by Priscilla Kinter
“To be admitted to Nature’s heart costs nothing. None is excluded, but excludes himself.”
– Henry David Thoreau
“I accept that when there are storms, the damnednest of the excluded…things…are brought down.”
– Charles Fort
Things that fall: Stones from a small dark cloud, a single cubic stone, stones and jewel, the sanctuary of angels. In the words of Eschenbach’s hermit, “Men call it Lapis Exiiis” – literally “the stone from them” – or exillis or even Lapis Lapsit Jaspis exilix erillis and “by its magic the wonderous bird The Phoenix, becometh ashes, and yet doth such virtue flow from the stone, that afresh it riseth renewed…” Angular black pebbles, warm polished pieces of flint, a cylindrical marble object of unknown origin. The language of precipitation.
To borrow and misuse geologic terminology: Dropstone or erratic. Warm oval rocks and stones, up to sixteen pounds in weight. A ball of limestone containing fossil shells and a creature like a trilobite. Coal. One half-pint of red rocks, layered metamorphic rock, hollow quartz globes, greenstone, olivine, peridot breccia moldavite pallasite diamond, falling falling, always falling.
Jack perch, sun perch, live spangled perch, catfish, bream, and trout: Fish that fly but not flying fish. Water lizards and living snakes. Thick sheets of white spider web and periwinkles. Cut worms. Rains of dead birds including: Catbirds, woodpeckers, canaries, turtledoves, starlings, ducks, and others of strange plumage. Things that fall: Unidentified living creatures.
More fish: Largemouth bass, sunfish, shad, and minnows, some frozen, some merely cold; all fit for consumption. Jellyfish, live frogs, a live shark, young toads, and still more fish. A monkey, which upon falling destroyed a clothesline post. Hundreds of fatally injured ducks. A seven-month-old puppy. A small shower of thirty-four fish, each two inches long. A single frozen squid.
Moving forward in the language of the heavens: Caelum, caelestis, celestial, cielo, ciel. Sky was originally a cloud was originally cloud cover was originally to cover and conceal. Shadow and mirror fell out of these, from this region of the sky, only later again becoming the upper regions and heaven. Associated phenomena: The visible spectrum and UV waves and all manner of clouds. Associated falling objects: Rain, snow, sleet, hail, dust, dirt, sand, mud, dark. Bright flashes and wiggly vapor trails and sometimes four-hundred-year-old money.
Florida: Hundreds of golf balls falling from on high. Missouri: Eighteen inches of heavy, red-hot chain. Cape Town: Two large metal balls, sixty-five pounds and one-hundred-ten pounds, respectively. Dallas: A six-pound piece of charred metal. Seattle: A large brick of metal turned up at the ends and pierced through by two large holes. See also: Namibia (on grassland), Siberia (in a forest), Massachusetts (on a furniture warehouse), and New Jersey (on a sewage plant).
Cinders from a small dark cloud, which hissed and set fire to the ground. A single fireball then another and yet another.
More fireballs and burning embers. Foul-smelling luminous jelly. Lumps of transparent fiery jelly that disintegrated into fine white particles. A flammable sulfur rain that burned blue and melted to a blood-red liquid, solidified furnace slag, burning sulfur. In its modern form, brimstone no longer burns but falls as acid rain: Wrath of God supplanted by industrial spite.
Blood and meat falling from a cloudless sky, liver, brains, and more blood. Strips of bloody flesh, covered in fine white hairs. Meat that tasted of mutton or venison. Flakes of fresh beef, and manna between layers of dew. Butter. Liquid non-dairy creamer. Green peaches, from a dark cloud. Human corpses. Rock candy.
A canard is a duck and a hoax as in, when referring to the two-day rain of candy, “If this is a canard, it is surely a sweet one.”
Manna tasted of wafer baked with honey and rained down daily that God might test his people, as in, when referring to the seven-month-old puppy, “When God drops a puppy from the sky, you keep it.”
The Sumerian pantheon consulted heavenly lapis tablets and star-charts; Arabic Israfel, the Burning One, his mouthed and tongued and hairy body stretching across the heavens, held a tablet of pearl and ruby, stones in the sky on which were drawn the fate of all men. In the beginning there was the One or the Way, the thought or the splitting or primordial soup. There was the molecular cloud, the circumstellar disk, density peturbations and dust. Atoms to atoms, dust to dust, grains clumped and collided and fell and fell into the growing body of earth. The pounding bombardment of stones and iron and olivine, molten gold and molybdenum: The first matter of our world.
Isaac Newton, English physicist and mathematician (upon whom the apocryphal apple did not fall), between writing on infinite series and the motion of bodies in orbit, translated an ancient tablet on transmutation, wrote how first matter “descends to ye earth and receives ye force of things superior & inferior” and through its falling, “So was ye world created.” The fallen raises that which is base to that which is noble and makes immortal that which must die, and so the damnedest falls and becomes an agent of grace.
To wit: Falling, dropping, plummeting, feallan, fallan, vallen. To decay or die. To “come suddenly to the ground,” as in the darkness. Falling and Newton’s law of gravitation imply that you will eventually hit solid ground. As in sticky and fibrous angel hair and angel grass – those sky slimes – clinging to one’s lawn. Or wine-yellow sky-oil. And that which looks like crystalized niter but tastes as sweet as sugar.
And then a substance with the color and odor of dried varnish. Clear jelly and quaking jelly, jellies like boiled starch, jelly that, when dried and ground to flour, made attractive but tasteless bread. See them scattered upon the ground: Goo of white, grey, yellow, blue, greyish-white, or purple: Starre-fallyng, star-shot, star gelly, shot-jelly, sterre slime, star-slough, starslubber, star-slutch, star-shut, pwdr ser: By any name, the rot of stars. Black leafy masses that fell like flakes of snow, smelled of rotten seaweed, and “tore fibrously, like paper.” Things seen to be falling and things found after the fall.
The infernal and celestial: Combustible yellow resin, a yellow powder of earthy flavor and oily texture, and stinking snow in orange, yellow, and green. Glowing green snow. Mushroom-shaped balls of foam, a yellowish substance that appeared blue under a microscope, black eggs and black fungus. Blue silk and punk. Orange-flavored snow. Buckets of yellow stuff that stank of ammonia, inky rains, coagulated blood, fish-shaped objects that were not fish, white ashes, charred paper, black capillary matter that was “seen to fall in a glowing state”.
A domed purple mass of pulsating jelly that disintegrated when touched. Hyacinth flakes in a peach-red rain. Incomplete astrophysics equations for the polarization of interstellar dust typed across sheaves of pages falling like “twirling specks”.
And an hour after sunrise on a cold winter’s morning, we watch some distant thing fall like an immense leaf, almost floating, watch as it fades from yellow to red and back to white and yellow. Bony trees reach, sky glows, we watch, it falls: A pale yellow object, descending slowly.