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Time/bomb


ISSUE:  Winter 2020

 

Your heart is like an island, like a bomb chambered for containment and you should handle my heart like a rare species of flower that grows only here, like a thing that can destroy.

Why does theoretical poetry sound unwritten while theoretical physics sounds sound?

Metaphysical poetry started off as an insult: Dryden accuses Donne of perplexing “the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy, when he should engage their hearts and entertain them with the softnesses of love.” 

Likewise, the Impressionists were so named for making only “mere impressions;” in the words of their first critic, “Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than that seascape.” 

Something wet, egglike before it hardens into the backdrop: Impression, Sunrise is the name of the Monet.

I powder my skin to diffuse the light so I’ll look more like morning, beloved, when you look at me.

The wallpaper is not the wall. 

It’s more like skin and, in the house I grew up in, more like a palimpsest, one layer slapped on top of another so that when you ran your fingers along it as you talked on the kitchen phone, you could scratch back through three types of flowers: Narcissus, Salvia, Rosa.

So that when her daughter came at my mother with an ice pick, you could see, finally, the wall underneath.

When I said her daughter, did you think I was talking about me?

In most versions of As Time Goes By, the singers sing the lines about memory (You must remember this/A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh./The fundamental things apply/As time goes by.) and skip the lyrics about the theory of relativity (This day and age we’re living in/Gives cause for apprehension/With speed and new invention/And things like fourth dimension/We get a trifle weary/With Mr. Einstein’s theory.).

I listen to five versions of the song to find one that includes Einstein: Bing Crosby, Paul Anka, Louis Armstrong with Nat King Cole, Willie Nelson with Julio Iglesias, and, finally, Sammy Davis Jr., his whole thirteen-minute performance, with thirteen impersonations that include Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Humphry Bogart, et cetera—at what speed does time go by? 

One second per second.

Still no Einstein, probably because the apprehension in the song suggests a link to the atomic bomb, which does not, the critics say, engage the heart.

It’s raining and there are two ways to get where I’m going, but, while I’m considering getting in the left lane, the car in front of me gets in the left lane so I stay in the right. 

We meet at the stop sign where the two points intersect.

In the timeline of the atom bomb, Einstein’s equation didn’t really matter. 

The bomb was already patented, just not built.

There are bombs in theory and bombs in practice. 

It’s the theoretical bomb that makes us twitch.

Here are three fun experiments about time you can do at home:

Ice melts; adding more water does not make more ice.

Drop an egg on the floor: Once done, this cannot be undone.

Stir two things together clockwise, then counterclockwise; this does not return each to its original state.

Yesterday, this headline came across my feed, Humans to See First-ever Photo of Black Hole in Three Days.

We will move from the imagined to the real, real soon.

Black holes are key to time because they seem to show time has a direction because, like love, you can fall in, but not up: You just keep falling.

The heart is a soft tissue, beloved, that works outside your control.

There’s a slash in the title of this poem, “Time/bomb,” that is a reference to the way poets divide lines because 1) this poem is made of sentences and 2) I wanted to gesture toward split but not (yet) set off the bomb the way poets sometimes break a line to add tension.

I took the shortcut through the cemetery. 

An early review of Whistler’s Nocturne series also describes it as wallpaper, suggesting there’s no difference between night and day.

Another way to measure time is to play until you hear the coyotes and then come home, which is mostly, also, what lovers do.

 

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