“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