03 April 2009

April 3 – Poem A Day Challenge - The Problem With _

Today's prompt: "Take the phrase "The problem with (blank)" and replace the "(blank)" with a word or phrase. Make this the title of your poem and then write a poem to fit with or juxtapose against that title. For instance, you could have poems with the titles of "The problem with government," "The problem with advanced mathematics," or "The problem with bipolar penguins." You know the drill: have fun, be creative." Poetic Asides

This is another one of those oddball poems that comes from my fascination with science – quantum physics, mainly, a subject on which I have little knowledge and less instruction, but still remain interested enough in to fight my way through books I have no business even picking up. It leads to some bizarre mental contortions as I try and figure out how to write on a subject I know nothing about. Yet some how the idea of a "Theory of Everything" has found its way into my poetry and a few short stories.

According to Wikipedia, "String theory is a developing branch of theoretical physics that combines quantum mechanics and general relativity into a quantum theory of gravity… In particular, string theory is the first candidate for the theory of everything, a way to describe all the known natural forces (gravitational, electromagnetic, weak and strong interactions) and matter (quarks and leptons) in a mathematically complete system."

Couple this with the random, Jeopardy-like bits and pieces that stick in my brain… including a tidbit about cat's cradle being one of humanity's oldest games, found throughout all cultures in the world… and you get today's poem.

The Problem With String Theory

The opening move involves the transfer
of wrapped string from one player
to another, fingers and thumb weaving
diamonds between the empty spaces.
It's a game as old as mankind, and elegantly
explains the whole lot—all known natural
forces, what the world is made of down
to the subatomic composition of the universe.

It's in the passage of filament from one
person to another where theory goes astray.
In the rush to take possession of the loop,
gravity falls out the holes and rolls away,
leaving us unable to explain the one thing
that would help us explain everything.
In the end, it doesn't matter, because
it won't be mathematical precision
that pushes theoretical physics out
of the nest, but a length of cord
oscillating back and forth from player
to player, starting at Opening A, cat's
cradle, and continuing onward
in infinite combination.


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