Jimmy Sbordone

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A supernova is perhaps the most destructive process in the known universe: it is the final act of a large star that runs out of fuel. These massive explosions are so immense that they obliterate any planets or other bodies in orbit of the star. It is not purely destructive, though: a supernova is the only way to produce many of the heavier metals necessary for life as we know it on Earth.

Is violence—

1. Our identity?

The love-
child species

Of atomic calamities
& galactic murder.

For the metals in your brain
Thank the planet


You’ll never know
Individual names

lost, to the event
horizon of Forget.

2. Just a wisp
of our past?

Far from it
To love arises

History’s peripheral lens
Demands we utter “Oh, horror!”
So that we emerge mindful
Of a molecular act of compassion

Only caverns of our nature
Can cognize

a single point of light

Two of the poets we have studied in class (Cathy Linh Che and Brian Foley) use images of astronomy to illustrate their experiences: Che talks of “men like galaxies,” while Foley tries to unpack a supernova of enlightenment stemming from a break-up. Like these two poets, I employed an objective correlative with the image of a supernova. I think this motif serves the poem well because, much like our own heritage, a supernova is a very distant series of events that is still largely vague and unknown to us: it is, in and of itself, already defamiliarized by its foreignness. Although we do not understand these events, we know that they have some massive impact on our own personal development, as the heavier metals in our bodies and around the Earth (alluding to the mettle of our own identities) can only be produced in the process of a supernova. My hope is that the poem feels ethically uncomfortable: we as living organisms need the elements produced by this violent process, and supernovae always obliterate the planets orbiting around the former star. I was trying to get the readers to raise the same doubt of themselves that the speaker presents in the final scene of Saving Private Ryan: “Tell me I’m a good man.”

I was trying to draw from the way Foley incorporates line breaks in the middle of words or phrases to create an ambiguity through a double meaning. The example in this poem that I think was very effective was on “event / horizon” at the end of the first poem. Putting a line break there opens the door to two readings of this poem: one that reflects on the “event horizon” (the point of no return in a black hole) of forget, and one which broaches the depth of the event and the horizon of forget. Splitting the line and creating these two meanings opens the door to a plethora of interpretations of the entire poem, which was definitely a central goal for me in this poem: for Che and Foley, the speakers learn to see new insights through the same images of astronomy, and I aspired to do the same. My hope is that each reader gleans a new pearl of wisdom that I never foresaw being planted in the poem.