Robinson Crusoe by Barbara Einzig




Robinson Crusoe; A New Fiction by Barbara Einzig



Prefatory Matter:

A Word Concerning this Entertainment

Robinson Crusoe is the first in a series of "studies" of classics, using the source text in ways ranging from the incorporation of three or four found sentences, to the borrowing of the source's sense of content, sentence structure, tone, or rhetorical device. The language is both completely my own and an engagement with that of another writer (here, of course, Defoe), and the work is thus similar to Walter Benjamin's "Task of the Translator," where translation manifests the kinship or relatedness of languages. While the languages here are both English, they are foreign in degree of time and consciousness. Defoe is a different person, speaks a different language, and writes in the English of the seventeenth rather than the twentieth century.


I would not agree with this. What you consider my idiosyncratic use of words -- I think there is a little more to it, of course. We all grow up and inherit a certain vocabulary. We then have to examine this vocabulary. And this not just by finding out how this word is usually used, which then gives as a result a certain number of uses. These uses are then legitimate. In my opinion a word has a much stronger relation to what it denotes or what it is, than just the way it is being used between you and me. That is, you look only to the communicative value of the word. I look to the disclosing quality. And this disclosing quality has, of course, always a historical background.

-- Hannah Arendt, in conversation

But then it occurred to me, that I must keep the tame from the wild, or else they would always run wild when they grew up; and the only way for this was to have some enclosed piece of ground well fenced, either with hedge or pale, to keep them in so effectually, that those within might not break out, or those without break in.

-- Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe



Robinson Crusoe; A New Fiction  



I was born in the year 1951, in the town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the county of Wayne, in a Catholic hospital, near the large family of my mother, daughter of a rabbi and an apartment house manager, and that of my father, a young handsome man whose virtue shone. They both got a bad estate, by infinite loss, that made all things hence finite. It was a legacy of finitude, growing up in the place where the homes of their aunts, uncles, and grandparents had been claimed by strangers or destroyed, my mother's mother having lived in Herinche, Hungary, a good country, with houses, grasses of many kinds, trees, fruits, sweets, and good water that was always cold. My mother's father went to pray at 2 a.m., returning in the morning and then sleeping until the afternoon. The whole family sang beautifully.

My mother enters this story early by necessity, for she left off her trade, and raised us; having married my father, whose relations were long ago named Egyes, being it is told the only Jews in that place, Kisvarda, also of Hungary, but after whom I have not been strictly called, but known instead as, Barbara Einzig; for by the usual corruption of words in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, we were called, nay, we call ourselves, and write our name, Einzig, and so my companions always called me.

I had two elder sisters -- the first-born wore a black sweater, president of that club we formed, formerly existing in Little Women, and before that in the Pickwick Papers, but this one has since become a social worker in Cambridge. The other was fair in complexion, with dark hair, and of a mind inclined toward analysis; she watched things as they were about to happen, ready to smile, and now wanders certain islands to the west, shirt out. Another sister I had who was younger than myself, I greeted her birth, this was in California, of which in its place I will tell more, and what became of all of us we are still knowing.

Early in his life, while still a boy, my father had thought of venturing forth into that sphere that came to be known, in the ensuing decade, as "creative writing." This plan was set aside in his employment with the Ford Motor Company, from which he was permanently distracted by an invitation to teach at a university. He did so while completing his degree in economics at another school, a circumstance which, although illegal, enabled him to support the family while summing things up for himself.

Crawling around and looking at everything closely, and being held by a wide variety of arms, most acquainted by blood, yielded to walking, to riding, to new horizons. When I was thirteen months of age, my two sisters moved with my parents and me across the country. Of this trip I remember very little, or imagine that I remember very little, or there is very little in the imagined memory that exists, only a motel room that is dark with me small and rocking in it, and a green De Soto with three seats, proud and mobile. Coasting down a propitious hill from the desert into a gas station, just in the nick of time, we arrived at last in California, whose historic and idiosyncratic attractions remained unannounced or otherwise indicated by my parents. Yet I sensed them: to get away from the harsh and muddy snows of winter, to flee a world dense with family, in which privacy was nonexistent, and one was surrounded by furniture covered in plastic, and boats of melon-balls repeatedly appearing as table centerpieces; in short -- to break away, to move toward something else . . . something benign, ambitious, unencumbered by eastern prejudice, or by what seemed to evoke that prejudice: belief.

