Christian Hawkey's "@ 0.068 quans..."
& we landed on ulf, sleeplessly
weak, our slurper blocked with inlet contamination
but otherwise vulnerable only in the way
our breath held its stem. shadows
on the flour-soft planet-floor & i understood them.
doubled by double suns we waved & more alive
each time always to each other. ulf was
with us. it's why we came. it's his planet.
despite our training he didn't upon landing
utter a word because he doesn't believe words
he speaks, only those he carves in the air
with gestures, with his hands, even tho
here, on ulf, space for once approximates
his ears—a total vacuum—& it is loud
& alive & peaceful as the moment
a dream sees itself in a mirror
& does not for a second longer
than this normal world requires wake.
a flower rattled in ulf's purge valve.
love that line! i'll write it again.
a flower rattled in ulf's purge valve.
thought & filament, broken. the scye bearings
below his neck ring squeaked. he walked
ahead of us in the blue short-spectrum light
like an ever-diminishing, futureless god
& we heard everything, his breathing, itself
full of speech & hiccups & green articulated
floral axis & this made us check our
cooling umbilicals with yet more delight.
no word for the world provides stowage.
"stowage," i whispered, into our duplex receivers.
i thought he heard me. i did hear you. ulf
itself turns within the newly torn hole
on the underside of an ever-expanding,
blade-shaped universe. to the left
of my right ear, beyond my helmet bubble
a tiny whirlpool of dust formed, or tried to form,
it flickered, as if breathing, as if connected
to a voice, someone trying to speak, speak a name,
any name, bird's foot, rocket larkspur, oxeye,
or remember the names those who once lived
had used, galaxy or flower or axis, axle, akin to
axon, or axilla, which means armpit, i looked
again but it was gone, ulf was gone, but i kept moving
my arms, hand in front of body, position of
holding a rifle, armed forces, fingers
in the s shape, tracing a rectangle,
space, thumb & middle forefinger pinching
the side of wrist, earth, & even word,
fingertips of forefinger & thumb, even finger,
even tips, i looked down at the tracks
i'd left behind in the silt-grey, the ash-soft,
the particles, the silicon dioxide glass-shards,
the gun-powder snow that never fell, that will never be snow
but held, perfectly, like snow, the fingers
wriggle as the hands fall through the air, each
boot print, & i followed them, step for step,
gesture for gesture, breathing
a sort of infant pre-breath, farther from our command module.
About the poem
In the summer of the year 2008, the Author, then in ill health, had retired to Berlin, where, in consequence of a slight indisposition, an anodyne had been prescribed, from the effects of which he fell asleep in his chair at the moment he was reading the following sentence, or words of the same substance, in Grammar, Gesture, and Meaning in American Sign Language: "Fauconnier and Turner argue that conceptualizing a situation in which the single monk becomes two monks, and then meets himself as the two of him walk in opposite directions involves a blending of mental spaces." Previously, on an obscure NASA website, the Author had been researching various lexicons relating to Extravehicular Mobility Units, known to gravity-bound mortals as spacesuits, and with these two textual surfaces newly embedded in his consciousness the Author continued for about three hours in a profound sleep, at least of the external senses, during which time he has the most vivid confidence, that he could not have composed less than from two to three hundred lines; if that indeed can be called composition in which all the images rose up before him as things, with a parallel production of the correspondent expressions, without any sensation or consciousness of effort. On awakening he appeared to himself to have a distinct recollection of the whole, and gently removing the rainbow-colored IKEA dishtowel used cover of his IBM Selectric II, instantly and eagerly typed up the lines that are here preserved. At this moment he was unfortunately called out by a person on business, and detained by him above an hour, and on his return to his room found, to his no small surprise and mortification, that though he still retained some vague and dim recollection of the general purport of the vision, yet, with the exception of some eight or ten scattered lines and images, all the rest had passed away like the images on the surface of a stream into which a stone has been cast, but, alas! without the after restoration of the latter!...
Christian Hawkey is the author of The Book of Funnels, Citizen Of, and Ventrakl. Recent awards include a 2006 Creative Capital Innovative Literature Award and a 2008 DAAD Artist-in-Berlin Fellowship. He is an Associate Professor at Pratt Institute, where he teaches in both the Humanities and Media Studies department and the Writing Program.
* * *
Poem copyright © Christian Hawkey. All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the author.