Tasha Haas earned an M.F.A. in Fiction from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio and a B.A. in English and French. She taught fiction writing, literature, and composition at the University of Kansas for eight years, and recently began teaching at Kansas City Kansas Community College. Her work has been published in South Dakota Review, Coal City Review, and elsewhere. Haas is the winner of the Langston Hughes award for Fiction.
Included below is one selected work by the visiting writer.
He had been swimming. His hair was still wet. The telegram in his pocket which contained news about Olly was wet. He was heavy with the wetness and the news, but his way was expanded and lightened before him, outside water. Things were vastly different outside water. There was air, there was light. Things had risen from years of sleep. He had risen from one vast aloneness into another. The sky had risen into one vast stationary screen lightening above the road. Dusk was using the sun to lighten the screen from behind. His way was expanding and lightening in the screen above the road. He was on the pavement, paved border composing bank of river where water moved forward and backward like time. Not the cold slick like liver (the hair, the wet) sticking at back of neck but the soft eye at the front saw the screen empty above him. The eye knew screens watch and wait when empty; they wait to be engraved. His progress toward London was engraving the screen. There seemed to be something wrong with his legs; they were heavier than usual and heavier than water but he tried not to think about them. The weight in his legs made a trail in the pavement and a trail in the sky. He made a trail in the sky with the eye which put the knowledge of his proceeding on the screen in the sky where he could see it. The trails made engravings that he could read like a woodcut. They traced the progression of his passage so he could see how the distance behind him lengthened and the distance between he and Olly shrank. He did not see Olly but he looked for him, he looked hard. By remembering him, and the memory was heavier than his legs.
To proceed in this way, suspended in the tracing of oneself in the sky, was removed like memory or a memory of love. But he could remove himself in the same way into memory because he could be a division in time (because love was heavy enough to make a division in time, because things which were heavy sometimes parted more cleanly and easily than things which were light, weight at the poles sometimes pulled halves apart cleanly and easily. He and Olly and Olly and he with no distance between them were heavy, and two heavy things sometimes parted cleanly but not always easily). So, desiring as he did to move more swiftly and lightly and make the reluctance in his legs forget so that he could reach London before dark because it would be easier to look for Olly before dark, he divided time with the screen of his memory, because it was easier to move there, among the frail leaves of memory
Swimming: it was louder and less enormous swimming in the water in the past than walking next to it in the present. Here the curtains were heavy enough to want to part for him. The weight at the poles was like fingers holding curtains apart by folding them over themselves in two triangles. He thought of the fingers which held the Red Sea apart as he went inside the curtains, he thought about these fingers and then about his own fingers which while created in the image of these fingers were not the same fingers and he wondered if these other fingers had ever held a telegram carrying news of the kind the telegram he was not yet carrying but would soon be carrying, thinking he would do anything to not be carrying this telegram. It was dense and loud and the weight of water tangled with currents was heavy on him, and he listened in the noise beneath the water, and looked for Olly in the mottle of caverns there, but all were empty and silent and silently denied ever having seen Olly. He was saddened by their silence; the sadness (the weight) pushed him out of memory into present, where
the museum was heavy as it passed. It was moving away from London, not in his direction. The museum was silent and it did not contain his friend named Olly; heavy friend, real friend (only friend). He was relieved to see that it did not contain Olly because a museum was an afternoon, an interlude that for some did not resume, a place where it was easy to die and stay dead where things that had died were concentrated and kept dead by heavy eyes that came to see things that were dead so they would know what was dead and that they were not. But now that dusk had followed afternoon no one was in the museum because the afternoon of the museum had died and no one wanted to wait for death but he wished Olly would have waited for him because sometimes, some kinds of divisions were too hard to breach.
When the buildings in London began, he hid under the footbridge that arced over the river. Because he had wasted too much time because memory too used time, it was dark and the vast lightening had gone and there was no screen of sky for him to engrave his way on; thus he lost his way. He hid when all the connected people came at him, people who were not alone but attached either to bundles of children they carried or by limbs to people their own size. Everyone was attached to someone; he attached himself to the masonry of the footbridge. Peering out, he waited for the instant people stepped into the sudden scar cutting from the streetlight onto their faces at which he could see who they were but the scar changed their faces and he could not tell who was Olly and who was not so he looked for Olly's black coat but it was dark and all the coats were black with dark and dark with black. He kept patient, waiting only for Olly. If he had seen the Pope pass, he would not have come out from the masonry. He burrowed into it. But there was a hard transparent division there, between himself and the stone masonry. It was difficult to look for the division without detaching himself from it, but he tried, compressing his perception into the one eye next the masonry. The eye thought it saw the division and perhaps what was beyond it but it could not be sure. Fear was in the way of the eye, of him. He was afraid of divisions except those between two curtains of water and between he and Olly; the division between he and Olly was transparent but it was not hard like glass, it was yielding like love and water. He knew it was futile to avoid divisions. He knew he must look at divisions. The screen of the sky in the recent past had been a division and he had looked at it. When he engraved the trails of his way on it, it did not retreat, it did not disclose its secrets. It was not the soft kind of division. Some kinds of divisions piled on top of one another built to the permanence of aloneness.
