One of my earliest attempts at long fiction finally evolved in Diving Into the Moon. It’s one of my Hiram stories, with roots in, and elements derived from, my time at my undergraduate alma mater. The book follows the career of one Emma Truvain, destined to become America’s most famous, or infamous, poets– based way back at the beginning on my love for Edna St.Vincent Millay.
From DIVING into the MOON
Sunlight. One star. Moonlight.
In years to come it was hard to remember what came first, what came so late there was almost no opportunity to remember. Times converged at a single point on the horizon like the lines of an old brown painting. Orion shone blue-white over Udall’s bridge. Capella glared low and ruddy in the cemetery maples. Around the red brick prong of Hiram College the Great Bear swung remote and restless. Amish buggies clattered on the brick streets, and when the children of the town heard them they knew it was safe to sleep and dream. Silver Creek between its banks murmured and slept and waited for someone to awaken it, confident that such a one would never come.
Eleanor’s memory made it perpetually September, the corn rows set east to west, perpendicular to the road so you could look a long way in, to where the aisles converged in vegetable blue. At the top, where the road flattened out onto Pioneer Trail, stood the Amish farmhouse: white, uncurtained, with its black carriage, black horses, the hair of the children pale as corn silk. They looked up from their chores when one passed, and never spoke. At the field’s far edge the natural-gas pumps reared and dropped like monstrous egrets.
September was the fat thrush in the thicket, singing his heart away.
September was the Queen Anne’s lace like ladies’ hats with their one inexplicable splash of purple.
September was the month of the beginning of labors, of the ripening of labors begun long ago.
Eleanor walked in September memory under a light forever blue, dry, immutable as the blue of a jewel. She called it “blue” but “blue” wasn’t enough. Blue the wild chicory hinted at. Blue of Siloam, blue of the waters that lie above the earth. Blue over all, blue arched and domed like the roof of a great church in a book. Oh, blue sky, blue sky she chanted as though it heard her, and would respond with love, She looked in her boxes of pastels for the softest blue, a robin’s egg lace, the wing of an ephemera. If she could touch that blue with her hand it would ring. If she asked it in the right way, it would reveal the figures moving past her, mysterious in that first moment, without names and without a history, lost.
Eleanor stopped at the exact right spot on the brown road. The easel banged her shins until she ground its three legs it in the dirt, until she angled it to meet the wind on its narrowest side. She came to paint.
She listened as she worked. She waited for somebody to call her name from the cemetery where gray stones marked the sleep of the Tildens and the Allyns and the Bancrofts and the one lone Haupt, her exhausted mother under her rhododendron tree. Year after year Ryder Road lifted from her house at the edge of the cemetery to the Amish farm perched on the hill. The blond children stared and never spoke. Year after year the St.John’s wort, the vetch, the Queen Anne’s lace covered the gashes of ditches, the whitening bones of road kill. The voices calling from the stones changed, ghost faces melting back into the granite when she turned to answer. The road itself changed so slowly no one lived long enough to see.
If she would call to me. . . if she would whisper what it all was for–
Eleanor came to paint. She worked the legs of the easel firmly into the soil facing the chocolate road between the tossing fields. She chose blue. That blue, the one which was momentarily perfect. That blue alone on white canvas was sufficient. She needn’t touch it. Walk away. Let it be. A strike of blue upon blue-white under all that blue. She squeezed the tube a little harder, though the last stroke had been perfect. The next one would be less, and the one after that less still, but the world goes forward, doesn’t it? How could it be helped?
She had grown so old, When the wind whipped her hair in front where she could see it, it was gray. How had this happened?
Oh it is gray. . I am gray. . . the gray against such blue is almost beautiful.