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True Void


ISSUE:  Spring 2010
“Until the 1920s physicists viewed the vacuum much as the rest of us still do: as a true void. That all changed with the birth of quantum mechanics. According to that theory, [empty] space is seething with energy and particles that flit into and out of existence.”
arranged from Discover (Tim Folger, 2008)

You don’t have to tell me.
Not after the party that Edie attended
without Ty for the first time. Everybody
could see how lost she was
—as if the poles and the North Star and the Southern Cross
had been buried with him, like glittering jewels
in his casket. Out on the patio
she began a muted sobbing. When that dwindled away
I rubbed her shoulders, attempting to work
the immediacy of the sorrow away. The shoulders
and down the stations of the spine.
I know that “solid” matter is “really” empty space;
an inscrutable Matterhorn rock, a ticketed Volvo,
the human body in all of its whacko variety . . .
a momentary coalition of subatomic happenstance
in emptiness. I know that in my head; ah, but
my fingers know the shoulders are a Stonehenge
in our flesh, a hard—a nearly archeological—
Tikal, and Sphinx, and Babylonian Gates, all
with their mourners grouped at the base in their ritual garb,
all with their wizard-astronomers yearning to understand
the far star-wheel, Abu Simbel, Teotihuacan,
and along the lovely pavingstones of the Appian Way
that trail from the skull to the cleft and its hummocks.

She said: “He’s nothing now. I know that:
nothing. And now when I get back home from a day
of whatever, nothing’s awaiting me,
and I enter a night of nothing.” Then a silence;
I can almost fancy I hear the rusty squeak
of the moon in its circuit. Then she says,
“Albert, do you remember that time he [this],
the time we [that],” with all of the details,
some of them already growing
legendary . . .
The Portuguese ship
that navigated across the drawn line, into what
the map had designated, in rough translation,
Annihilation. It disappeared,
as the sages of maritime misadventure knew
it would have to disappear. The end of the story.

Except that it returned, years later; unloaded
its cargo; left again, for the nothingness,
for more rare metals, some as hard as stone
and some as shapeable as butter; beads
like the dew left from a rainbow; spices;
herbs that purge the bile; and a dozen birds
that could dance to a pipe, around the brim of a hat,
and had learned to curse like the drunkest of sailors.

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