Laura Hinton

The Daughter's Crime / A Fish Story

From “This Summer”



The Daughter’s Crime / A Fish Story



The cab driver picked me up near the station at the other side of the avenue where the last driver told me I had to stand if I wanted to go left.  Now I am on 28th Street going straight and an officer who is GI Joe argues through the plate glass that goes down and up.  To reframe the direction of narrative is the crime, is my answer.  Where did you pick her up?  He peaks through the plate glass to locate me.  He sees my blondeness on 28th Street.  I am a socialite.  I am a prostitute.  Who am I?  He has a GI Joe chest.  He is riding a plastic Tonka tank.  The cab driver was nothing.  His lack was a softness that would take my money, the plate glass separating his softness me from him. But where are you going?  What is the response to the power of capitalDo you have a license, do you have a checkbook?  Let me see your writing. What are you writing in that notebook?  Why are you writing and driving in circles?  He did not know why we leaned into the night.  We never see the moon anyway.  We are going east.  The cab driver was going home, I was going home, which is never East.  But that is not a crime, is my answer.


I have never had paranoia.  But now I know the danger of a childhood left to pine cones.  A genuine lack of paranoia that is proper, enemies in an atmosphere in which one does not empty oneself at proper zones.  The feeling is to crave the proper object.  Transformed, the object thus will perform as a witness.  This story has a cell about which the tender spider lays a spiraled egg before effusion wraps him in a dry leaf.  It was dry all summer in the South of France, and now this emptiness.  No spiders no l’hirondelle circling the head at night.  A hollow forms where soil depletes.  We crawl to taste the earth.


I am locked into narrative with the cab driver.  But there is a disappointment in leaves, sordid and pee yellow. In the measure of chronology, I find that translation from the accurate to the symbolic weighs the body in signs.  I loathe what they love.  They love me to hate.  It is tempting to make a plot out of concrete directives.  But actions are like symbols, too.  They disappear. Their lack is a softness, the anomaly into which the battered sign bathes the city.  The danger of a childhood left to pine cones.

The sentence is an example of squalor.  Calling it an example, to be squalor or a scholar, it makes no difference.  The story of the cab driver that does not exist.  We flow with the ridges.  We are obsessed with lyrics of time.  Worms, too, subdivide.  Taking action internally, they make matter more.  This story has a cell about which the tender spider lays a spiraled egg before effusion wraps him in a dry leaf.  What is matter but self-replication, a matter of the zones in which one empties oneself and, thus, becomes a function of the engine?

We try a solution.  Replace that, as if “that” was that fabrication along the bias.  We try for angles but they feel like submission.  We move sideways, along the grain but also against what follows, word for word thought for thought.  The text accumulates at a streaming slant.  We are full with a revealing readiness and this becomes the lyric passage.  Formalists in showbiz, they cite no patterns at all.  But there is a disappointment in leaves, sordid and pee yellow. I loathe what they love and we mark that in temperament.  This is natural narrative. It is tempting to make a plot out of concrete actions.  The fabulist sends grey balloons into the sky where they, too, are nothing.


Our resistance to “necessary illusions.  But Chomsky, too, makes me still.  Ill or still, I am absorbed by passivity, which is not a resistance.  My blondeness is his nothingness through the plate glass.  I ask him Are you often stopped by GI Joe do you often write to madness?  His answer mimics the repetition of all I have done.  What accounts for this movement, the leaving to stillness that I do not feel or hear?  I do not wish to be left on 28th Street so the daughter is moved into the solidity of history.  This reluctance for dialogue, it gives a function to the engine. The danger of a childhood left to pine cones.  All categories are in flux when one listens.

     it was the same grey grandmother who stood at beige Venetian blinds saying rain
                  rain go away my toes at the slats as if this were the fish story   but it was her
                  mother, my mother’s, and not my mother’s mother, who told the fish story   the
                  story went like this: fish evaporated into the mist then rained back   everything
                  floated back on the earth and swam accordingly   the curve of the earth was
                  bound and beige that’s how it was in those days    apartments gave no grey relief
                  to this spatial chaos    large and tinted, fringed with palms it was a world so
                 different that i forgot to wear underwear and my dress showed in the cafeteria
                  i was only 5, so my grey grandmother was not alarmed   i registered this early
                  indifference and remembered the fish   full of people grey and beige the place
                 bore a watery allusion    we passed the carousel   i didn’t know there would be a
                 childhood left to pine cones

