Poetry by Linnea Nelson


One year from the event horizon,
I understand that this is how it works:

Light bends around a black hole.

Let x be perpendicular to y.

Let x be space.

Let y be time.

Draw a cone of light across the y axis. 
Your past self goes
in the II quadrant.
Your future self goes here.
Place it at I.

Far enough away, scientists say,
light is virtually unaffected.

Are you thinking
That must be very far? As far
as they know gravity goes
on forever.

The plane I’m about to show you
doesn’t yet exist.

Certain points are unattainable.


Someone sent your neighbor yellow sympathy roses
but the florist mistakenly delivered them to you,

so we set the bouquet back
on Hank’s camouflage welcome mat

and monitored its withering
for upwards of three weeks,

the pale blue and white “Thinking of You” balloon
tethered to the vase 

descending half an inch each day.
Awake at night in your downtown apartment

we heard the stoplights in the empty street
shifting from green to yellow,

and I wondered when death would finally be
symbolized to its limit,

and what form grief would take
if it had a physical shape 

and you said, A globe.
You said, 

We hold it so long it must be perfect,
and I realized I must have spoken.

    erasures from three of Rainier Maria Rilke’s letters to Franz Xaver Kappus

Make do with just a few words:

Say, quietly, gratitude.
See what will come of it.

All comes to loneliness,
whatever happens—

not a troubling, ugly loss.

Say today, little, work.
Death and life. Splendour. Both.

You must be solitary.
The silence must be immense
to be able to receive the most inward note.
Trust this solitude, and it will bleed.

Yes, unutterable form, well-defined.
Near to you, I am still living.

I want to talk to you.
I can say almost nothing.

Many great sadnesses have now passed,
but did not pass through you.

A stillness settles on us, making no sound.

Strange: everything, familiar
and accustomed, the middle supervened.

We never quite know what happened—
we cannot say,

quieter, in this fixed
but infinite space.

Linnea Nelson is an MFA candidate at Oregon State University. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adirondack Review, San Pedro River Review, Tule Review, Tribeca Poetry Review, and Northern Eclecta, among other publications, as well as the anthology Leaving My Shadow: A Tribute to Anna Akhmatova.