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  • My Name in Water, and: Adumbration, and: Offering, and: Depth Perception
  • Cory Brown

My Name in Water

The kids are in the bathtub screaming and splashing, my wife on the phone discussing a book on Australian aborigines, whether we should even bother reading literature anymore, and you would think by the way I’m scribbling in the corner I was trying to write my name in water. But I can’t even begin a poem let alone put the rhapsodic, quintessentially-barbaric yet sumptuous touch on the last line — you know, the one with such transcendental finality you would think the bard himself had risen to scribble out a few last, sad, desperate lines. Which reminds me of a poem I heard had been found on the desk of a college professor killed in a car accident a few days before the last days of school, when the forsythia are in full bloom and tulips no longer purse their lips for the kiss of spring. The poem is entitled “Last Instructions to My Students,” which to me signifies a most profound joke. I mean, it had been an accident for Christ’s sake! It’s as if God himself were pointing to that title and saying, “See! see! This is what I mean.” Which is to say, folks, that life is so meaningful you simply can’t take is seriously. Let me give you another instance: it is a different day now and spring is in full bloom; the tulips on the side of the house have all been picked by my four-year-old, little purple and white-striped tulips plucked in the innocence of youth, and the sun is out now after a brief storm this morning and there’s a lull in the day. What I mean to say is there may come a time, perhaps even today, when I’ll notice I had forgotten to do something very important and then realize I had been squandering my time writing. Then like in a dream, I will remember the way my two-year-old’s hair curls up from his head, and how he’ll sometimes be swinging in his swing with me pushing him, and off to the side there will be a puddle from a brief storm and I’ll look over and see the perfect reflections it gives of the now cloudless blue sky, and I’ll stare into that puddle and not even think about my name.


I experienced the annular eclipse today as an adumbration. As something extraordinary I wasn’t quite conscious of at the time. You see, I had forgotten it was coming and a rainstorm was moving in that hour, so when it got very dark I sensed that this was simply one of those eerie moments when a storm blankets the sky to remind us of the structure of normalcy. Later, when I dropped the lawnmower off, Al the repairman, with his deep, sweet anchorman voice, shaking hands, and whisky breath, said he watched it through welding glass and described the ring as moving around the moon. How charming, I thought, and then I imagined the fury of that ring, its enormity. On my walk, the sun was shining on the wet, fresh-plowed black soil, and even the old cornstalks seemed to glow, pale brown as they were and dirty in their tired late spring appearance. I was making my regular ring around the apple orchard edged now with full-blooming pear and cherry trees. The tiny blooms themselves I thought of as rings of fragile tissue bursting with color. My dog made her run around me again and again and the sun continued to pulse its brilliance down onto the growing alfalfa fields, onto trilliums in the woods, jack-in-the-pulpits and mayflowers blooming or preparing to bloom; and down onto cars and trucks on the highway, bug-sized from where I was — their little motors buzzing in the distance, the road in the bright sun burning around the lake.


What am I doing? Is it enough to say I know, or don’t trust you? What’s wrong with that, that you...

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