“Can You Imagine This World?” by Scott Withiam

Scott Withiam


There were all kinds of arguments and atrocities occurring on the earth’s surface. There was one night’s graceful smothering of snow. Then arguments muffled below the surface. Below one man’s windowsill, buried along the buried lane came, “Why bother?” And a response: “Why not?”—tulip bulbs arguing, their argument: whether or not to bloom. Can you imagine this world? he thought. He got them out of it by himself going outside, digging them up and throwing them into one paper bag. He drove them to the expansion bridge and stopped in the middle, got them out, lined them up one by one on a steel girder, precariously leaned them against those big bolt heads and said it: “You’re bulbs, not bolt heads.” “What’s going on?” one asked. He snapped their picture, then said, “Bulbs without a flash.” “What is this?” another more officiously demanded. “Look down,” he said, “look at the islands.” “There are no islands.” “Yes there are,” he said, “You just can’t see them. They’re beautiful, but under snow.” A sharp blast of wind almost blew a few over. “Okay, okay,” a couple of bulbs said; “What do you want?” a few more cried. “Look down,” he said. “We did”; “There’s nothing”; “It’s bleak”; “It’s frozen,” were the answers. “Exactly,” he said. “What’s beneath all of this?” came the question. “Bingo,” he said, “not a flowing but a flowering river.” “We don’t get it.” “Neither do we,” he said, “but you don’t have to. Just come back home and do what you do.” “And you, what will you do?” one bulb asked. They were on their way. There were flashing lights, a siren. “You were driving erratically,” the officer said. “What’s in the bag?” “What’s it to you?” one bulb said, “please.” “Please,” said another, “we want to get back. We want to get going.” “Are you talking to me, Buddy?” the cop asked. “No,” the man said, “they are.”

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011