“The Number of Grains of Sand on Earth” – Poetry by Matt Alexander

The Abundant Earth - Diego Rivera, 1926
The Abundant Earth – Diego Rivera, 1926

“The Number of Grains of Sand on Earth” is Matt Alexander‘s epically awesome poem from our Winter 2017 issue.

{ X }

of cards left out. The clubs curdled,
so they’ll need to be discarded.  Diamonds
were fine over night; they last forever.
Retain the offal and you may find yourself
a soul departing.
Withstand enough peer pressure and perhaps
you’ll capture one as it flees.  At least
sense it.  What is it to be alive
if not to be sensate?  Life’s a game
of spades.  One pass through
the digestion system is never enough.  Sixty-four years
later and it’s never enough.
I’m sorry.  My language
has over sixty-four words

for a snowball’s chance in hell.
One for each year.  He loves you,
now, but the only way to know
if you two will make it for sure
is to appeal to sabermetrics.  Take heart:
the regressions look good.  They project
many years into the future.  Strategically adjusting the R2
results in our crossing the Rubicon
of significance. Traditionally, hell was depicted
as a cold place.  In Svalbard the candles
are expected to last only one night
but routinely last eight.  Miracles do exist.
They are called forests, and my language
has over sixty words for the way atheists
disavow them.  I appreciated your interrogation
very much, but I already discarded
all my guilt.  You won’t find my prints on it

even if you manage to find it in the river.  Go fish
for the lichen moss coating the redwoods like pantyhose,
catching nutrients from the air like an out
fielder.  Statistical analysis can predict
with great accuracy a player’s performance,
though public trust in empirical data
and the government has plummeted.
Flummoxing the untrustworthy,
the red ranger morphs into a child to
maintain his sense of wonder.  He tunes his
sensory neurons to read incoming variables
from the environment and adjust his behavior
appropriately.  This is not maladaptive.  This objectively
scientific revolution inside a man

is an undeniable forest.  It never happened.
Nothing could be more clear cut.  Milk
is largely opaque, but at the same time,
we can predict the path of photons travelling through it
by appealing to sabermetrics.  These twirling events
occur in creeps, not jerks.  In the outfield of biology,
this passes for a joke.  The lonely panthers stalk
like lonely fans.  Quick sand
turned out to be slower than we thought after tallying up
all the individual grains.  It has self-esteem issues,
but then it grew up at the beach.  Lava didn’t,
although once the caldera in Yellowstone blows
we will change our doomsday tunes

from F major to D minor, a subtle
but significant recalibration of
our neurons’ fine-tuning.  Unless The Shins
are still as cool as they were in high school.  Whatever
happened to us?  We’re still out there
somewhere in the vicinity
of a rainbow.  Skinny love
is what my family called me.  They told me
to eat, and I ate, but my body
type is Holocaust survivor.  Purely descriptive,
though even I don’t know if I trust my own sense

organs.  All anorexic instruments are vulnerable
like a child to errors.  All theories cry
when they are hungry.  All babies are falsifiable.
Roe V. Wade has seen to that.  Some believe
that all babies are true
regardless of the weight of the evidence
supporting them, but if that were true
we never would’ve developed lynching,
let alone language.  For example,
noise is ever-present.  A rhythmic component,
no matter how minor, converts a baby into music,
while a saxophone relegates it
to an elevator, whereas a rapper converts it
into prestige hip hop, depending on the rapper.  Consider
Kendrick Lamar, a man so prestigious even a white person
could listen.  So goes the circle.

All revolutions end where they begin:
the middle.  History lies
on a line of osculating circles.  That is,
even it cannot tell the truth, the whole truth
and nothing but the net.  Some false fetuses survive
despite the best efforts of the empirical sciences.
Even scientists, though, favor
placing bets on their respective Pegasus’s,
despite all their hollow claims

to objectivity.  A person is a person, and the sooner we accept that,
the sooner we will begin to floss.
It has been a long time coming.  The lamestream media
paints all people with brush strokes so broad that the resolution
of the entire planet has approached a single pixel.  How many
grains of sand exist on the Earth?  I once believed
such a baby, the anointed one, existed.  But now
I know the answer is a surprising one.

The answer is this: the Earth consists
of only a single grain of ill-advised
ratiocination, a polar magnet for radiative forcing
and radioactive decay, gum disease, far-fetched fission
and nuclear fallout, an EKG indicating
enough untold mountains of that stuff
to cause high-grade angina shooting up
the left axilla, a coagulated embolus
leading to a single stroke of genius.  Oh, and
a whippoorwill in the wind.

{ X }

mattMATT ALEXANDER is a scientist and writer in Philadelphia. When struck by insight, he shouts “Bazinga!”, not “Eureka!”, although he has nothing against Archimedes and is in fact himself an avid bath-taker. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Maudlin House, After the Pause, and Across the Margin. Follow him on Twitter at @thenamesmatta.

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