Dark Energy
A'Dora Phillips

There is mercury in the water and so they say we ought to eat no more than eight ounces of fish a week, none if pregnant. There is a hole in the ozone layer but they say not to worry though the sheep who bear unfiltered light have milky eyes. They say flowers are radioactive because they pull water from deeper streams than we could have believed possible, from streams we thought too deep to matter, now contaminated with waste. There is PCB in the breast tissue of newborns. A time is foreseen when there will be no potable water. There are more pressing matters, though (they say): in the pits beneath the earth in West Virginia coal fires burn and make the ground hot and will continue for hundreds of years until the fuel is spent; in China, right now, there rages a coal fire so vast it releases more carbon monoxide than all the cars in North America combined. They say that Einstein was right and there is dark energy. It expands outward against "gravity." For some reason its strength is gathering and the universe, down to its very atoms, may be ripped in two. They do not know what dark energy is but say we shouldn't worry -- people have always thought the world was on the brink of disaster, especially at the turn of the millennium (and the years, like now, shortly after). Books have been written about it. I know it looks bad, they say -- it always does -- but something will save us. They're experimenting with going in at the molecular level and rearranging atoms. That means they'll be able to transform matter at the subatomic level. What is toxic today will be safe tomorrow -- garbage, nuclear waste, cancer. . . It's just a matter of time and the homeless woman who rides the F Train and looks thinner and more ragged every time I see her will be whole. Her face is pocked, as if marked out by fate long ago, but they'll change that and she will have the complexion of a well-cared-for, prepubescent child. The Chinese seamstresses behind the locked bars of the industrial space on 34th Street, who have sold their lives to pay for their passage, will be free, sitting on the steps of the forty-second street library eating sandwiches at lunch time, not a care in the world.