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The Rest is Silence Hardcover – September 19, 2003


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About the Author

Frances Garrett Connell (b. 1949) completed degrees from Barnard College, the University of Virginia, and Columbia University and has taught at Kabul University, University of Pennsylvania, St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Montgomery College, and George Mason University, as well as at Lycee Mahasty and Lansdowne-Aldan High School, and for Montgomery County (Maryland) Adult Education programs. She has also done consulting for Peace Corps, Bread for the World, World Hunger Education, International Educational Forum, and other organizations. Her poems, articles and stories have appeared in some thirty magazines, as well as organization and association newsletters, the anthology But Can They Do Field Work? (OGN Publications), and The Christian Science Monitor. Other books by the author include: The Rest is Silence: Selected Poems (Xlibris), and four volumes published under a biography-oral history imprint, A Reminiscence Sing: Marcia: a Book of Memories; Dave’s Words; The Collected Poems of John Stephen Garrett; and The Banyan Tree.

She is working on fine-tuning a pictorial essay and memoir on living in Afghanistan from 1973-1976, Children Kept from the Sun; another collection of poetry, This Side of the Truth; and a novella-short story collection named The Hare in the Moon and Other Stories.

From her home in Silver Spring, Maryland, she awaits—like gifts—the actual and visiting presence of three "mostly grown-up" Irish-named sons, and her husband, Tom.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Impressionists on the Seine (To John, 1947-1996) You were always in such a hurry, scuffing soft ground to get moving, hearing another clock tick, squinting round eyes to make blues of green. (What if we had sat at the table in Renoir’s "Rower’s Luncheon" posed in the space between archway and water rippling, our skins taut, wine soft the world blurred blue and luminous, you sprawled cockily, the rower facing out, the other small beside your heat, while I a woman’s back, smile at you both content to settle still and listen?) At Sunday dinners you took the floor from everyone, slamming down a fist to make a point, panting. A puppeteer you pulled me on thin floating threads: sneaking into the attic to show me mysteries piled up under old sheets two weeks before Santa, propelling yourself barefooted to the top of every fir tree I short-legged scuttled to follow, clawing up crayfish quick as a steam shovel under ditches flooding chocolate-colored mud. Frantically you stretched your 13-year old limbs inside our Daddy’s shirts and trousers acquiring manhood instantly in a weight of cloth. You crossed the country on your thumb sized up jail cells for runaways in Oklahoma dissolved peyote buttons on dry saliva across New Mexico scribbled seven reams of stories, then sent the pages flying past prairie winds and Pacific city stops before you legioned eighteen. You raced through marriage to a Nebraska librarian pausing once to catch college, in courses like salt sprinkled on the wounds of your impatience. (What if we’d paused in the pale wind of some Grenouillere afternoon sweaty effort incandescent light on bare arms the painter readied to pastel words of hope, your bold rower’s hands anchoring us against the table whites, carafes sparkling red to our faces, life never growing harder, that water your only way, each breath floating clear color?) The medicines they finally gave you slowed you down: your thin boxer’s arms grew flabby, legs that had raced bases to home runs thickened, a hard torso ballooned. Days and years you’d sit by the garden cigarettes mounting beside mother’s coffee grounds and spoiled vegetables then be off pacing, demanding. Or, stretched out on your unmade bachelor’s bed your head raced remembering, creating Tahitian girls and kaleidoscopes to wrap around your limbs, retired at 40. (What place would you have gone to after that, carrying away the comet of your fierce light back over the river in a thin boat, warm curve of your pants against wood, sky filtering through lattices our presence parted like your oars the water, no shadows falling in this steadied noon we, waiting there in still life, the luncheon, always coming?) You were always in such a hurry, wouldn’t linger at either emergency room that last night, in dawn’s light rolled off the bed to nestle the fleshy shell of your quick self on the floor seeking air, your heart failing, to climb as fast as a gymnast into black death. Owls How should I tell him my fable and the fears, How bridge the chasm in a casual tone. —Stanley Kunitz I hesitate, branch bent with snow before I crack. Morning ripples cleave currents etched on ice. I remember a girl so full of terror time ached around her bones, her rags in feathered winter choking off hands that would have warmed her faith with draughts and callings. Sleep came after rehearsing, journaling a chore for living, lean noise, culled from silence, called. Let us move past musings in backward rooms, past coins soldered into place in albums, the pages turned, past trunks that ration out the corners where we stooped and curdled memories stretched small inside. Let us move beside barns like carved owls on scooped out bowls of hills, and pace the birds, falling to settle on the ground, as breathing grass. A Letter from Loren Eisley It’s just too close to you; there’s neither rhyme nor reason in your looking yet. But when you’ve leveled the first spade of sand over a pine box its warm shavings still curling on a work room floor, burned your hands over smoking kerosene drum heaters in freight yards on the edge of dry towns with signs assaulting, "Unemployed Men Keep Moving," your deaf mother’s flower seeds tucked into the frayed pockets of your father’s last business coat, Once you’ve cradled bones and read in the cracked fibula the labored walk of dinosaurs 65 million years extinct, as Nebraska’s plain rumbled under a thunder storm, the nearest house a dusty race in an ancient car over gullies rearing to flash flood—all the strange hours, If you’ve nursed your words in a silent room to name the stamen’s curve, the slow dance of pistil in anther a tulip’s silky fruit, and known, a man alone among men, a whole empire resides in that plumage, When you’ve studied sea flume, ragged bits of whelk and kelp, picked among swimmets and carapace, salty pincers and feelers, slapped to shore after the fierce moon pull of October storms, and your eyepiece turns from brine shrimp to the galaxy hooked at the rim of the rising sun, a star thrower adjusting finderscope, counterweights, imagining atmospheric dust, dark fissures under earth crust, as your toes dig into wet sand. Then, yes, then you can know a man in isolation twins the universe, both desolate tales, unceasingly amazing, hands, eyes, mind, voice, by human choice carve out arenas where— the firmaments of time, the unexpected universe, the night country, the immense journey— chaos and order battle to rule the world.

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More About the Author

A graduate of Barnard College, with a masters from the University of Virginia and a doctorate from Columbia, and mother of three amazingly diverse and well-travelled and well-read sons, Frances Connell has been published in more than two dozen literary magazines and anthologies, and in the Washington Post, and The Christian Science Monitor. She completed eight oral histories under the imprimatur of her own company, A Reminiscence Sing. She previously taught writing, oral history and international development at the University of Pennsylvania, Kabul University, St. Mary's Seminary and University (Baltimore), George Mason University, and Montgomery College, and ran refugee and repatriation programs in the Maryland and D.C. area. Currently, she teaches for the University of Maryland University College. Her books include: The Authoring of Selves: Literacy and its Indigenous Forms in a Traditional Afghan Village; The Rest is Silence: Poems; Down Rivers of Windfall Night (novel), Children Kept from the Sun (photos and memoir); Between the Shadow and the Soul: Random Poems; and With One Fool Left in the World, No One is Stranded:Scenes from an Earlier Afghanistan. She is currently completing another novel, and lives in New York City.

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