Kent Leatham's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in journals
such as Zoland, the Bellevue Literary Review, Artifice, Oranges &
Sardines, Pearl, Soundzine, Hobble Creek Review, and The Battered
Suitcase. He holds an MFA from Emerson College, currently lives
in Boston, and serves as a poetry editor for Black Lawrence Press.
"Substance," wrote British physicist Arthur Eddington in 1927,
"is one of our greatest illusions." The natural world, he claimed,
is actually composed of billions of tiny particles buzzing around
like swarms of gnats, so that, for example, if he timed it right
he could pass his hand through a table or chair with no greater
difficulty than if it were a flowing stream. The fact that he never
succeeded in such a test made no difference. "Reality," he concluded,
"is simply a child which cannot survive without its nurse illusion."
Every morning, the sun with an erection,
the bashful moon with her back turned.
Nothing ever works.
In May, 1983, a man entered the bathroom of a doctor's office in Monterey, California,
where he removed his pants and masturbated into a small, sterile, plastic cup.
Afterwards, he placed the cup on a shelf over the toilet, buttoned his pants, and, exiting
the bathroom, was handed a check for one hundred dollars by the receptionist.
Nine months later, I was born to a single working mother who sang me, as a lullaby,
a tune from The Music Man: "Good night, my someone, good night, my love."
Each line of this poem contains at least one word consisting of seven letters.
According to Soviet propaganda, the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin
declared, upon leaving Earth's atmosphere and witnessing
the eternal blackness of outer space for the first time,
"I don't see any God up here." Gagarin, a baptized Christian,
never uttered these words.
The man was tall, 6'1", blonde-haired and blue-eyed, a musician with no history
of illness or insanity, and had fathered other children before. This is all we know.
"He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," spake Jesus, the one called Messiah.
The invisible ideal. Someone who loves you enough
to give you everything, but on one condition: anonymity. The mystery
of knowing through not knowing. A relationship without relationship.
The proof always given: no test to deny it, no mistake to undo it.
It does not even request reciprocity, cannot. The purest commitment,
and the coldest.
In his later life, Gagarin was banned from the Soviet space program
out of fear the hero would die in a crash. Instead, the cosmonaut began
training as a MiG fighter pilot. He and his flight instructor were killed
on March 27, 1968, when their plane crashed during a routine training mission.
Gagarin had just turned thirty-four.
"Be comforted," said Pascal's god.
"You would not be seeking me if you had not found me."
Sometimes I catch him watching me, on the train heading home
or in a crowded restaurant. His face keeps changing, of course,
each day older and more alone. Sometimes I make a small gesture
of recognition, a nod or smile. Most times, however, I pretend he was never there.
Immensely popular during the 1920s and '30s for his accessible and entertaining
descriptions of Einstein's theory of relativity and the infinite monkey theorem,
Arthur Eddington lost credibility in the scientific community when he began turning
to numerology to defend his fundamental theory of a unified cosmic field.
The mystical relationship between numbers, it seemed, was as impassible
to the public's mind as the wood of the table had once been to his hand.
Eddington died as an object of mockery at the age of sixty-one.
"And looking where she pointed, everyone saw, faint and transparent as though it was made of glass, so that veins and arteries and bones and nerves could be distinguished, the outline of a hand, a hand limp and prone..."
Beloved, the world will not
be less without me. The space
I am leaving is an opportunity
that never existed before. Fill it
quickly. Become what is gone.
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