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By Neela Perceval-Maxwell February 14, 2024

ode to undone physics homework

i should be looking at the stars; that is, their drabber echoes,
the littler parts of math, the chaff and not the grain,
winnowed over eons by acutely sluggish genius—
the roots, stuck ruddy and impure, and not the
small, bright buds that shake in the wind.

there is something in me that yearns to look up at the stars,
those jewels in the tempest, those grains stuck in chaff;
that wants to winnow, for that’s all it is, in the end:
winnowing, winnowing—worship.

but still, that high calling to the stars is taken by the susurrus below
and drowned, lying like Ophelia killed by Shakespeare in the mud,
stuck through and sullied by longing, trussed all up with flowers,
which, unlike the stars, are warm to touch and close.

Shakespeare: tell me what to do, tell me which yearning is best,
for i want very badly to be fervid and to worship the stars like
the rest, and to winnow, winnow, and prostrate myself
before the tenderness of the universe; sacred, hidden
sweetness that reveals itself only to those who
climb up the roots with dirt scratching at
their skin and reach—

for those jewel-bright stars, those unfurling springs and summers,
those delectable little Arcadias so hidden in the tempest.

it would be easier by half to worship the stars and to grab the universe fiercely
by its fingertips and whisper to it i am here for you—
but instead i don’t know, and i can’t ever know,
which kind of yearning is best, and until then
i will have to content myself with
worshipping Shakespeare.

and oh, what a warm worship that is.

Photo by Matt Riches on Unsplash

About the author

Neela Perceval-Maxwell is a second semester liberal arts student—though she spent her first semester in enriched sciences. When she’s not studying, she spends a lot of time writing, reading, playing the flute, and composing flute music. She is looking to study medieval history in the future, though she hopes never to stop writing in her free time!

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