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From the VQR Vault: Ties That Bind

ISSUE:  Spring 2016

All that fitful mercy infected us.
It could make you believe in God or your wedding day
Or even being big yourself, having children
And kissing them and frowning because the two never
Get untangled, the hand that teases you will beat
You too. Somedays we go down to the river and
We lie on the rocks and enjoy the simpleness of it,
Just bodies, not a sister or brother. Old strap welts
Pale in the sun and when other people talk
To you it doesn’t seem so bad that they’ll
Never know. Because you wouldn’t want them to.
What’s familiar is special. What’s intimate is
Something undecided—half kindly, half cruel.

Baron Wormser, from “Families,” Summer 1984


The competition of life is keenest between those organisms which are most alike, and which therefore make the most nearly identical demands upon nature. There is no competition between the codfish and the song-sparrow; but there is active competition between the song-sparrow and the purple finch because both depend upon seeds. This competition accordingly becomes keenest of all between members of the same species, and reaches its climax when they are attempting to subsist in the same area. This is another way of saying that in all this bitter competition in nature, the most relentless struggle is that between parents and children. 

Henry Pratt Fairchild, “Battling Impulses,” Fall 1926


This craving to see the ocean again had started, Virginia remembered, back in a long dry spell during June, when the wind blew incessantly from the west, or did not blow at all, and the earth dried slowly, and gaped a little here and there. The Illinois land seemed suddenly very flat and wide with no horizons, and all the water stood still in the ponds, or rose up and died in the white, motionless air.

It had become even more urgent to her when she discovered that she was to have another child, and she felt that she must go this year or perhaps not at all (having that curiously matter-of-fact perception of death which pregnant women feel, not fearing it, but perceiving it over a long and level period of time).

Josephine W. Johnson, “Coney Island in November,” Summer 1963


Harry was just my age, but I didn’t know him at all. They seldom came to any of the family gatherings. Except, of course, the funerals. Everybody, cousins and uncles and aunts and pets, people you never heard of, showed up for funerals. A goodsize family funeral was pure delight for the children, I remember. We ran free underfoot. There would be too many grownups around, and they’d be too stiff and sad and softfooted to bother about scolding children. 

George Garrett, “The Last of the Spanish Blood,” Spring 1960


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