Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pictures As A Place Where Distance Goes

Susan sat at the piano playing
and the music she played took her away

“You’ve had quite a trip. Three hundred and thirty-three thousand light years—is that right?”

“Oh, no, just half that.”

“I meant the round trip.”

“Oh. But we didn’t come back the same way.”


“I don’t know how to put it, but in these ships, if you make a jump, any jump, the short way back is the long way ’round. You go straight ahead until you’re back where you started. Well, not ‘straight’ since space is curved—but straight as can be. That returns everything to zero.”

“A cosmic great-circle?”

“That’s the idea. All the way around in a straight line.”

“Mmm—” He frowned thoughtfully. “Kip, how far is it, around the Universe? The red-shift limit?”

I hesitated. “Dad, I asked—but the answer didn’t mean anything.” (The Mother Thing had said, “How can there be ‘distance’ where there is nothing?”) “It’s not a distance; it’s more of a condition. I didn’t travel it; I just went. You don’t go through, you slide past.”

Dad looked pensive. “I should know not to ask a mathematical question in words.”

How can there be distance where there is nothing?

Beth kept a stuffed swordfish on her office wall.

Beth was petite and I always suspected
that the fish was a little longer than her—
I mean if she had gotten horizontal
and if you counted the fish’s sword and tail.

Below the fish on the wall was a photo
of Beth strapped to a chair in a fishing boat,
holding her rod and reel, while two of the crew
held the fish fresh from the ocean above her.

How can there be distance where there is nothing?

We spent a lot of time talking about books
and in those days I almost always carried
a camera. I never took her picture.

I wrote a poem once about the book ‘Pinball.’

That was the first book we ever talked about.

Sometimes when I play music at a keyboard
when the music sounds right and the keys feel right
I suspect if I were a little better
I mean better at thinking about music
I could play something that would take me someplace
and the music could somehow reach out to Beth
wherever she would be at that same moment
and take her somehow to the same someplace, too.

I think she’d laugh and say, “Put me back, or else
I will stuff you and hang you up on my wall.”

Of course I would put her back, but I think, too,
she’d look around and ask, “How did you do that?”

How can there be distance where there is nothing?

I’d start explaining about metafiction
as lyrics coupled to a jazz melody
but she’d just laugh again and say, “I should know
not to ask a musical question in words.”

How can there be distance where there is nothing?

I’m glad I never took a picture of Beth.

Pictures are something. Then there can be distance.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Beth Plays Pinball

Pluto In Magic And Alchemy

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