maybe it was just one last story,
evidence was destroyed —
and unbroken thread
nearly 4 billion years old
discern day from night.
oh, the things molecules do.
NOTE: The “COSMOS” poems are a true experiment. They’re iterations of previous “found text” poems I wrote, using Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” as source material. They appear in their original form on my Medium page.
There are few places where the past seems alive and well, where I am confronted with the characteristics of age, items attesting to the inevitability of decay everywhere I turn. But age isn’t a bad thing. It didn’t only mean death, though some days it does. It meant a history. That’s what we heard, my brother and I, as we walked through the backyard, ruling over our tiny kingdom. We passed rusted meter maids with missing doors that had somehow mutated, becoming a mind-boggling hybrid with the earth, all of it dust and rust and malleable material, a handful of silt sliding through our fingers. We passed stacks of hardened rubber tires that had turned shiny, cracked with sun and snow. The pickup truck that came with the property surrounded by voracious summertime weeds that threatened to swallow it. We passed the knotted swinging rope dangling from the tree, so thick it was nearly twice the width of my wrist, and it all sounded the same: a chorus of enticing whispers that beckoned — story, story, story.
Photo taken July 16, 2017 at my family’s farm, Collins, Ohio.
Words and photo by Ashley Bethard.
I mean, this one did. I turned it over and over again, like stones in water, finding things that glimmered and caught the sun. But there never felt like a real sense of cohesion.
I’d also add that it’s one of the more experimental essays I’ve done. So experimental and feeling/sensory-oriented that I considered categorizing it as something else. But the truth is, it’s the truth. It’s real life. So regardless of how uncomfortable I was putting something that was abstract out there, it is what it is.
Here’s an excerpt, and you can read the whole thing on Medium.
I think we were supposed to run away with each other long before this. There was that night on the motorcycle, the loud buzzing engine that cracked through the air heavy with rain threat, as we took the backroads and their curves too fast in a rush to get to the lake, my white fingers pressed into your ribs.
You write to tell me you have not stopped listening since I left and your faith startles me. I cannot handle the music right now. There is too much noise, or too much feeling, or too many words. After the song’s opening seconds I am already switching to the next. There is no irony here, only direct correlation. I am, have become, noncommittal. “I am not the girl you feel in love with,” I hear myself say. I am almost telling the truth.
Read the full essay.
“Basic laws of physics: how to lodge a hook in your head. Treble means three. Simple motions. Hold, run, cast. You tell the story for show now, choosing words carefully, measuring impact, showing ownership of memory. I can tell it too, that is the subtext of what you’re saying. But you’re not trying to compete. You are sharing. This is our memory. You should have some say in its resurrection.”
This essay is about blood, literally: brother and sister and other. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever written. I’m grateful to Rappahannock Review for giving it a home, especially among so much fantastic talent (Brian Oliu and BJ Hollars, to name a mere few).
“It’s like being underwater: the loudest thing you hear are your thoughts. Voices are garbled syllables with distorted time signals, they are far off and distant. It is easy to ignore, easy to give in to the indulgence of living in one’s own head. This is what it’s like to be semi-deaf, to be increasingly deaf.”
I’ve got some feelings about this. I am impressed that she turned Franco down. I am also weirdly proud of her. I want to give her a high-five. And a hug, since of course the Collective Asshole of the Internet turned its claws on her once the story broke.