POETRY: The sample is shining

“It’s the first-ever sample of metallic hydrogen on Earth, so when you’re looking at it, you’re looking at something that’s never existed before.”
—Isaac Silvera, Harvard University


In the universe of possibility, something new:
hydrogen cooled to cryogenic temperatures

and crushed into metal under pressure
greater than at the earth’s core. The postdoc

called the professor. “The sample is shining,”
he said. Yes, there it was, gleaming, trapped

in its diamond vise, minute and microscopic,
the holy grail of high-pressure physics.

But we understand the poetry in the physics,
do we not? Extreme temperature and pressure.

A change in state. To transform, to transmute
the known facts into the new and unknown.

We follow the grail of our own device,
one we vaguely understand, hoping that

something will be found, something shining,
however small, or transient, or tentative.