2x4: Eight Poems

1. Megan Fernandes

2. Roald Hoffmann

3. Robert Reynolds

4. Jon Wilkins

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1. Megan Fernandes

The child who grows up wanting to engineer surfaces

          "Van Gogh takes yellow to the limit”- Gilles Deleuze

	  knows nothing of accident, penicillin, 

the strange shudder when a new thing is discerned.
	He thinks: loaf, saucer, fox,

who made these? and not just that, but
	what are those small things that make them?

the grain, the porcelain, the muscle and russet furballs.
	The child reads that Van Gogh wrested

a new yellow from chromium	
        and that this yellow altered us.

Our whole yellow museum altered,	
        all those sunlights, butter taxis, piss yellow omelets,

our yellow memories now evolving.	
        The child takes restless x-rays of objects.

I must find the smallest thing that builds, he thinks.
	He coats toast with smeared atoms,

tries to sculpt the dead skin of dust.	
        He is moved by textiles and the hard scalp

of helmets. The child pleads with his mother:	
        what is this jelly? plastic? these shapely skins?

why is all the world not white and one?

Synaptic Space

Do not collapse when I tell you that your personality is synaptic,
that your shoulders are like Irish linen, your tongue like peach leaves.
Take the gun, but if you must use it, point it so that your synapses
will spill upwards into the night overcast with stars,
so that your moods, your personality spills all over the moonscape,
the whole galaxy beaming with you, of you, your brain parts lovely.
Distrust that dark matter, those translucent planets, that borborygmic
rumbling like warriors from abandoned space rock. Follow the scent
of your childhood pajamas, they smelled something sweet and
deranged: measles, beetles, and boxed apple juice. This is you
divided all over the universe–– a Thoreauvian adventure where
nothing is transcendent, everything immediate, touchable.
Touch everything. Tell me about the broken terrain, the lemon-
colored light of ions, the pumiced surface of other oceans. Tell me
about the cold air of space whipping your linen shoulders raw.

2. Roald Hoffmann

Grand Unification
This is just a rule; strings that meet,
wriggling in their roughened up space-time,
if their tips just touch, they must merge,

and bigger lines, loops, necklaces or thatchings
self-assemble.  This is so.  But it is not real,
it's just a rule.  Loops tangle, there is an exchange

of quantum numbers, the stray collision
sets the strings rotating, rippling, a whip
and then the extra snap looses a particle

(boson or fermion) and light, any color.  The math
says it must be so.  Mind you, this is not:  people,
passing, a look that locks on some missed braid

of a future.  This is not:  a hummingbird's tie
to the sweet and red, tie testing stasis.
And it is not the interlace of frost, another

season's nonlinear history of steam meanders.
Nor:  rope dancers. . . For those you need words.
But here just watch the math, follow it across

or around or down, just follow its unhusking
to the small world, where intuition is strung
out as far as it will give, but equations

work as well here as for real billiard balls,
whirling dervishes or galaxies (there is no need
for me to say all this).  In this smallness infinities,

anomalies slough off, the loops vibrate, a keen
undulation, clockwise rippling nothingness
in ten dimensions.  Twenty-six the other way.

This fits.  But it's not all.  The dimensions
must compactify, in a silent crumpling, curling
in of what there's room for, into inwards' innards.

The quantum numbers then come out naturally,
strung out on a loop that is gravity, the source
of all interactions.  We are so near understanding

everything.  I believe, reasons without words,
classy symmetries.   It's a rule.  And up scale the sun
shines, frost melts and zing!  go the strings of my heart.

Sustainable Development

Alive? The 
vines just push 
the question 

aside, a 
green muff for 
these trees, coat-

ing them real
tight like a 
crosslinked po-

lymer gone 
mad. The prob-
lem in spring  

is the trees’ – 
are they? And 
will they be?

