The Children of Laurence Vail
Laurence Vail: B-list surrealist, drunk and exhibitionist, tears the clothes of Peggy
Guggenheim in a bar in Paris
She marries him.
Michael Cedric Sindbad Vail born May 15, 1923
born and named at a party
He will acquire what is
said to be his father’s gift for aimlessness.
Jezebel Margaret “Pegeen” born August 18, 1924
she will be a Jezebel born
and soon to face years of leftover exhibitions.
Peggy suffers the fool gladly and crawls for a while in his broad drunken shadow
She splits with Pegeen leaving the unanswered question,
whose will will lose?
Enter Kay Boyle: B-list delusionist, poet, and fag hag
Fresh from 1920s style nature cult, she sees Vail
and in Vail a corner. A swaying line to order. She packs up her
cult-raised daughter and sets up house
with Laurence and Sindbad in 1929.
Apple-Joan born December 18
“song of songs, apple tree among trees of wood” says
Laurence to the Apple of his eye
1931 Kay Boyle’s daughter sets fire to the house Les Six Enfants.
Kathe Vail born July 7, 1934
She was no one’s particular favorite.
Clover Vail born March 29, 1939
it was rather a blow to have another girl, says Kay Boyle
and gives her the nickname Jerry.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Peggy finds Pegeen in a bath
full of blood
Pegeen paints portraits of her own strange shape
only smoothing out the angles of her pointed body
Between then and now between line and corner
between lap and closet and ear against door
The children of Laurence Vail attempt to grow
and grow crooked grow crookedly grow in spite or in vain.
The moderns perform their rites of passage
forms of incest and sins of neglect
kissing their own hands.
1956 Apple Joan Vail throws a knife at her life
and her husband Ted too
Climbs a tree,
a tree among wood,
with a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of gin
where she has decided to stay for awhile.
In 1957 Pegeen Vail has created a brood of three,
but no matter
She marries would-be revolutionary, B-list situationist Ralph Rumney
they have one son Sandro
she tries to escape and escape and escape, she says, “I can’t escape”
tries many means to leave the scene.
And Kathe’s husband has been committing a great number of sordid
Clover breaks down the summer of 1962. Violent
Violent in hospital for 30 days. Violent is as violent does as
Clover can’t help but do.
As an aside, in the middle of this story:
Last daughter of Kay Boyle, Faith aka “Mousie”
1966 follows folk harmonica player Mel Lyman into his 1960s style
nature cult and becomes one of his people
buys his spiritual trip
escapes in a manner of speaking, these are
each a means of escape.
In 1967, Laurence Vail’s first daughter
finally succeeds where the others have failed
Pegeen, Pegeen, was a painter and left behind
forgot to feed the cats check the children
push the key under the door
and lock it before you go she went and Ralph Rumney found her there
her valium and whiskey and broken broken down.
Thank god for Laurence Vail for
Laurence Vail checked out on April 16, 1968.
Apple ends her days in a world of the past, mind lost in tree
life lost in 1988
her son Bruno
checks himself out soon thereafter
lisa janssen is a poet and archivist living in Chicago. She is the author of four chapbooks, Blonds Have More Fun and Not too High on the Horse, both from Backyard Press, and two self-published chapbooks. Her work has appeared in such journals as WSQ - Women's Studies Quarterly, Make, and Bombay Gin. She is a graduate of the Naropa Institute (now Naropa University) writing program and currently co-edits the literary journal MoonLit.