The Astronomer and the Poet - Jessica Piazza
1. Why I stargaze
We share ninety-eight percent of our genetic code
with rats. Over half with grain. The stars, then,
must contain us somehow in their burning.
Something must contain this burning. Uptown,
our physics building is sequestered in a bubble
of certainty. And Harlem explodes around it.
We gaze because we’re so small, despite
our need for choosing. We look skyward
to leave the best question hanging—why
an amazing woman is always amazing, even
with her head in her hands. It’s true; there is no
way to know how small we are, or large.
2. Why I study the text
There is the same assurance in the open
page as in the open fist: closure
must happen eventually.
In the open-ended argument we find
one truth. This is all of us, we are so large
that another person’s story can lacquer the soft
wood of history. We are so like the weed,
so like the blade of grass that our organic parable
is biblical. There is no need to believe in us.
I believe what is written: that a wind lifted
from a bay in Asia can travel a long and haunted
journey to touch his face, to slip through my fingers
and loose a lock of hair from my forehead
as it sinks into my tired palms. I believe in
the inevitable. We read the texts closely
because we are so large that the answers locked
in our most sacred physiology are not our own.
They are buried in the skin we choose to reach for.
3. How they are logical
He knows how things work. This moves her.
This is what makes her perpetually
move. On his desk, a Newton’s Cradle—
silver balls always in motion. She will make
the long trip uptown and back again and again
to sit with him. She cannot understand how
we relate to stars, but she finds clues in small things,
the mark a fingertip will leave on every object, the fine
film of breath slicking surfaces. We are so large
there is something of ourselves in everything we touch.
They talk for hours. He speaks of lenses and women
and beyond. She is full of ink and bindings, the unknowable
we find in form, in limit. She reaches for his papers soaked
in symbol, gauging the weight of planets. He fingers
the square notebook she carries. They leave a trail of skin,
a path for them to follow to each other. Always,
her voice reaches him and he is lifted. Returns to her
again. She listens, and is lifted. Crashes back.
4. How they are illogical
Imagine a corner so large that being backed into it
does not mean an ending, but the beginning of a journey
toward the wall, toward the place where walls meet.
Sometimes it is impossible to know how things work.
If there is perpetual motion why does he lie so still
sometimes, why does she become hard and unmoved?
They lay their bodies down inside a telescope so large
it’s like a tunnel—observers, if permitted, would see the planets
of their bodies orbiting. It is the only motion they both understand.