The Utopologist’s Wife
by Jaimee Hills
Utopia . . . has a kind of event horizon, and in the end our speculations always pull us back there, like gravity, like home. —Gerry Canavan
The springboard wobbles. A yellow bathing cap
holds my hair in tightly wound rubber, my head,
a smallish sun. The real sun hangs just out of view,
which is just as well. The soft purple haze at its edges
lights the expanse of space. You get reflective
standing on a strip of cantilevered aluminum
among the stars. Sure, there’s no air up here. It’s cold.
I’m shivering in this bathing suit, trying to hold
the universe in my head, which feels like a migraine,
a solar flare in the skull (though you might blame
the bathing cap). Instead of drinking its immense sea,
think of the universe as a well-worn blanket,
feeling not so tiny, as it wraps around you. Then,
grab the four corners of the universe together,
folding it over twice, neatly—so you can see
a microcosm, with all its patchwork of grasses,
sand and seas stitched together, a bit of fringed earth.
This is where I think about his box of stuff labeled
“Memories: Do Not Open,” which I keep on the top shelf
and open from time to time because I never remember
what’s in there, a bit of childhood grown dusty.
The manual for disaster preparedness is in the basement
flowering with mold, a pretty green aquamarine color,
a stain of wavy lines, not unlike the color of the sea
below, the planet covered in froth, a swirl of dust. I thumb
the space where I once had a brown, diamond scar
in my palm below my pointer finger—was it on the left
or right? Whichever hand held the small pink sword
that stabbed a maraschino in the bottom of the glass
bubbling spritely, with a gradient of grenadine, before
I kept it as a souvenir, walked out of the restaurant,
cartwheeled on the sidewalk, when the sharp plastic
by a measure of fortune didn’t break, but landed perfectly
to slice into my palm like the soft flesh of a cherry.
I survey the landscape of my hands, its roads and rivers,
but there’s no trace of it. Faded. And I threw away the sword.
But did I? There it is inside a small box in the brain
I trot out now to give to you. Standing on the diving board,
the future is speculation, imaginary. The past is speculation,
too. What ladder did I climb? Here on my tiptoes,
looking across the planet, I wonder how far down it goes.
This is an ekphrastic poem based on the collage High Dive by Joe Webb. Like many poems, the speaker provides a veil between the fictional and the biographical, narrating a moment of taking a deep breath before diving into something big. The poem is part of a larger project that attempts to marry the domestic with the cosmic, the past and the future. The “big thing” that governs the project (which is not in this poem) was contemplating the future while awaiting the results of my husband's medical test for a life-altering illness. The quote that opens the poem is my husband’s from an essay he wrote, “Marxism as Science Fiction.”