Last night I thumbed through the August 2014 issue of Scientific American. I stopped at an article entitled “The Black Hole at the Beginning of Time” (by Afshordi, Mann and Pourhasan), which postulates a cosmic black hole that preceded the Big Bang.



For all that I comprehended, the article could have been written in early Cyrillic instead of English. Nevertheless, I was mesmerized by the exotic words and phrases that I didn’t understand.


There were these:


“event horizon”


“a rich theory of holography”


“cosmic censorship”


“the observed amplitude and shape of primordial matter fluctuations”


“graceful exit problem”


“the sudden, violent emergence of all space, time and matter from an infinitely dense point called a singularity”


And there were these sentences that baffled me:


“Physicists quip that ‘a black hole has no hair’ – no distinguishing features beyond the basics of mass, angular momentum and electrical charge.”


“…our entire universe came into being during a stellar implosion in this suprauniverse, an implosion that created a three-dimensional shell around a four-dimensional black hole.”


And there were longer, denser full-bore paragraphs that made my head spin.


But then the poet in me had an idea. With my apologies to the academic authors if they are offended, I invite you to look one such paragraph as if it were a POEM:


We now know

that the density of ordinary


is only 5 percent

of the universe’s total

energy density.


25 percent comes

in the form of

dark matter,

an unknown form

of matter whose existence

is inferred

from its gravitational


And 70 percent of the universe

is made of dark energy,

the mysterious stuff

that is causing

the expansion

rate of our universe

to speed up

(instead of

slowing down,

as originally expected

from gravitational


Structured like that it’s fascinating and lovely, and, like a John Berryman poem, it makes me feel as if I’m teetering on the verge of understanding whatever it means.


As a wordsmith, I treasure words. I find pleasure in the arrangements of words that convey an idea or a story (or a theorem) to others.


However much I’d like to understand that article in Scientific American, there is simply not enough time (or motivation) for me to learn all I’d need to know in order for that to happen.


Nevertheless, I can delight in the beauty and the mystery of the words. I am content that SOMEONE understands them. Someone thrums and thrills with that understanding, and that fills me with awe and gratitude.

14 replies
  1. Joal
    Joal says:

    Wish we could be together for a day to discuss this. Your appreciation of the poetry of the words fits so well with the poetry of the Big Bang. I am fascinated by S. Hawkings explanations of the beginning of all things. And, knowing you, I think there is more understanding in your brain than you lay claim to! As my body grows older and weaker reminding me that soon the day will come when I will join the energy of the universe (s) in an exciting new way, I feel exhilarated to have been blessed with the capacity to understand more than I ever expected and to expect more to understand!

  2. Val
    Val says:

    When I die and after awhile since eternity is a long time I want to tour the universe with Carl Sagan and S. Hawking. They can spend some of eternity explaining it all to me and then I can spend the rest of eternity just enjoying the images!

  3. gary
    gary says:

    Ahhh mysteries of the universe. Hitch hiking across the galaxy I was picked up by a black hole just back from the Crab nebula, a dark matter that must be dealt with. It’s event horizon (confined to the back seat) only had room for one more passenger who had to be compatible with the green charm quark. We never would have discovered this requirement if the Higgs Boson had weighed in at more than 30 (or was that the Piggs Hoseon?). Thank the God Particle for very small favors.

  4. ann eyerman
    ann eyerman says:


    I thoroughly enjoyed this. I so appreciate your comments about reading dense material and needing a Ph.D. to understand it. But your poem just pulled me along with the idea. I don’t necessary understand the theory but I sure enjoyed the reading.

  5. Eileen Soskin
    Eileen Soskin says:

    You transformed incomprehensibility (which leads to my glazing over) to mystery and wonder at the beauty of words whose meaning lies just beyond my understanding. In the process, instead of glazing over, I found myself soaking in the individual words and phrases, gleaning a look at the mystery of life. Thank you, Cynthia, for expanding my horizons. I will try reading dense, scholarly materials (in and out of my field) as poems – it can only improve the experience for me.

  6. Susanne Fest
    Susanne Fest says:

    What a lovely idea to convert incomprehensible language and content into a poem, where incomprehensibility becomes mystery. The engagement with the words changes entirely. What a gift you have for seeing possibility.

  7. Fenna diephuis
    Fenna diephuis says:

    My sentiments exactly Cynthia! I’ve been watching Niel De Grasse Tyson’s Cosmos every night before I sleep as a sort of devotion. I am humbled and exalted by what I don’t understand! And part of me does!

    I love that expression: ” a black hole has no hair”!

    Wonderful writing! Yum!

  8. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    Wonderful! In particular I love the word “suprauniverse” – though I haven’t a clue what that is, it makes me think of another layer of existence, another plane. Your poem has given me a new writing exercise, Cynthia.

  9. Sheila Foster
    Sheila Foster says:

    I read Stephen Hawkings and feel exactly the same way. I wish so much that my brain was capable of understanding the words, but they do feel so good to me.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

five × 4 =