First Laws

A weekly poem, read by the author.
April 11 2001 3:00 AM

First Laws

Every body continues in its state of rest, but tonight I have
to tell you we have divided yours into two principalities:
domain of black box on the linen closet's top shelf—

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out of reach of over-zealous cleaners, myself included,
who might discard you without thinking, or
grandchildren who might dump you into tea cups—

and domain of nature, fistfuls of ash tucked into humous
and peatmoss in pits dug in the yard, fertilizing the roots
of two kousa dogwoods and a stewartia,

matter which cannot (remember, cannot) be destroyed. Each at rest
continuing, or of uniform motion in a straight line, straight through
the summer when drought turned the leaves to cylinders,

when Dad began screaming that the trees were dying, why
couldn't I do anything. I hung a thimble of ash from a dead branch,
soaked the roots. A body in linear movement unless it is compelled to change

that state by forces impressed upon it. And what could have pressed
you, Mother, if love did not? I just want one more cigarette before I die,
you begged from under your oxygen mask, Take me to the back porch.

To every action force there is an equal and opposite reaction force,
and so breath is its own resistance, its own memorial. My opposite,
my appositive. My pleas to quit. The pen presses back against my hand.
 

Teresa Cader is the author of Guests, The Paper Wasp, and History of Hurricanes (2009). She teaches poetry in the low-residency MFA program at Lesley University.

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