Riffing on Strings: A Mapped Route to the Island of ______.

Wow. I am rather thrilled to report that my poetry has been included in a gorgeous and whip-smart anthology of writings about STRING THEORY! The book is “Riffing on Strings: Creative Writing Inspired by String Theory,” edited by Sean Miller and Shveta Verma, published by Scriblerus Press. The anthology also features an essay by one of my physics heroes: Michio Kaku!

Here’s a link to the book on Amazon:

PS: Riffing on Strings received a positive review from NEW SCIENTIST!!

Here’s my poem, a meditation on love, mythology, evidence, maps and aim, inspired by the M.I.N.O.S. project, shooting a beam of neutrinos from Fermilab (near Chicago) through the earth —– to an underground receiver lab constructed in the old Soudan Mine, in Northern Minnesota.

A Mapped Route to the Island of _ _ _ _ _ _ _.
Kathleen M. Heideman

Was there fog? Can I blame my navigation errors
on an ordinary layer of interference — say the moon
was luminous at first, large as the eye of a lighthouse,
only clouds came later? Well, then, yes.

It is possible to paddle purposefully for hours
and still miss the shore of Romance. ((So close — almost!))
At least that’s what a friend said, explaining how he kayaked
out to the islands of the Sleeping Giant, and nearly missed

— not by much, perhaps, but aim is not enough, such nights!
So often my buoyant little life has slipped a single mile
too far west of the rocky point that is a mooring place,
or will become so, soon, for someone luckier at steering.

Still, an island is a looming fact, visible from a distance.
Igneous, the basalt sides form lines of forced intrusion;
they weather slower than the surrounding landscape.
How clearly an island reveals the world’s inner nature:

old crust floating on a deeper sea. Notice me veering
to avoid the thing I’m aiming to say, even as I break my own
silence to say so? If only I were better at calculus,
my navigation might improve, my poems might steer

more easily toward the certain landmass of Conclusions.
I don’t mean simple arithmetic. Complicated as my
checkbook gets, it’s not enough to track down dollars,
cents. There’s something deeper I want: higher math,

a happy accident, what happens when you draw an island
and a boat and braid your strings into a rope — suddenly,
the negative space between those shapes becomes activated,
a gap grows into an thing with its own meaning: Hope,

liquid, map-able. Sometimes, summer nights,
I take a bottle of red wine to the garden, and a notebook, and
this pen. I write myself into existence. More than once,
moon’s beam illuminates how I’ve scribbled the same equation

down the page, solving for love, an untutored stutter:
1+1=2. (1+1)==(1+1).
How many possible routes, how many maps rolled into tubes,
tubes pulled taut into strings, folding into points?

Fine, I’m expecting too much from romance.
Certain molecules, they bond whenever they meet… H2O, you know.
Other times they turn caustic, discolor their container, explode.
I’ve had lovers like that. Or worse: inert; there’s no reaction,

1×1=1. Recent studies in the U.S. suggest millions of respondents
are “very satisfied” with basic math. Fog arrives while paddling.
You think you know my answer now, don’t you? We are hoping

for the existence of things quite difficult to prove. Dimensions,
pulled like taffy strings. In Chicago, scientists are launching accelerated
particles north, through the bedrock of Minnesota: through dolomite,
Laurentian greenstone, Gabbro basalt, Vermilion hematite deposits…

The aim is a vault of iron plates in the labyrinth of an old iron mine,
a lab deep underground. Down they go, later, to check for a proof
which arrives in the form of minuscule holes burned in iron,
a scatter-pattern of subatomic dots. The M.I.N.O.S. Project, they name it.

And what was myth becomes statistic —our aim is refined; particles
hit the target with regularity, but we are looking to unravel
something more elusive; a hint, a route by which 1 reaching 1
reveals the stray mark of a degrading neutrino…


Whenever a conversation shoots right over my head, I try to picture
something simple — a million dots of color, a pointillism painting by
Georges Seurat. If you stand too close, the gallery alarm goes off,
and the dots are just another crowded Friday bar, enisled points.

But squint a bit, and the dots vibrate to form a picnic scene, “Sunday Afternoon
on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” Pure color, a landscape of spring umbrellas.
fancy hats, strolling couples, narrow boats rowing along the Seine.
Specks of paint, dots placed very close to the next, shimmer like cobwebs

& talk until their stories blur together. Seen from far enough away,
something else is always glimpsed — astronauts who reach the moon
report how small our continents seem, small islands of the earth, dots.
And that string of islands, northeast of Thunder Bay?

They form the outline of a resting man: Sleeping Giant, Manibozo.
It is possible to paddle out there, land, and fall asleep with your head
on the island’s stone thigh. Better paddlers than me have studied mythology
but miss the island, lose their way, listening between each stroke….

Scared. Trying to calculate horizon, the line strung between water and night.
The route is mapped, a dotted line. Between the Isle of the Heart
and the Isle of the Head, the lake runs wide and deep. In theory, it is possible
to push straight through, unknowingly. As you are doing, yes. Like so.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s