By CLAIRE CROWTHER.
The Crystallier: A Memoir.
AND IN THAT disused lifeboat, the gods held a party.
Living saints attended.
At this rave, the God of Poetry, Brigid,
tripped over the snoozing God of Physics, Electron,
and begged him to deal with his boredom
since bosons are not trash.
The music of the spheres still taxed her.
So Electron lied: ‘OK, right, I’m on it.’
Before drifting off again, he nudged my physicist
who, at that moment, was asleep himself
sagging over a table in the library at CERN
after a long shift attending the accelerator
and he woke from his weird dream of a rave
knowing that he must create a crystal for a low-energy future.
From decade to decade Brigid checked
that Electron had been on it
and Brigid gave credit to Electron’s push of shy crystal researcher
into righteous deliverer of properly resourced outcomes.
Thus was my physicist received with joy in a few desolate marinas.
Brigid agreed with that good-time god, Electron,
that there should be a lyric outcome.
not for immortality, which the gods already have,
(electrons don’t die ever)
but for mortals whom the gods seem to want to impress at parties.
Thus in the final tired hours of our world-saver voyage
I relax for an hour or two and dream of a Crystallier.
The Medium and the Dream of Mission.
………………………………………………………….— another night of onboard entertainment where my physicist fell asleep
I’M GOING TO come to you, you with the black
Jeans and dinner jacket.
That’s an interesting combination we don’t often see on board.
I’m cheeky, sir, I know it!
I’ve got a tall man and a tall woman here:
And they’re telling me not to worry,
That you’re catching a quick nap.
Are you his wife, lady sitting next to him?
Lady in the orange knitted vest?
No need to wake him.
They say that he stands up for what he believes.
Is this his mother, about a head taller than me?
Yes? Was she anxious? Loving but anxious?
Does that make sense to you?
And she wants you both to know they are all together
And could you tell him they are waiting for him?
And they are so proud of him, not just his…
I’m getting the word mission or vision or belief?
Does that make sense?
Your life is hard now, I see, a struggle but you are strong.
All their strength is in you and though he is asleep –
No, that is OK, people sleep in their insights –
Do you have a small dog?
No. Say no, if it doesn’t make sense. I can only say
What I’m given. Perhaps a large cat. No?
Do you feel about his mission,
Do you feel his mission is a dependent animal?
If I were writing that down, I’d put a capital M:
Mission and you can hear that capital, sir, though you’re asleep.
You have now gone to the spirit plane, this is unusual –
Everyone here must believe in what they believe –
And I don’t have to get help because you’re also on earth
And your previous wife is saying it’s not your time –
Does this make sense to you?
Your Mission has not gone with you to the astral plane.
They have taken your hand to lead your spirit back,
Back to your seat.
Of course, your body is still on the earth plane.
It has never left it.
Does that make sense?
You are opening your eyes
As you do every time you fall asleep in a theatre –
Cheeky, I know, sir! –
You’re feeling the weight of your Mission and the people
Here with me though you can’t see them now,
Now that you’ve woken up.
Do you feel it?
Genia In Memoriam:
Irene Joliot-Curie, Ida Noddock, Lisa Meitner
(The first person to suggest the correct definition of the nucleus of an atom and two of the leading experts in its analysis were women.)
Irony 1: Gender Fission
You could say the Great Bomb was delayed
by men who couldn’t sit
with women first explaining
how an atom splits
Irony 2: The History of the Waist by Lisa Meitner Who Famously Described
…………………………the Splitting Atom as Waisted
A man does not have a waist.
He has a midriff. A middle.
He also has a belly and a breadbasket,
a paunch, pot and general girth.
A woman has a waist.
A woman has been required to identify her waist.
A woman gains a neutron to do this.
A man remains a spherical uranium nucleus.
A woman has been deemed
beautiful in the absence of
a deep breath,
but a woman becomes
explosive when a waist of
energy is imposed upon her.
Irony 3: Every Physicist Must First Find Her Metaphor
a nuclear explosion
as a drop
of water breaking
a simile of sea
volatile wet land
and her image of this invisibly small break
unlike Tennyson’s whole grand sea
breaking on its cold grey stones…
…inspired Enrico Fermi,
the unwaisted physicist,
to split the atom in Chicago
under a squash court.
Irony 5: No Irony Here
Noddock and Meitner, your comments please:
Being wasted researchers,
when we surmised what would happen
when the atom split,
we didn’t suppose we would get the Nobel prize
and we didn’t.
I did. …………………………(Irene J-C)
My name, maybe?
This is a bosun’s game: imagine a ship foundering on an unexpected rock. In this catastrophe, one cabin of the hundreds on board, presumably a below water-line cabin, is sealed off and two passengers perish in it – Cabin Coffin.
Prayer Before Embarkation
(I devised this months before setting off and recite it silently on the gangplank.)
To any God of any Human:
Bless the ship that we sail on.
If we drown before we arrive,
we pray to you our work to save.
I see the smile disappear from my physicist’s face. Here, in this rising water, we are a society of twin souls, physicist and poet, a very special category in Cabin Coffin’s soul-searching game. Passengers have no idea they have been chosen as contestants. Well, we know now. The brine inside our door is like a meat-eater’s breath dangling its sinews over our vegetarian hands.
Yet there is a gold burnishing the diminishing room: is it the thing we’ve grasped that is almost in the world’s grasp? Has it steamed off the physicist in his last fear, like last words? Or off me, like a poem, all lyric glitter bubbling?
So we are the Crystalliers and this is Cabin Coffin. The S.S. Eschatology’s awarding body — there will surely be an award — will make an irritable statement that their awardees offer more than merely not to be. Their council will cite my physicist’s passion. They will say — He Showed Us the Human Face of Science.
Which is now under water.
They will say, he taught us this: wisdom is deciding between good and bad data.
But there. Now I’m underwater myself. And in swims Sorry.
Claire Crowther lives in Somerset and has published four pamphlets with diverse presses (Flarestack, Shearsman, Nine Arches, Hercules) and three full collections of poetry with Shearsman. Stretch of Closures, her first collection, was shortlisted for the Aldeburgh Prize. She has an MPhil and PhD (Poetry) and is co-editor of Long Poem Magazine. Her poems and reviews have appeared in Times Literary Supplement, London Review of Books, Poetry London, Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, and Blackbox Manifold, among other journals. Her work has been recorded by the Poetry Archive. Her latest collection is On Narrowness.