Donna Stonecipher



Inlay (Erwin Panofsky)



          We lay on the grass in the botanical garden dreaming that the whole world was a botanical garden, with little white plastic tags labeling every object visible or invisible to the eye. Every little purple geodesic dome and violet-blue vortex. Every outwhorling leaf and inwhorling umbel.



          He turned off the light in his kitchen and all that remained of the cat were its two sacral eyes. They floated somewhere above the chair. Don't blink, little egyptian, he thought, and plunge me into a darkness more dark than the darkness I know lies at the back of your black hole of a heart.



          There would be white tags labeling corollas with snow-white pistils, and labeling deep green fronds. There would be tags labeling trees with leaves shaped like the tree itself and trees with no leaves left. There would be tags labeling a true genus and a false genus, and that's where we'd lie down.



          She wondered how many people secretly hoped, as she did, that "progress" would in the nick of time be stopped, that the past with its wasting diseases and victrolas would suddenly resurface like a reflection in a pool troubled by some reckless interruption. He gave her a recycled dragonfly.



          The etymology of venereal disease is Venus, he was stunned to read in his dictionary. Not venal. Meanwhile, the people standing in the field were waiting for the UFO they knew would one day come with a confused love in their hearts, a love that could move mountains, that could befog time.



          A racehorse cannot be given the name of any other racehorse that ever raced. So Affirmed and Cigar race only into the past, like horses in a painting hanging in a hotel. In a name there hides a destiny — like a Chinese cookie, or a Fabergé egg — a history pneumatically smashed into the hereafter.



"Man is indeed the only animal to leave records behind him,

for he is the only animal whose products 'recall to mind'

an idea distinct from their material existence"



          The cosmopolitan knows the difference between the Hutus and the Tutsis. The former citadel is used today exclusively for cultural purposes. The former brewery is used today exclusively for cultural purposes. The former porcelain factory is used today exclusively for cultural purposes.



          There would be a tag labeling the pale-pink bract and a tag labeling the tree with the diseased white trunk. We would know for certain what was Myanmar and what was Burma, what was Mumbai and what was Bombay. We would know clementines from tangerines, sincerity from flattery.



          O vatic, lowly votive of the caption. He bought a book of oval cyanotypes of the early Mississippi River and stared night after night at the blue irrigation ditches, the blue steamboats and blue bluffs. It wasn't long before his dreams of having sex with his ex-girlfriend were all tinted blue.



          But the peacock island still reigns: and here idolatry cannot be said to be mere. We reached it by broken-down ferryboat, we looked at the world spangled black and green and blue, we plunged into the voluptuousness of feathers that do not fly. We have never been to the peacock island.



          There were white tags labeling the fern that looked like a citadel and the flower whose open mouth was stuffed with tiny croziers. We lay on the grass in the botanical garden among thousands of white tags and daydreamed that there were no more mysteries of nomenclature left in this world.