He pours water into a cup: at room temperature,
the cup is white, but, after he microwaves it,
and before steeping a tea bag with mint leaves,
he notices outlines of shards have formed
above the water. As the cup cools, the lines
disappear, but now he glimpses fault lines
inside himself and feels a Siberian tiger
pace along the bars of a cell—black, orange,
white; black, orange, white—and feels how
the repeating notes send waves through him.
His eyes glisten, and he tries to dispel the crests,
but what have I done, what can I do throbs
in his arteries and veins. Today he’s going
to handle plutonium at the lab and won’t
consider beryllium casings. He situates the past
in the slight aroma of mint rising in the air.
Sometimes he’s an astronaut suspended
above earth twisting on an umbilical cord;
sometimes he’s in the crosshairs of a scope,
and tiger stripes flow in waves across his body.
This poem appeared in the August 2, 2012 issue of the magazine.