Uncertainty + Sparring After Sunset
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.