String theories

This entry is part 31 of 42 in the series Antiphony: Paul Zweig


I’m reading Paul Zweig. This is the thirteenth poem in the third (“Eternity’s Woods”) section of his Selected and Last Poems, followed by my response. See here for details on this experiment in responsive reading.

Anything Long and Thin
by Paul Zweig

All traffickings upward out of the earth
Or sideways across it: longitudes,
Desperations; the glue of sentences . . .

[Remainder of poem removed 11-18-05]

* * * *

Living On

Consider what one might learn
by meditating on a corpse:
how the flesh can crawl, the bones
of a beautiful face break
the crust of fantasy like little moons
out of the ground, vacant snail-shells
still glistening with an off-white rheum.
Or consider swallowing two squares
of LSD & looking in the mirror:
what perfectly disintegrating visions
might be yours, & with what slight effort.

It’s exhilarating, really, to find this
blind matter – that it somehow coheres
despite its utter insensitivity to longing
or loneliness. It gives itself
only half-grudgingly to the chance
mouths of the shark or the brown bear.
True horror comes disguised
as cold necessity: learning about cells
in the fourth grade, our bodies began
to dissolve into prisons
or office towers populated by soft-
walled cubicles. Then atoms:
solar systems with pin-prick suns,
barely enclosed eternities
of inner space. The schoolroom clock
made a mockery of turning.

To know that emptiness, they suggested,
was to know ourselves. They could have said
that matter is incredibly rare,
a temporary resting state for energy.
They could have told us
about fictons, their mad spinning
that somehow keeps the lover’s caress
from encountering a null set,
bodies collapsing into a shrug
of cold fusion. What a comfort
it would’ve been, maybe,
to learn about the stubborn corpse
rippling outward for millions of years,
if only in bone shards or a line
of footprints in some fossilized beach
that come to a sudden end: indelible
record of buoyancy, & the killer wave.

For more on fictons, see here. Please note, however, that I mean something different from Robert Heinlein, whose fictons inhabited a thoroughly Newtonian, narrative space. My fictons are massless and carry a negative charge.

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