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Winter 1997, Volume 14.1

Poetry

 

Katharine Coles

 


Katharine Coles (Ph.D., U of Utah) is Writer-in-Residence at Westminster College in Salt Lake City where she teaches creative writing and English and directs the Weeks Poetry Series. Among her grants and awards are an NEA Individual Writer's Fellowship for poetry, an NEA New Forms Project Grant for fiction, and the Utah Arts Council's Publication Prize; in 1994 she was awarded Salt Lake City's Mayor's Award for the Arts. Her second collection of poems,
A History of the Garden, will be released in March 1997 by the University of Nevada Press, which also published her first novel, The Measurable World: An Erotic Urban Mystery.  Read other work by Katharine Coles published in Weber Studies: Vol. 8.1Vol. 9.3 (Interview with Mark Strand)Vol. 13.1; and  Vol. 13.1 (Interview with David Lee).

 

The Need for Science

—for Chris, on the anniversary of moving into our house, August 14, 1989-1994

1. Invisible Weight

[I]f appearance and essence were the same thing, there would be no need for science.  —Michio Kaku

Or microscopes, telescopes, steam machines
for stripping wallpaper—remember
that bathroom, navy blooming with pink

irises the size of my head?—poetry, news
analysts, physicians, the FBI, dating
services. The perfect match, we meant

ourselves for each other, at first sight
(allowing for the collapse

of what seems no time), so made
ourselves, over,
                           took

each other's measure, lip-to-lip,
did not count seconds speeding up

our heartbeats, washing
over our bodies—the past emptying

out the future's rush and roar
dimmed by the sound of our breathing, the hum
of his old air conditioner, heaved

down one set of stairs, up another. Every touch
left its smudge, its slow, cumulative,
invisible weight.
                          We'd had to wait

an age for each other. And we had
what still looked like forever.

2. Visible Weight

By simple rotation, we can interchange any of the three spatial dimensions. Now, if time is the fourth dimension, then it is possible to make "rotations" that convert space into time and vice-versa. —Michio Kaku

If I could turn a Kenmore washer into time
I could rotate it through this door
elaborated by a Victorian mind

that wouldn't have conceived it. Or
that I would want it, a hundred-

some years down the line. I have
misread again, willfully,

not only science, but history—
it is so hot, and the machine

so unwieldy in its space,
who could blame me for reducing theory
to mere machine?
                              The physicists,

clucking collective tongues
recisely measured. Their voices

take just so much space in my mind.
Call it x. In time,
they'll shrink to nothing, small matter

converted into energy I could use, now,
resting my back against dusty woodwork,

while this physicist watches over his glasses.
All before we married. He considers

matters of space and time,
                                       machine
versus merely human mind. Counts
complications. The move, the wedding: all

sooner undertaken, sooner finished.
Since then, we've learned a thing or two,
have buried friends we held,

a mother who held us. We recover
nothing: holding each other, we hold 

each other's absence. We are turning
into the past. In retrospect,
I would prefer to take my time.

3. Anniversary

Newton, writing 300 years ago, thought that time beat at the same rate everywhere in the universe…. However, according to special relativity, time can beat at different rates, depending on how fast one is moving.  —Michio Kaku

Another finished orbit. Recollections
past, or passing, by the time we mark

a heartbeat, a line—anniversary
and universe both contain that turn,
the rhythm we walk. Long

days rush us through
the universe, the universe
through us: another year, or the nightly throb, his pulse

against my pulse, starlight's insouciant wave
rippling the screen. The blind

flaps in arid wind, the heatwave
we confuse with
five years back, summer

beating down two years before,
                                               repeating
a house-of-mirrors' endless trick
reflections. Hell, it's only time. The day we fell

it must have seemed to him I stood still,
my hand resting on a book, composing

my response; but my mind moved
so fast he'd have seen its blueshift
if it were a star, he a star gazer watching

space collapse between us. It must
have seemed to him
, but I don't know.
We move through different spaces, different times, 

the same space and time differently—
I love the distances, roughnesses,

rotations, odd warps and woofs
we travel to touch each other.
                                              On my birthday
two years after we met we moved in here;

in between, a love at first sight
took two years to ripen

then was there. It is my birthday today.
How long has it been? we ask each other. Yesterday,
forever
. The bathroom's eggshell walls

needing paint again, a couch gone dingy, paired
chairs we sit on, staring
into space: all collapse, give

way to mystery. I still love,
over time, even the damage
time has done to him, though, minute-

by-murderous-minute, he looks the same;
though we move so fast
we only seem to have stood still.

 

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