Category Archives: Ephemeron

David Ignatow

The Bagel
by David Ignatow

I stopped to pick up the bagel
rolling away in the wind,
annoyed with myself
for having dropped it
as if it were a portent.
Faster and faster it rolled,
with me running after it
bent low, gritting my teeth,
and I found myself doubled over
and rolling down the street
head over heels, one complete somersault
after another like a bagel
and strangely happy with myself.

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Seamus Heaney

The Death of a Naturalist
by Seamus Heaney

All year the flax-dam festered in the heart
Of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragonflies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring
I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied
Specks to range on window sills at home,
On shelves at school, and wait and watch until
The fattening dots burst, into nimble
Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how
The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
And how he croaked and how the mammy frog
Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was
Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too
For they were yellow in the sun and brown
In rain.

Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross bellied frogs were cocked
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

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NASA

After the New Year I sent this letter to NASA:

Hi NASA.

So, I just read this blog post:
http://kottke.org/15/02/current-paradoxes-in-cosmology

Which took me to this blog post:
https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/the-paradoxes-that-threaten-to-tear-modern-cosmology-apart-d334a7fcfdb6

They describe this paradox:

“What’s more, there is an energy associated with any given volume of the universe. If that volume increases, the inescapable conclusion is that this energy must increase as well. And yet physicists generally think that energy creation is forbidden.”

Here’s my Question: Why does increased VOLUME necessarily mean increased ENERGY when that VOLUME is a vacuum. Can’t the energy and matter just be spreading across the universe through a vacuum without altering total ENERGY?  Like marbles across a floor?

Thank you,
Chad

A few weeks later NASA replied thus:

The answer is that it is the energy density that is constant, so as the volume increases, there must be more energy. The constant energy density seems to be an observed feature of the Universe – that is, it is needed to explain the observed expansion in a simple way compatible with General Relativity. Here is a more detailed explanation:
http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2013/11/16/why-does-dark-energy-make-the-universe-accelerate/

You might also enjoy reading a related post:
http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2010/02/22/energy-is-not-conserved/

Here is a good site for anyone interested in astronomy:
http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html

Brian and Jeff
for Ask an Astrophysicist

Editorial. I’m still unsure what’s going on. I need to find me an astrophysicist in the flesh.

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Eleanor Lerman

Small Talk
by Eleanor Lerman

It is a mild day in the suburbs
Windy, a little gray. If there is
sunlight, it enters through the
kitchen window and spreads
itself, thin as a napkin, beside
the coffee cup, pie on a plate

What am I describing?
I am describing a dream
in which nobody has died

These are our mothers:
your mother and mine
It is an empty day; everyone
else is gone. Our mothers
are sitting in red chairs
that look like metal hearts
and they are smoking
Your mother is wearing
sandals and a skirt. My
mother is thinking about
dinner. The bread, the meat

Later, there will be
no reason to remember
this, so remember it
now: a safe day. Time
passes into dim history.

And we are their babies
sleeping in the folds of
the wind. Whatever our
chances, these are the
women. Such small talk
before life begins

http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org?date=2010/09/08

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Kay Ryan

That Will to Divest
by Kay Ryan

Action creates
a taste
for itself.
Meaning: once
you’ve swept
the shelves
of spoons
and plates
you kept
for guests,
it gets harder,
not to also
simplfy the larder,
not to dismiss
rooms, not to
divest yourself
of all the chairs
but one, not
to test what
singleness can bear,
once you’ve begun.

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Robert Frost

Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

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Walt Whitman

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer
by Walt Whitman

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

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Yiddish Proverb

Mentsch tracht, Gott lacht.
Man plans, God laughs.

