Friday, October 20, 2017

ICE CREAM MAN





By
John L. Stanizzi





One summer, just after he got out of jail,
my cousin Eddie was our ice cream man,
and long before I’d see his truck
I’d hear bells playing Turkey in the Straw.

That meant free ice cream from
Eddie the Ice Cream Man – my cousin --
and I’d make sure all the kids
on Collimore Road knew it.

One day though
the ice cream man was not Eddie.
He was another man,
a man who looked rugged and tired

even to my seven-year-old eyes,
and I stopped short,
instantly shy and lost
at the end of my own drive-way.

The man’s hair was shiny and slick,
one arm was covered with tattoos
that had bled outside the lines.
He said What do you want?

I whispered, disappointed,
embarrassed, I don't know.
Eddie always just handed me an ice cream,
and said, Here ya’ go, little cousin.

Whatever he gave me didn’t matter;
it was instantly my favorite.
This ice cream man raised his voice --
Then what’d you come runnin’ out here for, huh?

My ears got hot
but before I could answer
I heard my father's voice behind me
from the top of our drive-way.

He spoke loudly and in a tone I didn’t recognize.
Hey, don't talk to him that way!
And the ice cream man shouted,
Who the fuck are you?

I'm his father. And he’s my son,
he hollered at the ice cream man,
who punched his middle finger
in our direction.

Then the truck lurched off
in a way I had never seen
an ice cream truck move –
sand and smoke billowing,

the engine straining,
and Turkey in the Straw
fading down the street of my childhood.
When I turned back to my father

I only caught a glimpse of his rounded shoulders
as he went back into the house,
and I stood there alone,
paralyzed in a crossfire of words.




About the poet



John L. Stanizzi is the author of six full-length collections – Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After the Bell, Hallelujah Time!, and High Tide – Ebb Tide. His work has been published in Prairie Schooner,American Life in Poetry, The New York Quarterly, Paterson Literary Review, Rattle, Tar River Poetry, and many other journals. Many of his poems have been translated into Italian and have appeared in El Ghibli, in the Journal of Italian Translations Bonafinni, and Poetarium Silva. His translator is the poet, Angela D’Ambra. John has read at venues all over New England, including readings with Carl Dennis, Gerald Stern, and Marilyn Nelson. His brand new book, a memoir written in sonnets, called Chants, will be published in 2018 by Cervena Barva Press. John is on the boards of the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, The West End Poetry Society, and he works as a teaching artist with Poetry Out Loud, the national recitation contest. He teaches literature in an adjunct capacity at Manchester Community College in Manchester, CT, and lives in Coventry, CT. with his wife, Carol, and four black kitties.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Rabelais, the Physician

