t h e h e a t d e a t h o f t h e u n i v e r s e
B . D I E T R I C H
"It's wanting to know that makes us matter."
It was like catching your God with her knickers
down. You found out one day the universe
Fourth grade, back of the class where books
lined the walls with all the words you'd ever need.
There, between gloss and cardboard, cardboard
and crayon marginalia, you discovered
what you'd been taught to fear. Something very like
a coelacanth, a fish, Mr. Limpitt
with feet, peddling up bog banks to test
the air. Blasphemy. And worse - Baptist
that you were - the rest of the story. What
came before, what must, according to Bohr,
inevitably follow. The birth of atom,
the death of atom's children. A fuller version
of creation than you'd known, been
allowed. Revelation without apocalypse,
apocalypse without demons (Maxwell
not withstanding). It was all there, tri-tone,
nearly 3-D, all you could ever ask for
in a doomsday scenario. The heat death
of everything, the cold slowing of heaven's
hurled bodies, the gradual extinction
of what seemed would expand forever.
Funny, but Fenrir never struck you
like this, that quaint Nordic myth of how
it all might end in snow-slow, zero-laden
stasis. The great wolf presiding over
what couldn't last with his last blast of feral
breath, his great howl, growl by growl growing
silent as ice between here and the end
of the world. But this. This was dangerous.
It claimed a kind of authority, say, the story
of five Chinese brothers didn't. So you did
what you had to do. Approached the teacher, Woods,
Mrs. Woods. Showed her the book. Asked her
to hide it, burn it, take it as far away
from you and your faith as her own faith
in you would allow.
When the days wind down and the sun begins
at last to consume what it has given, you
wonder, still, if that book will remain. There.
Top shelf. Too high for you to reach. Beached.
Unburned. Burning with all its answers.