An explorer is packing the trees away because they are not themselves, not sacred, not created to make the space move through them like so many voices, so many voices like blank scarves. The explorer is without and that makes him beautiful. So beautiful his wife packs the image of him away, packs it away like a burning tee-shirt. She folds it into a suitcase along with his old clothes. It doesn't burn a thing.
Boats divide the sea and the sea doesn't feel it, doesn't care. There are explorers in the sea floating, measuring buoyancy. They are part of a time that does not imagine time, does not believe in it. The sea is cold and vinyl-colored. The explorers would say it felt as though they were spinning on a giant record on a turntable if they knew what a record was. They slide in the grooves where the needle would run. They can almost feel the music.
The explorers are drowsy. They are sitting on an island making a map in the sand. One writes: We have seen nothing today but men and boats, boats and men and paper. They are aware that the sky is made of the tiniest bird skeletons and that this doesn't matter. They leak out of the world like rain into pots on the floor of a hut in a storm. Meaning: they travel but whatever they collect vanishes. The horizon beyond them clears. They imagine the water spilling off into air as white as a dove, doves even, pulling away, then together, then apart. They cannot account for why the water is there even though it spills and spills and spills. They drag their quills in the sand.
An explorer buries a dungeon below a lilac field. He had moved it over miles and miles of marshland on his back. He had become a device and rhythm, a few lifetimes worth of vague dots. He might tell you the dungeon was really his chest; full of metal chains that burn the skin, cages made small enough to go over your eyes. He will tell you this and it will be a lie. He will tell you this as the lilac polishes the steel below.
The pirates are giving dirty looks to the explorers and the explorers are giving dirty looks to the pirates. Everything between them is a dark yellow, a place of old grief rolling and rolling away, wood exploding out into the open, a structure of world in which nothing ever falls. Both sides try to order the yellow between them somewhere different. It is like trying to tell parts of their bodies to grow inward, grow back into some no, some hollow place, a worn and crumpled narrowing. There is no event when they look at each other. Objects hold where they are. They hold so still it hurts what holds them. The yellow wins.
The explorers signify, spread. They find stones and name them. They look for stones that have fled other stones. In a cold place, a single explorer pretends to be an onslaught of snow. He walks this way and that on a stone road, saying nothing. In the spring, he melts. He fills all the cracks in the stones.
Elsewhere is a word the explorers bury in various holes. They stand above the graves and shock and negate and rub against each other like matches against matchbooks. The sparks they make drive off the animals for miles. Lambs jump off cliffs into the sea and white deer float into and through each other like ghosts. The explorers sit around drinking and betting on atoms and particles as the atoms and particles tear themselves apart. They open spaces in the air that no one notices, never go away. The air is a burial. The sound of it is like dirt falling onto a box from a long way up. The box is filed with light.
The coasts are ugly and floating. Fish fall from the air, shining like knives. The sun is waterlogged, wrinkled like a child's hand coming out of a long bath. The world that rocks below it is made out the sounds of insects burrowing and buzzing. It makes the explorers sick to their stomachs. They ache down to their tiniest, their smallest glint. They are like lost doors, doing little but keeping closed. From hum to scatter, they stand. They revolve on a blonde boat on a sea of fear. They watch as the sun, unwrinkled, shows its real skin.
The explorers have temporarily docked at a white windowsill which runs for miles in the middle of the ocean. It is nighttime so they cannot see the glass but can touch it. They are like so many action figures put in a row by a child to be played with eventually. In fact, they feel something pulling them back and forth, moving the tiny screws in their elbows. Their mouths are painted on. Their mouths are tiny swirls. The glass they cannot see is cold.
The horizon is an Atari sky. There is a tiny figure climbing computer-animated lines in it. The explorers consult their maps for this occurrence, find nothing, and take note. They try to say something to each other about it but their voices are like a group of small birds trying to drag a hawk out of the sky. The sky is making sounds like music in an Atari game, birds tumbling through it. The purpose of the game is to go up and down. That is all.
The median is a good place to put the flood. The explorers, though, put the flood wherever they want it. In this part, the flood has devoured the trees. There is one tree, though, still rising out of the water. The tree is half woman, half tree, branches sprouting out of her torso, her face nearly covered by bramble. She is crying. She doesn't want to be a tree. She imagines a history without trees, just clear spaces, blank alleyways, places the body can go.
The free-fall is burnt. It is crisp in the middle but charred around the edges that have been taken by the light, by the burning. The explorers look through their telescopes into the fall without speaking. The figures drifting inside it are simply summaries, hypothesis, blank outlines as white as glue. There's no way to deduct how much wind and falling is inside it, no end in sight. It is decided that everything there has become its own city. Those falling inside it have time to build and sleep as they fall. They wake in their beds, in the free-fall, and look out their windows to see the horizon zipping away. In this way, the explorers conclude, their lives are like everyone else's.
The echo is something the explorers have to live with, the reverb and the slag. They've grown used to the hot, black metal below the grass, this synthesizer of loneliness, this loop of squares and what is cried liked dirt, cried in tiny spaces. Their legs are an Appalachia of panic, a depression of songs peeling from their skin like beige paint on a building no one cares about, no one cares to remember. The echo is something they have to live with. Still, when they say their names and hear nothing back they can't help but feel disappointed. Their voices are like small notes written on a piece of invisible paper. Look: you can feel the letters on the other side.
One explorer crawls into another explorer to go to sleep. He likes it there because it is quiet and sad. He likes it there because all night long the man he sleeps inside dreams of trails lined with pine trees that go on for miles and miles with nothing on them, trails so dark they're blue. He doesn't care about being in love or being good. He just wants to disappear in this other man like a pill inside a supermodel's perfect mouth. He wants to be a simple looking book in a vein of books that are never read. He has forgotten words like archipelago, words like wool and disaster. He lays down in the darkness of a strange yet comfortable body. He floats there the way salt dissolves into water, the way land dissolves into land.
The black circles under the sun's eyes look like two slit throats. The red light it spills is awkward, colored like carpets in a Kubrick movie, creating curves in the air like a river against mud. The explorers don't give a fuck about it. They look across a landscape and wonder how a place that no one has ever seen can somehow look abandoned, look left behind. Even from a distance, the ground makes them feel a very human thing, a lost thing. They pulse and shudder, as the landscape rises over the fog, filled with the strange hum of an unknown wild inside it, chirping before the storm.
The explorers are all part of each other's living, all things living, at the time of their life. They smear their living on a walls and floors like dirty water, like paint and cloth and picture frames, water that takes in air like a man and remembers thing it might not want to know. They are warped and fresh, an image newly destroyed but in a good way, a way that enhances what might as well have been a photograph you threw away. They are distractions within the structures, a parade that mites might give for the dust to watch. Dust, yes, or whatever is below the dust.
In their real life the explorers are clouds, bright shapes with something like thunder inside them, something electric, debtless. In their real life they offer nothing but rain. They have no photo ID, no zip code. They simply look down at the water from the starboard side of their boat. They spend their days throwing pieces of their bodies into their own reflection. They throw themselves into their reflection until there is no reflection left.
COREY ZELLER is the author of Man vs. Sky (YesYes Books, 2013) and You and Other Pieces (Civil Coping Mechanisms, forthcoming in 2015). His work has appeared in Puerto del Sol, Mid-American Review, Indiana Review, Colorado Review, Kenyon Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Diagram, Salt Hill, West Branch, Third Coast, The Literary Review, The Paris-American, New York Tyrant, Green Mountains Review, The AWL, The Rumpus, PEN America, Chorus (MTV Books), among others.