6.17 / Science and Fiction Issue

Two Poems

Man Dies While Building an Opera House

listen to this poem

The crane tips. Slowly at first,
as if time might triumph over gravity,
as if the pointing and oh-my-god-s

of the workers could form a hand to damper
cacophony’s mouth of cable and steel.
But the crane quickens, slips the man like a drop of spit

from the tongue of a hungry bird.
He remembers being eighteen
the August it rained everyday for a month,

when Mr. Ellis, in the neon
and tile of the physics classroom,
preached distance equals rate times time,

a prophecy that rules him now
as he pencils the last fifty feet of his life
onto a y-axis in the air. Or maybe, he thinks,

palmistry is the real science,
and he rides down his own lifeline
on the giant palm of the city.

The air swallows behind him,
and he feels what a throat must feel
as a body prepares for a burst of voice, a song.

The Doctor’s Monologue

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A man goes in for surgery
His family gathers close
Ghosts come by to watch even
A doctor cuts out his heart
holds it up to the light says

Look here and here a wormhole
See a timeline hacked open
Here’s your grandma
before she was grandma
falling in the manhole of her own chest
Here’s your father’s sleep apnea
your uncle’s vile temper
and lightheadedness
Here’s all your unexplainables
the bullies and headaches
and death threats from doctors

The man’s sister takes the heart says
Time’s a terrible metaphor
I see volcanoes in our genetics
lava tubes cooling in our veins
Right now we are making the ocean
Everything flows toward my immovable shore
See my Elisa just six months old
safe on a boat in the sea of my attentiveness

The man says please give that back
I see now these ghosts all around us
They’re making a sewing motion with their hands
I feel the slick weight of my heart’s absence
I feel I’m already a cavity

Robin LaMer Rahija is a doctoral student at the University of Kentucky. She is the poetry editor at Rabbit Catastrophe Review.