Sunday Jul 14

scanlon photo Elizabeth Scanlon is an editor of The American Poetry Review.  Her poems have appeared in many magazines, including Boston Review, Colorado Review, and Ploughshares, and in the anthologies Starting Today: Poems for Obama’s First 100 Days and Poets Against the War.
After a Scientific Theory of Love

Love is a big one to start in on
and nobody knows jack but the lack of it
changes a young brain. Shifts shape.
Programming, they say.
Which songs play on the radio?
You know the one, the one you heard first
in dyads & dybbuks & dandles,
it’s beautiful to us,
it shapes the parameters of what’s possible.
But what about souls & so on?
The baby in the love experiment
believed the intended illusion
and crawled off the edge of the cliff
just to get to mama. Optical illusion, of course, but 
despite many reasons to choose another course,
your face in my mind is compelling, it is.
Who gives a sweet damn about the abyss.


We were the only animals that feared death
and the only ones who could deny it.
We sunned our hides on backyard deck chairs,
The cat lolled too, chewed his leg, someone’s dog ate grass
quietly in the corner, and I felt the freckles forming
as I reclined and you poured Lillet over lemon juice and gin;
you were dying then but wouldn’t stop smoking
because it was survival of the fittest,
you said, read your Darwin. If a disease survives
this environment, well, it wins. It didn’t make any sense
and cells have no choice, they differ from us that way,
which is where it gets complex. Because they are us,
pass the ashtray, acids and proteins all lined up in rows,
agreeing or dissenting,
masses of plasmids that in another order add up differently,
not a tumor but an iguana, or an ape, and a mother
ape will carry a baby around with her for weeks
after it’s died, only giving it up when decay
makes clear it’s not what it once was, not hers,
not here, though she had thought the baby
was just in a deep sleep and would wake in a few days.
That ape makes more sense – she’s invested
so much in making this one life, she’s slow to let go. Hold on
till you’re done. You had this cavalier way
of shaking the ice cubes around in your glass to signify
that you were tired of this story and were thinking
of how to change the subject; you’d let a person know
you’re not one to waste time on things
you didn’t give a rat’s ass about. I was
starting to feel a little burned, but would have liked to sit there a while longer.