‘Windfall’ by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Flash fiction or prose poem? The fact that this is in Pegeen Kelly’s poetry collection The Orchard would probably give weight to the argument for the latter. But I like to think it is possible to be both. In ‘Windfall’, the narrator relates the strange alterations of a madman to an otherwise natural woodland – sculptures, hidden gardens of eerie flowers now collapsing into neglect, and most hauntingly, an old, black water pond that has been left unattended for years:

‘Though the shapes took on weight and muscle and definite form, it took my mind a long time to accept what I saw. The pond was full of ornamental carp, and they were large, larger than the carp I have seen in museum pools, large as trumpets, and so gold they were almost yellow. In circles, wide and small, the plated fish moved, and there were so many of them they could not be counted, though for a long time I tried to count them.’

In the water, the fish appear in the dank rotten water as shifting layers of precious metals or ripe fruits, with one larger carp below, circling. The narrator feeds them bread, and ponders what she is seeing, the choices of the madman, the overlap of nature, creation, intent and the struggle between that intent and individual comprehension. It’s a lot. It is both poetry and prose, circling, feeding, standing in a dark wood waiting to be considered. I think I could read it endlessly, and still feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. That is how much we can ask from flash, and how much, in the hands of an excellent writer, it can give.

(from The Orchard, BOA Educators, Ltd., 1995. Read online here)

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