Slakers shambled along the coasts, the brine in the breeze searing nostrils, lashing cheekbones and the edges of eyelids, whittling parts of faces to skin-wrapped bone. Aside from slits for vision their bodies went draped in canvas and denim, thick twill: fabrics too sturdy for perspiration to mix with the sting in the air. They pushed carts of rags and tarps and funnels and metal drums of dun-colored water, sloshing lukewarm but still able to quench and sometimes, also, to cleanse. Their ministry was as secular as the suffering it attended: pouring slim, dusky streams into withered gullets gone feathery and tight in the dusty, gagging air.
They were journeymen, they were shamans, they were witches: that’s what was said. New Bedouins of the Atlantic Coast. The Slakers were driven from dry places like a curse. … Read More »
The first account our agency landed was a fortified wine called Clouf. Roland slammed a bottle on my desk and told me to think something up before he got back from lunch. Knowing nothing about vermouth, I started to bang out a jingle on our office piano, under the impression the product was a cleaning detergent.
When Roland returned, he poured some into a six-ounce glass. “A beautiful nose,” he said, “subtly andrognynous with intimations of hyssop.”
I tried some. Clouf pretty much tasted like cleaning detergent to me. It was wine steeped with gentian root, myrrh, bitter orange peel, hops, and various secret ingredients, then fortified with brandy. It contained more glacier wormwood—Artemisia glacialis—than other vermouths, perhaps not much of a selling point.
Like field operatives, Roland and I visited the seediest Soho pubs we could find, … Read More »
For every appetite there is a world.
You starred in the movie with Maud Gonne and Socrates and Juliet and a flock of sparrows that were a fixed point like the spire of a cathedral but made of feathers. You were naked and clothed and wearing nothing visible except when you sat or stood or began to speak, and then the words were made of black yarn and your fingers held them as in an outline of reverie. You were there and not there and when I partially held you, the idea of you faded into a hint of light tinged by a window in the westernmost sky. And under the window, your face was not intimate as those of persons one loves but vaguer and therefore more intimate in its shadowed complexity. If water … Read More »