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.
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