Brownian Motion

Universal restlessness begins with Brownian motion.
The inanimate moves, he notices with a shiver
of excitement. But his pollen and sphinx powder
are forgotten for many years (as happens to the dead).
The idea is suspended in a microscopic ocean until
1905. Einstein writes a beautiful paper about speed
and distance, proving the existence of atoms.
I am shaky in my knowledge of atoms.
A good metaphor helps me see their motion
(I remember protons and nuclei) it speeds
my understanding as does an anecdotal shiver.
I try to apply atoms to Barthes’ lexia until
it became apparent that text is not a powder
to be peered at through a lens. It isn’t dead
enough. Its movement is not dead
energy but the life of minds, many atoms
making sense of complex signs. ‘Powder’
heats in relation to my emotion
and experience — cocaine, baking, baby — until
it expands with meaning. Speed
is essential if I want that shiver
of context racing through me. The shiver
of a poked raindrop, men scared to death,
earthquakes, horses at speed —
I know none of these are identical to atomic
jiggling. I was so ignorant until
today, when all became powder.
Room, table, window, chair —all in motion,
in unison, flinching like tickled skin. Motion
I imagined but didn’t see, under my feet, shivering,
in my feet, of my feet, powder,
sliding serendipitously. Even the dead —
underground and remembered — moving until
everything else stops, until every speed
halts. I know little about atoms
but atoms,
I understand, are quite reliable. Motion,
too, ubiquitous. The speed
of sound and light, birds, shivering
atoms, seem stable too until
I consider history, men, baking powder —
other probabilities that let me down.
But, there are always consolations in death
to count on; our spirits down
until we notice the shivering atoms,
the motion in dead powder.

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