Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What do quarks and hoodoos have to do with each other?

An Astronomy of Things

An astronomy of things is established by the perfect knowledge

of the space an object should occupy .

—Giorgio de Chirico, Metaphysical Aesthetic, 1919

Some objects are real only to each other.

In that cosmic recipe of stardust and heat,

the tiniest things—strangelets and quarks

spin and crash unseen under Swiss wheat. Yet

the super-collider lives to know. Coiled

far below the earth’s surface, its copper veins

pulse with matter, with a beam of protons

that bends time back to its origin: to

Before Objects, when there was only the space

between—though chances are, that’s an object

too. In order to talk about what we can’t see,

we invent a charmed language: particles

of beauty and truth, dark energy, strange matter.

Dimensions curl up or stretch into strings.

It used to be our reach was shorter,

we told stories to explain the nature

out our front door: hoodoos and rivers,

bugs, seasons, weather. Stars, too, of course,

their habits, features, affairs. Let’s just get it out

on the table, amid the trinkets and dust:

there is nothing in Nature

that isn’t colliding with words.


Winner of the 2009 Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Award.

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