Billy Petersen ~ Sparks

A young father returns from the yard. He has plant­ed two new pep­per bush­es, to replace the ones wast­ed by flood­wa­ters. His spade unearthed a bone, a dirty thing that resem­bled a knuck­le. With his liv­ing bones, he han­dles the tiny exhuma­tion, inspects it, won­ders briefly about it, throws it in the trash. He mus­es, pri­vate­ly, about his own jawbone—where will it be after he can no longer say, this is mine; where was it, from what col­li­sion of astral mate­ri­als was it por­tioned, pri­or to his birth, pri­or to the advent of his species, of his plan­et? You should be help­ing me in the yard, says the young father, with­out seri­ous­ness. He looks at his son, who watch­es his video game on the flatscreen. The son looks noth­ing like him. The dif­fer­ence pleas­es him. Have I made this, he won­ders to him­self. The son’s very young face, his large eyes that rein­car­nate the eyes from gray pho­tographs of a grand­moth­er he had nev­er known. The mak­ing was a col­lab­o­ra­tion, of course, he cor­rects himself—he is no longer accus­tomed to acknowl­edg­ing the son’s moth­er, who pur­sued alter­nate pref­er­ences straight to her pre­ma­ture grave. Old atoms, as old and old­er than the earth, recy­cled through your body to release this, him. A new bub­ble in space to catch and har­ness the ephemer­al­i­ties of love, fear, joy, despair. This, him, did not pre­vi­ous­ly exist. This, him: a new vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to attract the stuff of pain and decay. The joy of father­hood, the same as the sad­ness of mor­tal­i­ty. These old real­iza­tions, new in my brain, he thinks to him­self. A water­col­or fire of orange, yel­low, and red dec­o­rates the cov­er of a children’s book on the rug. The wet-look­ing flames drip upward into a blotchy, dark blue stain of a sky. A stray thought catch­es his atten­tion, and he imag­ines the great orange con­fla­gra­tions that have con­sumed cap­i­tals and vil­lages, some with names his mouth can­not utter, through­out the long, unre­al cen­turies. Blazes, from celer­i­ty their womb—once moss-rabid sparks, toward man­sions their fame, advance—once cadav­er-fed (bil­low­ing, and like lungs) hyp­no­sis. Intuition reminds him that he is but one spark with­in one flash of a cos­mic lumi­nos­i­ty about which he is fat­ed to be almost entire­ly igno­rant. Here we are, he says to him­self, inside an ongo­ing and ances­tral rein­ven­tion that per­mits no mem­o­ry, but that to itself is ever now.


Billy Petersen works as a copy­writer for a web­site devel­op­er in Jacksonville, Florida. His sto­ries and essays have appeared in Ellipsis Zine,, The New Engagement, Hobart, sym­plokē, Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, and Literary Imagination. @BillyPeterzen