November 17th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

In Phoenix, between planes, I bought a Vitamin Water (focus) for $1.75 (!). And a box of Mexican Jumping Beans. Not from a bowed crone, her gray hair in a headscarf, who claimed with gaptoothed smile they’d sprout a pogo beanstalk, but from a woman in a vest and nametag, silken neckerchief and smile, who sympathetically enthused: “I know, people have asked me the same thing: how can your prices be so low, and at an airport? Did you know, our bottled water’s only $1.25!” There were three beans apiece in boxes small and clear as if for earrings, dumped higgledy-piggledy in a plastic tub on the counter before the woman. The jumping beans made jerks and clicks of protest.

From what I understand, the animation is a form of curiously inexpressive puppetry: moth larvae tugging on the silken strings with which they’ve replaced the contents of legumes they’ve consumed. There’s something horribly bacheloresque about buying pets, if pets they can be called, of a very specifically limited lifespan—jumping beans are a step back in upkeep from my hermit crabs of grad school. The larva can survive for months, I’m told, but the moth, once released, lives only a few days. Of the boxed three, only one shows any evidence of having survived the trip.

I think of girls with jumping beans for earrings, which at the ends of silver tassels bob and jostle in the sun even when the wind is still: and the moment, never expected, when in effortless legerdemain a diminutive moth flies off from below the ear, as if to make whatever was just said the last line of a poem.

In the quiet of the room I’ve returned to, there’s only the ticking of my alarm clock, and the competing jumping beans, on a shelf beneath the desklamp that approximates their sun. Carpocapsa saltitans do not, like flywheels, make good hearts for clocks, but still, if time is to be kept, I prefer the idiosyncratic metronome of a blind worm twitching off the minutes to its own eschaton, dozing toward millennial transformation. Isn’t part of what amazes us about the pupa its blithe sleep toward its own sure fate, which we interpret variously as acceptance, blind commitment, or dreaming faith? What pulse runs through the bean, with its abrupt tumult and periodic lull, must be more attuned than charged quartz to the natural pace of change. I could, I think in the peace of night, measure my life in these erratic ticks of a private time, but before I know it, the gray and silver moth will from its round hole flit, and the hollowed bean give up the ghost.

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