Madeleine Wattenberg's work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Best New Poets 2017, Tupelo Quarterly, Fairy Tale Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Mid-American Review. She regularly writes for the review site The Bind and is a PhD student in poetry at the University of Cincinnati.
An outside. An inside.
One can assume salt in a rough wet mouth.
Her father's house was not far from the sea.
An orange removed from under the hand's heel —
pressure at two poles.
A cut in the damp air. Light like a rind crescent.
It is impossible to round this world.
The boats ride on the waves in a geometry
of hollowed cells. Honeycomb.
A scientific animal. A crushed telescope.
Charcoal. Pipette nettle.
A privation of light. A fiction rattles in the centrifuge.
Bear-men. Bird-men. An emperor.
A bowl of seeds and a scalpel. A hypothesis.
A particular part cannot increase of itself.
The frozen men on long silver counters.
Cross-sections of stone.
As the daughter of a scientist, I'm fascinated by what occurs at the intersection between the poetic and scientific imaginations. In her proto sci-fi The Blazing World, Margaret Cavendish describes a boat that sails to the cold poles between two worlds: "Neither was it a wonder that the men did freeze to death," she writes, leaving only a woman to sail into "another world." Born in 1623, Cavendish was a scientist at a time when women weren't scientists. One way she navigated this male dominated realm was by building herself a laboratory out of language. This poem is a list of what I imagine populates Margaret Cavendish's laboratory, both in material and method — a laboratory shaped by the pressure of two worlds, interior and exterior, in which she performs a dissection of the gendered modes of knowledge formation.