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E.R. Lutken

Conservation of Momentum

Race (detail of the dyptich) by Frano Missia


Long before the disarrangements –
ruthless plague, caustic politics,
meth’s jolting detonation –
all of us gathered tight together
on the pale Anderson-plaid blanket,
wolfing down hot-dogs and watermelon,
watching fireworks on the levee.
A fresh, cool night for July,
pocked by volleys of resonant thunder,
baseball-sized pods of raw
chemical energy launched in the dark.
Our whoops brimmed with genuine awe
at incandescent shreds tracing bright,
expanding dandelion-heads in the sky,
constant cannonade of red, yellow, green
flower-flames, each frozen briefly,
then fading to dotted stalks,
listless, spent seeds of blue ash.
Strange phenomenon, momentum
in a closed system such as us,
fragments of white-hot shrapnel
outlining paths, mass-times-velocity
of all our worst and best efforts, ultimately
adding exactly to zero.


About the writer:
E.R. Lutken worked on the Navajo Nation as a physician for many years. She then taught science and math in rural Colorado. Now she spends time in the Louisiana swamps and mountains of New Mexico. She has a poetry collection, Manifold: poetry of mathematics (3: A Taos Press, 2021).

Image: Race (detail of the dyptich) by Frano Missia (1924-2018). Oil on canvas. 55 x 45 cm. 2016. By free license via Zoran Alajbeg on behalf of the copyright holder Jelena Palunko Missia.

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