Speed of Light

By Mark Irwin

Featured Image: “Blossoming Cherry on a Moonlit Night” by Ohara Koson

Married in Beijing, they had their names carved on
a grain of rice. Mai wore a yellow silk gown. He wore
a black suit. Embraced in the photo turned sideways
they resemble a tiger scrambling through strewn mums.

That evening they ate salted mango and shrimp. He
can still taste that, see the tortoise-shell clip sun splintered in her hair. That evening continues, stalled
like the sea-filled drapes in their room. For twenty
years he worked at a lab that accelerated protons. Here
are photographs of their two girls on Lake Michigan,
then in Zermatt, standing before the Matterhorn,
whose moraines, cirques, and ravines resemble those
through two names magnified on a grain of rice, or
of that shadow looming through the CAT scan of her brain.


Mark Irwin is the author of ten collections of poetry, including Shimmer (2020), A Passion According to Green (2017), American Urn: Selected Poems (1987-2014), and Bright Hunger (2004). Recognition for his work includes The Nation/Discovery Award, two Colorado Book Awards, four Pushcart Prizes, the James Wright Poetry Award, the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry, and fellowships from the Fulbright, Lilly, and NEA.

Originally appeared in NOR 11.

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