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Darwinist Logic on Unrequited Love

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, March 27, 2017.
About this Poem 

“I see Darwin’s work as such an important lens for how to understand our world, so I wondered what would happen if I leaned on him further, in more unusual contexts. One way to see this is that he provides the backbone of the poem, but at the same time, the speaker makes this happen, such that they become inextricable.”
—Katie Willingham

Darwinist Logic on Unrequited Love

To begin with the end, what the rain
          did not uncover. A teacup overflows,
we call it a spill; a riverbed overflows, we
          call it a flood, what it is to be

swept away. Great is the power of steady
          misrepresentation, writes Darwin. I like
things that light up on their own—
          the headlights on my new car when we

drive under a bridge. I like how
          it doesn’t distinguish between different types
of darkness. Darwin again: I am not
          the least afraid to die. Well,

I burned my thumb last night
          on the kettle, distracted
by the buzzing of my phone—
          my mother again. There is still some pleasure

in dissection—what admirably
          well-adapted movements
the tip of a root possesses. I like things
          that come apart easily

in my hands—dried leaves, clumps of sugar—
          Do you remember, before wireless,
when to unplug meant getting
          on your knees to jerk the cord from the wall? Now

if you want to disconnect,
          you have to ask nicely. Off/on;
let go/resurrect—the game your mind plays
          in dreams, holding him up—no, a simulacrum

slipping its cage in my consciousness. Daytime
          calls me to wakefulness, its dog home
from the walk, from the bewildering folly
          of weather. Turns out these purple statices

on the dresser stand for
          remembrance but I don’t need
any help remembering. They are right
          in front of me—they have fully loaded.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Katie Willingham. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Katie Willingham. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.