The Casimir Effect by Jack Barker-Clark

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Long before irony and before we all wore futuristic leggings, our class painted blotchy doomed planets, nobody yet wise or lucent or talented. We had graduated from shells and pebbles (delicately-seamed) and expanded logically into the universe. We’d captured Saturn’s rings and moons; our brushes ran circles around swirls of gas. But John Casimir had brought his brush from home.

With it he painted a horse, no rider, around which my green memory has constructed a scene of dark boughs, rakish mountaintops, glades, caves, waterfalls. The horse’s face was hidden, its neck twisted off into the distance, and a heaving mass of black shadow spilled out from underneath the animal, a dark cloth. And while we had our blues and purples out, John – silent, compact, intractable – was mixing umbers for the trumpeting event of his night sky, a bulging curtain that gave the impression the firmament might tip.

Half of us were nine; the other half ten. It was February or thereabouts, and our lives were destined to continue processionally. We went on miming the words to the Lord’s Prayer, one of us walked into a broom closet thinking it was the door to the science labs, the deputy head was pulled over for speeding. All spring the art room’s high windows gave us the tops of conifers, swaying in strange light, but all I ever thought of was John Casimir’s brush from home and his horse in the painted gloaming, the most crepuscular shadow ever cast.


Jack BarkerClark is a writer and artist from a passé valley in the North of England. He is the founder of Pale Books, a reading project, and writes primarily on ornamental grasses and the novel. He tweets occasionally at @jackbarkerclark

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