Cathexis Northwest Press
Schrödinger's Box, Without a Map
By: George Burns
-Schrödinger’s cat in a box is a thought experiment
that illustrates a paradox in quantum mechanics that
any two quantum states can be added together.
I think I see myself
looking out from the trees.
Someone I knew long ago.
The sound of the untamable stream
and trilling of the brook
is in my voice.
It's about who I am,
the birthday wish before the thought,
the bus coming to get me
when I was a boy, cresting the hill,
like a big dog glad
to see me.
I don't know how to say it.
I don't know if I'm in the back
or the front of the bus, or middle row.
I think I'm going forward.
I must be going forward.
It's an old and rusted metal box
and it's always on the beach on the sandy swell
splashed and tumbled daily by the sea.
Who knows when the next departure is?
It's all right,
I want to say to the driver.
But the driver's in the very back
of this bus where I sleep at night,
where there are trails down gullies,
in the mountains moss-covered boards, and
where Druids might bring this runaway
bus of everydays to the end of this line
where all my life rusted with age-spots
of fungi, scalloping through folds
of yellow orange rose purple
bruises, and the brief iridescence
I’m a simple body,
alive or dead,
on the floor of things,
a dictionary of glad, golden
shining forth, unweaving the day,
tossing, turning between
all the never ending, the slow moving,
drifting down strata
as a light leaf falling through history
in three stanzas.
What is it that we put into words
as a galaxy of electrons
alight in a desire to catch
a bird just lifting off the
branch of non-existence, my cherry tree
there, that someone cut down
a long time ago, after we moved
out –– how I could go there
my bedroom window, and then
stretch my leg all the way over
like a grappling hook, the rest of my body
falling into its high, green arms ––
Oh joy, Meriwether wrote,
ocean in view... Doubloons of
words, and I know what to do
with them, dreams
leaving sleep in your eyes,
and those stones alongside the road...
You have walked them. You really have.
The driver in her cap, the slotted token box,
that click of coins hitting its lip — Zip,
down the throat.
And at the stranger’s smile you sway
as you hold the strap,
watching the bus slide to the curb,
the door fold open like a fan.
Small gusts of wind.
there are mosquitos and gnats and
their drilling sound, a bouncing dance
in the squares of the slanting sun's
green-limbed lattice that is my delight.
How could I forget?
The cat is alive and purring.
To a feast with the robins, black cherries
in a pointillism of leaf and sky ––
reweaving time, and if I get up,
I lean forward, go
from one moment to the other,
yank the stop cord
that makes the bell ring,
not even a mirage, a first love like that
lasts a lifetime.
George Burns was the owner of a small company in the semiconductor industry until he retired in 2008. He has been writing short stories and poetry for more than forty years.
His short stories and poems have appeared many literary magazines, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Cathexis Northwest Press, Passengers Journal, Right Hand Pointing, The Comstock Review, The DMQ Review and The Massachusetts Review.
In 2004, his poem, "Partly Heliotropic", was the winner of the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation Poetry Contest."Like One Bird Wing" was a Poem of Special Merit in Comstock Review's 2021 Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Contest.
His first book of poems, If a Fish, was recently published by Cathexis Northwest Press.
"Writing Schrödinger's Box, Without a Map was a two step process. It began as a writing prompt: a box found on the beach. I made the box me—by becoming in it—first focusing on my age spots, then all the bruises that come with a lifetime. But I wasn't comfortable with that. I wanted room for joy. And with joy on the one hand, and bruises on the other. I realized I was Schrödinger's cat.
But that was only the first part. After I brought the poem home, I began browsing other poems I'd written about the tough things in life and the things that make hanging on worth while—using my old poems as writing prompts, if you will—finding bits and pieces of something old and integrating them with something new. It was an exciting process."