More from Billy the Kid

March 22, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

One of the things that I particularly enjoy in Ondaatje’s book is the way that the narrator’s body is always shifting–like the form in which the text itself is written, (it varies from poetry to prose-poetry to prose) the first person shifts between male protagonists. Then too, the body itself and the way it is depicted in this work is also always shifting. Hands assume the same object-ness as windows and bathtubs, sites of metaphorical/abstract (rather than personal) significance–the death of the horse in the following passage, for instance, becomes a location for failure not sentimentality. similarly, the site of Tom O’Folliard’s face signifies survival and resilience, becoming at once celebratory and painful. That’s why I found the poem on 49 so interesting–because suddenly there is a burst of sentimentality and right when Garrett has them arrested too, which is also interesting i.e. the relief of capture.


p/48

Snow outside. Wilson, Dave Rudabaugh and me. No windows, the door open so we could see. Four horses outside. Garrett aimed and shot to sever the horse reigns. He did that for 3 of them so they got away and 3 of us couldn’t escape. He tried for 5 minutes to get the reigns on the last horse but kept missing. So he shot the horse. We came out. No guns.

p/49

One morning woke up

Charlie was cooking

and we ate not talking

but sniffing wind

wind so fine

it was like drinking ether

§

we sat hands round knees

heads leaned back taking lover wind

is us sniffing and sniffing

getting high on the way

it crashed through our nostrils

View from my window

December 17, 2008

snowy-window1

Lily Robert-Foley

To enliven the moments, while Winter steals on

                                                As literature is

With a too tardy pace, be the care of each one;

Let rancour and malice be banish’d afar,

            a translation or a revis

Unworthy the pen or the heart of a tar!

The fire of true wit may shine vivid and bright,

Untinctured with satire—unprompted by spite:

                                                   ion of experience, so

We are few, and immured in a desolate spot,

Then let envy, resentment, and pride be forgot;

                         is experience changed by literature.

And while Fate may keep us so near one another,

                                                    This paper a charm

Let each one consider his friend as a brother;

We shall still find enough to enlarge on, no doubt,

Tho’ we have not the charms of a ball or a rout.

                                    or a pair

The mind philosophic may often impart

            of glass

Some instruction from nature, some process of art;

                                                es

Morality too may embellish the page,

And by soft winning precepts attention engage;

The sportsman with pleasure may lead us to view

                                                                              with which

 

The toils and the triumphs he oft has gone through;

And each daily occurrence may somewhat afford,

            to alter the meaning of the word

Not unworthy to offer at Dame Reason’s board:

And thus each unfolding the gifts of his mind,

                                                cold

While diffusing his knowledge, yet haply may find,

That though what he gives ne’er reduces his store,

He oft by this intercourse adds something more. 

                                                                       as it floats down

Then let me solicit a part of your leisure

To be weekly devoted to giving us pleasure;

            in the guise

And thus I conclude with good wishes most fervent,

                        of snow.

And beg to subscribe, your obsequious servant

 

(excerpt from The North Georgia Gazette with annotations in gray by Lily Robert-Foley

– Lily Robert-Foley

September 19, 1819.

According to reports, two ships, the H.M.S. Hecla and H.M.S. Griper became locked in ice inside the Arctic circle this Tuesday.  They were forced to cut a channel through the ice and dock their ships on a previously unexplored region of the Arctic Circle now known as Melville Island in the heart of North Georgia. 

“It is extremely cold” said Mr. Peeping Tom Scriber.  Peeping Tom Scriber is an anonymous member of the ship’s commanding crew who writes for The North Georgia Gazette—a newspaper Sir William Edward Parry, Captain of the expedition initiated in order to keep the men occupied during the long winter months in Winter Harbor. 

“There are long months of darkness, isolation and possible insanity ahead of us,” Captain Parry said.  “I started the newspaper as a way to keep spirits up.”  Captain Parry also admits to having identified indolence as a cause of scurvy.  Captain Parry has devised several other methods in addition for keeping the men occupied during their stay in Winter Harbor, including:  bi-weekly theatrical entertainments, obligatory dancing, cricket games on ice, and two hours of deck scrubbing with stones every morning between six and eight.

“Sometimes it gets so cold that the men’s noses will stick to the telescopes in the Observatory shack and their skin will be pulled off,”  said the ship’s surgeon.  It is said that the lowest temperature this coming winter was -55° Fahrenheit.  One man contracted scurvy because he had been sleeping in a moist bed next to the ship’s rim.  “It is uncomfortable if not painful,” he told us “to sleep in a bed that is mostly ice.”   

“It is bizarre to live in a world that is covered in white.  There is no contrast, no differentiation.  We go for walks sometimes in the snow.  We might see a large boulder up ahead and become very excited because it would be the most defining feature of the landscape seen in months.  But then as we approach the boulder we realize that it was only a pebble and looked like a boulder because everything exists in a uniform field of white,”  the ship’s resident poet told us. 

The two ships left London Harbor in September of 1819 in search of the Northwest passage.  The search for the Northwest passage will turn out to be a nearly futile one, riddled with dead bodies.  It can be likened to a search for truth, transcendence or pure light. 

A republication of The North Georgia Gazette is due out from Green Lantern Press in February 2009.