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This report is taken from PN Review 247, Volume 45 Number 5, May - June 2019.

from ‘The Notebooks’
of Arcangelo Riffis
Marius Kociejowski
Arcangelo, when we last saw him, was standing behind the reception desk of a small hotel in Nevern Square, the pages of his manuscript scattered like a gaggle of frightened geese, a look of surprise in his face, no time to think, no time even to take a swing at me. That single action of mine, my throwing his verses in his face, would interrupt our relationship for close to two years. I’d got him dead centre. I’d rocked his pride. America had just pulled out of Vietnam. Some hullabaloo, Uncle Sam on the run, desperate Vietnamese clinging to the skids of fleeing helicopters.* Operation Frequent Wind. Who was the poetical genius behind that verbal soufflé? A couple of weeks before that first break in our friendship, Arcangelo and I watched the TV together in silence, in the hotel lobby where often I’d meet up with him late at night for talk – talk when things were ‘good’ between us or, when not, when words failed, renewed hostilities. This occasion was marked by a solemn truce. Saigon, April 29th, 1975. One of the men hanging onto the skids fell. It was no great distance. The desperation, on the other hand, the depth though which people who have lost their pride plunge, was immeasurable. We could applaud the fact maybe, the end of a foolish escapade, but not the bleeding shame of it all. There was something else, however, that Arcangelo did not dare give utterance to, which curled up inside him like burning paper, flaking off at the edges. ...

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