In honor of the NOVA/PBS triple-feature of Brian Greene-inspired TV tonight, thought I should post one of my poems influenced by his work. Strap in, it’s a long one:
THE UNIVERSE, REVISING
PRELUDE: In the Silence Beforehand
A crystal ball in tatters is waiting there to be swept up, or ground into glittering specs of linoleum. This is before bleached blonde wooden floorboards knew how to compose themselves in the receding kitchen light. I know by now you have cut your fingers in attempts to remember
the distance between pages on that constellation map your whisk broom won’t sweep up. I know you will find blood in urgent squeezes at the ends of your hands and feet. Everyone measures life in some way, be it meals, pages, breaths, heartbeats or blood loss.
No one could carry a crystal ball like you. No one could dribble more droplets upon the shine of the floor.
I will attempt to respond to the stretching of time; the marrying of space and time and slow motion as bodies at rest begin to propel around and around themselves searching for purpose and mass.
There is a universe in tatters.
I will read your book.
Search the sky for diamonds and you may find an errant hair at the far-corner of your mouth.
There is no sky below/above; we are trapped in spinning.
The sky holds an embarrassing lie it has yet to fess up to.
There is a hand at our back, a gun in its fist; a new constellation the myth-makers missed (I would drink a six- pack of tequila if it would set the sky straight for a moment),
(I would look for you forever and never find my way home in this sky),
(I would saw my arms and legs off if I could make out your picture between dark black waves).
I follow a bent horizon line, a crooked hair that hasn’t got a heart or home. My ear is ground-level for music. The sky keeps interrupting.
I would leave like this forever and never stop forgetting— I am lost without the sky, those backwards hands won’t guide me. The sky can fuck itself, if you know what I mean.
X + Y + (365 * 7) + (3,000 * 4) + Z + ABCDEFG + Boston (South Boston/Beacon Hill/South End) + New York ( 93rd Street ) + San Francisco + Montana + all my secrets – your effort + loss – desire + lust + him – me + silence – me = you – me = < 0
XX + XY + time + distance = energy
I know you never really loved me.
I can’t breathe.
1. We are drawn toward accumulation. This is secret to the universe.
2. There is a very real relationship between space and time. As our lives expand, we are drawn to the future where there is more unknown than past. As the universe expands, it begins to wonder at the nothing; the mass of emptiness.
Time starts. There is more nothing than anything.
We wonder at the nothing and run toward it. Fill it in
with something. Wonderings become memories;
the universe expands. Soon there is more something
than nothing. We begin to watch as black mass
swirls and collects. This is evolution.
The beginning of the universe was a black hole
that got very curious.
4. This is how it was with us. I wonder if he helps you put your make up on when you ask him.
5. All of us at the mercy of shadows over eye sockets and the perpetual longing of the expanding shit- faced sky.
6. Our fathers have abused us.
Tabloid obituaries became like rows and rows of soupcans. Each cylinder, a square, when time had flattened everything.
When I die, look for the largest lake and discard me with no ceremony. We are all swirling into nothing. Then coming back for more.
Everyone has been sold on the other side of something. I just have to have it. We are drawn toward accumulation the way that old painter
collected light spots on the certain curve of apples. When I die
forget you ever knew me, or saw my certain curves; paint another seven apples (another seven apples) over a bending mass of years. This is how space and time conspire to make us feel alone.
When I die, collect the remains of my last five books of poems and sear them into ash, bury them in a soupcan with a coffee cup in my grandmother’s backyard.
We are all collecting silver dollars that no one will ever find even years and years beyond the sunset.
I am dying. Find a soupcan-lake now and bury me inside it. I can’t be any clearer at the bottom of a shadowed lake.
Revise me when I die.
When you become aware of nature calling Cezanne a liar, watch for rounded edges where the light has yet to find itself. Proceed with caution
to the nearest daybreak and try to sun yourself through a pane of auto glass. Even light might hit some shit it just can’t contend with. Even old men’s eyes on young girls’ legs might bend toward tan despair. You are in the midst of collapsing lungs and limber limbs and the hopes of ancient derelicts who may have dodged those seven apples/
seven lumpy rocks on their way to painting tipped-up bowls and tables; scattering debris all over morning. All your heroes held anger and misery in their hearts
with splashes of paint in all the wrong places.
