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BALSA / Marvin Bell Balsa wood is best— remember the smell, like something still juicy, and it won't give up the jungle and it won't relinquish its rain, no matter how sharp the blade, how much the knife is drawn in under the shoulder and the whole head brought to bear and the back hunched with the cutting of one stick. The balsa doesn't cut in a fine edge but in hairs and each one another length and each bending microscopically unlike any other, and the balsa, like the jungle, always wins. And it is best. To make a light toy, you take two balsa sticks and a third between, like an H, and at the top you hang a man— not hang so much as pierce. Now squeeze the bottom of the H and your man somersaults like Tarzan at the circus. So much it would be interesting to do, and yet not to do many of these things— that would be interesting too! The interchangeable blades of the fat knife— it's a whole day deciding, and a nighttime of regret. Tomorrow's another toy. 28 ¦ The Missouri Review GREAT LEANING FERNS / Marvin Bell These ferns have already covered the sidewalk rimming the house and for some time now have been trying to make contact with the grass, and I say let them have it: these are the fast lanes of life, from the ground to the sky and back, punctuated by periods of washing and dressing up indoors but for what? These wide green ferns have made for themselves a place in the sun where they can make shadows, and now they lean over in a wish to be lawn. These Tropics-sized, large-bore, fan-width ferns for years have made their pitch in summer. I go around them then, on grass. I listen. I lean toward a time when I will hear what they are saying when they say it. The Missouri Review · 29 A VIEW IN THE RAIN / Marvin Bell - HONOLULU I could leap up the spine of a pine tree when I feel this way. From there, I could see the water falling on the harbor and the cargo ships with their cubic containers rising on a swell of contained water and the breakwater beyond. There would be the berry-branch of the dark octopus tree here in front of me and across the valley the tantalizing cliff-road of the upper classes— to which I turn like a sniper or scout at the top of my pine, my all-weather pine, with a hand on what holds me and another like the bill of a cap at my eyes. In the distance in Asia, it's yesterday. I can see the armies island-hopping toward an outbreak of the future, and the one in charge of the radio bringing tomorrow's news of America's "commitments." I can see the place in the ocean where the Romans met the Spartans and both were defeated by time. I can see new islands rising in the radioactive photographs of aerial engineers and the fresh footprints of machines looking for precious metals. Now my pine tips in a trade wind to where I can see the ends of a rainbow, and straightens again. In the clear air, the charge I needed is gone. I see nothing more but other pines others may have topped. Probably, I ought to get down from this dangerous view before I break my neck. 30 · The Missouri Review SHOULDERS OF TROPICAL RAIN / Marvin Bell It was plenty: the heavy rain on my heavy shoulders making them heavier— and then nothing, no rain, no mist (which is the shadow of rain), no tear from a tree, no oily sparkle on sidewalks, no rivulets cutting the roads, no semblance, no truth of rain, nothing. And yet it rained here—here, hard, heavy, swishing its wild damsel dresses, bowing to nothing but the curve of the earth, being of its hundred thousand minds— No, its trillion-trillion times trillion minds for which the collecting word rain is born of dim sight and a grave curvature of belief in angles and lines...


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