Edited and introduced by Gibson Fay-LeBlanc.

This week’s poem does not share its backstory with us. We don’t know which events or what line of thinking pushed Mark Melnicove to write a poem about the forces of attraction that act on us whether or not we wish them to. The poem puts us right on the highway, going 70 miles an hour, rather than explaining why we got in the car in the first place. And that’s good, that’s often how poems move. Our job as readers is to try to keep up.

“There is not enough levity / to defy the ever-present attractions / we feel for things that take us / with them when they go,” Melnicove writes, in what seems to me to be the heart of the poem. This poem disguises itself with a light touch, but the speaker knows loss. He knows that gravity gets us all in the end.

A 45-year retrospective of Mark Melnicove’s word art was exhibited at Bowdoin College last fall. He teaches creative writing, English and permaculture at Falmouth High School.

Ever-present Attractions

By Mark Melnicove

Two stones are all it takes

to generate some gravity.

Two stones or even less:

I have seen one pebble attract another.

I have even witnessed a speck

swallow intruders in its vortex.

And once you are in the grip

of atoms, which is always,

forget about being elsewhere:

that would be like jumping

and landing in another universe.

There is not enough levity

to defy the ever-present attractions

we feel for things that take us

with them when they go.

This is why we have invented stand-up:

to laugh at how clever we think

we are to have figured out how

to be upright, running around

all the time as if we are free, only

to fall down to earth, to sleep

or to love, to roll or to die, thinking

we have somehow escaped

what is, after all, inescapable.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. This column is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2016 Mark Melnicove. It appears here by permission of the author. Please note that the column is not currently accepting submissions.

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