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 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.