Push the brush aside and your shirt will follow suit.
At the center of these tight-bound superstrings they are going to find a million bazillion more universes, you know. And then everyone is going to feel mighty fucking foolish; all this talk of God and physics. When it is over the asylum inmates will shout false hope through metal grates past the scope of fourteen new dimensions that your pencil cannot even try and draw. Click it across the desk you sat in last year near New Mexico , or make a lightning rod from a piece of depression-era lead.
I was going to leave all this no matter which way those ashes scattered in the cosmic wind. So, try this on for size: The relationships of two objects are attracted to empty space. This is why I kept returning. There was nothing there to find me.
SEVEN: Islands in the Stream
The first draft of anything is crap. The universe, revising, circling ignored as the weakest word your star-filled skies have delivered in this endeavor— overgrown, overblown, empty, rigid, firm and unforgiving, maybe. But nothing is ignored once you draw my eyes there to it. You have pointed/pushed/planted my face inside this Godless garden. I stare at this collection of withered thin grass that is breakable in the wind, as you have hooked this scene to the gums and lip of my outstretched mouth, so deep it is embedded. So heavy is my resistance, you may pull apart my face, just bring me to this altar. Nothing is ignored. The stars you see here are streams of light or fishing line— lighted at the glimmer of air and sun that might sit another few hundred yards or so above us all; in a father’s boat, in a bloody foot and bloody hands lesson of suffering. Certainly none of this is ignored. The sky is staring down at the sight of innocence being bludgeoned into looking.
It may be just as simple as not receiving another 8-page letter (my growing list of resentments includes every single color the night has ever forgotten). There are words that assemble into umbrellas. It may just be as simple as losing your way in the middle of a promise.
I’m looking beyond this white into the depth of empty.
A problem of identity arises the farther our bodies depart from one another. Each ship-to-shore glance, a lesson in perspective— a comparison of beer foam to boat hull slicing against the resistance each rolling feature of ocean wave throws against your glass. Legs are not made for this wading between uncertainty— certainty and doubt. There is ground down there, somewhere. At least the waves remember their departing shapes once the ship has gone.
Fill in the blanks your heart commands your eyes. Fill in the blanks your mind commands the light switch. Fill in the blanks your paintbrush is an empty room. Fill in the blanks your heart will tell your life. Fill in the blanks until everything is unrecognizable. Fill in the blanks and you might as well be dead. Fill in the blanks we are all forgetting something now. Fill in the blanks the universe recedes from understanding. Fill in the blanks your heart’s what overwhelmed her eyes. Fill in the blanks your breathing is so far gone. Fill in the blanks without your heart to tell you how. Fill in the blanks nothing stays empty, often. Fill in the blanks the universe remains.
There are no verbs left for making something empty once you have finished drinking every form of liquid the universe thought to conjure. Refigure every equation your skies have ever flown to, before— once more there are swallowing stars itching toward your voice box. There is tender violence in making connect-the-dots drawings with planets that are being recast by stars your skin would never withstand. Ever and never and happily, airplane wings are dotted with light. Happily ever after the light of stars survives 8 years or more after their worlds have tipped toward ending. Ending and beginning, there are no verbs left for disrupting the sky with your long hair cast, then recast, across your face, my face, a beach only lovers find at night. There are no words left for changing into romance after the ocean has retired.
There are no words for ground, once your airplanes have departed. There are no words for sorrow, after the universe has ended.
* * * * *
The universe began the first day I smelled your perfume on the collar of my shirt, an hour after you thought to leave me. The universe was ending in the light that was not as shiny as your lips just kept departing in those minutes of that day.
All this time, and all this time between us, and the universe has drawn us both into longish traps of fire, far before we left. We sat there on the beach, this drawing and redrawing, and now every slow and broken love song played in airplane bathrooms reminds me painfully of all my lust for you.
