from 111 Afterworld Road
By Danny Jacobs
We smell of baby hair and petrichor. We smell of pilot lights. We materialize monstrous in CG, rarely feathered, or rendered in the Crayola innocence of daycare crafts. Or wake in the klieg light of astral bodies to see by our manifold Old Testament eyes. Some have wings whose ailerons of stretched skin are awkward for hopping heaven’s concentric ogees. Some are wet tissue fluttering parabodia through the darkness like deep sea invertebrates. We are beautiful, a host that shatters mountains, but whose Kyries are the fleshy fizz of a bitten apple. Jovian billowings, columnar, lepidopterous, Loie Fuller at the Folies Bergère. Pray to and for us, for we are less.
Edge on one discerns constellated polyhedra that dissolve like humid cotton candy. Scouts bring back scrims of things from heaven, all clear, refracted light. The locals are reeds of luminescence, the curve in a mirror’s imperfection. To visit, one projects ethereality, but is often spotted. Remember to wear a foam suit— malleable and sturdy. To talk to Gabriel at the info kiosk, please fill out the pink request form. There’s a museum in our nation’s capital with relics from return journeys. Plexi cases appear vacant but fill out in peripheral vision. Over there a ragged length of gown sleeve. Can you spot the velveteen? The liquid sleekness? I am the docent.
For years he’s toiled at his little desk transcribing the speech of angels. He’s heard them do their tide pool whisper and watched the anemones quake, hermit crabs ditching their shells for the manger of a diminished fifth. A dream’s dark-cornered whistle. Not spells so much as the empty space between blessings. Those voice throwers, funneled throats and four-faced glottals. How to write the sound for a goblet’s sobbing rim? Few can tune their inner ear to the static, the cloudburst bugle. He had a student once. Lost down a sinewave. Someone rings him on the intercom. The landlord will soon change the locks. Busy, busy. The blank pages pile up.
To see like a celestial being she undertakes a scale study. The unblinking red eye of a computer mouse an iron-rich planet shining with its own engineered, interior light. The mosaic of bubbles rimming her kombucha the protozoic sludge of a young earth. Try spending an afternoon climbing the sinkhole of a skin pore. Each sun spark from a car’s hood is a sun itself. By seeing truly, she sees vision’s a fractalled carbonating thing. Scansion of texture. Most days it’s too much. A mug’s game, watching things widdershins. It’s a category of eye she wants to be in but can’t quite reach. Look, though: the skyline. Clocktowers. Formica’s angry sea.
One must classify them, cladistics for the hereafter. We all die; don’t you wish to know what you’ll branch into? Some are bacilli in the microbiome of God’s intestinal tract. Some roaming leviathans evolved for shore, an ice shelf of cuticles, jawbone curving like Antarctic bays. One guy, on the cresting wave of his death rattle, saw silken robes, topiary, a Dutch master’s brushwork. Not what he got, not one bit, but he made it, and who’s to say there aren’t worse palaces? He woke as embodied gloaming. All shadowed corners, scrollwork veins. That cliché came from what became of him— ‘haunted house, unblinking eyes.’ He keeps vigil lidded in incarnadine.
They kept coming back from God knows where, saying I’ve learned so much. Otherwise, button-lipped from the get go. It sucked; it hurt. For all we knew they jumped around to disparate locales, googly-eyed mystics wending out like spokes on a wheel. The usual busybody party line talk— A cult, a cadre of Mensa brats. Rockers. They rented our halls and called themselves sidereal tourists, as if hitching on generation ships, cryogenic spacewonks. Some wore numbers halfway spandexy. Some hirsute. One day they didn’t show. To whom do we lend the bathroom keys to our emptied churches? Days of echo. Sparse traffic, even for dart night. We guess we miss them.
Demons incarnate as itch. Dermic legions, fathoms-deep, clang their battle array, generals of the histamine poking pruriceptors with horsehair prongs. Electron microscopes yield hi-res shots of Leliurium twanging nerves like lute strings with wrought-iron setae. They pitch camp under a welt’s convexity and axons spark above them like falling stars. They backstroke through lymph, giggling. They’re expelled through a mosquito’s proboscis, ride pollen grains’ spiked exines. Get one in the eye and they tint the curved lake of your conjunctiva with good malbec. You’ve burnt egg cartons, spackled cracked fingers with cortisone not covered by the medical plan. Wave your oxblood ensign; draw them to the UV light of the diocese.
Danny Jacobs’s latest book, Sourcebooks for Our Drawings: Essays and Remnants (Gordon Hill Press, 2019) won the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick Book Award for Nonfiction. A novel is forthcoming in 2025. Danny lives in Riverview, NB.