TJ Beitelman

Math and Science

This is the story of his life he drew up around himself: preparations to turn one square block into a street bazaar. Orange cones. Folding tables. Port-a-potties. Police shoo the unfortunately parked. A stream of men who glare purpose-fully and stalk the block in some surely official capacity. They hiss into walkie-talkies. Don one or more version of three different kinds of ID badge. Conspicuously military is this linearity.

——lines intersect or else run parallel. Period.——

He sits on one end of the long table inside the café. Scribbling her math homework in a spiral notebook at the other end of the long table etc. sits a pretty co-ed.

——all the young people walk or sit so erect. Such clear elegant lines they make!——

The math exists to prove the existence of parallel universes. Or at the very least a world inside a world. It is said there is a statistically significant distinction between the males of our species and the females of our species. Namely: women see far more out of the corners of their eyes. Once he took this as an invitation to believe in infinite possibility. Even if she’s not looking she is. And she is and she is and so on. There’s another way to see it now.

——she’s not looking but she knows you are. Or else she’s just not looking period.——

These other potentials trail off to their respective vanishing points. The vendors open their carts. The smudged sky threatens to open itself. Later there will be electrified music and plastic cups of pissy beer. In a tucked away corner one young man in a crisp white untucked shirt will vomit mostly foam. Some time ago one poet wrote of some bird or another circling out and out from its handler until it couldn’t be seen or heard.

——I don’t remember the rest. Something something stones. Something something sleep. Something something slouching. Then eventually Bethlehem.——

Down the table etc. she solves for x and y and graphs it out along the squiggly perpendicular axes she’s drawn. He strains to see and not be seen. He fails on both fronts. She collects her things and without looking one way or another takes her infinite leave.

It was a double-helix for what it’s worth. Twisted strands.

What makes up all or any one of us.

Art in the Park

This is the story of his life he drew up around himself: he planted twenty-three miles of plasticized orange in the winding Central Park of his own mind or body or else the simple disembodied history of him. It’s just buzzing. It’s just buzzing. You have to come here. It’s the sound. Kids and people. You have to come here. It’s the sound of it. Someone in the crowd said all that.

It was the middle of winter for all this orange. The sleet and freezing rain. The squirrels. What do they think. And the fat dachshunds decked out in sweater vests. The creaking the aching groans the orange things I made made. The way they swayed. What is a lie. The art that you make in orange for everyone to see is a kind of lie.

Once when he was a boy there was a question regarding his veracity. It was a very important question.

He told a story about the bag lady of his mind who had been cast off. Discarded. She toted her bags in the park and no one noticed her until the city took its toll of her and once and for all she was sent back to from whence she came. Ashes to ashes.

But that’s not what really happens to her. He cannot even recall all her potential ends:

Does she grow wings.
——yes.——
Is she an heiress. A prophet.
——yes.——
Midwestern beauty queen.
——yes.——
First female astrophysicist. Abstract Expressionist.
——yes.——
Minimalist.
——yes.——
Mother Mary. Marilyn Monroe. Etc.
——yes and yes and yes.——
And yes.

——but remember this: the ducks don’t leave. They stay and swim through the winter slush. Propelled by the furious invisible churn they make of their own orange-webbed feet. Orange and orange everywhere around them in my mind. None of this is holy. None of this is holy. This is only art. Which is something but is not wholly important. I am just one in the eight millions. One in the eight millions. One man said in the city of my mind that what I had done to his park was as if I had squatted and shat in his yard. But he forgets my mind and all this orange belongs to me. Even the ducks. To me not him. Call to me dear. All this orange. It sighs. I am only waiting. Amen.

The Dream of Flight

This is the story of his life he drew up around himself: he was headed somewhere. Directly. In a machine. While all along the way other machines made a beautiful rubble of the cracked-slab manmade road.

Which is to say: they re-did the road.

While he was on it.

Which was necessary in a manner of speaking but not strictly necessary in the so-called Grander Scheme.

Indirectly necessary. Necessarily indirect. Etc.

Regardless. To pave the way over what was already smooth or smoothish needed to be made fully rough. This is called vision or revision, one.

A beaked machine bit rebar into smaller and smaller bits to build a very long row of nests. Unseen men in unseen moments had balanced chunks of gray rock like eggs or constellations in the crinkled irregular masses of wire. Nest after nest after nest in a rough corridor of nests.

Or else if not a corridor then at least a regular series of singular points on an otherwise infinite line.

Or not nests: galaxies. A galaxy of inanimate nests. Rough nest of inanimate galaxies. Etc. Startled smell of grasses seeps through the vent. Senses have senses. Etc.

Or not inanimate. Intimate.

——lord no. Trust me. Turn back. I know your aim: you think you want to go there. No you don’t.——

Nonetheless.

Machines have beaks and make ordered nests of broken metal bits and manmade rock. This all delights him in a way. It’s all he recalls at the end of the day. Nests zooming back away. Zoom is a word and crunch is and crinkle. So is bird. And fly. And fast. Etc.

Once he was headed somewhere only where he doesn’t remember. Instead he’s only here now where he conjures up an erroneous sensation: warm living meat of a small wild bird in his palm. A real imagined bird. Imagined real. And live.

Long I.

——I thought I told you…——

Calm at first. But for the fluttery tick-tick-tock of the wild mechanics at her core. Then in a flurry of her sleek imaginary wings she bursts away. The energy of the universe.

Etc.

But then the energy of the universe is a constant. Which means it stays the same. Which means it stays just where it is. It doesn’t ever go. It doesn’t ever go away. Even though disorder grows——

——yes yes Love. I know:——————That’s the only law we know

TJ Beitelman is a writer and teacher living in Birmingham, Alabama. He’s published a novel, John the Revelator, and a collection of short fiction, Communion, as well as two collections of poetry: In Order to Form a More Perfect Union and Americana, all from Black Lawrence Press. His stories and poems have appeared widely in literary magazines, and he’s received fellowships from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham. He currently directs the creative writing program at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham. He can be found online at www.tjbman.com.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the editor of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of nine books and chapbooks, including Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her tenth book, Zoom, was awarded the Washington Prize and will be published in 2018. Her poetry has appeared in such places as The Awl, Berkeley Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Cimarron, Gargoyle, The Journal, The New Orleans Review, Prelude, Raritan, Seneca Review, So to Speak, Verse, and Verse Daily.