It is hard to know what an animal must feel when it is shot,
when it is coming to and flitting its milky eyes back open.
One wonders where the animal has been, if it is partly here and partly, or wholly,
somewhere else. That time you dropped all your hot tamales
in the movie theater and they rolled all the way down to the front near the big screen,
I couldn’t decide whether to be sad they were gone
or delight at the sound of them spilling out under the seats.
It’s also hard to know for sure,
given our current knowledge of physics, whether we are falling perpetually
at a steady rate or, rather, accelerating wildly
into the purviews of space without even knowing what that feels like,
and meanwhile sending monkeys and dogs and robots and a variety of plant species and
sometimes people out between the stars to see
if anything in them changes, if they come back alive, weakened or strengthened,
elongated, shivering or limp. I thought this was what you were doing, in a sense,
when you asked me, hypothetically, if I could ever live in a house with
a yellow kitchen or if the color would, over small increments of time,
drive me into a slow but steady madness.
We both agreed that it depends, that there are so many shades of yellow.
In some cultures it is easy to know two people
are definitely in love when one brings a fish to the other’s doorstep
and the fish is not refused, while in other cultures a fish
gutted and splayed and left in the sun is a sure sign
that someone somewhere is in love, is waiting to be loved back.
In your defense, and in mine, we were not brought up
to trust the world. There was that Soviet guy, remember, who died in the 80s
of severe head injuries while attempting a reverse 3 ½ tuck dive
and then there was the Chinese guy who did it a year later
and didn’t die. When I look at you, I think of him,
the one who didn’t die, freed suddenly
from the clutches of gravity and hovering flawlessly there in spacetime,
the pool and the springboard and sky and trees
revolving around his stretched body, the only unmoving
thing in the entire solar system. But then I look at you again and your face
is suddenly different and I think of the earth rushing toward the diver
faster and faster, all the weight and force of the earth’s crust and the seething
magma underneath catapulting itself through space and time and the iron core
tethering his body to it like a dragonfly to the windshield of a moving car.
It is hard, let’s admit,
to tell the difference between jumping and falling.
But tonight, the weight of your hand
on my hand is algebraically equivalent
to one ocean upon another. This must mean we are moving very fast
into something neither one of us can see. It is hard, you tell me, to know
what your lips would kiss like in outer space.
To comfort us both, then, you say: There is this Austrian physicist
who says that anything can be
two or more things at once, for example, both coherent and shattered, exploded
and unexploded, both alive and dead. You tell me that
the universe allows a thing to remain undecided to its very core
until the act of someone looking closely enough
forces it, inevitably, to decide.
Kristin Marie Kostick is a poet and medical anthropologist researching social and cultural factors contributing to HIV risk and psychosocial health research in India, Africa and the US. Her poetry has appeared in Muzzle Magazine, the most recent Open Letters anthology, in Small Spiral Notebook and the Long River Review. She co-curates (with poet Andrea Henchey) a monthly reading series called Inescapable Rhythms in Hartford, CT that has recently featured notable poets including James Tate, Nate Pritts, Alexis Orgera, and Iain Haley Pollock.