Editorial: Think of all the ludicrous demands made by the fickle gods of ancient mythology: sacrifice this virgin, build a boat, fetch me that animal, if you do this you live and if you don’t you die. On and on. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how some events happen in ways that are surprising and even poetic, as if the gods are indeed crazy and indeed have a wicked sense of humor. The impatient man just misses the bus. The composer loses his hearing. The marathoner dies of heart disease. But how is it that the alternative to the gods giving you exactly what you cannot handle is equally vexing: when the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers. This means the gods have us suffering coming and going– when they do and do not grant our wishes. The fact that both scenarios are coincidences means little to people who tend to fault or credit the divine for everything that occurs in patterns. Either way I certainly enjoy the proverbs and clichés that spring up around their explanation, especially Mentsch tracht, Gott lacht!

More here… ( Dec. 6, 2010)

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Denis Diderot

Everything changes, everything passes. Only the totality remains.
Le Rêve de d’Alembert (D’Alembert’s Dream), 1769

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V. S. Naipaul

The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.
A Bend in the River (1979)

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Samuel Beckett

Just under the surface I shall be, all together at first, then separate and drift, through all the earth and perhaps in the end through a cliff into the sea, something of me. A ton of worms in an acre, that is a wonderful thought, a ton of worms, I believe it.
‘From an Abandoned Work’, Samuel Beckett: The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989 (ed. S. E. Gontarski), p. 160.

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Bob Hicok

As I Was Saying
by Bob Hicok

Long, thin clouds as if the sky were smoking.
I tell it to stop or share, it doesn’t stop or share,
this is what happens to my requests: they rise.
When I was a kid, a neighbor man
had a few and tied a cherry bomb to a pigeon,
it flew furiously until kaboom. Feathers
and bits of what made the pigeon go
landed on the Smitky twins playing hopscotch,
they looked up, I looked at them looking up,
two of everything the same, as if their parents
knew the odds of needing a spare. My wife
wants to fly in a hot-air balloon. I say to her,
I’ll wait here with the turtles. I try to save them
from getting squished when they cross the road.
They don’t know it’s a road or what a road
is for, getting away is what a road is for,
then coming back, then wondering why you came back
is what a road is for. My wife’s people
are Ukrainian, beets are important to them.
I tried to arm-wrestle her father once, he said,
Why would I do that: if I beat your arm,
the rest of you will want revenge.
I never looked at it that way. Forty-two years now
I’ve tried to look at it that way. The other day,
some kids knocked a ball through our window,
one of them asked for it back, I said, Sure,
if you give me the bat. He did, then asked
for the bat, I said, If you give me the ball,
he started to hand it over when I saw understanding
bloom in his face. That never happened for me:
understanding blooming in my face. Not the way
I wanted it to. So I’ll die and someone
will have to deal with what’s left, the body,
the shoes, the socks. The last person on Earth
will just be dead: not buried or mourned
or missed. As with kites, I cut the string
when they’re way up, because who’d want to come back.
So somewhere are all these kites, as somewhere
are all the picture frames from the camps,
and the bows from hair, and the hair itself
I saw once in a museum, some of it, in a room
all its own, as if one day the heads
would come back and think, That’s where I put you,
as I do with keys when I find them in my hand.

The New Yorker, December 8, 2008
http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/poetry/2008/12/08/081208po_poem_hicok

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Edward Hirsch

Self Portrait
by Edward Hirsch

I lived between my heart and my head,
like a married couple who can’t get along.

I lived between my left arm, which is swift
and sinister, and my right, which is righteous.

I lived between a laugh and a scowl,
and voted against myself, a two-party system.

My left leg dawdled or danced along,
my right cleaved to the straight and narrow.

My left shoulder was like a stripper on vacation,
my right stood upright as a Roman soldier.

Let’s just say that my left side was the organ
donor and leave my private parts alone,

but as for my eyes, which are two shades
of brown, well, Dionysus, meet Apollo.

Look at Eve raising her left eyebrow
while Adam puts his right foot down.

No one expected it to survive,
but divorce seemed out of the question.

I suppose my left hand and my right hand
will be clasped over my chest in the coffin

and I’ll be reconciled at last,
I’ll be whole again.

