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.
“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first…
~Carl Sagan, astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, author, and, apparently, baker, 1934-1996
…Invent the universe”
* * *
Invent the Universe
In the bottom of the well:
that’s where we’ll stay. In there it’s dark and if not
for the blind man who passes
daily we would
have no one at all. Lucky for us
that coconut down, down
the well and now for fun we just have to get
the damn thing open…
* * *
Say God made a dinosaur
so as to kill the dinosaur, and all the other dinosaurs,
his terrors of the sky summoned,
the great lizards compelled to halt their telepathy,
those who lived
relocating to different planets or far underground—
about all this deified lifetime’s debris,
it’s not right
As we crawl through our tunnels and weep
it’s just a mystery
we should at least have fun with it,
we should set ‘em up and knock ‘em down, time after time
until our singing voices are raw
on their bicycles
flash like swallows through red lights, taking risks
with space and the laws of motion—
their souls are Las Vegas and their bodies are casinos,
and it’s just one dice roll, then another.
Let’s let us believe
it’s not a mystery but only probability,
and all the ratios are undefined. Pull down the blinds
and be the darkness
you wish to see in the world,
shaken into focus by a swarm of ambiguity,
the definition of one string of letters begging
for more strings of letters
sorting out their definitions. But that too is okay!
Our chasing of the tails we’re attached to
is a good time, if dizzying,
and we can make some sense of it. If we’re lucky,
if we move fast enough
it seems our tireless, circuitous blur
is a perfect circle.
* * *
Dogma, from the Greek, means “that which one
thinks is true,”
but less literally, and less terribly,
it just means opinion. We’ve been advised
to shy from it.
I picture this: a dog barking, but its bark
and all the shouts
out the window at it to
quiet the hell down
won’t get the job done.
This is dogma
I’m talking about, so watch out.
It’ll keep you up at night, and if it doesn’t then maybe
you’ve lost your hearing.
* * *
As If We are All Immigrants
If we are honest, not one of us has remained
where we were born. Nor did
the human race stay tied
to its origin: it spread out.
it climbed into the valleys,
and was a halo around the skulls of mountains.
for us to make homes
we all have lost our mothers,
we all have become our fathers, even those
in time we will wash our hands in change,
we will be the thin rivers of a barren landscape.
like the last droplets of sunlight
smoldering the edges of the highway,
with the handprint
so that it will buckle and tire
when the heat is gone, we too have left our sun.
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 22nd 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.