Katie Chaple
Upon Seeing Dark Universe

It’s common knowledge that the word universe is no longer finite
because it expands into a noun we don’t yet know. I can’t see
how this is true: that we stretch into some concept
that isn’t “space.” I think of a balloon filling until it reaches
the walls of the central rotunda of a museum, forcing its way
out the exits until tension causes explosion. To add
to the impossibility, instead of slowing down like scientists thought,
expansion’s faster these days, speeding up and away from us—
all delivered from a forty-minute film in the upside-down bowl
of a planetarium. My mother is seasick.
My husband is lulled to trance, almost-sleep,
and my daughter, amazed to be in space, doesn’t worry
about the science—it all looks like glitter and fairy dust.
And, by the way, the stuff between the stuff is dark matter,
so to ground myself, I think about all the books
that contain dark matter—the human: the burning of letters,
the man smoking in the alleyway, lying in wait; and then move out
to landscape—open field, canyon, moor, then further,
the open ocean, which has always frightened me.
Our edges floated away, and the known universe—
from uni, meaning one and versus, meaning turned, and the entire
meaning, “combined into one whole”—is only five percent
of what’s out there. No matter where you are, it looks like
you’re in the center of the universe because what you see is a globe
around the globe you’re on, and if you’re looking deep enough,
you’re not seeing what’s there, but time—billions of years, and the sunlight
we’ll step out into is already past.

Katie Chaple is the author of Pretty Little Rooms (Press 53, August 2011), winner of the 2012 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Poetry through Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. She is editor of Terminus Magazine, published through Georgia Tech and also serves as the McEver Chair in Community Outreach with Poetry @ TECH. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as Antioch Review, Blackbird, Crab Orchard Review, Five Points, Greensboro Review, Mead, Passages North, Poetry International, The Rumpus, Washington Square, and others. She teaches at the University of West Georgia.