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BOOKS & THE CULTURE Golden Crown My fingertips now on my father’s wrist, and his rapid pulse weak, I glance out the window again, but the walk down there is empty, and dusk’s faint light is fading, though in memory I see again the brilliant column of light that poured into my father’s mouth yesterday, and polished his upper crown Years ago, the first time I saw it, I wanted to break a tooth of my own so I could be golden-throated, too But tonight, though the world is giving me little light back, I’m not sure I mind: last week the world seemed clear: though my father no longer had speech, not even anymore a whisper of speech, he still could take my mother’s hand and, gripping it carefully, bring it up to his lips and hold it there as he kissed it, again and again and again JAMES HOGGARD Two Stories In the wood stove, the wood burns, releases itself for a steady, orange flame. You button your shirt in the darkness. I can hear it; I know the sound by heart, the rubbing of fabric, the creaking of your elbows and knees. How often I wonder what it’s like inside, what voice your mind has, what it speaks in the comfort of that lock. In this small house: the distances are large. I reach out to touch the curtains, the night stand and nothing is there. My notebook is piled away in stacks of papers I haven’t read. Everything is further away than I thought: Your hand, the cats that drape their slack bodies at my feet. Hundreds of stories. What could have been said. In the darkness, sometimes I think the silence is dense, filled with hundreds of voices all just about to speak, the people in the cars driving past, the woman who reaches for a cigarette then to change the radio station. The man who pushes the clanking grocery cart full of black plastic bags. The boys up too late, one dragging a stick on the hurricane fence. What would they use their last breath to say? What was it you said? That I missed? That was the answer to everything? The water splashes into the sink, the cabinet yawns open. We are the sum of the noises we make in passing the brushing of a jacket on the tablecloth, the clink of a fork onto the counter. While the words sour in our mouths. DEBRA INNOCENTI James Hoggard, a poet, essayist, novelist, and ‘translator, is the author of eleven books, most recently Riding the Wind & Other Tales Alone Against the Sea: Poems from Cuba his second term as president of the Texas Institute of Letters, and last December was named McMurtry Distinguished Professor of English at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls. He also has received an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship and the T.I.L. Short Story Award. Debra Innocenti earned her M.F.A. in writing from Sarah Lawrence College, and teaches English at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. She has received the Voertman Poetry Award from The Center for Texas Studies and the Cultural Arts Poetry Award at Houston’s Gulf Coast Writers Conference. Her poems have been published widely, including Prairie Schooner and the red palm out of San Antonio. These poems feel exquisitely linked in their careful attention to unspoken, unspeakable moments. Naomi Shihab Nye JUNE 19, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25