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BOOKS & THE CULTURE / These Days These days I have little, waking up without even a hangover to instruct my conduct, having called it quits the world returns the favor. There is, of course, a modest inventory of neglect: eyes gone cocked, teeth rusted through, poor spiritual hygiene and the quag of memory, like gray meat going bad on the bottom shelf. Everywhere I went I learned something. The things nobody talks about in poems, for good reason, I suppose: Christmas. Swaggering 19th-century sunsets. Getting a jobthe fist-stuffed in-the-leaking-life variety. Or not getting a job. Sitting around. Sleeping later and later. The piggish childheartedness of doing something utterly useless like waiting for grace or mercy, like this. How does the world so often inept in other matters smell you out unerringly and cruise on past? People who did it right waving yes, some waving and fondling their tangibles at the same time. “To behave steadfastly in such circumstance is a violation of natural law.” “Whatever is possible must be accomplished.” Everywhere I go I learn the same thing. Believing in Texas 1 Distance, first of all. The long drift toward the Rockies, the slant to Mexico and the Gulf. Rising or falling the same titanic tilt. The sky for scale. Tall tale: lanky space, range for homespun quirks. Corporate truth: distance owned by signature, strands of figures right to the edge of the map. 254 counties. 2 A man leaving his car on the Interstate, walking out, then into wallowing trot like a ship going down in the trough and swell of it. Conrad’s frigate lobbing shells into Africa. 3 Presiding, a thug-like sun. Too heavy to climb far. The thick exhale of light greases and burns like a film of oil or mixes with dust to mimic the frontier. 4 Whatever must be said rides a drawl. A chance for words to linger the distance that they have to go. Or headlong Spanish speed and spermy volume getting something through. 5 Northern words set out with their usual mortal wounds, fidelity or something scaling away, desiccated by more and more Houston and Hogback Dallas and Sinking Springs albinos, craving pigment, remembering fall. MILES WILSON Miles Wilson received the John Simmons Short Fiction Award from the University of Iowa Press for his collection of stories, Line of Fall. His poetry and fiction have appeared in The North American Review, Poetry, The Iowa Review, The Sewanee Review, and Southwest Review. New work is forth coming in The Georgia Review, The Gettysburg Review, and Inter disciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment. He has held a fellowship in fiction from the National Endowment for the Arts. Naomi Shihab Nye 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 7, 1997