Monday, September 18, 2006

Poem of the Week 9/18/2006: from Love at Thirty-Two Degrees

from Love at Thirty-Two Degrees

II

Last night I threw my lab coat in the fire
& drove all night through the Arizona desert
with a thermos full of silver tequila.

It was the last of what we bought
on our way back from Guadalajara--
desert wind in the mouth, your mother's
beat-up Honda, agaves
twisting up from the soil
like the limbs of cephalopods.

Outside of Tucson, saguaros so lovely
considering the cold, & the fact that you
weren't there to warm me.
Suddenly drunk I was shouting that I wanted to see the stars
as my ancestors used to see them--

to see the godawful blue as Aurvandil's* frostbitten toe.

III

Then, there is the astronomer's wife
ascending stairs to her bed.

The astronomer gazes out,
one eye at a time,

to a sky that expands
even as it falls apart

like a paper boat dissolving in bilge.
Furious, fuming stars.

When his migrane builds &
lodges its dark anchor behind

the eyes, he fastens the wooden buttons
of his jacket, & walks

outside with a flashlight
to keep company with the barn owl

who stares back at him with eyes
that are no greater or less than

a spiral galaxy.
The snow outside

is white & quiet
as a woman's slip

against cracked floorboards.
So he walks to the house

inflamed by moonlight, & slips
into the bed wiht his wife

her hair & arms all
in disarray

like fish confused by waves.

IV

Science--

beyond pheromones, hormones, aesthetics of bone,
every time I make love for love's sake alone,

I betray you.

Katherine Larson 2006

*a semi-demi God from Norse mythology; connected to the constellation Orion


THIS poem mentions one of my great fantasies that I have not been able to shut up about over the last couple of months. No, I am not talkiing about making love after looking at the stars, but seeing the stars as they are without light pollution. I love the idea of getting wasted in the desert and shouting at the moon, of the presence of a loved one when he is gone, of playing with ideas of warmth and coldness, warmth among coldness...

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

You seem to have lots of science themed poems lately. I was just looking through the archives, and it seemed to be recurring. Interesting...I like them.
Owl-ice

Sarah E. Smith said...

I am glad that you like it!!! Science provides beautiful metaphors - so much is found in the natural world, and when taken rightly, it gives us access to such detail.

This one is particularly gorgeous. Do you notice that they leave a scientific realm to make love, though? It is not all rational - it is a balance, with science providing metaphors for the love-making. This is applied science.

Kevin said...

I think this is my favorite poem that I have read off PotW, and strangely enough, the one I understand the least. But I suppose that makes sense.

I've always had a fascination with the connection between love and science. (Coincidentally, my radio program on KUPS is called 'People's Republic of International Love and Science'.) I think I fancy the idea of love in the laboratory, using empirical research to learn more about a concept that arguably justifies our existence.

The most immediate reaction I had to this poem is that it feels like reading backwards. The narrator begins the poem abandoning science by metaphorically tossing her lab coat in the fire. The style then shifts to a colder, less romantic language, explaining a story that I don't quite understand. The last act finishes with blunt minimalism. Typically, I feel like poems read the other way around, but I suppose we're used to reading poems about love growing rather than diminishing.

I especially enjoyed the bit about stars and constellations. Stars are a romantic symbol, but also a wonder to science. I think the astronomer's wife encompasses both of those qualities, which draws an interesting connection between love and science.

Still, there's a lot going on here that I haven't wrapped my head around yet. Does the poem actually start at 'II' instead of 'I'? I wonder why that is...

Sarah, thank you so much for this poem. If I ever decide to become a folk singer, I will write an album titled 'Love and Science' and dedicate it to you in the liner notes.