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Black Lamb

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Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.

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Archive for April, 2007

Where Besson Street and Chevron don’t meet

April 1st, 2007

BY SAGE COHEN

I am an unmarried woman.
My eyes fit together like a door closing
on an old life. See how the river runs
under me, the dog sleeps to my left?

I can’t tell you how to get here
because I don’t know myself
or which way you’re coming.
I drive the neatly drawn line of Route 97.
Division Street divides us.

The difference between losing
one’s maidenhood and losing
one’s mind: ceremony.

The river comes in stages,
like death. Each day the sky wavers,
streaked along the bottom of things.
I curl to fit you but you are too long.
I let you sleep alone
with your face toward the river.

The trees wear a heavy fur of snow.
I wish I knew how to receive what is provided.
There are only alternatives, back roads
that refuse the heavy grip of tires, and kisses
that heap themselves like snow.
By morning, we are exhausted with the weight. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Marriage Issue, Cohen | Link to this Entry

A good chuckle

April 1st, 2007

BY ALAN ALBRIGHT

weddingcake.jpgMy friend Alan appeared, sleepy-eyed, at the door. I’d just rousted him out of bed.

“Doing anything today?” I asked.

“Well…” he said.

“Could you make me a ring?”

I knew he could, and would — his jeweler’s equipment being right there — so in I walked, invited by now of course, and watched him cut a piece of brass wire, bend it around a mandril, and braze it into the conventional form. It took about three minutes.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Albright, All Marriage Issue | Link to this Entry

Whom God hath joined…

April 1st, 2007

anonymousmarriage.jpgBY TOBY TOMPKINS

It’s interesting that in the American states dominated by Bible-bangers, the divorce rates have been significantly higher over the past twenty years than in those whose populations prefer that God stay out of the State House and the bedroom. The Bible Belt keeps divorce lawyers richer than the northeastern states where the secular humanists rule (although in fairness, liberal California leads the nation in divorces per annum, but more about that below).

I know a nice guy from Alabama, a professed Christian, though he doesn’t make a fuss about it, who made a tidy fortune as a divorce lawyer until his soul began to sicken. He was spending his weekdays thinking up nasty and devious ways to put asunder those whom God had joined together, and his Sundays praising the Joiner. Well, most divorce lawyers thank God for marriage, but my friend is no hustling shyster. He’s sincere, smart, and he was seriously troubled by the gap between his beliefs and his job. When I met him (with his second wife), he was on vacation wrestling with his moral quandary. “The trouble is,” he told me, “I don’t know if I can afford to quit my practice.” The religious American’s dilemma: God hates what I do for a living, but my God how the money rolls in.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Marriage Issue, Tompkins | Link to this Entry

It’s all true

April 1st, 2007

happysingingcouple.jpgBY GREG ROBERTS

Everything you’ve ever heard about marriage is true — the wonderful and the grotesque. The wedding itself is always a perfectly joyful event. As a violin player in my mothy tuxedo, a bottle of Argyle chardonnay pulsing through my fingertips, I’ve witnessed countless weddings, and each was a creation of beauty and goodness.
Then, tragically, this happy union is threated by the smallest, most insidious attacks — little arguments about money or dirty dishes — things that can destroy the marriage like microscopic spirochetes that insert themselves into the brains of giants and kill them.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Marriage Issue, Roberts | Link to this Entry

Not much progress

April 1st, 2007

BY DAVID MACLAINE

durermarriage.jpgI can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a skeptic about marriage. It seemed at best a boring commonplace. I remember my utter puzzlement when the girls in kindergarten invited me over to the corner with the tables and chairs and toy stove and refrigerator and asked me to play “house.” Why would anyone choose to play the role of “husband” or “daddy” and act out the routines of everyday life rather than the far livelier alternatives of “cowboy,” “pirate,” or “Robin Hood”?

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Marriage Issue, Maclaine | Link to this Entry

They used to do it in Italy

April 1st, 2007

BY DAN PETERSON

,span style='width: 55px;'>Marriage, Italian Style. This 1964 film classic by Vittorio De Sica, starring Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren at the height of her beauty and sexual power, says it all: marriage, in Italy, is something different from marriage anywhere else. Part of this is due to the influence of the Roman Catholic Church and its stand against divorce. The result was that, for years, marriage was a one-shot deal. No seconds.

