Part 1: Figures, Forms
Tessa said that whenever anyone spoke to her, she saw what they said. Objects, pieces of speech appeared. She would wave her hand in front of her face, but the things weren’t matter.
Figures of history, landscapes, even numbers. When someone said her name, herself.
They tested it out. Jo said tree, and there it was: a brown trunk, a green bunch of leaves. Tessa swatted at it, her hand going through.
They lay on their backs in the grass in front of the school. A cloud moved across the sky. It was rectangular and transparent, and then drifted out of view.
In Jo’s backyard, a light had appeared, and it transformed into a figure, a man. He spoke to her in another frequency, and she stepped closer, straining to hear. The noise was like a dog whistle, or radio static, or something pouring in and out of rows of satellites. Then, a few days later, two women materialized. Jo was squatting in the yard near the garden. She saw particles lift out of the air, off the ground, and converge around the women. A hum of insects.
I don’t have any control, Tessa was saying. I can only respond to external stimuli. And it’s not me responding, but my body.
Look, Jo said, and she pointed to a bird circling. Tessa saw eyes and the bird above and also a copy of the bird before her, simultaneously: the eyes which were her eyes, and Jo’s eyes, and the bird’s eyes.
Part 2: Wheel, Manifold
In a dream she was in a barn. The barn was in her memory and flickered imperceptibly between the barn that was hers, her family’s then, and a barn from the past, or another barn she had seen. She stood in the barn, and it was light, and the animals were silent; dust hung in the air. In the light above her floated a wheel. It was a stone wheel, solid but for a hole bored in the center.
A cylindrical object was buried in the forest. Its edge protruded from a moss, and she cleared it, and then dug around with her fingers, and it surfaced. The cylinder was made of wood. The top was latched shut, and she pried at it, but it would not open.
Jo napped in the barn and tried to will the dream back. She went in and outside, awake and asleep, looking. The animals stirred the dust. It was not the same barn and not the same dream. She heard voices, but the voices were trickling water, brays, settling hay.
The cylinder was wet from rain, and when she lifted it from the ground, it dried. Its surface was like the smooth trunk of a tree with the bark peeled back. The latch seemed to loosen.
If she were a circle, her movements would be pure, infinitely symmetrical. Jo turned in the barn. The wheel above her had no voice, but she heard it. It spoke to her softly. Other wheels lay against the side of the building, wooden and silent. The barn expanded and contracted. Jo held the cylinder in her hands, and it moved, alive.
Animals have a more exact figure than plants. Jo clung to the moss in the forest and dirtied her hands. Her hands held the cylinder. The cylinder would not open, and she cried over it, light pouring from her eyes. A stone, wood, day in the night. Echoes awash. Jo brushes a horse.
To be an object. There is no time here. A woman’s voice in her ear.
Nothing in nature is perfectly circular. A saw hangs on a hook in the barn, and she puts it to the cylinder. The cylinder gives. She stops at bone.
Part 3: Train, Triangulation
The train moves on a line. When the train derails, Jo is thrown into the middle of the car; she hears crickets.
She can’t locate her backpack.
The older woman who was sitting across from her is between Jo and the window. The window is broken and there is pavement beneath it. Jo’s lying on top of the woman who wheezes, and it’s not the sound of crickets she hears but the clicking of gears, or the ticking of a clock, something mechanical, or metal against metal. There is the click and sigh of a machine turning off. The woman’s body moves beneath her. The lined pattern of the seats on their sides.
What does it mean that she does or cannot move? She thinks, fingers and toes. The woman blinks. Jo shifts her weight or the car shifts or it groans or the shouting outside has come inside, inside the car, and the vibration from her eardrums radiates to the rest of her body and then to the woman’s body so she blinks again. Jo isn’t sure if her own eyes are open. How does the train work?
Her senses are concurrent.
In the reflection on the metal of the curved roof, there is a body. Fingers and toes.
Her backpack could be beneath the woman or in another part of the car. Where is the car? Jo opens her eyes. The body is her body on its side against the window of the train. A woman lies on top of her. Jo inhales sharply. The woman’s weight compresses their lungs. The body in the reflection is her body and the woman’s body aligned. It is quiet.
What does it mean that she does or cannot move? The train had been on a line. Now it is on its side. Jo can’t move her fingers or toes. The car is bent, curved like a spine. She’s at the crease.
Part 4: Test, Edge
Jo sat for the SAT and in the math section the figures were drawn into three dimensions by using dotted lines. She had to imagine them up, off the page. Empty glasses, vases. When the figures were laid out, their edges flattened, it was called a net.
What was the shape of an event, she thought. How many dimensions?
She dreamed of other things. Her legs were folded up under her in the hard seat. She stretched them out. Daylight came through the blinds. Someone on the other side of the room was permitted to sit on a yoga ball, and he swayed side to side on it; the sphere dented from his weight.
A sphere had to be divided by three. A sphere was filled with tetrahedra.
Time was part of the test. Jo folded a corner of the test booklet and bent it back. She drew a figure in the fold then erased it.
Notes & Sources:
“the frame of formal opens”
— Giovanni Sambin, “Formal topology and domains”
misc. and “external stimuli”
—Nikola Tesla, The Problem of Increasing Human Energy
Joan of Arc, Jules Bastien-Lepage (oil on canvas, 1879)
“Animals have a more exact figure than plants.”
— Francis Bacon, Sylva Sylvarum
“Circular motion, one of the most useful and frequent attributes of a fully developed machine is, curiously, one of the least observable motions in nature: even the stars do not describe a circular course, and except for the rotifers, man himself, in occasional dances and handsprings, is the chief exponent of rotary motion.”
— Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization
“The grace of a curve is an invitation to remain.”
— Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space
Kelly Krumrie’s prose, poetry, and reviews are forthcoming from or appear in La Vague, Full Stop, Black Warrior Review, Sleepingfish, and elsewhere (links at kellykrumrie.com). She is a PhD student in Creative Writing / Literature at the University of Denver and holds an MFA from the University of San Francisco. She is currently the prose editor at Denver Quarterly.
Featured Image Credit: Morgaine Baumann