EINSTEIN AT PRINCETON
Einstein sits and thinks under the dark trees
surrounding a white cottage — where no war
came, even during the years when young men
flooded out from this campus, cold from tap
like the beer they’d drunk at the Tiger-
town Inn just before their first induction.
He stirs, but no amount of induction
can help him explain how these knotty trees
survived pen-knives, like claws of a tiger,
incising the names of loves pre-war.
A stick falls to the ground — a muffled tap
returns his thoughts from trees to absent men.
The ones who carved their names were still young men,
giddy with the thought of their induction
into eating clubs — they called that night tap.
Later, some found their food among the trees
of some island, stunning birds, stunned by war,
ready with clubs for enemy, tiger.
Now, in stadiums, they praise the Tiger,
shouting “Rah, Rah!” for their eleven men.
“Fair Harvard’s come? Now this is truly war,”
they say, not making the induction
from their two experiences. The trees
rustle, give Einstein’s memory a tap:
With screwdrivers, his friends had gone to tap
bits of uranium, tease the tiger
until the tail lashed out, toppling trees
with hot roaring breath. But first, other men
would wire solenoids; by induction,
the contacts would close, and with them the war.
The birds and squirrels seem to be at war,
imagining slights in an acorn’s tap,
where one party claimed a clear induction.
Einstein’s thoughts are broken off — a tiger
might make a better arbiter than men,
he thinks, dispensing peace beneath the trees.
Make an induction: both man and tiger
tap fury for their ends; yet only men
think war ends, leaving them safe among trees.
(Originally published on April 11th, 2005)