Christopher Buckley

Heisenberg’s Principle
May 24, 2022 Buckley Christopher

Heisenberg’s Principle
“There was uncertainty about the location of Heisenberg.”
—John Woods


Look. We’re somewhere
on a far-flung arm
of 1 of 90 billion galaxies—
prayer wheels spinning
away from who knows where
deep in a vast dark. . . .
The stars above us
actually aren’t . . .
they’re just pin-balled
and pitched about
every which way
amid the cosmic scree. . . .
So what to make
of saints and sports stars
pointing up to the sky
as if they know the precise
zip code of infinity?
It’s likely we’re
the random zest and sift
of stars—no one knows
what kind of time it took
before our atoms linked up
and presented here or how
long now until we all likewise
decompress and float out
in darkness again?
As far as we can see,
its Time we’re looking at
as we adjust the lens
on nebulae and the fish-eye
of eternity?
Black holes,
dark matter, a toss
of the cosmic dice—
salt water, amino acids,
mitochondrial DNA,
hodgepodge of filched chemicals,
and voilà, consciousness
rising like the steam
off primordial soup . . .
what were the odds against
mammals advancing upright
over the grassy plains?


We must be where
the past has gone,
every future redshifted
away from us out there
like box cars speeding
at night through Kansas—
everything else still going
to happen somewhere,
though according to Heisenberg,
it’s impossible
to determine
the location
and speed
of anything,
as energy and
and thus
spoil the original
quantum specs
of the system.
Cause and effect
do not really apply—
in short,
whatever’s observed
is changed
by observation.


So will the light-clogged
galaxies ever be revealed
if God—as the good Sisters
insisted—is, in fact,
watching us?
Either way,
evening is coming in
and the sky’s sauntering off
above the eucalyptus—
all of us under stars,
my unsteady postulations
blowing about like straw
in a breeze.  How far
will these clouds get
as we lose count against
the chalkboard of the blue?
Every bit of history
they’ve passed quickly over
washed out—blank flash
cards, all the formulas
despite the ratio
between earth and sky
unresolved in my bones,
and the invisible air
where clouds alone
were a heaven’s collateral —
the ballast of oxygen
skipping through my veins,
the oath of light
scattered in my blood.


We subscribed to
one theory or another
about life outside our skin—
everything composed
of water, earth, air, or fire,
reified and condensed,
before we eventually got down
to leptons, muons, bosons,
and quarks—left or right-handed,
charmed, up or down—
everything on an invisible scale
and understandably incredible . . .
though no one’s really asking
me, even though I took notes
in class—our first estimates
and summations, serving
as accurately in the short term
though our responses do not,
on a finite level, finally
account for anything more
than our uncertainty.

Christopher Buckley’s most recent book is One Sky to the Next, winner of the Longleaf Press Book Prize, 2023. He has recently edited: The Long Embrace: Contemporary Poets on the Long Poems of Philip Levine, Lynx House Press, 2020; and NAMING THE LOST: THE FRESNO POETS—Interviews & Essays, Stephen F. Austin State Univ. Press, 2021.