Christine Deavel

:: A cloudy day :: A cloud day :: A snowy morning :: Thawing ::
A frost morning :: A pleasant day :: A thawy day :: A misty day

After the writer of the diaries passed away
the diaries played as a loop
The first day as alive as any in them

:: 8 above zero :: A misty afternoon :: A nice day :: A nice day ::
A mild day :: A snowy afternoon :: A gloomy day :: A cold wind

The rows of volumes stood up
and opened themselves to the eternal
June 23, 1914 is a picture on the wall
If everyone there is dead then that is living
Only we the alive are truly dead
Dead to all (to the so much vaster)
but the present

:: A stormy day :: Snows some :: A rainy day :: A rainy forenoon ::
A nice day :: A dreadful wind :: A damp morning :: Rained a little

ink was sipped onto the page
ink is sapped from the narrow page
reading is reedy

:: A hot day :: A warm day :: A heavy rain

I am slipping
through her rushes

I have ended up with a set of diaries from a distant relative. I say ended up as if something were complete now and settled. My father, who had them before and had his packaging store send them to me, is a closer relative and knew her, the writer of the diaries. He thinks the situation is settled now and that the diaries are in their proper place. The story is complete. The road has ended here.
A road may be used to go two ways. I had not planned on travel.
Sarah’s diaries cover over 50 years. She lived her entire life in rural northern Indiana, not far from where I was born. I am resisting being precise. No, that’s not exactly what I mean. I am resisting the fencing in by numbers and names and something more. I would say facts, but then I think you’ll resist believing me. I would like us both to stand in the same place.

:: We sew :: We wash :: We did Saturday work :: We finished quilt ::
We bake bread :: We washed :: We cleaned upstairs :: We washed
and sewed :: We made molasses :: We finished ironing :: We work
at cherries :: We ironed and scrubbed :: We dry corn :: We dry corn ::
We wash start coal fire & wrap sweet potatoes :: we sew
I would like to study the day’s lesson from the Book of Sarah,
who hath done what she could.
I am reading each of her days for a double score and more,
and I know her not.
I am untutored and reading the text of Sarah.

:: We washed & canned 15 quart pickles :: We set strawberry plants ::
We work at Mary’s red skirt :: We butcher 3 hogs for us 1 for Maggie

I read her days
yet she knows me not.
These are my texts:
The Poems of Emily Dickinson, The Granite Pail by Lorine Niedecker, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, tattery collections of Chinese and Japanese haiku, collections of Doonesbury comic strips, of Mutts comic strips, of Peanuts comic strips, The Ether Dome by Allen Grossman, the Poems of Paul Celan, Anne Carson’s Glass, Irony and God.

Her people were my people.
She gave my father $5 when he graduated from high school.
Her text is not my text.
How can her text be my text?
I am the keeper of her text.

Now there is a terribly hard rain.
I have written that down by the date,
October 5, 2004.
You can read me here, can’t you.

:: Maggie & I go to see Aunt Ella :: Alma Ma & I to Mrs McClellan’s ::
Pa & I to South Bend :: Pa Blanch & I to Walkerton :: Mary & I to Liberty :: Mrs McClellan & I to Alma :: Alma & I to see Mable Anderson :: Pa & I to John Baughman’s sale :: Pa & I to Liberty :: Pa & I out to Dr Maranda :: Mary John Floyd Maggie & I to South Bend :: Pa Alma & I to Leb Peffly funeral age 67 :: Pa & I to church with Charly :: Maggie & I over to Alma this afternoon

movement and no noise
noise without movement
or even view of the maker
fully here because partially apprehended
enough is just enough
to make you raise your head
or to scratch into the brain her name
words and no body and no land
nor any accumulation or scent
she like a cardinal
sparked from a tree
they like a rain or a dusk or a gust
I see something move on this page
I know they are there

They walk along the holy page
They walk the holy page the field
The fields lay out the boundary
of the days the holy fields
the holy days that are all days

:: John helped Arthur haul a load of hay :: Pa help Charly this afternoon :: Pa help Charly plant peppermint :: Pa help Arthur fix cement post :: Alma help Maggie pack :: Mary help Edna :: Edna help Alma :: Arthur help John plow corn :: Arthur help Mr Anderson thrash this afternoon :: Ma help husk corn

keeping to
the edge
the text keeping the text
safekeeping the book

The Keeper, I am
not very good at it. Out there,
there are three full shrubs I let go, let go wild, walked from,
and under them is another, a fourth, an azalea I planted and loved.
Oh the three shrubs can go wild awhile, I was thinking,
but under is the forgotten azalea, covered, unblooming.
I look out the window and remember it now.

