Curiosity (XXVIII); Curiosity (XXXI); Curiosity (XXXVI)

Patrick Whitfill

Curiosity (XXVIII)

Good health to you now and forever.
     —Welsh Greeting on the Golden Record

Occasionally, I discover how all the leaf ends
littering the yard have gathered to form
a single event in the timeline of the street,
a new entity, if, by entity, I mean any

gathering of seemingly anonymous parts into
something that assimilates into a whole,
the way colonies of ants can do, each one
about as smart as a thumbtack but, linked

in their slips, smarter, gathering cat food from
a crevice behind the washer or dismantling
a mountain of a sweet potato splotch on
the oven, they become a different version of

creation, in the way snowdrifts start separated,
then layer themselves, and then gather to
become a snowball or snowman, but without
sentience; perhaps, then, so it goes too with

leaves and their leaf ends in the gutter,
clustered together in such a way it’s nearly
impossible not to think of the word nest when
I step over them, and stare down, mesmerized

less with the combination of twig and leaf
than I am, if only for a moment, with their
ability to turn a plurality into a singularity and
not lose anything from the conversion but, in

fact, one could argue, gain an entirely new
event which incorporates them both. It’s like
that between us, I think. Just last night,
actually, you woke me up without meaning to

when you said, in your clear alto asleep,
the word space, and then fell back quietly to
the dream you must have enjoyed enough to
share with me. And as with the twig and leaf

and guttering, I looked down on you and tried
to consider the implications of that syllable, of
all the syllables tangled in your throat, in your
dreams, in your hair, and that you would

say, of all of them, that one syllable which I
have not stopped talking about these past few
months, and wondered, while the cat mewed
around my arms and the rain outside slanted,

drizzling a little more than it would later this
morning, if, by love, we don’t mean this
moment, when the one asleep states in a clear
voice what the other one can’t stop thinking

about—but that only works (and thus a caveat
which premeditates love) because the other
one woke up a smidge at just the right time to
hear it, and had I not, had I continued

dreaming about whatever useless unraveling
slipstream I had dreamt up until then, then
would that not also become a kind of
definition on the conditional hilarity of love?

I’m kind of like that today, partly a cluster of
twigs and leaf ends situated neatly in the curb
outside of my house and partly the boyfriend
who woke up at exactly the right time to hear

you summarize my fascinations over the past
year into a single, clarineted and sibilant word.
Isn’t that right? And, as it would have taken
me not waking up at not the right time

for that to have no meaning but another
uttered, sleepy noise in the pillowcase you
wrestle, so could someone, or something—
a squirrel in a hurry to avoid the tabby,

maybe—unsettle the twigs and leaves so
that, when I stepped over them this morning
after pulling the trashcan to the curb because
it’s Tuesday again, I wouldn’t find anything

noticeable about them, which, I suppose is
another way of saying that I have no interest
in singleness—but in singularity, I seem to
have an interest, which makes no sense, that

distinction. It makes even less sense, I would
argue, that, after I recognized the nest as
a possible nest, after I stopped above it, I felt
an urge to unsettle them, to kick at least

a couple of the twigs away, maybe strip
a leaf, because, even though I appreciate its
existence, I seem to appreciate my presence
within its existence, my disturbance, more.

Curiosity (XXXI)

We greet you, great ones. We wish you longevity.
     —Zulu Greeting on the Golden Record

Today we’ve had rain, had it with rain, the it
some essentiality each possesses in minute
portions, just as today becomes linked back to
today’s corndross, today’s crowshank, today’s

stationary, et al. We all slip through that way,
interweaving grooves, smooth sometimes,
sometimes more of a trained beagle breaking
apart at the bark. I’ve read again today

another three sections of a long poem and
played against it, the poem, the Bill Evans
and Chet Baker LP I bought after I bought
the record player, and Side A plays how Side

A plays, all the grooves finding the needle
fine, but Side B, maybe because of finite
follicles of cat hair, or the wear and wax of
unchecked dust flecks, creates a steady static

in the background, but also not exactly in
the background, but part of the foreground,
on top of the music, yet the static sounds too
much like a sax, a tenor sax, with a separate,

more beboppy melody, as if, in the other
room of the studio, Charlie Parker played
“Salt Peanuts” into the adjoining wall, and no
one told him to stop. What I want in order of

its possibility of coming true: 1) to sound
much smarter than I am; 2) to play piano
the way Evans did, in that one octave finding
more notes than the keys create, but

