10 June 2009

Matthea Harvey

[from Matthea Harvey's Modern Life, Graywolf, 2007]

The Lost Marching Band

is often seen snaking over hilltops, the cymbal player holding his cymbals aloft like the golden ears of a giant mouse. Only the mouse shows up in bedtime stories. Parents never mention the deer found bludgeoned by flutes, imprints of keys on their cheeks and haunches. As children themselves, they'd been rushed past the oboe player found abandoned in the street, still keeping a reed moist in her mouth though one sleep in the sun had baked all music out of it. Sometimes, after a long rain has filled the tuba and the baritone and the band has taken turns drinking, they revert to their old ways. They find a field and start spelling out words -- GO TEAM, or SPIRIT. Pivot, turn, pivot. It comforts them to do it. Their unsnapped spats flap in the wind. The twirler's baton is a twig. The conductor's last gold button fell into a puddle years ago where it shone over a scene long forgotten: two teams, a ball, a game.

Emphasis on Mister or Peanut, Robo or Boy

In the chapters on Special Children, the parenting books stress the need for role models. Hence the silver-framed portraits of Mr. Peanut, the Michelin Man and Mrs. Butterworth in silver frames on Robo-Boy's bureau. Robo-Boy has never quite known what to do with them. For a while he thought they might be estranged relatives, especially since his parents never mentioned them. Mr. Peanut, debonair as Fred Astaire, looks like the kind of uncle who might tell you over steak and a cigar that with a pair of gloves and a monocle slotted over your eyesocket, you can have your pick of the ladies. Mrs. Butterworth figured more in Robo-Boy's brief religious phase -- there's something holy in her maple syrup glow, and in her shape, something of the Buddha. The Michelin Man is the one who worries him. With his perpetual thumbs-up and cheerful expression he looks like he might be hoping to hitchhike his way the hell out of here --

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1 comment:

  1. this book was assigned during my mfa experience and i just fell in love with it. i'm going back to read her first two books and it is fascinating to see her progression :)