A Plateau of Excellence

In a pillow fight with the children the maid’s breast fell from her Christmas dress
and was covered in eider feathers. In the next room, father reads:

…….“…to be taxed, with Mary, his wife, who was great with child.” Mother
cried, we simply looked away. In the building across the alley

of snow a woman entered a man’s apartment. She had to walk
…….through the children’s room to get to where he sat

waiting. One of the children woke and she stopped to tell him a kind of bedtime
story about a sailoress away from land long enough that it smelled

…….strange when she returned—“stranger than the moon,” the woman
said, and went in to where the man was. This became a popular

story among our family, though popularity can’t be the sole standard
of achievement in much of anything.

That Christmas aunt Kitty sent money, writing: “My Bird,I long to feel
a calling to something. And feel so far from that very language

…….that it seems silly to even think of it. How nice it would be.” I wrote back: “Kitty
the father of one of father’s employees told me in the bookstore that I reminded

him of the prostitutes he spent time with in Lille. It is not every day I rise
…….to such heights. We are all going dancing.” Afterwards our calves

hurt. I sat on the edge of the bath washing my feet, watching the dirty water
drain, the knocking of bows and bassoons against music stands

……still in my mind; the orchestra rising from their seats. Then enjoyed a film
before bed: “Past the age of 50,” Mr. Belmondo reads, “Velázquez stopped

painting definite things. He danced around objects with the air, with twilight, catching
…….in his shadows and airy backgrounds the palpitations of color

which formed the invisible code of his silent symphony.” Outside there was snow on a box
of green apples, and inside, mother dabbed a wet cheek with a handkerchief.

Previously published in Poetry London.

Adam Day is author of Badger, Apocrypha (PSA, 2010), and is the recipient of a 2011 PEN Emerging Writers Award. He coordinates The Baltic Writing Residency.

Object(s) to bring back to life: “Chispa, Pascual Duarte’s setter bitch in Nobel Prize-winning author, Camilo Jose Cela’s under-read novel, The Family of Pascual Duarte. Of course, Cela was a spy and informer for the Franco government for much of his life, which may explain both why Pascual shot Chispa, and why Cela’s under-read. Asi es la vida.”