ON THE OCCASION OF TRACEY’S 54th BIRTHDAY, AND THE 175th BIRTHDAY OF SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN—Kim Roberts
“The most popular words used in the pages of Scientific American are displayed here by
frequency, from 1845 through 2020…Each year is represented by a single word, selected
through a text-analysis project that started with all 5,107 issues of the print magazine.”
How to get it down on paper?
The words, beyond what words require,
when the early outlines of day
steal over your beloved, a person
whose role in this act is to receive
all in you that’s sweet and good.
Rising from the well of sleep, she will turn
toward you with a great
effort, and her smallest sigh has a volume
and frequency you yearn to have.
Is it a new day, a new week?
She has filed a patent
on breath, that wave-like motion
you catch, that in her case
tightens around your own chest, a belt
whose accomplishment, whose improvement
cozens the finest invention.
For what more durable iron
can blood and breath render
than attention’s hum and strike
to the heart? Seeing the curve of her hip compose
the light, seeing the light bounce off tile,
how can you describe
it; although words exist for this purpose
alone, you think, to manufacture
from sleep’s locked stone—
sleep’s architecture of brick—
a waking of which the light must consist.
Desire rumbles through your body like a boiler,
before she rouses enough for you to ask,
while she still exists on the edge,
and her breathing tatters, taking a new direction
you can’t help but follow.
If breath is the emissary she can send,
this is an invitation, an engraving.
From the hollow of her chiseled mouth,
from her curves’ warm scent,
your zealotry finds no end.
You grab hold as if to a rope.
That rumble of desire now sounds through pipe,
where the capillaries catch hold,
and you are flowing in water.
You steal a look out the window, the plate
of the sun that all hopes contain,
but here next to you under the cover
she has learned to adapt
to your curiosity, the brush
of your fingertips, the preparation
you make as she swings into view.
It’s all happened so recently.
Now you’re an expert in her width,
you know her hands specially.
Your instinct to brake
as you hurtle, to damp the fire
in your engine, can’t stop this carriage.
You thunder like horse–
power. She goads your foot
to accelerate electric
and you fall headlong into the current.
There’s no teacher, no class
to instruct you in this switch—
you can only grab the smallest article
to glisten on as the engine
follows its unfamiliar track.
Your heart is mere mechanism,
a muscle as much as a machine
that compounds your interest.
For isn’t this commerce? A money
of a whole new order
while you rev your motor
as another dawn serves to prove
your tentative position?
She is an anchor to the present,
the way her lungs work,
raising and lowering her breasts, to build
a new day. She holds you in her power,
in the essential and necessary fact
that you devour so readily:
her swales and dips provide
a sanctity of place.
You plumb the tube
that encloses each yearned-for note.
Her parting legs show
each elegant unfolding whose span you seek.
It’s such an early hour.
The sun, caught in its course,
knows this is private business;
these limbs require no commercial
requisitions, need pass no test,
need cross no dotted line:
here’s a new definition of home.
There’s nothing less you’d give,
no realization more modern
or of such significant size
than this: gratitude complete.
The golden light is slow.
She is paging open like a book
on all that is daily, is practical.
Salutory as rubber,
vital as air,
she is everything shiny and new
you add up to: what use
is elevation without the high?
Although she does not yet open an eye,
this bed where you plant
your weight is an island, general
in size but as a geometric solution
she has learned to control
your every delicate instrument,
your rising temperature.
She knows the elements of the problem,
the integers she can write,
the x and the second x to solve.
Clever as a burrowing insect,
she has devised a system,
a calculation unique
enough to suit each component
you embody. Here in her space
her breathing holds a resonance
that is beyond number,
that rises above the specifics of your city,
that flames toward a heavenly point.
What is her special property?
She attracts the light.
It fills her degree by degree
with startling effect
until she becomes a supernova of energy.
Her brightness gains girth and area,
witness to this simple result:
she expands at the rate
that she accumulates her large
glow until it seems she can increase
no further. She is luminosity entire.
She is your radiant example.
Outside the morning’s advance, time
ticks on, and you annotate growth
lying next to her voltaic charge.
Should she move
you would magnetize her force,
and all it might include
would coalesce and group
into a kernel so strong
it could hijack every single
fascicle of your blood.
That’s the central issue.
You’re in the market
for all her information.
You want to school
yourself in her statistics: age,
every wonder and strange
pore and follicle, every hint
of her, none of it going to waste,
none of it blind,
all essential and key.
She’s become a kind of universe,
with nothing immaterial or extra.
You wait for the day’s sign.
Now you look at the clock;
she stretches, mumbles. Active
first, you have time to build your theory.
Soon her every cell
will wake to its similar
patterns: coffee and food.
Soon this reverie will shatter like ice;
she’ll go back to being human
rather than a compass for the world.
For now it’s enough: your need,
your devotion to know,
to follow the vagabond way
to revelation. The day strengthens to find
each particle of matter
converging for another moment, another year
on her. You make one more study
of her illumined face, you think
of all the words still to say—
then you hear your name. She calls.
Kim Roberts is the editor of the anthology By Broad Potomac’s Shore: Great Poems from the Early Days of our Nation’s Capital (University of Virginia Press, 2020), selected by the East Coast Centers for the Book for the 2021 Route 1 Reads program as the book that “best illuminates important aspects” of the culture of Washington, DC. She is the author of A Literary Guide to Washington, DC: Walking in the Footsteps of American Writers from Francis Scott Key to Zora Neale Hurston (University of Virginia Press, 2018), and five books of poems, most recently The Scientific Method (WordTech Editions, 2017). Her sixth book, Corona/Crown, a cross-disciplinary chapbook created in collaboration with photographer Robert Revere, is forthcoming from WordTech Editions in 2023. http://www.kimroberts.org