sweet: 3.1
Katharine Whitcomb
Sweet Time

The glioma pushed on my mother’s brain as she floated with a smile in the in-between. I imagine her lying with her friends on a sun-warmed island, a rushing river, cheek flat on her hand. She can see someone’s blowing hair, a line of scrub trees, reeds. Current roars with stone-rolling strength, late summer wind beats noise to the left and noise to the right yet down low in the heat a calm core free of memory rises and everything she brought with her disappears. The world is a wolf. His hot breath at the keyhole, his terrible threats—let him wait.

sweet: 3.1
This Is Your Brain on Physics

Dr. Kim started all his lectures with Moe and Joe at different sides of the universe and afterwards I would spend evenings grateful for the library basement’s hissing steam heat with The Dancing Wu Li Masters propped open in front of me, reading my homework. Physics for Poets. PHYS 111. Dr. Kim’s narratives sounded like fabulist tales ending with questions and disclaimers. A cat in a box? Waves and particles? Uncertainty? Beyond the library Minnesota winter creaked and snapped tree branches, fields slept under long sheets of snow. I just wanted to sit up all night stoned with my friends playing Elvis Costello records, watching reruns of The Twilight Zone and laughing. To surround myself with energy. I leaned over my book: the real problem is that we are used to looking at the world simply. This physics defies conceptualization, impossible to visualize. A science of the unverifiable. Planck, Born, Heisenberg theorize towards a mystical vision of unity. I thought about quantum theory in the studio while Professor Celender lectured on Duane Hanson; I thought about consciousness as Dr. Ward discussed the exploitation of the Victorian underclass. I was so young then my heart hardly stayed in my body, always imagining the unimaginable. Of course things change because we observe them. I could buy that. I could buy consciousness and an endless profusion of possibilities. Particles annihilate themselves in beautiful ways. We almost crashed the car driving home from Octoberfest burning on Windowpane acid, left the gas station without paying because we forgot. Winter forced us inside those brick buildings where I sat still enough to read for a few hours. The big wooden table hummed under my elbows. I had notes from PHYS 111 about rooms moving through space, baseballs, closed elevators, Michaelson-Morley, Lorentz, time-travel! All those particles blowing up and making themselves new. Feynman’s diagrams looked like sculptures, like petals and in my notebook I had written each part of reality is constructed of all the other parts. A slice of time, with infinite parallels, there in that place, vibrating and open-ended.

Katharine Whitcomb is the author of a collection of poems, Saints of South Dakota & Other Poems, which was chosen by Lucia Perillo as the winner of the 2000 Bluestem Award and published by Bluestem Press, and two poetry chapbooks. Hosannas (Parallel Press, 1999) and Lamp of Letters (Floating Bridge Press, 2009), winner of the 2009 Floating Bridge Chapbook Award. Her poetry awards include a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, a Loft-McKnight Award, a Writing Fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and a Halls Fellowship at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. She has had work published in many journals and anthologies, including Making Poems and Dorothy Parker’s Elbow: Tattoos on Writers, Writers on Tattoos. She runs and hikes in Ellensburg, WA, where she is Coordinator of the Writing Specialization English Major at Central Washington University. Her website is Pistachio ice cream is her favorite sweet!