General Relativity: A Natural History of Motion*

by Jessica Reed


Not to be undone, wedded
to which modeled universe, gods
spin prepositions, into,

from, between matter, galaxies
that shift red, spreading, each I
the center but no center. This hurtling

in every plausible version of the universe,
insists I am the one, true thou
shalt not stand still. Acceleration,

the firmament of stars our only reference,
so that (bird, republic, millions):
every blink loosed on the geometric,

the world’s lovers calculating
how to turn and sweep. (Spirit:
matter reduced to thinness. Brittle

skeletons of language, vaporing
in every inertial frame.) Worlds
targeting their own shadows,

technique in that rushing (they stay
and stay). Was there anything
inevitable in it? Laws the same whether

speeding up or slowing (stone,
overlap, recognition) or whether—o so thin!—
at constant speed. Manure, white-capped

and nitrogen-rich, the history it contains.
Each moment lived, a shaving off
of what was possible, the narrowing

of outcomes. Mapped bodies,
shedding our prejudice that coordinates
have an immediate metrical meaning,

calling points and events primary, never able
to learn the distance between them.
Spine, whose curvature shaped

by wind. Coupling, the conviction
that her grip and interrupted breath
would become his. The ancient Vietnamese

poet, writing of the Real, asks,
“Who drew this bounded landscape?”
Spacetime, outlines of.

* “Spirit is matter reduced to thinness. O so thin!”—Emerson. Coordinates have no “immediate metrical meaning”—Einstein.

JESSICA REED‘s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crazyhorse; Conjunctions; North American Review; Waxwing; 111O; Tinderbox Poetry Journal; Spiral Orb; The Fourth River; Kudzu House Quarterly; and Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing. She currently teaches a Physics and the Arts seminar at Butler University. She has an MFA in poetry and a BS in physics, both from Purdue University, and lives in Indiana with her husband and chickens.