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THE USES OF RAIN¡Gary Fincke We sat, in geography, for nine weeks With water, a marking period of rain. We followed the dittoed diagrams Of water's efficient recycling— Precipitation, evaporation, AU the clouds we memorized for exams: Cirrus, cumulus, the great thunderheads Like the ones Mr. Sanderson called us To watch at the windows. Snow, he told us, Was nature's cheap ice cream, more air in drifts Than water. A barometer, he said, Could thrive inside an injured knee, but he Made us read the names for irrigation, How crop rotation and the geometry Of plowing could safety-net the earth. He taught the proper times for lawn sprinklers, The folly of building in the flood plain, And we remembered the timetables For tides, the value of deltas, wetlands, And the extraordinary ecosystem Of the ocean. And though we conserved For extra credit, though wè catalogued Our care, we took our test, turned it in, And listened, books closed, to Mr. Sanderson Tell us the story of the crested bustard, Whose desire is triggered by the sound of rain. "Because it lives in the desert," he explained, "Its courtship dance must be timed just right." He held our stack of tests to his chest And walked among our rows. "In zoos," he said, "In captivity, those birds begin to dance When they hear a keeper's hose. They prance To the simple sound of washing, believing That rain will water the luck of their children." 144 · The Missouri Review SCHMALTZ¡Gary Fincke My mother's old bacon grease filled a jar That sat among flour and sugar and salt As if that unlabeled glass held one more Kitchen staple. 100% fat, 100% thrift—the smoked flavor Worked its way into eggs so we could eat More meatless breakfasts. Or no eggs at all, Just that grease, with green onions, reheated. That meal took timing, taking the rye bread To the barely hardened, sopping up schmaltz Like uncles who drank coffee to cut it. Such richness stayed overnight in the mouth Where German melted into the English Of memory, its sentimental schmaltz. People my age were forgetting the waltz, The fox-trot, and my father's sad box step. What would be left, my mother worried, when Conventional dances were gone? When thrift Was laughed at? And all those warnings about Salt and fat, the satisfaction of grease. Already there were complaints about Heinz, The soups my uncles made. Pittsburgh was home, Now, to high blood pressure and heart disease, AU the Germans fleeing to the suburbs Where bacon was drained, salt never slathered On the crisped skin of chickens. My mother said we could shimmy it off in no time, Doing the Twist and the Mashed Potato, The dances of the slim who'd never heard Of real schmaltz and the terrible success Of learning place, those who wouldn't admit To grandfathers who ate pure grease and lived, Who'd punched in for fifty years and carried The company's gold watch to prove it. The Missouri Review · 145 DURING SIXTH GRADE/Gary Fincke We learned the Redcoats lost to Patriots Who wore drab hand-me-downs and mended rags. We memorized the spellings of handsome And beautiful, vanity and conceit. Miss Blatt said listen to this lesson: birds With the brightest feathers are attacked first By their predators. We wrote it down so We wouldn't forget the consequences Of fame. We passed around her photos of Harlow and Valentino, beginning An album which stopped at the red jacket Of James Dean, who the year before had been Pecked by the great beak of our jealous God. I memorized the size and shape of each Sixth grade bra cup and thought Elise Nestel Would surely die before the rest of us. My father, the troop leader, testified To the character of a Boy Scout who Confessed, at last, to a series of rapes As if any girl's body had beauty Enough to attack. The homely brother Of a classmate crashed his old car and died. The perfect proportion of bright plumage To death broke like Schoolbook bindings; nothing Excluded me from the spell of...


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