h o m e........
p a s t   i s s u e s....
s u b m i s s i o n s....
l i n k s

 

 

.........
JESSICA GOODFELLOW



...........
TEN VARIATIONS ON A WEIGHT-BEARING AIR

 

 

Variation 1: Weight Bearing Air

What is a body anyway—
bacchanalia’s abacus,
muscle circumspangled with nerves
that burn out, one by one,
like fireflies, like a string
of Christmas bulbs.

 

Variation 2: Weight-Bearing Air

Death, as predictable as wind—
afterward,
we drag around our phantom
limbs of grief, noctambulent,
and boot-eyed.

 

Variation 3: A Weight Baring Air

The first-ever headstones
had heft meant for holding
down the dead, as though
the living did not trust their own
memories.

 

Variation 4: A Wait Bearing Air

Good call, not trusting
your own memory,
the one that replaced a brother
with a blindfold,
sacrum with sacrament,
sinew with snow.

 

Variation 5: Await Baring Air

Whoever
translated algebra
not as
            a branch of mathematics in which arithmetical operations and relationships are 
            generalized by using alphabetic symbols to represent unknown   members of 
            specified sets … 
                                                                        (unknown members)
nor as
            the science of restoring what is missing and equating like with like
                                                                        (what is missing)
but as
            the reunion of broken parts

whoever it was that made that facile choice
                                                                        (like with like)
find her
and break her.

 

Variation 6: A Weight-Baring Air

Body as angle of incidence,
as museum of echoes,
as stammer of tumblers
in an unlockable lock.
Body as creation myth of mirrors.

 

Variation 7: Weight Baring Air

Death, which had been effect,
now becomes cause.
An accidental pilgrim wanders
through the four seasons
as they
tessellate the decades.

 

Variation 8: Weight Bearing Heir

This is not an epicedium,        sung only in the presence of the dead.
This is not an elegy,                 moving from grief toward relief.
This is not a threnody,              which entails wailing.
This is not a monody,               for one voice only.
This might be a lament,           a spell for calling back the dead.
This could be a confession:    if you hadn’t had
                         a missing brother, I’d have
                                      invented you
                                       one.



Variation 9: A Weight Bearing Err

Body as rodeo of the soul,
as school for shadows,
as baptism by snow.
The body understands
it is dust
that teaches edges
to the wind.

 

Variation 10: A Weight Baring Err

A body flies
through the windshield of ice
that is tundra, time made space.
And disappears. In all directions
from the minute human-shaped hole,
the vast windshield splinters finely.
There is no seeing through it.

 

 

 

NOTES:
The word circumspangled comes from Robert Herrick, and was pointed out to me by Paul Rossiter.

The definitions of algebra come from (in the order they appear): Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003; Little Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins edited by Julia Cresswell, Oxford University Press 2014; http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=algebra

 







.............
AMERICAN DUSK

 

 

Beneath a stagger of stars the herd untangles,
hooves throbbing the prairie’s dull drumhead,
grave as the heart’s marginalia. The day unhitches
from reason. Pivot and swivel of senses
are over. Darkness laps at the edges.

The glass beads of heaven’s black abacus
slide slowly toward rote constellations. Turning back
toward the lit house, where linen solves nothing,
recall that while matter tells space how to curve,
and space teaches matter to move, the word endless

isn’t.

 

 

 

 

NOTE: “Matter tells space how to curve. Space tells matter how to move,” is Einstein (as recalled from memory by Neil DeGrasse Tyson)
 

 






.............
HERESY

 

The prevalent model has the soul as nougat
and around it, like chocolate, the body wrapped. Rapt.
Intuitive—the body’s visible while the soul is not.

But imagine, instead, the body as speaker,
the soul as a kind of velvet surround-sound.
Think: body equals nucleus; soul, electron cloud.

You protest—this theory suggests the body
pre-exists the soul. Yes: suppose you only
get a soul once you need one.

Imagine the body as irritant, a grain of sand inside
an oyster that conjures in response a cosmic pearl.
Let the soul be glow-in-the-dark dark.

