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Coins, Glass, Nails, Pottery, Cinders

May 2023, no. 453

Coins, Glass, Nails, Pottery, Cinders

May 2023, no. 453

‘The world is full of persons, only some of whom are human.'

                                                                                                                         Graham Harman


Nietzsche wrote that a human being resides somewhere between a plant and a ghost.



Beauty has always required two agents: a beaut and a beholder. In lieu of a ring, her new fiancé came back from a trip to town with socks for himself, and an extravagance of lilies, their faces already slabbered with a stain of pollen. She arranged them, and then walked through the house feeling a pleasurable emptiness, like a shirt in a shop window, framed, somehow. The flowers were her beaut, and she was the beaut of the house itself, and of the view of the hills, and she in turn beheld the view of the hills – beauty and beholding were pouring freely back and forth and it felt for a moment like something that could not be exhausted, the very flowers like some Jurassic proof of sex, of personhood, full-spreading themselves in the closed container of their vase, gradually making the water rank.



Or maybe that was later. Maybe she bought herself the flowers. And for Bob it was just the socks.



What is the point of flowers? Their petallic openness to smudge. What is the point of beauty? Branches inosculating in the primalgreen dream forest, a fuse of reach. From the Latin osculare, to kiss. To be a tree kissing itself, pleaching its own branches, she thought. To be a slow and solid home, for the deep past and the dirtying bees.



They were brushing their teeth together in the bathroom when Bob said, When are you going to pluck that? and the part of her that bends to shame said, I just did. Later, in the bed’s atmosphere of distinct chill, he said, It’s not that I don’t think you’re pretty. No? No, it’s just that I’d like looking at your face even more if you didn’t have all that fuzz.



As a week passed and the lilies browned, she tried to recall her belief that the wilt is also beautiful.



Evenings, Bob liked to put himself into a slouch container with his bigger screen. Sweet evenings, when he invited her to come and watch something from beginning to end in the slouch container. They piled up all the extra wool behind them like an inert mother sheep, while the real sheep stayed a goodly distance from the house in their green and degraded valleys, having broken down throughout the day their coarse food of grasses, and having let it travel, in the dark and knotted night, to the third true stomach. There was such sweetness in this pact of story reception. Normally Bob would watch the beginning of several films, skipping through at double speed if they couldn’t hold his attention. It’s not that I don’t think you’re pretty. Our world is no container, she thought sadly on nights outside the slouch, fingering her private perforations on the couch.



Is it possible she wanted to delight, more than she wanted to be delighted? Did she want, above all, to be a font, a brook, a source, a small pure laughing cut of water that a thirsty hiker would be glad to find – ecstatic to find, to taste?



Above all, the view of the hills poured back at her. The more she beheld the mountains, the more mountainous they made her. What she wanted above all for the fuzzed and lovely hills was that they not be exhausted.



A textural class of soil known as sand submits to a rage of melt in order to be seen through.



When the pollen dust was everywhere and she tired of picking up after it, she threw the flowers in the fire. It was a wonder to watch how they burned.



The vase, emptied of flowers. The vase cooling and shifting on the kitchen bench, next to the candystripe tin that held twists of meat for the dog. The vase did not await fresh flowers, neither did it refuse such waiting. Its relationship with waiting was mysterious, though real. In the smoothed and fired dark form of its vesselbody – a provision to the self of mostly empty space – it tended a thousand options for shatter.


Joan Fleming

Joan Fleming’s most recent publication is Song of Less (Cordite Books, 2022).

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