I move toward the cab driver and compromise the piecesI dreamed that the cab driver comes back but that the cab was empty.  The dream does not match the reality of the dream.  She took the cab when it was still full, in the dream, and when it was emptied she felt vulnerable.  The dream was an expression of her paranoia.  I have never had a paranoia.  But the narrative tells me that this is an empty cab.  The cab driver was nothing.  He is unhappy.  I am unhappy, too.  I pay to see India Song and I find that it is a bore.  Like Marguerite Duras, there is this reluctance for dialogue.  The story is a cab driver left without an engine.


Is she the daughter the bold or the daughter the good?  Will the bad daughter love the cab driver who is nothing?  The cab driver is not the cop.  But this, the narrative, intends a secret authority, forcing us to action.  Will they reign her in?  She would like to buy her aunt a plane ticket for the East to see the leaves.  Narrative will imitate the daughter’s split.  But there is a disappointment in the leaves, sordid and pee yellow.  Narrative is not a tearing but a concave rolling form.  A rolling voluptuous bird bobs its head in and out and back against the distant bridge.  Divisive, worms make matter more.  Narrative is not like the worm, a soft earthen mass.  Narrative is dry and lean and sinewy.  It chews.  A hollow forms where soil depletes.

there were rocks but mine was a childhood of pine cones   i looked at the top and
the side of George Washington’s nose    up and behind Mount Rushmore where I
made shiny houses from mud and mica and pine sticks    the shiny false silver of
mica chips were as fragile as painted nails or fish scales brought back by my
parents for cleaning  they told me to spot Abraham Lincoln’s beard   expecting
the pointed dark i looked at the carved-out grip of the highway  every stone took
on a meaning in every wrinkled shape   when a bald spot in the trees diminished
the great distance  i was disappointed   i thought it lacked substance   i was in
love with smaller interiors


at the lake i mothered captured fish   i took the fish for walks with their hooks
hanging from their gills    how did i know that fish would be hanging from the
gills as gullible as fish in the captured state?   there was always this hook
dangling from the mouth   my mother and father stood together as fishermen in
caps and dark sweatshirts so they ignored me    they cast fly rods swiftly into the
ever dark green hoping not to hook any more progeny   to escape captivity i
walked around the lake   i passed one field of cattails that did not exist on maps
my name in the sky, i was found sucked into a bog   grey as granite grows the
night the sky   the lake caved in   my name in the sky

She wrote this story to demonstrate a suction device.  But the men were sleeping so the demonstration lapsed.  Severance pay bought wine and pâté but for the cab driver there was nothing.  He pulled up in an empty cab.  They were casting flies and hoped not to hook any more progenyThe danger of a childhood left to pine cones.


The suction action creates a crevasse.  She walked into the room to face a handicap, the strangers bearing equipment with names.  Today in the paper she read about the death of the historian who proved that Dracula was actually real.  Only Romanian tourist offices pretended to believe him, a bloodthirsty count from the 14th century sucking her story.  Why turn to the obituaries first?  Then there is the business page, the story of silicon.  Light-bearing, it is like the mica, the cab driver, like narrative, it is nothing.  The suction failed but the story moves in pieces.  The cab was empty when it stopped on 28th Street.  It was the cab driver who was nothing who left the dream sinking.

