'I feel alone, even with you'

From “Image of Song Unsounded,” an essay by Alfred Schwaid, published in Chicago Review, September 22, 1995:

In the morning the first thing you see on the lake is the mist. You’re high up enough to think you’re in the clouds anyway; for a while you nearly believe you actually are. He was still asleep. I relit the fire. Then I went down with a canvas bucket to get water for our coffee. When I came back he was up, warming his hands at the fire. It’s chilly in the morning, he said. He was used to a warmer climate. He took the water from me and made the coffee. I made sourdough pancakes that we ate with strawberry jam. In the morning when there are no stars you are left directionless. He and his wife once had traveled through a rain forest, only at night for that reason, to a beach. He knew the stars like you do the face of your watch. Our lives depended on it, he said. I would not mind at all being lost here, I told him. The difference is, in your case, you were traveling through the wilderness with the objective of reaching someplace outside it. I never watched the stars that closely.

I was reminded of Bix Beiderbecke’s composition, “In a Mist,” but never mentioned it to him. If I had I would have had to tell him how often it was in my thoughts. Then, after pouring the coffee he surprised me; he reached into his pack for a flask and laughed while he poured in the rum.


The concise clarity of Charles Demuth + The convoluted brightness of Charles Burchfield = Bix Beiderbecke.

We were supposed to stay at the lake for a week, but on the third day I could see him growing restless. We could start back out as soon as you want, I told him. I’ve never been this long away from my wife, he said. I wanted to stay. I knew that by following the stars he could find his way out alone at night. If I couldn’t, I would have been happily lost. But I had an obligation to go back with him. When we went together into our wilderness we were three, he said; when we came out we were only two. Now, it’s funny but I feel alone, even with you.

He moved in an integument of rags and dirt and smells, and I called him Canned Heat to no one but myself.