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BOOKS & THE CULTURE What the Day Is Like For years: paper, music, mail comes, lunch. Light coming in all morning. A book of the Conquest with a sandwich. Napping a little, lying, wake. I drink and read. The world is full of people counting time. I’d rather detour right around that landfill of bottles, those sharp and lifelong graywhite winters right around the war crawling with my arm unsocketed through the mud and bony rain. In the morning again I shave and dress. The light shines through. I think a little about the edge. Feeding Ida She rambles and chews with loose dentures, spilling everything. Who would have thought a fork could be so sharp and cold, so unsuited to the human mouth. I scoop corn. I help her so her lunch will not be cleared onto the floor. I love her body swathed in skin, her fragile fingers tearing at bread. She’s got a little curl on her chin, white eyes. She’s got her daughter’s thin and knobby wrists. I think how she was dropped into life soft as water, back when the world was mostly farm. Now straddling the river like a cypress tree, she tells me of her weeping and waking every night. She drops crumbs from her branches. She talks to me about clocks and furrows and every breath is full of food. Lady Bugs, $6.99 Swarming through the opening I’ve cut in the bag, a thousand, give or take, track to the edge of my fleshy cliff, leap into the tomato plants darkening green in the moonless night. I notice how their little legs part my forearm’s hair. They explore my invisible skin. Next day at Randall’s in the produce aisle, a little-voiced sparrow flutters through the mesh of fluorescence and dangling cardboard signs. How does everything free get so tangled? I get out because I can. Sarah Wolbach CARAH WOLBACH, originally from Utah, has lived in Texas 1isince 1983. Her work has appeared in Borderlands, Dream Machinery, Green’s, and in a special nature issue of Southwestern American Literature. She is the author of two chapbooks: Raking the Leaves and Prayers for a Busy Day. Currently she is working toward an MFA in writing at the University of Texas at Austin. She is also a devoted and frequent traveler to Big Bend. Two of her pieces printed here, “Lady Bugs, $6.99” and “What the Day Is Like,” strike me as being deeply totemicembodying our times. The lady bugs, those occasional, modest delights of childhood, now come crowded in a bag. The sparrow makes a wrong turn and ends up flapping through a store. “The world is full of people counting time.” Yet the poems themselves are strikingly lean and pared. The poems leave space for breathing and for light. The poet, while engaged as participant and listener \(to her friend Ida’s recounting of a rounder, smoother era, to hard news, to clutout,” or beyond it. Naomi Shihab Nye 14 MARCH 8, 1996