An exercise poem. The prompt, paraphrased, was to choose a field or activity you don’t know much about, gather unusual words from it that appeal to you, then write a poem about a completely different subject using some or all of those words. I chose physics; this was the starting point of the research that also underpins “The Kinesiology of Lunch” and “Sequence.”
I ended up with two poems, one about doing the exercise that used the language indirectly, and one that resulted from following the instructions and used the words in a much more direct way. I realized they were in dialogue about the same subject, and the two poems became this one.
Last night the birds came back:
A doorstop of geese chocking open the way for winter,
Robins by daylight, crows at dusk,
Blackbirds in the reeds along the ditches.
Curled and tucked in the armchair
Where last night you read ghost stories,
I cherry-pick Planck’s Constant for its language,
Book wedged against my knees.
Cream separating in my coffee as it cools,
I harvest words, leave two for every one
I pluck from their branch.
Safe from physicists and their boxes,
Smelling faintly of cinnamon,
Our orange tom jostles my arm.
A wing of hair slides against my cheek
And I shiver as I brush it back,
Imagining yours disarranged as you move
Urgent and fluid over me.
II. In the Language of Physics
Gray winter sky meets gray winter water.
I throw bread to the gulls
As your hand cups the denim curve of my hip.
We are waves in perfect proportion.
Indiscriminate actions dashed us together,
Their value measurable
Only in need and necessity.
We meet in harmonic oscillation.
We live in a world where the meaning of a kilogram
Is a matter of law rather than a law of matter,
Subject to rule of committee.
Our position is one of uncertainty.
I am permeable to you.
Particles of energy cascade into me.
You illuminate me in increments.
We have the potential to be constant.