ache of stitches
chest trussed up over the untrustworthy heart

:: Boy make hay :: Boy make hay :: Boy eat dinner at John supper
at Arthurs :: The boy put up sale bills for Arthur :: The boy planting
corn :: The boy finish corn :: Boy trying to cut wheat

might there be a curatorial cure
i.e., you save
to remedy other’s ills
or is
you keep to be kept
watch to know watching
stroke the cat to feel
first the cat and then your hand

:: I paint tin roof :: I clean Ma bed room :: I sew :: I bake bread ::
I white wash in the cellar :: I clean isinglass to coal stove :: I clean
dining room this forenoon :: I work at cushion :: I dig potatoes
a part of the day :: I do Saturday work :: I can tomatoes :: I can
12 quart peaches :: I can 9 quart cherries :: I make 24 cups
elderberry jelly :: I made 9 cups grape jelly :: I sew

I’m just flailing
– but that’s how grain is removed

Is this a project?
What are you building?
Why are you building it?
Why build.

In my dream, a young man had used what he could to create a block for printing, that is, he had used his forearm. He had carved into his own arm a border surrounding an ornament. He hath done what he could. His desire to print was profound. There was no pain in this dream. There was only the recognition of want moving someone to, what?, to foolishness, folly, iconoclasm, crudeness. In the room of the dream it was not the art he might make that mattered. The arm was inked and ready, but there was no paper near. In the room of the dream it was the exposure of desire. Desire to make. To make art. I squirm to write this. For two days I have been avoiding these words. He was foolish, a foolish village boy. But there was his wanting and his action. And they crowned him. How he seemed a sun coming through clouds. I turned and touched him where he was not carved. He hath done what he could with what he had where he was. Perhaps this is not desire. It may be this is trying to live. This is survival made visible. I am confused about desire and choosing to live. I am confused about art and the making of it. Is it better to make the mediocre because it allows you to get up everyday? Or is it better to stop. You carve yourself to make and it’s wrong. A mark of the naïve. But it nips at me. It is the mark of the true, it is the mark of love. It wasn’t desire I saw. It was love, and I desired that.

:: Mr Wesleyan Rupel buried age 82 years :: Mrs Ruff died this evening :: Ralf infant son of Ed Hoffmans died age 12 hours :: Lillie Hostetter died this forenoon :: Lawrence Hostetters wife Lillie was buried this afternoon age 87 years :: Kate Steele died age 48 years 10 months :: Mr John Olinger died apoplexy :: Mrs Quigley died tonight at 2 o’clock :: Ray Cripe a boy :: Clide Keck a boy :: Edna Geyer a boy :: Henry Stull a boy :: Frank Fetzer a girl :: Ruth Heimes a girl :: Lydia Kelver a boy :: Emma Moon a girl :: George Howell a boy :: Maud Vanscoik & DA Pearse married :: Russel Clark & Vera Naragon married :: George Anderson & Mable Schrader married :: Howard Smith & Miss Handretty married :: Iva Hardman & Russel Fair married :: Harry Clark & Blanch Bickle married

She, because she wrote it down
(though the ink is oxidizing into nothing
and I have no children)
For now she and I are together
She no children either
But she wrote them down
the days
So I turn toward her
who was turned toward me
Because she wrote out a bit of the day
she is the day
she makes the day
She is the source
I cannot say whether she is a creek
spare and continuous
Or is she an ocean enduring
and monolithic
But we stood up out of Indiana fields
so creek she shall be ever and a day
until the ink has faded
How does fading go?
When they grade a creek
might it burl again elsewhere?
Does it raise a knot of waters
in the shush of the heart?
A swirl slipping to the eyes
and the woody old feet?

:: Jersey cow fresh :: Little red fresh :: Large red fresh :: Little jersey fresh

It would be a brave thing to spin the wingnuts on ghosts.
It is a brave thing to be slow enough to be a spinner of wingnuts
on ghosts.

Courage, all. To touch the small chrome bodies of our dead ones.
The kit of the afterlife, for humans, trees, all animals, rocks, water
a billion billion waves, flowers, clouds, all clovers, each flake of snow.
Wingnuts are made for fingers, not tools.
Come help assemble the afterlife in the current life. Courage, all.
In the afterlife, they bring their pieces to the living
to explain “whole.”

:: Ma & Mary wash :: Ma & Maggie iron then work at hood :: Ma & Alma put in quilt :: Ma & Maggie wash :: Ma & Prudence up to Mary this afternoon :: Ma & Alma pick blackberries at McClellans can 4 quarts :: Ma & Alma to see Vernon Steel he is complaining :: Ma & Mary put corn to dry

“Precious,” he said, and meant it derisively. I understand and have said it myself. But I’m sorry, sorry. Because now I’m thinking “cherished” and how close, how close to “precarious.”

