Runcible Spoon

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Everything’s made of particles.

I know that because

not long ago I was privileged to dine

at high table in a Cambridge College

where the Fellows, men and women

cloistered at the cutting edge of research,

had conversations about families, colleagues,

politics, sport and current events,

but also fermions and bosons

including quarks and leptons,

not to mention hadrons, protons and measons,

little things flying around with space between them

that apparently everything is made of.


Just a minute, I said,

and I tried to use words they’d understand,

you mean daffodils on the backs,

weeping willows by the river,

undergraduates lying on the grass in summer,

college buildings themselves,

all made of particles, with space between them?


Yes, they said, the whole lot.

And carried on ingesting particles of roast venison and claret.


That made me think.

With that space between particles,

when I touch a snowdrop nodding in the breeze

why doesn’t my finger go straight through it?

In fact why doesn’t the breeze go straight through me?

Or when a cat leans against my ankles, rubbing,

why doesn’t it fall over sideways,

or when someone jumps on a horse

why don’t they end up on the ground between the front and back legs,

or sink straight through the planet and out the other side?

Or when you and I entwine why don’t our bodies merge into one,

although come to think of it they pretty much do.


So I asked a Professor sitting opposite

and she stopped ingesting for a moment,

smiling, and said it’s to do with a force

that holds things together.


Sometimes at night as I fall asleep

it feels like things aren’t holding together and I’m falling,

so maybe the force is weaker then.

When I wake I reach out to make sure

your particles haven’t slipped through the spaces.