Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Coffee Bubbles, Teeth, Aengus

A cluster of a dozen bubbles, about the size of those little circles that like to float above Scandinavian vowels, floats in my coffee cup. One of the bubbles pops, and the other bubbles immediately close ranks, huddling together to reassure each other in their grief. I spend a while trying to figure out the physics of this, but I've never studied fluid dynamics – I don't even really understand why the bubbles form in the first place, let alone why they huddle – and I give it up.

The mathematics governing such things must be very complex. And yet, given how long we can watch them – waterfalls, cream swirling into coffee, the switchbacks of water droplets running down a wet window – I suspect that our unconscious minds must be able to almost grasp it: we're drawn to these things as we are drawn to what we almost, but can't quite, predict. As we are to a good story. A story fascinates us if we can almost, but not quite, predict its outcome: every plot turn makes you think: “of course! I could have guessed that, it had to happen!” at the same time as you know: actually, “I wouldn't have guessed that in a thousand years: it's only in hindsight that its inevitability is clear.”

But still, there some understanding of how things must be. Something snaps shut with a satisfying click.

The birch trees are pale yellow, and their peeling white and black bark gleams behind the strands of leaves, like eyes behind a teenager's hair. I am too cold with my coat off, too warm with it on: I settle for wearing it like a cape.

December. We met the neighbor whose back yard meets ours: she was all in black, black pants, black sweater, black parka, black mittens, and she looked very slight, as though she might blow away in a strong wind. Her teeth were pleasingly crooked, stitched in every which way: I wanted to draw them. She's looking after the place for her brother and his wife, who will be back in the spring. They have a poetry board in the front yard: the weathered poem in it is Yeats's Wandering Aengus:

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name


Murr Brewster said...

Best thing I've read in a long time. Every word a surprise, and yet still going where I know it should go.

Kathleen said...

I am now imagining you in an actual cape. Also your neighbor sounds like a poet herself, yes? Based on her attire and blow-away aspect...

Dale said...

Aw, thank you, Murr. xo

Kathleen, I dunno, I'm thinking more a wintersprite of some kind.

Zhoen said...

I like the idea that we love moving water because of the math that our intuitive mind can almost but not quite grasp.

The best endings are the ones you can't see coming, but in retrospect make perfect sense. This is why I like Gran Torino, despite any number of flaws, because of the ending.

JMartin said...

I've despaired of political signage, so a poetry board it shall be. If only these crucial features were listed in real estate ads. (Verification BEWNONE, a good sprite-name.)

Jessamyn said...

This is beautiful, Dale, thank you.

Dale said...

Thanks, dear friends! Julie, I hadn't noticed it when we were house-shopping, but Martha tells me that this poetry board was one of the major indications to her that this neighborhood would be habitable :-)