:: Pa put up ashes :: Pa sell jersey calf :: Pa sows clover seed ::
Pa burnt the brush in peach orchard :: Pa hoed Arthur potatoes
this forenoon :: Pa shingle the shed over the barn tank :: Pa plow for Charly :: Pa top corn :: Pa goes to Blissville to communion ::
Pa trimmed up trees & fixed fence :: Pa not well :: Pa not well ::
Pa not well :: Pa thaws pump

Attached to the first page of the diary for 1952 is a bright red rectangle with perforated sheets. At the top is written, “Place these strips inside your diary at once, on the day PRECEDING the day you wish to remember.” Below are five sentences, separated by rows of dashes:

Tomorrow is your wife’s birthday
Tomorrow is your husband’s birthday
Tomorrow is your wedding anniversary
Tomorrow is your mother’s birthday
Tomorrow is your father’s birthday

Sarah never married. By midyear 1931, both her parents were dead.

:: Amos Peters did the preaching :: Brother Kesler preached :: Lafayette did the speaking :: Pa did the speaking :: Brother Isenour preached :: Brother Harly preached :: Pa did the talking :: Lafayette preached :: Sermon preached by Brother Hoff of Chicago :: Lafayette preached

stiff zinnia scratchy zinnia
serious Hoosier flower
most self-effacing loud color
an Anabaptist flower
when you are of age
you can choose
to be a zinnia

:: I clean up the sitting room & corn husk :: I did not feel good :: I did not feel good :: Alma made my bonnet :: I feel bad :: I feel bad :: My face badly swollen :: I feel a little better :: Pa Dortha & I keep house :: Pa & I planted melon & sweet corn :: My face is bothering me :: I bake bread :: I not feeling good :: Alma helps me with summer dress :: I help Alma with her cherries :: My face troubling me :: Dr Maranda call in to see my face :: Alma does my washing

For a time I lost the ability or will to make linebreaks other than those that must come with the edge of the page. I was walking a field from road to road, row after row.

:: John disk :: John thrash :: John plow :: John sow wheat :: John husk corn :: John butcher

It is frightening to write and saddening not to. It has taken me three days to write that down; I have been thinking it for three days. Taken me. It has taken me. Three days it has taken me. What has taken me?
Last night, I saw a performance by Jessica Williams, a jazz pianist, along with a bassist and drummer. Jessica Williams is tall and slender, her hair is straight and blonde-white, her voice when she speaks is a rustling – she looks like a sheaf of wheat. Her hands are large and subtle and fine, and with her brain (which must be the same) she assembled songs I know using a method of engineering that involves precipices, sluices, and pools. She and the bassist and the drummer kept rinsing me with dipper water. They kept floating me boxes that I opened and became happy. Toward the end of the evening, she said to us, We’ve played some good music tonight – been played by it. That’s not ego, she said, It’s a reason to be on this earth for more than breathing.
It is tempting to write that Sarah’s 54 years – nearly 54 years – of diaries, her purchase and filling (almost) of 54 diaries was a way for her to do more than breathe. Perhaps it is not temptation but hunger. I am nibbling at her rows of books. Pieces come off in my hands. I am rummaging, ruffling, sniffing, pawing. I am the dusk rat set on my search, my hunt, my errand, my thoughtless task. I am looking to undo my hunger. To do more than breathe.
O not to feed my hunger but to undo it.
She fed herself everyday (I can barely put my hands on the typewriter keys to write this; I am winching myself here). She fed her day to the book – and then the book to herself? Did she read them after writing them, the days, the books? Why? She fed herself to her day, her day to her book, her book to herself whether she read it again or not. It is tempting – it is my hunger – to say she fed her hunger to do more than breathe on this earth by keeping her diaries. Now I am keeper of her diaries. Why is not to be a question for either of us any longer (I would like). Why is the face of worthwhileness. Why do it, asks the hunger, is the hunger. I open my mouth to the sun. Let us feed elsewhere.

:: A gloomy day :: A delightful day :: A heavy frost but nice day ::
A pleasant day :: A misty day :: A snowing day :: A little warmer

I shall live in the field of my sweater
for a time now.
I shall walk the field of my beige sweater
for a while.
A hard text tells me
not to seek comfort ever
for that is not how the soul
is shaped to fruition.
Or is that the easy text?
The true hard text says
be not suspicious of peace.
Come, holies,
make peace be
a comfort to me.

