A Tevatron Reverie
Now the apes feed the massive cryogenic gnomes
sunk in a brooding circle beneath the Illinois prairie,
now they tune the power won from subtle metals
and exquisite calibration, as superconductors squeeze
the glow of protons whirling by at half the speed of light
to a beam finer than a hair, poised
to meet its opposite whirling widdershins.
Now the ape-child smashes one stone on another
to gasp in wonder as sparks fly and crystal
order glints within. Once molecule was mystery,
now they handle the fine parts of atoms
with assurance, like youths juggling to prove
their dexterity, vying to smash them
hard enough to release the top quark at last,
to catch it, ask it what it weighs and why,
and publish the secrets of the universe.
Meanwhile a primate in the Arizona mountains
paws an old stump brought from far away,
counts its rings with concepts wrung from the stars,
measures their size, confirming the warmth
of an ancient season for another who wonders
how a certain ensemble of quarks and leptons
came to bloom so early. Here is no central chase,
only the fumbling to grasp the web's detail
and integrity, how the guiding code works
in practice, how it came about
amid collisions of molecules and planetisimals
that apes should wonder why.
Now they prowl the long ledge
between the birth of stuff and the stuff
of life, growing confident of the route;
now they dance on the ridge that leads on
from when life encased itself in cells;
now they gauge the gap between, test toeholds
for the leap, while pions sparkle
and the gnomes' dark force confuses the roots
of an alien weed on the prairie.
And the earth becomes transparent
beneath me, the dark topsoil clarifying
to reveal the jumbled strata, the deep dynamo
that stirs the melt, the stars beyond.
And the grass grows transparent, the solid tree
radiant with meaning, as the sky's opacity
dissolves in light.