by Myfanwy Collins,
reviewed by Randall Brown
Collins’ character wonders what she is “doing here in this land of weed whackers and lawn mowers and engines burning and buzzing…and making life shorter.” She suffers, and it’s her ability to remember, to recall the past world with such poetic detail and poignancy that forces this suffering upon her. Not everyone possesses such a power, yet it’s one that many would view as desirable. The tragic trap springs itself upon the reader then—for to possess this desired trait is to gain also the possibility of suffering, a suffering from which one cannot escape.
The story ends with an image of hope, of spring, of the possibility of using this power to recreate the world, to transform it into the natural beauty of the unrecoverable past. However, in this remembrance, spring comes only “here and now,” and the blood-tinged daffodils leave us with an image of a memory that will always taint the present with its presence, with its remarkable ability to bring a world into bloom.
For the narrator the daffodils come to symbolize what's been lost and can never ever be recovered. The uncertainty of what happened—how was that final blood shed?—sends us back over possibilities, until we land on the most likely, that one of those shots meant for deer and birds hit, instead, “him.” Notice, though, how the tragedy of the story doesn’t focus on that horrific moment, for such events inhabit the realm of Fate, since he did nothing to send the bullet toward him. Instead, this very fine flash piece focuses on how her ability to recover the world in perfect detail creates both beauty and suffering—the tragic condition of those most sensitive to the world and thus most vulnerable to its terrible beauty.
The clear mastery of prosodic prose—"dusty-drived," "weed whackers," "burning and buzzing," "winter we walked" and those opening s sounds: "stopped/tracks/passed/saw/snorted/fence"—creates a lyricism that (1) evokes the emotion of the piece and (2) asserts the imaginative power of language and vision to create beauty. Imagine two lovers walk in the snow, gunshot, a hole in the man leaking blood, an endless scream and then silence. Instead we get "daffodils rise, wetted with your blood." The full potential of flash—to go against expectation, to find an alternative to the drawn-out scene of melodrama, to discover in brevity a blinding, bright truth—is realized here. It's simply stunning.
Time, language, narrative, space itself—all these Collins compresses, like a doe squeezing itself through the opening in a fence. We encounter that hole in the feet sunk into the snow, the song shot out of the air, the hood open to the sky, the head cut off by ancient spirits, the space between the then and the now. The hole exists in the present, but it was always there, as if lying in waiting like a hunter for its prey. Both the narrator telling the story and the author writing it down share this destiny, this openness to the world. Imagine opening such a hole in yourself, compressing each word through the tiniest of apertures, each word arising like daffodils, wetting with your blood. Imagine "there was the sound of the bird in the woods that is only the woods." Remember.
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