The moment. In which the thing erupts is the moment in which uncertainty gapes. After all the certainty which came before. Where there was no room for faltering and no room for considerations because all considerations were already made. Only after, when she had already been alone and clutching the plainest plastic-encased metal steering wheel. Only after her finger recklessly, perfectly, depresses the button that is the entire point will the tightrope show itself, the thread of certainty disclose its own narrowness. But this uncertainty is superceded by her own death. And so, this instant is taken over before it is allowed to bloom, and she would feel, if she was still alive, that this was the most shameful fraction of a second of her life, wouldn’t she? If they were to know about the moment, they would not hold great memorials, would they? They would not gather to sanctify her, the knowledge would render her obsolete even as she was already dead, obsolete. Her potency granted only with their ignorance of her instant of doubt.
It was an instant, though, which helped. Because in the driving to the point, she was full-up with the resolve that she had had all along, since the beginning of the agreement to become a singular person among all the others. As she was driving to the point, the interior wails shouted out and away any questions, away. Or perhaps they had never been there at all. Perhaps she was thrown over with her own strength and her own will and everything was utterly pure before she got there. Exactly as she was supposed to be, exactly as she had been told she would be and she had told herself she would be and she did, unutterably, believe she would be. In the drive that was not, incredibly, interminable. The same negligible drive to a store, a school, a home, the same sort of drive that had been occurring since she had been alive, the most mundane sort of steering and pedaling and shifting of gears. It was no different, the mechanism, save for the great strange funds of thrilling chemicals that ran through her veins in the knowledge of where she was going. That knowledge even helped her along. All the echoes of words that had been said to her, all the echoes of what she had said to herself, clamoring excitedly as she turned at this intersection and drove straight through that.
It was best to think of the people she would leave behind, here, on the dust-scattered concrete earth. It was not strange, here, to be glad of the bereaved because what kind of bereavement would it be? She thought, she knew, her own heart at the memorials of others: raking their absence across her heart, still seeing them vividly full of grace, joy as they rose up on thrones of gold. As they became so incomparably greater than the ones only killed, cattle-like in the street or in illness or in age. The reaching out when she woke up from a dream of those who had gone before her: her friends, a cousin, reaching out to them only because she wanted them to be reachable. How she had liked their flesh living, sure, but felt the potency of it in their death. How with the words that said so many things about greatness, she had also wanted all the left-behind living to feel that way about herself. To touch her absent skin with awed fingers. To lay their cheeks against her portrait, overwhelmed by what they had once felt of her body, her words, her hair and breath, but expanded in the chest. For herself. For the rest of it.
So when the day came, she had not said goodbye to them, she had not told them. She had only met the people who knew, who would go there themselves, in all likelihood. So that her family would hear of it and be shot through with shocked joy that she had made it to the other side and done it for them and for herself and for the other force that they all rose their eyes and their hands for, touching them to their mouths like moths to the enclosing flame.
So when the day came, the date chosen wisely, the target judiciously, for greatest impact, so her body might reach the furthest and most useful boundaries, she had, with the happiest of minds, the kindest of auspices, the most forward of intentions, read her will written on paper. To a camera, looking shy and flirtatious beneath her eyelashes, which would show her family the last moments of herself. She had listened, in this reading, to her own words, regarded her own self, as if she was not her self, but already this memorialized person that she was bound to be. The delegating of her possessions. The blessing of each person that wanted blessing. All those that had gathered, clamored, wailed when she had begun to write this thing, on this paper, which she did not deviate from even as others cropped up, asking whether they might be blessed also, because when she had written it, wasn’t it divine?
From the filming-place, she unfolded herself, tall and with long limbs, walking through the door and past others, all men, who smiled at her, talking blessings, speaking divinity, who watched her as if she was their final wife. She found her spine held up by them, as if she was taller than she actually was, as if her ligaments had grown by inches, each. She was expanded toward the heavens for which she was headed. Her own head flowered with dark hair, beautified by the fat, thorough sun.
When she got into the car, and they watched her go, she did not even consider the fact that these were the last people she would see. She knew enough already to, instead, turn her head and press the pedal. Not because it was easier, she had been taught, but because the purpose was more important than the leave-taking, more important than the instance of leaving-behind. She forgot the leaving-behind without even considering it, only progressing by the known and known-again route through which she was to drive this vehicle. She drove forward and stopped and turned and went, as soundly as going anywhere had been, before. She did not see every shrub and building as a potent fact of last and final and never-again. She drove like she was driving to work, to buy milk, to pick up her sister from school. This made it greater, maybe she thought, that she was able to be as holy as she had hoped to, make this thing as a matter of course. Just as her life had been divined: to drive to where she was going without the corruption of significance.
Until. Not directly before: when she saw the place in the distance, on the road before here, then she only saw it as the destination. The predetermined point that she had known for many weeks: this goal. That was simple enough, just a point on a map, on a road, where she had driven past many times, in her life before this, as a child, as a young adolescent, as an older adolescent as she was now. This point significant, but entirely familiar. So when she saw it up ahead, her mind nodded, acknowledged, without even a shock of there I end, there I will cease to be on this earth, but rather the regular recognition of destination in the person who takes the car out for an errand of whatever use. She may or may not have been remarkable in this. Perhaps all those that had gone before her had shit and pissed their pants as they approached their targets. Perhaps they had become undone with fear even as they continued on to their point of no return. Whether they had or they hadn’t, she was able to sweetly, easily, drive up with one hand on the steering-wheel, almost lazily, to the place that she had promised and desired to become final.
