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A few weeks ago, physicist Brian Greene visited the high school where I teach and gave an assembly about string theory and other exciting scientific matters, and then he worked with individual science classes on specialized topics. His visit was, in a word, fascinating, but if I tried to explain the highlights of his presentation, I would fail miserably. Greene is such an accessible speaker, which is in part what he’s known for, that I had no difficulty understanding any of what he said, but I could not hope to duplicate his explanations without at least an outline, and I was listening and enjoying his talk too much to take notes. I suppose this qualifies as a “you had to be there” moment?

Some of my colleagues did take notes, though, and it was interesting to chat with them after the assembly to find out what resonated most with them. One of my fellow English teachers, also a fiction writer, focused on the disparities between micro and macro in the theory of relativity and the metaphor of how big things and little things meshing don’t always make for successful communication.

Christa M. Forster, whose review of Tracy K. Smith’s Life on Mars showed up here this month as the Women Writers Wednesday series intersected with National Poetry Month, wrote this poem after the assembly.

***

For Brian Greene, a Poem
.
 

You don’t know what matter is
but you know how to stick it
into the cast-iron meat grinder
your sister once convinced you
to put your pinky finger in.

You did it even though
your mother warned you
against doing it.

Your sister with her scrambled
egg curls and Mediterranean eyes
smiled at you and commenced
to grind away your little finger, which,
once she started, was stuck, and you

(only three and no knowledge
of the pink and white fragility
of flesh) saw what it really was:

meat.


***

Christa Forster: Writer, Teacher, Performer whose goal is to make life more meaningful for herself and others through Education and Art. Follow her on Twitter @xtaforster.

Today was Arbor Day, so I thought I’d share this gem from Sharon Lia Robinson.

 

***

 

Skagit Valley Forest

 

tonight
light and silent
the tree seemed to say
come close

the tree saying be,
be together in your soul
your center yourself

newly planted and old
the trees sing and say
we see you
feel yourself
know you

we are here too
in the breath of our earth
we hear you
we know you too, your reaching
we know you too, your reaching.

 

***

 

Sharon Lia Robinson is a visual artist, documentary film producer, poet and writer. Her creative mission reflects the desire to inspire others through her artistic vision. Early life challenges and the desire for tikkun olam (healing and restoration in the world) are also reflected in her creative projects. More of Sharon’s art, poetry and films may be seen at www.sharonrobinson.org.

 

 

It’s Shakespeare’s birthday (observed), and I ran across one of his sonnets today that I didn’t remember having read before (though maybe I did in college).

 

***

 

Sonnet 73

 

That time of year thou may’st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

 

***

 

Do I really need to give you biographical information about William Shakespeare? How about this: he wasn’t Francis Bacon.

This isn’t technically a Women Writers Wednesday review, but I have to give a shout-out today, on a Wednesday, on Earth Day, to Emily Dickinson. She has been known to many as one of the greatest American poets, or as “The Belle of Amherst,” or as “that crazy lady in the white dress locked in her house all her life.” (True story, I knew someone who referred to her like that, not out of abject disrespect so much as out of frustrated curiosity.)

No matter what you call her, she was and remains a force majeure of American letters. The more I read of her work throughout my life, the better I can appreciate the depth of her intellectual and poetic gifts.

Today I came across one of her poems I had not seen before. Since it’s Earth Day, I wanted to feature a poem about nature, and this seemed like a good one to include. It’s number as 668 in the source I encountered (PoemHunter.com).

 

***

668

 

“Nature” is what we see—
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse— the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Thunder—the Cricket—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.

 

***

 

What can I tell you about Emily Dickinson that you don’t probably already know? How about this: one of my favorite National Poetry Month posters ever is from 2005 — incidentally, the month my daughter was born — and was designed by Chip Kidd. It features Emily Dickinson’s dress on a black background and a marvelous quote from her letters. “Nature is a haunted house — but Art — is a house that tries to be haunted.”

 

Emily Dickinson NPM 2005

 

Tonight’s poem is by a cross-genre writer, Adam Holt. He writes poetry and also YA sci-fi novels. His second book in a trilogy about the teenage son of an astronaut is launching this month (pardon the pun).

In fact, there’s a book launch party this Saturday, in case you’re in the Houston area and want to come to it, at Space Center Houston. Let me know if you want more details.

