Quantum Sestina

by Cathy Douglas


Everything is made of Up

And its soul mate, Down,

Bound by forces stronger than a wizard's charm,

With a swirl of electrons to top

It off.  What I find strange

Is that four other quarks exist, useless to the bottom


Of their little souls. Their lifespans skim the bottom

Of discernible time, used up

In immediate decay.  Take the one called Strange:

It morphs into Down

So fast that its serving of life has a scoop of death on top,

Giving its tiny mass an evanescent charm.


And that itself is the charm

Of quantum physics: getting to the bottom

Of some will o' the wisp that can nearly top

The speed of light. Or looking up

The mysteries of existence and nonexistence, pinning down

The ephemeral, reflecting on truth most strange.


Yet the brave quantum world and the strange

Things in it take on a mundane charm

When applied to, say, a cat. It all comes down

To the fact that Puss, from her head to her bottom,

is made of electrons, and Down, and Up --

Whiskers, paws, and tail, with all the fluff on top.


If their fanciful names seem a little over the top,

Understand that quarks were discovered in the sixties, when strange

Forces in the human world inspired the geniuses who thought all this up.

Their imaginations caught the whimsical charm

Of the times, like hawks catching thermals from the desert bottom

Of hard fact. So it is that protons are made of Up, Up, Down,


And neutrons of Up, Down, Down,

Bound by the strong force and spinning like tops.

With the swirl of surrounding electrons, they are at the bottom

Level of all matter. So what strange

Meaning can we attach to the remaining four quarks? Are Charm,

Strange, Top, and Bottom the stuff of the creatures we make up?


Perhaps whenever an artist or writer jots down the details of some strange

Beast or flower, Top lifts his mate in a dance, and Charm

Plants one foot on the bottom of Reality Mountain, in the nanosecond before their time is up.