By
Kathryn A. Kopple
  


     It is possible to say without hyperbole that Francois Rabelais (circa 1480-1553) is one of the most enigmatic figures of the Renaissance.  He led a peripatetic life. He was monk, scholar, translator, physician, and father.  His written output was impressive.  He lectured on Hippocrates and Galen; he worked on academic treatises; he compiled almanacs (albeit humorous); he authored  Pantagruel, Pantagrueline Prognostication, Gargantua, and  five additional books under the title Pantagruel.   Rabelais’s command of classical languages, together with his devotion to intellectual pursuits, distinguished him as a man of learning.  He scarcely fit the stereotype of a dry scholar.  Earthy, fanciful, nonsensical and playfully obscene, Rabelais enjoyed poking fun at any number of human failings:  ignorance, hypocrisy, and superstition.  For his efforts, he incurred the displeasure of the authorities on more than one occasion.  He further risked life and limb by performing a public autopsy.  To this day, we cannot separate Rabelais the physician from his comedic writings. Unless we understand his enthusiasm for pleasure and merriment, we can’t hope to comprehend that the man who wrote Gargantua never deviated from the position that laughter—even in the face of disease and death—was the best medicine.
                Donald M. Frame, in his study Francois Rabelais, provides a fine introduction to the times in which Rabelais lived.  New World “discoveries” exposed Europeans to places richer and more diverse than previously imagined; the conquest of the Indies (as the Americas were known) changed people’s lives in dramatic ways.  The Atlantic “abyss,” now deemed navigable, offered Westerners new trade routes and means of colonization.  Nonetheless, devices for telling time remained scarce.  Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, and science were nebulous.  During Rabelais’s lifetime, the French had yet to adopt to any great extent Arab numerals.   What we refer to as medicine was seen as a branch of philosophy—or “Humanism” as it was then called.   God, miracles, the supernatural, heaven and hell--all held sway in human affairs.   The Renaissance, in particular the Incarnation, was meant as a celebration of the divine; it was not to be diminished by discoveries that contradicted religious belief—at least, not if one expected to remain out of trouble.   Rabelais, given his genius and temperament, often seemed determined to court trouble.  As the saying goes, and most obviously if we consider his writings, he was not one to suffer fools—and did so only with the greatest possible glee imaginable. 
                In 1530, Rabelais, then a Benedictine monk, left the order to become a secular priest. His desire to become a physician appears to have been the motivation, although it is not out of the realm of possibility that monastic discipline didn’t appeal to him. Medicine, at the time, was based primarily in the study of Greek texts. After years of book learning, it took Rabelais a mere six weeks to become a doctor. His lectures gained him considerable recognition. His aim, however, was to practice medicine, and in 1532, he was appointed physician at a large hospital in Lyons. There Rabelais, under difficult circumstances, tended to the poor and ailing the best he could. The Hippocratic School, based in the theory of humors (the idea that disease is caused by an imbalance of the four elements: air, fire, water, and earth), also popularized by Galen, had become an object of dispute by figures such as Paracelsus; he was an advocate of alchemy, one of the earliest forms of chemistry, and took a dim view of Hippocrates. Neither alchemist nor apothecary, Rabelais was ill-prepared to treat his patients. Laudanum, credited to Paracelsus, was used for alleviating pain. Rabelais no doubt had access to other medicines. He may also have had a basic knowledge of cauterization, but the barber surgeon had to be called in for most operations. In an era in which drugs--requiring specialized knowledge of chemistry--were beginning to replace herbal remedies, Rabelais made an attempt to study alchemy and botanical treatments. He made no memorable contributions. In 1534, exhausted perhaps by the miserable conditions at the public hospital and the poor pay, he gave up his post at Lyons to become personal physician to Du Bellay, the bishop of Paris. He later returned to the hospital at Lyons.
                If Rabelais’s practical contributions to medical science were scant, his philosophical and linguistic contributions were “gargantuan.” Gargantuan is one of many words he coined to enrich the French language (for Rabelais wrote his farcical works in his native tongue).  Derived from the Spanish for “gullet,” Gargantua’s adventures are recounted in the book that bears the giant's name.  Gargantua is also the father of Pantagruel (meaning “to thirst”).   The names alone demonstrate Rabelais’s fascination with the body and its functions.   The reader can expect lessons on biology, zoology, anatomy, alchemy, natural law—the list goes on.  In the preface to Pantagruel, Rabelais writes:  “I was not born under a planet as to lie or assert anything which was not true…  And so, to bring this prologue to a conclusion: I give myself—body and soul, tripe and innards—to a hundred thousand punnets [a form of measurement] of fair devils if I tell you one single word of a lie in this whole story.”  With all of the references to innards, guts, and genitals, readers should expect many of Rabelais’s characters to have the stuffing beaten out of them.  Rabelais's humor was crude and cruel.   At a time when Renaissance painters were busily depicting cherubs, angels, the infant Jesus, and all manner of art devoted to the splendors of the Incarnation, Rabelais’s tastes couldn’t have been more different.  The ideal held little appeal for him; he was a great chronicler of the grotesque.  The grotesque too, he seems to tell us, has its truth, its place in the God-given world—and its own kind of beauty.  The wonders of  the unseemly and obscene become in Rabelais’s work a continuous source of laughter.  For Rabelais, and his admiring readers, there is no healthier sound than a good belly laugh, even in the direst circumstances—and, if we be lucky, that laughter will be accompanied by hefty quantities of wine.

