lisa janssen

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
                                             and hair.

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   

                              drops off
               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.




2  1