“Photograph of a Gathering of People Waving” — Clarence Major

“Photograph of a Gathering of People Waving”

by

Clarence Major


based on an old photograph bought in a
shop at Half Moon Bay, summer, 1999

No sound, the whole thing.
Unknown folk. People waving from a hillside of ripple grass
to people below in an ongoing meadow.

Side rows of trees waving in a tide of wind,
and because what is moving is not moving,
you catch a state of stasis.

Opposite of this inactivity
you imagine distant music and buzzing and crickets
and that special hot smell of summer.

To the garden past the Bay to the meadow,
cliff sheltered with low clouds, offset by nodding thistle.
Tatter-wort and Stinking Tommy along footpath
worn down by locals. But who and why?

In the photograph itself you’re now looking the other way
to unknown clusters of houses.
Where forces are balanced to near perfection.

Who could live
in such a great swollen silence and solitude?
You hear church bells
from Our Lady’s Tears breaking that silence nicely
but just in the right way so silence continues
as though nothing else matters day after day.

And anyway, each face seems so familiar.

What do you do when you wave back?
You wave vigorously.
You remember your own meadow,
your cliffside and town,
photographs forgotten,
the halfhearted motion of your hand,
your grandmother’s church-folk
gathering on a Sunday afternoon in saintly quietness.

You name the people
whose names are not written on the back.
You forgive them for wrapping themselves in silence.

You enter house after house and open top-floor windows
and you wave down to future generations like this.

Books acquired, 1 July 2020

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Scored a copy of William Melvin Kelley’s first novel A Different Drummer the other week, along with a copy of Steve Erickson’s novel Rubicon Beach. I was looking for the Kelley; I was looking for a print edition of Erickson’s more recent novel Zeroville (which I loved in audiobook), but there wasn’t one. Still, I can’t resist a Vintage Contemporaries edition. I’d been looking for a copy of Clarence Major’s My Amputations for a while now with no luck; I eventually broke down and bought one on Abebooks for five bucks. It turned out to be an old library copy with no dust jacket. No one ever checked it out. Check it out.

“The Painting after Lunch” — Clarence Major

“The Painting after Lunch”

by

Clarence Major


It wasn’t working. Didn’t look back. Needed something else. So
I went out. After lunch I saw it in a different light, like a thing
emerging from behind a fever bush, something reaching the
senses with the smell of seaweed boiling, and as visible as yellow
snowdrops on black earth. Tasted it too, on the tongue Jamaica
pepper. To the touch, a velvet flower. Dragging and scumming, I
gave myself to it stroke after stroke. It kept coming in bits and fits,
fragments and snags. I even heard it singing but in the wrong key
like a deranged bird in wild cherries, having the time of its life.