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January 17, 1942 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1942-01-17

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Page Two


... Continued from Page One

a year like 1940, that the '41 Model cars
should reach a sales of over five and
a half million. Jim went sick at the
thought of his '36 Ford. And he was
sick, desperately sick, about 6:30 in
the morning. But by ten he was on his
way south, crumpled up in the back seat
of his buddy's car.
Then came the long, long night of
waiting, the grim six months, the man-
euvers, the hard work, the parties in
camp, the discontent and idle waiting,
the news of the service extension, the
confusion when the company went over
the hill to Texas. Word from the North
became perfunctory and hollow as
Spring advanced, until at last Jim sent
a bitter letter out of the swamps of
Hattiesburg, a letter that annoyed him
a moment after he had mailed it, and
caused him to pace the floor cursing as
he waited for a reply.
I wonder if you have ever told me
a single word you really thought.
Now that I come to think of it,
maybe I never told you any of my
deepest ideas. Perhaps it is that
way with all men and women, that
they never do truly open up. Maybe
they can't. Look at us; we are like
a couple of unopened old letters ly-
ing side by side in the dead letter
file at a postoffice. How the hell
did we get where we are? We cannot
tell. I only know that some nights
I think of you up in Chi, and feel
like an old, old man. Darling, say
Prunes for me up there, and imag-
ine that I'm kissing you while you
say it. It is not good for anyone to
be as reserved as I have been. Small
talk comes to hurt at last. Some-
times I feel that you've got to take
me by the shoulders, and let me
cry my eyes out with you. Then you
could cry your eyes out with me.
Sometimes tears are the only proper
language. Darling, don't you need
me, even a little. Or maybe there
is someone else with whom you wish
to cry. Maybe someone else repre-
sents to you what you do to me.
Oh, Dearest, say prunes again. I
want to hear you so much.
Please don't answer this letter
with news of the weather and what
you have been doing. I don't care
a damn. Tell me you love me, tell
me. you hate me, or don't write.
And please don't wait a week to
answer. Oh, Darling, don't let's ever
be just friends. Don't let's ever just
talk, or just write to each other.
There are so many people with
whom we have to do that. Please
just take me, and tell me what in
hell the score is with the world and
us. I need you so much; it is so
lonely here without you.
I saw the reply go south, Airmail
Special Delivery.
Darling Jim,
When I got your letter I felt like
packing my things and starting for
Hattiesburg. Jimmy, when are you
coming home? Get a furlough,
you've surely earned .one by now.
Please come home for the Fourth,
do! Dearest love,
So at last Jim's leave came late in
the afternoon of Saturday the Twenty-
eighth of June he started north in
Harold Higbie's Dodge, with Harold and
Bob Lynn and Stan Andrews and Bill
Cummins. They picked up a quart of
Old Mr. B at Terre Haute, and by the
time they had reached the Nu-Joy Rest-
aurant at Kentland, they were stopping
people to ask what the big noise around
Chicago was. No one knew. "It's Illi-
noise!" the five would shout, and roar
with laughter.
"SO WENT THEIR LEAVE, like a grand
hallelujah shouting, a big midsum-

mer jubilee of sunburn, sand, fried
chicken, Tom Collinses, dancing under
the stars, and gorgeous night rides in
Hal's convertible, that always ended too
soon, even when the couples drove back
to town to bowl until bieakfast. And
there were nights alone with Ethel,
terrible swift sweet nights of impossible
wanting and unfilled desire, nights
when Jim wanted to cry and curse and
kill the girl, and could not, nights that
were followed by mornings when he
tossed on his bed at the remembrance
of the torment of her limbs and breasts,
and woke up raw and taut, worn out
ad afire again, so that he fell to drink-
ing before breakfast. But every night
he came back again, desperate from a
day of intolerable longing. And now he
was burned -out, and going back south
again. Ah, Jim, always tired, yet with
nothing ever accomplished, always worn
out with desire. It is the luck of the
West. Our fathers bashed out brains,
blood, heart, bone, flesh and sinew on
stone walls, and we will too. We are
walled from birth in every direction,
caged by the dreams of long-dead men.

ridden east toward New York. The Au-
gust day was furiously hot, we had
stopped in the store to buy cokes and
ice cream cones. The old crone watched
us all the while we were in the store,
followed us with her red 'eyes, and
wept. "My sons," she cried, "it's pass-
ing hard to know that I'll not be dead
as soon as ye, even though I'm lame
and old, and going blind. Oh, my sons,
my sons, the shadow of death is upon
ye! The Huns and Japs have made a
league, but Franklin Roosevelt will stop
them. You'll see hose little yellow men,
just you watch. But nothing will come
of them or you except skulls and bones
and blood. So have your fun, boys, and
love your girls, for the Huns and Japs
are coming after you. All they that
take up the sword shall perish with the
sword." There was a sort of pride then
in the old woman's voice, haggard and'
weeping as she was with her vision.
"Oh, hush now!" her daughter had
said, with a tired annoyance. "Don't
you mind her, boys. Her wits are loose,
and she'll be dead before long now."
"Not so soon as you think. I'm likely

J/rouqA -ยง1/read
The memories fail,
They are a sick Whirl,
A blur of lost times.
Where are the live days,
Dimensioned, world-size,
And the full names?
In age the days fade;
The single through-thread
Is that intense vow:
"I will recall this,
The drama, light, place,
That makes now now."
-Norman Lewis