Credits:  This article was first published by Unusual Historicals in 2012.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Because You Love to Dance

By
Jackie Lopez









I love you because you love to dance.

I am intrigued by your passion stance.

I salute you in the unequivocal way of the shaman.

Stand forth and hold your crown.

We have been wavering for a long time.

You are a troubadour in spirit and heart.

And, the Earth plane is at your disposal.

You have found your champion of human rights.

Start a plan.

Come for the second coming or just come over to dance.



Fanciful maneuvers are your flagrant freedoms.

You are clementine, and your divorce lawyer salutes you.

Try and escape the welfare office forever, and you will still

be devoid of anger.

I am your installment of the holiday plan.

Call me a heretic.

I shan’t repent.

I have a lot of goings-on with the Universe complete.

He tells me to watch the aforementioned developments on the planet.



And, I know the drummer.

Call me lover.

Call me easy.

Call me a wicked kisser.

But call me.

Telepathy can reach you instantaneously in all manner of geography.

Even the North Pole hears us.

I am stuck in traffic considering the fines I have coming to me.

There is sure to come a time when we are needed, most of all, as dancers.

And, just like the whales fish in the sea, we will be ready.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Poetry by Steve Klepetar


They Have Named My City a Hundred Times 


Once for a woman with golden hair,
and once for the spirit hills rising
to the west. They have called it after
a species of bird that flocked in the
pine-rich woods, but hasn’t been seen
for a lifetime or two. A king named it
for his dog, another for his horse,
a third for a gleaming ship that brought
a Bronze Age army to its shores.
It’s been named for generals and queens,
businessmen with large mustaches,
for castles, cathedrals, and banks.
One time it took its name from some
great, roaring inland sea that turned
to sand thousands of years ago, leaving
fishbone fossils in the sedimentary rock.
Every street has had a hundred names –
Pear Street became Lion Street, and then
Flood Way, or Disaster Boulevard, and when
the smoke cleared, The Avenue of Curses and Remorse.



Quiet Town

In a town so quiet it might have been
filled with nothing but the hungry

dead, three yellow birds hunted worms
on a front lawn –

three lithe lemons, or three candy
sticks, moist from the licking
of tongues.

When the sky opened, mourning doves
fluttered  toward the trees, eyes flaming,

wings obscured by smoke.
Before they could spring back into air

two small girls gathered
them in baskets woven of weed
and straw and the long, sticky sinews of frogs.


About the Author

Steve Klepetar lives in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. His work has appeared widely in the U.S. and abroad, and has received several nominations for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize, including four in 2016.Books by the Author Recent collections include: “A Landscape in Hell;” “Family Reunion;” and “How Fascism Comes to America.”


For purchase A Landscape in Hell


For Purchase Family Reunion










Wednesday, October 11, 2017

America, 'Amerika'

By
Adam Kirsch



Most writers take years to become themselves, to transform their preoccupations and inherited mannerisms into a personal style. For Franz Kafka, who was an exception to so many rules of life and literature, it took a single night. On Sunday, Sept. 22, 1912, the day after Yom Kippur, the 29-year-old Kafka sat down at his desk and wrote “The Judgment,” his first masterpiece, in one all-night session. “Only in this way can writing be done,” he exulted, “only with such coherence, with such a complete opening out of the body and the soul.”

Everyone who reads Kafka reads “The Judgment” and the companion story he wrote less than two months later, “The Metamorphosis.” In those stories, we already find the qualities the world would come to know as “Kafkaesque”: the nonchalant intrusion of the bizarre and horrible into everyday life, the subjection of ordinary people to an inscrutable fate. But readers have never been quite as sure what to make of the third major work Kafka began writing in the fall of 1912 ­— the novel he referred to as “Der Verschollene,” “The Missing Person,” which was published in 1927, three years after his death, by his friend and executor Max Brod, under the title “Amerika.”

