A tree evaporates into the universe and falls back to earth: timber to paper to coffee cup to compost to dirt.
Materials revolve in great gyres, whether as gift or garbage. Across island archipelagos, an abalone shell floats into a necklace, into a dowry, into a war-cache, might through an economy of gift-giving boat from island to island, hand to hand, ritual to ritual, until finding its way home
like shining copper spinning in a spool that casts electrons out in every direction. Every outflow creates its own influx. Every gift and every theft creates its own reciprocation: a still point dynamic with the turbulence of exchange.
Humans heap stones on top of stones, dried mud on cake of dried mud: sculpt the earth into our own mountains. But what of the gaping holes, the aching seams underground, the sudden spaces? Mexico City sinks into its lake; Venice floods with the marine stink of its lagoon. How much does New York City weigh?
Soil scientist, dirt priest, stitched up and eroded down, graphing in your body the rate at which the mountains will fall on our heads to hide us.
Forms are erected- on the earth, in the air, in the mind- and are disassembled like stories by a fire. Wound up and spun in the flames. Unwound in the listeners’ dreaming embers.
Storm surges buck the Battery and spill into the hole of what once was. Memorial pools overflow with the present. In a thousand years, who will know? And in one hundred? And in ten?
So much removed and piled high: the dynamo’s copper spool spun so brightly. Darkness.
There was a time when hapless birds flew through the sky, slammed into the blue of skyscraper, and their forms gave way to falling: potential released in a crack of hollow bones and a thud on a sidewalk.
How do I prism my life in this falling, this little termite tower? My paper coffee cup, already an expression of a culture tossed too high and teetering, has passed through lifetime after lifetime, as seedling and sapling and lignifying upstart in a forest somewhere, and barked tower of woven dirt and water and light.
Mourn: the tree’s hollow bones brought down and converted into horizontal stacks of lumber stacked among the other stacks in a yard stacked among other yards in an industrial zone squatting with other industrial zones around the fire of an oily sea.
Where human hands- extended into shovels and tillers and tractors and strip mines- reach into the earth, clods form.
This tree: clodded into my coffee cup. In my hand now, how does the light bend, the stuff of this life clod? I could recycle my cup, but a belly-urge whispers that the time for magic tricks is past.
Catch the falling light: knit the tiny bones together into another world before they hit the ground. My coffee cup will hold an apple tree seedling, will prove surprisingly resilient and able to be used more than once: an orchard heavy with the scent of fruit.
Little failing flight, can I attend to you? Empty cup full-falling into forms unknown.
Water falls from mountain to sea, ineluctably. On steeper slopes, rivers run straight and clear, knifing the surface, gouging deep. On level land, streams meander with baroque flourishes and impossible oxbows, a patient deposition.
How fast does it drop along the surface to the sidewalk below, this raindrop that hits the reflected sky of a scraper, unnoticed?
Water, coursing slowly and falling through the cracks and pores of the earth, infiltrates. Rather than swallowing the earth and carrying it in its winding serpentine flanks, water is itself swallowed by earth and set to hibernate deep in the cool torpid darkness of its belly.
Life skimming impassive reflections:
Infiltrating across lines, promulgating
unrule: prism-life, brilliantagency.
The great plume of smoke: shifting colors
in sunset after September sunset until it
inevitably poured down to the earth with the
Every form is a knot, a clod of dirt, a gift.
In the oceans: great gyres of garbage, so
many gifts ungiven. In the mountains:
stripped gods and their worlds,
shot through and exploded.
The everywhere-unseen: the dust-motes, the
fire’s ash, the swirling always.
The worm’s patient stitching of autumn leaf
to winter ground, the ant’s labyrinthine
efficiency, fungal hyphae’s unstoppable
weave of everything into one life-death:
all things build form
Marco Wilkinson‘s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Kenyon Review Online, DIAGRAM, Seneca Review, Terrain, Taproot, and the Bending Genre website. He teaches writing at Oberlin College where he is also Managing Editor of Oberlin College Press. He also teaches sustainable agriculture at Lorain County Community College. Right now he is preoccupied with harvesting acorns and building a wattle hut in his backyard.