The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 19-JAN 20

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DEC 19-JAN 20 Issue

from New Notes for the End of the World


this one, now two, now few, more sides to the coin of being, I am expanding in this changeful cosmos charted by William, her brother; in the painting he is aside a low hanging crescent moon and trees at night, only fitting—an expression neither smile nor grimace but both: mouth creased simultaneously in two directions from calling out magnitude, color, approximate distances as frost covers the grass, ice films the telescope, the ink clots in the well, and the Newtonian 2 foot sweeper, the small associate nebula in Andromeda lit up the heliosphere like dew as though breaking a private whisper between the Mother and the dark unseen, which is the ordinary condition, into which we travel


the largeness of which our minds cannot contain—as if certain kinds of knowledge don’t allow the mind to leap between all the disparate sensations, but were planted there wholly intact, unacceptable, and refused; we are not the center of the universe, but a small detached nebula; we too are part of a system in flux, that will itself die: William retracts this idea in 1791; a body somewhere behind me in the past breathes into my ear through a narrowing tube that reaches me rudely, it’s blind cinema to picture this death without seeing: that is the ordinary condition, perhaps all method is to shore up Forgetfulness,


through the laboratories of the universe; I wonder about the pleasure of seeing yourself in a poem, not me the writer, but you the reader, and walking away from the church after a poetry reading a poet says he likes when a poet can follow a thought through to completion, that feeling that the poet isn’t just putting together the language for the sake of the music, of disparate thoughts sifting the moments between lines, darting in and out of your attention, a seabird on the sand, and I wonder what about the conflict in my heart between a denial of absolute truth, which I believe, and the now post-fact era where propaganda and pageantry and claims to truth preempt the need for actual evidence or agreement on any shared reality, which I detest—at bottom the Herschels believed in the accumulation of evidence and dedicated their lives to creating it for things that were impossible to claim,


merely lead you to the next, no periods in the mind, after all, who said that, and what is the place of one’s narrative in seeing in another not one, nor two, nor few, but many of the sides of one’s being, a planetary motion, merely symbol but O! what a magnification an eyepiece can be— And the mass starts into a million Suns, writes Erasmus Darwin in 1790, reading Herschel’s sublime and curious account of the constructions of the heavens, an explosion like the big bang, and then collapse, but for Darwin the sequence starts again, birthing phoenix universes out of time, an ordinary sequence; perhaps all method is to shore up the ordinary, this ordinary condition, a forgetfulness that like hieroglyphs speak a language in ways that indicate thinking is more than you currently


the way that age redrew your mouth, and hers, with a similar line—the lonely stare of suffering around the eyes—women living—were I naming things; in the line of view of her sight, I’d grow quiet, the threat of some hardness as prominent as love: I was scared of her, and when I told my mother she understood, she herself fundamentally shifted the environment (tenderness over fear), one I try to abide, because fear is easier in many matters, and at heart one wants to simply be listened to, (“every poet has trembled on the verge of science”) is it tenderness or fear I wonder, or both, as I think most days, that tenderness holds fear, like a carefully cupped flame, sometimes the hardest part of being a parent is the recognition of your enmeshed continuing survival


a lit stitch binding the world to its bitter image,
a lit stitch binding the world to its better image

in tension and bound, how it is, how it should be
we move through, only touching either pole gently
before turning away, the antipodal knowledge

The index of prophecy is light / and steeped therein / the
world with all its signatures visible1

hot on the skin, to be always between the failure
of us and our stark breaking hope
on one side it says no trespassing, but on the other side,

  1. Muriel Rukeyser, Elegies, p#. --


Karen Weiser

Karen Weiser is a poet and psychotherapist in training. She is the author of two books of poetry: To Light Out, and Or: The Ambiguities, both from Ugly Duckling Press.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 19-JAN 20

All Issues