THE PLEASURE OF SPRING AND OTHER STORIES
by Leonard Klossner
The Pleasure of Spring
One wades through currents of prose like one knee-high in the shallows of a stream whose waters flow like whispers in the wind, whose shimmering body reflects the beauty of the surrounding landscape. Its serenity enraptures, its marvel edifies, and one may delight in the effortlessness with which the narrative waters flow without understanding its exhaustive efforts towards simplicity.
There is a natural pleasure in relishing that which one has not labored for, a pleasure the reader well understands. The seeming effortlessness with which the author has written belies unfathomable suffering – a suffering induced by mania, obsession, an inclination toward perfection of form despite the imperfection of their means and faculties, and by solitude which allows these forces to run amok.
Beneath the bloom of a wild chrysanthemum spreads the ugly tendrils of its roots – reaching as near to the underworld as the blossom aspires toward Heaven – burrowed deep in the muck and the mess of the world. One may pluck the flower from the base of the stem to admire its figure, and while one might thereby intuit a greater understanding of the floral specimen, its beauty falls from its withering form in the velvet of every petal.
This is the disease of knowledge; to understand something is to murder its marvel.
The reader reclines, tucked beneath sheets, where the author hunches over their aged desk, seized by the spirit of creation, fevered, with arthritic fingers of the laboring hand tensed and clenched over the tool which grants language an orthographic form. Tens of thousands of words fall from the womb of creation. Only some few thousand will survive abortion.
The wanderer sees nothing but the becalmed tread of the stream. They note nothing but the simplicity of its voluminous flow. They do not see the stillness of the waters in the depth of winter. The reader does not behold the author laboring to the utmost limits of the body, chipping away at the boundless shape of the frozen stream for seasons on end until the current at last begins to flow through the solidity of the glacial mass once the winter of creation reaches its end.
Only the author understands the suffering induced by their creation and perhaps even that is not true. The reader cannot intuit, nor could they comprehend the extent of an author’s labor, and this is as it should be – the author suffers the isolation and harrowing chill of winter so the reader may feel nothing but the warm, unbridled pleasure of spring.
She observes her reflected double as though its body were not her own. The vases in her room, the candles, the Persian rug; they are no different than her body – they are possessions; they exist outside of herself. Oh, but what is this accursed self? Years of searching has neared her no closer towards discovery. The self: The carrot on the string, as within her reach as it is invariably distant. Whatever this self is, she says, it has nothing to do with her body.
It is neither hers, this body, in solitude or in public. She notices the glares of women, the gazes of men. Her body is beautiful – she knows this, but refrains from entangling the body in the self; resists the thought that she *herself* is beautiful. She understands the alchemy of desire, that the solvent of the gaze reduces the body to its basest features, and so she cannot detest the women whose migratory eyes crowned by furrowed brow betrays their envy, nor can she despise the men who gaze upon her body as though it were something they might like to own. How could she think ill of a man for seeing her exactly as she sees herself? and are not these men, too, mere bodies in motion, simple objects shuffled around the city square like commodities in the supermarket?
From nowhere – not from the mouth, the flesh, or any orifice – does the self emerge from the body. Like a lantern without a candle, there is nothing within to shine outward; there is only the pretense of the base material, of glass so easily stained, so easily shattered. One might look inside, but what would they see? Nothing worth sharing, she tells herself, then averts her gaze from the bathroom mirror through which she gazed upon her reflection like a visitor to a museum glances at a painting among hundreds of others. The visitor’s shifting eyes, exhausted from poring over a profusion of images for hours, has passed over too many gilded frames to bother gleaning the essence of the image. This is the xxx,xxx,xxxth time that she has viewed her body, and though its reflection exists as a dynamic image, though the body and its mirrored double move across space and time, the listless gaze considers the reflection as it would an image suspended in aeternum, a painting perpetually unmoving.
At best, she thinks, even the most sublime painting is destined to deteriorate into a meager image, a pretty picture printed in calendars to be hung up in some old woman’s kitchen or on a fridge magnet on sale in a gift shop; a possession which retains nothing of the essence of its original, an image bereft of its essence, which signifies nothing but material, an object that means absolutely nothing, an object so similar to the body.
All Flowers Will Die
Our youth, vanishing, like spots of dew trickling down the blemished window of our past. The forlorn gaze watches the water cascade in zig-zag streams down the spotted glass, wondering where all the time went, marveling at the speed with which it has passed us by as we stood more or less fixed to one determinate point. The window of memory, all befogged; stages of our life misted over, in a haze. We lose our faith in recollection. We lose the ability to observe images of our passed life in any detail. Interrogations of our memory furnish doubtful testimony.
Enter: Into Mnemosyne’s garden. Lose yourself within the hedge maze, stumble through the door of the mausoleum of memories, covered over as it was by a latticework of faint and withering flowers. See the skulls of the dead everywhere, skeletal remains littering the floor, stuffed into the alcoves; the ashes of the deceased overflowed from cracked and fractured urns. To whom do they belong? What is left for their bones to signify?
The child, so eager to mature, rushes headlong into a life of remorse. He is twenty-seven now; what of his youth remains? He tests the soil, penetrating the surface with probing digit, and senses that the last of its moisture has gone. His father, doing the same, thinks his son a fool – the soil is still humid. See, he says, the pressure of his thumb coaxes water from the soil. It is mine that has dried, says the father.
Both of you are mad, the grandfather shouts. Here mine is bone dry, and, see, there are cracks in the terra cotta. It is soon to break apart – any day could be the day. And, son, you say your soil has gone dry, yet your flowers grow to this day, and, you, my grandson, you are blindest of all; the bountiful moisture of your soil goes to waste. You are still so incredibly young and ignorant beyond belief. This I can assure you: You are far less learned than you quite confidently feel yourself to be, and have yet to experience the sensation of drought for yourself. But there you are, confident as ever, having no doubt read of drought in those books of yours, or seen its definition spelled out in so many lectures and lessons. You mistake your reading and education for experience. Twenty-seven years, and still a lifetime of showers to look forward to – showers your ignorance will no doubt squander – and still so many buds that have yet to blossom.
Relieved of the last of his teachings, the grandfather experiences the fatal drought at last. No longer could his soil nourish what once grew within it, so it is disposed of, like everything that is obsolete, like all that has become useless. The withered flowers decorate nothing; signify nothing; serve nothing. All that survives is the memory of what once flourished for as long as the consumptive blight of life allowed, a memory which, like mortality, is sure to decay.
About the Author:
Leonard Klossner has had short fiction published in The Birds We Piled Loosely, Queen Anne’s Revenge, and Corvus Review. His novella, The Dominance Bond, was published in December 2017 through Zeit|Haus. Leonard Klossner lives in Chicago, IL.