Poem of the Week | April 26, 2021

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Thermodynamics” by Wesley Rothman!

Wesley Rothman is the author of SUBWOOFER, winner of the New Issues Editors’ Choice Award. His poems and criticism have appeared in The Believer, Callaloo, Gulf Coast, Image, New England Review, Prairie Schooner, Publishers Weekly, and The Golden Shovel Anthology. He has earned advanced degrees from Emerson College and Catholic University, served as a Teaching Artist for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and teaches in Chicagoland.



You watch the news every day, one habit
A teacher planted in you senior year.
You teach your son how a bed of cinders
Heaves its heat like the sea, breathing its glow,
A tide of red stars. He knows fire means smoke,
Knows smoke means ending. The end of a day,
The end of a life, the end of everything
Fire swallows. He will learn exceptions
To every rule in time. He will study
The behavior of flames, how to view
The world comprised of different fuels.
Everything burns in the right conditions.
The faces flashed on the screen every day
Suggest a rule for destruction. A current
Beneath the surface hurtles this way.
Another lurches crossways. He is the wind.
You, the wind. The wind must know why it moves.


Author’s Note

I started this poem three months before my son was born. Most of us didn’t yet know George Floyd’s name & face, or his sweet daughter, because he was still alive. & I’m always thinking, probably to my detriment, about how we learn & are taught to be in the world, how we are shown how to be who we are always becoming. & we make so many choices, often without realizing we’re choosing. We carry just as much power to teach, to show, to grow, with our children, our students (those of us in classrooms), our colleagues, our friends, our extended family, strangers. & inside this poem is impermanence, America, several wretched years, & obliviousness, or a move to overturn it.