There are no hills here, and the streams run not through valleys and arroyos but broad swales barely distinguishable from the land around them. Like the streets they will not remain solidly in my mind, but drift here than there, unmoored from any solid landmarks. I remember buildings, and can see them vaguely with my memory, but most of them are just "out there," somewhere on the flat, featureless prairie. I sit in my room, almost entirely lost.
After not having seen it for more than thirty years the shape of the land around Los Angeles is still clear in my mind. Though Google street views show me that many buildings I knew are gone and even more new buildings have risen, if I were to find myself at some intersection within twenty miles of First and Broadway I'm sure I'd have my bearings very shortly. I would probably recognize most spots in Paradise even though almost every landmark has burned. Were I dropped down in most parts of Chico I might has well be in Des Moines or Jacksonville.
I think this is why when, nodding off in the chair in the back yard, I start awake in the alarming heat with no idea of where I am, and thinking perhaps I am not even real myself. This strange little city is a floating world of its own, fraught with uncertainty and imprecision. Have I always been here? Have I only dreamed some other life? If so, the dream is more real than this reality, and I could easily be convinced that this place and I are now nowhere at all. Reality has been dissolved, the solid melted into air, not a rack left behind.
by John Burnside
The moon coming back, your breath returning, love replenishing itself. Allison Funk I Datura It’s warm enough to sit out on the porch till late: the windows all along this street burning out one by one till only the moon and the saw-toothed pumpkins set out in the yards are visible as if the town had finally succumbed to magic – and what if the moon and the ocean are one long conversation? surely the same applies to prairie something tidal in the grass coming to light first here then out amongst the angel’s trumpets, ice-white in the dark, a wavelength given form along a fence and asked to stand for spirits not yet known but sensed the way the wind belongs to us if only for a moment as it fills a sleepless head with music or a taste for distance when we rise to go inside and something else arrives to claim the dark. II Moon These are the autumn nights we learn from books a Chinese moon suspended in the sky our bodies warm and graceful in the dark as if we had stepped sideways into something animal: the new scent on our hands conjured from grass and water and flecked with blood; the gradual shift from one form to the next so visible in every glint and slide it makes me wonder why a soul would want the same again, why anyone would go to life eternal given all this sweet proliferation: salt to dreaming salt, the long exchange of memory and warmth that guides the Arctic tern from pole to pole as surely as it guides us to the bank. There is nothing we know for sure and nothing much we care to know beyond this moment’s span, the one thing we might have said if we had to speak is how the body leaves itself behind in rivers and storms, caresses and empty rooms, and each of us knows the other as water knows the bodies it transforms and then surrenders: fingers, the curve of the throat, the windless undertow of watergreen and void that waits to be re-entered like a vow. It makes me wonder why we ever think of anything beyond this ebb and flow III Salt or why Xenocrates, that sullen Greek, would picture us as shadows on the moon between the life we have and that to come. I wonder if he thought our other souls were real, half-human, standing in the light, dusted with silver and barely a flicker of wings at their crippled shoulders, I wonder if they seemed to him benevolent, or ghostly, true, or false, gathered together for warmth and conversation, twins to the living souls they would replace, remembering the fragrance of a rose, the weight of snow, or how an apple falls forever on the cusp of afternoon. Surely he would have known enough to guess that souls live in the dark, like fleas, or mice, and these, our other selves, are neither vague nor pale, but utterly substantial when they swarm in hundreds, on the far side of the moon, cunning, feral, waiting to be born, no more or less like us than rocks, or sand, but marked with a slipknot of blood for the world to come: its salt and rain, its feasts, its widowhood.