Issue Thirty-Five - Winter 2020

Corpus Two: Ether Matter

By Lisa Friedlander

Suddenly birds. Doves. They chant through all the lonely holes in the universe. Before going out, I stop by the kitchen window and see a small fox crossing the driveway from trees to trees. And later, at dusk, five white tailed deer nose around and disappear into the newly leafing foliage. I imagine them there at night, even the fisher cat I saw the other day crossing the road, hidden, tucked into the trees, but still there, hearts beating, stomachs urging them to forage or to hunt.

Physicist and metaphysician, Arthur Schrodinger said consciousness is a singularity. Less than air, less than a current of electricity, and more than any other subject, a wonderment, it moves through our plurality like ether; our substance a temporary necessity like any leaf on any tree to do our part. To prop up the world and keep it running.

Recently, Marcia’s son Daniel, only twenty-six years old, died in a terrible accident, heading home from his job as a union pipe fitter. Entering the onramp to the highway a drunk driver, having mistakenly exited there, collided with him head-on. Daniel had just bought a house with his fiancé. Now, hooked up to pumps and fluids for days, his face still pink, his body’s real estate was harvested. Five of his organs moved to the foreign lands of other’s bodies; his liver fathering the future of an infant girl.

Illumination—sun or imagination—without mass, non-matter, nourishes the skin, grows the seeds, develops landscapes, buoys hope. In Page, Arizona, Megan and I hiked in Cathedral slot canyon and colors danced purple-blue or hot coral, refracting and reflecting as we looked from alternate angles, the light bounding from one wall to the wall across and back again, disappearing into shadow.

Even the sandstone itself, covered and revealed by ocean seven times during eons, granulates beneath our fingertips and will be repossessed. The heartier granite of New Hampshire giving way too, as gravity chisels its cracks in the faces of mountains. It’s how the Old Man in the Mountain fell, no longer a landmark, an icon, or even an identifying mark. Paint with light and know the impermanence of color. Paint with love and put off until later that mortal freefall into the great, vast un-being.

This morning I drop plant food into the watering can and swish it around. I make sure each plant receives its due. I water first, as I always do, the Christmas cactus that survived the vacancy of my mother’s house, after she died, and before my sisters and I had cleaned it out and closed it up. That first winter it flowered—so delicately pink–in my house, sitting among my other plants, like a blessing, like a message or a sign. Better than a memory, its succulent stems reach out. Today, again, I have dressed my mother’s legacy in its green.

Most of my fifteen plants, old as my children who have gone off on their own, have moved several times. Loaded, unloaded, carried, arranged and rearranged, repotted, they remain sturdy and faithful even with minimal nourishment. They like living together and only vie for status when New England winters, stingy with sun, foster competition for the light. They grow taller, then, tilt and turn, or send out shoots along the tiled floor. They stand in two sinuous rows in front of large French doors that reveal the story outdoors without obfuscation, except for temperature.

Only the South African heather has died. And oddly so, when interloping fern seeds from the woods took root and thickened, arched, their stalks hairy and determined, like the legs of feral cats.

The heather’s shriveled roots left no trace in the pot as I removed it to the yard for composting, near the edge of ever encroaching woods. I tossed it like ashes of the dead. I thought of my father, my brother, my mother. I looked up at the careless sky making no comment.

Ready now, I will exit into that great plurality of grocery, office, movie theater, museum and park. My body, like trees, like weather, trespass on the big griefs as often as on the little ones, with intermittent hungers and the need for sleep. I watch the oak leaves rustle and trill in their newness above me, open for their one and only season of sun.

Copyright 2020 Friedlander