Everything’s made of particles.
I know that because
not long ago I was privileged to dine
at high table in a Cambridge College
where the Fellows, men and women
cloistered at the cutting edge of research,
had conversations about families, colleagues,
politics, sport and current events,
but also fermions and bosons
including quarks and leptons,
not to mention hadrons, protons and measons,
little things flying around with space between them
that apparently everything is made of.
Just a minute, I said,
and I tried to use words they’d understand,
you mean daffodils on the backs,
weeping willows by the river,
undergraduates lying on the grass in summer,
college buildings themselves,
all made of particles, with space between them?
Yes, they said, the whole lot.
And carried on ingesting particles of roast venison and claret.
That made me think.
With that space between particles,
when I touch a snowdrop nodding in the breeze
why doesn’t my finger go straight through it?
In fact why doesn’t the breeze go straight through me?
Or when a cat leans against my ankles, rubbing,
why doesn’t it fall over sideways,
or when someone jumps on a horse
why don’t they end up on the ground between the front and back legs,
or sink straight through the planet and out the other side?
Or when you and I entwine why don’t our bodies merge into one,
although come to think of it they pretty much do.
So I asked a Professor sitting opposite
and she stopped ingesting for a moment,
smiling, and said it’s to do with a force
that holds things together.
Sometimes at night as I fall asleep
it feels like things aren’t holding together and I’m falling,
so maybe the force is weaker then.
When I wake I reach out to make sure
your particles haven’t slipped through the spaces.