Still, there is one slim fact that is consolation for the man whose whole estate is just this day: cutthroat trout have returned to Truckee River. And for another man who left behind five sons, there are only clues left beside the pond in the city park, this city spilled on a map where the locals called him the Godfather of Boxing. And the details of yet one more man’s life are added up, counted like birds along the Pacific Flyway. There is a life that passes through the meetings of the Junior League; two will look out windows and imagine they are driven to an outcome; another volunteers for Parkinson’s studies; still more wander from their cars at night, scattered by the terrain and weather, missing, until they are lost among the imponderables. They die of exposure—these lives must stand open to questioning. Lives are questioned about how they came together in this city, about where the lines between the living were drawn by mapmakers, about whose most polished efforts brought out the best knot in the grain of the universe. And when the stars are summoned to sort out the uncertainties, we focus on a plume at the heart of the Coma Cluster where the big galaxies tear apart the smaller ones and the orphaned stars strewn about remind us where a questioned life can lead. So these lives are questioned as though they have turned back from this moment, headed for the past. They disappear into the canvas. A life’s only fate is its memory as these memories walk along beside the tired citizens, tired of the exposure to the present, the now that has shattered into impulses. So the citizens reflect. They reflect and wonder why they have assembled here in the city, which facts have brought about this conclusion today. They study the stars, the hills and ranges, the rivers for clues to why they are drawn by this desire to return.
Tim Kahl is the author of Possessing Yourself (Word Tech, 2009) and The Century of Travel (Word Tech, 2012). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Notre Dame Review, The Journal, Parthenon West Review, and many other journals in the U.S. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup, and he is the vice president and events coordinator of the Sacramento Poetry Center.