 

***

 

not even nothing exists

 

I. Zerolessness

 

not even nothing exists

the existence of nothing itself is

unfathomable

let me develop this idea

that was never thought

 

the ink in the pen used by this hand

that wrote these words

that contained these ideas

not only never existed

but never will, never could

 

a nothing is at least a thing

against which something can exist

the mind can grasp this

 

but not even nothing?

the idea is not an idea at all

but a lack of an idea

or a lack of a lack

and now we are back

to trying to develop an idea

that the mind cannot grasp:

not even nothing exists.

 

II. And

 

a man walks into a bar

and orders

nothing

but there are no glasses to put it in

(if nothing is an it which it is not nor never will be)

….did i say there was a bar?

he walked in but never sat down

on that stool that never existed

He

Walked

Bar

Nothing

i tell you i spoke none of this

this world that contains this city

where your apartments holds this

you

never came to exist

never had a never to exist against

 

III. Yet

 

here is the pen the ink the you

the will that runs these rhymes

what then can we say about their existence?

a man walks into a bar

and there he finds

nothing

to order. he has found at last….

he

walked

bar

loneliness, maybe

he knows there is something

existing against nothing

 

IV. Then

 

three million light year away

from the nothing bar

where people discuss the absence of the numinescence

three million light years away

which in the design of things may not be far at all

from the nothing bar

three million light years away

there is an immense swirling eyeless colorless hole

that swallows whole stars

as a boyscout eats kettle corn

three million miles away

there is an immense swirling eyeless colorless hole

in the fabric of the universe

that ate an entire nebula

without even the slightest belch

turning what was into what will never again be

every nothing has a nothing to exist against.

 

V. Infinite

 

take this force

immense swirling eyeless colorless hole

multiply it by an unfathomable number

and you cannot equal the force of

the spirit that moved over the thoughtless waters

and in one word achieved

unthinkable

unmistakable

knowable

existence:

BE.

every nothing has a something 

to exist against. 

what jokes must he tell

perched on his stool 

sipping from a cup full of anti-matter? 

 

***

 

Adam Holt taught English for a decade before devoting himself to writing as a profession. He is an independent writer who funded two YA novels through Kickstarter. His Tully Harper Series explores the intrinsic hope of human space travel. His poetry has similar, more spiritual intent. Victor Hugo, CS Lewis, Seamus Heaney, and Rick Riordan are among his favorite authors.

You know what I love best about tonight’s poem? It reminds me of Emily Dickinson, someone whose work I admire not just because of its complexity, but also because the woman who wrote it led such an intellectually rich but societally challenged life.

What does this poem make you think of? For me, it calls to mind “A narrow fellow in the grass” and “Eden is that old-fashioned House.” It’s rhyming done well, modern and brief, serene yet slightly punchy. Does this sound like a contradiction? It does to me, but still, it’s how I feel about it. And in my head, in my gut, it makes sense.

 

***

Quiet Things

Let the poem be a still thing. –W.S. Graham

Like the fall of one bright feather
from the eagle’s taloned clutch.
Down it drifts in pretty weather,
troubling no ear overmuch.

Or like the rushing stream gone dry.
Or like the netted butterfly.
Or like the slither of small snakes.
Or like a heart that slowly breaks.

 

***

 

Janice D. Soderling has published poetry, fiction and translations at Mezzo Cammin, Rattle, The Rotary Dial, Light, Think, Alabama Literary Review, Hobart, Per Contra, Glimmer Train, Evansville Review and way over a hundred other print and online journals. She is assistant fiction editor at Able Muse. Janice hails from the United States but lives in Sweden.

The world is too much with us. This poem, which I think about often, is a reflection of that.

***

Mimesis

My daughter
.                        wouldn’t hurt a spider
That had nested
Between her bicycle handles
For two weeks
She waited
Until it left of its own accord

If you tear down the web I said
It will simply know
This isn’t a place to call home
And you’d get to go biking

She said that’s how others
Become refugees isn’t it?

***

Fady Joudah is a Palestinian-American poet and physician. He is the 2007 winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition for his collection of poems The Earth in the Attic. “Mimesis” appears in his book Alight, published by Copper Canyon Press.

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