Issue 14: Sarah Howe
Sky is always the hardest part
I need to skype to tell you the Mayans
independently imagined the wheel
but dawn is still three hours away
in Petersburg: in your hotel room’s dark
a clock throbs its terminator eyebeam
red. Ever wonder how you died in your
last life? No, you wouldn’t would you. Besides
a bunch of early civilizations
share the selfsame gong. Maybe they burned you
at the Salem stake. The ancient Maya,
seeing no practical application
for the funny rollable disks, confined
them to children’s toys. What I mean to say
is, those who hurt you, I will eat their eyes.
The sun stutters up like a porny .gif
which for you pans the tracking shot of noon.
A fathomed ringtone gargles. Our breathy
pixels mingle, split, miss each other down
the wire. Does material physics call
for a personable God? You have spent
the morning caught in a shoal of tourists
muscling against the Hermitage’s stream,
instincts thick as curdled spawn. We invent
Him in our webcams’ image: electrons
made flesh, that panting beat, window onto
haloed elsewhere. We play at a game called
‘guessing thoughts’. My staticky words ping back
like ozoned heat, solipsistic plainsong.
The pesky moon, always bouncing away
on urgent business, its huffed thumbprint hangs
in the afternoon’s viewfinder. Same old
misery squeaks by on miniature wheels –
pinned through a clay llama’s ankles. This is
not a trope. Your on-train wi-fi means I
can hear how the tooth is hurting again.
The Mayans thought time was a wheel. This side,
only the busker’s plastic violin.
Is that a tunnel’s roar? Your jigsawed thoughts
I rotate, sort into piles of graded
cyan, the pieces with a telltale tranche
of moon. I have no idea what goes in
here. Continents swim and shrink around you.
Sarah Howe is the author of one collection, Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus, 2015) and a pamphlet, A Certain Chinese Encyclopedia (Tall-lighthouse, 2009). In 2015-16, she will be a Fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. Her website is sarahhowepoetry.com.