not earning that right to play that way, not
wasting away the way he did, not with his
cocaine and the drinking, but with the thick-
rimmed glasses, the bent over the keys frame,

the in general sunned approach to losing it.
Today we’ve had rain, which breaks hearts,
but what if today contains a groove
replaceable with a bee-boppy copy of

the original, and it’s somehow much greater,
shoved against the wall of this perceivable
day, slamming against sound-proof doors
so that, on occasion, we cock our heads, tilt

an ear to the clouds, double-check ourselves,
only to continue throughout the afternoon,
going to the grocery store for a recipe
involving lintels—which you’ve no idea how

to handle—and waiting in line with our
phones out to thumb across a text we’ve not
known we’ve been waiting for all day. But
there it is again, a quick three-note riff up

the chromatic scale, a run the fingers make,
and you can catch the tail end, the way you
can see a squirrel change branches only
because the preceding branch still sways.

Because if that’s true, then that means we
have another track laid down, and we only
have to pay attention to that possibility—that
separate it—to change, as a second, ascending

note will change the melody into a kind of
harmony. But, yes, I’m also aware of how
pointless all of this is, I promise, and I can
recognize that static remains static, that

Parker didn’t play in the adjoining room no
more than someone else has a lifeline played
against the one I have today, the 4th of July,
where it doesn’t rain all day, where I still want

someone to bring me a sparkler, where I light
it in the dark of the living room and nothing
happens, but I imagine that it does, and I
draw my name in the smoke the dark allows.

Curiosity (XXXVI)

How are you?
     —Korean Greeting on the Golden Record

Somewhere down the fog, a road broadens,
becomes a lake, becomes a lake house,
becomes grouse and the grill that takes fire
for granted, a dozen extra blankets, bass farm-

raised, shipped from Chilean streams in
crates. Somewhere down the road, I meet my
girl whose hair begins like a myth the Vatican
suppresses, but poorly, and she doesn’t wear

lotion or socks, and she doesn’t mind the way
I fall in love with other people’s books. If we
get to meet, I’ll find a way to teach her about
bow shock, about occultations, and when we

run out of candles, I’ll have her say Candles to
me until the lake breaks into thin ice
and steams the windows. I’ll say Candles back
to her, and go outside with her, have long

conversations on a deck. I wish I had more
decks. What I know: that the chances of
anything finding the Golden Record are
infinitesimally significant, that, if the Record

showed up in the backyard of your average
American citizen, they wouldn’t understand
the graphs to make the stylus work.
Somewhere, the person who you first fell in

love with has decided against eating dairy for
a year, and, for some reason, the choice
happened because they no longer wanted to
be reminded of you. This is how messages

work: we send them out so that the people
around us will know that we sent them out.
Somewhere down the lake, a body floats up
the side of a log and stays there. Somewhere

down the body, a fish has nibbled. But this
isn’t a dead body, it’s just a body, the way
space isn’t a problem anymore, but an
unmappable sigh. Listen: I said Candles this

morning because I want to start a new chant
in my life, want to have that purpose, that
control, that view on the angle of the day. I
said Candles this morning because I can’t

imagine anyone disturbing graves without
using a flashlight. (I would like to disturb your
grave but I don’t want you dead.) Somewhere
down the fog, another fog beckons, folds in

on itself and becomes a cloud. This is how
change occurs: without a point of reference.
Somewhere down the road, another road.
Somewhere down the road, a bench with

extra nails and a Do Not Sit sign falls into dirt.
I’m trying to place myself. Pace myself. I’m
trying to place the pace of myself and call that
a Candle. A unit of measurement the way

the hand measures the horse, the foot the line.
Candles as the unit of degree for how much
you care. I’m about twenty Candles into her.
I’m all Candled out. I want to start, here,

where language doesn’t count yet, where I can
invent it, where I can redistribute the nouns
and play dress up. I want to play dress. I’m all
Candled out. You see? We sent it out because

we didn’t know how to send it around to
everyone, the messages, the ones that said,
OK, OK. We got your Candle. We love your
Candle. We all have the same Candles.

Somewhere down the Candle, the lake
explodes. Somewhere down the Candle,
the bass become rainbows the way oil
becomes paint. The way fog becomes an oak

becomes a forest fire. Somewhere down
the road, in the lake house, the pillows won’t
get any softer than they are now. I’d say that’s
about four Candles short of a Light. And you

want as many Lights as you can get, because,
in the end, that’s what you pay out with, that’s
what they want at the gate. Otherwise it’s all
stumble and fall. It’s all stub and trip you up.

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