Poetry

Of Atoms and Insects

On the fifth night

of my sixth summer

at church camp,

–nestled in the bustling hub

of a 200-resident backwater town–

 

I stopped a while to wonder

at a towering copse of trees,

sprinkled in the cold, wild light of fireflies,

each of a million

blinking its independent rhythm

in a silent, elegant mania.

 

“Look!” a counselor called to her kids,

noticing too the glowing trees.

“Look at the light show God put on just for you!”

 

This statement bothered me,

and for ten years now

I’ve been trying to figure out why.

Why someone’s spiritual understanding of

Pennsylvania’s state insect

could annoy me so much.

 

It’s not that I don’t believe in God.

I do,

and I like the idea of a divine energy

somehow

coursing through these beetles’ lambent asses,

 

But I don’t want them to care about me.

 

To say every time I walk up,

“Oh, he’s here!

Quick, turn on your butts!

God told us to!”

 

I prefer nature’s soft apathy

to a cloying, needy Creator.

 

But now I’m reading about electrons,

and let me tell you about these sons of bitches.

 

Not only do they lack

singular locations

–residing instead

in uncertain “clouds”

of probable residence–

 

but their very essence

–wave or particle–

can shift

based on method of observation.

 

In other words,

how you look at electrons

doesn’t change how they appear to you,

it changes how they are to themselves.

 

Leaving me confounded

 

that lightning bugs

might glow ignorant,

but strip each beetle to its base

and you’ll find pieces

staring back.

 

Maybe I’m so unsettled

because I haven’t decided

which one God is more like:

 

The personal, pliable fragment,

or the indifferent and glorious swarm?

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