10: The Humanities

December 7, 2018 · 5:00
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The Humanities
by Catherine Barnett

A classmate and I chose pendulums,
what happens when a pendulum

hangs from a pendulum?
How does gravity work then?

We were studying invisible forces
and left the classroom, heading into

the world with just our two bodies,
which were to be both string and bob.

In the woods behind school, he climbed into a tree
and lowered himself down,

holding a branch.
I reached up to his thin ankles

and lifted my bare feet off the ground.
Someone must have been there to try to make us swing,

record the harmonic oscillations,
and take the polaroids,

still stapled to this yellowed lab report.
It’s haunting to discover it now, to see in the photos

how we hung there smiling, white,
safe and dumb.

How little history we knew.
If only all feet could come back

to stand on the ground,
not get buried under it,

left to hang above, left outside
in the told and untold,

in the toll of hot municipal suns.
We didn’t understand much of anything

but completed the assignment,
typed up the results, passed physics,

went to college and typed and typed
and never took another science class,

we were humanities majors.
Sometimes when I’m not typing now

I run lines with an actor friend
and can’t get them out of my head.

Another heavenly day,
says Winnie as the curtain rises.

She’s buried to her waist in earth
and for a while you think it can’t get any worse.

The humanities.
What are they, really?

Don’t let me sleep on.

 
 
 

“The Humanities” from “Human Hours” by Catherine Barnett. Copyright © 2018 Graywolf Press.