“and even you forgot those brilliant flashes seen from afar” -Ruth Stone

Entropy

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is the only law of physics that isn’t time-agnostic. Meaning, it can’t be undone. This minute’s chaos, each miniscule undoing, won’t reverse. Meaning, S=K log W, “arrow of time,” etc.: the minutes drive disorder but not disorder’s opposite. Meaning, the Orionids sizzle through the heavens, one right after the next. I can’t see them; it’s cloudy, there’s a hill I’d have to climb, plus I’m not wearing clothes, my hair is wet. The minutes nudge against each other in line. They made it dark. They changed my body. I’m jealous of their soft familiarity, their casual urge forward, the tender way they shove. The Orionids are lonely like the rest of us but the minutes are always in company. They bump along, undoing, undoing. The man who made the math was so struck with anguish (nothing stays, nothing stays) he left fast, via rope, via hotel doorframe. The hotel was in Duino, of all elegiac places, where the angels don’t listen, or we think they don’t. Stars imploding, stones pitching into the sea, a woman in the next room stepping out of her slip, one hand on the sill.

It seemed wrong

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to take the book apart
but I took it apart. The cover
just cardboard at the core,
and all the yellowed glues
and string unstrung.
You were there. Each page
hung on the line.
The line hung.
The book reads differently now.
Beyond reason
is the only way to love,
it says. It says to go back
to the nursery,
buy the wan tree.
It says the moon
turns to face us,
illuminates the manuscript
of your shirt.
On the collar,
something four-legged.
Botany at the tail.
To read out of order
is to arrange one’s affection
deliberately. Wind
hits the paper
and it swings.

Novel

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I wanted to write a novel about a woman and a bird (many birds, the birds’ many beaks) but the woman kept turning into me. Despite my best intentions to keep myself out of it, and even though I added non-me details (the woman ate pickled herring with a small fork in her empty kitchen, the woman had a gift with houseplants, the woman had no children), I saw my own shadow in her yard. The same thing happened with the birds, though the birds were just birds: they fly because they evolved that way, they have that hollow rachis and that single-minded pursuit of certain seeds and insects. So I tried to cause a commotion between the woman and the birds! She was hanging out her laundry. She held the clothespin in her mouth while she folded the waist of her wet jeans over the line, she pegged one side, then the other. The birds flew down to surround her, to sit along the line. Would they menace the woman or would they sing? This remained to be seen. But birds don’t sit on a moving line if the line is moved by something besides wind, and this line moved in a jerky, human way– touched, as it was, by the woman. So the whole situation collapsed before it began. The woman didn’t care about the birds. She was thinking of something she couldn’t put words to, something I couldn’t see. Something deep inside her turned in circles. Somewhere a tail lashed.

Appears in this issue
Zoë Ryder White’s chapbook, HYPERSPACE, was the editors’ choice pick for the Verse Tomaž Šalamun Prize in 2020 and is available from Factory Hollow Press.

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