Fractal: a cascade of never-ending, self-similar, repeated
elements that change in scale but retain similar shape.
I believe in
subtle shifts, cycles.
the science museum,
sticks his hand
into a glacier,
a broken testimony,
a world dissolving. Cold!
It’s cold! And
it’s melting. Look right here, he says.
astonish. I see them in
geometry a welcome language,
a new alphabet for
prayer and song.
I study Peter Eisenman’s
lapping up patterns, interlocking Ls,
the syntax of
ideas. For Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim
Bilbao, syntax looks like
titanium scales rhyming across curves. Glass
patterns, similarities of
are creations of weight, depth; order breaks
where the lines turn. A cascade
of repeating elements grounds my belief in
as mystery. Signs appear: a sound,
and syllable mean things.
Armadillo! Armadillo! sings my son,
using his Louis Armstrong
voice; grit gives way to twang and twang turns into hard-rock screams.
He’s an oracle
at four years old, an armor-clad mammal
My oldest son speaks in code,
echolalia a symptom of a seizure-
besieged brain. When
he utters, No and No and No and
then I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know, I listen for
a divine voice revealed.
Cascades changing in scale, not shape, is why I
trust weight, depth,
height—materials and thingness:
Saturn’s rings, the Pacific coastline, bolts of lightning,
cauliflower, angelica flower-
of sycamore leaves, seashells, snowflakes, blood vessels, DNA.
A range and scope of fractals
inspire awe, a cascade of never-ending
wonder at both
connections and aberrations as
as places of perfect order and broken patterns. When
I consider what we
may be reduced-sized copies of, I grapple
it hovers in physics and biology, the shapes of letters,
the magic of new languages,
the mystery of cells and synapses, the music
of my sons’ voices,
the geometries of buildings and trees.
I glimpse an answer, something like seeing starlight years after
the star dies, supernovas.
Four hours before my youngest son’s birth, I dreamed
my sister, dead
31 years, placed him in my arms: Take care of him, she said. He has
her eyes, ice-blue and illumined by
This poem first appeared in the author's book, The Poet & The Architect, Terrapin Press, 2021.
Christine Stewart-Nuñez is South Dakota’s poet laureate, is the author and editor of several books of poetry, including The Poet & The Architect (Terrapin Books 2021), South Dakota in Poems: An Anthology (2020), Untrussed (University of New Mexico Press 2016) and Bluewords Greening (Terrapin Books 2016), winner of the 2018 Whirling Prize. Christine’s teaching, creative work, and service has earned accolades from South Dakota State University, including the Dr. April Brooks Woman of Distinction Award (2020) and the Outstanding Experiential Learning Educator Award (2019). She’s the founder of the Women Poets Collective, a regional group focused on advancing their writing through peer critique and support.
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