Patrick Williams is a poet and academic librarian living in Central New York.
His recent work appears or is forthcoming in publications including Prelude,
3:AM Magazine, The Mackinac, and Heavy Feather Review. He is the editor of
Really System, a journal of poetry and extensible poetics.
You've heard taxi radios crackle the busted polyrhythms
of at least a dozen hidden cities the further you get from downtown.
We now know that everyone was a Quincy punk, including me,
including M. Curie of Plutonia. Her cookbooks still glow
at night, when the archives are all locked up. Right this moment
only your arm is still in the room, and even it's just here
to turn out the light. Remember, it took an astronomer to teach you
not to stare into the sun. Why am I so jealous of your childhood
dream, the one that ended with that hatchet sailing toward
your face? While you were sleeping, I was out in the shed,
sawing stolen shotgun shells. Back then, my favorite advice
was to just get high and maybe watch Tokyo Olympiad again.
Our teledata weakens at the treeline, I'm told, caught in the fading
goldenrod grids of every April cafeteria lunch. The type is set
in double undermine. The food is subpar, even the descriptions
are no fun at all. Let's remember. Let's confess. Let's unpack
every memory of leaving, of the bravest kind of quitting:
so early or so late. Let's forget real light and glow. Of course
I know what machismo is. I learned it from that song.
Our seatback screens synchronize
themselves and pause
on the channel airing a special
on airline disasters:
docucollaged collisions, near misses,
unplanned landings, incidents of debris
re-enacted and soundtracked
by uncalm transmissions from the unnamed
air traffic controllers.
An explosion cascades
through our cabin, among the headrests
and headsetted heads: the pixelated blast
of a zoomed photograph outmooding
any bulbs still lit overhead.
The screens melt together,
dimming in the aisle, oozing
through the spaces between seats
bouncing an aftward blur off the windows,
over tray-table glows, the aura of every
open book. Outside, our fuselage is a stripe
of flickering frames beneath a dull moon.
Our silent shadow falls still on a sheet
of smooth cloud like the amber spots
streetlamps drop onto empty parking lots.
Our story is told in the names
of every cities' decaying
theaters. On this street
alone, no one can remember
which one was where they wed.
At Aitch's, a hobbyist thaumaturge
took his eldest daughter's life
for show, for a moment, until
she had to be back behind the bar.
One night in Reykjavik we met
a gentle man on holiday
from his ghastly job: a forensic
mortician for the UN. He spent
his days freezing, knee-deep
in muck, decrypting the mute
black magic of shallow graves.
Leave Me Your Slide Rule
Static charges are given an effective path
to the ground thanks to the strip of plastic
warming in your loafer. Something to prevent
the snap death of supercomputers who hum
and crunch as we walk among them, you
explained. I knew it then: to live with such
vulnerability demanded a systemic finesse
I'd never muster. I mean, imagine catching
hell for all that data's fluky ruin. Your every
working moment militarized, each day built
of spillable secrets future you'd wish he never
had to know. Think, Smash! is your thought balloon
in that college-era caricature, pencil behind ear.
You are the ne plus ultra of operations research.
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