This brings us to the all-important figure of the mistress. I coached the Virtus Bologna basketball team for five years, 1973-78, when people supposedly had to toe the line with regard to marriage and fidelity. Yeah, right. I’ll say this: I did not know a single Bolognese man over thirty-five with decent economic means who did not have a mistress. I mean, they were like status symbols: Mine is better than yours.

There is a famous anecdote in The Italians, by Luigi Barzini, in which a married couple go to the opera. The wife, using her binoculars, says, “Dear, who is that beautiful young girl with Mario?” The husband says, “My dear, please be discreet. That’s his mistress.” The wife then scans left and sees her husband’s mistress, seated in the loge section, then scans to Mario’s mistress and says, “Ours is better!”

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Marriage Issue, Peterson | Link to this Entry

A taxing situation

April 1st, 2007

BY ANDREW DARREL

The Italian government has recently adjusted some of its income tax regulations. As a result, according to Corriere della Sera, at one level of income at least, single people now have to pay three times as much income tax as those of their fellow citizens who are married with a couple of kids and a dependent spouse.

This strikes me as just a bit unfair. Unlike many of my friends and acquaintances, I have no objection to paying taxes, and probably, Italy being the country it is, I could get away with paying less than I actually do. But I consider them an essential part of civilized life. Though some of what I contribute to the commonwealth gets wasted, most of it is still spent on really useful projects like confining my neighbors’ children during daylight hours to places of education. I can also put up with the idea that I might be subject to a bit of discriminatory taxation, up to a certain point — but to have to pay fully three times as much as a married person is too much.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Marriage Issue, Darrel | Link to this Entry

Out of whack

April 1st, 2007

BY DEAN SUESS

How can one write about marriage when the American model is divorce? What point is there writing about a social institution that is statistically given to failure the majority of the time? The average marriage used to last seven years before ending in an expensive and shattering divorce. Then again, so did the average affair.groszohneresultat.jpgI believe the new average for both is now less than four years. And this demonstrates what? Stability?

It amazes me that a person would marry, risking one’s financial well-being with another person who, when the lust ends, the instant gratification fails, and the petulance sets in, will take the other for all he or she is worth, leaving behind a shell-shocked ex and probably progeny, all of whom become damaged goods. At one time, marriage was the foundation of financial responsibility. Now, however, depending on the judge, divorce can be far more financially lucrative than marriage, if you survive the emotional trauma. And this demonstrates what? Sensitivity?

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Marriage Issue, Suess | Link to this Entry

Practice wife

April 1st, 2007

BY STEPHEN STARBUCK

“Sit down so you can enjoy that!”

That’s probably the last thing I’ll remember from my first marriage, my practice wife erupting, harping on my favored practice of eating a kitchen sink salad I’d just thrown together, scarfing it up actually at the kitchen sink, standing, on my feet, imagine that. A couple of kinds of lettuce, daikon (I’d say Japanese radish — thick and sweet, that grows like a giant white carrot — except when you’re living in Japan, you don’t say that), shaved carrots, olives, chunks of tomatoes, sharp cheddar, raw nuts, sprouts, and whatever else the fridge was hiding, drenched in olive oil and balsamic and minced garlic and cracked pepper… eaten directly from the stainless steel bowl I mixed it in, a pure pleasure.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Marriage Issue, Starbuck | Link to this Entry

Beats the alternative

April 1st, 2007

BY JIM PATTON

Great girl. (I met her in high school, then let a near-lifetime pass before I located her again.) Great woman. Real woman, with myriad strengths and what she’s always called her numerous “foibles.” (Which she’s hard pressed to name except for “bad cuticles.”) She claims a mean streak, though she’s as mild as they come. Maybe it does exist and she stifles it because, admittedly, she doesn’t like conflict or confrontation. More likely, her idea of a mean streak is getting irked about some little something every few months. What do I know?

How well does anyone know anyone? My wife knows I’m a writer at heart (though my production waxes and wanes), knows I’m inclined to substances (though I promised not to introduce them into our life together, and haven’t), knows I don’t think highly of myself (though others see it differently), knows I can be mean (though rarely when I’m sober), knows I can be a softie (and promises not to tell). But what does this amount to? My real inner life is secret. Even when we went to counseling last year and bared plenty, to save the marriage, I held back (to save the marriage) — and I’m not one to hold back, so imagine what she leaves unsaid.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Marriage Issue, Patton | Link to this Entry

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