You who hate this proposal must never
have lost somebody whose body was never
recovered. You want the body as cage

that releases, finally, the soul. You want
the soul as body, the body as tattoo.
Your body is soul’s amulet, while mine

is vice versa. You see the soul as map
of the body’s limited terrain; I see the body
as map of the measureless parish of soul,

body as an anchor in the sea. The body
can perish; the soul cannot. ‘Aha!’ you say,
‘here we agree.’ But in your version,

the body says to the soul, I will not let you go
unless you bless me, while I struggle to learn,
like Zeno of Elea, not to distinguish between

a body and the space in which it is.

 

 

NOTE: Italicized lines are from Genesis 32:26.

 






...........
QUAKING ASPEN

   

Rarely survives at elevations of less than 1500 feet. Found, in the US, at 5000-12,000 feet
      my mother’s antique-green piano             my daily hour of Bartok, Mozart
            under an oil painting                                       of a quaking aspen grove             trees caught mid-tremble   my great-grandmother as                                  the  painter—    
                                                            even then my family                                      
                                                                                    had a penchant for altitude, for height
                                                                                                            How beautiful upon the mountains

Its smooth white bark marked by thick black scars, where low branches have pruned themselves
            among her losses three children                                  each before the age of three      
                        in the flood, her husband        rescued the family but could not save
himself                                    the year post-flood                                                                 
            she and her daughter, ten years old—my grandmother—                       the hospital    
                   nothing
                         to do but         think of the flood                                            the lowlands   
       no wonder she preferred high places                    
                                                                                                 the trembling
                                                                              How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him

Leaves nearly heart-shaped, with edges finely saw-toothed
                        never to remarry                                                         despite a wealthy suitor        
                                                       her family        confounded by her devotion to
             the gone and ungospelled husband      owner of a livery                    
                                                                                           just as factories           rolled out        
                                           the nation’s first affordable cars
                                                                                                            thy watchmen shall lift up the voice

Leaves with flattened petioles, even in the most gentle breeze appearing to tremble
                  struggling                     three remaining children                            a schoolteacher’s salary
                              little cash for turpentine                     and canvas      
for viridian green         titanium white                                     still she found a way                                      
                              to paint the quaking aspens
                                                                        to make the trembling visible
                                                                                                            they shall see eye to eye

A stand of aspens = one single organism, stretching up to twenty acres, roots entangled under-ground
                                     and then her only son turned his eyes                              cerulean    
                                                                         like his grandmother’s  
                         to the mountains                                                         raw umber      
            turned the body she had given him, trembling           
to the high places                                                                    to his entangled roots
                                                                                                                         made bare his holy arm

All aspens of one root system have the same branching structure; in autumn, all changing to the exact same color at the exact same time
what color, loss—                   white                                       marked by thick black scars            
             or white           a blank canvas of snow           marred by a sleeping bag                    
                         by an ice axe                    scattershot                 
                                                       like scars upon the icy landscape     pruning itself
                                                                                                                         ye waste places of Jerusalem

A stand of aspens can live to be thousands of years old—might be the oldest known living thing
aspens             caught mid-quake        in an antique-green frame                    antique-green piano
                                          how beautiful              Bartok, Mozart          
             to dream of feet upon the mountains                             of him             
                                                                                          his feet upon the mountains                 
                                  yellow ochre              
oldest living things, trembling                                              roots entwined
                                                                         my inky scrawl like black scars on a white page
                   my great-grandmother’s black paint on white canvas                       
                                                                                                             the aspens quaking
                                     at the exact same time            
                                                                                                                         all the ends of the earth

 

 

 

 

 

NOTE: Right-flushed lines are from Isaiah 52:7-9.





  

BIO: Jessica Goodfellow’s books are Mendeleev’s Mandala (Mayapple Press, 2015), The Insomniac’s Weather Report (Three Candles Press First Book Prize winner, reissued by Isobar Press, 2014), and the chapbook A Pilgrim’s Guide to Chaos in the Heartland (Concrete Wolf, 2006). Her work has been featured in Best New Poets, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac, and she has received the Chad Walsh Poetry Prize from the Beloit Poetry Journal. She lives in Japan.

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