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THE CRYING HOUSE / Linda Hogan "G?-iHE HOUSE IS CRYING," I said to her as steam ran down X the walls. The cooking stove heated the house. Windows were frozen over with white feathers and ferns. It was a long week of cooking, and there was no music. "The house can withstand it," Bush said. She stepped outside and brought in an armload of wood. I caught the sweet odor of it and a wind of cold air as she brushed by me. She placed a log in the stove. It was still damp and when the red hands of flame grabbed it, the wood spat and hissed. I didn't for a minute believe the house could withstand it. I knew already it was going to collapse. It was a wooden house, dark inside, and spare. The floors creaked as she swept about, still wearing the cold. The branches of trees scraped against the windows, trying to get in. Perhaps they protested the fire and what it lived on. Bush unjointed the oxtails and browned them in suet. She worked so slowly, you would have thought it was swamp balm, not fat and backbone, that she touched. I thought of the old days when oxen with their heavy hooves arrived in black train cars from the dark, flat fields of Kansas, diseased beasts that had been yoked together in burden. All the land, even our lost land, was shaped by them and by the hated thing that held them together as rain and sunlight and snow fell on their toiling backs. The shadows of fish were afloat in the sink. Bush did her own hunting then, and she had a bag of poor, thin winter rabbits. She removed their fur the way you'd take off a stocking. She dredged them in flour. In the kitchen, their lives rose up in steam. Day and night she worked. In her night clothes, she boiled roots that still held the taste of mud. She stirred a black kettle and two pots. In her dark skirt, she cut onions. I didn't understand, until it was over, what it was she had to do. I didn't know what had taken hold of her and to what lengths she must go in order to escape its grip. She had black hair then, beautiful and soft. She folded blankets and clothing and placed them on the floor in the center of that one dark room. She took down the curtains, shook out the dust, washed them in the sink and hung them on lines from wall to 20 ยท The Missouri Review wall. AU the whUe, bones floated up in broth the way a dream rises to the top of sleep. Your mother entered my dreaming once, not floating upward that way, but crashing through, the way deer break through ice, or a stone falls into water, tumbling down to the bottom. In the dream, I was fishing in Lake Grand when the water froze suddenly, Uke when the two winds meet against each other and stop everything in their path, the way they do in waking Ufe, the way they left a man frozen that time, standing in place at the bank of Spirit River. In the dream, your mother was beneath ice in the center of the lake. I was afraid of her. We all were. What was wrong with her we couldn't name and we distrusted such things that had no name. She was a deep and magnetic force Uke the iron underground that pulls the needle of a compass to false north and sets it spinning. My heart beat fast. The part of me that was awake feared I was having a heart attack, but I could not shake myself out of the dream. Whatever your mother was in that dream, it wasn't human. It wasn't animal or fish. It was nothing I could recognize by sight or feel. The water became solid and the thing she was, or that had turned into her, puUed me toward it, out across the ice. I was standing, stiU and upright, drawn out that way to the terrible and magnetic...


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