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Love Rendered

by Daniel Murphy

 

Lug lays his daughter to rest in the ground. The other settlers help him bury her. He sits at her gravesite with a stone tablet, carving a symbol into it with sharpened flint. An elder taught him how to make the shape. The elder told him it signifies what he felt in his chest when his daughter smiled or when he watched her at night with the firelight bouncing off her face. He told the elder he wants the symbol for what he feels now she is gone. The elder told him it’s the same. Holding the stone in his hand he wonders how many fathers before him have sat here with nothing to put on the stone except tears. The carving fills some need in him and he wipes away the rock-dust. The moon is out now, shining down on him and his questions. He has so many of them and no answers. Where is she now? Why did her body grow hot? What should he have done? Perhaps, one day they can carve all their questions on a stone and offer it to the sky.

Looking down, he wonders how long it took his people to agree on this particular symbol. He imagines the first suggestion of it being scrawled in the sand. An elder dragging the stick behind him, tongue lolling in concentration, eyes straying in and out of focus from the image in his head to the image in the sand. And then a discussion perhaps, about how suitable the shape is for the feeling, for the words they use. How do you draw a sound? Are those lines too broad for a feeling so acute? Should they close that arch to show its fullness?

He thinks of the peoples they have met in their migrations. Strange-looking people speaking languages he can’t understand. Do they have this symbol? Perhaps, another one? Do those people feel this when their daughters smile? How does their symbol for this sound? How does it look?

He isn’t aware of all the unborn sounds struggling to get out, kicking their heels from inside thousands of throats and itching their way into fingers. He can’t see what the moon sees: the cosmic surge, the billion watts of brain-electricity; a global impetus, rendered solid into stone and papyrus and bamboo. What he has written doesn’t encompass the many moon cycles he watched her grow, or her wide eyes when he showed her the heart of a rabbit and placed her hand on her own chest. One character cannot capture all this, he thinks, but it’s all he has.

 

Daniel Murphy is a teacher living in Dublin, currently working on a book of short stories in his spare time. His work explores the borders where humans and their technologies intersect but he finds that he has too many ideas and not enough time.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Love Rendered”?

This piece is really just about a process that fascinates me; that process being the fact that humans have put sounds on feelings and emotions and have decided on characters to represent those sounds. These characters alone are arbitrary squiggles on a page but when we attach significance to them and then, as a society, agree on what they mean, they become powerful tools. So, I can’t fathom how this all came to be but this piece is just trying to get snapshot of it, and specifically focusing on the cathartic function that writing may have had for early humans. As for the drafting, I was quite lucky with this piece in that I had a very concrete idea in mind and it pretty much came out the way that I ended up submitting it. As all writers know that’s pretty unusual.

News

Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

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Submissions

Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now CLOSED. The next reading period for standard submissions opens March 15, 2021. Topical Thursdays’ submissions are open year-round. Submit here.

Upcoming

12/31 • Sean Cho A.
01/04 • Linda McMullen
01/07 • Victoria Jean Ella
01/11 • Daniel Murphy
01/14 • Kendra Dobson
01/21 • James Harris
01/25 • Richard Kostelanetz
01/28 • Andrew Love
02/01 • Kristin Burcham