New Stories for March 20, 2017
The Benson Bubblers are all gone. They have disappeared from every street corner. From Burnside to Madison to Stark to Washington to Alder to Yamhill to Morrison to Hoyt to Salmon to Madison and again to Washington. Everywhere. Zip. Badda boom. Our iconic water fountains have vanished, or so it feels.
The fact of the matter is our Benson Bubblers are not where they should be, but we know exactly where they are. They’ve all been accounted for in Pioneer Square in the form of a giant, hydraulic man that sits in the center plaza.
We’d call him Bob, but that’s a bit old these days.
So we call him Simon.
I remember an evening thirty years
ago, three of us standing on a footbridge
when my daughter was one. She
in a stroller. My mother, eight months past
cancer. Me leaning over the railing watching
tracks of abandoned trains almost
touch, disappear into a seldom-used
journey. This March, I push my granddaughter
in her little red car down the road to a pasture.
It’s that moment when I’m able to step outside without my winter coat. That moment when I look at the flowerbed I’m about to tend. I’ll look at the dirt, rich with nutrients from things I missed during my autumn cleanup. I’ll look at the green sprouts of leaves and the minute buds on the hydrangeas my grandma ordered for me from QVC. I’ll smile when I recall that only a handful of weeks before, the hydrangea’s skeleton was in a vertical arm wrestling match with seven inches of late winter snow.
After Philip Levine
The yard is abandoned, though home
welcomes you. A lone blue sofa
where she huddles, feet beneath
legs crossed in moon shadows.
A man scatters seeds…royal blue
jays in black plumes land inside
the red-fired, ceramic planter, filling
the man’s eyes like a lone bird.
A withering heart is different than a broken one. A broken heart acts in accordance with Newtonian physics—action and reaction; tragedy and heartbreak. A withering heart, meanwhile, crumbles away, degradation and disappointment wearing it down to dust. It acts in accordance with the law of entropy.
All things follow entropy. The heart is a singularity of time divided by experience divided by memory, all derivative of the heart’s singular, drumlike beating. And with each beat, a little more of the singularity is released, giving the finite amount of energy it contains away to the blood and bone and marrow around it. The heart ripples out through time and space and loses itself as it goes. I wish, says the heart. I wish.
Wishing is a form of entropy, too.
But this is not just a story of wishing. This is not just a story of empirical evidence or singularities or small hands or even of entropy—although all things are just stories of entropy at the end of the day. This is a story of a boy, and the heart he did not wish to have. And in the beginning was the Word and the Word was a singularity that spoke amid darkness, “Let there be light,” so we can conclude through the transitive property that words are singularities are stories are light. And this is the magic of the Word and the words: light is precious in a world so dark.
The boy with the small hands and the heart he did not wish to have lived in a gray house with a bedroom with a window to the roof. The boy sometimes stood on the roof. He sometimes looked out across the ocean of suburban houses. The boy’s years raced toward entropy, and his space on the roof became the Cartesian coordinates (0,0,0) on the three-dimensional graph of his world. The boy’s heart raced toward entropy, and as it withered, it beat like a singularity. Let there be light. Let there be light.
Come close, my friends, and I shall give the four truths of a withering heart. Come close, and I shall give light amid darkness.
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