A universe can die

by Susanna Lang
Jorie Graham, “Ashes”

Children don’t always live
, says a father
whose first child was felled by a piece of masonry
that slid off a poorly maintained building.

Jorie Graham is not an astrophysicist. Poets
have their own ways of knowing.

The unimaginable can slip unnoticed
into the current of our day-to-day.
But for the moment, it is enough

to sit on the curb, on a street loud with colored leaves,
and eat a plate of pancit noodles. Enough, later,
to hear Brahms’ Sonata for Cello and Piano

while the elderly woman seated beside me
fingers the notes in her lap before nodding off.

Someone in the audience hums along,
which ought to be annoying but instead seems like
a necessary third voice—

the voice of the universe, perhaps,
since it has not yet died, or the voice of a child

who sat under the same poorly maintained building
the day before anything happened, took piano lessons
and grew up to love Brahms.

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