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All Wild Animals are Called Entropy

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Once, I saw a horse walk backwards
through city traffic. And at the Bleecker Street

subway stop, a homeless man gave me
half a sandwich one cold afternoon.
You look sad, he said. 

This is the same story told two ways:

§

Autumn vandalizes the trees and my desk is
a mess again. Along with the universe,

my filing system is breaking down.
I need to connect things. To bind them.

In mathematics, museums, in roadside altars,
in arias, oceans, I look for signs—

on the counter today, icing glistening
in the sun: a lemon cake.

I saw it

§

and for a moment everything was transformed:
chemistry, mood, the rent in

the universe, the chaos in my room,
where, as usual, I end up getting lost in

the beauty of equations—
how long stars will spin, the power of a car’s engine,

a cake described entirely as units of heat.
Scientists are in search of

§

beauty,

but so much is lost in friction, in noise,
in translation, in hesitation,

in pointless anxieties. But look,

the clementine peel is all in one piece,
aroma hovering around it

like a halo. Do you see how orange? How
it curves in homage to former roundness

in this broken way? Entropy

§

prepares the ground for every
kind of requiem: for roadkill and citrus peel,

the ashy smell of concrete as the rain falls
down, and the sun. I do love the way

it collects, reflects in pools in the courtyard.
I know the look of entropy

by heart, also by the creases
in my face. And my knees, my god, they kill

me when I stand, daily evidence of the way
disorder advances

relentlessly, irreversibly, particularly
when I’m not looking

and my thoughts go astray, decaying
into mere electric impulse,

limbic reaction, and

§

animal instinct—call it neuralgia.
The smallest noise makes me twitch.

Triggers are everywhere, in the street,
in cafés, in the stony hallway

where strangers walk round and round
the spiral staircase at night,

each footstep eroding, ever so slightly,
the ancient oak planks

while the elevator is out of order,
which seems like forever. Late at night

I hear their last sighs, last texts,
high heels, round and round,

keys jangling, they put their bags down,
they slide bolts, slam doors,

mumble their pronouns.

There’s no other way to get home—

§

the heat death of the universe
is fundamental

to the design of this place: same design
that dooms a secret nest

in the elm tree.
I’ve been watching it for months, begging it
for poetry. How did I miss it,

ragged and torn, until

§

today when hope, catching my chest, lifted
me up like pure helium. Once, a star

consumed its hydrogen and helium,
collapsed and exploded, spewing

shards of iron. They flavor my blood, here,
now, stellar debris running red

when I bite my tongue.

To connect things

§

I wait on hold: your call is very 
important to us, they say,

and I notice the way my teeth ache
on the left side. I grind them when thinking

about the tornado, my mother’s crushed
finger, mangled in the door

I slammed to get away—a bad dream
replaced, finally, by a real deer

in my headlights on the freeway
in Michigan when I was a teenager,

its deadening thud, then the vertigo,
my car in a skid on ice and snow—

round and round endlessly, and so
I didn’t stop,

I was the arrow

§

marking the direction of time. And I
keep on moving forward, witness to

this endless series of gorgeous
catastrophes,

this entropy, this migraine, this neuralgia,
this promise of gravity, this conspiracy

of sun pools, this perfect lemon
cake you brought home

from the bakery today because

I was sad.