Absence Poem By Bob Hicok
There are men and women huddled in rooms tonight
discussing dark matter, the non-stuff, the antithings which fill the universe. Imagine writing
that grant. Their children are of relatively
specific dimension, their houses occupy
nearly calculable space. Seven have dogs.
One dreams of playing in the British Open
nude. Yes, exactly like your father.
Of special interest is the woman in an office
in Princeton in a swivel chair looking
through a window at the pond where Einstein’s
said to have sat and thought about sailboats,
the little ones German children race on ponds.
She whispers Bolivia, a word she caught
on a map earlier and hasn’t been able to shake.
She has never been there. She has never left
the east, finds Bar Harbor exotic, thinks
of lobsters as the first wave of an alien invasion.
Together with a colleague she is trying to total
the mass of everything, the mental equivalent
of 27 clowns cramming into a 60s vintage Volvo.
What she likes about the word Bolivia
beside the sexual things it does to the tongue
is her feeling that anything you do there
might cause people to dance. She would like
to dance now. If most of what exists
can’t be seen or spread on toast
or wedged under a door in summer
when you want to fall asleep on the couch
to a wind that began somewhere near Topeka,
it’s acceptable to dance on a desk in an office
paid for by the Rockefeller Foundation
in an attempt to resurrect that once
good name. And even as she pictures herself
clearing and scaling the desk,
she is striding to the board and brushing
away a series of calculations
and replacing them with another, more
elegant run, adding at the end the curlicue
of infinity which normalizes the equation,
which makes her noodling momentarily right
with God and explains how a pinhole
could have the density of a universe, how half
of Jupiter could lie balled in your shoe.
Bolivia, she says, spinning. Bolivia,
she repeats, grabbing Bill Morrison,
by the collar. Bolivia, he answers,
embracing the odd particulars of revelation,
kissing her hand in a burlesque of manners,
knowing it’s just made chalk beautiful,
aligned the glyphs of mass and spin
into a schematic of everything. Then briefly,
looking over his shoulder at the board,
she realizes in essence she’s trapped
nothing, not the stars but the black leading
between the light, the same absence
she feels at night when looking up a force
like wind rises through her body, leaving
no trace except the need to be surrounded
by anything more comforting than space.
first published in Boulevard, vol. 12, nos. 1 and 2
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