:: We washed and worked at pillow slips :: We clean yard :: We clean
parlor & parlor bed room :: We bake bread & clean up :: We clean
yard down at Mary’s :: We done Saturday work

The obvious differences
and the obvious similarities
are not wherein the ardor
and so the story
lie. Like
and unlike in the gross-pattern,
align/misalign in the silhouette
are easy. No, that’s not the thing
to be wary of – ease.
It is the dismissal hidden
in the ready assessment.
She is a sky with no stars.
I am a sky with no stars.
I cannot untangle myself
from the grassblades.
But she walks through, walks through
with her basket.
What happened, she wrote.
What happened, I wrote.
Read this, I asked.
And she?
We seeketh to make a straight line
in multitudinous ways.

: Dortha & I keep house :: I send a box to Minnie bake bread churn & bake cookie :: Alma & I fry down sausage this forenoon She goes to Walkerton I finish it :: Pa & I pick apples this afternoon

It’s a crinkly, chuffy, tipping body this.
It’s a sharpened thing, picked,
pecked, moled up, come a lollipop
of a muffled and unmuffled thrum.
But what’s amazing is
it’s been completely broken,
smashed unto a mess of beach
then swept and tweezered back together,
glue-riddled, spackle-mangled, plaster-laced
together with itself as it was.
What a gingerbread village.
It’s a papier-mâché globe over a popped balloon.
It’s the holy mother popped from her mold.
I’ve already decided it’s broken
and rebuilt everyday. I’ve already decided
it’s fragile and rebuildable, it’s razable
and erectable. I’ve already
refused any other ending.

:: John hauls manure :: John haul wood :: John haul manure & wood :: John haul wood this afternoon :: John hauled logs :: John hauled
post this afternoon :: John hauled a load of poles :: John hauls manure :: John hauls load of hay :: John hauled a load of hay :: John hauled wood from the woods :: John haul out manure

to wake up to
or with
the face of a violet.
But I may be ready.

:: I painted tank :: I wash & worked at dress :: I cleaned cupboard :: I
trimmed grapes :: I boil down sap :: I stamp a pair of pillow
slips :: I work at silk shirt :: I work at silk shirt :: I work at
silk shirt :: I washed & worked at cherries :: I scrub clean
chicken & clean cellar :: I make me a gingham dress

The automobile has not been kind to my father’s side of the family, and that is the side that, if you knew them and me, would seem to be the side I am standing on. They embraced the automobile early and early it turned and bit them, with the taking of Millard, Charly and Alma’s son, weeks after the accident, from infection. The doctors held counsel and the family bought cloths to cool him, but he died at home, and Alma, Sarah’s sister, stopped her diary forever. I did not tell you that my father gave me Alma’s diaries, too. Charly would die, as well, in 1958, in an accident in a car he was driving. I was born that year. Some years later, when I was still a child, my uncle’s wife and two little girls, that is, my aunt and two of my cousins, were killed by a drunk driver. My uncle was in the car, too, the only survivor of that family. When I was 15 my boyfriend lived 15 miles from me, so we rode back and forth on country roads between our houses in his car. One night a man with cataracts covering his eyes pulled onto the highway and hit us broadside on the passenger side, on my side, though I was sitting next to my boyfriend. I said, he’s not going to stop, and he didn’t. We all lived, me with stitches and a piece of glass removed from my face that I kept in a jewelry box. I wasn’t keeping a diary then. I’ve never written about the wreck. I am writing about it now, in a brief way. I am not telling you a lot of the details. Later, after my boyfriend and I married and divorced, I married a man who, when he was 20, was hit by a car and severely injured. He was not driving the car, nor was he a passenger in it. He was outside a car to which he had no relationship until suddenly he had one forever. He is not nearly as afraid of cars as I am, as he should be, I would say, but I’m not sure that’s true. I don’t know what appropriate fear is. I did not tell you something about the carwreck that killed Charly, Alma’s husband. I have delayed telling you. I knew I would tell you. It was a large fact, a big part of the story to me. I was saving it, for what I think is its proper place. I needed to move chronologically for a while, but now I am moving another way, like a pool of water. Sarah died in the car that day, too. Alma, who had stopped keeping a diary after her son died, wrote the last page in Sarah’s diary. I think I am no longer writing about cars. I would like that.

:: First mess of peas
That is a green joy
Could write it down
for more than just a jot of the day
One round sweet green
green sweet round one
and one and one
have filled the bowl
Eat spoons of them
and write this down

Sometimes it’s hard to remember who is alive and who is dead. And what is someone whom you’ve met only through a book, dead or alive?

:: First watermelon :: First pears :: First potatoes
Hold them and see how new you are

:: A rainy eve
She is quiet and
I am quiet
“I tinker around,” she wrote
Not so broken that it’s worth
paying someone

:: Monday August 10, 1914

A good rain
this afternoon

Ma & I washed
Pa hauled coal
3 ton 160 pound
John plowed

Arthur painted
summer kitchen

The robin singing
into the dusk
is not defining anything.
But I am still