Two Poems by Jess Williard

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How It Is

To fully understand gravity we must hear it, I’m told, and somehow we have.
      A pair of black holes crash and register on antennae in Washington state.
             The force is carried out across billions of light years in quiet, concentric

ripples. This almost a century after Einstein ushered the theory into the world.
     A century of searching for the place it was released into the sky. But the news
            comes to us on the ground. The woman I love tests for the presence of parasites

in her bloodhound, a dog so large I hardly have to press my own weight
     into the agreement of his and the planet’s pull in order to still him for the task.
            I watch in silence as the tube flashes dark with his wrist blood. Einstein

must have wanted something other than this—tireless science telling us
     we could care about more, pronouncements of space fabric now audible
             through the continuum: first collision, then waves, colossal masses

breathing—the universe as relative to its negative counterparts. We have been deaf
     for all these years. And to say now that my duty is to add my force to the force
            of this slumped creature, to apply my drag to somehow multiply his

so the worms nesting in his ventricles can be ascertained? That if all of us
     could have sat a little more intently and listened, enough to catch the grace
            in Einstein’s notes, gilded tones would have brimmed into empires, people

dancing in the streets? Or if I had just pressed my ear a little closer I could have
     heard the worms streaming through his veins, I could have known? She is
             learning to be a veterinarian. I am learning to listen. We practice on each other

away from other sounds. Soon the blood will be shuttled off for examination.
     I imagine the creatures make waves in the plasma, their presence a chatter
            rippling through the matrix of it. But I have no idea how it is.




It happens on a weekday: a pocked shoulder of space stone loosens
     from its astral field and beelines for the stratosphere. There’s a bloom
           in the wake, a wink from where it enters our planet’s gases

before falling quietly through the sky. Pieces shower the sea. We can watch
     their momentary light and then, struck dumb with love and wonder
           on the ground, look away. We can forget them. But it’s not easy,

how they burn quickly as they fall. I know this now. Because at a time
     when it could have been more useful to stay still, I boarded a Greyhound
           that bounded tirelessly into the night with a stomachful of strangers.

Fields vaulted towards me then dropped away and the small fires of houses
     spread out in all directions. And maybe I considered that on Mars
           there are two rovers: Spirit and Opportunity. Because I knew this then.

That after some success in mapping canyons and collecting dirt, Spirit
     gets stuck in the amber silt. Just sits there. I knew this. And Opportunity
           is tasked to dig its companion back into service, works at the stalled craft

for years. Eventually Spirit is abandoned, left to service as an outpost.
     On the bus, some fellow travelers have slumped into their own dreams.
           They are seeing things I cannot see. I know this now. Each of us will be

released from our transit to walk heavy into the night, eyes turned
     to the sky. But there will be no flares when we get anywhere. We’ve never
           gone fast enough. Opportunity has nothing left to do and so stumbles

around the canyon land. And so eases eventually into the dirt. Spirit
     sinks into the locus of abandon. But the clearest signals sustain past
           these issues of crafts—the meteors descend and descend. Towns empty

into the street to watch the fires of their falling. People find reasons
     to bump into one another.




Jess WillardJess Williard’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, North American Review, Sycamore Review, Southern Humanities Review, Third Coast, Oxford Poetry, and other journals. He is from Wisconsin.

Header photo of night sky by skeeze, courtesy Pixabay.

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