Was it inevitable that I would cook toast by electricity. Power the stereo. Read at night by electric light. I don't know anyone who could answer this. Don't have books in which to search the answer. Maybe no one has ever asked this. I'm on my own. So I assume that it was inevitable. That if we go back far enough. Before electricity. We could see everything leading to it. With all the benefits of hindsight we could see the indicators and know our future as a matter of course. Knowing this in our own time, we could see clues and understand where our lines will next intersect. Know the future. Not every single moment, but we would know how we might live. Mostly, I think we would know how we will die. Bummer. I turn out the light, power down the stereo, and let the red coils of the toaster fade to black. The night is come. I'm tired of day and these questions. Let's dream. I stumble upstairs to bed. The cat hisses at my toes under the covers not knowing what they are but furious for just a moment to have her peace disturbed. In the darkness I wait for her claws, wondering how things will ever work out.
for Ann Moore
My friend and I walk through the night. Winter is coming back. The night sky is clear, no clouds. The night will grow colder. We sip coffee. She knows the stars. I’ve been stuck on the Pleiades. That name. A constellation I knew as a boy. A picture on a page. A story. Seven divine sisters. The Pleiades, I say, to hear the sound and give it life. She points. There, she says. I count aloud one, two, three, four, five and six. The seventh is beyond our ability to see unaided. We walk under Orion. Taurus The Bull steaming at the snout. I ask, how far away is the seventh Pleiade. She says a number beyond my imagination. The night becomes colder. I was once told that each star is someone in heaven. A pinprick in God’s dome. She asks if I’m looking for my father. No, I say. He’s farther than the seventh Pleiade. The farthest star in the cold night’s sky. We hurry. The coffee is always getting cold.
My brother and I disagree. We drive past the house we left thirty eight years before. Out in the sunken backyard stands a tree. He says it’s the same one we knew as kids. I remember that one being taken down. He says, a new tree couldn't grow so tall so soon. But thirty eight years, I say. We drive past. Forgotten in the back seat, my mother doesn’t remember a tree, the house, the backyard, and barely recognizes her sons. She struggles to remember the man who knew these things. Tries to remember that life, the solid feeling that things don’t change. But death has always followed her. She looks through the windshield, past my brother’s angry silence, but can’t really see the intersection ahead. I hear a voice say that none of us can know how fast or slow a tree might grow up or why it ever falls.
On this rainy day I run as if there’s no need to stop. I could go forever. Slowly, sure, but endlessly down this road and that. Through this puddle and under those heavy clouds. Until I’m so far away the rules no longer apply. Even natural law evaporates. Like when I was a kid dreaming in my old bed. I'm the track. Coach has me doing the long jump. But I’m fat, I say. Doesn’t matter, she says. Just don’t put your feet down. I run the cinder path toward the sand. Slowly, sure, but I run. At the two-by-four, I jump. Pull my feet up. Knees to stomach. And I tell myself, don’t come down. The key to gravity is deciding against it. I float. My body slows, but I do not fall. I paddle the air with my hands. Move forward. I flapped my arms and rise then soar on updrafts over a world I no longer recognize. And I can go on forever. Or until morning. When I wake, forty years later, hear rain, pull on shorts anyway and go run. No coach. But a voice says, just keep going to see where the road leads, what's beyond the rain and all these years.