Gift: The Life of Lorenzo Da Pontenby David R. Slavittn•.i£’:^ •nNot merely a strange place, but the home of strangeness,nthe land stretching away west to vertiginousnspaces beyond the imagination.nPhiladelphia first,nthen New York, where Nancy is living.nThe Grahls have done well, chemists, merchants, physicians.nLorenzo and Nancy cross the river, settlenin Jersey, open a grocery storenin Elizabeth.nHe writes how he laughed,n”every time my poetical hand weighed outntwo ounces of tea, or cut a plug of tobacconfor some cobbler or carter.”nThus amused, he never notices hownpeople cheat him, take his kindness as weaknessnand him for all he is worth—nseven thousand dollarsngoing, gone.nAnd Nancy bears him a son,na last child, christened Charles Grahlnda Ponten(Lorenzo will always call him Carlo).nWhat to do to eat?nTeach perhaps?nItalian?nMaybe Latin?nSomething will turn up.nThere may yet be something good around the corner.nHe sells the housenand they return to New York.nThere are more corners there.nYou wake from a dream you cannot remember,ntry this setting or that, make odd suggestions,nbut nothing speaks.nThat wasn’t it. The kernelnof meaning is gone, and you are the empty husk.nWhat was there?nThe color of lilacs?nTheir scent?nYou let your mind go blank but all you havenis a blank mind,nwhich is all you deserve.nIn a bookstore on Broadway . . .nIf he has any church or synagogue,nif he believes in anything, feels at homenanywhere, it would be in bookstores.nIn a bookstore then, on Broadway, where he is browsing,nhe enters into a casual conversationnwith a younger man, a stranger.nAn idle remark,nan answer, a joke, perhaps, and then an allusion,na reference,na password . . .nnnOCTOBER 1992/15n