Exclusive excerpts: Part one of Nick Courtright's Punchline, "...He does notthrow dice"
This month, CultureMap Austin is proud to present an exclusive poetry series from local writer Nick Courtright, featuring excerpts from his forthcoming debut collection, Punchline. The volume will be available next year from Gold Wake Press, and we're excited to give you this special preview of the author's latest work, which was a finalist for The National Poetry Series. For more information on Courtright, see our series kickoff post. Click here to be notified when the book is available for purchase.
“I, at any rate, am convinced that…
~Albert Einstein, in a letter to physicist Max Born, 1926
…He does not throw dice”
* * *
He Does Not Throw Dice
Imagine the lawlessness
of the subatomic world, but larger.
Then imagine that the lawlessness present there
is in fact lawful, that there is no such thing
as lawlessness, that even
the apparently most random event
is wholly predictable
by a system that takes into account
variables we cannot take into account, so short
is our attention span
in regards to the unseen, or the unseeable.
Like Wright, you could say
that something has been wasted, been washed away,
that the night is a cell
from which you compose your last notes
with the pen a sympathetic guard
passed to you through the bars, that when they take
it’ll be yours in the basket
he thinks of second to last. Last,
that’d be his own head in the basket, because regret
and maybe even vengeance surely
could not be the last thought,
because the way you lived is the way
you end, and that is, alive.
…Make a pale blue map of your day in the grass,
when you are just
the drink the drunks have awaited.
* * *
History could end,
it could be replaced
with myth. It could be revised by pamphlets fallen
from the sky, or Adobe Photoshop.
Maybe history was never there at all
and in the telling
we feigned objectivity or honesty. Or it wasn’t feigning
but a lack of insight
into the impossibility of telling
a story the way the story happened:
we couldn’t count all the faces in the subway station,
all of them
destined to be just a bit shy of exact, in the lie of text.
* * *
To call a fire alive, to call a ghost awake,
to call a ghost asleep, or to call it on the phone,
pressing redial one two three
four twelve twenty-one times
and always being sent to voicemail. It’s your first love
again, and it lives.
At what point does the fire die,
does the ghost pick up the phone and whisper
I knew you’d keep calling
until I answered, so now I’ve answered, what is it you
have to say to me?
* * *
What I Have to Say to You
We are bound to this earth, and no matter how
we try to leave
we still are bound.
No rocketship spiraling into the thin openness of time
changes that, no bootstrap shenanigans
hightailing their rubberpeeling
path into history
where the future rests on an old desk
like an apple.
One apple who is just that,
core, seeds, stem, meat, skin, in many ways the apple
causing the fall of us
from the ideal and into this:
day, night, awake, asleep, dead, alive, alive, alive, alive.
Nick Courtright’s debut full-length collection, Punchline, a finalist for the National Poetry Series, is due out next year from Gold Wake Press. Check back on Tuesday, November 15th for the first in a month-long series of exclusive excerpts from the collection. Click here to be notified when the book is available for purchase.