The translator Michael Hofmann, whose English version of the book appeared in 1996, correctly called it “the least read, the least written about and the least ‘Kafka’ ” of his three novels. Now Schocken Books, which has been the main publisher of Kafka’s works since the 1930s, hopes to reintroduce his first novel to the world with a new translation, by Mark Harman. “If approached afresh,” Harman promises in his introduction, “this book could bear out the early claim by . . . Brod that ‘precisely this novel . . . will reveal a new way of understanding Kafka.’ ”

Harman offers a compromise between Kafka’s intended title and Brod’s more familiar one by calling his version Amerika: The Missing Person ($25). And he follows previous English editions by retaining the German spelling of America, with a “k.” This lends the name, in American eyes, a more ominous and alien quality than it would have for the German reader. That “k” is hard to resist, however, and not just because readers have come to expect it. No writer has ever annexed a single letter the way Kafka did with “k.” Between the two in his own last name, Joseph K. of “The Trial” and K. of “The Castle,” the letter seems imbued with his own angular essence. Amerika is not America; it is a cipher for Kafka’s dream of a country he never visited.

The difference becomes clear in the very first paragraph, when Karl Rossmann sails into New York Harbor and sees the Statue of Liberty: “The arm with the sword now reached aloft, and about her figure blew the free winds.” The torch of liberty has metamorphosed into a punishing sword, an omen of the many chastisements in store for Kafka’s victim-hero. Indeed, America itself is a punishment for Karl, who was sent there by his parents after he got a servant girl pregnant back home. What Kafka actually writes, however, is that “a servant girl had seduced him,” and when Karl remembers the fatal episode, it is clear he was more the victim than the aggressor: She “shook him, listened to his heart, offered him her breast so that he too could listen but could not induce Karl to do so, pressed her naked belly against his body, searched between his legs with her hand — in such a revolting manner that Karl shook his head and throat out from under the quilts — then pushed her belly up against him several times; it felt as if she were part of him; hence perhaps the terrible helplessness that overcame him.”



Taking into account the fact that Karl is 17 and Johanna, the “girl,” about 35, this sounds less like seduction than rape. And it is a template for the way everyone Karl encounters in “Amerika” will ignore his desires and overpower his will

In the first chapter, Karl tries to intercede with the ship’s captain on behalf of a stoker who has been mistreated, but his rich American uncle simply waves off his protests. Later, when Karl pays a visit to one of his uncle’s friends, Mr. Pollunder, his uncle treats it as a terrible transgression and cuts him off — even though Karl made sure to get permission beforehand. (This arbitrary rewriting of the rules looks forward to the unwritten laws of “The Trial.”)

While at Pollunder’s house, Karl is nearly raped once again, this time by a teenage wrestler named Klara. (“I won’t stop at one slap,” she threatens, “but shall go on hitting you left and right until your cheeks start swelling.”) When he escapes, he falls in with a couple of tramps, Delamarche and Robinson, who rob and bully him. He becomes an elevator boy at a luxury hotel but gets fired for crimes he didn’t commit. So it goes, humiliation after humiliation, until Karl ends up a virtual slave to Delamarche’s grotesquely obese mistress, the singer Brunelda.

It is enough to make the reader want to ask Karl what he demands of the stoker: “So why don’t you speak out? . . . Why do you put up with everything?” “Amerika” never provides a good answer to this question: Karl is simply helpless, unable to make sense of the world or get along in it. Not until the last chapter, when he finds a job in the enigmatic Theater of Oklahama (Harman preserves Kafka’s misspelling), does Karl seem to find a home in America — and even then, it’s possible that Kafka would have had other torments in store for him, if he had completed the novel.

Karl’s innocence is the main reason “Amerika” remains less persuasive a parable than “The Trial” and “The Castle.” To be sure, in his first novel Kafka lighted instinctively on many of the techniques he would later use to such great effect. So similar are all three novels in structure and mood that they can be seen as the successively widening turns of a spiral; each time, Kafka surveys the same spiritual territory, but from a more commanding height.

