Saturday, April 08, 2006

National Poetry Month

Since April is National Poetry Month, I plan to post some favorite poems over the coming weeks. This first one, "Palindrome," is a poem I encountered in Poetry Writing, a college class I loved. I don't have a strong interest in science or science fiction, so I'm not quite sure why, but I've never forgotten this poem and it's the one that consistently comes to mind when anyone asks me to suggest an interesting poem.

"Palindrome" by Lisel Mueller

There is less difficulty -- indeed, no logical difficulty at all -- in imagining two portions of the universe, say two galaxies, in which time goes one way in one galaxy and the opposite way in the other. . . . Intelligent beings in each galaxy would regard their own time as "forward" and time in the other galaxy as "backward."
-Martin Gardner, in Scientific American

Somewhere now she takes off the dress I am
putting on. It is evening in the antiworld
where she lives. She is forty-five years away
from her death, the hole which spit her out
into pain, impossible at first, later easing,
going, gone. She has unlearned much by now.
Her skin is firming, her memory sharpens,
her hair has grown glossy. She sees without glasses,
she falls in love easily. Her husband has lost his
shuffle, they laugh together. Their money shrinks,
but their ardor increases. Soon her second child
will be young enough to fight its way into her
body and change its life to monkey to frog to
tadpole to cluster of cells to tiny island to
nothing. She is making a list:

Things I will need in the past
transistor radio
Alice Cooper
acne cream
five-year diary with a lock
She is eager, having heard about adolescent love
and the freedom of children. She wants to read
Crime and Punishment and ride on a roller coaster
without getting sick. I think of her as she will
be at fifteen, awkward, too serious. In the
mirror I see she uses her left hand to write,
her other to open a jar. By now our lives should
have crossed. Somewhere sometime we must have
passed one another like going and coming trains,
with both of us looking the other way.


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