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poems by


Jake Adam York Prize Selected by Mark Doty


© 2020, Text by Brooke Matson

All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher: Milkweed Editions, 1011 Washington Avenue South, Suite 300, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415.



Published 2020 by Milkweed Editions

Printed in Canada

Cover design by Mary Austin Speaker

Cover artwork: Eagle Nebula by Gorän Nilsson via Creative Commons

Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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First Edition

Milkweed Editions, an independent nonprofit publisher, gratefully acknowledges sustaining support from the Alan B. Slifka Foundation and its president, Riva Ariella Ritvo-Slifka; the Ballard Spahr Foundation; Copper Nickel; the Jerome Foundation; the McKnight Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Poetry Series; the Target Foundation; and other generous contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals. Also, this activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

For a full listing of Milkweed Editions supporters, please visit milkweed.org.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Matson, Brooke, author.

Title: In accelerated silence : poems / Brooke Matson.

Description: First edition. | Minneapolis, Minnesota : Milkweed


2020. | Identifiers: LCCN 2019022503 (print) | LCCN 2019022504 (ebook) | ISBN

9781571315151 (trade paperback ; acid-free paper) | ISBN 9781571317353


Classification: LCC PS3613.A8386 A6 2020 (print) | LCC PS3613.


(ebook) | DDC 811/.6--dc23

LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019022503

LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019022504

Milkweed Editions is committed to ecological stewardship. We strive to align our book production practices with this principle, and to reduce the impact of our operations in the environment. We are a member of the Green Press Initiative, a nonprofit coalition of publishers, manufacturers, and authors working to protect the world’s endangered forests and conserve natural resources. In Accelerated Silence was printed on acid-free 100% postconsumer-waste paper by Friesens Corporation.

for Ryan

There will be music despite everything.





Ode to Dark Matter

Elegy in the Form of a Pomegranate

The Day Before

Red Giant

Supermassive Star



Eve Splits the Apple

Broaden the Subject


Law of the Conservation of Mass

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Metaphors of Mass Destruction

Psalm of the Israeli Grenade

Newton’s Apple


Elegy in the Form of an Octopus


Eve’s Apple

Law of Inertia

Impossible Things

Electron Cloud

Centrifugal Force

Orionid Meteor

Elegy in the Form of Endangered Species

There Is a Room in the Four Dimensions of the Space-Time Continuum


Elegy in the Form of Porcelain

Sonnet in the Higgs Field

Ode to a Fractured Conch

Elegy in the Form of Steam



How to Eat a Pomegranate

Elegy in the Form of a Butterfly Bush


Sonnet on a Hook

Ode to a Rotting Apple



Ode to the Returned

Ode to the Sun







I speed through the moonless

night—porch lights thinning

into silhouettes of trees.

Emptiness isn’t empty,

the radio scientist insists. Relieved

you’re here to hold the aching

stars apart, a muted backdrop to the howl

of headlights streaking by, I bend

the pedal to the floor.

His voice describes a mine

deep under the earth

where professors hunt the flutter

of your wings

in accelerated silence—

wait for you to slip, to exhale

into their sensitive machine, eager

to assemble your breath

in data streams. They think

you’re already theirs:

a variable to ensnare in a net sum,

the way children trust

answers to soothe.

Dear wild unknown: tow the borders

of this universe far beyond

our grasp. Whatever we see, we break—

count and dismember

all we touch:

The earth. The atom. Anatomy. Eve.

Be the animal that escapes

our love without a wound.


Eve was like that: eating a pomegranate

like smashing a chest of rubies.

She split the whole

vermilion world in a violent need to know.

My finger circles the crown, traces its tight circumference,

red and round. I pluck it from the mound

the grocer arranged and hear the question

I asked you that night, when we were just beginning

to trust each other: If I were a fruit, what would I be?

The Latin for fruit is pōmum

and some reading that Bible believed Eve

ate an apple. I hold your answer

in my hand: You are striking. Tough to crack.

Worth every effort, you said. There’s an art

to eating a pomegranate. Cut away the crown

until you see the chambers inside—six bedrooms

shining with scarlet chandeliers. In a bowl of water

use your thumbs to tear the walls apart.

I wonder if you ever ate a pomegranate

this way when alive, and if you wanted—

the way Eve wanted—to be understood, to understand,

to be freed from your flesh like a hundred supple seeds.

But this is a supermarket, not a bedroom,

and my cart is empty

and I am wavering on the scuffed linoleum

of the produce aisle, rubbing the skin of a pomegranate

as if it were your hand.


the doctor called we whispered

over a white-clothed table

in my favorite restaurant, sipping ruby

bulbs of Malbec. You weren’t hungry

(a symptom, we later learned) but insisted

I order the portobello.

Like magnets, our knees

locked beneath the table, a phenomenon

you loved to point out. Waiters hummed

around candles like sable bees

and evening honeyed the sills.

We’re gonna do everything right, you said,

setting down your glass and grinning—

meaning July, Seattle, meaning

two children and long retirement.

I couldn’t help it. I reached

across the tablecloth to touch the lines

at the corner of your eye.

It took you by surprise, my thumb

brushing your skin as if painting

the edge of you.


Light ground to silver powder, suspended in a syringe

the nurse slid into your vein. I tasted metal

you mused after, as if it were an experiment

not a hunt for cells intent

on your death, not an ore that could solder

your body to life. We didn’t know

technetium has a half-life

of four million years. It burns in the bellies

of red giants—stars smoldering

at the end of their lives—a highlight

before the collapse into gravity. I feel sick

you said. We agreed it must be

that terrible metal. I’ll sleep it off

you said. We didn’t know

the isotope that laced your veins

was stripped from fuel rods,

old nuclear reactors—

a chemical back-burn to fight the fire

igniting your scan, igniting your left

brain like the night sky.

It must still be there in the soil:

rust from the ribs of the stars

dividing in the rind of your skull, scissoring

one life into many.


Let there be—

you said, and assembled me from fusion / fire / a timer

set in

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