But the crucial innovation of the later novels, which makes their dream-worlds so convincingly uncanny, is the way Kafka’s avatars always seem to be colluding in their own punishment. In the first chapter of “The Trial,” when the officers come to arrest Joseph K., he thinks, “If he were to open the door of the next room or even the door leading to the hall, perhaps the two of them would not dare to hinder him.” But he doesn’t make a move to escape, just as, later on, he freely obeys the summons of the court and finally submits to his execution. It is his own sense of guilt, especially sexual guilt, that makes Joseph K. accept his trial.

Karl Rossmann, however, refuses to accept responsibility for his desires, and it is a mark of Kafka’s own immaturity that he allows Karl to be constantly seduced and abused, never to act as seducer or abuser. Compare Karl’s childlike description of sex with K.’s wholly knowing, wholly mutual encounter with Frieda, in “The Castle”: “She sought something and he sought something, in a fury, grimacing, they sought with their heads boring into each other’s breasts; . . . like dogs desperately pawing at the earth they pawed at each other’s bodies.”

Klaus Mann, introducing an edition of “Amerika” in 1946, wrote that Kafka “deeply and simply loves his innocent creature, his favorite dream, his heir,” Karl Rossmann. But it was not until Kafka accepted the guilt of his “creature” and “heir,” and confiscated all but the first letter of Karl’s name as punishment, that he could become the poet of the inexpungible guilt in all of us.

Credits:  This review originally appeared in The New York Times Sunday Review of Books

Monday, October 9, 2017

Flying with Feeling

By
Jackie Lopez










Down the roller coaster of shame


and up the electricity of happiness


I coast through a myriad of feelings.


How do you document a wrong breath?


I hijack an airplane.


I lift up a rose.


Sweet gratitude drives a stake through my heart.


Fear kidnaps my sovereignty.


I am an adulterated version of myself.


And I know exactly where to turn.


I turn to the darkness and to communion with your soul.


Your name is like medicine.


And, I am never angry for I am most fortunate.


The cabals of enlightenment have me wearing a tutu.


I prefer a dress.


I coast to the Empire State Building.


The bells are ringing.


The Earth is shaking.


The time is now.


It is the home of the sweatshops.


It is the home of the bourgeoisie.


It is the home of racism, classism, and sexism.


It is the home of injustice.


It is the home of the civil rights movement.


It is the home of the most unimaginable beauty.


And the home of the cut throat slave master.


I stick my finger in the soil before I go out


for I am flying with feelings.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Soft Moon


By Italo Calvino


According to the calculations of H. Gerstenkorn, later developed by H. Alfven, the terrestrial continents are simply fragments of the Moon which fell upon our planet. According to this theory, the Moon originally was a planet gravitating around the Sun, until the moment when the nearness of the Earth caused it to be derailed from its orbit. Captured by terrestrial gravity, the Moon moved closer and closer, contracting its orbit around us. At a certain moment the reciprocal attraction began to alter the surface of the two celestial bodies, raising very high waves from which fragments were detached and sent spinning in space, between Earth and Moon, especially fragments of lunar matter which finally fell upon Earth. Later, through the influence of our tides, the Moon was impelled to move away again, until it reached its present orbit. But a part of the lunar mass, perhaps half of it, had remained on Earth, forming the continents.




She was coming closer; I noticed it as I was going home, raising my eyes between the walls of glass and steel, and I saw her, no longer a light like all the others that shine in the evening: the ones they light on Earth when at a certain hour they pull down a lever at the power station, or those of the sky, farther away but similar, or at least not out of harmony with the style of all the rest-I speak in the present tense, but I am still referring to those remote times-I saw her breaking away from all the other lights of the sky and the streets, standing out in the concave map of darkness, no longer occupying a point, perhaps a big one on the order of Mars and Venus, like a hole through which the light spreads, but now becoming an out-and-out portion of space, and she was taking form, not yet clearly identifiable because eyes weren't used to identifying it, but also because the outlines weren't sufficiently precise to define a regular figure. Anyway I saw it was becoming a thing.

