I don’t actually want to figure out photons. We have named the thing that was confusing us, and that can be enough. Light is both particle and wave; love is both glory and pain. Keats could have been a physicist — he had the right temperament. He sang most clearly when coughing on his blood.
Nothing Goes Bad Here Because We Use It Up So Quickly
Not many things have traveled with me this far — a stamp collection, a scar. I recently saw a current photograph of my childhood home. The shrubbery was all different, and it took a long time to be certain. My brother never made it out of his forties, and yet I have this dried-out starfish in the bookcase. I can’t remember who gave it to me, but if I returned it to the sea, I’m sure it would be ruined. Besides, some new clutter would take its place. The pruned azalea starts filling in the gaps as soon as the clippers are laid aside.
The elk stood there with a head full of driftwood, tasting the grass beside the signs for food and lodging. I’ll admit it — the afternoon light encouraged me to linger; twice his body rippled to shake away the flies. I had an appointment though. The estate planner was waiting for me with her silver pen, her dish of wrapperless candies I kept refusing. What can I say? She had a white noise machine in the waiting room. She believed in the power of secrets. Years later, I would chastise myself for not appraising him — just a glance in the rearview as I sped into the merge. I thought he was the first of many, that the afterlife of money had something to do with me.
Driving Our Daughters to College
I point to the snow geese milling in the cornfields along the Jersey Turnpike. I’m not Paul Simon, so I wouldn’t think to put them into a song. But somebody might, somebody whose tongue was willing. It occurs to me that I cannot hear their honking as I speed past them. It occurs to me that no one forgets how to whistle. Regardless, our daughters don’t bother to look up from their phones, and I have no idea where they’re headed. In the rearview mirror, already they have taken flight.
On the Back Patio With Bach and Whiskey While Waiting for the Perseids
I used to look up into the night sky and wish for more stars. Such audacity — the dissatisfaction with infinity, the certainty I could have done better.
Charles Rafferty has published 15 collections of poetry — most recently A Cluster of Noisy Planets (BOA Editions, 2021). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, O, Oprah Magazine, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer’s Almanac With Garrison Keillor, Prairie Schooner, and Ploughshares. His second collection of stories is Somebody Who Knows Somebody (Gold Wake Press, 2021). His stories have appeared in The Southern Review, Milk Candy Review, Juked, Okay Donkey, and New World Writing. His first novel is Moscodelphia (Woodhall Press, 2021). Rafferty has won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. Currently, he co-directs the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College and teaches at the Westport Writers’ Workshop.