An Aubade for the African Queen and Its Big Bang

Rose: I’m all turned around Charlie—which way is the east shore?
Charlie: The way we’re swimming old girl!

Had I not been zooming around the Cosmos,
as yet unfettered by material forms, I could
have told Bogey: It’s always the detonators
that take some doing. Everything’s a powder
keg: a ratty vessel taking on water or a thimble-
sized universe. No matter—it’s all waiting
to combust. The trick is the tinder. The spark.
The thing that transforms potential to kinetic.
Could be, yes, cartridges, nails, boxes of soft
wood—a makeshift torpedo at the water line.
But why think small? After all, something
touched off the exponential cosmic explosion
we’re swimming through. What’re the odds
it was a broken boat, floating in wait? Billions
and billions to one. It had to be something
like a Rose: sharp-tongued, chiseled, gorgeous
with a dirty face, obvious in her catholic charms.
In the face of such a face, even Kaiser’s doomed
navy men would freely choose to do the deed,
dutifully pledge to let no man put it asunder,
even as the impregnable world they know erupts.

T.J. Beitelman lives in Birmingham, Alabama, where he teaches writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts and blogs on arts, culture, and the American way at His poems, stories, and essays have appeared widely in literary magazines, and his work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A recipient of fellowships from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham, he has published two poetry chapbooks: Pilgrims: A Love Story (Black Lawrence Press) and 13 Curses and Other Love Poems(Dream Horse Press). His full-length poetry collection, In Order to Form a More Perfect Union, will be published by Black Lawrence Press in 2012.

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