Make a fist, and if your fist is as big as the nucleus of an atom,
then the atom is as big as St Paul’s, and if it happens to be a
hydrogen atom, then it has a single electron flitting about like a
moth in an empty cathedral, now by the dome, now by the altar.
Open your mouth, and if
your mouth is as dark
as an oil slick,
then the moths in your mouth
will wing against your teeth…
With the moon as reference, a moth
flies straight. Perhaps our false moonlight
strips away that optical infinity,
or its search for nectar undoes it:
ultraviolet light reflected off flowers
draws the nocturnal moth. Either way,
it beats around near candle or lamp
in confusion, not desire.
Open your mouth, make a fist.
This is physics: to a nameless intellect
we pray, in that vast moth-filled colonnade.
Descriptive equations rise like smoke
from an altar and we witness
the electronic structure of the atom,
the tangled shapes,
the many geographies of now by the dome,
here in atom cathedral.
How strange, to make a fist and if.
Jessica Reed's previous work has appeared or is forthcoming in Kudzu House Quarterly; The Fourth River; Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing; and symmetry: dimensions of particle physics. She has an MFA in poetry and a BS in physics, both from Purdue University. She lives in Indiana, managing a several acre homestead.