You didn’t know that the road by the beach that twisted against the root of the mountains led anywhere at all. You didn’t know that the ocean tipped on its side in the afternoon light had the least bit of depth. You didn’t know that the girl in the seat beside you loved you or that you loved her or that love could hold any more consequence than sex and moss. All of it was as without weight as the Mexican road crew on the shoulder, touching the change in their pockets, waiting for the truck to take them home. This was the rawest freedom, and even as your stomach was an empty field where the stars burned, you couldn't see that there was anything else, any other time. You were just burnt wood stirred with a stick. Jesus, how things held light.

And she held your hand. Do you remember that? The curves in the road and the updraft of birds. The yellow grass and the tint of moon on the hood. A meteor could burst through the windshield hot with atmosphere and bloody your lip. Or you could just stop, and the fog would shine with a headlight coming toward you. That’s all it was, a headlight, no driver, a little boy asleep across the long back seat.

Still, it was a race, whether you knew it or not. A silver watch ticked on the forest floor among pine needles and owls. There was an echo somewhere that amplified the hinge of your lungs. A truck just over the horizon beat its wheels on the asphalt. You hoped it was just an image, of money and your grandfather’s photograph, terrible in sepia and wool. It was the memory of something that hadn’t happened, twisting like rope in the night. You held on to the glint of gold in her earring. That and the lovely curve of evening rising between you.

Now you look back. It’s a fold of mountains over your shoulder. Like the time you ate sunfish on a yellow spotted rock; the dog that went into the waves and you worried about the sharks. Still, you wonder, is this all? bits of trick candy and tin? and the sky that only looks like snow? Though, for a moment, so serious that scalloped edge of cloud, the talk of business at the table that thrums with purposefulness. Maybe you could just sit. Yes, that would be nice. The chance to close your eyes and see only darkness.

Joseph Young lives in Baltimore, where the art of dry weather seems to be lost, but where the robins nest safely in his grape arbor. His work has appeared in Hobart, The Mississippi Review, Pindeldyboz, Word Riot, Lit Pot, Blue Moon Review, Haypenny, the-phone-book, and elsewhere. Contact him at

“How Things Hold Light” was one of those confidence builders. I began by putting down an image that somehow popped into my head, and then I just let the piece build itself through an associative process, not bothering to try and steer it in any one direction or worrying that it had a direction at all. Only when I got to the end did I look back to see whether I’d written anything of form or coherence. This is the best, and really the only, way I know of going about it.


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