Gravity

By John Frederick Nims 1913–1999
Mildest of all the powers of earth: no lightnings
For her—maniacal in the clouds. No need for
Signs with their skull and crossbones, chain-link gates:
Danger! Keep Out! High Gravity! she’s friendlier.
Won’t nurse—unlike the magnetic powers—repugnance;
Would reconcile, draw close: her passion’s love.

No terrors lurking in her depths, like those
Bound in that buzzing strongbox of the atom,
Terrors that, lossened, turn the hills vesuvian,
Trace in cremation where the cities were.

No, she’s our quiet mother, sensible.
But therefore down-to-earth, not suffering
Fools who play fast and loose among the mountains,
Who fly in her face, or, drunken, clown on cornices.

She taught our ways of walking. Her affection
Adjusted the morning grass, the sands of summer
Until our soles fit snug in each, walk easy.
Holding her hand, we’re safe. Should that hand fail,
The atmosphere we breathe would turn hysterical,
Hiss with tornadoes, spinning us from earth
Into the cold unbreathable desolations.

Yet there—in fields of space—is where she shines,
Ring-mistress of the circus of the stars,
Their prancing carousels, their ferris wheels
Lit brilliant in celebration. Thanks to her
All’s gala in the galaxy.

                                   Down here she
Walks us just right, not like the jokey moon
Burlesquing our human stride to kangaroo hops;
Not like vast planets, whose unbearable mass
Would crush us in a bear hug to their surface
And into the surface, flattened. No: deals fairly.
Makes happy each with each: the willow bend
Just so, the acrobat land true, the keystone
Nestle in place for bridge and for cathedral.
Let us pick up—or mostly—what we need:
Rake, bucket, stone to build with, logs for warmth,
The fallen fruit, the fallen child . . . ourselves.

Instructs us too in honesty: our jointed
Limbs move awry and crisscross, gawky, thwart;
She’s all directness and makes that a grace,
All downright passion for the core of things,
For rectitude, the very ground of being:
Those eyes are leveled where the heart is set.

See, on the tennis court this August day:
How, beyond human error, she’s the one
Whose will the bright balls cherish and obey
—As if in love. She’s tireless in her courtesies
To even the klutz (knees, elbows all a-tangle),
Allowing his poky serve Euclidean whimsies,
The looniest lob its joy: serene parabolas.

John Frederick Nims, “Gravity” from The Six-Cornered Snowflake and Other Poems. Copyright © 1990 by John Frederick Nims. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: The Six-Cornered Snowflake and Other Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1990)

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Poet John Frederick Nims 1913–1999

Subjects Nature, Weather, Arts & Sciences, Sciences

 John Frederick Nims

Biography

An important translator and previous editor of Poetry magazine, John Frederick Nims (1913—1999) was equally skilled as a poet. Although Nims was born in Michigan, he spent most of his life on the other side of the lake, in Chicago. Generally a classicist in technique, Nims is also well known for his witty epigrams.

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SUBJECT Nature, Weather, Arts & Sciences, Sciences

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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