Fall 2016 (Volume 20, Issue II): 20th Anniversary Issue

How I Escaped the Vagaries of Time...

by Robb Astor




The Hour of I

I noticed one afternoon a carriage and in it a baby whose glassy eyes reflected clouds. The baby had yet to learn the differences between the sexes, between the young and old, the rich and poor, how some of us are fast and others slow. It did not distinguish between broccoli and chicken.  I sat down before a meal. I really can’t tell you if it was breakfast or dinner, whether or not the scrambled eggs were runny.  All I remember was a clock, the old archaic kind with hands, a big clock towering over the city, or maybe it was just a crow crossing the face of the moon.  Isn’t it funny how we get used to the hands advancing the way they always do? At first I thought the clock was broken, the minutes and hours whirring like a fan, but then I noticed how the sun streaked across the sky, and how the stars arced.  I mistook them for space junk, thought they were our own nuclear devices returning to bite us in the ass. My hands were only metacarpals littering the table. I watched with a mouthful of un-chewed eggs as all my scattered bones blew away in puffs. The clock tower toppled.  Robots milled about like agitated bees, then came a blinding flash of light.  An acorn rolled across the table and fell to the ground.  Burrowing into the soil, it became a green eruption that splintered into seedlings. Deep in a forest I closed my eyes. I opened them again and a new heaven and earth appeared, but without any glorious beings. I watched the universe explode. It reminded me of a woman in sunlight wearing a long navy blue dress, her bare calf emerging like a slow trickling brook from the dress’s long slit, a shining white sandal glinting in the sun.  Her young daughter beside her squinted into the brilliance.  Look mommy, who’s that man at the table? The woman turned and looked at me. What man, honey? You’re imagining things. But then something happened which proved to me my own existence— a crow bearing an acorn flew across that hollow of sky they used to call the moon.


The Hour of II

A man tugs on the red leash of a cocker spaniel held in the arms of a woman in a black bikini.  Coming from behind I am suddenly in Amsterdam on an early evening strolling beneath white smudges of drifting clouds. I used to be younger than I am, and many times I’ve been older. Yellow leaves of cottonwood lie in clusters on the shore.  I don’t understand how the waters of the bay can hold so many more colors than the sky. Can you tell me how one place is another place, or how time can pass through all the things I’ve ever seen in her eyes? The lips of strangers are her lips. They say the things she used to say, though all the words are different.  Words are also scattered on the shore.  I fled that couple with the dog, the red leash and black bikini, but apparently they’ve followed me. Why does everyone end up in Amsterdam, that city of discarded colors?


The Hour of III

Sun falls softly on this equinoxal day. The breeze draws the afternoons of summer away from the lake. How clouds crowd the horizon.   A few red tomatoes still dot some brown withered vines. A jay rasps out its call and so does a solitary frog. Grasshoppers have grown fat. It’s hard for them to move. Even the idea of their own demise is not enough to stir them.  Of my own life I have nothing to say, nothing to add or take away. In my mind I’ve had many lovers, as many as I’ve wanted.  How meaningless is hunger, how many motes of light are born and die on the endless waves of water agitated by the breezes. The sun hangs low, a seagull flies away. Clouds fat as grasshoppers have nowhere left to go. The far shore is shadowed, but here the light stretches long.  My eyelids grow heavy filled with so much insect song.


The Hour of IV

I understand this is a departure from the narrative, but I sit in the shitter of our great public library, reading a book of Gary Barwin’s. The blue walls of the stall have opened into vistas, and the regular divisions of the tiled floor have become a metropolis.  My feet, and pants around my ankles, take up many city blocks. A dark shadow looms over the civic center.  Something’s hanging in the air. A thunderstorm is rumbling— a shit storm on the eve of the election. Politicians decry the need to bolster the water works, but let me assure you the pipes will hold.  I unroll a long strip of toilet paper, and lay a major highway, indiscriminately, across the city. Lost in my own greed for power I’m oblivious to the line of gathering electorate obviously agitated, waiting outside the bathroom door.


The Hour of V, VI, VII, etc.

Time went on without me. I sat at a small table near the corner of a street and watched people pass. The growing harvest moon was beginning to pull me away from the world, but the clicking of heels across pavement kept piercing me like a needle with thread, darning me, trying to hem me into the there and then.  Somewhere bells were ringing, but I could never find them.  They were always turning down some far off corner. I followed their trail of cottonwood leaves, but lost my way among profanities I’d discovered inside plastic wine glasses discarded in the grass. I had to stop and rest my eyes. When I opened them again I found myself beneath the shadow of a hollow clock. I was surrounded by huge rusty gears. A hairy old man stood beside me, reciting some of the days he’d found among remnants of the world’s abandoned calendars.  Just yesterday they found him floating dead in that part of the river where there are no currents.

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