by August Smith
August Smith is an artist in Austin, TX. He got his MFA from UMass Boston and has published 9 chapbooks
Visitors from the Red Star
look: there is a bright light by the reservoir in the trees
casting shadows. it glows brilliantly pink in the blue harvest
of the night. and there is a man who’s a biologist,
meaning he studies life. and there is a dinner party
he is avoiding, meaning he’s not unlike you and me.
I tell you this to build trust with you, using details.
to make more composite the bleary image you see.
and I reveal this to mime a kind of openness to you,
simulating something like credibility, heightening the stakes.
while I am doing this, the biologist is in his garden.
his mind is quiet there. he avoids the dinner party
because he feels uncomfortable around other people,
like you and me. he likes the forms of life so far from us
as to be alien. he studies small creatures’ eye structures
and people don’t like talking about organelles at parties
and he isn’t interested in other people’s work as well.
in the garden he pulls root vegetables and enjoys
the muffled, low snap of their buried tendrils. it reminds him
of fiber optic nerves, piling beets like a dozen pulled eyes,
sugary blood staining his fingertips lit by the white moon.
behind him the party is percussive and warmly bright.
in the blue distance by the reservoir in the trees he looks
and sees the brilliant pink light. he believes his eyes.
which is not a phrase people say, I could believe my eyes,
but he studies life and he’s curious about the pink light
and so he walks the short quiet distance to the reservoir.
I relate this slowly to emulate his movement across Tbilisi
so even without knowledge of 1980s Georgia you can feel
a blue evening and a short walk and a bright pink light
like a misfired flare in the distance as though you are the biologist,
or following from behind, in third-person, like a floating eye.
you can inadvertently picture it happening in your own town
or the suburb you visited one time with your ex-lover
where you also went on a short walk to a reservoir in the night
as her father cooked ribs and you avoided a family party.
the biologist is walking there and the pink light is glowing
and pulsing in a curious manner and he thinks of his pupils
tightening and loosening by infinitesimal amounts to let in
slightly different amounts of light, like the chamber
of a revolver expanding or contracting with the temperature,
his body expending tiny energies from licking the beet blood
off his fingertips moments before. at the party someone
asks where the biologist is and the biologist’s wife simply
waves away the question like exhaust while her eyes roll up
and flutter towards her forehead, indicating please don’t ask.
the biologist arrives at the reservoir outside the town of Tbilisi
in 1982 and now he cannot believe his eyes. he sees
with them by way of the light particles
reflections and waves entering his mind
parsed by contrast and neurons he knows.
two headless figures—like some medieval joke, not the kind
told at a party—two headless metal robots with one eye
in their chests and lights in their stomachs beam back at him.
the credibility I’ve mined between us now evaporates into the night.
it disturbs the birds in the trees unbothered by the pink light.
they breathe in the dust of the details of the garden and the party
and fly with it embedded in their lungs until their bodies burst.
I want it to be the other way around. the details supporting
the vision of the robots. but you cannot believe your mind’s eye,
cannot snap the tendril embedded in what you’ve seen.
the glowing pink light glances off the shoulders of the robots
who are holding white tubes and gesturing to the biologist.
from the pink light emerge two tall beings with one eye
in the center of their foreheads. nothing the biologist knows
can slide this encounter to the realm of his comfort.
the beings tell him they are from the Red Star, which bleeds
its nebulous red cloud into the twisting well of space
beyond the places we’ve thought to map. like a red eye
tailed by a nerve, swirling into a void of blue dirt. above us,
the birds from the trees are bursting to illusory shreds
from some powerful, unseen narrative ripping its way
through the now-ink black of the night. their feathers drift
into the reservoir, dampen softly, twirl to dust on its surface,
like abandoned theses unyoked from the warm bodies
holding them to the real. the biologist saw all this
with his meaty, bloodshot eyes. afterwards,
he returns to his garden to quiet his mind.