There’s a beauty, a truly conjugal beauty, in having this sleeves-up, pants-down labor marry – that is, verify – the insights of a blackboard to a cocoa plantation on Principe Island off West Equatorial Africa, to observe if there was a ‘curvature of space’ around the solar eclipse of May 29, 1919, finally proving the runic equations of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

  • From Combinations of the Universe, by Albert Goldbarth



Once, a world where animals, all animals
were wild, Then eventually the concept of “pet.”
I’d guess, said Jen, the line between those two occurs
at approximately the same time as the line between the forest or jungle and “lawn.” Sounds right. Especially if “approximately”
or “circa”: ways we engineer some wiggle-room
into otherwise inflexible demarcations. There are lines
like these that slice across the walkways of our lives
by the bajillion, invisibly. Who knows (any more than did
the fish that clambered onto land or, turning back
the land beast that reverted to a whale) when we’ve crossed some
evolutionary line? – it’s not like tripwire
setting off automatic confetti and horns, and yet
a line, by any definition, should be drawable enough.
Between the zygote and the next stage up. Between the side
of the girlie club with G-strings and the side with total nudity.
In her crazyass sex-up heyday Jen was a dancer.
Then eventually the concept of “wife”. For seven years
she worked at that: and still one night walked back out
to her earlier life where wide-eyed men with dollar tips lined up for her.


  • Goldbarth, Albert, Everyday People : Linear

How many promises, scattered to the winds
that were the province of the wind gods
of the Hopi, Blackfeet, Najavjo, Cheyenne?

How many hands were shook and names were signed
and pipes were passed congenially in a circle,
before the first of the used-car dealerships rose up
on the ground where the gods had walked?

What did we say to the oil-bearing nations?
What did they say in return, for a gun,
for an antibiotic, for a slice of processed cheese?
Some pledges, of course, are kept: my parents
mde theirs under the chuppa and kept it alive
for as long as they were alive. But others … a girl
on the news, in a land I’ve never been to,
with a face that’s marked by falling stone
from enemy fire. We’re either the girl
or the enemy: this war is too confusing to know
such details as the lines of culpability.
Oaths of butter, oaths of mildew, of steel
of putrefied skin, of juju bones, of shadow, of uranium,
oaths of gravel.

Goldbarth, Albert, Everyday People : A Typo for “Paths of Gravel” on page 17 of Jack Williamson’s Demon Moon 

Last night a TV show with a typically long-limbed Nordic supermodel,

every inch of pale, gemmed, and pampered five-nine stature unnecessarily

boosted in six-inch heels / click / and a Bantu pygmy

over her pounding-stone and her millet …

If your life depended on coming up with a tally,

if you could straighten its numbers into a flexible line

around the moon and back a dozen times,

a hundred … still you couldn’t count the planets

that cohabit this planet.


Goldbarth, Albert, Everyday People : Round, Polished Stones

We all desire

“more” and “better”, Melville adds that final “e”

to the family name, and Faulkner adds the “u”, in quest

of a signified gentility. My friend Damien

(fake name) won A Certain Literary Award, and

at the stellar after-ceremony party, in the swank hotel’s

swank atrium, he found a leggy literary groupie

noshing caviar under a swankily lush mimosa,

and in under an hour his own swank room could boast

the golden statuette, the evening’s lovliest woman, and 

the silver serving platter of five-star caviar,

and if you think this story’s moral lesson is

that satiation is ever attained, you don’t understand

the protoknowledge we’re born with, coded into our cells:

soon soon soon enough we die. Even before we’ve seen

the breast, we’re crying to the world that we want;

and the world doles out its milkiness in doses. We

want, we want, we want, and if we don’t then

that’s what we want: abstemiousness is only

hunger translated into another language. Yes

there’s pain and and heartsore rue and suffering, but

there’s no such thing as “anti-pleasure”: it’s pleaure

that the anchorite takes in his bleak cave

and Thoreau in his bean rows and cabin. For Thoreau,

the Zen is: wanting less is wanting more.

Of less.

  • Goldbarth, Albert, Everyday People : Photographs of the Interiors of Dictators’ Houses

And the gods…they also settle,


briefly, here on our level, and they also have hungers,

as Adonis or Leda, we’re the custards


of the evening, for the gods, and whatever off-the-scale

invisible spirochete of wham-bam otherworld exposure


is involved, its consequences are measured by dynasties

arising or topping, countrysides redistricted, and people


metamorphosed into marble, flower, bark, wind

and transanimal bodies of every conceivable species


  • Goldbarth, Albert, Everyday People : STD

the marvelous basic mechanics of speech,

of lung: 300 million alveoli that, “if spread out flat,”


as my eighth-grade science teacher preened, “would come to

750 square feet, the entire floor space of an average house,”


and she added that tired magic about how atoms

of Julius Caesar and Napoleon and Beethoven did


their fleet anachronistic dance in every inhalation

of ours, although at thirteen I preferred to think


that the atoms of Cleopatra’s body—my Cleopatra,

inflating her see-through empresswear


with husky breaths—commingled with my blood, and also

realized in my own dim way it wasn’t only Einstein,


Shakespeare, Madame Curie populating my oxygen,

but also the smelly and scabby old man


from across the street who’d died last year

  • Goldbarth, Albert, Everyday People : The Poem of the Little House at the Corner of Misapprehension and Marvel