Uncertainty + Sparring After Sunset

SM Stubbs


That the body is a cruel steward
is not a revelation. For two straight weeks
you watch the staff take blood, x-rays, and MRIs,
watch them fill a fridge with vials
of your mother’s vital fluids and still
the doctors at St. Mary’s can’t diagnose
the swelling. They shrug at inconclusive results
while your heart fractures ever further,
tuned as it is to its own collapsing:
again again again.

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle
calculates the mathematical impossibility
of determining the position of a particle and
its momentum in a specific moment.
You can’t remember where you read about it
or why anyone needs to know
but in human terms it means
you know where you are yet can’t say
how long it took to get there
or even which path you followed.

Your father won’t have the strength for this
much longer. For ten years he’s been refilling
her water, heating up leftovers,
counting pills. He’s worn thin and pale
and bruised. When he jokes about you moving home
to help it does not feel like a joke.
No one can guess what next year will bring,
he tells me. Perhaps beaches and sunshine
will appeal more then, the ocean
the sort of music you’ll want to hear.

Sparring After Sunset

I’ve been married for fifteen years
            with a python-sized portion of joy
                         and a rattler’s share of misery.

Even so there are nights I’ll add up
            the sleep I lost worrying about
                         my parents. Every day they hissed

at each other while I was young enough
            to be confused by it. In the gloom
                         of the unlit porch their voices were

low pressure systems convecting
            the fading sunlight as I waited to eat
                         dinner, hour after hour, dizzy & weak,

unsure what their clipped fury meant.
            I did not see love in it. After all love
                         wasn’t tense shoulders and clenched

jaws but flowers and kisses, whatever
            lifted people toward happiness. There
                         was always too much for love to carry.

Which might explain dad’s ruined knees
            and mom’s broken hip, both of them
                         coiled now in separate beds. Maybe that

was how they soothed love’s rage—
            barefoot, surrounded by darkness
                         after a storm had passed, just beyond

the glow of the kitchen light,
            holding each other, arms locked tight,
                         neither willing to be the one to let go.

SM Stubbs until very recently co-owned a bar in Brooklyn. Recipient of a scholarship to Bread Loaf, he has been nominated for the Pushcart and Best New Poets. His work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, The Normal School, Puerto del Sol, Carolina Quarterly, New Ohio Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Crab Creek Review, among others, with work forthcoming in December and The Rumpus.

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