MOMENTS AFTER MY WIFE INFORMS ME FROM THE PASSENGER SEAT THAT LIGHTNING IS MERELY A BUNDLE OF NEGATIVELY CHARGED IONS BUT WHAT WE FAMOUSLY KNOW AS LIGHTNING IS ACTUALLY JUST THE POSITIVE FLASH OF AFTERLIGHT CRAWLING ITS WAY WOUNDED BACK UP THE SKY,
I question her about the soundness of science as she flicks the tab of a soda can at me. Then I tell her there’s no shame in feeling things very deeply but it is occasionally a very tiring pastime. That I could carve my longing for imaginary people into the shape of a chandelier, or press such frangible sorrows into the arms of all my hypothetical poems like so many gathered petals, I would. Damn the clichés—so long as the cynical wolves are circling we must risk the softness of lamplight, right? Then I tell her about how often I worry myself mad for my former & future students, their well-being & mental health & happiness. Spend countless hours whittling away at little poems about existential fatigue that can’t find a good enough reason to rhyme, or listening to Cake’s I Will Survive on repeat. Look! she points out, just a second too late for me to catch sight of the flash: all sizzle & ember & arc freshly forking sky. We are somehow always missing everything, lost inside our own lives or drowning inside our skin. Look, relax, take a moment to eat something— something small but nourishing. See the light falling all around us: the debt to which we owe the muteness of it all. & suddenly I am thinking of strangers somewhere on the other end of the page, as they ask me, a poem, about the plausibility of the future. As I, the poem, am telling them: you are it. Please don’t forget the existence of joy.
Matthew Burnside is the author of Postludes (KERNPUNKT), Rules to Win the Game (Spuyten Duyvil Press), and the digital novel series Dear Wolfmother (Heavy Feather Review). He currently teaches at Hollins University.