Tuesday Poem: ‘Making tea in the universe’ by Helen Heath

Making tea in the universe

Have a look in the pantry.
you’ll need to gather up everything

there is, every particle
of matter between you and me and the

edge of creation. Now squeeze it
into a dot so infinitesimally

compact that it has no

There is no apron to stand behind.
There is no space, no darkness

for this pregnant dot to wait in.
There is no past for it

to emerge from, no egg timer.
The tea leaves are in the pot,

put the kettle on, light the gas.
In the first second

the dot has space.
Magnets fall from the fridge

as you get the milk out.
In the first minute your universe

is a million billion miles across
and growing fast.

There are 10 billion degrees of heat.
The kettle is boiling by the third

minute and 98 per cent
of all the matter that is

or ever will be has been
created. Pour the tea to brew

while you wait
for life on earth.

I am a sucker for science poetry.  It’s a great way to talk about the commonalities between science and poetry. Personally I find the universe pretty hard to comprehend, and I enjoy the way Heath’s poem pairs the homely act of tea making with the creation of the universe. For me, it talks about one way we can relate to such a big idea. I know the universe is far too baggy to fit in my head, yet I still take it for granted. It’s as common as making tea. Of the poem, Helen says in Turbine 2011 (where the poem also appears):

‘Making tea in the universe’ is a partially found poem inspired by Bill Bryson’s description of the Big Bang in his Short History of Nearly Everything, (Black Swan, 2004) in which he describes the creation of the universe happening in the time it takes to make a sandwich. This poem won the inaugural ScienceTeller Poetry Award in 2011.

Helen blogs at helenheath.com and writes poetry and essays. Her poetry has been published in many journals in New Zealand, Australia and the USA. She completed an MA in Creative Writing at the IIML in 2009. Helen’s chap-book of poems called Watching for Smoke was published by Seraph Press in 2009. Her first full length book, Graft, will be published in 2012 by VUP.

For other Tuesday Poems check out the hub.

3 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem: ‘Making tea in the universe’ by Helen Heath

  1. I love poetry and fiction inspired by science, too. There’s something about illuminating rather obscure, dry ideas and bringing them to the domestic, the everyday – Helen does this beautifully. Thanks for sharing, Sarah.

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