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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 1: January 2020
Tanka Prose: 304 words
By Charles D. Tarlton

Weight as Such

A stone cannot fall from the sky—there are no stones in the sky.
—Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier*

The night sky, visible through thin low clouds, reached over the stony beach and vanished behind the hills to the south. A windless tide lapped softly at the sand, a subtle rhythm, almost mute. It was eleven o’clock at night on the Normandy coast near Quiberville-sur-Mer in 1729. Perhaps the noise came first, the roar and raucous hissing, but then the light arrived, a burst of brilliance you would at first have seen muted through the clouds and then come down in a blast of fire, an explosion, and a rain of red-hot glowing stones, thousands of them, that strafed the nearly flat water and pelted the stony beach. Almost immediately, it was over. The American tourists visiting more than two centuries later complained about having to wear regular shoes on the painfully stony beach. Just before lunch, one of the children found a large stone, eight inches long and thick like a potato. It weighed many times what it should have weighed and had a pimpled, virtually metallic surface. The tourists passed the rock around, again and again, and no one could get over the discrepancy between the size of the stone and its great weight. In the chambre d’hôtes, Mesdames used meteorites for door stops, they were that common. “Kryptonite,” the eleven-year-old boy proposed, “like in Superman.”

flashes of falling stars 
like some obscure handwriting 
in the sky, quickly 
tracing poems that faded away 
as fast as they were written 

somewhere in a dream 
I was standing on the beach 
imagining rocks 
like these from some other time 
and place. These were magical 

gravity, prilling 
magnetized metals of space 
drops weighty pellets 
in the sea, pelting the swells 
like machine guns in movies 

*Publisher’s Note:

Richard Milton: “The idea that stones could fall out of the sky had been denounced as an unscientific absurdity by the Académie [Française des Sciences], Europe’s leading rational authority. Antoine Lavoisier [1743–1794], father of modern chemistry, told his fellow Academicians, ‘Stones cannot fall from the sky, because there are no stones in the sky!’” on page 3 of Alternative Science: Challenging the Myths of the Scientific Establishment (Park Street Press, 1996).

Charles D. Tarlton
Issue 1, January 2020

is a retired university professor of political theory who lives in Northampton, Massachusetts with his wife, Ann Knickerbocker, an abstract painter. He is the author of three books of prosimetra published by KYSO Flash Press: Touching Fire: New and Selected Ekphrastic Prosimetra (2018), Get Up and Dance (2019), and Carmody & Blight: The Dialogues (2019).

Tarlton has been writing poetry and flash fiction since 2006, and his work is published in: Abramelin, Atlas Poetica, Barnwood, Blackbox Manifold, Blue and Yellow Dog, Cricket Online Review, Fiction International, Haibun Today, Inner Art Journal, Jack Magazine, KYSO Flash, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Prune Juice, Rattle, Red Booth Review, Review Americana, Shampoo, Shot Glass, Simply Haiku, Six Minute Magazine, Sketchbook, Skylark, Tipton, and Ink, Sweat, and Tears.

He also has a poetry e-chapbook published in the 2River series, La Vida de Piedra y de Palabra: Improvisations on Pablo Neruda’s Macchu Picchu; a poem sequence in Lacuna entitled Five Episodes in the Navajo Degradation; and “The Turn of Art,” a short poetical drama pitting Picasso against Matisse, composed in verse and prose, which appeared in Fiction International.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

The Miletus Torso, ekphrastic tanka prose in KYSO Flash (Issue 9, Spring 2018), which includes an author’s note re Michelangelo’s Atlas Slave

Featured Author Charles D. Tarlton, with six of his ekphrastic tanka prose and an interview with Jack Cooper, in KYSO Flash (Issue 6, Fall 2016)

Notes for a Theory of Tanka Prose: Ekphrasis and Abstract Art, a scholarly paper by Tarlton residing in PDF at Ray’s Web; originally published in Atlas Poetica (Number 23, pages 87-95)

Three American Civil War Photographs: Ekphrasis by Tarlton in Review Americana (Spring 2016)

Simple Tanka Prose for the Seasons, a quartet by Tarlton in Rattle (Issue 47: Tribute to Japanese Forms, Spring 2015)

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