String Theory | Krysia Jopek
When I finally arrived after seven days of difficult journey with my rusted metal suitcase [my grandfather’s toolbox really] and waterlogged notes [viridian ink swirls on graph paper], draped in dull cloths sewn by the wives of the fishermen, no one recognized me. Hence, I became even stranger to myself and my own history. In the foreign city, on the stone that marked countless battles and immeasurable bloodshed, I sat with my paring knife to expose the innermost layers. I offered the shed skins [the dead cells I had outgrown years ago] for sacrifice. Heal me! I cried out in the language of the country I had studied for years. And this is how this particular story begins.
Dear [Poet A],
Your poems finally arrived today, and I just finished reading them. They shattered me.
Thank you for making me feel human again. I had been feeling like a rusted robot of late.
Yours with most infinite perpetual gratitude and admiration,
THE GHOSTS OF THE HOUSE
The House [of Being] is a mess. A disaster, in fact. How quickly everything shifts into disarray. The ghosts—they venture up from the dirt cellar while everyone is sleeping. They rifle through our things, reminisce about what it is like to wear clothes, specifically fall sweaters, eat French toast with fresh maple syrup, play the piano that is now out of tune, touch someone and watch them move. They are curious about the bills, the rate of inflation, the World Series, the noisy cat. What they really want to know is if anyone missed them.
I caught a glimpse of you today, but you ran away. Okay, I chased you. I thought it was a game. When will you come back? I have set the table with critical questions: Who placed the colossal conch shell in the forest? When did we lose the capability to love [ourselves] enough? How do we stumble under the same elusive sky and sun—and remain so different? Why does the boy only have one arm?
The poet wanted to SPEAK dog [T.S. Eliot] and [Van Gogh, Roethke, and Kandinsky], liquid paintings commanded into being with horsehair brushes [the color of her long auburn/autumn leaf/honey/golden/bronze/butterscotch hair]—according to the angle and intensity of indoor/outdoor light and time of morning/noon/afternoon/evening/night]; brushstrokes of chartreuse light, the uncanny hue of sky before a tornado, the inch-worm green of the smallest leaves that would unfurl finally at the end of April or early May after a winter of snow [from November to March usually] and if/when no snow—skeleton drab trees/birches thinned by poison ivy vines choking them out in the summer or too much ice dragging their limbs down [depending on the weather that particular year] into surrender–
PAINT rain that defies photograph, the smell of summer rain, the sound of rain falling on the House at night [but not the dangerous ice of winter], the smell of fresh-cut summer grass; the infinite cornflower/robin’s egg/cerulean/cyan [like ink]/iris/periwinkle/steel blue/indigo/viole[n]t sky;
PLAY the violin and cello [with the horsehair bow and stubborn dried resin] and oboe [at the opening of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring [the first audience left in disgust] and grand piano with its yellowed-teeth keys
with her morphemes; syllables; and circuitous, long-cadenced sentences [like high tide waves crashing onto the silk sand]
SCULPT the redolence of French pink/blueberry-purple/lavender/cream lilacs.
but she could not find the QUESTION MARKS without lighted keys or the LIGHT without question marks.
She wrestled with the Angel of Poetry last night, and he ripped her left arm out of its socket. The anesthesia will wear off, she is almost sure, and she will feel things again. When hanging by a thread, think of the spider [she would convince herself after repeating many times]. Thread the needle and sew up the wounds.
I saw you again [ swear I’m not stalking you]—at the show of liquid pear lights—looking for something. Perhaps your wallet, a lucky stone, or another chance. Restless, you were lost in borders/boundaries/the shuffle/juggle/aftermath/tug-of-war-struggle, tired and afraid. You realized you had become complacent lately in your mandated hamster/cubicle life. And you were suddenly aware it was Monday.
At last sighting the hero was adrift on a raft he fashioned out of oak [from the forest] in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean writing Petrarchan sonnets.
So far everything is true.
Some questions rupture the pillars of what we wanted to build. We travel at a steady speed, taunting the milky blankets of faint cloud-light. We must believe the stories we cast to find possible truths, that our time was well spent.
The protagonist, exhausted, walked off stage and wept. The understudy appeared stage left and started singing. It was an odd duet.
Her cello sounded even more lugubrious under water.
The gauze of her lavender gossamer nightgown—or was it the color of lilacs or mauve/orchid/periwinkle/violet/amethyst? She didn’t know anything anymore, not even her name, so she called herself Bellona, the Roman goddess of War. The tattered nightgown [from his hands groping her before the 9-1-1 call, and the police removing him from the House handcuffed, face magnetized to the floor in utter shame]—
flowing diaphanous in the sea she so loved—; boundaries now colluded/blended/blurry/obsolete.
She had escaped the violence in the House feverishly without time to pack anything except 12 notebooks she had named in thick indigo permanent marker: Entropy, Skipping Stones, Random, Warrior, Archives of the Future, Studies in Nomenclature, Hourglass Studies, Painting the Rain, Skipping Stones, E C H O [E S], The Island Within, String Theory] and 1,371 pens/markers/hi-lighters in a brilliant assortment of colors and thickness—now swirls of dissipating/dissolving/disappearing shadows of color drained and taken into the indigo/cobalt/lapis/peacock/navy—pages of sea.
Autumn had so fallen suddenly and hard that interminable year after a tenacious Indian summer [now politically incorrect, but “Native American sunset” didn’t have the same meaning/recognition/ring to it/cultural significance and whatnot]—and the briny water was head-ache cold.
But she was oddly happy. She felt this was her home, the House where she belonged, where someone she couldn’t see or imagine recognized her inside-out fragile whale-bone core. She was stitched into the dome of sky and [unfathomable] universe again.
She wasn’t sure if she was dreaming or hallucinating or if the Angel of Death was upon her—a beautiful, fluid angel-ballerina with long-mossy-green-bubble-wrap kinda seaweed hair—like the beautiful woman in a Kurosawa film: the one with the exhausted men hiking uphill atop Mt. Fuji in a blizzard that made her miss her elderly father [who as a young boy survived Siberia for two interminable winters, felling trees with his father; the boys tasked with digging the two feet of snow-perimeter from the base of mammoth trees in the taiga, 50-degree below zero temperatures]. The labored, slowing breath of the mountaineers in Kurosawa’s dream trudging and falling in the snow and ice—with their labored, slowing breath echoing in their masks.
No—the ballerina-poet’s cello did NOT work out as a flotation device, as hoped—and storm was approaching, roiling at her edges. How much longer could she tread the indigo sea in neap tide before the burgeoning late fall/early winter nor’easter? She floated on her back to soak up the waning sunlight—and collect the broken stars.