The Profundity of Docosane

Look deep into Nature, and then you will understand everything better. — Albert Einstein

Docosane is a molecule
that looks a little like pearls on a string:
each pearl is an atom of carbon plus
two of hydrogen—22 pearls, all told.

A machine in my lab works rather like scissors:
I squirt in a billion docosane molecules,
it cuts each in two, counts the pieces,
draws a graph: lots of four-pearl strands,
fewer with five, still fewer with six—
reminds me of a ski slope made of sticks,
evenly spaced, shorter and shorter.
The simple mass spectrum of docosane.

Nothing is simple on the streets outside:
wonderful minds tumble into dementia,
lonely teens topple into jihad,
Katmandu falls down the mountain,
and it’s never quite clear who pushed.
The news could send me under, too.

I go to docosane for clarity,
to the laws that determine its structure,
to the laws that tell it to fall apart
in a sequence precise as the pendulum
swinging in Grandpa’s old oak clock.

In this maelstrom we inhabit
that deliberate procession
reminds me of the order
at the core.


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