you are in the diode archives fall 2009



Fable of the Hair

Not even a classic fairy tale
could show us our condition
as thoroughly, and it’s true—I hate it

when my wife reminisces
about childhood. What can I do
about it now? And her story
of the frozen hair, old and hazy,
not from age, but from
its own illumination—the porch light
and the huge flakes of snow passing
before it. Of course

the point of the story, of so many
of her stories, is, I could have died

out there, and she tells it with awe
and wonder, but
it was her own backyard
and no one knows
what might have happened. Once upon a time.
There was a little girl.

This was right after the divorce.
Her father’s new apartment. The first
weekend visitation. She can’t remember him
in the story. How did it even happen? She had a bath,
her long, golden hair was wet. She was in
a thin nightgown. How did she get through
the sliding door and into the snow?
She can’t get back
inside, so cold and tired, she lies down
on the patio. She lies down into her death, her father
just on the other side, and she dreams…

There’s a neighbor. She’s been crying
in her sleep, her cries have woken the neighbor
but he can’t lift her up,
her hair is frozen to the concrete.

The girl whose long blonde hair
froze in a snow storm, trapping her,
with nothing for protection. A father
just on the other side
of the door, but he can’t hear her calls, instead
someone distant comes.

The father is brought from wherever,
they pour warm water, a bucket,
a girl rises off the ground, too cold to feel
the cold, and the neighbor has a look
in his eye, like something bad is happening here,
and was it bad there? She can’t remember,
even the next morning

it seemed more like a dream, and she goes years
wondering if it was real. It seems too preposterous
to be truth, like Rapunzel
or Sleeping Beauty, trapped by hair, briefly parentless
in her parents’ world. And her point is,
Who ever died from their hair? But also
she wants the holes filled in—why was she outside,
how long, where was he?
It’s either the nothing that a child dramatizes,
or it’s everything real about her life,
she can’t say, and no one else remembers.


A Vision of My Death, William T. Young Library, 1998, for Ed Brown

This is where Rikki Foo is lost
in the maze of carts, carts of books,
the endless task at hand: line up
these 64 million volumes
in LC Catalog order
before the semester begins. Meanwhile,
people continue to check out,
others refuse to bring back
the overdue, invisible bugs are eating
the foreign language journals,
the narrative will never be whole.
This is the spiral,
the cupola where dissertations are housed,
the swirl unwinding on 3, 2, 1,
every imported marble tile covered
by the constant words. We’ve made an unbroken
sentence, book train that snakes every door jamb,
threading each of the 3,000 tables, teetering on stairs
down the maintenance-only hall and onto
the truck bed quaking on idle. When shelvers began
coughing blood, coughing 100 year old dust,
they brought us surgical masks
that turn brown by 4 o’clock. I push carts. A ceremony
when the first book was put in place—news crew,
library director, and then
all hell broke loose, PS’s shipped before BN’s,
HB’s lost entirely. In August shifts go round the clock,
the tension, more students return,
bars overflow to sidewalks, traffic jams on High, we discover
there’s already not enough room. They admit
there was never enough room. There were more books
than construction funds, more books than floors, more words and pages
than could ever be housed, to infinity. Who
were we kidding? We thought we could put it all
into order, a perfect moment
before the first patron gouges fuck
on the gleaming, Shaker-style tables,
spills contraband soda all over the leather chairs.
We believed it was best to control the vortex
instead of lying down in it, closing our eyes.
It’s dizzying, hypnotic—it could draw you in—
the gurgling book-ocean on 1, but I hold myself back
at the 5th floor banister. A med student will jump
in six months, breaking everything
against the marble, but no one knows that
yet. Rikki Foo pushes the next cart
into place, the train lumbers
a single foot forward. The sentence unfolds, the sentence
is churning. If we succeeded, how
would it change us? I place the next book in line,
there’s a squeaking, wheels turning,
the electronic window shades open to reveal
the ancient world beyond the glass.  


Craig Beaven recently completed a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston. Poems are out or forthcoming in American Literary Review, Cimarron Review, Marlboro Review, Rattle, Tar River Poetry, and Third Coast, and his reviews of poetry collections appear regularly in Blackbird. Currently, he is Senior Development Writer at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.