Was blondeness an excuse or a crime?  The daughter imagined it was the presence of dialogue, their voices, that made him stop.  She mediated anxiety and the two escaped.  The GI Joe puffed up his plastic chest, and said good-day ma’am — but was that real? What I have noticed about philosophers is that they all ride Tonka tanksPhilosophers are related to suction devices.  A choice between loving the cab driver and loving the cop.  They were casting flies hoping not to hook any more progeny.  There are the leaves, a disappointment in sordid and pee yellow.

                   feeling the onset of a crime, she asked her father how to gut fish   he demonstrated
                   on the kitchen sink   the fish guts blood spewing over black enamel sink then
                   suction down the drain   she told her father that now she could now live in the
                   forest and be a boy   her father was sorry he had demonstrated anything   so the
                   daughter might use it, the boy’s story was not her father’s fish story   nor was it
                   him or her   the story blackened the sink with gills and guts   like her father,
                   gender was rewarded when her mother chased a bear with a steak   the fire lit, the
                   mother took a gas tank and flung it flaming up at the stars   it hit the creek an
                   exploding anvil in the days before horrific tragedies would occur and we would
                   worry   so i asked: what if my mother was not him but her?   the tribe was
                   severely marked by the blood-blackened hand   the bright soot was not to be
                   recalled for many generations    only when, a baby in arms, i was camping one
                   night in a mound of pine cones near the Four Corners under clusters of stars   

This time she thought the tale would tell.  She gave the fragments back to the childhood left to pine cones.  Two competing narratives distort or reframe their reference.  So as to not make the tale too familiar she rubbed out the edges of the lines  The pen smeared the purple ink flowed the blood whitened the black sink  It was an emptiness that was the cab and the cab driver.  But we have his legacy to consider.  It is tempting to make a plot out of concrete actions.  Narrative never compensates for itself.  Something’s gone wrong, the daughter’s crime reads like a fish story.  She considered the details.  She has details, said her friend in Spanish.  This means that the daughter always thinks of little moments and that makes her good.  And what does that mean, if the crime of the daughter turned out to be really good?

What does it mean to replicate oneself in a dream?  Last night, I was the good daughter again, in love not with his softness but with the hardness of Bill Clinton.  He was 7 feet high in person in the dream, and I kissed him and to do so he had to hold me sharply up.  Keeping the narrative as hard as rock rubbing without erasing the edges.  Maybe in life she had loved the cab driver.  But in the dream she loved Bill Clinton.  Big and powerful and male, he gave her his tall narrative.  With the cab driver she would have continued going sharply East, and there would have been sand burgers and sunshine at Coney Island.  But in her love for Bill Clinton she committed a crime.  She was testing out the daughter’s penchant for submission.  I know the danger of a childhood left to pine cones.  The danger, the green Tonka tanks turned in a blue meadow, a plastic GI Joe dangling on wings.

From “This Summer”: A Blog-Poetry Series and Group Experiment, in Progress June 1 to August 31, 2003

Saturday, June 07, 2003

To record a dream in a journal in a bathtub

To look for the dream later on the page and to see the ink has been erased

To watch About Schmidt on DVD while eating five squares of organic chocolate late at night

To learn about a rhythm of poetry and film by watching About Schmidt on DVD

To be so excited about the rhythm of poetry and film while eating chocolate that I could not sleep at night

To have a mindful of wakefulness about the emptiness of Midwest culture and spaces and the fullness of detail about both

To remember Rapid City, while waking up at dawn with the candle still burning, and to see out the blind that the gardens are not yet submitted to light

To watch the garden shovel planted sideways against the garden, with a longing like addiction like chocolate in the angle of the early morning light

To think about my husband’s face resembling Jack Nicholson’s in the pillow and wanting to witness it but having his head turned against me

To want to watch Five Easy Pieces again to get the allusion to the scene with the Omaha waitress that was deleted from the final film cut

To disagree with the editor-director about one of the deleted scenes but not this one, and to not remember why I disagreed

To nevertheless feel puffed up in the early morning, like I should have been a film maker

To wish I could fly to Rapid City next weekend to do research for my novel as if I could write it this summer and escape the rain

To disagree with the New York Times writer who says that Lewis Carroll was not a paedophile without reading the article about this

To worry about paedophiles in general while looking at Lewis Carroll’s photograph of a little girl sleeping like Olympia on a couch in the Times, only with clothes on (one shoulder of her bodice down), which may be the difference between England and France in the 19th century

To worry that people are attacking psychoanalytic thinking as if Freudians are all Freudians as if they are all alike

To think about the two editors at the Times who had to resign because a reporter invented the news

