Ore Pits

by Nick Hilbourn


I asked if we could swim in the Ore Pits once more before we disappeared. My son Thomas, by this time, had lost the color in his eyes and my skin was growing more and more pallid. The sky overhead was the color of a storm encroaching on a clear summer day. Nature was saturated by the greenish tint of an atmospheric virus of wind and rain. Not everyone could come. Only me and my son would fit through what I’m sure was a narrow passageway. My wife, for example, had already disappeared. Or never come through at all. I, honestly, don’t know. No sadness though. Not enough was known to be sad. She was in the clouds for all I know. She was the incoming storm; the one sitting above us, always in the process of arrival. She could be anywhere. I only know that she is no longer here. I can’t say how long ago that was. Or, even if she came here with us. Perhaps she’s the water? I don’t know. Everything here moves in flow. Knowing in this place is a matter of not knowing. If I try to look back, something rushes past me and I’m compelled to follow. What was behind me vanishes and I know nothing. But that, as I said, is actually knowing…

I can’t measure anymore. Not like before. I measured everything before. Not that I needed to, but I did because it comforted me to know how much there was of something, where the limits were, how long I would have to enjoy whatever it was that I was happening within. That was how I was shaped, how I moved within things: by measuring their diameter, measuring the circumference within. This world is measured in a way, but not like I or you would think of measurement. It measures as it is measured. Things remain solid and impenetrable for every moment they are known. That isn’t to say that nothing is flexible here. Nor is it to say that everything is instantaneous. The act of me writing this, the space I have in which to say these things (to whom I really don’t know: perhaps myself or, it just occurred to me, a metaphysical archivist) speaks against this particular singularity-of-time idea. A part always remains separate from the whole. Floating in something. Living in somewhere. This Thomas and this I. These are astonishing moments we are in to tell the truth. Calming. Placid. I know a denouement converges on us from somewhere to exert some sort of unnamed justice or law, but I feel good right now in spite of this. Everything is finished. I honestly don’t have any desire to ask questions of the gravelly shore, of the freezing cold water, of the dark cotton sky. I relinquish the world to itself. Its existence is answer enough.

Listen: the world was/is shapes and accumulation and dispensation of masses. Billions of voices. And behind the voices are infinite universes of ideas. Many of them the same, but all of them slightly unique. Microscopically unique. To really separate out the molecule of uniqueness is a matter of discerning tone. Music, I’m proud to say, has yet to become foreign to me. At least I’m not at a place where I realize that that is what is happening. I literally can’t imagine it. But I know that everything that I understood as absolute had to be transubstantiated into a curiosity. A foreign object. A trite amusement. Music will become this one day. I’m not sad about this either. I think of its dispensation as a curiosity. All this was necessary, of course, because it stopped the debilitating occurrences of what was before, whatever was before. I know there was something. I’m still able to know these things. If that transformation hadn’t happened, I couldn’t have imagined it occurring. My body would’ve felt so heavy, almost unbearable. How could I float on the surface of the water as I do now if I was still confined to the oppression that was before?


We’re in Bash Bish Falls. I remember it. A beautiful pond fed by a small waterfall formed by tectonic movement and mining activity. It exists somewhere in Upstate New York. A popular swimming place in the summer. How strange that I remember it all so clearly. There are other things, but they live in a border’s milky haze of a border, the cryptic language of a frame. Bash Bish Falls. It’s near where I once lived with my wife and child in a small town called Copake. We came here once. We dipped steel thermoses into the water and brought them back to our house to drink. I remember it…

It occurs to me now that I say all these things as if they belonged to someone else. As if they were ancient myths. I note them as the faces of rocks. Possession dissipating though. Evaporating. The whole of life appears to me as a distant fairy tale now. A story I was told as a child. It sounds like my mother singing to me. Music. Its shape is a dodecahedron. I imagine we live in such a shape. Dazzling colors of purple, crystalline shading of cerulean and emerald just beyond the sheath of sky and water. As the colors intensify these things around us erode, disappear. I can actually see it sometimes. It sits in the palm of my hand. Hovering above my wrinkled fingers. Every time I look at the shape it is smaller. Or, farther away. Perhaps both…

What must this mean?

I must concentrate to keep myself on the surface, but Thomas floats without effort. His arms held out over the water’s surface. It seems it’s solid enough to support him. Or, perhaps he is finally light enough to be supported.
The falls continue. The water ripples with our presence. The rocks and the foliage hiding whatever might sit behind it. Everything is patient. Ambience is only ever patient and kind, waiting for itself to quietly dissipate. It only ever enjoys the enjoyment of itself. Who does the enjoying hardly matters.
Thomas looks at me and his eyes are like two swirling universes now. They are galaxies. Spirals of gaseous congress, tails spiked with incipient sleeping life, wombs of shape and mass. I call to him and my voice does not echo. It fills the landscape. It is, in fact, made of the same materials. I live in a painting. That is what the rocks say in their infinite sentences. The water is cold. It is freezing. Cold is only a subtle brushstroke though. All is paint. The shape faint but its imprint still visible as a watermark on the world. Its presence being everything I don’t know and so it is what I know. All things growing smaller. My voice no longer echoes. It’s okay. I don’t worry of ending, of time “almost being up”. Ending is a sudden jerk or curl of the brush. Time, the pressure exerted on the canvas.

Look…I can still see it…

Thomas’ lips pale and his dimples fade, but his hair grows. I laugh. Ending and Time. The waterfall twists in joy. I raise my hand to my son. “Come, let’s go in now,” I say, finding incredible fulfillment in just the sound of the phrase. People once did this to indicate that those far away must return to the shore, that all their family members were waiting for them. That there would be a feast, that there would be togetherness. What is better than being together? Thomas meanwhile floats in circles, creating liquid galaxies. I look at my hands. My fingernails continue to grow. They look like sunsets in the fog. Dark cotton sky just above us. Brooding. Warm. Thomas swims to the center of the water, his body moving in spirals. I smile and call to him. “Come, come! Everyone is waiting!” I close my eyes and float out to my son. The sound of the phrase saturates my body. Our ripples surround us. Grow wider and wider. The cloud lowers and I feel my abdomen expand. Thomas is farther out than I thought, so I call to him again. He is the color of the water’s reflection. I hear a voice from the rocks and turn –








Nick Hilbourn lives in Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in Stoneboat, Word Riot and Modern Poetry Quarterly Review among others. He is a writer for HeadStuff.org, an online pop culture magazine. His chapbook, Pacha, is forthcoming from Kattywompus Press. Visit his blog, largethingslargerthings.tumblr.com


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