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WHO WE ARE, AND WHERE / Richard Jackson I think it was just as I was about to write to you how I found the old bent nail in my father's coat that I knew you would suspect this might be another poem that holds within it someone's death, so I decided to begin instead with the story of Bullwinkle, not the cartoon character we both probably watched on Saturday mornings, but the confused moose from upstate Vermont who fell in love a few months ago with Jessica, the Hereford Cow, insuring, by his clumsy presence in the pasture, that she would have first place at the hay bales and feed. There is a picture of Bullwinkle nuzzling his head on Jessica's ample rump while she looks wild-eyed and bewildered at the camera. Later, as winter set in, he lost his antlers, as all bull moose do, and so also the greater part of his libido. In town, the talk is all about the moose position, and I can imagine the jokes you would make, but I'm wondering what chances the lovers might have next year. I've been thinking of all this a few days after you left when everything seems out of place. Do you remember the story of Louis Castrano, the unlucky fisherman until thirty-four large mouth bass fell at his feet out of a Fort Worth sky?— carried by a high altitude twister, some meteorologist reported. Everything, you said, love, solitude, trust, hope, is only an accident of location. I think you would say the confused young moose won't return, that nothing is ever connected. It's all a film, you'd say, where the words of subtitles keep only a vague link to what is happening on the screen—the Japanese villager, say, trying to explain the mysterious green lights beneath his fishing nets in 256 · The Missouri Review one of those films meant to protest by a common code the chance and monstrous effects of the bomb. You would say I should remember Cesar Pavese, whose book you left, and who found in the end that all his life was chance, that the only thing left was the absurd vice of the body. What I wanted to say was simple: this afternoon, in a remaindered book stall I found Russ Vliet's novel, Scorpio Rising, and remembered how he described the spring quail eating the yellow berries of the agarite bush by the roadside, darting out of sight of the cars, to explain how suddenly his cancer came to bud, and how silently it was burned away. It would bloom again, we'd hear later, far from the dry riverbeds of South Texas he would always seem to inhabit, like one of his own characters returning to face the sky that seemed too white, the skin of dust collecting on still pools for years. "Thunder ain't rain," he'd say, "So you go on writing." I'm trying to understand how in such a short while we are only the few stories, the words someone remembers— a lover, if we're lucky, and then silence, not even the sounds of another language. Not long ago I lay in another language in a small boat at Golubac, a place that still means, after centuries, "a dove," peace. I lay beneath the ruins of the castle where the current forgets, where dawn began to surface through the small circles the fish gave us instead of themselves. The towers, the parapets would give a stone to the Danube every few years, falling past the graves, past the inscriptions the Romans and Turks abandoned and where sometimes the young lovers would hide out, or sometimes follow a stone into the river. I never thought a place so lovely could stand so long. I drifted on the river all day, Richard Jackson THE MISSOURI Review · 257 the hills around me as stark as those in South Texas, listening to a procession of priests and faithful singing their way into a church that may have stood beyond the hill, my line weighted by that old bent nail, weighted by all the stories of...


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