To remember that there were two editors at the Tucson papers who were caught in an explosion and that one died

To remember that the other one had recently just before the explosion refused to give me a job which is why I stayed in school and which is why I went on to get a Ph.D. because I had nothing better to do and to know that now I am living an entirely different life

To read the traumatic life stories of Ph.D.s from the ’90s in the Chronicle of Higher Education and to realize that the stories are all about men

To wonder what it would be like to have my stories recorded in the Chronicle of Higher Education

To think that we have to do the laundry and to go to Walmart for a cheap plastic table to use in the garden after it stops raining

To sign up for another Human Rights organization on the web because I can’t be in the garden because it is raining

To want to speak in lines of poetry but to be forced to speak in prose

To desire in the infinitive mood as is deflecting a bad mood because it is raining

To desire to defer deflecting

To think about all those people in the laundromat today and in the Walmart in Kingston

To remember a time when I would never set foot in a Walmart in Kingston or a Walmart anywhere for that matter, until one boring day Bernard and I drove to the Kingston mall and played ball in the aisles of the Walmart sports department

To think that just five squares of organic semi-sweet chocolate could make me sick

To know I need a cheap plastic table from Walmart to write on in the garden whenever it stops raining

To think that tomorrow morning there will be clouds and I will not watch the new light through the forest on the garden created by Bernard cutting down half the trees

To yell at a deer who is eating the tree leaves in the forest now that the trees are on the ground

To think I used to like deer before I had a garden, and that I would lay my Arrow book edition of Bambi next to my father’s bedside the night before he would go hunting in Rapid City

To think that my Coral Bells might get over-watered

To think I am watching tropical fish swimming on my screen saver and wishing I were there

To forget every time I dig in the dirt that there will be roots and rocks, rocks and roots, and that digging in the dirt will be agony

To remember that every time only after the fact like a ritual

To let Bernard go to the laundromat alone because five squares of semi-sweet chocolate made me sick

To wonder how I can write poetry if I can’t hold a pen

To think about About Schmidt again and the rhythm of film like poetry, and that flattening of space and culture requiring such delicate decisions about pace — and to wonder how one might do all that while still remaining “inside” the poem or film

To think that one must remain inside and out at the same time, an impossibility

To think that that is the act that I have in common with a couple of poets I know

To imagine that it is not raining

To wish for a kiddie pool from Walmart

To wish the rain would stop, like in the old days

To wish for a poetry full of chaos and the appearance of light as if actual light without the sheer beauty

To wonder why everyone likes the poem with the conventional ending and how I scorn that notion of “beauty” even though I wrote it

To think again about About Schmidt, which has so entirely affected me, and to wonder if I could drive across the highways of Nebraska and South Dakota like in the old days

To drive and to sweat and to wait for what my mother always called “the viaduct” so we could stop and cool off in the highway in the 100 degrees in the shade pooled over the baking asphalt

To see nothing but asphalt and flat fields

To drive onward through the Badlands and to realize they were really ugly but fascinating and to not have a clue as to where the Badlands began and ended

To just stop at a place and call it “the Badlands” sometime in my childhood

To take road trips with my mom

To wish I hadn’t become so delicate and could take road trips with a tent

To love every frame of a movie as if it were a moment

To let a movie remind me of detail

To let the detail be the rhythm of the poem like a movie

Posted by Laura at 11:46 a.m.

Poets are asked to disrupt and/or intervene in “This Summer” by injecting into this text their own.  Please send queries and or poetry interventions for blogspot posting to:  Your name or initials will be used, as you request.

BIO: Laura Hinton is the author of The Perverse Gaze of Sympathy: Sadomasochistic Sentiments from Clarissa to Rescue 911 (Albany: SUNY Press, 1999), and co-editor of We Who Love to Be Astonished: Experimental Women’s Writing and Performance Poetics (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2001). She has published essays on the writing of Lyn Hejinian, Leslie Scalapino, and Fanny Howe; her poetry was recently published in Bird Dog Magazine.  Currently she is at work on a book about women’s intergenre writing, and completing a poetry manuscript.  She is an Associate Professor of English at The City College of New York.

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