And it revolted me. Because it was a thing that, though you couldn't understand what it was made of, or perhaps precisely because you couldn't understand, seemed different from all the things in our life, our good things of plastic, and nylon, of chrome-plated steel, duco, synthetic resins, plexiglass, aluminum, vinyl, formica, zinc, asphalt, asbestos, cement, the old things among which we were born and bred. It was something incompatible, extraneous. I saw it approaching as if it were going to slip between the skyscrapers of Madison Avenue (and I'm talking about the avenue we had then, beyond comparison with the Madison of today), in that corridor of night sky glowing with light from above the jagged line of the cornices; and it spread out, imposing on our familiar landscape not only its light of an unsuitable color, but also its volume, its weight, its incongruous substantiality. And then, all over the face of the Earth-the surfaces of metal plating, iron armatures, rubber pavements, glass domes-over every part of us that was exposed, I felt a shudder pass.

As fast as the traffic allowed, I went through the tunnel, drove toward the Observatory. Sibyl was there, her eye glued to the telescope. As a rule she didn't like me to visit her during working hours, and the moment she saw me would make a vexed face; but not that evening: she didn't even look up, it was obvious she was expecting my visit. "Have you seen it?" would have been a stupid question, but I had to bite my tongue to keep from asking it, I was so impatient to know what she thought about it all.

"Yes, the planet Moon has come closer still," Sibyl said, before I had asked her anything, " the phenomen was foreseen."

I felt a bit relieved. "Do you foresee that it'll move away again?" I asked. Sibyl still had one eyelid half closed, peering into the telescope. "No," she said, "it won't move away any more."

I didn't understand. "You mean that the Earth and the Moon have become twin planets?"

"I mean the Moon isn't a planet any more and the Earth has a Moon."

Sibyl had a casual way of dismissing matters; it irritated me every time she did it. "What kind of thinking is that?" I complained. "one planet's just as much a planet as the others, isn't it?"

"Wouldn't you call this a planet? I mean, a planet the way the Earth's a planet? Look!" And Sibyl moved from the telescope, motioning me to move approach it. "The Moon could never manage to become a planet like ours."

I wasn't listening to her explanation: the Moon, enlarged by the telescope, appeared to me in all its details, or rather many of its details appeared to me at once, so mixed up that the more I observed it the less sure I was of how it was made, and I could only vouch for the effect this sight caused me, an effect of fascinated disgust. First of all, I could not the green veins that ran over it, thicker in certain zones, like a network, but to tell the truth this was the most insignificant detail, the least showy, because what you might call the general properties eluded the grasp of my glance, thanks perhaps to the slightly viscous glistening that transpired from a myriad of pores, one would have said, or percula, and also in certain points from extended tumefactions of the surface, like buboes or suckers. There, I'm concentrating again on the details, a more picturesque method of description apparently, though in reality of only limited efficacy, because only by considering the details within the whole-such as the pale swelling of the sublunar pulp which stretched its pale external tissues but made them also fold over on themselves in inlets or recesses looking like scars (so it, this Moon, might also have been made of pieces pressed together and stuck on carelessly)-it is, as I say, only by considering the whole, as in diseased viscera, that the single details can also be considered: for example, a thick forest as of black fur which jutted out of a rift.

" Does it seem right to you that it should go on revolving around the Sun, like us?" Sibyl said. "The Earth is far stronger: in the end it'll shift the Moon from its orbit and make it turn around the Earth. We'll have a satellite."

I was quite careful not to express the anguish I was feeling. I knew how Sibyl reacted in these cases: assuming an attitude of blatant superiority, if not of downright cynicism, acting like a person who is never surprised by anything. She behaved this way to provoke me, I believe (that is, I hope: I would certainly have felt even greater anguish at the thought that she acted out of real indifference).

"And...and..." I started to say, taking care to formulate a question that would show something to appease my anxiety (so I still hoped for this from her, I still insisted that her calm reassure me), "... and will we always have it in sight like this?"

"This is nothing," she answered. "It'll come even closer." And for the first time, she smiled. "Don't you like it? Why, seeing it there like that, so different, so far from any known form, and knowing that it's ours, that the Earth has captured it and is keeping it there...I don't know, I like it, it seems beautiful to me."