The dark had its face and hands around everything. It had everything in its stomach. He was attached to the division the masonry insisted upon and the division had darkened its transparency and was like the wall of the stomach of the darkness. The wall of the stomach arced over him like the arc of a footbridge. It was darker than a museum, darker than water. In this darkness he thought he heard Olly, but it was the music Olly had written drifting in his memory. Olly had not been found. Perhaps it was futile even to find Olly. If he found Olly, everything would change but would it change in a way that would be enough? He did not know what would be enough to change everything because it was possible that love and death were equally heavy. Perhaps to change everything in this way, by finding Olly wherever he had gone, would be worse than staying attached to the masonry. Perhaps the division between he and Olly was harder than this one, though he felt certain it was possible to breach if only he could decide if it were possible; if indeed Olly were there, beyond that division, or if instead he were here and there was no division between them but that of time (space) and it was simply a question of locating him, or if he were no longer anywhere (which he felt certain was impossible). But no one could know. He had to know. He could not act without knowing; he could not know without acting. Yet perhaps it was not possible to breach the division against the masonry as the division was of a different nature and not of one which would yield to his will, and in this case how could he remain in a world from which he was divided? But then as Olly's song was gently like water running over stones in his head, he began to realize that he had no contract with the (restricted to the) masonry, rather that he had a contract which included the masonry and everything which included it; stone . . . tree . . . pavement . . . streetlight . . . riverbank . . . sky . . .
So although it was painful (empty), it was not silent (alone), and it was good to hear in his head Olly's music which was gentle and undulated like waves on the slow black river that flowed beneath a footbridge. Waves had gentle dark arms with wrists and joints punctuated by slivers of light shed like mirrors by streetlights. In a flash of a sliver on water he could imagine a future for himself of a more concentrated swimming (than the swimming before the telegram) after he had detached from the masonry, if he could detach, if he decided to if the masonry would allow him to decide to. In a sliver on water he would be light and there would be no hard divisions because light would know no divisions. It would be easy to swim there in a sliver on a wave because a wave would be doing the swimming and he would be doing the riding. It might be louder though and figures on the banks might see him or maybe they would not see him if he was concentrated in a point on a wave or if his body became fluid like a wave; then he would not need to compress himself into a point but could stretch his length out long, longer than it was and longer even than the trails he had left unpursued like brief cuts in wood in the sky. A wave after all might be a good vehicle to travel on to look for Olly on, a wave like this one which rode like music on the river that wound all through London. The river must encounter Olly at some point; water and Olly, he felt, may have joined when he was not looking.
The masonry was releasing him when he saw the river water lapping at his toe. His toe had moved far from his body, it was escaping the body which was heavy where the masonry still clung to it in its hard way at brief spaces along his ribs and his upper arm. Further yet from his toe his head with the eye next the masonry was firmly attached there in a stare at the transparent (though darkened equal to the night) division. The other eye, however, could still perceive the possibility of his concentration into the sliver of light on the tip of a wave. So badly he wanted to join Olly. So badly he wanted to arrive at the end of the trail of the knowledge in him that knew where Olly had gone. So badly that he had separated his eyes so that one could monitor the sly creep of the water up his toe to his foot, the wet foot foot that was becoming light and light and light enough to float when the ankle was loosened at the joint where there might have been an opportunity to connect to Olly since he felt now, he knew, that water and Olly had joined. It was true that the masonry beyond the division was still heavy (with life) and that he was heavy (with love), but the water was light particularly on the tips of its waves that ran like music further out on the long stomach of the river and it was making him light by lifting his knee so gently and by letting its cap float and shine so meekly on its surface, like the point of a wave or pointed bone of a lax wrist or point of concentration of a will that divided life (love) from time (death) into a sliver of light that rides and searches the water that ate him.
(First published in Flint Hills Review #11: 2007).