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Heads Up poetry column: Gravity

A Poetry Column By Philip Appleman


F=Gmm’/r2: directly proportional to the

product of the masses, inversely proportional to

the square of the distance…

One false step and you’re off the ladder,

plunging in free-fall through

a lifetime     proportional

to the product of its losses         down

through decades to Mother Earth       who breaks

your heart   your spirit     your bones

jarring your life into ceaseless pain.

And the pain that will not stop

is a poison vine, its roots deep in your chest,

is a snake reaming your veins, gouging our endless

yesterdays, the ceaseless pain

of history: night after night

you cannot sleep—in the dreary hours

you read about the Age of Faith,

when godly ones bowed to a holy

ghost, told their beads to a blessed mother,

and ripped off the screaming fingernails

of unbelievers; when priests, inspired

by the Pope’s own personal blessing,

tore off nipples with red-hot tongs;

when monks thumbed out the eyeballs

of heretics and saints, and seared their flesh

to purify their souls.

With enough gravity and pain,

with enough pain long enough,

we will see their glowing eyes: the fervent ones

on the march again. But because our memories

are inversely proportional to

the distance between them, we don’t recall

that when the high wall between priest

and politics is wrecked by frenzied mobs

screaming Hallelujah,

then the godly ones will lead us again—

our ears sliced off,

our tongues cut through,

our foreheads branded—

they will lead us triumphantly back,

back through our hazy memories,

to burn again

in an Age of Faith.