and when the rainstorm had begun, she could not believe it was possible that it would continue for so long, but on it went, and on, and on… until it was over. Time was a funny thing, in the way it did not limit anything until the thing itself had ended of its own accord, at which time you could then assign a value to it and then act as if that value had been inherent in the nature of the thing all along, like the Thirty Years War, or the twenty-four hour flu, or who knew what else – she didn’t want to think about it for too long, at the risk of discovering some instance that contradicted her momentarily elegant theory. Indeed, she thought, rushing on into the forest of metaphor, without taking too much time to look carefully at the trees, in case there should be a cypress or a cedar among the thicket of pines, only time itself was limited in its possible duration, time and life, which must necessarily end in death, as sixty seconds must gather themselves into a minute and then expire, or sixty minutes into an hour, or twelve months into a year – but then there was February, which need not end after its customary twenty-eight days, but might sometimes be gifted with an additional one. February was like a prophet that was sometimes taken directly into Heaven.
She looked out her window, framed by a plain wooden casement, like the one which might enclose a highly naturalistic landscape by some Stern Old Master, so humble that he would not seek to transform too much, if at all, the scene which had been left for him by some Stern Old Almighty, nor to ornament its rendering too greatly by surrounding it with anything but the simplest of protective devices. Or perhaps it was simply his own work that he hoped would have the substance to speak for itself, as this landscape did, scrubbed clean by a rain that it had not specifically requested or done anything to earn, and yet despite these things, it had come, to purify the two complimentary vertical rectangles of tree and automobile and grass and sidewalk and the occasional moving dash of a person, rubbed diagonally into the background and then brought forward into the foreground and then replaced with a stab of gloomy sky that did not yet serve to obscure entirely the memory of what had momentarily been seen there.
What terrible troubles there were in the world! And none of them visible in the view that lay below – rather, they were hidden in the houses whose shades were drawn before her, or whose windows were dark and whose walls were opaque, like the bodies which so terribly or sometimes generously obscured the nature of the soul residing within. She had seen such bodies transporting their occupants and those bits of cargo they carried along the sidewalks outside her window: the geometrical lengths of cloth pinched together by thread to convey little clusters of coins and sometimes colorful slips of paper and the more expansive sweeps of cloth that curtained the pink and white and brown and yellow casings pocketing the anatomical renderings of flesh and bone and muscle that would so shock us in their scarlet and ivory nakedness that they must be concealed completely within these envelopes of mottled tissue. And sometimes, they were accompanied by fragile miniatures that bore such varying degrees of resemblance to their larger companions that they were like portraits done by artists who ranged from an amateur who had only just begun to paint to someone of the skill of the great Dutch naturalists, perhaps even Rembrandt himself.
Those little packets of skin! They would soon wrestle the leaves into the shape of tiny mountains, which they would break again for their passage between them, like tiny mercurial gods who had yet to discover that however limitless their power, it was safer limited, much like a day, a war, a painting, and even February… which could not after all extend itself every year, but only in accordance with a pre-determined schedule. How very long life could be! It was like a sentence that used commas and semicolons to extend itself almost into infinity but then ended too abruptly, without warning. And sometimes it cut itself off so quickly that it did not make any sense, and sometimes it extended itself so lengthily that what had once made sense had by now ceased to. How many people had stood on this same ledge and longed to walk the plank of this emdash – but she knew that it was only a hyphen connecting life to whatever came after it. Any attempt at escape would be like breaking out of a jail only to find that there was another larger jail surrounding it which still contained you. So she climbed back inside the window.
Oh death-less night…. how you went on, and on, and on, and on, and on … as if to impress your image into even the day that was to follow. But then you began nonetheless to dissolve, and the sun soon washed away every trace of you.
Michalle Gould's first full-length collection of poetry, Resurrection Party, was published by Silver Birch Press and a finalist for the Writers League of Texas Book Award in poetry. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Slate, New England Review, The Texas Observer, The Toast, The Nervous Breakdown, The Awl, and others. Her poem "How Not To Need Resurrection" was recently adapted into a short film for the motionpoems series (www.motionpoems.com) and other work has been set to music by the founder of the Washington Women in Jazz festival. She currently lives in Hollywood, where she works as an academic librarian, and in her free time she is learning to play the accordion, collaborating on an opera, and writing a novel set in the north of England in the 1930s.