All those moments leading up to it, easy as they were, simple in a way that might only have been bizarre to any witnesses to the inner workings of her. If there had been any who did not utterly comprehend this action that she had launched herself upon, these moments ran into each other and were the most peaceful and certain of any she had lived. All those moments, though, were sucked up, straight. And though this moment was what: perhaps a second, less? The second it took for the button to send its message to the ignition, this miniscule moment in the convergence of all the moments that had made up her life and the scrap of life that had happened just before this moment that was so certain, this upflaring. Like an inferno reaching out of a void she had believed was no inferno, but a place of peace out of war, this magnified and vivified doubt that attacked her for no longer than a second, or two, perhaps, where she finally felt no tautness. Only then the quickest, strongest, most intense sense of utter and total doubt at the action she was making and the course she was taking and the lives she was snuffing and the meaning of her finger as it had depressed the button that had sent the signal to the ignition to burst the tiny flame to the wide and unutterable uproar and smoke that would emerge from this small motion. If she had had power of reflection, at the moment that her body was tossed up in the smallest bits to the sky and back down to the earth and onto the people that she killed and onto the fragments of the car she drove up in and onto the chips of cinderblock of the building she had slowed next to, her target, she might not have said NO!, but she might have said WAIT! Or WHY? Or maybe something more like transport me to a different life, where this is not necessary and this is not holy and this is something that I see in the pages of news and wonder at in disbelief. Because maybe she did hold onto her life with fingers tender and sensitive with curiosity. Was this what she would have thought? She might have, but she might have wondered other things, like why did I wonder, at all? She might have been vicious with shame that she had wondered. Because there was little else to wonder in the time, the life before the finger hit the button. But then, it was only this instant after it did do its determined duty that she was wild, maybe, free. The only considered instant that, while her judgment fell neither on one side nor the other, she was released into her own question of yes or no or good or bad or worth it. Or not: worth it. This conclusion that had been answered before it had even been asked and would never be answered, before the time of her own dissolution, because there simply was not enough time in that traveling of finger depression to ignition. So the laws took over, and her breasts were shattered and her face was shattered and her limbs, long and thin, shattered, and she had no time and she did what she had come to do.
So the rising of flame and smoke and dust was very loud, only just barely before her fragments fell down to their destinations. Where they would spend the rest of time along with the others whose atoms they mixed with, and as her inculpable and evaporated body sifted to earth, or close to it, the sound of wind whistled, because a sand-storm was blowing up.
The Expanded Moment of BeingBy Farzia Fallah
SEPT 2021 | Critics Page
The choral piece Miserere by the Italian composer Gregorio Allegri (1582, Rome1652, Rome) is assumed to have been written in the 1630s and was regularly performed in the Sistine Chapel in Rome. It is a work for nine voices, divided between two choirs. The piece consists of six sections, which are basically repetitions, in each of which a different line of Psalm 51 is sung. Today, when I listen to this piece outside any religious context, I feel as if the piece could go on and on. Listening to it, there is no difference for me, for instance, between minute three and minute eight. I am in a state of supreme concentration during these 12 minutes or so, with no sense of now or later or before. The piece creates its own time, and in these repetitions, one loses the sense of time. It has the effect of a piercing Now.
“Everyone you’ve ever been with for a moment”By Gary Lenhart
MARCH 2021 | Poetry
Gary Lenhart met Lewis Warsh in 1978, and he published essays on Lewis’s work in Talisman magazine (1998) and Don’t Ever Get Famous, ed. Daniel Kane (2006).
Cross Pollination: Heade, Cole, Church, and Our Contemporary MomentBy Jason Rosenfeld
SEPT 2021 | ArtSeen
Cross Pollination is the product of a partnership with the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, which has lent 16 prized images of hummingbirds by the quirky American salt marsh painter and naturalist Martin Johnson Heade for the occasion, along with other works.
In Judy’s RoomBy Ben Goldstein
MARCH 2022 | Fiction
When we first meet Michael, the narrator of "In Judy’s Room" by Ben Goldstein, he has just arrived at a hospital in the Berkshires to receive treatment for an unspecified mental illness. We learn that, to Micheal, the onset of his illness is inextricably entangled with both love and heartbreak, a memory of a violent sexual rejection that he believes led him to commit his own monstrous act. The story's tension comes from Michael's journey between the past and present, his struggle to decipher the real from the unreal. One of the pleasures of reading this story for me came from Goldstein's gorgeous descriptions of the natural world and the town itself. As we navigate Michael's emotional landscape, he simultaneously moves through a setting so idyllical that it too feels dreamlike and magicala place where the townspeople have a yearly tradition of recreating a famous Norman Rockwell painting and where Judy Garland once dressed up in a gleaming ball gown and heels right out of The Wizard of Oz.