“Perfectly Whatever” by Charlotte Pence

Charlotte Pence


Only in 1998 did astronomers discover that we had been missing nearly three-quarters of the contents of the universe, the so-called dark energy—an unknown form of energy that surrounds each of us, tugging at us ever so slightly.
—from “The Universe’s Invisible Hand” by Christopher J. Conselice

Now that you’re finally sexed-up, you notice
how sexed-down your friends are. One leaves
post-it notes on your office chair ordering
you to stop shaving your pubic hair. Another

with fourth-stage breast cancer tells you once
this is done, she never wants to be touched again.
Another admits whenever she has sex
with her husband, she cries, his body “perfectly

whatever.” What can you say? These conversations
gnaw at the moments in-between your next
great fuck. How can you concentrate on their currs?
Oh, but you did at one point. It’s as if you’ve woken

to a new universe in need of different equations
since the discovery of this so-called dark energy.
You can no longer read Milton, so you masturbate
instead. You see a therapist about these desires,

and she, a virgin, a Baptist, a good-girl, says, “Enjoy.
Enjoy. You’ll one day be an old lady on a bike
with plastic flowers, so do it now.” And you want
to know about this bike, these flowers,

that old woman, but you cannot concentrate.
Now that your desires are certified sane, you go
full force into this one man you’ve wanted.
Fucking in the hall, against the wall, on the carpet

spotted with NASA-neon stains that are you,
your fluids changed from drugs you take for constant
UTIs. You suspect friends disapprove of this new you.
And you can’t blame them. You know the messiness

of calculating new variables and constants. Still, you,
a vegetarian, gorge on KFC. You and this dude
fuck and eat and fuck and sleep and fuck, and
you pick up Milton’s Paradise Lost, yet again,

and look for connections. Is this world beginning
or ending? Does dark energy signify anything dark?
“World expanding,” is what you read in Scientific American.
Dark energy, the creator of us. Maybe the destroyer

that will pluck the sun like a football from our solar system,
separate atoms from atoms. Who knows? Who
cares? What is known is Nothing is now Something,
and you read the name for it: the Cosmological Constant—

and you confuse that with the air from your couch
to the wall, the air he pushes you through
to reel you back in, the air through which Satan
and the warring gods fell from one world to the next.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist


Charlotte Pence: “I’ve been increasingly interested in extending the circle of subjects that we bring to poetry. Science articles, which are often full of little poetic gems like ‘human flesh smells brown,’ have been my source of inspiration for the last few years. This poem lassos together a woman’s sexual peak and dark energy’s discovery, which is a combination I hope adds complexity and tension to both subjects.” (website)

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