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BIG ????/Pamela Greenberg Sometimes my bones hum like Bunyan's must have; world turned vassal to my will, whole cornfields swaying at my footsteps, thistles fleshed into fruit. Then I think I could live in a lighthouse, be happy without an arm curled around me at night. Or wander perhaps the forsaken farmland, pilfering from silos, surviving off the goodwill of the land. But when is the truth ever like that? Once I caught a catfish in the Adirondacks. The thing wouldn't die even after I knifed it, yanking out whatever I could find in its gut. By the time it was finished frying I could hardly swallow one forkful. Self-sufficiency, I now say, is for giants. Me, I need a mouth to greet mine after chores, a stranger's words to bring me wonder, a name to call my name urgent in the dark. The Missouri Review · 260 A CUP FOR ELIJAH/Pamela Greenberg It is 1975, the year before my parents stop speaking. Old, rabbinical, Uncle Leo takes his glasses off to gesture, while on my shoulder my brother softly dozes. At last, triumphantly, my aunt holds the plate of offerings aloft. On it a broken eggshell and the shankbone of a lamb. My father still is happy; not manic, not depressed. He stands with an electric carving knife near the windowsill geraniums in a pinstriped Brooks Brothers suit. My mother, a stylish urban hippie, takes off her sparkling turban to kiss him. From the kitchen drifts the smell of pot roast and string beans and sweet potato pie. And it is beautiful and fragile, that instant, but I can't keep it from what happens next: my mother swings the door open to starlight; my father pours an extra glass of wine. Dazed, I gulp at my grape juice, watching the pendulum of the grandfather clock flicker in the candle's light. A dish falls in the kitchen, cracking. Someone curses. My now-dead uncle taps me on the back. The Missouri Review · 162 LAGUNITAS, 1978/Pamela Greenberg Always, it seems, it has been like this: the phone cradled on my mother's shoulder, her too-loud boyfriend laugh. When she whispers fork and spoon windchimes jangle on fish line and from downslope comes the plaintive mewl of the goats, (my mother's secrets, her spicy burnt perfume) I cannot get smaU enough, creaking out the screen door, past blackberries fat with sweetness, to the salt block even starker in moonlight, the newborn fumbling on her knees to get up. Everything strange and elusive, even the goats—who, when I try to hold them— stubbornly muzzle away. My mother shouting my name then, with a tone that means, In God's name what have you done. When I get back she's standing barreled across the doorway, hair wondrous and frizzled, turquoise earrings perfectly still. As I gaze up, her eyes grip me with their shrillest blue. Behind her my two-thousand-piece zebra puzzle unsolved near the woodburning stove. 262 · The Missouri Review FLOOO/Pamela Greenberg AU day we watched it—my mother, brother, and I—the relentless wrath, the furious downpour of God. Our zucchini plants torn loose from the soil, lumber and stovepipe roiling in the creek. Mid-afternoon the bloated carcass of a muskrat sped by, pummeled along in the swill. When the electric pole threw blue sparks and died, we watched by lantern light. We had entered that domain where it is easier to look than not, where the flood seemed lovely because it had nothing to do with us. And strangely enough—walled in those years by turmoil—we were safe. By morning the rain had slowed to a patter, and our stove was working again. A great, giddy weight had slid off us, one we hadn't even known was there. My mother sang as she flipped pancakes and I rubbed knuckles into my brother's hair. The first white sun thundered in. The Missouri Review · 263 THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK/ Pamela Greenberg On a bucket outside the Saint Nowhere feed barn, cold, stolen apple juice dribbling down my chin, I looked out toward the madrones along the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 160-166
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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