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Prairie Schooner 79.4 (2005) 159-160

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I Once Had a Master, and: The Physics of Absence, the Nature of Nothing

I Once Had a Master

Your fingers splayed like tendrils of fog
plucked stars, a street lamp, the stop sign
from my vision as you positioned my head on the pillow.

At sixteen, a debutante boy, in a corset pulled so taut
my liver, spleen, pancreas pushed into my lungs,
my upturned lips.
I carved your name into my thigh to see what I could endure,
to see what I was made of, on the porch of your parents' house.
A praying mantis nestled in jasmine, its exoskeleton
created exactly for such movement,
swiveled its head to eye me.

Once, a vase in our living room begged to be broken.
Breaking something precious, fractures
in etched glass or crystal are revealed
against a brick fireplace, a tiled floor, the brass knob of the door;
finding such faults can be relished for days.

There is a peace that comes with the loss
of control, a face full of dirt, gravel in my knees,
my shoulder, my cheek, the left one.
A novel was written on my skin,
my hands behind my back.

Last month, at a toy store, a girl missing,
her mother frantically called her name.
She pushed through aisles decorated with cheap plastic
poseable dolls, remote control cars, action figures
that transform into robots at will. Each display crumbled [End Page 159]

under the weight of small hands free for summer.
She found her, tiny braids and earrings in place, oblivious
in a heap of orange and white Fisher Price plastics on aisle three.

Tonight, in my own house, the fog creeps up
my west facing street. From my window
stars, a street lamp, the stop sign struggle against it
and subside. It finds my window, the plum tree,
caresses every exposed inch until the branches shake;
touches each leaf with such tenderness, they weep.

The Physics of Absence, the Nature of Nothing

I believe it is all light at the end,
these strained seconds defined by the slap-click
of clocks mean nothing. An effort to bend
time, to exert control, force this habit

of filling the space occupied by light.
The vacuum is not empty, nothingness
seethes with production, mind-flash of insight
destined to collapse. I pant to undress

you, mirage in the dark, strain toward molecules
unclaimed, underground. I know you are here,
the crease in the mattress, a vestibule
where in absence, from nothing, you appear.

The second hand stops in this crease of night;
matter collapses, you flash into light.

P.J. Stanskas recently completed his Ph.D. in Nuclear Chemistry. His poems have been published in the Cimarron Review, Spillway, the Birmingham Review, and Epicenter.



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pp. 159-160
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