159.1: Molly Brodak:: Membrane & Totem Pole & Tachyon & Pair 159

Molly Brodak's poetry offers us concepts more often found in science classes than in lyrics: membranes, amoebas, tachyons. Such is the stuff of microorganisms and quantum physics, phenomena at a scale so small that their activity begs us to ask the question (as Robert Frost once did): does design govern things so miniature? Brodak's answer would be a resolute "sort of": the movements operating in these miniature environments suggest Nature at play more than Nature designed. But Brodak's poems are not strictly about scientific or metaphysical questions. Readers will not find meditations upon the nature of microbes or upon the Planck length; instead, readers will find a personal poetry that dramatizes a speaker who, like the subject in "Pair," scrambles to "affirm" herself. This scrambling is both hopeful and impossible, as the juxtaposition of dry scientific registers and personal commentary suggest. One example, taken from "Membrane," associates the movement of benthic creatures and unconsciousness: "Thread tracks / on the seafloor show them rolling nowhere for thousands of years. In dreams." This strategy dramatizes the process of scrambling toward a definition of self and other: a self emerging, a self flickering into its multiple existences. Ryan Winet


All of the things in his way are the path itself.
The last charnel ground is the laughing one: a ring of vultures
the size of children, static. The body brought chopped
and wrapped in mauve bows. It is no obstacle. In a sick solution

an amoeba secretes a cyst around itself. Thread tracks on the seafloor
show them rolling nowhere for thousands of years. In dreams.

The little crystals in their plasma plunking through the evening.

Just sit here and look. There’s no other way to the whole world.
The cyst wall grows vivid. And more transparent. Things out there,
the men’s bodies, also grow transparent, and no longer symbolize anything else.

Totem Pole

Amoebae house a little genome
with billions more pairs than anyone’s.
Each one a shapeless head.
Each head is winged.

They’ve ordered
this temporary lump,
a federation of actors,
to perform a tiny body.

The fountaining stream
of endoplasm is moved in it
to move it forward and

it is not understood.
The plain eyespot is not understood.
Proof of God and proof of No God.

The back end crumples and the forward
end becomes fragile. It extends its fragility,

otherwise it would not be love.
And will have it cut.

Otherwise it would not be love.
In eating and breathing,
disorder grows somewhere else.
Noise and waste and heat and know-nothingness.
No wonder we lump up in pairs.
An elaborate survivor can’t carry

all of its genes in just one kind of body. Genes
like stories, stories like
there are roads that go

where you couldn’t cope


The barrier wobbles behind him.
The barrier.

He was invisible to it, alert,
not pressing the bad button this time,
not stabbing his alien mood. That was the barrier?

To just not hurt.
Two images of him depart from it,
a redshift and a blueshift, split
self shot in opposite arrows.

A normal morning, a mandorla. Past self
and future self disappearing!
No reason is left.
A reason to live

would so stupefy you
away from the world

By this logic every moment was the barrier.


Funny how, if you could really see it, the bodies are so scared
right before they die, fighting so hard to stay, so hard, and then the moment
they appear in death they are utterly given over to flat joy, without
the body. Funny that they fought. As if they really did like themselves!
Pull one love story out of the deathside and they all come out, and so much
blood: it’s good to let someone chew you up.

You see you weren’t there to begin with. More of a clear rope
thread into animate matter,
into shells, shrines
it visits for a while then burns.
But you forget.

See the wavy grid of interference between

light beams,
hands cupped,
two words,

it’s code-ground where separation is trashed.

And to what do you commit yourself?
A self you scramble to affirm?