Quantum

By Kim Addonizio b. 1954 Kim Addonizio
You know how hard it is sometimes just to walk on the streets downtown, how everything enters you
the way the scientists describe it—photons streaming through bodies, caroming off the air, the impenetrable brick
of buildings an illusion—sometimes you can feel how porous you are, how permeable, and the man lurching in circles
on the sidewalk, cutting the space around him with a tin can and saying Uhh! Uhhhh! Uhh! over and over
is part of it, and the one in gold chains leaning against the glass of the luggage store is, and the one who steps toward you
from his doorway, meaning to ask something apparently simple, like What’s the time, something you know
you can no longer answer; he’s part of it, the body of the world which is also yours and which keeps insisting
you recognize it. And the trouble is, you do, but it’s happening here, among the crowds and exhaust smells,
and you taste every greasy scrap of paper, the globbed spit you step over, your tongue is as thick with dirt
as though you’ve fallen on your hands and knees to lick the oil-scummed street, as sour as if you've been drinking
the piss of those men passing their bottle in the little park with its cement benches and broken fountain. And it’s no better
when you descend the steps to the Metro and some girl’s wailing off-key about her heart—your heart—
over the awful buzzing of the strings, and you hurry through the turnstile, fumbling out the money that’s passed
from how many hands into yours, getting rid of all your change except one quarter you’re sure she sees
lying blind in your pocket as you get into a car and the doors seal themselves behind you. But still it isn’t over.
Because later, when you’re home, looking out your window at the ocean, at the calm of the horizon line,
and the apple in your hand glows in that golden light that happens in the afternoon, suffusing you with something
you’re sure is close to peace, you think of the boy bagging groceries at Safeway, of how his face was flattened
in a way that was familiar—bootheel of a botched chromosome—and you remember his canceled blue eyes,
and his hands, flaking, rash-reddened, that lifted each thing and caressed it before placing it carefully
in your sack, and the monotonous song he muttered, paper or plastic, paper or plastic, his mouth slack,
a teardrop of drool at the corner; and you know he’s a part of it too, raising the fruit to your lips you look out
at the immense and meaningless blue and know you’re inside it, you realize you’re eating him now.

Kim Addonizio, “Quantum” from Tell Me. Copyright © 2000 by Kim Addonizio. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd, www.boaeditions.org.

Source: Tell Me (BOA Editions Ltd., 2000)

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Poet Kim Addonizio b. 1954

Subjects Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Kim  Addonizio

Biography

Kim Addonizio was born in Washington DC, the daughter of a former tennis champion and a sports writer. She attended college in San Francisco, earning both her BA and MA from San Francisco State University, and has spent much of her adult life in the Bay Area. She currently lives and teaches workshops in Oakland, California. Addonizio has received numerous awards for her work, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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