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EQUIPOISE / Vivian Teter I wake too warm, fully dressed, the vegetable world again divides from darkness. Over the floor, five white envelopes named, addressed, letterless. You are leaving today, so I've returned to these rooms, rearranged my belongings. Outside my window, in this first light, those gathering bottles or cans live nowhere and without the strange comfort of familiar, kept objects. They pass in and out of my dreams where still I cannot help them. Each moment, I must watch closely all that surrounds me; it will finish before reaching full meaning. The small doves of this region which seem never to leave ground are just now in flight with dawn. This is one point of course —that I would choose not to go with you, a man of beautiful movements generated by speech. Oval, wide we talked of some gesture which forever completes itself, always toward resolve. We understood how perfectly it must have nothing to do with us. 34 · The Missouri Review FRIENDS & STRANGERS / Vivian Jeter I I take their lives as my own. Sometimes my hands move following their gestures. Their smallest preferences, their most intimate memories I protect. I keep whatever can't be told when they sleep or when they choose to go out walking alone. I read their letters and journals, putting them back just as I found them. I open their closets, try on sweaters or hats and if they wake in the night I am there to hold them, tell them my most enchanting dreams. There are gray rivers & the honking of wild geese, flying low There are human voices & human eyes There are stories of men & women who have learned to give up & to wait II The words of a solitary woman written in Butte, Montana in its sulfur landscape every day, January through April, 1901. I have taken her privacy as my own. For too long I held back, distanced myself and became my own stranger. But how much I wanted to motion or speak and could not, flawed between will and act. I cannot remember which past is now mine, whose future I will claim. I even repeat her words: Vivian Teter The Missouri Review · 35 I am a thief, a liar I am not generous I am a coward I cannot give III She specified as tragic that part of each day when to rest for a moment we stop and, indissoluble, a core of emptiness presents itself —the outside world coming back to offer only the daily, the waste of repetition, the time we cannot account for. And then she asked why this life was not hers. IV I am trying to answer. An unreal world grows inside me, keeps me from most intensely living. Or do I keep it, cultivate resistance to the singed edgelessness of realized potential and movement always forward. I go back to friends abandoned, places left behind, try to retrieve some self or other or at least appease what I come to find no longer there. And then I return to simple narration. Sixty-five years before me she dreamt my dream. She wanted a man-devil for her first lover, her desire filling page after page and of course he never came. But in my dark heart he arrived, a stranger at our door, no one could prevent his wishes: he and I bound somehow, I had given my name in a time I could not remember and now his call. Whoever shovelled a grave first 36 · The Missouri Review Vivian Teter would bury the other, and I never woke out of that fright, that sweat of dirt still filling the lines in my palms, this ritual of digging. V I can only offer you what I've taken —an hourglass found in a stranger's attic, a lover's luminous memory of waking late in a room glittering with fireflies. I have not yet learned the art of daily giving, the transference from my hand to yours. I must continue to follow for a while longer their eyes and their voices, safe from the sycamore trunk, from the need to press myself against the river's muddy bank for the warmth of what...


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