John Deming grew up in New Hampshire but currently lives in
New York City. He is Managing Editor of Coldfront Magazine.
I see myself face down, sucking
air, blistered cold and nearly dead-
is it the surface of Triton, its thin
loaf of an atmosphere?-and wake
to the deep of a gracious, warm
ocean: from the top down, humans
filling the pits and grooves, each
formed with an odd face. Crawling
so deep, it's not what's forgotten
that's surprising, but what's remembered:
jetlagged, will I remember this dark
British bar where a small group
has formed to watch an American
football game? Most three-hour
lumps are flickering or forgotten;
when humans are gone, so too
will be anything we remembered-
minus the spotted sense that
to remain once is to remain always.
The globe is on television. A bank
commercial, but a planet's still
a pretty thing. The blue-sweatered
bartender is playing various
Rolling Stones tunes. Funny
that earth can be televised
while standing as the only place
with television-the image flattened,
buried deep in our atmosphere, ebbed
into tubes and boxes. The planet
outside bobbing unmoved in bizarre
silence. Surrounded interminably
by night sky, always silent and
seductive-a satin gown, the better
parts of the body just out of sight.
Atmosphere positing itself,
a thin film of cloud, debris, bird
(it will all dry up in one of several
possible ways); of nitrogen,
exhaustible heavens!-if anyone
knew we were here, they might
be impressed-and history dismissed,
we might be proud, as of a patio.
Inhabiting the thing: magnet
for an undulant, breathy shell of air-
left with the fact I'm talking
to myself over drinks and football,
the friend says he can see where
things have been headed with me
and Jane. I tell him to admit
he'd be damned to hear about
it, but thank him for the prompt.
Say sure I could use a little
grace. He changes the subject.
"I've never told this story."
Eight years ago, he was
backing out his car. His rotten
family members always left
the garbage barrels at the end
of the driveway. He felt one
catch under his tires. Grooved
it a little. A thin line from stomping
the accelerator to knock it aside.
Maybe climb over it, it was
dent-proof. Maybe crack it.
A thin line, but he wasn't running
late, so he stilled the car and
moved to move the barrel. Imagine,
he said, the black shock when it
wasn't a garbage can, when
a small girl with straight brown hair
and fat glasses crawled out
from underneath, bike still trapped,
bloody gashes and scrapes
up and across her legs and arms
The "we've many small things"
example: in our pocket
of time there are many
floor tiles, and different
ones. Pressed bare feet.
Another: there is no clear
reason for the varying
swells of weather or
sense. Just a sudden rain
at the close of a hot day,
and cooling air rushed
through an open window.
Many people step across
floors and others collapse
and die on them, as what's
necessary and final is to
float around and think
about it little. Forced un-
thinking-that's a difficult
even. Anne, 75-ish with
dyed-yellow hair, is still
gossiping. She's at her
desk, on her swivel-chair,
phone to head. Small,
specific opinions. Every
day lunch is either a single
tomato or a salad. "I've got
my spring greens today,
Jack. They're just so."
She's supposed to be
selling ads. People with
things on their minds: both
Anne and I have walked
across tiled floor today,
and both of us will die.
What we all have most clearly
is occupation-it's living.
That's due to time, as both
time and its occupation
are as small as anything:
a whisper, a joke, a pin,
some noisy hedge-trimming.
What was the weather like
that day? What did you have
to drink? Everything is small
things, we're among the
smallest-but with billions
of neutrinos, expelled from
the sun, passing through
each of our bodies every second.
That's awfully intimate, so I
tense my muscles to try them.
A fat mug of evening coffee.
Let's blend again, then,
to live. Forcibly if necessary
to fall asleep and then to dream
in a bar on Sunday afternoon; it's thin
and peculiar, like the balance of an ant
stepping its suction-cup feet across
a string of dental floss (might all be
flux, but also fusion, planet and
past it an autonomous fluctuant thing).
Even upon waking, I'm viewing
the room through a lens: everything's
fogged, I can tell my head was on a table,
but all of the dividing lines-chairs,
bottles, televisions-wave and blur
as though they-imagined-mean
to disappear. I'm confident they'll
disappear. With all eyes. Easiest,
then, to recognize that this is not a safe
place to be: and to fall back asleep,
return to the kind of place where it's easy
to become immobilized. Where I first
met so-and-so. Where some beloved
dead nod knowingly, as if to imply not
compassion alone, as I'd expected, but
power (we should have the fortune
to know this power). I see them one
at a time, and only in discreet places-
hidden corners in a maze of halls
and vestibules-what seems a poorly-
planned home. It collapses under
that weight. Walking away, to lose
my knees and fall to my chest-could
be anywhere in the universe, however
close-a dream's the easiest thing to
remember or to forget as something in
the whole of one's body snaps like a thread
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