A collagist wrote an essay considering a divisive question among readers of magazines with small print runs: most topsoil is still fertile. I’ve been processing our old life, leveling the tilth, calling Cassandra back, not canceling those sessions. I’ve been trusting the process, wearing your button-down on trips like a widow. On the bus ride to Boston, I play a car game: would I rather be a widow or a whole new man? Grief or lightness: dichotomy or not? Ginkgo trees only grow stamen or ovules, ditto hops. Most other plants, along with these plants, were replicated by a duo of Czech artisans: glass sculptures on display at The Museum of Natural History. Gabe thought it was closed but it wasn’t. We walked there from Somerville, like 25 minutes, and he rattled the handle, kept rattling the handle, and I said let’s go around. Inside, we read about the emergence of photosynthetic life, which changed the air spectacularly, an inextinction event that crowded nothing out, producing only more rocks, more minerals. Gabe moved ahead to the bird room while I dwelled on those rocks. The Archean Eon gave birth to coral skeletons and limestone. Gabe is one of the people I know now instead of you.
I invented my own optimism while working on a different project. Pasting pictures together to form another, more dissonant picture, I noticed light from the ordinary window in the apartment where I was living alone now. I was always going to have been, I thought. Living alone now, I meant. Then the light came. Oh wow, I reached to think and then thought.
When possible, I rephrase my same-new worldview in terms that others can hear. Fungible token of appreciation for light and air that’s just different now. Another collagist wrote about the radical potential of the end of the world, the rapture, when Pascalian bet-hedgers and investors in general would disappear to wherever. Gabe likes this idea, ditto self-immolation. Self-immolation is a flawed genre of protest, I say, joining him in the bird room. Can no-self be in the name of? And fire changes the air, making it worse for people. I do know from experience. What about the Archean Eon, he says. But that was different; that was light.
I’ve spent eons—entire dividends—living inside that one time you imagined the world grown old. Cassandra says this is usual. Is processing just making social? Smoothing edges, reality-pilled? I would like to keep some of your visions intact, indigestible, not like shale or Wellbutrin. In your new-old world, you and me had lawns still. Naturally, I disagreed. But also: on your new-old lawn, we made flowers out of glass.
In the bird room, Gabe says some names are insults. White-collared seedeater. Blackish-malachite crests, some of them prominent. I wonder whether their personalities are different, Gabe says. They are, goes the caption: some birds are more prone to mimicry. A car alarm, other birds. Fungible songs. We look awhile at the colors and wonder which will survive. This wondering is ancient, I say. That one collagist said so.
Stemmy four-nerve daisy’s no insult, Gabe says. We’ve made our way to the sculptures, which span nation-states. The bracts and flowers are magnified, in some cases times 25, and made almost unreal. About the duo’s process, there's only speculation. It’s all questions and awe, and it’s a little florescent in here. I’m ready to leave, but Gabe isn’t: he recites more non-insults. We admire the sponge gourd. We do stay awhile.
Cassandra says I should roll up the sleeves of your button-down; it’s all part of the soil. Glass needs no lawn, and glass is not strictly necessary. I’m a widow and a whole new man.
Of course I benefited from your hedging. Surrounded by the comfort of dichotomies, I sat near an extraordinary window and read all kinds of collages. Meanwhile, you worked hard on your Wellbutrin plots: like most flowers, both stamen and ovule, we could birth a whole kid on your stepmother’s ottoman. Playtime you imagined in the backyard. Performance velvet is just polyester. Yes, you said, with an optimal weave. A plot of soil out front, almost black like potential, like this photosynthetic growth I saw on azurite behind glass later on at the museum. Really, it was like nothing else. I am sorry I self-immolated on our West Elm couch. You were right about the fabric: it survived even the rapture! It’s loam-brown still, not faded, and comfortable. I have those same-old friends over for walnuts and things. My neighbor joins in; her laugh echoes through walls. Gabe visits, brings his pessimism, and we collage each other’s mimicries. Our proneness to imitation varies, and a now-public artifact can be seen from our ordinary window. The future is almost just like you said it might be—if only you had believed it.