“Can bowls swim?” a question asked. I knew the answer they wanted was No. But bowls could float, even heavy bowls, if flat and large enough. The large, flat-bottomed bowl of an ocean liner, for instance. If Paul thought like that, too, he’d give the wrong answer. They meant small inanimate household bowls. Not the bowl of the deep ocean, say, holding currents, coral, plants, and creatures — itself floating on the earth’s liquid core of iron and nickel, whose swaying produces Earth’s magnetic field. Not the bowl of the earth floating — or, with so many life forms, was it swimming? — in space.
— Diane Ackerman, One Hundred Names for Love
It is all okay, just the way they say it is. By every measure, it is fine.
Rise weary. Shower off the animal, dress in unremarkable cloth. Speak in operation manual dialect. Meet only the eyes of the bus driver and snap straight the helicoid moment as you stride to claim your seat.
Write like a man, the librarian says. She scrubs her emails now. Each is an écorché peeled free of padding. Each correspondence a naked, muscled machine, its purpose laid bare.
Maybe we danced before.
Maybe we pretend we haven’t forgotten the petronella turn.
We collect pennies as paperless assurance. We eat, we mimic love. We wish we could un-know what keeps pressing in on the periphery, even when we lock tight the frame: that ice cream and sex and even the names we whisper in the dark are all bound by the law of diminishing returns.
For vague yet persistent unease, a prescription is available.
This is all there is. By every measure it is fine. This is complete. This is plenty. Our dissatisfaction with this is obstinance.
Another name for resistance.
(what once surged up through our splayed wrists and out the emerald throat of our imagination)
The silence now is clack and need. It is invisible traffic slamming body into cathode paralysis. It drags us in its gallop towards an ever receding horizon line, a simulacrum of quest.
Be here now
(they tell us)
(because they note with concern our multiplying menagerie of worries)
(and wish something for us that burns on in the smoke ribbons curling into the corners after the candles are safely doused)
(something we have tried, in the pressed cuff of of our indoor voice, to wish for ourselves)
Alas, this here now fits like rust blossoms and papercuts.
Somehow the body must press itself back onto a barren frame. Foreign as those cables have become, we have to bend to the task. Scoop up gelatinous handfuls of song-meat and poetic offal. Pump synovial fluid into stark utility lines gone stiff from exposure.
We have to see again with eyes that roll loose in the waterlogged bowl of our skull, itself a bowl bobbing in our story’s fecund, fly-kissed quag.
Image: “Mud Maid,” Lost Gardens of Heligan