The Words at the Start of the World

She looked like she was supposed to be there, under the blanket, on top of the mattress, outside my apartment building, sleeping with her hair haloed around her head at eight in the morning.  Her face, half-hidden by her left arm, looked like a boy’s face, a little boy grown old before his face had had a chance to catch up.

In her open mouth, you could just see the tip of her tongue and the blackness stuck in behind it.  At the root of that darkness were the beginnings of words, getting ready to greet the morning.  They were like the words at the start of the world, waiting to be said, before the humans had arrived to speak them.  They were the words in my mouth too, seeing myself, later that day, reflected in the window of an underground train, holding my face, grown old before it was ready, and whispering, I want to live, I want to live, I want to live.

Films in Black and White

That night you did not see what you think you saw, scenes from your own life played out in black and white on the washroom stall wall.  Sitting on the toilet seat, you leaned your head against the door.  While the other girls took turns coming to check on you, you watched yourself in pigtails eating popsicles and playing dolls while club beats beat out minutes you’d never noticed going by.

The Wind-Up Rose

All angels are all beauty and all goodness, and when Stuart was young, he had believed it.  He still held his face the same way, that flat peace and love and perfect harmony on it, but underneath, something had changed.  He couldn’t ask the other angels how they felt, drinking chocolate milk and playing tennis all day.  What could he possibly say about winning 23 out of the 46 tennis matches he had played and how it had lost its joy?

At the mandatory choir practice three times a week, Stuart still sang the words, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, but without that glorious light that had shot through him in the past, and then the next time Stuart went to earth, he came home with something more than just a soul.

Stuart stole the wind-up rose from a store in San Francisco, and as he smuggled it past customs in his underwear, he felt the last of his goodness go.

The rose started as a bud in a box, but when he wound the key and opened the lid, Stuart could watch it grow.

Stuart would sit on the sidelines at tennis matches, staring down at his lap while the other angels played, listening for the sound of imperfect hinges when the little rose began to open.

“Why won’t you ever play?” asked another angel one day.  The angel had a chocolate milk moustache and drips of sweat framing his face.

Stuart didn’t know what to say.  Stuart wondered why he wasn’t in hell where the badness was.  What was he doing in this place of all beauty and all goodness when the only beauty he had was in a little box on his lap?  Stuart sat still and said nothing, waiting for the other angel to go away.

And then one day, Stuart saw another angel with a box in his lap.  What has he got? Stuart wanted to know.  Stuart slid beside the angel on the bleachers and peaked into the box.  Inside was a miniature man struggling to do jumping jacks.

“That’s very beautiful,” Stuart said.  “Want to see what I’ve got?”

Conversation with Buzz Part 1

When we asked him what it was like, Buzz Aldrin told us the moon has a skin made of light, fibre optic fishing line woven to form a loose shroud that sags in some spots and looks clear when pulled tight.

The reports say it happened, but Buzz wouldn’t talk about sliding under the skin, lying with his head on the moon’s bare heart and that heavy light holding him down.

How the earth must have looked from there, that single sphere he had somehow detached from.

Memory Well

She knew this couldn’t be it.  There must have been a time before the well and the birds dropping seeds down for her to eat.  She remembered the word mother and said it sometimes into the night, not knowing which of the pictures in her brain it belonged to.  Maybe mother was the man with the hat that lowered her down, she doesn’t know when.  She thought she was smaller then.  She couldn’t reach the red stone sticking from the wall, and then she could, and then she could stare at it straight on.  But even those marvels seemed a long way off.  Her sureness that she’d grow to the top to see where the birds lived and where they got their seeds, and the sadness of seeing her growing had stopped, it all seemed so far off, as she watched the sun walk across the sky each day, the memories of memory, like the taste of a whisper, coming back from a time when she knew where she was and why she was there.

The Farmer’s Wife

Each morning the farmer rolls out his fields, and each night he ties them tight using the finest of twine.

“Don’t go out there,” he tells his wife with the withered hand, referring to the space left by the fields safely stored away in the barn, but of course she goes, stowing the lights from the farm house in her pockets, roaming the craters of blackness left in the land.

There are bandits in these parts.  They’d steal a field from under a fence, crack a calf from its safe, but she knows she’s safe, with her withered hand and the sloping way her mouth has of drifting down her face.

“Are you unhappy?” her husband had asked her, or was it why are you unhappy? or how can I make you happier?  Or maybe it was all a part of the dream she’s been waiting to wake up from.

She lies down on the bored out ground, surrounded by the place where a field should be.  She looks up at the space between the stars and puts herself there, holding the light from her pockets in her withered hand and remembering a time before time when all she was was light and space.

Alarm

The radio on your alarm switches on at 3am, unbeckoned.  The voice of a nighttime preacher speaking forgiveness onto dead waves.  It begins in your dreams, and only later do you realize his voice is not water spilling from a crack in a brick wall.  You bring your fingers to your face, listening to the voice, which is not fire, telling you you are loved by an empty sky.  He says it with such conviction to this all-night radio audience, drunks, insomniacs, suicides and one-hundred-million precious variations of the three.  Promises spilling through static the way sadness slowly slides from a broken heart.

 
You are aware of how it will sound in the morning, when you tell your co-workers how you became a Christian, how you must pray and be good, how those unwanted answers arrived feeling so solid against the black backdrop of your midnight bedroom.  
 
But that comes later.  Now, you are sitting up.  You are pulling the blankets from your bed, the clothes from your body.  You will wash away your sins in your apartment complex swimming pool closed for fall.
 
Your brain is chandelier glass with that nighttime preacher’s words, still whispering in the background, made of light.