Thor, the Norse God of Thunder, had a hammer named Mjölnir. Mjölnir was considered a fierce weapon that could level mountains and summon lightning with every blow. In this poetry blog, every Thursday, (Thor’s Day), Mjölnir will forge only song - sing of the mysteries and beauties of the world.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

electric effluvia on the surface and circumference of two coins  
Étienne-Léopold Trouvelot
ca. 1888
printing-out paper print

     for Alan Wick

The new physics: when
was it first minted, the story
and its arc?

When a bit of the everyday
was laid down
before the aperture of the sun,

and brought to light in 1888,
a currency hitherto
unseen: halos and

living invisibly within
the betwixt and the between,

yet tender,
bright as new stars.

Electromagnetism: the discovery
of the day, captured without camera,
on light sensitive paper—

an intimate frontier,
where science and photography met
for the first time, bridging the gap

with a flash,
a blaze across a void,
a branching.

Étienne-Léopold Trouvelot fled
with his family from France in 1852,
avoiding one coup d'etat

to wage his own risky experiment
in Medford, Massachusetts. A stroke
of genius took hold

of this amateur entomologist
and told him he could save
that shimmering filament—

silk—and the burgeoning
industry that was spreading
with great speed in the West,

by cross-breeding one dying moth species
with the resilience and fiery spirit
of another. In his backyard,

on an oak branch, he cultivated, in secret,
the eggs of the Gypsy Moth, whose larvae,
to his surprise, escaped into

the nearby woods.  He notified the authorities
but nothing was done to prevent
the infestation that ensued.

Later this man turned his gaze
from larvae to stars,
to astronomy, to the heavens—

and in seeing the pulse
and magnetic dance of the Northern Lights
fell in love with auroras—

and from an intimate place
within himself went
on to render and capture

in lithographs and photography,
the shape and form of celestial bodies,
their light, their effluvial line.

To this day this man of passion and innovation,
who helped to forge a new science,
is remembered more for the escape

the Gypsy Moth made into North America,
that persists to this day,
than for what he captured in 1888,

by simply setting two ordinary coins
down opposite each other
on a single piece of paper.

This is our portrait also
more than a century later.
We are gypsy spirits,

instars escaping,
into the unknown,
an invisible frontier,

against containment,
with so much to say.

We are twin beings,
true light
upon true light,

begotten and betrothed,
one from and to
the other: a love

like a physics, invented
and remembered, at once
and once again.