Dealing with the IRS
He claimed to be legally handicapped
due to a rare cognitive dysfunction
which turned everything in
his field of view sideways
so that to him
an eight 8
was always a lemniscate ∞
the symbol for infinity
and that was why he was never able
to figure out his income tax forms.
They never saw it coming: “It was so unexpected!”
“We had no idea anything was wrong . . . we never suspected.”
“This has always been a quiet neighborhood.”
“He was so polite; he behaved exactly as he should.”
Grief likes a sneak attack. So, if you think of the worst
that could possibly occur, then your Fates-appointed
destiny won’t happen. Consider possible dooms and rehearse
constantly. If you can’t be surprised, you can’t be disappointed.
There are innumerable ways to die or worse ways to be.
Recite the litany of each thing that can’t happen to me
because I’ve already imagined them (I have a good imagination).
Every media tragedy maps the routes to avoidable damnation.
Reservations are being made in your name; your belief,
your species, your race, your genotype, your gender
qualify you for front-row seating in the arena of grief.
The future reveals (spotlight please) its hidden agenda.
Wound in a cocoon of excuses, you try to cope;
if no longer capable of despair, you can no longer hope.
Getting sick, growing old, as easy as falling, and as hard;
dark wave, random silencing, accident (not in my backyard!)
You trade state-of-the-art medical information for a husband or wife
and wake up next to a tomorrow you’ve never seen in your life.
I leant my back unto an aik,
I thought it was a trusty tree.
But first it bowed, and syne it brake;
And sae my love did lightly me.
“O Waly, Waly,” a Scottish folk ballad
I leaned back against a solid surface of texture and color
and thought I would trust it to hold me
but on closer inspection the color was not really there:
only an artifact of the molecular structure
where the light impinged upon it, and in any case
entirely dependent on perception of a specific section
of the electromagnetic spectrum by the rods and cones
and transmission by the optic nerve into the brain
whose function, in turn, decided by neurochemicals
unfolding into precisely planned pathways,
allow sentience to make of it what it will,
and the texture also derived solely
from an arrangement of molecules
whose ability to cohere into three-dimensional patterns
and be graceful under pressure was determined
by a relatively narrow range of ambient temperature
and whose mass and specific density was in turn decided
by the presumptive presence and possibilities
of constituent particles, too small to grasp,
the distances between scaled to interstellar proportions.
There is so much room inside matter—
emptiness between everything that exists:
descending the levels of dimension and organization,
streaming past molecular chains receding in the blurry distance
like trains far underground accelerating in opposite directions,
drawn toward a random atom
by the attenuated velleity of a weakening force,
falling through the concentric fluctuations
of each successive electron shell,
entering the disperse nucleus,
closing in on the nano-reality at the core of matter:
tiny sparks of infinite weight and weariness;
F. J. Bergmann writes poetry and speculative fiction, often simultaneously, appearing in Abyss & Apex, Analog, Asimov’s and elsewhere alphabetically, and edits poetry for Mobius: The Journal of Social Change (mobiusmagazine.com). A Catalogue of the Further Suns, dystopian first-contact reports, won the 2017 Gold Line Press poetry chapbook contest.