A. Van Jordan is the author of Rise, published by Tia Chucha Press, 2001, which won the
PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award and selected for the Book of the Month Club from the Academy of
American Poets. His second book, M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A, published by W.W. Norton & Co, 2004, was awarded
an Anisfield-Wolf Award and listed as one the Best Books of 2005 by The London Times (TLS). Jordan
was also awarded a Whiting Writers Award in 2005 and a Pushcart Prize in 2006, 30th Edition.
Quantum Lyrics was published July 2007 by W.W. Norton & Co. He is a recent recipient of a John Simon
Guggenheim Fellowship, 2007. He is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin,
and he serves on faculty at the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.
On prose poetry
"The Synchronicity of Scenes"
Three Poems by A. Van Jordan
Einstein Defining Special Relativity
INSERT SHOT: Einstein's notebook 1905—DAY
1: a theory that is based on two postulates (a) that the speed of light in all inertial
frames is constant, independent of the source or observer. As in, the speed of light
emitted from the truth is the same as that of a lie coming from the lamp of a face
aglow with trust, and (b) the laws of physics are not changed in all inertial systems,
which leads to the equivalence of mass and energy and of change in mass, dimension,
and time; with increased velocity, space is compressed in the direction of the motion
and time slows down. As when I look at Mileva, it's as if I've been in a space ship
traveling as close to the speed of light as possible, and when I return, years later,
I'm younger than when I began the journey, but she's grown older, less patient. Even a
small amount of mass can be converted into enormous amounts of energy: I'll whisper her
name in her ear, and the blood flows like a mallet running across vibes. But another
woman shoots me a flirting glance, and what was inseparable is now cleaved in two.
Einstein Ruminates on Relativity
INT. Theater. 1931NIGHT
Premiere of City Lights starring CHARLES CHAPLIN, New York City, Albert Einstein
is Chaplin's invited guest. They sit together and the audience stands to applaud them.
Charlie Chaplin tells me
that the world loves him
because they understand him
and the world loves me
because they don't, which doesn't seem fair
but it's true: This is relativity.
Journalists ask for a definition,
but the answers are all around:
a woman loves you for a lifetime
and it feels like a day; she tells you
she's leaving, breaking it off,
and that day feels like a lifetime,
passing slowly. I listen to Armstrong
play his cornet and it sounds
like a Wednesday afternoon in heaven;
some hear Armstrong play
and it sounds like a Monday morning
in Manhattan. Some hear the war on the radio
and they hear acts of love; some
hear details of the war and it sounds
futile. Outside my window
people decry the rain;
somewhere else people pray
for rain to run down their faces.
[from Quantum Lyrics, published in 2007 by Norton]
from prep. 1. Starting at (a particular place or time): As in, John
was from Chicago, but he played guitar straight from the Delta; he wore a blue
suit from Robert Hall's; his hair smelled like coconut; his breath, like mint
and bourbon; his hands felt like they were from slave times when he touched
mehungry, stealthy, trembling. 2. Out of: He pulled a knot of bills from
his pocket, paid the man and we went upstairs. 3. Not near to or in contact
with: He smoked the weed, but, surprisingly, he kept it from me. He said it
would make me too self-conscious, and he wanted those feelings as far away from
us as possible; he said a good part of my beauty was that I wasn't conscious
of my beauty. Isn't that funny? So we drank Bloody Mothers (Hennessey and
tomato juice), which was hard to keep from himhe always did like to drink. 4.
Out of the control or authority of: I was released from my mama's house, from
dreams of hands holding me down, from the threat of hands not pulling me up,
from the man that knew me, but of whom I did not know; released from the
dimming of twilight, from the brightness of morning; from the love I thought
had to look like love; from the love I thought had to taste like love, from
the love I thought I had to love like love. 5. Out of the totality of: I came
from a family full of women; I came from a family full of believers; I came
from a pack of witchesI'm just waiting to conjure my powers; I came from a
legacy of loversI'm just waiting to seduce my seducer; I came from a pride
of proud women, and we take good care of our young. 6. As being other or
another than: He couldn't tell me from his mother; he couldn't tell me from
his sister; he couldn't tell me from the last woman he had before me, and why
should hewe're all the same woman. 7. With (some person, place, or thing)
as the instrument, maker, or source: Here's a note from my mother, and you
can take it as advice from me: A weak lover is more dangerous than a strong
enemy; if you're going to love someone, make sure you know where they're coming
from. 8. Because of: Becoming an alcoholic, learning to walk away, being a
good speller, being good in bed, falling in lovethey all come from practice.
9. Outside or beyond the possibility of: In the room, he kept me from leaving
by keeping me curious; he kept me from drowning by holding my breath in his
mouth; yes, he kept me from leaving till the next day when he said Leave.
Then, he couldn't keep me from coming back.
[from M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A, published in 2004 by Norton]