Poet’s Guide to Black-Body Radiation

and Poet’s Guide to Rutherford and The Gold Foil Experiment

Poet’s Guide to Black-Body Radiation

Say you are hungry.
Suppose you turn
stove dial to ten, then
move to sink, fill pot
with water to cook
pasta for one. You bring
it back, electric rings
blush yellow-orange.
You stand in your dim
kitchen, February sun
falling fast into
its own black void,
staring at the first
color you’ve seen
in days. You close
your eyes, red burns
after-image circles
into that space between
awake and sleep,
and you swear it’s worth
giving up.
But hold on.
in that room glows—
its one fork and one knife,
the scooped silver trivet.
Even you,
dull as you feel,
emit a faint shine.
It’s just no one,
least of all you,
sees it yet.


Poet’s Guide to Rutherford and The Gold Foil Experiment

How terrible to know what no one
else in the world does. How impossible
to touch a book, the nightstand on which
the book rests, the floor on which the nightstand
stands and know they’re almost all empty.

Even if some particles deflected
back from the foil, the rest passed
through that sheet like it didn’t exist,
right through this collection of atoms
bound together into what your brain
tells you that you can touch, can see.

How terrible to be able to do the math
and figure that 99% of the physical world
you’re standing on is nothing.
How awful to work this out, somehow
to sleep with it in your head and heart,
and then to wake with this nightmare
so close that you’re scared to climb
out of bed, the fraction of the floor
that physically exists but a statistical
anomaly that, of course, means you’ll fall
and keep falling through the world.

Never mind that the sheet, the mattress,
the box spring and bedframe are just
as much nothing, as incapable of holding
you fast to the world yesterday you thought
you understood, perhaps the part of you
that made you think as a child
pulling the covers tighter over
your head could stop monsters
you imagined lived in closet-dark.

All those doubts discovery creates
to conquer with sense, with experience,
with trust in the world
that is overwhelmingly nothing
but still touches you
all the same.

quantum distributions for Sarah Baartman

why must they demand black bodies self-sacrifice in ultraviolet? that is, why must we give all of us to them until we have nothing left?

Production Notes on Quantum Physics

before the nights we spent enameling / this reflection in my eye, my mother / danced on a fire escape / limned by black fire, and you / glowed bright with the silhouette of a camera.