Mattie Quesenberry Smith

for Phillip Smith

Dactyls divide and fructify, fling starbursts toward a peculiar morning star, swirl—calico fractals, dappled fractals. Nonsense, my pilgrimage just telescoped into another day of walking across acute corners with you. We are approaching infinity in multiples of sevens, and our trek is divided against us. We had been hiking to a point on the fractured cliffs of House Mountain (I knew you were lost) and I had been following your measured approach, struggling over tried topography trebled into similar slices (yes, we were lost). The preceding day, I had been watching our dappled dachshund and calico cat, Dodger and Quilt; both resembled flutesome men in piebald jackets, not unlike calico cat and calico dog. You had been quoting Mitchell Feigenbaum while you sat in a chair: glad to hear you talk. F’baum found fractals in chaotic cloud cover; limber arms of arabesques broiled around his eyes. I could swear that when I squinted I could see his airplane, so I really didn’t have to listen to you talk about it. Mine was a domestic slant of sunlight fractured across fired fur, dapple and calico, relegated to the living room (I wasn’t living there); bubbles over a sink full of troubles; and the exemplary sycamores stretching their splayed hands toward God outside our window. Though chaos has a circuitry of its own, F-baum claimed it fair and square for his dedication to simultaneous idleness and flight. Outside, the wind whips the sycamore balls around their branches, and gravity wrenches their stems into tight spirals, fructifies the balls with force. Why do I have to listen to you anymore about your buddy, F-baum? I climb the stairs to the bathroom, disrobe in front of the mirror: there, outside my pear-heavy womb; there, under taught, translucent skin, F-baum’s turbulence. Blood broils from my heart and spills through splayed arteries, races through capillary branches to a child, placenta-clad; yes, (listen up, you and F-baum) this network of reticulated vessels wraps around my pendulous womb like God’s hands. One day, in the living room where I am dying, I hear our child’s slight voice. He bursts into the living room and breaks the monotony of you. I look up: he has cut crosses onto crosses inside a paper snowflake. While F-baum would have to squint to see it from up there, here it is: life unfolds in our chipper child’s hands.



"Calico Fractal" precipitated from a collision between my personal frustrations with housewifery and childbearing and my reading of Chaos by James Gleick. Presumptuous, I know, but I felt divorced from scientific discovery and dislocated from the "academic" world, because I was busy at home caring for my ten children and couldn't possibly "discover" anything. One day, I realized that the physics Gleick described in Chaos unfolded in my own back yard, and the resentment bred in my domestic isolation dissipated. I saw "chaos" and fractal design in my kitchen sink, the veins and arteries of my expectant belly, the maiden hair ferns along the creek, the topography of the mountain, and even in the cracked and decaying wood of a fallen tree.