Two Poems

by Peter Lopatin (September 2020)


Great Blue Herons, Marie Hull, 1925



It’s All in the Book


A Math and Physics major friend from

fifty years ago—his name was ‘Cooper’ (let us say)—

haggled back then with his confrères

over a point of quantum subtlety,

insisting that their notebooks were—imagine this—

“too full” because they filled them, uselessly, with

what could already be found in books.


Cooper couldn’t understand that, for lesser minds

than his, the transition from Equation 23.1 to 23.2

was a journey of toil and doubt.

“It’s all in the book,” was all he had to say.


These transitions—these leaps from time to

place, from places here beside this creek

where the going down is continuous,

but proceeds in breaks, to the placid pond

whose outlet barely makes a sound,

even after rain—

are acts of grace.


They cause me to pen so many notes,

preposterously repeating Cooper’s friends’

egregious mistakes. I want to say,

like him: “It’s all in the book”—and it is—

but the pond waters wait, the Herons

skim and dip, and the yellowed pages

split in two, the two

into four and the four

into eight, taking the self-evident

out for a spin.


So I plod and fill my book with dubious

scrawl, imagining Cooper’s dismay.

I parse and specify, showing

all my steps and derivations.

But still, Equation 23.2

remains so very far away.




At Present


There is nothing to anticipate.


There is, instead, an unkempt room with

shafts of light instead of plans,


and books that one has read and

read again,


railroad timetables long expired,


garments rich with mileage,

rich with narrative,


a pair of weathered shoes that

saw no road untrod.


There are no dead.


The air is not sickly here

as elsewhere,


and one is led

to breathe the life

of all lives lived.


There is no time to bide,

no wait, no until.


You are present, here,

in the clear, bright cell

of your open heart, where you

rest and eat your fill.


Voices, once inflamed,

flow like a honeyed aquifer,

silent now beneath an arid plain.


The sea, lashing at the sand,

falls unfettered

on your outstretched hand.                                                                                      


There is something here right now,

something which has not been sought,

a sound that goes unclaimed—


Claim it now! Expand! Don’t wait!

Avoid all artifice! Be unchained!


There is nothing to commemorate.


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Peter Lopatin was born and raised in New York where he earned his JD degree and practiced corporate law for thirty years. Along the way, he studied philosophy as a graduate student at the New School for Social Research. After retiring from his legal practice, he obtained a Certificate from the New School in teaching English as a Second Language and has been an ESL teacher since then. He has taught at the University of Connecticut/Stamford, Norwalk Community College, Manhattanville College and, most recently, at the Stamford English Language Academy. Peter’s short stories and book reviews have appeared in Commentary, The Weekly Standard, The New Atlantis, and New English Review. His poetry has appeared in New Millennium Writings and Poetry East.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast



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