thighs and bellies and arms, desperate and maniacal like a soldier to his falling flag. This fat: worthless and inanimate and pointless, not just an additive or an ingredient, but it: of and from and by. This polyhydrogenation: culled from and brought to and consumed by the same men and women and animals who forever decried its name and effects. And Clover: her curse passed to her from her mother whose ample and fleshy legs were themselves not unaffected by years of funnel cakes and Moon Pies and fried dough at county fairs with not-Diet Coke and not-skim milk but the whole, full-fat varieties, dripping with monounsaturates and partially hydrogenated oils and refined sugars. And finally this: this box, screaming and roiling, shaking even within its own deep and undefined depths, over and over the voice: Fries with that? Fries with that? And Clover too, shaking and cowering, all at once hating the polyunsaturates that feed her and ruin her and will feed and ruin the bodies of every girl of those eleven stalwart states who even if she had the willpower, would remain the lump of polyhydrogenation, would still squeeze into her acid-washed jeans and cheap polyester tube top stretched over her rolls of stomach, would still salivate at the last glazed and shining donut behind the faded and fogged glass at the donut shop, would still look and be and feel the same, even if she answeredalways answeredsoftly at first but then louder until rivaling and finally drowning out the relentless blare of the microphone: I dont. I dont! I dont want the fries! I dont want the fries!
VERBOSE IN TERTIO
By Mitchel Globe
Hope surrenders before desire forgets. Forgets longer than remembers loving only the words, thinking only the words, believing only that which could never be believed, because to a man belief is not a word, not even a thought but just an action never performed. And so it was not because Father drowned inarticulate overcome by words, and not because it took a hundred Yankee mules never bought and never sold but only weighed against the implacable courage of a womans tongue (who in refusing to surrender refused even to accept the idea of surrender, as if only the gesture could engender the word), and not because years later understanding purges all memory, but simply because in the end it is only words filling the page, only words surviving inexorable from the page. Like the unthinking writer the words could only be kneaded from thoughts shattered by too much reading, creeping down from reason slowly like a lost and misguided wisteria vine and still creeping years later as death moves until the pen is volitionless, the mind void of ink and the words ineffable stuck behind his lips, sealed hermetically by generations of honor never attained until the necessity eradicates the pain and the pain beguiles the tongue until he can no longer help himself: "My mother is a word!" But I reckon I saw that coming too because a man can only say so much before the saying makes him less than a man. The same man who proudly leaves his good leg on the battlefield only to spite the enemy is defeated (worse than defeated) is betrayed by words. And so it is left for the woman with her affinity for secrecy to take the words and make them her own, metamorphosed and put away in a metal chest under a plank floor-board behind a pallet bed, waiting, lusting almost for that day when men are no longer breast-fed by their past, no longer inextricably tied to the blood-stained Southern soil, waiting, lusting to ignite the Roman Holiday, waiting to bring forth all womankind so to carry their chests proudly and bear the fruits of their labor: words never before spoken. Words once hidden in croker sacks now freed by garrulous lips until the insinuations become inevitabilities, and the immitigable and mellifluous words like singing verbena float over the slow water and the flat land.
And so I reckon there ain't ere a man who could fault Granny when she caught me playing, when she caught me luxuriating in the new words: "You, Mitch! Kneel with me Now, get the soap!"