At this point I no longer cared about hiding my mood. "But won't it be dangerous for us?" I asked.

Sibyl tensed her lips in the expression of hers I liked least. "We are on the Earth, the Earth has a force which means it can keep planets around itself, on its own, like the Sum. What can the Moon oppose, in the way of mass, field of gravity, orbit stability, consistency? Surely you don't mean to compare the two? The Moon is all soft, the Earth is hard, solid, the Earth endures."

"What about the Moon? If it doesn't endure?"

"Oh, the Earth's force will keep it in its place."

I waited till Sibyl had finished her shift at the Observatory, to drive her home. Just outside the city is that cloverleaf where all the superhighways spread out, rushing over bridges that cross one another in spiral patterns, held up by cement pillars of different heights; you never know in what direction you're going as you follow the white arrows painted on the asphalt, and now and then you find the city you're leaving suddenly facing you, coming closer, patterned with squares of light among the pillars and the curves of the spiral. There was the Moon just above us: and the city seemed fragile to me, suspended like a cobweb, with all its light, under that excrescence that swelled the sky. Now, I have use the word "excrescence" to indicate the Moon, but I must at once fall back on the same word to describe the new thing I discovered at that moment: namely, an excrescence emerging from that Moon-excrescence, stretching toward the Earth like the drip of a candle.

"What's that? What's happening?" I asked, but by now a new curve had set our automobile journeying toward the darkness.

"It's the terrestrial attraction causing solid tides on the Moon's surface," Sibyl said. "What did I tell you? Call that consistency?"

The unwinding of the superhighway brought us again face to face with the Moon, and that candle dripping had stretched still farther toward the Earth, curling at its tip like the mustache hair, and them, as its point attachment thinned to a peduncle, it had almost the appearance of a mushroom.

We lived in a cottage, in a line with others along one of the many avenues of a vast Green Belt. We sat down as always on the rocking chairs on the porch with a view of the back yard, but this time we didn't look at the half-acre of glazed tiles that formed our share of the green space; our eyes were staring above, magnetized by that sort of polyp hanging above us. Because now the Moon's drippings had become numerous, and they extended toward the Earth like slimy tentacles, and each of them seemed about to start dripping in its turn a matter composed of gelatin and hair and mold and slaver.

"Now, I ask you, is that any way for a celestial body to disintegrate?" Sibyl insisted. "Now you must realize the superiority of our own planet. What if the Moon does come down? Let it come: the time will also come for it to stop. This is the sort of power the Earth's field of gravity has: after it's attracted the Moon on top of us, all sudden it stops the Moon, carries it back to a proper distance, and keeps it there, making revolve, pressing it into a compact ball. The Moon has us to thank if it doesn't fall apart completely!"

I found Sibyl's reasoning convincing, because to me, too, the Moon seemed something inferior and revolting; but her words still couldn't relieve my apprehension. I saw the lunar outcrops writhing in the sky with sinuous movements: there was the city, below, where we could see a glow of light on the horizon with the jagged shadow of the skyline. Would it stop in time, the Moon, as Sibyl had said, before one its tentacles had succeeded in clutching the spire of a skyscraper? And what if, sooner, one of these stalactites that kept stretching and lengthening should break off, plunge down upon us?

"Something may come down," Sibyl admitted, without waiting for a question from me, "but what does that matter? The Earth is all sheathed in waterproof, crushproof, dirtproof materials; even if a bit of this Moon mush drips onto us, we can clean it up in a hurry." As if Sibyl's assurance had enabled me to see something that had surely been taking place for a while, I cried: "Look, stuff is coming down!" and I raised my arm to point out a suspension of thick drops of a creamy pap in the air. But at that same moment a vibration came from the Earth, a tinkling; and through the sky, in the direction opposite to the falling clumps of planetary secretion, a very minute flight of solid fragments rose, the scales of the Earth's armor which was being shattered: unbreakable glass and plates of steel and sheaths of nonconducting material, drawn up by the Moon's attraction as in an eddy of grains of sand.

