Dark Matter, Pine Trees, Eternity, Room 205

posted May 15, 2012

Like a handmade ceramic bowl
uneven, oblong, dripped, bare in spots
Joshua departs for the Army at dawn

birds fly south and return months later
by then they are different birds
it’s not that they change
it’s that the distance is longer than any one life

my job asks me to teach the history of the earth
with both science and the idea that there’s a greater purpose
so students don’t get depressed or have a crisis
when they learn
that our sun is a star that will burn out
that death is part of what defines an organism as alive

at boot camp they pound their teachings into him
how to fold sheets into squares
how to dream in black and white

birds know the routes to nesting places
they know how to cross the ocean

Joshua, be like water
change shapes
let sticks, discarded carburetors, broken glass
drift past you

first thing, they cut his hair
put him in uniform, take his picture

he looks like a soldier already, Eve says

Joshua, dug from the foothills
built by hand

a student comes to me with her palm out
holding a little green cone-shaped seed
from this, she says, a redwood tree
isn’t that amazing

Judy Halebsky’s book of poems, Sky=Empty, won the New Issues Prize and was a finalist for the California Book Award. The MacDowell Colony, the Millay Colony, and the Japanese Ministry of Culture have supported her work. She lives in San Francisco and teaches at Dominican University of California.

We published Halebsky’s poem “Paper Aubade” in Issue 45.