The sky outside is an inverted candle flame; the sunset has drifted to the train’s starboard side and I lean my forehead against the glass to be closer to it—we are moving toward the orb that glows beyond the window of the train like the last question you ask before you fall asleep, and I think about how I read in a novel last week that everything we see, we see through a crack—I think now about all I have seen through cracks and windows, I think about how this large window that separates us vibrates with questions and I think about Claudia Rankine quoting Paul Celan: those image lines, them / I’m to harbor / in the slit-arteries / of my cognition—I think about slits in curtains and cracks in the glass walls of aquariums and I think about the questions I don’t ask.
The problem with good sunsets is that at their proudest moments is when no one should be looking. I look anyway and feel my brain wince, like in the novel, the distant never so close, and I wonder what bravery is this, what audacity, flagrant sweet stupid or all at once—I look down at the ditch by the train tracks where they are gutting the ground again; beyond the abandoned bulldozers and gravel craters I watch the freeway where the cars sail alongside us and we are all moving as if in orbit which is to say it’s as if the world is standing still—against my forehead the glass is cool and I am grateful to the train, grateful to the world for standing still while I move through it, for once, grateful to the questions in the window for not rattling my teeth in my face like pomegranate seeds in a metal mixing bowl.
I read somewhere that white is the hottest color. If this is true then a pomegranate must be its own sun made of six hundred and thirteen tiny suns, white-hot pearls suspended in six hundred and thirteen tiny sunsets—once I stood at the kitchen counter and taught a boy to shell pomegranate seeds by placing a thumb into the lantern’s puckered mouth and asking please; he thought he knew better, he thwacked the bleeding rind with a wooden spoon he said this is how you hollow something out.
For that, I was grateful—sometimes people accidentally fit language into the shape of usefulness and beneath the words swim schools of fish, sharks, and things that sting; I was grateful, too, to the man who told me that there were once sixty thousand jellyfish orbiting the earth like tiny suns in plastic bags, an army of astronauts, phosphorescent seeds; we put them there to study human beings, we wanted both a mirror and a window we wanted to know what tethers us to the ground we wanted to hollow something out.
Later I read that jellyfish have no brains or bones or hearts, just nerves, which is to say that all a jellyfish understands is up and down, touch and heat and salt and light. Claudia Rankine wrote feelings fill the gaps created by the indirectness of experience—I look away from the sun, I look instead at the ditches and scoop up the sunset from the puddles that gathered during last night’s rain, shards of light littering the ground like pieces of a broken mirror—some venom must have been hollowed out in the act of reflection, some softened sting; I look and it doesn’t hurt the waters are calm they are standing still.
Lena Crown is a writer from Oakland, California. Her work is published or forthcoming in Hobart, Pidgeonholes, Causeway Lit, Oyez Review and Porter House Review, among others. She is currently stationed outside Washington, D.C., pursuing an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at George Mason University.