What Falls Down
When I moved into the peapod roomlarge enough for a single bed and standing space beside itthe rooms other feature, a window, was open. The peapod room was in a row house, so my window looked out on another window, plus brick with intimations of sky. This was in the year radiators clanged O love, O love, or some of us heard them so; the year microwaves in our building shorted in storms; my landlord sent away for crystal animal figurines and confided in strangers about his medically-enforced celibacy; my brother bought me movie tickets from a remove of several states; and our nation began bombing the Land of Abraham in earnest. I couldnt sleep. This was the year that, sleeping at a friends in an effort to sleep, I woke in panic, walked to a Ukrainian diner in the dark and ate pancakes that were heavy and light in the manner of dancers. Shortly thereafter S. assigned me a point on the Enneagram. Shortly thereafter, breaking up a fight at the girls school, I shouted breaking-up-fight clichés, like Theres nothing to see here! and Get back to class! Of course there was something to see, which is part of why war is the health of the state. Getting back to class, I recalled a day in eighth grade when my whole junior high was supposed to be outside, Earth Day, it mustve been, picking up trashpop can weed pipes, chip bagsand upstairs B. from track team was jumped by six or seven girls, one of whomafter theyd taken B.s bloody face and ran it up and down the burning, popping bathroom radiator, after theyd pressed it and held it to that radiator, revealing pus and raw, red striations where once eyebrows, cheeks, lipsfreaked out, turned coat, and ran outside to tell our hall monitor that B. was kicked and cut and nearly dead. When the ambulance arrived, we all felt that there was something to see. When I moved into the peapod room, like my countrymen in other rooms, I desired fewer sights and so hung nothing on the walls. The Rorschach blots must have been there already, splayed on the sleepless ceiling, faint as water stains, more vivid in the gloaming, most vivid in the dark, and looking like sound, these blots I would watch for months, waking in panic, listening to Soul and Hopelandic, not sleeping. When I moved into the peapod room, the man across from my window opened his window, leaned out on his ledge and we shook hands. Then he closed his window and his blinds. My blinds stayed open, or perhaps there were none, so I read ladies magazines, and then again about gout, and planned minutiae of dinner parties in my head, aiming to become sleepy and pacific as I did, and felt faces come streaming, saw loved faces come flying, by the light of the moon, which I could not see, by the sense of stars, the stars unseen. And I would think of a fact I knew, one of the better facts Ive been given to know, this one offered by a chemist friend and one that, alone in the middle of the night, would soothe me: namely, that glass is a liquid. I knew other facts: for instance, my brother favors film reviews from the Chicago Reader; for instance, kissing on waterbeds induces seasickness; for instance, if India would iodize their salt, people wouldnt get gout, and this was a socialistic action for our country, the iodizing of salt; for instance there is a high rate of suicide among nurses in burn wards, and burn ward nurses are urged to seek counseling; for instance the United States bombed Hiroshima on the Feast of the Transfigurationmetemorphothethe eyes melted out of the faces of many of the Japanese who looked up toward the sky when Little Boy fell, and many were burned so that the features of their faces and their faces were erased, and on the undressed bodies of survivors patterns were burned, the flowers from a kimono, say, since white repels heat, but dark colors absorb it. But hoping to become sleepy and pacific I would return to a fact I knewthat glass is liquidand all the beauty that followed, how house windows, bank windows, church windows would fall down letting winds come in, like silk from bolts and slips off shoulders, lovers loosening gowns. Intimations of moon would irradiate ripples in the panes on my window and seemed further proof, and I would think that were our nation a kingdom with a moat and sundry and were we put under a sleeping spell, most restorative, of 1,000 years, bomb remotes frozen, tacky as poodle figurines, outmoded, in hands, and were that spell broken by a particular kiss, the windows, like castle brambles, would not have slept, following thermodynamic dictums, but would have flown and dripped. But this, I did not yet know, could not be. Once, I had been told that islands dont float, which made the adage, no man is an island, redundant, I thought, and later I would be corrected of this: told that glass is neither liquid nor solid so much as an amorphous solid, or a super-cooled liquid of ridiculous viscosity with molecules akimbo, not ordered in lattices or grids. Common sense figured into my correction, as in: knock on a glass, drink from a glass, try to pour glass into your wine glass, it is more solid than not, common sense and further complication, like plastic matter creeps, and silly putty is a liquid, and arrowheads made from obsidian, a natural glass, that are unearthed from long and long ago, can still be used to cut or kill. But I did not know. So, aiming to become sleepy and pacific, Id think of my peapod window dripping, knowing if I fell asleep long enough it would. Outside, though I could not see, under the sense of stars, the stars unseen, I knew that garlic knots were for sale all night, served on wax paper greased translucent, also pancakes in the manner of dancers, knew that computer screens and dead pigeons beamed, and that people in gym socks practiced walking meditation, I had seen them do this, stepping viscous across asphalt car or playing fields, as though over bodies, through brambles, among mail-order aviaries of crystal or glass, and so I imagined them, the winds let in, as the first kissed back, how they would seem to be mannequins waking, cataleptic with wonder, cooing rain gutter, rain gutter, rain.
(first published in Greatcoat)