Space and matter, spaces and matters —
It’s not the shift but magnitude that jars;
When gasps expand too fast, proximity shatters,
And vacuum cleaners dust between the stars.
A life bursts; wisps float beyond repair
Into this room of living; nothing matches
Valance to valences or reattaches
Cosmic strings to threads of Lachesis:
Cover — recovery, chair — la chair.
For selvage, for salvage, blindness is benevolence;
O blessed stupidity that blunts this seat of sentience,
Make me material that covers up irrelevance:
The stuff that renovates despair.
NOTES for Students of English
Valance – (Pronounced VAL-ence, “val” rhymes with “pal”) A short decorative drapery hung across the top of a window or along a bed or shelf.
Valence – (Pronounced VALE-ance, “vale” rhymes with “pale”) In chemistry, a value associated with an element showing how readily its atoms combine with other elements.
Cosmic String – A reference to String Theory, a theory in physics to account for the four known fundamental forces of nature: gravity, electro-magnetism, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force.
Lachesis – (Pronounced LAK-e-sis) One of the three Fates in Greek mythology: Clotho “the spinner” spins the thread of life; Lachesis “the measurer” draws out the thread to the length of one’s lifetime; and Atropos — “she who cannot be turned or avoided” — cuts the thread at death.
la chair – (Pronounced more or less like the American-English word “share”) French for “flesh.”
Selvage – A fabric edge finished to prevent raveling.
Blessed – Here, “blessed” is an adjective pronounced as two syllables BLESS-id, and is mainly an intensifying word, an ironic euphemism for “damned.” The adjective also means: sacred; worthy of profound respect; and bringing or enjoying happiness. Identical in spelling is the past participle “blessed” which is pronounced as one syllable BLEST and means “enjoying divine protection or favor.”
Seat – In addition to its usual meaning of something to sit on, seat means “center,” especially in a figurative sense, such as “a seat of learning.”
Make me – Here a play on the two meanings of “me” as both a direct object and an indirect object: “transform me” and “create for me.”
Spaces and matters – The first line of this poem has an idiomatic shift in meaning. Despite the “s” at the end of the nouns in “spaces and matters,” they are not the plurals of “space and “matter.” “Space” without an article often means the region beyond the Earth’s atmosphere or beyond the solar system. It is not countable and has no plural. Similarly, “matter” without an article means the fundamental substance that possesses mass and constitutes the perceptible universe. It also is not countable and has no plural. “A space” with the indefinite article means “a 3-dimensional area” often on a human scale, such as a room or “shelf space”; its plural is “spaces.” “A matter” with the indefinite article means “ a subject of concern or attention”; its plural is “matters.” (“The matter” with the definite article means “the immediate problem.”)