I wear the mask of a wizard. I like to groan when I’m sick. I am pushing this sentence into your mind. I’m driving it like a tractor. I’m plowing the air. I’m seeding the air with words. The words grow into metaphors. Meaty metaphors. Meataphores. I am king of an invisible empire. A thought drags itself across this sheet of paper and becomes a fish. I have to write a pool of water for it. Write write write write write until writing is water and the fish has a place to live. I think of the brain as a fishbowl. I think of my body as a shape that is capable of motion and that the motions that a body make have something to do with the shape of the body. Take legs, for instance. Or arms. Who doesn’t love to swim? Or walk? Or run? If I see a palette and a doorknob poking out of the sand I dwell in sympathy and perception and this is a sign that is good for me and compels me to think the universe has some meaning and order but that often that order is random and chaotic and there is nothing merrier than a sack of nails. Or the feeling of heat on a porch after the sun has been shining on it all day. This is why violet is the least literal of colors and there is a tug contending with space and time and there is a vowel that smells like an area code and a consonant that smells like rubber. I can hear an image crashing among a body of words and hear it approach what is it why it’s an extraterrestrial eyeball supporting itself on a thousand legs. Imagine that. Imagine a man speaking into a microphone and saying things that nobody understands. Imagine an animal constructed of sugar standing at a brightly lit bus stop. This is why gravy sometimes resembles a fabric and a bowl of conversation is heavy as a terrarium. We embellish the cabbage we have with the cabbage that we don’t have. And the world is no wiser for this, but the fish are happy, and there is now a primrose pushing against the wind where formerly there was nothing but a sheet of paper and oceans of space and palaces of mist and fog. This is why I often dream of owning a canoe, and a streetcar named Fiduciary climbs the hill with a clang and a rumor writing itself into blossoms of ermine mosquito.


Napkins have become theater. They’re folded so intricately, uniquely, into such a variety of animals and objects and patterns and shapes. A man talking into a microphone, a meat loaf, a soliloquy of cloth, a brain crawling toward a thought. It is astonishing what worlds can be created by folding a napkin. Jimi Hendrix strumming an electric guitar, a lost cat hiding under a hedge of laurel, Elvis Presley singing “That’s Alright Mama” on the Louisiana Hayride Show in 1954. One enters a restaurant and is led to a table and invited to sit down. You sit down. Everyone sits down. You all stare at the napkins. The swans, Ferraris and Impalas, Elizabeth Taylor shouting at Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I’m pretty good at folding towels. I’m not so hot at folding shirts. But fold a napkin into a suspension bridge or a scene from Wizard of Oz, that I cannot do. The sun forges a new day. The sun folds the day into a lute. The sun folds the day into a glass of root beer. The sun itself is folded. A ball of light folded into a nuclear furnace darting its flames into space. Space itself is folded. There are folds of gravity and folds of time. How does one fold the phenomenon of distance? Of a propagating wave of light? How does one do that? Where does one begin? With the right corner, the left corner, all four corners simultaneously? How does one flip it, crease it, tuck it? One begins with a periodic lattice in a higher dimension. Fold the lattice by taking one end and sliding it under the other end. Make your folds exciting and smooth. Make them subtle as the heart of a bubble. Make them as convoluted and many as the folds of the brain. As a golden mean convulsing in a glass of milk. Make your folds deliver tendencies of shape. Shorelines incidental to the memory of a dance. Storm waves, sea caves, columns of rock. Make your folds long and wide and cinematic. Make them glide and hover over a table of horsehair fern and browsing brontosaurus. Make your folds balance a metaphor on a vacuum. If you can fold a sweater, you can fold a hemstitch cotton napkin into a telescope and hold the universe in a lens of incidental linen while you bring a mouthful of tender halibut to your lips and the room expands and the weight of a thousand shadows ripples through the rings of Jupiter.

JOHN OLSON’S most recent publications include Larynx Galaxy, a collection of prose poetry, essays, and flash fiction, and The Seeing Machine, a novel about the French painter Georges Braque. In fall of 2012, he was one of eight finalists for Washington State’s Art Innovator Award. He is currently at work on another novel tentatively titled My Other Car Is A Bed In Paris.


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