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CHORUS/Katharine Whitcomb a man in Canada has the aurora borealis all rigged up he tells the radio reporter that he engineers and records sound Ui the universe the northern lights clamor down at him they hurl what he calls "hissing whistlers" at the earth he says the chorus always sings to him in the wilderness a cacophony of swooping colored wings and maybe you do have to be in the right place at the right time to hear what is being sung to you for my painter friend Werner that was his bedroom the night his apartment building Ui New York City burned in those slowed-down moments when the smoke was thick as JeIl-O he knelt on the floor to get more air but the smoke was coming up from between the boards and he could not breathe he said he heard a voice tell him he could lie down then with his pet cat Ui his arms there was nothing to fear and dying would be all right or said the voice he could stand on his cold windowsill five stories up from the street and dive across an eight-foot gap headfirst through a plate glass window dive into a lit portal in the building next door stiU holding his cat and that is what he did he jumped across back into our world The Missouri Review · 119 where he can tell us this story and show us his shoulders scarred with his choice to live and mostly we do want to live it may be that no one is truly safe but it does not matter the chorus is singing and the songs they sizzled and hummed over the radio brought the deep calm of Quetico to me again when the sky rippled with lines of phosphorescent laundry and voices on the wind sang arias so beautifully voices of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers before them when they reached over to me singing don't be afraid and all those hosannas swam together Ulto the one music that sounds within everything 120 · The Missouri Review Katharine Whitcomb SEPARATION/Katharine Whitcomb There are blows in life so violent . . . I cannot answer! —Vallejo After it, I Uve alone across the country. AU the photographs of him turned face down under piles of folded clothes. An astrologer reads my planets to me over the phone, very late, moths sputtering at the lit window. She says here Saturn squaring Saturn means everything is changing. She says look it's all at the top of the chart go Ulto the world and make a life. I hang up thinking a life is full of pam and it is hard to know what we need. Hard even to inhabit our own bodies each night, hard that morning comes again no matter what. On the best days I remember to be kind. My father calls more often, worried, he asks are you safe do you have friends? His voice warm at my ear. I reassure him. I am swimming I say you know floating. I can barely form the words. AU statements seem questions, all tenses changed. I am, I was. When I try to picture my husband everything suffers, I see him swaying Ui the living room, my maU in messy stacks, dust thickening, the house, a shrine to what is lost. The three cats search and search but never find me. The old gray torn sleeps more each day, nose between his forelegs. How long can this burn and still leave me alive. How late can it get and the phone still rings a voice dropping words into my answering machine. A recording of rushed intensity, projection, oh I can see him. He speaks The Missouri Review · 121 to a whir of blank air. And I push my hands deeper into my pockets and stand there listening, repeating: not now, not you. 122 · The Missouri Review Katharine Whitcomb PUZZLE AT 30,000 FEET/Katharine Whitcomb When the insurance salesman seated next to me breaks my concentration pointing out a circular irrigation pattern below in Kansas, giant green polka dots against the brown, I'm grateful. And stuck on a...


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