Thursday, February 2, 2017


February 2, 2004

Matter can be neither created nor destroyed,
But in an isolated system
Will be conserved in perfect balance,
Interplaying with its attendant energy,
According to the laws of nature and of nature’s God.

And in a universe of mysteries,
The greatest and rarest mystery of all,
That in a small quantity of collected atoms
From time to time
Matter and energy exist in equipoise,
The one supporting the other;
A hybrid
For a time, or a lifetime, or less
But at a great cost,
For there is no isolated system in this or any other universe.

The only matter that matters will
Be separated from its indwelling energy
And the energy departs
We do not know where
All that is left behind is matter,
And matter is the only thing that will mark the passing of energy --
A spark, a puff of wind, a moving shadow perhaps
The things we choose to mark its passing,
Bare matter themselves,
Wood, metal, stone,
A folded sweater, a dusty book,
Or random energy,
A dream, a memory,
Faulty firing of synapses
A sound, the soft click of a lid as it closes on a life
A flicker at the edge of thought
A strain of music—
All these things will last longer than the matter
That has been severed and cannot return to us,
Until we shall go to it.


(I'm reblogging this poem today, 2 years after I wrote it. I had forgotten about it until I found a file titled "physics" in my creative writing folder and wondered what in the world my least favorite subject was doing there. After opening it I remembered. It's probably more metaphysics than physics, but it encapsulates some of the things I was pondering when my mother died, and on the anniversary of her death every year. Or whenever I wear her sweater or hold one of her books, things made of organic matter themselves but much more enduring than the human body. From what I can remember, writing this poem was painful, so I made it fast. Reading it again after two years brings back those hospice days vividly, but it is odd how the composition of the poem itself feels so distant to me, as if another person had written it.)

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