Mr. Russell, the not-old man who was old, arrived atarbitrary intervals in the mornings, fragmenting her energiesas a stubborn thumb crushes a walnut. His cheeks were packed with silver bristles bulging like the sides of a fish. He tongued acigar. She offered coffee and he took it, then watched her sit in his mother’s rocker. After certain words, spoken out of habit it seemed, he mounted his pickup and turned to return.

  The barn on the hill; the tiny trailer by the spring where the old woman had died; the burnt-out foundations of the great house breathing quietly among the gaudy flesh of poppies and nasturtiums, thyme and mint, peonies and lilacs. She turned from painting horses and tried to capture what she saw around her, setting images on spongy paper, carrying her pictures in her head as she bent to laundry and dishes or bathed her body which held ripening seed packed hard and tight as a pear at her pubis. From tubes of raw color she abstracted petals, shreds of weed and wood, her hands moving automatically, her mind empty and clean as the cry of an animal. In the evenings her husband came home from loading boxcars at the mill tired and dirty and watched her sit in the rocker. She told him Mr.Russell had been there. They talked over what they knew of the place.