Sunlight by Scott Neuffer

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Time is a motherfucker. Time wears a belt of iron. But Arden’s words fall up. The sun a tickled curtain. She touches the throat of God. There is no God. She takes out the trash. The trees whisper: Victory is false. My heart is a good little toad. Her words fall up. She makes the bed. 


World war? my son asks. Maybe, I say. Ordinary heat gilds sidewalks, pools between neighbors touching fingertips. Birds dash out of view as we wait for news. You’ll grow up, I say, nothing to worry about. But there is plenty to worry about. War makes me furiously idealistic. My dreams exhume a ruined castle with beady eyes. It watches me as I murder tyrants, the tyrant in myself most of all. Then the castle is gone, and a fruitless light settles the dust. Which is enough to live by, to love with, I hope.


I meet Arden days after Russia invades Ukraine. I tell her: Make an example of me, my profound ignorance, but bend red tulips to my lips when you do. I don’t know what I fear most about my ignorance, but she fits in the sad space where I have given my heart away before. The days absorb each other through a golden aperture, sunlight slick on my skin. I tell her: My neighbors still ask me for a wrench, as I appear a practical and reliable man. I tell her: There is no bond like eating and talking at the same time. She says: Have you tried dandelion soup? 

Our tweets fall to mocking. 


How much does the anxiety underlying existence swell to critical mass and foreclose all the lovely whispers drifting on the air? What is love if not the galvanizing of this anxiety till it spoofs itself in trembling flowers tentative to touch the unspooling sun-fired air? 

My dreams now have a ceiling of light that quivers when I touch it. My throat opens with roses. I turn 40 in Nevada. Arden plans a garden along the Connecticut. I visit the hardware store twice in one weekend. To fix something, make it whole. My son asks about seeing the ocean, says the word “love.” He draws a boat. I tell him it’s like dancing through waves, sensing not the end or the beginning, but eternal tension between the two. 


Arden says: It’s kind of like war—invasion, nuclear blasts—but can’t compare ourselves to war. War or no war, Arden fruits when nothing else does. The mind can be fruit, no matter how broken. Over me, the sunset breaks war-like, fresh blood, tinge of iron. I write to her about childhood hallways, how light receding back to God is everything. I write to her about hearing wind in the trees at night, how I shake with loneliness as I separate from my wife. We love each other, yes, but don’t understand each other. We’re on again, off again, on again, off again. I just need a friend, I tell Arden. Because time is a bastard. Time tricked me, killed my youth, murdered my father, dropped me in the sea bound and weighted with pain. Eternity, she says, I see it in you. Eternity? I reply. What is eternity? 


No missiles in our nightmares. We pray for humans in Ukraine, send twenty dollars to a blood bank. We pray knowing God has to die. We have to let God die. I imagine He dies in Palm Springs, shouting for rain. It’s easy to call God a man though I know in my heart God is a woman. I see her in Arden, in my wife, in hope that slithers under death’s skirt, sticky enough to call a kiss. I tell Arden: We are both bipolar, susceptible to grandiosity. I say: Have you ever been rung by a mountain dusk, a golden floodplain? Have you ever sensed infinity in a cracked sidewalk, a splotch of gum? She says: I remember when my mind filled with light, found no limit, found you. I say: I’m weeping in the street. I say: What happens next, Arden? 


The truth is it’s hard being mentally ill and a father at the same time. The truth is I felt alone, and she broke my winter despair. Today, I’m sitting outside in the spring sun, feet on the ground. I turn my head one way, and it’s cold. I turn it the other way, toward the sun, and my head warms. There’s snow on the mountains. Grass begins its green show. Miles away, she makes the bed.

Scott Neuffer is a writer and musician who lives in Nevada with his family. He’s also the founding editor of the literary journal trampset. Follow him on Twitter @scottneuffer @sneuffermusic @trampset

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