how strange, this sickness and the scientist

Mental illness
1. walks into the physics laboratory
2. quiets spinning bosons

like the heart of a black hole
3. pours anxiety into a collider
crashing into depression I am the decay particles: a positron cloud
inside a storm of electrons stuck with a strange and obscure science
Law 1: antimatter exists only in a vacuum.
I am only stable enough to hold together absent anyone else
in this and every room
Law 2: A gauge boson has no rest mass.
I can sleep for days and still never find "well rested" on the list of things
I am capable of feeling
Law 3: near absolute zero, fermions can exist without an anti-particle.
Some days I feel so fucking lonely I swear my heart- beat only has one thump, ‘cuz
having two of anything would defy whatever law I have become levied under
Laws 4-infinity:
Every particle can become a part of something bigger & I am just waiting for
the day I become bigger than the bang that birthed illness into my veins

Portrait of the alcoholic one day sober for the second time

After Kaveh Akbar

The bottom of the sky being
the bottom of a glass filled the bottom of the boat already filling with water when filling the glass
take a single volume ethene and six-tenths volume steam this becomes the moment water became wine
became Christ became a glass filling with another thing to swallow or another way to say there is
a bottom to everything—even a black hole—even a point of near-infinite density trying to
become infinite
density pleading disjoin this particulate. In particle physics two objects capable of interaction
are said to be bodies considering one another consider each photon a body never too small to escape
this body
or consider this another boat filling with water
filling with photons
even at the bottom
where through the glass the light
is spilling.

The empty space between us

My physics professor

presses his hand against a wall—

the atoms, electron-girdled

and agitated stop short

of touching one another,

those in the wall repelling

the ones in his hand.

The “hardness” of the table

is just an electro-repulsive force,

you’re never actually touching

anything — he says

By the time I made it back

to the apartment

they had already cleaned

the blood except for

a dull cabernet stain

right under where

they found your corpse.


given enough time, particle

decay will integrate your hand’s

electrons into external orbitals

successively, until trillions of years

later you might be able to pass

through to the other side.

I crawled, hands and knees

across the bathroom

pressed my body

against the tiles and laid there,

waiting. even now

I am still




J. David is from Cleveland, Ohio and edits poetry for Flypaper Magazine.