Squid, Frozen Toes, Tequila and Love
Read this poem in the March 2006 of Poetry magazine. Every time I read the last lines of the poem, my heart clunks down a few steps into a place deeper than everyday. A place I’m not sure I could live. It would be constant openness. Too raw to be productive.
The poem also speaks to the tension between, yet potential compatibility of, science and emotion. And the poet, Katherine Larson, speaks with authority because she is a molecular biologist and field ecologist. !!! Knowing this somehow makes the poem complete for me.
Oh, and Aurvandil is a giant in Norse mythology who was carried in a basket across an ice river by Thor. The cold waters froze Aurvandil’s toe, so Thor broke it off and placed it in the night sky where it became a star. You might want to know this later. (I’m pulling this from a website called The Metal Archives. I had to look it up, cause I hadn’t a clue. And I have to credit the website, because I'm not yet far enough removed from my thesis.)
“Love at Thirty-two Degrees” by Katherine Larson
Today I dissected a squid,
the late acacia tossing its pollen
across the black of the lab bench.
In a few months the maples
will be bleeding. That was the thing:
there was no blood
only textures of gills creased like satin,
suction cups as planets in rows. Be careful
not to cut your finger, he says. But I’m thinking
of fingertips on my lover’s neck
last June. Amazing, hearts.
This brachial heart. After class,
I stole one from the formaldehyde
And watched it bloom in my bathroom sink
between cubes of ice.
Last night I threw my lab coat in the fire
and drove all night through the Arizona desert
with a thermos full of silver tequila.
It was the last of what we bought
on our way back from Guadalajara
- desert wind in the mouth, your mother’s
beat-up Honda, agaves
twisting up from the soil
like the limbs of cephalopods.
Outside of Tucson, saguaros so lovely
considering the cold, and the fact that you
weren’t there to warm me.
Suddenly drunk I was shouting that I wanted to see the stars
as my ancestors used to see them –
to see the godawful blue as Aurvandil’s frostbitten toe.
Then, there is the astronomer’s wife
ascending stairs to her bed.
The astronomer gazes out,
one eye at a time,
to a sky that expands
even as it falls apart
like a paper boat dissolving in bilge.
Furious, fuming stars.
When his migraine builds and
lodges its dark anchor behind
the eyes, he fastens the wooden buttons
of his jacket, and walks
outside with a flashlight
to keep company with the barn owl
who stares back at him with eyes
that are no greater or less than
a spiral galaxy.
The snow outside
is white and quiet
as a woman’s slip
against cracked floorboards.
So he walks to the house
inflamed by moonlight, and slips
into the bed with his wife
her hair and arms all
like a fish confused by waves.
beyond pheromones, hormones, aesthetics of bone,
every time I make love for love’s sake alone,
I betray you.