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Fall at the Institute

By Erika Michael Published 2017

 For my husband, Ernest A. Michael 1925–2013


and we bopped to a sync of dry leaves’ kick and crackle
with the Skip-To-My-Lou of daughter Hillary hailing
Princeton’s pre-school bus that mustered those fledgling

flocks set to soar and sing like the Wood’s warblers,
while you tackled complex proofs fixing worlds of infinite
dimension in signs, numbers, mappings and lines.

In the ambient flow of Fuld Hall Commons at Tea —
the gathered minds’ ruminations on lapsed and present time
glowed like past light striking one flame

in memoriam for the ghost tenants of those well-worn
leather chairs; seedbed of thought crunched like biscuit and nuts —
the bubbling urgency rising as Earl Grey steam from

fragile vessels. Before snow brushed the grounds strewn
with sugar maple, hawthorn, chalkboard, and villaged in Georgian
brick and Breuer white — our son Josh appeared for early

entrance into the what is this jive! of an awesome world,
come alive in the chromatic-historic-topologic toy box, that
unified field of his first home at 45 Einstein Drive.

O the reach, the clasp, the pull or push of gravitas, mind-bending
warp of space-time’s bouncy house whose quasars glow on galaxies,
astound star-gazers dopplerized by red shift, the bosons and

quarks — the not yet measured ninety-six percent of stuff
that’s dark, the part we know we don’t yet know about
fluorescing brainscape synapses and circuitries.

The trace of us — the flint, the clay, the
bundled reeds, the marbles, consecrated glass, the signs on
stone and skin and rag in oil and ink, the chants, the

pipes, the strings, the leap and sway — the genius, the
witness sealed in celluloid and gigabyte, what all we think
about, what all we write, the chronicles we fantasize to

deconstruct the relics of an interstellar take-away.
The awe, the play, the gist of things, the gentleness,
the truth of us, this place — the omnibus.

Erika Michael is an art historian, painter, poet, and widow of Ernest A. Michael, a frequent Member in the School of Mathematics from 1951 to 1968. The Institute is deeply grateful for a gift Erika made to dedicate the apartment they shared, 49 Flexner Lane (previously 45 Einstein Drive), in Ernest’s honor.

Published in The Institute Letter Spring 2017