Potential Energy

by Kate Bove

1st Place – Flash 405, April 2018: “Magnetism”



Claire noticed a trend in film: wide shots of birds on wires, teetering. She tells me about it while we share a joint by the Charles. Across Storrow Drive, crows collect on the telephone wires, which slice the sun in two. An orange, bleeding—until the color drains from the sky and into the river.

She says, In a time before electricity, birds sat on chimneys, on roofs, on trees.

I say, Maybe they like wires because they’re free of foliage. Power lines, sight lines.

We listen to the static that leaks from the wires above us. Claire holds up her hand, examines the orange running through her skin. I imagine a crow seeing its first telephone pole, decades ago. It knew it needed to land there.

Do you think the crow was scared, Becca? Claire asks. That first one.


A magnetic sort of fear; repelled and drawn in all at once.

Claire makes a fist over the sun; a fruit, threatening to burst. It would be so easy—to reach out, take her hand. Let the light halo our fingertips. Had the first crow sensed the marvelous danger, all those electrons circling the metal in a current, before it clawed the line? Before it closed the loop.

She asks me to pass the joint. It withers in my hand, the way the telephone wire withers under the crow’s feet, all that blue energy rippling just beneath the surface. Calling out, but unseen.



Judge’s Comments:
With Potential Energy, I loved the intimacy found in the observation of the mundane. The image of birds on a wire—waiting on a dangerous thing; connected to the still portrait of Becca and Claire, Becca watching Claire’s every movement. Attraction and the uncertainty of what comes next is so strongly captured here.

Kate Bove is a graduate of the University of San Francisco’s MFA in Writing program. Her work has appeared in Emerson Review, Concrete Literary, and plain china, among others.

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