Marble-Sized Song

By Albert Goldbarth b. 1948 Albert Goldbarth
Does she love you? She says yes, but really
how do you know unless you undress that easy assertion,
undoing its petals and laminae, and going in
below all trace of consciousness, into the neuroelectrical
coffer where self-understanding is storaged away,
and then lifting its uttermost molecule out, to study
in its nakedness as it spins
in a clinical light?—the way
we all, in our various individual versions
of this common human urge, go in,
and in, and in, the physicist down
to the string-vibration underlying matter, and   
the Appalachia fiddler getting so
(as she puts it) “into my music,” sound becomes
a flesh for her to intimately (“in”-timately)
enter, “its thick and its sweetbreads.”
Is he cheating on you? He says no, and feigns
that he’s insulted, but for certainty
you’ll need to delicately strip the bark away
and drill, and tweeze, until you can smear a microscope slide
of the pith and can augur the chitterlings
—the way the philosopher can’t accept a surface
assumption of truth, but needs to peel back   
the fatty sheen of the dermis, soak the cambium layer
into a blow-away foam, and then with pick
and lightbeam helmet, inch by inch begin
spelunking through those splayed-out caverns
under the crust, where gems of cogitation are buried
—the way the diver descends for the pearl,
the miner: in, the archaeologist: in, the therapist: down
the snakier roots of us and in, and in, the way
the lone, leg-pretzeled yogi makes
a glowing bathysphere of worldliness and sends it in,
and further in, tinier and heavier and ever in,
the way the man in the opium den is floating forever,
toward a horizon positioned in the center of the center
of his head. . . . If we could stand beyond the border
of our species and consider us objectively, it might seem
that our purpose in existing is to be a living agency
that balances, or maybe even slows, the universe’s
irreversible expansion out, and out . . . and each
of us, a contribution to that task.
My friend John’s wife received the news: a “growth,”
a “mass,” on her pituitary, marble-sized, mysterious.
And the primary-care physician said: Yes,
we must go in and in. That couldnt be the final word!
And the second-opinion physician said: Yes,
my sweet-and-shivering-one,
my fingerprint-and-irisprint-uniqueness,
someone’s-dearest, you
who said the prayers at Juliette’s grave, who drove
all night from Switzerland with your daughter, you
on this irreplaceable day in your irreplaceable skin
in the scumbled light as it crosses the bay in Corpus Christi,
yes in the shadows, yes in the radiance,
yes we must go in and in.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2008).

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This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

July/August 2008
 Albert  Goldbarth

Biography

Acclaimed for its dense, expansive form and linguistic energy, Albert Goldbarth’s poetry covers everything from historical and scientific concerns to private and ordinary matters. His numerous, highly-regarded collections are often filled with long poems which range in style from playful and conversational to serious and philosophical. Goldbarth’s unique style is a mix of complex ideas and detailed descriptions woven together . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Health & Illness, Relationships, Men & Women

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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