I. A volute is a spiral, scroll-like ornament that forms the basis of the Ionic order, found in the capital of the Ionic column.
As when all things curl into themselves:
fiddlehead ferns, a worm when flicked,
the stairwell’s end, the sentence coming to a
pause, octopus fondly cradling a clam shell,
abstract mother holding abstract child,
the whorl of the world revealing
how all things, even pain, end in embrace,
enclosure—hold within them, too,
II. A volute is any of various marine gastropod mollusks (family Volutidae) with a thick short-spired shell.
I fell in love with you the way
the many-chambered nautilus
builds a home: first one intimate space,
(an upturned gaze, a single kiss, a secret)
then a tiny wall—translucent shell so thin
one barely knows there’s barrier—then
another and another and another and another.
You’d think with all those rooms,
I would have had enough space,
but again, I am like the nautilus, who moves
its whole body into each moment,
heaving the hulk of what’s grown
(the phragmocone) into bigger and bigger camerae,
sealing off what’s come before,
no looking back, no nostalgic reference
to the root, the memory of why
it once was enough that you told me
you threw a pill bottle at your father’s head
in impotent teenaged anger, that you
wrote me a list of fifty things you loved about me
(each a chamber of its own), or that
you held my hand in sleep, thumb
caressing mine, a tenderness while dreaming
deep inside yourself.
III. A volute is a curved funnel increasing in area to the discharge port.
In the end, it’s all about pressure caused by distance:
what flows in fills and fills,
as when the stars become the Milky Way
and abundance manifests as surplus,
but water, unlike stars, has somewhere to go—
the more of it there is, the more something else
has to move to make way for it in the cutwater
and, what once was rushing madly
becomes a hand pushing away,
down, down, around, and out.
IV. A volute is a spiral or twisted formation or object.
Twisted, spiraling—even visionary Yeats knew
the gyre was an apocalyptic motion,
an expulsion towards exhaustion.
“That’s so twisted,” “you’re on a
downward spiral”—language loathes the turning,
even as it’s built on it: all meaning based on judgement
and on doubling.
Beyond the words, in math and magic,
one sees the Golden Spiral, revered,
an infinite repeating of its own system of measure,
the reproduction of itself,
an involution voluntary, sacred,
I loved you then, but now I don’t… always.
The world moves forward but also in a winding way:
the slow compulsion towards unfurling mingled with
a rush back to the center,
the root of what we think is most precious,
when it was simply first.
Dr. Bryn Gribben is an instructor of English at Seattle University, teaching courses in literature, creative non-fiction, and composition, thematically centered on the relationship between empathy and beauty. A Victorianist by training, Bryn was the assistant editor of fiction for The Laurel Review from 2006-2008 and left a tenure-track job in Missouri to be back in the city she loves. Her essay “There Goes the Fear” is part of a larger manuscript, entitled Amplified Heart: An Emotional Discography, a series of essays on intimacy and music.