Do you remember the coincidence of four billion years ago? The moment when the hot spire of lightning crashed like a mayfly into the primordial water—do you remember how the stars sang then, as life began in a burst of fire?

I remember how the lone molecule exploded into the world, gasping for air and meaning. As it began its voyage, it did not swirl apart in a spate of kinetic cruelty. Why? Is it because the earth moved so, because its orbit lay far enough from its star that the heat could not rend amino acids as they formed?

I say it is because they wanted me to find you.

You claim we are random selections of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, billions upon billions of atoms, coalescing as the pink crescent in the womb, united within this brief design till some must be on their way in breath and sweat and piss. And so we are, we are maelstroms of unlikelihoods, brief order in this disorder: because of a photon, glancing off a frond two hundred million years ago, I am not coal, nor oil, nor a scattering of carbon atoms across the world that have never known each other, perhaps met once in the smokestack of a passenger ship till a whirl of nitrogen and oxygen dragged them apart.

But somehow, in all the dust of the universe, in all this chaos and indeterminacy, I became, as did you. And it was you for whom this neural circuitry pulsed. It was you who became a surge of ions—so I finally comprehended the poetry of consciousness, for which we name the stars we do not own.

Love, you say, was nothing but indelible code—chemicals inebriating the ancestral populations as they squirmed through the mud. It was by that code that they produced offspring, as did their descendants, so that they, too, were shifting cathedrals of atomic togetherness, like we are—like we always were, even in the Precambrian.

But what then, after it’s over? This main sequence star grows old and all this roaring, this copulatory ecstasy, is futile at last.

But here, I found you—and I am the illogic that emerged from mathematical immutability. I found you, and suddenly I know, you are the reason lightning once thought to rearrange atoms in the sea. The stigmatal nectar. The candle that fooled the moth. The continuation of millions of billions of tangling archaic stories—

You and I, the ordered cell that rose to end the Hadean Eon—the protoplanet that was not ripped to pieces—the war against entropy that will eventually be lost.

I found you, and that makes it all irrelevant.


Periods Between

H. Simple. Not to scale. An electron orbiting a proton, a planet orbiting a star, a galaxy swirling about a supermassive black hole. At the heart of each furnace, the same simple structure—an electron orbiting a proton.

He. The male subject pronoun. Little prince presiding over an empty courtroom. Party’s over and the balloons shrivel slowly, the permeation of latex via pores that cannot be seen.

Li. Strength outshone. It fizzles amid its dazzling siblings. The bulbs flicker. You jab the button again, wondering when the batteries died.

Be. To exist. That is enough. No one needs to know your bladed poison.

B. Only second-best—harder than diamond, a well-known universal lie. No one sees, the bonds of this lattice interlocking a cage to free some scattered light. No one sees the diamonds breaking.

C. Middle. We know the stiff four-legged standard, chains of life that burn on ends. But skeletal like Stygian keys—we speak of life like twigs don’t snap, and middle C still moans, in waves across these graphite strings.

N. The cipher unzips the cryptogram, the cryptogram encodes the cipher. Palindromes break. Sewerage pipes flood with A T C G, all the same glyph after all.

O. Nothing, nothing in the end: life fossilizes, but this burning is eternal, exhalation seeping into old futures. Breath comes cyclically, turning diamonds to air—reddening blood, fading telomeres.

F. Failure. She clings jealous like a lover, yellow poison hissing through gaps in the murder vial.

Ne. The octet laments, a queen who will never marry. Electrons buzz. Photons dance orange. Deep in the night, the shophouses glow with misplaced (sur)names.

Chemistry lessons getting to me. This is at least half a year old; it’s still a very characteristic work so I thought I’d post it for completeness’ sake.

Tree of Life

I existed in the shadow of history, when the stars were cold and learning to breathe. I existed in a scattering of plans, a flickering behind a nebula.

I remember, within the slants and bends of my branches, the scattering of photons, the accretion of matter, and the moulding of planets. I remember something of a forming song, the conductor lifting his baton in an arc the shape of a spiral galaxy’s arm.

My butterfly leaves are the score of a symphony rich and resonant as the Cambrian and the warm hum of vast prehistoric insects beating against my stolid form as the lines of the phylogenetic tree etch themselves in my bark.

You and I are the same organism. I die every death you die, and yet together we are immortal. I watch the red sun engulf the world. And we will not die even then—for still we will exist in the molecules, waiting to be seeded again.

I hide in the shadow of future. These apartments around me, so much taller than I: there is no breath in them, yet they too are part of the song. Perhaps the ledger lines, upon which we must climb to ascend the universal scales.

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13. So is dictated the promenade dance, as new branches bud from meristems. So goes the song unending, bridging the light-year gaps between the stars, from point to point in the arcing sweep of the growing galaxy. Between the dead lightning rods of the apartment rooftops, and the clouds that circle the world a thousand times a day. Between the human, and the tree He left rising in the flowerbed.

Between the tree and Him. A melodic scale into infinity.

I alone am a map of the universe. And if you look close enough, you can see the stars in my cells—the very stars from which I was born, the very stars to which I will return someday.

False Dilemma

Kiss me. Take me by the throat and stab my plans from deep within, then maybe guess my next move.

You advance a spearhead of pawns, useless, you say. Amongst them your princess is brutally murdered: pity, she could have been queen.

Grip my hair. Pull my face forward so it breathes you, smile so my spine jars; behind the lips there’s always the fangs.

There is a pressure in your fingers that tells me you wish you could let go. but not now, you say, not when first blood has been drawn. Wars end when they begin, never resignation halfway. I will not let you have your prize; you will not let me have my pride.

This is how we dance; black and white; false dilemma.

There is a brutality to the way you play—very attractive, but I will not risk unnecessarily when I know you are the sort to take a trade of queens. See how you leave your knights for dead; you are too dangerous for me.

some sacrifices must be made, you cry, as another bishop falls to a pawn, diagonal. Some, really? We’ll keep playing, and when it’s just you and your king, I wonder what you’ll say in your defence.

Capture my castle when your own has crumbled; your blood shatters across the files. My plot lies twenty steps into the future; you will never see it. And I will never see yours—is this recklessness or is this a ruse? The squares are marred, and we are bleeding, bleeding both, yet neither of us will give just yet.

why don’t we end this, you plead as if it were a command. But truce always ends; you know this better than I. We are circling. Masochism tango, they call it? I know you could be mine. I’m yours already. But you refuse to relinquish a battle that is killing us both.

Some ploys work better than others. Perhaps it’s my fault, for lying to you. Perhaps it’s yours, for making it so hard to be honest.

But my queen glides forth, and your king has nowhere to hide. check,

mate. I try not to sound smug.

another game?

Something somewhat old.