Part II Setting the V.C.R. when we go to bed to record a night owl movie, some charmer we missed we always allow, for unprogrammed unforeseen, an extra half hour. (Night gods of the small screen are ruthless with watchers trapped in their piety.) We watch next evening, and having slowly found the start of the film, meet the minors and leads, enter their time and place, their wills and needs, hear in our chests the click of empathy's padlock, watch the forces gather, unyielding world against the unyielding heart, one longing's minefield laid for another longing, which may yield. Tears will salt the left-over salad I seize during ads, or laughter slow my hurry to pee. But as clot melts toward clearness a black fate may fall on the screen; the movie started too late. Torn from the backward-shining of an end that lights up the meaning of the whole work, disabled in mind and feeling, I flail and shout, "I can't bear it! I have to see how it comes out!" For what is story if not relief from the pain of the inconclusive, from dread of the meaningless? Minds in their silent blast-offs search through space-- how often I've followed yours!--for a resting-place. And I'll follow, past each universe in its spangled ballgown who waits for the slow-dance of life to start, past vacancies of darkness whose vainglory is endless as death's, to find the end of the story.
From Firefall, by Mona Van Duyn, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1992 by Mona Van Duyn. Used with permission.