Aug 11, 2015

A Dark System

Written by D. Nurkse

Read by T.R. Hummer

thanks to Dava Sobel

Mercury spilled from a dropped thermometer.
Its afternoons blaze like baby-fever.
Thinking of your lover’s hairy wrist,
you left that world on the front burner
until it boiled away. It sealed itself in mist.

Venus is a bead slipped from a necklace
I gave you when I hated myself for loving you.
At Motel Six in Paramus you taught me
why Venus is both morning and evening star.

Mars is iron, cold magma, pink air.
Whiff of methane from a childhood crush.
Its core is pencil shavings and eraser smudges:
in the Stelliferous Era I tried to write you
an explanation for grief and the bus to Queens.

Jupiter must work all its four billion years
at meaningless tasks: lining up for syzygy,
racing into perihelion, reining in its sixty moons,
spewing ammonia flumes and thousand-mile lightning bolts,
rotating its star-vast bulk in ten hours.
It isn’t living. It doesn’t care who is.

Saturn waits beyond the asteroid belt.
I gave it to you and you lost it in the wash.
Whenever I said “Saturn,” you changed the subject.
We called the dog “Saturn” and he ran away.
The rings are thinnest in the years of marriage
when we woke in a soaked bed remembering
how I paid the mortgage, then you, then no one.

Neptune is made of Lysol, Drano, and Black Flag roach killer.

Uranus lies 1,000,000,000 miles away.
We can talk politely again, about neutral topics,
corgis, fall foliage, hydrangeas, the Boston Bruins.
But there’s no catch in our throat, no dazzling grievance.

Pluto we postulated to correct a mistake,
a glitch in the transit, a degree of eccentricity.

Error led us to the entire system, to notice the day
we cannot look at, and each other, our faces
almost hidden by huge shiny pupils.

Did you know a beam of light takes a year
to travel a mile on its journey
out of the core of the sun? When it surfaces
it zips away at 186,000 miles per second–
that is the law, the only law–
and fades in the Heliopause
but never dies, not even Outside
in that cupboard called the universe.

In every language, the moon is almost all vowels.
Lovers crying, too thrilled to articulate a name.

The amygdala is the mind’s mountain,
thalamus its smoldering core,
cortex its regolith and duracrust.

Light hits us, creates us,
and breaks into equations.

Love me before we die.