Katharine Coles


1. They were in error, of course,
About most things. The clouds

Never were soft. Inside, rambunctious
Then as now, they struck
And swizzled, composing

Pockets of violence,
Electrified. They had
No time to think of being lonely.

2. And the poetry of the earth:
It could cease. We know that now.

3. Flowers, for example, will take
And take, will lash and toothe the air, will

Scatter, and dig in, and rise
Above themselves, and flourish.

4. Do not mistake me. This is
No correction. Don't ask me

5. To count the ways
I have been wrong about love's
Same old la-de-da,

Or how I knew, all along,
I could only betray the flesh

That dazzled me into song.
My own, or his. A poem

6. Might have told us in
So many words. And others.

7. And been wrong.



Because time passes more slowly
In water than in air, everything

Floats, even muscle,
Memory, and bone, all
Anything but light. I take

My time, roundabout
Detour and angle, to get
From point to point. Even

Into your arms. Did you know
A single point of light departs a crystal

In any number of directions
At once—say tepee, say traffic cone,

Say sorcerer's hat glammed with stars—
Both straight and wayward? Oh,

My searchlight, consider the mathematician
Noodling around like any poet
Daydreaming the improbable, then

All at once stumbling over
Something useful. Not yet—
Centuries from now. Still,

What's a dreamer, only ever
After beauty, to do? Rub her eyes,

Bemused. Shuck her jammies,
Check her watch, go out
For beer. I am on the verge

Every moment of mislaying
Credit card, laptop, wits. Even

You, my bête blanc, my obstacle,
My great good dirigible, my distraction: I ask,

How do we live in this world,
Knowing only everything we do?






"Poetry 2.0" came in a sense from my husband, a computer scientist who likes to assign me titles for poems. This title did not seem likely to me when he suggested it (as many of them don't—a lot of his suggestions are jokes, including, I suspect, this one), but within a couple of hours I was working on it anyway, working on the question: Why would you need a new version of Poetry? What would it look like? Is a new version always or always never being produced?

"Refraction" came from reading I was doing last semester for a class in science and literature, which I team teach with a mathematician around our occasional symposium in science and literature. The theme this year was "Mathematics, Language, and Imagination"; mathematicians/writers on mathematics we read included Barry Mazur and Ian Stewart, both of whom contributed to this poem.