Belief figured largely in that place from which we rolled downhill. Mother sang a unique mixture of songs, from which I sought to surmise, to chart the coordinates of, what larger and more distant place she had inhabited as a child. However, she generally sang songs from the forties, popular songs that in a light and fervent voice contrasted strangely with her teachings. Around the corner and under a tree a gallant sailor made love to me. He kissed me once. He kissed me twice. It didn't mean a thing to me but gosh it was so nice.

Much later, it was reported to me that certain motels across the country refused our entrance on the grounds that we were Jewish, but as a child I regarded that attribute as a private one of my mother's, a sort of personal mood that sometimes overcame her, as a small shrine to the ominous, as shut in mystery as the reason for our family's car trip west. Perhaps Mother even made it up. For being Jewish was something like the cracking leather of the third seat of the De Soto, beneath which something else, resembling foam rubber, began to spill.

Being the third daughter of the family, and not bred to any trade, my head began to be filled very early with rambling thoughts. At first, to be sure, they ranged over the close neighborhood, for the suburb in which we dwelt was not a mean one: great oak trees spread their boughs over the quiet streets; lanes and parks existed for walking quickly out of sight or hearing of automobiles; the labors of housewives and of oriental gardeners created beds of color. The earth blossomed forth in roses, carnations, the green flowers called lettuce-hearts of artichokes were hidden in strange, formal plants. My mother served as capable guide to this world, exhibiting such curiosity concerning the variety of flower inhabiting a particular border that the owner nearly always sent us home with a slip to be fostered, after engaging in conversation slow, gentle, pragmatic. Seeds, earth, light, and water were required. Plants grew and vanished in time, a phrase sounding like "in water." Time had physical possibilities; things could be given out and absorbed back into it, as if it were a sponge. I was the last in my class to learn to tell time, and, against the background of my usual quick learning, this was enough of a difficulty to, before I finally mastered it, cause me to imagine the most pathetic future: I would be old, standing on a corner, intending to meet someone at four o'clock, looking at my watch and only seeing a little hand and a big one. With shame I pulled up the sleeve of my sweater to fully show the timepiece to a passerby who, in this sad imagining of mine, never understood what it was I wanted.

Knowledge was greatly valued by my family, and I was sincerely thankful for this condition, most generously exemplified by my mother who, rather than crowding our shelves at home, not only borrowed from but purchased books for the library, where a poster was established on which a sapphire globe was spinning; people of different cultures danced upon it, as if twirling it with their feet, and above them the emblem READ: TRAVEL THE WORLD floated in promise.

My father in his early teens had read most of the public library, measuring it off in a deliberate quota of inches per week. Now he brought reports home with which he surrounded his chair, piling them on the small table beside which he sat, in an easy posture of friendly survey. He had a group of orange paperbacks that grew steadily, on a monthly basis, The Journal of American Economics. They were a complete set -- from the beginning. His life was abundant, luxuriant: in his desk drawer was a bowl always full of change, and he arrived home from the train laden with large cardboard charts on which economic indicators zigzagged in colored tape, revealing levels of productivity as the paling or blushing of an eternal economy's face. His preoccupation with such matters conceived, as he told me, in the war, out of a concern to fathom what mattered, what made it work, did not serve in those days as a barricade between us, but as a kind of running board of discourse, on which I might stand outside the body of his vehicle, to be sure, yet able to speak through an always open window. The weather was fine. And had I confined my wayward thoughts it might have so continued, but they could not rest on any horizon line, neither of argument nor of faith and, as I will tell, ranged without considerations of circumstances or consequences, and in an ill hour, G-d knows.



The cloud in my blue sky first evidenced itself by certain peculiarities of my faculties of perception. Even before I could speak I began to notice the asymmetry of faces, how one eye looked out direct and unafraid, with soft determination, and the other seemed partly fallen inward in the darkness of the pupil, back in the hollow space possessed by the head. This other eye seemed both detached, abstract, and more private and personal. It was thinking of something that was not seen in the space before the eyes, it was seeing something that was not visible in the space before the eyes. But whether it was seeing something that belonged like a favorite memory, purse, or shirt to the person who had the eye, who possessed this eye and used it, or whether the eye saw something that the person herself could not see but with this eye, so that the eye formed a kind of foreign witness, was not clear to me.

