“Incredible Truths” by Jenna Lanzaro

Jenna Lanzaro


Two folks at a table exchange incredible truths.
The Mariana Trench is 36,000 feet deep,
1,000 feet more than the cruising altitude of a plane.
When you are on a plane, there is a farther far than the surface of the Earth.
When you are on Earth, there is a farther far than the sky.
There is always a farther far,
if you believe the universe is infinite, but also expanding. A far
that is and isn’t a fixed place. The girl says, All contradictions are true,
while looking for proof in the sky.
Her hair resembles something accustomed to deep
seas, long and breathless in alien air. The boy says Exponential growth. Points to a plane.
Today, Jeff Bezos left Earth.
They say he’ll be a trillionaire. He bites a plain
croissant. The far of that, from us: people don’t get how far
one billion is on a scale, a magnitude as swollen as the Earth.
She is scared of exponential growth. Also paper-cuts, telling the truth,
and that this meal will end. The girl sips deeply.
The boys looks at the sky
where the girl looked before. He is patient, but counting; he looks at the sky
not her, or the words as irrefutable as what they’ve put on the plain
surface of the table at the café. Once (still) he was deep
in her. The Mariana Trench, she says, is far
enough that the truth of what is there is not a truth
we know, us of the surface of the Earth.
But there is a truth, and the trench is Earth
after all, and (she doesn’t say this out loud) you have always been, for me, like a sky,
a not-place place, a largeness like the gullet of a lanternfish. Truth,
chanted, becomes a sound. She does not say out loud, I flew on a plane
and you didn’t know. I was far
and you didn’t know. I read a book about lakes in the deep,
brine pools on the seafloor, I met deep
and insignificant people (for them you are words), I went from one part of Earth
to another part of Earth so far
from this table, I was in the sky
and you didn’t know, I looked in your direction from a plane,
I thought: that we were, and that we are not—

from Poets Respond
August 1, 2021


Jenna Lanzaro: “With Jeff Bezos’s pricy joyride into space last week, I returned to a podcast (Radiolab’s ‘Dispatch 1: Numbers’) that offered a way to understand large numbers. I listened to this podcast at the onset of the pandemic, and it was a gut-punch. I think many people aren’t opposed to (or even champion) uber-wealth, or aren’t as alarmed by Covid statistics, because it’s so hard to conceptualize how different a trillion is from a billion, or a billion from a million. This led me to think on other events (like the end of a major relationship) that have challenged my ability to synthesize them in their scope. The form of the sestina offered the repetitious feel of trying and failing to make sense.” (web)

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