The Cortland Review


Kurt Brown
Poetry and the Language of Adam considers language from where it began—"the language of the body, the senses, the language of the Eden we have and not the ideal, abstract one we seek."

Kurt Brown

Who Knows Where and Marston’s Field, two new poems by Kurt Brown

Billy Collins

Excerpts from a conversation led by Paula Gordon and Bill Russell, a special audio program of The Paula Gordon Show.

Lucille Clifton
The Power of Mercy, a book review by Teresa Ballard, points to the unanswerable questions about race, gender, and terrorism in Clifton's latest book, Mercy.

Amy Holman
Flow, Eddy, Flood, one chapter of a novel in progress, fictionalizes a poignantly hilarious wedding disaster.

Amy Holman

Amy HolmanAmy Holman is the author of Wait For Me, I'm Gone, which won the 2004 Annual Dream Horse Press National Chapbook Competition, and A Writer’s Guide to MFA Programs, Artist Colonies and Grants, forthcoming from Perigee in 2006. She’s had work published in Verse Daily, Xconnect, Night Train, Shade, AWP JOBLetter, Poets & Writers Magazine, Archaeology Magazine Online and The Best American Poetry 1999. She guest teaches at The New School, Hudson Valley Writers' Center, and Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.

Amy Holman - Fiction


Flow, Eddy, Flood    

When Kim invited me to her wedding in Dallas, I hadn't yet been down to visit Eddy in Brazil, and the invitation was jarring and sweetly nostalgic. About six months before, I'd started receiving long letters from Eddy about his life down on the Amazon—as if I'd asked—from his anthropological work to the cast of characters he was a part of. In the letters he never mentioned how sorry he was that we didn't work out or explain why he'd never told me about his job application, the same absence of answers that was between us in the end. He'd been down there a year before he began writing to me, and his letters came to the box number I kept open at the Española Post Office. I felt angry and scared when I opened the first one and angry and scared when I finished reading. The old, chummy warmth of Eddy was everywhere in the four-page letter, a confidential tone that made me feel special for his sharing with me. I did not want to be included in this friendliness, so I did not write back. I'd been moving around and was at that time staying with my friend, Terry, in Taos, and writing the column at her computer. I went back to my p.o. box a few weeks later to get my check and found two more letters. My irritation rose thick in the throat in ready self-defense for not writing but neither letter implored me to. Instead, he drew me right into the natural landscape and the petty arguments among his co-workers, humorous exchanges in the language gaps, folkloric stories that bled into daily life. It was as if he considered me his diary or his archivist. Either I was the physical book resisting his scribbled text or I was the individual roaming the loft library and filing his letters for future reference. Again, I felt both special and taken for granted. Not a single direct word about our past, yet an intimate way of expressing things that in tiny flickers of light referenced the days and nights of our courtship two years before. In a clever way he was shadowing our storytelling and short expeditions in every story he chose to tell me about the places he traveled to along the river and through history. But he never asked me how I was, perhaps because it was too treacherous. Rather, it was the frequency and constancy of his letters that ultimately caused me—two months later—to write back.

My letters to Eddy took days to write, many versions to consider sending. Each time I considered breaking the silence and questioning him as to what he was thinking I should think about this correspondence, but I knew in my heart that such tactics would be evaded. Why be frustrated and shrill at each four-page failure to respond? Yet, I did write. I played a game of sharing, telling him about the sculptures I was building out on Berk's land, the driver's column I wrote for Foothills Femme, humorous anecdotes about the children I taught art to, and how my lovely greyhound, Gelsie, got loose and overtook the neighbor's rabbit-sized cat, which then set its owner on my house with a shotgun and caused me to skip rent and move north. Mine were easily more difficult to write because Eddy and I shared the Rio Grande in New Mexico, and we didn't share the Amazon River in Brazil. We shared people like Berk and Ray who saved wounded birds on land that edged the Navaho Reservation near Shiprock, and local proprietors of stores there and in Española, Santa Fe, and Taos. I avoided detailing conversations with these people we knew together or enclosing photographs of Kit Carson National Forest, though he sent me shots of the jungle. After awhile I found myself enjoying the exchange for what it was, and enjoying him again.

