Poem of the Week | August 22, 2022
“Photodissociation” by Danielle Weeks
This week’s Poem of the Week is “Photodissociation” by Danielle Weeks.
Danielle Weeks earned her MFA in poetry through Eastern Washington University’s creative writing program. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Crab Creek Review, The Gettysburg Review, Redivider, and Salt Hill, among others. She lives in Seattle and writes poetry book reviews for Trending Northwest. Read more about her and her work at daniellekayeweeks.com.
Venus lost her oceans, too, after a while.
It happens. You forget to spare a minute
to count the waves. You forget how sharp
light feels. What-could-have-been hangs
heavy in the air, a gathering amaranthine
pressure. When I think about the planet
dying, I think about the summer I spent
grayed through, flickering out of sight
like the spokes of my bicycle wheels, even
as I circled miles of steady ground. Nothing
brought me back until I wanted to come back,
until who-I-used-to-be slid off my shoulders.
Some days I’m still circling. I have trouble finding
the pattern in hope, in the ledger of the returned.
Even now, when the missing girl on the news
has come back from hopelessness, from the dead
of winter, and the robins are still here singing
in ice-sleeved trees, without asking a thing
from me. In my apartment, I turn off the lights,
use mirrors to bring in more sun, make the walls
grow. In their green bin, the vegetable skins
rot purposefully. I have a square window
to chart the stars, when they show. Venus
reveals herself to me, naked, the brightest
burning body. With only acid rain and no soil
to speak of, she learned another way to cultivate
the space she moved through. If I stood still
far beyond myself, sped up time for eight years,
I could watch her trace rose petals into being
with her orbit, the rhythm of her years looping
around me in mathematical precision, patient:
an unseen bloom in the nothing, an unending.
Photodissociation is a chemical reaction of photons breaking down chemical bonds. There was speculation that the planet Venus may have been home to oceans once, before the water evaporated and then photodissociated. And the word “dissociation” is right there—it was an inevitable connection to me, this idea of a planet losing part of itself and the human experience of dissociating from oneself over time. Over the course of 8 years, Venus’s orbital path (as seen from Earth) traces a geometric pattern that looks like a rose. I liked the idea of contrasting this beautiful, patient phenomenon with the hostile environment of Venus: intense atmospheric pressure, blistering temperatures, clouds of sulfuric acid. This is my version of a hopeful poem—the promise of yet unseen beauty after devastation.
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