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Combustion

Sara Eliza Johnson on

Published in Poem Of The Day

If a human body has two-hundred-and-six bones
and thirty trillion cells, and each cell
has one hundred trillion atoms, if the spine
has thirty-three vertebrae-
if each atom
has a shadow-then the lilacs across the yard
are nebulae beginning to star.
If the fruit flies that settle on the orange
on the table rise
like the photons
from a bomb fire miles away,
my thoughts at the moment of explosion
are nails suspended
in a jar of honey.
I peel the orange
for you, spread the honey on your toast.
When our skin touches
our atoms touch, their shadows
merging into a shadow galaxy.
And if echoes are shadows
of sounds, if each hexagonal cell in the body
is a dark pool of jelly,
if within each cell
drones another cell-
The moment the bomb explodes
the man's spine bends like its shadow
across the road.
The moment he loses his hearing
I think you are calling me
from across the house
because my ears start to ring.
From the kitchen window
I see the lilacs crackling like static
as if erasing, teleporting,
thousands of bees rising from the blossoms:
tiny flames in the sun.
I lick the knife
and the honey pierces my tongue:
a nail made of light.
My body is wrapped in honey. When I step outside
I become fire.


About this poem
"While writing 'Combustion,' I was thinking about certain theories in physics I'd recently encountered in popular science magazines-about the configuration and transformation of bodies in space-time, and matter's interconnectivity and fluidity. In particular about quantum entanglement, which is what [Albert] Einstein called 'spooky action at a distance': the power of particles to instantaneously know the states of other particles at vast distances, even across billions of light years. At the same time, I was thinking about the obliteration of bodies, and the safe distance from wartime violence that is afforded most Americans as our drone operations continue overseas. The poem eventually became a convergence of these forces."
-Sara Eliza Johnson

About Sara Eliza Johnson
Sara Eliza Johnson is the author of "Bone Map" (Milkweed Editions, 2014). She lives in Salt Lake City.

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The Academy of American Poets is a nonprofit, mission-driven organization, whose aim is to make poetry available to a wider audience. Email The Academy at poem-a-day[at]poets.org.


(c) 2014 Sara Eliza Johnson. Originally published by the Academy of American Poets, www.poets.org. Distributed by King Features Syndicate




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