Special Orders: Poems (Knopf 2008)

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William Matthews

The Four Subjects of Poetry
by William Matthews

1. I went out into the woods today, and it made me feel, you know, sort of religious.
2. We’re not getting any younger.
3. It sure is cold and lonely (a) without you, honey, or (b) with you, honey.
4. Sadness seems but the other side of the coin of happiness, and vice versa, and in any case the coin is too soon spent, and on what we know not what.

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George Orwell

The vote was taken at once, and it was agreed by an overwhelming majority that rats were comrades. There were only four dissentients, the three dogs and the cat, who was afterwards discovered to have voted on both sides.
Animal Farm (1945), Chapter 1

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Noam Chomsky

When I’m driving, I sometimes turn on the radio and I find very often that what I’m listening to is a discussion of sports. These are telephone conversations. People call in and have long and intricate discussions, and it’s plain that quite a high degree of thought and analysis is going into that. People know a tremendous amount. They know all sorts of complicated details and enter into far-reaching discussion about whether the coach made the right decision yesterday and so on. These are ordinary people, not professionals, who are applying their intelligence and analytic skills in these areas and accumulating quite a lot of knowledge and, for all I know, understanding. On the other hand, when I hear people talk about, say, international affairs or domestic problems, it’s at a level of superficiality which is beyond belief. In part, this reaction may be due to my own areas of interest, but I think it’s quite accurate, basically. And I think that this concentration on topics such as sports makes a certain degree of sense. The way the system is set up, there is virtually nothing people can do anyway, without a degree of organization that’s far beyond anything that exists now, to influence the real world. They might as well live in a fantasy world, and that’s in fact what they do.
The Chomsky Reader (1987, p. 33)

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William Faulkner

A mule will labor ten years willingly and patiently for you, for the privilege of kicking you once.
Unsourced

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Salvatore Quasimodo

[Untitled]
by Salvatore Quasimodo (1901-1968)

Ognuno sta solo sul cuor della terra
trafitto da un raggio di sole:
ed è subito sera.

Everyone stands alone at the heart of the earth
transfixed by a ray of sun:
and suddenly it is evening.

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William Shakespeare

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
Macbeth, Act V, Scene v.
Day after day after day. The days go slowly, up to the end of time. All the days in the past did no good except to bring fools through their lives up to the times of their deaths. Get blown out, flame of life! Life is short. Life is only a walking shadow. Life is only a poor actor, who walks around on the stage for a short time, and after that no one hears him any more. Life is a story that an idiot tells, full of sound and fury, but not meaning anything.
http://simple.wikiquote.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare

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Theodore Roethke

The Meadow Mouse
by Theodore Roethke

1
In a shoe box stuffed in an old nylon stocking
Sleeps the baby mouse I found in the meadow,
Where he trembled and shook beneath a stick
Till I caught him up by the tail and brought him in,
Cradled in my hand,
A little quaker, the whole body of him trembling,
His absurd whiskers sticking out like a cartoon-mouse,
His feet like small leaves,
Little lizard-feet,
Whitish and spread wide when he tried to struggle away,
Wriggling like a minuscule puppy.

Now he’s eaten his three kinds of cheese and drunk from his
bottle-cap watering-trough–
So much he just lies in one corner,
His tail curled under him, his belly big
As his head; his bat-like ears
Twitching, tilting toward the least sound.

Do I imagine he no longer trembles
When I come close to him?
He seems no longer to tremble.

2

But this morning the shoe-box house on the back porch is empty.
Where has he gone, my meadow mouse,
My thumb of a child that nuzzled in my palm?–
To run under the hawk’s wing,
Under the eye of the great owl watching from the elm-tree,
To live by courtesy of the shrike, the snake, the tom-cat.

I think of the nestling fallen into the deep grass,
The turtle gasping in the dusty rubble of the highway,
The paralytic stunned in the tub, and the water rising,–
All things innocent, hapless, forsaken.

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