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Featured Poem • October 2013

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Katabasis

 

Liz Bourke

 

In quantum mechanics, uncertainty relations for time and energy are not constant. Forget me. Forget the body, rich with sweat, pumping dark blood, fighting its every breath— the desperation of being born and being born again every hour pledged defiance in the teeth, in the face, of death’s final silence. Noether’s theorem states with respect to continuous symmetry . . . corresponding values are conserved in time. The moment of surrender, with or without grace. When you’re young you think death is something that only happens to other people. Fragments. A diaphragm, straining. Rasp and rise the noise of everything you ever knew falling away falling into vacuum. Bodies in motion remain in motion unless some other force supervenes. Acid, it eats you away, cell by cell memory by memory, sense by sense. Respiration is a katabolic reaction. Katabasis: 1. a going down 2. a great retreat 3. descent to the underworld

After autolysis and putrefaction, the jaw lies unhinged and gaping. The sky, blue through the sockets of the skull, empty eyes. Every bone laid bare, every skeletal imperfection, every offence that left its mark in calcium and marrow.

In the funeral parlour, the air stinks of dying flowers. Decay papered over. Restless waiting hours. These remaining hours. Anticipate—I can’t—the service speaking with a dead tongue gone numb gone breathless mourners like carrion crows cawing clawing clay out of your mouth clawing earth out of your lungs.

 

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Liz_Bourke_sLiz Bourke is a cranky person who reads books and occasionally writes poems. She is presently reading for a PhD in Classics at Trinity College, Dublin.

She says “‘Katabasis’ is an intensely personal poem. All poetry is, really, but this one I just can’t talk about for hurting.”

 

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