…the universe might eventually reach a temperature
equilibrium in which… useful energy sources no longer
exist to support life or even motion.
New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia
The stars will give up fusing hydrogen, spewing
helium into space. The clouds of dust six trillion
miles long in which people see plesiosaurs
or Jesus’ face will stop condensing into stars.
The temperature in Mauna Kea and at Nome
will be the same. The temperature of a boy’s
lips and a girl’s breast will be the same.
The temperature of a song sparrow will be the same
as the temperature of the fog that made it puff
its feathers, trilling in my lemon tree.
Its small brown beak – bug-catching pliers –
will open no more. Heat death will come, of course,
long after the last glacier has vaporized,
the last boy and girl and song sparrow melted
into molecules. But I can’t comprehend
a static soup of matter stretching endlessly.
To think o heat death, I must use human terms:
the edges of my curtains not glowing at dawn;
Miss Carol, my cat, not moaning to call hissing
Toms to my back yard; my arms, which ache
to pull you close, frozen forever at my sides.
Charles Harper Webb
from: Verse & Universe Poems About Science and Mathematics Edited by Kurt Brown
Charles Harper Webb is an American poet, professor, psychotherapist and former singer and guitarist. His most recent poetry collection is Shadow Ball (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009). His honors include a Whiting Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, The Kate Tufts Discovery Award, a Pushcart Prize and inclusion in The Best American Poetry 2006. His poems have appeared in literary journals and magazines including American Poetry Review, Paris Review, and Ploughshares. Webb was born in Philadelphia, and grew up in Houston. He earned his B.A. in English from Rice University, and an M.A. in English from the University of Washington, and an M.F.A. in Professional Writing and his PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Southern California. He teaches at California State University, Long Beach, where he received a Distinguished Faculty Scholarly and Creative Achievement Award and the Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award, and he lives in Long Beach, California.