As Goethe so wisely said, "We see only what we know," so I began to think that my family joined me in this certain freedom of association beginning to blow about me. My eldest sister, in particular, conducted herself with an obstinacy that I mistook for a more philosophical practice, conceiving her behavior to be a conscious art of contradiction, as it were. She was an excellent pianist, and my mother acknowledged the importance of her recital by buying her a white organdy dress, with black velvet ribbons, for this occasion. My sister, aware of my mother's intention, wore jeans, appearing suddenly in them on stage. She played well with her long fingers that seemed older than her, and concluded her performance by shyly rising from the polished bench, turning to face the audience. She tipped her body slightly forward as if to curtsy, though the effect was one of being inadvertently pulled or straightened, and with exactly the same degree of indifferent movement her lips slightly parted. It was a smile as sure as it was quick, like the glimpse of a motive behind the face, one related to the movement of her hands over the keys, black and white as her dress should have been, and then she fled into the wings, and no amount of applause could bring her back. I imagined this same art in my father's conversation on our frequent walks. The police of the town lived in a station bordering on a beautiful square outlined with walnut trees. At the right time of the year my father and I would go and gather walnuts. I was uncomfortable as we walked, for he told me of a country, a country of mixed-up things. He spoke of it only when his days were most lacking in exhilaration, in a tone of voice implying that there was more, but that it was too far in the past, and now could exist only in fragments. Green, black, soft, bruised, fibrous shapes encountered our shoes while walking. Picking them up and putting, them into our brown paper bags, my father would quote from Shakespeare: "I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself king of infinite space . . ." but I did not know what followed these words.

I began to read whatever my eye fell on. De Soto had a helmet all of gold; it was on the front of the car where everyone could see it, and on the trunk where the key went in; the ashtray too was concealed by this image, this time outlined in relief and with no separate color. In school I learned he was the sworn companion of Ponce de Leon, who, it was said, searched for the Fountain of Youth without finding it. This fable was held in check by the teacher's cautioning it might be only a legend. I saw them both wandering for at least four years through a tangle of violet Florida dusk (darkness was always falling on them), knee-deep in brackish water. De Soto was wearing the helmet that gleamed intently, though with increasing dullness toward the end. His eyes were the same black-green as our car.

Sometimes I said to my parents, "What kind of place are you from?" endeavoring to find out if I was deciphering correctly. "What was it like?" I asked them. Yet a lack of definition pervaded the resultant accounts. I saw them too as partners in a twilight whose atmosphere had about it the same uncertainty in new territory, belonging (really) to some others. This twilight had black in it too-it was almost purple.

Nothing can be a greater demonstration of the existence of an invisible world, than the concurrence of second causes with the ideas of things which we form in our minds, perfectly reserved, and not communicated to any in the world. And the idea in my mind was this: when I thought of the word "house," conjured up was all the richness of this house I then lived in, with a power disproportionate to its humble frame. A closet shut off from the inside the window visible as ornament on the exterior; and I now got it into my head, as it were, that the word "house" was to me no more than this window, impossible to look through from the inside, a one-sided word only, as I only knew one house that thus formed my entire conception of what this sound might mean, and how many actual other houses did its meaning to me then shut out? In short, where my mind had wandered, my body was now desirous of following -- at least around the comer.

Our backyard was dignified by an immense Fire Tree, easily the tallest tree within sight, and bound with ropes to limit its sway in wind. Next to the brick circle girdling the trunk, a small stone dwarf held his post. One day, as if reading my thoughts, he spoke to me, asking me to join him in leaving our garden and wandering throughout the neighborhood. Heeding his plea, I sought to lead him by the hand which, despite his inner resolve, remained fixed. to his hip in a confident gesture, belying his helplessness. As I was not large enough to pick him up and carry him, I resolved to as gently as possible lower him to the ground, and then to carefully drag him out of the garden, hoping that the spirit of animation would soon enable him to rise and walk on his own. The hard crack with which he hit the patio affected only the sack that he carried in his other hand, slung over his back, filled with earth and planted. Breaking it in two, the alarm was thus sounded; his freedom was not to be. He was restored to his former place, while I was closely watched.



At the age of five I pursued romance on paper, my own small scale of youth allowing me to magnify the most minor sensation to one of significant and erotic import, life being then a gate palpably swinging open; by seven I had abandoned this enterprise, writing instead tales of gods and heroes, and again my lack of experience in the world enabled me to envision everyman, even suburban man, as his own sovereign being. By nine I noted that men figured almost solely in these plots and, as I sought to surpass journalism, turned to my own sex, laboring upon historical novels revealing both the political and mercantile power of women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. My father had until this time taken all the manuscripts, as they were completed, on a shining plane to New York to be published. He brought me back tiny pilot's wings and soap; my mother had insisted on a pen name, citing by way of precedent the Bronte sisters, and with passion and entreaty quoting Emily's "To Imagination": "So hopeless is the world without/The world within I doubly prize. . ." She barred my books from the household in order, she said, to preserve my childhood. So it was that my public persona was to me but another fiction.

