Love Letter to Loon Lake: Electrical the Embryo
EDISON LOOKS INTO THE MIND OF LOON LAKE
There was no fear of the dark until Edison invented the light. Before Edison there was day and night, but they imperceptibly blended together in the ecotones of dusk and twilight, so Edison ironically, in spite of all his grandiose intentions, really invented the darkness. Not the biblically dark, primal and immense, but the technologically shallow dark that is entered with the mind.
When Edison, with his Promethean buddies, looks over Loon Lake, a light bulb goes off in his head.
The wizard of talking machines and creator of image spinning contraptions revolving in the light holes of our brains, he looks at the blinding beauty of it. Even he doesn’t know how much his light will eat up each day.
He understands the electrical connection of everything: At Coney Island in 1903, an elephant named Topsy is scheduled to die because she has killed three men when working on building Luna Park. The last man killed fed her a lit cigarette. After the attempt to poison her with cyanide carrots failed, Edison proposed to electrocute the elephant using Alternating Current which was advocated by his competitor Westinghouse.
EDISON WATCHES THE LIGHTNING
Edison, Ford, Burroughs, and Firestone stand frozen in the storm―lightning’s skidmarks all around them. Edison admires how light claws the brittle air. This is when he learns to talk to light.
Edison crawls toward the stars.
We stand on this side of the world; he stands on the other.
The lightning is in the trees when the birds open their mouths. The urge and hunger. The need to create and explore beyond our Neanderthral brains. The need to devour. Creativity and destruction. Prometheus and Frankenstein―that old Freudian story featuring Eros and Thanatos.
The birds peel off the crackling air from their backs.
We have the beautiful blaze of our madnesses. (See Elizabeth Kolbert.)
Edison realizes this is how light is made. The boy stands in the window of the burning. The piano from the Huckweem Hotel winds up in the bottom of the lake. Edison’s brain is bathed in light. The pulse of the piano.
EDISON WATCHES THE ELECTRICAL EMBRYO
The moment is a well―deep and threatening, but also full of what needs to be wanted.
The birds come and go. Edison comes and goes. I come and go. The Talmud states: “When the fetus comes forth into the air of the world, what is closed opens and what is open closes.” It is hard for us to tell the difference between a cocoon and a coffin. Sometimes I feel the bone butterfly rising in my hips.
The loon’s voice is our voice.
Edison sits in his boat dangling wires into water like lily roots. Prigogine says, “Today, the world we see outside and the world we see within are converging.” Here is the connection: the plants that produce the electricity and cars are dropping their acidic rain on the lakes where the vision was conceived, so everything goes full circle. The cars that ride on their firestones are burning up the planet, the plants, the lakes.
We need to use our gills in the air and drag our wings through the water. Edison, Firestone, Ford, and Burroughs. Conjurers of our world. Revelators. Revelers.
Edison, in an attempt to show the dangers of AC, electrocuted Topsy and captured the bulky ballet-murder on film.
This was a time when the magic of animals receded into the past replaced by the luminous utopian dreams of the future--when time and distance and darkness were erased.
On the shores of Loon Lake, Edison with his hand on the switch, looks around, and sees that the world needs to be lit up. The light comes in and it tries hard not to be obviously symbolic. The only answers are questions that lead to even more radiant questions.
This new century will need its new Edisons to correct the mistakes that our old Edisons made.
If you do not think what you are seeing, then you will not see it. If you do not say what you are thinking, then melting objects form in the head. Mind burrows into matter/matter burrows into mind. The mind of the tree. The mind of the Lake.
Edison doesn’t mind. He looks at the bones of the trees.
Minuets for minnows. The clavier once on fire. The tuning pins swim away. The piano music splits open the lake.
Birds open their mouths in all the trees
All the trees live in a book―we live in a whole library of trees. The secret room at the bottom of the lake contains the whole hotel and all its burning bones. The books live in light.
Eventually everything crashes into the lake as the lake closes slowly over the drowning boy like a book.
The boy swallows the fire. The lake swallows the boy.
The light continues to scratch the lake. The beautiful blaze of our wondering and our deaths
The world leaves Edison, Ford, Burroughs, and Firestone on the shores of Loon Lake. They stand on this side of the light-stained world.
We will be well. When the forest is bitten into, nature rubs against us. We flick a switch and the world opens, light our common plasma. Amid the circularities—we are weaver and woven. Resistance and acceptance. Conciliatory, chiasmatically connected, reciprocal. Symbiotic and generative. Symmetrical and transitive.
Fish thump against the water. Words will catch us. I use my body as a boat, and it grows around the water. I start rowing as if my soul were shaken out of the sky. This is a sung place with the lake asleep beneath the fishermen.
I see the light at the end of an incredibly long wire that stretches a million years and winds up illuminating the head and belly. I sip from a great goblet made of flesh and fire. The lake is calling for its new Edison—a new electricity with new connections. A new energy.
Edison sits in his electric chair. His world crackles with death. At what point does the trickster become the magician? Alchemist of the new electricity—altering reality and our perceptions—a transfiguration. At what point does the fetus come forth before the deepest of wells. I stand under an electrocuted sky. I close: I open.
The lake in the eye. The loon in the voice. Well, I say.
We’ll dwell in a bright wonder.
PATRICK LAWLER's novel Rescuers of Skydivers Search Among the Clouds was the winner of the Ronald Sukenick American Book Review Innovative Fiction Prize. He also has published a collection of short stories The Meaning of If and five books of poetry. In addition, he has published a hybrid text combining poetry, memoir, and interview—Underground (Notes Toward an Autobiography).