Six Black & White Movies, in Which I Do Not Find You:
Caught in the belly of a whale within a turgid sea and among me the sorry remains of little fish. There is no color for blood. (You see, the island will be full of strange foreboding.) Even from the inside, I still do not know the structure of this animal’s bones or the location of ambergris. I do not attempt, because I do not believe that holding the uvula will save me. Already, visions of loneliness, somehow drifting ashore to islands where I do not find your footprints; already, a yearning for palm leaves with which to build a little shelter. Among me, the sorry remains; high up, the spout, through which I may or may not espy heaven.
This one, a dream: in this movie, they are filming a movie. The church is the one whose bells sound the hours, just down the street. Autumn again, and whatever looms, looms large—the passing plane, the overhead crack of poplar trees, the day all drizzle. I think the director wants to convey a scent of chimney smoke and sin. I keep looking back, thinking that I have stolen something.
Your farewell attached to my pillow and the curtains are eyelet and the quilted coverlet is eyelet and the pillow cases are eyelet and the bedding is similarly of an eyelet trim; nonetheless, there are no spies outside the window looking in. The dawn comes in like a gray starling.
Sometimes, it just happens like this: the turning of the doorknob suddenly a symbolic event, the shadow becoming the manifestation of impermanence, the soup can a sorry heaving, a suggestion of false fullness. The camera catches whatever sways in the wind: an abandoned swing, the last leaf shaken free from the bare tree, a rope so knotty and veiny that it serves as evidence that the dead indeed rise again. The drawn bath is only an excuse for compassion, a substitute for the letter that does not come. I grow fearful of the mismatched teacups, of the single-serving spoon.
The diner and the lone woman sitting over her coffee have become such a cliché that, considering the summer blockbusters, the director decides instead to frame the absence of love in a dog pound. You see, abandonment does mean certain death.
This last film is scientific and is being shown on a rickety projector to grade-school kids. The commentator of this film explains that there exists such diversity among organisms, such distances in space that, given evolution and progress, we can never know at any point in space-time the bulk of everything in existence. I love you and fear that astronomical discoveries eclipse me; nevertheless, I keep on morphing and rearranging the scenery. (I alone know that the cause of plate tectonics is humanity’s collective yearning, the desire to fit in.) We cannot see atoms, the voice-over insists, yet they exist. If you develop an instrument that is highly sensitive, you can locate almost anything. I am not portrayed as the last survivor of a rare orchid species, nor am I a legendary cowslip possessing miraculous medicinal properties; rather, I am a leaf-cutter ant that, although oblivious to its object at the end of the trail, follows nevertheless with faith that it is being led to something somewhere. Then, I am a speckled spot projected onto the ceiling of a planetarium; now a dusty gypsy moth; now as interstellar gas and dust, I am 13 million light years away from you. The film concludes by discussing the power of nuclear fission and fusion and then the redemptive promise of reproduction—in the color of lifeless planets, the color of dust: bright pollen, beauteous butterflies.
Jenny Boully's book The Body was published in 2002 by Slope Editions. Her work has been anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2002, The Next American Essay, and Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present. She is a contributing editor for Maisonneuve magazine.