Hey, I'm Tebs. I curated music for this issue of Amator, inspired by gravity. Each piece gets its own song. When you see the blue ear and the pink link, that's me.

1 The Voyager 1 was launched in 1977 and it has travelled farther than any human-made object. Embedded into the body of this spacecraft you can find the Golden Record. It's a time capsule (or an elevated USB), a record of life on earth (think: the sound of laughter, of Beethoven's String Quartet No.13, an image of humans eating).

What would happen to earth if the sun were to instantly disappear? This thought experiment highlights one of deepest truths about gravity: it's not a force. We've learned in grade school that gravity is sort of like this mysterious glue that holds everything together, an invisible string that pulls everything to everything— that just ain't so. Gravity is a field that bends and twists according to how much mass is around it. Physicists created this four dimensional fabric called spacetime. Spacetime curves proportionately to mass, like how a trampoline sinks deeper when a fat kid sits on it.

Coming back to our thought experiment, if the sun were to instantly disappear, our earth would keep revolving around that empty piece of space for approximately eight minutes before hurtling into the vast void. Eight minutes is the amount of time it takes for the sun's light to reach earth, and since gravitational waves travel at the same speed as light, earth wouldn't feel the sun's absence until after eight minutes.

"Weightless, unhinged,
Eons from even our own moon, we'll drift. In the haze
of space, which will be,
once and for all, scrutable
and safe..."

Even now I wonder if I’m falling toward then,
if I’m always falling toward then – that night
when the snowstorm held us
to our old Ohio home,            
when we put our mattresses on the living
room floor so we could all sleep near Christmas,
pressing in toward the lights. I remember
blanketing my sister Linda to her chin.
How was she ever so young, how was I
ever her temporary elder, that newly minted teen
who secured her for sleep?

My mother told familiar stories
of winters past – of the year my father cut the night
with a flashlight to free a neighbor’s car from a drift,
of the year I was born to the coldest month in decades –
and then my father and I worked together:
Santa will be here soon, Linda, from the fireplace,
but he won’t wake us – he has the sleeping dust on his side.
And eventually our magic did bring her eyes down,              
and the three of us were hushed together, without a cause,
with nothing left to say to each other, the air sapped
of expectation. This should have made me an adult,
but when my father turned the lights out,

I felt so far from them: in the new of the dark,
the echo of my childhood sleepily breathing near my parents,
the tangled roils of something else beneath my blanket,
some late youth I could not name – as if I were the empty,
aimless distance between two remote galaxies,
and for years I thought this night’s hold on me was solitude
but I’m old enough, now, to know that even alienation is part
of some whole, old enough now to peer into my own life’s window,
to join the snow – the stars – the entire universe,
crunching together to see what will happen to this boy,
to this family, huddled together to make themselves matter:
it’s the density of the night that still draws me back.

These poems inspired Ryan's:

“The story we make of our lives is a mystery of luminous, but uncertain moments, a shuffle of images we carry toward sleep”

Peter Everwine, “A Small Story,” from Five Points // 2015
"Pods of summer crowd around the door; I take them in the autumn of
my hands."

William Stafford, “Fall Wind," from Traveling through the Dark // 1962

This city holds fast to the mountains. Houses are sewn to steep slopes, defying gravity with contempt.  Cardinal directions are obsolete. There is no north, south, east, west—just up and down. The slopes shift slightly ever so often, shaking off homes with their seismic yawns. I’ve never witnessed anything so grave. Once a mountain spilled some of its rocks on the highway, changing our route home.
"They’re a slit in a
sequence of rhythmic
roadside markers,
a flash of yellow, of green, then them, then green again…"
But every morning on my way to school, I see an old couple from the bus. They’re like a landmark, part of the collective vernacular. Statuesque, Bernardo and Maria sit on the ledge of the mountain-cradled highway, toes on the concrete seam. They fill the frame of my foggy window for a moment. I sit inside a  zoetrope , and they’re a slit in a sequence of rhythmic roadside markers, a flash of yellow, of green, then them, then green again…

I learn their names the day my friend Balta and I ask the driver to stop on our way up from school. Little faces press against glass and watch as we cross the highway and hike into the wrinkled green in our ironed uniforms—past an empty wooden-slabbed bench where I see them every morning. Heavy sheets of aluminum stitched with wire to form a box; their home. Bernardo stands by its threshold.

I say I’m a student and I ask about him. He glosses through his own story, as if he simply owns but hasn’t dwelt in it. Bernardo is in his mid-seventies. Every night he’d light candles for the saints, but one time the candle flame destroyed his home. Government and local community members pooled money to build him a new one. They still light candles to the saints.

After the turn of the century, the center of Manizales was devastated by three fires. The first one, in 1922, spread from a candle paraffin dispensary to the local newspaper headquarters, setting most of the neighborhood aflame. The second and greediest one was sparked in a local drugstore, consuming nearly thirty-two streets. That one was in 1925. By then, the town had instituted a fire department ill-equipped to extinguish the third and final one in 1926.

"Her saints are
hot-pink plastic and his sun-washed sepia."

Maria sits and mumbles, Bernardo is much more lucid. He lets us in. There’s a small burner oven, a plastic cabinet, a couple of pots, candles, old clippings of saints on the wall, and toys. I ask about the toys. Those are Maria’s. Her saints are hot-pink plastic and his sun-washed sepia. His son used to live with him. One day, he was feeding the pigs when the slopes started shedding. Bernardo points to the spot where his son died.

A couple of weeks later a downpour caused a landslide to destroy the main water treatment plant in Manizales, leaving most of the population without potable water. School was cancelled and the city staggered to brush off the dust and collect itself. They send us home early. I rest my head against the glass—there’s a flash of yellow, of green, then them, then green again…

Listen to the whole playlist here

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