My mother has gobs of books. Shelves and shelves, enough to fill a full room, plus.

Some she purchased out of want, some she had to have, some she just acquired, left here or there by someone else and picked up by her; taken in rather than thrown out.

There are the pieces of classic literature that no home collection is complete without-- Homer, Beowulf, as well as Dickens, and Twain. Pieces from her youth-- Kerouac, Burroughs. Loads of books from my own childhood-- Silverstein, Suess, and Blume.

Volumes and volumes of scholarly journals, books written by colleagues and idols. Books about ancient mysteries, solved; How to manuals and theories galore. Biographies, and true stories, scientific details crammed on large pages with tiny print.


The shelf by the window holds her favorites, the poems that I did not know she read until much later in our lives. The heartbroken, the beat, the naturalist. The latter being her favorite; she identifies.

She owns books that I did not know existed. Collections and assorted ramblings, first-print editions, only-print editions. Some books would look better behind glass, in libraries or museums. Fragile books receive plastic covers or special places on designated shelves.

She has never thrown a book away, nor lost one.

There are only two books missing: hers, and her daughter's. Both unwritten.

When she reminds me that I really should finish mine, I become a constant reminder that hers is not finished either. Two writers challenging each other to be first, neither really wanting the blue ribbon.

Your book would be a hit, she says. Everyone identifies with love and thunderstorms. Nobody reads poetry about science.

Which is why you should write it.

We were quiet, tipped back in padded chairs and waiting for the universe to happen.

The room, round by design and surrounding a metal, insect-like machine that looked like it was about to break free of its moorings and eat Cincinnati, rotated on gimbals the size of car tires to manifest the entirety of the cosmos on the inside of the top half of a sphere that looked much smaller and flatter than it actually was. It didn't create the illusion of depth because it didn't have to - it was literally 3D, sickeningly dark and portraying everything that there ever was that we, as a species, knew about.

We watched galaxies collide with one another in that way that galaxies do, not exploding with the energy of a billion stars but gliding through each other like a pair of combs, like debutantes at a ball, like iron filings swarming to magnets under loose-leaf paper.

Everything we know about the universe was laid out in thirty minutes of narration followed, hopefully, by years of seeing the world a very little bit differently. It was holy, a holy dose of information in a holy place, and it made our circumspect insignificance matter. We bowed down at Zeiss's altar, neck bent, not down to earth but back, reveling in the possibility of everything that isn't us.

Nobody writes poetry about science because the science does it.

Many has been the poet of old,
Whose Nature's secrets, sought to unfold,
To dig down deep, beneath her mask:
To find some truth; this was their task.

By their heart's power, to maybe explain,
The things we all feel; envy, love and pain.
They shone their light on what it all means,
To gain some respite from Nature's schemes.

Science's approach: well, this surely differs,
To explain the surface, that causes its dithers.
Through its advance, we know more and more:
In battle with Nature, this evens the score.

Yet of poetry's comforts, we must still avail:
In this one regard, our science is pale.
Thus understood, it is science's curse,
That with only it, we'd have no more verse!

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