Jeffrey Thomson is the author of four books of poems, including Birdwatching in Wartime (Carnegie Mellon, 2009) and Renovation (Carnegie Mellon, 2005).
Also forthcoming is a an anthology of emerging poets: From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great co-edited with Camille Dungy and Matt O’Donnell (Persea Books, 2009). He has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pennsylvania Arts Commission, and, most recently, was named the 2008 Individual Arts Fellow in the Literary Arts by the Maine Arts Commission. He is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of Maine Farmington. His website is www.jeffreythomson.com.
Letter To Dick
The sun’s finally out here and the birds
are churning the air; the plaster on my wall
flaked off over the winter in the shape of Iran
and the bombers are already lined up
and thrumming their engines on my
driveway (the pilots with their tiny visors
like ants) and I am scared you know all
this already, I am scared I have nothing
to tell you about birds shot through
the air like bullets. The children shriek
on the monkey bars, but I know you know
that. I want to ask you about the way
oil fires look like trees, a strange genus
of orange and ginger, a grove of date palms
bothered with white-cheeked Bulbuls
outside of Fallujah. You might think
I am talking about the careful steps
the soldiers take as they move through
the spangled light off the river, but no,
I’m talking about closing the window
and getting back to work. It’s the tiny
things that matter. The fires have died
down and shine like spies in the night.
Soon the birds will take off and become
planes and vanish into the orange sky.
We will not be able to call them back.
In the Book of Enoch, the satan, Asb’el, married a human woman
and taught her the secrets of the natural universe.
Doppler Effect: In a blue dress she walks through the burnt orchard, dust rising in small scallops against her feet.
The call of an owl fills her mouth. Its sound
clutters against my chest as I approach. Her dress shifts to red as she moves away.
Uncertainty Principle: Distrust I can taste (Sancerre from a plastic cup, silk flowers in cut glass,
yellowjackets honeying nectar from an apple core, the position of
her tongue and its motion) as I kiss her.
Mass-Energy Equivalence: The purple mouths of irises, pollen, the wings of dead
petals spread across the pages of a poem on the table. Lines written
in heaven and delivered here on earth.
The First Law of Thermodynamics: The heat from her hand on my chest equals the
heat from my chest to her hand. The fervor of me entering her equals the radiance of her enveloping me.
Wave-Particle Duality: The owl call becomes an owl spinning its head in the burnt
orchard frosted with the green of the new grass, a yellowjacket sputters beneath the plastic glass, now empty, her wine-wet lips. The poem becomes
real as it is read aloud.
The Strong Anthropic Principle: We are with each other because if we weren’t we
wouldn’t be able to consider being alone.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics: I burnt the orchard with the flame I am made
of. I sent the owl spinning off into the dark knees of the distant trees. The flowers arrived out of the black soil and just as quickly returned. I finished the wine myself.
Occam’s Razor: The possibility of her arriving in the orchard just as the flames died.
The possibility of an owl hunting in daylight. The possibility of the wine.
The possibility that I imagined her from the start.