stakebait: (Ever_Upward)
[personal profile] stakebait
[ profile] ellen_kushner wrote on Facebook: "Don't slow things down with explanations now."
-- line from a sonnet? or just good advice as I draft the opening chapters of my new novel proposal? #amwriting #amsharing #process

I didn’t write a sonnet but I did write a poem.

Don’t slow things down with explanations now
She has a cup of coffee gripped between her teeth and one hand on the parking brake
One eye on the rear-view mirror
Not quite late
You’re watching her side eye, thinking she bites her lip just like that when she’s mad
Thinking when things were better you wouldn’t hesitate to reach right in and catch the cup
And tug it gently free
when she wanted it she would stick her hand out blind
Watching the yellow lines going down in long, smooth gulps
And grip and drink and gasp hot steam back out
Into the cold morning

Now you catch yourself
Better not to reach into her space unasked
Not to see her flinch, and then you wait too long
She’s mad, now, that you didn’t help, that she knows you’re right,
That she would flinch, that your hand between her and herself
Isn’t normal anymore, that she no longer trusts, but glances
To make sure the cup is there
Before she sticks out her hand.

Where in this, you may wonder, is the explanation of the internal combustion engine?
Isn’t that the important part of the story?
It certainly would be if this were a spaceship
and you were commuting to Alpha Centauri
She would turn to you, Bob, (after you wait a beat too long
And then awkwardly offer to take the coffee,
after she tries to nod without splashing her nose
and you do and she can finally talk)
She would turn to you and remind you, in case you’d forgotten,
How the drive works and where you are going
But probably not how much the fuel cost, or who mined it,
Or how she earned the money to pay for it
Probably not why human society has advanced to Alpha Centauri but is still basically organized
Like America in the late 20th century
Probably not why she is mad at you
Perhaps that the coffee is hydroponically grown in zero gravity
But probably not that she started bringing it in the first place
Because it gave her a reason for silences
And something to do with her hands.

Don’t slow things down with explanations now
It is too late for that, or else too soon,
As you know, Bob,
these days we start in the middle
and rush headlong for the end
As you know, Bob,
In real life, no one talks of how things work
Until they break
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