THE MATERIALS USED IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE TANK
Anyone else would have run away. You are surrounded by miniature owl figures, encased in thick glass jars. Iconographic landscape features provide a background dusted in red clay. Turns out there is somebody else here too. It’s just the two of you, but neither of you were invited. One of you has an elusive shape, angular and seemingly hyperbolic, in which the body is inscribed with arboreal glyphs and mass-produced tchoctchke. She pivots from traditional grammar to binded noun sequences. And still, her transfixing graphonomies follow you from deep under the water all the way up to the shore. Carved and tattooed via untranslatable text inputting methods, but recognized by the sound one makes. And yet, despite all your protests she keeps schlepping you along, in the general direction of something pink and brackish. “This is precisely the order in which things shall happen.” First: Linear progression is not the driving factor. The quality of light will be distracting, but in a non-specifiable way. This is why mammals disregard the potential hazard of most situations. This is why, in some ways, brittle surfaces are the chief attraction. Brisket, graphemes, welding goggles, and other premeditated aria. Second: The wilderness is full of impurities and spins within its own circuitry. Some folks have this whole sound-wave capture thingy down pat. Others go around the place, verifying specs. You say, “There should be a plate with certification details at the base of the device.” There should be beakers filled with brine and blocks of granite drilled with holes. Or prepositional symmetry. Third: You have been here so long that you can’t decide which direction to travel next. Constellations have gathered. Winds have whipped up over the plains. Dual system water environments embolden limpets and bivalve mollusks to rise above their forms. Fourth: You invite the stranger in. She offers up more than she did before. Which is to say, she makes her intentions clear on a sub-sensory level. But still, you aren’t sure what to do next. You say, “The fulcrum of the sentence has become tremulous and unpredictable.” It was not until now that you noticed her wings. There is nothing artificial about them. She unfolds them and allows them dry in the breeze. Fifth: The moon predates context. Fran Tarkenton’s scramble resembles an unaccompanied letter of the alphabet. No cracker QB on three. Your memory of the event has not been kind. The guest reminds you, “You were never here. You were never elusive in the way you imagined.” Thus, she places a small mark on your chest. A nearly imperceptible dot that will characterize you incorrectly.
WHY WE CONSOLIDATE
Someday, the connective tissue found in mysterious black cubes will marry our palms together. Someday, the close-ups of bikini clad bikers on crutches will convey something other than a fear of chromatics. An inch at a time. An inch and a half. The one you want to be articulate and fragile is also the one you want to cure via hypnosis and larval therapy. She pries her teeth out with razor blades and exposes the contents of her spirit by casting halogen sensors into shaded regions. Horsetails and whisk ferns. Ghost agriculture and tertiary infection. We offer up our services to the mossy lords of plasma and ambiguous test results. We sublimate ourselves to the world of spheres by converting all the straight lines in our body to invertebrate seed plants. She says, “I’ve got an idea. I’ll take the form of a jellyfish if you’ll become a sea of luminescent plankton. In that way, we’ll be able to pass right through one another without anyone even noticing.” You nod. But what you think that means: She’ll get to drift aimlessly and produce colourful orbs of light, while you’ll remain frozen in the water column and struggle to swim against the current. You make one last attempt to devour everything in sight. Paint swatches. Tractor pulls. Bullet points. The artist provides unsolicited advice, “The sky can hang itself.” We wake up years later to find that we’ve become delicately entwined strangers. You cast your gaze across this passive thermocline. “Maybe,” you suggest, “I could be one of ten million moons orbiting around your planet, and you could be the escalator to take us there?” Or perhaps you suggested nothing. Perhaps you suggested a move to a more provincial locale. Will our editors really attempt to classify this as fiction? Will they really leave the room the next time someone talks about real estate? One day, you boarded a plane to another island and after it landed you hopped right back on and returned to your point of origin. Polar opposite, wearing a floral print with constructivist tendencies. Lavished with pink freckles. Somehow, someway we shall incorporate you into the places we live.
THE TONE SETTERS
Some pigments express frustration, others expose price points and other off-putting substances. The bleached bones of baby birds. You say, “We lack critical mass.” Something you never would have said when we first met. We stand alone, despite the crowds of people with discolorations on their skin and the congregations of free swimming animals clinging to metal handrails. I promise to only use my left hand over the coming year. For driving. Lovemaking. Everything. A door is an access point for making connections, or a portal to a sea of buoyant vessels. I say, “Let’s make a dash for it.” When we first met our blood was oxygen deficient and our combining forms resembled cabbage trees and guinea pigs. Your shirt was untucked. Your ovate leaves were arranged in a tight rosette. Your penchant for almond kernels was well documented. We got the lay of the land in the appearance of certain books in a particular type of bookstore. A cluster of toxic berries, for instance. Or a corresponding deposition on the berm of a capsule. I remember when you said, “Our DNA has been around here forever. We cannot resist its charms.” The words were bound together in a sheer wire mesh, gnarled around the spleen and embedding their tendrils into the lee side of my rib cage. Powders sprinkled into plasma. Asphalt. Asplenia. Asphyxiation. Brief instruction manual follows amorous interludes. Step 1: Place subject in foreground, with the sweeping curve of beach behind. Step 2: Pry arms open wide enough to make connection. Step 3: Initiate falling sequence. You say, “I shall not object.” The words taste salty, acidic. I reply, “Percentage points make bad company.” In one frame, a hydraulic pump churns water. In another, an articulated boom lift, marking time by restricting the flow of blood. In still another frame, shoals of fat mammals following silvery baitfish into the shallows. There is the hallucinogenic effect of sinking, of course, but then there is also the unrelated sensation reached upon impact. One of the readers describes the text as dense. Another relates it to a specified distance, which only applies when the surface is clean and dry. I would disagree, but it’s at times like these that I find I can only write your name in uppercase. The selected font expresses our desire for more complex seasonal changes. It stains our skin. By both fixed and temporary means. Stenosis, when the impulse is stronger. Our arms are wire ropes, connecting wood, steel, concrete and temporary barricades.
CRAIG FOLTZ is a writer and photographer whose work has appeared in numerous journals. He has published two books on the inimitable Ugly Duckling Presse. These days, he lives in Auckland New Zealand, amongst limestone formations and dormant volcanoes. Recent pieces and motivational speeches can be found here: http://www.craigfoltz.com