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The Invention of the Japanese Lantern Donald Morrill I yank down the vines scrawling the south side of my house in Tampa. Some ofthem lead back toward the front porch, where they climb along the screens and weave through the jalousies. Thread-fine, admirably spare, they grip the screens at intervals ofthree or four inches with a two-pronged grasp that is part hand, part talon. This resemblance chiUs as I puU them and they seem to cling aU the more tenaciously, plucking the screens as they at last faU away. It makes a desperate music, this pizzicato. Earlier this morning , I'd been reading ofthe Battle ofStaUngrad in 1942. As the situation for the Germans deteriorated, and it became clear that they would be defeated, the ranks began to break for escape. As the last available planes Ufted off in retreat, some of the forsaken troops clung feverishly to the wings, flipping whole transports into ditches. It is a suspect investiture: the green logic of these handholds with the doomed hopes of those soldiers. I could just as easüy say these vines anchor my house—let the blows come! But, no, I think of those soldier hands that wanted so much to become talons, to be able to perch and then let go into their own flights, away from the carnage and an end that doesn't seem possible, maybe, even at the moment it arrives. I think of this because, so far, this is what I know of that kind of disaster , which is a portion ofreaUty past and present—Uke the skuU that famine forces to the surface of a face, like the fires set by debt, curling around the myriad species unknown to us. A music. I undo their hopes, which only threaten a view of my street, a moderately peaceful, comfortable street. This green nerve, up from the ground, Unked to my householder's wül. In the middle of the night, the drone of planes. The ancient DC-3s pass just a few hundred feet above our roofs, bombing us with a mixture of 156 Donald Morrill157 Malathion and honey. Back and forth, street by street, they work with precision , we've been assured by those paid to assure us. Not more poison than is necessary, and only where necessary to kfll the medfly, that immigrant, which births its young in the sweet gut ofthe state citrus. The protesters are home, now, too, lying down. They heard late about the planned spraying, and their concerns only made page twelve of the paper. They were also covered on the community radio station which is cranky and worthy and commercial-free. They and we listen to the passes, the music ofthe owners of the Edenic, migrant-harvested groves, the harmony in one person's necessity, in another's taste for sweet juices. I think of the bUtzes in the vast, quaint wars of this century, and of the bombers to come. I think of the choppers in Robert Altaian's Short Cuts spraying this same chemical, and how in that film it's aU a symbol ofan infested civilization and the toxic Uves within it— our Uves. But only a symbol. In the morning, we find rusty drops spattering our porches and cars. They resemble blottered blood samples. Out with the hose, or to the automatic wash, as we were advised by those paid to advise us. Save the paint! A few days later, a friend in the neighborhood teUs of fish floating Uke silver leaves in her condo pond, her three-year-old watching us talk, his hands in his mouth. Shortly thereafter, black and yeUow butterflies dart around our house, abounding pairs in a lavish season. Where are their predators ? At every window, the fluttering question of our soaring desires. Whüe visiting family on Sanibel Island, I ride a borrowed bike to the refuge, down a white sheU traü (called Indigo Trau, after those large, shy blue snakes, which frequent the trees). I pedal through soft cups ofsand and over bony vertebrae ofpath, on my right a soft green grass, almost a lawn, here in the middle of swamps. I stand at...


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