Poem of the Week | January 26, 2010

This week, we are happy to feature a poem from the most recent issue of TMR, “The Questionable Past” (32.4):  Mark Kraushaar’s “Recent Cosmological Observations.”  Kraushaar has new work appearing or forthcoming from Michigan Quarterly, Ploughshares, the Gettysburg Review and New Ohio Review and has been included in Best American Poetry.He has been a recipient of Poetry Northwest’s Richard Hugo award, and his full-length collection, Falling Brick Kills Local Man, (University of Wisconsin Press), won the 2009 Felix Pollak Prize.

The idea for ‘Recent Cosmological Observations’ came years ago, after seeing a young woman working at a deli.  Her insufficient-looking, tiny, white teeth appeared just strewn around her mouth, and, like a lot of things in the world, this seemed inexplicable and sad, suggestive of a god absolutely asleep at the wheel.  The poem was on a back burner until I read the Scientific American phrase concerning parallel universes.

Recent Cosmological Observations

  One of the many implications of recent cosmological observations
is that the concept of parallel universes is no mere metaphor.
Space appears to be infinite in size.
-Scientific American

So, there’s a sun like ours and a moon like our
and a duplicate Earth with a town like this
and a street like this on a day like this
and there’s a man exactly like me–
same wire glasses, same scratched thumb
and dumb job, different shirt–
a man just like me who walk
past a Frank’s Corner Deli, u-turns,
walks in and orders a corned beef
on rye, double the mustard, no mayonnaise.
Outside, an equivalent Checker Cab
pulls up and a similar lady in a backward
cap gets out at a similar curb:
squashed Mars Bar, discarded sock, strutting pigeon
and all this under a wide, white sky with a glittering jet
and a crow below.
Of course, likewise, there’s a smudged
glass counter and, in her crisp paper cap,
there’s a girl whose tiny, terrible teeth also seem
tossed into her mouth like so many dice,
and just as I’m wishing this world’s version
better, straighter teeth and love and long life too,
as I’m thinking how God on the Earth we know
seems absent or careless or cruel,
as an almost equivalent, nearly
identical God some place lolls dozing
in His giant cloud lounger, here, today,
three flies resettle on a split plastic spoon,
and as this Earth’s girl scoops the last of the tuna
from a stainless tray she looks up and winks once
like we’re perfectly grand.