Black Hole

I’m sick of my face. Can I take it off,
mask of pantyhose worn by a thief?
Can I trade up, for museum beauty
or airbrushed celebrity perfection?
Those faces don’t crinkle or age:
they shine bright as headlights of
an SUV careening down the Autobahn
en route to mecca or the Lower Rhine.
My face resounds, reduplicates, divides.
If an equation, it’s the string of symbols
devised by Einstein to describe a theory
of General Relativity: the left-hand side
pictorializes the geometry of spacetime,
the right-hand side, all mass and energy.
Information is not knowledge, he wrote:
knowledge’s only source is experience.
My face is tired of experience, sapped
by being gaslit out of my true feelings:
rage, reverence, adoration, antipathy.
My ancestors, mostly potato farmers
from hardy Eastern European stock,
speak out of my face like prophets
in search of an incarnate messiah,
my face a burning bush or wheel.
You view my administrative face:
its abandonment during the throes
of passion is also a mystery to me.
Sad, slumping face, consternated
face overwrought by cognition,
face upturned with dumb hope:
I trace your origins, relentlessly.
When my ex-husband called me
a black hole, he was, in a sense,
correct: my face a gravity field
so strong even light cannot beam.
Supernova explosion, neutron star,
lead me to a beyond, deep within:
eros of the unthought, undreamed.


Copyright © 2024 by Virginia Konchan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 17, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

About this Poem

“‘Black Hole’ reclaims a derogatory term that the speaker’s ex-husband used to describe her to imagine instead her face as a black hole and cosmic mystery onto which insults can be projected but cannot truly be absorbed because of the vastness and unknowability of the universe, of which the speaker is a part. In the poem, her face, like identity or perception, is conceived to be something malleable, but also reflective of her experiences and ancestry. By metaphorizing dark matter, the speaker turns what was intended for harm into a celebration of her life and participation in infinity.”
—Virginia Konchan