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Chuck Salmons:

Chuck Salmons: I am immediate past president of Ohio Poetry Association. My poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Pudding Magazine, The Fib Review, Evening Street Review, The Ekphrastic Review, and Poets to Come: A Poetry Anthology in celebration of Walt Whitman’s Bicentennial. I have published two chapbooks, Stargazer Suite and Patch Job. I am a recipient of a 2018 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award for poetry, and I perform with the poetry trio Concrete Wink. Learn more about me and my work at

Why is it so?

     —for Julius Sumner Miller

When physics is your business,
business can’t ever be down.
Nor can a child’s curiosity, especially
at age eleven when his body begins
to bloom. So, he hides away on summer
afternoons in his grandparents’ bedroom
to watch and learn from you on the 19′′
black-and-white Zenith tuned to PBS.

He imagines himself standing with the other
boys in the television studio with you,
while his grandmother sits in the living room,
folding laundry and watching The Young
and the Restless on a color console.
Her puritan heart cannot justify her appetites,
will not lend her the words to explain her
throbbing desire for Victor Newman
nor the ache her grandson feels at any time,
all the time.

                    Instead, she prepares his lunch—
fried boloney sandwich, small bag of Fritos,
and an icy can of Faygo red pop.
He sits mesmerized by the week’s installment
of Demonstrations in Physics, enthralled
as much by your enthusiasm and diction
as by your experiments, reminding viewers—

The experiments I will do are
absolutely trivial in their nature,
but absolutely profound in their meaning.

He does not yet know he will spend a lifetime
pondering such a claim. Still, it is your own
enchantment that compels him to tune in,
that fuels his own longing for learning
and a welcome distraction from those other
thoughts about Trinity, the neighbor’s granddaughter,
how she ducks away with him beneath the ancient
honeysuckle bush and shares the fruity smack
taste of her lips. He wants to ask you, Professor,
about those desires roiling inside him.
You are a man and surely felt the same urge
the same unseen force, a kind of magnetism.

When you deal with Nature, you must
make such requirements as she demands,
or she will not do what you want done.

But neither you nor the ones he loves can tell
him where to find the courage to do so.
For now, he must settle to sate
the other passion you awakened in him,
the one that will drive him for years
asking that same question behind all others.

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