“Clouds milling over cows,” and other lovely sentences

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THUNDER, LIGHTNING | Nancy Woo

Synaesthesia

Clouds milling over cows–that’s such a beautiful sentence (or sentence fragment, really). It’s musical (the assonance of cloud and cow), it’s funny and surprising (generally, it’s the cows, not the clouds, who do the milling around), and on top of all that, it reads very naturally, like clouds milling over cows is the most normal sort of thing in the world. There’s a great symmetry to this phrase as well.

This is a very multisensory piece: we are bombarded with tactile, sonic, and other kinds of sensory information. We are given temperatures and organic details of the ground and sky, natural motions and human gestures. This piece possesses a very complex, rich choreography.

Call it a prose poem. Call it a story. Obviously, we all know such tags are only helpful to a point, and this piece is so self-assured–it doesn’t particularly care what the reader thinks it is. Does it have a narrative? Sure. Not in the denouement-through-donnée narrative arc sort of way, but in a very fragmented sense, yes, there is a narrative here. It’s less a character- or action-driven story than a sense-based one in which colors and textures blend and shift to create an abstract yet very personal expression.

Does that make any sense? Maybe not. My writing becomes sort of wacky and pretentious when I’m discussing anything abstract.

Either way, read this piece. Read it again, relishing the swell and crunch of each syllable in your mouth. Admire sentences like this once:

I have been dancing with fireflies and filling canteens with a star’s distant murmur, as it calms one’s thirst.

What the fuck does that mean? I don’t know, but I want to read that sentence again and again. Just as Rothko’s crazy color walls and Aphex Twin’s spacey soundscapes don’t require interpretation, we don’t need to rip our hair out deciphering every metaphor or possible metaphor. I can detect a lot of existential-experience type stuff in here–isolation, attraction, distance, deterioration–and can jot down a list of themes and motifs, but I don’t think I need to. I think I prefer this piece unexplained, like a magic trick yet to be ruined by your know-it-all older sibling.

Anyway. Read the piece. It’s on page 36 of the newest issue of Synaesthesia (how appropriate that it would appear in a journal with the name “Synaesthesia”–very fitting). Read the whole journal cover to cover, is my recommendation. It’s really one of the most beautifully designed online lit journals out there right now, with the perfect mix of text, audio, and visual components.

Read this stunning prose poem-y thing over at Synaesthesia (click on the Thunder, Lightning issue and go to page 36).

 

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