Still, I hesitated when Eddy's sister invited me into the fold for her wedding. I left the invitation on the front passenger seat of my car for weeks. I couldn't be definite. I then forgot about it when I piled other indecisions on top of it. A sculpture of mine got in a gallery in Guatemala and I was invited to the opening, which seemed close enough to Brazil to drop in on my old boyfriend. We had just a day and night before I had to go back, and it was only a little bit strange. I wasn't feeling all that well, spooked by a bad doctor's appointment, and put off by some adverse reaction to traveling and the shots I'd been given to go so far south in my home continent, but all of that washed away with Eddy's hospitality and good looks. I wrote to him before and he seemed excited, exhibiting the first signs of acknowledging us, and even a longing for me. That didn't make me think that we were going to revive anything, only that I would better be able to gauge what was happening. But we did, we fell into it, the heat and extraordinary aromas and the newness of our familiarity with each other, if I can call it that, which made us try it and once we got started, we kept going. Eddy has a way of pouring himself into me, so smooth.

When you fail to RSVP a wedding, it is read as "no, I cannot attend," and I'm pretty sure I would've been fine with that answer had I not gone down to see Eddy. Certainly, I would've been happier with myself for being polite enough to send word one way or the other, but I didn't. After I'd been back a week, the letter I received from Eddy ended with a remark about how hard it is getting a properly fitting suit and an appropriate wedding gift, and I realized he was going to be in the state neighboring mine in less than a week. I bought a green dress and filled my gas tank—again and again—Texas may be next to New Mexico, but so is the sun next to the earth. Traffic delayed me in Dallas and I was late to the wedding, heavily perspiring and nauseated from lingering gut pain. I had taken four Extra-Strength Exedrin within an hour and a half. It was sweltering heat, like being sponged continuously with warm soapy water and never rinsed. The church was a shock of fierce cold air conditioning and I was wearing a sleeveless, V-neck dress, so the climactic difference met my system like an electric shock. I swayed with a bit of vertigo, and it was the kiss—I was that late—the bride and groom turned and began walking. Eddy stood up and cheered. Then, I saw my old roommate, Elisa Talbot, standing there hugging him. The light seemed to dim a little in the room, all fuzzy. Kim said, "you two next," pointing at the two of them, which is exactly when I saw the bright search light on Elisa's finger.

There wasn't anybody in my pew, but when a woman faints and crashes to the floor, it doesn't go unnoticed. When I came to, I was horrified, and I saw Kim, Eddy, Elisa, and the groom. Kim rushed over in her beautiful gown and asked me if I was okay, and I couldn't wave her away fast enough. I vomited and a little of it hit her hem. The pain in my belly was horrendous and managed to distract me from her screech, so much so that I passed out again. When next I woke, it was just the minister's daughter I'd met coming in. I didn't know how much time had passed. She was soft-spoken but not particularly considerate. She told me that an ambulance was on its way and had probably been delayed by the awful traffic. I asked if I could get out of the church without being seen by anyone in the wedding party, or on earth, even, and she pointed to the side door, got up and handed me my purse. She didn't insist I stay for the medics but mentioned it again in case I had not heard, and instead of responding to that, specifically, I told her that I, too, had been delayed by today's city traffic and had parked a few blocks away. She asked which street and when I told her she smiled and said that it was even closer if I exited the side way. I apologized for the commotion and slipped away. My limbs were made of rubber, like they were numb and just getting back their nerves. If there had been somebody in the church who had loved me, I would never have been floating alone through the streets to my car with a vomit-stained dress and a seeping weakness. But I was alone, so I put the key in the ignition and listened to the radio play 'Heart Like A Wheel' and some long, truthful folk tune that concluded my life. I broke down and cried hard, humiliated and embarrassed by my foolishness, the mean luck. The street was quiet, thank God, because I couldn't stop sobbing and I knew I looked pitiful. I backed the car down the street out of view under a shade tree, even though nobody knew what make I drove. I just felt gargantuan and glittery. After several minutes, I took a warm bottle of water from the passenger floor, splashed it over me, rinsed my mouth and spit out the window. From the glove compartment, I took out talcum powder and a brush, used them both. I got out and wobbled to the trunk, unzipped my garment bag, pulled out a pair of beige cotton pants and a white T-shirt, shut the trunk and got back in behind the wheel. My pants went on underneath the skirt, my T-shirt over my head, and I gradually replaced my clothing. The kind of game Eddy had played with me was far too scary to dwell upon, and I kept up my toilette to keep from blinking off again. I wasn't put off by Elisa, who'd moved away to San Diego before Eddy and I broke up and kept in touch for a couple Christmas cards. We were never really good friends, just good roommates. I don't consider her a betrayer, and I wondered if she knew who she was thinking of marrying. A feverish rush came over me again, foolish, fearful, furious.

Anyway, when my gut began to twist and scrape again, I released the brake and drove onto the highway. It helped to clutch the steering wheel. I can't be in pain, I can't be in pain, I said over and over, though I was, all through my system and into my spirit.





© 2005 The Cortland Review