A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
I never wanted to write a poem that begins at the core.
Do I mean the apple core, the one I gnaw and gnaw on
like a famished squirrel, or the one made of iron and fire?
My mother is here, making sure I throw it on the compost pile,
my father with his crumpled paper napkin cut in half
so we could keep the heat at 63, so he could write a check
when I lose my college scholarship. Here to tell me
we’re all sitting 1,700 miles from a 6,000-degree morass
of melting minerals. Without the core, he’s saying,
there’d be no electrical current, no magnetic field,
which means not only would we fry, but our compasses
wouldn’t work. And then my mother pipes up:
but did you know the poles have switched 183 times
in the past 83 million years, roughly every 500 million years?
And did you know they haven’t switched in 780,000 years?
That there’s a magnetic weak spot off the coast of Africa
where the last pole-switch began, where they think
it’s beginning to happen again?
At the very core? A mother who lived to peel apples,
bake the most exquisite pies. Suffuse the air
with delicious love. A father gah-gah for fossils,
mummies, cow manure. Andromeda. The way a tray
of iron filings, when a magnet is placed beneath it,
line up north and south in graceful arcs.
A father as molten as the planet we spun on.
Copyright 2021 Martha Silano
Martha Silano’s collections of poetry include Gravity Assist (Saturnalia, 2019). She teaches at Bellevue College, near her home in Seattle, Washington.