The Occupation
by T.M. De Vos

You opened the cupboard,
and scarabs fell off your bread
like enamel chips;
you took a little water, some food,
too thick to swallow.

The city looked as our lives must
after we leave them—
papers blown from desks,
bodies in suits fussy and dear
as baby clothes looked before.

He would be somewhere,
camping with tins of food
and another girl,
certainly tired of her by now.
He knew where he was sending you:
the low end of the city,
with its cellars of sweets and leaves.

People had smashed windows for the crabs.
The drab disks watched
as their legs were snapped and bundled.
You thought of your father;
his eyes, left open to be scratched.

Girls were selling food again,
their wand-bodies brittle and liable
as they ducked for it.

There was a bucket next to you,
the water flexing with turtles.

You bought some yogurt
and sat with it
as if wings and small feet
would hatch from the cup.

by T.M. De Vos

What I need is to have arrived
or not have left,
to have been sleeping.  I can see us,
through a tunnel of snow
and train-dragged air,
hypothetical and impossible now.
I would trade most things in my bags
to begin two nights ago, fitful
and litter-warm, your neighbors silent.

There is no way back: the friend I called
is sleeping, like you; my ticket
snuffed in the computers, useless till morning.
There is nothing to read, or think:
I have no opinions, I cannot harm
or be harmed.  This is what
life was before there were minds,
everything swimming in its own jar.
Even here, I admire how conscience
sabotages, or corrects: I was sorry,
so I found a punishment.  I did not want to leave,
so I kept myself from home.

by T.M. De Vos

            The tree, in its grief for the bird,
            resembles the bird.  
—Radovan Pavlovski

We struck something on each other
and pulled it away, blackened.

We were hardened,
not the golems

who ate carefully,
forgave each other.

There were your eyes,
silicate and light.

There was that part of you
that was susceptible.
In a rock,
this is the part

that holds warmth,
like a potato
left by someone
who knew you would be hungry.

In my grief for you,
I duplicate your shape
the way salt finds itself
in cubes.

by T.M. De Vos

I have carried you with me, I confess,
perhaps taking that part of your astral matter
that is responsible for rest, or calm;
as a child might carry a bit of cloth
she has worn the velvet from.
It is a tolerant object;
it waits till she sleeps to have its own life,
and next to dreams of kissing
and prayers against big feet,
it undivides, recalling itself in bolts, field-wide squares,
then the sheep-backs it had traveled on,
and it grows a little absent, perhaps;
forgets not to slip from the girl's face,
where it is being breathed into and chewed.

She stirs, and it returns, itself again,
hemmed and faded,
smelling of her insides.


T.M. De Vos is a poet and fiction writer living on the East Coast.  Her
work has appeared in
Washington Square, Small Spiral Notebook,
Yuan Yang: A Journal of Hong Kong and International Writing,
Pebble Lake Review, Global City Review, Alimentum: The
Literature of Food
, The Pedestal Magazine, and is forthcoming in
The Saint Anns Review.  She received an MFA in 2004 from New
York University and a Hopwood Award in 1999 from the University
of Michigan.

“The Occupation”:    

I arrived at The Occupation and several tangent poems not
long after reading Agate Nesaule
s A Woman in Amber and the
epistolary, anonymous
A Woman in Berlin.  Ive long been
fascinated with women
s lives during wartime and their interruptible,
volatile nature.  There has been little in my own life to compare with
it, but I have always felt like an exile; have always feared that
someone would check my identification and forbid me to return
home; have always tried to have my hands on a surplus of food,
clothing, whatever will sustain me if I get stuck somewhere.

There is something to be learned from war memoirs about what
people are capable of in private
or in many cases, in publicwhen
one person has absolute power over another, particularly a man
over a woman.  A few pages into almost any personal account of any
war, and women
s bodies become absorbent material for enemy and
countryman alike to destroy or fire into at will.  This is not a thing of
the past; it does not happen only in foreign countries; it does not take
a very sick person to perpetrate a sick, dehumanizing act in the midst
of war.

When I wrote
The Occupation, I was thinking about what a city
might be like after the occupiers leave, and what an odd,
uncomfortable feeling it must be to emerge from hiding to discover
that no one is there to seize you.  A crushing, brutal authority has
been removed, but not much else is there, except for that small,
scarablike fluttering of the survivors for the things the occupiers
have left.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 1, Number 2
(Fall 2006)

Copyright © 2006
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.
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The Argument
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