Astronomers Locate a New Planet

Poetry by Matthew Olzmann

June 20, 2013

Illustration by Ryan Huertas

“Because it is so dense, scientists calculate the carbon must be crystalline, so a large part of this strange world will effectively be diamond.” — Reuters, 8/24/2011

Like the universe’s largest engagement ring, it twirls
and sparkles its way through infinity.
The citizens of the new world know about luxury.
They can live for a thousand years.
Their hearts are little clocks
with silver pendulums pulsing inside.
Eyes like onyx, teeth like pearl.
But it’s not always easy. They know hunger.
They starve. A field made of diamond
is impossible to plow; shovels crumble and fold
like paper animals. So frequent is famine,
that when two people get married,
one gives the other a locket filled with dirt.
That’s the rare thing, the treasured thing, there.
It takes decades to save for,
but the ground beneath them glows, and people find a way.

On Earth, when my wife is sleeping,
I like to look out at the sky.
I like to watch TV shows about supernovas,
and contemplate things that are endless
like the heavens and, maybe, love.
I can drink coffee and eat apples whenever I want.
Things grow everywhere, and so much is possible,
but on the news tonight: a debate about who
can love each other forever and who cannot.

There was a time when it would’ve been illegal
for my wife to be my wife. Her skin,
my household of privilege. Sometimes,
I wish I could move to another planet.
Sometimes, I wonder what worlds are out there.
I turn off the TV because the news rarely makes
the right decision on its own. But even as the room
goes blacker than the gaps between galaxies,
I can hear the echoes: who is allowed to hold
the ones they wish to hold, who can reach
into the night, who can press his or her
own ear against another’s chest and listen
to a heartbeat telling stories in the dark.


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Matthew Olzmann

Matthew Olzmann’s first book of poems, Mezzanines, was selected for the 2011 Kundiman Prize and is forthcoming from Alice James Books (April 2013). His poems have appeared in New England Review, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, The Southern Review, Rattle and elsewhere. He’s received fellowships and scholarships from Kundiman, the Kresge Arts Foundation, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Currently, he’s teaching undergraduate creative writing and composition at Warren Wilson as the 2012-13 Joan Beebe Teaching Fellow.

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