Tuesday, February 10, 2009

28 Poems - 10

A Physicist Goes Home On The Subway

He knows that when he holds onto a pole
Nothing holds on to nothing -- when he slides
Into a seat, nothing will sit on nothing --
Despite the messages his mind receives,
All of the people in this train are barnacles,
Clinging to the shark of time and space
(Which must keep moving, otherwise it dies) --
All of them touching something and untouched,
Connected and a universe apart.

Those two sitting across from him, for instance:
Young girls, dark-skinned, one with her hair pulled back,
Right leg crossed over left, furry white boots
With pompoms, black leggings with lace bottoms,
Red cotton shirt, white ski-bunny jacket
With a fur collar, zebra-striped earrings
Big as his hand -- she’s looking straight ahead
And trying not to let on that she sees
A guy with a cane singing “That’s Amore!”
And begging for spare change. As he walks down
The subway car’s length, her companion shakes
Her head and all her perfect blonde-streaked hair
Flows back and forth like sheets hung on a line.
She’s wearing white socks under sexy black
Ankle-strap pumps, white slacks with thin black stripes,
Red scarf, white polyester blouse beneath
A black low-neck sweater and a dark blue
Wide-collared pea coat, big fat gold hoop earrings,
A stud piercing her upper left ear and
No nail polish -- unlike her ski-coat friend,
Whose fingernails are long and chocolate brown.
And both of them, with all their clothes and all
Their thoughts and pasts, their futures and desires,
Nothing but fields, nothing but fields made flesh.

Made how, he wonders, and he flashes on
A seven-story building. In the basement
There’s nothing -- no construction, no foundation --
Just a big hole; but look down from the roof
And there’s a whole apartment complex there.
Somewhere between the basement and the ground
Everything that’s not there becomes what is.
And every single human being on earth
Is built that way, like flesh and bone and blood’s
The ice that forms from subatomic gases.

And thoughts and feelings? Where do they come from?
How does ice get to think and feel? It’s like,
He thinks, there is a world above the world of us
That’s just as insubstantial as the one
Below -- a world where honor, love, good, evil,
Desire and guilt create us just as much
As quarks do --

He feels something click in place
And human life’s revealed as an equation:

our bodies are the tunnels
between the formless things that make us and
the formless things that drive us

And then the moment vanishes like hailstones.

I really have to write that down, he thinks.
But then the two girls glance at him and giggle,
And he smiles back, and feels a flush like ice
Melting, and thinks: wait -- there was something -- something --
But no. It’s gone as if it never was,
Gone back to the high nothing where it came from
While he remains improbably alive,
Thinking of what it would feel like to feel
One of those girls kiss him, as if there was
A promise in their giggles -- thinking and riding
The flat wave of a subway train to where
The flat wave of his flat lies coyly waiting --
A teasing promise that will be revealed
To no one else until he walks inside
And high and low give birth to where he lives.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

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