The Poetry of Physics

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Connecting Worlds

The Poetry of Physics

Professor Tait, Loquitur

by James Clerk Maxwell

James Clerk Maxwell. Illustration by Matt PayneWill mounted ebonite disk
On smooth unyielding bearing,
When turned about with notion brisk
(Nor excitation sparing),
Affect the primitive repose,
Of + and — in a wire,
So that while either downward flows,
The other upwards shall aspire?
Describe the form and size of coil,
And other things that we may need,
Think not about increase of toil
Involved in work at double speed.
I can no more, my pen is bad,
It catches in the roughened page—
But answer us and make us glad,
Yet have I still a thousand things to say
But work of other kinds is pressing—
So your petitioner will ever pray
That your defence be triple messing.

James Clerk Maxwell (Great Britain, 1831-1879) derived mathematical laws explaining electricity and magnetism in terms of force fields, a “great revolution,” as Einstein said, “in the conception of reality.” 

String Theory

by Maria Terrone

 the world’s a giant spool of string  unraveling since Day One.  When we’re tangled  by problems, stomachs in knots, the string  has caught on cosmic debris. Turning  within, medievalists found meaning   in phlegm, blood, bile; but now,  sensing that we merely reflect  what’s outside, we say we’re  strung out. In the riotous 60s,  as the string snagged again & again,  nervous hands tied macramé that almost  strangled the world. Sometimes, our days roll  out smoothly.  The earth’s spin pulls us from our beds,  snipping the threads of dreams.  We scatter to work, laugh; kick off our shoes at the end of each day. The world unwinds too, and together we inch towards the untethered space beyond our last turn.

© Maria Terrone. First published in VIA magazine and included in the poetry collection A Secret Room in Fall (McGovern Prize, Ashland Poetry Press, Ashland, OH). Maria Terrone is an American poet and writer. She is the author of three collec-tions of poetry: Eye to Eye (2014), A Secret Room in Fall (2006), and The Bodies We Were Loaned (2002), plus a chapbook, American Gothic, Take 2 (2009). She has been nominated four times for a Pushcart Prize, and her work has appeared in more than 20 anthologies. She is married to William Terrone (Sigma Pi Sigma, Hofstra University, ‘68). mterrone [at]

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