Or, will vine 
stop in sym-

rhyme, leaving
leaves an a-
nodyne space, 

shade, to soak
dear photons 

from the sun?
Or will it
take no less

than the mo-
mojo, the

wrench insid-
iously bound

in a groove
in the vine’s 

ralel inner 
twine. Upscale

we, no time 
for evo-
lution, grip

culture’s hand-
me-downs -- clo-
thing and moods -- for one I would this vine grow to sub- stitute bark. The twining attachment that may throt- tle starts in- nocently, yes, in spring, like the first gentle leaning of the cree- per on the tree. We think we have choice, to cut, in time. But this, like a dark green beeswarm, grows, divine. 3. Robert Reynolds Here; Now As I am here, what sense in counting odds about it?—once chance, now certain. Never mind the race another sperm—or none—might have won. To what ought I be grateful? And here? Culture point in a long stream of slow process wherein people learned to build houses, to plumb, to regulate doses of anesthetic? Life was harder and will be harder. And here? My own safe room, safe house, safe land, surrounded by decor chosen in partnership. Of what is this stuff made? Would it help to know? Life goes. And here? As center of the Universe (why not?), I can think out- or inward, to ask if branches in the wind are more or less substantial—or the same— as knowing why or how. And now? One is—or both are—infinite or the past grows longer or the future short. To ask my place in it would be to fail to see all times and places as alike— the dispassionate stance. Creation Myth with Inflationary Standard Model Void unuttered: vacuum-plenum out of/into which this infl(uctu)ation, this extension, that duration, these tight-curled dimensions, it and we, scale setting scale, vast or brief, linked on each level by ideas, touching all with passing is always, s(up)porting life and incidental death, rise and fall, breath of being: a coot dives into the sea, brings a bit of earth up from the deep, divides day from night, and unites quark with lepton: glittering dark web shrugged from nothing. These are words.This is all. 4. Jon Wilkins River Kali A giant stick levers half-burned corpses into this river revered by local people, who, like local people everywhere, work to appease or control the spirits, but secretly hope to fail. These bodies, relieved of the weight of their souls, bound into the water, blossoming into nutrient. The catfish here are just like arms dealers. On the shed skins of reborn souls, they grow to twice the size of man. Names like Goonch. When the corpse supply runs low, they act, seizing them from shores and boats and even sleep. And when the people dream of them, they wink: life, like a river at its mouth, is a thing that enduring, ends, and ending, endures. Pomegranate When I saw you in the supermarket, you were ten years older. I watched you quietly handling them, rejecting one after another, your tan fingers working the fruit efficiently, making me think you had married well. Then there was that look of frustration. Did you just give up? You settled for something and vanished. Science fiction would have us believe that there exists a parallel universe where people can only speak underwater, where their teeth grow like beavers’, have to be filed down throughout their lives, where your mountain bike is hanging from hook screwed into the joists in my garage. Of course, the lines around your eyes would look like webs from a different spider, recalling different nights spent crying about different failures. Your children would look more like me, but would still be beautiful. I imagine your dinner tonight in this world, full of knowing comments about the mercantile exchange, and where only your daughter, who is four and still opening her life up to the sun, is marveling at the otherworldly taste of this strange, red fruit, and at how many different seeds can be in a thing


Megan Fernandes is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the co-editor of Strangers in Paris (Tightrope Books 2011) and is the author of two chapbooks of poetry, Organ Speech (Corrupt Press 2011) and Some Citrus Makes me Blue (Dancing Girl Press 2012).


Roald Hoffmann was born in 1937 in Złoczów, Poland. Having survived the war, he came to the U.S. in 1949, where he is now the Frank H.T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters Emeritus at Cornell University. In chemistry he has taught his colleagues how to think about electrons influencing structure and reactivity, and won most of the honors of his profession. Hoffmann is also a writer—of poetry, essays, non-fiction, and plays—carving out his own land between poetry, philosophy, and science.


Robert Reynolds, whose poems have appeared in Hubbub, Fireweed, West Coast Review, and elsewhere, is David W. Brauer Professor of Physics Emeritus at Reed College. He has a particular interest in the ways physics finds its way into live theatre.


Jon Wilkins is a theoretical evolutionary biologist and poet. His poems have appeared in the Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, and elsewhere. His book, Transistor Rodeo, won the 2009 Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize and was published in 2010 by the University of Utah Press.