My father, fearing what he termed my "youthful lack of discrimination," trembled at the possibility of a dangerous by-product being accidentally created and released through the combining of women and history within one literary vessel. My work, he argued, began to approach poetry, wedding all things, and, nearly beside himself, he warned that should I continue on my present course I might return us to the era prior to Adam Smith, whose most important achievement had been in divorcing political economy from ethics. This I failed, being of so few years, to understand, comprehending only, on his return from a layover in Chicago, the tears running down his face and his outstretched hands, offering me my favorite chocolate mints and, with regret, my manuscript. He had determined, after much thought, that my publishing career should end.

Both father and mother now counseled me to write no more, literature like storytelling being the proper domain of children, now to be left behind. My father, after showing a great concern for it, said to my mother, with a sigh, "That girl might be happy, if she would stay her pen; but if she writes on, she will be the most miserable wretch that ever was born: I can give no consent to it."



I was sincerely affected with this discourse, as indeed who could be otherwise? and I resolved not to think of writing any more, but to give it up, according to my father's desire. But, alas! a few days wore it all off; and in short, to prevent any of my father's farther importunities, in a few weeks after, I resolved to close my bedroom door on him, and speak only with my typewriter which, by cruel happenstance, he had presented as a gift, who now protested its use.

Now when I was not in my desk chair, I could be found at the public library, though if found I was increasingly insensible to the finder, and only conversed with books. Beneath the Eichler facade of the structure in which I went about my preparations was a wilderness of information, and one question concerning the course of this current enterprise of mine would but demand another. I began my research with my old confidence that had first been planted in my breast when, blessed by my parents and the world at my feet, words flowed in measure exact and cadenced, in a sequence that, like a good victim, was easily followed. The original continent for which I set out required but a modest voyage: I wrote of my mother's mother sailing for this country. She was leaning heavily against the ship's railing, dressed in a suit of faded navy blue gabardine, and around her a small society of women spoke together in low voices. She looked out at the surface of the ocean . . .

Her mind was blue and white and churning. She was not rolling down a hill from somewhere. Was she fleeing? My grandfather had come earlier to escape the draft. There were three little children close by her long skirts, my baby aunts and uncles. What were their names? Where had her husband acquired the funds to send for her? Was he working as a kosher butcher? No, he could not stand the sight of so much blood. What then occupied his days? The word "hasidic" was entirely opaque to me at this time, having not even a one-sided meaning. It was a foreign, closed word, a seed or kernel or nut which I had no tools to break open.

I recalled my father's tone of voice when he described how the old man with the long white beard was "all involved in that stuff . . . is it too much this way . . . is it too much that way . . ." This made me resolve to quit thinking upon it, to return to a short story of my grandmother's adaptation to the New World, which I might climax with a visit to Bloomingdale's if it then existed, but even as I sought this information, my mind once more took up its scarcely charted course. Library hours were no longer sufficient for my search after this knowledge -- to find it, to dig it, to temper it, to bring it home, to work it -- I enlisted the assistance of my younger sister, who rigged with me a tolerable contraption by which we could raise and lower the books through the window, that they might not be seen.

Always I had begun thus, a theme buoying me up, as the ground of plot formed itself and then was peopled with characters. But O! how what we mistake with pleasure for solid ground is but a linguistic hammock we lie suspended in, whose ropes may slacken and then collapse . . . never any young writer's misfortunes, I believe, began younger, or continued longer than mine. On the 1st of September, 1961, 1 settled in beneath my thermal blanket, with flashlight in hand, and began reading an account of the childhood and early years of Rabbi Nachman, the years being those of 1772 to 1798. Where had my grandmother gone? Where was she then? I learned that Nachman had possessed a tiny voice, as small as the pilot's wings, with which he could cry out in such a way that it rang throughout the spinning globe of the poster, yet was not even noticed by the common men standing next to him. Similarly he claimed to perform a dance so delicate as to escape detection. I had learned that my grandmother made little hats with holes, knitted or crocheted, and by that plague of connection which was to be my ruin, I carried home a large old book on lace; at night I found that the flaxen thread of Flanders (that country in which the Brontes were schooled) was of such tenuousness that it had to be spun in underground caverns, where the atmosphere was sufficiently moist. And now I came upon an echo of my father's advice, for in further studies of Nachman it was told how the moment the teacher's back was turned, he would flee the classroom, to be found later wandering in the woods, knowing, the book said, even at a young age, that G-d was not to be found in the world of books. The heights made me dizzy, I read about birds, learning that behavior determined by inheritance is inflexible. Two species of lovebirds were paired: one transported nest material by tearing off strips of bark or leaves and tucking them between the rump feathers, the other carried the material in its bill. The children of this unhappy couple tried to place the nesting stuff between the rump feathers, but then pulled it out again, feeling the need to carry it by bill which, nevertheless, was a habit it took them three years to firmly adopt. My short story was abandoned. I wrote all these things down, and the rumpled notebook that contained my new work held nothing but quotations.



