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Jeanne K Wagner

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Einstein at the Flamingo Motel
by Jeanne K Wagner
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poem about Einstein's brain

Einstein at the Flamingo Motel


(In 2000 Einstein’s brain, removed during an autopsy in 1955, was driven across country to Berkeley, CA by journalist Michael Paterniti.)


They’re tearing down the place

where Einstein stayed.

Two stories of flamingo-pink stucco,

a cartoon bird perched on the sign.


Of course, it wasn’t the genius

himself who checked in,

but his brain-child, sprung,

some forty years before,

from his own forehead

like a still-born god.


And like a god, chopped

into pieces and scattered,

or at least, sectioned and sliced

like head cheese,

and sealed in a Mason jar.


I’d like to think of him, though,

coming to this seedy motel

as pilgrim not relic.

The sad old eyes taking in

the tacky ambience

and not turning away.


There must have been times,

after those long ago nights

of philandering,

when he woke

into depleted rooms

like these,

into the ineffectual mass

of a morning body,

love sounds dissipating

through thinnish walls,

sweat and cum on the bed sheets,

cigarette smoke, like spent nebulae,

clinging to the ceiling tiles.


Lover of the constant,

inconstant lover,

where in the jarred brain

were the beautiful equations then,

their language of equivalence

failing as metaphor?


Electrons have stopped coursing

through the pink neon coils,

but the sign’s still there,

a travesty of real flamingos

when they flock by the thousands

on the salt licks, then rise as one

in a coral-colored cloud,

a fission of feathers

and billowing bone,

their wings thwacking the air

with the sound

like starched light.



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