A Humble Bewilderment of Love – by Nelly Shulman

In the early days of April, when willow branches, having lost the silvery inflorescences, had not sprouted leaves yet, when melting snow exposed the yellow dandelions, when light clouds flew in the transparent sky, I wandered around a dilapidated building on the outskirts of a provincial town.

The power station was built after the beginning of the first great war. The river, blocked by a dam, spread among the bare banks. A leaden mirror of icy water reflected a shadow of moving wings. The birds were coming home. The day was clear and sad. Seagulls echoed in the endless sky.

One of the walls crumbled, revealing the copper of the old machinery grown into broken tiles. The moss climbed the walls of the former miracle of technology, the turbine hall of the power station, erected on the river when electricity was a mysterious force expected to transform the world.

Lichens stained the petrified skeletons of turbine blades. Interlacing faience insulators made a perfect honeycomb. Many of them were broken but the structure of the sphere remained almost untouched, designed to fill the space as neatly as possible. Any industrial building or mechanism is marked by the human desire to dominate the nature. The torn wires exposed their bronze entrails, swaying in the sea wind.

Counting the number of faience insulators fitting in the limited space of an electrical panel takes the Gaussian formula, the same a bee instinctively uses, sculpting a honeycomb.

The nature does not need arithmetic calculations. Its equations are as easy as a design of shaggy flower petals, as an only way for birds to return north in spring.

In our latitudes, April is still cold for insects, but in a couple of weeks the first transparent butterflies will flutter over the dandelions growing in the glades.

Spring is always awkward, looking dreamily into the world, promising to be beautiful. The best thing that occurs in the spring is not what has already happened, but a promise to be delivered. Spring gilds shards of glass in the large windows of the former turbine hall, and blows future foliage along the taut branches of willow near the pond.

The sparrows chirp in the arches, but nothing can revive the dead turbine blades or move the rusted arrow on the stained enamel of the industrial clock.

I draw a vector diagram of the resonance of currents in the dust. I am left to accept life, where willow will soon lower the branches into the water, where the bright butterflies will soon replace the transparent luminescence of the ones perished, where the forgotten machine room will rise from a silence and come alive.

The world will fulfil its promise, but I remain a grey-eyed chrysalis with the short name of a flower, an awkward, blissfully bewildered goddess of early spring.

Nelly ShulmanNelly Shulman is a writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of five popular novels and a collection of short stories in the Russian language. Her work has appeared on JewishFiction.net, in the Vine Leaves Press Anthology of the Best 2021 Flash Fiction and in Sky Island Journal.