A cloud of virtual particles
surrounds real ones,
better to describe matter
as a possibility

occurring, or not occurring:
electrons described
as clouds changing shape
in uknowable order,

or knowable chaos:
Place a cat in a box
with a poison tablet
triggered by the decay

of one radioactive atom.
The cat is both dead
and not dead until
the box is opened

collapsing the field:
The event is triggered
by the observer.

Schroedinger's thought

isn't strictly accurate;
the quantum field is
collapsed by the poison,
or at least the poor cat.

The point of the analogy
is about certainty
and occurrence: We know
how many atoms

will decay in a sample
of unstable material
but not which ones.
In isolation, one particle

is no more predictable
than a million as a group.
Einstein was offended
by quantum mechanics

and quipped, famously
“God does not play dice.”
This is amusing, considering
the story of how Einstein went

for an evening walk
in Amsterdam
and forgot where he lived.
He called information:

Einstein, Albert. Ja,
die Telefonnummer,
sehr gut... Was ist
die Adresse?

He knew that he must live
in one of those houses,
just not which one.
The map inside his mind

was like a Feynman diagram,
all the possible Einstein homes
drawn around a real Albert
that walked in confusion.

This is important, not
because we can see each
subatomic particle leaving
its trail in liquid hydrogen,

not because humanity
is made of mesons
and leptons, not even
because this knowledge

has been translated
into a mushroom cloud.
No, I am trying to talk
about my body:

This ineluctable particle
is part of my mind,
the music passing
through the air.

Silence is the only cacophony,
Charles Ives would probably
have said

as he went into the study
to write music

that required two conductors,
tempos shifting back and forth
like clouds changing shape

and shuffled manuscripts
with papers calling for a ban
on the Senate.

Or perhaps he thought
of actuarial tables,
the way they tell you,

with reasonable certainty,
how many people
will die in car accidents

but not who.
Sometimes an ensemble
sounds like it will dominate

the music, but it plays
in the background
and the foreground

at the same time.
There was no argument
in the salons of Europe—

under the spell
of twelve-tone music—

about the worth
of Ives’ music; he wrote
in almost total isolation,

much of his music
premiered decades
after it was written.

The matter of how
Stravinsky or Schoenburg
would ahve reacted

is an open question.
Any good student of music
is offended by something

in Ives. In the third movement
of this symphony, an organ
blasts a monumental chord

and is barely heard again.
No one who cared
about the practicality

of performance would call
for such an instrument
and have it play

such a minor role.
Ives said he wanted
“to hear what God hears.”

Perhaps he was thinking
of the Mongol archers, poised
at the brink of dominating

all of Europe and Asia
but were called back
to the capital

never to leave Mongolia again,
or the Vikings
who almost settled

North America
hundreds of years
before the English.

Watchman, Tell Us
of the Night
at the same time

as Jesus, Lover
of My Soul,
and Columbia,
the Gem of the Ocean.

This could be my body,
with its impossible rhythms,
and irregular movements.

The one singing All Hail
the Power
might be me.
The trombone that plays

Joy to the World
—almost a musical joke—
could be my vioce,

a place where I show up
in the group portrait
of the universe,

the part of the music
passing through my mind
and then the air.

I begin to read

this book about Coumbus
inside of which
is a receipt from 1979
and a poem about love
or mushrooms. (The poem

is unclear.) It says I will send
spores to you.

I am offended.
Diamond, my orange
tabby almost nudges
the book out of my hands

with his purring maw.
The music makes him
restless. He knocks
over a glass on the table
and runs away.

There was no argument
about the earth being flat;
the only controversy
was the distance to China,
which Columbus

incorrectly calculated
as being about
three thousand miles,
instead of twelve.
His attitude

towards the natives
of Cuba
is perplexing.
When they give freely,
they are gentle.

When they try to take
just as freely,

they are barbarians.
Columbus determined
Cuba was the mainland.
When the natives told him
he was on an island,

it was proof of thier
ignorance. He demanded
his own men not to tell

anyone in Spain
they sailed to an island
for fear of being fined
or having their tongues cut out.

Columbus believed
he was sent by God
to convert the damned
and plunder the riches,

making no distinction
between the two.
The authors believe
Columbus was kind

to the natives (aside
from plotting genocide),
but some of the officers
on other ships

were more typical soldiers
The Captain brought me
a native girl, stunning
in her nudity. When I tried

to have my way with her,
she proved most skillful
in the use of her nails.

He asked permission
of the Captain
      to do damage.

After application of the whip
she proved an excellent harlot.

The thought crosses my mind:
This could be my body,
giving in to lust and torture

like mushrooms breaking
through asphalt
, raping,
raped, the inability
to distinguish between

the desire and the desired:
Powerlessness. I am glad
when Diamond comes

and knocks the book
away from me,
insisting on gentle attention,

then biting my hands
and swatting the air.