Kay Ryan, “Erratic Facts”

Erratic Facts (via the San Francisco Chronicle)
Kay Ryan

[It] was a very bizarre, erratic fact.

W.G. Sebald

Like rocks
that just stop,
melted out
of glaciers.
Often rounded
off—egglike
sometimes
from erasure.
As though
eggs could
really be
made backwards,
smoothed from
something
stranded
and angular.
And let’s think
it’s still early
in the work,
and later
the eggs
will quicken
to the center.

Comment:

Sometimes a few words can be put together that speak everything. Those words don’t have to allude to creation myths or embrace intricate symbolism. They can just be.

It’s not hard to imagine where this is spoken, but it takes a little effort. “Like rocks that just stop, melted out of glaciers.” At first, my mind goes to the Grand Canyon, the slow, immense power of geological time. A universe that is ultimately beautiful.

But that’s me, not reading words carefully enough. “Like rocks that just stop:” someone has stopped. Someone is feeling cold and hard and paralyzed. Not only a canyon, with its crevices and jagged edges, but also a rocky shore, with slick, egglike rocks, ones “often rounded off — egglike sometimes from erasure.” The kind of place one goes to stare for hours, to see if anything is beyond.

Her attention turns to the rocks themselves, and in describing what she sees, renders the fact of loss with only one word: erasure. It’s crazy to say any good can come of loss. There’s never enough time; possessions left behind almost seem junk; they’re gone and we’re left behind. At the shore, we just want to know if there was anything else.

It takes a little while to realize there’s a message. Those egglike rocks, forged from erasure, endure. And just maybe they’re not rocks. Maybe they’re rocklike eggs. “As though eggs could really be made backwards, smoothed from something stranded and angular.” Massive glaciers, hardened, angular water, are slow moving worlds unto themselves. Harsh, undirected inertia. It’s almost tempting to think them the whole of time, spitting out rocks. It’s almost tempting to forget what comes after.

Maybe only grief can find the message, that we feel lost because we were given so much. That we are still entrusted to grow. It’s not small consolation. It’s the harshness of a true teleology, where we find purpose in the midst of chaos. Where we know a whole was – we really did lose – and that wholeness is possible again. “And let’s think it’s still early in the work, and later the eggs will quicken to the center.”

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