Marsh Hawk Review is an online poetry journal sponsored by the Marsh Hawk Press collective. Marsh Hawk Review will appear twice a year, under the revolving editorship of collective members. Each issue will offer a selection of poems solicited by the editor, in addition to new work posted by poets in the collective.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Noah Eli Gordon
from Bohr’s Model
Cradling the carcass in its mouth, there is something almost tender to the look the dog gives me as I pass. It feels like an apology. I turn away, tucking my hands deeper into the pullover sweatshirt’s single pouch. Did I miss some of the dialogue? Cyclone gray, liquid silver, granite, and yellow vehicles pass across the screen. Selective, instantaneous exclusion allows the dog to navigate what would otherwise be a world of exhaustive, overwhelming stimulation. The low, sustained rumble of an airplane thousands of feet above. A sprinkler’s drag and kick. A peppered cloud of hovering gnats near the left edge of the lawn. Dozens of ants decorticating and carrying off an unrecognizable substance. Everywhere, there is action. This is easy for the dog to ignore. The visual field is welcoming; the sonic, comforting. The dog understands the world through its nose. Millions of cells, of microprocessors, detect, identify, organize, and report on the flux of data produced by even the smallest shift to the environment of scent, to the invisible, drifting particles that coalesce into an odor, which, for the dog, constitutes the order of the universe—a tiny church atop each infinitesimal alteration to the air. The dog detects a scent twenty-three feet into the ground. Several ants are crushed under its paw as it moves toward what might be the remains of a mouse. Their deaths go unnoticed.
The problem is possibility, or uncertainty, or the problem is that the possible is always colored by the uncertain, that there is an if hovering just ahead, or that just ahead is itself an if and the hovering is the problem, the atmosphere the problem, the problem of the atmosphere just ahead, of its uncertainty, which is an impossible if, an impassable if, one without end, no cathartic then, nothing but a kind of blackness, a kind of colorless blackness, a blank if in the absence ahead, then, for a moment, a streak of color in the cars to my right, for a moment, no, for several moments, for a string of moments, a continuous string, a moment so extended that it touches every other moment, makes of then a system, a constant afterward, a looped self, free of antecedents but ahead, no, not ahead, ahead is the problem, the problem is also behind, impossible to enter, to my left the problem is different, diffused somehow, an is rather than an if, something lacking motion, steady, almost relaxing, a resting place, unlike everything to the right, unlike the man next to me, the strange static pace of his body in stride, the skeletal structure of his jaw almost visible, and the cars, the after if but before then, the motion of the problem figuring itself out before again collapsing into uncertainty, or the uncertain becoming the problem as it moves, as I move, looking at the man to my right, the cars to my right, the if everywhere else.
There is a staleness to the air inside of a theater, a sense that it is being used up, that one might, in taking a breath, be consuming the last available segment, that the air might be replaced with something else, not an exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, but something closer to air and not-air, something entirely consumable, free of any waste product, save the understanding of its having once been there, the heft of its felt absence. I know this is not true, that there is a filtration system at work even now, a series of air ducts and intake shafts allowing for the intermittent exchange of the air inside the theater with that of the air around the roof or corralled into an adjacent alley. Regardless, there is between these exchanges a shift in the ratio of functional air to functionless non-air that develops in my mind a doubtfulness, a distrust of both the selfish breathing of my neighbors and the certainty that this stale non-air will be rejuvenated, that the ratio will be returned to one carrying with it the weightless, unrecognized, yet comforting nudge back into the body’s involuntary actions. I’m aware of my waiting for something to happen. This is the problem with projection. The man in front of me is eating too much air. The man to my right is eating too much air. Turning around, I see the three women behind me are also eating too much air. I want to save my own, to disappear again into the film. Instead of focusing on the two figures, I watch the back of an eggshell-white Oldsmobile Cutlass enter from the right side of the screen, following it as they pass, which, because of the simultaneous but opposing motion, causes too much strain on my eyes. I close them. It’s impossible to read the license plates.