In the Heart of “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country” — A Tribute to William Gass
So I have sailed the seas and come…
It is labyrinthine. It is a snake dropping its long winter drawers to moon literary travelers. Inside the labyrinth are points of light like stars. I see them all along the walls.
Inside the labyrinth is chilly. Clouds hang, and mist, like a cold breath of uncertainty.
Gass, your name makes me think of indigestion. You must be cranky and old, having been born in 1924, having had your trees decapitated for the sake of progress, and having seen I don’t know how many depressions, despots, and wars.
In your story, what names you call students. You write Callow Bladder, Prince and Princess Oleo. I am a teacher, but my attempts pale beside yours: Gurdylocks, Mayhew, Lumber Region, Miss Fancypants. I have not your wit or your candor. Prince of Subscribe, Princess of Download, Mr. Manage-your-Kindle, Miss Twitter-heart. Yes, it is true, birds sit like fists on the wires of the world, and scientists say cell phones are the killers of honeybees. iPhoney, iPaddy, Mr. Ring-Tone-Ring-a-Dingy. Oh, Gass, I drift on your raft.
The Same Person
As you establish: I repeat, combine, and recombine. It is 2011, and I am surprised to find you still alive. What else to say? I, too, live in the heart of the country. I, too, wander amid the corn rows, believing in the brevity of life. I chant, I beg, I orate, I command, I sing—My hands glide along the esophageal wall of the great snake I am in. I touch the points of light. As I read you, William Gass, I am coming out of my retirement from love. I want to learn you. I want take you with me to the end.
Theresa Williams has poems and stories published or forthcoming in Gargoyle, Lilliput Review, Prime Number, Midwestern Gothic, The Sun and many others. Her novel, The Secret of Hurricanes, was a finalist for the Paterson Fiction Prize. She has lived in the heart of the country (Ohio) for more than twenty years. She first learned of William Gass from her teacher, Phil O’Connor, in 1987.