Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Poem of the Day: “The Strange Materialist” by James Frederick William Rowe, Frequent Contributor

The Strange Materialist
James Frederick William Rowe

Damnit to hell!
Or that is what I'd shout If I wasn't gazing into an abyss
Of swirling
Turbulent strange matter
That is spreading at an alarming pace
And by alarming - I mean annihilating
As nothing remains with its touch - Not even I
So I don't know how I am thinking this
Perhaps the soul is not material after all
Or else, perhaps, strange material
And we are unleashing soul back into the universe
It is an apocalypse after a fashion
So it makes sense that spirit should pervade
Enlighten all matter
Like the spirit of God hovering over the chaotic deep
Which if without form
Is yet still with mind
Hypotheses aside
Conjectures put away
The reality is death for all things big and small
But still I speak
Still I think
Still I feel
So I suppose death isn't so bad so long as one remains
Forever and anon
A strange materialist

Poet’s Notes:  “The Strange Materialist” was written several years ago during a period of time in which I wrote several science fiction poems fairly rapidly. Of these, "Why Fried Chicken Matters" (my first published poem!), "For the Amusement of God" http://eretzsongs.blogspot.com/2015/06/poetry-review-double-feature-for.html, and "Postage Paid" http://eretzsongs.blogspot.com/2016/01/poem-of-day-postage-paid-by-james.html have seen the light of day.

The poem is fairly straightforward and concerns a scientific experiment gone wrong. In physics, there is a hypothesis that strangelets – small amounts of strange matter, which is matter solely consisting of quarks with a lot of "strange" type quarks – might be able to "convert" normal matter in a cascading effect that could wipe out all life on Earth. They would achieve this feat because the strangelets have a higher stability than regular, atomic nuclei, and so any sort of interaction would produce more and more strangelets until all such matter was converted. As a non-physicist, that is about as well as I can do to explain the phenomenon.

The scientist who narrates the poem realizes at the exact moment of his destruction that he's committed a massive blunder. He is converted into strange matter, and though he is "dead", he is still alive. As a consequence, he begins pondering whether strange matter is the soul itself, given that he is still entirely conscious, and what the spiritual consequences of such are. The poem concludes with a play on the materialist scientist coming to such a spiritual revelation, calling him a "strange materialist" both for his heterodox views, and that he is made of strange matter.

Beyond that, I more or less played the aesthetics by pure intuition on this one, and have little to say for its structure beyond that. The light-hearted tone, perhaps, is worth noting, as I think that a straight presentation of such a catastrophe would not be nearly as effective. A bit of offbeat humor presents the shock of the scientist better.

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