Yesterday’s corpses in the war, and today’s
soon-to-be, littering the driveway—
annelid, common earthworm,
much studied, because there’s little chance
of understanding a complex creature
without figuring out a simpler one,
one that manages its way by feel
and sensing light through darkness, groping
for brightness in an ad hoc strategy
for survival in the midst of this drought
of good news. Wouldn’t you think
the earthworm would dig deeper
in search of moisture, that it could
resist the temptation of a little
night dew, not rise to the surface
and poke about until it finds pavement,
not start to inch across without knowing
there’s a place worth getting to?
When it begins to dry out, lose its
moist pinkness and turn brown, crusty,
when it must sense things aren’t going well,
it’s too late to turn back, too far
to reach the other side—earthworm,
not far enough along to figure things out.
God was wearing his New Balance 991s
when he stepped out of the house to run with his wife
and pulled up short on the driveway
where a mouse was twitching on its side
as if to scratch an unrelenting itch.
“Oh God!” she said, “It’s the chemical I sprayed
between the cobblestones. Please put it out of its misery.”
And God, tired of glyphosate in the world
and discrimination against weeds
because he’d made them too, wanted to
be cross with her. What’s done is done, she’d say,
and though he can still change many things,
he knew he could not heal the mouse.
He placed the shadow of his right shoe over the creature
and stepped down hard. Better than
the old days when he’d been an angrier god
driven by moods. He remembers the nightmares
in the time before he set up rules, and how
the migraines disappeared when he no longer had to
judge everything himself. Things are easier now—
now that he’s used to doing as he’s told.
At first it might seem that he’s skirting
the issue by taking the Perimeter Trail.
Still, there are rocks and fallen trees to cross,
and rattlers to be wary of during
their molting season—they, too, dealing
with the new and bigger thing of themselves.
And yet, as he sits on a flat-topped boulder,
feet dangling over the edge, say the bluff
at Piney Point or Dotson or Elliott’s,
as he watches the sun slowly pour itself
down distant mountains, the fog burn off
the plains below, he sees that it’s clearer
than he thought it was, this thing that brought
him here, this thing he’s trying to figure out.
Have you read the article yet?
You mean the one you made me read?
It didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already not know.
You mean you didn’t understand.
It’s not as if one either understands or doesn’t.
Yeah, you can understand and not at the same time.
Isn’t that the point?
So what’s our problem?
I understand you and you don’t.
You understand me and I don’t?
The problem is that you live in many worlds.
You do too, and they’re not the same.
Still, we’re entangled, even when we’re apart.
It’s hard talking when we’re together.
You must be talking about qubits.
Like us, a bit of one and zero at the same time.
Isn’t that how to solve several problems at once?
But I only ever have one.
And you can’t imagine needing qubits for that.
All This Bleeding
Frustrating day, all this bleeding
of dye as I try to remove a stain from the carpet,
an Oriental unlike any other in the house,
every rug except this one peed on by the dogs,
yet easily cleaned, the others made of wool,
my wife says, not silk, the dye set repeatedly
with camel piss, but I can’t imagine enough camels
in the world for that. The carpet is “only a thing”
Buddhists would say. I say it’s just the work
of someone half a world away, someone in a hamlet
high in the mountains compensated less in a week
than I’ve spent on top-of-the-line cleaning fluids
and paper towels today. Perhaps the rug maker
is a Buddhist, inspired by the sun gleaming
off snowy peaks, a man who uses the finest silk
but will never have camels of his own. If I could
fix this mess, I’d take a piss on his carpet myself—
better than standing here clutching a bottle of Oxy-
Magic in one hand and a roll of Bounty in the other.