Japanese scientists unveiled a robot that plays the violin.
I read this sentence to you as we are in bed.
I wonder, does it play Bach’s Partita in G minor so beautifully,
butterflies on migration plunge into the sea
and the moon takes a drink of sadness mixed with gin?
You’re too sleepy to answer. Our dog lies down between us.
Now I’m reading another but I think you can’t hear me.
Japanese scientists unveiled a robot that solves Rubik’s cube.
I look over at you. No reaction. Our dog. No reaction.
Japanese scientists unveiled a robot the can dance the blue Danube.
I’m on the edge of the bed, my feet are cold. I nudge our dog.
He growls at me in his sleep. Just then, Japanese scientists
unveil a robot snowplow that eats snow and excretes ice logs.
I put on my special sleep mask, also made by Japanese scientists.
Cold air shoots into my nose, a hand of cold air presses against
my tongue and holds my throat open. I turn off the light
and descend into an abandoned tunnel; scent of ozone
and creosote, crunch of gravel, concrete and railroad tracks.
I have wasted the day; now I wander the night alone.
Meanwhile Japanese scientists unveil a robot exoskeleton
that can be worn by elderly farmers. Japanese scientists
unveil a robot that walks on the command of a monkey
that’s running on a treadmill in North Carolina. Japanese scientists.
When I was old enough to notice
I realized my parents were little old people.
Often my mother said she missed the chance
to strangle me after the nurse left the room.
This story got condensed over the years.
Eventually it became a gesture, as she might
look at me across a crowded table, hold her hands up
and squeeze in a gesture of baby strangling.
I was an ugly child. When my dog humped my leg
he would close his eyes. But now I’m OK
except my shadow seems to have abandoned me.
My wife gives leftover steak to our dog.
She thinks the broom is folk art.
I bought a dinner jacket at Good Will.
It must have come from a funeral home.
Every time I put it on my arms cross automatically
across my chest. Like this. And people say
I look good, as if I were still alive. Better even.
How much does one word weigh?
Cup, for instance.
If the word cup is full does it weigh more?
What if a word is full of God,
like the word enthusiasm?
Does enthusiasm weigh more than cup,
or the words shoe or spitball?
In Haifa, I saw all 300,000
words of the Torah etched
on the head of a pin.
Did the pin weigh more
than other pins?
When I sleep my hand slides
up and down my chest and belly,
or so I have been told.
Sometimes I dream that I have a zipper
running down the front of me.
Then I unzip myself and step out of my body.
If you could see me that naked
you’d see me as I really am.
According to Dr. Duncan MacDougall
of Haverhill, Massachusetts,
the me that steps out me is my soul
and it weighs three fourths of an ounce.
Just don’t mention a certain word.
It is the word that weighs more than
all other words combined.
No, I won’t tell you what it is.
And I have a note from my doctor
to back me up: I don’t have to tell.
I also belong to an Onomatophobics
of America support group.
A certain word created the universe.
A certain word can destroy the universe.
If that word were a hole it would weigh
nothing, and everything would fall into it.
Stop! Listen! This is important.
This much I can tell you:
The word I fear most contains
the memory of hard candy.
Orange hard candy, sweet and bitter
as adolescence. Orange,
the word nothing rhymes with,
international safety orange,
orange vest, orange safety hat—
that’s the color of the sky’s weight
when the earth is on fire.
Richard Garcia is the author of The Persistence of Objects (BOA Editions, 2006). His poems have recently appeared in The Georgia Review, Crazyhorse, and Ploughshares. Chickenhead, a chapbook of prose poems, is forthcoming from Foothills Press.