Supernova and The Strongest Muscle in the Body

Monday, September 30, 2013

To the memory of Kurt Brown, great teacher and champion of poetry



When Betelgeuse turns supernova     two suns

will rise each morning     set each night     though “night”

will be a matter of the clock     and not the light


here on earth     secret numbers have been detected

in the painted eye of Mona Lisa     put there     perhaps

by Da Vinci himself     though no one knows for sure


when I was twenty one     I lay on a beach in Connecticut

and stared into the eye of my lover     while she

lay beside me on a towel on the sand     and stared back


later     she would betray me     though I would go on loving her

for years     long after whatever we had     faded


all over the world     birds are falling out of the sky

and a hundred thousand crabs have washed up on the beaches

of southern England     begging a question we fear to ask


Da Vinci knew beauty     but a supernova might result

in a black hole     1300 light years from earth

when Betelgeuse loses mass     then collapses into itself and explodes


mass animal deaths are not unusual    though they don’t

normally occur so close to one another     in Wisconsin

two hundred cattle dropped dead in an icy field at the same time


first pain     then numbness     the heart imploding on itself


more likely earth will be showered with particles called neutrinos

that have no electric charge     and can pass through

matter at the speed of light     without affecting or being affected by it


because it’s possible our bodies remember what our minds forget

the way an ancient stone remembers the fern pressed into it


while these particles will pass through us

and through the Earth without the slightest agitation      or harm





is not the heart, but the tongue. This comes as no surprise,

seeing as how we chatter about everything and nothing.

My mother talked incessantly, talked to fill the silence,

any silence that might occur during conversation,

a steady stream of words that both riled and consoled me,

one thing leading to another as in a poem

or a trapeze artist letting go of one ring to grab

another just in time to keep gravity from dumping them

into a void before colliding with the earth below.

The heart, we say, is breakable like good China,

brittle and sweet as candy which we give away

or someone steals, and we fall in love without a net

something I’ve done too many times as the crowd,

aghast at first, then bored, turned away and I lay crushed

until the next show, more than ready to perform

again. I think my mother battered me

with so much talk I became a bad listener,

someone whose eyes glaze over when you speak to them.

And I think the silence in which she now rests

is what she feared, and she spoke, not out of mindlessness,

but from her heart which had been tossed back

and forth a number of times and finally cracked

like the pattern on her China—an old man crossing

a bridge, speechless with wisdom, knowing nothing lasts.

Kurt Brown Photo

Kurt Brown

Kurt Brown founded the Aspen Writers’ Conference, and Writers’ Conferences & Centers. He is the author of six chapbooks and six full-length collections of poetry, including his newest Time-Bound, due out from Tiger Bark Press in 2013. He was an editor for the online journal MEAD: The Magazine of Literature and Libations and edited ten anthologies of poetry, including his newest (with Harold Schechter) Killer Verse: Poems about Murder and Mayhem. His memoir, Lost Sheep: A Portrait of Aspen in the 70s, was published by Conundrum Press in 2012. He taught for many years at Sarah Lawrence College.  He passed away in Santa Barbara, CA in June of 2013.

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In memory of Kurt Brown

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