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Two Poems


Forces

It's different for the spiderweb:
the only architecture
in a five-block radius not
undone by yesterday's tornado.

Out at the More-4-Less, strands
of uncooked spaghetti were driven,
unbroken, like nails, through concrete.
Different levels: different forces.

I remember when Anna told me
about the deep-sea dive that almost
killed her, hammered and disoriented
and tossed like debris in the middle

of two converging vectors of power.
That's what she said. The whales
only knew they were singing
to each other.
 

Prosopagnosia

He looked up from the worms—they'd kept him occupied
for hours, burrowing, slithering through the mazes
he'd construct from snips of wicker, and coiling
their soily-pink confetti bodies so deftly—and now
who were these faces peering in from the door ... oh
it was Emma! whom he loved, it was Emma and two
of the children, calling him to tea, and he followed them
docilely and brimming with contentment to the table
(there was jam!). It hadn't been clinical
forgetting ... more the standard disorientation
of any interdimensional wayfarer on arrival
through the portal, back at his home world. After all, it
had been hours (check out synonyms for "time": one
is "betrayal"). And Darwin, after all, was often
perplexed by his fellow homo sapiens; the pictures in his book
on human facial expressions look a little like people,
a little like cryptic hieroglyphs from a forgotten
civilization. Think of Easter Island's rows of heads,
staring at their infinity-point: planar and stoic
and quarried from some Earth we've never walked on.

                                     •   •   •

I've tried to keep my mother's face from erasure.
The heart is a loyalist: it recycles. But the brain exists
to store what's every-nanosecond new; the overlayering
this implies is really another kind of abandonment.
Or ask the famous dark side of the moon what it remembers
of being in planetary utero, a part of the Earth:
it has its own life now and moves in different circles.
Even her face when I said "doggie" and went to pet
the sewer rat? Yes. Her face at the end when the morphine
turned its face away from hers? And when the oncologist said
what he said? Her face at the start, my start, when the nurse
first carried me out of infant ICU and into her bed? Yes,
yes, and yes—by which I mean no. A leaf is a cinch,
a hummingbird is easy: their next is the same
as their last. But humans ... Even humans of stone:
the rain erodes Mt. Rushmore, and what used to be
the mineral skin on the mineral face of a president
is increasingly weather, year by year. The Sphinx.
The "Ozymandias thing." Or my face, now, for you,
here where it's pressed against my side of what
the people in theater call "the fourth wall."

                                     •   •   •

When Annie died—his favorite, out of ten,
"a perfect angel"—after failed bouts of "the water cure"
with its wretched ice-cold ministrations, Emma's diary recorded
only "12 o'clock": the silent space surrounding that
is excruciating. Darwin was too broken down to even
attend the funeral. And the months that followed, attempting
to keep her alive, still, in his head ...! —yet all the while
he continued to prove the existence of a universe
that prohibited exactly the kind of individual caringness
his grieving self required: "The struggle
for existence—all striving to increase, and all
feeding on each other." There was no up-in-heaven
Guiding Hand. Our loved ones weren't special, but
just units of an ongoing force. I think it was the worms
that calmed him. One night when the house was still,
he padded down to the billiard room where the worm pots were
and by the light of the paraffin lamp he watched them
at their sinuous, aerating, overturning, transfigurating
life-work; and at last, in his mind, consigned her
to the regenerative and faceless.


Albert Goldbarth

The Loves and Wars of Relative Scale
Lost Horse Press


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