"Only minimal damage," Sibyl said, "and just on the surface. We can repair the gaps in no time. It's only logical that the capture of a satellite should cost us some losses: but it's worth it, there' simply no comparison!"

That was when we heard the first crack of a lunar meteorite falling to the Earth: a very loud "splat!", a deafening noise and, at the same time, a disgustingly spongy one, which didn't remain alone but was followed by a series of apparently explosive splashes, of flabby whip strokes falling on every side. Before our eyes became accustomed to perceiving what was falling, a little time went by: to tell the truth, I was the slow one because I expected the pieces of the Moon to be luminous too; whereas Sibyl already saw them and commented on them in her contemptuous tone but also with an unusual indulgence: "soft meteorites, now really, who's ever seen such a thing? Stuff worthy of the Moon... interesting, though, in its way..."

One remained stuck on the wire hedge, half crushed under its weight, spilling over on the ground and immediately mixing with it, and I began to see what it was, that is I began to assemble some sensations that would allow to form a visual image of what I had before me, and then I became aware of other, smaller spots scattered all over the tile pavement: something like a mud of acid mucus which penetrated into the terrestrial strata, or rather a kind of vegetal parasite that absorbed everything it touched, incorporating it into its own gluey pulp, or else like a serum in which colonies of whirling and ravenous micro- organisms were agglomerated, or else a pancreas cut into pieces trying to join together again, opening like suckers the cells of its cut edges, or else . . .

I would have liked to close my eyes and I couldn't; but when I heard Sibyl's voice say: "Of course, I find it revolting too, but when you think that the fact is finally established: the Earth is definitely different and superior and we're on this side, I believe that for a moment we can even enjoy sinking into it, because anyway afterward . . . " I wheeled around toward her. Her mouth was open in a smile I had never seen before: a damp smile, slightly animal...

The sensation I felt on seeing her like that became confused with the fear caused almost at the same moment by fall of a great lunar fragment, the one that submerged and destroyed our cottage and the whole avenue and the residential suburb and a great part of the county, in a single, hot, syrupy, stunning blow. After digging through the lunar material all night, we managed to see the sky again. It was dawn; the storm of meteorites was over; the Earth around us was unrecognizable, covered by a deep layer of mud, a paste of green proliferations and slippery organisms. Of our former terrestrial materials not a trace was visible. The Moon was moving off in the sky, pale, and also unrecognizable: narrowing my eyes, I could see it was covered with a thick mass of rubble and shards and fragments, shiny, sharp, clean.

The sequel is familiar. After hundreds of thousands of centuries we are trying to give the Earth its former natural appearance, we are reconstructing the primitive terrestrial crust of plastic and cement and metal and glass and enamel and imitation leather. But what a long way we have to go! For a still incalculable amount of time we will be condemned to sink into the lunar discharge, rotten with chlorophyll and gastric juices and dew and nitrogenous gases and cream and tears. We still have much to do, soldering the shiny and precise plates of the primordial terrestrial sheath until we have erased-or at least concealed-the alien and hostile additions. And with today's materials, too, concocted haphazardly, products of a corrupt Earth, trying in vain to imitate the prime substances, which cannot be equaled.

The true materials, those of the past, are said to be found now only on the Moon, unexploited and lying there in a mess, and they say that for this reason alone it would be worthwhile going there: to recover them. I don't like to seem the sort who always says disagreeable things, but we all know what state the Moon is in, exposed to cosmic storms, full of holes, corroded, worn. If we go there, we'll only have the disappointment of learning that even our material of the old days-the great reason and proof of terrestrial superiority-was inferior goods, not made to last, which can no longer be used even as. There was a time when I would have been careful not to show suspicions of this sort to Sibyl. But now, when she's fat, disheveled, lazy, greedily eating cream puffs, what can Sibyl say to me, now?

ICE CREAM MAN

By John L. Stanizzi One summer, just after he got out of jail, my cousin Eddie was our ice cream man, and long before I’d se...