A Rubric for Heat (poem)

On Demand (IF 2022)


Magazine | Literature & Poetry, Materials, Physics, Science, Society, The Arts

A new poem by  Sunayana Bhargava, finds connection across poetry and physics, using metaphor to muse about how energy changes form over time. Her words are inspired by the four Laws of Thermodynamics. They resonate with what we lose and gain from one another in strained times, touching on #BlackLivesMatter and protest, and the value of coming together.

Explore research from Natalia Ares in the University of Oxford Department of Materials that inspired this poem.


A Rubric for Heat

A poem by  Sunayana Bhargava


Staring aimlessly out of a crowded train,
I begin to wonder about the​ ​heat death of the Universe

That runaway descent into disorder,
like thread unspooling.
All work eventually undone

What is more romantic than labour
that fights the prophecy of its extinction?

Earlier I watched people assemble
like particles, charged
against a death less inevitable than heat

To read the Riot Act
to those who are already dispersed
is perhaps another kind of entropy

After we said goodbye,
I reimagined the city as a heat map

The train tracks molten,
spilling under slick blue buildings,
The residual warmth you left in my hands
given away by an infrared eye

What if heat, like language,
is not the firmness of ground
but the cracks that bloom under it?

There is a way to rescue order;
rake in the wasteland of energy and
bring it to rest: absolute zero

The wilderness of space is too warm.
The coldest place we have is here on Earth.

I question laws that speak of bodies
without first surviving in one
or stopping one from feeling illegal

On the cusp of equilibrium;
I can feel the incapacity of my hands
as you slip through them. The gentle stasis
of unrest under a darkening sky

An entire history of transfer, lost,
the moment two properties become equal.



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