I continued my work upon this book the most like a fool that ever woman did, who had any of her senses awake. I pleased myself with the design, without determining whether I was able to undertake it; not but that the difficulty of launching my book came often into my head; but I put a stop to my own inquiries into it, by this foolish answer: Let us first make it; I warrant I will find some way or other to get it along when it is done. This was surely a sea of uncertainty in which I now ventured, against how many signs. I had never been upon it before and it was enough to affect me then, who was but a young writer, and had never known anything of the matter. Previously I had confined my style to that of Irving Stone in *Immortal Wife,* but now, still obsessed with every form of head-covering imaginable (why I could not say), I found that a man named Rufus had cured a person who was suffering from the delusion of having no head by ordering him to wear a helmet of lead. De Soto's helmet of gold, heavy and shining, once again worked its spell upon me; I discovered that all of the records kept concerning his explorations in Florida were dubious, the entries not made from day to day "but at irregular intervals as opportunity presented at the several resting places."

Discouraged and exhausted, I slept. I was De Soto, and my grandmother the Indian queen who was my prisoner and hostage; I needed her to lead myself and my men by the direct trail toward the west, where I could see far off what appeared to be a high, light green female statue, holding what looked like a torch or flashlight, but we walked on, I still did not know our whereabouts and, turning, found her gone. What grief I experienced when I realized that she had taken with her a small box of pearls that I had intended to take back before releasing her, but had left with her for the time being, by way of consolation.

I looked down in dejection, and saw that my Spanish costume was gone, and that I had on an American Gl's uniform. I was walking out a door; I was in a war. It was a war that went on without victory or magnitude. I wanted to reenter civilian life, to be again reduced to flowering inside my notions of what I had considered to be human, but those days seemed to have gone. Suddenly they had departed, as a flock of birds when a person walks out a door; it did not seem I moved suddenly but for the frightened flocks of birds lifting precisely at the moment my foot came down on the ground in its first step, as if the step released them -- helium balloons, tied to a girl's braids, they stay up.



I had fallen asleep in the daytime, not in the night, and at the library, not in my room. Things had gotten mixed up. The linoleum of the adult section was cold. This touched me sensibly -- I would write down this account, and then have no more of it, and well may the reader know why. I have told certain facts of my own life, indeed many of those most basic, with an air of dubious certainly. Perhaps I do not really remember this, and someone only told it to me? Most likely my mother or my sisters. So that when I reported where I was born it was with a sense of being a counterfeiter, shining the false silver currency of my biography and catching your vulnerable eye. Eyes have an affinity for money, often decorating the notes themselves.

I only wish to recount one more incident, which occurred much later, after I had become reconciled to silence, or, if the truth be told, to keeping my notes to myself.

Although I have been born into an age full of record-keeping and as much fond of it, my own father and mother recounted, as I have told, little of the personal past, little of our personal past. For surely, as a family, we possess one in common.

The way things looked to me was now considerably altered; what I saw I knew to be the visible portion of something extending into another, differently trafficked dimension, a piece of lumber sticking out from the bed of a truck, tagged with a red flag.

Shortly after my awakening in the library, my family took a vacation trip to visit the relatives in Michigan. Upstairs in an attic room, at the head of a steep flight of stairs in my favorite aunt's house, overwhelmed by the size and force of my mother's family, I was trying to count them on my fingers, with the help of my eldest sister, to order them, to comprehend them. In the midst of this mental housekeeping, my cousin came forth, eager to assist in acquainting us with our family of origin.

