Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Carbon dating

on Bjork's “Human Behavior”

Premise: isotopes decay predictably; their rates
are as rational as they are relational. Bachelors
of science collect radioactive atoms in old bones
or caramelized wood, then count backwards toward
conception, a baseline pulse radioactivity—carbon 14
from cosmic equalizing rays and messed up nitrogen.

Did the Phoenicians know they would be applied to a formula
and solved? I will not be carbon dated, Kyle says, breathing
cinnamon, the apocalypse, and other fires onto the pillowcase.
Men won't survive three more generations, my lifetime.

You will be hard to date,
I say, ignoring, like all postmodern men
and Muir's horse
—after the bomb, we have no predictable baseline...

Later, pancake batter spits up on his chest and boxers,
like sunscreen sweat into an eye, or, after, vitamin E,
and he winces angry and directionless and says,
what's with you and science this morning?

I cross my coffee and nearly spill my expression.
lipping the cup, teasing him, if you can't trust

science, what can you trust? The little wasps from the pan
buzz, and he puts his spatula hand on his hip shallow,
his highway hair stilled, his soil eyes cursed and damp—
he could say anything, like lottery numbers, now—
but gently: set the table, love, put out forks and napkins
and oranges. Let's try to remember breakfast into our bones.