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About this poet

Matthew Olzmann was born in Detroit, Michigan. He received a BA from the University of Michigan–Dearborn and an MFA from Warren Wilson College. He is the author of Contradictions in the Design (Alice James Books, 2016) and Mezzanines (Alice James Books, 2013), winner of the 2011 Kundiman Poetry Prize. Olzmann has received fellowships from the Kresge Arts Foundation and Kundiman, among others. He teaches at Warren Wilson College and lives in North Carolina with his wife, the poet Vievee Francis.

Astronomers Locate a New Planet

“Because it is so dense, scientists calculate the carbon must be crystalline, so a large part of this strange world will effectively be diamond.”
—Reuters, 8/24/2011

Like the universe’s largest engagement ring, it twirls
and sparkles its way through infinity.
The citizens of the new world know about luxury.
They can live for a thousand years.
Their hearts are little clocks
with silver pendulums pulsing inside,
Eyes like onyx, teeth like pearl.
But it’s not always easy. They know hunger.
They starve. A field made of diamond
is impossible to plow; shovels crumble and fold
like paper animals. So frequent is famine,
that when two people get married,
one gives the other a locket filled with dirt.
That’s the rare thing, the treasured thing, there.
It takes decades to save for,
but the ground beneath them glows,
and people find a way.

On Earth, when my wife is sleeping,
I like to look out at the sky.
I like to watch TV shows about supernovas,
and contemplate things that are endless
like the heavens and, maybe, love.
I can drink coffee and eat apples whenever I want.
Things grow everywhere, and so much is possible,
but on the news tonight: a debate about who
can love each other forever and who cannot.

There was a time when it would’ve been illegal
for my wife to be my wife. Her skin,
my household of privilege. Sometimes,
I wish I could move to another planet.
Sometimes, I wonder what worlds are out there.
I turn off the TV because the news rarely makes
the right decision on its own. But even as the room
goes blacker than the gaps between galaxies,
I can hear the echoes: who is allowed to hold
the ones they wish to hold, who can reach
into the night, who can press his or her
own ear against another’s chest and listen
to a heartbeat telling stories in the dark.

Matthew Olzmann, “Astronomers Locate a New Planet” from Contradictions in the Design. Copyright © 2016 by Matthew Olzmann. Used with the permission of Alice James Books, www.alicejamesbooks.org.

Matthew Olzmann, “Astronomers Locate a New Planet” from Contradictions in the Design. Copyright © 2016 by Matthew Olzmann. Used with the permission of Alice James Books, www.alicejamesbooks.org.

Matthew Olzmann

Matthew Olzmann

Matthew Olzmann is the author of Contradictions in the Design (Alice James Books, 2016). He lives in North Carolina.

by this poet

poem

By the doorstep of The Museum,
the Duplicate is frustrated.
Like the offspring of a rock star or senator,
no matter what he does, it’s never enough.
He only wants to think dignified thoughts,
important thoughts, thoughts that will imprint
like an artist’s signature on the memory of

poem

No longer satisfied by the way time slips
through his life’s work, the maker
of hourglasses yearns for a change.

He elects to construct a staircase instead.
Rather than grains of sand,
he’ll manufacture one stair after another
to lament every transient second.

Look at it now! It

poem

Most likely, you think we hated the elephant,
the golden toad, the thylacine and all variations
of whale harpooned or hacked into extinction.

It must seem like we sought to leave you nothing
but benzene, mercury, the stomachs
of seagulls rippled with jet fuel and plastic. 

You

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