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The Story, and: Daughter
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The Story

for Jim, who had to read it

I was nineteen, maybe twenty, walking
across Triphammer Bridge, new manuscript
in hand, when I tripped—and a sudden gust
carried the Corrasable Bond between
the guardrails, into the open air. I got up
just in time to watch those pages flutter
a hundred feet, to decorate Fall Creek.
No other copy, and no staircase down.

What would Ernest Hemingway do now?

I asked myself. Once on the other side
my sneakers backed me down from stone to slippery
stone, moist autumn shale, shellacked with leaves,
through a semivertical scrub forest
until I saw that metal bridge, now from
the bottom of the gorge. Amazingly
the pages lay like giant handkerchiefs
scattered on either bank, six on a side,
none in the rheum shed by the waterfall.
All legible. I put them back in order,
then looked up for the way.

    I couldn't find
the almost-path I'd taken, so I chose
the easiest from where I stood. Halfway,
it turned into something harder, almost sheer,
next to impossible. I thought of turning
around, looked back with just my eyes—and felt
my feet give way.

    Then I saw everything,
two things: a solid sapling on my left
and a spindlier one, off to my right,
with half its roots exposed above the rocks.
But those pages were cradled in my left arm.

I didn't think, I didn't hesitate,
I grabbed that naked, unsuspecting twig
with only my right hand.
    By God, it held
and so did I. Rebalanced, on a ledge,
hands shaking with what could have been the cold,
I slid those pages underneath my shirt
next to my undershirt, to keep them safer.

These days, of course, it never could've happened.
We back up everything. That story would've been
safely on a hard drive, CD-ROM,
the manuscript disposable confetti.
I'd've cursed, then laughed, and then consoled myself.
At least paper's biodegradable.

Yet forty years later, it amazes me
that I could've thought—no, felt—within
my deepest being, that those words (my words!)
were worth my present and my future life.
The story? I can't recall even its title,
try as I might, or a single character.
It was twelve pages, pitifully unique,
I probably destroyed in shame or grief
a few years later. At best, I tossed them out
with reams of others, when I moved to where
I'm living now—a mountain where words matter
but not so much.


I carried you downstairs, into the car,
and drove your mother to the hospital—
your would-be mother, holding you inside her—
who would've died if you'd have lived a little

longer. We'd have named you for our mothers,
Cecilia and Marie, now vanished too.
What's in a name? Nothing, like a rose
whose scent of absence fills the coming snow.

What I remember: From the seventh floor
I stared at that white desert—till two drivers
oblivious to me and to each other
ominously approaching in reverse

crashed midaisle. Got out. What could they say?
They shook their heads, their hands. Drove on their way.

Gilbert Allen  

Gilbert Allen, the Bennette E. Geer Professor of Literature at Furman University, has lived in upstate South Carolina since 1977. Some of his newest poems and stories have appeared in Appalachian Heritage, Shenandoah, and Tampa Review.

Copyright © 2013 Louisiana State University Press
Project MUSE® - View Citation
Gilbert Allen. "The Story, and: Daughter." Southern Review 49.2 (2013): 252-254. Project MUSE. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Allen, G.(2013). The Story, and: Daughter. Southern Review 49(2), 252-254. Louisiana State University Press. Retrieved April 10, 2013, from Project MUSE database.
Gilbert Allen. "The Story, and: Daughter." Southern Review 49, no. 2 (2013): 252-254. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed April 10, 2013).
T1 - The Story, and: Daughter
A1 - Gilbert Allen
JF - Southern Review
VL - 49
IS - 2
SP - 252
EP - 254
PY - 2013
PB - Louisiana State University Press
SN - 2168-5541
UR - http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/southern_review/v049/49.2...

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