Astropoetica: Mapping the Stars through Poetry

Saving the Appearances

Interacting galaxies: Arp 273, UGC 1810

Credit: NASA, ESA, and Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Her body, at rest, tends to remain at rest
late, mornings. The warm hand on her breast
is gone now, like the rest of him, from bed,
transited out of view. Now, in her head,
theories glide in pavane. Datum: the way
his path of orbit strays, although today
damp sheets sigh fragrance here, where he was lying.
The loveliest of theories, always dying.
Phlogiston, say. The luminiferous aether.
The notion that they need not love each other
to own the darkness of this energy.
That only principled uncertainty
governs his loopy reappearances.
Perhaps he's like those fizzy bubble-dances,
those tours en l'air through Ptolemy's universe?
A pleasing scheme, but finally perverse.
The solar system is Copernican.
Her earth is not the focus, but his sun,
his flare and blaze the drivers of her moves,
old forces that no gravity reproves.
And somewhere in her mind a model shatters,
unstable at the core, because it matters
how little time or space they have remaining.
She sees, therefore, no method of attaining
unification of these fields of heart.
Once more the strings of theory fray apart.
Back to the data. Sort the facts afresh.
Neutrinos whistle through her naked flesh.

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Maryann Corbett is the author of two chapbooks, Dissonance (Scienter Press, 2009) and Gardening in a Time of War (Pudding House, 2007), and a winner of the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize and the Lyric Memorial Prize. Her poems, essays, and translations have appeared in River Styx, Atlanta Review, The Evansville Review, Poetry East, Water~Stone Review, The Chimaera, Umbrella, and many other journals in print and online. Her full-length collection Breath Control is due out from David Robert Books in 2012.