We came out of the valleys of the Don
and the iVstula and the Danube, from
the Rhine, the Moselle, the Meuse, the
Scheldt, the Thames, the reedy Cam,
the Loire and the Seine. It was 'inBai-
kal that our fathers swam, an 'then in
Galilee and Lucerne and Killarney. A
rattle of unshod hooves beats in our
ears; a pageantry wrought out of fifty
million lonely small campfires strung
like a chain of lights from Mongolia
to San Francisco enchants our search-
ing brains and our homesick, puzzled,
hateful and magical hearts.
Campfires and family namnes! They
are the kinetic stuff of the West. There
was a girl named Emma Manville in a
high school English class with me; she
had gray eyes and dark, frizzy hair,
and broad, thick lips. Everyone laughed
when she told the class that sh had
b en born in the West Indies. so sure
were they that she was a mulatto, al-
though both her parents in the States
were white. How interested they were
in her. How interested all Americans
are in their genealogies. When one
wishes to make talk, he can take a per-
son's name, and ask its nationality..
The recollections of old homes, of old
fires and names in another land are
like the rheumatic pais and forgotten
flesh-wounds of an old soldier, th)
come back to plague him in wet weath-
er. There are raw places in all our
hearts where our roots were wrenched
out. They leave us hungry, hungry-
hearted, starved in our talking tongues,
empty in our souls, hungry and curious
to know that in some sweet, small,
solid and enduring place, some little
walled valley town, our ancestors were
big people who amounted to something.
It does not seem to mean so much to
be free and equal in a country where
all men are, to be able to drive fine
cars one year that the next-door neigh-
bors, if they strike it rich, can surpass
the next, to build imposing houses in
suburbs that will be two miles down
into town in two decades, if all goes
well. All our democracy seems to leave
us with a strangely flat taste in our
mouths when we thik of our home-
lessness, our lack of roots, our showy,.
impermanent, easily withered foliage
of destinction. So we laugh and we say,
"Well, now, I don't know much about
my ancestors, but I've heard that my
Uncle Jim, far back on my mother's
side, -.was strung up for horse-stealin',
and that his eight young 'uns came
over the pond to keep from following
him." An, Jim, Jim! You were Uncle
Jim then, you had eight children, and
they hanged you. Jim, Jim, always
wasted, always wanting, like a leaping
salmon fighting its way home to spawn
and die. It's sad, because there was so
much hope in the hearts of those eight
young 'uns when they did come across
the pond.
Yet the things we think about Europe
are very untrue. They are dreams, hal-
lucinations induced by our own heart-
sickness. Europe was never the place
we want to believe that it was. Where
were all the quiet little towns by the
Inn and the Moselle during the Thirty
Years' War? or during the Crusades,
either against the Saracens or the here-
tics at home? What did these towns
have their great walls for? Were they
just violent symptoms of the same raw
sickness that makes us here want some
distinction, some rock on which to
found our houses? The old trouble was
in those towns by their little rivers, too;
only, instead of running from it, across
the ocean and beyond the mountains, as
our fathers did, or running to the hills
and suburbs as we have done, the older
people simply stood and endured, weep-
ing when they watched their children
Think now of all campfires, as I did
(Continued on Page Nine)

But if only the weariness of the last two
fearful years could be distilled, what a
draught it would make to serve the
rulers of Earth. It would fell old Mith-
ridates in his tracks. Men can conquer
the world and never be happy, only
drunken and exhausted and full of in-
satiable wanting.
Conquer the world! That's the story,
Jim. The coming struggle for Power.
Power, Power, Jim! In the night a
vision as sullen and terrible as the ap-
proach of a mighty storm, enveloped
me. Power, Power! Suddenly the sky
opened, my eyes and heart opened, and
I beheld the whole West risen like a
stormy sea'in one huge tide of Power.
I saw that Jim was a bubble, a pretty,
floating bubble full of color and tears,
driven in the midst of the tempest in a
swarm of white froth. I was a bubble,
Bret was a bubble, all America was a
froth and foam of humanity pitched to
the top of a tidal wave!
THEN the whole West leaped up be-
fore me, immensely gallant, sense-
less, powerless, foolish and tragic, like
a great salmon ready to spawn and
die, fighting its way back across half
the world to home. My mind shuffled
images like playing cards. I saw an old
woman seated in the corner of a gen.
eral store at the edge of Iselin, New
Jersey, toothless and mad, waiting to
die. It was the Summer of 1937. I was
seventeen, and Paul Ramsay and I had

to last ten years yet. But these boys
will be under the ground before half
of that. Just you wait and see." The
old woman grew silent, and her eyes
were grand.
Then it was 1941 again, I was working
the night shift at Atchison's, it was
about eleven, toward the end of sup-
pertime, and the boys' were all sitting
out in the driveway, smoking and look-
ing at the weather. Bruce Lang was
talking. Bruce was a pop-off, but he
had to be heeded because he knew what
people were thinking more often than
not, and he sometimes said very true
things. Now his' voice had risen. "Hell,
let's be honest, fellas. I'm no damn
Nazi, and none of you are either, you
know that. But you know what we're
fighting for. We're not fighting for
no Democracy! We're not fighting for
the English, neither. We don't even
like the English. As a matter of fact,
we hate the Englisk,-you know that.
We're fighting to run the world. We're
fighting to own all these new automo-
biles you see running around the streets.
We like to run the world. We don't
want to share it with no English. We
want to run it ourselfs!"
The coming struggle for power. Again
the image of America as a great spawn-
ing salmon fighting its way half across
the world, to home and to death, seized
and enveloped me. We came out of the
East, out o fSamarcand and Sinkiang.

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