Treatise on the Black Hole of Everyday ThingsClay Matthews
Tonight some satellite up in space, we’ll call it American because it feels better, studies the rings of Saturn, or perhaps one of Jupiter’s moons, I really can’t remember, except that someone is watching, someone is interested. Me I look at the commode during a commercial break, and wonder where exactly it is things go when things go away. Once as children we tied letters to small balloons filled with helium, and let them off as a class beside the swing set, watching them drift into the sky until at last the sun became too bright to stand. Dear friend in a foreign land. Stop. Please write back. Stop. There are many things I’d like to know. Stop. And Tommy who sat two desks over got a letter months later from east Kentucky, and some other girl a postcard from Tennessee. Me, nothing. Mine, gone into the infinite abyss where all such things must go, like the only birthday card I ever planned to keep or that Goya print I brought back on an airplane from Spain. And so space. And so a vacuum. Outside in the night. Outside in the empty darkness. I call into the sky’s face, where the gravity sucks in and won’t let go. ~ Once as a house it was old and the stairs creaked. The tour guide held onto the banister and pointed to a painting of a man in a blue suit. See how his eyes follow you no matter where you go, she said. See how you cannot escape. In the parlor we had coffee and an older lady in traditional Victorian garb told us the story of the woman who lived in the house years ago. If you’re still you can feel her now. And the strange events equal to the weight of a ghost. The forks that disappeared from the dinner table. The silver spoons gone from the cupboard. The black-handled scissors that cut out her very frame from pin-striped material, sucked into oblivion like the legend of the Colonel who once stopped here, and watched her each night wash her hair in the low light of an upstairs window. ~ My friend, who went inside himself when his wife left, and took to the bottle, and took to pills and meth, and became a sort of poster board cut-out of the man that used to be, which is to say I am nostalgic for the light that once was. Which is to say I hope he’s still bouncing around somewhere within that white chest, the black monster of memory still too strong to let go. And so is this a question of will? And so is this a natural law? Part of me wants to believe there’s something left that still wants out. My physics instructor pulls down his glasses and says, I’m sorry, son, but no. ~ You wonder how I could forget the words to the record played on a little plastic turntable each night when I was young to put me to sleep. Friends, I have forgotten. Friends, I forget. Sometimes, though, it seems the tune comes to me, but then another tune will not let go, and what was once the first song turns into the beginning of Stairway to Heaven, or perhaps even another song by Cat Stevens. This the house that eats things. This the house that always wins. It opens up behind the stairwell and swallows everything from the grocery list to my high school diploma. When these things go they don’t come back. It’s a bit like a movie I once watched, Rudolph and the Island of the Misfit Toys, where on this island in the middle of nowhere all the raggedy and broken toys, like the kite that was scared of heights, live out a sad existence until one day all the good toys go missing and Rudolph gives them a chance. Then Tony Bennett sings a song, and all the other toys eventually return, so it’s not really the same except that I can’t remember where that movie went, and it seems now I want desperately to see it. But before Rudolph found it, the Island of Misfit Toys was something like black matter. And since we might agree Rudolph doesn’t exist, if we suspend only half our disbelief, we might argue that island is still out there somewhere, cold and calling out. ~ So the search for Amelia Earhart has been called off. So it goes. So be it, we say. Like that song by Dion and the Belmonts, “Abraham, Martin, and John,” where this poor bastard is searching for American heroes, and I want to say Give it up, they’re all dead, but something about the song makes me hold back and get sentimental. Things gone and things to come that will go. We are building a history of forgetfulness. And so I call out into the night, Amelia. And so I call out into the night, Abraham. And so I call out into the night, Martin, Bobby, John. And stillness. Things settling. An airplane blinking alone in the sky, taking one person away from another for what might as well be called forever.
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