Five Points, Vol. 2 No. 2

Winter 1998

From Reynolds Price, “I was a child who followed the line of praise… If you told me I was wonderful at writing, I immediately started writing with both hands and both feet to prove how right you were.”

Sample Content

Charlie Smith

Figure you could spend a thousand years
studying one speck of butterfly dust, then go on
to the next and then ten thousand on the water drop the speck
floats in, the ground-up regurgitated
mucilage its accompanying amoeba has just ejected from its excretal sac
taking up another three thousand years of patient
intent scrutiny, and then the germ in the amoeba’s innards
another five hundred years, and the refraction of light passing through this,
the fourth wave of conniption of particles from
the right set of rainbow-like protuberances, take this
as your area of expertise, spend ten millenniums
tracing it back to the source which of course is a sumptuous
spangolem in itself and includes the spurt of burning gases just now passing
Jupiter’s third moon, one faint wisp of this containing
enough hydrogen to power earth for a million years,
take a grain of this and stand by yourself on Copernicus,
in a dusty hole, scrutinize the periodicity of the four hundredth
atom to the left of the Seal of St. John, and wait
your turn with the five billion others who have
themselves spent eternity doing exactly the same
thing, at a slightly different pace,
to explain this, and while you are waiting
under the one trillion billion stars upon which
the molecules—worlds aspin—all quake, each with its own separate
and sonorous rhythm, each awaiting its turn at the mike,
each impatient, put upon, outraged, desperate
like a man in a dark stairwell fighting off thieves
or a woman in her bed after the loss of her first child,
listening to the endless rain come down upon the roof
and she’s only twenty and everything is ruined, she’s a
chip in the sea, disaster, nothing ahead,
and while you are waiting think how one
moment of time is enough in which to understand everything,
one glance at a single tree holding up the rain-shattered light, enough,
and then turn back and start over because you remember a miscalculation
somewhere in the third era to the left of the beginning,
and do this several times, all the time maintaining
your place in line, and you figure it’s been going on like this
for years, like somebody’s idea of the good life,
or the way each night the cooks and the busboys gather
on DeLawter’s back steps and smoke and tell stories
passing a bottle around, eating crablegs, and summer never ends.