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After

Kurt Jon Ulmer

 

Woke up. I was blinking in the sunshine. Sneezing in the bright light. Dizzy with the height. Above coloured trees, wild canopies under that sublime blue sky, when the truth of it hit me. Slapped me, anyways, sent me sideways. Arrested me in flight. Jack? Jack, it’s Alex.
_
Does this mean we’re free from that mortal plane? Off the grid of power and pain and mundane vehicular traffic? Outside of it all, way high in the blue, I can see us from here and it is you – your laughter. I’m ashamed, what we said, when we thought that we knew. The fate of mankind – I’d say, ‘There’s nothing after. No category Supernatural.’ And you’d ask people, ‘Are you Saved?’ Man, we got serious. The infantile rubbish we came out with…
_
That was us, back then, in the view before dawn, before we should have thought we had a single word to say. We were birds in the egg, barely mushrooms in the lawn, flowers in the bulb, seeds in a packet in the hardware store display. Lined up, labelled, front-to-back in the squeaky old rotating wire rack. Tomato plants so small, this tall, under hotbed frames in the early spring with the whole garden experience thing beyond the door waiting, before our holes were dug in the ground and us planted outside, silent, amazed as hell.
_
You never came home, Jack, the ruts off the road, you were gone, brother, gone and we didn’t know how that could be, no, wrong. What happened? ‘Oh Jack, please come home,’ Mama said, calmly as an angel looking down on the empty unmade bed in your empty bomb-zone room. Maybe she was closer, had the idea? We all carried on, carry on, dull the aching. Now look, surprise, it’s Jack the Rack. Jack Attack and Awesome Alex, back on the block. Man, am I glad you’re here! You and me, we’re Two for Trouble. It’s us again, and just in time, unless I am mistaken. Time, that is… whatever. Damned if I understand, at the moment. Ha! Not damned after all – apparently awakened. But let’s go for a look-around, what do you say? If you’re not too busy…
_
I guess we’ve landed, and I guess we’re never leaving. Us returned to dust and dust is hardly real. Us, no not tomatoes. Dr Seuss trees? Nothing like botanical, but neither are we animal. What species of organism, and in what kingdom? We’re the ones without the roots, the windblown aromatic weeds, beyond elements, the soil, without need of nutrients or staking-up or water, even oxygen! Forsaken our metabolism, and still we feel. We’re the see-through apple trees. Ghosts of ravens, less the black.
_
The sounds everywhere are like nothing I expected, Jack. Music never set me up for this. Composers resurrected, all the orchestras and symphonies. Lacking rock ’n’ roll, but hardly missed.
_
Our temperaments are fluid, our manners unimpeachable, vision crystalline. We don’t need voices, we don’t need sleep. We belong. No fear. All the universe is reachable. Wherever we could dream, fast as ‘Scotty’, we’re the beam. Himalayas, Tokyo, around a world. And home.
_
Back there. They’re shovelling snow, picking grapes, riding trains, having babies. They reinvent the family, try to stop but can’t stop yearning. Twist their institutions this way and that way with such originality, as if they have been learning. We’re stopping, smiling, chuckling, listening. History stretches out in all its two dimensions, covering approximately six square centimetres. The globe spins before us and we watch it glistening. Finally, I can take things lightly.
_
We saw through a glass so dimly. But, Holy Smokes, didn’t it break wide open? Leaving nothing in the way, brother. Seeing, not hoping. All the lies spoken, beyond all the crying. Looking far through the ether, through space so brightly.
_
And all that time I thought you were dead. And then I thought that I was dying.

 

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