The fact is…one isotope of plutonium, Pu-239, has a half-life of 24,100 years, the time it will take for half of it to decay, and remarkably, at this juncture, “we”, not as in “me”, but as in “they”, still have no idea where to put it. I say “they” because if it were me I’d forget it all together, remain a vegetarian, and sit under a windmill writing poetry, taking my chances with Byron, Keats, or Shelley, despite the fact that we’d broken up just that afternoon.
Shelley was what my mom used to call a “live wire.” She was sexy, predictably unpredictable, and had the ability to go on forever. I also loved her name, which reminded me of the song by Nick Lowe that I discovered on an album I bought at a used record store in a college town, while killing time cross-country many years before, only a buck for The Impossible Bird. It gave me great joy to buy that record. Songs that last.
Unlike Nick’s songs, our relationship was short-lived and complicated, half-good, half-bad, half-me, half-her, as we danced and drifted through the dark nights following the laws of conversation, never quite rhyming in a way that felt exciting yet unsettling. I still miss her sometimes, and honestly, like the Pu-239, I never know where to put those feelings.
Maybe that’s where the poems come in, a north star when there is no other. As Frank Outlaw, president of Bi-Lo stores once said, your words become your actions become your habits become your character become your destiny. And, so even though I grew up in a half-empty household where everything was saved, over the years, I’ve let go of as much as I can, throwing off the shackles in my quest to become a half-full person looking for much more than a half-life or plutonium muse.