Those are only airplanes leaving, satellites insistent on traveling in an arc, a million miles away. There are no words for collapsing hopes as your toes fondle the sand, your grasping heart forgets you ever met me. I am collapsing, expanding, ending and then contracting. You left me holding nothing. The universe expands. The universe is empty. The stars aren’t coming back.
The tugboat’s tugging, taking ships out into ocean. White spots on waves remind your cousin’s family that mercy lay burning above the lake.
My father’s ashes, sinking into water— sifting sand and crushed-up bone, resistant in the heat it faced, now combining into waves. We watched gray sky forever, until all it did was take.
I’m giving you one last chance, your last eight-page apology letter might state. I am taking it from the shoebox, from the pair of shoes you gave me at the shoe store in Montana . I am giving it to the flames.
Take your sister, for instance— she’s not married yet. No one gives her a chance to speak her mind. Blonde, empty hair taking its time to become her neck, her shoulders; her waist and then her legs.
Take in two more notches on the belt. Take yourself up sharply. Take my name, my heart. Take my breath so far away from here I won’t remember how to speak. Take a chance. Take a dive. Take and take and take.
Give yourself a break for once. Give this thing a chance. Give it one more day. Give your mother a call, would you? You know how she gets worried. Give me that. Give your daughter away. Give the gift
that keeps on giving. Take another look at that art print: Two black labs, wearing two black-lab-dog-collars, each holding an end of leash in their mouth, or extra-thick piece of spaghetti. It reads: Love is Give and Take.
Take a look at yourself for a minute in the sheen from the reflected glass of the frame. Give your hair a toss, and then just look again. Stare through everything you see and take it in. Love is give and take.
Did I mention my father’s ashes yet? Take life and death; water and fire— ocean, sky— bone, sand, flesh and blood and mix them in one moment. Take it with you when you leave.
Give it away to the landscape and give it all a chance to merge into the meaning of all things. Take it away in a porcelain urn. Burn it into lake waves. Take your time in calling me back.
We are all forgetting something.
Give and Take. Everyone says it like the opposite of give is to take, when really the opposite of give is accept.
Flop Transition. Evolution of the Calabi-Yau portion of space in which its fabric rips and repairs itself, yet with mild and acceptable physical consequences in the context of string theory.
Horizon problem. Cosmological puzzle associated with the fact that regions in the universe that are separated by vast distances nevertheless have nearly identical properties such as temperature.
Multiverse. Hypothetical enlargement of the cosmos in which our universe is but one of an enormous number of separate and distinct universes.
Singularity. Location where the fabric of space or spacetime suffers a devastating rupture.
The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene.
Delta’s in-flight magazine.
Islands in the Stream, Ernest Hemingway.
A secret manuscript by Martin Cockroft.
Air. Sky. Wind. Light.
15 slide lectures by Paul Hayes Tucker selected randomly.
My unpublished autobiography.
The Nutrition Facts and label of a bottle of Mezcal.
Three semi-slanderous biographies about me. Unpublished at press time.
A postcard I wrote in San Francisco when I was 8 years old but never mailed. Addressed to myself, it says: “I know you are home already,” and trails off. There is a golden clouds picture of the Golden Gate bridge on the front.
Rock-pick hammers floated on the surface of the lily pond breaking tension on the surface rules. Meanwhile, in another reflection, a section of Earth was breaking above and below two dozen oversized goldfish, wearing four dozen bulging pools of oversized oversized-goldfish eyes.
Since we were swimming, we have all been developed for looking. This is not an argument for evolution. God sits on the bottom/the top— swims on the surface of every puddle you’ve ever stepped in. Your boots are leaking onto linoleum floor. God is at the bottom of your tilted cup of coffee. God is floating in your face’s reflection. God is swimming in the sky.
At the intersection/crossroads, an ice cream truck clanged muzak with tiny circular bells— the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Your Rocket Pop melts in a pool at your clenched fist, dripping on the asphalt. Our first kiss was blue and red stained lips— sex and patriotism and innuendo mixed at a cracked-voice hello and wrapped into a flag. A Rocket Pop melting. Your lips, a Monet, reflecting.
There are too many poems about art and God.
We are all trained for looking.