Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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The Universe

What she says is true or what he says is true
or the answer falls somewhere
in the middle, their discussion wedged
within the crush of bodies on the Q.
The concept of Self is all
an illusion, she says. The mind’s
one-way mirror between you
and our communal experience.
The train races over the river, the river
mosaics the sunlight. What are you
saying? he says. That “we” is the only
pronoun allowed in our mouths?
“I” is like an ice-pick, each time
you utter it, you break yourself
away from the universe. Here’s the flaw
in your reasoning, he says. If I say
I see your point, I’m still saying I.
That’s the flaw of language, the boundary
of words. Look, she says, imagine looking
at everyone objectively,
gliding over this train. What am I,
a bird? Yes, a fast pretty starling. Go on.
You would only see the collective we
heading to the city and not single out
yourself. The train jostles. His eyes
slide from face to face, eyes to eyes,
some looking at his looking, some
averting, then his own vaporous face
in the window, laid over
the Lower East Side like acetate.
He turns to her: his squirrely girlfriend.
I’m an I, he says, and you’re an I,
and that woman in the red peacoat reading
Isabel Allende is an I, and this kid
on your right, earbudded to rhythm, slow-
nodding yes continuously. I, I, I, she says.
Stop dividing us from the universe.
Alright, everyone is part of
the cosmos, kumbaya from here
to Sri Lanka, I’ll give you that much.
Don’t say part of, you are still
making divisions when you say
part of. How would you say it? She rests
her fingertip at the center of his chest.
This is the universe. She points
to herself. This is the universe. And this kid
flooding his head with music, he says.
Go on. Everyone on the Q. Every
thing, actually: moon dust and navel oranges,
warheads, cardamom seeds, lava piling
over lava. She holds his hand
or he holds hers. Strange, he says,
acknowledging the universe like this, this
moment like this. The universe is strange,
yes, she says. It is beautiful. Too bad it is
destructive too. It’s a pretty bird in flames
flying regardless. The city scrolls
by and by the train windows. Is the universe
takeout at my place tonight? Yes, noodles
swirled in a small white box tonight.  end  

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