"There is Harry, and he is married now to Helen. They have three children, Joe, Michael, and --. There is David and his wife Miriam, she's pretty and her hands shake, and they have three children. There's Bess, married to Aaron, that's us, Ellen and Paul. There's Peggy, divorced, three children, she's the oldest, Suzy, Mary, Terry. And Suzy and Terry have children too, Terry's got the twins and Sam. There's Jerry, married to Leslie, she's weird, there's Ezra, he's single, he lives in California. Did he go out there before you? There's your mother, that makes seven, who else?"

And however many there were, there was a new mystery: Sally, living in an institution for years, visited occasionally by the family. I knew then that while I had been working on my last book, my mother must have imagined that I would be taking after her, after Sally, as I walked down the street, my head like a locket. I wished to enliven the world with my imagination.

So to my story: one day in high school my mother and I were discussing a close friend of mine, Eddie Cohen, who had frequented the Sunday school my mother had begun, one stressing holidays and food. He had been arrested the night before and taken inside the station, the one I have told of, with the walnut trees around it. That was because he had been at another park, where all the children played during the day, and had commenced talking to a tree. Then he apparently took off his clothes and began trying to uproot WITH HIS HANDS, my mother said, the large oak standing there. He was on LSD, and the police took him into that little room in the station, because he was OUT OF CONTROL. And in this room whose size continued to reduce itself as the narrative progressed -- a room lined with books, the police library -- they sat Eddie down, and left him there until a course of action could be decided. In the meantime, Eddie looked at the books and began to destroy them. Whether he simply threw them around, or actually tore pages and bent bindings, I do not know, only that he was subsequently taken to a hospital where, few people having ingested that drug then, he was given a sedative so powerful as to cause his heart to beat more and more slowly until he scarcely breathed. He drew near "the undiscovered country," and, the danger to his life becoming clear, another drug was given to speed the heart, and then who knows what happened.

My mother recounted this tale, and I grew heated . . . the foolhardiness of Eddi; not to have walked into the forest, the hills, the parks and lanes I have told of where, in such a brief span of time, privacy could have been gained. Yet I saw that this had been a deliberate performance incapable of provoking an adequate response; it was too frightening to the townspeople for Eddie to be naked in the park, challenging the solidity of oaks. Surely the remedy taken was excessive, an inept response to a harmless threat, for Eddie was hardly able to pull up the oak barehanded. About fifteen years later in the history of the town many oaks were uprooted in wind, falling on houses and cars, crushing them within an act of divine will, as the insurance clause read, a natural disaster that could not be attributed to any human agent, and thus could not contain any element of fear, aside from the moment it had happened. In fact this rare clenching of G-d's fist by its force drew the neighborhood together. Although if one's neighbor had a large oak which threatened to fall on one's house, a gradual distance might evolve between the neighbors, the one perceiving the other as a possible agent of death, such an agency would be hard to prove in a court of law, and hence their tension could only constellate a subtle and common form of disgruntlement: wind uprooting oaks could be fathomed. Then why this calamity with Eddie?

And my mother explained that no harm had been meant, but that he had been acting crazy over there in the park TALKING TO A TREE. I told her I had often talked to trees (but they don't listen to me) and she began arguing, and meanwhile was making sandwiches so went into the kitchen, and she was screaming and going into the refrigerator, and then, withdrawing from the refrigerator, looked at it, and, imitating with her eyes and surrounding face the look of a crazed person, said, IS THE REFRIGERATOR ALIVE. She commenced the telling of how her sister Sally thought when she went crazy that the bedsprings were alive and the refrigerator was alive. Unaccountably the meaning of craze as a fine crack in the glaze of enamel of pottery came into my head, as it were, followed by a rapid, silent inquiry into the history of refrigerators, when they first existed, but then I came to my full senses and knew my mother to be worrying that what happened to Sally might happen to me -- first Eddie, then me.

I reassured her, knowing what thickets thoughts may fall into if allowed to go ungoverned, and remembering the birds rising all at once.

At that time young, fresh, and easy as any girl child, for all my adventures, I recovered my composure, completely unruffled. But at this time this tale of hers implanted another closed mystery in me, a combination lock whose numbers one later forgets when one finds it, shut, a black-and-white clock with no hands, an inherited locket with an unidentified miniature inside, gold and engraved with initials that now appear almost arbitrary, except for the anxiety they now evoke.



Robinson Crusoe; A New Fiction was published by Membrane Press (Light and Dust Books). The complete text is presented here.

© 1983 by Barbara Einzig.




Return to Light and Dust Poets

Light and Dust Mobile Anthology of Poetry