Kew Gardens

(i.m. Ian Armstrong Black, d. 1971)
Distinguished scientist, to whom I greatly defer
(old man, moreover, whom I dearly love),
I walk today in Kew Gardens, in sunlight the colour of honey
which flows from the cold autumnal blue of the heavens to light these tans and golds,
these ripe corn and leather and sunset colours of the East Asian liriodendrons,
of the beeches and maples and plum-trees and the stubborn green banks of
the holly hedges –
and you walk always beside me, you with your knowledge of names
and your clairvoyant gaze, in what for me is sheer panorama
seeing the net or web of connectedness. But today it is I who speak
(and you are long dead, but it is to you I say it):

‘The leaves are green in summer because of chlorophyll
and the flowers are bright to lure the pollinators,
and without remainder (so you have often told me)
these marvellous things that shock the heart the head can account for.
But I want to sing an excess that is not so simply explainable,
to say that the beauty of the autumn is a redundant beauty,
that the sky had no need to be this particular shade of blue,
nor the maple to die in flames of this particular yellow,
nor the heart to respond with an ecstasy that does not beget children.
I want to say that I do not believe your science
although I believe every word of it, and intend to understand it;
that although I rate that unwavering gaze higher than almost everything,
there is another sense, a hearing, to which I more deeply attend.
Thus I withstand and contradict you, I, your child,
who have inherited from you the passion that causes me to oppose you.’


by D M Black, for his father.


Poet to Physicist in his Laboratory

Come out and talk to me          

for then I know

into what you are shaping.

Thinking is no more,

I read your thoughts for a symbol:

a movement towards an act.

I give up on thought                            

as I see your mind

leading into a mystery

deepening about you.

What are you trying to discover

beyond the zone of habit

and enforced convention?

There is the animus

that spends itself on images,

the most complex being

convention and habit.

You shall form patterns                       

of research and bind yourself

to laws within your knowledge,

and always conscious of your limitations

make settlement,

with patience to instruct you

as it always does

in your research: an arrangement

spanning an abyss of time,

and you will find yourself patient

when you are questioned.


by David Ignatow




A line that looks dead straight can be an arc
like the horizon when you’re out at sea.
True distance is deceptive: in the dark
it can’t be measured. Yes, you made a mark
or two, in fact, but you can barely see.
A line that should be straight becomes an arc,
the path that’s traveled by a welder’s spark
when danger’s just a matter of degree.
Since distance can’t be measured in the dark
most people turn the light on. And the stark
divisions blind them with geometry.
A line that isn’t straight is called an arc—
no! Think outside the box! Perhaps a quark
moves like a knight in chess, a hop-two-three.
(True distance is deceptive.) In the dark
all rules break down completely. What a lark!
The future’s coming at you in 4D.
A line that should be straight looks like an arc.
True distance can deceive you in the dark.

by Anna M. Evans

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015
Tribute to Scientists

In memory of Stephen….

In memory of Stephen…. an inspiring quote (yes, outside our usual remit, but please forgive us this once)


“One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.

Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it.

Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away”

Hv by Gilbert Stead

All black body radiations,
All the spectrum variations,
All atomic oscillations
Vary as “h v.”

Ultraviolet vibrations
X- and gamma-ray pulsations
Ordinary light sensations
All obey “h v.”

Here’s the right relation
Governs radiation
Here’s the new
And only true
Electrodynamical equation;

Never mind your d/dt2
V times e or half mv2
If you watch the factor “c2”)
E equals “h v.”

Even matters calorific
Such things as the heat specific
Yield to treatment scientific
If you use “h v.”

In all questions energetic
Whether static or kinetic
Or electric, or magnetic
You must use “h v.”

There would be a mighty clearance,
We should all be Planck’s adherents
Were it not that interference
Still defies “h v.”

Gilbert Stead (3 February 1888 – 5 July 1979) was a British professor of physics and pioneer in the development of radiology as a recognized medical specialty.

To be sung to the tune “Men of Harlech” (traditional Welsh tune)
With thanks to

Brief summary of the physics in this song

Earth’s Embroidery

With the ink of its showers and rains
With the quill of its lightning, with the
Hand of its clouds, winter wrote a letter
Upon the garden, in purple and blue
No artist could conceive the like of that.
And this is why the earth, grown
Jealous of the sky, embroidered stars in
The folds of the flower beds.

Solomon Ibn Gabirol

Solomon ibn Gabirol was an 11th-century Andalusian poet and Jewish philosopher with a Neo-Platonic bent. He published over a hundred poems, as well as works of biblical exegesis, philosophy, ethics and satire. One source credits Ibn Gabirol with creating a golem, possibly female, for household chores.

Poetry and robots too???

Science poetry from the 1600s

Nature is curious, and such worke may make,
That our dull sense can never finde, but scape.
For Creatures, small as Atomes, may be there,
If every Atome a Creatures Figure beare.
If foure Atomes a World can make, then see
What severall Worlds might in an Eare–ring bee:
For Millions of these Atomes may bee in
The Head of one Small, little, Single Pin.
And if thus Small, then Ladies may well weare
A World of Worlds, as Pendents in each Eare.

Duchess Margaret Lucas Cavendish of Newcastle
(c. 1624 – 1674)
Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, was a prolific writer who worked in many genres, including poetry, fiction, drama, letters, biography, science, and even science fiction. Unlike most women of her day, who wrote anonymously, she published her works under her own name.
We refer you to the Poetry Foundation for more information about his fascinating woman:
magaret cavendish