“Radioactive decay is the set of various processes by which unstable atomic nuclei (nuclides) emit subatomic particles. Decay is said to occur in the parent nucleus and produce a daughter nucleus.”
Allegory made easy, our story foreshadowed by science:
another nuclear family, destined for disintegration.
But we want to be special, don’t we? We want
to believe in the mercurial majesty of our own
destruction. Even now, all these miles away,
I take refuge in cool subjunctive caves:
If only I believed more avidly in God…
If only I had kept the Fourth Commandment…
My mother had a plan. She asked me to stay at home
till I was thirty, live in her basement, borrow her car.
I could take the bus to school in the University District,
complete my Ph.D. without the desperate quest
for money, without accumulating a single pint of debt.
My father agreed. It only made sense. And then,
by his emphatic decree, I would be married, and a down
payment would be waiting for me on a three-
bedroom brick rambler in their water-view community—
close by, so they could always watch the children.
That birthright was wealth and security, secret sex and
cigarettes stubbed out beneath the wide camellia tree
that obscured my bedroom window all those years.
It was my mother screaming, for reasons unbeknownst
to science, my father pledging his fleeting remedy:
Whatever you want, Linda. Whatever you need.
So we come back again to the detritus, the cells
of appeasing and displeasing sloughing off my skin
until I could see the inorganic mannequin of their
worst intentions, waxing a woman I could not become.
My father said: “You’re killing your mother.”
My mother said: “Listen to your father.”
But I had a sundial and a strong intuition and
that sinking-ship feeling that shook me clean
to my soles. We were headed for a capsize,
my family and I, evoking hard words like asunder
and adrift. “Are you trying to be an outcast?”
my mother asked, which only begged the question:
cast out of what? A house of order—built on
stilts, perched in sand? Secret society of
private misgivings and public thanksgivings?
There’s what we say, and what we do,
then there’s what we breathe: whole climate
committed to asphyxiation, slow
incineration of a last honest wish,
final non-bureaucrat’s desire.
I can hold my breath a long time under water,
my swimmer’s lungs primed for intervals
of deep submersion. But I can’t open my eyes.
It’s a problem of underworld survival,
learning the way of touch, calculated kinesthesia
through a wilderness of stray sounds, refracted
lights. Here beneath the surface of things,
where the floating debris cannot reach me,
I still feel tremors of earth, booming voices,
and the searchlight probing these depths.
East of the City
What I have tried so often
not to say
leavens the earth, uneasy
the blue fissure-flowers
bent on light
petals unscroll blank &
Remember the note you pushed under the door?
a ripped corner
Tell me again about the dark eyes
of the one who sees you most clearly
And the windows painted shut
named as they are after wind
Wind what? Wind whispers, occasionally
thumbprint in dust;
but under your pillow I place them:
these ducats— these feathers from a